Ripe for Innovation

Twenty opportunities to turn your company into an innovation powerhouse

By
Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

The Bifurcation of Retail
In 2014, in a culture that has experienced the impact of both The Food Network and The Great Recession, we are witnessing a unique split in the retail landscape. “There’s not much of the mass market anymore,” says Demeritt of The Hartman Group. “[Some] people tend to be moving to one end of the spectrum—to the really value-driven end—and then the other group is moving toward the higher-quality, premium end.”

Take a look at retailers across the segments and, sure enough, the leaders fi t into one of those two buckets, be it Aldi, Dollar General, Whole Foods or The Fresh Market. And what really doesn’t work, says Demeritt, is trying to serve both populations: “We don’t think in this day in age you can try to do both very well.” It’s what traditional grocers are doing, and are struggling.

What’s more, consumers are shopping less in grocery stores and mass merchandisers overall and paying more visits to drug, dollar, convenience and club stores, according to IRI.

“Manufacturers must stay in lock step with these changes and explore new opportunities to stay in touch with key consumer targets, such as channel-specific products, packs and pricing to meet consumer needs, achieve acceptable margins, and set distribution strategies that create a more narrow and focused assortment,” says Viamari of IRI.

C-stores should consider ways to kick grocers and mass merchandisers while they’re down—dollar chains certainly are. Demeritt suggests leveraging the obvious immediate-consumption needs with fill-in shopping opportunities. “What am I going to have in the next 24 to 48 hours that is going to be a supplement to whatever I have in my home? It’s probably not going to be fresh per se, but refrigerated, perishable items,” she says.

Fresh to Your Door
We often equate delivery with foodservice, but why not focus on other c-store staples? A concept that started in Madison, Wis., and has since expanded to St. Paul, Minn., Madtown Munchies is a delivery-only, storefront-free convenience store that focuses on college campuses and surrounding neighborhoods.

Retailers can either tap into the opportunity, or give it away to others such as Madtown.

Tell Me a Story
Across industries, the conversation around corporatecitizenry continues, encompassing everything fromsustainability to the treatment of employees. The underlyingtheme is that consumers want to feel good aboutwhere they spend their money.

Sometimes that brand story already exists, createdby the founder or owner of the company. But what ifyour brand doesn’t really stand for anything—or at leastanything that resonates with today’s consumer?

“The opportunity lies in looking at populations ofpeople and saying, ‘What are they doing and how canI connect that to my brand meaningfully?’ Not chasingthe tactics, but chasing the metaphors and strategiesbehind it,” says Stangarone of The Culinary Edge.

“Is everything at Whole Foods organic? Not really.Does everything at Whole Foods feel like it belongsunder that roof? Absolutely.”

Stangarone recommends not looking at trendy “burstsof behavior,” nor too broad a collection of consumers.“But if you look at your guests and … their values, thenyou start to home in on some attitudes.”