The Holy Grail of Food Retail

This past weekend I had my first Wegmans experience and let me just say, it was everything I imagined and more. The retail chain first came to my attention a few years ago when my best friend, who was attending Syracuse University at the time (Wegman’s backyard), asked if I had ever been. I was attending school in Southern Connecticut and there are no Wegmans in that area, or any close to our hometown. She immediately regaled me with tales of their expansive cheese counter, and limitless prepared food options, AKA any college student’s food shopping priorities.

Several years passed, and I had yet to cross paths with Wegmans. Luckily all that changed when I learned of one located just miles from the homes of several relatives in Monmouth County, N.J. I knew my next visit to any of them would have to include a pilgrimage to the holy grail of food retail.

One of my favorite questions to ask food manufacturers is, “What can retailers do to maximize sales of your product?” Many hope that retailers will just stock enough of their product line to attract loyal consumers, but the more ambitious talk of end-caps, brand blocks and knowledgeable staff to direct and educate the consumer. At Wegmans, I was finally able to witness all that had been described to me and then some.

For the June issue, I wrote a story about functional beverages and have since been hooked on coconut water. At Wegmans, my preferred brand had a huge end cap within 10 feet of where the functional waters and ready-to-drink teas were being merchandised. They sat in the middle of several aisles of natural products, all clearly marked with eye-catching signage, and organized, attractive displays.

I have had a long love affair with food and have always taken note of the way it was sold, even years before I came to work at Grocery Headquarters. In my experience, most retailers only make an effort when there is a hot competitor nearby.

In my hometown, we have one major food retailer. The next closest grocery stores are six to eight miles away. As a result, my local store seriously lacks in organization, signage, stock, etc. I am an example of the consumer who shops at least five different retail channels to get my groceries. But if I had a Wegmans nearby, I would only need one.

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