KANSAS CITY — Back-to-school … that harsh reminder of how unforgiving the time-space continuum is. My son started third grade, and the girl next door left for college (that was particularly devastating for him because she’s been babysitting him his “whole life”).
Even if I wanted to ignore how fast it goes, I can’t. I dropped him off for his first day of school and immediately walked into two days of strategic planning for the 2019 IBIE. Wait! Weren’t we just walking the floor of the 2016 show?
Don’t believe time moves at warp speed? Just think about how many smartphones you’ve been through since the last IBIE. How many show cycles has it been since you didn’t have a cell phone at all?
I was interviewing someone for a packaging feature recently, and we were comparing notes on our grocery shopping habits. She, like me, shops once a week with a list, but her 20-something daughter hits the store whenever she needs something or just orders her meals from Blue Apron. I’m a creature of habit, so it was a stark reminder of just how fast things can change when I walked into Walmart for a weekly visit and found the entire layout was reconfigured to make room for the online-order pickup lockers.
It’s not coming from nowhere. Consumer shopping habits are changing fast, and the Walmart layout is just keeping pace. Thanks to the internet, modern shopping isn’t just about immediacy; it’s also about customization. In fact, immediate gratification is beginning to take a back seat, according to research firm Deloitte. Video once killed the radio star. Is convenience actually killing the impulse buy? After all, the more consumers can research and customize their food purchases, the less likely they seem to be letting their urges take over at the register. Then again … when they’re picking up their groceries in a drive-thru or at a locker, it’s not really an option anymore.
Perhaps the impulse hasn’t died; maybe it, like everything else, has just gone mobile. A new platform called Cargo is partnering with ride-share companies such as Lyft and Uber, where drivers can sell snacks to their ride fares. It’s caught the attention of Kellogg Co. and other investors, according to Keith Nunes, executive editor of Food Business News. He recently wrote about how fast these shopping habits are changing — and how C.P.G. companies are keeping up — after he attended the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s annual Leadership Forum. It’s good food for thought on how bakers and snack makers can think about new ways to get their products in front of consumers.
I don’t know how long I’ll keep writing my grocery list on paper or negotiating cookies with my son in the checkout line, but I can just hear him talking to his kids one day: “When I was your age, we had to drive to the grocery store, and there were only a few snacks we could pick from …”
Who knows what the food landscape will look like by then? After all, it’s a long way off. At least that’s what I’m telling myself, even though I know the time is going to fly by.