Canadian Grocer March/April 2021

Page 1

What’s next for click-and-collect?

A big year for produce



CEO Ken Keelor on making his stores the most trusted places to shop and putting more “Calgary” in Calgary Co-op



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Contents Opinions 7 || Front Desk 8 || Publisher’s Note 28 || Eating in Canada 30 || new Horizons People 11 || The Buzz

Comings and goings, store openings, awards, events, etc.

16 || James Davison & Mitchell Scott The Very Good Food Company’s founders aim to live up to their name

Ideas 19 || A towering opportunity?

Cover Story


34 CEO Ken Keelor on the importance of supplier relationships, being a trusted place to shop, and putting more “Calgary” in Calgary Co-op

With interest growing, vertical farming is having a moment


22 || The “buttergate” conundrum

Some Canadians believe their butter’s got­­ten harder to spread. What’s going on?

24 || Feeling constrained

A new report finds the number of consumers experiencing a worsening financial situation is growing


26 || Canadians learned a little (not a lot) about food during covid

New research suggests Canadians aren’t becoming more “food literate”

Aisles 85 || Flame and fortune


A grocer’s guide to a profitable 2021 summer grilling season

94 || Chickpeas: Four things to know

Learn more about these tasty, healthy and versatile legumes

96 || Beverages with benefits

New innovations are quenching a growing thirst for functional drinks

99 || New on shelf

Shining a spotlight on the latest products hitting shelves

Express Lane 102 || Reusable innovation

Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, on Loop and the future of sustainable grocery shopping

March/April 2021 || Volume 135 - Number 2


A BIG YEAR FOR PRODUCE 47 Our annual Produce Operations Survey digs into the department’s challenges and opportunities WHAT’S NEXT FOR CLICK-ANDCOLLECT? 65 Yes, the robots are coming, but the future is about both no-touch and high-touch service AND THE WINNERS ARE… 73 Introducing the 27 winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Canada Awards

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March/April 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 5




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Front desk PUBLISHER

Vanessa Peters


Shellee Fitzgerald


Carol Neshevich


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MAIL PREFERENCES: From time to time other organizations may ask Canadian Grocer if they may send information about a product or service to some Canadian Grocer subscribers, by mail or email. If you do not wish to receive these messages, contact us in any of the ways listed above. Contents Copyright © 2021 by EnsembleIQ, may not be reprinted without permission. Canadian Grocer receives unsolicited materials (including letters to the editor, press releases, pro­ motional items and images) from time to time. Canadian Grocer, its affiliates and assignees may use, reproduce, publish, republish, distribute, store and archive such submissions in whole or in part in any form or medium whatsoever, without compensation of any sort. ISSN# 0008-3704 PM 42940023 Canadian Grocer is Published by Stagnito Partners Canada Inc., 20 Eglinton Avenue West, Ste. 1800, Toronto, Ontario, M4R 1K8. Printed in Canada


Buy local isn’t a new idea, but in pandemic times it’s a movement that’s gaining momentum Putting together this issue of Canadian Grocer, I was struck by how frequently the idea of “local” came up. It came up in our story on vertical farming (page 19) where consumer demand for local produce, our writer was told, is contributing to the growing popularity of the agri-tech solution. Local also came up in our Produce Operations Survey (page 47) where 75% of retailers we surveyed said their local produce sales had increased over the past year. And local came through loud and clear in our interview with Calgary Co-op CEO Ken Keelor (page 34). Keelor told us that as a community-based organization, local has been at the forefront of Calgary Co-op’s business since its inception 65 years ago. Clearly not a new concept, but the idea of local has gained momentum during the pandemic, and its emphasis also appears to have shifted. Where once local’s chief appeal—in the context of food anyway—­m ay have rested in the consumer perception that it was fresher or more sustainable, it now seems to be more about supporting local businesses and producers during tough times. Research firm Kantar noted the shift in its September 2020 “COVID-19 Barometer” study on how the crisis is influencing consumer behaviour. It found the fostering of community and localism continues to gain momentum, with 69% globally saying they’re supporting local shops and a growing number of consumers paying more attention to product origins. “Less a reflection of nationalist sentiment” says

Kantar, and more about the economic support of neighbours. Hoping to appeal to consumer loyalty, the Ontario Made program was launched in the province last year to promote locally-­made goods. Introducing the initiative, Premier Doug Ford said: “promoting locally made products will be essential to building a strong, self-suffiicient province and key to our economic recovery.” With much uncertainty still ahead some wonder if a growing group of financially constrained consumers will continue to support local. We’ll have to wait, of course, to see how it all plays out, but let’s hope local prevails!

Shellee Fitzgerald Editor-in-Chief

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Note from the publisher


Canadian Grocer has been going strong for 135 years, thanks to this incredible industry’s support. Here’s to 135 more! It was 1886 when John Bayne Maclean, a reporter with the Daily Mail in Toronto, launched his first magazine in Canada—Canadian Grocer. And a 135 years later it has been quite a ride. Canadian Grocer has continued to publish through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Great Recession as well as the Spanish flu of 1918 and now the global pandemic of 2020. Through it all, Canadian Grocer has continued to support our great industry by helping retailers navigate not only global events but the daily challenges and opportunities that exist in food retail. It goes without saying that the past year has been like no other. Looking back on it now, I can honestly

8  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

say that while it has been a challenging time, it brought us learnings and opportunities that have made us stronger and better equipped to help you in your business. One year ago I did not know what a Zoom call was. Last March we had never hosted a webinar and had not considered what it would be like to host a virtual event. We have now done each of these several times over, and I am proud to say we experienced some of the highest audiences in our industry. While it wasn’t always perfect, it was crucial that we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and evolve. None of this, of course, could have happened without all of you who engage with Canadian Grocer every single day and support the initiatives that help move this industry forward. Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter and visiting our website in unprecedented numbers. Thank you for supporting the Star Women in Grocery and Generation Next awards, each with record numbers of nominations every year. Thank you for attending our webinars, mentoring events, award ceremonies and conferences. And thank you for continuing to make Canadian Grocer the No. 1 magazine for grocery retailers in Canada. It is how we started, and continues to be the cornerstone of everything we do. It is your support that allows us to continue to build connections and celebrate achievements at a time when they are more important than ever. It is what drives us to be a leader and innovator just as we have been for 135 years. Here’s to the next 135—it should be quite a ride and I can’t wait to be a part of it!

Vanessa Peters Publisher

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The Buzz

The latest news in the grocery biz


In March, SAVE-ON-FOODS opened its fourth location in Chilliwack, B.C. The 38,000-sq.-ft. store is located in the city’s Cottonwood Centre Mall. And in February, the grocer debuted a new 25,000-sq.-ft. “replacement” store in the Kootenay community of Kimberley, B.C. The Langley, B.C.-based grocery company has been expanding its network with the opening of 38 new stores in the last five years, bringing its total to 182. California-based SEAFOOD CITY SUPERMARKET opened its fifth Canadian store in Toronto in late January. Located at 20 Lebovic Ave. in Scarborough, the Filipino-focused supermarket is filled with specialty groceries as well as a large food court. The grocer’s other Canadian locations are in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Mississauga, Ont.

Save-On-Foods opened its fourth store in Chilliwack, B.C. and a new “replacement” store in Kimberley, B.C. (pictured)

GIANT TIGER recently unveiled a new location on Walkley Road in Ottawa. The 24,000-sq.-ft. store features a redesigned and refreshed store concept that the discounter says speaks to its “commitment to investing in the customer experience.”


Toronto’s SUMMERHILL MARKET is getting set to open a new location in the city’s Forest Hill neighbourhood in mid March. Co-owner Brad McMullen told Canadian Grocer the new store will offer much of the same products as its three other locations, but what’s unique is this one will be spread over two floors. The ground floor will feature produce, bakery and some grocery items while the second floor will house “flagship items” that Summerhill has become known for: prepared meals, cheeses, deli and a meat department. B.C.-based QUALITY FOODS has announced plans for its 14th store in the Royal Bay development in the Victoria suburb of Colwood. Construction on the 35,000-sq.-ft. store will start this year and is expected to open in mid to late 2022. Quality Foods’ vice-president and CFO Justin Schley told Canadian Grocer that the Greater Victoria Area is among the markets where the retailer is seeking expansion opportunities, as rising house costs drive people out of the city.

Above: Giant Tiger opened a new store in Ottawa; Right: Summerhill Market’s new store in Toronto’s Forest Hill area

March/April 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 11


Lassonde Industries has announced that Éric Gemme will step into the role of chief financial officer on April 1. He succeeds Guy Blanchette who is retiring in March after 14 years with the company. Gemme, who joined the company in 2014, is currently senior vice-president and chief financial officer of the Lassonde Pappas and Company Inc. division. Postretirement, Blanchette will continue his relationship with the company serving as a strategic advisor.

Éric Gemme

At Loblaw, Joe D’Urzo has moved into the newly created role of senior director, data, insight & analytics. D’Urzo, who has been with Loblaw for 19 years, was previously the retailer’s senior director, finance.

Joe D’Urzo

Previously, Kirwan was vice-president and general manager at Ventura Foods Canada. Kirwan replaces Mike Walton who was promoted to chief operating officer last May.

Tony Morello

Melissa Martin McGraw

Mike Pilato, president at Jamieson Wellness will become the company’s CEO on June 1. Pilato succeeds Mark Hornick who has announced he is retiring after leading the company for seven years. Flow Water has appointed Maurizio Patarnello as its new CEO. Patarnello spent 27 years at Nestlé Waters and previously served as its CEO and chair­ man. He is taking on the role from Flow’s founder Nicholas Reichenbach, who will become the company’s executive chairman.

Mike Pilato

Maurizio Patarnello

Melinda Zoccoli

Melinda Zoccoli has been promoted to the position of vice-president supplier services and marketing at United Natural Foods Incorporated (UNFI). Zoccoli has held a number of sales roles at the organization since joining 14 years ago. UNFI has also announced that Andrea Parete, who previously led the organization’s National Field sales team, will replace Zoccoli as director of sales. And Deborah Viti, currently sales manager for Ontario, will step into Parete’s former role. Rod Kirwan has joined Lantic Inc. as vice-president, sales and marketing.

Tony Morello and Jim Delsnyder have been named chief executive officer and chief operations officer, respectively, at Zoglos Incredible Food, a company focused on plant-based products. Crossmark has promoted Melissa Martin McGraw and Mike Bannerman to leadership roles with both being named senior director client services for the company’s headquarter and retail business, respectively. Both Martin McGraw and Bannerman joined Crossmark in 2018. Ted Corrado is the new executive chef at Toronto’s Summerhill Market. Corrado, known for his work with The Drake properties, will oversee more than 700 items prepared daily at the retailer’s commissary.

Ted Corrado

Tanya Willer

Erick Charpentier

Kimberly-Clark has added to its team. Tanya Willer has joined the company as senior director, marketing & sales strategy, baby and child care. Willer has previously worked at Revlon, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. And Brian Clayton is returning to Kimberly-Clark Canada assuming the role of senior director, marketing and sales strategy and feminine care/family care. Clayton has spent the past two years in the U.S. as Kimberly-Clark’s North America General Manager, feminine care. Quebec-based Lagoon Seafood has been building up its sales team. Sales representatives Carine Hage and Nadia Lalonde recently joined Erick Charpentier, who joined the company last fall as account manager of food service for Eastern Quebec.

Darrell Jones

The Jim Pattison Group has announced that its grocery businesses Save-On-Foods, Buy-Low Foods and Quality Foods have united under a new structure called THE PATTISON FOOD GROUP. Save-On-Foods’ president DARRELL JONES will lead the new group, which also includes specialty and wholesale divisions PriceSmart Foods, Urban Fare, Nesters Market, Choices Market, Meinhardt Fine Foods, Bulkley Valley Wholesale, Nature’s Fare Markets, Associated Grocers, Van-Whole Produce, Everything Wine, Pure Integrative

12  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

Pharmacy and Imperial Distributors Canada. Each of the Pattison Food Group businesses will continue to operate with its own president and management teams. In a release, Jones said: “Our goal is to help further strengthen what customers have come to know and love from each of these organizations, but providing the tools and support that will allow each of our unique offerings to continue to evolve and increase the value that we deliver to our customers.” Combined, the businesses employ more than 30,000 people.








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The Buzz

Night to Nurture: a virtual success! COVID-19 may have prevented The Grocery Foundation from hosting its annual Night to Nurture Gala in person this year, but it didn’t hamper donations or attendance to the first-ever online celebration. Six thousand households from across the country tuned in to the virtual event on Jan. 30, and $2 million was raised to help fund breakfast programs in Canadian schools and support the work of Kids Help Phone. “This year’s gala was another undeniable example of just how innovative and giving members of this industry are,” says The Grocery Foundation executive director Shaun McKenna. “We’re indebted to so m a ny p a r t n e r s w h o helped us continue its legacy and to this year’s Gala Planning Committee who were vital to the evening’s success.” The evening, which was hosted by CTV morning show host Anne-Marie Mediwake and actor Gerry Dee, also featured stand-up comic Shaun Majumder and a playful round of knock-knock jokes from industry executives including Empire president and CEO Michael Medline, Longo’s president and CEO Anthony Longo, Metro CEO Eric La Flèche, Metro’s SVP procurement Serge Boulanger, Save-On-Foods president Darrell Jones and Save-On-Foods executive vice-president Jamie Nelson.

Appearing at the gala: Choir Choir Choir; Gerry Dee and Anne-Marie Mediwake; Shaun McKenna; and Shaun Majumder

Grocery & Specialty Food West is going virtual this year as  gsf Live Retailer  Connect. Running May 11 to 12, the event will feature the same content as in previous years—including keynotes, workshops and trade show, and a chance for attendees to connect based on their business interests. For more information, visit

TIME IS RUNNING OUT to submit a nomination for the 2021 Star Women in Grocery Awards. If you know an outstanding woman working in the grocery industry, please take a few minutes to tell us about her at The deadline to nominate is April 9 and winners will be featured in our June/July issue. 14  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021



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Who you need to know


The Very Good Food Company lives up to its name with nutritious and delicious vegan alternatives By Carolyn Cooper Photography by Tanya Goehring


itchell Scott, CEO of The Very Good Food Company, remembers the first time he tasted what would be­come the company’s signature plantbased burger made by his co-founder, chef James Davison. “It was 2016 and I was at a family barbecue. I tried these burgers and I was blown away. I’d grown up vegetarian and had had a lot of not-sogreat veggie burgers, but he really nailed it in terms of taste and texture.” Davison originally created the beanbas ed burger for his young family while living on Denman Island north of Nanaimo, B.C., after being unable to find nutritious meat alternatives that weren’t overly processed or filled with preservatives. He and his wife then began selling the burgers as well as vegan breakfast sausages at the Island’s farmers market, with great success. “My background is in business and marketing sales, and I’d always wanted to start a business but never had what I thought was a good product,” says Scott. “And when I tasted this burger I thought, ‘This is delicious!’ So I just started talking to James and his wife and we decided to team up.” Success was swift for the fledgling company, and after building a customer base at the Victoria Public Market, Scott and Davison opened the West Coast’s first vegan butcher shop. “We had about 1,000 people show up on our opening day, and we had to shut down a week after that for a week just to restock,” says Scott. “That was February 2017, and since then we’ve just been struggling to keep up with demand, scale up the business and grow.” The company’s The Very Good Butchers brand of meat alternatives currently retail in roughly 300 stores primarily in Western Canada, including Quality Foods and Safeway, and a distribution deal with UNFI means they’ll soon be expanding across the country. To help meet demand, the company has opened a new 40,000-sq.-ft. Vancouver facility, allowing an initial 30% increase in production capacity. Scott says what makes the brand unique in the increasingly crowded market for meatless options is the taste and texture of the products. “It’s really about the quality of the ingredients, and the fact that we’re not using any additives, preservatives or isolates,” he explains. “You’ll find a lot of vegan products on the market

30 seconds with … have 25 ingredients, and eight of them are things you can’t even pronounce. And then others are just using powders or dried extracts. James’s sole ethos when he was making these products was to make them with real foods, so just beans, vegetables like onions, beets, celery, garlic, herbs and spices, and bit of high-protein wheat flour to bind it all together.” Depending on the product, the company uses different bean varieties and spice mixes to imitate the flavour of meatbased originals. “My personal favourite is our adzuki bean pepperoni, which we basically spice to mimic the seasoning of a meat-based pepperoni,” says Scott. The company has a seven-product core lineup for retail, including bestsellers the Very Good Taco Stuff ’er, the Very Good Burger, and the Stuffed Beast, which Scott likens to a “big stuffed turkey.” There are an additional eight products available online and through its shop, which also features a fast-casual restaurant offering vegan varieties of comfort food like deli sandwiches, poutine, and macaroni and cheese. “Our tagline is ‘We butcher beans,’ so we’re trying to bring a little bit of fun to it, and show that plantbased food ingredients can be approachable and familiar,” says Scott. As well as scaling up their Ribz and Very Good Steak for a wider retail launch, Davison and his R&D team have been busy working on what Scott calls “the next generation of products,” including a line of gluten-free items. “Gluten-free products have been the biggest demand for our customers, so we’re very excited to share this innovation.” In February, The Very Good Food Company completed its acquisition of Vancouver’s vegan cheesemaker The Cultured Nut, marking another milestone in the company’s evolution. “We loved the ingredients, we loved the team behind it, and we think they have a very complementary product,” explains Scott. “So the plan is to help them scale up their operation like we’ve just scaled ours, and really help grow the brand.” It’s part of a larger goal to become “an umbrella company for plant-based brands of solid companies, with high-quality products and ethics. We’re interested in complementary products, so maybe there’s something in plant-based sauces or snacks. There are some pretty interesting categories we’re looking at right now.” CG

MITCHELL SCOTT & JAMES DAVISON What do you like most about your job?

scott: That every day is different,

and I get to learn so much. It’s been a huge learning experience and I’ve really been enjoying it. davison: Feeling like I’m making a difference makes it easy to love my job, and I’m surrounded with like-minded people who make it a pleasure to come to work.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received? scott: The importance of people

and building a team, because as you start scaling up, you can’t do everything by yourself and you really need to build a great team around you to help support the growth of the company. davison: I was told by an entre­ preneur on Denman Island that I shouldn’t work for him. He said go find something you love and make a living from it. Six months after that we started The Very Good Butchers. I turned my passion for cooking and a new-found love of plant-based food into a business, and I’ll always remember that advice.

