Canadian Grocer February 2023

Page 1

The supermarket’s expanding role as a hub for health

Sauce sales heat up

How food tech is transforming the dinner plate


Here’s how they size up the grocery shopping experience


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7 Front Desk 9 The Buzz 53 New on Shelf PEOPLE

12 Pies in the sky After noticing a gap in the market, Francesca Galasso launched a premium frozen pizza line that’s now available in grocery stores coast-to-coast



On the cover

Our annual GroceryIQ shopper study. Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

15 Cracking the code There’s still work to be done, but Canada’s grocery industry will likely have a code of conduct in place this year

17 The big question Leaders share how they’re attracting and retaining talent amid a labour crunch

19 More than a marriage of convenience Meet KaleMart24: a self-serve, health food convenience store that is

turning the traditional c-store model on its head

19 Raising the bar Calgary Co-op has introduced carboncaptured bars of soap


45 On the sauce More at-home eating, an increasingly diverse population, and a hankering for hot sauce pushes the category forward

51 In the cards Digital is driving consumer habits, but there is still value in traditional greeting cards


54 Clicks and bricks Publicis Groupe’s Jason Goldberg on why the marriage of digital and physical retail is more important than ever

The shoppers have spoken
annual survey reveals what
about grocery
Helping with health
their quest for optimal health and wellness, Canadians are turning, increasingly, to grocers
Appetite for innovation
shopping 34
AI-powered food waste solutions to lab-grown meat, food technologies look to address some of the planet’s big problems
34 12
February 2023 || Volume 137 - Number 1 45 The supermarket’s expanding role as a hub for health Sauce sales heat up How food tech is transforming the dinner plate THE SHOPPERS HAVE SPOKEN Here’s how they size up the grocery shopping experience Exclusive research ScantheQRcodetoconfirm your subscription


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Our research reveals how Canadians feel about grocery shopping

AgA inst A b Ackdrop of a higher cost of living, economic uncertainty and with the pandemic still hovering in the background, what kind of a mood are Canadians in? And how is this shaping the way they shop for groceries?






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To get a clearer picture of what’s going on with shoppers, we worked with the research team at Canadian Grocer parent EnsembleIQ to survey Canadians across the country and bring you our 2023 GroceryIQ Study: Taking Stock of Grocery Shopper Attitudes and Behaviours . For three years now we’ve been using this study to take the pulse of Canadian shoppers, and what have we learned? Well, among this year’s findings we know that shoppers are firmly focused on price, they have a favourable view of loyalty programs (especially those that reward them with cash or groceries), they’re loading their carts with private-label products and they’re hungry for meal solutions. (Turn to page 23 for more insights from the study.)

Canadian shoppers surveyed also told us they’re a health-conscious bunch; in fact, 73% define themselves as such. With grocery stores already brimming with nutritious foods, they’re the natural destination for the health-minded. In this issue, writer Rosalind Stefanac looks at how shoppers are increasingly turning to grocers to help them in their quest to live healthier (page 34) and the huge

opportunity this serves up for grocers who can deliver on these needs.

And in the latest instalment of our ongoing Generation Next Thinking series (page 39), we explore how food tech is taking over the dinner table, while at the same time tackling some of the planet’s big problems. For instance, advances in tech are making lab-grown meat and other foods (like coffee) a reality, while innovative firms like Germany’s Infarm have devised a way to produce wheat indoors with its vertical farm system, and innovative new solutions are taking a bite out of food waste. According to one analyst quoted in the report “It’s the golden age of food science and technology.” CG

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The Buzz

The latest news in the grocery biz



Fortinos and Avril Supermarché top the rankings for best in-store and online experiences in Ontario and Quebec, respectively, according to Leger’s recently released 2022 WOW and WOW Digital studies. The market research firm surveyed more than 12,000 Ontarians and 12,000 Quebecers to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of 203 retailers across 20 sectors. For Ontario supermarkets, Fortinos led the pack followed by Longo’s, Farm Boy, Whole Foods Market and Adonis. In Quebec, Avril Supermarché came out on top followed by Costco, Metro/Metro Plus, Rachelle Béry, and IGA/IGA Extra.


T&T SUPERMARKET made its much-anticipated debut in the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent in December. The opening marks the Loblaw-owned Asian grocery chain’s first venture into the Quebec market. At 70,000-sq.-ft., and representing a $10-million investment, the store is the largest in T&T’s network of 31 stores. T&T also operates in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. At the store’s opening, CEO Tina Lee told Canadian Grocer: “We knew that we had to come in really strong.” Lee said the store boasts more than 20,000 products and serves up features like an Asian fruit gift section, a large selection of imported alcoholic and non-alcoholic Asian beers (the Saint-Laurent location is the first T&T to sell alcohol), large varieties of seafood, hot food bar and more. “It’s an incredible assortment. If you’re a food lover, this is a really appealing place,” said Lee.

Vancouver is home to a brand-new URBAN FARE . The upmarket grocery banner, owned by Pattison Food Group, has set up shop in the newly developed Lelǝm Village at the University of British Columbia. The 12,700-sq.-ft. space, which opened for business in early February, is

adjacent to the new Wildlight Kitchen + Bar, also owned by Pattison Food Group. Urban Fare stores can be found in Vancouver, Kelowna and Calgary.

In Toronto, RABBA FINE FOODS marked the opening of its 36th marketplace in January. Located in the city’s financial district (at Richmond and Victoria streets), the store offers the chain’s typical grocery assortment, but also features Rabba Kitchen by Paramount. The in-store kitchen offers a variety of hot and fresh meals, including specialties like shawarma and falafel. The downtown location is the fourth Rabba to offer a full meal takeout service under the Rabba Kitchen by Paramount name.

FARM BOY continues to up its store count with the addition of two new locations in the Greater Toronto Area. The Empire-owned grocery chain opened for business in Aurora, Ont. in mid-January at Wellington Street East. The grocery chain also set up shop at Toronto’s Sugar Wharf, occupying a 29,600-sq.-ft. space on the second level of 100 Queen’s Quay. One of the country’s most rapidly growing grocery chains, Farm Boy now has a network of 47 stores in Ontario.

February 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 9 T&T
News to share? Tell us about your openings, comings and goings, etc. by dropping a line to sfitzgerald@
(Clockwise from left) T&T Supermarket made its debut in Montreal, Pattison Food Group’s Urban Fare banner opened a brand-new store in Vancouver and Farm Boy continued its province-wide expansion with two stores in the Greater Toronto Area

The Buzz


Gonzalo Gebara is the new president and CEO of Walmart Canada. A veteran of the company, Gebara joined the retail giant in 2000 and has since held roles across finance, strategy and e-commerce, and has worked with the company’s teams in the United States, Argentina and Chile. Gebara succeeds JP Suarez who had been leading Walmart Canada on an interim basis following the departure of president and CEO Horacio Barbeito last summer.

At Sobeys, Geneviève Dugré has been promoted to the role of senior vice-president of operations for Quebec. Dugré, who joined Sobeys in 2013, has held various positions in retail operations, including management of the Rachelle Béry banner and corporate IGA stores.

The Coca-Cola Company has named Phil Cox as its new general manager, Canada. Cox joined Coca-Cola Enterprises in 1996 and most recently served as the company’s regional vice-president, Northeast U.S. Metro has added to its executive team. The grocery company appointed Pietro John Rollo to the position of senior vice-president of national procurement. Rollo, who previously held a senior role at Walmart Canada, will report to Carmen Fortino, executive vicepresident, national supply chain and procurement.

Alexander Benedet has joined Lactalis Canada as its vicepresident, customer strategy and development. Previously, Benedet was vice-president of sales strategy, capabilities and planning at General Mills.


We’re looking for the most impressive women working in the Canadian grocery industry today for our 2023 Star Women in Grocery Awards

If you know of an outstanding woman who is making a difference in grocery, please take a few minutes to tell us about her at The deadline to nominate is March 31 and winners will be revealed in our June/July issue.

Pattison Food Group unveils Wildlight Kitchen + Bar

known Across western Canada for its supermarkets (among them, Save-On-Foods), Pattison Food Group is now making a move into restaurants.

In January, the company offered a sneak peek of Wildlight Kitchen + Bar, its first full-service restaurant, ahead of its February grand opening.

Located at the Lelǝm Village development at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, the concept of Wildlight Kitchen + Bar is a “celebration” of West Coast cuisine.

“The restaurant is inspired by our love of the ocean, the forests and the shoreline of beautiful British Columbia,” said Justin McGregor, general manager of restaurants at Pattison Food Group at the VIP preview event. “It is a celebration of West Coast culture and cuisine where our chef, Warren Chow, has crafted a menu with an exceptionally strong focus on local B.C. flavours and ingredients with variations from around the world.”

At Wildlight, diners can expect unique cocktails and an expansive range of local B.C. wines from the bar and tasty creations from the kitchen that include dry-aged beef burgers, duck confit and, of course, seafood ranging from Hakkaido scallops, miso-glazed sablefish and the restaurant’s seafood charcuterie (house-made salmon pastrami, marinated mussels, salt tuna tataki), all served up in a beautiful, contemporary space.

So how did Wildlight come to be?

“More than two years ago Darrell [Jones, president of Pattison Food Group] challenged us to open a restaurant and when he did, we all thought he was crazy,” said Brenda Kirk, senior vice-president of merchandising and procurement at Pattison Food Group. “We had no idea how to operate or open a restaurant, but I knew we did know a lot about food and a lot about customer experience.”

Indeed, with nearly a dozen retail banners under its umbrella, the group has figured out how to win with customers; Save-OnFoods, for instance, has earned the distinction of being one of B.C.’s “Most Loved Brands” several times over.

The way Jones sees it, moving into the restaurant business is a “natural fit” for the growing company. “Just like the Pattison Food Group’s business, our mission here is very simple, for Wildlight to deliver, always, customer-first service.”

But it’s not only a dining experience that’s being served up at the Lelǝm Village location; adjacent to the restaurant is a new Urban Fare, Pattison Food Group’s upmarket grocery banner, which also opened its doors for business in February.

The group’s first restaurant is a “celebration” of West Coast cuisine
Geneviève Dugré Gonzalo Gebara Phil Cox Alexander Benedet



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After noticing a gap in the market, Francesca Galasso launched a premium frozen pizza line that’s now available in grocery stores coast-to-coast

Who you need to know

Photography by Lucas Finlay

2014, FrAncescA gAlAsso was ready for a change. She was working as a public health research assistant at the University of British Columbia but kept thinking back to her time working the front-of-house at restaurants while in school. “I kind of fell in love with restaurants that way,” she says. “It really attracted me to hospitality.”

One day, Galasso was passing by a shop that was up for lease in the North Vancouver neighbourhood where she lived. “I saw it, and it just spoke to me,” she recalls. Galasso left her job and opened a wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzeria that she called Il Castello, which quickly became a local favourite. “It was a really cute neighbourhood pizza spot that was community-oriented,” says Galasso. “We had a ton of regulars.”

As the years went on, those regulars began asking Galasso whether they could purchase balls of dough to make their own pizzas at home. Galasso began selling frozen dough to customers from her restaurant and, shortly afterwards, a local deli asked to stock her pizza dough. That got Galasso thinking. “It wasn’t just customers buying [dough] at the restaurant now,” she says.

Galasso did some research at nearby grocery stores and noticed a gap in the market for both pizza dough and frozen pizzas. “Frozen pizzas get a bad rap,” she says. The entrepreneur envisioned creating premium, restaurant-quality frozen pizza that would be an easy dinner option, especially for millennials that were short on time. “I thought, ‘this is ripe for innovation.’”

From late 2016 to early 2017, Galasso worked on putting together a business plan. With the help of Vancouver creative agency Spring Advertising, she developed simple, modern packaging and branding for her new frozen pizza line, which she called Holy Napoli. The dough would be slow fermented in small batches using 00 flour, the crusts would be baked in a stone oven, and pizzas would be topped with premium ingredients like San Marzano tomato sauce and hand-picked basil. Holy Napoli launched with three varieties based on the bestsellers at Il Castello: a Margherita, the Calabrese and Pesto Roast Vegetable, along with the frozen pizza dough that started it all.

