Could a ‘breakfast aisle’ revitalize the grocery center store?

Photo: RetailWire
Oct 12, 2016

Linda Winick

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the monthly e-zine, CPGmatters.

The Kellogg Company has come up with what it calls “The Breakfast Aisle,” a rearranging of the brightly colored boxes of the typical cereal aisle to add toaster pastries and breakfast bars to the array of hot and cold cereals.

Optimal adjacencies in the re-imagined cereal aisle promise to give grocers the ability to cross-merchandize products.

“As we looked at what interacted with cereal, it became very, very clear what the best arrangement of cereal was, and what that morning food aisle should look like,” Stacey Ring-Sanders, vice president of category strategy and development for the Kellogg Company explained in a presentation last month at the annual conference of the Category Management Association (CMA) in Las Vegas. “There were things out there in the marketplace that didn’t make a lot of sense. We wanted to start looking at what were the best adjacencies to drive purchases that relate to that morning food occasion.”

Ms. Ring-Sanders believes that the change represents an evolution in category management. What was a product category 10 years ago is no longer a category today in many cases, according to Ms. Ring-Sanders. As a result of the regroupings, Kellogg’s later learned that shoppers were indeed looking at the other categories more when they were arranged together versus when they were in separate aisles.

In the larger sense, she said, trading partners need to look at the store differently because very few category shelf changes will have significant impact on sales. CPG companies need to look at holistic solutions for retailers that impact not just their categories, but also the total store.

“Gone are the days of category only,” she explained. “People are not just eating cereal for breakfast nowadays; they’re eating a multitude of other things. Instead of focusing on cereal, Kellogg’s realized they needed to start talking to retailers about aisle management, and not just category management.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are CPG companies positioned to help guide aisle and total store merchandising management? What are the pros and cons of converting the cereal aisle to a breakfast “food occasion” aisle?

"You can push more bars at the expense of cereal or more cereal at the expense of bars."
"For these reasons and more (sorry, I just don’t have the time), I see this as a nice idea that won’t gain serious traction anytime soon."
"What if Google gave you bacon brands alongside your search for Wheaties?"

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12 Comments on "Could a ‘breakfast aisle’ revitalize the grocery center store?"

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Bob Phibbs

As a business traveler, I’m used to finding Kind bars and such easily anywhere I travel. Once I get to the grocery store … good luck. It appears grocery stores are looking at how traditional retailers build a system of products or a total look to create a system of options that work well together for quick meal replacement versus individual products. It’s made sense for sound systems and haircare, why not breakfast foods?

Ian Percy

I get the distinction between “category” and “aisle” management, though it’s mostly a semantic exercise. Why doesn’t “breakfast” qualify as a category?

I’d add more comments but I can’t physically get past this picture. Boxes of sugar blended with chemicals. It honestly, physically, revolts me. As I’ve noted on this site before, research showed that half of all common breakfast foods had measurable weedkiller in them. Hey Kellogg’s … why don’t you “aisle manage” what is actually being fed to our kids under the guise of breakfast? I’d love to see a truly “Healthy Aisle” and another called the “Chemical Aisle.” The latter could use this picture to save money. Unfortunately, I’m not sure which would win.

Dr. Stephen Needel

I think the research would show that a. shoppers don’t think about it as the breakfast aisle — they think about it as the cereal aisle and b. when you put everything together, something suffers. Breakfast is breakfast and there’s only seven of them in a week. You can push more bars at the expense of cereal or more cereal at the expense of bars — and retailers should choose based on profitability of each segment.

Shawn Harris

I am surprised at this new thinking. I will be interested to see how this may improve pick efficiency for buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS). As stores are currently laid out by category in a flow that maximizes revenue, not order picking, will this method drive retailers to a sweet spot where revenues are maximized for the traditional customer pick and margins for the digital-focused BOPIS type offerings?

Ralph Jacobson

Simply put, I believe CPG brands and retailers need to think about starting from scratch in the center aisles since 95 percent of them look the same way they did 100 years ago. They typically don’t take many recent shopper trends into consideration. Perhaps I’m way oversimplifying, however we need a fresh look for sure to stimulate profitable growth.

