Next time you run to the grocery store for bread and milk, you might find yourself staying for a champagne tasting. Or seduced by Comice Pears. Or perhaps you’ll just stay home and cook the elicoidali pasta and mascarpone cheese from your Blue Apron box.
It’s hard being an old-fashioned grocery store these days. Adults, for the first time since such data was recorded, are spending more money eating out than cooking in. But even when they do buy their food, the market is enduring what analysts coldly call “grocery channel fragmentation.”
Pam Danziger, a luxury goods expert, said simply that young eaters are on the hunt for something “distinctive and different.”
Small, boutique food shops that are part-restaurant, part-brew pub, part-exotic grocer are all the rage.
“I find more and more that millennials are looking for special experiences,” said Danziger, author of the book Shops That Pop. “They are not just looking for products. They want a better quality service experience from people who really know their stuff.”
They don’t just want a good pear. They want to know why that pear goes great with that salad. And they might even want to know who grew that pear.
“There’s nothing like going to specialty wine store where workers can really advise you on what you are getting,” she said. “This has happened with food now.”
It’s not just happening in hip urban areas on the coasts. Danziger points to small independent food retailers, like Dorothy Lane Market, in Dayton, Ohio, (with its Comice “Holiday Pear”) as examples of a national trend that seems to have staying power.
The do-everything grocery store is struggling to stay relevant in this environment. That’s why shopping carts have cupholders for craft microbrews sold by the growler now. But don’t make the mistake of thinking huge grocers have always ruled the food world. They are a relatively recent development, dating back to the 1930s, when food preparation time shrank as more women entered the work force. Specialty grocers echo a time before that, Danziger said, when everyone “bought local.”
“In the 30s, everyone went to the local butcher,” she said. “What is old is new again.”
How Millennials Are Changing Grocery Stores
Web-Surfing For Groceries?
Well, not everything. On the other end of the digital spectrum, consumers are increasingly skipping the shopping trip altogether and letting the specialty groceries come to them.