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When humans depended on foraging and hunting as their primary food sources, the only thing to worry about was finding enough food to survive, but modern day consumers make their grocery store purchase decisions based on a whole lot more than survival.
Beyond the basics of simple taste and flavor preferences are concerns like allergies, intolerances, nutritional value, caloric intake, and special diets. Thankfully, the minds at The Kroger Company understand that, which is why they launched Project Mercury in 2012. This multi-year extended attribute initiative is all about providing consumers with detailed product information to help them make informed purchase decisions. Read on to learn five ways that Project Mercury will improve the standard grocery shopping experience.
Approximately 15 million Americans have food allergies, and it's not always easy to figure out which products contain allergens. For a consumer who is allergic to tree-nuts, peanut butter is obviously a no go, but would you believe that tree nuts are often used to flavor cereals, crackers, cookies, barbeque sauces, and even cold cuts? Under Kroger's Project Mercury guidelines, brands are required to provide detailed information on any potential allergens so that shoppers can easily avoid the specific foods they're allergic to. This will naturally allow shoppers to discover new products that they can eat without fear. In other words, it won't be necessary to boycott every barbecue sauce on the shelf on the off-chance that some sneaky tree-nuts are hiding in the ingredient list.
Diets are generally associated with weight loss, but the truth is there are endless reasons a shopper might have a restricted diet. There are health-related diets for people suffering from Diabetes or Celiac's, dietary restrictions associated with specific religions, and let's not forget our vegan and vegetarian friends. Trying to navigate the requirements of a strict diet can be a frustrating endeavor when it involves grad-school worthy research of every single item purchased. Kroger gets it, which is why they are asking suppliers to provide an attribute titled "Diet Type Code" that indicates if a product is celiac, dietetic, free from gluten, Halal, Kosher, Vegetarian, or Vegan. There's even an attribute that will denote if a product is Passover-Friendly. Providing these attributes will allow consumers with special dietary requirements to venture out of the one or two "specialty" aisles they've been confined to in the past. It will also be hugely beneficial for brands have always been gluten free but had no visibility. Now that's a win-win!
Even the most health-conscious shoppers can have trouble deciphering the nutritional value of products based on the percentage value of a serving size. That's why Kroger is requiring suppliers to provide the Nuval score for every product they sell. The Nuval System is a food scoring system that was created by a team of nutrition and medical experts recruited from leading health organizations and universities around the country. Three little magic words make the Nuval System a fantastic idea: neutral third party. Requiring brands to display a nutrition score that is created externally is just plain smart, and it will allow brands that make nutrition a priority to shine. Not to mention that the Nuval System grades on a scale of 1 (low nutritional value) to 100 (high nutritional value) so it's easy for shoppers to judge food's value at a glance.
Part of Kroger's plan for Project Mercury involves speeding up the process that suppliers use to submit new products and their accompanying attributes. Creating a standard set of attributes will save a lot of time on both sides; suppliers will only be asked for the specific attributes relevant to the products in question, and the team at Kroger will be able to onboard the products much faster. Product attributes aren't the only standardization that will increase speed-to-market; Kroger is also cracking down on how those attributes are submitted. Rather than sending information piece-meal through e-mailed spreadsheets, brands will be required to submit information in through Kroger's new Vendor Item Portal.
So what's so great about faster speed to market? It will give consumers access to new products more quickly of course, and a faster overall collaboration between Kroger and their suppliers will allow brands to swiftly incorporate consumer feedback into their development process.
By the time Project Mercury draws to a close, Kroger will have gathered a total of 6,000 attributes, which breaks down to approximately 150 for each product. This additional product information will be used to create more detailed shelf tags, receipt tapes, online descriptions, as well as superior product categorization.
Even more importantly, Kroger isn't the only retailer who understands the value of a streamlined exchange of extended attributes; similar initiatives are popping up in nearly every product category. These type of initiatives demonstrate an increased understanding of contemporary consumers' need for more detailed product information and emphasizes the value of strengthening the relationship between retailers and their suppliers, ultimately improving every link in the retail supply chain.