What do you enjoy most about working in the food industry? scott: The food! When I was

growing up vegetarian I felt like I was missing out a bit. Now there are so many awesome products out there I don’t feel like I’m giving up anything. davison: I’ve always loved creating new dishes and recipes and I’ve been lucky to transfer that passion into product development. Creating new products that I’m really excited about and seeing them being enjoyed by so many people is very cool to see.

March/April 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 17

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In 2020, Empire partnered with German-based Infarm to bring in-store farming units to select stores




With consumer interest growing and more players entering the fray, vertical farming is having a moment By Danny Kucharsky

In some Canadian grocery stores, when consumers ask where their leafy greens come from, the produce manager can just point a finger. More and more grocers are growing lettuce, microgreens and herbs in-store using vertical farming methods or are buying produce grown at giant, warehouse-style vertical farms located near major cities. As consumer demand for locally-grown food grows, vertical farming is gathering momentum. Although methods vary, vertical farms typically rely on LED technology and automation to grow greens in climate-controlled environments. By 2026, the industry could be worth US$12.77 billion globally, compared to US$2.23 billion today, according to Allied Market Research. Having vertical farms in-store “gets agriculture closer to city dwellers (and) gives customers the sense the grocer is very much intertwined with the rest of the supply chain,” says Sylvain Charlebois, senior director at the Agri-Food

March/April 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 19

Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University. “It’s a fabulous idea if you have the space and capital.” But while the local movement is critical, “you don’t want to overdo it. I’m not entirely convinced you’re going to generate more sales by installing a vertical farm inside your grocery store. It’s more about supporting your brand.” Quebec independent grocer Avril Supermarché Santé is a major proponent of in-store vertical farming. The grocer originally wanted to build a greenhouse on the roof of its 44,000-sq.-ft. Laval store, which opened in 2018, but the idea proved unfeasible, says Avril co-founder and co-owner Sylvie Senay. Senay and fellow Avril co-owner Rolland Tanguay caught the vertical farming bug while attending a trade show in California. After their return home, they teamed up with INNO-3B, a Quebec company that specializes in vertical farming, to build a vertical farm above the retail area in the Laval store. Doing so didn’t come cheaply. “As we were the first to have this technology in a supermarket, we had to invest $500,000 in R&D” to develop the farm. Still, it has been worth it. Senay says having the vertical farm in-store maximizes space usage, leaves a small carbon footprint and makes it possible to grow a variety of fresh, uniform microgreens yearround with “unsurpassed quality” and full traceability. As a bonus, microgreens grown at the vertical farm supply all eight Avril locations. Last year, Empire partnered with German-based Infarm to install small, stand-alone vertical farming units at select stores across Canada. The farms are now in 13 Thrifty Foods and 13 Safeway stores in B.C., and three Sobeys stores in Ontario (with 16 more coming this spring). Later this year, Sobeys stores in Halifax, Edmonton and Calgary and Safeway stores in Edmonton and Calgary will also get vertical farms. “We’re very excited about how our customers are responding to this,” says Niluka Kottegoda, vice-president customer experience at Sobeys. Customers “are passionate about buying local, buying

Quebec’s Avril Supermarché Santé invested in a vertical farm at its Laval location 20  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

more sustainably and having access to the freshest possible herbs and leafy greens all year-round,” she says. The Infarm partnership “was a way to meet these customer concerns while also bringing something new and unique to market.” Other grocers like Loblaw, Longo’s and Whole Foods Market buy microgreens and baby greens from GoodLeaf Farms. Last year, GoodLeaf opened a 45,000-sq.-ft. automated vertical farm facility in Guelph, Ont. that produces 800,000 pounds of greens annually. “Our dependence on imported produce is significant and consumers are realizing it’s just out of balance,” says Jacquie Needham, account manager at GoodLeaf. “We need to be keeping some of this production in Canada.” In February, McCain Foods announced it would invest more than $65 million in GoodLeaf Farms subsidiary TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, making it the single-largest shareholder in the company. GoodLeaf is now planning two more vertical farms in Eastern and Western Canada. Needham says GoodLeaf ’s produce appeals to a number of groups: mothers and others who want to know the source of their food, older folks who favour local fare, as well as younger people who understand the potential benefits of the technology. On its packaging, GoodLeaf prominently touts that its greens are pesticide-free. “The local, pesticide-free piece of our core business really resonates with people. Because we’re grown in a controlled environment we don’t have pests.” And while vertical farms have been criticized for requiring significant energy use to power LED lighting, Needham insists LED lights are becoming increasingly efficient. Vertical farming “takes an industry that is as old as time,” moves it indoors and makes it more efficient from a capacity and yield standpoint, says Travis Kanellos, chief strategy officer at vertical farming operation Elevate Farms. In addition, the shelf life for produce grown with vertical farming methods is 50% longer, he says, depending on what’s being grown. Elevate opened an facility last year in Welland, Ont. that can grow one million pounds of leafy greens annually in a 5,000-sq.-ft. space, with plants stacked 13 layers high inside a building with 21 feet of clearance. An outdoor farm would require about 100 acres to grow the same amount, he says. “We’re upwards of 98%, 99% more efficient on a land consumption standpoint.” Charlebois says vertical farms eliminate price volatility, “arguably the biggest problem in produce” because there is greater control of variables like currency, climate and logistics. Pricing for GoodLeaf fare is in line with organic produce, Needham says. A 50-gram package of microgreens sells at Loblaw for about $3.99. Charlebois notes that the effects of the pandemic should give domestic vertical farms a boost, with momentum growing for greater food autonomy. Quebec and other provinces could provide energy rebates to vertical farm operations, which will increase their opportunities to establish in or near cities, he says.




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Some Canadians believe their butter’s gotten harder to spread. What’s going on?  By Carol Neshevich

Canada’s butter made headlines in late February when a number of Canadians noticed their butter wasn’t spreading like it used to. Even at room temperature, they complained, it wasn’t softening to an easily spreadable consistency. While Calgary-based writer Julie Van Rosendaal brought the issue to prominence in a Globe and Mail article published Feb. 20, consumers quickly took to social media to agree with her, saying her article validated their observations. “Disturbing reports are now pointing at some farming practices that may have altered the quality of the butter we buy,” wrote Sylvain Charlebois, senior director at the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, in a Feb. 24 opinion piece titled “Buttergate: The ‘hard’ truth about Canadian butter.” Since at least last summer, he wrote, thousands of dairy farmers have been using livestock feed that contains palm oil. “Sources suggest it has been going on for more than a decade, but the problem has become more apparent since August of last year, when butter demand went up suddenly [due to the COVID-19 pandemic],” wrote Charlebois. “Palm oil given to dairy cows increases the proportion of saturated fat in milk compared to unsaturated fat, thus increasing the melting point of butter. This explains why butter made from cows fed with palm oil remains difficult to spread at room temperature.” “Buttergate” gained a lot of traction 22  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

in the media, even beyond our borders, prompting Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) to announce it would be launching an investigation into the practice. DFC also asked farmers to consider alternatives to palm supplements in cattle feed until the results were in. Canadian research firm Caddle surveyed more than 8,600 Canadians on the issue, and shared its findings with Canadian Grocer. Among those who consume butter at least weekly, the research showed 37.9% noticed a difference in spreadability of their butter (meaning they either agreed or strongly agreed that “butter has been harder to spread over the last six months”). But when they split those consumers into groups based on whether they had heard of “buttergate” or not, 43.1% of those who were aware of the story noticed a difference in spreadability, but for those who weren’t aware, only 16% felt their butter had changed. “The buttergate story is a prime example of how proliferation in the media can influence consumer awareness and perception of a subject matter,” says Ransom Hawley, CEO of Caddle. “There was a significant difference in consumer perception regarding ‘hardness of butter’ for those who had already heard of buttergate. Whether this is a placebo effect from the media virality of the subject or not, the dairy industry’s rapid response shows just how nimble you have to be as a brand or industry in our current consumer climate.”

Sobeys launches local box highlighting women-owned food businesses By Rebecca Harris

An innovative Sobeys initiative in Ontario helped customers to discover local products from women-owned businesses. The grocer launched the Fab Female Local Box featuring 17 products from 12 womenowned businesses, with products ranging from tea, popcorn and granola bars, to lip balm and hand wash. The box was available until March 8, International Women’s Day, retailing for $39.99 with a $65+ value. The box was a collaboration between Sobeys and Nature Knows, a woman-owned business that sells ready-to-eat, fresh fruits and veggies in custom-designed sustainable packaging. Nature Knows designed the Local Box itself, which is biodegradable, and also helped curate the products. “We wanted to highlight some of the great women-owned businesses right here in Ontario for International Women’s Day, and that’s how this box came to be,” says Sheri Evans, Sobeys’ local development manager, Ontario. Each box contained a card with a product overview and a QR code that directed customers to the Canadian Women in Food website, which helps support women-owned food and beverage businesses. The brands featured in the box were: From Farm to Table, Genuine Tea, Giddy Yo, Gldn Hour, Happy Pops, Healthy Crunch, Hitchhiker Beverage Company, Lemon Aide, Metta Tea Co., Provisions Food Company, Rawcology, and Walton Wood Farm. “There are so many phenomenal womenowned brands and we want to give them more of a spotlight,” says Andrea Watson, CEO of Nature Knows. TOP LEFT: GETTY IMAGES/RUTA LIPSKIJA, BOTTOM RIGHT: SOBEYS


Showcasing female food entrepreneurs

s n o i t a ul t a n r o g n p o o C ry Co

a g ! l s a r C a e to y t a e r 65 G


Calgary Co-op on celebrating

65 years of growth & success!

From our family to yours since 1951



Despite vaccine rollouts and the accompanying promise of a return to normality, NielsenIQ research suggests there are still challenging days ahead. In a new global study, conducted in 16 countries, the research firm found the number of consumers identified as “newly constrained” jumped from 23% to 46% in the last four months of 2020, and warned there’s a risk this group could continue to grow as economic stimulus packages and furlough schemes end in some countries. “Brands and retailers are again in uncharted territory this year,” says NielsenIQ in its report. “The consumer of today is not the one they knew last year.” Newly constrained consumers are defined by NielsenIQ as those who have experienced a decline in their household income or financial situation, causing them to “consciously” watch what they’re spending. Along with the newly constrained consumers, a group dubbed the “cautious insulated” is also expected to drive spending shifts this year. These new consumer segments are additions to the two

NielsenIQ has identified four consumer groups driving spend in 2021: xisting constrained (17%) – consumers who were already •  Ewatching what they spend prior to COVID-19 and this has not changed ewly constrained (46%) – experienced worsening household •  Nincome/financial situations and are consciously watching what they now spend   Cautious insulated (27%) – limited income/financial situation impact, but watching what they spend much more   Unrestricted insulated (9%) – experienced the same or improved income/financial situation and do not have to watch what they spend

• •

24  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

NielsenIQ identified in 2020 simply as the “constrained “and “insulated”—each group characterized by how they were impacted, relative to their spending, by the crisis. The four cohorts’ new habits, NielsenIQ says, are “expected to be very different compared to what was experienced in 2020.” While Canada is faring better than some countries measured in the study, 32% of Canadian households are now considered newly constrained. “That’s not good news,” said Francis Parisien, NielsenIQ’s vice-president Eastern-Canada during the firm’s State of the Canadian FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) Industry webinar in late February. “Newly constrained households will lower their discretionary spend to afford stripped-down basics.” Parisien added that this consumer group will cocoon at home, limit travel and scrutinize all transactions. “This might be concerning for our industry right now as we are expecting that group to continue growing over the next few months. There’s a reason why we see value retailers growing faster than the national average right now.” Parisien added that while still small in terms of grocery market share, general merchandisers—like Giant Tiger, which has been expanding its network of stores—are catching Canadians’ attention and wallets. In fact, the channel has the second-fastest growth in Canada right now, experiencing 18% growth in the 52 weeks ending Dec. 20, 2020, trailing only the online retail channel. What to do? While the study concludes there is no one-size-fits-all approach to winning over these new consumer groups, it highlights some common ground: 85% of global consumers want a better variety of quality value offers, and 71% are still willing to pay more for higher quality. “Brands and retailers need to understand who their consumers are today,” says NielsenIQ, “and find ways to meet their new needs to find growth in a challenging economic environment.”


A new report finds the number of consumers experiencing a worsening financial situation is rapidly growing, putting retailers in uncharted territory, once again  By Shellee Fitzgerald


Despite spending more time cooking at home, new research suggests Canadians aren’t taking the time to become more “food literate”  By David Brown One of the common observations about the pandemic has been that a lot of people spent a lot of time in the kitchen— and in doing so they learned more about food, tried new things and developed new food habits. But new research from the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University suggests at least part of that assumption is wrong. The intent of the research, conducted by Caddle, was to measure Canadians’ “food literacy” nearly a year into the pandemic, with food literacy defined as “understanding the impact of one’s food choices on one’s health, the environment, and our economy.” And while the study’s authors expected to see an increase in 26  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

food literacy because of the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID crisis, that isn’t what they found. It may be that people have been spending more time in the kitchen, but they don’t seem to have taken the time to become more food literate. “The numbers are a little disappointing,” says Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie and senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab. “We thought that we would see a tremendous amount of literacy out there, people wanting to cook more, garden more. But the evidence is not there.” Food literacy can be measured in many ways, but one of the metrics used by the researchers was knowledge of a recipe. “We didn’t want boiling an egg to be a


Before the pandemic, 8.6% of Canadians •  did not know one recipe. That percentage dropped to 7% in January 2021.

he average baby boomer knows 7.6 •  Trecipes now (up from 7.4 pre-pandemic)

while the average gen Zer knows 5.6 recipes (up from 4.7).   48% of Canadians have used a new ingredient they had never used before the pandemic. 67.5% of Canadians have tried new spices, followed by vegetables at 36.9%, and oils at 27.9%.   37.5% of Canadians believe their ability to manage meals throughout the day has improved during the pandemic.  CG

• •


Canadians learned a little (not a lot) about food during covid

recipe,” says Charlebois. But they didn’t want it to be complicated either; they settled on a definition of three ingredients and three steps. “That’s not a whole lot,” he says. They expected a significant number of people would have learned more recipes in the last year. Of the 10,004 Canadians surveyed on food literacy last month, a little more than 24% of respondents said they prepared all meals at home since the start of the pandemic, and nearly 56% feel they have “prepared most meals” themselves, but just 35.5% said they have learned a new recipe in that time. The average Canadian knew 6.2 recipes before the pandemic, and now that number has risen to 6.7 recipes. “Given how much more domesticated Canadians have become, we were expecting that ratio to be much higher,” wrote the authors. “If I am to say whether or not Canadians are more food literate as a result of COVID, the answer is slightly, at best. I don’t see a whole lot of change,” adds Charlebois. When it comes to food literacy, it’s also important to assess where people are getting their food information from. “The internet is king,” he says, adding that grocers are well down the list. “Grocers have to work on that,” says Charlebois. Many grocery stores say they have a dietitian or nutritional expert available, but most people will never see them or know how to find them. “If there’s one tip that grocers should take away from this study, it is to actually make that support real and human and basically increase their currency when it comes to food literacy, because it’s not working right now and I think it seems to be a little bit inauthentic.”


10 Huron Street Devon Alberta Canada T9G 1G3 Ph: (780) 987-2586 Fax: (780) 987-4449

Congratulations and Continued Success Calgary Co-Op. congratulates

Calgary Co-Op on 65

years in business.

We do more than food! Well done!

Sara Simply Sampling is a division of Sara Consulting & Promotions Inc.

Contact Tim Murphy: (780) 426-2900 Ext.: 3

EATING IN CANADA ||  Kathy Perrotta or drink at meals, the fastest rising need states are: comfort cravings (+6% change versus the pre-pandemic era*), nurture sharing (+9%), societal impact (+8%) and nostalgia (+9%).* Turning to category or brand favourites in times of uncertainty is a way for consumers to please, nurture and treat loved ones in turbulent times.

