The Australian consumer has become more inclined to alcohol-free drinks. According to the director of Drakes Supermarkets, John-Paul Drake, the days of grape juice as a non-alcoholic alternative are gone, with innovation for non-alcoholic beers, wines and spirits, such as gin and vodka, increasingly improving aligned with consumer demand for the whole flavour experience, just without the alcohol.
We're also seeing a desire for nostalgia products, things that we ate as kids, were discontinued and are starting to come back, think Toobs and Pollywaffle. Sometimes, there's no need to reinvent the wheel,
"We're also seeing a desire for nostalgia products, things that we ate as kids, were discontinued and are starting to come back, think Toobs and Pollywaffle. Sometimes, there's no need to reinvent the wheel," said Drake.
Cross-category brand collaborations have also become a segment full of product innovation, including popcorn, lollipops, flavoured milk, lollies, chips, and fast food brands. These collaborations have all amplified brand recognition with different market segments. Dietary alternatives are another area of category growth, with consumers' taste and texture being imperative so consumers don't have to compromise on flavour for products aligned with their health or allergen needs.
"Our customers love our blue and green price tickets; these identify gluten-free and organic products easily on the shelf, and it means they don't have to go to specific sections in the store to find products that meet their requirements."
Drakes’ values are centred around supporting local manufacturers and suppliers, and it holds a local-first sourcing mentality, which its customers appreciate and support. Despite this, there has also been significant growth in Asian product categories, with particular demand growing around high-quality, authentic Indian and Chinese foods.
While the cost of living pressures and the continued inflation rate have impacted households across Australia and globally, Drake said that the supermarket has absorbed price increases from its supplier partner of raw ingredients to keep prices as low as possible for consumers, reducing Drakes Supermarkets' profit margins.
"Long-term, however, this won't be viable, so we will continue to look for innovations that will add value to our customers."
Introducing and expanding Drakes' own Value Brand has allowed the supermarket to be price competitive with the home brands from the major chains, providing its customers with a low-budget, quality option on its shelves. Drakes have seen a shift in consumer purchasing towards these value products and phantom brands. However, customers are also still looking for quality products.
Drake continues that the supermarket has built its reputation on delivering brands that consumers know and trust, with its central focus resting on supporting its supplier partners and offering new product innovations.
According to Drake, the supermarket's Distribution Centre's Warehouse Management System by World Chain Stores is world-class, using voice-directed warehouse processes for order assembly, forklift and loading operations.
The voice-based transactions allow for real-time maintenance of inventory levels and allocating the best next-picking assignment to drive productivity. Drakes suppliers have responded positively to the supermarket booking system, with the Inbound Portal allowing suppliers and transportation partners to schedule deliveries in the warehouse based on a combination of available capacity, booking slots, product mix and receiving history.
"It sounds over the top, but it increases efficiencies in receiving goods."
Online shopping makes up a minimal percentage of the supermarket's total store sales, with its customers enjoying coming in to shop. Despite this, Drakes understands that consumers are more time-poor than ever, with its relationship with delivery services, such as UberEats and Menulog, having received positive responses from its consumers.
Drakes also has an online catering service, which has continued to grow due to one key common denominator: high quality and convenience.
Furthermore, the supermarket has developed a myDrakes app, a loyalty program without loyalty, allowing it to reward customers instantly with money from their grocery shop. Customers can also store digital receipts and fuel vouchers, earn money for their community group and be automatically entered into Drakes competitions on qualifying transactions, all with a single scan.
"Feedback on the app has been positive, with more features to be rolled out in the future."
In October, Drake hinted at a significant upcoming programme that he had been sworn to secrecy. He could reveal that it was unique and had not been done in an Australian supermarket before.
"We're proud to hold strong relationships with our supplier partners and will have several exclusive collaborations to celebrate our 50th Anniversary in 2024, so watch this space."
To see the feature in our August issue, please see pages 44 and 45 below: