Catalina has published some shopper research showing that the 'Center Store' remains a vital driver of trips and volume for grocery retailers, with more than 99% of all shoppers purchasing from the Center Store in 2017. This article is copyright 2018 The Best Customer Guide.

The study underscores how brands that introduce innovative, often-niche products that address evolving consumer motivations are keeping the Center Store relevant.

The report, entitled "The Center Store Revolution: Innovation Drives Trips and Category Growth," identifies the biggest subcategory gainers and losers in the Center Store. It also shows that specific cross-category consumer preferences like "Heart Healthy," "Low-Fat," "Trans-Fat Avoiders," and "GMO Avoiders" are fueling the growth of some of the fastest growing product subcategories.

Big winners include non-fat/low fat ice cream, value-priced entree frozen dinners, sparkling/seltzer water, ready-made coffee drinks, window and glass cleaners, fresh rolls, dried meat snacks, vinegar, value-priced bath tissue, and a variety of snack and candy subcategories.

Among other Center Store findings:

  • The Center Store accounted for 60 annual trips per shopper, per store, down just one trip per shopper, per store from 2016.
  • Some 99.5% of all shoppers frequented the Center Store in 2017, spending an average of $1,408 a year there.
  • 81% of all shopping baskets included at least one Center Store item.

"The Center Store is alive and well," said Marta Cyhan, head of marketing for Catalina. "Some 8 in 10 baskets we looked at included a Center Store item, but many consumers are looking to discover something different. A new generation of brands and subcategories are reinvigorating the Center Store by appealing to lifestyle and ingredient-based preferences."

The report highlights a variety of product subcategories driving Center Store performance and explores how evolving consumer motivations, identified through Catalina's ingredient-level shopper intelligence, are fuelling their growth. Among the study's findings based on ingredient-level shopper intelligence:

  • Non-fat, low-fat, lite ice cream: This subcategory grew 66.9% in dollar sales, while regular and premium ice cream declined 3.3%. The average shopper in this category spent $21.37, but Heart Healthy Shoppers spent 2.7 times the average, or $56.76. Trans-Fat Avoiders spent an average of $52.19, while Low-Fat Shoppers who bought spent $48.87, and Natural Ingredient Shoppers averaged of $46.99.
  • Water - Sparkling/Seltzer: The average shopper within the category spent $17.71, while Heart Healthy Shoppers averaged $35.17, and Natural Shoppers spent $35.01.
  • Frozen dinner/entree value priced: This subcategory, which is increasingly emphasizing healthy options, increased dollar sales by 32.9% and trips by 24.2%. The average shopper in this subcategory spent $13.47, but Heart Healthy Shoppers spent 43% more, or $19.25.

"Our study demonstrates that brands and retailers who can understand today's shoppers based on their underlying motivations and meet their evolving needs with product innovation will be a growth engine for the Center Store," Cyhan said. "The ability to engage the right shoppers based on ingredient-level targeting will help these brands efficiently grow their business."

The Center Store Revolution study tracked Center Store sales for some 18 million shoppers at 6,658 grocery stores across the United States. Purchasing behavior, sales and trips for the full 52 weeks of 2017 were compared with the same period and the same stores in 2016. The Center Store was defined as including grocery, frozen and home care categories. Tobacco and alcohol were excluded due to local legal variances.