Back to traditional meal routines

With another year of disruptions ahead, retailers must re-set their under­ standing of housebound consumers

With most meals being sourced from home, the pandemic has resulted in six in 10 Canadians reporting they now adhere to an eating regime that focuses on three traditional meals with limited snacking

OVER THE PAST five years, traditional eating patterns centred around the classic concept of “three square meals a day” had slowly eroded in favour of more frequent meals and snacks throughout the day. Shifts away from the classic meal consumption culture were born from a confluence of evolving needs and dietary preferences, increasing time pressures and competing commitments, highlighting the transformation of modern-day lifestyle dynamics. Pandemic-prompted lockdowns, however, have seen housebound Canadians once again prioritizing traditional meal occasions as pillars to help define their days and break up quarantine monotony. Ipsos FIVE, the daily food and beverage consumption diary study, reports that 57% of all food and commercial beverage items consumed in an average day in the pandemic era (April to December 2020) occur at meals (+15% versus the pre-pandemic era, April to December 2019). With most meals being sourced from home, the pandemic has resulted in six in 10 Canadians reporting they now adhere to an eating regime that focuses on three traditional meals with limited snacking. The balance of Canadians report adhering to routines that include multiple snacks and mini-meal occasions in an average day. Home-schooling, workfrom-home scheduling, reduced social interaction, isolated household environments, fear of shortages, boredom, stress and anxiety needs are all contributing to shifting habits and choices at meals. DESIRE FOR COMFORT & NOSTALGIA INCREASINGLY SHAPES MEAL CHOICES While hunger, thirst and convenience need states remain point-of-entry motivations driving meal food and beverage choices, the tumult of 2020 has prompted a rise in consumers’ quests for familiarity and comfort. When deciding what to eat

28  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

THE RISE OF HOME BREAKFASTS The movement to home breakfasts reverses a prominent trend over the past five years, which was restaurant on- and off-premise dining. It has also revealed the emergence of a number of new needs motivating choices beyond the “five Hs” of hunger, health, habit, hurry and hearty. Top breakfast foods include eggs, toast, fresh fruit and cereal. Also notable at breakfast is the rise in consumption of home-brewed coffee and the re-emergence of old favourites like milk and orange juice. LUNCH LEFTOVER MANIA Lunch at home remains characterized by speed, little or no planning and on-hand availability. Consumers continue to move away from sandwiches while increasingly opting for salads, eggs, soup and leftovers. The rise in leftover consumption at lunch is driven by taste, convenience, health and value. This can be directly correlated to increased investment in dinner preparation. SHARED DINNERS AT THE TABLE Dinner continues to be characterized by Canadians as the most important meal of the day and where consumers spend the most money, invest the most time and include more items on the plate than at any other meal. Key to the dinner meal importance in the pandemic era are “at the table sharing” habits. In the early days with lockdown restrictions, there was a notable increase in fromscratch preparation (+7% April to June 2020 versus April to June 2019). Many months later, however, quarantine-weary meal preparers are increasingly opting for aided solutions such as meal kits and are looking to foodservice for take-out, drive-through and delivery options. Ipsos Foodservice Monitor reports that usage of delivery services has doubled in the pandemic period. The challenge to retailers, manufacturers and foodservice operators in these unique times is to position offers to the nuanced habits and needs of consumers. It is no longer enough to merely understand what Canadians are buying. Rather it is those companies willing to invest in resetting their understanding of homebound consumers by evaluating situational dynamics, investigating preparation habits and by looking at the need of Canadians to comfort and nurture loved ones at meals that will succeed in today’s environment and beyond. CG

Kathy Perrotta is a VP of Marketing with Ipsos Canada and leads the five ser­vice, a daily diary tracking of what individuals ate and drank yesterday across all categ­ories/brands, occasions and venues.


Happy 65th Anniversary Calgary Co-op

Partnering together to bring premium products to our customers

Our Brands, Our Partners, we salute Calgary CO OP on 65 years of excellence and look forward to growing our business with you for years to come.

NEW HORIZONS ||  Sarah Alter

Supporting the lgbtq+ at work

Making your lgbtq+ employees feel at home starts at the top

Allyship begins with education, and there is no better way to start than with robust education for employees on unconscious bias and the realities of the LGBTQ+ community

THE NETWORK of Executive Women (NEW) was established in 2001 and, over that time, most would say that workplaces have gotten better for LGBTQ+ people. Yet there is still a major disconnect at many organizations between stated progress and the dayto-day experience of being an LGBTQ+ person at work. In its 2018 A Workplace Divided study, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) was able to say the number of employees who were closeted at work had dropped. Unfortunately, that number had only dropped by 4%—from 50% to 46%—over the 10 years since its previous study. As the HRC stated in the report, “LGBTQ workers lack faith in accountability systems, sometimes with good reason.” HRC found that workers don’t report hearing their co-workers speak negatively about LGBTQ+ people primarily because they don’t think anything will be done to stop it, and fear harming their relationships with co-workers. For LGBTQ+ employees to be their full selves at work, organizations need to prove they are worthy of their employees’ trust. And that starts at the top. ZERO TOLERANCE FOR INTOLERANCE  The HRC reported that one in 10 employees has heard a supervisor making negative comments about LGBTQ+ people. This leads to employees who feel excluded from company culture, 31% of whom state they feel depressed at work. Knowing you may have depressed employees who feel denigrated by their supervisors should be enough to prompt any employer to take swift and decisive action. Allyship can only begin when accountability has been established. LGBTQ+ employees need to hear

30  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

clearly stated policies from their employer that bans discriminatory language from the workplace, and encourages those who hear it to report it via an unbiased accountability system. Forty-five per cent of LGBTQ+ people agreed with the statement: “enforcement of the non-discrimination policy is dependent on their supervisor’s own feelings towards LGBTQ people,” adding to the pressing need for an impartial resource outside their direct supervisor. Fifty per cent of LGBTQ+ workers state they believe they are the only LGBTQ+ person in their workplace. Ensuring that employees who feel isolated are secure in the knowledge their identity will be respected could not be of more critical importance for their comfort, happiness and retention. ALLYSHIP—ACTIONS MEAN MORE, BUT WORDS MATTER  Allyship begins with education, and there is no better way to start than with robust education for employees on unconscious bias and the realities experienced by the LGBTQ+ community. Fifty-three per cent of LGBTQ+ people reported hearing jokes about their community at work, while just 37% of non-LGBTQ+ employees heard them. This gap shows unconscious bias in the minds of many non-LGBTQ+ employees, which, while unintentional, can only change with education. Respecting pronoun usage is another way to show your allyship. There are many wonderful resources out there to help explain why this small sign of respect can have outsized impact on the well-being of those around you. Remember, educating yourself should be the order of the day, and also arranging for professional education for your team. Relying on LGBTQ+ co-workers to educate you adds additional stress to an already stressful situation. STAND BY YOUR TEAM AND THEY’LL STAND BY YOU  After education, however, comes action. Allies need to be willing to speak up at work when they hear a co-worker, fellow supervisor, or even fellow board member denigrating LGBTQ+ people. “It’s just a joke” is never an excuse for making LGBTQ+ people feel like they don’t belong in your workplace. Twenty per cent of LGBTQ+ people working in an unwelcoming environment said they were looking for other jobs, and 17% of LGBTQ+ people report being exhausted with trying to hide their identity at work. If nothing else, the cost of replacing employees lost to prejudice—and the strong evidence that diverse workplaces lead to better business outcomes—should motivate businesses to respond! CG

Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a learning, leadership and gender equality advocacy organization representing nearly 13,500 members in Canada and the United States. To learn more, visit

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Congratulations Calgary Co-op on 65 years of dediCation to the Calgary Community.

Congratulations to CALGARY CO-OP on celebrating 65 years! We are proud to be a supplier for over 30 years and look forward to many more years with you.

Quality Meats. Quality Ingredients. Proudly Canadian.

HISTORY, HERITAGE, AND PASSION… that’s our story. Our products are hand-crafted from family recipes using premium ingredients and natural hardwood smoke.

We’ve been doing it this way for over 90 years. HARVEST MEATS… made with pride in Yorkton, SK.




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ON A MISSION 34  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

ceo Ken Keelor

talks to Canadian Grocer about the importance of deeper relationships with suppliers, making his stores the most trusted places to shop and his goal to put more “Calgary” in Calgary Co-op By Shellee Fitzgerald Photograph by Colin Way

March/April 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 35

Happy 65th To Our Friends At

Calgary Co-op! From one Local Alberta company to another.

Congratulations On



From all of us at Star Marketing we would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to Calgary Co-Op on your monumental milestone.

Congratulations Calgary Co-op on your 65th anniversary from a proud supplier!

Top Grass Cattle Co. Grass Fed, Grass Finished beef raised without added hormones or antibiotics on Free Range Pastures

living Well! living right!

Fresh/Frozen case ready products, primals, and value added products with ingredients you can pronounce

We look forward to growing together with you in the next 65.

We are committed to the health and welfare of our animals, the sustainability of our land and to provide an enjoyable eating experience our customers have come to trust • • phone 403-242-5530

Congratulations Calgary Co-oP! Proud to be your local Italian partner for over 60 years!

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Ken Keelor’s path to the top position at an Alberta retail co-operative is a bit of a winding one. He studied physics as an undergraduate in India before shifting gears and earning an mba in marketing. He developed his “love for consumer products” after landing a gig at Procter & Gamble, working on brands like Vicks VapoRub and then working through “all the different sales and marketing functions” at the company.

What has it been like leading Cal­gary Co-op during a pandemic?

In 1995, Keelor made a geographical shift, moving to Canada, where his career in retail took root. A nearly six-year stint at B.C.’s Save-On-Foods was followed by a decade at Sobeys in Toronto, where he held various roles related to merchandising, replenishment, marketing and more. He was at Rexall for a bit (serving as the drug chain’s chief merchandising officer) then it was back to Sobeys. Since 2014, however, Keelor has been at the helm of Calgary Co-op, one of the largest retail co-operatives in North America. Established in 1956, Calgary Co-op is an operation that spans pharmacy, gas, liquor, home health care centres and, of course, grocery with 23 stores serving 447,000 members and generating annual sales of around $1.2 billion The past few years have been busy ones for Calgary Co-op. In late 2019 it acquired Community Natural Foods—a three-store operation—which Keelor says is a good fit culturally with Calgary Co-op. “We’re learning about natural foods from them and they’re learning from us in other areas,” he says. “It’s been an exciting acquisition, and we’re very pleased with it one year later.” And in a bold move, one that ruffled a few feathers, Calgary Co-op switched food distributors from Federated Co-operatives Limited to Save-On-Foods last spring. As a result of that move, Calgary Co-op embarked on an ambitious private-label program with a sharp focus on local. On top of all that there was the pandemic to navigate, too. In a wide-ranging interview, Canadian Grocer talked to Keelor about everything from getting the word out that Calgary Co-op is open for business to its private-label push, expansion plans and more. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

I think more so than surprise, I would say I’ve been thrilled at how agile the organization has been. And by our organization, I mean our team members and our community. Throughout the pandemic not only have we been able to focus on health and safety for all of our stakeholders, but we’ve also undergone an unprecedented transition of switching our food supplier [from Federated Co-operatives Limited to SaveOn-Foods]. When you think about it, it sounds like we’re just buying groceries from a new distributor, but actually we also rolled out a new flyer, which is exclusive to us and produced by us, where it wasn’t earlier. And we also launched private brands Cal & Gary’s and Founders & Farmers, where we never had our own private brand controls earlier.

38  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

Actually, it’s been a very interesting year because we are very much a community-based organization—­we have 447,000 members out in the community—and I think to our community, we grew even more in importance through the pandemic. Carrying out an essential service is one thing on a day-to-day basis when they [customers] know you’re there, but through the pandemic it became a really critical visit to the store to pick up what was needed. It even became an important social experience for customers because it’s one of the only outings [they’re making]. And look, our members and team members really have come together in a co-operative spirit, as they always do. I think the pandemic has bonded us together even more.

Were there any big surprises this past year?

You’ve said that Calgary Co-op is open for business—what do you mean by that? With the recent transition to the new food distributor we now have control of our product assortment, the development of our private brands and our flyer program and advertising. So, we are working with an increasingly large number of suppliers, including both local suppliers and national suppliers to bring products to market quickly. We want to make sure we’re first to market on these products. We want to give suppliers the opportunity to test their concepts at Calgary Co-op.

Calgary Co-op is making a big push with its private brands.

Au he c y for over 40 ye rs



65 Y



Calgary Co-op Truth. Trust. Transparency. Relationships.


Calgary Co-op’s 65 years

of supporting their community

A Passion for food WWW.FINICA.COM

Congratulations on your

65 anniversary! th





Wishing you many more years of continued success! From your friends at •

Proud to be an exClusive grower with

Calgary Co-oP for 21 years.


Calgary Co-op

on 65 years serving the Calgary marketplace!

Your local distributor of Natural & Organic Products

Congratulations on Celebrating

65 years of quality, savings, and service!

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What’s the strategy behind this? It’s been very exciting. Not only did we realize through our research that our members are looking for this unique local focus and things curated for them, but we also realized we are in a small geography, which is a massive advantage to focus on private brands for our local clientele. Our private brands program is curated specifically for Calgarians’ tastes. When developing these two brands, we did a lot of listening to what the members want in terms of the unique assortment, the quality, the value for money and we’ve tried to raise the bar, even with the packaging and the name of these products. So, when you think about our two brands, Cal & Gary’s and Founders & Farmers, they’re both unique. Founders & Farmers goes back to producers, ranchers, local farmers—you know, the roots of Calgary Co-op. And then, of course, Cal & Gary’s brings the city’s name to the fore with some pride. And we have things like Cal & Gary’s AAA beef, French bread, and an ever-expanding lineup in produce and meat, all the way to cleaning products and more. We’re continuously adding more items.

We hear a lot about the growing importance of local to consumers and grocers. What is Calgary Co-op’s approach? I would say to you that for 65 years, since our inception, local in its various dimensions has been a focus of Calgary Co-op’s. So, firstly we’re committed to the local community; with every visit to a Calgary Co-op store, members know they’re supporting Alberta agriculture, Western Canadian products, and the hardworking people that are behind those products and agricultural services. As the Alberta economy is challenged, our members are more focused on that than ever before. We know in Calgary, especially with the decline in oil prices, which has affected the city, keeping our local businesses and retailers motivated and keeping them in business is very important. For Calgary Co-op, it’s not just about buying a product and selling it, some of it is about keeping these businesses and retailers afloat. The challenge, of course, is not everything can be found locally, but we do our best; we set ourselves a goal to double the number of local products in our stores when we changed distributors and we are right on track. We have about 2,400 local items now. We’ve got 180 producers and their families that we support—fresh beef, chicken and lamb from Alberta, products like Spolumbo’s sausages, Paradise Hill Farm tomatoes, Byblos Bakery, and All Clean Natural cleaning products. 42  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

And then there’s the charitable giving dimension; that’s the other thing we focus on locally. Our community is at the very heart of what we do. I’m thrilled this year that our community has stepped up more than ever before. They’ve continued to help us by focusing on the community’s most vulnerable people, and our team and members have raised awareness and funds to help local charities. And in 2020 [through] Calgary Co-op’s giving program, we’ve raised $2.2 million to help address food security issues for vulnerable populations. And it’s all thanks to our members and our team members and our vendors, all three of those segments.

The acceleration of e-commerce has been one of the big stories in grocery this past year. What is Calgary Co-op’s strategy for this area of the business? Calgary Co-op has been very focused on the omnichannel experience. So when we think about our stores we want our e-commerce to be in line with what makes our stores special, which is being local, fresh, being about service, about quality and about community. We rolled out online shopping at our liquor stores, our Co-op Wine Spirits Beer locations in 2019 and we’ve extended that e-commerce focus into our cannabis stores, where we are allowed to offer click-and-collect. We’ve also rolled out e-commerce to food, and we’ve been diligently adding more products and [offering it at] more stores. The reason we’ve been, I would say, more cautious on launching our food e-commerce until recently was because we needed to complete the switch of our food distributor. We knew our product assortment was going to change dramatically, especially our private brands, but really the whole mix with much more local offerings so we had to transition through that. We’re excited about what we’re doing. We know our members will continue to seek that offering online—the assortment, the convenience—and we really want to make sure they get the entire Calgary Co-op experience. We’re not providing e-commerce simply on a product and price basis.

Are there pandemic-related changes you’ve observed that you think will stick around? I feel there’s been a clear polarization here of the discount stores versus stores that provide you service, and a key service is health and safety

Congratulations to Calgary Co-op on 65 years in business! For decades, you have gone above and beyond to meet the needs of your consumers. We are proud to partner with you to continue spreading messages of joy and caring.

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enhancement. Value continues to be very important, especially in Calgary; our economy is one of the toughest in the country. And I think the pandemic has enhanced our focus on local sourcing of products, for two reasons: one, we needed substantial alternatives to national brands, which couldn’t provide enough to meet our demands. And then second, our community is focused on helping each other and, therefore, wanting to help our local suppliers stay in business.

As you position the business for the future, what will be your key areas of focus? There are five areas of real focus for the next five years. So, a key focus area will be food itself, positioning our food business to continue to be acutely different to the rest of the market. And the biggest way we want to do that is to put more “Calgary” in Calgary Co-op, which is focused locally, but to also make sure that national brand vendors’ innovations are well represented at Calgary Co-op. The second area is real estate, with renovating our stores, building new stores, redeveloping our stores—we are in the process of working on significant projects. Growth of whole health is the third area of focus for the next few years. For us, whole health is the growth of pharmacy, of our natural foods business—both at Calgary Co-op and Community Natural Foods—and home health care, which is another of our lines of business. Petroleum will be another focus for the next few years; not only has there been demand destruction in petroleum through the pandemic and through the events worldwide on oil, but also the increased focus on things like electronic vehicles and alternative sources of energy. While petroleum has been, for many years, a growth engine for Calgary Co-op, we see having to evolve that business and really make sure we’re meeting the changing needs of the consumer in that space. The last area—and to me a crucial one—is deeper relationships. We already have those deep relationships with customers and our community, and we’ll continue to grow those, but we’re also focused on building deeper relationships with our suppliers than we’ve ever had, especially in food. I think it’s a huge opportunity because our suppliers invest a lot of research dollars on understanding the consumer in their categories and they can help guide us on what’s going on with the customer at a more micro level. Plus, they invest millions of dollars in new initiatives and need reliable companies like Calgary Co-op to work with them to bring those initiatives to fruition quickly and accurately to their brand. 44  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

You have new stores in the works. Can you tell us about those plans? There are a few projects coming to fruition. One of them is brand new and it’s at Sage Hill. Sage Hill is an area where we’ve been hoping the population would grow a whole lot faster. We worked with the developer on a timeline, so we will open our food store there in November, and the liquor store and gas bar will reopen simultaneously; those two opened and we shut them down because there just wasn’t the population [to support], but now we’ll be going back with all three. And, of course, the food store will have a pharmacy as well. We’re excited we’ll be tailoring that as much as we can to the neighbourhood, and it’s definitely a growing locality in Calgary. The second area is very trendy: Marda Loop. Marda Loop has some really cool restaurants and spaces to walk and mingle, and we are building an urban grocery experience there. It will be different from our other stores; it will be a smaller format, but will integrate a lot of the same services. I think of it as a condensed version of a typical Calgary Co-op store, but trendy to match the neighbourhood. The third location is called Oakridge, which is a redevelopment that will come together in multiple phases. [Work] will start in the spring. We do have a few older stores that need redevelopment, and Oakridge is prominent among those. It will be what we call a mixed-use design with residential, commercial and office space, and will be much more modern. It’ll be a transformation of the space on that pad today. We also have a site in North Hill that we’ll begin going live with. And again, that’s an area where the neighbourhood is turning over and is becoming much more trendy and with more families.

