By Mark Baum, FMI Senior Vice President, Industry Relations & Chief Collaboration Officer, Food Marketing InstituteTotal Store Collaboration

In food retail, everything starts with the shopper. We operate in a consumer-driven industry with an inextricably linked value chain – consumers are more in control and they expect an engaging and enjoyable in-store/shopping experience. At FMI Connect, we inspired dialog and optimism on what the Retail Experience of the Future could be by presenting “what-if” scenarios for merchants and their supply chain partners at a virtual exhibit. I haven’t stopped imagining that future since I experienced this venue alongside our board of directors.

The educational and expositional dialogs on fresh further peaked my curiosity as I heard industry experts challenge the traditional ideas of shopper behavior and suggest opportunities for meat, produce, seafood and prepared foods. As shoppers’ wants evolve and diversify, is your store prepared for the future? For instance, could your store be the best restaurant in town? As we learned from FMI Connect shoppers increasingly tend to shop by recipe, not by category, and selling meal solutions is an enormous opportunity. Fresh is certainly a high growth category for most grocery retailers as consumers are looking for fresh, healthy ready-to-eat foods.

The opportunity for food retailers is clear: Fresh is a supermarket stronghold. In fact, 64 percent of shoppers purchase their produce from the supermarket, according to the Power of Produce survey presented by 210 Analytics at FMI Connect. Similarly, we know from the 2014 Power of Meat survey that the supermarket continues to maintain its grip as the primary channel for meat and poultry products among consumers. Painting another “what-if” scenario, the Power of Produce also suggests a driving need for organization, information and visibility of Fresh in the store.  

In order to provide the industry with a cross-category framework to support retailers, wholesalers and service providers in meeting these consumer needs, FMI recently developed a forum called Total Store Collaboration (TSC). Similar to what’s currently reflected in the aisles, TSC will embrace wall-to-wall solutions, representing not just center store but the perimeter as well, including: perishables, meat, poultry, produce, service delis, bakeries, and fresh prepared foods for take-out or on premise consumption.

Consumers look to food store owners/operators as a partner. This new environment requires a more personalized, in-store experience and retailers must adjust traditional practices to better serve these multi-dimensional shoppers.