Early testing and trials happened at Il

Castello, but Galasso soon realized her production capacity would be limited in the restaurant. “It was a ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario,” Galasso says. “Do you get the sales first or do you get your capacity lined up first?” She took a leap of faith and took the latter option and rented out a production facility in Port Coquitlam in the spring of 2017.

That leap of faith paid off. By early 2019, Holy Napoli was in about 100 specialty and independent grocery stores, mostly in British Columbia, with a handful in Alberta. The growth of the grocery line prompted Galasso to sell her North Vancouver pizzeria and focus her efforts on growing the wholesale and CPG business.

It was around the start of the pandemic, in spring 2020, that Holy Napoli ventured beyond Western Canada, launching in about 50 independent stores in Ontario. Without in-store demos and promotions, Holy Napoli had to rely on the strength of its branding to gain customer attention. Thankfully, it worked. “People tell us all the time: ‘Your packaging is fantastic It stands out,’” Galasso says. “For a lot of people, the only indirect interaction they ever have with your brand is the packaging. I think that’s a big differentiator for us.”

Over the last two years, Holy Napoli experienced a huge period of growth. The brand launched in Thrifty Foods and Safeway stores in British Columbia, Metro stores in Quebec, Whole Foods Market stores in British Columbia and Ontario, and the market division of Loblaws nationally. Recognizing the potential to scale up her business, Galasso also brought on Toronto-based Bond Bakery Brands as an investor during this period. Holy Napoli products can now be found in more than 800 grocery stores coast-tocoast, including the Yukon.

This year, Galasso is focusing on increasing the company’s presence and sales within the stores that currently stock Holy Napoli products. “Demos are coming back to life,” she says. “There’s a real opportunity to drive more trial and get people to give our product a try.”

Looking back at her journey, Galasso feels humbled by how the business has grown. “It’s quite surreal,” says the entrepreneur, that a product she created “could be eaten by someone in front of me or by someone across the country, which is pretty cool.” CG


What do you like best about your job?

Every day is different. I like that you can interact with different aspects of the business. I have multiple touch points with business development, human resources, product sourcing, development and sales, and all that can happen in one day. It’s the variety that I love.

What inspires your work?

The prospect that you can encourage and excite people to try something new, based on the quality of our product or our packaging, and they could then tell their friends about us. I think that’s a challenge and that really excites me.

What has been your best day in business?

This is in hindsight, but it would be when I decided to get my own manufacturing facility and build that out. That was the greatest decision and the best thing I did for my business.

What is your favourite product from your lineup?

The Calabrese pizza. I eat it for lunch more times than I would like to admit.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I do a lot of cooking. I love to bake bread. I love to hike and hang out with my dog. Her name is Stella and she’s a very energetic eight-year-old redbone coonhound. I like to garden and knit and sew. I dabble in a lot of different creative activities. I love making and creating things.

February 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 13
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there is still work to be done, but it’s likely the Canadian grocery industry will have a code of conduct in place this year.

The latest report from the steering committee working on the code confirms that most of the key provisions are complete, and progress is being made on how the code will be enforced.

That report was met with a joint statement from Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau, and Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food André Lamontagne, commending the industry on the progress it had made.

“By enhancing transparency, predictability and fair dealing, the code will help make Canada’s food supply chain more resilient,” the statement read, with “transparency, predictability and fair dealing” being the key watchwords for the process since the ministers called for an industry code in 2021.

“I’m really, really pleased with the progress we’ve made,” says Gary Sands, senior vice-president, public policy and advocacy, for the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers. “Now all we’re doing is putting the final touches on it.”

While much of the work to draft the code had been led by a 10-person committee meeting monthly since mid 2021, progress to clear away the final hurdles came with the formation of an eight-person working group in August. Members of that group unilaterally understood the importance of having a code developed by the industry rather than one imposed by the government, Sands says.

Final touches to the code relate to governance and enforcement, but progress is being made there, too, says Michael Graydon, CEO of Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada.

Wider consultations—likely to begin in February—will introduce the proposals to as many stakeholders as possible. Once the consultations are complete, the language vetted by lawyers and the final version of the code signed off, they can begin to put the formal structures in place. There will be a board of directors from representatives across the industry and an adjudicator supported by a small team (likely six staff members), which will listen to complaints and enforce the code.—David Brown



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AnnMarie Mercer Chief people officer WALMART CANADA

“Our more than 100,000 associates are the heartbeat of our business. We want them to feel supported, valued and developed so they can live better every day. We’ve enhanced our total rewards and benefits offerings (i.e. fertility treatment, gender affirmation, mental health, 24/7 virtual care and associate assistance), leveraging associate feedback to inform decisions. And we’re doubling down on career growth within Walmart. Along with launching our first internal talent marketplace this year— connecting associates with company-wide opportunities— we’re offering thousands of part-time associates full-time positions that provide more


“This is not a ‘one solution fits all’ labour environment. We are listening to what our associates have to say and we value their recommendations for improvements at our bakeries and DCs. Ensuring the safety and well-being of associates comes first. We are investing heavily in people, and we are launching initiatives focused on providing associates with a superior quality of life. Our commitment to diversity, equity, belonging and sustainability is helping engage associates in meaningful work, while driving social impact in our communities. Bottom line, we are focused on fostering a people-first culture that makes Bimbo Canada stronger for whatever comes next.”


“Shared purpose and shared vision have helped us navigate the toughest of times and have played a pivotal role in our 30-year history. We empower our team members to help educate the communities we serve about the benefits of eating well. People feel good going to work when they understand how their contributions can make an impact. Everything we do—from onboarding to ongoing development—is centred on our desire to have a positive impact on the communities we serve. Nature’s Emporium is growing, and one of the ways we retain talent is by creating opportunities for growth within the company. As we grow, we want our team members to grow alongside us.”

“We are blessed to have an amazing culture, which keeps our team engaged. Every decision at Italian Centre is made with the consideration of people first. We make sure our teams know they are valuable and that they make a difference—we ask for their input on many occasions. Some of the best suggestions have come from our team, and we have implemented them all.”

Katelin Mailer Vice-president, human resources LACTALIS CANADA

“Our 4000-plus team is our strongest asset. Above and beyond competitive compensation and benefits, we place great importance and investment on health and well-being programs and initiatives to meet the diverse needs of our people. We also invest in quality training and development programs to foster a learning culture, which leads to skills development and enhancement as well as internal career growth. As part of a global company, our employees in Canada are also able to build networks and gain access to international expertise, as well as unique opportunities for international career development.”

February 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 17


Natural choices can lead to great things.

We’re proud to support


More than a marriage of convenience

Meet KaleMart24: a self-serve health food convenience store that’s turning the traditional c-store model on its head

are becoming more conscious about their health. Millennials desire a higher quality food experience with a unique narrative and authentic global flavours. KaleMart24 is geared towards those grabbing a fresh lunch or snack in time to make it back to the office or to class.

You’ve said you’re trying to become “the Whole Foods of convenience stores.” How will you achieve this?


CALGARY CO-OP has developed bars of soap made from carbon captured from its head office and converted into mineral form.

KALEMART24 wants you to forget what you know about the traditional convenience store model. Soon to launch in Montreal as a better-for-you, self-serve c-store with healthier choices like organic and plant-based foods, KaleMart24 hopes to attract convenience-minded millennials. CEO and director Oussama (Sam) Saoudi outlined the concept to Canadian Grocer and shared the company’s expansion plans. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why choose the better-for-you c-store model?

I love on-the-go options and we millennials are the ones driving the trend for increased visits to c-stores and graband-go stores. We make frequent trips to grab-and-go stores to get the food we need for the same day or the next couple days. We are becoming more conscious about our health; however, the natural food and beverage options in c-stores are currently very limited or inexistent.

What consumer insights are driving the concept?

Sales in the organic food and beverage sector grew by 7.1% in 2022. Organic sales are increasing because consumers

With a nutritionist on our team, we will look for the best natural and organic foods available, maintain the highest quality standards in the industry, and have a strict commitment to sustainable food. Our secret to winning involves a balance of brand consistency, customer appreciation, innovative assortment, and ease of experience. KaleMart24 is deeply entrenched in local communities, giving customers the opportunity to support local suppliers.

What is unique about the store design compared to other c-stores?

The stores will have a modern, upscale look, while still maintaining an earthy, market-like atmosphere. Expect all the usual [convenience] categories, but with specialty brands and products in addition to personal care items and even organic pet food. Plus, you can check out with or without the help of an associate [the store leverages tech such as self-checkout and mobile payments]. There will also be a large, ready-to-eat section with warm or fresh nutritious meals made daily.

What are your expansion plans and financial projections?

By establishing a strong national brand awareness in major cities, KaleMart24 hopes to expand to five stores in its first year and grow to 30 stores by 2025. By year three, we’re projecting revenues of $55 million and profits of $6 million. CG

The all-natural, biodegradable soap hit shelves across Calgary Co-op’s 23 stores in January. It comes in six scents: spearmint, vanilla chai, sweet and spicy lemongrass, coffee honey, activated charcoal and shea butter. It is likely the first of several carbon-captured products to be released by Co-op’s private-label brand Cal & Gary. The label launched in 2000 and now boasts more than 600 products.

To make the soap, the co-op uses a device from Calgary-based CleanO2 that pulls in carbon dioxide from the building’s heating systems that are normally emitted into the air. The captured CO2 is converted into pure pearl ash (potassium carbonate) and then harvested from the unit (which is about the size of two refrigerators) and transferred to a manufacturing facility.

Chris Gruber, managing director, head of private brands at Calgary Co-op estimates the unit’s impact on removing CO2 emissions from Co-op’s head office per year is the equivalent of planting more than 300 trees.

The soap comes in recyclable packaging branded with the slogan “Friendly Soap for Friendly People,” and is sold in the “natural store” department of Co-op’s supermarkets. —Chris Daniels

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The shoppers have spoken

Our national study delves into how Canadians view the grocery shopping experience

February 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 23 Shopper research

Shopper research

To besT serve shoppers, understanding what they want is essential. While that strategy might seem like a no-brainer, shoppers can be a tricky bunch whose needs and preferences seem to be always changing. What’s a grocer to do? To help, Canadian Grocer has once again teamed up with the research team at EnsembleIQ (Canadian Grocer’s parent) to bring you the 2023 Grocery IQ Study: Taking Stock of Grocery Shopper Attitudes and Behaviours. In this, our third-annual study, we surveyed 1,000 shoppers (primary and shared decision-makers) across Canada to shed light on how they size up the grocery shopping experience today and how they plan to shop in the future. Here are some highlights from the study:

A shift to discount

A notable shift from traditional to discount is taking place; shoppers are turning to discount retailers in the face of rising inflation.


With reports of sky-high inflation and a looming recession dominating headlines for the last several months, it’s no surprise that consumers are feeling squeezed, and this reality is influencing how they shop for groceries. The latest edition of the Grocery IQ study reveals a notable shift from traditional to discount grocery stores, with 54% of survey respondents indicating they shop at a discount chain once a week or more, up a significant 14% from last year (and up 17% from our 2021 study) as shoppers prioritize value. Meanwhile, fewer respondents said they shopped at a traditional chain store once a week or more (56% compared to 63% last year).

Against this tough economic backdrop, it’s hardly a surprise that when we asked shoppers “What is the most important factor when choosing a grocery store?” price, by far, was the most important consideration for 84% of those surveyed, up slightly from 82% last year. Other important factors for shoppers are product freshness (75%); products needed

Price is paramount

Price has become increasingly important to shoppers in 2022; the gap has widened between price and other key factors.

