Lost in the Supermarket

Talking to Consumers About Shopping on a Budget

January 19, 2021 SupermarketGuru
Lost in the Supermarket
Talking to Consumers About Shopping on a Budget
Chapters
Lost in the Supermarket
Talking to Consumers About Shopping on a Budget
Jan 19, 2021
SupermarketGuru

During this unprecedented time in our lives, you are probably seeing more customers shopping your stores who are concerned about how much they are spending on groceries. Retail dietitians can provide guidance to these shoppers while offering solutions for purchasing foods that will deliver the most nutrition for their money. It is important, however, to make sure communications are respectful, positive and meaningful. Join us as we talk with Nestlé, the largest food and beverage company in the world, to discuss how they develop products that deliver taste, nutrition and value to today’s shoppers and their recommendations and resources for connecting with budget-minded customers.

Show Notes Transcript

During this unprecedented time in our lives, you are probably seeing more customers shopping your stores who are concerned about how much they are spending on groceries. Retail dietitians can provide guidance to these shoppers while offering solutions for purchasing foods that will deliver the most nutrition for their money. It is important, however, to make sure communications are respectful, positive and meaningful. Join us as we talk with Nestlé, the largest food and beverage company in the world, to discuss how they develop products that deliver taste, nutrition and value to today’s shoppers and their recommendations and resources for connecting with budget-minded customers.

Phil:

During this unprecedented time in our lives, we're seeing more customers shopping grocery stores who are concerned about how much they're spending on groceries. There's no surprise there. Retail dietitians can provide guidance to these shoppers while offering solutions for purchasing those foods that will deliver the most nutrition for their money. We've heard more about good nutrition in fighting the pandemic than ever before. And R D's are there to help join us. As we explore with Nestle, which is the largest food and beverage company in the world, how they develop products that deliver taste nutrition and value to today's shoppers and their recommendations and the resources for connecting with budget minded customers that are available to every retail dietician. So first up , uh, let me, let me ask you both this , uh, consumers are buying food right now with more awareness of nutrition, as I said , um, helping them stay healthy, but at the same time, you've got to keep, you know, your budget. Um, budgets are important, especially as we're headed towards a recession. What are the current concerns that you're both hearing about regarding this issue? Marlene one, or you go first?

Marlene:

Um, you know, I fell at the beginning of COVID comfort was what was leading. This is what consumers wanted was comfort, but as they're adjusting to their new lifestyle, what we're starting to see is just as many consumers are looking for health as they are for comfort. The sobering fact though, is that 63% of consumers today are living from paycheck to paycheck during this COVID period. So what that really underscores is just like what you said that affordability is probably at this moment, more important than nutrition, but as dieticians , we know they both need to go hand in hand. So that's what we love about the frozen food aisle. You go down the frozen food aisle, you've got that stubbles fruits. What could be healthier than that? You have frozen meals, what could be more convenient than those? And then you've got pizza. Something that every family loves, you know, as the consumers are looking, not only do they need to balance our budget, but they have to be mindful of what does their family like . They can't afford to buy something that they're going to throw out. And so we think that the frozen food aisle offers that, that convenience, the health, the enjoyment , um, and the best part about the frozen food is that it lasts much longer than the fresh options and Shari. I'm sure that you see these types of consumers every day, that they may not be receiving government aid, but yet budget is really hard for them to get nutritious foods that their family is going to like on the table.

Phil:

So, Marlene, I want to go back , um , to what you said in the beginning. So it started out with comfort foods. We started seeing shortages of Baker's yeast and baking powder and everything else. And it was probably for a lot of people, especially if they had kids at home, a way to occupy some time to hopefully teach some skills. But when you point out very quickly, we, within two months, we moved away from all that. And we said, Hey, I'm going to head to that frozen food aisle. Um, and , and frankly, and I want to give credit where credit is due not only to Nestle, but a lot of the frozen brands that are out there, we've actually seen over the past, you know, three, four or five years, a lot of cleaning up of ingredients if I'm saying that the right way. Um, but you know, when I used to buy a frozen pizza, I might have 20 or 30 ingredients. Now I can buy, you know , uh , a frozen pizza that has ingredients that I can pronounce that I know what they are that has more vegetables on it , uh, that might have more meat on it. I mean, the frozen food aisle has really changed dramatically over the past few years.

