Expert Interview – Keeping Ahead of Trends in the Grocery Industry

This month I interviewed Carmen Casabielle, Dade Paper’s Corporate Director of Sales. Carmen has over 30 years of experience in supply chain management, serving various market segments including the grocery industry. She is considered a preeminent expert in grocery packaging products in addition to having expertise in operational and sanitation supplies. Carmen leads a team of over 250 sales directors, managers, and consultants in 14 states.

LC: You have been working with grocery stores for many years now. What is one of the biggest changes impacting the segment that you have seen in recent years?

CC: The “grab-and-go” or “meals-to-go” concept has made a huge impact on this segment. The demand for high-quality, nutritious prepared-food has increased by 16% this past year especially among health-conscious and convenience-seeking millennials. We expect the demand for prepared-food to continue to grow and even double over the next few years.

This has created a need for an entirely new style of grocery packaging designed to enhance merchandising, ensure product quality, and provide portability. Over the last several years, we have worked closely with manufacturers to create new packaging options to address this change in consumer buying behavior.

LC: What are the major concerns of grocers today and what solutions are available?

CC: Margin is the main concern. Grocery stores today are under a great deal of price pressure. As more competitors surface in the segment, there is a race to offer the lowest price. The challenge for grocers is maintaining the quality of their products while competing in a price-driven market. Since they do not want to compromise on quality, they must look for other opportunities to reduce their overall cost of doing business.

The solution to this dilemma is often a combination of things. Some stores consolidate the number of packaging items they use which may offer a reduced cost. Others look to operational processes to save money such as bringing the cleaning services in-house rather than outsourcing. Another option, is converting to LED lighting throughout the store which not only offers significant energy and labor cost-savings, but provides brighter light and is a more sustainable practice. I recommend a holistic approach to driving costs savings.

LC: Looking forward, what are some of the emerging trends and how can grocers be prepared to address them?

CC: Consumers are increasingly interested in eating healthier food or food that fits within certain dietary guidelines such as gluten-free. Other trends include organic, non-GMO, locally-sourced, and ethnic food items that appeal to shoppers that enjoy more adventurous flavors. These food items may require alternative packaging options.

Sustainability continues to be a hot topic. Grocers can opt for more sustainable products ranging from green cleaning supplies to recyclable packaging and reduce their store’s impact on the environment.

LC: What are a few things that a grocer can do today to improve their operations?

CC: Review all of the packaging used in the store with an experienced supplier partner. Proper packaging will promote better sales, help maintain freshness and reduce costs. In addition, I recommend a bag review, including trash can liners. There are many different sizes and materials available. By using the right size, weight and style of bag in each area of a store, grocers can save money and improve operations.

Cleanliness is also critical to both the customer experience and maintaining safety. Again, rely on a supplier partner that has the expertise needed to ensure the correct products and procedures are being used.

Lastly, maintain a culture of service, one that exceeds customer expectations.

Carmen Casabielle and her team of grocery specialists are available to consult with grocers and help them meet the ever-changing needs of the industry. She can be reached at ccasabielle@dadepaper.com.