Many describe it as a blurring of the market. Supermarket News refers to it as leveraging the environment to create memorable experiences. Regardless of how the trend is viewed, grocerants are attracting the attention of market experts and consumers alike.
What constitutes a grocerant? Start with a tricked-out service deli — counters filled with fresh variety salads, bakery items, and rotisserie chickens. Then, add sit-down service with waiters, full bars, and specialty chefs serving made-to-order sushi, omelettes, or flatbread creations.
Some experts contend that a grocerant is a freestanding restaurant located either adjacent to or within a supermarket. In a recent Eater article, food service analyst Phil Lempert narrows the definition, saying, “It is not a prepared foods counter. It's not a pizzeria that is in a supermarket that has a little area that you can take your pizza and walk over to. It's more of a full-service type of restaurant or a semi-service type of restaurant.”
Nevertheless, the industry routinely refers to grocerants using a wider lens, maybe with an eye on the bigger picture of the future of grocerants. Analysts agree that grocery stores are headed toward the grocerant model.
Where can grocerants be found?
Look as close as a local Wegmans or to what some consider the model grocerant, Whole Foods Market, to find a sushi chef, ready-to-eat barbecue, fresh pasta, gourmet hot dogs, or ramen bar. Other popular grocerants in the supermarket sector include Safeway, Kroger, and Publix.
The Balance has tracked evolving grocerant tendencies in Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, which continue to lead with innovative products to create value and position themselves as a food shopping destination for personalized meals.
Why are grocerants popular?
Consumers are embracing the buffet of choices, convenience, and affordability that grocerants offer. Chicago-based Technomic Inc. reports that supermarket foodservice sales grew about 6% in 2014 compared to 3.8% for the restaurant industry. As the Produce Marketing Association states, grocerants are projected to outperform the rest of the food industry in 2017.
Furthermore, a recent NPD Group report found that in-store dining and takeout of prepared foods from grocer’s has risen almost 30% since 2008 and accounted for $10 billion of consumer spending in 2015.
Convenience and healthy alternatives to traditional fast food are two of the driving factors behind the popularity of U.S. grocerants. Affordability is another attraction. A grocerant meal costs $4.22 on average compared to $7.96 at a fast-casual restaurant, a 53% difference, reports USA Today.