GHQ Cover Story 6/06 – The Comfort Factor

Discussion
Jun 13, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Through special arrangement with Grocery Headquarters magazine, we present these opportunities to discuss the subjects of GHQ’s monthly cover stories.


Until recently, when manufacturers and retailers spoke about convenience foods and related items, they meant that these products were fast and easy to prepare, portable or had some other feature focused on speeding consumers through their busy lives.


Today, as the June cover story of Grocery Headquarters points out, convenience also means packaging that keeps ice cream off your knuckles while scooping it out of the container.


It could also mean a new type of container for ice cream that deals with the problem of packaging that collapses with use and becomes difficult to close.


Michael Crone, vice president, retail sales for Wells’ Dairy (maker of Blue Bunny ice cream) said, “The old round half-gallons are very wide and, unless you have a big hand, hard to hold. This one you can grab easily and scoop across the top. It was amazing to watch the consumers react with it. They just fell in love with it,” he said.


Another food that carries the possibility of a gooey mess with its use is honey. Granja San Francisco honey comes in bottom-pour bottles that instantly stop dispensing when no longer being squeezed.


“This is the easiest-to-use honey on the market,” said Jim Beaver, sales director at Globe Trends, Inc., the importer of Granja San Francisco honey.


Moderator’s Comment: What role, if any, do retailers have in communicating the full convenient nature of products to the shoppers in their stores? What
does an expanded definition of convenience mean for a retailer’s heat and eat foodservice offerings, as well as its private label?

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

11 Comments on "GHQ Cover Story 6/06 – The Comfort Factor"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
14 years 8 months ago

As I read the intro to the discussion, I wonder why GHQ is putting such an emphasis on “The Comfort Factor”. The impression seems to be that this is a new phenomenon. It really isn’t. Just think about screw tops on bottles. Or pull tabs on cans. Or milk containers instead of bottles. Those are just a couple of items that have been around for some time now and can be considered “Comfort Factor” changes made in the grocery industry. Grocers have always been communicating their ideas on packaging to manufacturers. They have also spoken as to what will be viewed by consumers more favorably and thus translate into greater sales.

In short, I see nothing new or revolutionary here.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
14 years 8 months ago

We’ve reached a stage where “functional” doesn’t get it, and “convenience” is being redefined. Consumers are pampered like never before, and they pick and choose from good ideas as to how they want to be pampered. Peter Hart and Dan McGinn, in a presentation on consumer expectations at the GMA conference, noted that consumers can now get free credit (0% interest), along with free e-mail, checking, and long distance; and yet are willing to pay for cash (ATM’s) water, ring tones, and 411.

Consumers have nearly unlimited choice, and what’s most convenient to individual consumers becomes a big deal. Curves now has 6,000 franchisees in just 7 years, because women find working out without men around and without having to sweat a lot convenient. And, the the pilot who invented the roller bag could or should be getting rich. The next big idea doesn’t have to be that big, just big enough to satisfy the niche of convenience for a segment of consumers.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

People love great packaging and many people (though not all) are willing to pay for it. Private label shouldn’t just mean low commodity pricing. It can certainly mean better packaging. The proofs are all around: toothpaste pumps; hundred calorie snacks; self-metered sprays; even pH test kits for swimming pools.

Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
14 years 8 months ago
Well, it’s about time someone figured out that packaging is important. I have been on the BrainTrust for 4 years and I can count on one hand the number of times packaging has been a headliner. We did the original “scround” container on Breyer’s ice cream in the mid-80’s. The idea of providing an easier to open rounded square container that you could get into for scooping and stored well with consumers was a real hit! Then we put the zipper on shredded cheese – another big hit for consumers. So packaging and convenience started quite a while ago and it is getting stronger. Look at Go-gurt in a tube (no spoon needed) and Dutch Boy Paint with the easy carry handle and the screw top lid. It changed the paint industry. The examples are endless and they will keep growing because consumers are looking for convenience, time savings and better product performance in most things they buy. So retailers need to get on the band wagon and be sure and play a key role… Read more »
Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 8 months ago
This article underscores the fact that any consumer attribute, e.g., convenience, taste, nutrition, etc., needs to be defined from the consumer’s perspective. Food marketers at every level need to consider every situation in which we ask the customer to compromise. In other words, make them do something that they don’t want to do, for example, wrestle with ice cream. As far as food retailers are concerned, the issue of compromise should provide the basis for differential advantage. What does the packaging look like for the supermarket salad bar? Does it look like the traditional “take out” packaging; white styrofoam that leaks? Also, is it convenient for the shopper that uses the salad bar as their “sous chef?” In other words, if a shopper is seeking a cup of chopped mushrooms or chopped onions for a recipe, then the packaging (and pricing) needs to reflect the consumer’s needs. Retailers need to offer packaging according to recipe ingredient sizes and prices that reflect cups versus simply ounces. The key is to constantly monitor the customer and how… Read more »
Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 8 months ago