Ken Cassar

I LOVE the idea of building the grocery store around solutions rather than products. I’d love to see retailers become more active in solution concept generation than they historically have been, though, potentially breaking out of traditional concepts of exclusively shelf-stable center aisles. A manufacturer-conceived solution might not push the envelope as much as a retailer solution. For example, imagine if we had some refrigeration in the aisle, allowing the addition of yogurt, bacon and OJ. Then it would be a full breakfast solution, not just a partial solution.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

The concept makes real sense — a solution-oriented breakfast aisle. The devil will be in the execution. The demise of the center of the store has long been discussed, but creative approaches to deal with the certainty have been lacking. Several years ago I conducted research for a major milk and dairy provider who was interested in increasing the sales of value-added products, on this occasion the selected product was coffee creamers. I recommended offering creamers adjacent to the coffee selections. Most retailers indicated that this couldn’t be accomplished because of the utilities orientation of supermarkets. One retailer figured out how to get power to a small, refrigerated display case. The result was a 300 percent increase in sales in dairy creamers. In fact, the experiment almost failed because the display case could not be kept stocked.

Unfortunately, no other retailers emulated this success. Which brings us to today. A bonafide breakfast aisle needs everything for breakfast — cereal, milk, eggs, meat, coffee/tea, juice, bread/muffins, fruit, etc. In other words, make it an inviting, real solution-oriented part of the store that consumers would include as a destination versus another aisle that doesn’t need to be visited.

Warren Thayer

This has been tried, under one name or another, for many years. It seems like common sense in many ways but — as with Congress — not much ever gets done. There are many reasons for that, including retailers’ lack of trust in their trading partners, vendor lack of candor in presentations, vendor battles over who gets to be the “category captain” or “aisle colonel” or whatever, fights over who would do resets, fears of upsetting customers who might shop elsewhere, fights over proper adjacencies, expense of plumbing required for refrigeration if moved into an all-encompassing segment aisle, perceived loss of sales/profits from new traffic patterns … well, you get the idea.

For these reasons and more (sorry, I just don’t have the time), I see this as a nice idea that won’t gain serious traction anytime soon. And that’s too bad. The center store needs a real shake-up. Maybe a pioneer will give this a serious try and see what happens. But you know what they say about pioneers … they get the arrows, but they also (sometimes) get the gold.

Mark Heckman
While I applaud any type of merchandising concept that is driven from the consumer’s perspective, what Kellogg’s is doing is hardly new. Many retailers have attempted, with limited success, to reconfigure their stores on the basis of shopper solutions, rather than traditional retailer-brand category definitions. For example, my alma-mater, Marsh Supermarkets built a series of stores 15 years ago that drastically re-organized traditional categories into alcoves that surrounded the center of the store, which was predominantly fresh produce and specialty items. Each alcove focused on compatible items such as breakfast products, household products, juices and beverages, pet food, and on and on. The results were mixed at best, with many shoppers being totally put off by learning a new shopping routine that reflected a true departure from the traditional category/aisle configuration they were accustomed to. However, over time, many shoppers learned to adapt and actually preferred the new configuration as they found that compartmentalizing products in terms of how shoppers thought about them spared shoppers the trouble of going down long aisles with many items and categories they rarely or never buy. Of course, the perceived downside of shopper-centric merchandising is the notion if you do not drag the shopper… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom

I’ve no doubt Kellogg’s — which, as noted, makes a whole assortment of (presumably) breakfast foods — favors this, but how would other cereal makers feel, presumably being pushed from the center of a high traffic area?

I’ll confess the placement of items in different stores seems to me to often be erratic, so I suspect that either no one has bothered to find out the “right” way, or no one can agree to one. This slotting doesn’t strike me as being better or worse than how it’s being done now.

Dan Frechtling

I have to agree with Stephen, and then some. I’m not sure the cereal aisle is broken. It’s where you go for cereal, oatmeal, bars and pastries.

Trying to turn it into the “breakfast food occasion aisle” seems silly when shoppers are going there not to eat breakfast, but rather purchase shelf stable food for later consumption. It certainly won’t work for quick trip shopping occasions.

Creating a breakfast construct to teach people to buy their bacon or eggs with their cereal is artificial. What if Google gave you bacon brands alongside your search for Wheaties?

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Patricia Vekich Waldron
11 months 7 days ago

CPG companies need to go way beyond “category” and “aisle” to serve shoppers. Think “lifestyle,” “meal solutions….”

"You can push more bars at the expense of cereal or more cereal at the expense of bars."
"For these reasons and more (sorry, I just don’t have the time), I see this as a nice idea that won’t gain serious traction anytime soon."
"What if Google gave you bacon brands alongside your search for Wheaties?"

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