24 CANADIAN GROCER || February 2023
Ranked 1st Ranked in Top 3 Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year Price Sales/promotions Freshness In-stock Product quality Convenient location Rewards/loyalty program Variety Delivery or in-store/curbside pickup In-store cafe/restaurant Cleanliness Speed of shopping trip Brands offered Healthy/better-for-you products Local products 47% 12% 12% 20% 10% 11% 4% 4% 1% 2% 2% 2% 3% 5% 80% 53% 52% 45% 44% 31% 27% 18% 17% 15% 13% 13% 10% 9% 9% +7pts +4pts +13pts +10pts
56% Traditional chain grocery store Quebec shoppers (64%) 4% never shop 54% Discount chain grocery store Ontario shoppers (69%) Quebec shoppers (63%) 8% never shop 18% Independent grocery store 29% never shop +14pts -7pts Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year Shop once/week+ Never shop Supercentre/mass Drug Dollar Convenience store Club Local independent stores (butcher, fishmonger, fruit market etc.) Online stores Ethnic grocery Specialty/natural store +4pts 43% 27% 25% 21% 18% 15% 13% 7% 7% 6% 10% 11% 29% 24% 26% 38% 50% 41%
Shop at store once/week or more Grocery shopping frequency by store type
How shoppers rank factors for choosing a grocery store

are in-stock (74%); sales and promotions (73%, up from 71% last year) and product quality (73%).


While grocery stores were generally rated favourably by shoppers last year, achieving high ratings in areas like cleanliness and store organization, this year they were harder to please. The 2023 Grocery IQ study reveals that, overall, shoppers are less satisfied with their grocery shopping experience. In particular, shoppers are less impressed with store cleanliness with 61% of shoppers perceiving this to be excellent/very good compared to 70% last year. Other notable declines were the variety of products available, organization of the store, high prices and the helpfulness of employees—all things for grocers to keep an eye on.

We also asked shoppers to tell us about their biggest pet peeves or what most needs improving at the store they shop most often. While their responses were fragmented, top areas identified for improvement were the usual suspects: out-of-stocks, high prices, and not enough checkouts. On a positive note, 18% of shoppers surveyed are happy with their primary grocery store’s performance and say it needs no improvement.


Amid fierce competition in the grocery industry, the battle for customer loyalty is heating up. In recent years, retailers have launched innovative programs or tweaked existing ones to give customers a more compelling reason to choose them for their grocery shop. The question, however, is how do Canadian shoppers view loyalty programs? The good news is that loyalty program participation and satisfaction remain stable when compared to last year, with 67% of shoppers actively enrolled in their primary store’s loyalty scheme and more than 90% of those shoppers indicating some degree of satisfaction with the program. And there are interesting generational behaviours to note around loyalty programs; for instance, the study revealed that generation X (71%) and boomers (71%) are significantly more likely to be enrolled in a loyalty program than millennials (61%).

Digging a little deeper into loyalty, we asked shoppers to tell us what features of these programs they value most. By far,

How grocery stores are performing

Overall, shoppers are less satisfied with their grocery shopping experiences vs. last year.

Room for improvement

Top areas for improvement include replenishing stock more frequently and easing traffic with more checkout lanes.

How flyers are used

Most shoppers refer to flyers (digital or paper) before their shopping trip; digital flyer use has increased vs. a year ago.

February 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 25
Excellent/very good Good Fair/poor Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year Cleanliness Variety Organization of the store Speed of shopping trip Loyalty/rewards program Friendliness of employees Quality of prepared food Price Helpfulness of employees Fun to shop 61% 30% 9% 59% 32% 9% 54% 37% 10% 54% 34% 12% 54% 27% 19% 53% 29% 18% 52% 32% 17% 49% 32% 19% 48% 31% 21% 40% 36% 24% -9pts -5pts -12pts -6pts -6pts -6pts -9pts +3pts +3pts +4pts +6pts +6pts +7pts +4pts
Nothing Out-of-stock items High prices Not enough checkouts/don’t like self-checkout Poor layout/store organization More variety Better customer service Better produce Too crowded Not enough sales/promotions Better loyalty program Better parking Cleanliness Better meat section Better prepared foods 18% 15% 11% 11% 7% 6% 6% 6% 3% 3% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% Having more reasonable everyday prices. I wish they would bring the cashiers back as they have gone to self-checkout. I really miss the personal touches. Checkout is often very busy and is the worst part of the shopping experience.
% Look at digital flyers before heading to the store
% Look at flyers in the mail before heading to the store Before shopping trip +5pts
% Pick up a flyer in-store to look at 12% Look at digital flyer on phone in-store
% I don’t use flyers Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year During shopping trip +3pts In their own words Sale items are not always available.

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Locking in loyalty

Reward programs that allow shoppers to redeem points on groceries are most popular.

for those shoppers enrolled and actively participating in a loyalty program, the most important feature is the ability to redeem reward points on groceries (69%). Other popular features are exclusive discounts for loyalty program members (40%) and cash back (35%). It’s worth noting that Quebec shoppers value cash back more than shoppers in the rest of Canada, with 55% deeming it the most valuable feature.

Of course, loyalty programs don’t appeal to everyone. Reasons shoppers gave for not being interested in a store’s program are: requires too many purchases to earn rewards/points (22%); the rewards/points/discounts are not valuable (20%); requires signing up for a credit card (19%); and they already belong to too many loyalty programs (16%). Bottom line: holdouts need to be persuaded there’s substantial value to be gained by the loyalty program before they’ll consider joining.


It’s no surprise that Canadians continue to rely, overwhelmingly, on physical stores to procure their groceries. In fact,

Bricks and clicks

Shopping patterns remain consistent with last year with the majority of trips taking place

97% of those surveyed indicated they had shopped in the store in the past month, a figure that has not budged over the past three years of the study. Looking at the online options available, the survey revealed that curbside pickup and in-person delivery were neck-in-neck with each accounting for 4% of shopping “trips” in the past month.

When we asked shoppers how they think they’ll shop in the year ahead, most respondents (76%) said they expect to shop for groceries in-store at a similar level as they do today, with 19% saying they expect to shop in-store more often. Online shoppers also anticipate maintaining similar online behaviours in 2023. A bright spot for grocers is that satisfaction remains relatively high for online grocery shopping, with 89% of shoppers in this space claiming some level of satisfaction. For the 11% not happy with the experience, the biggest peeves are high fees (42%, up 9% from last year), outof-stocks (41%) and dissatisfaction with product substitutions (27%). On a more positive note, fewer of these shoppers (15% vs. 23% a year ago) said their order was picked incorrectly.

Looking ahead, most expect to shop for groceries in-store at a similar rate; online shoppers have increased confidence that they will maintain their online shopping habits this year.

February 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 27
Shopper research
Reward points for redemption on groceries Exclusive discounts/sales for loyalty program member only Cash back Personalized offers Credit card tie-in with loyalty program to earn extra reward points or cash back Mobile app (e.g. to view points, scan loyalty card, view special offers, etc.) Reward points for redemption on items from rewards catalogue Other 69% 40% 35% 31% 27% 24% 23% 2%
the store.
88% Shopping in-store 4% Buy online for curbside pickup 4% Buy online for in-person delivery 3% Buy online for contactless delivery 2% Buy online for in-store pickup Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year More About the same Less Will not stop this way 19% 7% 5% 7% 6% 32% 32% 34% 32% 6% 7% 8% 6% 76% 5% 1% 55% 56% 52% 56% -6pts +4pts +5pts +5pts More people planning to shop this way in the future Features of loyalty program most valuable to shoppers Average % of shopping trips where purchase method was used in past month

Shopper research

Shopping behaviour today and tomorrow

Shoppers have shifted to more conservative shopping habits vs. last year, and expect to carry these habits forward in 2023 (more planning, less browsing, more stock-ups).

Coping with inflation

More than three-quarters of shoppers have changed their shopping behaviour in some way to cope with inflation; the most popular strategies are buying items on clearance and making fewer impulse purchases.

Buying items on reduced price/clearance

Buying fewer impulse items

Buying more private-label products

Shopping more often at discount grocery stores

Buying fewer prepared foods

Buying fewer fresh produce items

Buying cheaper animal proteins

Private label powers up


Given the economic pressures Canadians are contending with, it stands to reason that they’re demonstrating more conservative shopping behaviours compared to last year. In fact, more shoppers report they’re planning their trips to the store, they’re stocking up, are spending less time browsing the aisles and are less inclined to add impulse items to their baskets. Shoppers also expect they’ll maintain these habits through 2023.

To cope with high costs, shoppers also appear to be leaning into home cooking and flexible meal plans to manage their food budgets. The survey revealed 57% of shoppers are cooking more from scratch, up 11% from last year, with 59% anticipating they’ll continue to do so. Perhaps another sign of the times is the growing popularity of private label; according to the survey, more shoppers (32% vs. 21% a year ago) say they’re buying store brands and predict they’ll buy them at a similar level going forward. The top reasons shoppers give for purchasing private label are to save money (76% compared to 69% last year) and they feel the quality of these items is similar to name brands.

|| February 2023
Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year
Just get a few needed items 50% 40% 48% 53% 41% 51% 32% 32% 29% 32% 35% 30% 18% 28% 23% 15% 24% 19% +7pts +7pts +11pts +11pts +9pts +14pts -6pts -6pts -5pts -5pts -9pts -10pts -9pts -5pts
Agree more with the statement on left Neutral Agree more with statement on right
and out of store quickly
shopper buyer
the store
Other Have not changed my grocery shopping behaviour due to rising prices/inflation 51% 48% 35% 32% 29% 25% 24% 24% 10% 2% 21%
Buying bulk packs Buying more plant proteins
Boomers (26%) significantly more likely vs. millennials and gen-Xers to indicate unchanged shopping
are increasingly turning to store brands for cost savings. Always/often 49% Sometimes 40% Rarely/never 9% Don’t know/not sure 2% +5pts To save money/ less expensive Feel quality is similar to name brand Store brand product is better than name brand Preferred name brand was out-of-stock Unique store brand product/there is not a name brand option Other 76% 53% 14% 14% 13% 2% +7pts More 32% Fewer 5% About the same 63% Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year Reasons for purchasing private label Change in purchase frequency of private label Purchase frequency of private label Today Predicted


Canadians continue to load up on fresh with 86% of shoppers purchasing dairy and fresh produce in the past month, with nearly three-quarters reporting to have added fresh meat and seafood to their carts, consistent with last year. Notable shifts were observed in frozen foods with significantly more shoppers buying them this year (63% vs. 58%) as well as confectionery (51% vs. 31%) and prepared foods (42% vs. 34%) indicating, perhaps, that shoppers are turning

What’s on the list?

to affordable luxuries in tough times. Among the non-edible products purchased at grocery stores, paper products remain the most purchased items, however, over-the-counter medications and pet supplies saw the biggest increases over last year at 32% (up 6%) and 17% (up 5%), respectively.

On average, Canadian shoppers reported spending about $112 on their most recent grocery trip, up slightly from $109 a year ago. When asked about changes they’ve

Significant growth in purchases of frozen foods, confectionery and prepared foods vs. last year.

made to cope with inflation, more than three-quarters indicated they’ve adjusted their shopping habits in some way. Among the top strategies used by shoppers: buying clearance items, fewer impulse items, more private label, and shopping more frequently at discount grocery stores. Looking at it through a generational lens, the survey revealed that boomers are significantly more likely than millennials and generation-Xers to report no changes to their shopping habits.

The enduring shopping list

Two-thirds of shoppers still rely on a core shopping list, but don’t necessarily stick to it.


Make a list and make additional purchases


Do not make a list, but have a rough idea of what to purchase


Make a list and only purchase what is on the list


Do not make a list and decide what to buy while at the store







Beauty products





Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year

February 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 29
Dairy Fresh produce Bread/bakery Fresh meat/seafood Salty snacks Frozen foods (excl. desserts) Shelf-stable grains (pasta, rice) Cereal Coffee Cooking fats (oil, butter) Pop Deli meat Baking supplies Confectionery Canned vegetables/fruits Frozen desserts Prepared foods
care products
and household sanitizing
supplies (excluding food)
of the above 86% 86% 81% 72% 70% 63% 61% 60% 58% 54% 52% 52% 51% 51% 49% 46% 42% 61% 53% 53% 41% 32% 29% 19% 17% 11% 8% 8% 7% 5% 12% +5pts +20pts +6pts +5pts +8pts -7pts -14pts
Diapers/baby supplies None
Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year
Among non-food grocery categories, OTC medication and pet supplies are up significantly vs. last year.

Shopper satisfaction with grocery store services

Trial of grocery ordering and payment tech is up significantly vs. last year; self-checkout remains the most commonly used and has the highest satisfaction level.

