We all have ideas on what’s most important to participants in the food retail industry. That said, the Internet era allows us to learn more precisely what people are interested in. At SN, for instance, we know how much reader traffic different content topics attract when they are published on our site and in our newsletters.
Just as interesting is what people actually take the time to actively search for online. Knowing the top searches is valuable because it suggests where this industry most needs information and answers.
So what were readers searching for on SN’s website in 2014? They were seeking more information about companies in transition and trends and topics in flux.
We saw lots of searches for companies in the forefront of the year’s news. Safeway and Albertsons were high on the list, not surprising given their merger that awaits finalization. Market Basket also scored, which makes sense given the chain of events this year that included a president’s firing and a work stoppage by employees. Other companies on the radar of searchers included Ahold, Aldi, Publix and Kroger.
Just as significant were topics and trends our readers searched for, and the top ones represented fast-changing subjects with many lingering questions. Here’s a look:
• GMO: There were few topics in 2014 with as much controversy as GMOs. This subject was thrust into the spotlight by consumer groups, a range of state-based labeling initiatives, and a federal bill. The industry was divided on the issue of mandatory labeling of GM foods in an SN Center Store survey earlier this year. Stakeholders are closely tracking events as each new chapter unfolds.
• Meals: The definition of a meal is a moving target, as are retailer strategies based on this. Over the past year more retailers unveiled healthy meal initiatives and the industry talked more about mobile tools to help shoppers plan meals. SN IdeaXchange Xpert Bill Bishop, chief architect, Brick Meets Click, in a recent article urged retailers to consider strategies around both food for now and food for later, to meet changing shopper needs.
• Millennials: The industry is sensing Millennials are finally coming into their own as consumers and trend influencers. After years of low spending due to the economy, these younger consumers are starting to turn it around. Not surprisingly, food retailers and suppliers are scrambling to serve them.
• Gluten: For many, the question about the popularity of gluten-free products is, “Why?” That’s because these items are popular with far more than just celiac disease sufferers. This year retailers including Aldi rolled out or expanded gluten-free lines, and the industry put the spotlight on improving the taste of these products.
Here’s the best part about SN’s top search topics: Oftentimes the trends overlap each other in our content. For example, one recent SN article headline read: "Meijer is ready for Millennials with new meal solutions program." (Read the story.)
Hopefully the searchers found what they were looking for on SN’s website. Let’s hope everyone finds what they’re seeking in their business and personal lives in the new year.