How supermarkets are becoming hangout areas for “food enthusiasts”

The global food and beverage industry is growing by 5 percent each year, according to Plant and Food Research, New Zealand. Consumers investing in "food culture," is a huge part of the rising interest seen globally. Interest in food culture is fuelled by factors such as an increase in global tourism, the widespread availability of online recipes and food forums, and a generally increased appreciation of food as both an art form, and as a way of connecting people. Now—more than ever—is a great time for retailers and suppliers to look at ways in which supermarket experiences can transcend a “tedious weekly chore” and become savoured as an “as-often-as-you-can” pastime.

Various ways in which supermarkets are looking to branch out include on-trend food stands, visually enticing and ready-to-order counters, and even sectioned-off restaurant or taprooms adjacent to stores. In all of these, presentation is important. Customers are inclined to share pictures of food or food stands should it have an aesthetic appeal. The prevalence of this is not to be taken lightly—pictures of smoothie bowls, or fresh salads can generate thousands of “likes” on social media forums—think of all that free advertising.

Cincinnati-based Jungle Jim’s International Market has taken its foodservice experience one step further. It has opened a state-of-the-art food-centric space in which through various events and experiences, shoppers can “taste, learn, and connect,” according to Events Manager, Jodi Taylor. An example of one of these such events is a five-course gourmet “dinner by the bite” where customers can eat and taste wines while taking a virtual tour of the featured winery. This is an otherworldly experience for your average shopper. It is a way of engaging consumers beyond the norm and encouraging them to learn more about where the products come from and what they are actually buying. Furthermore, events like these help customers to keep returning—whether it's for a quick shop or an evening event. Connectivity is enormous in this day and age, and although experimental, ideas like these help modernise the supermarket experience.

Another way in which supermarkets are looking to appeal to the modern consumer is variety. Whereas many companies will not have the revenue to create such elaborate experiences as the “wine and dine” method mentioned above, retailers are encouraged to provide a variety of “things” for people to see and do while they shop. Some such instances include stalls and stands selling various products or ready-made items. Examples of these include a “build your own pizza” stall, or a “customised breakfast bowl” stand, a juice bar, a craft beer station, and the list goes on. Enticing customers with such opportunities and features is a way of providing the most intimate, and refreshing way to shop in the modern age.

Finally, creating an inviting, and familiar atmosphere for consumers helps to maximise the chance of gaining repeat shoppers. Communications Director of Lucky’s Market in Boulder, Colorado, Krista Torvik strives to make customers feel “like they are at home—comfortable, safe and happy—all with a full belly.” Lucky’s Market offers a homemade food service designed to impart a “vintage feel to remind people of home cooking” and provide a “bit of nostalgia for the comforts of home,” according to Torvik. These “gourmet” shopping experiences help impart a sense of community and connectivity as shoppers delight in, and share the experiences they have had. Sharing a meal has always been a family tradition worldwide—sitting around having a meal is the perfect way to connect and catch up. As busyness catches up with people in the modern day, creating ways in which people can continue to share and connect over things such as food is a good way of retaining consumers and prolonging positive customer relationships.