KANSAS CITY — Walk down the cookie and cracker aisle of any grocery store in the U.S., and you will see a lot of familiar names. Boxes of Oreos, Cheez-It, Chips Ahoy! cookies and Triscuit are certain to be there for your perusing pleasure, both in classic and limited-edition varieties. There’s only so much space on the shelf, however. Despite the wide selection present in these aisles, they might not be the best place for up-and-coming manufacturers to showcase their wares. To make an impact, bakers are turning to the periphery.
“That’s part of their strategy for not getting lost on the shelves,” said David Van Laar, president of the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association (B.&C.M.A.). “The newer startups that we’re seeing, that’s where they’re getting put for several reasons. There’s no space on the shelf now.”
According to Nielsen research, cookies sold in the perimeter of stores consist of $1.2 billion annual sales. This is up 7% in dollars and 4% in volume over the last year. Similarly, crackers sold in the perimeter are up 7% in dollars, 6% in volume and made up 74% of deli snack dollars spent in the same time period.
“The perimeter of the store is where growth is happening, whereas center aisles may be stagnant or may be overloaded with a bunch of brands,” said Sarah Schmansky, director of business operations for Nielsen. “To break out and be in that perimeter and hopefully ride the wave of some of that growth would be a main factor that would prompt cookie or cracker manufacturers to go beyond the center store.”
This kind of opportunity is what drove Eric Sorensen, brand manager of New Orleans-based Love, Cookie, to market his company’s cookies in the grocery store perimeter.
“I think people just really want something new,” Mr. Sorensen said. “If you walk down the cookie aisle, it’s dominated by Nabisco, Keebler and Pepperidge Farm. That’s all you get.”
Love, Cookie offers indulgent cookies in flavors such as Almond Toffee Crunch, Dark Chocolate Orange and Lemon Cooler. Its Dark Chocolate Mint is also a best seller. According to Mr. Sorensen, Love, Cookie products stand out from middle-store offerings by being marketed to adults who want something to savor with a glass of red wine after a full day of work.
“You want to be able to say, 'This is good. This is really tasty,’ ” Mr. Sorensen said. “Maybe it costs a dollar more, but it’s awesome.”
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Know your audience
For brands considering marketing their products outside of the center aisles, it helps to know who is shopping there and what they expect to find. As far as the bakery department is concerned, it seems like everyone ends up there at some point.
“Almost every U.S. household purchases from the in-store bakery annually (99% of households purchase bakery items), but some demographics overspend in the department,” Ms. Schmansky said. “The key spending demographics include affluent, larger families (annual income over $100,000) and older bustling families with households of five or more members and children between ages 13 and 17.”
Busier lifestyles and an increase of families with all parents working outside the home have contributed to consumers looking for prepared meals during their trips to the grocery store perimeter. In fact, the Food Marketing Institute’s 2015 Grocery Shopper Trend Study shows that 34% of survey respondents consider premade grocery store meals an easier alternative to eating out at a restaurant, which opens up a world of opportunity for both cracker and cookie manufacturers. La Panzanella Artisanal Foods, Seattle, has had great success in selling crackers to these consumers in the deli department.
“They’re looking for grocery retailers to help them out in terms of preparing a meal ahead of time,” said Steve Lorenz, director of marketing for La Panzanella. “When they’re in the deli looking for prepared foods if there’s a way to enhance a meal — whether it’s for their own family or for guests — by adding in fancy cheese and crackers, then they’re going to look to our products.”
La Panzanella recently launched a line of seasoned crackers called Croccantini Bites, targeting younger consumers with active lifestyles. Available in Italian Herb, Spicy Olive and Sundried Tomato Basil varieties, these crackers are packaged in brightly colored, resealable bags for eye-catching visibility and easy on-the-go snacking.
“Our core line tends to be for more mature audiences, and the younger generation — millennials — are more on-the-go, more likely to snack,” Mr. Lorenz said. “The average American is eating at least two snacks a day in between meals. Millennials snack four to five times a day. This is really more keeping with that trend.”
Increased snacking isn’t just for millennials, though. According to a recent study by the NPD Group tracking U.S. consumers’ daily snacking habits, baby boomers actually eat ready-to-eat snack food 20% more often than millennials do. An estimated 90.4 billion snacks are consumed annually by boomers in the U.S. compared to 83.1 billion by millennials. Since this demographic is also a big spender in the grocery perimeter, cookie and cracker producers shouldn’t count the older generations out when marketing their products.