Shopper research


Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Canadian shoppers consider themselves health-conscious, a figure that has remained unchanged from last year. As grocers seek to be a destination for shoppers’ health and wellness needs, an encouraging sign is that most shoppers indicate some level of satisfaction with their store’s healthy offerings, with just 10% expressing dissatisfaction. It’s also worth noting that of those shoppers that identified plant-based as an area of interest, 24% said they were not pleased with the plant-based food and beverages available at their store.


Two-thirds of shoppers indicate they are somewhat likely to switch to a more sustainable grocery store; however, of potential switchers, nearly half are not willing to pay more for sustainability.

The health of the planet is also a priority for many shoppers and the survey found that sentiments around sustainability are consistent with last year, with two-thirds of respondents indicating they would consider switching to a more sustainable grocery store. Of these shoppers, however, nearly half (48%) said they’re not willing to pay more for a more sustainable shop, while 41% indicated they’d be willing to pay “a bit” more.


Local connection

Local product purchase habits remain consistent, and shoppers are more inclined to say they buy local because they perceive the quality of these items to be superior.

The health-focused shopper

Almost three-quarters of shoppers consider themselves health-conscious; of these, nine in 10 are satisfied with the healthy offerings at grocery stores.

agree with the statement: “I am health-conscious”


February 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 31
Self-checkout at register Mobile coupon/discount Home delivery Order online, pickup curbside Mobile payment app Order online, pickup in store Self-checkout with moblie app Satisfaction with using service at grocery store % very satisfied % have tried service at grocery store 63% 82% 60% 46% 59% 34% 56% 35% 53% 32% 52% 31% 51% 32% Satisfaction
selection of healthy foods at grocery stores
services vs.
and boomers
more likely to have tried
90% 64% +6pts +10pts +6pts +7pts +5pts +10pts Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last
73% of
34% Always/often 39% Sometimes 44% Rarely/never 9% Don’t know 8% Somewhat satisfied 56% Not very/not satisfied at all 10% Extremely/very likely 19% Somewhat likely 45% Not very/not at all likely 36% 48% Not willing to pay more 26% More 41% Willing to pay a bit more 10% Willing to pay somewhat more 69% About the same 1% Willing to pay a lot more 5% Less +3pts -5pts +12pts Want to support local business Feel they are better quality (e.g. fresher, tastes better) More sustatinable/better for the environment Cheaper More unique Other 63% 56% 38% 23% 20% 2% Purchase frequency of local products Reasons for purchasing local Change in purchase frequency of local products
Statistically significantly
at the 95% confidence level vs. last year Extremely/very satisfied


Grocers have been investing heavily in prepared foods for several years, but do shoppers have an appetite for the fare being served up? It seems they do. According to the survey, 63% of shoppers purchased prepared food at the grocery store in the past month and they purchased it, on average, 2.1 times. Compared to gen-Xers and boomers, millennials have an even more robust appetite for prepared food at grocery stores, purchasing it 3.3 times a month. Among those who didn’t grab any prepared foods, the reasons given were that “it’s too expensive” (49% vs. 37% a year ago) and that they “prefer home cooking” (44%). When considering purchasing prepared food, price is the most important factor for 67% of shoppers (up from 58% a year ago).

When it comes to preferences, shoppers are equally split between prepared food types with 38% preferring graband-go refrigerated items and 37% opting for made-to-order fare. Twenty-five per cent have no preference. And while most consume prepared food at home, a notable shift is occurring with more shoppers reporting eating these meals at away-from-home locations, notably at work and in the store, reflecting a return to normal routines as Canadians move out of the pandemic era.

In their search for quick and easy ways to get meals on the table, shoppers expressed a healthy interest in meal kits. Almost half (48%) indicated they’d be extremely/very or somewhat likely to purchase meal kits if their store offered more of these solutions. However, almost one-third of shoppers aren’t aware if their primary grocery store even offers meal kits, so there’s an opportunity for grocers to up their game in this area and win more share of stomach. Food for thought! CG

Overview & Methodology

Survey sample: 1,000 grocery shoppers Respondents were required to be age 18+, reside in Canada, shop at grocery stores at least once a month and are the primary or shared decision-maker for household grocery shopping

• Quotas were established by province/ territory to accurately represent the population distribution of Canada

Sizing up prepared foods at grocery

Prepared food was purchased by nearly two-thirds of shoppers; however, barriers include cost and a preference for home cooking.


Purchased prepared food at grocery in the past month


Average prepared food purchase occasions in the past month

Reasons for not buying prepared food

Too expensive

Prefer not to purchase/ prefer to cook or prepare at home

Didn’t plan to purchase prepared food

Didn’t like the selection

Didn’t look appetizing


In their own words

Top considerations when purchasing prepared foods

Price has jumped in importance, while quality, freshness and taste remain the top factors (though the importance of freshness has declined vs. last year).

Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs. last year

Quality perception of prepared foods

Casual dining and fast-casual food quality perceptions vs. grocery are growing; in contrast, c-store food perceptions are declining.

32 CANADIAN GROCER || February 2023
Shopper research
hungry in-store
healthy food choices Other 49% 44% 35% 10% 7% 5% 5% 8% Disappointing flavour. Almost always. Not available at my store. Only buy kosher, which is not available where I shop.
Price/value Food quality Freshness Taste Portion Size Convenience/on-the-go Menu choices Sanitation Location Availability of healthier options 67% 55% 51% 50% 23% 20% 15% 12% 9% 8%
boomers +9pts -7pts
Millennials have significantly lower expectations for
(42%) and
Casual dining Fast casual Fast food Convenience store
last year Better than grocery Similar Worse than grocery 51% 39% 40% 47% 32% 47% 14% 40% 10% 12% 22% 45% +10pts +8pts +17pts -10pts -8pts
Statistically significantly higher/lower at the 95% confidence level vs.
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Helping to Feed Hungry Tummies


THE UNCERTAINTY of the last few years has left most of us eager to regain control of our lives—and a key part of that is taking charge of our health. According to a recent survey of more than 11,000 consumers in 16 countries, including Canada, a majority of consumers consider health and fitness an “essential” part of their lives. Even though 66% of respondents to the survey—conducted by global professional services firm Accenture—said they feel financially squeezed, 80% intend to maintain or increase their

spend on health and fitness in 2023, whether that be via vitamins, supplements or exercise classes.

“For grocery, [health and wellness] used to be in that nice to have space and now it’s a need to have,” says Krystal Register, senior director, health and well-being at the Food Industry Association (FMI) That the average grocery store is already teeming with nutritious foods and beverages makes it an ideal destination for all these health and wellness-minded consumers, she says. With some grocers also having

In their quest for optimal health and wellness, Canadians are turning, increasingly, to grocers

Health and wellness

registered dietitians available to provide nutrition advice and guidance in-store and online, she says the grocery store is the “perfect place” to spotlight the role food can play in preventing disease and improving health. “I love a good end-cap with a new health product or a combination of things I may not have put together,” says Register. “These days it’s about how retailers can be a solution for health.”

Changing perspectives on health

As a registered dietitian herself, Register says it’s “music to my ears” to discover that the latest trends show consumers taking a more relaxed and sustainable approach to healthy eating, which she believes is more beneficial to long-term health. Shoppers are still placing more importance on eating well, but the latest research from FMI’s 2022 report, The Power of Health and Well-Being in the Food Industry, shows they’re streamlining their approach with fewer fad diets and less focus on specific product health claims. “They’re still looking for low-sugar, low-sodium and those kinds of things, but it looks like they’re relying more on trusted brands and overall product narrative rather than strictly looking at nutrient or health claims,” she explains. “This more generalized approach opens up the whole grocery store to meal solutions that would appeal to a broader audience.”

As we continue to feel the crunch of rising inflation, Register says grocery shoppers will also be looking for affordable ways to eat more healthily at home. “That can add up to a reliance on private brands, which need to be providing meal prep options for home that translate into quality and savings,” she says.

Given rising food costs, Shelley Balanko, senior vice-president at The Hartman Group, expects consumers will stick to the tried and true. “If something is new, they will double down on research and look for guidance and assurance from their retailer or social network because they can’t afford to be disappointed,” she says. “So yes, they will be a little more cautious and conservative when it comes to health and wellness spending.”

Balanko says grocers can help provide that assurance by offering in-store product literature, vetted and curated products, and expert advice—be that from onsite dietitians, nutritionists or staff who are well-versed and able to make recommendations. She points to online retailer Thrive Market as doing an admirable job in curating a robust collection of health and wellness products, and making it easy for shoppers to make purchases based on attributes or food philosophies and diet.

“In store, it should be very clear to the consumer that a retailer has a strong stand on health and wellness that is reflected through their assortment of products … and in terms of how they train their staff or provide additional experts,” says Balanko. “Our feeling is that those retailers will fare better, especially

at this time of economic uncertainty where consumers want to continue with their health and wellness objectives but are less willing to experiment.”

At Community Natural Foods (CNF), a subsidiary of Calgary Co-op, every team member takes part in a weekly training session to ensure they are up to speed on the latest products and supplements geared to health and wellness. “We have people who come in and say, ‘this is the health issue I’m having today’ so we have a full-service department in our wellness section with great staff who are full of knowledge and passion,” says Matt Penner, CNF’s category management lead. “Our customer patterns have shown us that the more customers could engage with [staff] the more they wanted to.”

The natural and organic foods grocer offers regular webinars and in-store programs on topics such as cardiovascular care, pain management and how to improve fertility through diet and natural supplements. “We had a successful CNF Sugar Detox program this January and a record-number of signups for that,” says Penner. In addition to five virtual education sessions hosted by a functional nutrition consultant, shoppers were given downloadable food lists, recipes, planning guides and exclusive product discounts/giveaways, as well as coaching support via email. Participants could also book free personal in-store shopping tours to learn about no and lowsugar food options.

More information-savvy shoppers

As health and wellness becomes more mainstream, the average grocery shopper is proving to be more health savvy than ever before. “Now, customers understand what artificial flavours and colours are and what organic growing means,” says Penner. “A decade ago, this certainly wasn’t the case.”

Nicole Ensoll, registered holistic nutritionist at Nature’s Emporium—a chain of health food markets in the Greater Toronto Area—says she’s also seen a marked increase post-pandemic in the number of shoppers looking to take a more active, preventative approach to health and wellness.

“They’re not just thinking about how to support their immune health with proper nutrition, they’re very cognizant of how gut health, for example, plays a role,” she says, pointing to products like bone broth and probiotics gaining favour, as well as licorice root to help repair intestinal lining. She says the same applies to customer interest in adaptogens—herbs and plants such as ashwagandha that can help rebalance the body after periods of stress. “I think people are also realizing their health is individual so they’re looking to find what makes them feel best.” Pets are no exception either, she says, noting an increasing number of pet owners who are purchasing natural supplements and healthy options for their animals.

While there are always experienced staff (including registered nurses) on hand to answer questions,

February 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 35

Health and wellness

Nature’s Emporium customers are encouraged to fill out an online form to book a free one-hour store tour for a more curated experience. “That way we can be fully prepared for what they’re looking for specifically and have the handouts and takeaways available for them,” says Ensoll.

A focus on mental wellness, too

In addressing customers’ health and wellness needs post-pandemic at the grocery store, analysts say mental wellness has to be a key consideration also. According to the 2021 NielsenIQ Global Health & Wellness report, one in three consumers surveyed across the globe reported that COVID -19 had a negative impact on their mental health, so brands that were focused on improving mental health saw stronger growth than those that didn’t. “We anticipate a continued interest in aging gracefully versus anti-aging, as by 2060, 40% of the population will be age 50+,” says Sherry Frey, health & wellness industry leader at NielsenIQ. “As the boomers continue to age, they continue to redefine what wellness looks

like, bringing to the conversation previously taboo topics like menopause and increasing an emphasis on mental wellness and brain acuity.”

Consumers’ interest in “brain health and staying sharp” is certainly growing, agrees Joel Gregoire, associate director of food and drink at Mintel in Canada. Based on the findings of Mintel’s 2023 Global Food and Drink Trends report, he says consumers will be looking for food and beverages that can influence cognitive capacity, manage stress and optimize brain function. That means we can expect to see brands promoting brain boosts from energizing ingredients such as caffeine, as well as from fruit, vegetables and legumes.

