Tiffin Conference – John Scott – The Grocery Business is Changing

John Scott, President, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, spoke on the grocery market this morning in Lethbridge Alberta at the Tiffin Conference. John emphasized that grocers are trying to “be something” to the consumer. He emphasized that consumers are going to different stores to get different products. When I think my families purchasing habits we buy different products at different stores which apparently is common. Rarely do we purchase all of our food products at the same retail point.

“You [the grocer] must differentiate yourself or you are really going to struggle,” John Scott told the crowd. He continued by saying, “As a grocer you cannot be everything to all people.”

John also stated that large grocery chains are not grocery stores but are health and wellness stores now. There is a focus on health and wellness for people 18-33 year olds. If you are marketing a food product, you need to be willing to ensure that your products fits the trend towards health a wellness. To me this explains the recent trend of full service counters with chefs and nutritionists behind the beef counter. John told the crowd that nutritionists in the grocery store is a fast growing market in Canada. In my mind, this is much different than the traditional butcher look and feel. Meat has been not represented well at the counter in the past. When buying meat people do not want to see a butcher dressed in a blood soaked apron. It makes you wonder why we stopped there? Why not show the slaughter of the animal right in the store? Sounds appetizing doesn’t it.

John stated that, “the chain has to work together in a collaborative fashion to make sure that the beef industry is promoted effectively.” He stated that, “it is not the sole responsibility of one member of the chain.” I agree with John that expecting government to carry this role is wrong. The industry has to lead the charge, but as we all know getting the whole value chain on the same page is quite difficult and easier said than done.

Scott also mentioned that buying local is not going away. The consumer’s environmental sustainability focus will not be changed by the current recession. The”echo” consumers are pushing things like buying local that is changing the way beef and all food is marketed.

I thinks that John’s message of health and wellness is right on. This is one mistake the beef business has made in trying to market 16oz steaks to today’s consumer. The beef industry must continue to adjust and promote the healthy characteristics of beef and try to break the negative perceptions that are prevalent in the marketplace.

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