Technology and labelling could be key to satisfying the curious while not putting off the mainstream, say Albert Voogd and Lawrence Hutter

In the hierarchy of grocery shopper needs, product and price are core and supermarkets seek to differentiate their offering on this basis. However, a report recently published by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council Europe with Deloitte, Exploring the Third Dimension, suggests there is an opportunity to engage customers on an additional level: information.

Half of the 6,300 shoppers surveyed across six European countries wanted specific information from their products, whether about nutritional content, allergy risks or ethical standards.

The needs of these 'information seekers' are often not being met. Yet they spend more than the average shopper, so there is a sound commercial reason to meet them.

A proactive approach by retailers could also influence consumer store choice. At present, 53% of European shoppers choose their main store based on convenience. In contrast, around 30% of those with specific dietary needs are influenced in their choice of shop by direct mail.

The challenge is to meet these information demands without over-complicating the shopping experience for mainstream shoppers.

Technology may be part of the solution as 'information seekers' are more willing to embrace new innovations. Smart carts supermarket trolleys with wireless devices attached are one example of how technology can provide additional information to consumers without impacting mainstream shoppers.

Similarly, symbols and images are popular. Some 40% of vegetarians rely on symbols on packaging when making their choice. They are clear, easy to recognise and provide information without overcrowding the pack with data irrelevant to mainstream shoppers.

If retailers are to become more engaged, then co-ordinated action is needed to establish more widely adopted labelling standards. If industry players instead act independently, this will increase costs, heighten the likelihood of regulatory complexity and add to consumer confusion.

Albert Voogd is chairman of the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council Europe and Lawrence Hutter is global head of consumer business at Deloitte