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OPINIONRetail Foodservice

Retailers Are Now Consumers’ Supply Chain for Menu Planning

How the dynamics of 'a family of one' requires operators and manufacturers to rethink their roles
Photograph: Shutterstock

Together, retail operators and their manufacturer partners have become the supply chain for menu planning for a “family of one,” but do they recognize it?

“Family of one” consumers want diversity with options due in large part to the multiple demographics involved in the menu plan, which includes having a say in where they eat, what they eat, when they eat and even what they will pay. Make no mistake, this “family” is influencing the entire retail foodservice supply chain’s go-to-market approach with its voice, using the supermarket as its own personal supply chain to fill its pantry, refrigerator and freezer for more than just their meal plan alone.

Retail foodservice represents the newly created consumer “pull” segment driven by the retail operator’s need to fulfill a multitude of menu demands. This dynamic segment, with a supply chain operating in a dynamic environment where today’s new consumer is communicating with its very powerful social media voice to manufacturers and operators through what I call a “crowdsourced voice” in its own social media power venues, has created its own powerful ad agency of sorts.

This consumer is demanding new and different taste and flavor profiles, exploring various food profiles driven by their own ethnic heritage characteristics to include regional and cultural tastes; healthier food options driven by the demands placed on cleaner labels; less ingredients; and all natural, organic and gluten-free. It’s thus only natural that they would rely on their local grocery store to provide the menu options they want. Basically, the retail supermarket has become the consumer’s supply chain.

Lifestyle changes that are driven by demographic migration from one state to another and from other countries to the United States have created a shift in eating habits that has caused a major reconstruction forcing manufacturers to reevaluate their supply chain go-to-market model. The effect of this third distribution supply chain channel is playing havoc with supply chain economics.

While supply chain economics and practices are being tested at each point of the chain—from sales and marketing through to production, food safety and distribution—the changes in go-to-market planning are inevitable. The players who have made this channel part of their go-to-market approach to include addressing new retail foodservice staff titles and their respective responsibilities set the go-to-market tone and the growth course for others to follow. Those who are still defining their course of action may wind up chasing the leaders who are not only charting the course to operator penetration but winning the race to the consumer market basket. The others will forever be followers, never to catch up, whatever their market position. Learning from successful and the not-so-successful will create both better products and a slew of new ways and new places to purchase them.

When retail operators and manufacturers partner as this “family of one’s” giant pantry for its groceries, its oversized refrigerator for perishables and its storage freezer for frozen foods, the better we all will understand how to service this now very powerful voice.

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