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THE EVOLUTION OF THE CONVENIENCE SECTOR

Even in the digital age we get stuck in the definitions of a different era. Nowhere more so than in food retailing and supply. Think of the aisle layouts and header boards in your local supermarket.

But perhaps one of the most overdue definitions for change is that of the Convenience sector. Great in defining local stores that were ‘open all hours’, but the context has changed beyond recognition in the last decade.

In retail the Co-op has become a key player in Convenience stores with the emphasis on convenience in every aspect of its offer – close to their customers in location and in product ranging. Other retailers have moved into this space. Aldi too has acknowledged the power of the idea in its new Aldi ‘local’ in Balham, even though it’s little different to their traditional outlets.

Established supermarkets are themselves offering new forms of convenience. Take this month’s announcement by Sainsbury’s of a trial in five stores to offer hot takeaways via the Deliveroo delivery app. Supermarkets are in an ideal position. They have a wide range of convenience food and drink products to offer – including existing meal deals and fresh food counters – that could add a whole new dimension to click and collect or home delivery. Sainsbury’s move follows Asda’s recent Just Eat deal, which aims to deliver fresh pizzas from its counters at 50 stores by the end of the year, taking advantage of the burgeoning ‘food to go’ sector, which is expected to increase by 26.4% over the next 5 years*.

Inevitably this blurring of the lines between the supermarket and the restaurant trade is primarily targeted at urban areas, where the logistics are easier to manage and where there is a higher proportion of younger consumers – just over 45 per cent of those living in rural areas are aged below 45 years compared with almost 60 per cent in urban areas**. Younger consumers have traditionally driven the wider Convenience sector and as the next generation of shoppers, they are the market that all Retailers are chasing.

But older and less affluent shoppers also offer an opportunity to rethink traditional convenience. Older consumers frequently prefer to use local stores, and not just those without their own transport. Many like to shop locally, as increasingly do a younger demographic looking to avoid use of the car and spending time in large outlets, but who feel greater satisfaction from supporting local suppliers and are prepared to pay a little bit extra for that shopping format.

At Cambridge MR we’ve been at the forefront of change in food, drink and retail for more than 35 years. We continue to evolve how we engage with consumers and how to use the data from our product testing to reflect shifts in attitudes to purchasing for convenience and events, as well as for the everyday, and the impact this has on perceptions of what is good value for money.

This has signalled the need for us to devise more sensitive weighting systems when analysing data and purchase intentions that recognise a new, more sophisticated, purchase decision mind-set.

A new way of rating Convenience products is just part of the fresh thinking that we are applying to Fast Foodfax and understanding the product experience.

Check out our website or contact sacha@cambridgemr.com to find out what else we’ve been up to.

*  IGD: UK food to go sector to grow by 26.4% by 2024

** GOV.uk: Statistical Digest of Rural England 2019 January Edition

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