BY ANTONY MALUSI
The days where the norm was that people would go to supermarkets to buy ingredients that they would then take home to prepare meals seems to be turning into a thing of the past. This can be accredited to the shift by supermarkets from only selling what is needed to make a meal to preparing the meal as well as selling it like a restaurant.
Over the years, the phenomenon has been growing fast in both popularity and elegance around the world thanks to an increase in customers. For example, according to a report by the NPD group, a market research organization, in 2015 supermarkets selling prepared food or ready to eat meals were able to generate over 2.4billion visits and make sales worth $10 billion. This saw prepared foods become the biggest trend in supermarkets thus making supermarket delis and their successor, grocerants to become popular all over the world.
In Kenya, the case is the same as many supermarkets have since incorporated the sale of freshly prepared foods in order to attract more customers. Even though having been there in the country for a while, this phenomenon seems to only have caught on with more and more customers choosing supermarkets over restaurants whenever they need to purchase ready to eat foods. For example, even though in Kenya the phenomenon was pioneered back in 2014 by Tuskys supermarket, it has only grown to be a threat to restaurants recently.
The rise of the supermarket delis and grocerants has been as a result of the convenience they offer customers. Unlike the old days where people had to go to supermarkets for certain products and then visit a restaurant whenever they had to buy ready to eat foods, nowadays things have changed. Instead, consumers only have to visit supermarkets and they will have access to both. This is very advantageous, especially to the growing middle class that tends to live a fast paced life.
In Nairobi for instance, a large number of people are usually short of time because they have to work long hours and deal with heavy traffic and the end of the day having in the end, less to no time for cooking. For their convenience, supermarkets that sell ready to eat foods really grow as a majority of these people have shifted to buying food from there.
Apart from this, another reason that has led to the growth of supermarket delis and grocerants has been due to the millennial generation. Millennials have been a major contributor of this phenomenon, in actual sense they might as well be the major reason as to why this is fast becoming the new norm in the food industry.
We are currently in a time where millennials, those born between the 80s and the early 2000s, are transforming and starting to take in major responsibilities and duties. It has seen them change their behaviors as they learn to focus more on certain things and let go of others. This has been the case in all aspects including when it comes to food and beverages. Unlike other generations, millennials are regarded to be adventurous and impulsive when it comes to interaction with foods however; they are also very keen on their habits, trying to make healthier choices.
Just as other generations before them, millennials’ choices have greatly been driven by the era they live in. Being brought up in a digital era, they have incorporated technology in everything they do. This however, has not spared them from experiencing the same issues as the other generations when making decisions on their shopping and eating behaviors. When it comes down to deciding what and where to eat, millennials heavily consider their budgets.
According to a report by Young Invincibles, a non- profit organization, millennials are currently earning 20% less than what baby boomers used to earn when they were in the same age bracket. As a result, this has seen millennials be inclined to shop for products that are cheaper and of good quality. The fact that supermarket delis and grocerants have focused on offering foods of good quality at a cheaper price compared to most restaurants has seen them become the popular choice for millennials. In doing so this also helps millennials in saving up money that they would have used.
Eric Kipglagat, 26, who works as a bank teller says he prefers buying food from a supermarket near his home in Eastlands because of the variety, convenience and pricing they offer.
“Most of the time I usually buy my meals from Naivas Umoja which has allowed me to save up on cooking gas and food items. Having to work till the late hours of the day I usually have no time to cook. Thanks to their good food which they sell at a good price I have become a loyal customer,” he said.
The quality of food has been another factor that has seen millennials move to buying food from supermarkets rather than restaurants. Millennials are very concerned about the food they consume as they love food that is good for the body while at the same time is interesting to the palate. The higher the rate of freshness and quality the more attractive they are to millennials, and this is exactly what supermarkets have focused on to win their hearts.
Whichever way you looks at it, millennials have been the major reason as to why supermarket delis and the few grocerants in the country have become so popular. Supermarkets were able to jump on the opportunity to give millennials exactly what they want; fresh, convenience and decent prices, and thus they were able to attract them and turn them into loyal customers.
This new phenomenon seems to be here to stay as demand for it continues to increase. Supermarkets are only expected to grow further which will likely see most of them expand their small delis to grocerants. Even though already causing restaurants to record low profits, the move from delis to fully-fledged grocerants will likely cause restaurants to start shutting down. Therefore, it is safe to say what we are witnessing in our country now is just the rise of the new norm in the industry.