Can a grocery store teach its customers to love to cook?

Can a grocery store teach its customers to love to cook?

Aug 12, 2022

A grocer in Utah is opening a store that aspires to focus on meal prep instead of just selling groceries, guiding customers to cook creatively with a limited number of locally produced ingredients.

Marcellus Foods, which plans to open its first store in Salt Lake City, UT, early in 2023, will carry only about 80 prepared ingredients, such as meats, vegetables, grains, vegan proteins, sauces and spices, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune. This is less than both the 290 that Eve Cohen, founder, says customers on average purchase per year, and the 35,000 that the average grocer stocks. The products will come from local farms, orchards and producers.

The grocer plans to offer cooking suggestions and “formulas” for putting together meals, rather than traditional recipes, in a way meant to help teach people to cook to their own tastes depending on their skill level. A digital platform will be in place to help customers use the ingredients. Long-term, the store’s founders see Marcellus Foods as becoming part of a nationwide network of what they call “human-scale local food processors.”

Cooking at home experienced a big bump in popularity at the beginning of the pandemic when lockdowns nationwide prevented people from going to restaurants.

A number of surveys that came out earlier this year, however, point to wanting interest in home cooking compared to the pandemic peak.

The “US Grocery Shopper Trends 2022” study by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) showed the number of Americans who “like” or “love” cooking dropped year over year from 46 percent to 41 percent. Six in 10 home cooks reported being burnt out on cooking in a Jennie-O study and 70 percent said they were bored of cooking the same meals over and over.

While a limited, localized selection could set a grocer like Marcellus Foods apart, other grocers have cooking-focused content strategies before. In 2019, Publix debuted online, interactive cooking classes led by a live chef. Others, like Whole Foods, have offered cooking classes in-store.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will a grocer with a stripped-down inventory, dedicated to helping customers with meal prep, succeed in the long run? What are the chances of such a concept catching on nationwide?

Braintrust

“This is a great idea that more grocers should implement.”

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