Saturday, November 29, 2014

SUPERMARKETS; their PRIORITIES versus the Public's Health.

Standing in Lines

Those places that the vast majority of us shop at for our food do not exist just for our convenience. In fact, the customer must realize that a major corporation owns the neighborhood supermarket and that they are there to make a profit, not friends.

The corporations that own the major supermarkets in our country locate their retail food stores strategically for certain specific population groups.

You must already have noticed that a supermarket in an area that the majority of the population is poor will be smaller and have a much more limited variety of foods available than one that is in an area with a predominately middle class demographic.
And, in the same vein, a supermarket in a middle class area will not provide the variety and selection of foods that one that has residents who are higher paid professionals.

Supermarkets for the Poor

A supermarket in a poor area will have a majority of its offered products that are fast foods, easy to prepare foods and less nutritious foods overall. They will have a very small selection of fresh foods, if any at all.
And, the aisles will be narrow and crowded to maximize the offerings they do provide.

Most meats and cheeses in these stores will often be pre-packaged and frozen at other sites in what they consider affordable sizes. The store will have a small butcher section, if any at all, because meats have a very short shelf life and if very few people in the poorer areas can afford fresh meats, then why offer such options to them.

You will often find a freezer selection of frozen meats that obviously can be kept available longer. The selection of dairy products and canned goods will be just as restricted and offering mostly basic canned beans and vegetables that happen to be more affordable.
Their priority when providing foods for areas with poorer demographics is to stock cheap and basic foods, not luxury or imported foods.

Supermarkets for the Middle Class

A supermarket in a middle class area will usually provide a very good selection of fresh vegetables and fruits, a wide selection of deli meats, and probably a small bakery of fresh breads and cakes.
This is in addition to better meats, cheeses, and other dairy products along with a wider selection of canned goods, cereals and snacks.

Supermarkets for the Upper Middle Class

Of course the trend continues when you walk into a supermarket that is in an area where professionals and other well-to-do customers shop. Their supermarkets will be very large, have wide and well-lit aisles and wide selections of food options in literally every section.

They will often also have such luxury sections as; olive bars, fresh prepared entrees and side dishes for the consumer to take home, large wine selections, imported cheeses, large selections of fresh baked goods, and much more.

Shopping in these high-end supermarkets is both a delight, while shopping, as well as a pain in your wallet, when you check out and see your bill.
Those specialty and imported items are not only expensive, generally, but the corporations know that their customers make more money and thus will bear with a little more of a profit margin for the convenience provided.

Supermarket Layouts push foods

When you walk into the front door of a supermarket, you are immediately assailed with a series of subtle but impressive marketing tricks designed to take your money.
You go to a typical supermarket and enter the front door, grab a shopping cart and right beside the carts there will be a shopping flyer which lists the items that they want really you to purchase, while there.

Discounts and Coupons

Some items in the flyer will be listed and described with colorful pictures and text, while other items will be offered at a discount or there might even be a coupon in the flyer for the shopper to use.

Don’t be mistaken, these items are what the store wants you to buy and buy now.
They want you to think; Wow, I can get a dollar off of that large bottle of product-X, I had better get that while it is so cheap.

In reality, the price is often lowered for one of several reasons. One reason might be that the manufacturer of the product has too much inventory of product-X in their warehouse and they are willing to offer a one-dollar discount via a coupon or discount at the cash register to lower their inventory.

The product may be even seasonal and they may just want to clear their warehouses of the product to make room for another product that they produce.

Or, possibly, the retailer is pushing them to get their product off of their shelves because it is not moving at the retail price.

There are a lot of reasons why they are offering discounts on supermarket products, but these discounts are offered for financial reasons and not as you might think for your convenience.

Meats and Fresh Foods

You need to understand that meats and fresh foods are perishable and have a very limited shelf life. Because of this fact, the supermarkets want them to move off of their shelves as quickly as possible. Here are a few facts and tips for you to be aware of when you are selecting from these initial offerings in the store.

Fresh fruits and vegetables that are laid out individually for you to select from will be the premium and freshest that they have to sell. If you look carefully, there will also be pre-packaged fruits and vegetables displayed for you to select from. These packaged foods can often be less fresh than you might expect and some will even be on the verge of being dated.

