The interesting thing about food is that we all eat it.
I’ve had cause recently to assess the grocery store aisles and the brands that line them a little more closely. My daughter has some special needs and so I have been trying a wheat and dairy free diet for her with impressive results. The challenge of course, is in finding convenient and comparable food items that will replace her previous noshing on all things dairy and wheat. Think Pizza replacements, cereal replacements, milk, cheese, cream cheese, butter…and you see the challenge.
Though the major grocery chains often carry many organic and restrictive diet foods, I have spent much of my “free” time over the last few weeks ducking in and out of smaller specialty stores. Dominicks, for example, used to have a special Organic/Natural Foods area which enabled a shopper to find all things natural and organic in one area of the store. In recent months, however, they have incorporated this specialty foods area into the general aisles which has increased a shopper’s time in the aisles three fold.
The No Bull Docs, a client of Freakin’ Genius Marketing, say, “shop the outer perimeter of the store, ignoring all processed foods entirely. Keeping heart healthy means staying off the foods that offer no nutritional value.” But there I stand in the cereal aisle looking for the one or two simple wheat-free cereals I can choose from among hundreds of wheat and sugar laden boxes.
As I look now, more closely than ever, I see 4-6 different incarnations of Corn Flakes by the same manufacturer. I see 4-5 different brands of Corn Flakes side by side, and that doesn’t include the bulk brand sold sans the box. That means, and I actually counted one day, in a revelation of sorts, nearly 20 varieties of Corn Flakes to choose from. Add to the variety the variance in pricing which is sometimes as much as 30% different among different incarnations of the same brand. Talk about complicated! I see repetition of the same marketing strategy by the makers of Mini Wheats, Cheerios, and even the store brands have knock-offs. The cereal aisle in most grocery chains is on average 25 feet long and 8 feet tall. This is no aberration to the cereal aisle either. History repeats itself throughout the store as I learned passing the yogurt section of the dairy case. There, I see fat free, sugar free, organic, and regular versions of the same brand, with another 8-10 brands in direct competition.
So, my question is, isn’t a recession a time of simplicity? Isn’t the strategy failing these manufacturers in that all they are doing is eroding their own marketshare. I know, I know, they are trying to keep their once regular corn flake eating customer now that they are a little older and perhaps looking for a calcium enriched corn flake, or a sugar free frosted flake – but really, are they accomplishing anything but increasing the shopper's time in the aisle and sending them and their cart out the front door of the store exasperated at both the time and the money blown in the store?
I say, simpler is better. While my grocery bills are no smaller, my frustration level is lessened by shopping smaller stores with fewer but basic varieties of choices. Fresh, organic foods, corn fed free range chicken, and grass fed beef help to keep heart disease away in more ways than one. I know that the less stress I have staring at an 8 foot tall, 25 foot wide cereal aisle for 8 minutes trying to find the one item I am looking for, the healthier I will be for it!