FOOD RETAILING IN AMERICA: A RICH LEGACY OF INNOVATION, TECHNOLOGY AND DISRUPTION
The rise of the American supermarket channel and food retailing as a whole has been a cultural process. A&P introduced the self-service, chain grocery store to American food culture in the early 1900s. The primary attraction was control over both price and quality in dry bulk goods used in everyday cooking. In this era, the supermarket was primarily a small retail format (~500-5,000 square feet) in which to buy bulk, unpackaged foods.
Over the course of the 20th century, American supermarkets began to do battle with local food artisans all over America replacing the milkman, the local baker, the local cheese maker, the local sausage maker, and the local butcher. Virtually everything perishable and/or time consuming to make at home (cheese, bread, etc.) was now available at your local grocery store in clean, brightly lit, linoleum-surfaced aisles full of neatly arranged product. The mid part of the 20th century was the era of packaged goods--typified by powerful brands that delivered shelf stable, consistent experiences. The end of the 20th century saw the rise of rise of packaged prepared foods and the super-sizing of center store. Food forward retailers today seek to showcase enhanced fresh/prepared perimeters for on-demand eating and cooking.
As the lines between retail grocery channels grow ever thinner and the tussle for a share of America’s food dollars intensifies, consumers are faced with more food shopping choices than ever before. No longer do consumers need to confine their food shopping to just one place. Instead, they can now selectively pick from a variety of different formats and outlets to meet their needs. Modern lifestyle, digital technology and heightened awareness of the health and environmental consequences of food have also changed the way consumers think and behave.
Increasingly, shoppers’ customized strategies are taking them outside the boundaries of traditional food retail channels, and they are discovering that these alternative channels can offer them a totally new way to engage with foods. These experiences – more inspiring prepared food options, higher-quality products, more global and fresh offerings, more compelling value and services – are all fueling their appetites for more, to a point where shoppers are now expecting higher-quality food shopping experiences from all types of retailers today.