What do you want Calgary Co-op to be known for? We want to be known for exceptional customer experiences in every dimension, because that is our key differentiator. And those dimensions come through in our values of service, caring and excellence and our vision of being the most trustworthy place you could shop. And that means trust in all its dimensions: being in stock, being right priced, providing a safe environment, all of those things. COVID-19, I think, has taught us to be even more agile and to find more ways to provide that caring and exceptional service to members in our community. We also want to continue to be known for our greatest legacy, which is our people—our team members and our membership that our co-operative is able to leverage to support the community for many years to come. CG

ADVANTAGE SOLUTIONS and all of our client partners would like to congratulate CALGARY CO-OP on their milestone



Calgary COOP on your

65th anniversary!

Proud to be a part of CALGARY CO-OP’s 65 YEAR celebration!

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From sales growth to sustainability, our second annual Produce Operations Survey digs into the challenges and opportunities for today’s produce department By Carol Neshevich

A big year for PRODUCE THE PAST YEAR has been unusual, to say the least, and this has extended to the produce departments of Canada’s grocery stores, where it has not exactly been business as usual. Conducted earlier this year, Canadian Grocer’s second annual Produce Operations Survey picked the brains of grocers across the country to find out what’s been happening in their produce departments—from sales growth and what’s in demand, to operational challenges, labour and supply issues, shrink and waste, sustainability and more.


Produce sales are up

Our survey revealed 75% of respondents found produce department sales had increased in the last six months of 2020, with 63% predicting that same-store sales would also increase for the entire year of 2021. Not surprisingly, the pandemic is being largely credited for the increases. “People are eating three meals a day at home and cooking from scratch more often, which has increased the demand for fresh produce,” says Mireille Thibodeau, vice-president of fresh procurement and merchandising at Sobeys. Rob Johnson, produce operations manager at B.C.’s Country Grocer, adds that the large increase in overall fruit

and veggie sales are also an indication of “people wanting to eat healthier” during the pandemic. There have also been noticeable changes in what, specifically, people are purchasing in the produce department. “Our vegetable growth is greater than our fruit growth, due to people cooking more,” says Mimmo Franzone, director of produce and floral and Longo’s. (While our survey didn’t show relative growth, respondents estimated about 41% of produce sales are coming from vegetables and 33% are coming from fruit.) Rick Stein, vice-president of fresh foods at the Food Industry Association (FMI) says his organization’s research showed something similar: “What we saw was that veg grew stronger than fruits … Veg is often an ingredient in meals, whether it be tomatoes, asparagus, root vegetables, or onions, potatoes—all of those are ingredients in home cooking,” he says. “Also veg has a little bit more pantry life than fruit; fruit ripens kind of quickly,” making it perhaps less attractive right now when people are shopping less frequently. Andrea Vandergrift, general merchandise manager,  produce at Costco Wholesale Canada, has noticed some specific shifts in what people have been buying. “We’ve struggled a lot with our fresh-cut

March/April 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 47

Produce Operations Survey categories, because with people not having gatherings and get-togethers, you don’t need a party tray anymore,” she says. “The potatoes, onions and carrots have been super strong throughout the entire pandemic. And then the snacking category has been a bit slower, which is things like grapes and clementines—it’s still growing, but at a slower rate, and we think that is probably partially due to kids being in and out of school” during the crisis, causing packed lunch and recess snacks to be less in demand.

For the six months ending December 2021, did your company’s total produce sales increase, decrease or stay the same?

Specialty & local in higher demand

increase  decrease  stay the same

14% 11% 75%

Projecting for the entire year 2021, do you expect samestore produce sales to increase, decrease or stay the same?

Compared to a year ago have your sales of local produce items increased, decreased or stayed the same?   increased  decreased  stayed the same

16% 9% 75%

increase  decrease  stay the same

26% 11% 63%

Compared to a year ago have your sales of specialty items increased, decreased or stayed the same?   increased  decreased  stayed the same

28% 7%

48  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

Vandergrift has also seen a rising interest in specialty produce. “Because people are eating at home more, not going out to restaurants and not travelling, they’re willing to spend a bit more on food that tastes good, and they seem to be willing to experiment more. So we’ve brought in things like the papaya, dragon fruit, mango—things that typically we would have had a harder time selling in the past, but we have had really, really good success with this year,” she says. It appears Costco’s not unique in noticing this trend; our survey results show 65% of respondents said that compared to a year ago, sales of specialty items had increased (with 28% saying they stayed the same and only 7% saying they had decreased). Local produce is another area that’s seen a major boost in interest. Our survey revealed 75% of respondents said sales of local produce items had increased compared to a year ago, with only 16% saying they stayed the same and 9% saying they decreased. “People are more conscious about what they eat and also where it’s coming from, and that’s one of the reasons why local produce demand is really growing,” explains Sobeys’ Thibodeau. “The customer also wants to encourage local businesses and local products, which is another reason why we see the demand in local growing.” FMI’s Stein says his organization’s research found a shift in the reasons why people want local produce over the past few years. “Back in 2015, consumers wanted local because they thought it was fresher. They thought it was more organic—whether it was or not—and they thought the quality was better,” he says. “And over the last five or six years, it’s really become a bigger statement about supporting the local economy. It’s really about producing jobs and supporting the farms locally.” Thibodeau agrees, noting COVID has only magnified this: “I think the pandemic has just raised the awareness among the population of the importance of supporting local growers and communities,” she says, “and this is another reason why I don’t think this trend will slow down.”

Shrink & waste 65%

A perennial issue in the produce department, shrink and waste are not going away any time soon. In our survey, 25% said shrink is greater this year compared to last year; 35% said it was less, and 40% said it was about the same as last year. Interestingly, some of








Produce Operations Survey the grocers we spoke with were among those saying shrink has declined, and they believe this is partially because of the pandemic. “We have seen a decrease in shrink,” says Sobeys’ Thibodeau. Longo’s Franzone concurs: “Overall shrink has been better than years past,” he says, tying that to the overall increase in produce sales. “When you sell more, you shrink out less. It’s a pretty simple equation. We’re also, on our end at Longo’s, trying to simplify the guest shop so people can spend less time in the store, so we’re rationalizing some SKUs within categories … and that’s helped as well. So that combination of increased sales and then just simplifying our SKU selection has helped.” Ron Lemaire, president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA), notes another way COVID has influenced shrink. “Consumers are getting a little bit better understanding about purchasing and in-store handling [of produce items]—and the funny thing about the pandemic is you aren’t getting people going in and overhandling the product on display; they’re in and out of the store, which funnily enough, has an influence on how product wears and its shelf life.” But as Country Grocer’s Johnson points out, “shrink will always be an issue in produce departments because we are selling a product that will go bad, and we need to make sure that none of the poor-quality produce stays on the sales floor.” How

does he address it? “We just have to make sure we’re on top of what we purchase and make sure we buy the freshest produce that we can buy, and that overcomes a lot of shrink problems. And then obviously we work very, very closely with a lot of the food banks and anything that is still edible but not sellable goes to the food banks, helping out people who really need fresh produce.” Sobeys’ Thibodeau says that in addition to redistributing food to local food banks and engaging customers to reduce food waste at home, Sobeys is also using AI to improve its forecasting, and has launched a mobile app in IGA stores in Quebec to alert customers to discounts on items that are near their expiry dates. Our survey reveals that the top efforts being made to address shrink include “use for ingredients in prepared food” (53%), “use for fresh-cut program” (49%), “donations to food banks” (44%), “ugly produce sales” (44%), and “using technology to better forecast and reduce surplus” (44%).

Pandemic changes & challenges

While the pandemic has clearly affected the produce department in countless ways, our survey asked respondents what specific changes they had made in their produce departments as a result of COVID-19— and 47% said they added more packaged produce, 44% said they added extra staff, 44% said they added

On a scale of “not serious at all” to “extremely serious”, how would you rate the seriousness of the issues facing your produce department?     NOT SERIOUS AT ALL    SOMEWHAT SERIOUS    VERY SERIOUS    EXTREMELY SERIOUS

Quality of product

24 31


Consistent supply

20 35


22 34

24 20

Shrink/spoilage How to increase consumption of produce

16 35 36


Traceability (point of origin)



Competition from other supermarkets Competition from online retailers * Competition from other channels Employee training Labour/recruitment costs Erratic weather Wholesale prices ** Produce department overhead 50  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

18 27 9 33 26


20 15 20 9






18 18

26 40

27 7

20 22 45 20 27 15 49 18 44 25



Outbreaks/recalls Price perception of fresh produce






27 24

9 14

18 13

* (Farmers markets, natural food stores, etc.)  ** (incl. energy costs, equipment)

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Produce Operations Survey

Over the next 12 months, do you plan to implement any policies reducing plastic packaging/ waste in your produce department?

yes 54% no 46%

more space between displays to allow for social distancing, and 27% said they expanded their network of suppliers. About 9% said “other,” and wrote that this included “decreased promotions due to availability,” “added cleaning procedures put in place,” and “adjusted mix of products, delisted some.” With 44% saying they added extra staff, were there greater labour-related challenges than normal this year? While many of the grocers we spoke with said they aren’t having major labour challenges, FMI’s Stein notes he’s heard from grocers who say there have been staffing struggles due to schools being closed and workers who are parents being unable to take on shifts, as well as workers concerned about their safety amid COVID-19. “So we’re really pushing hard [the message that] we view them as frontline workers and that we are taking care of them, and that grocery stores are so vitally important,” says Stein. Adds Country Grocer’s Johnson: “Staff problems have been an issue with some of our employees [being afraid to] come to work, but overall most of our staff are working and doing a great job in looking after our customers and keeping safe.” With regards to labour challenges, Costco’s Vandergrift says she’s more concerned with labour issues on the supplier side, which can lead to supply chain issues. Even in normal times, she says, “getting enough labour in produce is a challenge, and then with the addition of COVID, you have had the quarantines [for foreign workers] coming into Canada, and then in packing facilities with the social distancing and everything that also slowed down their efficiency—so that’s all made it very, very challenging.”

Sustainability’s still in style

Early on in the pandemic, “people were definitely looking to purchase packaged produce more frequently than usual,” says Sobeys’ Thibodeau, pointing to concerns about virus transmission as well as a desire to get in and out of the store quickly as reasons why packaged produce was in demand. Longo’s

As a result of covid-19, what changes have you made in your produce department? 47%  Added more packaged produce 44%  Added extra staff 44%  Added more space between displays to allow for social distancing 27%  Expanded network of suppliers 11%   None of the above 9%    Other

52  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

Franzone agrees. “In March [last year], we were knee deep in the middle of our sustainability initiatives … we were trying to cut plastic where we could, etc., and then March 12 hits and it’s like, ‘OK, nobody wants to [linger in the produce department] picking out their produce. They want to just grab it in a bag and go,’” he explains. “So the needs of the guests were changing by the hour. We had to pivot and say, ‘OK, you know what? This is more important than our sustainability initiative. We need to react.’” Longo’s introduced a system “where we’re pre-bagging vegetables like beans, mini potatoes, Brussels sprouts—things where we know it can cause congestion at the display; and there’s been zero negative feedback,” says Franzone. That said, although things still aren’t quite back to how they were pre-pandemic, Longo’s is now re-introducing some of its initiatives to reduce plastic in the produce department. “And as things ease up, it’ll definitely go back to where it was [before]. As an organization, we continue to have bi-weekly sustainability committee meetings and we’re still striving to do the right thing for the environment and for the guests.” Sobeys is seeing a similar shift, and Thibodeau says for items where Sobeys continues to use plastic packaging, “our goal is to ensure that packaging in our stores leaves as little footprint as possible. And we do that by following the model of three, which is to reduce, reuse and recycle the packaging that we are offering.” CPMA’s Ron Lemaire agrees this is an important strategy, noting the industry is “shifting back to pre-COVID opinion on the need to find environmentally friendly packaged solutions, which the industry is working aggressively on.” In our survey, 47% of respondents said their use of plastic packaging in the produce department has stayed the same compared to last year, while 28% said it’s decreased and 25% said it’s increased. When asked if they plan to implement any policies to reduce plastic packaging/waste in the produce department in the next 12 months, 54% said yes. And when asked if they offer or sell reusable bags in the produce department, 68% said yes. FMI’s Stein says we are mistaken if we think “sustainability went out the window” early on in the pandemic when grocers re-embraced plastic packaging as they focused on safety. “I would argue, no, it never went out the window,” he says. “Packaging is just one aspect of sustainability.” Stein says other aspects of sustainability became even more top of mind as the pandemic progressed. With everyone eating at home, for example, consumers saw all the food waste that went into their own trash cans, and “they became very aware of sustainability issues in terms of food waste and things of that nature.” And from a retailer perspective, “our retailers never took their eye off the ball with sustainability. They’re still working on recyclability, and they’re still working hard on supporting vendors that follow sustainable practices.” CG


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Don’t miss Fresh Week’s •

Keynote addresses from industry leaders

Critical discussions with top CEOs

Business development opportunities

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Ron Lemaire, President Canadian Produce Marketing Association


This year’s educational programming will examine challenges facing the produce sector such as food safety, regulatory issues and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

he Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s (CPMA) 95th Convention and Trade Show, Fresh Week, is only a few weeks away and we are looking forward to connecting with members of the produce industry from across Canada and around the globe. Fresh Week is CPMA’s first-ever virtual show and is open to all, free of charge. The 2021 event has been designed to bring the industry together through an online platform that offers participants unique occasions to seize business opportunities, expand their knowledge and skills, and grow their professional networks. We have lined up a program that will feature live and ondemand sessions including presentations from industry leaders, business development opportunities, social and professional development activities. This year’s educational programming will examine challenges facing the produce sector such as food safety, regulatory issues and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. Industry experts will share their own experiences regarding pivoting to online sales and provide fresh insights into the future of retail and foodservice. While the event runs over four days, Fresh Week’s program and online platform are designed to allow participants to attend sessions that meet their specific needs at a time that best suits them. One feature of the show that hasn’t changed is the New Produce Showcase, highlighting innovative products that are new to the Canadian market. We would like to thank Canadian Grocer for sponsoring the New Product Showcase. Their support and passion for innovation in our industry aligns seamlessly with the CPMA’s mission. I hope everyone takes the opportunity to read the New Product Showcase preview in the coming section. We look forward to connecting with you at Fresh Week! Ron Lemaire President, CPMA


Program MONDAY April 12

AT A GLANCE FRESH WEEK (All times Eastern Time) TUESDAY April 13



FRIDAY April 16

Morning LIVE 10:00 am EDT

Daily Kick Starter

Daily Kick Starter

Daily Kick Starter

Behind the Scenes Tours 10:30 am – 11:00 am EDT

Retail and Industry Tours Retail and Industry Tours

Retail Speed Meetings 11:00 am – 1:00 pm EDT

Retail Speed Meetings by appointment only

Retail Speed Meetings Retail Speed Meetings by appointment only by appointment only

LIVE Leadership Sessions 12:00 pm – 12:45 pm EDT

CEO spotlight fireside chat

CEO spotlight fireside chat

CEO spotlight fireside chat

Retail Leadership Roundtable

Sustainability Leadership Roundtable

Industry Leadership Roundtable

Expo Hub (Powered by Swapcard)

Expo Hub (Powered by Swapcard)

Expo Hub (Powered by Swapcard)

Keynote Kick-off and Launch of Consumer Insights Poll

Townhall Discussion The Future of Foodservice

Townhall Discussion Increasing your online sales

Fresh Week Wrapup CPMA Awards Celebration and Consumer Insights with David Coletto

Industry Education 2:00 pm – 2:45 pm EDT (concurrent sessions) CPMA members Only

Learning Lounges Category spotlight Food Safety Regulatory Issues Your business: topics of impact

Learning Lounges Category spotlight Food Safety Regulatory Issues Your business: topics of impact

Learning Lounges Category spotlight Food Safety Regulatory Issues Your business: topics of impact

Retail Speed Meetings 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm EDT

Retail Speed Meetings by appointment only

Retail Speed Meetings by appointment only

Retail Speed Meetings by appointment only

Industry Networking Meetings 12:45 pm – 3:00 pm EDT LIVE Keynote Sessions 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EDT

Site Open New Product Showcase Preview

Networking Activity 3:00 – 4:00 EDT

Young Professionals Reception

Daily Re-Cap 5:00 pm EDT

Daily Re-Cap

Daily Re-Cap

Daily Re-Cap

Social activities 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm EDT

Women in Produce Happy Hour

Fresh Fun! Online game night

CHOIR! CHOIR! CHOIR! Social hour


Retail and Industry Tours

Bard Valley Date Growers

Combine the world’s finest Medjool Dates, dark chocolate, and a bit of sea salt for a taste experience you will want to share with friends and family. Clean simple ingredients. We use ethically sourced cacao and sustainably grown Medjool Dates.

Big Marble Farms Inc.

New to the Big Marble First sustainable packaging program is the must-have burger barbecue companion, Alberta’s Hamburger Pack. Two juicy, 365 Alberta grown, vine ripened beefsteak slicers paired with a 100% plastic free, highly recyclable paperboard box. Recipe on bottom!


BCfresh ensures more produce makes it to the plate. Kalettes® and Brussels feature thinner films to extend shelf life using 17% less plastic. Potato greening is a top consumer complaint so we're using lightblocking films on select SKUs to reduce waste.

