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December 22, 2021

A Look into Evolving Grocery Shopping Habits

Between the pandemic, new technology, and rapidly changing consumer preferences, the way consumers shop will continue to rapidly evolve over the next year. From plant-based alternatives to innovative non-alcoholic beverages, these are the five trends that will shape grocery stores in 2022...

It’s been a couple of very unusual years for grocery stores, and all signs point to yet another one on the horizon. Between the pandemic, new technology, and rapidly changing preferences, the way consumers shop will continue to evolve rapidly, forecasters say.

These are the five trends that will shape grocery stores in 2022.

The Rise in Ethical Eating

It’s been well documented that consumers across all sectors are looking for sustainable options, but sustainability seems to be particularly top-of-mind when it comes to food. The growing awareness of the environmental footprint of food and its production is rapidly reshaping consumer preferences, especially when it comes to protein options.

An NPD Group study found that shipments of plant-based alternatives to meats such as beef and chicken surged by about 60% from 2020 to 2021, and the study forecasts continued growth in that category through 2024. That shift is almost entirely driven by Millennial and Gen Z consumers, who are most likely to say they’re concerned about both sustainability and the treatment of animals.

Not all these shoppers are vegetarian or vegan. Many have instead adopted “reducetarianism,” cutting down the amount of meat, dairy and egg products they can when they can without giving up animal-based products entirely. When they do indulge in animal products, they’re more likely to opt for options like grass-fed beef or free-range eggs. Expect to see continued demand for those options and for plant-based proteins going forward.

Continued Innovation – and Wilder Options – in Beverages

No, seltzers aren’t going anywhere. If anything, the success of carbonated water beverages over the last decade has proven there’s a wide market for fizzy drinks with less sugar and more complicated flavor profiles than sodas.

That’s why manufacturers are creating more innovative – and some might say unusual – products like tonics spiked with botanicals and prebiotics, or sodas with probiotics. Asian and South American markets have seen success with beverage flavors ranging from yuzu, passionflower, calamansi and schisandra berry. Not all of those will be hits in the United States, but it’s a sign of where the sector is headed.

Meanwhile, beverage makers will continue to build on the success they’ve seen by marketing healthier, non-alcoholic or lower-alcohol alternatives. That market for those drinks is predicted to grow 31% according to a report from the IWSR. Expect to see many new beverages attempt to court the consumer with more sophisticated, cocktail-like flavor profiles, sans the alcohol.

Continued Demand For Prepared Food

Prepared foods remain an area of enormous potential growth for grocery stores, according to an extensive new report from FMI-The Food Industry Association. The group found that 39% of consumers see retail food service as a substitute to both restaurant and home-cooked meals.

Consumers’ demand for convenience could give grocers a leg up as they compete with restaurants in the prepared food space, but grocers have some work to do if they want to capitalize on that potential business. The report noted a demand for hybrid meal options – which mix fully and semi-prepared items – that some consumers say grocery stores aren’t currently meeting.

One potential way grocers can reach those consumers is with smaller package sizes of prepared food, designed to feed one or two people. Those will appeal to shoppers who haven’t planned their meal and are looking for simple options.

More Tech and Automation

Grocers are continuing to turn to digital tools and artificial intelligence to help give them a competitive advantage. AI, for instance, is an integral part of Kroger’s and Instacart’s new “Kroger Delivery Now” initiative, which promises to deliver groceries to consumers in as little as 30 minutes. Shoppers will be able to select from 25,000 items, and AI will help the service ensure SKU count availability as well as the freshness of groceries.

Smaller grocers may not be able to compete with that level of technology, but digitalization can still give them an advantage by helping them predict shopper behavior and localize their inventory. Automated systems will increasingly handle the staging and completion of online orders. Consumers are demanding faster fulfillment of online orders, and technology will be crucial in helping stores meet those expectations while maintaining profit margins.

Supply Chain Headaches Aren’t Going Away

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for the global supply chain troubles that have dominated the news this past year. Forecasters expect bottlenecks to remain a challenge in 2022 – possibly even beyond – as shipping and trucking companies continue to navigate labor shortages. The American Truckers Association estimates there was a driver shortage of 80,000 truckers in 2021, and since there was no lone cause of those shortages, reversing them could be a long process.

What does that mean for grocers? Keeping shelves stocked will continue to be a headache. Along with inflation, which has some shoppers searching for cheaper options, that’s created a tremendous opportunity for private label brands, CNN reports. Consumers have shown they’re open to purchasing alternatives to their preferred brands, and private labels are primed to benefit. They’re also a solution to high margins that CPG have passed on to stores as inflation has climbed.

Make Your Inventory Pop

No matter what your store has in stock, make sure it looks great. Retail Space Solutions specializes in display innovations that ensure attractive, front-facing inventory that leads to increased sales. Our pusher display shelf solutions touch every corner of the grocery store, from the dairy, meat and candy aisles to frozen food and produce, and help eliminate false out-of-stocks — which is more important than ever during a time when stores are facing so many very real out-of-stocks.

We also offer personalized site assessments to help each store address its unique needs. When you’re looking for premium quality solutions to create attractive retail display spaces, we’ll work with you to identify your goals and optimize displays in order to boost sales.

For more information on center store pusher displays systems from Retail Space Solutions, visit or call 1-800-279-5291.