CENTER STORE PRODUCTS TOUTED AS ULTIMATE MEAL SOLUTION

TAMPA, Fla. -- Retailers have a huge opportunity for marketing Center Store products as meal ideas, said a Pillsbury Co. official at a recent forum on meal solutions held here."Home-meal replacement simply isn't affordable by most of the population," said Linda Cullum, vice president, consumer knowledge, The Pillsbury Co., Minn., who spoke at the Food Marketing Institute's MealSolutions conference

TAMPA, Fla. -- Retailers have a huge opportunity for marketing Center Store products as meal ideas, said a Pillsbury Co. official at a recent forum on meal solutions held here.

"Home-meal replacement simply isn't affordable by most of the population," said Linda Cullum, vice president, consumer knowledge, The Pillsbury Co., Minn., who spoke at the Food Marketing Institute's MealSolutions conference here last month.

"We believe the grocery store is best positioned to offer the portfolio [of food items] that consumers are actually seeking," she continued.

The average American household income is only about $35,000 a year, Cullum said, and retailers need to remember that many families can't afford a typical Boston Market-type meal, which can wipe out a family's weekly food budget.

"We do need to help people cook, but consumers need even more help shopping and planning," she explained.

"Some of the things we are now doing at Pillsbury -- and what we are encouraging our retailers to do -- is to always present the entire meal idea in your advertising and merchandising. And a new mantra for us is to never demo a product alone -- demo a meal," Cullum said.

Many consumers still like to cook from scratch and will be helped by recipes published in ads, circulars and in-store vehicles. "But there are other people who are going to be really motivated by having the display in-store with all of the [meal] components in front of them," Cullum said.

Cullum also discussed a survey Pillsbury conducted over the past two years on how America eats. Described as the largest initiative that Pillsbury has ever undertaken, the survey polled 2,000 adults and represented over 10,000 eating occasions. It statistically represented the demographic and geographic makeup of the United States and focused on the actual eaters and not the primary grocery shopper in the household.

The survey, released earlier this year, had some surprises.

For example, despite the uptrend of natural and organic foods, 39% of consumers said there is no way they will compromise taste and convenience for health, Cullum said.

And while many stores are pushing exotic items, like foccacia bread and grilled eggplant, the average American still prefers pizza, macaroni & cheese and hamburgers and hot dogs, the survey found.

Cullum also said it's a myth that Americans don't know how to cook anymore.

"About 100 million dinners take place in this country each day, and only 5% of those dinners are actually meals that are carried home. The retailer has opportunities in 80% of the situations either through quick food or fuel. The opportunity is tremendous, yet all of our focus has been on that 5%," Cullum said.