2018 was the first full year following Amazon’s industry-shaking purchase of Whole Foods Market. Not surprisingly, the year has seen its share of convulsions in the retail grocery marketplace.
But while center-store faces an uncertain future in the digital age, the fresh perimeter’s prospects look considerably brighter. Most consumers still want to see, feel, smell and sometimes taste their fresh foods before they purchase them.
Looking ahead to 2019, industry analysts and leading suppliers continue to be bullish on instore deli, bakery and prepared foods, with trends related to snacking, clean-label, transparency, meal kits, ethnic foods, grab ‘n go, farm-to-table and smaller serving sizes among the many to keep a close eye on.
Snacking and transparency are just two of the many trends Eric Richard, education coordinator for the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association, says IDDBA will be tracking closely in 2019.
“Snacking is very, very important in driving traffic in fresh departments,” Richard says. “Deli, bakery and cheeses are perfect for snacking.”
Increasingly, snacks are taking the place of meals, and instore departments are ideally equipped to take advantage, Richard says. Departments can, for instance, work together on grab-and-go snacking solutions that are made instore. “It’s a way to engage with consumers,” Richard says. “I think we’ll see more of that.”
Retailers who want such projects to succeed will have to aggressively market them in both traditional and social media channels, Richard advises.
When it comes to transparency, Richard says, look for blockchain and other technologies to continue transforming the ways in which consumers track where their food comes from —right in the store when they’re deciding whether or not to buy it.
“Walmart is now making blockchain a requirement for producers,” he says. “We’ll see it become more and more of a reality in 2019.”
On a lower-tech level, look for grocery instore delis and bakeries to make labeling easier to read in the coming year, Richard says. “Increasingly, when you pick up the item, all the info will be up front, where you don’t have to turn it over and hunt for it.”
Closely related to transparency, farm-to-table will remain a big draw in 2019, Richard says. Again, getting the word out is key. “Manufacturers are doing a good job, and retailers can do a good job,” he says. “If you do great marketing —telling consumers about the locally sourced wheat in your instore bread, for example —you’ll definitely see the results.”
Proteins, plant-based proteins, customization, meal kits and Hispanic and Asian dishes are among some of the other trends to keep a close eye on in 2019, Richard says.