The Impact of Expired Products on Supermarket Sales & Shopping Behavior

This post is excerpted from our latest eBook, The Impact of Expired Products on Supermarket Sales & Shopping Behavior: A 2018 Survey Report.

Despite potentially serious implications for supermarkets, the lack of solid research examining the connection between expired food and shopper behavior has largely left supermarkets in the dark about what shoppers do when they find expired products.

Much of the existing research into product management only lightly touches on the subject of expired food, offering little substance on the subject.

One reason this has remained in our blindspot may be a matter of priority. In general, supermarkets tend to focus much more heavily on sales and customer service than the routine maintenance of current inventory.

As this report lays out, the damage caused by expired product stretches far beyond the limits of customer service and shrink to impact core sales. These problems are compounded when expired food issues go undetected and become a recurring problem for shoppers.

To shine a light on this hidden area of product management, we conducted our own research by surveying shoppers on a number of questions aimed squarely at how they feel and act when confronted with expired products.

Before we jump into the research, we thought it would be helpful to call attention to the three main problems that lead to expired products in the first place:

People management

This can be a significant cause of expired products at the store level. Hourly, entry-level associates are the main source of labor to carry out the current rotation and spot-checking processes. Many times, a focus on stocking pace leads to a lack of rotation while stocking. There may also be too many tasks taking up the priorities of these associates. The five to ten hours a week assigned to them to spot check may either be half-heartedly executed, or not done at all depending on the workload assigned to the individual.

Lack of priority

The nature of the supermarket industry can lend itself to associates and management picking and choosing what they can get done—usually resulting in rotation and spot checking being pushed aside as a focal point. Obviously at the store level, there is a drive to prioritize customer satisfaction by having good service, in-stock products, a clean and safe shopping environment, and quality products. If the customer is the priority, then the conversations must then be geared towards the level of negative impact of said customer purchasing and consuming an expired product – and the negative connotation that carries for a retailer’s brand perception.

Product trends

Stores have expanding product lines and additional size options for each product category. A category shelf space may remain four to eight feet wide, but the number of offerings in that section are much more vast. This increase of product line expansion has impacted the amount of labor required to rotate effectively while stocking as well as the time required to spot check that category.

We’ll be posting additional insights from this survey in future blog posts. To read the report in its entirety, download a copy by clicking below.

Download the impact of expired products on supermarket sales & shopping behavrior