Canadian Grocer May 2020

Page 1

MAY 2020

How grocery is contending with the crisis


CONTENTS May 2020 Volume 134 Number 03





A special report that looks at the impact, lessons, and opportunities to emerge from this pandemic 24 On the frontlines of a pandemic

26 Understanding shoppers in crisis mode

28 Could covid-19

be the spark that ignites online grocery in Canada?

5 Front Desk 16 Shopper Sense 18 Food Bytes 19 Evolving Retail 46 Checking Out PEOPLE

6 The Buzz

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

8 Margaret Coons

The former vegan chef is proving non-dairy cheese can be delicious

30 How will our

grocery supply chain weather the pandemic?


11 Flour power

Anxiety baking is on the rise—but will it last post-COVID-19?

32 covid-19 has

brought plenty of challenges, but also opportunities

34 Past the pandemic: what happens when the next crisis hits?

12 covid-19 and food prices Report says crisis won’t drive up prices overall, but grocers face new pressures

14 Q&A with Walmart Canada’s president and CEO

Haio Barbeito chats about the impact of COVID-19 on Walmart’s business


37 The meat of the matter


From unique cuts to plantbased alternatives, today’s meat department is ever-evolving

41 Organic’s good news story Organic food and beverage sales continue to grow

42 Hemp: four things to know We give you the lowdown on this up-and-coming "superfood"


43 Cold comforts

From ice pops to ice cream bars, new innovations in frozen novelties abound

44 Clean sweep!

Nielsen data reveals how cleaning products have been performing

45 New on shelf

42 8

Shining a spotlight on the latest products hitting shelves

FOLLOW US ON @CanadianGrocer Canadian Grocer Magazine @CanadianGrocerMagazine May 2020 Canadian Grocer




Piller’s would like to thank all essential frontline workers for feeding Canadians during the COVID-19 crisis.


Vanessa Peters



Shellee Fitzgerald


Carol Neshevich


Kristin Laird


Josephine Woertman


George H. Condon


Michael Kimpton

Grocery stores like this one in Vancouver have stepped up to keep stores safe for both their staff and customers amid COVID-19 fears


Donna Kerry


Derek Estey


Michael Cronin


Alexandra Voulu


Lina Trunina


Valerie White


Chantal Barlow


Katherine Frederick

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Extraordinary times

covid-19 is unlike any threat the industry has faced,

yet grocery is standing up to the challenge WHERE TO START? Since last writing in this space—in what seems a lifetime ago, not mere weeks—so much has changed. As it spread rapidly across the country, covid-19 (and the lockdowns and social distancing it has sparked) has disrupted the lives of Canadians on a truly grand scale, and has placed grocery stores firmly on the frontlines of a pandemic. In these extraordinary times, grocers are facing pressures and challenges unlike any they’ve faced before as they work determinedly to keep food on shelves and stores safe for both their customers and staff. The heartening news is that all these efforts have not gone unnoticed. According to an April survey by Field Agent Canada, grocery retailers rank among the most trusted brands during the pandemic. Not only have grocers been a “lifeline” to consumers through this crisis, Field Agent’s Jeff Doucette told Canadian Grocer recently, but they’ve also been doing a good job communicating with their customers In this issue we're devoting a lot of space to the subject of covid-19. In our special 10-page report (starting on page 23) our

team of writers look at how the crisis is impacting every aspect of the business of selling groceries—from supply chains to front-line workers and, of course, shopper behaviour. We also look at what lessons can be taken from this pandemic to help prepare for whatever crisis comes next (page 34) and what opportunities can be seized once the dust starts to settle (page 32). Also in this issue, Nielsen's Carman Allison dispenses advice on how grocers can build loyalty in a post-pandemic world (page 16) and we catch up with Walmart Canada CEO Haio Barbeito to learn what impact covid-19 is having on his company (page 14). In these challenging and uncertain times, it is amazing to watch the the grocery industry at work. We truly appreciate all that you do. Keep well!

Shellee Fitzgerald Editor-in-Chief

The grocery industry is changing rapidly. Keep up to date on the latest news by signing up for our e-newsletter. It’s free and we’ll deliver it to your inbox three times a week.


May 2020 Canadian Grocer



The latest news in the grocery biz


Julie Sirois

Fresh City opened its new location in downtown Toronto in April. The store offers plenty of options for its customers, who include workers at five nearby hospitals

Matthew von Teichman


SUNGIVEN FOODS is expanding its presence in

the Vancouver area with the opening of a new location in Burnaby in April. Last fall, the Asian grocery chain announced ambitious plans to open up to 15 food stores in British Columbia over the next few years. The Burnaby location, on Hastings Street, is the chain’s third opening in recent months and a fourth location, in Surrey, is set to open soon.


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

Mark Fairhurst

GreenSpace Brands has announced its founder and CEO MATTHEW VON TEICHMAN is leaving the company in July. In other news, the company has appointed JAN FARYASZEWSKI as its chief financial officer. He replaces STUART PASTERNAK in the role. BEENA GOLDENBERG has been named president and CEO at Supreme Cannabis. A CPG veteran, Goldenberg was previously CEO at Hain-Celestial Canada, where she spent 15 years.

Mercatus Technologies has promoted MARK FAIRHURST from director of marketing to vicepresident, marketing. Fairhurst has previously worked in marketing roles at GS1 Canada and Intelex Technologies. Vineland Research and Innovation Centre has named PHILLIP STEPHAN vice-president, business and client development. Prior to joining Vineland, Stephan spend nearly a decade at Saskatchewan Research Council in various management roles.


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, grocers across the country have been stepping up to help:  Save-On-Foods  has committed to donating $500,000 to help meet its fundraising goal of $1 million to give kids access to school meal supports during COVID-19. The grocer is encouraging customers to help, too, by donating in-store or online with funds raised going to Breakfast Club of Canada.

To help with food insecurity and other essential services,  Metro Inc. announced it would give $500,000 to Feed Ontario and Food Banks of Quebec, along with $500 to Centraide/ United Way's emergency fund. And in response to the mass shooting in Nova Scotia,  Sobeys Inc. and the Sobey Family have donated $425,000 to the Stronger Together Nova Scotia fund to support individuals and communities impacted by the tragedy.


Despite the pandemic, FRESH CITY decided to forge ahead with the opening of its new Toronto store in April. Specializing in organic, sustainable and seasonal fresh food, the 5,500-sq.-ft. store is located at the base of a condo building at the corner of Bay and Gerrard Streets and close to five of the city’s hospitals. Founder and ceo Ran Goel told Canadian Grocer the launch was “very pared back from the initial vision, but we’re providing grab-and-go groceries, which we can do safely.” Goel also said Fresh City would be offering all hospital workers a 10% discount on grab-and-go fresh prepared items and single beverages. The opening marks Fresh City’s eighth location across all three brands (the others are The Healthy Butcher and Mabel’s Bakery) under the company’s umbrella.

Beena Goldenberg

JULIE SIROIS has taken on the role of vice-president of sales at Mondelēz Canada. Sirois, a Canadian Grocer Star Women in Grocery winner, comes to Mondelēz after a 17-year stint at PepsiCo, where she worked across all areas of sales.


Who you need to know

A CULTURED CHOICE Nuts for Cheese’s Margaret Coons wants to prove nondairy can be delicious  By Carolyn Cooper




argaret coons’

vision “has always been to share great-quality vegan food with as many people as possible,” says the founder and CEO of Nuts for Cheese, a London, Ont.-based maker of organic, non-dairy “cheese” made from fermented cashews. “Food is totally my passion, so it’s amazing for me to be able to create a product that helps people eat better food and shows them vegan food can taste really good.” A vegetarian—and then vegan—since her early teens, Coons always knew she wanted to work in the food industry. It was while working as a chef at a vegan restaurant that the young entrepreneur hit on a significant gap in the market. “There wasn’t a ton of really good vegan cheese products available, so I started making my own. I’ve heard so many people say ‘I would totally go vegan if I didn’t have to give up cheese,’” she laughs. “I started thinking, OK, there’s something here. Cheese is a delicious thing, and I wanted to be able to provide consumers with a viable alternative.” Coons decided to try selling her cheese alternatives at London’s farmers market in 2015. She knew she was on to something when word got out and local businesses began placing orders before she had even finished making the products. “I quickly looked up how to make proper labels, and I was printing stickers on my home printer,” she recalls. “It really snowballed from there.” Moving her fledgling company to a shared plant, and in 2017 to its current 20,000-­s q.-ft. facility, was a “massive learn­ing curve,” says Coons. As well as the usual startup demands, one challenge was scaling up recipes for high-volume production. “We make our own cultures, we ferment and age all our products, and they’re cut and packaged by hand, so there are lots of things that are very artisan, which are important to the quality of the product, but which make it a bit challenging to scale,” she explains. “But we’ve been profitable since the beginning, so in the earlier stages it was easier for us to funnel our sales right back into the company and invest in our growth.” Today, Nuts for Cheese is sold in more

than 1,500 grocery stores across Canada, including major chains and independents. “People, unfortunately, tend to associate vegan products with something that’s kind of bland or not tasty, and I think our product really dispels that myth,” says Coons. The products can be sliced, melted, spread and shredded just like dairy cheese, and sell for about $11.99 per 120-gram wedge. While calories, protein and fat vary, they are all generally lower in calories, sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat than dairy cheese. The company’s six SKUs are made with organic, fair trade certified ingredients, and mimic the look and flavour of the dairy-based cheese varieties they’re named after: Chipotle “Cheddar” Flavoured Wedge; Un-Brie-Lievable; Red Rind; Smoky Artichoke and Herb; Super “Blue”; and Black Garlic. “Because they’re all fermented … they have a sort of tangy, cheesy flavour,” explains Coons. “We try to emulate things as much as possible. For instance, the Un-Brie-Lievable, our top-seller, is made with coconut milk and is rich and creamy like a traditional Brie, while the Blue is sharper, and has a pungent earthiness from the spirulina.” Coons says the changes in the plantbased and better-for-you categories have been incredible to see. “The availability of products in the market now is like vegan paradise compared to 10 years ago. Our timing has been really lucky, for lack of a better word, because we were right ahead of that curve of vegan products being mainstream and in high demand. So, we have been able to leverage that.” She adds that “the number of Canadians who are lactose intolerant is quite high, so people are avoiding dairy for many reasons.” This summer, Nuts for Cheese will launch two SKUs of vegan “butters”— original salted and herb & garlic—made from a fermented cashew and coconut base. It will also be expanding distribution into the United States. “I feel so grateful that things have worked out how they have, and I definitely don’t take it for granted,” says Coons. “Part of the success of the company has been about just jumping at every opportunity that’s been presented to us. And it’s been a really great, fun journey.”  CG

MARGARET COONS What would you say is the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur? The biggest reward is that I get to cultivate my own work environment in a way that is well-suited to my values and to how I want to run a business. There’s a lot of creative freedom in that.

What’s the best career advice you've received? One of my mentors told me: “The things that you did to get you to where you are [now] are not going to be the things that are going to get you to the next level.” It points to needing to be adaptable and flexible, and being able to change your course at any point when you need to pivot.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Be prepared to throw yourself entirely into what you’re doing. It’s commitment over anything else. How much you care, and how much you’re willing to put into it, is going to determine how successful you’re going to be.

Do you have any hobbies? I’m taking Spanish lessons, and I like to run and do yoga. I’m actually working on a cookbook as well. I’m one of those classic entrepreneurs who’s got about 20 things on the go at all times!

