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Breakfast is on the move at Coles - literally

"Supermarkets regularly move items around the store in an attempt to make customers walk around the store longer. Supermarkets also place new products on shelves where top-selling items are usually found. This is to manipulate shoppers into buying and trying new products." Life'd

This ad caught my eye in the latest Coles Magazine, mostly because I didn't really understand what the product was. Yes, I know I'm a bit stupid but then I'm really not into breakfast - well unless it's a luxury hotel buffet breakfast that is. Sadly a thing of the past it seems. At least for now. Far too much touching and handling involved, and besides nobody is likely to be holidaying in a hotel any time soon unless your'e famous or in quarantine - and you certainly won't be visiting the breakfast buffet then.

Sorry I'm digressing. But oh how I miss those. They really make me feel like I'm on holiday.

Back to BOM - one of Coles' new products. On reflectionI suppose it's fairly clear what it is - a sort of boosted flavoured milk - a long life milk that is - or maybe it's powdered milk and you add water. I don't know. Much like a smoothie I suppose - so why wouldn't you just make a smoothie? I did go through a phase of making smoothies for breakfast and they were always delicious - and healthy because you could throw in all those other healthy things, besides your base fruits (or veggies) - oats, nuts, yoghurt ... I don't know about all of those promoted extra vitamins and minerals but would guess that many of those would be in the fruit, milk, yoghurt, oats, etc that you put in your smoothie. And there wouldn't be any extra sugar in your smoothie surely.? However, to be fair to BOM - sugar is not at the top of the ingredient list, but sweeteners are the third top ingredient. In fact the list of ingredients is completely artificial really - not a single strawberry - just 'natural flavours':

"Ingredients (Strawberry BOM):$5.80 1.5l ($3.87 per litre)

INGREDIENTS: Skim Milk, Water, Sweeteners (Erythritol, Steviol Glycosides), Skim Milk Solids, Prebiotic Fibre (Inulin), Soy Protein, Canola Oil, Sugar, Corn Starch, Vegetable Gums (Cellulose, 466, Carrageenan), Acidity Regulator (332), Emulsifier (Lecithin(Soy)), Mineral Salt (Calcium Phosphate), Natural Flavours, Salt, Natural Colour (Carmine), Vitamins (C, B3, B6, B1, B2, A, Folate, D, B12)."

They have introduced this product because:

"Coles customer research found that health and value are the major factors that customers consider when deciding what to eat for breakfast, while also identifying an increase in demand for more convenient, “portable breakfasts,” with 80% of customers saying they preferred beverages at breakfast time over meals." Coles Media Release

I'm guessing that 'beverage' might well actually mean a take-away coffee. I completely understand that people generally don't make all those trendy breakfast dishes like hotcakes and french toast or even non-trendy eggs and bacon. There's washing up involved there and breakfast is not a washing-up friendly occasion. I'm pretty sure there would be many who just go for toast and jam, or honey, or vegemite. People might say that health and value are major factors, but I suspect it's more quick and easy when it comes to breakfast. So really we should all be having smoothies - and you can buy plenty of them in the supermarket too, if you're too lazy to get out your blender and throw some fruit, and other stuff into it.

That customer research that Coles quoted by the way was described, in a footnote, as:

"Data captured from ‘Food Diaries’ via Coles Circle, which includes over 35,000 diary entries between 1 December 2019 to 30 November 2020"

And what is Coles Circle?

"Coles Circle is an online community for members to discuss their thoughts, opinions and experiences about shopping, with each other."

Which I suppose is almost fair enough. Although who would join such a group I wonder - would it be statistically random enough? 35,000 over a whole year, is really not that many is it?

However, back to the topic in hand, having discovered what BOM was - and indeed what BOM stands for - Breakfast On the Move - I then discovered that breakfast is indeed on the move at Coles. Which gave me lots more food for thought.

From the beginning of July Coles has moved all of the 'breakfast' items in the health food aisle, including the gluten free cereals into the breakfast or cereal aisle. The first of other moves of health food items to other areas of the store:

"Products such as cereals, oils and nut spreads, originally located in the health food aisle, will move to their respective product aisles, meaning similar food groups will now be located next to each other," Leanne White - General Manager for Groceries

Mind you I checked this out this morning and actually in my local Coles, the Health food aisle and the Cereals aisle are on opposite sides of the same aisle. So it's not a huge move at this stage. Enough to confuse some though I guess.

Did you know that, according to Coles again, 97% of customers shop in the breakfast aisle each week? Well I guess they get that data from the checkout data, but then similar percentages would also apply to many other aisles as well. However, it does show that we buy a lot of cereal. And so as well as their new BOM range they have also moved their Wellness Road Toasted Muesli and cereal range over the aisle, and added an 'exclusive' range of 'Goodness Bowls' from Uncle Toby's. Innovative was a word much used in the publicity - both for the reorganisation of shelves and for the products themselves.

