Sunday, May 31, 2015

Are C-Stores the “New Place for Baby Boomers?

Throughout Asia the convenience store sector is undergoing a quiet shift to a higher dollar target demographic, Baby Boomers.  This is an historical departure from their long-established image as a place for young shoppers according to Bloomberg News. 
Convenience stores are changing with the times, shedding their image as places for young shoppers grabbing fresh food fast, concert tickets and comic books, and increasingly catering to older clientele.

Today the global population is graying and people live longer, birth rates continue in decline C-stores are evolving with consumers. They have begun revising their offerings to suit the tastes and needs of seniors by introducing home delivery, fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat prepared meals by day-part in Japan and a one-stop shop where pharmacies share floor space.

Lawson’s is testing by setting up elderly care support counters, and in a stab at becoming social meeting spots, are offering seating and even karaoke boxes. They opened its first outlet with a “nursing care consultation desk in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture. The outlet will have managers and advisers available for consultation all day, every day of the week. The company plans to launch another one in the prefecture by summer.”

When the landscape changes you have to evolve.  In Japan back in “1989, people aged 29 and younger at 7-Eleven convenience stores accounted for 63 percent of daily customers. That declined to about 29 percent in fiscal 2013, according to recent statistics from Seven & i Holdings Co.” 

All the While customers “50 or older, who previously represented only 9 percent of all customers, rose to 30 percent in the same period, representing the age bracket with the largest share, according to the statistics. FamilyMart Co. says people 50 and older account for about 30 percent of its customers, too.”

C-store operators are increasingly changing their food lineups to appeal to older shoppers. They seek, for example, quality, known-to-be-safe products, including higher-end fresh prepared food, rather than the cheap, fill-up, fuel-up roller grill offerings once preferred by young shoppers.

One notable change can be found Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food offered under their respective house brands, where the companies are competing with each other to offer healthy ingredients and those that are either locally sourced or from a renowned region. 

Who is leading the way?  7-Eleven is the global C-store leader and aims to remain so by evolving with consumers. They still sell self-service coffee and doughnuts, fried chicken and other legacy fast food offerings which remain a key sales driver, the shift is slowly underway. 

According to Masayuki Kubota, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities Economic Research Institute, “the main focus of convenience stores is not the elderly per se, but the overall shift from young to older shoppers, which is reflected in the food on offer.

Kubota  continued “Until maybe a decade ago, the image of convenience stores was of a place where young people away from home could pick up food of their preference, like fast food restaurants,” …“At that point, strategies targeting males in their 20s was important. . . . But now female customers in their 40s and 50s are increasing.”

In Asia top three players &-Eleven, FamilyMart and Lawson  all have introduced home delivery services, stocking meals and cooking ingredients aimed at meeting the demands of health and quality conscious seniors who prefer to eat at home.

Are you trapped doing what you have always done and doing it the same way?  Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: or visit: for more information

Saturday, May 30, 2015

At Starbucks The Customer Knows Best

When less than one in one thousand Starbucks guest make a written suggestion is it any wonder that when Starbucks Frappuccino drinkers made more than 6,000 suggestions regarding the blended beverage at My Starbucks Idea® that Starbucks listened.  

Success does leave clues and listening to customers and then acting is another way Starbucks is a continual industry sales leader. The vast majority of Starbucks customers offer ideas for new flavor combinations, yet today with calorie counting and a heightened price conscious consumer many Frappuccino customers have been asking for a smaller drink size.

Thus Starbucks introduced the Mini Frappuccino® nationally. The 10 ounce serving size is available for a limited time in participating Starbucks® stores in the U.S. and Canada. “There are more than 36,000 different ways to customize Starbucks® Frappuccino® Blended Beverages. The smaller serving size is the newest option for customers.”
The Mini size beverage empowers customers to cut back on calories and cost. That by the way according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru™ is deemed by consumers as ‘better for you”. 
The calories will vary depending on the flavor selected, but a drink made with regular coffee and no whipped cream reportedly might have 120 calories and 24 grams of sugar for the Mini size, compared with 180 calories and 36 grams of sugar for a 12-oz. Tall version. Pricing also varies by market, but Starbucks officials said a Mini would cost about 20 cents to 30 cents less than a Tall.
Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: or visit: for more information.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Understanding the Grocerant Niche and Where You Can Win.

