Consumers’ current interest at the grocery store is in the perimeter, but brands can grow in the main aisles with innovation and attention to shopping details.

By Carl Pennington, CEO and President of Impact Group

In recent years, the industry has seen exponential growth in consumer preferences for fresh and healthy foods. Today’s shoppers are gravitating to the perimeter of grocery stores where consumers can find a wide range of fresh, unprocessed offerings, including produce, fresh meats, seafood and more.

This shift has resulted in stagnant growth for the center-of-store foods as a whole. In fact, Mintel Group data reports millennials are less likely to shop the center of store in traditional supermarkets.

With fresh products outpacing other categories, brands are looking for unique and innovative ways to compete in the center of the grocery store. Through our work with more than 700 CPG brands and food manufacturers, we’ve gleaned three key insights on how brands can grow center-of-store presence and continue to attract consumer interest.

Pay attention to consumer trends and motivations

The most successful brands listen to evolving shopper attitudes and key product attributes that customers are looking for. Brands that introduce innovative and/or niche products that address growing consumer motivations are the ones thriving in the center of store.

There’s an overarching consumer demand for natural and clean foods so brands are striving to rid products of fat, sugar and other unwanted ingredients. Unlike previous health trends—such as the carb-free, low-fat and low-calorie—today’s shoppers don’t have a defined enemy, but a broad desire to eat healthier and consume better ingredients.

In fact, Nielsen data suggests brands that offer more fresh ingredients are growing faster than those that don’t. With this insight, brands should lean into this consumer preference and update their offerings accordingly. A great example of a CPG brand that has embraced this consumer shift is Amy’s, a line of frozen organic meals made with non-GMO ingredients that resonate with today’s modern consumer, including organic leafy kale, quinoa, fire-roasted sweet potatoes and more.

Deliver consistent, measurable in-store execution

Leading brands establish a system to ensure that their products are consistently performing as planned in the center of store. They identify a clear process for sales representatives to abide by for store visits to help ensure success. Scorecards hold sales reps accountable and measure whether they are performing proper protocol.

This requires sending a sales force into stores to survey compliance with pricing, promotions, and placement. The sales representatives make sure authorized items in the schematic are on the shelves where they should be, restock items from backstock, replace tags that may have fallen off the shelf, verify the pricing and promotions are what they should be, and assist the store managers in placing orders for items that are out-of-stock.

Elevate the in-store shopping experience

Regaining control of the in-store experience is critical for brand growth. To increase center of store sales, companies need to create a brand shopping experience that sets them apart from the competition. Offering rich customer experiences, beyond just simple branded sampling stations, will allow brands to forge deep connections with consumers. Providing in-store cooking demonstrations, branded recipe cards or simple recipe pairings will help engage buyers in a memorable and interactive way. Millennials are especially drawn to these types of experiential concepts while shopping.

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