Ordering groceries online and digitizing the store rank among the top trends in grocery shopping for 2016, according to John Karolefski, veteran supermarket watcher and purveyor of GroceryStories.com.
"The top trends for 2016 indicate that traditional shopping patterns are changing," he adds. "Look for grocers get creative and enliven what has been a mundane chore."
Top trends include:
Shopping online. Ordering groceries online has been growing steadily for a few years, but will surge in 2016. Many supermarkets that have not offered such an option will jump on board.
H-E-B and Hy-Vee, for example, opened impressive online stores, according to Karolefski. More grocers will join the 65 retailers partnering with Instacart, which lets consumers order groceries online and pairs them with a personal shopper who hand picks items at customers' favorite stores and delivers to the home. Also, there will be more testing of curbside pick-up of groceries that have been ordered online.
Digitizing the supermarket. Retailers will look to digitally connect with smartphone-carrying shoppers, especially Millennials, who will account for most grocery purchases as they start families. Grocers such as Marsh Supermarkets and others have equipped stores with beacons. These Bluetooth-enabled devices connect with nearby smartphones to send ads, coupons or product information to shoppers.
More grocers will also install electronic shelf labels (ESLs), now being tested by Kroger. ESLs display prices, ads and nutritional information. Meanwhile, all of Kroger's stores are being equipped with temperature monitor sensors in the refrigerated and frozen food cases to ensure product quality and safety.
Shrinking the supermarket. Less is more as grocers continue to open smaller supermarkets to cater to the needs of small households, especially in growing urban areas. These shoppers will cruise the perimeter for prepared food, dairy, bakery and produce.
Hy-Vee now operates four 14,000-square-foot mainstreet stores, Ahold opened what is said to be the first of its 10,000-square-foot "bfresh" grocery stores in Boston and Hannaford opened a 20,000-square-foot store in Portland, Maine, with a focus on fresh foods.
Entertaining in stores. Operators of large supermarkets will take advantage of their space to lure customers with special events. More product sampling, nutritional tours and cooking demos will take place.
Chefs at H-E-B stores prepare a variety of recipes every day as part of the Cooking Connection program. At Giant Eagle's Market District store in Solon, Ohio, it is Food and Wine Friday every week, where shoppers sample wines and hors d'oeuvres at serving stations throughout the store.
Dining in stores. Before customers go about their grocery shopping, they can have a bite to eat or something to drink. Operators of many new large supermarkets are including a café with a light menu to nourish customers.
For example, the lunch crowd at Mariano's in Wheaton, Ill., can enjoy pizza and other edibles in the cafe. Giant Eagle's Market District in Strongsville, Ohio, offers a full-sized bar next to a café. And, Starbucks are being added to the perimeter of more supermarkets for a quick coffee break while shopping.