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    Live From MeatCon: How Grocers Can Harness the Power of Meat

    The future of the meat case lies in global trends, foodservice opportunities

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    Neil Stern of McMillanDoolittle

    The analysis came full circle Tuesday morning, with discussions on broad meat trends, the importance of supermarket foodservice and how shoppers view the meat department bringing the 2015 Annual Meat Conference to a close.

    Neil Stern, senior partner with Ebeltoft USA/McMillanDoolittle, offered a “Visual Journey of Global Retail and Meat Trends,” with an international look at how retailers are exploring new formats and new trends in visual merchandising and experimenting with new disruptive business models. Held in Nashville, the conference is hosted by the North American Meat Institute and the Food Marketing Institute.

    With consumers and their needs more diverse than ever, retailers must “understand and respond or disappear,” Stern said. With the rapid adaptation of technology, he continued, it’s “digisumers” who are calling the shots in retail.

    Among Stern’s key points:

    • “Local” resonates on freshness, sustainability and community support.
    • Foodservice mashups bring theater to retail grocery.
    • Retailers must boldly deliver experiences that can’t be duplicated online.
    • Experiences must reflect demographic specialization; the Millennial population is 35 percent ethnic.
    • Grocers should experiment with new ways to reach shoppers, such as food trucks, curbside pickup, home meal delivery and vending.
    • Managing expectations and returns is the key challenge for small formats.

    “We’re really seeing profound changes happening in the marketplace,” Stern declared.

    Foodservice a must-have

    Wade Hanson, principal with Technomic Inc., presented “The Changing Face of Supermarket Foodservice and the Keys to Long-term Success,” in one of the morning’s three concurrent sessions.

    Restaurants “are looking at this as a threat to their business,” Hanson said of the evolution and refinement of supermarket prepared foods. “The growth potential is there, much more so than other areas of the grocery industry.” In fact, he said, grocery foodservice can expect 7.5 percent annual growth over the next 10 years.

    And in Technomic’s latest consumer ranking of the top 10 foodservice operators, four of them are grocers, including the top-ranked Wegmans, which, along with Mariano’s and Standard Market in the Chicago area, Market Bistro by Price Chopper in New York, and Kroger’s Chef on the Run, Hanson named as standouts in this category.

    So important is foodservice to grocery, Hanson asserted, that without it, grocers risk losing the rest of their overall basket. He cited data showing grocery prepared foods with $25 billion in sales for 2014, up $10 billion since 2004, with foodservice being the No. 1 strategic initiative for many retailers.

    Hanson pointed to these trends in grocery foodservice for the coming years:

    • Breakfast, beverages and dessert are prime opportunities.
    • As fresh expands to other channels, grocers will be under pressure to more clearly define and own it.
    • Brand loyalty will depend on relevance and customization: “Be on-trend and relevant,” he said, “and adapt to YOUR consumer.”

    The morning’s other concurrent sessions looked at growth opportunities in value-added meat and a regulatory update, including such issues as food safety and country-of-origin labeling.

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing.

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