I have to say the ingredients of the Wellness Road toasted muesli seemed pretty OK - but oh no I just saw Golden syrup near the top of the list:

Ingredients (Wellness Road toasted muesli, fruit and nut): $5.00 500g

INGREDIENTS: Toasted Oats (38%) [Oats, Sunflower Oil, Golden Syrup, Antioxidant (307b)], BARLEYmax Flakes (Barley) (20%) , Nuts (14%) [Almonds, Hazelnuts], Seeds (14%) [Sunflower Seeds, Pepitas, Golden Linseed], Dried Fruits (14%) [Sultanas, Apricots (Apricots, Rice Flour, Preservative (220)(Sulphites)), Currants], Cinnamon.

Uncle Toby's were not so good though - all sorts of artificial stuff in there:

Ingredients (Uncle Toby's Goodness bowl, fruity pillows apple): $5.00 500g

Whole Grain Cereals (52%) [ Wheat (40%), Oats (12%)], Fruit Paste [Concentrated Apple Puree (6%), Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Humectant (Glycerol), Acidity Regulator (Malic Acid), Gelling Agent (Sodium Alginate), Firming Agent (Calcium Lactate), Flavour], Wheat Flour, Sugar, Mineral Salt (Calcium Carbonate), Salt.Vitamins and Minerals:Minerals (Iron), Vitamins (C, Niacin, B1, Riboflavin)Contains Gluten, Wheat .May Contain Other Gluten Containing Ingredients, Milk, Soy and Tree Nuts.

Uncle Toby's also had this statement on their web page:

"You can also trust that all products are rated at a minimum of 4 health stars." Uncle Toby's

And yet only two of the range seemed to have any stars at all.

You can also make your own toasted muesli of course, but even my own clusters loving husband is not really keen on trying. Which is odd because I would have thought it would have appealed to him because it's really a sort of hunting and gathering thing and if he made his own he wouldn't have to worry about the hidden coconut and dried banana.

The Health Food aisle, this morning still seemed to have a big gluten free section and all the usual things like chia seeds and goji berries, but the media release said that changes are coming here too:

"As part of the transformation, customers will also notice changes to the Health Food aisle with a relaunched Sports and Diet range and a new Superfoods layout, bringing together all vitamins, sports nutrition and Wellness Road superfoods in one location, creating a convenient destination for customers looking for superfoods and niche health ingredients." Coles Media Release

A transformation no less. I revisited my Coles Magazine and found two other new products that fit into this. And these are the kind of products which the admittedly very non-sporty me is very suspicious of. Pro Tein X looks like another form of smoothie to me and possible PerForm too.

So maybe what we are beginning to see is a further segregation of the super fit and healthy from the rest of us, with the more 'normal' health foods like cereals and nut oils, moved elsewhere. Or is it an indication that we are indeed, all of us, looking for those 'healthier' alternatives? Are health foods now mainstream and these other things 'niche'? It would be nice indeed to think that so-called health foods are just part and parcel of our daily shopping but I suspect not. Besides as we have seen, some of them are really not that healthy. Gluten free may be gluten free but it's not necessarily sugar free.

Really though, the name of the game, is just what supermarkets have always done. They move things around so that you have to wander around for a bit to find your 'lost' item, noticing lots of other goodies along the way. Placement is key.

“eye level is buy level”, indicating that products positioned at eye level are likely to sell better. You may find that the more expensive options are at eye level or just below, while the store’s own brands are placed higher or lower on the shelves. ... (this is very true - I checked - home brand cereals were on the bottom shelf.)

The “number of facings”, that is how many items of a product you can see, also has an effect on sales. The more visible a product, the higher the sales are likely to be. The location of goods in an aisle is also important. There is a school of thought that goods placed at the start of an aisle do not sell as well. A customer needs time to adjust to being in the aisle, so it takes a little time before they can decide what to buy." The Conversation

Mind you that depends a lot on what way you are walking. The beginning is also the end.

Disturbingly it seems that in poorer areas, that means that junk food is placed in those prime positions. They already are everywhere of course - think about all the lollies at the checkout - and those expensive magazines. Also disturbingly, apparently 2/3 of the specials in supermarkets tend to be for junk food.

The real key though is to get you to walk around because as you walk other things catch your eye - you may be reminded that you are running out of something, something might look new and enticing, a special price will leap out at you and before you know it that one item you came in to buy is at least 10. And of course the basic things - milk for example which is apparently the top buy - is always at the back of the store so you have to walk past all that other stuff to get to it.

"On average, 40% of the items you buy at the supermarket are actually impulse purchases. That’s nearly half of your grocery bill!" Life'd

And moving stuff around is one way of getting you to walk around. You might have come in for that one item, but if they've moved it you have to wander around until you find it. You might be annoyed by that for a while, but you get used to it and forget the annoyance. So this latest move by Coles is at least partly a way to get you to travel to new parts of the store. Occasionally they move an entire aisle.

I'm sure I too buy far more than I go in for. This morning for example I went in for just four items and came out with a full Coles insulated bag and slightly over $50,00 the poorer. It will all get used eventually, and some of it might give me inspiration for new ways with chicken, but yes I was sucked in.

Woolworths does the same sort of thing of course, even Aldi, though less so. It will be interesting to see if they too make moves to integrate health food with normal stuff.


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