Gordon Wade, chief executive officer of the Category Management Association (CMA), Wimberley, Texas, mentioned during an interview for this month’s Channel Strategies article an interesting observation about the industry’s explosive growth.

“If somebody like Rip Van Winkle had fallen asleep for 20 years and walked into his current convenience store, he barely would recognize it in terms of the number of new products that have been introduced in the last 20 years,” Wade says.

The advent of line extensions, new products, innovative categories and other recent expansions has challenged retailers that are trying to keep up with curious consumers. In the beer category, the addition of import brands and the explosion of craft beers have increased the need for more facings in the beer aisle and cooler, Wade says.

But consumers not only want variety, they also are looking for more information about products. Todd Bradley, partner with The Partnering Group, Cincinnati, cited a Brown-Forman study that found that 74 percent of shoppers want to learn more about the whiskey category.

“Think about that — nearly three-quarters of shoppers want to learn more,” Bradley says. “So, Brown-Forman is working with key retail partners to develop and test innovative shelving solutions that do just that. By providing relevant category-level education, it helps shoppers better navigate the shelf and make more informed decisions and product and brand choices.”

Although shoppers might be open to more information, it also must be communicated in a way that appeals to those who are short on time. As part of the launch of its new Blonde Roast coffee, Starbucks Coffee Co., Seattle, cited a statistic that consumers spend approximately 60 seconds in the grocery aisle making a decision about which coffee to buy. Within that group, 25 percent of shoppers leave the coffee aisle without making a purchase because either they cannot find what they are looking for or the premium coffee section does not make sense to them, according to SmartRevenue coffee/tea aisle path-to-purchase research cited by Starbucks.

In response, Starbucks redesigned its packaging to organize varieties by roast: its new, lighter Blonde Roast, Medium Roast and Dark Roast. The sleek packaging describes the coffees with two words, such as Mellow & Soft for the Blonde Roast’s Veranda Blend or Earthy & Herbal for the Dark Roast’s Sumatra variety.

The simplicity is likely a welcome change in an aisle that also is reconfiguring to accommodate the popularity of single-cup coffee. CMA’s Wade predicts that the single-cup coffee segment, with its numerous varieties packaged in space-consuming cubes, will triple in the next few years.

And who knows what will be the next trendy beverage or brand-new category that caters to thirsty — and curious — consumers in the coming years?