When my neighborhood grocery store recently changed its layout to make everything “easier and better” for its customers, I was not happy. I complained how the bread was in the “wrong” aisle and that it took me forever to find cupcake liners. That is because, like most people, who frequent the same store, I knew the layout so well, I could sleepwalk through it. The produce was around the walls, dairy and eggs tucked away the back and aisles full of packaged foods occupying the middle. Whenever changes happen, they are cosmetic and the basic plan never changes. But now we hear some really surprising (and encouraging!) news: grocery stores are reporting that the center aisles are contributing less to total sales while the share of the periphery with fresh foods is rising. While this is partially explained by people shopping more for basic items at stores like Wal Mart and Target, there does seem to be cause for optimism. There is a growing awareness about healthy eating and people are motivated to eat food that is less processed. So, will the makers of packaged foods meet this challenge by throwing in some new ingredients and packaging ? Will this bring back the shoppers who had wandered off the path? Perhaps not….once someone gets used to biting into a peach and having to wipe off the juice, it is highly unlikely that they will go back to fishing out pieces from gloopy syrup.
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