Sensory Appeals Lure Shoppers to Grocerants, Prepared Foods

“Hit them with five senses to raise visitation rates,” says Datassential

January 31, 2018

From the February, 2018 issue of The Great Grocerant.

While two-thirds of supermarket shoppers say they visit the produce department on every trip, only about half as many (36%) say that about grocerants and the deli/prepared foods areas.

“Retailers think of shoppers as a captive audience because they’re in aisles. That’s a fallacy. You have to captivate them with experiential retailing. Shopping is about the journey – not just the product you buy at the end,” said Jack Li, Managing Director, Datassential, as he detailed custom research on the January 16 Nestle Professional webinar, Attracting Shoppers and Growing Flavor Trends: A Look Into 2018 for Foodservice at Retail.  

In a practical sense, this means visual draws such as menu boards, combo meals, limited time offers, product signage and tempting displays – as well as enticing smells from cooked foods, and smart inclusion of ethnic ingredients and flavors to drive craveability. “Place these in familiar applications such as burgers or mac ‘n cheese to add excitement and make them seem less risky to try,” he suggested.    

According to Datassential, ingredients such as gochujang (Korean red chili paste) and togarashi (Japanese chili pepper) are now in the inception stage at fine-dining and unique ethnic restaurants; chimichurri (Argentinian parsley-based sauce for beef) and arrabbiata (spicy Italian pasta sauce) are more broadly adopted at higher-end casual dining restaurants, food trucks and progressive foodservice areas at supermarkets; and habanero (hot chili pepper) and wasabi (Japanese spice for sushi, often served in paste form) proliferate.

“Decide where your brand wants to play. Do you want to educate customers or be very familiar? The earlier stages (inception and adoption) generate excitement, the later stages (proliferation and ubiquity) generate volume,” Mr. Li said.

Menu descriptions are key to the success of safe experimentation to excite a large audience. “Place experimental words within the body, not the title of the dish,” he urged. A Datassential consumer study shows the same dish called ‘salsa verde poutine’ or ‘Mexican loaded fries’ produced vastly different purchase intent – just 6% for the ethnic name and 68% for the more familiar name.  Consumers saw the dish as pretty equally unique under either name – 90% vs. 96%.

Ryan Baxter, Director of National Accounts Chefs at Nestle Professional, demonstrated on the webinar how the ‘safe experimentation’ concept could transform the mac ‘n cheese experience.  These examples include ethnic ingredients for a chef-made customize-your-own mac ‘n cheese station, cold case or grab ‘n go display:

  • Fire-roasted pablano with panko bread crumbs on top
  • Mexican street corn, chorizo, garlic, cumin and chopped jalapenos, mixed with chicken and a side dish of avocado salsa to boost check averages
  • Roast pork spare ribs with gochujang and scallions garnish – the sizzle and fragrant smell add appeal
  • Shrimp, lobster, and asparagus tips and segments – always show some seafood on top
  • Butternut squash and kale with red chili adobo
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