Convenience is important to more and more consumers – from busy parents to aging boomers. It includes everything from the product itself, preparation instructions and recipes, to packaging and whether it’s reusable, recyclable, or resealable. Convenience also means ease of use in cleanup, and even portion control. Consumers then decide for themselves whether the cost is worth it as they balance convenience with price.

Retailers can consider all these factors in private label products and encourage consumer feedback by adding toll free numbers where consumers can call (or email) questions or concerns. These consumer hotlines often provide a quick feedback method for further research or product innovation and a way to further customer satisfaction.

For retailers, consumer convenience also includes location of products and services, such as quick meals at the front of the store along with meal suggestions, fast checkouts, customer services, and restrooms. That is important as consumers expect and appreciate ease of shopping in layout with clear signing and product locations, and will gravitate to those companies that provide a multitude of conveniences.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
14 years 8 months ago

This discussion points out one of retailing’s great weaknesses and one of its great strengths. Packaging is important because consumers are affected in important ways by it. Realizing this means that at least some segments of retailing are at least sometimes focusing on what is important to consumers. Find out what consumers want and give it to them. We say this so often in these discussions.

And then we confront, in this discussion and in many others, the pervasive problem that retailers don’t find out and provide what consumers want. This topic seems to point out, in my mind at least, the schizophrenia in retail: a couple of organizations making a big deal of ice cream packages (which I think is important, don’t get me wrong), but then customer service, so extremely important in every organization, for example, being abysmal throughout the industry.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
14 years 8 months ago

As consumers gain control over things like media, creating their own communities, commercials, and programming content, they become more and more aware of how easy it is to do things in a consumer-friendly manner if one wants to. Design is more accessible and creativity is flourishing at the consumer level. If retailers don’t acknowledge that the consumer is savvy about what is and what isn’t possible, they will lose their business. Great design and great customer service are all within reach. Consumers will become more and more intolerant of retailers that don’t choose to prioritize these important areas of customer service and product delivery.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 8 months ago

I’m surprised that Blue Bunny Ice Cream didn’t figure out long ago that convacans (round ice cream containers) do not pack as efficiently in a case as, say, Breyers’ rectangular containers. Round containers mean that you wind up shipping air.

New packaging for store-brand fresh items constantly amazes me, but distresses me as well. The beautiful plastic containers are made from petroleum byproducts. The colored and opaque trays are sometimes made from recycled materials, but the best clear plastic lids and containers are made from virgin materials. Plastics are also replacing traditional paper and metal containers throughout the store. Additionally, over-packaging can still be found in every department, creating more trash for our landfills.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 8 months ago
For every package that is designed to be convenient, there are infinitely more that do not appear to have been sufficiently tested, leaving consumers struggling and wrestling and cursing until they tear the thing open by brute strength and then get copiously doused in whatever the contents happen to be. Furthermore, little thought seems to be given to consistency in disposal. In the UK, where most people are getting the message about recycling, our local councils have totally inconsistent policies on how to sort (or not) and what they will (or not) collect. This inconsistency reflects directly on the packaging used by manufacturers. I don’t think it is necessarily up to retailers, who are trying hard just to retail their merchandise, to instruct consumers about what is (or not) convenient – different strokes and all that. One woman’s convenience may be another’s pet hate; I detest upside down plastic bottles of ketchup, for example. And smallish roundish ice cream containers just get my hands wet when I try to hold the carton steady in order… Read more »
Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
14 years 8 months ago

Retailers play a huge role in helping to communicate packaging improvements which will help drive incremental sales. More improvements would emerge in packaging if retailers were more aggressive in promoting the improvements. On the flip-side, retailers don’t even leverage incremental sales on items they already have. There are too few retailers who offer up free dining utensils at the checkstands for customers to encourage immediate consumption of pints of ice cream, etc.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

How significant will convenience factors focused on avoiding mess become in consumers’ purchasing decisions?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...