By Jim Dudlicek, NGA Director, Communications and External Affairs
The coronavirus pandemic challenged grocery retailers faced with providing in-demand products to their shoppers. An overwhelming surge in demand put great pressure on traditional supply chains, compelling grocers to seek out alternative, creative avenues for many products.
Solutions included tapping the waylaid foodservice channel, as well as many local vendors that seized the opportunity to partner with retailers and broaden their public exposure on store shelves.
This discussion, led by Dr. Tim Woods, extension professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky, probed how retailers used these and other methods to satisfy their customers at a time they needed help the most.
Other speakers included Roger Snell, farm-to-retail liaison for Kentucky Proud, the official marketing program of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture; James Neumann, vice president of ValuMarket in Louisville, Ky.; and Joshua Crone, retail produce specialist for Carrboro, N.C.-based National Co-op Grocers.
Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:
Consumers embrace local: Local food continues to be of strong interest to consumers, leading among environment and community development terms in Google searches. Additionally, more than 60% of consumers surveyed by the University of Kentucky rate as “very important” definitions of local that include family farms and food purchased directly from growers. Local-focused in-store merchandising and messaging in advertising and at point of sale is effective in driving sales.
New partnerships strengthen the supply chain: The pandemic threw traditional retailer-supplier partnerships into a tailspin. With grocers in need of more product and foodservice suppliers losing many restaurant clients, new partnerships allowed products to flow into eager hands, introduced consumers to different brands and buoyed otherwise doomed businesses. Crone recounted how one of his association’s member stores allowed a dairy saddled with milk originally destined for restaurants to sell out a truckload within hours. Local suppliers also helped redirect in-demand flour from shuttered restaurants and bakeries to supermarkets for home kitchens. Similarly, Neumann’s stores effectively partnered with a grower that suddenly lost its restaurant clients.
Local positions grocers as food experts: Grocers, particularly independent operators, can establish close relationships with local food suppliers, getting first pick and special deals on in-demand products. Working closely with local suppliers also gives grocers a keener understanding of food, where it comes from and innovative ways it can be adapted for meal solutions sought after by consumers.
To view this complete webinar and others in the series, visit https://nga.sclivelearningcenter.com/MVSite/default.aspx