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US Center of Store Market Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Center of Store market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Key points included

  • Easy food options abound
  • Stagnating sales in the center of the store
  • Value alone proving insufficient in the center

Covered in this report

This report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Center of the Store – US, January 2017 and the January 2016 Report of the same name. The center of the store, as defined for this Report, includes food categories typically found along the interior aisles of supermarkets, grocery stores and most supercenters. Items within these produce categories may not be physically located in the center of all stores due to differences in layouts, but these are generally considered to be “center-of-store” categories.

The following segments are included in this report:

  • Shelf-stable grocery: including processed meats, meat products and meats included in processed food, canned produce, shelfstable snacks, cereal
  • Frozen foods: including frozen fruits and vegetables, frozen prepared meals, frozen meats, frozen snacks

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by William Roberts Jr, a leading analyst in the Senior Food and Drink Analyst sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The center of the store encompasses a wide variety of products from indulgence (ice cream, salty snacks and cereals) to extreme convenience (canned soups, frozen meals, pizzas and vegetables), and this dichotomy is calibrating a sales pattern that is stalled. As consumers continue to prioritize foods perceived to be fresher, healthier and even tastier, center of store brands will need to take cues from and make connections with the perimeter in both product development, positioning and even merchandising that will refresh and re-engage traffic patterns William Roberts Jr
Senior Food & Drink Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • Key takeaways
          • Overview
            • Stagnating sales in the center of the store
              • Figure 1: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of center of the store, at current prices, 2014-24
            • The issues
              • Easy food options abound
                • Value alone proving insufficient in the center
                  • Figure 2: US shelf-stable food launches, by most private label introductions, 2017-19*
                • The opportunities
                  • Emphasize the center is not the antithesis to healthy
                    • Figure 3: Purchase factors in center of the store, July 2019
                  • Seek to engage the consumer
                    • Figure 4: Price and list-making on shopping the center of the store, July 2019
                • The Market – What You Need to Know

                  • Center sales continue to stall
                    • Obesity rates continue to rise, as brands promote more holistic foods
                    • Market Size and Forecast

                      • Center-store sales to remain largely stagnant
                        • Figure 5: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of center of the store, at current prices, 2014-24
                        • Figure 6: Total retail sales and forecast of center-of-store foods, at current prices, 2014-24
                    • Market Breakdown

                      • Shelf-stable maintains dominant share of center-store sales
                        • Figure 7: Sales of center of the store, in billions, by segment, 2014-24
                      • Shelf-stable to continue modest growth
                        • Figure 8: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of edible (shelf-stable) foods, at current prices, 2014-24
                        • Figure 9: Total retail sales and forecast of edible grocery, at current prices, 2014-24
                      • Frozen brands need to a refresh
                        • Figure 10: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of frozen foods, at current prices, 2014-24
                        • Figure 11: Total retail sales and forecast of frozen food, at current prices, 2014-24
                    • Market Perspective

                      • Health concerns impact center-store staples
                        • Figure 12: Attitudes toward healthy eating, May 2018
                    • Market Factors

                      • Obesity rates rising
                        • Hispanics, particularly Millennials, seeking healthier foods
                          • Figure 13: US population, by Hispanic origin, 2017
                        • Changing retail face challenges traditional grocery
                          • Figure 14: Real disposable personal income, January 2014-June 2019, updated August 1, 2019
                      • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                        • Ethical, environmental claims are the new convenience
                          • Lean into natural cues
                            • Plant-based meat alternatives stand out from the processed pack
                            • What’s Working?

                              • Ethical claims providing a point of differentiation
                                • Brand trust, premium pivotal to indulgent COS categories
                                  • Figure 15: Center-store food/drink launches in the US, by private label versus branded, 2017-19
                              • What’s Struggling?

                                • Failure to focus
                                  • Figure 16: Sales of condensed wet soups and cold cereals, 2015-23
                                • Value alone proving insufficient for private label
                                  • Figure 17: Private label food/drink launches with natural, environmentally friendly, organic claims, 2013-18
                              • What’s Next?

                                • COS brands lean into the power of protein in unconventional ways
                                • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                  • Wide use of center-store options
                                    • Supermarkets losing their grip on food and drink shoppers
                                      • Ease and convenience are hallmarks of COS foods
                                        • Opportunities for dual wellness positioning: personal and the planet
                                          • Store-center shopping has grown complacent
                                            • Fewer ingredients, the better
                                              • Target parents for delivery services
                                                • Negative health perception may signal opportunity
                                                • Center-store Departments Shopped