Bolthouse Farms

Introducing Bolthouse Farms Wunderoots™, a line of exciting carrot-based innovations, providing consumers easy and delicious ways to eat more veggies. Carrots shine in the form of Carrot Dogs, Noodled Carrot kits and Riced Carrot kits.


For convenience and consumer appeal, ask for the new Cascades FreshTM generic design. Offered for many packaging type such as trays, vegetable boxes and baskets and can be personalized with your own logo. It will make your produce stand out!

Catania Worldwide

Our figs just got an eco-friendly look! Our figs, grown in California from June to October and in Mexico from October to June, are available year-round and distributed globally! The plastic-free basket for this growing category allows an alternative option for consumers to enjoy the same high quality sweet fig, in a friendlier pack!

Crawford Packaging

GrowPack Paper Top Seal is an innovative sustainable solution for your produce Top Seal needs. The material is 100% recyclable, suitable for a variety of produce applications, & offers great print quality, moistureresistance, and improved pack ventilation.


DelFrescoPure® Organic Sweet Rainbow Peppers are vibrant on the outside and deliciously sweet on the inside. Integrate the flavour and array of colours into your everyday meals. Try eating them as an appetizer or sliced up as a healthy snack!

DelFrescoPure Big Marble Farms Inc.

Joining our Simply Marbleous line of Snacking tomatoes is the 1x8 count Cocktail Tomatoes on the Vine. These fresh and still ripening on the vine tomatoes are 365 Alberta grown, and retail in 100% plastic free, highly recyclable paperboard boxes.

Canadawide - Frescadel

The Frescadel brand has been redesigned with a fresh, clean, and minimalistic look to put the product in the limelight. Our top-quality conventional and organic produce are always packed in eco-friendly, recyclable, and often recycled materials.

Crawford Packaging

GrowPack Anti-Fog shrink film is an innovative packaging solution for produce applications where keeping freshness is vital. The best part? No trays are needed. Benefits include reduced packaging costs, increased shelf life, enhanced shelf impact, & reduced plastic waste.

DelFrescoPure® Organic Mini Cucumbers are rich in texture and despite their size, pack a big crunch. Enjoy these Organic Mini Cucumbers on the go or in salads, dips and cool beverages.



Larger in size and great quality, our Berry Big Strawberries lend themselves to more versatile uses, with a bounty of flavor in every bite, they offer naturally more to share.

Emerson Canada

Using cellular technology, GO Real-Time 4G/5G Trackers provide temperature and location alerts as your shipment moves through the supply chain. Connectivity and access to your data is further enhanced so that visibility to temperature, humidity and location data will be available.

Fresh Direct Produce Ltd.

Fresh Direct Produce’s Simply line of quality produce has a new twist! Check out our Earth Friendly Simply Fresh Specialty Products packaged in 100% recyclable tray and clear foil.

Houweling’s Group

More Produce with less plastic. Our new 1lb Trays offer a sustainable tray and a easy pull tab top.

INO EarthFresh

Organic Reds, Russet, and Golden potatoes available in eye-catching 10 lb Paper Bags. EarthFresh offers exclusive varieties that grow very well in organic conditions - looking and tasting even better than traditional varieties and now available in larger pack sizes!

Global Citrus Group Equifruit, Inc.

Equifruit’s new organic boxes and bands are impossible to ignore. With the bold statement: “The only banana you should buy”, your customers will surely ask why. That’s when they will discover a brand that is dedicated to 100% Fairtrade sourcing

BANANITOS are a delicious, healthy, sweet, natural snack. Perfect size for snacking and lunch boxes. A unique flavour profile that is rich in potassium and fiber. Ideal for children, adults and athletes who need a quick energy boost. Peel, enjoy.

The mobile hyperspectral imaging station facilitates access to annotated data that was previously hard to obtain. Data generated combines spatial and spectral information (data hypercubes) with annotations by your experts to enable you to explore a multitude of applications.


With plastic waste becoming a bigger issue, consumers are looking for sustainable alternatives. EarthFresh is helping keep the world a cleaner place by offering environmentally friendly, compostable paper packaging that is naturally light-blocking to avoid premature greening reducing food waste.

Fresh Del Monte Produce (Canada), Inc.

Del Monte Honeyglow® pineapples are left on the plant for a few precious extra days. Handharvested and delivered at the peak of sweetness and ripeness, consumers can expect only sweet surprises with Honeyglow®. When we say sweet, we mean sweet™!

Highline Mushrooms

Adding a side of mushrooms to your meal has never been easier. Highline’s NEW Organic Simple Sides come with delicious and complementary fresh ingredients sauce to bring out the savoury flavour of mushrooms.


LOOP Mission

58% of food produced in Canada is lost or wasted, and about a third of that wasted food could be rescued. LOOP is working to solve this issue by repurposing these outcasts. Introducing our new line of Probiotic Sodas, containing 40% fresh pressed juice from rescued fruits and veggies and 2+ billion probiotics. Engaging your consumers in the fight against food waste has never been so refreshing!

Martin’s Family Fruit Farm Ltd.

The Apple Jacket™ is the latest innovation from Martin’s in sustainable apple packaging. A 100% post-consumer recycled cardboard sleeve gently encases 6 premium apples. The Apple Jacket™ offers a plastic free option for packaged apples that greatly reduces bruising.

Nature Fresh Farms Mastronardi Produce Ltd./Sunset

These unique micro-grape tomatoes serve on-the-go convenience with our new Sprinkles® Multi-Pack, now in a banded 3-pack format. Exploding with undeniably sweet flavor, these healthy snacks are perfect for salads or snacking by the handful.

Mucci Farms

Our Cherto™ Gourmet Cherry Tomatoes taste as good as they look. Now available off-thevine for an easier snacking experience! With traditional tomato flavour and freshness, Cherto™ tomatoes are an addictive snack.

Nature Fresh Farms greenhouse-grown signature Strawberries are distinctively fragrant and irresistibly sweet. Picked at their freshest peak, these brilliantly red Berries offer superior quality and are unmatched in flavour.

Ocean Mist Farms

Mastronardi Produce Ltd./Sunset

Queen of Greens™. A new green era where premium crafted blends are grown hands-free in earth-friendly greenhouses, where people have faith in the quality of their greens, and where just-picked flavor and freshness is a certainty.

Mucci Farms Mastronardi Produce Ltd./Sunset

Blue-tiful goodness that’s bursting with flavor, these brilliant BerryWorld® blueberries are now available in a convenient single-serve snack pack, perfect for on-the-go.

Cultivate your senses with Mucci Farms’ NEW Cultivo Mushroom Collection! Ontario grown and full of nutrition, our newest launch is available in multiple varieties and is sure to inspire your culinary appetites!

Mastronardi Produce Ltd./Sunset

Things just got a little sweeter for One Sweet® Peppers. Now seedless, these crunchy, sweet, and multi-talented beauties are fantastic every which way from raw to ratatouille. And with no seeds, they’re an even better treat for snacking and on-the-go.

Mucci Farms

Your favourite Mucci Farms Cucumbers are organic too! Offering different sizes and pack styles, our Natural Organics lineup is Certified Organic by Pro-Cert, ensuring our products are wholesome and delicious.

Ocean Mist Farms’ awardwinning Season & Steam product line has recently expanded to now offer 10 nutritious shelf-ready options - all with the convenience, customization, bilingual packaging available for most and exclusive resealable bag technology. Email contactus@ for more information.

Mucci Farms


Mucci Farms Naked Leaf Living Basil takes sustainability to a new level! Reducing plastic by 50%, this sleeve is made of 50% paper with a compostable growing pot and a re-usable exterior pot! Environmental responsibility at its finest!


Nestled in the rich and fertile hillsides of Peru, our organic ginger is renowned for its robust and premium taste, high oil and juice content, and beautiful golden appearance. Available year-round in bags, clamshells and bulk. Pure Flavor

The bite-sized blast of fruity flavor of the award-winning Cloud 9® tomato makes life’s sweetest moments even sweeter. Hand-picked by our family of growers, only the finest fruit are selected to meet the quality your family deserves.

Pure Flavor

Hydrate by the handful with the snack that will change recess & break time forever! Fresh, crunchy and full of healthy goodness! Uno Bites™ Nano Cucumbers are a fun way to power up for recess or postwork workout!

Pure Flavor

A savory, bitesized pepper with an elusive bite that ignites the senses. Explore endless culinary possibilities with savory Craft House Shishito Peppers. Grown for the chef in you, their occasional spicy flair will mystify your senses!

Red Sun Farms

Sustainability in Nature, Sustainable in Packaging! This new washable label adhesive avoids labels contaminating the recycle stream. Red Sun Farms offers a variety of sustainable solutions to compliment our tomatoes, peppers, and cucumber categories.

The Little Potato Company Ltd.

With our next evolution of packaging, we’re showcasing our fresh Creamer Potatoes better than ever before. Our new, fresh, down-to-earth packaging is visually more appealing with less plastic and a focus on our unique proprietary varieties.

Taylor Farms

Sun-Rype Products, a division of A Lassonde Inc. Rougemont launch 3 new premium non-filtered apple juices. Rougemont Orchard Collection is made with Rougemont Apples & 100% Quebec local fruits puree and is free from preservatives. Our juices are flashed pasteurized, chilled and bottled to keep all the freshness.

Our Dill Pickle Chopped Salad Kit is tossed in TANGY DILL PICKLE RANCH—packed with REAL chopped pickles—and dill pickle seasoned brioche crouton crumbles, this salad will make your taste buds RELISH. For the perfect FLAVOR-PACKED meal, serve alongside slowsmoked BBQ ribs.

The Wonderful Company

Wonderful Pistachios No Shells Sea Salt & Vinegar and BBQ. Treat your taste buds to a tart, tangy snack with the right amount of sea salt and vinegar and savor summer all year with an explosion of sweet, hickorysmoked barbecue.

The Wonderful Company

Wonderful Pistachios Roasted & Lightly Salted are easy on the salt, and even easier to enjoy. A deliciously fulfilling smart snack, once you crack one open, you're sure to crack a smile.


The Star Group Pure Flavor

Nurtured on the vine for perfectly balanced sweetness and a distinct crunch, RedRoyals™ are a noble garnish for your entrée or a tasty treat on their own. Now available in recycled paperboard packaging!

Sunkist Growers

A gold mine of flavor, Sunkist® Gold Nugget mandarins are in season now! Bumpy on the outside, super sweet on the inside, this unique variety is easy to peel and a good source of vitamin C.

Crafted with premium ingredients and freshly made dressings, Inspired Salads brings you two new recipes to up your salad game: The BLT Caesar with whipped dill dressing and Superfood Salad with refreshing lemon honey vinaigrette. Open, flip, shake and enjoy.


USA Pears

Our research shows consumers are happiest when pears are ready to eat 1-3 days from purchase. Displaying conditioned pears can boost satisfaction and repeat purchases. Retailers have reported 20-35% increases when conditioned pears are introduced. Reach out to learn more!


As Canada’s leading tissue manufacturer, we’re always embedding innovation across our company to drive growth. In February 2021, we successfully started Canada’s largest and most modern TAD (through-air-dry) tissue machine in our new Sherbrooke, Quebec plant. Our $575-million investment in this facility will boost our annual production in Canada by an estimated 25 percent. Kruger Products L.P. serves the Canadian consumer market with such well-known brands as Cashmere®, Purex®, SpongeTowels® and Scotties®’. We make the complexity of producing these essential products look simple, to make everyday life more comfortable for Canadians.

Expect to do something great at Kruger Products.



© 2021 ® Register ks and TM Trademarks Kruger Products L.P. ®’ used under licence. * Made in Canada with domestic and imported material.


Generation Next thinking

WHAT’S NEXT FOR CLICK-AND-COLLECT? Yes, the robots are coming, but the future is about both no-touch and hightouch service By Rebecca Harris

March/April 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 65

Generation Next thinking

Fast-forward to the height of COVID-19, when the era of click-and-collect arrived with a vengeance, and the frustration got real. “Going to a retailer’s website, customers were lucky to get a timeslot that wasn’t two or three weeks out,” says Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO at Mercatus Technologies, a Toronto-based grocery e-commerce specialist. On top of that, there was a lack of product availability, which led to an inordinate amount of substitutions, he adds. Months later, some customers were still feeling short-changed with the click-and-collect experience. Canadian Grocer’s October 2020 survey, “2021 Grocery IQ: Taking Stock of Grocery Shopper Attitudes and Behaviours,” found that among consumers who shopped for groceries online (click-and-collect and delivery), 43% were completely or very satisfied, 44% were somewhat satisfied, and 13% were not very or not at all satisfied. The top reasons for not being completely satisfied were: products were out-of-stock (44%), fees are too expensive (35%), unhappy with product substitutions

While clickand-collect has improved since it took off, it’s crucial for grocery retailers to address pain points and improve the service as its growth trajectory continues

Whether it’s pickup lockers, curbside pickup or another method, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for clickand-collect

66  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

(29%), and unhappy with the quality of products (22%). Other reasons were: order was picked incorrectly (15%), pickup/delivery window too far out (14%), and the process is too complicated (14%). While click-and-collect has improved since it took off, it’s crucial for grocery retailers to address pain points and improve the service as its growth trajectory continues. “The best way for grocers to improve their customers’ experience with click-and-collect is to accept the fact that it will be where they get most of their growth in the next year or two,” says Bill Bishop, chief architect at Brick Meets Click, a strategic advisory firm based in Barrington, Ill. “Once they’ve got their mind around that, they need to put in place all the necessary labour, technology and marketing to rapidly grow the business.”

Tackling the pain points

To start, grocers should look at solving customers’ biggest issues with click-and-collect today, including: Out-of-stocks: As many click-and-collect shoppers learned last year, just because you can add items to your cart, that doesn’t mean they’re in stock. “A lot of retailers have not connected their e-commerce platforms directly into their inventory systems,” says Perrier. “So, when you’re logging in as a consumer and you think you’re buying bananas, the reality is you are unaware if that product is available in the preferred store from where you’re getting your order.” The fix, of course, is the right technology. “With out-of-stocks, you have to figure out a real-time inventory solution, and that requires a technology upgrade,” says Sameer Anand, a Chicago-based partner at management consulting firm Kearney. He says grocers are experimenting with technologies like RFID, vision sensors and weight-sensing technology to get an accurate view of their in-store inventory. “I don’t see this getting solved tomorrow, but experimentation is happening with IoT technologies,” says


pre-2020, grocery shoppers circling the parking lot might have wondered in mild frustration why all those primo spots were reserved for store pickup only. They were usually empty. It wasn’t that the newfangled service didn’t do what it promised; most people just preferred to do the shopping themselves.


The “Meat of European Quality” campaign, run until 2020, resulted in a noticeable increase in the presence and sales of meat and meat products from the EU in Canada. Such successful business relationships must be maintained, which is why we are continuing our activities in 2021 and 2022. When we offer meat from the European Union, we say: it’s simple! When you choose meat and cold cuts from Europe, you get a simple product, free from unnecessary ingredients and residues: antibiotics and hormones, artificial additives, excess fat, water or salt. We use traditional recipes, tested over centuries, creatively developing them to create a product that is tasty and at the same time meets high food safety and health safety standards. We say “it’s simple!” - because we know how to do it. We have centuries of experience under our belt. We finally say “it’s simple!” - because Canadian consumers can easily reach for European products. The European Union’s trade with Canada is subject to the provisions of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) signed in 2016. The agreement facilitates meat trade between the parties and generates additional profits, as well as regulating trade in goods and making European meat products more widely accessible in Canada. As a result, Canadians now have easier access to European products than before. Trade and investment relations between the European Union and Canada are now stronger than ever thanks to the CETA agreement. Campaigns promoting high-quality European meat increase the awareness of Canadian consumers and contribute to a greater variety of products on shop shelves in Canada, – says Zack Labieniec – Manager of the PAIH Foreign Trade Office in Toronto.

Meat from Europe

The “Meat of European Quality” campaign is continued under difficult circumstances. In line with the objectives, it focuses on direct contact and consensus-building between European and Canadian professionals. In 2020, due to the unprecedented global epidemic, we were forced to cancel all activities based on face-to-face meetings. However, we hope that 2021 will prove to be a kinder year! In particular, we are planning to participate in the SIAL Canada trade fair, postponed to September. We look forward to meeting with Canadian and American partners in Toronto in September! In addition, as soon as regular intercontinental travel is resumed and domestic restrictions are lifted, we will organise study visits to Poland for meat industry professionals and journalists from the US and Canada. We had to cancel them on dates previously planned in 2020 and 2021. During the visits, our guests will be able to experience first-hand the rules and standards that regulate the European meat sector. Seminars and workshops are planned, as well as – or above all – visits to leading production plants and meetings and talks with producers and exporters of pork, beef and meat products. Journalists from branch media will be offered a study visit of a similar nature. We will be happy to show you our farms and processing plants and arrange meetings with the people responsible for the success of the European meat sector. See you soon!

The content of this promotional campaign reflects only the views of its author and is subject to its sole responsibility. The European Commission is not responsible for any possible use of the information contained in the campaign.

