Do Supermarket Grocery Stores Have Too Many Items ?

1943-- Grand Grocery Co. Lincoln, Nebraska. Oranges for a penny apiece. Squeeze your own orange juice, and you'll have no packaging trash to toss. [Library of Congress- Public Domain image.]
1943-- Grand Grocery Co. Lincoln, Nebraska. Oranges for a penny apiece. Squeeze your own orange juice, and you'll have no packaging trash to toss. [Library of Congress- Public Domain image.]

It was simpler when there were fewer products that stayed in the same place.

A supermarket I used to frequent, recently underwent a marketing reorganization.

Translated roughly, that means "change of heart", but since we all know that supermarkets have NO heart, it really means that everything is now in a different place than it used to be.

It's bad enough that items, like orange juice or toothpaste, have multiplied into hundreds of varieties and permutations, making it impossible to decide which one you really want.

In the old-fashioned market, there used to be one kind of orange juice, and one kind of toothpaste , and it was always in the same place.
Simple, quick and easy.

Orange juice: How many kinds?

My supermarket choices of orange juice.
My supermarket choices of orange juice. | Source

Pulp Fact and Fiction

Today, for instance, when buying OJ, you now have to know what level of pulp you want or don't want.

You also need to decide if you want added calcium, a blend with other fruit juices, extra vitamins, minerals, juice from concentrate or "fresh squeezed".

Each, of several brands, has its own version of all of the choices in all possible combinations which could theoretically add up to about seventeen thousand kinds.

You can get "fresh from the grove", calcium + vitamin D (lots of pulp or no pulp), or else "Original" (pulp free) or even "Home-style" (some pulp).

There's also a "Simple Orange Country Stand Orange Juice" (medium pulp, apparently with an actual country stand in it).

There is a "Simple, Grove Made" (high pulp), because they are probably not able to de-pulp it right there in the orange grove.


An antioxidant (no pulp) version touts age-fighting properties, and there's the "health for your heart with Omega-3" variety (they put fish oil in it? or walnuts?), and another special choice for the health of your kids (no pulp), plus low acid styles (also no pulp).

You might even see, Pure Orange, Premium Pulpy, Valencia Orange, Navel Orange, Blood Orange, Plus Orange, Plasma Orange, Laser Orange, Neon Orange, Clockwork Orange and Turbo Orange. You might.


In addition to the additives already mentioned, you can get "Original Home-Squeezed Style ”with more juicy bits of orange”, or "Grower Style” with "the MOST juicy bits of orange”.

Does somebody count the bits? How can I know if I'm getting the most or just more?

The Corner Grocery Store. 1940

1940 -- Shulman's Market Washington D.C.   [Library of Congress -- Public Domain image]
1940 -- Shulman's Market Washington D.C. [Library of Congress -- Public Domain image]

Some juices have extra vitamin A,B,C, and most of the rest of the alphabet, plus all of the minerals on the periodic table of elements.

Some of the blends are intriguing: Orange Strawberry/Banana, Orange/Mango, Orange/Pineapple, Orange /Tangerine, Orange/Acai.


What's next? Orange/Chayote?, Orange/Prickly Pear? Orange/Pumpkin? Orange/Loofa?

OJ is already one of the most healthful food products on supermarket shelves. Why do they have to tinker with it so much?

Specializing in soda pop?

1940-- Grocery Store-- Natchez Mississippi.  [Library of Congress-- Public Domain image.]
1940-- Grocery Store-- Natchez Mississippi. [Library of Congress-- Public Domain image.]

It Happens All Over the Store.


Toothpaste choices are even worse. In fact, most categories of supermarket items have gone through the same "varitization" process, until we can't even find the plain original products any more.

We don't need any more new and improved choices to soak up our shopping minutes. We are already on choice overload.

Along with that, we are in a hurry.

When we go into a familiar store, we hope to find things in the same place where they were located last time we shopped. Does this happen?

No.

Even if they haven't added a lot of extra choices since the last time you shopped (but, of course, they have), It is apparently mandatory to switch items around every couple of weeks. The soups, previously located on aisle three, are now on aisle eleven. The cookies which have always been on aisle five are now on fourteen.

