- About Us
Not your mother's supermarket | Gustafson
For generations, food shopping in America was the easiest thing to do. One stop at almost any supermarket would get you everything you could possibly want or need. Price, efficiency and convenience mattered most.
What you could find in the aisles was, and largely still is, the backbone of the "standard American Diet" (SAD), dominated by highly processed, ready-to-heat and ready-to-eat foods.
But things are changing. America's consumers are developing increasingly diverse food preferences. Our culinary landscape is continuously expanding, in parts due to cultural influences from recent immigrants but also because of changes in taste and growing concerns over food safety and nutritional health. Food retailers are keenly aware of these shifts and try to find new ways to keep their customers satisfied. However, some say their responses are not coming fast enough.
"Many U.S. supermarkets are stuck in a time warp," according to a recent report by the Hartman Group, a research and consulting firm. The one-fits-all approach of the last four to five decades is no longer working, and it impacts their bottom line.
Traditional supermarkets and supermarket chains are seeing a steady decline in revenue, according to Willard Bishop, an industry advisory group and publisher of an annual report on current and projected market share and sales data for the retail food industry.
Too many of these stores continue to follow concepts that put them in direct competition with mega outlets like Costco or Sam's Club whose prices they cannot match. Also, consumers no longer seem to insist on one-stop-shopping experiences and shop more often for specific items like fresh produce and other perishables.
But the changes in consumer behavior are uneven. Supercenters and wholesale clubs are rapidly growing their market shares. Price-consciousness and budget limitations drive their business. On the other side of the spectrum, high-end chains like Whole Foods and QFC do very well with their affluent, educated and health-oriented clientele. Independently operated grocery stores in upscale city neighborhoods also succeed for similar reasons.
We can expect these trends to continue and even accelerate in the near future as prices for fresh foods continue to rise and incomes remain stagnant for large parts of the population. Those who can afford it will increasingly buy locally grown, natural and organic foods, while the rest will look for the biggest bang for their buck, mostly from outlets that sell in bulk and for discount prices.
Still, the fact that consumers pay closer attention to their nutritional needs as well as become savvier in their shopping will inevitable influence how food retailers conduct their business. According to the Technomic's Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, a majority of Americans are interested in eating more healthily. Half want restaurants to make more healthy choices available on their menus. Health food outlets and local farmers markets are enjoying growing popularity everywhere in the country. Processed and packaged foods with reduced salt, fat and sugar content sell better than they used to. And yes, more shoppers read labels.
Will all this end our nutritional malaise with all its dismal consequences for public health? Probably not any time soon, but if the trends continue, we could be going in the right direction.
Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book "The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun"®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com. For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, "Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D." (www.timigustafson.com). You can follow Timi on Twitter, on Facebook, Google+ and on Pinterest.