May 2020 Canadian Grocer



Retailers, suppliers, shoppers, insights



Flour power Anxiety baking is on the rise— but will it last post-covid-19? By Michele Sponagle


all it what you will: stress baking, anxiety baking or even the catchier

“distracti-baking.” All you need to do is scroll through social media to see endless photos of gooey brownies, banana breads and clumsy attempts at cake decorating to see consumers are mixing it up in the kitchen, now more than ever. Recent research backs this up. According to Ipsos’ Path Forward Study—Wave 1, 31% of Canadians said they purchased more baking ingredients than they would normally during the first three weeks of pandemic restrictions, while 23% are baking from scratch and eating more baked goods—things that had been flatlining and declining since 2017. The reasons aren’t difficult to grasp: Baked goods (keto diets, be damned) are comfort foods. “Just the aroma of baked goods provides a sense of comfort,” says Tim Pychyl, associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa. “The act May 2020 Canadian Grocer


IDEAS of baking itself makes you feel good. It is satisfying to do something productive and to focus on something that distracts us from anxious thoughts.” Perhaps more surprising is which consumers are getting busy baking. Boomers report they are baking the same amount as before covid-19. But it’s gen Z and millennials (consumers aged 18 to 39 years old) who have embraced baking as a new pursuit and use social media to share the results. “Millennials are trend seeking,” says Pychyl. “They are keen to hop on the wagon and try something that’s new to them. They also aren’t going out much, so baking is something they can do. In an unpredictable world, baking provides a sense of control, even if it’s just in your own kitchen.” In unsettling situations like these, consumers seek what’s familiar or soothing. And the rewards of baking are plentiful, according to Jane Dummer, a registered dietitian and food consultant. Bakers can improve their skills, get excited about doing something new, focus on a project

from start to finish and use baking to bond with their children over a fun activity. “It appeals to the senses,” she says. And with breadmaking, in particular, there is an almost primal appeal. “Bread is one of the oldest foods known to civilization, so when we are in a global crisis, it makes sense to go to a food that has a long history of nourishing us,” she adds. Posting the results of anxiety baking online has created a buzz that helped the trend gain momentum. But while grocery retailers may be struggling to keep up with the growing consumer demand for flour and yeast, it isn’t necessarily translating to a substantiated boom in bread baking specifically, says Kathy Perrotta, vice-president, market strategy and understanding at Ipsos. Purchasing baking ingredients may be more about pantry loading and finding solace in simply having them on hand. “The data doesn’t tell us bread is one of the top things being made. The numbers show consumers actually buying frozen products—buns, rolls and

covid-19 and food prices Report says crisis won’t drive up overall prices in 2020, but grocers face new pressures By Rebecca Harris the covid - 19 pandemic is having a

huge impact on how Canadians shop, but it won’t have much of an impact on their wallets—yet. Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph released an update on their forecast for food prices for 2020. Overall, food prices are still expected to increase by the 2% to 4% that was initially predicted in the 10th annual edition of Canada’s Food Price Report, released in December 2019. The only food categories with changes are bakery and vegetables, which have been revised upwards due to the weakened Canadian dollar. The December report anticipated a rise of up to 2% in bakery prices and 2% to 4% in vegetable prices. “Food inflation is completely natural, and we are still expecting food prices to go up by as much as 4%,” says Sylvain Charlebois, senior director, Agri-Food Analytics Lab Faculty of


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

Agriculture, Dalhousie University. “The Canadian dollar is going to impact a few food categories and that has nothing to do with covid-19—it has everything to do with the oil price war.” As the updated report explains, the dollar is currently at its lowest level in many years, affecting importers’ buying power. “If the dollar drops further, many items we import will cost more, from produce to canned goods, to many other processed foods we purchase regularly,” the report states. GROCERS UNDER NEW PRESSURES While covid - 19 isn’t driving up food prices, consumers aren’t exactly getting deals right now. As the report notes, grocers are shifting away from promotions and discounting, and turning their attention to food safety and public health protocols. Many grocery retailers have put up Plexiglass barriers between

specialty bread—to pop in the oven. My sense is they are also making cookies and muffins,” she says. “They’re looking to partially homemade items, like mixes for cakes and brownies.” Will this new-found love of baking last post-covid-19? Don’t count on it, says Perrotta. “The power of convenience is such that the novelty of baking will be short-lived. When people get back to more normal times and the pace of life speeds up again, I don’t see much scratch baking happening.” What is more likely to have staying power is consumers’ enjoyment of baked goods. Grocers can tap into that, according to Perrotta. “I think they have an opportunity to promote the benefits of baking and put together marketing initiatives that give consumers ideas and solutions at the touch of a fingertip. Grocers are going to have a unique chance to have consumer eyes on their website pages in a way they’ve never had before, allowing them to connect in a different way as people and build loyalty.”

employees and customers, and are asking customers to adhere to physical distancing while they’re shopping. Security to control traffic in stores and store-cleaning protocols have been enhanced across the country, which has also increased the cost of operating a store. “Promotions are not as present in the marketplace compared to before covid-19, and frankly, it’s understandable because grocers have other priorities,” says Charlebois. “However, [these measures] put real financial pressure on grocers and that’s why we may eventually see food prices rise as a result.” On top of rising costs from new protocols, many major grocery retailers have committed to temporary wage increases, driving up operational costs. Though the increases are meant to be temporary, that could change. “I suspect that grocers may decide to continue,” says Charlebois. “Grocers will want to attract strong talent and you can’t do it without increasing salaries.” Grocery store employees have never been so popular, he adds. “People are thankful for these hard-working people who are not earning a whole lot. And from a social and political perspective, they have way more currency than ever before.”



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Grocery retail in the covid-19 era Canadian Grocer has been checking in with operators across the country to find out how they’re doing, how their job has changed over the last couple months, and what long-term impact covid-19 might have on their business. Here, we catch up with Walmart Canada president and CEO Haio Barbeito. How has your average working day changed? It’s not business as usual, and the way I work has definitely changed. I’m still connecting with the business all the time, just a little bit differently. I have more video conference calls than I did before and I’m working primarily out of my home office. I have been visiting stores, while respecting physical distancing. This has been a bit of an adjustment, but we’re all doing the very best we can. I’ve been very impressed with how well our team has adapted to the new working realities.

covid-19 has accelerated online grocery shopping.

What does this mean for your business?

Demand for online grocery orders through continues to be very high. We’ve seen a significant jump in the numbers of customers ordering groceries online and this trend will likely continue post COVID-19. Our team is now fulfilling tens of thousands of orders a day. We have increased our capacity by three times, and more pickup and delivery time slots are opening store-by-store every day. We’re also expanding our grocery pickup service to more than 60 stores and are working closely with key service providers including Cornershop and Instacart. Additionally, many of the 10,000 new associates we’re hiring will support our online grocery business. Suffice to say, online grocery has been a huge priority for us. We don’t see it slowing down and are doing everything we can to offer the very best experience for our customers.

Have you increased investment in online grocery to keep up with demand during covid-19? Yes, we are investing significantly in this space. We’re taking bold steps to meet the increase in

demand by accelerating our expansion of online grocery pickup and delivery across the country. We’re also hiring more grocery pickers and fulfillment associates to support this part of the business. By the end of April, we will have expanded our grocery pickup service to 60 new stores. We are supporting key service providers, including Cornershop and Instacart, and ensuring their experience servicing our customers is as smooth as possible. There is definitely more to come as the demand for online grocery will only continue to rise.

What safety protocols have you put in place that you will keep post covid-19? It is too early to say which measures we will keep. We will continue working closely with public health officials and analyze each measure independently so we can make the very best decision for our associates and customers.

What has been the biggest challenge in terms of staffing and employee management? How do you keep staff in good spirits? There have certainly been challenges as we’re dealing with unprecedented times. Every business has its own unique needs and is facing disruption— Walmart is no different. Some of the challenges we’re facing include having many of our corporate support teams work remotely. We’ve been focused on ensuring people are staying connected with each other and managing their overall wellness. I’ve been very proud of how our team and the stores are managing. It’s Walmart at its best. Our associates truly show our Walmart spirit by rising to the challenge of these unprecedented times. I continue to be amazed by the stories I’m hearing from around the country. Every day there’s a story about an amazing team or associate on our internal social media site or that we share on our external channels. I’m also very pleased that we’ve been able to step up in the community as well. Our recent "Fight Hunger. Spark Change" campaign was extended to support Canadians in these times of need. The campaign contributed a record-breaking 17 million meals to Food Banks Canada. We also donated an additional $1 million, shared between Food Banks Canada and the Canadian Red Cross. I’m so proud our of our team and their support of our customers, our communities and each other. And, the many thoughtful messages from our customers and other front-line workers continue to inspire and motivate us to keep doing what we’re doing every day.  CG

— edited for length and clarity by Kristin Laird


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

! y a d ts o t r e o n i p l e n r o / y com p o c cer. 0 2 gro 0 2 r u an i o d y er Cana d r O


Annual directory of chains and groups in Canada


Carman Allison

Planning for what comes next

How grocers and brands can build consumer loyalty in a post covid-19 world the novel coronavirus (covid-19) has

had a dramatic impact on how consumers shop. In Canada, we saw attitudes and shopping preferences change in a way that will impact the consumer, retail and fast moving consumer goods (fmcg) landscape even after the threat of the virus dissipates and we are living in the new normal. Let’s take a look at what's been happening over the last several weeks in Canada. The week of March 21, 2020, was record-setting, with almost $3 billion in retail sales; this translates to an increase of +54% versus the previous year or an additional $1 billion in sales.

crisis continues to unfold, it will be imperative for companies in Canada to look beyond our own border to other countries. Our global counterparts in countries in Asia and Europe that are further along in the pandemic and closer to recovery can provide valuable learnings for Canadian retailers and manufacturers on how to succeed and plan for the future. Here are some things to consider: EMPHASIZE QUALITY AND EFFICACY Throughout the recovery phase of the covid-19 crisis, consumers will be seeking greater assurance that the products they plan to buy are free of risk and of the highest quality when it comes to safety standards and efficacy, particularly with respect to cleaning products, antiseptics and food items. In the short term, this intensified demand from consumers will require manufacturers, retailers and other related industry players to communicate clearly why their products and supply chains should be trusted. In the longer term, and dependent on the eventual scale and impact that covid-19 has on consumer markets, it may speed up a re-think on how shoppers evaluate purchases and the benefits that they identify as the key factors to consider.

Throughout the recovery phase of the covid-19 crisis, consumers will be seeking greater assurance that the products they buy are free of risk and of the highest quality when it comes to safety standards and efficacy Fast-forward a couple of weeks to April 4, 2020 and year-to-date sales increased $3.1 billion, which is 27% higher than all of fmcg sales in 2019. Even though March was record-breaking for fmcg sales, April continued to post higher-than-average dollar growth, but the degree of increases slowed. As patterns begin to emerge as the


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT LOCAL ORIGINS More than ever, shoppers want to understand the supply chain, with complete

transparency from farm to factory to distribution, and they want details of the measures being taken to assure their safety. Promoting a product’s local origins could help manufacturers and retailers assuage some consumer concerns. A Nielsen survey on disloyalty conducted last year found that global consumers report being heavily swayed by origin: 11% of global consumers said they only bought products manufactured in their country, while an additional 54% “mostly” bought local products. Manufacturers need to be transparent and reinforce their quality measures and protocols. LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY With millions of people working from home and digital connectivity taking even more of a hold on everyday habits, consumers will have greater motivations and fewer perceived barriers to more actively seek technology-­enabled solutions to assist in their everyday tasks, including shopping. Companies that can leverage technologies—by meeting changing consumer demands online, enabling seamless interactions through direct-to-consumer offerings and enhancing consumer experience with augmented and virtual realities— have the opportunity to earn consumer loyalty well after consumers’ concerns subside. So, how does your brand play a role in helping consumers live a little bit easier at home? Retailers and manufacturers that can help solve the challenges consumers are faced with in their homes, such as cleaning, personal care and mental health tips will go a long way in building consumer loyalty.  CG

Carman Allison is vice-president of consumer insights at Nielsen in Toronto. @CarmAllison.