Gregoire also points to growing consumer interest in small moments of indulgence to offset stressful times. “We’ve all gone through a number of health trials over the last few years, so how can grocers find new ways to promote pleasurable moments at home through food and drink,” he explains. “Consumers are now saying it’s OK to indulge from time to time and they see that as a part of being healthy.” CG


Making the case for health guidance in the grocery store

WITH GROWING EVIDENCE LINKING healthy diet to disease prevention and management—and the growing trend towards home cooking brought on by the pandemic—it’s not surprising that more and more consumers are purchasing specific fruits, vegetables and whole foods that they associate with delivering health benefits, say industry analysts. “The pandemic really shone a spotlight on comorbidities (heart disease, diabetes, obesity) and we see consumers continuing to focus on improving those ailments both through leveraging food as medicine and also through vitamins and supplementation,” says NielsenIQ’s Sherry Frey.

The benefits aren’t solely for grocery shoppers either, with 65% of supermarket retailers saying health and well-being programs and activities are key drivers in making them a one-stop healthcare resource. Almost the same (64%) also noted that shoppers’ focus on health and well-being had positively impacted their sales and profits the year prior, according to FMI’s 2022 The Power of Health report.

FMI’s research shows registered dietitians (RDs) are playing a key role in helping deliver these programs, with 65% of U.S. food retailers employing RDs in a corporate role and 31% in-store/virtual. In turn, shoppers reported that

RDs, their primary food store and grocery store pharmacists, were on their side when it came to helping them stay healthy.

A first-of-its kind clinical study released in 2022, showed that in-aisle teaching with an RD at a Kroger supermarket significantly improved shoppers’ adherence to a heart-healthy diet. When paired with education on how to use online shopping technologies and nutrition guides, adherence improved even further.

Several major Canadian grocery chains are also implementing digital tools that guide consumers in making healthier food choices— and build customer loyalty in the process.

Loblaw customers across Canada using the free PC Health app receive personalized recommendations for digital tools and support catered to their own health needs, including access to live chats with a registered nurse and dietitian. The plan is to keep expanding the app’s capabilities by adding integrated wearable devices and a digital pharmacy.

In 2021, Metro launched the My Health My Choices program in all its stores in Ontario and Quebec, which allows customers to easily locate attributes on shelf products that meet their dietary preferences or restrictions. Shoppers can also filter their preferred

attributes (among more than 50 options) within the online flyer or when building their online grocery carts. “In 2022, we launched the ‘no sugar added’ attribute, which is now the most popular one among our consumers, according to a survey of 600 users of the guide,” says Martin Turcotte, vice-president, merchandising, grocery at Metro.

This year, Metro is adding four new attributes based on customer demand geared to digestion, cardio, appetite and bones. “Comparing one product to another using nutritional information and the list of ingredients can sometimes be difficult for customers,” says Turcotte. “Our goal is to make healthy eating accessible to everyone by democratizing the analysis of this information.”

Midwest U.S. grocery chain Schnuck Markets has taken food analysis a step further with a free program called “Good For You” that tallies up the healthy products grocery patrons buy right on their receipts (based on the latest American dietary guidelines, recommedations from the American Heart Association and others), making suggestions for product swaps and offering coupons for future food discounts. Program participants also receive reports each month on whether they are making progress in buying healthier foods.

36 CANADIAN GROCER || February 2023


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thinking appetite for innovation

TECHNOLOGY IS taking over the dinner table, and it’s not about the kids being distracted by cellphones. As the global population rises (it could reach nearly 10 billion people by 2050) and pressure on the Earth’s resources grows, food-tech innovation is becoming more abundant. In Canada and globally, food-tech companies are developing new products, improving processing and extending the shelf life of food to help solve the world’s sustainability challenges. For those working in the sector, these are exciting times indeed.

“It’s a golden age of food science and technology,” says Dana McCauley, chief experience officer at Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) . “We’re in a new industrial revolution and my prediction is that 100 years from now, this time will be viewed as an important milestone.”

For McCauley, part of what’s driving food-tech innovation are today’s digital natives who grew up with the internet and have great business ideas, an understanding of technology’s potential, and a wellspring of creativity. “The maturity and

From AI-powered food waste solutions to lab-grown meat, food-system technologies look to address some of the planet’s big problems
Generation Next

Generation Next thinking

sophistication of this amazing workforce, along with maturing of technology and infrastructure, is driving a lot of innovation,” she says, adding “and then there are the huge societal problems people want to solve.”

Not every new food technology will make it to the table (consumer response to pulverized crickets was, well, crickets). But several developments are worth watching. Here’s a look at a few food technologies poised to shape dinner plates in the future.


A decade ago, the world’s first lab-grown beef burger grabbed headlines, not least for its US$330,000 price tag. The patty, developed by Dutch scientist Mark Post, was made by growing more than 20,000 small strips of muscle from bovine stem cells. The burger was cooked and eaten at a news conference in London, England, with mixed reviews. But the point was this: meat can be made without slaughtering animals.

Lab-grown meat (also called cell-based, cultivated or cultured meat) has come a long way since then. For starters, companies have been able to reduce production costs by 99%, according to a McKinsey & Company report titled, Cultivated meat: out of the lab, into the frying pan. On the regulatory front, Singapore was the first country to approve the product for retail sale. Last November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared its first-ever cultivated meat product (chicken breast developed by California-based Upside Foods) as safe for human consumption. Mintel estimates cultivated meat will be a US$25 billion global market by 2030.

While eating meat born in a Petri dish may address environmental and ethical issues related to livestock production, one could argue people should just eat less meat. But, as with a lot of things, old habits die hard.

“I’ve been in food research for 15 years and the one truism is eating habits are tremendously hard to change,” says Joel Gregoire, associate director, food and drink, at Mintel. “I don’t see people globally eating less meat, so the question is how to change the way we produce meat.”

Gregoire believes cultivated meat can be “a transformative innovation in the food space,” as it helps address sustainability challenges. “Technology has the potential to have a profound impact in making sure we have a reliable food source, without changing a lot of habits people have and having less impact on the planet,” he says.

Promising as it may be, cultivated meat has big barriers to overcome before it hits the mainstream, including technical, regulatory and scale issues. But perhaps the biggest one is the ick factor consumers associate with these products. The Hartman Group’s Food & Technology 2023 report notes that cultured meat “both fascinates and repulses people,” with 45% of U.S. consumers surveyed indicating the top barrier to trying cultured meat products is they don’t taste good.

“There is nothing familiar to consumers about cellular agriculture, and there’s the question: what are these products made from?” says Shelley Balanko, senior vice-president at The Hartman Group. For companies in this space, she adds,

communicating that real animal cells are the foundation of cultivated products would be a helpful bridge.

“Consumers would understand these companies aren’t creating something out of thin air, but rather it does have roots in a real animal, in a natural entity,” Balanko says. “But [cultivated meat] is one of those further-out innovations and it will take a lot of effort on the part of those companies to communicate familiarity and underscore the lack of risk. In addition, it will likely take a lot of third-party certification and assurances around safety for this to be fully embraced.”


Lab-grown meat isn’t the only cell-based product under the microscope: lab-grown plants are another emerging alternative.

“It’s not crazy to think there is a time in the foreseeable future when we would be able to make cocoa, vanilla and coffee [in Canada] and not have to import them,” says CFIN’s McCauley. “We could reduce food miles and have a domestic supply of those kinds of foods by using cellular agriculture.”

Cult Food Science, a B.C.-based investment company focused on cellular agriculture, is an early mover in this space.

The company recently launched its Cult Food Division to develop and commercialize cell-based products in collaboration with affiliate companies. Cult Food Division is launching two products: Zero Coffee, a sparkling coffee beverage made with cell-based coffee, and Free Canada, a “performance gummy” made with cell-based collagen. Both products are meant to be sustainable alternatives without negative impacts on animals and the environment.

“Food is not just being impacted by climate change, it also adds to it,” says Lejjy Gafour, CEO of Cult Food Science. “The way we have produced food historically is now becoming fragile. Zoonotic diseases, loss of land, overuse of water— these are all impacts of increasing environmental effects on our food production. We have to work towards a more resilient food system. And cellular agriculture has the potential to produce food sustainably as we head towards an uncertain future.”

The potential isn’t limited to replicating products, but incorporating cell-based ingredients into other products. “Many products include individual ingredients that are traditionally animal derived that can now be replaced by cell-based components,” explains Gafour.

While cell-based products won’t hit the mainstream overnight—the industry, overall, is focused on scaling production—Gafour is optimistic about the future of food. “Every 1% of change we can affect by making more sustainable options available for consumers adds up,” he says.


Another area of progress in the plant world is vertical farming. This indoor farming technology grows crops in vertical layers in controlled environments—and it’s popping up in grocery stores. In 2020, for example, Empire partnered with German-based Infarm to bring in-store farming units to select stores. The partnership was later expanded, with Infarm supplying produce

40 CANADIAN GROCER || February 2023
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from its own growing centres to more than 1,000 Sobeys stores.

Infarm’s latest development shows vertical farming’s potential beyond fresh produce. In a recent trial, Infarm says it became the first vertical farm to successfully grow wheat indoors, using no soil, no chemical pesticides and much less water than open field farming.

Guelph, Ont.-based GoodLeaf Farms recently raised $150 million in capital to fuel its vertical-farm expansion into Eastern and Western Canada. The company plans to build farms in Calgary and Montreal, in addition to its existing fully automated 50,000-sq.-ft. farm in Guelph where it produces microgreens and baby greens year-round. GoodLeaf’s farms are free of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, and use less than 5% of the water required in open field farming, according to the company.

Jo-Ann McArthur, president of Nourish Food Marketing, believes vertical farms will be a big part of Canada’s food sovereignty. “We still import a lot of produce, especially from California, which faces droughts and floods,” McArthur says. “We need to reduce our reliance on that and vertical farming is definitely starting to fill that hole.”

And, compared to lab-grown meat, vertical farming is more accessible to consumers. “It’s something consumers can get their heads around and are behind,” McArthur says. “Consumers like the fact that it’s local, it’s year round and it’s reliable, so [vertical farms] make sense.”

The Hartman Group’s Balanko agrees. “Field and kitchen innovations, including vertical farming, tend to be a bit easier to accept because the link between ‘natural,’ conventional food production is that much closer,” she says. “Familiarity is one of the key ways in which consumers are evaluating any new food tech. If it’s familiar or has a direct link to something that is familiar, it’s easier to accept.”

That’s not to say consumers are digging into vertical farms. In The Hartman Group survey, 48% of consumers said the main barrier to trying food and beverages from vertical or hydroponic farms is that they’re too expensive. That was followed by “don’t taste good,” at 45%.

With any food technology, Balanko says, “we have to remember that this is food—and consumers want their food and beverages to taste good.” Products will have to be at least on par in taste and texture, if not superior, for consumers to adopt them. “When consumers are shelling out their hard-earned dollars [for food], it has to taste great, it has to be safe and it has to deliver a personal benefit, like health,” she says.


The irony in the conversation about feeding the growing planet is that a whopping one-third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted. That’s not lost on a number of innovative companies that are using technology to help solve the food-waste crisis.

Epic IO, a South Carolina-based tech company specializing in artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT), has developed a biosecurity solution to help extend the shelf life of fresh foods and reduce spoilage. Typically, farmers and food processors rely on refrigeration to inhibit the growth of microbes

or use chemicals to kill them in cold storage and transport. Epic IO’s automated solution modifies the atmosphere with carefully timed micro-doses of FDA-approved ozone and ultraviolet irradiation. Fully autonomous, the solution transforms the air into a disinfectant that destroys bacteria, fungi and viruses.

“The benefit of killing that bacteria and fungus early in the process is that you naturally have far less food waste,” says Ken Mills, CEO of Epic IO. He says the company is looking at its solution across the food chain, from the farm to the distribution centre to the grocery store. In a test phase, for example, the company worked with hatcheries to kill harmful E. coli on eggs, as well as with fresh produce suppliers to kill pathogens during transport.

