Supermarkets Inc.: Inside a $500 Billion Money Machine


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The typical American supermarket stocks over 45,000 items. But don’t be fooled by that sumptuously inviting bounty—groceries are a cutthroat business built on razor-thin margins. This documentary looks at how food retailers fill their shelves and what kinds of marketing tactics they use to do it—from the old trick of positioning milk so that shoppers have to pass hundreds of other items first, to the deployment of high-tech heat maps to track which aisles get the most traffic.

One case study in the program features megastore chain Giant Eagle, which, like Safeway, Kroger, and other brands, has become a kind of cultural icon; but viewers also learn how these companies are sorely tested by the likes of Whole Foods, independent groceries, bulk retailers, and—last but not least—the public’s ever-changing tastes.

Video Segments

1. Introduction to Supermarkets Inc.: Inside a $500 Billion Money Machine This segment introduces viewers to the half trillion-dollar supermarket industry. Consumers are fair game in the brutal competition between supermarkets. Marketers know more about us than we think.
2. America the Bountiful Viewers tour Pittsburgh's mega store Giant Eagle, which has a sushi bar, opera house, and coffee bar. 650 employees work round the clock stocking and preparing its 65,000 products.
3. Supply Chain Process Customer requests influence the products supermarkets carry. At Giant Eagle's 14 acre warehouse employees are moving vast amounts of food for distribution. Giant Eagle receives 90,000 pounds of bananas a day.
4. Something for Everyone Walmart sells roughly a quarter of all groceries in the U.S. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are two competitors for America's 550 billion food dollars. Supermarkets adopt a variety of strategies to get customers in the store.
5. Marketing to Shoppers Supermarkets use every method they can to learn as much as possible about consumers. Merchants employ a dizzying array of high and low-tech tools to compete in this low-margin industry.
6. Product Placement and Store Design Viewers tour a grocery store of times past. An expert on shopper motivation explains modern store design.
7. Buy-ology Marketing expert Martin Lindstrom explains what consumers don't know about their own shopping habits and reveals some of the tricks supermarkets use to convince shoppers they are cheaper than competitors.
8. Data Mining & Targeted Marketing The Scan-It System is a hand-held device that checks shoppers out as they shop. The CEO of Motive Media explains how the system works.
9. Outsmart the System Martin Lindstrom says to beat the system, don't bring your kids to the supermarket; don't use a cart; and pay cash--preferably breaking a $100 bill.
10. Good Quality Fish A commercial salmon fisherman in Sitka, Alaska who partners with Whole Foods uses a fishing pole rather than a net. Once examined and approved, the fish are packaged and shipped.
11. Whole Foods Co-CEO of Whole Foods describes the store as a combination of specialized markets rolled into one. He says the store is no longer "Whole Paycheck" and defends the quality of its food and competitive prices.
12. The Art of Selling Food Co-CEO of Whole Foods believes the company is built on team members. A farmer says the market helps them by making consumers aware of organics. The chief buyer of Whole Foods explains its strict quality standards.
13. Packaging Emotion
A marketing expert explains packaging techniques used to make products more appealing.
14. Creating a Cool Detergent Americans spend 4 billion dollars a year on laundry detergent. Purex modeled its marketing approach on Apple Computers strategy. Teams of artists, engineers and technicians focus on the look of Purex detergent bottles.
15. Getting Shelf Space in a Supermarket Entrepreneur Henry Chen is at the Food Marketing Convention trying to market his product, "Alo Drink." Chen's goal is to make it into mainstream supermarkets. Viewers learn the hidden costs of selling your product in a supermarket.
16. David and Goliath Story Independent Store Owner Cheryl Sommer, explains how she competes with big stores by "doing things differently." Customers love the quality of Kuane's food and the personal touch.
17. Holding on Against the Big Supermarkets Independent store owner Cheryl Sommer, focuses on treating employees well, partnering with vendors, and giving customers a great experience. She compares her store's size, products, and weekly revenue to other stores. Sommer believes her neighborhood needs her to "hold on."


Grade: 9-12

Supermarkets Inc.: Inside a $500 Billion Money Machine (DVD)
© 2011
Time: 44 Minutes

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