The old real estate adage about location, location, location applies to a supermarket, too. A store’s prime piece of property is the perimeter, and what’s happening there can set a grocery apart from the competition, says supermarket design expert Jack Sjogren.
“If shoppers are excited by what they find on a supermarket’s perimeter, they’ll keep coming back. If not, many times they will go elsewhere,” said Sjogren, a design center specialist for Hillphoenix. He spends his time advising grocers about how to create compelling fresh foods destination centers on the perimeter—what he calls “craveable” spaces that drive shopper loyalty.
Those fresh-on-the-perimeter offerings can range from produce, prepared foods, fish and meat to specialty goods (for example, a station featuring 20 varieties of mushrooms). But for grocers taking their first steps into creating a destination center on the perimeter, Sjogren suggested thinking through customer demographics, competition and project scope, then making strategic decisions based on that information.
“Most supermarkets already have produce on the perimeter, so creating a destination center there can be a good place to start,” he advised. “Produce usually is one of the first places a customer sees when they enter the store. A great, engaging experience there can set the tone for the rest of their shopping experience.”
Enable convenience and health
A destination center that provides pre-cut ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat produce satisfies two important shopper demands simultaneously. It offers time-saving convenience, and it helps consumers achieve their goal of eating healthier. Fifty-eight percent of consumers who plan to eat at home more often this year say they are striving for better health, according to food industry research firm Datassential. But they need help matching their ambitions to the realities of work, kids’ activities and long commutes. In a consumer survey conducted for the National Association of Convenience Stores, about a third of respondents said they aren’t making meals at home because they’re just too tired to cook after a long day.
It’s important to put yourself in the mind of the consumer when planning a produce destination center, Sjogren said. He points to a survey done by the University of California, Davis, that shows 44% of consumers who have a bad produce experience at a store move to another supermarket. Other research by the Produce For Better Health Foundation indicates 52% of consumers want new ideas for how to prepare and serve fruit. “Right there is the destination center opportunity — shoppers want high-quality produce, easy-to-consume fruits and vegetables and new ideas for how to use them,” Sjogren said.
Inform and entertain
He offers some produce destination center ideas that fit that opportunity. Create a demonstration/tasting station that shows shoppers how to use in-season produce in creative and craveble ways for meals and snacks. Give them the confidence they need to try new recipes and foods by demonstrating how to make an easy parfait or healthy dessert. They’ll come back again to learn more.
Today’s shoppers are time-crunched; remember that when offering items to help them cook more. Offer pre-cut, packaged ingredients that can be quickly transformed into a delicious stir-fry, oven-roasted vegetables or a kale-and-quinoa salad. Offer recipe cards within reach of the pre-cut veggies so they know what to buy and can put it all together with success when they get home.
Want to make it an even more customized, interactive and engaging experience for shoppers? Sjogren suggests creating a “vegetable butcher” destination center inside the produce department. Shoppers can ask for help selecting seasonal produce at the peak of ripeness, then get assistance weighing their vegetables. Once that’s done, they turn the goods over to the veggie butcher for slicing and dicing. The process not only delivers exact-to-the-recipe quantities at great convenience (and premium prices), it also introduces fun and engaging food theater right in the middle of your produce department.
Display to drive sales
Destination centers also allow grocers to merchandise produce at its best. Think of standalone stations as food galleries where fruit and vegetable displays become eye-catching works of art. Use bands of color to full effect, and enhance those colors with properly matched LED lights. Sjogren, a lighting specialist, advises grocers to rethink the purpose of lights in the produce department. They should help advertise and maximize freshness — and guide shoppers to displays that will surprise and delight them. While energy savings are important, think beyond efficiency and align the lights you use to the color and quality of what’s on display. Today’s vast array of lighting possibilities can enhance product integrity and turn products into showpieces.
Thinking through the equipment you’ll need in your destination space is important, too. For example, a juicing program requires much more than adding a staffer and a juicer to the produce department. Consider how you will wash, store and stage the fruits and vegetables for juicing. Make sure your staff gets trained, both to make juices properly and answer customer questions. Investing time on the front end will boost your chances of successfully capitalizing on the juicing, infused waters and smoothies trend — a segment that has seen 105% growth over the last three years, according to Information Resources Inc.
“A destination center in the produce department offers extraordinary potential for driving sales and shopper loyalty,” Sjogren said. “It adds even more value to what’s already some of the most important real estate in your grocery store.”