Retail Foodservice

How to Know— and Woo—'Superconsumers'

You can find them at the intersection of people who buy a lot and care a lot
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By now, many of us are familiar with market studies that tell us who deli, bakery or prepared foods shoppers tend to be. These reports break shoppers down by age, income or household size. While these studies have proven to be useful for many in the dairy, deli and bakery industry, they all define theoretical shoppers.

The key term here is “theoretical,” a process that doesn’t always identify the true shopping characteristics and lifestyles of consumers. Case in point: the “superconsumer.”

Working at IDDBA, I know quite a few foodies. We love to go out to eat together when we can, and we love to share our new food experiences with each other. While superconsumers in dairy, deli and bakery might be foodies, they are often more than that. Superconsumers are the intersection of people who buy a lot and care a lot. They have passion for certain products. The idea of superconsumers is rooted in the observation Vilfredo Pareto made over 100 years ago: 80 percent of land is owned by 20 percent of the population. Today, we often call it the 80/20 rule, and it’s applied widely in business.

In a given category, superconsumers are about 10 percent of shoppers who drive 30 percent to 70 percent of sales. These engaged shoppers eagerly look for new products, happily pay price premiums, shop a category frequently, have above average category knowledge, are more open to marketing messages, and can articulate and anticipate latent demand. In other words, whether you make food or sell food, superconsumers are the ones who can help with packaging, promotions or even product formulations and store design. This small number of shoppers drives the vast majority of insight into a category.

Superconsumers often use products in slightly (or even dramatically) different ways than the rest of the shopping population. They’ve come to rely on that product to make their lives easier and better. Their passion makes them tell their friends about their discoveries. They can help move potential superconsumers from thinking “I like it” about a product, to “Wow! It can do that?” to “It changed my life.”

The Anatomy of a Superconsumer

To get an idea of how superconsumers can help the dairy, deli and bakery industry, let’s take a look at an interesting story that came from IDDBA’s research on the subject, The Superconsumer Opportunity in Dairy, Deli, and Bakery.

“John” is a superconsumer of bakery products. He has discovered a way to use products from his in-store bakery (ISB) to elevate an ordinary evening meal for his family to something special—without spending too much time cooking. Recently, John had a meeting at work run late, putting him behind schedule. He loves cooking for his family, but he only had time to make cold-cut sandwiches. Since it was dinnertime, he was reluctant to serve the sandwiches because he wanted to present a lovingly made, involved evening meal. He stopped at the ISB to get some croissants, took them home and toasted them for the sandwiches. This relatively simple “life hack,” or strategy, keeps John’s family happy and his evening meal standards intact. The meal feels homemade, and he saves money because he has not purchased a more expensive quick-serve restaurant (QSR) meal. Perhaps more importantly for us, he has spent more money at the ISB.

Bakery superconsumers are about 10 percent of households who drive 24 percent of the total bakery spend. They spend about 2.4 times more than an average consumer: $357 annually. At the same time, about 20 percent of households are potential superconsumers, or people who really like bread and baked goods but only spend $143 per year (versus $357 for superconsumers).

Maximizing the Potential

Potential superconsumers are held back by lack of awareness, lack of education or by fear. Potential superconsumers may be unwilling to serve sandwiches for dinner. They need someone like John to teach them that it’s ok to serve their families quick sandwiches for dinner—if they’re on special bread from the in-store bakery.

If teaching quick tricks to potentials can increase their spend index to 170 (just halfway to a superconsumer’s spend index), the bakery industry could experience 14 percent growth, or $1.4 billion in sales. This sales growth doesn’t come from your competitor down the street; it’s growing sales for the industry as a whole. Converting potentials to superconsumers is a sustainable growth strategy.

Each superconsumer is unique, employing a product to solve a particular problem. But superconsumers are always passionate, and they will tell their friends about the tricks they have learned. By listening to superconsumers of your products, you can gain insight into the ways real people use them. And you might be able to leverage an idea that will take your sales to the next level.

Editor’s Note: Alan Hiebert is the senior education coordinator, International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA).

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