There is a battle underway in the retail food sector for Share of Stomach and there will be winners.  Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru says this "Grocerant means any retail food item that is Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat and prepared fresh. The word Grocerant is a result of the blurring of the line between restaurants and grocery stores.

A grocerant is where a consumer can find fresh prepared food aimed at the time-starved consumer with Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared meals or meal components that can be bundled into a meal and or packaged for Take-Out, Take-Away, or To-Go.

Times have changed since we began to focus within the grocerant niche.  Today, grocerant meals and meal components are found in liquor stores, drug-stores (Walgreens), fast food restaurants, fast casual restaurants, full-service restaurants, and restaurants inside grocery stores, in legacy “deli” departments, furniture stores (Ikea), club stores (Costco) and clothing stores from Tommy Bahama, Macy’s, and Nordstrom’s.  Simply put the battle for share of stomach is increasing. 

 When Foodservice Solutions®  own Grocerant Guru™ say’s retailer, it is broadly defining supermarkets, mass drug merchants, C-Stores (convenience stores), Furniture stores, Club Stores, Clothing retailers and fast food , fast casual restaurants and full service restaurants selling fresh prepared food, and restaurant meals and meal components sold TO-GO or delivery.

Continued Success is Driving the Grocerant Trend

At  4 PM: your customers are just beginning to think about what's for dinner. 81% of American consumers are unsure about what's for dinner. Time Starved Consumers are looking for high quality ready to eat foods and ready to heat meals. Today's time starved consumer want to purchase meal components that they can bundle into a customized family meal that will please everyone without spending time cooking.

Most consumers may traditionally think these items can be or are found in grocery stores in the deli / lifestyle section, C-stores in the prepared food area and prepackaged, Ready-2-Eat items and in restaurants under the To-go, takeout or take away or delivery section of the menu or on the website. 

The retail industry has expanded and is evolving to keep up with the demands of consumer’s desire to save time, improve quality, increase family flavor profile, while enabling personalization and family meal customization into what we call family meal cohesion. 

Where can you sample Grocerant food?

Restaurant examples are McDonalds, Pret A Manger Burger King, Pizza Hut, Papa Murphy's and Starbucks, each having a fresh Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food. In the Casual Dining sector Maggiano's Little Italy offers a buy one take a 2nd home for free in their Classic Pastas menu section, Olive Garden, Chili’s, Boston Market and Denny’s.  That is to name but a few.

 Drug Store examples Walgreens as a food destination yet Walgreens sells fresh soft-serve yogurt, coffee, sandwiches, salads, and sushi at selected stores, so they are technically grocerants.

 Convenience Store examples are 7 Eleven, Wawa, Sheetz, Sheetz, and QuickChek, all of which sell fresh and prepared sandwiches, salads, beverages.

 Clothing Stores Tommy Bahama, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Brooks Brothers all have or are planning restaurants selling fresh prepared food in-store. Fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat food is garnering consumer favor in this sector.  Expect to find more and more clothing retailers entering the grocerant niche.

 Furniture Stores & Liquor Store example Ikea sells over $ 2 Billion a year in Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food in its stores (mostly meatballs-mash potatoes), Pinkies in San Angelo, Texas this past holiday season even offered complete fresh prepared full Turkey Dinners will all of the traditional side orders.  All of the fresh prepared food is prepared on site and sold To-Go. 

Supermarket examples are Whole Foods, Trader-Joes, Central Market, and Wegmans sell fresh prepared chicken, salads, sandwiches and most offer sushi and beverages. Many are now opening in-store restaurants including fast food, full service sit down and bars all offer fresh prepared To-Go as well.

The retail supermarket and convenience store sector have unique grocerant challenges. Presentation of the Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food is important. When you get a meal at a restaurant, the plate and the food look great… let's call this "food for now". Many legacy retailers are primarily selling "food for later" or take-out and unless an item is a sandwich, the looks of Ready-2-Eat meals and snacks begin to change.

Why is it so hard to package food to go? In the Hot food section of the grocery store the food in most cases does not look appealing so our expectations drop when we get it for Take-Away. That may be one reason that many grocery stores are continue to open restaurants or “food courts” selling made to order fresh sandwiches or Chinese take-out.  In convenience stores like Wawa, the Ready-2-Eat food looks great in the To-Go containers. Why? Because Wawa puts the entire consumer food package together. They exert more control on the look and feel of "food for later".

