Helping Shoppers Navigate Emptier Shelves and Inflation

Helping Shoppers Navigate Emptier Shelves and Inflation

March 30, 2022
Al Heller

By Al Heller, Contributing Editor,

It keeps getting harder for primary household shoppers to buy nutritionally and cost-efficiently in 2022.  Bedeviled by out of stocks and higher prices on many of their preferred healthful foods, they now must learn about, find, and try budget-friendly nutritional substitutes to satisfyingly feed their families.

Meal and snack planning is more difficult because shoppers don’t know if they’ll find their favorite items in the store on any given trip – or if rising prices mean they’ll no longer fit within the budget. Food inflation is the highest it’s been in decades, and it’s perplexing households in every income tier, notes RDBA’s 2022 Samplefest® presentation, “Meeting the Needs of Price-Conscious Shoppers.”

These disruptions have shoppers likely to appreciate tips for adapting recipes and meal plans from retail dietitians in stores, Zoom calls and classes, consults, social media posts, and blogs.  Ideas within the RDBA Samplefest® can help grow RDs’ internal credibility with store leaders plus customer traffic and market share because they visibly support families at this unstable time.

RDs can apply their own special spin to some of these:

  • Innovate like Cornell Cooperative Extension with prominent product placement of better-for-you foods, bilingual signs, and incentives for attending a dietitian class, or like Everytable with localized pricing of nutritious foods to widen access to them.
  • Make ‘food affordability’ a frequent central theme of content and presentations.
  • Respect the food cultures of ethnic groups within your chain’s trading areas, and offer ideas that sync with their wallet, traditions, and preferred tastes.
  • Collaborate with buying, marketing, e-commerce, and social media teams to create compelling cases for quality private label products that deliver nutritional bang for their dollar. Track metrics and document efforts to prove the business value of RD initiatives like these to the retail enterprise.
  • Be sensitive and non-judgmental when advising. Many customers may be serving their families beans instead of steak or deciding if they should buy meals or medicine.
  • In particular, mine your chain’s own data to learn precisely what percent of your audience uses SNAP and WIC benefits, what they spend in your stores, what they buy and more.  Help them understand that healthier food choices are within their reach and point the way with specific guidance on less-costly proteins, the produce to buy in different seasons, smarter reading of product labels and more.
  • Help improve basic skills. Think cooking videos for affordable meal ideas, as well as demos on the use of kitchen tools to encourage healthy, easy food prep – with convenience, familiar flavors, and kid-friendly options in mind.
  • Avoid food waste – teach how to plan and shop for meals using canned and frozen foods, how to freeze and store leftovers, and repurpose them as simple soups, casseroles and lunches for the next day or two.
  • Distribute a complete pantry staples list with options for using them such as: five ways to top a baked potato; dinner time egg recipes; ideas with canned beans; frozen family meals with quick, healthy sides.
  • Maximize impact by extending community reach to groups such as local employers, youth athletic leagues, and churches, temples, and mosques. Or maybe partner with a local TV station to create a weekly $10 family meal segment that highlights healthier, budget-friendly meals.