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Slow To Catch On

September 23, 2010

This also could have been called “The High Price of High Prices.”  On one level I know how this works, but on another level I find it completely flabbergasting.

Just yesterday I went to Target looking for a stopwatch, a kitchen oil can, and organic baby food.  I didn’t have enough grocery items on my list yet for a trip to an actual grocery store.  But I did need butter.

When it comes to dairy products, I prefer to buy things made from the milk of cows that are untreated with rGBH/rBST.  I had thought the chance of finding such a butter at Target was small.  But I’ve mentioned before that I am a prisoner of hope.

Lo and behold, not only did they have such butter, but it was their store brand.  That means that it was cheaper than their already cheap price for Land O’ Lakes.  I dutifully checked the ingredients and the fat percentages, just to make sure this was good stuff, and it fulfilled my stringent criteria.  Usually I expect to pay a premium for this kind of butter, and do so happily.  This was an unexpected surprise.

It all just leaves me with one big question.  If Target is doing this, why can’t our local grocery chains?  

In theory smaller chains should be swifter and more nimble to respond to shifts in consumer preferences and attitudes.  By turn, larger enterprises are often criticized as being slower to move.

Yet Target has eliminated farmed Atlantic salmon from their shelves (in favor of wild Pacific salmon) and sells this great butter.  Walmart has a couple of different local breads in addition to cream that is just cream (without stabilizers and emulsifiers).  I have difficulty regularly finding any of these products in my local grocery stores.

In practice these national chains need to compete not just in the countries smaller hamlets but in the major markets as well.  And consumers in many urban centers have been demanding better food for a while now.

So perhaps the Targets and the Walmarts are slow to act, but at least they are acting.  We in Albany just happen to be lucky enough that the changes implemented on a national level are also executed in our corner of the world.

Why should the Price Choppers and Hannafords of the country make changes that their customers aren’t demanding?  It’s a perfectly reasonable position.

Except now these regional players find themselves in a transformed marketplace.  One where large national retailers aren’t just offering products that are cheaper, but one in which large national reatailers are offering products that are both cheaper and better.

Let’s hope that even if they are slow to catch on, that they are quick to act.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Phairhead permalink
    September 23, 2010 10:24 am

    What’s a kitchen oil can?

  2. particle permalink
    September 23, 2010 1:33 pm

    do you talk to store managers or customer service personnel when you can’t find a product you want at a local/regional market? target and walmart have armies of people who do market research and customer service. local and regional shops have much fewer resources devoted to this task. at my local market, a quick word to the owner has always gotten an item on the shelves for me–that relationship is just one more reason for me to patronize a local market.

  3. September 23, 2010 6:33 pm

    I was in the Orlando area this summer. The Super Target was by far the nicest super market out of the 4 I visited. I was very surprised.

  4. RealFoodMom permalink
    September 24, 2010 8:56 am

    You can buy amazingly delicious, high quality, non-hormone local NY or VT butter. You could even call up the farmer to talk about the product directly. You could drive over to meet the cows personally. (Try doing that with Target butter.) You could support your local store/co-op/farmer’s market with the purchase. I can see the advantage in buying less expensive, less tasty butter, and keeping it around in the freezer for baking, but I wouldn’t brag about it. Go for the best stuff for table use or cooking eggs.

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