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Retailers need to stay focused on choice: Ahold’s McCann

Retailers need to stay focused on choice: Ahold’s McCann

Food retailers need to concentrate on what really benefits their customers in the face of accelerating debates about product and ingredient transparency, said James McCann, chief operating officer, Ahold USA.

Speaking on a panel about “The Future of Food” at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Miami, McCann said retailers have a special role to play in relation to consumers.

“If you turn the clock back to the 1950s, that was a time when customers trusted more,” he said. “Today there’s so much information for them. We have to enable informed choice, because it will be different for different customers,” he said.

James McCann, COO, Ahold USA
James McCann, COO, Ahold USA

Part of that involves balancing value-added product attributes with affordability, he observed.

“A large proportion of consumers are concerned with affordability,” he explained. He offered the contrast between a wealthy segment that might be able to afford organics and have access to chefs, versus less fortunate consumers struggling to make do in an inner city.

“We need to find solutions that work for a lot of people in different places,” he said. “There’s a tradeoff between affordability and health and wellness.”

In a second Midwinter panel on the “Future of Shopping,” Tom Phillips, director, Deloitte Consulting, pointed to the impact of shifting consumer food values.


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According to a new Deloitte research report, about half of consumers now say their purchase decisions are “significantly influenced by evolving drivers.” These include health and wellness, safety, social impact, experience and transparency. Those differ from traditional drivers that include taste, price and convenience, the report said.

Deloitte found the trend is not driven by region, age or income group.

“The magnitude was a surprise,” Phillips said “It’s larger in scope than a lot of people thought.”

Both Midwinter panels were moderated by Mark Baum, FMI’s senior vice president, Industry Relations, and chief collaboration officer.

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