The industry will likely continue to be heavily influenced by developments in electronic communications such as social media, online shopping and mobile apps, according to industry observers polled by SN.
In recent weeks SN asked analysts, consultants, retailers and others to make some predictions about developments in the coming year that could have a significant impact on supermarket operators. Each source was asked to hone in on a specific niche, rather than making broad generalizations about industry trends.
Several of the pundits predicted developments involving consumer-facing technology.
Janica Lane, partner at Partnership Capital Growth, San Francisco, for example, cited the likelihood that more brands would enhance their efforts to sell directly to consumers through their own websites or others.
“For some of these up-and-coming brands, it really does expand the customer and the buying universe,” she said.
Richard George, a longtime professor in the Food Marketing program at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, predicted that more traditional retailers would leverage technology like web-based selling, store-pick-up and mobile checkout apps to enhance the in-store experience.
“The question is,” he said, “How do we put all those things together, so that when I am in the store, I am having fun?”
If shoppers are not having fun in the store they might instead be turning to online retailers like Amazon Fresh, which could expand to more markets in 2013, according to Neil Stern, senior partner at McMillanDoolittle. The company’s use of drop-off points, combined with a focus on same-day delivery, could be the “lethal combination” that sets off an e-grocery battle, he said.
Another development that has been building steam is the rise in vegetarianism and “flexitarianism.”
Suzy Badaracco, president of Portland, Ore.-based Culinary Tides, explained that consumers are opting to go meatless for a wide range of reasons, from economic to health to moral. Consumers are also increasingly exposed to global cuisines that rely less on meats, she explained.
“One consumer might be reacting because of the obesity epidemic, one might be reacting because of the travel interest,” she said.
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