Highlights on this year’s National Grocers Association Show.
Before attendees could digest all of the information and insights shared, buzz of this year’s NGA show was circulating. From February 27 through March 1, 2022, the largest gathering of independent grocery retailers, wholesalers, food retail industry executives, manufacturers and suppliers gathered in Las Vegas for the 40 th anniversary of NGA.
This year’s show featured over 200 exhibitors and over 50 sessions and workshops and had a 20% increase in attendance over prior years. The show opened with keynote speaker, Chris Christie, 55 th Governor of New Jersey and 2014 Presidential Candidate. Key sessions focused on: store design, international commerce, artificial intelligence, inflation and labor costs, data analytics, workforce development, e-commerce, demand forecasting, food safety, front-end technology and green energy. Many of the same topics impacting the retail industry in general. What was unique to grocers, however, was the necessity for delivery speed and convenience (with an overwhelming percent of shoppers expecting 2 hours or less delivery), added accessibility for senior shoppers and personal touches (especially from shopping services).
Instacart, the leading shopping delivery service, conducted an online survey of 2,038 US adults and shared their report on the six key findings:
- Shopper apps can measure shopper mood and sentiment through the chat feature and found customers were more appreciative (rise in thank yous).
- Shoppers were searching holiday related products 15 weeks sooner than last year.
- There was a significant growth in senior app/service use.
- Midweek grocery shopping surged 8% vs the traditional Sunday routine.
- Top pandemic categories: cleaning, baking and alcohol products.
- Online grocery shopping and delivery services are here to stay, with 77% of customers confirming their intention to continue using them.
Much like fashion and general merchandise retailers, grocers are navigating their way through transformations related to unified commerce, post pandemic norms and heightened consumer demands. While grocers led the way with basket analysis and merchandising, digital shelf signs, basket-driven couponing, self-checkout, impulse pos displays and even reusable bags, they have fallen behind in data-driven on-line experiences. The industry has traditionally focused on the instore experience and has optimized product placement, speed of checkout, frequency drivers and other marketing initiatives, but is catching up on solving virtual consumer problems. It has taken the pandemic and the likes of Target and Walmart to identify unified commerce trends and how to use technology and data to integrate online and offline shopper behaviors.
New developments in grocery will promise to be innovative and worth following. The rise of private label brands to absorb profit loss from inflation and the use of advanced inventory management to alleviate expired food waste are just some of the advances in progress. The tech industry is also ripe for advancements in the grocery industry. Start-ups like Flash Food are offering an app that can identify near expired food and promote them to shoppers at reduced prices—thus reducing food waste and alleviating inflated food costs. Finally, the reinvention of supermarkets will most likely also include chef services and home cooked meal delivery in addition to the pre cooked in store options currently being offered. Imagine buying and storing your weeks’ worth of dinner items at a local market and having them execute your menu for you and deliver on demand. Yes. Please.
What are we to take-a-way from all of this? For one, grocers are faced with the same challenges and consumer expectations as every other retailer. Maybe even more so. Supply chain delays don’t just mean post season merchandise deliveries, they mean expired goods and lost sales. Farm to table/local logistics, organic trends and speed of delivery are even more heightened for grocers. Emerging international chains like Aldi and Lidl are presenting more domestic competition and test concepts like Amazon go and fan favorites like Trader Joes are pressing the industry to find a niche to stay competitive. All in all, grocery is the industry to watch. The future promises to be quite delicious.