I recently read some research completed in Australia by Mi9 (cool name) on grocery shopping patterns. They found that today’s typical grocery shopper avoids long lists, preferring to regularly pop down to the shops.  And they are driving the growth of the next big frontier, ready-made meals. You heard it here first.

Gone are the days when Mum did a bulk shopping trip, aka Full Shop in grocery language.  Top-up shops are becoming more frequent as people purchase less, more often. This trend of buying food to eat the same day will have a significant impact on the retail landscape.

Specialty providores are re-emerging. Shoppers are choosing to restock daily from their local butcher and chains such as Fruit World and Baker’s Delight, enjoying the best of fresh and eating what tickles their fancy that day.

Daily shopping coupled with an increasing desire for personalisation means the one size fits all approach won’t cut it anymore. Businesses will be encouraged to push beyond item and price and instead add value through offers and services that drive differentiation. How refreshing!

Making MasterChefs of us all

Pushing way beyond stir fry packs and heat and pour, two businesses are making their mark on the New Zealand food landscape. My Food Bag launched around one year ago in Auckland as a home delivery service, with customers subscribing to receive food bags containing ingredients and recipes for a week’s worth of dinners. My Food Bag has expanded into Hamilton and Wellington. All the ingredients are fresh, portion packed and in the main locally sourced.

With recipes designed by Nadia Lim (2011 MasterChef winner) the products are designed to suit different lifestyles and life stages. The Family Foodbag caters to the fussiest eaters in the family, designed for four to five people (2 adults, 2 kids) and costs $159 for five meals. The Classic, at $189, has five nights dinner for a family of four to five and the Gourmet Foodbag priced at $139 includes ingredients for two people who enjoy more exotic flavours. www.myfoodbag.co.nz

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Jess’ Underground Kitchen is enjoying cult status in Auckland and  has gone a step further by assembling the fresh food ready for you to pick up and eat tonight. Each week a new menu is uploaded on what’s on offer that week. Place your order online before 10am and pick up your food between 4-7pm. This is the freshest of seasonal and delicious foods ready for your convenience. A truly healthy takeaway meal. There are even paleo meals which are darn popular looking at the Facebook feedback. Jess just needs a pick-up location in St Heliers to make my world perfect. www.myundergroundkitchen.com

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Leaving boxed packaged meals behind, these innovators of convenience and added value are fulfilling the “what’s for dinner tonight” needs of 2014’s grocery shoppers.

Big retailers do small too

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Best known for its supercentres, the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, is trialing smaller convenience store concepts in the US. Walmart to Go in Arkansas is around 3000sqm and features both a petrol pump and select food.

Clearly they are on to the emerging trend of convenience and what’s for dinner tonight …or lunch today or even breakfast. Menu items include fresh sandwiches, ribs and smoked chicken, alongside a smoothie station, fresh fruit, and a fridge of ready to go meals, like pizza.  This store is effectively part convenience, part grocery and part restaurant.

Vending experience

Slightly off topic where dinner tonight is concerned, but bang on for the perfect embodiment of convenience, The Speedy Shop is a large vending machine selling a variety of essential toiletries, groceries, kitchen items and pet food.

This automated store was designed to cater to residents of towns where local shops have disappeared. The Speedy Shop accepts cash and credit cards and stock is constantly monitored, with automated emails sent out when stock is running low. As you’d expect, it has built-in security features such as cameras and alarms to deter theft.

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Giant vending machines aside, when two trends emerge simultaneously - more frequent shops and specialty local as the new premium – they are surely a force to be reckoned with.

Regardless of which part of retail you operate in there should be some inspiration in this for you. How convenient.

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