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Written by Roger Jackson,
September 22nd, 2022 | Category Management

Growth: The two drivers of traditional Grocery categories

We worked recently on a big cat man study in one of the most tradition areas of a supermarket – canned food. We uncovered quite a startling insight, one which I think will play out for many so called “Routine” categories (using the traditional cat man nomenclature).

The insight was around there being two very distinct segments of shoppers. Segments requiring very different solutions, activation and attention.



The first segment was category loyalists: regular category shoppers who are entrenched in their mindset and routines. They replenish almost on autopilot giving little thought. They are hard to influence except by competing price deals on brands already in their repertoire. The problem is they are not spending much time or effort either thinking about or shopping in the category aisle. They may even just grab a can off a promo display. Job done.

They are likely a difficult segment to drive real volume growth with (most promotions are about switching), because they already consume a lot (but probably the right target for added value NPD and may be open to greater purchase volume ie 3/4 packs).



However, whilst this is the most obvious segment of shoppers, there is a second bigger and even more interesting segment. The light/infrequent category buyer. These are people who are not regularly entering the category nor do they have it entrenched in their repertoire or minds.

The work of the Behringer Blass institute ( and Byron Sharp’s “How brands grow”) talks about how important it is to grow penetration, in other words to win over more light buyers. And this is why this second category segment is so crucial.

The light buyer is most likely less brand loyal. They are indeed already category buyers (in most core grocery categories everyone is a buyer at least sometimes!) but regularly “forget” to buy and go without. They are a ready source of growth. They are not disinterested, they are just not engaged. They may actually be curious and interested in the category (if brought in) and might be seeking information and help to buy. They may indeed be LESS price oriented than the core loyalists. (Read more on how to measure brand loyalty and decision hierarchy.)

Key for the light buyer (and our work at Shopper Intelligence has proven this time and time again) is we have to take the category to the shopper, rather than wait for the shopper to come to us. We know that purchases from eg displays are FAR more likely to be infrequent category shoppers. Ideas like link promotions with “partner” categories make loads of sense. They may need ideas on usage or recipes. These targets can be a bit harder to get to, but the growth rewards are far greater.


If you’d like us to look into this for your category, just let us know. We measure most of the main supermarket categories on our programs. Crucially we can look at the dynamics of your category or brand compared to all the others – which in turn gives us truly meaningful “a-ha” moments. (Read more about the importance of benchmarking).