We identify new market and product opportunities to help companies grow.
Call us: 312.276.5140 Email: info@ericksonresearch.com

Erickson Research Blog

All posts in Food and Beverage

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.








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…


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.


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.


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?

Hey food industry marketers — are you truly capitalizing on ‘Hibernating Households’?

Photos by Kelli Clifford

Photos by Kelli Clifford

Recently, winter weather across the U.S. has been extreme.  And when snow, ice and subzero temps hit, a lot of people are homebound…sometimes for days.

But rather than focus on the negative effects, let’s think about these “Hibernating Households” from a positive (marketing-minded) viewpoint.

Hibernating households want something to do — great news for Netflix and other instant home entertainment services.

Hibernating households need food. Particularly meals that can be made with what’s on hand and with a little luck, still offer their palates some variety – this presents a great opportunity for food marketers like you.

Based on recent findings from Erickson Research’s Food & Beverage Trends Study, it’s likely that many consumers could use your help when the weather puts a wrench in their food/meal prep behaviors.

Here’s why…

  • Less than 50% of consumers claim they…
    • keep cooking staples on hand
    • have ‘standby’ meals they prepare often
  • Over 60% believe they’re not able to whip up a meal in a moment’s notice
  • Typically, about 75% do not plan their meals for the week

So, when these consumers are feeling frazzled (trying to stock up smartly, before the storm hits) or bored and hungry (stuck at home in the aftermath)…what are you doing to help them out?

In other words, how can you tailor your consumer communications to be more timely and relevant?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Create a list of “stock-up” food items they should always have on hand
  2. Offer both healthy and indulgent meal ideas (including one-pot preparation) using stock-up items
  3. Feature recipes that are customized to fit typical household sizes (i.e. individual, two people, four to six people) or household compositions (i.e. adults, kids, teens or combinations)
  4. Suggest ingredient or recipe “substitutes” (i.e. what if eggs and milk are not available?)
  5. Showcase recipes that are fun to make — include a ‘challenge’ or game-like activity for households with 2+ members
  6. Offer meal plans with main dishes/ingredients that can be used for multiple meals (i.e. a roasted chicken recipe with leftovers that can also be used to make chicken salad and soup) Get creative.

And most importantly, keep it simple.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, people are spending a lot of time on social media, sharing their thoughts on this extreme weather. So why not get in on the stories and offer your food-related tips and recipes on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest?


Page 1 of 212