Grocery Theatricals Put Under the Spotlight
By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire
Stop and smell the coffee,
roast chicken and freshly baked bread. Breathe deeply, relax, submit to temptation
then walk around the aisles filling your shopping cart with wonderful food
for yourself, family and friends. That’s the
theory. Enticing smells will increase spend and build loyalty. What you see,
however, isn’t always what it appears to be.
As The Independent newspaper
in London reports, not all those warm loaves of bread lining the shelves are
freshly baked from scratch. Some in-store bakeries are used "merely to
warm up bread made in industrial units hundreds of miles away."
Standards Authority (ASA) recently ruled against Tesco ads, for example, for "implying
that its bread was baked from scratch, when most of its stores had done little
more than pop near-finished loaves into the oven." While
coffee beans can be seen whole and then ground, especially when customers do
the work themselves, there is no guarantee that bread hasn’t been prepared
elsewhere and then finished off for show purposes.
Other accusations have been
made by food and farming pressure group Sustain against stores whose meat and
fish counters are allegedly "a way for
supermarkets to demonstrate their stores offer all the benefits of a traditional
high street under one roof."
The newspaper then explains why critics
believe they don’t always "match
the high standards of specialist independent traders." Some supermarket
fish counters sell "thawed frozen food that may have been caught 10 days
previously, rather than bought that morning at the docks." Meat may be
imported and butchered off-site. Fresh produce often goes to central distribution
units before it reaches branches.
Food writer and supermarket critic Joanna
Blythman is quoted as describing in-store bakeries as "nothing but bogus
retail theater." The article’s
point, and the ASA ruling, concern transparency. There is nothing to indicate
any objection or ignorance on the part of consumers, simply a demand that there
be little or no likelihood of people being misled. Nor is there any indication
that this is actually the case. Consumers may be perfectly aware of what they
are seeing and buying. And they may or may not be unhappy about it.
Discussion Questions: Do you buy the argument that supermarket theatricals
are a means of misleading the consumer or do you see them as an essential
element of improving the shopping experience? What U.S. grocers are best at
- Half-baked, the verdict on Tesco’s bread boasts – The
- Tesco’s banned advert is a victory for those who love real bread – Telegraph