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Fan Favourites from Muskoka Venture off the beaten path and discover three highly sessionable brews from Muskoka Brewery in the new Survival Mixer Pack. This is a six-pack full of fan favourites, with two cans each of our all-malt Craft Lager, refreshing Detour Session IPA and the brand new Tread Lightly, light lager. In partnership with Swim Drink Fish, every pack helps restore 1m² of Canadian water. Help your local waters and learn more at

Impossibly Good Gluten Free Promise Gluten Free has added Gluten Free Vegan Soft White Loaf to its grocery lineup. This delicious gluten free bread is also wheat free, dairy free and egg free, making it vegan and high in fibre while still low in fat. For those who are looking for gluten-free options, this is the latest from Promise Gluten Free as it continues to provide tastier, healthier breads and baked goods for Canadian consumers.

A Taste of Europe at home Freybe’s A Taste of Europe is a premium quality, German-style charcuterie collection that explores the flavours of Europe and is inspired by Freybe’s rich German heritage. These award-winning recipes are internationally recognized, winning over 425 gold medals for expertise in craftsmanship and taste. Freybe salamis use only premium pork, are hand-dipped, fermented using best in class techniques, and hardwood smoked for up to 6 weeks for optimal flavour and texture.



Joel Gregoire

Cause for concern

As Canadians increasingly consider environmental impact, companies must work to win their trust EVEN IN THESE TIMES, barely a day goes by where there’s not a dire warning about the environmental predicament the planet faces. Climate change, for many, is no longer about what might happen, but rather what is happening. Extreme events ranging from hurricanes to rampant bush fires are becoming the norm. For Canadians, this raises the question of how their food purchases impact the environment. Mintel’s recent report on Sustainability in Food looks at how Canadians view the connection between what they eat and the impact of that on the environment. The research also looks at what specific issues matter most to consumers, why they matter, what consumers expect from companies in the context of sustainability, and what actions they are willing to take. Canadians do, indeed, say the environment matters to them when it comes to the food and drinks they purchase, and they are particularly motivated by a sense

of personal responsibility and a pervasive concern about climate change. That said, Canadians don’t always make a clear connection between climate change and the food they eat; instead, waste ranks as their top concern—this includes both packaging waste and food waste. Fewer Canadians, however, consider carbon output when purchasing food. This makes sense because waste, of course, is visibly evident in one’s day-to-day life. It can be seen in one’s trash, recycling or compost bin, and also translates, in the consumer’s mind, to wasted money. Carbon generated through food production, by contrast, is invisible. Younger Canadians are, however, more likely to make the connection between how their food is produced and the carbon footprint it generates, and they are more apt to express concerns over these categories. For instance, the younger generations—gen Zs and millennials—are more likely to be concerned about the


“What environmental issues are you concerned with in the food and drinks you buy in stores?”

63% 58% 56% 45% 41% 38% 18

Packaging waste Food waste Pesticide use Deforestation Genetically modified organisms Carbon footprint

May 2020 Canadian Grocer


impact of meat and dairy on the environment; we can presume this relates to the carbon emissions associated with the production of these products. Such concerns have undoubtedly underpinned the growth of plant-based foods and drinks. More broadly, companies are in a quandary when it comes to their efforts to support the environment. On one hand, four in five Canadians agree that food and beverage companies are not doing enough for the environment. On the other hand, the same number of Canadians believe many companies engage in “greenwashing” and believe them to be untruthful regarding environmental claims. There’s also an element of confusion, with 80% of Canadians also claiming they’re confused when it comes to knowing which products are better or worse for the environment. The question is how to win consumers’ trust? While there’s no easy answer to this question, initiatives that are visible and engaging can help build their level of trust. One practical way is to ensure shoppers can easily recycle the packaging from the products they purchase. This can include making them compostable or communicating a plan to extend the lifecycle of a package through “upcycling” initiatives. Other initiatives can involve using foods that would have otherwise been discarded in new packaged goods (for example, misshapen potato chips) or focusing on foods produced locally, which offers the dual benefit of supporting the environment and local economies. When it comes to promoting sustainability in food, there are no shortcuts. But what is evident is that despite some skepticism, shoppers do view sustainability as an issue influencing their food and drink purchase decisions.  CG

Joel Gregoire is associate director, Food & Drink at Mintel, the world’s leading market intelligence agency. Based in Toronto, Joel researches and writes reports on Canada’s food and drink industry. @JoelDGregoire


Michael Nussbacher

Looking beyond the pandemic

Customers are watching closely, and those grocers doing the right things during the crisis stand to win big IT SEEMS SURREAL that a few months ago, grocers were still thinking up ways to differentiate from their competitors while also reducing staff to keep prices low as wages increased. Now, suddenly, all that has flown out the window as priorities have drastically shifted with consumer behaviour following suit. Now, it’s all about the people. Basic ideas of what grocery shopping means have forever changed; assumptions about food safety, e-commerce, value and necessity have all transformed literally overnight. These are common factors that all grocers are now facing to meet the demand of a public whose retail options (read: reasons to leave one’s home) are now pretty much limited to grocery. As of this writing, we are still in the reaction phase of the pandemic. While people have begun to adjust to what some call the “new normal,” we are still eagerly anticipating the end of the crisis, the “recovery phase,” when we can all start returning to our normal lives. When we reach that recovery phase as Canada opens back up, things will either hit the ground running or we will see a shift in behaviour and people will take some time to resume being as mobile as they once were. Much depends on how deep a recession Canada will be in, and how “value” will be redefined. Meanwhile, grocers are now posting record numbers, but shoppers still have certain expectations from an experience, value proposition, and company values perspective. Grocers would be

remiss not to realize they are staring down the barrel of a loaded gun: that is public opinion of their operation now, when it all counts, and how they will be regarded when we finally shake off the lockdown. How grocers operate now to manage covid-19 fears when all attention is on this industry is crucial. Customers are watching and will not forget how grocers treat and remunerate their staff, the quality of staff training they provide, how hard the store has worked to maintain social distancing and protect customers, how clean the store is kept, pricing control, keeping the shelves stocked, and how they listen to customer concerns on all forums—even if many of those concerns come from a (mostly understandable) place of impatience, fear and confusion. Customers are, indeed, now watching very closely and will choose with extreme prejudice who they will continue to give their business to when this crisis is all over. At the moment, those grocers who appear to be taking the most precautions, who are paying staff fairly (and treating them well) and who are not price gouging, are carving out a special place in the hearts of customers who view grocery stores as heroic. In other words, heady times will continue for grocers who are proactive about making people feel good about shopping at their stores. A key takeaway is that now, more than ever, all attention is focused on what each grocer stands for because we have a captive audience. Forward-thinking grocers are seeing

this time as the best time to make bold public relations moves to drive home what makes each store worthwhile and are even using this time to collect data on behaviour, products, categories and spending habits. Looking ahead, it will be important to pay attention to the lessons learned during the pandemic, particularly on things such as choke points, traffic flow, restocking efficiency as well as customer experience. Retailers who apply those lessons will come out of the current crisis stronger than ever. With shoppers cooking at home more, private-label items are also back in the spotlight in a big way. The impending recession will likely warrant a price-sensitive private brand strategy similar to the last two periods of financial decline. However, while brands such as No Name will likely see a significant uptick in units sold, retailers will find that a private brand strategy that addresses pricing concerns but also offers an impression of quality (value) will be a winning combination that will pay off now and last long beyond the pandemic. An important part of understanding the “new normal” and making it to recovery will be the need for grocers to work with partners to study their shopper now to future-cast what will stick, what will shift to another behavioural trait, and what will go away during the recovery phase. Being equipped with this insight will help grocers be operation-ready to receive this “new shopper” and give their customers the confidence that they will continue to be the right grocery retailer to service them well into the future.  CG

Based in Toronto, Michael Nussbacher is vice-president of business development at Watt International, a world-class integrated retail agency.

May 2020 Canadian Grocer



1 Please enjoy responsibly. * ACD data to March 2020. Excludes Quebec.



canada’s most admired




canadian brand


category close-up


& true

Grocers can boost wine sales by focusing on well-established, recognizable brands Shopping for food and wine truly is the perfect pairing, giving consumers convenience and one-stop shopping. As there’s a tighter assortment of wine SKUs in the grocery channel, it’s important for retailers to focus on wellestablished brands and proven trends. Wine shoppers are seeking tried and true products, as well as brands they recognize thanks to marketing and media investments. To find out more about key trends and must-have wines, we turned to Eugene Mlynczyk, Master of Wine and Michelle Noseworthy, Category Manager at Arterra Wines Canada.

Arterra Wines Canada Top Picks OPEN Smooth Red VQA Bright aromas of crushed red berry, plum, and spice. Full flavours of candied cherry and raspberry, followed by an undertone of chocolate.

How have Canadians’ tastes shifted when it comes to wines?

While red and white remain the largest wine categories, some interesting trends are occurring beyond these two segments. Sparkling wine is seeing sensational gains, as more consumers are enjoying it year-round, rather than just during the holidays or special occasions. In fact, sparkling wine is driving growth in the overall wine category, at +11%, with the largest increases seen in the summer months of June and July. It’s a similar story for rosé, which is moving beyond a seasonal summer drink and becoming a year-round wine to enjoy. This category is growing +9% and commanding increased shelf and display presence at retail.

Jackson-Triggs Reserve Sauvignon Blanc VQA Aromas of lemon juice, lime zest, and juicy tropical fruits. Refreshing and crisp with perfectly balanced fruit flavours with a dry finish. Inniskillin Pinot Grigio VQA Floral aromas with fruit notes of green apple and pear. Lively and crisp acidity with a long flavourful finish. OPEN Rosé VQA A berry medley of strawberry and raspberry with a mixture of floral notes. These four wines are available nationally and produced locally in both BC and Ontario.

What regions or varieties are popular right now?

“Local” continues to be a keyword among wine consumers, and for this reason, Canadian wines are very much in demand. To ensure they’re buying high-quality, 100% Canadian wines, consumers rely on the VQA label. In B.C., popular VQA whites include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris/Grigio and Gewurztraminer, while top reds include Merlot and Pinot Noir. In Ontario, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling are on the list of top whites, while popular reds include Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.

How can grocery retailers use the wine section to boost basket size?

Grocers are finding innovative ways of building baskets by crossmerchandising wine with food products such as chocolates, snack foods and cheeses. Beverage brands can also participate, and it can be something as simple as pairing sparkling wine with orange juice for an easy mimosa at home. When wine companies partner with food and beverage companies for recipe or pairing recommendations, baskets increase significantly. It’s a win for the brands and for the retailer, as well as the consumer who gets to take home a delicious wine and food pairing.


Thank you

for everything you do to ensure that Canadians have access to nutritious food in this unprecedented time.



