Two Ways Grocery Stores Find New Products for You
Have you ever wondered how your grocery store chooses what to have in stock? When you see a new product where did it come from?
Who Makes These Decisions and What are the Criteria?
First off, you should know that grocery stores employee “buyers” - professionals who manage one or multiple categories/departments of the store (e.g. nutrition bars). These individuals are responsible to sort through all the products available and choose what they think you, the end consumer, would like to see on the shelf.
A few things they have to consider:
- Packaging - is the product packaging neat, professional, and sustainable (or compostable like us!)?
- Shelf space - how big are the boxes of product and will they fit on the shelves? Would another product have to be removed?
- Ingredients - are the ingredients high quality, pronounceable, and healthy as more consumers are health conscious? According to a recent study, “Per-capita consumption of sugar and other caloric sweeteners was down in the U.S. in 2017 for the third straight year.” We love this because it means more people are eating real food!
- Distribution - this is how the grocery store will get the product. Some products are shipped direct to a store from the manufacturer, but that can be complicated for the store to manage. Usually, grocery stores and chains use “distributors” - companies with warehouses and semi-trucks filled with numerous brands who keep grocery stores stocked. For natural, organic, specialty foods, UNFI, Kehe, and DPI Specialty Foods, are the main distributors. You may recognize UNFI as “United Naturals” if you shop at Whole Foods as UNFI keeps Whole Foods stocked with your favorite items.
How Grocery Store Buyers Find New Products for You
What better way to find new natural products than to walk the floor in a convention center filled with more than 3,000 booths! Everyone who is anyone in the grocery industry is at Expo West in Anaheim, California this week. More than 85,000 food industry professionals will swarm to Anaheim, California, for, what Forbes called, “the grocery industry’s single biggest — and by far most important — show in North America.” The East Coast version, Expo East is held in the fall.
For specialty foods, the Fancy Food show, by the Specialty Foods Association is the big gala. There is a West Coast version in January and the East Coast version in in New York this upcoming June (we’ll be there too!).
Most grocery stores evaluate each “category” at the store (e.g. nutrition bars, ice cream, etc.) one or more times a year to see which products are doing well, remove the ones that aren’t, and find some new gems. Food manufacturers submit their products products by these deadlines to be reviewed by the stores.
Next time you are at the store, you may have a new appreciation for the heroes behind finding tasting and healthy products for you! You can also always let your local store know what you would like to see if you can't find a product that you love. If they know you want to eat real food, you'll see it more in your local store!