“We want to make sure that a high percentage of quality food makes it to the grocer, and once the grocer receives that food, we want to make sure the health, wellness and longevity is maintained throughout the shelf life before it hits the table,” Mills says.

Trendi is a Canadian company with an innovative approach to food waste. Based in Burnaby, B.C., the startup’s mission is to rescue “misfit” fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste and upcycle them into shelf-stable products.

Trendi has developed robotic, mobile processing units that go directly to farms and food processors. The units use various processing technologies to create powders or flakes that can be used as ingredients in a range of applications, including food and beverage, pet food and cosmetics.

“We’re thinking about what’s possible and we’re thinking into the future as we work to eliminate food waste at its source,” says Christine Couvelier, president of Trendi, whose 40-year career spans roles as an executive chef, culinary executive and global culinary trendologist. According to Trendi, the powder and flakes are about one-tenth the original weight and size and retain up to 97% of their original nutrients, flavours and colours. “Tomatoes are a great example: When I’m holding the tomato powder, I’m standing in nonna’s garden, without question,” says Couvelier. “It is incredibly colourful, flavourful and vibrant.”

With the powders, manufacturers can reduce their environmental footprint and reduce costs. “You’re shipping truckloads of tomatoes—a perishable product—to your manufacturing facilities, you’re shipping water and you’re shipping weight,” explains Couvelier. In contrast, Trendi powders are lighter, so shipping costs are reduced, and the product is shelf-stable.

Manufacturers can use the powders to create products and communicate that rescued food story to customers. That story, says Couvelier, “can be told on their products, proudly stating the company makes their products from rescued fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to landfill.”

For Couvelier, too, these are exciting times for food tech, but there’s also a sense of urgency. “We have so much food and yet we can’t feed everyone,” she says. “This is a tipping point. We must make a difference now.” CG

Generation Next Thinking is an ongoing series that explores the cutting- edge topics that are impacting grocery retail today and in the future.

42 CANADIAN GROCER || February 2023
“We have so much food and yet we can’t feed everyone. This is a tipping point. We must make a difference now”
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In Canada, sauce consumption increased by 5% in 2022, egy and understanding at Ipsos Canada. Much of the growth came from marinades and hot sauces, which are increasingly

Increased use of sauces is driven by multiple factors that range from growing consumer demand for personalization to more at-home eating—leading people to seek affordable and effective ways to add pizzazz to their meals—as well as Canada’s




Canada welcomed a record 431,000 new permanent residents last year, many from Asia and India. According to Statistics Canada, immigrants could comprise between 29% and 34% of the population by 2041. These consumers are looking to recreate the flavours of their homelands.

“I like to think of the sauce and condiment aisle as a sort of reflection of Canadian society,” says Perrotta. “The way we were—ketchup, mustard, relish—[is markedly different] to the way the population looks today. There are more options to fit simple meal solutions and make the flavours pop.”

Enter Vancouver’s Naked & Saucy, a company that specializes in soy-free versions of teriyaki, sweet Thai chili and vegan oyster sauce. Founder and CEO Paul Gill says the steady rise of Canada’s ethnic population has been a major contributor to the company’s growth.

Created nearly 10 years ago when Gill was looking for an alternative for his nephew, who had a soy allergy, Naked & Saucy’s lineup now includes seven sauces. The company’s products are available at more than 3,000 grocery stores across the country and Gill expects sales to hit about $4 million this year, up from $1.5 million two years ago.

Naked & Saucy has plans to introduce a line of ethnic simmer sauces that will include a butterless chicken, vindaloo, and both Japanese and Thai curry sauces. Also in the works is a line of four organic dressings that will bring the company’s product roster to 15 sauces/dressings.

“We’ve grown by a ridiculous amount,” says Gill of the brand’s success. Ethnic sauces, he adds, have been “blowing up” for the past couple of years. “The continuing multicultural makeup of the country is definitely driving demand.”


Digs Dorfman, CEO of Toronto organic grocer The Sweet Potato, says sauces and condiments are selling between 10% to 12% better than they were a few years ago. He attributes the newfound popularity of natural and organic sauces, specifically, to vastly improved flavour. “I remember how terrible the organic ketchup we used to have was,” he says, not to mention how expensive it was. “Now, there are several brands on the market that taste amazing and are reasonably priced.”

In recent years there have been a

growing number of options hitting store shelves that cater to specific dietary needs—sugar-free, keto, soy-free, saltfree, gluten-free, vegan, etc. “That stuff has always been around, but there’s a lot more of it coming to market than I’ve ever seen before,” he says.

Dorfman is a huge fan of Nona Vegan, an Ontario company specializing in refrigerated authentic Italian sauces including alfredo and carbonara. “The alfredo sauce tastes so cheesy and creamy it’s hard to believe there’s no dairy in it,” he says.

Mike Longo, chief merchandising officer for Longo’s stores in Ontario, says the sauce and condiment category is “booming,” and its upward trajectory is just beginning. Customers are seeking new flavours to enhance their everyday dining, while also discovering foods from different cultures, he says.

The retailer is also seeing heightened consumer interest in cleaner labels, aligning with a broad-based interest in healthier eating. “Premium sauces are on the rise because they tend to have a cleaner list of ingredients,” says Longo, noting sauce brands such as Fody Foods and Chosen Foods that boast a roster of gut-friendly products.


Another category that Longo says is currently “on fire” is hot sauce. “The rapid increase in popularity has been staggering, and shows no signs of slowing down,” he says. At Longo’s stores, the category’s growth is being driven, in part, by artisan brands such as Mississauga, Ont.’s vegan and keto-friendly Four Fathers, and Toronto’s No Refund. The latter was developed by restaurateur Adam Brown after he grew tired of customers sending back the “suicide” wing sauces he developed for being too hot.

No Refund sauces come in flavours including No Plain Jayne (made with red Scotch bonnet and ghost peppers), 4-Alarm (Scotch bonnet, habanero and pepperoncini peppers) and Adam’s sauce (Scotch bonnet, habanero and bhut jolokia peppers). All of No Refund’s hot sauces feature a cheeky label that reads “Too hot? Too bad.”

Valerie Nolet, senior brand manager with Quebec-based I-D Foods—a distributor of brands such as Patak’s, Tabasco, Nando’s and Rao’s Homemade—says sales of Tabasco Brand Sriracha Sauce quadrupled last year. “We saw a lot of

consumers trying the Tabasco sriracha and potentially not going back to other brands,” says Nolet.

The McIlhenny Company, the Louisiana-based maker of Tabasco, launched an easier to use squeeze bottle format for both its Tabasco Brand Sriracha Sauce and Tabasco Brand Sweet and Spicy Sauce last year. “Even though people tried it and enjoyed the taste, they were unsure of how to use the product,” says Nolet of the decision to introduce a squeeze bottle, which enables users to drizzle the sauce over food rather than dabbing it. The change, she says, “really helped the product.”


It’s not all gravy, however. Last year saw some softness in condiments with yearover-year consumption falling by about 6%. According to Perrotta at Ipsos, the decline is largely attributable to declines in mayonnaise and salad dressings, caused by consumers moving away from the higher-priced grocery items with which they’re typically associated, such as salads and eggs.

Consumers are also swapping out increasingly expensive animal proteins in favour of meals built around cheaper ingredients such as rice and pasta, or one-pot meals requiring less expensive cuts of meat. “[Sauces] are a way of making them more interesting and exciting as a main dish,” says Perrotta. “They can provide uniqueness to kind of a bland, post-food carrier [for example, rice and pasta] and can provide a level of experience and personalization.”

Amar Singh, principal analyst at Kantar, predicts considerable growth for private-label sauces in the coming months as Canadians continue to grapple with higher food prices. “Shoppers throughout 2023 are going to be more cognizant of price and more cautious about the price they’re paying at shelf,” he says.”

While some of the chatter around the grocery industry pre-pandemic was focused on the decline of centre aisles sales—the home of sauces and condiments—Perrotta says they’ve come roaring back as fresh food prices have soared.

“We have to be mindful that there is probably more cost efficiency in the centre of the store than there is in the perimeter: Vegetables, dairy, eggs are where the inflation is happening. People who have rediscovered the pantry and the centre aisles are finding value,” she says.

46 CANADIAN GROCER || February 2023
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Digital is driving consumer habits, but there is still value in the traditional greeting card business

THESE ARE interesting times for the greeting card industry.

Just as we started to feel like we were getting our heads around how technol ogy and digital were reshaping consumer patterns and behaviours, along came the pandemic that upended nearly every cat egory including greeting cards.

As much of the world tries to return to something approaching normal, some of the pandemic changes seem to be lin gering and intersecting with the larger changes underway before the crisis hit.

To be clear, the greeting card market is not what it once was. Last May, Global Industry Analysts Inc. reported the global greeting card market, estimated at US$15.9 billion in 2022, would drop to about $13.6 billion by 2027.

“The global market for greeting cards is significantly impacted by changing consumer values, ideas, shifting demo graphics and changing technology,” it reported. “With the tech-savvy new gen eration favouring e-cards in place of phys ical greeting cards, the impact has been evident on the greeting cards industry.”

One big assumption is that young people, so called digital natives, aren’t interested in greeting cards, preferring instead to send e-cards or other digital messages. But look closer and you’ll find those who say that’s not entirely true. Many young people today display a rebellious resistance to digital culture, buying vinyl records, polaroid cameras and sending good old fashioned paper greeting cards.

“Greeting cards have a long tradition, and digital greetings just haven’t proven to hold the same value or meaning for consumers,” says Nora Weiser, executive director of the U.S.-based Greeting Card Association. “Millennials, in particular, see value in handcrafted, embellished, unique cards, and they are willing to pay a premium for cards that manage to precisely express their sentiments.”

The idea that young shoppers don’t buy cards anymore is misleading, adds Paul Werynski, vice-president at Carlton Cards.

digital options, people still appreciate tra ditional cards. “Despite more ways than ever to reach out and stay in touch, many people feel less connected than ever,” says Scott Legleiter, sales vice-president - national accounts at Hallmark Canada.

The company’s research shows more than half of consumers believe cards are more meaningful than other forms of communication, about 80% say they enjoy receiving cards and about the same percentage save the cards they get.

So, where does the category go from here? In the short term, the pains of inflation and the threat of a recession will have an impact. “We are also seeing a subtle shift back to more value-oriented products given the current economic and retail landscape,” says Carlton’s Werynski.

Beyond that, changing consumer patterns and behaviours can bring with them new sales opportunities, says Giesler. Everyone knows Canada is becoming a more multicultural country—changing demographics means new “non-traditional” reasons to give cards.

to purely digital or virtual greetings, but might mean focusing on sustainability, crafting fresh messaging, reaching new audiences, or even incorporating a digital element into physical cards or using digital marketing to promote physical cards.”

That’s what Hallmark has done with its Hallmark Video Greetings launched in early 2022. Customers scan a QR code in the physical card and once they’re online they add videos or photos and invite others to join via email or text. Once everyone’s content is submitted, Hallmark stitches it together into one video, which the recipient can view by scanning the QR code.

“It blends the digital and physical connections consumers tell us they want and helps them share their special message with their loved ones through an experiential and immersive, digital and tangible way that can be replayed and revisited for years to come,” says Hallmark’s Legleiter.

An old-fashioned paper greeting card, enhanced by a personal digital message, experienced through one’s smartphone. Interesting times indeed.

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New on shelf!


Following a launch in the United States nearly five years ago, Hope and Sesame Sesamemilk is now available at natural grocery stores across Canada in four flavours: Unsweetened Original, Unsweetened Vanilla, Chocolate Hazelnut and Barista Blend. Sesamemilk maker, the Planting Hope Company, says the milk alternative is “nutritionally comparable to dairy milk” with eight grams of protein per eightounce serving, nine essential amino acids and is an excellent source of vitamin D and calcium.


Designed to ward off hunger pangs and to satisfy the sweet tooth, Mid-Day Squares Cookie Dough joins the line of low-sugar, plant-based protein squares that already includes Peanut Butta and Almond Crunch! flavours. Each square contains six grams of protein and four grams of fibre and is topped with chocolate made with Certified Fair Trade Cacao.



