TAMPA, Fla. -- Supermarkets can recapture meal-solution dollars by effectively merchandising Center Store products in a grocery-based assembly center, a test conducted at Dick's Supermarket has shown.
"As people cook less and less we are developing a generation of shoppers who simply don't have the cooking skills that our mothers had, and this diminished skill base is directly impacting our sales from the Center Store," said Ken Robb, senior vice president of marketing at Brodbeck Enterprises, the Platteville, Wis.-based independent operator of eight Dick's Supermarket units in Wisconsin and Illinois, where the test was conducted.
Robb spoke earlier this month at the FMI Meals Solutions '98 conference here.
Dick's was approached by Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., in late 1997 to test a "home-meal assembly" program. The test ran for 16 weeks, from mid-January to early May of this year.
"Research shows 60% of consumers want to prepare meals at home and this will grow store sales," he said.
Regenia Roaches, a Kraft vice president, said grocery-based home-meal solutions is a concept that encourages consumers to assemble meals at home as an alternative to "heat and eat" and prepared-meal offerings.
"The key difference between old-fashioned home-meal cooking and home-meal assembly lies in the ease and simplicity of planning, purchasing and preparing the meal," Roaches said.
There should be no more than five ingredients and that they should be easy to purchase and have a very short prep time.
"Planning, purchasing and preparing are the cornerstones of successful home-meal assembly. The way in which you market this idea will determine whether you as a retailer will be successful in offering this as an added benefit to your consumers," Roaches said. She added that it is critical to heavily promote the idea.
"Promote the final meal and not the individual elements," she said. "The idea is to put less focus on selling boxes of Minute Rice, chicken parts and Velveeta, but rather promoting a tasty chicken and rice dish made with these ingredients.
The most successful approach, used in two Dick's locations, did not offer feature pricing on the ingredients. Rather, in-store demos were used, along with a series of targeted direct mailings to consumers and weekly ads featuring recipes from the Kraft Creative Kitchens. A one-stop display unit held all the ingredients necessary to prepare the recipe of the week.
"Our goal was to provide value to our consumers by providing them with great ideas that were well-communicated and easily understood without resorting to the traditional price-driven incentives," Robb said.