Guest Blogger Steven Johnson Returns to Explain How Advances in Packaging Extended Acceptance of Food From Non-Traditional Outlets
Five years from now, restaurant chain leaders will understand that packaging advances helped create new points of non-traditional food distribution have empowered consumer choice, and how Americans embraced these choices even as legacy marketers cringed. Who's after restaurant food dollars? Simply put… everyone.
Why should you care if Walgreen's is selling fresh-prepared ready-2-eat and made-2-order sandwiches? Why should you care if Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Safeway and Wegmans are selling heat-N-eat fresh pizza? Why should you care if Coinstar is selling Seattle's Best Coffee at 1,000 locations for $1.00?
You should care because they are selling it, and you are not! The fastest-growing sector of retail foodservice for the past four years has been the Convenience store sector. C-store growth in large part has been driven by fresh-prepared food. Non-traditional avenues of distribution are growing, gobbling market share while establishing new patterns of consumption, price points and customer loyalty.
The Shopper is in Control Spurring New Retail Food Formats
Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have created ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food items with qualitative differentiation, with an identity that has help propel them into category leadership. In fact, recent research shows that both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are each known for high quality (i.e., restaurant-quality) ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat foods with distinctive offerings. More important, each is leading with innovative products and package sizes that create value. The result has positioned each chain as a food shopping destination for meal components customized and personalized for immediate consumption or mixed-and-matched for a meal time at home. In short they are stealing your customers.
Walgreens fresh prepared food is restaurant quality and priced less than Panera Bread or Corner Bakery CAFE. Both Panera Bread and Corner Bakery CAFE thrive in urban locations. Walgreens is now growing price, quality and speed-of-service advantages over legacy retailers. Legacy restaurant chains must reconsider the speed at which they evolve and adapt, or non-traditional outlets will capture profits margins as well.
Traditional views of meals and mealtime can pretty much be discarded. Legacy retailers waiting for the "next big thing" to copy simply might be out of luck this time. Legacy food retailers may not like to be first movers very much but it may prove that waiting too long will not work this time.