Five things you thought you knew about Grocery Outlet

When you hear the words "discount grocery" or "bargain grocery", do images of old, expired boxes of pasta or bags of generic-brand cereal or pallets of canned goods come to mind? You'd be surprised at what you can find at a Grocery Outlet store! They're a bargain hunter's dream for low-cost, brand-name goods.

This weekend I attended a Grocery Outlet Blogger Summit and met several Grocery Outlet executives who told us all about what they do. We toured a Grocery Outlet store and played a fun shopping game where each team of bloggers was given a list of items and told to search the aisles for the products with the biggest savings over regular stores. We had a lovely lunch and a fun spa session, and along the way we learned a lot about how Grocery Outlet gets such great deals for their customers.

It's all very simple, really. Grocery Outlet purchases excess inventory at a huge discount from manufacturers. They buy products that conventional groceries and supermarkets don't want, or products that manufacturers don't want to sell to the conventional groceries. The reasons vary; for instance:

* A manufacturer may have come up with a new logo or new packaging, and they still have inventory of product with the old packaging. For example, Grocery Outlet might sell boxes of Wheaties with a photo of Tiger Woods on the box after Wheaties changed their box to feature Hope Solo, or Pop Tarts tied to a Shrek 3 movie promo after the promo has expired.

* A big grocery chain may have suddenly canceled a huge order for holiday gingersnap cookies imported from Belgium. The shipment may already be in the USA, with no one to buy them -- until Grocery Outlet steps in.

* A manufacturer may have done a smaller-than-normal run of a new product for a specific test market, and found it did not sell as well as their existing product, so they decide not to sell it in the nationwide market.

* A manufacturer might have inventory of a product with 6 months remaining on the shelf life, but conventional supermarkets will only take the product if it has 12 months or more left. Grocery Outlet to the rescue!

* A manufacturer may simply have made too much of a product. In one classic story told to us by a Grocery Outlet exec, the production manager started production and simply forgot to stop! I don't remember whether she had just gotten back from maternity leave, or she was covering for a co-worker on maternity leave, but whatever it was, Grocery Outlet bought the excess (and probably saved her job).

None of the reasons I mentioned have anything to do with quality of the product, so when you think of Grocery Outlet, don't make the mistake of thinking that low prices equals low quality. In fact, you might have a lot of misconceptions about outlet stores like Grocery Outlet -- so I'm sharing what I've learned from the Grocery Outlet folks this weekend and telling you how it is:

* The stock at Grocery Outlet is expired or defective
Nothing I have bought at Grocery Outlet has ever been expired. The expiry date may be 3 or 6 months sooner than you would find in regular grocery stores -- for example, the cereal may have only 6 months to go before the expiration date rather than 12 months, so regular groceries won't carry them anymore -- but they don't sell expired products. So how do they keep their prices so low?

* You can only find generic and no-name brands at Grocery Outlet
Grocery Outlet buys products from both generic and brand manufacturers, so you will see Kraft and Kelloggs and Heinz and Dannon and Coca-Cola along with generic brands. You'll even see higher-end brands like Alouette and Ghirardelli and Scharffenberger and Ben & Jerry's. One of the bloggers at the event was Amy Sherman, author of the blog Cooking with Amy. She has authored a cookbook for Williams-Sonoma and has written for Epicurious and Project Foodie, among others, so I'd say she knows about good food. As we walked the aisles of Grocery Outlet together, she kept pointing out gourmet brand foods and marveling at how little they cost!

* You can only find canned, processed and unhealthy food at Grocery Outlet
Sure Grocery Outlet has lots of canned and processed food, just like any other grocery store. They also carry fresh fruit and vegetables, juice, meat and dairy, both organic and non-organic. Grocery Outlet actually carries a lot of organic foods -- cereals, frozen foods, fruit, cheese, milk, and more -- from brands like Kashi, Annie's, Newman's Own, and Amy's.

* Only low-income people shop at Grocery Outlet
The first time I visited a Grocery Outlet store I saw a new BMW and Mercedes Benz in the parking lot, along with mass-market cars and beat-up trucks destined for the junkyard. Since that time, I've shopped at Grocery Outlet several times, and I've seen all types: retirees, suburban moms, hip college students and construction workers.

* You can't use coupons at Grocery Outlet
Okay, this is actually partially true. Grocery Outlet cannot accept manufacturer's coupons. Since manufacturers are already selling their items to Grocery Outlet at clearance prices, they will not honor the coupons. However, they do publish store coupons from time to time, so look for flyers in the mail! Also, if you follow your local Grocery Outlet's Facebook page, you'll get advance notice of hot deals and limited stock items. To find out if your local Grocery Outlet has a Facebook page, go to Grocery Outlet's Facebook page, click on their "Info" page and check out the "Likes and Interests" section.

The best way to convince you that Grocery Outlet is a great store is to invite you to check out your nearest one. As we were touring the Grocery Outlet store, each and every blogger was itching to run off and do a bit of grocery shopping on the side! The stock at Grocery Outlet changes so frequently, you never know what you'll find -- so it's like a treasure hunt every time you go.

Disclosure: I was Grocery Outlet's guest at their recent Blogger Summit, which included lunch and a spa appointment. I also received a gift card to shop at a Grocery Outlet store and blog about my experience in the near future. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

1 Comments, Leave yours here:

Melanie on October 23, 2011 at 7:15 PM said...

My husband is at Grocery Outlet this very moment buying some stuff for lunch tomorrow, lol.

I love that they carry all Costco's stuff. I can so much bulk for my big family at low prices!

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