Grocery Stores



Food Banks •

Special Report: COVID-19


COVID-19: HOW GROCERY IS CONTENDING WITH THE CRISIS The covid-19 pandemic has presented Canada’s grocery industry with a challenge unlike any it’s faced before. In this special report, Canadian Grocer looks at the impact, the lessons and the opportunities to emerge from the crisis.

May 2020 Canadian Grocer



even a few months ago, no one could have

imagined the grocery store as a volatile place to work. But today, as employees find themselves on the frontlines of a global pandemic, their workplaces are becoming just that. “I have spoken to a number of grocery store associates and while they’re thankful to have a job, they’re also scared about their health because they can’t control who is coming into the store and if they’re observing the [social distancing] rules,” says Amar Singh, principal analyst at Kantar Consulting. While most grocers have taken measures to protect employees during covid -19 (e.g., increasing sanitization efforts, installing Plexiglass at checkouts, getting employees to wear gloves and discouraging customers from using cash), Singh says more education is needed for staff and the public. He suggests more training for staff on sanitation protocols that will likely be the norm post pandemic. “Habits take time to set and maybe we need people supervising staff at checkout to make sure they’re conforming [to the rules],” he says. While some retailers are doing a great job in explicitly asking the public to keep safe distances within stores, he says others are still struggling on this front. U.S. grocery chain H-E-B, based in Texas, has been lauded for having had an emergency preparedness


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

response team in place years before covid-19 hit. “They already had an idea of how something like this could affect employees and customers so they were ahead of the game in reducing store hours and implementing a hotline for employee concerns,” says Natan Reddy, senior analyst at CB Insights. “I see grocery stores right up there with other frontline workers so there needs to be more employee resources for people who need them.” At Vince’s Market, an Ontario-based independent grocer, the wellbeing of employees has been a key priority from the start of this pandemic, says managing partner Giancarlo Trimarchi. Staff were told they didn’t have to come to work if they didn’t feel safe during the covid-19 outbreak, and there would be no pressure or “bad blood” if they stayed home, says Trimarchi (10% opted to do so). “It’s about honesty and transparency; and for those who stayed, I still provide constant updates on how we’re protecting them, including screening our customers for symptoms.” It’s the little things, too, he says, such as giving employees who are working consistently a few extra days off. Meanwhile, at Ontario’s Nature’s Emporium, president Joe D’Addario says keeping staff morale up has been a priority, especially as employees are sometimes having to deal with customers who are, themselves, stressed. “Customers sometimes forget that employees are facing thousands of people a day and need to feel appreciated,” he says, pointing to wage hikes and initiatives like getting staff to stock shelves at night so they feel safer. “After all, if we lose them now, we won’t be able to keep our doors open anyway.” As the crisis continues for the foreseeable future, Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says we can expect temporary measures like grocery wage hikes and Plexiglass at checkouts to last for a while, even post-pandemic. “This has really raised the bar for everyone in retail and going forward we’re going to have to make sure people feel as safe as possible in the grocery store,” he says. How you manage employees is critical to that process. Charlebois commends initiatives like those by the Quebec government, which was the first to temporarily close grocery stores and other essential services on Sundays. “Grocery is under a lot of pressure right now and we have to give some breathing room to the supply chain,” he says. “Employees have a personal life, too, and their employers need to think about how this crisis is affecting them.” Having already lived through epidemics like SARS, Al Berman, president of the DRI International Foundation, says managing employee expectations is critical for employers during times like these. “Employees need to know they’re going to be cared for, especially if this drags on for a while,” he says. “People are much more adaptable than we think, but that means knowing there are standards in place to protect them.”


Special Report: COVID-19

We at Canadian Grocer see the extraordinary efforts made by retailers and manufacturers on the frontlines everyday. We are in this with you. Stay safe!

Special Report: COVID-19


in the dark times of the global pandemic,

toilet paper, of all things, provided some comic relief. As a massive run on rolls left store shelves wiped out, memes and viral videos—like one of violinists re-enacting the famous Titanic scene in an empty toilet paper aisle—made people smile during anxious times. At first flush, it seems toilet paper stands as the ultimate symbol for people’s irrational shopping behaviour amid the coronavirus outbreak gripping the globe. (There’s another joke in here: “Unfortunately, the tests came back positive for covid-19. You have coronavirus.” “That can’t be correct. I have over 40 cases of Costco water and 200 rolls of toilet paper.”) But all kidding aside, experts say there’s a science behind stockpiling in uncertain times. “Fear and panic are high-activation emotions. Peo­ ple want to do something,” says Erica Carranza, vice-­ president of consumer psychology at Boston-­based


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB). “So, they funnel their energy into things they feel they can do and they can control. And one thing you can do is stock up on stuff you might need.” Steve Joordens, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says the basic notion of stocking up reflects human cognition under conditions of anxiety, and anxiety triggers a fight or flight response. “We look for something to do, some way to fight the virus or flee from it,” says Joordens. “We can’t flee from it and we can’t fight it directly, unless we’re a healthcare provider. So, ‘preparing’ is about the only thing we can do that feels like we’re doing something useful.” It stands to reason, then, that consumers would fill their pantries and fridges with essentials. But the rush on toilet paper, specifically, was fuelled by videos and photos of people stockpiling and fighting over toilet paper, and shoppers seeing it in others’ carts. “In situations where there is lots of uncertainty,


By Rebecca Harris


people look to other people to figure out what to do,” says Carranza. “So, if I see somebody with a grocery cart full of toilet paper, that’s a major cue: ‘I need this too.’ And then it’s flying off the shelves, which perpetuates this kind of herd behaviour.” Stockpiling before a crisis isn’t new—people have long stocked up on food supplies before a major weather event. However, the pandemic is new territory. As Joordens notes, disasters like hurricanes are short-lived and relatively understood—we’ve seen them happen before, which makes planning more concrete. covid-19 is nothing like that. “It’s going on for what seems like forever, we have no idea when it will end,” he says. “That makes it all a more scary threat, which makes us all the more anxious. When we’re anxious, our emotions will tend to steer our behaviour more than our rational thought does.” Grocers, of course, aren’t psychologists, but it’s important for retailers to anticipate and respond to consumer behaviour—rational or not. There are a few key lessons retailers can take from the pandemic experience and apply to the next crisis. Since panic-buying is driven by fear, a good first step would be to communicate that there is enough food and toilet paper to go around. In the early days of covid-19, retailers such as Loblaw did just that. “Do not worry,” executive chairman Galen G. Weston assured customers in a statement. “We are not running out of food or essential supplies ... There are a few items, like hand sanitizer, that may take longer to get back, but otherwise we are in good shape.” A second critical step would be to place limits on certain items earlier on. “I was expecting grocers to discipline demand and implement rationing much earlier,” says Sylvain Charlebois, senior director, Agri-Food Analytics Lab Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University. “I think it would have made the situation a little less hectic for everyone.” He also thinks retailers should have moved to limit access to stores earlier. Despite that, “I do believe that the sector is doing a decent job,” says Charlebois. “No industry was ready for this.” On the psychological front, Carranza says grocers need to think about how to help people emotionally, personally, socially and functionally in a retail context. For example, realizing there are no curbside pickup spots available only after you’ve added all your items to your cart is a breakdown in functional benefits. “But that also makes me feel like an idiot for spending my time trying, which is a threat to my identity and it’s frustrating,” she says. “And when I can’t get help from anyone, and there’s no phone number or email, the social connectivity is also broken.” That kind of situation will lead to many customers taking their business elsewhere in the long term. “[Grocers] are playing a unique role in this crazy time and so it is an opportunity for them to shine and make customers for life,” says Carranza. “It’s also an opportunity to break down relationships with people if they do it wrong.”

Taking stock of stocking up What did people buy during the pandemic? At the onset of the outbreak in Canada, 41% of Canadians said they had made food provisions, according to a survey by Dalhousie University conducted March 13 to 15. Of Canadians who bought provisions, 30% purchased dry and canned goods, followed by nonfood items like sanitary products, tissues and toilet paper at 24%. Frozen foods were also at 24%. Nielsen data shows that the week of March 21, 2020 was record setting in Canada with almost $3 billion in retail sales (an increase of +54% versus the previous year or, put another way, an additional $1 billion in sales). According to the market research firm, food departments were the primary driver of growth, accounting for 80% of the increases with centre of store departments outperforming the perimeter as consumers pantry loaded on essential goods. While consumers' pantries may be full now, it remains to be seen if they’ll change their shopping behaviours in the long term. “It’s too early to know how the pandemic will impact consumers and retailers in the future,” says Carman Allison, vice-president of consumer insights at Nielsen Canada. “We may see consumers keep their pantries and freezer stocked with more items; we may see consumers continue shopping online; or we may see consumers revert to their previous shopping behaviour and be in the same position if and when the next crisis hits Canada.” In the near term, Allison expects to see product quality and efficacy become key purchase drivers across many CPG categories. “Consumers may reprioritize health, safety and availability in their consideration of a product,” he says. “[Brands] and retailers can deliver these assurances by communicating the steps that were taken to ensure the healthy, hygienic and safe provision of products— especially fresh ones.” —Rebecca Harris

May 2020 Canadian Grocer


Special Report: COVID-19


long considered under-developed, com-

pared to the U.S. and the U.K., Canada’s online grocery industry has exploded during the covid-19 crisis, leaving grocers scrambling to address a sharp increase in orders and forcing them to accelerate their efforts around online initiatives. Yet, even with all the additional strain on their supply chain, it appears Canada’s grocers have generally been doing a fairly good job of meeting unprecedented consumer demand, at least in terms of product availability. In an early April survey conducted by Field Agent Canada that asked shoppers about online product availability, 21% said all the products they ordered were available, while 38% said just one to three items were unavailable (and only 8% said more than 10 items were unavailable). Asked what products they wanted to buy but were unavailable, 36% said fresh produce, 28% said fresh meat/seafood, and 11% said frozen meat/seafood. Consumers also indicated shortages of paper products and cleaning supplies. According to pre-covid data, only about 1.5% to 1.7.% of groceries in Canada were purchased online (compared with 7% in the United States and 10% in the United Kingdom). But online orders have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Research conducted by Angus Reid for PayPal in early April found nearly one-third (30%) of Canadians are now shopping online for groceries, up from 19% in a survey conducted just four weeks earlier. More notably, the study suggests online shopping


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

could become a permanently engrained behaviour, with 81% of respondents indicating they expect to continue shopping online either the same amount or more once the immediate crisis is over, and 44% indicating they expect to increase their online shopping activity. “This situation may last long enough to leave a legacy of changed [customer] habits,” explains Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Halifax’s Dalhousie University. “My guess is that things will loosen up in June, but not before that … and three months is long enough to change habits.” Meanwhile, the unrelenting consumer demand for online grocery is leading both pure-play and established brick-and-mortar retailers to adapt their business, from implementing more online capabilities to accelerating existing plans around e-commerce. Metro, for instance, recently added to its online grocery options with a new partnership with Cornershop, an online grocery delivery service where customers can have their grocery orders delivered to their homes in as little as an hour. Meanwhile Empire, parent to Sobeys, pushed up the launch date of its Voilà online home delivery service in the Greater Toronto Area to April 26. Speaking to analysts last December, Empire president and CEO Michael Medline said Voilà, which operates from an automated distribution facility powered by the U.K.-based Ocado Group’s grocery technology, was on track for a soft launch in late spring 2020. But with demand for home delivery of groceries surging since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, Empire moved up the launch, announcing a phased rollout to customers across the Toronto area once testing is complete. Empire also noted its e-commerce businesses in Quebec through and in British Columbia through Thrifty Foods had seen a significant jump in orders and predicted that demand would remain “elevated” in the long-term as customers become more comfortable with online ordering and fulfillment. While calling the acceleration of such a major initiative “risky,” Stewart Samuel, program director, Canada with IGD Retail Analysis, notes that increased demand for online represents “an opportunity that is hard to resist” for Sobeys. The benefit of making such a move now, he says, is that Sobeys’ competitors will be too focused on their own business during the covid-19 crisis to attempt to disrupt Voilà’s launch. Fresh City CEO and founder Ran Goel offers a different perspective, since his Toronto-based grocery business spent seven years as a strictly online business prior to opening its first brick-and-mortar location in August 2018. Goel says the health crisis has created “unlimited demand” for groceries that even online behemoths such as Amazon have struggled to keep pace with. Fresh City’s online sales have been three to four

