What is a Grocerant, and why should RDs care?
A grocerant can be in a supermarket or convenience store and is one of the fastest growing sectors in the food industry. In fact, according to Technomic (more on Technomic later) the growth is double digits and is expected to continue the same growth for the next ten years.
Grocerants can take the form of sit-down restaurants at Hy-Vee, growler bars at Kroger, or the food courts, sushi bars, smokehouse, smoothies bars and pizza places at Mariano’s, to name a few.
We’re not talking about takeout, but rather an assortment of foods, usually prepared in-store to consume (often with a glass of wine) right in the store. Some grocerants have become so successful, like one Schnuck's where live music envelopes the store and reservations are recommended for Friday and Saturday evenings.
Many grocerants tout their local sources of ingredients and healthier offerings, which clearly support the overall image of the store. What’s not to love about grocerants? And why aren't more retail dietitians involved in creating the menus and using these areas within the store to promote their services.
According to Wade Hanson, principal at Technomic, "simply put, retailers should be pursuing fresh prepared foods because a) it is where the most significant growth opportunities exist, and b) the consumer has shown a strong and growing affinity for the foods and beverages being offered by leading retailers".
At Technomic, they have identified four different tiers of supermarket prepared food programs ranging from the most advanced to those hanging on to a limited, traditional selection of grab and go items.
The most advanced tier, are the type of operations we have seen at Hy-vee, Mariano's, Sobey's, Lund/Byerly's, Wegmans and some ShopRites, to list a few, and focuses on a highly curated food program that reflects the vision of the overall store, demonstrates to their customer that they understand their lifestyle and dining preferences and include healthier options.
I'm not recommending that retail dietitians take a page out of our grandmothers' social lives, where their "ladies luncheons" at department stores like Saks and Bloomingdale's included a fashion show to entice them to go shopping for the latest styles after lunch; but how about a seat at the table alongside the chef when creating the menu? And creating health and wellness information to be incorporated within the seating area - on the flat screens, posters, table tents and even on the menu? Not designed to scare customers away from indulging on that 7 layer chocolate cake, but making sure we offer alternatives that may taste and sound as indulgent but offer a better for you option.