Unable to travel during the pandemic and craving authentic Italian flavours, Canadian chef David Rocco created a line of pasta and premium sauces using authentic Italian ingredients and traditional preparation methods. Made in the Puglia region of Southern Italy, the pasta—available in Orecchiette, Strozzapreti, and Fusilli Pugliesi varieties—is slow-dried for 16 hours on wood trays, and the sauces—Pomodoro & Basilico, Arrabbiata, Puttanesca, and Ricotta & Pecorino—are made with fresh Italian tomatoes.


On their own as a snack or as an add-on to a sandwich, Matt & Steve’s Baby Dills in Garlic & Dill and Spicy Dill flavours pack a big crunch and are made with simple ingredients: cucumbers, water, vinegar, salt, garlic, crushed chilies and calcium chloride (a natural mineral that enhances crispness).


Henry’s Tempeh Crumble is a savoury, minimally processed plant-based mince made with organic fermented soybeans that is both high in protein (16 grams per serving) and fibre (eight grams per serving). Vegan and gluten free, the crumble can be sprinkled on pizza and salads, used in tacos and lasagna, and more. CG

The latest products hitting shelves

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5 Aisles

CLICKS AND BRICKS Why the marriage between digital and physical retail

THE UPTICK in online grocery shopping driven by COVID -19 is here to stay. But expectations around the level of service e-grocery provides and how that intersects with brick-and-mortar retail is quickly evolving. We recently chatted with Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer with Publicis Groupe—a multinational advertising and public relations company—about creating the optimal omnichannel experience, the importance of personalization and what grocers should pay attention to when it comes to digital. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

COVID-19 accelerated e-commerce. How has this surge in demand and adoption impacted the grocery industry?

It had a lot of impact. E-commerce grocery exploded during the pandemic, as with all other e-commerce. A lot of other categories regressed to pre-pandemic levels, but grocery is one of the outliers that mostly did not. We’re continuing to see elevated levels of e-commerce purchases in North America for groceries, and that has a pretty profound effect on the ecosystem. When a shopper buys groceries online, impulse purchases become a lot harder. We don’t stand at the cash and stare at the gum or grab a cold drink, we don’t walk by the cookie aisle on the way to the milk. There’s a lot less discovery happening when shopping online. Also, e-commerce grocery is more expensive to the retailer than in-store grocery

shopping because they usually have to provide the labour to pick the goods off the shelf, whereas in the old model the consumer did it. The margins and the profitability are more challenging in digital grocery. You’re seeing a lot of changes to bolster that profitability as a higher percentage of sales are happening online.

You mentioned low margins and profitability. How can grocers maximize the value of each online shopping trip?

The easiest way to improve margins is through better suggestive selling, through better personalization, through better discovery experiences. But, there are also ways to reduce the cost of fulfilling that order and those things are being tackled. The downside of some of those initiatives is they can be capital intensive. You start looking at things like more efficient picking with a micro-fulfilment centre or more efficient software for human pickers that can help reduce the cost of each order, but they’re expensive to acquire and set up.

How can grocers hold onto the digital customers they acquired during the pandemic?

In-store sales are increasing, but we’re not seeing a significant decline in online sales. It turns out those aren’t two different cohorts. It’s the same customer that wants to go in-store sometimes and online other times. The most important thing to hold onto that customer is to have a seamless experience across both platforms. When I’m shopping online

and you’re recommending products to me based on what I bought in the past, you better not just recommend things to me based on what I bought online. You better recommend things to me based on what I bought in your store. Grocers need to mirror the data from both channels to give the customer a better experience.

When customers were forced to use digital during the pandemic, grocers could get away with imperfect shopping experiences. Every online shopper will tell you horror stories of bad product substitutions, but if the alternative to those bad substitutions was risking my life to go to a grocery store, I’m going to live with those bad substitutions. Today, if I get bad substitutions, I’m firing that retailer and trying another retailer—customers are less sticky.

What should grocers pay attention to when it comes to digital?

The two most important things are removing friction—making it easier for an increasingly time-starved family— and, as we move into 2023, providing the best possible value and making customers feel like they’re stretching their grocery budget as far as possible. The grocers that are likely to win in 2023 are the ones that are good at doing both of those things digitally, even when a customer wants to shop in an omnichannel way. CG

is more important than ever
Express Lane

Chapman’s Celebrates 50 Years

Sustainability at Every Step

Community Impact

How family-owned Chapman’s gives back

Making Ice Cream For All
Made by Canadians, for all of us Canadians. Discover our new line at The First Allergy Friendly Super Premium Ice Cream in the World • Made with Natural Flavour and Colour • • Made with 100% Canadian Dairy • • Convenient 500mL size • In Stores This Spring

Celebrating 50 Years at Chapman’s

WhenDavid and Penny Chapman bought an aging creamery in rural Ontario in 1973, they had a singular focus: survival.

The budding entrepreneurs had both worked for a dairy bar in Toronto before deciding to strike out on their own, purchasing The Markdale Creamery (renamed Chapman’s Ice Cream) in its namesake town near Owen Sound. The family – daughter Frances was born in 1973 and son Ashley was born in 1979 – lived above the ice cream plant for the first several years.

“It was tough,” recalls Penny, of those early days. “The creamery was in deplorable shape. There were only four employees and a couple of old trucks, but we had enough to get the business going. And we did everything: Make the ice cream, load the trucks, unload the trucks, do sales calls. But that’s why we came up here: to give it 100%. Perseverance is a real attribute.”

Their perseverance paid off. This year, Chapman’s is celebrating its 50th anniversary and is going strong. The company has grown to become Canada’s largest independent ice cream manufacturer, employing 800 people and producing more than 180 Chapman’s branded frozen treats and 100 private label SKUs at two state-of-the-art production facilities, including premium ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and a range of novelties.

Chapman’s remains very much a family affair: David and Penny still come to work every day (they’re CEO and president, respectively). Ashley, who joined the family business in 2008, is chief operating officer, and his wife, Lesya, is marketing manager.

While they may have been in survival mode at the start, David and Penny held fast to their philosophy to always make the consumer a priority – a key ingredient in Chapman’s success. Out of the gate, Chapman’s produced 15 ice cream flavours in two packaging formats at a time when competitors had just a few varieties. “There’s nothing like giving consumers choices,” says Penny.

Chapman’s is known for its product innovation, and was a pioneer in offering items for people with special dietary needs and allergies. In 1999, Chapman’s made the first nut-free and peanut-free ice cream in Canada. “When my parents made the commitment to do this, there was no roadmap, there was no certification, and there was no governing body that told you about best practices,” says Ashley. “No one else was making peanut-free ice cream, so it was truly pioneering.”

In the mid-90s, Chapman’s became the first manufacturer in North America to release a line of organic ice cream, although it didn’t stick with consumers at the time. “Many times, we have been too far ahead of the curve,” says Penny. “Our organic ice cream was fantastic, but there wasn’t much organic anything in the marketplace. Consumers didn’t understand the increased cost because the ingredients were so much more, so we had to say goodbye to it.”

As Chapman’s reaches the half-century mark, its business – and commitment to Canadians –is stronger than ever

A Look Back

This spring, Chapman’s is launching yet another trailblazing product line: Super Premium Plus, which the company bills as the world’s first allergy-friendly super premium ice cream. The new line, which has eight flavours, is peanut-free, nut-free and egg-free.

We always say, ‘we make ice cream for everyone in Canada,’ but super premium is the one category we’ve never been a player in,” Ashley says. “The global market is dominated by two large-scale manufacturers in the category. Many companies have tried and failed to compete against them, so we needed something to set us apart.”

That’s when Lesya had the idea for the “plus” part: being allergy-friendly. “We thought if we’re going to take on the big players, we need a product that not only has something different about it, but is also a better tasting product than anything else on the market,” says Ashley – a feat he believes the company has achieved.

When it comes to product innovation, being a family-owned and operated business allows Chapman’s to be nimble and make decisions quickly, which is clearly a competitive advantage. While launching new products at a multinational can be a years-long process from start to finish, Ashley says Chapman’s has the ability to just get things done. “Whenever we want to do something, we have a quick meeting and say, ‘this is what we’re going to do, and let’s get started tomorrow.’”

The company’s homegrown roots also give Canadians another reason to love Chapman’s. “It’s very unique to be a family-owned, Canadian company and we employ a lot of people in rural Ontario,” says Penny. “I think Canadians appreciate that and support us because we’re one of them.”

In turn, Chapman’s generously supports the local community, including contributing to infrastructure projects. Among its many initiatives, the company donated $1 million to the new Markdale Hospital; $1 million towards a new palliative care facility in Owen Sound named Chapman House; and donated $2 million to save Markdale’s only elementary school.

As David points out, all of this wouldn’t be possible without the incredible people who work for Chapman’s, some of whom have been with the company for more than 40 years. “We’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve had some great people working for us and that's one of the biggest strengths – our people,” says David. “Without people, you don't have anything – you truly don’t. We really do appreciate that.”

Milestones and moments that shaped Chapman’s and brought the company where it is today



by Penny and David Chapman, in Markdale, Ont.

1980 – Chapman’s starts making Premium ice cream.

1985 – A new line of sorbet (under the name Sorbetto) is developed for people who can’t have dairy

1989 – Chapman’s launches its frozen yogurt line, becoming the only ice cream manufacturer in Canada at the time making frozen yogurt


1994 – Chapman’s ice cream sandwich hits store shelves

1999 – The company makes the first nut-free and peanut-free ice cream in Canada

2000 – Chapman’s builds a high-tech wastewater treatment plant to purify the 800,000 litres of water used daily with a reverse osmosis system added later

2001 – To better serve customers in Atlantic Canada, Chapman’s opens a distribution centre in New Brunswick

2006 – Chapman’s expands to every province in Canada

2008 – Ashley Chapman joins the family business

2009 – Chapman’s suffers a devastating fire that completely destroyed the factory

2010 – Chapman’s builds two new production facilities, one of which, named Phoenix, is completely nut-free and peanut-free, and has more than 160,000 square feet of production space, almost twice the size of the old factory

2015 – The Chapman family donates $1 million towards the construction of a new local hospice in Owen Sound, which opened in 2017

2016 – Chapman’s wins three awards from the International Ice Cream Consortium: Best Ice Cream (for its Premium Caramel Saucy Spots), Most Innovative Ice Cream, and Ice Cream Maker of the Year

2023 – Chapman’s celebrates its 50th anniversary and is launching its Super Premium Plus ice cream

30 seconds with David and Penny Chapman

What are you most proud of?

David: The people who have worked for us over the years and how we’ve supported them over the years.

Penny: What I’m most proud of is getting to do this with my husband, and how that lasted 50 years, I have no idea. Secondly, our family. We have two children, both healthy and moving on in life. That’s the essence of what makes us happy in the heart.

What was your biggest challenge?

Penny: The plant fire in 2009. It took out our whole plant, our offices, and all our records. Seeing that burning – I’m still not over it. But what came out of it just proves the importance of perseverance. It was my husband who said on the day of the fire, ‘we’re going to rebuild.’

David: I remember seeing all the young people who worked for us, along with their children, who had come to the site after the fire. We had to think of them, too, and what they were going to do for employment.

What are the ingredients for success?

Penny: Perseverance and hard work. There was a lot of hard work through the years to make this all happen. And don’t pass off the job to someone else. There was no job that David couldn’t do. He could work in the plant, he could make mix, he could fill packages, he could drive a truck. So don’t be above anything. Just get on with it.

What excites you most about the future of Chapman’s?

David: We’re handing it off to the next generation. It’s very nice to have all the hard work that Penny and I have put into this business carry on into the future. And Ashley is certainly our future.

Penny: It’s exciting because the younger generation looks at things differently. We may end up at the same place, but we get there in different ways.

– Chapman’s Ice is found ed
Made by Canadians, for all of us Canadians! Discover all 15 flavours at A nod to where it all began. The new packaging features the original creamery building in Markdale, ON, 1973. New look, same great taste! EGG free Sans ŒUFS Free GLUTEN • Vertical and horizontal display • Unique “Slice it or Scoop it” format • 100% Canadian Dairy • Real Cream, Always fresh • NEW Egg Free food allergy badge old design

Giving Back in Big Ways

How Chapman’s is making a positive difference in the local community and beyond

Chapman’s is doing a lot more than making frozen treats in Markdale, Ont. The company has a big focus on not only giving back to the community, but also helping to build and sustain it.

