Opportunity in the Ethnic Food Aisle

Visible-minority Canadians feel underserved by grocery store offerings according to new study

Written by Meagan Kashty for Canadian Grocer

Canadian grocery retailers have invested a lot of time and effort trying to get inside the mind of the ethnic consumer. But while they’ve come a long way, research shows retailers have much to learn before they can capture market share.

According to a new study done by LoyaltyOne, 63% of visible-minority shoppers in Canada feel their big-box grocery store doesn’t stock a sufficient selection of ethnic food. As a result, ethnic consumers aren’t filling their shopping baskets to the brim €“ they’re making multiple trips to several stores.

READ: The Smart Way to Sell Ethnic Products »

“Despite improvements over the past decade in the amount of square footage dedicated to ethnic food, shoppers aren’t getting the full benefit, explains Jeff Berry, senior director of research and development at LoyaltyOne. “There’s an opportunity to get much more targeted about how retailers use their square footage, but also the product mix they bring in.”

Berry says grocery retailers already have the underlying data they need to analyze the success of their ethnic offerings.  Through established programs, like inventory and loyalty programs, grocers already know what shoppers are buying and to what frequency.

“The starting point is using data to find out what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong,” he says. “Are you a destination store for ethnic consumers, or is your product mix not deep enough? By discovering what shoppers are buying, that should lead you to think of complementary products you should be carrying.”

READ: What to Sell to the Newest Canadians »

As shoppers become more adventurous with their tastes, ethnic ingredients and spices appeal to more than just visible-minority Canadians. So relegating all your global products to the ethnic aisle might be doing your store a disservice. Instead, try to find other areas of the store where an ethnic addition might help spice up an otherwise boring dish.

“You’re less likely to be browse the ethnic aisle,” explains Berry, adding shoppers are more likely to pick up new products if they’re presented in a way that shows how they can fit in to a household’s traditional meals.

Other key findings :

  • 86% of visible-minority consumers said ethnic grocery selection is an important choice in selecting where they decide to shop
  • 69% of visible-minority Canadians are satisfied with independent retailers’ ethnic food selection compared to only 54% for large grocery chains
  • Visible-minority Canadians are more likely than non-ethnic consumers to use independent grocers and markets to buy ethnic foods, with 39% doing so regularly compared to less than a quarter of non-ethnic shoppers
  • Only 1% of the visible-minority consumers surveyed purchased international food and ingredients online. In comparison, 7% of American visible-minority shoppers purchase ethnic foods online.

This article originally appeared in Canadian Grocer.

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