Generation Next thinking

The future of click-and-collect

There’s an innovative future ahead for click-andcollect, as grocery retailers evolve their models and 68  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

Substitutions are a serious issue for retailers to solve, as unacceptable substitutions can impact the bottom line. According to Brick Meets Click, 2% of sales that customers intended to spend were forfeited due to out-of-stocks that didn’t have an acceptable substitute

In the U.S., Target customers can create a “Drive Up” order via an app, and staff is alerted automatically when they arrive

adapt new technologies. In fact, those parking spots where customers dial a telephone number and wait for someone to bring out their order might seem positively dated in the near future. In the United States, Target has added geo-fencing technology to its app. Customers who create a “Drive Up” order notify the store via the app when they’re ready to leave for the store. Once they get there, if their location services are turned on, an employee is automatically alerted that they’ve arrived. Customers can also notify the store through the app and a staff member will bring out their order. “I think Canadian retailers need to take a page out of Target’s [book], where the fulfillment methodologies are much more sophisticated and not more costly, quite frankly,” says Mercatus Technologies’ Perrier. “[Target’s service] leads to a better customer experience and a better ROI on the fulfillment process for the retailer, reducing their cost on labour.” The million-dollar word for the future, though, is automation. “This is a big one and there will be a lot of money spent on this,” says Mayhew. He points to French retailer Carrefour, which is piloting a fully automated pickup point in Paris. The “pedestrian drive” concept, developed by Polish company Retail Robotics, lets customers scan a QR code when they arrive. An automatic device brings their order from the storage area to a hatch for the customer to collect. “We’re going to see more automation and more city-centre click-and-collect points,” says Mayhew. “This is not just about cars driving up to a store in the middle of nowhere.” Walmart Canada is also making investments in automation. The retailer recently started construction on its first fully automated market fulfillment centre, located in Scarborough, Ont. The 22,000-sq.-ft. space will automate online grocery picking and dispensing, with picking speeds up to six times faster than manual store picking, according to the company.


Anand. “Importantly, the solution has to speak to the software and communicate that so consumers can see an updated number. So, when an item is out of stock, they won’t be able to order it. The frustration comes when [the website] says an item is available and it’s not.” Product substitutions: Substitutions are a serious issue for retailers to solve, as unacceptable substitutions can impact the bottom line. According to Brick Meets Click, 2% of sales that customers intended to spend were forfeited due to out-of-stocks that didn’t have an acceptable substitute. This figure is pre-COVID, so the lost sales rate is likely now considerably higher, according to the company. Bishop has a couple of tips on how to improve customer satisfaction with product substitutions: texting between the customer and order-picker, and substituting products that are worth more. On the latter front, “the customer can see they are really getting something ‘a little different and better’ in return for being inconvenienced,” he says. Grocers can also leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to fix the problem of poor product substitutions, notes Simon Mayhew, head of online retail insight at IGD Retail Analysis in London, U.K. “In fact, the best retailers in the world, such as Ocado, have been using artificial intelligence for ages,” he says. “They’ll look at what customers ordered and if an item is unavailable, [AI] will work out the likely substitution that would be accepted.” Amazon Fresh is also using machine learning for product substitutions. According to a recent post on the Amazon Science blog, decisions related to substitutions are driven by a machine-learning model to generate pairings between different products. The model assigns a rank to each pairing using human opinion as a source of training data. This allows Amazon Fresh to analyze the rankings between different pairings and recommend the most apt substitutions. Product quality: When it comes to product quality, the big pain point is on the fresh side. “Customers want to pick out their own items, they want to make sure they get the right weight and that it’s the right quality,” says Mayhew. “They have their own expectations of what fresh products should look like, and this is a challenge for the whole of online.” One solution is training store associates to ensure they pick quality products, get the quantities right, and check the best-before dates. Mayhew says another solution is the concept of warerooms, whereby retailers create a “dark store” within a store that’s stocked with fresh products that are only for online orders. “By doing that, you can ensure you’ve got high-quality fresh products available all the time because they’re not being bought by offline shoppers.”



Good service. Good insights. And most importantly, good food. Our approach is simple: connect retailers with the foods Canadians are craving, fueled by market trends and delivered with a smile. Tree of Life Canada would like to thank all of our client partners and CFIG members for making Grocery Innovations Canada 2020 virtual trade show a pioneering success!




Tree of Life Canada

Generation Next thinking The new space will also feature automated kiosks that serve as vending machines for online grocery orders and can serve up to five customers at a time. Customers drive up to a dedicated parking spot, enter a code and their order will appear in less than two minutes. The new space, a partnership with intelligent automation provider Dematic, will open later this year. As part of Walmart Canada’s e-commerce acceleration plan, the retailer is also expanding its grocery pickup service to more than 60 stores this year, which means 85% of its stores will offer the service. It’s also piloting ring scanner technology, allowing employees to pick and scan items faster by working hands-free. In a statement, Walmart Canada president and CEO Horacio Barbeito said: “Our customers want choice of service and we see the demand for online shopping continuing. We are ramping up our e-commerce offering with a focus on speed, accuracy and service.” Other major grocers in Canada are making big bets on click-and-collect after 2020’s sales surge. Sharon Lansing, vice-president, online grocery at Loblaw Digital, says the demand for both PC Express pickup and delivery increased significantly when the pandemic hit. Loblaw quickly scaled up by hiring new personal shoppers and adding thousands of slots every week. “Evolving and perfecting online grocery will continue to be a key driver now during COVID and in the future,” she says. “Customers have become more accustomed to digital technology within the last year and will only expect faster and more convenient solutions going forward.”

While it might seem like perfecting click-andcollect requires deep pockets— robots aren’t cheap, after all—there’s an opportunity to engage clickand-collect customers with high-touch experiences


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Thank you for your business!

Metro is also expanding in this area, as it continues to make e-commerce gains. Its online grocery sales grew by 170% in the first quarter, which ended Dec. 19, 2020. “The accelerated deployment of our click-and-collect service has begun with 19 additional Metro stores now offering the service,” the company said in an email to Canadian Grocer. “Our plan now calls for more than 170 Metro stores to offer click-and-collect by the end of the fiscal year, serving about 75% of the Quebec population and half of the population of Ontario.” This summer, Metro is planning to open a distribution centre in Montreal that will be dedicated to fulfilling online orders. While it might seem like perfecting click-andcollect requires deep pockets—robots aren’t cheap, after all—there’s an opportunity to engage click-andcollect customers with high-touch experiences. For example, Greensboro, N.C.-based The Fresh Market rolled out “The Friendliest Curbside Experience in America” to its 159 stores across the United States. Click-and-collect customers are assigned personal shoppers; orders are double-checked by managers and verified with their signatures; and the retailer delivers “wow moments” like having Santas bring out the orders during the holidays. Examples like The Fresh Market speak to the broader trend of personalization, which has many applications for click-and-collect. “Retailers have a lot of information on customers through their loyalty cards and they can really take [personalization] to the next level, where they know what each customer wants,” says Kearney’s Anand. Aside from things like personalized offers and coupons, Anand says there’s an opportunity for more customization on the experience side. For example, during the pandemic, Sam’s Club launched a concierge shopping service for seniors and those at risk. From a designated parking spot, members call in their order and a personal shopper grabs the items and brings them out of the car, facilitating a more human, personal experience. “There’s going to be a whole gamut for personalization that will play out,” says Anand. Whether it’s high-touch or no-touch, the opportunities for click-and-collect are endless. However, Anand stresses that when it comes to channels, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. “Delivery and clickand-collect options are now in consumers’ wheelhouses, but it doesn’t mean they will never enter a store again,” he says. “The experience is what the consumer desires. Make it convenient for them if they’re shopping online and give them the physical store experience if they’re shopping in person. So, all those are on the table and that, to me, is how grocers have to define the experience.” CG Generation Next Thinking is an ongoing series that explores cutting-edge topics that will help grocers gain the knowledge they need to tackle the future of this rapidly-changing industry.

Introducing Refreshingly light

It’ s not delivery…it’s delissio

The surprising mix of real fruit juices and sparkling bubbles will brighten your moments. Each can contain less than 35 calories, with no artificial sweeteners. Available in three refreshing flavours: Clementine & Peach, Pomegranate & Blackcurrant, and Lemon & Raspberry.

sauce, topped with garlic and parsley seasoning, covered in cheese and delicious toppings. Perfect as a meal or cut into strips as a tasty appetizer. Proudly made in Canada and available in four mouth watering varieties.

SanPellegrino Momenti:

DELISSIO Garlic Bread Pizza : Layered with delicious garlic-infused

New Innovation from STARBUCKS @ Home Starbucks Coffee Enhancers: This changes everything! Become your own barista

by adding café inspired flavours to your morning cup! Available in three delicious varieties: Caramel Macchiato, Cinnamon Dolce Latte and White Chocolate Mocha.

small treat… big bite

Light & Creamy…How DIvinE!

KIT KAT CHUNKY MINIS: Layers of crispy wafer and choco-

Häagen-Dazs Divine: Sink your spoon into the NEW

*KIT KAT is the official chocolate of the NHL

olate Chunk Brownie, Raspberry Cheesecake. And Vanilla Caramel Pretzel.

latey coating, these mini CHUNKY pieces are the perfect treat! Each bag contains 10 individually wrapped mini bars so you can portion them out and easily share with family and friends. Available in Original and Cookies & Cream.


irresistibly creamy HÄAGEN-DAZS Divine Light Ice Cream. Made in Canada with 100% Canadian dairy, every bite is sweet perfection, with 50% less fat, 25% less sugar and no artificial flavour or colours. Available in three flavours: Choc-

2021 Product of the Year

Beauty, Health & Wellness



winners are … four thousand consumers in Canada have voted to

determine the 27 winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Canada awards. The program, which operates in 45 countries, recognizes manufacturers for innovation. “For all obvious reasons, shoppers are spending less time in the supermarket than ever, but still crave new and innovative products to light up these difficult times,” says Mike Nolan, Global ceo of Product of the Year Management. Here are the 2021 winners:

Johnson & Johnson The bandage has a four-sided seal and a 24-hour hold that lasts through handwashing and withstands damage and frays. Bread

BON MATIN LA MIE DE L’ARTISAN AVOINE Bimbo Canada Made in Quebec with simple ingredients to deliver an artisanal taste and texture. Breakfast Food

ALL DAY BREAKFAST HASH BROWN WAFFLES Cavendish Farms Part of Cavendish Farms’ new lineup of all-day breakfast products, these super crispy breakfast hash browns have a traditional waffle shape. Chocolate - Bars

CADBURY DAIRY MILK OREO BAR 38 GRAMS Mondelēz Canada This chocolate bar features Cadbury Dairy Milk on the outside and a smooth vanilla cream with crunchy Oreo cookie bits on the inside.

March/April 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 73

2021 Product of the Year

Chocolate – Minis

KINDER BUENO MINI Ferrero Canada These chocolates come in bitesize pieces that are individually wrapped to maintain freshness and support portion control. Coffee – Single-Serve Coffee Pods

MAXWELL HOUSE 100% COMPOSTABLE SINGLESERVE COFFEE PODS Kraft Heinz Canada The coffee pods are 100% Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified compostable, and the outer box is 100% recyclable and made from 100% recycled content paperboard. Dairy – Cheese

BOURSIN FIG & BALSAMIC Fromageries Bel Canada Sweet figs and tart balsamic vinegar come together in this creamy cheese that is ideal on baguettes or to add a sophisticated finish to appetizers. Deli Meat

LONGO’S CURATO ITALIAN ANTIPASTO PARTY PACK TRAY Longo Brothers Fruit Markets An Italian antipasto selection featuring 18-month aged Prosciutto, Milano salami, Spianata Romana salami and Coppa Emiliana. Dressings & Sauces

PANACHE TURMERIC & BLACK PEPPER DRESSING Sobeys Free from artificial flavours and colours, this dressing is produced in Canada in small batches. 74  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

Will the winner of the SnackS category, please say CHEESE…y Puffs! PRODUCT OF THE YEAR - SNACKS* Our White Cheddar Puffs are made with real, simple ingredients - you know, ingredients you don’t have to scrunch up your face to say - and nothing fake so all its ingredients are sourced from nature. Gluten-Free


Made with real cheddar cheese!

*Survey of 4,000 people by Kantar.

2021 Product of the Year

Face Moisturizer

NEUTROGENA BRIGHT BOOST GEL CREAM Johnson & Johnson Powered by Neoglucosamine and other premium ingredients, this gel cream helps restore brightness and kickstart tired, dull skin. Frozen Dessert

LONGO’S PISTACHIO ICE CREAM Longo Brothers Fruit Markets A smooth ice cream that’s inspired by authentic Italian flavour with the benefit of 100% Canadian milk. Gluten-Free

LONGO’S CHICKPEA VEGGIE BURGER Longo Brothers Fruit Markets Light and crispy, these frozen chickpea burgers are gluten-free, contain no soy and are vegan. Household Product

VIM REFILL ECOPACK Unilever The 10-times concentrated cleaning Refill EcoPack allows consumers to refill and reuse their VIM spray bottle up to 15 times. Lactose-Free

THE LAUGHING COW LACTOSE FREE Fromageries Bel Canada This cheese features the same taste and creamy texture as The Laughing Cow’s regular cheese, but is lactose-free. Laundry Detergent

PERSIL OXI DISCS Henkel Consumer Goods Canada These pre-measured laundry detergent capsules simplify the routine of doing laundry and deliver a deep clean. 76  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021


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3/2/21 10:49 AM

! y a d o t ts r e o n li ep n r o / py o c 1 e c 2 o 0 r 2 g r n u a o i y nad r e Ca Ord


Annual directory of chains and groups in Canada


2021 Product of the Year Mascara

AIR VOLUME MEGA MASCARA L’Oréal Paris Suitable for all eyelash types, the Air Volume formula is air whipped to create a lashmultiplying effect that is smudge and flake resistant. Skin Care

NEUTROGENA ULTRA SHEER FACE MIST SPF 50 Johnson & Johnson The Ultra Sheer Face Mist is oil-free, non-comedogenic, oxy­ benzone-free and contains vitamin E to help condition the skin. Snack Bars

NATURE VALLEY WAFER BAR General Mills It’s a crispy wafer bar filled with creamy peanut butter and topped with crunchy nuts. Snacks

ANGIE’S BOOMCHICKAPOP WHITE CHEDDAR PUFFS Conagra Brands These crispy, savoury snacks are made with real ingredients like cheddar cheese and are gluten free and non-GMO. Tea

TETLEY SUPER TEAS Tata Consumer Products These Super Teas are the first line of teas in Canada to be fortified with vitamins and minerals for added health benefits. Vitamins & Supplements

CENTRUM MULTI+PROBIOTICS GSK A multivitamin and a probiotic in one tablet with nutrients to support immune function, eyesight and energy metabolism, with one billion CFUs (colony forming units) of BB-12 to help support gastrointestinal health. CG

More Product of theYear winners:

• Dishwasher || WHIRLPOOL FINGERPRINT RESISTANT QUIET DISHWASHER WITH THIRD RACK, Whirlpool Canada • Kitchenware || KITCHENAID 5 CUP CORDLESS HAND CHOPPER, Whirlpool Canada • Large Appliance || WHIRLPOOL 36” 4-DOOR COUNTER DEPTH REFRIGERATOR, Whirlpool Canada • Mattress & Bed || TEMPUR-PRO SERIES, Tempur-Pedic • Mattress in a Box || DOUGLAS, • Small Appliance || KITCHENAID CORDLESS HAND BLENDER, Whirlpool Canada 78  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021


Participating Manufacturers A.Lassonde Acosta Allen’s Vinegar Bimbo Canada Burnbrae Farms Campbell’s Coca-Cola ConAgra Brands Danone Inc.

General Mills Irving Consumer Products Kraft Heinz Kruger Products Lactalis Maple Leaf Foods McCormick Nestlé Old Dutch Foods

PepsiCo Foods P&G Saputo Smucker Foods Tree of Life Unilever Weston Foods

MULTISTORE INTERNAL CONTEST Medium Surface Gold Colemans Food Centre, Botwood, NL

Coleman Family Supplier – Kruger Products

Large Surface Gold IGA Lamoureux #8030, St-Eustache, QC

Yves Lamoureux Supplier – Manon Lauzon, General Mills

THEMED EVENT Small Surface Gold South Hill Fine Foods, Moose Jaw, SK

Perry Chambers and Store Team Supplier – Carey Bailey – Saputo Dairy Products

Medium Surface Gold Powell’s Supermarket, Bay Roberts, NL

John Mercer Supplier – Geoff Tessier – Kraft Heinz Large Surface Gold Save-On-Foods #980 - Orchard Plaza, Kelowna, BC

Scott Nazaruk, Eric Falkenberg Supplier – Bryan Haffenden – PepsiCo, Kyle Joslin – Frito-Lay

PERIMETER DISPLAY Small Surface Gold Watrous Co-op, Watrous, SK

Carl Danku Supplier – Carol Rissling – Kraft Heinz

Medium Surface Gold Iga Famille Drolet et Paquette Inc, Coteau du lac, QC

Mme Paquette et M. Drolet Supplier – Catherine Gougeon – General Mills

Large Surface Gold Longo’s, Aurora, ON

Longo’s Aurora Team Supplier – Adam O’Driscoll – Maple Leaf Foods

MULTIMANUFACTURER Small Surface Gold Westfort Foods, Thunder Bay, ON

Rob Van Dyk, Jeff Van Dyk Supplier – Dan Oleksuk – Kraft Heinz, ConAgra Brands and Lisa Simkanin – McCormick

Medium Surface Gold Quality Foods, Parksville, BC

Darcy Ginter Supplier – Paul Little – Coca-Cola and Old Dutch

Large Surface Gold Save-On-Foods #990 – Park & Tilford, Northern Vancouver, BC

Sean Cantin Supplier – Scott Hudson – Kraft Heinz, Craig Britton – Maple Leaf and Weston Foods

SINGLE MANUFACTURER Small Surface Gold Colemans Food Centre - Caribou Rd, Corner Brook, NL

Coleman Family Supplier – ConAgra Brands

Medium Surface Gold Longo’s York Mills, Toronto, ON

Longo’s York Mills Team Supplier – Jisun Kwon - Nestlé

Large Surface Gold Colemans Gardens Market, Corner Brook, NL

Coleman Family Supplier – PepsiCo Foods

Number one … and still Attracting talent: the game is changing

Summerhill Market’s new Toronto store


“The grocery industry is changing faster than ever. Canadian Grocer is a great resource for our team, providing analysis, insights and trends in our highly competitive environment.” Anthony Longo, President & CEO, Longo’s

“I think it (Canadian Grocer) is required reading for the industry.” Eric La Flèche, President & CEO, Metro Inc.

