By: Rick Stein, Vice President Fresh Foods, Food Marketing Institute
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I once visited a grocery store with a grand piano and a live pianist playing and taking requests. It was a grocery shopping experience I’ll never forget—he was even wearing a tuxedo with tails!

Food retailers can create in-store memorable experiences lots of ways, but I’m always particularly impress by the grocery stores that take the time to learn their local shoppers’ fresh culinary preferences and build tantalizing experiences around them that draw customers in. Here are some examples:

Catering to Culinary Cooking Interests

At first glance, there’s nothing unusual about cooking classes - except for the fact that different people in different communities want to learn to cook different things - and they’re not always what you would expect. Otherwise, you might not go looking for a class in how to cook Korean bibimbap or a number of Thai dishes at some of the 16 Harmons Neighborhood Groceries in the Salt Lake City area.

Reflecting the interest in healthy ingredients in the Northwest, shoppers can visit any of the six Town & Country Markets to learn how to make butternut squash, kale and brown rice casserole, muffuletta sandwiches, or crunchy baby bok choy salad.

Shoppers can sign up for Miguelito’s Cocina Club, a cooking school for kids in 38 Northgate Gonzalez Markets in Southern California. Promising the “truest ingredients imported from Mexico,” Northgate helps its many Latino shoppers assure culinary traditions are passed on to the next generation.

Product Sample Immersions

At the Market of Choice’s six stores in Oregon, shoppers can pick out citrus fruits and ask staff to squeeze them into juice while watching. Then shoppers can enjoy fresh juice on the spot, sip it as they stroll the aisles or take it home.

Shoppers at a select number of the Acme Markets in the Northeastern U.S., can stop into “The Frosted Mug.” These beer and wine departments have full-service bars, restaurant seating, plenty of warm and cold beer options and more than 80 kinds of wine. Shoppers can enjoy a mug of beer or glass of wine in the store, build their own six-pack to take home or fill a growler from the draft beers on tap.

Helping With Health

Hy-Vee, with hundreds of stores throughout the Midwest, takes their customers’ health seriously. To prove it, they have a team of dietitians who provide a number of services:

  • Nutrition tours of stores so customers can locate the healthiest foods for themselves;
  • Free diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings;
  • A Healthy Bites program that provides weekly menus with easy, nutritious recipes and shopping lists;
  • Individual medical nutrition therapy;
  • A lifestyle and weight loss program; and
  • Presentations on healthy choices throughout their communities.

There are more tips on health and wellness in the fresh department in our Best Practices for Health and Wellness in Fresh Department guide. 

Food retailers who understand their community’s interests and tastes can create memorable in-store experiences that excite and delight customers and keep them coming back for more.