The road less traveled--to the Grocery store

1940 -- General Store-- Cuesta, New Mexico [Library of Congress -Public Domain image.]
1940 -- General Store-- Cuesta, New Mexico [Library of Congress -Public Domain image.]

Impulse Buyer's Paradise

I'm sure they change the locations of our regularly bought items so we have to stop and look at everything twice.

It is like being on an Easter egg hunt, except not as much fun even if you can find the eggs.

In this particular reorganization, somebody had apparently been playing a matching game of grocery-related accessory item associations.

Bottles of wine and boxes of fresh mushrooms were stashed between cuts of prime beef.

Cheese graters were in the cheese bin, as if we wouldn't otherwise know what they were for.

Fresh garlic was near the pasta, muffin tins dangled above the baking mixes, catsup and mustard dispensers stood among the condiments, mugs hung in the coffee aisle, can openers were cannily stashed among the canned goods.

Bagels were snuggled up beside the cream cheese . . . bread and butter, pretzels and beer, and --most insidious of all-- cheap Chinese toys in the cereal row.

It is now an impulse buyer's paradise, and a purgatory for those who actually know what they are looking for.

"Store Wars" by FreeRangeStudios

"May the Farm Be With You!"

Cuke Skywalker gets advice from Obi One Cannoli in this supermarket version of the space epic.

Will Cuke learn the truth about Dark Tater? Watch the video above, and find out.

The Search

An elderly gentleman stood pondering rows of cleaning products, with a spouse-written list in hand.

A passing shopper offered assistance, but when he asked his question she shook her head and said, "I haven't seen that for a long time . . . I don't think they make it anymore."

"Well," he said looking at his note again, "It's on my list."

"I don't know," she said thoughtfully re-scanning the shelves, "How old is your list?"

It seems to be true that a lot of the old-fashioned, tried and true products are now longer available.

They have been replaced by the dozens and dozens of "new and improved" products which have been "specially formulated" for the purpose of confusing us.


Shopping used to be simpler.

Shopping Poll

How do you feel about grocery shopping?

  • Love it!
  • It's O.K.
  • A Necessary evil.
  • I wish someone else would do it for me.
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It is easy to see what is located at the eye-level of a child sitting in the cart: expensive junk toys, candy, and more candy that is disguised as breakfast cereals.

It's hard enough for the big people to avoid temptations, leading children astray in this manner is unconscionable.

You would think the produce department would be easy to navigate, but now we have to decide if we want organic, even though the "regular" produce isn't labeled as non-organic.

I wonder if it is plastic. A lot of it is wrapped in plastic.

By accident (or by market manager's plan) I did happen to find some plain, medium sized drinking glasses somewhere in the reorganized maze. When the cashier saw them, she remarked that she would like to have some of the same kind. Did I remember were I found them?

Let's see . . . next to the fruit juices? . . . in the dairy case? . . . no, it seems there were at room temperature. I tried to give clues.

I don't shop at that market any more. I dislike the obvious effort to tempt me into buying something I don't need.

When I think back on it, I have a vision of a person who has recently been awarded a degree in marketing-- a psychology minor-- who spends his nights in the darkened store, sleeplessly rearranging things into logically linked combinations: Cheese and crackers, peaches and cream, champagne and caviar, partridges and pears. . . Bay Laurel and Hardy. . . Paul and Oats . . .

Shopping used to be much simpler.

More by this Author


Comments 52 comments

Lissie profile image

Lissie 7 years ago from New Zealand

Travelling in outback Australia you never see a supermarket - instead you will sometimes find a very well stocked country store- they are rarely bigger than what I'd call "small" but oddly they have everything you need: they have one type of tinned tuna, one type of tinned tomatoes, 3 or 4 basic types of cereal, you get the picture. OK you have to know that the bread will be in the freezer and most of the fresh vegetables (and there may be none if its the wrong day) are in the fridge but it truly struck me as how little space it took to provide a comprehensive selection


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Sounds very sensible and efficient. They just don't get it over here.


Melody Lagrimas profile image

Melody Lagrimas 7 years ago from Philippines

I prefer to do my grocery shopping at a nearby shop because I am familiar with their setting. And I appreciate the fact that they seldom move items around.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you Melody-- I see you understand the idea, too.


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Hilarious. The litle old man with the little old list practically had me in tears I was laughing so hard (dunno why, though, I know exactly how he felt).