In response to consumer unease about covid-19, Organic Garage also began offering curbside pick-up, with orders ready within 48 hours, at its Thornhill store. “Just like everybody, we’re trying to do our best to mitigate the spread, and that’s one of the things we thought would help,” says Glassman. The situation has also been a major boon for pure-play online grocery delivery services such as Instacart, which reported that its order volume during a single week in early April was up more than 300% over the same period last year. Instacart has responded with a hiring spree, adding to its army of grocery shoppers across North America. Recently, it announced it will add another 250,000 full-­service shoppers in key markets, including Toronto, to cater to covid-19 demand. Instacart had already hired 300,000 workers across the United States and Canada earlier in the crisis, doubling its workforce. “In my 38 years in the customer support industry, I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said the company’s vice-president, care, Mark Killick. Charlebois, meanwhile, says one interesting by-product of a rise in e-commerce could be a “democratization” of the food chain, affording even smaller food companies and/or producers the opportunity to sell direct to consumers. “Those are the types of things that people are thinking about,” he says. “There are gaps in the marketplace, and there are companies out there trying to fill them.”


times greater than they were prior to the covid-19 outbreak, and Goel said in mid-April that “several thousand people” were on a wait list for the service. “There’s been some spottiness where we’ve had supplier shortages, but we’ve been able to scale fairly quickly,” he says. Goel believes the current situation could accelerate the penetration of online by as much as three to five years, although that’s dependent on grocers working through current issues such as a lack of delivery slots and longer wait times—which has been one of the primary complaints of online during the crisis. “The standard that is being provided to customers right now, whether it’s delays in deliveries or product shortages, is not what people are going to stand for,” says Goel, who says Fresh City is currently processing about 1,000 online orders each day. “But if we can get to a place where we’re providing a gold standard—delivery on time, most of your order intact and good quality—you’ll see the penetration increase.” While Toronto-area grocery chain Organic Garage prides itself on being a brick-and-mortar store first, it did begin offering online grocery through a partnership with Cornershop earlier this year. “It’s really quite advantageous that we had it in place,” says director of marketing Randee Glassman. “If we were starting from zero, I don’t know what we would do. It would be an overwhelming process.”

May 2020 Canadian Grocer



in the first weeks of the pandemic, gro-

cery stores resembled a doomsday scene, with shelves picked clean by panicked consumers rushing to stockpile essentials. For Canadians used to buying whatever they want when they want it, empty shelves were a shocking new reality. Thankfully, experts who insisted we weren’t going to run out of pasta and toilet paper were right: the grocery supply chain is catching up and products are becoming more readily available (although, as of early May, many baking enthusiasts are still hardpressed to find yeast and baking powder). However, while the supply chain has so far proven resilient, new challenges are emerging. Let’s start with the farm. Every year, Canada's agriculture sector hires about 60,000 temporary foreign workers, who take on tasks from planting to harvesting. Under new federal rules, migrant workers must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Canada. “Right now is the time they’ve got to prepare the harvest season, and if these workers are not involved, that means farmers are missing out on an opportunity to get the prep work done,” says Amar Singh, principal analyst at Kantar Consulting. In many cases, when the workers are out of isolation, it will be too late for


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

them to harvest. “So there will be a lot of crops that will not be harvested to their full yield.” On top of that, there’s the threat of covid-19 spreading to farms and processing plants. In late April, for example, more than 40 migrant workers at a greenhouse facility in Chatham-Kent, Ont. tested positive for the virus. “There are a lot of crops that are processed at the farm, and with sick workers and social distancing measures, the production of crops is going to slow down,” says Singh. Some meat-processing plants, where employees work in close quarters, are being hit hard. In April, Cargill temporarily closed its beef-processing plant in High River, Alta., after 350 cases of covid-19 were linked to the plant. There have also been more than 150 cases among employees at the JBS processing plant in Brooks, Alta., which has gone down to one shift. Singh says it’s hard to say if and when Canada’s grocery retailers will have product shortages, as it depends on the category and how long covid-19 lingers. “If this continues the way we are right now, we will definitely see the shortages in the supply chain and at grocery stores,” he says. “Some SKUs will not be available and very basic groceries will be hitting the shelves—not the differentiated products we’re so used to.” And if the country is able to contain the virus in a shorter time frame? “We will definitely see some product shortages in the short run, but it will even itself out by the end of the year,” says Singh. How prepared companies and supply chains are depends on a number of factors, says Giovani J.C. da Silveira, professor of operations and supply chain management at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary. Those include the level of safety stocks or spare capacity before the crisis; the level of automation; having multiple suppliers; and the level of co-ordination, information exchange and integration across the supply chain. But by and large, “no supply chain has been built to withstand such a level of crisis and disruption,” says da Silveira. “It would be extremely costly to do that. The solutions would be increasing inventory to a much greater level and developing local domestic supply chains, which tend to be more expensive. And who is going to pay for that cost? The consumer.” However, aside from the current challenges in the meat-processing sector, da Silveira says the industry appears to be doing quite well. “Apart from the purely irrational craziness that happened [with panic-­ buying], we don’t see any great shortages of food.” Sylvain Charlebois, senior director at Agri-Food Analytics Lab Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie University, isn’t concerned about food shortages, either. He believes the biggest impact of covid-related supply chain issues will be higher costs to consumers. “Physical distancing [at farms and plants] will impact everything throughout the entire supply chain,” he says. “It will cost more to produce, process and distribute food. And Canadians will have to be ready for that over time.”


Special Report: COVID-19


We just wanted to take some time to thank Canada’s grocers and food chain suppliers for your tireless efforts to keep the country fed.

From the Turkey Farmers and Processors of Canada.

Special Report: COVID-19


out of crisis often comes opportunity.




How can the grocery industry use the challenges presented by the covid-19 pandemic to make the grocery industry stronger? During Canadian Grocer’s recent webinar “ covid - 19 : Navigating a Crisis,” we put this question to three of the grocery industry’s leaders: Diane J. Brisebois, president and ceo of the Retail Council of Canada (rcc); Michael Graydon, ceo of Food and Consumer Products of Canada (fcpc); and Tom Shurrie, president and ceo of Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (cfig). Here’s what they had to say about the potential opportunities ahead: E-COMMERCE —The ongoing crisis has resulted in a surge in online grocery. While it has had its hiccups meeting explosive demand, it’s expected that many customers will continue to shop online, at least some of the time, now that they’ve experimented with click-and-collect and home delivery during lockdown. “I think there’s a great opportunity to establish much stronger e-commerce fulfillment strategies, building on the technology infrastructure,” said RCC’s Brisebois, adding that while there are definitely issues in the online experience for customers right now, “I suspect that’s where we’ll see a lot of innovation and a lot of changes.” STRENGTHENING RELATIONSHIPS —While the grocery industry has long extended a helping hand to the

communities they serve, such efforts have been amplified during the covid -19 crisis. Whether through generous donations to food banks or children’s breakfast programs or to support other community causes or needs, the industry has stepped up in a big way. FCPC’s Graydon said this industry support will become “critically important and will need to be part of the plan moving forward” over the next year or two as the country emerges from the crisis. CFIG’s Shurrie agreed, noting money will be tight in many communities and retailers will need to work with their supplier partners to “proactively respond to the consumer needs of a value offering.” Shurrie also emphasized that now would be a good time to forge stronger industry relationships. Graydon said the last six weeks, as the industry worked to respond to covid -19, had been a “refreshing” process of collaboration between retailers and manufacturers—a marked change after a somewhat bumpy relationship between the two groups in recent years. “I believe both retailers and manufacturers have enjoyed working together again,” he said, adding, “I think there are some great opportunities to continue the momentum.” A DRIVE FOR SELF SUFFICIENCY—The covid-19 crisis has exposed how dependent Canada is on other countries for critical goods. “I think there will be a whole change in mindset of self-sufficiency in this country,” said Graydon, adding that now is the time to start to look for opportunities to expand the capital investment in manufacturing in Canada to expand plants and be more self-reliant. On the retail side, Brisebois said many grocers will also be looking at how they can ensure less interruption in their supply chains and how they can source more locally. Later in the discussion she also said there's a great opportunity for domestic brands, adding that grocers big and small will be open to manufacturers that bring solutions, innovation and that “are very much in touch with how consumers are shopping.” REIMAGINING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE —There’s also an opportunity to rethink the customer experience from several points of view—from loyalty to product knowledge, assortment and the like, said Brisebois. “I do believe within the next year we’re going to see a very different grocery retail environment; not only because we need to adapt to the new reality of living with covid-19 or forms of covid-19, living with social distancing, but also because it will be defined by how consumers feel, what they can afford to do and buy, and how they want to live their lives,” said Brisebois. “So there are enormous opportunities and I believe that the winners will be those partners who come together and start building on those opportunities to develop that new retail environment.”

Check-out the full “COVID-19: Navigating A Crisis” webinar at


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

STORES BUILDING BETTER. When it matters most.

Special Report: COVID-19

PAST THE PANDEMIC —  WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE NEXT CRISIS HITS? as most of us are reeling from the big-

gest pandemic to hit the world in more than a century, the grocery sector has already proven its resiliency. Yet it’s also being charged with considering how to better­prepare for whatever crisis comes next. “In some regards this is a wakeup call and we need to think about how we’re going to protect ourselves for the next, even bigger hit,” says Evan Fraser, director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph. “The grocery community has done a tremendous job and I commend them, but this situation has also exposed vulnerabilities and I don’t think we can ever go back to the olden days,” he says, referring to just weeks ago. As an essential service during the covid-19 pandemic, grocery stores have proven they can quickly adapt to exceptional circumstances. Not only did most retailers immediately stop their self-serve sections and sampling soon after covid -19 hit, they shut down seating areas and restricted the number of shoppers inside to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Many also designated shopping hours for seniors and other vulnerable groups. Or they helped customers avoid going into their

stores entirely by upping their online and delivery options, or by offering curbside pickup of grocery items that staff could shop for them. Joe D’Addario, president of independent grocery chain Nature’s Emporium, says he’s most proud of how quickly his four Ontario stores were able to implement a contact-less curbside pickup option. “We had to pivot our operations on a dime and in the last four days, we’ve helped 2,000 people from having to come through our front doors,” he says. The natural health food grocer also added full-time greeters at each store to suss out whether customers had recently travelled or were experiencing symptoms. “You’d be surprised by how honest people are and we’ve managed to thwart them from entering the store [if needed] that way.” These days, a heightened emphasis on sanitation in grocery has become the norm. At large chains and independents alike, hours have been adjusted to allow staff more time for sanitizing, restocking and rest. Sanitation wipes and hand sanitizer stations are common, and Plexiglass at checkouts with staff donning gloves and masks are helping keep infectious germs at bay. “Consumers have faith and satisfaction with


china informs

the World Health Organization (WHO) of a cluster of 41 patients with a mysterious pneumonia.


