Front Marquee of The Fresh Market
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Discover Supermarket Strategies

The Psychology Behind a Grocery Store

Discovering The Fresh Market

Inside The Fresh Market food storeWhen I moved to Greenville, South Carolina, I had no idea I would be giving up my Kroger rewards card.  Not one Kroger grocery store in the Upstate.  However, I have discovered The Fresh Market.  Similar to a Whole Foods, but much smaller in scale, The Fresh Market focus’ on natural or organic food products.  Not to say, everything is healthy in The Fresh Market, the bakery with fresh bread and an entire dessert case, I enjoy looking at all the fresh produce and “feeling” like I am eating more healthy.

Entering the Grocery Store

When you enter The Fresh Market, you immediately go through a rough tiled floor, surrounded by fresh cut flowers.  Of course, this is done for a reason.  Customers are intentionally exposed to “sensory overload,” in order to stimulate your senses, especially your salivary glands through sight, smell and taste, which entice you to spend money on things that weren’t necessarily on your list.   The rough tile floor slows your pace, so you will look all around.

In almost EVERY grocery store, this is why the bakery, florist and produce are displayed as the first items you encounter during your shopping trip.  These departments operate on high margins and depend on effectively drawing customers by stimulating their senses.

The Back of the Store

Dairy case of milkHaven’t you noticed, milk, meat and sometimes bread, are all in the rear of the store?  You have to walk through the chips, cookies or candy isle in order to get to the “real” reason you stopped by the store in the first place.  These “staple” items are strategically placed in the back of the store, making it hard for you to resist grabbing other items NOT on your list.  Grocery store strategist  want to maximize your time in their store by having you travel down as many aisles as possible.

Usually the foods the least healthy for you, but yield high margin returns for the store, are the ones you pass, while rushing to the back to pick up your gallon of milk.  In my local Ingles, the milk is in the very back, rear corner, farthest from the entrance as you can get.  The bread is in the rear of the store, opposite corner from the milk; therefore, you pass hundreds of products if you just need bread and milk.

Buying space

Did you realize, food companies buy their placement on the shelves from chain grocery store conglomerates.

  • Bottom shelf: home to generic brands or cheaper brands, bulk items and those distributed by smaller food companies.
  • Top shelf: reserved for gourmet type items, or more expensive products. Also smaller portion products.
  • Middle shelf: the most expensive and where the leading brands and best sellers want their products. This is the space that can be leased by some grocery chains to the food companies with the most power.  Companies such as Nestle, Mars, General Mills and Kellogg want this middle shelf placement to catch the eyes of the shopper and children with their brightly colored packaging.



Various fruits and vegetables on display at the grocery store

Being conscientious and understanding the psychology of retail grocery store chains can limit their profit gain from strategic floor plans and shelf stocking arrangements.  Buy from local farmers markets or locally owned small food producers if you can.  Realizing this mogul manipulation will result in better health for you and your family.








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