Generation Next MEET OUR 2019 WINNERS

“I rely on Canadian Grocer to keep me up to date and continuously inspired about the future” Ken Keelor, CEO, Calgary Co-op

201,593* total audience | Magazine • Website • eNewsletter

Webinars || Awards || Mentoring || Conferences *aam, Alliance for Audited Media June 2020

for 135 years growing Grocery’s meal opportunity A big appetite for local

2020’s Gen Next winners The lure of seafood



Empire Co.’s

Michael MEDLINE talks Voilà, private label

and leading and learning during covid-19


| 75% growth year over year*

DOES YOUR BEEF PROGRAM MAKE THE GRADE? Canadians are looking for the good stuff.

Grade Expectations

Promotion and Marketing Support

When your customers bite into a juicy steak or roast, they want to enjoy high-quality beef produced in Canada. The Canadian beef grading system helps ensure the beef offered will meet expectations every time. Here’s how to choose a beef program with the right combination of quality and value your customers are looking for.

To learn more about the Canadian beef grading system and for more information about the programs and services available from the Canada Beef team to promote and expand your Canadian beef category contact: Rod Koning, Executive Director, Channel Marketing



A good value choice offering lower levels of marbling and typically fewer calories than Canada AAA and Prime Grades. Canada AA beef can be tender and flavourful and performs well with all popular cooking methods.

A great choice for high-quality beef. Canada AAA offers higher levels of marbling than Canada AA and is well suited for all popular cooking methods. Canada AAA will become a delicious family favourite when grilled, broiled, simmered or roasted to perfection.



Canadian beef brands that include only the most marbled (Top Tier) beef within the Canada AAA grade are an excellent choice for steakhouse-quality beef. These brands offer beef with the very best marbling, flavour and juiciness within the AAA grade.

Canada and the U.S. use the same marbling thresholds to define high-quality beef grades. The above illustrations are reduced reproductions of the Official USDA Marbling Photographs prepared for the U.S. Department of Agriculture by and available from the American Meat Science Association.

An extraordinary choice for exclusive steakhouses, hotels and serious home chefs. Canada Prime is selected for maximum marbling, flavour and juiciness and only available in limited supply. |





A grocer’s guide to a profitable 2021 summer grilling season By Michele Sponagle

As they prepared for summer barbecue season 2020, grocery retailers were heading into uncharted territory. One year later, still contending with the pandemic, they’re poised for round two. What will it be like? In the absence of an ancient oracle to consult, we look to leading experts, retailers and producers to chime in on the 2021 barbecue season and the trends shaping it. All signs indicate another successful summer is in store, as Canadians are itching to get outside and fire up their grills. The biennial consumer survey from the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, released in April 2020, predicted backyard cooks would be barbecuing more frequently and stretching the grill season into new months, and those predictions seem to have rung true. Clearly, Canada’s love affair with grilling runs deep: more than seven in 10 Canadians own a grill or a smoker, versus 64% of U.S. consumers. It will be a big year for backyard barbecuing, says Dana McCauley, director,

March/April 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 85

Aisles New Venture Creation at University of Guelph. “Canadians are so fed up with eating the same stuff,” she says. “They are experiencing serious oven fatigue and are looking for ways to end the boredom. There’s a desire to mix up their repertoire by being outside where they can grill and socialize safely.” Indeed, Canadians are finding new ways to celebrate and summer barbecue season is a “big one” according to NielsenIQ. During its recent webinar on the State of the Canadian FMCG Industry in late February, Francis Parisien, vice-president, Eastern-Canada, said the 2020 season saw “big growth” for a number of summer categories including perennial favourites like beef and sausages, but also plant-based alternatives. “With the upcoming season you can expect people will be staying home and having friends, family and small groups over [contributing to] a good summer of 2021,” he said. Parisien is encouraging retailers and brands to look at what happened last year when planning for the upcoming season.

Protein as the main event Further fuelling the thrill of the grill is the array of new products popping up, including alternative proteins. That makes barbecuing more appealing to broader types of groups, notes McCauley, and makes it easier for households with a mix of meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. But even as many carnivores strive to add more plant-based proteins into their diets, it’s likely meat eaters won’t forego beef, if history is any indication.

All about the accessories

While the steaks, kabobs, veggie burgers and the like are undoubtedly the main event when it comes to barbecue time, backyard grilling simply wouldn’t be possible without the accessories. From charcoal and butane fuel to foil wrap and disposable dishware, this NielsenIQ data reveals how various barbecue-related non-food items fared in Canada during the past year.

BARBECUE SEASON ACCESSORIES  52 weeks ending Feb. 13, 2021 $ Sales

% Chg

























1 Now we’re

cooking ... with charcoal! Sales of charcoal were up a whopping 26% to $22.5 million in the 52 weeks ending Feb. 13, 2021. 2 A sign Canadians are becoming more concerned for the environment? Disposable cutlery sales are down 19% to $16.3 million, while disposable dishware dropped by 13% to $95.5 million. 3 Wrap it up! Sales of foil wrap (a favourite material for many seasoned grillers) rose by an impressive 20% to $87.4 million in the past year.


86  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

During the first six months of the pandemic, beef prices rose by as much as 10% to 20% because of increased demand and interruptions in availability due to COVID. Even so, sales remained steady. The spike was temporary. At the end of 2020, meat prices were up just 2.5%. Though price sensitivity is an issue for some consumers who have experienced income drops, others who maintained full employment throughout the pandemic are willing to splurge on more expensive cuts of meat. Grocers will need to cater to both groups, says McCauley. For the more price conscious, she suggests grocers promote “cheap and cheerful” proteins like sausages and ground beef, plus bulk boxes of burgers to encourage stocking up. For all shoppers, a steady stream of interesting products will provide inspiration. Jack Rogers, sales director, Beef and Bison at Bouvry Canada, is feeling bullish on his company’s sales prospects this year. “We continue to build our cattle and bison herds, feeding capacity and [will] invest in expanding the size of our processing facility,” he explains. “All of our new brands are pointed directly to a solid sales increase in retail.” Rogers is also concentrating on banishing consumer boredom. “We have a focus on unusual experiences that bring people together and are shareable. Our tomahawk has a unique cut and we are looking to this as an example,” he says. “Since our cattle have been feeding well, we are building out a primegraded category. Though prime is the top 2% of all steaks in Canada and usually something you see just at high-end steakhouses, we hope retailers might look at it, too, this year.” With shoppers looking for restaurant-style experiences at home, it may be the right time for prime. Grocers may also find bison is an enticing option for customers. Rogers predicts Springbank Bison cuts will do very well this summer—Bouvry raises the animals on its own grassland and finishes them with grain so they don’t taste gamey. To encourage consumers to stray from their comfort zone, he underscores the importance of education and recipes. “We think retailers can help by getting the cooking techniques through to the consumer,” he notes. “Cuts popular in other parts of the world are another huge opportunity.” This includes tri-tip—used frequently in parts of the United States known for barbecue—petit tender, flat irons (becoming more popular in restaurants), bavette or flank steak (a favourite in Quebec), and skirt steak. Trevor Nichols, brand manager, Maple Lodge Farms, also foresees strong sales growth this summer. He’s predicting the company’s Ultimate Frankfurters and Ultimate Chicken Dinner & Breakfast Sausages, arriving in stores in May, will do very well, along with its Fresh From The Farm chicken, raised on Ontario family farms. “These products are all prepared in Canada and recent research shows the pandemic has resulted in Canadians wanting to

Canada Pork


Slice & Save Merchandising Programs from Canada Pork Sales of vacuum-packed whole primal and sub-primal cuts of pork present an excellent growth opportunity for innovative Canadian retail operators.

Value has become an important consideration as consumers look for affordable choices in the meat department. Many are interested in buying larger product sizes as a way to save money, although a lack of confidence in terms of cooking and preparation methods can be a major barrier to purchase. Canada Pork’s Slice & Save strategy offers resources designed to build consumer knowledge about these primal and sub-primal cuts. Increasing consumer

confidence by showing them how to prepare these cuts will increase the likelihood of purchase and enhance customer satisfaction as they prepare these cuts at home. This approach also supports retail operator margin by reducing labour cost, minimizing product loss due to shrinkage and increases meat department sales volume. Resources include brochures and videos along with on-pack consumer labels that

feature a diagram with slicing information and suggested cooking methods. These labels show customers “where to slice” and inspire a variety of exciting meal options. For more information about Canada Pork’s Slice & Save point-of sale-consumer support materials available to licensed Verified Canadian Pork™ retail operators, please contact Canada Pork’s market development team: Kevin Mosser and Sara Murphy at

Offer Customers Premium Quality. Verified Canadian Pork™ is built on the foundation of Canada’s on-farm national standards for food safety, animal care, and traceability, combined with Canada’s world-class meat inspection system through HACCP-approved processing facilities. Canadian pork farmers do not use hormones to raise pigs in Canada.

Canada Pork Slice & Save Merchandising Program for Retailers

Slice & Save Consumer Support Brochure. Canada Pork’s 16-page consumer education brochure contains packaging and storage information, food safety information, cooking methods, nutritional information and portion cutting tips for five Canadian pork cuts including boneless loin, tenderloin, boneless belly, capicola shoulder and pork top sirloin.


Slice & Save Canadian Pork Side Ribs. Canada Pork also offers a Slice & Save strategy to promote sales of vacuum-packed whole Canadian pork side ribs at retail. Retail marketing support materials include on-pack consumer labels with slice-at-home information to transform whole side ribs into St. Louis style side ribs. The label highlights step-by-step slicing information to enhance consumer confidence as well as cooking and preparation information for maximum impact.

Canada Pork’s powerful library of home slicing how-to videos is an excellent resource for retailers to share with consumers. These videos feature exciting new meal ideas and easy-to-follow instructions for a variety of vacuum-packed whole primal and sub-primal cuts of pork including pork tenderloin, belly, top sirloin, capicola shoulder, boneless loin and pork side ribs. Find them at

For more information contact Kevin Mosser +1 519 761-7675 or Sara Murphy +1 905-973-3672


1 2 3 4

4 ways to turn up the heat on merchandising/promotion for barbecue season START PROMOTING BARBECUE FARE EARLIER THAN EVER BEFORE. Consumers suffering from cabin fever are chomping at the

bit, ready to get grilling as soon as possible.

UP YOUR GAME IN STEAKS. By far, the No. 1 choice of protein for Canadian barbecues is steaks. Statista data shows 43% of Canadians prefer them, compared to 31% for burgers and 9% for ribs. CARRY A FULL RANGE OF ACCESSORIES AND EVEN BARBECUES. Almost 40% of consumers said they were looking to

purchase a new grill, according to a Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association survey. Along with that, they’ll also want new tools. Have them available in-store. And while you’re at it, why not stock a grill or two?

ENCOURAGE THE ONE-STOP SHOP. Though customers can get charcoal briquettes or coolers elsewhere, they have been trained by covid to make fewer shopping trips to get what they need. If grocers carry those items, shoppers will buy them out of convenience.

support local Canadian businesses even more than in the past,” he notes. Chicken will continue to be a strong contender for space on the grill. The pandemic has seen increased sales and more at-home consumption, according to Lisa Bishop-Spencer, director of brand and communications, Chicken Farmers of Canada. She expects demand for chicken to grow. “The summertime is a good time for people to start making use of their outdoor spaces, and using their barbecues more and more,” she notes. The boneless, skinless chicken breast is still the champ when it comes to popularity, but Bishop-Spencer says there’s interest in other cuts, like legs, thighs and whole chickens; along with a hunger for more multicultural recipes using dark meat as the primary protein. She feels that chicken is well-positioned for barbecue season because it’s the least expensive meat protein. To get the message out at the beginning of the season, Chicken Farmers of Canada will run a campaign on traditional, digital, and social media promoting barbecue recipes. “Over 91% of consumers believe it’s important that their chicken be labelled as Canadian—and they want that label to come from the farmers,” she says. Partnership with the brand is free and helps retailers clearly demonstrate their support for Canadian farmers and Canadian products. “With that partnership comes the benefit of support within our traditional, digital and social networks, as well as access to content, supportive campaigns, recipes and more. That goes a long way with consumers. It’s an effective tool to deliver on the public trust so important to us all.” Rocco Terrazzano, meat manager at Summerhill 90  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

Market in Toronto, says he noticed a 35% lift on seafood barbecue items and a 20% increase for grillfriendly meats last summer. If the economy starts to reopen more and consumers head to restaurants more frequently, he thinks those sales may dip slightly. To compensate, Summerhill will up its game with aggressive features on high-quality proteins and keep providing excellent customer service. Healthy fare, prime cuts and ready-made/easy-toprepare options like kabobs will lead the pack. Terrazzano has also noticed customers are leaning more towards packaged meats and seafood as opposed to full-service cases. “We have noticed a 40% swing, due to the perception of food safety,” he says. “This trend will continue during and most likely after COVID.” To compete with big-box stores, Italian Centre Shop in Edmonton is taking a different path. President Teresa Spinelli says they have started to sell a special type of Piedmontese meat, raised in Alberta from Chianina cows, which originated in Italy. It has a higher protein ratio and less fat. Once the pandemic started, sales went up by 83%. “I believe this trend will continue for the barbecue season,” says Spinelli. “Even though we may not be able to have people dine in our homes, we may be able to have small barbecue outdoor parties.” To go along with that fine meat, she expects sales of prepared salads and desserts to be brisk, since people will want to spend more time with family and friends instead of in the kitchen. While the retailer can’t fire up its grill and offer samples, it will do promotions via social media events where customers can post pictures of what is on the barbecue. “We will continue to tell the stories about our farmers and let people know our meat products are local and hormone free,” says Spinelli.

Plant-based barbecue It may seem “vegan butcher” is an oxymoron, but plant-based “meats” continue to gain popularity in Canada, especially among millennials. It’s not just vegans and vegetarians who are buying plant-based alternatives; carnivorous consumers are also purchasing them to reduce their meat consumption. To encourage purchases and trials by new consumers, producers of plant-based alternative proteins will be utilizing promotional pricing and IRCs (instant redeemable coupons). Due to COVID, companies like Meatless Farm Canada face challenges around providing samples to consumers directly—a strategy that worked well in pre-pandemic times, according to Darcy Peters, vice-president of sales. “Instead, we are looking into digital demos, which would allow consumers to try our products safely,” he says. He also foresees a sizzling barbecue season ahead: “Burgers and barbecue go hand-in-hand. The great thing about Meatless Farm’s burgers is that they cook quickly, which is the name of the game when you are trying to feed the family; all it takes is three minutes per side on the barbecue.” Meatless Farm ground is

EXPLORE summer flavours

Alberta Spicy Sliders


Ontario Turkey Peach Salad


COAST to COAST Grilled Montreal Steak

Aisles also popular among those who like to make homemade burgers, adding their own spin to a family recipe. Building on the success of those “premium affordable” products, Meatless Farm has recently launched two new products ideal for camping season: breakfast sausages and breakfast patties. Both can be cooked on the fire or barbecue. The company will be promoting barbecue season with social media promotion (on its own and with retail partners), in-store promotional activities and flyer ad support, as well as an influencer campaign for early spring.

Shaking up buns With burgers and hot dogs of all kinds playing star roles during summer grilling season, the bun category is keeping pace as a strong supporting player. According to Tania Goecke, senior director, marketing for Bimbo Canada, the company saw double-digit growth last summer. She expects a comparable volume level of sales for 2021, driven largely by its expansion of premium buns with new flavours and different textures across Canada. In the West, the popular garlic and onion flavour of the bestselling Everything Bagel will now be available in hamburger buns, too. Dempster’s Everything Bun will be a limited-time offering from April to

September. Meanwhile, consumers in Ontario can choose Dempster’s Signature Potato Hamburger Buns and Quebec shoppers will be able to pick up POM Signature Potato Hamburger Buns. Made with a blend of potato and Canadian wheat flour, the Dempster’s and POM Signature potato buns will be available in Ontario and Quebec from April to September as well. What’s more, Dempster’s Signature Gold Sausage Bun returns to Ontario as a permanent listing and will debut in Quebec as a limited-time offering under the POM brand. And finally, in Atlantic Canada, Dempster’s Signature Gold Bun will be back permanently after a successful limited run last year. “Even though the pandemic brought economic uncertainty, consumers are looking for ways to treat themselves and have restaurant quality experiences at home,” says Goecke. “Premium restaurant-style buns and proteins are their go-to items and they are willing to pay more for them.” B.C.’s Silver Hills Bakery is also offering consumers something new as the sprouted grain trend has taken off. It now offers sprouted whole grain hamburger buns (with or without sesame seeds) and hot dog buns. And under its Little Northern Bakehouse brand, there’s new millet and chia hot dog buns, a vegan, gluten-free option.

Easy meal enhancers


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Md. VTS-46 Md. VTS-44

Md. VTS-100


With consumers trying to shake up their tried-andtrue repertoires with anything new, the door is open for sauces, spice blends and marinades to add a fresh spin to barbecue-based meals. As Halvana CEO Mark Stein explains, his shelf-stable roster of products like tahini, hummus and halva is perfect for customers who are shopping less and looking for culturally inspired and nutritious options. “The way we eat has changed a lot because of COVID,” he says. “We’re at home snacking more and those snacks have become more like meals. Consumers want them to be more elevated and more curated.” Halvana’s hummus ticks a lot of boxes for consumers and grocers as well, since it does not have to be refrigerated in store. Retailers don’t have to worry as much about expiry dates and wastage; while shoppers, who have shown a tendency to stock up, can buy hummus without concerns about it going bad. In time for outdoor entertaining, the company will launch a new mango and turmeric flavour. Speaking of the future, Stein says tahini (made from milled sesame seeds) is an up-and-coming superfood that will be trending, just like hummus has been, for its superfood qualities. Halvana’s silky-smooth versions (including a pesto flavour) come in a squeeze bottle, ideal as a topping for burgers and hot dogs, perhaps giving traditional condiments a run for the money. When COVID has subsided and life starts to look a little more normal, Stein feels that a new kind of consumer will emerge as a result—one that is more sophisticated, willing to shop “outside of the box” and willing to embrace foods from around the world.