JAN. 1, 2020

most of the patients

at this point are linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (above), which was then closed.

May 2020 Canadian Grocer

JAN. 23, 2020

china imposes a

lockdown in Wuhan (a city of 11 million) and other cities in Hubei province to contain the virus. Chinese officials say many factories will stay closed after the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday.

JAN. 25, 2020

FEB. 11, 2020

MAR. 11, 2020

a man in his 50s

arriving in Toronto from Wuhan, China becomes the first presumptive case of the coronavirus in Canada. He is confirmed as having the virus two days later.

who announces it has

a name for the deadly virus: covid-19. To date, there are about 40,000 cases of the disease globally with more than 1,000 deaths.

concerned over the

"alarming" spread of the disease and a lack of action from countries to contain the virus, WHO declares a coronavirus pandemic.


By Rosalind Stefanac


retailers and what’s been done already is working pretty well so far,” says Shelley Balanko, senior vice-president at Hartman Group. In fact, 69% of U.S. shoppers rated their primary grocery store’s response to covid-19 between an eight and a 10 out of 10, according to the March 2020 US Grocery Trends covid-19 Tracker, conducted by The Food Industry Association and the Hartman Group. Even if things aren’t operating optimally for some grocers, Balanko advises they stay the course and keep trying. “Consumers get that nothing is perfect right now and they’re appreciative of what [grocers] are doing.” But even with all these commendable efforts by grocers, these past few months have shown the sector is still susceptible to crisis, says professor David Soberman, Canadian National Chair in strategic marketing at Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “A simple thing I see is the need to implement limits on items a lot sooner, because when people start stockpiling, it creates panic and shortages for others,” he says. “When I see someone with 32 packs of toilet paper in their shopping cart, that’s a problem.” Soberman also points to the online grocery opportunities that will inevitably emerge out of this period and whether retailers will be ready. “Some organizations have taken off already with online shopping but they’re overloaded with deliveries and can’t keep up,” he says. “Some thought needs to be put into how grocers can have the capacity to ramp up online in times of crisis and how they can help vulnerable populations access these services.” That could entail in-store initiatives, too, he says, such as having a program for senior customers who come into the grocery store to be taught how to order products online. This overnight surge to online shopping during covid-19 has prompted online grocer in Western Canada to launch a whole new division

MAR. 12, 2020

MAR. 20, 2020

in a week’s time to offset demand. “We saw a 300% increase in revenue in that first week of the pandemic and that’s just not sustainable,” says founder Peter van Stolk, noting that initial hoarding and lack of supply was a real challenge. “What we’ve learned from this pandemic is that we need to have contingency plans in place to keep staff safe and supply chains safe for customers—and to address changes we don’t even know will happen in the future.” What history has proven is that massive disruptions like covid-19 typically provoke changes in supply chain, notes University of Guelph’s Fraser. “My prediction is that this will stimulate massive investments in technologies to deal with supply chain management,” he says. More and more local/ regional area grocers may start looking at whether they can source locally and bring supply chains under their control, says Fraser, because highly centralized systems (e.g. meat packing) present vulnerabilities. “I don’t think any of us will go back to a situation where we’re as laissez-faire about disease transfer as we used to be, and we’re going to be more concerned about food safety,” he says. Ran Goel, CEO and founder of Fresh City in Toronto, says having a more localized supply chain has paid dividends for business but scaling up has been an issue during these pandemic times. “We’re not as reliant on imports as other grocers because 50% of what we sell, we grow or process in house,” he says. “But we had to stop taking new customer orders two weeks ago because the wait list was getting too long.” Perhaps the best way to tackle what comes after covid-19 is for grocers to start sharing best practices and lessons learned, advises Nature's Emporium’s D’Addario. “This is not the time to be competitive because we should be working together to find solutions,” he says. “I’m happy to see another grocery store adopt what we’re doing here.” CG

MAR. 23, 2020

MAR. 28, 2020

APRIL 20, 2020

MAY 1, 2020

loblaw reveals an widespread reports

of panic buying at Canadian grocery stores. Spurred by new covid-19 cases and closures, shoppers empty store shelves of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and staples, particularly non-perishables.

sobeys starts

installing Plexiglass cashier shields in its stores to protect its front-line staff. And Walmart Canada says it will hire 10,000 workers at its stores and distribution centres to deal with the pandemic.

employee at an Oshawa, Ont., Real Canadian Superstore has tested positive for covid-19, the retailer's first confirmed case among its employees. On the same day, Toronto declares a state of emergency.

t&t supermarket,

british columbia issues covid-19

guidance to retail food and grocery stores to mitigate virus transmission in the province.

in an effort to protect employees and curb the spread of the virus, announces it will start conducting temperature checks on shoppers before they enter its stores.

covid-19 cases in

Canada reach 55,000 with 3,400 deaths. Some provinces announce plans to start easing lockdown restrictions, under strict guidelines.

May 2020 Canadian Grocer










Products, store ops, customers, trends



The meat of the matter From sustainability features and unique cuts to the rise of plant-based alternatives, today’s meat department is ever-evolving By Carol Neshevich


ith all the talk these days about the rise of veganism, vegetarianism and flexitarianism, not to mention last year’s new edition of the Canada’s Food Guide strongly encouraging Canadians to add more plantbased proteins to their diets, one might wonder: how’s meat doing? As it turns out, meat is doing just fine. Sure, numerous studies will confirm consumers want to curb their meat intake, among them a late-2018 Dalhousie University report that revealed more than half of Canadians are willing to cut back on how much meat they eat, with nearly 24% saying they would probably do so within the next six months. But “cutting back” is a relative term, and Canadians clearly still love meat. Recent Nielsen data shows beef sales rose by 0.5% to nearly $2.8 billion in the latest 52 weeks ending Feb. 29, 2020, while chicken sales were up 2.1% to almost $2.2 billion. Overall, pork may have dropped by 2.2% to $968.5 million, but ham (pork from the hind leg, typically salted, cured or smoked) is

May 2020 Canadian Grocer


up by 6.7% to more than $109.2 million. That said, the features consumers are seeking in meat continue to evolve and include a growing desire for sustainability. In a recent sustainability-related report, Mintel found “attitudes around looking to cut back on meat consumption for environmental reasons were higher among younger consumers,” says Joel Gregoire, Mintel’s associate director, food & drink, Canada. “What this tells me is that for the meat industry, that focus on sustainability [is important]—younger people are getting that sustainability message, and if you’re in the meat business, this needs to be part of your brand, this needs to be part of what you’re saying.” Gregoire points to Maple Leaf Foods as an example of a meat company that’s getting its sustainability strategy right. “Maple Leaf is a great example, [particularly] with its campaign about going carbon neutral,” he says, referring to the company’s late 2019 announcement that it would be aggressively reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Even prior to that announcement, Maple Leaf was forging a strong sustainability path, having implemented “sustainable meat principles’’ a number of years ago “which have helped guide our company in addressing the broad societal and environmental impacts of animal protein production,” explains Tim Faveri, Maple Leaf’s vice-president of sustainability and shared value. “More and more, consumers want to know the


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

products they are purchasing have been produced and manufactured with minimal environmental impacts.” Similarly, humane treatment and “clean” claims (including organic) have become a higher priority among many meat consumers in recent years. “With the amount of information available online, people are far more conscious about what they’re eating, with the majority of grocery stores evolving to have either a section of their meat department dedicated to naturally raised meats and organics, or even as their sole meat offerings,” says Cynthia Beretta, co-founder of Beretta Farms in King City, Ont. She notes that products featuring ethical, organic, natural and sustainable claims are no longer limited to certain independent retailers, but have become more prevalent at chains, too, and are growing not only in terms of the number of stores carrying them, but the shelf space they are occupying as well. Local is another important attribute for many consumers. “Our members have been loud and clear that they want to support local,” says James Lelonde, Calgary Co-op’s meat category director. To satisfy this desire, he says, “We have just launched our ‘only-Alberta’ program in our meat departments with beef, chicken and lamb that are 100% Alberta [produced].” And as part of its new Cal & Gary’s private-label brand, Calgary Co-op also offers premium pork, organic chicken, flavour-locked-in AAA beef and AAA halal beef, all locally raised, he says.

CUTTING TO THE CHASE But the evolution of the meat department isn’t just about the addition of bigger-picture features like sustainability, local and organic—there are also a lot of interesting things happening with cuts. Lelonde says at Calgary Co-op, tomahawk rib steaks, inside skirt steaks and flat iron steaks are some of the unique cuts the retailer has been offering in its AAA beef program. “There are some really cool, innovative items; you’ve seen the tomahawk, for instance,” says Derrick Ash, director of retail channel marketing for Canada Beef, referring to the trendy tomahawk rib-eye steak, which is a cut of beef ribeye with an extended rib bone, mostly for presentation purposes. “It’s a head turner—it’s going to provide the animation at store level, and it’s going to provide the entertainment value when it comes to cooking it at home.” Ash also points to the brisket, a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest, as another one that’s trending (although it seems to be more popular in the United States, it is gaining traction in Canada, he says). “It’s a gorgeous piece of meat, but how do you properly cook it?” he says, noting that while baby boomers might be familiar with how to cook a brisket, it’s certainly not something younger folks would know how to tackle, especially the millennials and gen Z. “Retailers have a huge opportunity to educate those generations,” he says. Canada Beef has plenty of educational tools that are available to grocers. Ash says providing information is important as uninformed shoppers could end up choosing a particular cut of meat that might look good in the package, but if they take it home and cook it incorrectly, it won’t perform well. In the end, they'll think the meat wasn’t good quality when really, they were just using the wrong cooking method, he explains. Part of this education can be simply achieved through well-organized merchandising. “If I know I’m turning on my grill, I want a grilling section. I want all of the middle cut meats, the grilling steaks, all in one four-foot vertically blocked section,” he says. “Next to that I want my simmering steaks. It’s a totally different cooking process. And next to that, I want my marinating section.” If you can organize your meats according to cooking style—grilling, simmering





RETAIL RESOURCES All independent, franchisee and multi-unit retailers can access select resources from Canada Beef that will help optimize assortment and enhance consumer confidence as it relates to buying, cooking and the safe preparation of Canadian beef and veal product. Here are just a few of the tools and resources we offer:



What is COVID-19?

Industry COVID-19 Response Measures

• The envelope (outer layer) of the virus contains components that can be damaged by soap. Without this envelope the virus is unable to infect your cells.



COMMON NAMES: Oven Ready Rib, Bone-in Lip On

• respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes

POINTS REQUIRING SPECIFICATION: • Tail lengths can vary, should not exceed 3” (75 mm) at sirloin end by 4” (100 mm) at chuck end • Other common tail lengths are 0x1, 1x1, 1x2 and 2x2 • Removal or retention of cap (trapezius and latissimus dorsi) • Tail length from the eye muscle (longissimus dorsi) • Removal or retention of rib finger meat (intercostals) • Fat cover • Weight range

• close personal contact with an infected person • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth RIB

• The virus infects people through the human respiratory tract and is not known to cause illness through the stomach or our intestines when we eat food.