                                                  • Shelf-stable options prove most popular among center-store categories
                                                    • Figure 18: Center-store departments shopped, July 2019
                                                  • Parents drawn to center-store categories
                                                    • Figure 19: Center-store departments shopped, by parental status, July 2019
                                                  • Hispanic Millennials are strong in use of most center-store categories
                                                    • Figure 20: Center-store departments shopped, by Hispanic origin, by generation, July 2019
                                                  • Center-store purchase nearly ubiquitous
                                                    • Figure 21: Repertoire of grocery department use, July 2019
                                                  • Habits, brand loyalty is split 50/50 in the COS
                                                    • Figure 22: Food shopping behaviors, by repertoire of grocery department use, July 2019
                                                  • Addressing negative opinions would drive COS traffic
                                                    • Figure 23: Negative opinions of center of the store, by repertoire of grocery department use, July 2019
                                                • Center-store Purchase Locations

                                                  • Supermarkets remain shopping destination for center-store goods
                                                    • Figure 24: Center-store purchase locations, July 2019
                                                  • Black consumers open to multiple channels including dollar, local grocers
                                                    • Figure 25: Center-store purchase locations, by race, July 2019
                                                  • Hispanic consumers most likely to shop a diversity of stores for center-store goods
                                                    • Figure 26: Center-store purchase locations, by Hispanic origin, by generation, July 2019
                                                • Comparing Center-store Departments

                                                  • Convenience is the tie that binds
                                                    • Frozen produce shakes unhealthy COS rap
                                                      • Figure 27: Correspondence analysis – Store department associations, by type, July 2019
                                                      • Figure 28: Store department associations, by type, July 2019
                                                  • Purchase Factors in the Center Store

                                                    • Taste, price hold sway; opportunity for nutrition and wellbeing
                                                      • Figure 29: Purchase factors in center of the store, July 2019
                                                  • Behaviors and Center of the Store

                                                    • Habitual behavior is strong(er) but not unbreakable
                                                      • Figure 30: Behaviors and the center of the store, July 2019
                                                  • Ingredients in Center-store Foods

                                                    • Ingredient concerns not confined to the center of the store
                                                      • Figure 31: Ingredients and center-store foods, July 2019
                                                  • Improving the Center of the Store

                                                    • ‘Less-processed’ concepts offer promise, while delivery evolves
                                                      • Figure 32: Opinions for improving center-store offerings, July 2019
                                                    • Less-processed potential for parents
                                                      • Figure 33: Opinions for improving center-store offerings, by parental status, July 2019
                                                  • Perception of Center of the Store

                                                    • Healthy upgrades can raise the bar
                                                      • Figure 34: Perception of the center of the store, July 2019
                                                    • “Junk” reputation firmly established among Hispanic Millennials
                                                      • Figure 35: Perception of the center of the store, by Hispanic origin, by generation, July 2019
                                                  • Shopping the Center of the Store

                                                    • Majority of consumers plan their center-store purchases
                                                      • Figure 36: Shopping the center of the store, July 2019
                                                    • Parents planning and pricing their center-store purchases
                                                      • Figure 37: Shopping the center of the store, by parental status, July 2019
                                                    • Hispanics much more likely to regard center of the store as something of a last resort
                                                      • Figure 38: Shopping the center of the store, by Hispanic origin, by generation, July 2019
                                                  • Center of the Store by Consumer Segmentation

                                                    • Food and Drink Consumer Segmentation
                                                        • Figure 39: Food/drink consumer segmentation of center of the store, July 2019
                                                      • Innovations hold appeal to Adventure Eaters
                                                          • Figure 40: Opinions for improving center-store offerings, by food/drink consumer segmentation, July 2019
                                                        • East of preparation motivating Time Savers
                                                          • Figure 41: Center of store purchase factors, by food/drink consumer segmentation, July 2019
                                                        • Value Chasers likelier to use lists
                                                            • Figure 42: Center of store shopping behaviors, by food/drink consumer segmentation, July 2019
                                                          • Quality Seekers unmotivated by price
                                                            • Figure 43: Opinions of shopping the center of store, by food/drink consumer segmentation, July 2019
                                                        • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                          • Data sources
                                                            • Sales data
                                                              • Fan chart forecast
                                                                • Consumer survey data
                                                                  • Direct marketing creative
                                                                    • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                      • Abbreviations
                                                                      • Appendix – The Market

                                                                          • Figure 44: Total retail sales and forecast of center-of-store foods, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2014-24
                                                                          • Figure 45: Total retail sales and forecast of center-of-store foods, by segment, at current prices, 2014-24
                                                                          • Figure 46: Total retail sales and forecast of center-of-store foods, by segment, at current prices, 2017 and 2019
                                                                          • Figure 47: Total retail sales and forecast of edible grocery, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2014-24
                                                                          • Figure 48: Total retail sales and forecast of frozen food, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2014-24
                                                                      • Appendix – Correspondence Analysis Methodology

                                                                          • Figure 49: Store department associations, by type, July 2019