The Supermarket’s Post-Pandemic Future
By RDBA CEO Phil Lempert
The past 16 months have brought a lot of changes to our supermarkets and to the role of the retail dietitian. Some might argue that some of these changes, especially those that involve improved sanitation practices, were long overdue. The more intense cleaning of shopping carts, checkstands and dairy and freezer door handles will continue long after the pandemic subsides. In March of this year, iRI released their study that found 99% of American shoppers feel safer at stores that provide sanitizing stations and 40% will go out of their way to shop at retailers that provide these stations.
As grocery prices continue their upward trajectory (the Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index reported in early June that on a year-to-year basis, prices were up 39.7% in May 2021), CPG brands are struggling to fix their supply chains by reducing SKU assortments, improve production with AI and robotics, and locating facilities closer to sales points to better manage and control transportation costs and logistics.
The supermarket has changed forever.
During the pandemic, just about the only place where shoppers could get their food was the supermarket – either in person or through delivery and curbside pickup – the result was record sales and profits for many grocery retailers, which helped to fund the added expenses for plexiglass barriers, extensive sanitation procedures, bonus pay and PPE. Now that restriction on foodservice operations have been lifted, the competition from foodservice is back and customers who have been home bound for months are once again going out to eat and that is making a huge dent into the sales (and profits) of supermarkets. But these new added expenses will continue, making grocery operations even tougher to manage. Supermarkets must become more efficient to survive.
How retail dietitians pivoted during the pandemic to use more technologies to reach more customers is a leading-edge example of efficiency and effectiveness. During the pandemic shoppers needed new recipes to placate their stuck at home families and healthier ones to prevent weight gain and support immunity. They sought recipes they could make with their families to bring some joy in an otherwise depressing (or boring) time along with tips to reduce stress and help their mental well-being. Retail dietitians provided all these services to their shoppers and more.
Shoppers are willing to embrace new technologies in order feel safer, make better choices, and spend less time in the grocery store. Retailers will be investing in AI both in the front and back of the store to better predict how to meet shoppers needs and increase the value of the shopping experience. How will you prepare your health and wellness programs for the upcoming retail revolution?