Strategy in the Grocery Store Aisle

November 6, 2018

“A person buying ordinary products in a supermarket is in touch with his deepest emotions.”
-John Kenneth Galbraith

A trip to your neighborhood grocery store. It may seem like an odd place to think about economic development strategy, but then again…I’m an economic developer.

The grocery store is a familiar place. It is where most everyone goes, and since we all need to visit regularly, the typical grocery store tends to be fairly inclusive. It is one of the few places where you might see both a wealthy person and someone living on a very restricted budget standing side by side in the same aisle. While their carts may look different at checkout, the fact that everyone shops for groceries allows people to interact. It is a reminder of what we have in common. In the midst of specialty stores for international foods, health food stores and lifestyle stores – the average grocery store is a beacon of inclusiveness and normalcy in a world fixated on differentiation.

Grocery stores cater to a wide variety of people and have increasingly evolved into having something for everyone. The assortment of goods available compared to 30 years ago is simply amazing. And the change in demographics affect what’s being sold on store shelves. For example, the millennial generation values foods that are more healthful and organic, like avocado toast.

The grocery store is also a window to the world of global economics. Stores are under assault from competitors with unique offerings and they give a glimpse into technological innovation, demographic changes and the impact of geopolitics. The implications of complicated trade and tariff negotiations often hit us here first, whether it be the cost of dairy products, meat, or soft drinks and beer. Costs can go up or down, but know that it is likely because of our negotiations somewhere else in the world.

Technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence are beginning to have a large impact on our experience at the local store. Blockchain technologies allow for greater transparency into the global supply chain often used to deliver products to the customer, making our food safer and food producers more accountable. Online retailers such as AmazonGo have caused traditional stores to more quickly add services like online ordering and customer delivery.

As we consider a more inclusive, adaptive economic development strategy in the Columbus Region, we may just need to remind ourselves of a simple trip to the grocery store. Thank you to companies like Kroger and Giant Eagle for their support of our economic development strategy. And thank you also to the many food and beverage operations right here in the Columbus Region.

-Kenny McDonald


One Columbus Update