Skip to main content

Grocers do more than sell food, they provide solutions: IGA Global Rally



IGA CEO John Ross

“What business are you in?” John Ross, CEO of Chicago-based IGA, asked attendees at the recent IGA Global Rally in San Diego. “Do we sell stuff? Or do we solve problems?”

The answer, if you want to be successful, is: You are a solutions provider.

“We are our own worst self-promoters,” he added. “We often merchandise the food, not the solution. We don’t tell the story.”

Many of the sessions at the show covered how independent grocers can let consumers know why they should buy products from them and how the retailers can make it easy for consumers to make the decisions on what to feed their families. This includes changing the set up of the store itself, which is currently organized to be logistically efficient, or easy to move product from the back room to the shelf. This positions grocers to sell stuff, not like how customers shop.

Ross suggested independent grocers need to look to their real competition – restaurants, which have been drawing customers away by the convenience of meal solutions.

The grocery industry will only continue to grow as the population continues to grow--Generation Z is set to be bigger than the millennial generation, and its members are indicating that they want to have large families, setting up future success even farther down the road, Ross noted.

However, independent grocers need to become better listeners. “We aren’t listening to what consumers are saying. We often only ‘talk’ to people who are already shopping our stores, but not the ones who don’t. Why don’t they shop with you?” Ross noted. Talking to the people who aren’t your biggest fans will give you a fuller picture of what your marketplace really wants.


Devora Rogers, VP account management for Murphy Research, added to what Ross said by noting that “shoppers are now in charge. They have the power.”

Consumers are more focused on health than ever before. More than three-quarters (76%) are nutrition-engaged, she said, which means they talk about nutrition at least once per week. Nearly two-thirds (62%) are concerned about the nutritional value of food they eat.

“What business are you really in?” Rogers asked as well. She suggested independent grocers aren’t really in the business of selling product, but should see themselves as being in the business of health. “You function as the center of communities, you can create a role for your store to be the solution to their problem.”

Rogers gave several other suggestions for retailers to examine to create successful businesses:

  • Partner with your shoppers to de-stress

  • Develop meal solutions or create meal occasions in your store

  • Double down on produce

  • Feature local vendors

  • Think artisanal

  • Personalize the shopping experience

  • Help create a community for friends and family

  • Hit their value equation

Rogers noted that shoppers have higher expectations than ever and “the minimum expectation is perfection.

This article appeared at

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds