By Chris Blasinsky
LONDON—Significant changes in consumer behaviors and needs have created shifts and new market realities for convenience retailers. In the latest Shop Talk Live session hosted by Global Convenience Store Focus, industry leaders and experts presented global insights on how short-term market responses in the U.K. and Ireland have impacted foodservice programs.
Current opportunities revolve around in-home consumption, food solutions, delivery and frictionless shopping. And looking ahead, retailers are also planning for the revival of trends like plant-based foods, experiential retail and sustainability.
Noel Keeley, CEO of Musgrave Group in Ireland, noted a common theme among global retail during the pandemic: panic buying and nervous consumers, supply chain pressures and significant changes in product mix as consumers stocked up on staples for baking, pasta and canned goods. Convenience stores located in city centers were hit hard with lockdowns and empty office areas, while c-stores located in the more rural/neighborhood areas fared well. As for the retailer’s hospitality wholesale food business, it essentially dropped overnight, Keeley said, experiencing a 95% drop in sales.
Today, however, and moving forward, the Musgrave Group is continuing to deliver choice for consumers where and when they want it at a price they’re willing to pay. The retailer’s Centra convenience store brand is redefining the convenience retail market by focusing on healthy options and more food-to-go offers like fresh salads and pizza. In fact, Keeley noted that the company is looking for opportunities to license its Caramico pizza brand to other operators, as well as The Happy Pear, a vegetarian and vegan food brand the company acquired earlier this year.
Laurens Engbers, CEO of Fri-Jado, which develops and manufactures foodservice equipment, displays and technology, shared the latest global trends in store design for fresh food that create a visual experience for customers.
Fri-Jado worked with Morrisons to launch its new Morrisons Market Kitchen store in Manchester, U.K, a “foodvenience-focused” concept with a dedicated production kitchen and a food court with rows of counters that offer customers ample food-to-go choices with all-day appeal.
The Morrisons Market Kitchen has been described as part grocery and part food-to-go, with hot food options such as rice bowls, sushi, soup, pizza and gourmet coffee.
Engbers explained that the younger customers gravitate more to food away from home and embrace the experience of dining out. More so than any other generation before them, both millennials and Gen Y also prefer convenience stores because of their convenient locations, and hot foods are an impulse driver for this generation, meeting their needs for comfort, taste and a satisfying meal solution.
A nod to the notion that people often eat with their eyes, Morrisons Market Kitchen is a visual experience. “It’s all about visibility—visibility will sell the food,” Engbers said. For retailers looking to create a successful foodservice program, he offered five broad areas for consideration: menu development and product selection, customer demographics, food presentation and display and equipment design, food packaging and operations like food safety.
For more insights on global foodservice trends and innovations, register for the NACS Crack the Code Experience, which runs through December 4. Attendees can select from among more than 50 education sessions and have around-the-clock access to innovative product showrooms.
Chris Blasinsky is the NACS content communications strategist; she can be reached at email@example.com, and on Twitter and LinkedIn.