Around the world we are now seeing sections in department's stores and kiosk in malls in Europe and Asia and airports around the world. The items can range from entrees to side items and deserts. Some examples of items range from fried chicken, mash potatoes, cream spinach, to liver and onions, pizza, hot dogs, steak, prime rib, various casseroles (hot-dish) to salads, side salads pie, cake and any single proportioned deserts. They can be picked up at the specific unit, or delivered.

Do you need a Grocerant Scorecard? Visit:  if you are interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization or you can learn more at Johnson, or

Thursday, May 28, 2015

So, Do You Have Time to Plan Dinner or Cook Dinner from Scratch? If not Read On

Today, if you are "Ready-2-Eat" there is a very good chance you are looking for fresh prepared multi-flavor, multi-ethnic Grocerant meal components. Heat-N-eat and Ready-2 Eat fresh prepared food with portability is driving retail food success in 2015.
Where are you shopping for your food today is not the same place your mother was shopping nor is the meal prepared the same way. As long as multi-generational family's gather for meals together, the demand for more divergent flavors will continue to grow. Grocerant mix and match bundled meal component offerings allow for increased family integration, understanding and acceptance in less time without a required cook from scratch skill set.
Let’s take a look back then let’s Look A Customer Ahead.  First a look back in the 1940's cooking from scratch was the normal. The average home cooked meal took 150 minutes to prepare. Everyone sat down at the table and enjoyed it or not, but they all ate the same thing. Today's "home cooked meal" takes on average less than 30 minutes to prepared. In most cases at least two different entrées are served according to Foodservice Solutions® latest findings.
Now the average time spent inside a McDonalds is about 11 minutes. Today 65+ percent of all McDonald's food is sold via the drive-thru. U.S. fast-food chains are increasingly remodeling restaurants in an effort to garner additional drive-thru customers inside and increase sales, simple because the drive-thru can't hold all the cars.
According to the New York Times Magazine - McDonald's Came Back Bigger Than Ever McDonald's Corp. saw a 50% increase in sales during the first quarter of 2012 after opening a remodeled restaurant in Riverside, California, that features a new décor, solar panels on the carport, and ceiling panels that contain L.E.D. lights. During the first 12 months, sales at this restaurant increased 20% overall. Today they are testing new menu’s, new Technology, and new messaging.  Never count out McDonald's. 
Grocery stores have some concerns because Walgreens is creating and bundling distinctive differentiated food consumable's as an entity with identity by day part in a mix and match meal component format.  They are dong it in select urban setting targeted at both the office worker for lunch and meal components for them to take home for the family dinner.
It is fast becoming a successful program. With over 8,230 units operating in the United States Walgreens has the potential to become the most disruptive force in food retailing in 50 years. Walgreens with its drive-thru modular mid-sized locations is garnering customers from C-stores, restaurants and grocery stores.
Consumers Want Easy to Prepare Meals
The grocerant niche continues to grow with companies like Central Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans and 7 Eleven entering the fresh prepared better for you space. Meal time is now becoming a time of convenient meal participation, with differentiation and individualization for the entire family. Safeway with its lifestyle stores are heading in the right direction however the stores are so large consumers are forced to spend more time in them than they want.
More often than not the multi-generational family today is multi-ethnic as well. Creating a demand for more varied flavors and additional cooking skill set that is simply not there. Grocery stores, Convenience Stores, Restaurants and Chain Drug Stores are all selling Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food. Is your focus family dinning? Are you selling meals or meal components for Take-Out, delivery or Take-Away?
Consumers lacking the skill set to prepared fresh prepared multi-ethnic meal components at home coupled with the time it takes to prepared a home cooked meal it is clear the buying habits of consumers will continue to evolve. Bundling mix and match meal components into a meal is one key driver within the grocerant niche. Given that most American family are comprised of multi-cultural background. The fight for share of stomach will only intensify.
Restaurants menu's at one time were very narrow in focus and have moved more upscale with offerings such as Oriental Chicken Salad, Southwest Chicken Salad, along with a chef salads. Grocery stores on the other hand are expected to sell complete lines of Reay-2-Eat multi-ethnic food. That places higher expectations on grocers than restaurants or a company like Walgreens. Walgreens might just be in the perfect spot to expand fresh prepared food offerings capturing customers from both restaurants and supermarkets.
Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® a Tacoma, WA based retail foodservice consultancy has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche. For Grocerant niche product ideations or Grocerant brand positioning assistance contact or the Grocerant LinkedIn page