The Wall Street Journal is reporting about how “giant food brands are scrambling to keep up” in a competitive climate where online shopping is diminishing the occurrence of impulse purchasing, and therefore affecting certain kinds of sales.

“Figuring out how to drive impulse purchases is just one of the challenges that multibillion-dollar food brands face as they gear up to win customers online,” the Journal writes. “They also have more competition from startups on e-commerce channels, where it is possible to build a consumer following without a massive marketing budget and where newer brands perceived as less processed and more healthful tend to be popular.

“As food makers and retailers test new technologies and develop e-commerce strategies to compete in this changing landscape, the overall grocery-shopping experience for customers is likely to shift dramatically, food executives and analysts say.”

An additional issue for these giant brands is the fact that their size doesn’t give them the same advantages online as they do in-store: “For decades, such brands controlled grocery-store aisles, commanding prime shelf space and funding expensive advertising displays. Online, however, the playing field is more level, as the internet has provided a quick, cheap and easy sales platform for newer, trendier food companies to reach consumers.”

KC's View: All true. But not necessarily bad across the board.

First of all, the level playing field should force giant brands to be more innovative in terms of product introductions, not just depending on line extensions or new flavors for growth.

And as for impulse purchasing … this may not be good for manufacturers, but the broader picture is pretty good for retailers. While they may be selling fewer candy bars at the front end, all the data I’ve ever seen suggest that online basket sizes tend to be much larger than average in-store basket sizes. And, by the way, I’ve always found that Amazon is pretty good at prompting impulse purchasing, because their suggestions and recommendations are tied to previous behavior and preferences.