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By: Phil Lempert, The Supermarket Guru

The Food Industry Association (FMI) has published the annual The Food Retailing Industry Speaks survey; a report that helps retailers and suppliers understand the formidable challenges our industry faces and more importantly the innovative approaches that the industry leaders are taking to combat these challenges.

No one would argue that since the beginning of the pandemic we have been confronted by supply chain issues, inflation, ingredient shortages, a changing and more limited workforce and most recently a substantial increase in shrink – caused mostly by shopper theft. The CEOs of leading retailers including Target, Walmart, Whole Foods and Giant Food have all expressed concern and efforts to combat overall shrink driven by individual theft and organized retail crime including hiring security guards, limiting the number of items that can be bought through self-checkouts, placing items in locked cabinets and even closing stores with high theft rates. In 2022, according to the Speaks survey, 29% of transactions were conducted at self-checkouts, which according to one Midwest retailer I spoke to, has accounted for their higher-than-average level of theft and underscores the need for a better technology solution as retailers continue to be faced with a labor shortage. Speaks found that 36% of food retailers predict that technology will change the on-store shopping experience.

Speaks 2023 captures the insights from a cross-section of 100 food retail and wholesale companies representing from one to over 100 stores with a combined universe of over 39,000 stores; as well as including data from 26 food suppliers representing close to $300 billion in food product sales. It is important to note that the average net income of the retailers surveyed was 2.3% in 2022 a significant increase from the historically 1 to 1.7% reported over the past ten-year period – however down from the record 3% and 2.9% net income reported during the pandemic periods in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Speaks 2023 is a valuable resource for every RD in understanding the entire scope of their retail operations and the factors that impacted their businesses in 2022. The key is to use these findings as the baseline to help your organization plan for future success. One important finding that has a direct effect on your health & wellness initiatives is that 70% of food retailers predict that they will renew their focus on fresh departments in 2023 through quality enhancements, expanding foodservice departments (including allocating more labor), adding additional space for organic produce and a greater focus on fresh products and ready to eat options. A perfect opportunity for retail dietitians to add their expertise in these areas.

Speaks 2023 offers 10 Key Takeaways from the survey:

  1. Inflation sparks value initiatives.
  2. Strengthening our industry’s workforce.
  3. Strategies aim to boost customer engagement.
  4. Fresh foods momentum accelerates.
  5. New efforts address supply hurdles.
  6. Technology supports a range of needs.
  7. Retailers fine-tune ecommerce strategies.
  8. Managing costs to enhance results.
  9. Driving improved in-store experiences.
  10. Prioritizing charitable contributions, diversity and waste reduction.

This 74th annual edition of The Food Retailing Industry Speaks survey begins with one of the most impactful statements ever: THE FOOD INDUSTRY HAS A LOT ON ITS PLATE. No truer words can be said.

For more details on Speaks 2023 visit www.fmi.org

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