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5 Ways Mariano’s is Keeping Shoppers Engaged and Excited

MAR 5Ahhh, Mariano’s…you’ve made grocery shopping so fun.

For readers in other markets – East and West coasts – you may not be aware but Mariano’s (Roundy’s Supermarkets) is shaking up the grocery retail space in Chicago.

Mariano’s has been expanding their presence over the past few years.  And when Dominick’s (Safeway) decided to close all stores in the Chicago market, the race to capture their retail space was on.

But Mariano’s has been quickest to the plate – in acquisitions and also in new developments. That’s right…BUILDING new structures.

Their latest new building is in a former Sears Auto Center in the Ravenswood area. This space is shiny and new and FUN to shop. Even on their first Sunday morning, with lots of shoppers in the store, everyone seemed to be enjoying their experience.

As marketers, we know this is all planned on the retailer’s part.  But Mariano’s succeeds in making the craziness of preparing for the week of lunches, dinners, snacks, etc. feel like an enjoyable experience.

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Here are a few ways they’re doing this…

1. Shorter aisles – easier to see products at the other end
2. Open and low refrigerated sections instead of long aisles of refrigeration (where you have to open every door to see what’s inside)
3. Prepared meals beyond deli options.  BBQ area and Oyster Bar, for example.
4. Fun ways to buy in bulk – creatively displaying bulk grains and spices
5. Helping with loyalty cards – having staff on-hand at kiosks to help new shoppers receive their loyalty cards

MAR 2Aside from all this greatness, one thing was noticeably amiss– signage.  Specifically, for the check out area.

I’m starting to wonder…could Mariano’s be the IKEA of grocery in Chicago? (i.e. You can get in, but you can’t get out)

3 Big Ingredient Trends You Should Know About

Food for a happy mood?  The ‘perfect’ sweetener?  A natural source for satiety?

Those are some of the beliefs around three ingredients that are gaining consumer popularity.  Here’s the (brief) lowdown on each of them…

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Photo by dmourati

1)  Hot Peppers

Remember the Sriracha fumes kerfuffle of 2013?  When the court said ‘no’ to closing down production of the popular chili sauce, die-hard fans everywhere were relieved. However, it may be more than just taste that keeps them wanting to ‘feel the burn’ of the Rooster-branded chili sauce in their favorite dishes and on their tongues.

Based on the science of how spicy foods affect our bodies, it seems that when we eat them, our endorphins kick up. Result:  a natural mood booster.  Clever food marketers are tapping into this and introducing all kinds of spicy new products to tempt our palates and keep us happy and loyal.

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Photo by tJj

2)  Stevia

Recently there’s been a resurgence of sugar bashing.  It’s been blamed for everything from obesity to aging.  Along comes Stevia — sourced from the rebaudiana plant — minus many of the scary health warnings that have been attributed to sugar and other sweet substitutes. Nowadays you can even find Stevia among the packets of Splenda, Sweet N’Low and sugar in many restaurants.

According to Food Business News, the use of Stevia in products may double by 2017. However,  a big challenge, according to the The New York Times (and not unlike other sugar substitutes) is keeping Stevia ‘natural’ while adjusting it for consumers’ taste.

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Photo by CIAT

3)  Protein 

Unconventional ‘bars’ are popping up all around big cities, catering to cravers of niche products and services like specialty juices and upscale manicures — even hair blowouts.   Recently, I came across Protein Bar  — a one stop shop for protein-packed meals.

What has protein done lately to merit its own retail chain?   Well according to Food Business News, Americans are eating protein in copious quantities.  They believe high protein products are a healthy source of energy and keep them feeling full and satisfied.

Plants, in particular, are increasingly being touted as a healthy protein source.  One of several benefits is that they’re naturally low in fat and cholesterol. Bloomberg describes a plant-based high protein source called  ‘pulses’ — legumes that include dried peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils — being used by food manufacturers in both sweet and savory products.

So now that you’ve read this, are you craving a spicy, sugar-free, kidney bean smoothie?    More importantly, are your marketing efforts incorporating these ingredient trends?  If not, are there ways you can capitalize on them?

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