Retailer differentiation in 2019: a personal review of H&W
Outside of being so closely attached to product data in my role, about eight months ago, I relocated from St. Louis to Label Insight’s headquarters in Chicago. With it came a new set of regional retailers. I traded in Schnucks and Dierbergs for Mariano’s and Jewel, although I’ve still managed to locate my nearest Target for my extensive shopping trips that go far beyond the pantry.
While I knew the demand for consumer transparency and retailer differentiation were both on the rise, I decided to dig into what 2019 and beyond held for some of my favorite retailers (and it wouldn't be a Label Insight blog post without a little data).
As a millennial, I learned long ago that “a quick run to Target for new towels” equates to a full cart – a throw pillow here, a trendy water bottle there, and did I mention the picture frames? The store design and on-trend product assortment wreak havoc on my bank account. But how is Target positioning for the future to ensure my internal struggle continues for years to come?
First, they are responding to the consumer demand for product transparency via their Wellness Program. They’ve selected a spectrum of thoughtful attribution to “make it easier to make the right choice”. The program spans the store from food and beverage, to essentials and beauty, supplements and nutrition, and even pet food (my dogs thank you, Target!). The program is available both in-store, which showcases the designated icons at shelf edge, as well as in ecommerce and the Target mobile application. The program includes highlights such as identifying 11% of the Target assortment as nutritious and providing transparency into which 20% of products meet the needs for a gluten-free diet, according to the Label Insight database.
Beyond embracing transparency, Target continues to aim higher. In 2017, Target launched a revolutionary business strategy aimed at managing chemicals across their assortment and operations. The chemical policy aims to address “unwanted chemicals with the biggest potential health impact”. Highlighting products without these chemicals and managing the prevalence of their assortment which contains them, Target continues to lead in the sustainability space. The program's ultimate goal comes to fruition in 2020, and I for one will be watching to see what exciting initiative comes next.
Speaking of sustainability and future goals, Kroger also has a corporate sustainability initiative and happens to be the owner of my now local Mariano’s. While Mariano’s will forever be known as the retailer with the most extensive fresh squeezed juice options that I crave on a daily basis, Kroger is stepping up in big ways. From responsible sourcing like wild-caught fish and certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) to environmental stewardship like zero waste, ending hunger, and carbon emission reduction by 2025.
These lofty goals reaffirm retail's role in sustainability and community programs, setting the bar high. For example, only 33% of current seafood touts itself as wild-caught, according to Label Insight’s database. And while Kroger is focused on its carbon footprint from a transportation and physical store point of view, a mere 0.51% of food and beverage products market their own carbon footprint reduction efforts.
Beyond sustainability, Kroger has partnered with technology powerhouse Microsoft to redefine the consumer experience. “Kroger is building a seamless ecosystem driven by data and technology to provide our customers with personalized food inspiration. We are identifying partners through Restock Kroger who will help us reinvent the customer experience and create new profit streams that will also accelerate our core business growth. We are excited to collaborate with Microsoft to redefine grocery retain,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. Most exciting to me is the development of the digital shelf experience, which uses digital displays rather than traditional paper tags, indicating prices, promotions, product data, and attribution.
This regional specialty retailer has quickly become a go-to for me. With a mission to improve the way communities eat by offering fresh and healthy food at an amazing value, Fresh Thyme provides a farmers market feel with a huge produce selection and minimal aisles that still pack the natural and organic products I love. Specifically, this includes their private label, which now boasts 1,850 products, a 33% increase in the past year… if you haven’t tried their peanut butter pretzels - you should. As if the packaging isn’t innovative enough, they are also down right delicious.
Fresh Thyme continues to expand, and in 2019 has plans to open four new stores. Outside of expansion, Fresh Thyme continues to put their guests first, and go back to retail's roots while balancing the need for stronger in-store and digital experiences. The retailer partnered with Instacart in 2018 offering grocery delivery and launched a newly developed website, which I stalk for updates. Their recipes & innovation tab is worth the investment, showcasing a variety of recipes such as Pear Ginger Upside-Down Muffins and a Prosciutto and Arugula Cauliflower-Crust Pizza, for an even healthier option ditch the alfredo sauce and top with a light balsamic drizzle (trust me!). Fresh Thyme grabs hold of superfoods and trendy ingredients we described in our recent DataBite.
Referencing the Label Insight database, we find ginger in just over 2% of products, and because it continues to contribute to dollar growth in products across the store, we expect that number to keep increasing - so enjoy your muffins! When it comes to cauliflower, it’s a tried and true ingredient which first popped up as a trend in 2015, but still is only found in 0.33% of food and beverage products. It’s found a home in frozen dinners, pizza crusts, and vegetable dips (yum!).
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About Brooke Bright
Brooke is the director of retail product management at Label Insight. Brooke and team build turnkey solutions to empower retailers with critical data to increase digital discovery, improve e-commerce site user experience, develop differentiated wellness programs, and foster shopper trust through increased product transparency. By providing retailers access to this key set of data and insights, retailers can make data-driven decisions across their organization and continue to increase revenue and shopper loyalty. Brooke is passionate about data, business strategy, and product vision. She likes to spend time in-market with our customers learning more about their unique set of challenges and goals and enjoys leveraging this knowledge to continue building hyper-relevant and valuable products.