Incidentally, did you notice that one of your OJ capsules comes after the toothpaste?

Once, on a quest for custard powder, I asked a store clerk who was also a student whether I was on the wrong aisle. No, he said without a beat, wrong country.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Teresa. And thanks for catching my switched-up capsules. I guess I did the same thing the stores do. Isn't that always the way? We criticize others for the thing we do, ourselves.

(We probably call "custard" pudding-- which is an altogether different thing in the wrong country.)

I once had a somewhat desperate English lady in the market ask me if I knew where the feminine personal products were located. I didn't know what she meant at first, because can't remember the unfamiliar term she used. I had never heard it before. We figured it out.


Whikat 7 years ago

Hi Rochelle, I really appreciated this article. In the last 4 weeks our local Walmart decided to redo the whole store. I have been going there for years. It used to be that I knew where everything was and I could get in and out really fast, even with the kids. Now, I can't find a damn thing! I wander around with a blank stare on my face. Oh Yes, they made sure to keep all the expensive junk toys and candy at my children's eye levels though. :0


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I doubt that they will ever learn to just leave things alone.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

Couldn't agree more - it's dead irritating when everything is moved around and you can't find the milk or apples!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

No xcuse for it-- especially for the basics.


girly_girl09 profile image

girly_girl09 7 years ago from United States

I think stores are going through all these changes because the increase in the trend of research and consumer spending and shopping trends. For example, it has been 'scientifically proven' (supposedly) that shoppers go to the right in stores when they first enter. They keep moving products around to try to increase revenue. It can be a pain for the shoppers though, maybe researchers should consider how familiarity increases spending. I personally spend more in stores where I feel more comfortable!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I wonder if anyone would dare to try the familiarity concept. I actually go to the left in the store where I shop most. I think the main reason for that is that I work my way down to the other side where the produce is last, because I don't want to squish the fruits and vegetables.


GiftedGrandma profile image

GiftedGrandma 7 years ago from USA

Great hub! I hate shopping of any kind. Do it out of necessity only.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I actually rather lke to shop for groceries, maybe because I like to cook. The frustrating things the store does must be even worse for those who don't like even shopping.


Iphigenia 7 years ago

This was funny - and I  loved Cuke and the Dark Tater!  Personally I hate supermarket shopping - but I love doing my mum's because I do it online for her here in France - she lives in the UK but Tesco have a great delivery service - straight to her kitchen worktop.  We don't have a service comparable to that here.

Funny story - a man went shopping and had been given a list when he got home he said that he'd got everything apart from one thing - he couldn't find the "man get out"  -  his wife had actually written "mange tout" ......

Another funny - heard on the BBC radio 4 only last week - Age Concern in the UK has suggested a GPS system for the super-duper large supermarkets in order to help the elderly find what they're looking for  - they would be able to program their shopping list and then would be directed around the store in the order that the goods appear in the aisles !!  It could work ??? - except if there was a lot of hard of hearing elderly in the supermarket at the same time ..................


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Iphignia. Market stories= life in the raw.


Camping Dan profile image

Camping Dan 7 years ago

I have actually read many studies that say all these choices are not making our lives better, but actually worse. There are way too many varities of the same thing just packed different and it does making shopping hard. I try and stick to the fruit and vegetable aisle and get out of their quickly.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I agree.


KStyle 7 years ago

fantastic hub! You are so right, I prefer the smaller markets myself.

Bring a list and try to stick to it, pick up what's on sale (that's really a deal) and use coupons if possible. Their marketing strategy is to confuse the consumer into buying more.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks for commenting, KStyle, and welcome to HubPages.


Charlotte Anne profile image

Charlotte Anne 7 years ago from Iowa, USA

I sometimes get mildly annoyed at the variety of choices. I suppose that doesn't bother me too much because I just buy whatever brand is cheapest.

I do get very annoyed at the store rearranging everything so I don't know where to look. It drives me crazy. About the time I know where to find everything again, that seems to be when they decide to rearrange.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Maybe you have found the best solution in canning your own. Thanks for commenting.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I like cooking too, and for fresh stuff it's important to eyeball it, I think.

