Breaking the Breakfast Mold

Considering five senses to indicate "fresh" food options

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Breakfast convenience store

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Getting into foodservice may be a decision that ultimately leads a retailer to embrace the concept of "fresh" food, according to a category consultant. And if such is the case, then retailers ought to consider a sensory approach.

Advising retailers to give customers sensory "cues" to communicate the idea of freshness, Lou Cooperhouse, president and CEO of Food Spectrum, Princeton, N.J., recently addressed attendees at CSP's Convenience Retailing University conference.

Speaking to the relatively unexplored day-part of breakfast, Cooperhouse said convenience store retailers have yet to "break out of the mold, needing to expand their menus with cold and hot items."

If getting into breakfast or foodservice in general is a goal, then retailers have to think with their senses, he said. To start, visual cues for freshness can often include produce, fruit and flowers, as well as vibrant colors, delis and seafood options.

In terms of smells, bakeries often pump heated aromas throughout the store, taking pains to create "signature" smells like cinnamon or roasted nuts.

While hearing is a less thought of sense, retailers can encourage noises like the chopping of salad, grinding peppers or mixing ingredients. Even an employee greeting a customer can exude the idea of quality service.

Taste and touch are probably more accessible ways to communicate freshness, Cooperhouse said, with the obvious exercise of food sampling being an important example.

Ultimately the goal of infusing the shopping experience with freshness cues leads to the holy grail of differentiation. Retailers of all channels can get lost in the myriad of messages that come at consumers every day. But using cues to suggest that a retail offer is new, fresh, even adventurous are important considerations.

Along this line of thinking, Cooperhouse noted several ways retailers have differentiated their concepts and product offers:

  • Health. Opting for gluten free, nutritious and better-for-you products.
  • Convenience. Offering food in bite-sized portions contained in cups that people can easily pop into the cupholders of their cars.
  • Local. Offering food native to the region that speaks to an authentic, seasonal, traditional sensibility.
  • Education. Describing food by its base ingredients and telling a story beyond the qualities of the product itself.

Cooperhouse said such efforts can be rewarded in time, as consumers develop an affinity for a retailer's unique product, environment and the service that surrounds it all.

For more on where the industry stands with the breakfast day-part, look to the cover story in the March issue of CSP magazine.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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