In 2000, Chapman’s contributed $1 million towards a new state-of-the-art hospital in Markdale – a donation that grew with interest to close to $2 million before construction finally commenced in 2021.

plans to replace Beavercrest with a brand-new building are in the works, while the original school remains open.

Another major initiative was donating $1 million towards the construction of new palliative care facility in nearby Owen Sound, now called Chapman House.

“That was the fastest million dollars we have ever given out in our lives,” says Ashley. “We knew what hospice was, but until we sat down in our boardroom with palliative care doctors who explained the struggles they have with only partial funding from the government and having to fundraise, while trying to do right by people who are in the last moments of their life, it was very emotional.”

Beyond long-term projects, Chapman’s is also known to respond to needs as they arise, both at home and abroad. In 2020, the company bought two medical-grade deep freezers capable of storing one brand of COVID-19 vaccines. One freezer was used by the local Grey County health unit and the other freezer was shipped to the health unit in Windsor, Ont.

“We needed a new hospital and a committee was started, but nobody would reach into their pocket,” Penny Chapman, president of Chapman’s. “You need one person to get on board and start the ball rolling.”

That person was Penny’s husband, David, who had the idea to step up with a $1 million donation. “We don’t take a million bucks lightly – that is one million hard-earned dollars,” says Penny. “But if you can do something good for your community, you’d better do it.”

The family also got the ball rolling on saving Markdale’s only school – Beavercrest elementary – from closing in 2017. As Markdale’s biggest employer, Chapman’s knew keeping the school open was essential to both Chapman’s success and the municipality’s survival.

“Everybody could see the growth of the community, and for us, 40 or 50 of our employees had children going to that school,” says Ashley Chapman, chief operating officer. “The thought that we might lose them because they’d have to move out of Markdale is just unbelievable to us.”

Chapman’s joined negotiations with the school board and local government, and committed to donating $2 million to save the school. Thanks in large part to community support,

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Chapman’s donated $50,000 toward the Ukraine Humanitarian Relief Fund through the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, and encouraged others to join the effort through social media. Chapman’s also joined other companies in donating medical supplies – essentially emergency triage kits – to Ukraine. “My wife Lesya is originally from Ukraine and her entire extended family is in Kyiv and the surrounding area,” says Ashley. “So, when the war broke out, it was very personal to us.”

With the kits, he adds, “The idea was hopefully they would save lives. We know they got there – they were distributed in Eastern Ukraine – and that’s all we know. But we hope they made a difference.”


Sustainability Matters

Across its operation, Chapman’s works hard to minimize its environmental impact

For Chapman’s, producing great-tasting ice cream for Canadians shouldn’t come at the expense of the planet. The company continuously works to minimize its environment impact – and not just because sustainability is a buzzword these days.

“Sustainability was always a focus at Chapman’s. It’s just the way my mom and dad [founders David and Penny] have always done things because it was the right thing to do,” says COO Ashley Chapman.

In 2000, Chapman’s built its own high-tech wastewater treatment plan, becoming the first dairy operation in Ontario to do so. The facility purifies the 650,000 litres of water used daily during the production process. Chapman’s later added a reverse-osmosis system and now purifies and reuses its water in rooftop condensers.

Chapman’s is also committed to energy conservation and in 2014 became an active participant in Ontario’s Industrial Conservation Initiative, which was designed to shift large electricity users’ consumption to offpeak hours. To date, Chapman’s has reduced its peak demand by 40%. In addition, Chapman’s captures thermal heat from its engine rooms and uses it to heat water and reduce condensation, and is actively exploring other ways to further reduce its energy consumption.

On the packaging front, Chapman’s new paper-based packaging is Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified. That means the pulp used to produce Chapman’s ice cream tubs is sustainably sourced, with careful consideration given to preserving biodiversity, maintaining wildlife habitat, and protecting water quality. In addition, its new containers are made from 60% renewable resources, require 50% less energy to manufacture than traditional plastic containers, and are 30% lighter than plastic containers. Even the wooden sticks on Chapman’s ice cream bars come from sustainable forest sources.

“Sustainability is truly engrained into everything at Chapman’s,” says Ashley. “As we go forward, whether that’s looking for more power savings or other alternative packaging sources, we’re never going to stop. If something comes along that is viable for our business, we’re going to do it.”

Penny adds that implementing sustainability measures is never an issue of “should we or shouldn’t we?” It’s an automatic yes when it makes sense for the business.

“We have choices; that’s how lucky we are,” says Penny. “We own the company and we can think about what’s right for us, the community, the country, and the planet. It’s not easy to do because usually if you make the right choice, it costs more money. But we have to live what we believe and we believe in doing the right thing.”


Product Innovation: A Key Ingredient for Success

Chapman’s truly lives up to its promise to make ice cream and frozen treats for everyone

Noteveryone screams for ice cream. For many consumers, allergies and intolerances stand in the way of enjoying this tasty treat. Chapman’s set out to change that with a mission to make “ice cream for all,” and continues to be a leader in this space.

In 1999, the company made the first peanut-free and nut-free ice cream in Canada. The idea was sparked by a letter from a mother of a 10-year-boy with a peanut allergy.

“She wrote to us about her child who went to birthday parties with his friends and social engagements with the family, and he couldn’t have ice cream because none of it was guaranteed peanut-free,” recalls Penny Chapman, president of Chapman’s. “It just touched my heart. Everyone should be able to celebrate the fun things and ice cream is fun.”

Soon after, Chapman’s got to work making its original two-litre ice cream peanut-free. “It was a long process, as we had to make sure every ingredient coming into our facility was guaranteed peanut-free,” Penny recalls. “That’s a lot to expect from suppliers, but they did it and we came up with a way to test if the ingredients and mixes were safe.”

As demand for ice cream that meets other dietary needs grew, Chapman’s continued to respond with products that are nut-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, low-calorie, and no sugar added. With more than 180 products in its portfolio, Chapman’s offering covers every category, including premium ice cream, frozen yogurt, novelties like ice cream sandwiches and sundae cups, as well as seasonal frozen treats. All of Chapman’s ice cream and frozen yogurt flavours are made with 100% Canadian dairy.

This year, Chapman’s is launching another exciting first: a super premium ice cream that is peanut-free, nut-free, and egg-free. Super Premium Plus is made with 16% butter fat and 40% overrun (the amount of air incorporated into ice cream while it’s being made) to deliver an exceptionally creamy taste. The line of eight flavours comes in 500mL containers.

Ashley Chapman, COO of the family-owned

company, describes the formulation as brilliant. “It’s delicious,” he says. “Obviously we’re biased, but in my opinion it is truly the best ice cream in the world – and I’ve eaten a lot of ice cream from all over the world.”

In celebration of Chapman’s 50th anniversary this year, the company went back to its roots and revitalized its flagship “Original” ice cream line. The product has been renamed Markdale Creamery, and the packaging has a fresh new look, including an image of the original creamery building. Made with 100% Canadian dairy, the Markdale Creamery line is available in a variety of classic flavours in Chapman’s iconic two-litre box.

“It’s the same great product we’ve produced since 1973, only it was time to upgrade the packaging and complement our history,” says Penny. “We hope this helps even more Canadians to know us as an independent, rural manufacturer.”

As for how Chapman’s stays on top of changing consumer tastes, Penny says it’s quite basic. “You have to listen to consumers.” The company has research and development, Penny adds, and the Chapman’s themselves “are always dreaming up new flavours.”

While not every product is a winner, Chapman’s always aims to create new products with staying power. “We innovate flavours to be in people’s homes hopefully forever,” says Ashley. “We want our products to be a favourite for Canadian families.”


Product Showcase

Super Premium Plus

The world’s first allergy-friendly super premium ice cream is hitting store shelves this spring. Chapman’s Super Premium Plus is guaranteed peanut-free, nut-free and egg-free. With superior taste and a velvety smooth texture, the new line features eight popular flavours in convenient 500mL containers: Cherry Chocolate Truffle; Chocolate & Brownies; Chocolate Lover; Cookie Jar; Salty Caramel Crunch; The Only Strawberry; Vanilla Trilogy; and Cold Brew Coffee, which is made with Birch Bark coffee, a Canadian Indigenous business. A portion of the sales proceeds of Cold Brew Coffee will go towards bringing clean drinking water to Indigenous homes across Canada.

Markdale Creamery

As Chapman’s enters its 50th year, the company has refreshed its “Original” ice cream line. The packaging has a fresh new look and the product has been renamed Markdale Creamery, reflecting the company’s roots. With the same great taste as the original, Markdale Creamery comes in more than a dozen flavours, including fun favourites like Tiger Tail, Orange Pineapple, and Blueberry Cheesecake, along with classics like Vanilla, Dutch Chocolate, and Neapolitan. The line is made with 100% Canadian dairy, is peanut- and nut-free, and comes in Chapman’s unique “slice or scoop it” 2L format.

Canadian-inspired Flavours

A proudly Canadian company, Chapman’s developed 10 new flavours inspired by the nation’s tastes. The products are full of cheerful colours, fresh fruit flavours, and interesting takes on Canada’s favourites. They include: Canadian Peaches & Cream and Canadian Blueberries & Cream frozen yogurt; Cherry Peach Passion sorbet; Cotton Candy Checkerboard, Coffee Chip, Maple Crunch in the Markdale Creamery line; and more.

Frozen Yogurt

Chapman’s launched frozen yogurt in 1989 – becoming the only Canadian ice cream maker in the category at the time – and has continued to create new delicious additions. Available in 2L containers, the line has 14 flavours, such as Caramel Pecan Crunch; Cookies and Cream; Strawberry Saucy Spots; Cappuccino; Three of a Kind Vanilla; and Canadian Peaches and Cream, which received a 2022 Reviewers’ Choice Award from ChickAdvisor in the frozen yogurt category. Chapman’s frozen yogurt is produced with as little as 3% butterfat for some flavours and is lower in fat than regular ice cream.

With 180 products in its branded portfolio, Chapman’s has high-quality frozen treats to suit every taste

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Articles inside

Product Innovation: A Key Ingredient for Success

page 63

Sustainability Matters

page 62

Giving Back in Big Ways

page 61

30 seconds with David and Penny Chapman

pages 59-60

A Look Back

pages 58-59

Celebrating 50 Years at Chapman’s

page 57

CLICKS AND BRICKS Why the marriage between digital and physical retail

page 54

New on shelf!

page 53


pages 51-52


pages 46, 48-50

Generation Next thinking

pages 42, 44

Generation Next thinking

pages 40-41

thinking appetite for innovation

page 39

Cape Breton Blizzard Female Hockey Association 2022 Big Assist Recipient g

page 38


page 36

Health and wellness

page 36

Health and wellness

page 35


page 34

Shopper research

pages 31-33

Shopper research

pages 28-31

Shopper research

pages 24-27

More than a marriage of convenience

pages 19-21


page 17


pages 15-16


pages 13-14


pages 12-13


page 11

The Buzz

page 10

The Buzz The latest news in the grocery biz

page 9

WHAT’S ON THE MINDS OF SHOPPERS? Our research reveals how Canadians feel about grocery shopping

page 7

New on shelf!

page 53


pages 51-52


pages 46, 48-50

Generation Next thinking

pages 42, 44

Generation Next thinking

pages 40-41

thinking appetite for innovation

page 39

Cape Breton Blizzard Female Hockey Association 2022 Big Assist Recipient g

page 38


page 36

Health and wellness

page 36

Health and wellness

page 35


page 34

Shopper research

pages 31-33

Shopper research

pages 28-31

Shopper research

pages 24-27

More than a marriage of convenience

pages 19-21


page 17


pages 15-16


pages 13-14


pages 12-13


page 11

The Buzz

page 10

The Buzz The latest news in the grocery biz

page 9

WHAT’S ON THE MINDS OF SHOPPERS? Our research reveals how Canadians feel about grocery shopping

page 7
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