Supermarket aisle. Submitted photos

It’s been nearly two weeks since I broke my elbow. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? I’ve since learned I have two fractures. Now it’s the waiting game to hear what the next step is. As there’s a possibility of surgery one of these weeks soon, you may not see my column. Know that it’ll be back. The editor of this newspaper has graciously encouraged self-care practices.

Despite three cast changes, I’m working on my children’s cookbook and researching. I’m even getting faster at one or two fingers typing techniques! One is never too old to learn a new skill! My philosophy about a challenge is to lean into it and see how I can learn to use it to my full advantage.

In the meantime, I’m watching what’s happening in the supermarkets. I’m sure you’ve noticed that not only prices are rising, but package volume is shrinking. Indeed, sometimes the price is the same, but the effect is an increase by offering less volume. Use your calculator or unit pricing tags to assist in being an informed consumer.

As I predicted months ago, the supermarket of today is changing. Store shelves hold fewer varieties of cereals, canned goods, jarred condiments, cheeses, and other refrigerated products. For instance, one or more of your favorite spreadable cream cheeses is likely missing. Parents may even be experiencing a need to create their snack kits. The shrinking landscape of dairy isn’t new, but what is new is the limited number of brands and flavored kinds of milk. Looking at data from 210 Analytics LLC, sour cream remains primarily unscathed, which I appreciate, but find surprising. We may feel inconvenienced and frustrated, but when considering how much waste goes into landfills, these changes will likely help reduce that waste. We can’t throw away what we don’t have, right?

What’s causing the changing grocery landscape? The answer lies in various causes, such as the COVID pandemic, climate change, and supply chain issues due to state policies and labor shortages. Other influences are rising fuel costs and packaging material shortages such as plastics.

How do grocer retailers decide what to stock? It’s a joint venture in marketing, distribution, and economics. They use a tool called SKU rationalization. The results are used to maximize profit and meet consumer demand. The results are changing the supermarket landscape and how consumers shop; creating a moment of opportunity for niche entrepreneurs and communities. It’s an opportunity for collaboration between communities to support food hubs and financial support for food producers, marketers, and even tourism as visitors buy foods indigenous to local culture. These benefits will, in turn, strengthen housing, wellness centers, education, technology, and a consistent supply of food.

Adjustments in grocery retail mean communities need to apply vision, purposeful thought, and work collectively to re-imagine how, why, when, and where consumers buy pre-made food or ingredients for cooking at home. Grocery stores won’t disappear altogether, but I believe the permanence of these changes is coming. Let’s be ready.

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