Marlene:

I agree as a dietitian, I love the innovation that's going on there. I think most of us have, if you think about your childhood memories and what you had as vegetables, you know, a lot of us had vegetables that came out of the can or weren't very seasoned. And so what I think the innovation is leading with is starting with that nutritious item , um , that whole food, and then leading into taste and leading into what the families need. And , um, just like you said, our toll house business was booming at the beginning of COVID. Right . Um , but one of the things you can also translate that fun from baking into cooking as well. It's a great way to teach your kids math , um, you know, learn fractions, you learn cups, what makes whole , um, and it's just a real sense of pride for the family to be involved in what they made.

Phil:

So, you know, I'm going to ask Shari's opinion. So I guess it's not appropriate for me to tell you that on my pizza, I use the toll house. So Shari, what do you , what are you seeing and what are you hearing?

Shari:

You know, I agree with both of you and I talked to so many retail dietitians and who are working really hard to provide what we call these, you know, financially fragile customers with new ideas. Um, I always use this equation. Things have to be easy, right? The meals have to be easy. They have to be affordable. And then this healthiest kind of the bonus. And now we're seeing this combination of all three is vitally important. And like many of us , um , these customers are getting weary of meal planning, right? We're all kind of getting weary of making the same things. Um, we're looking for new ideas, which is very, very important. Um, the other thing that I think is really being stressed by the dietitians, as they're trying to help these consumers make every bite count, like the new dietary guidelines say, right, if you're going to be spending your money, we want to help you get the most nutritional value for that money that you're spending. So a lot of what I'm seeing, again, taking this convenience into, you know , a factor looking for some new ideas is assembling meals , um, and , and using maybe a frozen entree with , uh , maybe it's a fresh side dish or it's a frozen vegetable. Um , but assembling some easy meals that are kind of exciting and adding new flavors, taking that frozen pizza and what can they, you know, show customers what to put on top of it and what to serve along with it. So it does become a balanced meal, but again, that easy, affordable, and healthier version of it.

Phil:

So Shari, when you're in the Isles , uh , with a consumer who comes to you with , um, a need , uh, a health need, if you would and gives you their budget , um, what, what do you tell them? Um , what , what's their first step to really balancing out that need for good nutrition and frankly , um , money saving strategy ?

Shari:

Well, you know, I kind of have to meet them where they are and I, and I tell other retail dietitians to do the same field . Cause I can assume for example, that they might know how to cook and have basic cooking knowledge. And they may not , um, depending on the household too , they may not have the appliances or the small appliances that they have, right. So I have to consider those things and really meet them where they are, what flavors are important to their family. Is there some ethnic considerations to go , you know, to look at, do they have kids, do they need kid-friendly options? All of those things, I think are a starting point to help them personalize their plan, which is very, very important. And of course then thinking about the foods they typically eat , um , do they need a real shift over, into some more fruits and vegetables, for example , um , are they complaining about throwing a lot of food away? I hear that a lot. I feel like I'm wasting food and that's a great place to approach , um , talking about eating on a budget because nobody wants to throw away food. Um , so talking about maybe, you know, again, frozen food options where they don't have the waste or putting together , um, you know, leftovers using leftovers and casseroles or soups or students or something like that. So they're avoiding that food waste. So there's a lot of different things to think about , um, even myths they may have in their mind that frozen and canned foods, there's this simply not as healthy as fresh foods and that eating healthy is too expensive that they can't do it. So again, meeting them where they are kind of getting some underlying questions answered before I start providing advice. So

Phil:

Let's fast track to 2021 where many retail, dietitians are now doing exactly what we're doing now. Uh, they're teleconferencing with customers. What are some of the differences that they should be aware of when they're talking about budgeting? When they're talking about nutrition, when you're doing it this way versus in store?

Shari:

Well, you, I think it's kind of the same thing is that we have to find out where those customers are coming from at first. And I'm really amazed at some of the innovation that dietitians are using when they're talking to customers because they might be doing group classes, right online , uh , group classes, meal planning. We know that planning is such an important aspect to sticking with a budget and not just going to the store and, you know , buying whatever and not having a plan for what you need. So I know some, you know, meal planning classes are going on. Um, again, ways to , to fill your pantry with budget friendly meal starters. It's another great , um , concept to get people thinking about before they go to the store. And if you're talking to them virtually, it can be to maybe you're creating , um , some videos that are $10 Tuesdays or, you know, dinners under $10 for four people. So also creating maybe a kind of a cadence in a series if you will. So people know what to look for. Um, I also encourage if you're doing it virtual too , just like the customers , you know, what's on sale that week. So if you can take the sale items at a store and show the customers how to put those sale items into very easy, affordable, healthy meal plans, I think that goes a long way as well.

Phil:

Great idea. Um, so Marlene, one of the things we hear from our members that RDBA is all the time is, you know, what can manufacturers do as far as assets, as far as resources to , to partner up with these retail dietitians to help them , uh , educate consumers?

Marlene:

Yeah, so we have a couple of things going on at Nestle. Um, right now we are in the process of redesigning all 27 of our , um , brands websites. So what we're trying to do is make it simple and easy for the consumers. So let them go to the website, find that information that they're looking for. You know, we talked earlier about clean ingredients, so looking for the ingredients, what is the nutrition, but then also helping them search the products. Maybe someone is, you know, especially now in the new year, maybe someone's looking for a higher protein diet. Maybe someone has food allergies in our household. They're looking for something on dairy. So we are really trying to simplify our websites to make those , um, Continue from brand, to brand, to brand that they are consistent and easy to use. The other thing that we are , um, that you can find on the websites, as Sherry mentioned, is a lot of recipe hacks. So how do you take our products? And maybe you add to them, maybe you add some mushrooms, maybe you just add some beans to extend that product. Or maybe you look at different food groups that you're trying to get your families to eat more of. You mentioned pizza, putting some vegetables on pizza. Um, we have a lot of things like that. My mom always said, you know, the food manufacturers want you to like their products. So go to the recipe, they're going to give you good recipes that go well with their products. Um , we have many chefs on staff at Nestle that help us with those recipes, but we also get some of those recipes from our consumers. They , they write in, they send us videos, they tell us what they're doing. Um, and we tweak those , um, and ways to provide nutrient dense and , um, good tasting products. The other thing that we're really excited about though at Nestle is our portion guidance messaging. So every food and beverage has portion guidance on it. And I think it's a great teaching tool. So as the dieticians know, the serving size on the label is what Americans are eating, but it's not necessarily what they should be eating. So we're trying to really bridge that gap and give that simmer education on here's the proper portion. Um, when you ha when you purchase one of our food and beverages, they're really trying to change that mindset from quality over quantity. And that's a tough mindset when you're thinking about this whole financially fragile group and affordability and getting that food on the table. So those are two areas that I would really encourage the dietitians to , um , dig into and lean into. So as a retail, dieticians , what are some of the favorite places that you go to on Nestle's website in order to get this kind of information?

Shari:

Now, one thing we haven't talked about filling that's eating out and how expensive that can be. Well , we haven't been able to go out right during the pandemic, but people are still getting takeout a lot. Um, when it comes to especially like lunches and such , such instead of eating out or getting takeout , I often refer people to the lean cuisine.com because as Marlene was talking about their chefs work hand in hand, actually with nutritionists to, to create these portion controlled meals that have really fun and exciting and bold flavors, it's been fun to, you know, kind of discover what's there with those products. Now, both the lean cuisine and the life cuisine. And so if , if you go there and you , you know , look at some of those and maybe try some new things, it's certainly less expensive than, than getting takeout . Um, the other resource that I like, and I'm going to read it just to make sure I have it right, but it's Nestle usa.com forward slash balance. And the number two, and right there, what you're going to find is a lot of some , some great references and resources for the dieticians to help consumers with creating balanced meals , um, how to get the most out of doing a food demo , um , their sample meal plans that are there. So again, we go back to that meal planning, that meal planning is just essential for staying out of budget. Um, you know, no matter what income you have or looking at, I think that's so very important. And so these resources can help the dietitians help their customers plan better,

Phil:

So Shari, you know how strange my eating habits are. One of the biggest things that I hate about takeout , um, and , and certainly during the pandemic as well from our local restaurants, so they can stay in . I hate the fact that I get take out , I bring it home and it's cool to warm depending on how far I've gone and I've got to reheat it. And , and you know what, I reheated either over cooking it or under cooking . It's one of the reasons that I like , um, whether it's, you know, Stover's , whether it's lean cuisine, you know , any of the brands that we're talking about here is that I cook it and I can eat it at the temperature that I'm supposed to eat. And I know I'm strange, but that

Shari:

It's actually, you know, a very good point. And it's also, I mean, even for myself, and I think Marlene I've told you about this, I keep some of the new life cuisines and lean cuisines in my freezer as does my husband who is gluten intolerant. There's just two of us at home. If I'm going to make a batch of wonderful, you know, macaroni and cheese with fresh broccoli in it, I'm going to , I'm probably not going to do it right, but I love that. Well, I can get that. I can get it. It's the portion I need. And it's done. There's no waste. I'm not making a big pot of something. So it is , it does fall in that category, again of that , you know, the easy, the convenient, the affordable, and it's healthy too . There's so many great, healthy options out there. Now it's fun.