High in protein, folate, fibre, iron and phosphorus, chick­ peas have long been touted for their nutritional benefits. The high fibre and protein content promotes a feeling of fullness, which may help with weight management and obesity prevention. Both dried and canned chickpeas have a low glycemic index and contain starches that the body digests slowly, helping prevent sudden surges in  2  THE STORY blood sugar and OF CHICKPEAS insulin levels. What’s Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans and chana, have been grown more, chickpeas in the Middle East for more than 10,000 years. This legume has since can lower blood an important part of cholesterol levels, become traditional cuisines in Africa, India Central and South America. which helps prevent and Commonly eaten as parts of stews heart disease. and curries, chickpeas have also long been ground and mashed into other items such as hummus, falafel and pakoras.

4  PASTA, CEREAL, PIZZA & MORE Food manufacturers are increasingly recognizing the chickpea’s ability to morph into a variety of products such as pastas, chips, tortillas and even desserts. “While chickpeas have been recognized as a nutritional powerhouse in many parts of the world for centuries, they have only made their way into the spotlight here in North America in the past decade or so as hummus grew in popularity,” explains Chickapea’s Shelby Taylor. “Now that they’ve become a more familiar ingredient and their many health benefits are widely touted, people are looking for new, tasty and convenient ways to get more chickpeas into their diets.” 94  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

3  LEVERAGING LEGUMES The rise in plant-based diets and conscious consumption has put chickpeas on a growing number of grocery shopping lists. “Newer products are gaining attention from shoppers who place an emphasis on ethical, environmentally friendly and healthy food choices,” explains Janelle Courcelles, senior manager of food innovation and marketing at Pulse Canada. “There is also a subset of shoppers who identify with vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian dietary preferences and are more inclined to purchase these products.” Canada is one of the world’s largest producers of chickpeas. Given the increased awareness and desire of shoppers to purchase local products, Courcelles recommends grocers highlight this selling feature where relevant. “When possible, display products that are sourced or produced with Canadian chickpeas as ‘local,’” she says. “As well, grocers should consider marketing the healthy and nutritional benefits associated with their consumption.” Since chickpea-based innovations are quite new, shoppers may also need some help and inspiration from grocers and manufacturers to envision how these products can be incorporated into their diets. That might mean placing chickpea items alongside alternative meat and protein products. “We’ve just created a shipper that suggests using Chickapea as the protein component in a meal, like adding it to salads, soups, curries or wraps instead of chicken,” says Shelby Taylor, founder of popular chickpea pasta brand Chickapea. “It’s more than a pasta, and will appeal to more people than those who shop the pasta aisle.”

At the Alberta-based Blush Lane Organic Markets, senior merchandising manager Ana Maria Huertas says chickpea-based pastas, spreads, butters, and snacks are definitely growing in popularity. Chickpea products even made it onto Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2021, which listed innovations like chickpea-based puff snacks, cereal, tortillas and pizza crusts (made with chickpea flour) as helping to fuel the trend. And we’re even starting to see innovations like frozen dessert made with chickpea aquafaba—the liquid from a can of chickpeas, ensuring no part of the process goes to waste.—Andrea Yu


Chickpeas  Four things  to know



May 11 & 12, 2021 VIRTUALLY CONNECT & GROW YOUR BUSINESS THROUGH EXCLUSIVE 1TO1 MEETINGS The event is your virtual gateway onto Western Canada’s Grocery Shelves! This must-attend event features the first-ever virtual meeting showrooms. They are designed to get business done virtually through GSF West Live’s exclusive RETAILER CONNECT 1-to-1 matchmaking meeting program designed to connect people based on their business interests. The virtual platform will bring together customers and sector stakeholders from all around the globe and provide virtual face-to-face meetings, networking, and relationship-building using ground-breaking technology, provided by EnsembleIQ’s leading, best-in-class virtual platform.

HEAR WHAT RETAILERS ARE SAYING ABOUT GSF WEST LIVE! “Our category managers and senior executives are excited about the virtual format!” – Ron Welke, Federated Co-operatives Limited “I look forward to ‘meeting’ our industry partners next month! New products and new possibilities!” – Brian Bradley, Stong’s Market “The virtual event this May, GSF WEST LIVE Retailer Connect, is an opportunity that allows our entire team at Save-on-Foods to take full advantage of exploring new products and to re-establish existing relationships.” – Jamie Nelson, Save-on-Foods


Using a one-click, one-stop virtual showroom concept allows for easy and efficient pre-scheduled dedicated meetings, education, sampling, and networking. This premium experience is affordable and accessible from any home or office desktop, laptop or tablet.


This pioneering event will provide even more engagement opportunities complete with keynotes, workshops, product discovery and more. The showrooms can be accessed easily with one click and feature exhibitors’ curated products and services, where sales can directly take place. Sampling and digital show bags will also be made available.

GROW YOUR BUSINESS At GSF WEST LIVE retailers and buyers from around the world will access videos, download sales

sheets and product information from their laptop or tablet, check out hundreds of innovations in the New Product Showcase digital displays, and video / text chat with vendors live, in 100 languages.

GSF WEST LIVE RETAILER CONNECT is a two-day event supported by a unique 28-day follow-up showcase after the live experience, all exhibitor virtual showrooms will remain open and active for 28 days after the event and will be available online 24 hours per day. During that period, delegates to the event can access materials and exhibitors can continue to receive visitors and meetings across the entire period.


Beverages with benefits

Innovative new options are quenching a growing thirst for functional drinks  By Jessica Huras

“The main reason this space is growing is because more consumers are wanting to approach their health and wellness from a nonmedical standpoint”

From nutrient-rich juices to mood-mellowing sparkling waters, today’s consumers want beverages that do more than simply quench their thirst. Increased consumer health-consciousness is fuelling the development of beverages with benefits, designed to address everything from immunity to anxiety with each sip. A 2020 report from the Hartman Group showed 5.3% growth in the functional food and beverage category since 2018, according to senior vice-president Shelley Balanko. “The main reason this space is growing is because more consumers are wanting to approach their health and wellness from a non-medical standpoint,” she says. “They like the idea of functional foods and beverages because they’re natural.” Balanko says the majority of respondents surveyed turn to functional beverages for general prevention. Secondarily, consumers seek specific benefits from functional beverages such as improved digestion, bone strength, an energy boost or better sleep. And with the pandemic at the forefront of public concern right now, Balanko says one of the most in-demand benefits currently is enhanced immunity. The report found that 13% of U.S. consumers drink functional beverages for immune-boosting purposes. The functional beverage category is becoming progressively more diverse, covering sports and energy drinks, juices, nutrient-infused coffees, enhanced waters and kombucha. Juice is the most popular type of functional beverage, with 84% of functional beverage users either already drinking or interested in juice for functional reasons, according to the Hartman Group’s report. Balanko attributes this to a consumer preference for functionality that’s naturally occurring over beverages that have been artificially enhanced with added ingredients. Many look to the nutrients in juice as a natural source of immunity. Digs Dorfman, CEO at Toronto grocer the Sweet Potato, has seen demand for cold-pressed juice in his store rise over the past year. While most of the Sweet Potato’s functional beverages are displayed as their own category, cold-pressed juices are instead featured

96  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

in the store’s produce section. “If we put it near the cut fruit, it’s seen as a premium fruit product,” he explains. Cold-pressed juice company La Presserie flashfreezes its juices immediately after bottling to prolong shelf life. Founder and CEO Adolph Zarovinsky says many cold-pressed juices undergo heat or light treatments to facilitate a longer shelf life, which can diminish their nutritional value and taste. “They may be extracted initially as cold-pressed juices, but what happens next somewhat reduces the effectiveness of the initial product,” he says. In addition to better preserving the juices’ quality, the flash-freezing process also impacts how La Presserie’s products can be displayed at retail. Zarovinsky says many grocers are able to market La Presserie in the produce department with other cold-pressed juices, as well as in the frozen food aisle. “Having our product displayed in two cases definitely increases sales,” he says. Balanko points out that one drawback to juices for some health-conscious consumers is that they tend to be high in sugar. Offering a functional beverage with zero sugar was a top priority for Alex Simonelli when developing Daydream, a sparkling water infused with hemp extracts and adaptogens, which are plant-derived ingredients said to help the body manage physical and emotional stress. “The food scientists I was working with were telling me, ‘You’ve got to add 10 grams of sugar,’” he says. “I had to bang the drum and find a way to make hemp and ginseng and all these earthy flavours taste good.” Mood-oriented functional beverages like Daydream are an emerging functional beverage trend, according to Balanko. Even big companies like Pepsi­Co are getting into the market, with the company recently launching Driftwell, a relaxation-enhancing beverage containing L-theanine. Ellen Osborne, grocery buyer for Toronto’s Summerhill Market, says their stores have seen a growing demand for mood-oriented functional beverages like Daydream and Kite, another sparkling water brand enhanced with adaptogens. “People are looking for something to [help them] unwind and they don’t want to drink that glass of wine,” she says. Summerhill Market displays functional beverages such as adaptogen-infused waters, kombuchas, and specialty cold brew coffees in their own section, separate from traditional beverages. “They’re at such a different price point compared to the standard Snapple,” says Osborne. “You have to really make sure the consumer is able to see the difference in terms of what they’re buying.” As the functional beverage market evolves, Balanko thinks taste and natural functionality will take on even greater importance. “Consumers prefer to get functionality from inherent sources, as opposed to something that’s overly engineered,” she says. “In the future, we would anticipate that new innovations are even more clean and leverage the inherent functionality of naturally occurring ingredients.”




loves you back

® Fairlife, LLC, used under license.

Now accepting nominations for 2021 Deadline to enter: May 22, 2021 Submit your nomination online

The Golden Pencil Award recognizes contribution to the grocery industry.

• Presented by The Food Industry Association of Canada, this award honours individuals who have made significant and worthwhile contributions to improving the Canadian food industry as well as their respective companies and communities. • The ideal candidate should be actively involved with the Canadian grocery industry for a minimum of 10 years, achieving senior executive status. •

Recipients will be recognized at the annual Golden Pencil Awards presentation in November 2021.

New on shelf! 1  CHICKAPEA ELBOWS AND LASAGNE PASTA Chickapea is adding elbows and lasagne to its line of pasta, which is made using only two ingredients: chickpeas and lentils. Chickapea pasta products are organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan. They are also high in protein, fibre and iron, and free from additives and preservatives. 2  BOURSIN DAIRY-FREE Bel Group says texture was a top priority when creating a plantbased version of its popular Boursin cheese. Boursin Dairy-Free delivers with a smooth and creamy texture, combined with garlic and fine herbs. With no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives, this product is made with organic coconut oil and has plant-based, non-GMO and kosher certifications.

Aisles The latest products hitting shelves


2 3


3  SPLENDA KETO & SPLENDA MONK FRUIT Splenda has extended its line of no-calorie sweeteners to include Splenda Keto and Splenda Monk Fruit—both of which are non-GMO and are made with naturally sourced ingredients. According to Splenda, both also taste, measure and bake just like traditional sugar.


4  KERR’S SOFT BUTTERSCOTCH AND SOFT VANILLA CARAMELS Slow cooked in copper kettles with real cream and butter, Kerr’s Soft Butterscotch and Soft Vanilla Caramels are free from peanuts, tree nuts and gluten. They’re also naturally flavoured with vanilla and hints of molasses. 5  HEALTHY CRUNCH CRISPY SQUARES Healthy Crunch has launched a line of vegan rice crispy treats in four flavours: Vanilla, Double Chocolate, S’mores, and Chocolate Strawberry. Healthy Crunch Crispy Squares are gluten-free, tree nut-free, peanut-free, allergen-friendly and contain one serving of fruits and vegetables per square. Made using brown rice and pea protein crisp, the Ontario-based company says these squares taste “just like traditional crispy treats.”


March/April 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 99

Keeping you one step ahead You require innovative, scalable solutions that move your brands one way – upward and forward. See how our team at Acosta can deliver progressive sales and marketing services that enable you to win in the modern marketplace.

Trusted brands trust Acosta. Canadian Office in Mississauga, Ontario Contact: Brian Rafuse, VP Business Development

New on shelf! 6  MADEGOOD STAR PUFFED CRACKERS Canada’s MadeGood brand is expanding into the savoury snack category with the introduction of a new product line: Star Puffed Crackers. Gluten free, dairy free and organic, these crunchy snacks contain nutrients from six different fruits and vegetables. The new crackers are available in three tasty flavours: Sea Salt, Cheddar, and Pizza.

Aisles The latest products hitting shelves


7  FURLANI SOFT ROLLS, KNOTS AND BISCUITS Furlani is expanding its product assortment to include soft dinner rolls, hand-tied knots and biscuits. Made with simple ingredients such as real butter, buttermilk, garlic and aged cheddar cheese, each bread comes in an ovenready bakeable bag and takes only 10 minutes to prepare. The new lineup includes soft rolls in roasted garlic and cranberry & honey flavours; Tex Mex and Italian herb & tomato knots; and aged cheddar & garlic biscuits.

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8  THE CHOMPERY DOG TREATS Cargill is focusing on Fido for the launch of The Chompery: a new brand of butcher-quality dog treats that it says are natural, single-ingredient, and sourced and produced in North America. The line includes bones, ribs, windpipes and jerkies that can be used for various purposes including rewards, training or entertainment. 9  EGGO CHOCOLATE FLAVOUR CEREAL In celebration of Eggo’s 50th birthday in Canada, the iconic frozen waffle brand is introducing new Eggo Chocolate Flavour Cereal. Featuring mini chocolate-flavoured, waffle-shaped cereal pieces dusted with a chocolately coating, this cereal is made with whole grains and contains no artificial flavours or colours. 10  GO PURE OAT BARS Leclerc’s Go Pure Oat Bars are a healthy, convenient way to satisfy those afternoon cravings. The bars are free of peanuts and artificial colours, and contain 14 to 16 grams of whole grains. Sold in boxes of five individually-wrapped bars, they come in six flavours: Banana & Real Milk Chocolate Chip, Apple & Cinnamon, Mixed Berry, Cherry & Real Dark Chocolate Chip, Toasted Coconut, and Natural Honey.  CG


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Express Lane


Tom Szaky, ceo of TerraCycle, chats about his company’s Loop platform and the future of sustainable grocery shopping By Carol Neshevich WITH IT S innovative sys tem design­e d to reduce packaging waste, TerraCycle’s Loop has officially launched in Canada following successful launches in the United Kingdom, France and the United States (with Japan and Australia up next). Loop is a system where manufacturers make products available in a reusable package— Heinz ketchup, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Chipits chocolate chips, and Nature’s Path oats are just a few of the nearly 100 items currently on offer in Canada—and instead of tossing it into the recycling bin when it’s empty, the package gets picked up and returned to Loop to be sanitized and reused. Loop launched in Canada on Feb. 1 via a retail partnership with Loblaw. Canadian Grocer spoke with Tom Szaky, CEO of Terra­ Cycle, to get the scoop on Loop, consumer attitudes and the future of sustainability in grocery.

How does Loop work in Canada today? Loop allows brands to create reusable versions of their products, and then allows retailers to sell those. This is a very important part of the platform: Loop is not about online or in-store, it’s about however our retail partners want to deploy it, which tends to begin online and then go in-store. Loblaw was the one who brought us up to Canada; they launched with the online platform [on Feb. 1] and, so far, the results have been beyond our expectations.

Has the pandemic had an impact on Loop? Yes, in both expected and unexpected ways. From a negative perspective, the pandemic has put a lot of 102  CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2021

pressure on suppliers and retailers, especially grocery stores, which affected launch dates. Canada was originally supposed to launch late last year, and instead it just launched [in February]. And that’s entirely because of the extra work the partners have had just in dealing with COVID. On the positive side, we’ve seen no health and safety issues, vis-a-vis the cleaning and so on ... because we were already cleaning to such a high standard, protecting against [things] like E. coli, salmonella and other things, so our protocols were already well attuned to deal with COVID and consumers were very comfortable with that. COVID has also, I think, created a heightened concern for the environment. It made humanity’s impact on the planet become more in focus, in the sense that emission levels were down in 2020 [due to people staying home]; we were even seeing animals showing up where they haven’t shown up before. So we’re seeing a big tailwind for the environmental movement.

Do you think concern for sustainability will continue to grow? Absolutely, but perhaps not necessarily for the “good” reasons. I think it’s going to keep growing because of things like the fires in British Columbia, and people actually seeing negative [impacts on the environment]. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all wake up a bit more on our own accord? But I think we know it’s going to have to be the Earth reinforcing it in various negative ways.

How does Loop fit in with other consumer priorities, like convenience and affordability? I would argue that what’s important for consumers is convenience first, then features and benefits come second, and then third would be the delivery of that convenience with the features and benefits at a reasonable price. I’d put it in that order. So on convenience, what we’re really focused on is how do we make reuse feel [as easy as] disposability? And I think reuse really has to hit that hard, because if not, we’re only going to speak to just 1% or 2% of people who really care about sustainability and are willing to sacrifice convenience. On features and benefits, I think reuse wins because the packaging can become much more exciting, more beautiful, higher luxury material, and so on. There’s a cost to that, and that’s manifested by the consumer having to pay a deposit; but the really good news is we are seeing very low sensitivity to price. Some deposits are up at $5 and consumers are not fazed by that; I think partly because they know they get it back.

How do you see grocery shopping evolving? I do expect in the “new normal” we’ll see more online options and innovative forms of delivery. Pertaining to sustainability, almost every major grocer we interact with around the world says they must have a major play on reuse—and they really used the word must— whether that’s refill stations or systems like Loop. CG



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