There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of COVID-19. -


Canadian Food Inspection Agency



OVEN READY (Bone-in, fat cap attached) Excludes blade meat and backstrap. Fat cap is removed to access back strap and repositioned and either tied or netted.

BANQUET OR CHEF STYLE (Bone-in, fat cap attached) Similar to the oven ready with featherbones removed. Tied or netted.



OVEN READY BONELESS RIB OR TUXEDO RIB (Boneless, fat cap on) Beef back rib bones and finger meat removed. Tail lengths generally do not exceed 2x2. Tied or netted.


LIP-ON RIB OR SPENCER ROLL (Boneless, fat cap off) Lip does not exceed 2x2.

BEEF RIB EYE ROLL (Boneless, fat cap off) Lip is completely removed.

WEIGHT RANGE: 9 –11 lb / 4.1– 5 kg

WEIGHT RANGE: 8 –10 lb / 3.6 – 4.5 kg

WEIGHT RANGE: 16 – 19 lb / 7.3 – 8.2 kg





• While the risk from surfaces is thought to be low, active virus is more likely to be found on hard surfaces such as those made from plastic or steel. • If a surface is visibly dirty, clean it with soap and water first and then disinfect. • To disinfect you can use a diluted bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) or a commercial product.







Grocery Shopping Tips • Shop at times when there are fewer shoppers or have your groceries delivered. • Keep a 2 metre distance from other shoppers.

• Use gloves to protect hands, follow manufacturer’s instructions and wash hands immediately after cleaning.

• Disinfect the handle of grocery carts and baskets.

Prevent the Spread of Germs

• Wash or sanitize hands before entering and after leaving the store.

• When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with your arm or tissues to reduce the spread of germs.

Optimizing the Beef and Veal Category Assortment












• Do not shop if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

112D Separate spinalis dorsi from longissimus dorsi by cutting along natural seam.



Disclaimer: This information has been compiled from sources and documents believed to be reliable. The accuracy of the information presented is not guaranteed, nor is any responsibility assumed or implied by Canada Beef and their partners for any damages or loss resulting from inaccuracies or omissions. © Canada Beef, 2016. Printed in Canada. 2020/03/29



ENVIRONMENTALLY Environmental Sustainability

LESS GAS EXPORTED At 0.04%, Canadians should be proud that beef production in this country has one of the lowest greenhouse gas footprints in the world.1

• Roundup App


Fact Based Information to Leverage in Digital and Print

dec line

in g re e

Cattle ranching and farming plays an important role across the country to preserve native grasslands and support the habitats of wildlife.3 As the bison did for centuries, cattle play an essential role in grasslands to help preserve their function and health, including:

soil carbon storage


wildlife habitat and migration

water filtration

nh ou se

gas emis sions 2





nutrient recycling

For more information visit:

• Cooking Know-how




Simplifying the Beef and Veal Buying Decision




• Interactive Carcass

To access an interactive list of our resources, scan the QR Code or go to



RIB – FCO (FAT CAP OFF) ROAST READY FCO (FAT CAP OFF) EXPORT RIB (Bone-in, fat cap off) Tail not to exceed 2x3. WEIGHT RANGE: 19 – 22 lb / 8.2 – 10 kg

WEIGHT RANGE: 19 – 22 lb / 8.2 – 10 kg

WEIGHT RANGE: 19 – 22 lb / 8.2 – 10 kg

Actions to protect you and your family Frequently Touched Surfaces

• Canadian Beef Fact Sheets

HANDLING • More streamlined versions without fat caps offer the best results if using slow cooking methods and ovens • Remove rib roast from oven when between 5 to 10º F (3-6º C) below desired doneness to allow the post cooking temperature to rise • Let rib roast rest a minimum of 20 minutes before carving to help retain juiciness and for ease of carving

WEIGHT RANGE: 19–22 lb / 8.2–10 kg


• symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, or sore throat

CHARACTERISTICS • Cut from the primal rib then streamlined as required by specifications • Available in both bone-in and boneless specifications • The most highly marbled middle cut on the carcass providing a rich flavour • Offered in a number of specifications; operators need to pick the specification that is best suited for their preparation method • The kernel fat varies with size, grade and seasonality

MUSCLE COMPOSITION: Consists of the larger Longissimus dorsi, Longissimus costarum, Spinalis dorsi, Complexus, Miltifidus dorsi, Internal/external intercostal. Includes (bone-in format) from the 6th to the 12th ribs (7 bones).

You can become ill from:


• The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has said that to date, there have been no reports of domesticated livestock being infected or sick with COVID-19 related illness anywhere.

• Food Safety and COVID-19

• Rethink Canadian Beef (Environmentally & Nutritionally)


Food does not transmit COVID-19 illness

• Safeguarding the Canadian Meat Supply

• Cutting Videos


How does it cause illness?

• COVID-19 is a coronavirus that can cause serious damage to your lungs.

• Technical Cutting Sheets


Everything beef at your fingertips. Anytime. Anywhere. Download it today. Search The Roundup


Information for You and Your Family

SAFEGUARDING WATER ‘Eat a steak, save a lake’. In their effort to preserve wetland habitat, Ducks Unlimited works to support beef farming. Raising cattle means lands are not drained for growing crops. Good for frogs, good for ducks, good for beef.

DID YOU KNOW... Canadian beef farmers and ranchers work with conservation groups like Cows and Fish to safeguard streams and creeks. Beef farmers work with conservation experts to develop and invest in Environmental Farm Plans to keep water safe. Latest research verifies conservation efforts have lead to a 20% decrease in the amount of ground & surface water used to produce beef in 2011 compared to 1981.4 References: 1 Government of Canada. (2016). National Inventory Report: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada: 1990-2014; The Canadian Government’s Submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 2 Legesse, G., Beauchemin, K. A., Ominski, K. H., McGeough, E. J., Kroebel, R., MacDonald, D., McAllister, T. A. (2015, December 23). Greenhouse gas emissions of Canadian beef production in 1981 as compared to 2011. Animal Production Science. 3 Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. (2016). National Beef Sustainability Assessment and Summary Report. Calgary: 4 Legesse, G., Cordeiro, M.R.C., Ominski, K.H., Beauchemin, K.A., Kroebel, R., McGeough, E.J., Pogue, S., McAllister, T. A. (2017, November) Water use intensity of Canadian beef production in 1981 as compared to 2011. Elsevier. Science of the Total Environment 619-620 (2018) 1030-1039


While baby boomers might be familiar with how to cook a brisket, it’s certainly not something younger folks would know how to tackle, especially the millennials and gen Z. “Retailers have a huge opportunity to educate those generations” or marinating—that’s a great first step to helping your customer who might not have cooking expertise to be able to make a great meal, he explains. “It's critically important to set the consumer up for success," while at the same time providing an offer that gives you a competitive point of differentiation. Canada Pork has similar views on the link between consumer education and sales success. “It’s important to highlight proper end-point cooking temperatures to ensure that consumers have positive eating experiences, which ultimately helps build repeat sales,” says Kevin Mosser, director, global marketing at Canada Pork. “Consumers often make buying decisions while standing at the meat counter, so it’s important to ensure retailers make the purchase decision easy by providing easy-to-follow cooking and preparation information right at the meat counter.” Like Canada Beef, Canada Pork offers a wide array of educational and merchandising materials and programs. Mosser describes an example of a “Japanese-inspired” merchandising program Canada Pork has developed for


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

retailers to introduce thin-sliced specialties to Canadian consumers. “In the program, innovative cooking and preparation information is available to consumers for three specialties: yakiniku barbecue, shabu shabu hot pot, and ginger pork shogayaki,” he says. “The program is an opportunity to expand pork product assortment at retail by promoting underutilized and innovative premium-­q uality Canadian pork cuts like pork belly, jowl, boneless capicola shoulder and others. New product ideas like this can be leveraged by retailers to boost sales and offer consumers something exciting and completely new.” PROTEIN BY ANY OTHER NAME While animal-based protein is not going away any time soon, there’s no denying the movement to eat less meat is impacting what traditional meat departments look like. According to Mintel’s Gregoire, the most influential group here is not actually the vegetarians or vegans, it’s the flexitarians: people who aim to eat a mostly plant-based diet, but also still eat meat. “There’s kind of a notion that there’s a lot of vegetarians and vegans out there, but the data doesn’t really show that,” says Gregoire. According to a 2019 Mintel report, about 5% of Canadians identify as vegetarians and only 2% identify as vegans, but about a quarter (25%) of Canadians are flexitarians. Plant-based “meats” from companies like Beyond Meat, Lightlife and Field Roast (the latter two have been acquired by Maple Leaf) burst on the scene in the last few years, offering items like meatless burgers (with the same look and taste as regular burgers), as well as meatless sausages, chicken, ground beef substitutes and more. Not surprisingly, these types of products have been a hit among flexitarians. “We are seeing more people interested in a balanced diet that includes both animal protein products and plant-based items, which has expanded the [plant-based protein] category beyond vegetarian and vegan consumers,” explains Maple Leaf’s Faveri. To further capture that market, Maple Leaf has just launched a new “blended” line called Maple Leaf 50/50, which includes burgers, dinner sausages, breakfast sausages and ground meat that are comprised of 50% meat and 50% plantbased ingredients, including pea protein and other natural ingredients like cane

sugar, beet powder, canola oil and spice. Because many of the plant-based protein innovations are so new, there’s been some debate as to where they belong in the store. Beyond Meat was one of the first to say meat alternatives belong in the meat department alongside the regular burgers, sausages and the like. As California-based Beyond Meat’s chief growth officer, Chuck Muth, explains, “part of our strategy to democratize plant-based protein and bring it from niche to mainstream has been to meet the consumers where they’re already shopping for their protein.” In the past, he says, veggie burgers and other early plant-based proteins were sold in the freezer section, often near unrelated items like ice cream. “This was a hurdle we identified early on that needed to be overcome if we wanted to attract mainstream adoption, as the average meat-­ eating consumer isn’t looking for protein near the ice cream. By entering the refrigerated meat case, we’ve been able to easily reach our target consumer where they shop for their protein options.” While Calgary Co-op does include meat alternatives like Beyond Meat and Lightlife products in the fresh meat counter and will continue to do so, it has also recently adopted a new strategy. “We’ve decided to take this alternative protein category and make it a destination in our stores,” says Lelonde, adding that he’s referring mainly to “the offerings that replace the centre portion of your plate” in alternative meats. “We’ve decided to pull the product from the produce section and build displays in between the produce and meat departments. So when the customer finishes his or her shopping in produce, they come around the corner and they have the offering of all alternative proteins in a one-stop shop,” he says. They did this because they felt these products didn’t quite belong in produce, but offering them only in the meat department could alienate vegetarians. So far, it’s been a successful strategy. “We are seeing large increases in this category, and we only began this roughly about four to six months ago.” That said, Lelonde can envision a day when it’s all one big protein section. “I think our industry is going to be moving from a meat department to a protein department. That’s what I feel the meat department should be called."


