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Houston, TX—Retailers who don’t invest in a great specialty cheese department risk losing store traffic, and “serious dollars,” to competitors, according to a new Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) study.
The study was released during this week’s IDDBA Seminar and Expo in Houston, and study results were also discussed during a “Show and Sell Center” presentation by Max McCalman on Sunday.
Some 16 percent of specialty cheese shoppers actually did go to an alternate retailer to make their last specialty cheese purchase, adding up to roughly $752 million in lost sales, the study found. And that doesn’t include lost sales of co-purchased items, which tend to include other premium fare such as crackers or wine.
Cheese is one of the most frequently purchased items in the grocery store, with two in five consumers buying some type of cheese at least once a week, the study noted. Even though most of those purchases are of the non-premium variety, shoppers who do buy higher-end cheese spend significantly more on cheese in an average month ($22.62) than those who stick to non-specialty cheese ($18.29).
But specialty cheese is more than just a profitable category, the study pointed out. A great specialty cheese department can boost shopper perceptions of store quality and experience and help retailers stand out from competitors.
Yet many large retailers tend to give short shrift to the specialty cheese department, falling behind on the selection, ambience and customer service that cheese lovers want, the study said. “These retailers not only lose out on some serious Cheddar, but they’re missing a major opportunity to add a premium sheen to the whole store.”
Specialty cheese shoppers are a “picky and particular bunch,” the study said, and their discerning approach starts at the store level. Instead of remaining loyal to a single retailer, these consumers regularly shop at a mix of retail food stores, including mass, club, and specialty or natural foods stores.
But their choice of store on any particular outing often depends on whether cheese is on the shopping list, according to the study. That’s because premium cheese is a trip driver, described as a foundational component of the shopping trip.
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