As far as supermarkets go, we mostly shop at Waitrose, who specialise in minimising the bullshit. They don't do the ultra-cheapie stuff, no sausages made of everything but the pig's whistle, which is fine with me.

They slogan is, "Good food, honestly priced".


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I wish we had one of those. Maybe there ARE some markets that make sense.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

not that we have pork sausages in this household anyway, but their beef sausages go down a treat (-:


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Yes, I was wondering about the pork. And you are right about seeing the fresh produce in person, too.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I forgot to say, Waitrose is part of the John Lewis Partnership, and the whole shebang is a kind of co-operative


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

There need to be more of that type-- seems like most stores are focused on having everything we don't really need.


Foodstuff profile image

Foodstuff 5 years ago from Australia

Great hub, Rochelle. What we are seeing in Australia at the moment - where 2 chains dominate the scene - is a reduction in choice of brands. The 2 majors are trying to force their home brands down the consumers' throats. It really irritates me and it's bad for the small producers who can't fight back against big boy bullying.

I try to stick with an small independent grocer chain called IGA (I suppose it's a sort of a collective: the stores are independently owned by family businesses, but they have buying power together under the IGA banner). My favourite is IGA Supermarket is the one that is branded Renaissance IGA (the owner has 4 - 5 stores around Melbourne now): great range of quality products, particularly speciality foods; the staff are always helpful, knowledgeable and friendly and these stores are very much part of the neighbourhood community.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

That's very interesting We have IGA stores here-- I wonder if they are associated? As you said they tend to be different according to the owner/manager.

Too bad about the big chains. Competition does really help the consumer. Thanks for commenting.


Bible Studies profile image

Bible Studies 5 years ago from PA

I love this hub. It had me laughing, especially at all the ridiculous choices we have to go through nowadays. A couple of times at a large supermarket, my head would start to hurt, and I would have to turn to my husband and say you make the choice. I physically felt like I couldn't choose which product.

Personally I like a middle sized grocery store. My mom still has a small corner store she goes to. I go there, and feel almost claustrophobic with the limited choices. Sometimes I think how can she shop there. The middle size one is near me. It's not so small that I don't feel like I have any choices, but it is not so big that I start to feel lost.

The only problem is that my local grocery store has higher prices, and does not have some of my favorite food. If my local grocery was cheaper, I would shop there more often, and do only a monthly trip to the larger store.

I know people tend to forget to mark was this hub?... I had to mark funny. I wish they had a tag informational.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Choosing the right store is like the Goldilocks thing-- you want to find the one that is just right, but none of them really are. I appreciate your comments and feedback.


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

I love this hub; funny and oh so true! I read somewhere that a marketing ploy is to put the milk and certain other products way in the back and diagonal from the entrance so that you have to walk through the entire store to get to them, thus being tempted and reminded to buy other things.

An annoying trend here at our huge chain supermarket is to push their own store brand by blatantly copying the ''name brand'' label, right down to the font and color.

Another thing I've noticed is that a certain product will come out with a new version that contains a couple of ounces less and at the same time, costs a few cents more. Clever, isn't it? They think we won't notice. One can just imagine the marketing sessions and conference room discussions about how to squeeze just a few more dollars out of each customer.

Marked up, interesting, and funny.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, Silvia Hayes. You are right. There is always a new wrinkle to the deceptions. Lowering the amount of food in containers seems to be happening in all product lines, they even have ways of making the container seem larger while weight or volume is actually less. The best bet is buying unpackaged raw fruits and vegetables, so you can see what you are really getting.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Wonderful read! One of our local chain markets went through that reorganization a couple of years ago, and it was a nightmare to figure out where they put things. One of their brilliant schemes was to make the distinction between "ethnic" and "international," making separate locations a couple of aisles apart. I suppose it stood to reason that kosher foods might be in the ethnic aisle, but I still can't understand why Chinese products are there as well as Mexican, yet the Spanish Goya brand is in international along with prepared, canned tomato sauces. It's crazy-making, and since I'm not crazy and can't afford to be, I found another, smaller place to shop. Super Hub.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I know what you mean, Sally's Trove. I think supermarkets are a metaphor for life. Once you think you have it almost figured out, it changes again.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Another great Rochelle hub I'm only coming across 2 years later!

