Shoppers seek food treasures in lower-priced stores

Articles
February 27, 2009

Shoppers seek food treasures in lower-priced stores

It sure feels good to shop the aisles of an upscale Whole Foods or Fairway supermarket. Their luscious presentations are reminders of happier economic times, not long ago, when people spent more freely on better cuts of meat, exotic produce and other foods that can turn meals at home into pleasing events. Shoppers don’t have to give up those good vibrations, however. With some resourcefulness, maybe a little extra gas in the tank, and the good fortune to be located not too far from a dollar store like Dollar Tree or Family Dollar, or an extreme value operator like Grocery Outlet, Aldi or Supervalu’s Save-A-Lot, they can fill household dining tables to the brim with unexpected delights. The author of the first dollar store cookbook to come out last year felt inspired by the BMWs and Porsches she saw in the parking lots of dollar stores. They were no mirage: Boomer trips to stock up at dollar stores were up 5% in 2008, reported Nielsen in a Unilever trip management report. More recently, author Christiane Jory whipped up a bunch of recipes for her creation, The 99 Cent Only Stores Cookbook , using only foods that cost a dollar or less. Think bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with almonds and caramelized onion torte. The opportunistic buying practices of these stores means shoppers will find different assortments wherever they go, but that adds to the nice-surprise quotient.

It sure feels good to shop the aisles of an upscale Whole Foods or Fairway supermarket. Their luscious presentations are reminders of happier economic times, not long ago, when people spent more freely on better cuts of meat, exotic produce and other foods that can turn meals at home into pleasing events.

Shoppers don’t have to give up those good vibrations, however. With some resourcefulness, maybe a little extra gas in the tank, and the good fortune to be located not too far from a dollar store like Dollar Tree or Family Dollar, or an extreme value operator like Grocery Outlet, Aldi or Supervalu’s Save-A-Lot, they can fill household dining tables to the brim with unexpected delights.

The author of the first dollar store cookbook to come out last year felt inspired by the BMWs and Porsches she saw in the parking lots of dollar stores. They were no mirage: Boomer trips to stock up at dollar stores were up 5% in 2008, reported Nielsen in a Unilever trip management report.  More recently, author Christiane Jory whipped up a bunch of recipes for her creation, The 99 Cent Only Stores Cookbook , using only foods that cost a dollar or less. Think bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with almonds and caramelized onion torte.

The opportunistic buying practices of these stores means shoppers will find different assortments wherever they go, but that adds to the nice-surprise quotient.

A visit here could help stretch the food dollar and expand one’s palate at the same time—at savings between 41% to 71% compared with supermarket prices, according to a money.aol.com analysis reported in Inside Jersey.

They may not be farm-to-table ingredients, but canned fruits and vegetables, dry goods, and frozen meats, seafoods and desserts are comfort foods—many among the staples of a previous generation that could satisfyingly feed a family with a little TLC in the kitchen.

Extreme-value stores offer even more variety at compelling savings. Aldi claims it can supply up to 90% of household needs and save shoppers up to 50% on their baskets. The stores focus on 1,300 fast-turn items.

And as early as a year ago, before Wall Street truly crumbled, Grocery Outlet co-CEO Eric Lindberg told Supermarket News from his office in Berkeley, CA: “We’re seeing a dramatic increase in new faces in our stores.” He explained that the chain of no-frills stores carry 3,500 SKUs at a time—including expanded perishables and many meal components—but rotate so heavily that the effect is 35,000 SKUs over the course of a year.

The lesson here, believes SupermarketGuru.com, is that consumers will not be denied. Since they rely on food for emotional uplift as well as sustenance, it isn’t surprising to see the efforts made to rise above current circumstances and keep better times in mind.  CPG brands and retailers who think they have any kind of lock on shoppers or how they think will certainly be proven wrong in these volatile times.