Who hasn’t picked up a sealed package of strawberries or cherry tomatoes or other supposedly fresh goods only to find that several of the ones at the bottom of the package are already crushed or even rotten?

And who hasn’t picked up a bag of lemons or oranges and even though they are smaller than what is displayed individually, they are so cheap that you buy the bag? Also who, that makes this decision to buy the cheap bag because of the price, hasn’t found at least one or two items in the bag that are bad or damaged product?

Now we get to the meats. There are certain FDA standards on the definitions of meat categories and even some on the expiration dates for meats.
When meats are cut and placed on display they will have a “sell by date” shown on the label.

This end date is actually just a guideline and does not really indicate that the meat is bad, only that it is possibly no longer in its best condition.
One guideline that I follow is to open any suspicious package of meat and smell it. If it smells bad, it may still be good, but I’m not going to take a chance if a meat smells peculiar.

I don’t care if it is just the slime that can build up from the meat being sealed on plastic, or if it is the start of a simple mold that can be trimmed off.
Personally, I will move on to another selection or cut of meat and if it also smells bad, that’s it for me with that store’s meats. If this continues to happen as a particular store I will definitely change supermarkets. For more information on the world of Supermarket meats see the chapter called Meats and Supermarkets for more information on this.

One basic rule you can depend on though is; if it’s on sale, then for some reason they got it cheaper than they normally do, or they have decided that is in their best interest to sell it off as soon as possible.
Is the meat old? Is the meat from a new cheaper source? Is there just too much of the particular meat in their freezer?

OK, sometimes it might be the week after the Fourth of July, or whatever, and they didn’t sell as many steaks or as much hamburger than they had planned so they just want to dump it before it goes bad.
Whatever the root cause for the sale, no supermarket is going to sell a product, especially something as expensive as meats, for a lower price except that they have decided that they need to do so, and do it soon.

Traffic Management to push products

Of course you must have realized by now that the layout of a supermarket forces you to travel through the store, aisle by aisle, from the entrance to the checkout counters on a controlled path.

Think about it, you take your cart and your coupon flyer and you walk into the supermarket. The first thing you notice is that you are trapped in a series of rows that force you to walk by certain products.

This is intentionally done to make you look at and possibly put these first viewed products into your cart. These products are there for several reasons; they are either the most perishable items in the store or they are the ones with the highest profit margin.

 If you pick up; a can of red beans, a fresh baked loaf of that prominently displayed; Italian Bread, a few fresh organic tomatoes, a bag of oranges or even a pound of sliced ham and put it into your cart they will have won the game.

By selecting just a few of these items before you start looking at the other more essential items on your list then they have won the first subtle confrontation with you and your shopping budget.

At this point, you will be subtly directed up and down their aisles of canned goods, condiments, and even frozen foods.

After you have these essentials are in your cart, you will see aisles of cleaning products, kitchen tools, storage containers, and then snacks.
They want you to see and possibly buy these before you get to such items as breads, crackers, cheeses, eggs, butters and other spreads as well as milks and other dairy products.

Once they have your cart full of their preferred sales items they will force you to at least walk by their selections of beers and wines, just in case they can get yet another sale out of you.

Then there is that small area at the end of each aisle in the supermarket. This is prime display space and again, those supermarket planners are trying to get you to purchase these select items placed so conspicuously at the ends of the aisles.

If you check, these end-of-aisle items are not necessarily the best of their class or the lowest priced, but they are the ones that the supermarket chain wants to move.

In fact, often these items are displayed and priced to either clear their shelves of the item or just to draw you into that specific aisle and possibly even pick up even more of the item for your cart.

So, once you, the shopper, recognize these facts about these subtle marketing tricks that supermarkets use, you are ready to use them to your advantage.

Remember, if you pick up a can of tomato sauce that is displayed on a shelf at the entrance to the store, and later find a cheaper, and just as good, selection of the same thing on the shelf, just place the more expensive on onto the shelf and get the cheaper one.

When you do this, you will have won a small but important victory over their marketing geniuses back at their corporate headquarters.

You are there to get the best deal on the best products that you really need, and you are not there to buy a quart of mustard or ketchup that you may rarely use just because it is on sale.
Shop smart and you will save your hard earned money when you are in the supermarkets.

by Don Bobbitt, 2014