Replacing junk food at checkout lines

Stores are beginning to rethink product mix at checkout lines to include more healthy options.

Walking through a grocery store checkout line is a lot like walking through a small candy shop. Consumers are bombarded from all sides with sugary, fatty, diet-ruining impulse buys that are anything but health conscious. However, with an increased focus on consumer health and food studies, some grocery stores are beginning to rethink the product mix at checkout lines.

Aldi, a German-owned discount grocery store, announced in January that by year end they will remove candy from the checkout lines of all 1,500 U.S. based stores. This came on the heels of Target’s announcement of their pilot program to remove all junk food from the checkout lines of 30 stores in the Minneapolis, Denver and Dallas areas. Christina Hennington, senior vice president of merchandising at Target states, “There’s both a huge business opportunity here and a bit of a moral imperative. Our ultimate goal is to improve the health of the nation.” Research firm Mintel believes that, “By showing that they care about their customers and their well-being, they will likely have better luck luring shoppers into their stores.”

As this trend continues to expand, it will open up new opportunities for products and companies previously unable to enter this very coveted and lucrative space. Healthy grab-and-go products will begin to dominate checkout lines at Aldi, Target and many other smaller retailers around the nation. During this transition, companies need to be poised and prepared to replace these junk food items. For a product to be considered for this space, companies need to be refining all aspect of their product from packaging and labeling to pricing and case counts and from product size to portion control. Creating a product that will seamlessly replace junk food products is what a store is ideally looking for.

Checkout lines are extremely competitive and difficult to gain space in, so companies will need to fight hard and be well-prepared to claim a piece of this real estate. However, if companies are able to capitalize on this opportunity, the additional sales and brand recognition could have a powerful effect on a company.

For information on marketing, managing or starting a food, agriculture, bio-economy and natural resources business, contact the Michigan State University Product Center at their website or call 517-432-8750. Michigan State University Extension Innovation Counselors are available statewide for free business counseling.

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