R&FF Retailer: ‘The Oogidie-Boogidie People’
Commentary by Warren Thayer, Editorial Director, Refrigerated & Frozen Foods Retailer
Why don’t more of you guys integrate your organic and natural foods into your mainstream shelf sets? I just don’t see why this is still even debated.
“Well, let’s see. Natural dairy products were up 3.3 percent last year, and natural organics were up 17.9 percent, while the department as a whole was down. Over in frozen, total sales were up 2.5 percent, but natural sales were up 23.6 percent and organics were up 42.5 percent. Hmm, I guess we better put this organic and natural stuff off in a corner somewhere by itself.”
Hello? As tennis ace John McEnroe used to say when perturbed by a linesman’s call, “You simply cannot be serious!”
I’ve actually felt this way for a long time, but held back from saying anything because older and wiser people with “gravitas” (something I’ve never had) were forever saying things like “Well, you should just do what works best in your stores. It can go either way.”
Yeah, and if the house is on fire, you can either run outside, or take a nap on the sofa until the fire department comes. “It can go either way.” This battle should be over. Things have changed, but too many retailers are still acting on old information.
Back in the last century, when my wife was the editor of Vegetarian Times, a dinosaur at her company used to refer to vegetarians as “The Oogidie-Boogidie People.” No, he didn’t “get it,” but I bet you laughed when you read that.
You laughed because about 20 or so years ago, it seemed quite appropriate to think of vegetarians and organic/natural food eaters as argumentative folk wearing turbans, Birkenstocks, and perpetually pained expressions. Once, when my wife wrote in a column that she was married to a meat eater, she got hate mail.
Now, if I’d had a store back then, I would have given the Oogidie-Boogidie people their own section off in a corner, too. Maybe I’d have put a secret little trap door in the floor. But it’s 2007 now, and organic and natural foods are mainstream. Shouldn’t shoppers find them with the “mainstream” foods? And for shoppers on the edge, wouldn’t it be wise to expose them to these products instead of ceding the ground to Whole Foods?
Yet a lot of retailers who do everything else right still segregate their natural and organics. The magnificent Price Chopper I adore, off in the woods of Lebanon, N.H., still makes me commute back and forth between the mainstream and the organic ghetto.
I know some folk fear they’ll lose “mainstream” business if they give up “mainstream” SKUs and add more organic and natural items into their regular shelf set. Hey, I’ve rarely seen a store without need for SKU rationalization, and besides, you actually stand to lose “mainstream” business by not giving natural and organic foods their due space. Unless, of course, you still believe in the Oogidie-Boogidie man.
Discussion Questions: Is it time to integrate organics into mainstream sets throughout grocery stores? Has keeping them separate in stores become an inconvenience (source of annoyance) for the many mainstream consumers who buy both organic and conventional foods and other products?