February 9, 2017

Predicting Changes For The Center Aisle Big Breakout In 2017

Tony Treadway

Every food manufacturer stuck in the center aisle of a supermarket is looking for a breakout to the store perimeter. If you are like most consumers, your poor tired self zooms around the perimeter grabbing produce, meats, milk and bread and only occasionally going down the center of the aisle to grab one or two items.

Thus, we are predicting some subtle changes to how manufacturers will respond to a breakout strategy in 2017:

Digital display menu boards will appear at the supermarket’s deli offering recommended meal solutions. These powerful merchandising boards will suggest a bundled meal that includes a nearby beverage, or other products on a nearby shelf. Food manufacturers will drive the innovation by trading a free digital menu board for free slotting on an end cap or shelf near the deli counter.

There will be more hot bars in the perimeter aisles for consumers to grab a snack or takeout for a meal. Chicken wings on Tuesday and Asian noodles on Wednesday add some variety to the customer’s choice and great opportunities to bundle a product on a wing or shelf to the hot bar.

I know of one refrigerated salad manufacturer that is scoring double-digit year-over-year sales increases by using just one in-store tactic – sampling. The twist is the manufacturer hired his own sampling team rather than paying the retailer to sample the product. Having your own team means you’ll have your own brand ambassadors who passionately sell your products instead of hired help. I predict that more brands will recruit and activate their own sample teams and offset the cost by finding non-competitive brands to share the cost of the sample team.

Look for more manufacturers to trade off-site branding partnerships with supermarket chains. One of our clients is leveraging a partnership with a major supermarket chain’s diversity team. The client is paying for the brand to be a major sponsor of a multi-cultural circus’ two-week tour stop in a key city. The supermarket offers discount tickets to the circus and promotional mentions in the media. In return, the client’s products get free premium placement and more space for its products on store shelves.

The growth of consumers ordering their grocery items from a supermarket’s website for later pick up will also offer center aisle brands a breakout. Suggestive selling by a brand in an online order environment means a brand that is frequently overlooked gets a shot in a big-time bundle with a meal solution.

If you are a food brand marketer, we predict that you’ll be spending more time face-to-face with a retailer’s marketing team instead of just your category buyer to breakout to the perimeter in 2017.

Tony Treadway


President & CEO

Regarded in the advertising and PR industry as a top strategist, Tony is considered one of the most respected marketing minds in the business, especially in the $600 billion foodservice industry. As president, he leads Creative Energy in serving a variety of regional and national accounts in the textile, hardware, building materials, electronics, nuclear power and health care markets.