Phil:

So Marlene, I'm gonna look into your brain, which is going to be scary for both of us. Let's start with a blank piece of paper and everything that we've talked about now , um, with health, with , um, affordability, with convenience and so on. And , and I'm now going to task you with developing a new product for me. Um, so, so you know, that it has to be convenient, you know, that I try to be healthy. That taste is real important. You know, what are the considerations that you and your teams , uh, across the globe really look at when you're developing new products , um, that meet my needs today,

Marlene:

We take a consumer first approach. So what does , what that means is let's say, it's you Phil , I want to know who you are. What is your age, who's in your household with you? What are your taste preferences? Um, and we take that consumer first approach and have many different specialties working on these products. So we have, do we CA can we procure all these vegetables that you want on your pizza , um, who all else is eating with you in this family? Um, and so taste is always our number one priority. Um, we are , are our bread and butter, and our specialty is inconvenience of bringing you guys, bringing you convenient foods into your home. And then there's always a dietician , and there's always a chef on the team guiding. Um, how can we make the most nutrient dense product? How can we offer you the flavors that you want? Um, and then really important is, and probably a lot of people don't think about this is the way you make your dish at home. Then we have to make sure that it stays true to the intention of the product and the freezer. And then when you take it to cook it as well , um, there's a million different brands of microwaves out there. There's a million different brands of ovens out there. So there's a lot that goes into the thought process of our food, but honestly, taste is number one. We link that always to nutrition. And what is the consumer mindset when they're buying in that category?

Phil:

So, you know, what , what I think everybody knows is every year, there's about 15,000 , uh , new food and beverages , um, that are, that are presented to supermarkets . And three years later, there's only probably about 1500 still on the shelf, which means that there's a lot of failure. And I think that the failures come with a lot of companies that are not taking this step , um, as you are putting the consumer first , um, which, which is really critical, understanding that. So when, when you look, and I know you talked to supermarket retail, dieticians all the time, are you asking them , um, what are, what are the trends that you're seeing? And then bring it back to your folks and saying, Hey, you know, this, this dietician in grand Rapids, Michigan, you know, is saying that, Hey, a lot of their customers are looking for blank.

Marlene:

Exactly. And so what happens is when we do these collective interviews and we call these our key opinion leaders . So they're like you said, they're the ones in the fields, grassroots hearing exactly what's going on at home. What are the, what is the consumer coming into the store looking for? We get a ride variety, as you can imagine. Um, we get very niche ideas and then we get large, broad appealing ideas. And so where we have to balance as the world's largest food and beverage company is making sure that we can find that broadest appeal at that perfect moment. Um, so potentially we are just now with our life cuisine coming out with some keto friendly recipes , um, in the past, we've really made that a broader appeal looking at carbohydrates. Hey, if you're watching your carbs, here are some options for you. And then having that direct targeted message to those that are following a keto diet. So when you have a very tricky path that we follow , um, having to look at it, both from what is coming to what is coming to mainstream and how can we make it nutritious before readable and tastes great.

Phil:

Well, I want to thank you both, but I'm going to ask you both the same last question , uh, for spending so much time with us. Um, so Sherry first look into your crystal ball. What do you want retail dietitians to be doing in 2021?

Marlene:

Oh, wow. Well, I think they need to be aware. First of all, I kept thinking about personalization as Marlene was talking about all of these different products that they're coming out with. And I think that's very important. I talked earlier, Phil, about looking at customers as individuals and different families. What are their specific needs, because one size does not fit all. So I think it's that personalization that we're going to see. Um, and how do we help them personalize their shopping cart, personalize their meal, planning endeavors. But so they do meet those criteria that we've talked about continuously today, which is easy , easy, affordable, and again, healthier

Phil:

And Marlene, same question. What do you want to tell retail dietitians about 2021 and what you hope they're going to be doing?

Marlene:

I want them to focus on affordability. I can't stress enough how that is going to be key and feeding our families across America. Um, you know, as dieticians , we know the latest trends, we know what is good for us, and there's a lot of expensive , healthy options alternatives out there, but let's meet the consumer as Sherry's been saying where they are at their table. How can we turn into turn their perspective into looking for affordable options that need their nutritional goals,

Phil:

Great information from you, both. Um, Marlene, Shari, thank you for joining us today on Lost in the Supermarket.