The company conducted a study that analyzed around 18 million shoppers at more than 6,650 stores across the US over a two-year period ending December 30, 2017.
Results showed consumers made an additional trip to the central part of the store last year, averaging around 60 trips per shopper per store in 2017.
Catalina reported 99.5% of shoppers frequented the center store in 2017, spending an average of $1,408 a year there, driven by consumers looking to discover something different.
“A new generation of brands and subcategories are reinvigorating the center store by appealing to lifestyle and ingredient-based preferences [such as heart healthy, low-fat and non-GMO],” said Marta Cyhan, head of marketing at Catalina.
Bakery and snacks sales in center store
The market researcher noted innovation was an important driver of sales of bakery and snacks - traditional center store items.
Declining sales of fresh bread (down 2% in 2017 year-over-year) and toaster pastries and tarts (down 11.1% in sales) were aligned with the decrease in the number of trips by consumers to the center store (-3.2% and -13.2% respectively), according to Catalina.
However, the fresh rolls category saw a bigger footfall (up 4.7% in trips) and a 5.1% increase in sales.
“King’s Hawaiian, for example, is delivering growth through innovations with their sweet Hawaiian expanding into other forms like buns and rolls, growing penetration by 5.4% and increasing shopper frequency and dollars per trip by 2.6%,” said Cyhan.
The same scenario was reflected in snacks.
Crackers, potato chips and regular tortilla chips experienced a 3.6%, 1.4% and 2.5% decrease in sales respectively in 2017 compared to the year prior, yet, the category comprising veggie, bean and plantain chips experienced a 14.9% increase during the period.
“[These snacks appeal] to consumers looking for healthier alternatives,” said Cyhan, noting the average shopper spent $8.01 on these products.
"GMO avoiders, however, spent double the average," she added.
Takeaway for manufacturers
Catalina noted commanding shelf space and showcasing product advantages were two important takeaways for manufacturers from its study on center store.
"The center store has evolved to address new consumer demands, especially those centering around sustainable, organic and GMO-free and attributes, which consumers associate with high quality and often premium pricing," said its report.