The History of Home Meal Replacement
Looking back, during the late Home Meal Replacement frenzy grocery stores, C-stores and restaurants all studied with excitement the successful developments of Phil Romano's Eatzi's. Eatzi's is Where Phil turned the page from restaurateur to foodservice retailer and food merchant. Phil's experiment was a smashing success. It was and remains consumer interactive, participatory with visceral authenticity recording sales of 17 Million a year at the original store. Now in NYC Eatlaly is Eatzi's on steroids doing close to 60 Million a year in sales.
Legacy Home Meal Replacement focus quickly faded away in the Restaurant side of business. However in the Grocery, C-store and Drug Store sector it continued to be studied, tested, and implemented. Today the grocerant niche is the strategic path of choice for non-traditional food retailers, targeted at restaurant customers, profitable and expanding at an ever increasing pace.
Food is Part of the Broader Consumer OmniChannel Retail Trends
Wawa was once considered a convenience store now the Wawa positions it's brand asFresh First, Built-ToOrder and Ready-To-Go with focus of serving Fast Casual Food- - To Go. At Wawa customers are now finding What's for Breakfast, What's for Lunch and now what's for Dinner. Sheetz once a convenience store now calls themselves a restaurant that sells gas. Sheetz Made To Order food is a hit with customers. Sheetz is successful contemporizing legacy C-store products with differentiation, customization and personalization. Consumer like the variety, 24 hour menu serving all day parts - all day long - a wide range of consumer meal and snacking needs. Sounds and acts like a restaurant doing all the right things.
Rutter's is another convenience store in transition. Rutter's understands the unique balance between palate, price, pleasure and the consumer's drive for qualitative distinctive differentiated new messaging and Rutter's is meeting that need set. The food value proposition equilibrium for the consumer today balances; better for you, flavor, and traditional products all blended into something with a twist. In industry speak, differentiated does not mean different to the consumer it means familiar. Rutter's is an example of brand identity extending beyond consumer expectations within the traditional conveniences store sector. Too the consumer Rutter's is a direct valued competitor within the QSR space.
Examples of Today's Grocerant
The grocerant niche is a result of the blurring of the line between restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores all selling fresh prepared, portable convenient meal solutions. Targeted at the time-starved consumer with Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food components that are "better for you", portable and portioned for one or two. All of these operators want a larger share of the retail food market. They want to take share from the restaurants.
Whole Foods is no longer Whole Paycheck but Whole Fresh Food Fast and consumers find that is "better for you". They are driving customer frequency while building loyalty with Fresh prepared ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat better for you food. Whole Foods focus is on convenient meal participation, better for you differentiation, and individualization.
Safeway's has integrated Mix and Match Meal Bundling marketing into daily and weekly iphone app's and legacy print flyers. With a focus on Fresh Prepared Food, Safeway is leveraging The 5 P's of Food Marketing: Product, Packaging, Placement, Portability and Price establishing contemporized consumer relevance. In what was once restaurant food space alone grocery stores, C-stores and Drug stores are now garnering consumer attention.
Walgreens Fresh Food Is a Disruptive Force in Retail Foods
This video of Walgreens in San Francisco entering the fresh food space is evidence that no food retailer should dismiss as not my competitor. Walgreens with over 78 Billion in sales they has the capital and resources to repeatedly try an try again unitl they get it right. Walgreens might just be the next Next Biggest Competitor in the retail food space.
Walgreens Fresh with Duane Reade have 7,500+ retail outlets. Who is selling what in your back yard? With Walgreens entering the fresh food area again with meats, wraps, soups "and other on-the-go meal options, as well as convenient alternatives for tonight's family meal, it is clear that the future of fresh food retail leadership may be up in the air.
A Final Thought For Retailers and Food Brands
Food Retailing never takes a step backward. Consumers are dynamic not static always looking to save both time and money. The grocerant niche is propelling new quality points of fresh food distribution and competitors that are well financed. Remember, when it is 4pm, do you know what your customers want to make for dinner ?
Steven Johnson is Grocerant Guru at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions, with extensive experience as a multi-unit operator, consultant and brand/product positioning. Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven A. Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® visit The Grocerant on LinkedIn or @Grocerant on Twitter