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Grocery stores are coming up with creative ways to engage communities

The supermarket industry has faced unique challenges as e-commerce organizations leverage the the convenience of online shopping. However, grocery stores that specialize in selling fresh produce and other healthy products are expanding their brick-and-mortar businesses. These companies can experience significant benefits from investing in cash counters to streamline backroom operations at the end of the day.

Phil Lempert, contributing editor for Supermarket News, a weekly trade publication, recently wrote an op-ed highlighting the fact that many grocery stores are at a major turning point in figuring out how best to distinguish themselves from online competitors. While the overall industry is losing out on 1.6 percent of dollar sales to drug stores, farmers markets and other alternative food providers, businesses that specialize in fresh items are growing substantially. In fact, Lempert cited data from Nielsen that said fresh foods account for 30 percent of overall spending on food, grocery and personal care among U.S. consumers.

Finding a new niche
As a result, he suggested today's supermarkets rethink their strategies to meet a more specialized market need. 

"Supermarkets need to once again become the center of their communities by offering such services as 'community cooking centers' where shoppers can collaborate and learn from each other, rather than the old school model of instructor teaching students," Lempert wrote. "It is time for supermarkets to look around us and take the lead from what has already occurred in food recipe social media, and to create a 'connected culture' for and with their shoppers."

Many organizations around the U.S. have already caught on to Lempert's advice. Rather than opening up large stores, some companies have decided to take a more humanitarian approach and dedicate themselves to selling fruits, vegetables and other groceries to underserved communities. The Atlantic Cities said a nonprofit organization called Fresh Moves, based in Chicago, recently converted a bus into a one-aisle grocery store that travels to neighborhoods in the city that lack quality food options.

"We've proven there's demand in the community for high-quality affordable produce," Fresh Moves co-founder Sheelah Muhammad, told The Atlantic Cities. "We definitely want to add more vehicles and expand our coverage areas."

As private companies and nonprofit organizations continue to find their own niche in today's food services industry, investments in cash counters can make it easier to perform backroom processes with minimal overhead cost.

November 4, 2013