I wouldn't mind the constant changes **quite** so much if during the rearranging they'd remember to revise the hanging directories above the aisles. The one above Aisle 4 includes "coffee"...the item I came in for...but there's NO coffee of any description: breakfast (MILD strength, go figure), French roast OR decaf to name only 3 of dozens.

So I track down a box boy who looks to be about 12, ask where coffee got moved to, and he says "Dunno, I'll find out...be right back". Before he disappears out of sight for who-knows-how-long, I see him pull out his cell phone to check his Facebook and text messages. He can chat with a friend halfway around the world, but has to use shoe leather to find someone who knows where to find coffee! What a waste of modern technology!

And I don't understand either why some items are in "ethnic" and some are in "international". Must be another 12-year-old in Corporate with wayyy too much time on his/her hands who gets paid wayyy too much to keep customers in Perpetual Confusion. ;D


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, JamaGeenee. Perpetual confusion theoretically keeps people in the store longer. Maybe the box boy was contacting the manager on Facebook?


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

lol!


LetitiaFT profile image

LetitiaFT 4 years ago from Paris via California

Choice is a good thing, we'll all agree. Yet at the same time, studies show that choice also induces stress. If it was just choosing orange juice, it would one thing (literally) but when ,as you rightly point out, you mulitply ad infinitum this kind of choice, which you have to admit is insignificant, that's makes for a whole lot of stress for nothing!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I guess we have to teach ourselves to ignore some of it.


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

You have said in this Hub exactly what I have thought for a long time! Too many choices!! I sometimes get home and realize I picked up the wrong thing because I didn't read the label completely.

I really love the video you chose for this Hub!

Voted UP, etc. and shared.


handymanbill profile image

handymanbill 2 years ago from western pennsylvania

I to don't know how many time my wife has sent me with a list and i get it wrong. Love the video, had to save it so my boy could watch it.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you Mary (615). I think it is all a scheme to get us to stay in the store longer. Also, It is easy to pick up something that is not quite what you thought it was. Thank you.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you, Bill. At least you try, and it sometimes isn't easy. I think if i sent my Husband to the store, he would give up in frustration. Yes-- cute video.


colorfulone profile image

colorfulone 2 years ago from Minnesota

We have a general store that has a well stocked grocery store. If there is something we need, someone will see that it is available. There are not a lot of different brands of one item, but there is a nice selection. When I lived in the city, I ordered my groceries online and had them delivered, and I loved that service. Supermarkets can be so large, and all the different brands of items can be overwhelming if I go to a store I am not familiar with.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Sounds like your store is run the way stores used to be. One thing about shopping in a small town, is that you see a lot of people that you know. It's kind of like the market place of a century ago, when shopping was a social event.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 19 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

If you've ever lived overseas you come back to the "land of the big PX" (or "store" in civilian talk) and are overwhelmed by two things in a grocery store: the number of selections available in the cereal aisle and the salad dressing aisle. We have so much of everything!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 19 months ago from Oakley, CA

Well done; excellent points and hilarious. That video rates at once as corny and funny as well as cleverly done.

I so agree with your points. It is maddening to have to hunt for something you used to know where to find. Worse, is when they move stuff around, but not the signs over the aisles!!

It is designed to make you buy more impulse items, but I refuse to fall for it. I make a list, and I stick to it like glue. My only deviations are IF I happen to spot something I remember being out of, and which I forgot to put on the list.

Back in the day, I didn't mind grocery shopping so much, though it was never my favorite thing, but I kind of took it as a challenge to stay on budget. Now, my goal is simply to get in, bee-line to the items I need with no detours, and get the heck out in under an hour!

Voted up, interesting, useful and funny, as well as shared.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 19 months ago from California Gold Country Author

Having too much of everything is a large part of our problem, in many areas.

In the area of grocery stores-- I now live about 25 minutes from one, which makes me reconsider what really already have in my pantry and refrigerator, and what I can use u, before making that trip again.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 19 months ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks DML! I agree with you on most points, though I have always kind of enjoyed it.

Almost all shopping advise recommends not shopping when you are hungry-- but I am the opposite., I cannot shop when I have just had a good meal.... nothing looks appealing when I am full.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 19 months ago from Oakley, CA

I have to agree with you on that--I don't find anything appealing when I'm full, either. That's where my list comes in--and me sticking to it! LOL

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