Organic's good news story Sales have increased 8% across all product categories  By Carolyn Cooper and Carol Neshevich “CANADIAN CONSUMERS are certainly shop-

ping based on their values and choosing products that resonate with what organic delivers,” says Tia Loftsgard, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. She notes that organic sales in Canada across all product categories “have increased 8% over last year and continue to grow beyond capacity.” Millennials continue to be the most influential generation in terms of purchasing and demanding organic from the food industry, she says, adding that more than two-thirds of Canadians purchase organic products weekly. “The snacks category, gluten free, alternative dairy and sweetener categories have increased dramatically, with more manufacturers adding organic alternatives to their product offerings,” says Loftsgard. “From what consumers are telling us,

it’s a good news story for organics,” says Joel Gregoire, associate director of food & drink at Mintel. Canadians generally associate organic products with health, “natural” and “free from” claims, he says. “In addition, we found that the statement people are most likely to agree with, with respect to organic and natural claims, is that they are safer." According to Euromonitor International’s 2019 Health and Nutrition Survey of 20 worldwide markets, the top five reasons consumers choose organics are: they are better for me (57.6%); they make me feel better (52%); food safety concerns (50.1%); digestive health (49.1%); and environmental concerns (45.8%). “A primary driver is the avoidance of harmful synthetic pesticides and herbicides,” says Maureen Kirkpatrick, quality and standards program manager for

the Big Carrot Community Market in Toronto. “People increasingly see organic agriculture as a refuge. The desire for transparency is also a factor—people want more transparency in their food system.” Stan Smith, co-founder, co-owner and president of Abbotsford, B.C.-based Silver Hills Bakery, agrees. “Growing consumer awareness and interest in cleaner and transparent labels is certainly helping to drive demand for the organic food and beverage industry as a whole." According to Gregoire, fresh fruit and vegetables are still the top-selling organic food and beverage items, followed by meat. At the Big Carrot, several grocery categories are now almost entirely organic, including produce, bulk, baby food and coffee. Kirkpatrick says organic dairy is a huge seller, while in the centre aisles canned beans and tomatoes, pasta and cereals are all strong performers. In terms of dairy, says Loftsgard, “the organic cheese and dairy market is growing in sales across all product categories ... Dairy is frequently the product category where consumers convert [to organic] first, particularly once they have children.”

Organic Cheese & Butter Canadian Leader since 1992


Hemp is a strain of the cannabis sativa plant grown for industrial uses including paper, textiles, clothing and food. It’s been around for thousands of years—in fact, it’s considered to be one of the oldest domesticated crops in the world. But as governments cracked down on drugs throughout the 20th century, hemp got lumped in with marijuana and became illegal to grow. In 1998, the Canadian gov­­ ern­ment began to allow the processing, harvesting and selling of hemp, which opened up opportunities for Canadian companies to sell hemp food and beverage products. The production of hemp was legalized in the United States 20 years after Canada, in 2018.


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

Hemp Four things to know

3 HEMP CAN’T GET YOU HIGH! Unlike its sister strain of cannabis, marijuana, hemp won’t get you high. That’s because the levels of THC (the component that does get you high) are negligible in hemp. The hemp plant does, however, contain cannabidiol (CBD) that many believe can help with problems such as anxiety, insomnia, depression and pain.

2 HEMP CRACKERS, BARS, MILK AND MORE A 2019 report from Zion Research showed the global hemp-based food market was approximately US$3.9 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to US$4.89 billion by 2026. Meanwhile, Research and Markets released a report this year forecasting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for hemp protein of 15.2% between 2020 and 2025. Along with this growth comes innovation. While packaged hemp seeds, hemp hearts, oils and powders have been around for years, we’re now seeing a boom in new product innovations. For example, Manitoba Harvest now sells a line called Hemp Yeah! Granola in flavours such as Dark Chocolate, Blueberry, Cranberry and Honey & Oats; a line of Hemp Yeah! bars as well as Hemp Yeah! Milk. Montreal-based Evive Smoothie also features hemp in several of its smoothie cubes, while U.S.-based Flackers has released a Hemp Seed & Green Hatch Chile toasted cracker and spread maker Dastony offers organic hemp seed butter. “We have seen more brands coming to market with products that include hemp now," says Robin Langford, product category manager at Ontario's Goodness Me! Natural Food Market. She says hemp hearts continue to be most popular, but they’re also now selling a wider variety of hemp bars. “Hemp has such a great nutty flavour that it adds itself well to bars..”

Research and Markets forecasts a compound annual growth rate (cagr) for hemp protein of



between 2020 & 2025

4 SUPERFOOD STATUS According to Euromonitor International, hemp is increasingly being recognized around the world as a “superfood,” thanks to its high content of protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and essential fatty acids. As the Government of Canada’s Ingredient Focus - Hemp in packaged food and beverages report explains, hemp seeds “can be eaten raw and hemp seeds and their valuable oil can also be integrated into bread, cakes, biscuits, breakfast cereals, pasta, dairy products and juices. They are an ideal ingredient for a superfood snack.” As the plantbased trend continues to grow, hemp has

the added advantage of being a plant-based protein. “I would say primarily [the typical hemp consumer demographic is] the vegetarian/vegan segment, but there’s also a large number of seniors interested in improving and/or maintaining their health through their diet rather than relying on vitamin/mineral supplements,” says Robert Rae, president of Gibson’s, B.C.-based Canada Hemp Foods, which manufactures hemp oils, hemp protein powders, and hemp seed hearts. “We’re also seeing increasing interest from young individ— Carol Neshevich uals and families.”





Cold comforts

From ice pops to ice cream bars, new innovations in frozen novelties abound. Here’s how to make the most of the category in these uncertain times By Dilia Narduzzi


with warmer weather finally starting

to show itself across the country, consumers are looking to indulge in sweet frozen treats. There’s been a lot of recent innovation in hand-held frozen novelties with manufacturers putting new spins on items like ice pops, freezies, ice cream bars, sandwiches and the like. And while traditional ice cream in a tub is still the bestseller among Canadians, Nielsen data shows water-based freezable novelties, like popsicles and freezies, accounted for $29 million in sales across the country in the latest 52 weeks ending Feb. 1, 2020—up an impressive 8%. What’s gaining popularity in frozen novelties right now aligns with the health-based trends that have taken the food world by storm, including ketofriendly options, less added sugar, and plant-based items. The changes in the frozen novelty category “mirror innovation in other parts of the grocery store,” says Dana McCauley, food trends expert and a current director in the Research Innovation Office at the University of Guelph.

Traditionally, frozen novelties have been an indulgence category, says McCauley, so products with a health claim are competing with the old favourites including drumsticks, dairy-based ice cream bars and high-sugar popsicles. To succeed in a category that typically occupies a small amount of real estate in your store, managers will need to ask: “What are my bestselling items that are traditional? Keep those, and then choose a few new things that give people the features they want, like plant-based or made from real fruit. You want to hit as broad a spectrum as you can to keep inventory turning over,” says McCauley. Happy Pops is one of those newer items. Toronto founder Leila Keshavjee decided to create her healthier popsicle, which has significantly less sugar than the norm, when she realized just how many names there are for “sugar” in a typical frozen treat’s ingredient list. Keshavjee says her product is healthier, yet still offers a bit of indulgence. With a base of either fruit or coconut,

the flavours range from old favourites like strawberry or orange to more creative ones like lemon-mint or matcha. Benjamin Outmezguine, co-founder of Montreal’s CoolWay, says his team decided to expand its product lineup to include novelties last year. CoolWay’s low-cal, high-protein ice cream has been on the market for a few years now; but it launched a line of low-cal ice cream bars last spring, and in March launched a “healthier” ice cream sandwich. It’s not just smaller companies and startups offering innovations that align with current diet trends—last year, Unilever launched a non-dairy/plant-based version of its indulgent Magnum Bar; while just this spring, Nestlé launched a plant-based version of its iconic Drumstick ice cream cone novelty in Canada in two flavours: Caramel, and Vanilla Chocolate Swirl “in a plant-based, vegan cone” containing no artificial colours. Who’s buying novelties? According to James van Bolhuis, promotions manager at The Sweet Potato natural grocery store in Toronto, the category is “for everyone, unless they can’t eat [certain items] for dietary reasons.” McCauley adds that the millennial mom is often the one who buys the healthier, more customized options in the indulgence category (if they can afford to do so). Older gen Zers may also be young parents or will be parents in the next decade, and they are interested in sustainability and transparency, she says. And now as they grapple with the ongoing covid -19 crisis they may be looking for less expensive options as money for specialty items will be tight for many this summer. To make the most of novelty sales— especially during uncertain financial times and amid potential supply chain concerns—consider stocking what you can when you can, and featuring limited-­ time offers to create urgency and get items out the door, rather than doing long-term listings that you may run out of, says McCauley. Consider also having some “perennial favourites” alongside “good value, specialty items with cool new benefits and flavours,” she says—though if you have to limit flavour choices in the newer products, lean toward traditional flavours like chocolate or strawberry. If you get any discounts from the manufacturers, consider offering the special price in a display bin, passing savings along to the shopper.  May 2020 Canadian Grocer



Fresh and clean!

While home cleaning might be at an all-time high right now, with Canadians ordered to stay at home, cleaning products are clearly big sellers in “normal” times, too, according to this Nielsen sales data. From laundry detergent and fabric softener to bathroom cleaners and scouring pads, this chart reveals how various household cleaning products have been performing in Canada during the past year. Household cleaning products - 52 weeks, ending Feb. 29, 2020 $ Sales

$ Vol % Chg


Units Vol % Chg

1. Laundry detergents


2. Dishwashing products







Fabric softeners






3. Household cleaners





Air care





Surface cleaning systems





Laundry care accompaniments





Toilet bowl cleaners





4. Bathroom cleaners





Household bleaches





Scouring tools & pads





Spot removers





Drain cleaners






clothes clean, with laundry detergent coming in as the top-selling item in the household cleaning category. Dollar sales of laundry detergent were up by 2.3% to more than $667 million in the latest 52 weeks ending Feb. 29, 2020.

2 Time to do the dishes! The No. 2

bestseller in the home cleaning category is dishwashing products, which showed a 3.3% increase in dollar sales to $424 million.

3 “Household cleaners” (including

general-purpose cleaning liquids, powders and sprays) showed the greatest percentage increase in the category in terms of dollar sales, rising by 8% to $188 million.

4 Are bathrooms getting less

special attention? Bathroom cleaners are down slightly in terms of dollar sales, dropping by 2.3% to just under $45 million.


1 Canadians love to keep their


New on shelf

The latest products hitting shelves


1  TETLEY COLD INFUSIONS Tetley is entering Canada’s flavoured water market with the launch of Cold Infusions: allnatural herbal tea water enhancers. Available in three flavours (Raspberry and Cranberry; Mint, Lemon and Cucumber; and Strawberry and Watermelon), Tetley Cold Infusions are caffeinefree and sugar-free.


2  E-Z PUR HAND WASH With health experts urging people to wash their hands more frequently amid the covid-19 pandemic, Prelam Enterprises has launched a hand soap that makes it easier to keep hands clean while on the go. Small enough to fit in a pocket, E-Z Pur hand soap is alcohol-free and made with clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary. 3  ONE DEGREE ORGANIC’S GRAIN FREE CLUSTERS One Degree Organic Foods has launched Grain Free Clusters in two flavours: Maple Almond and Ginger Cacao. Both flavours are glutenfree and contain superfoods such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, ginger, coconut oil and walnuts—all of which can be traced directly back to the farmer who harvested them, according to the Abbotsford, B.C.-based company.


4  STONYFIELD ORGANIC KIDS DRINKABLE YOGOURT Lactalis Canada has launched an organic drinkable yogurt for kids. Stonyfield Organic Kids Drinkable Yogourt is made with 100% Canadian organic milk, real fruit and has only four grams of sugar per bottle. It’s sold in sixpacks of 93-mL bottles and is available in three varieties: Strawberry, Strawberry Banana, and Very Berry. 5  FLOW COLLAGEN-INFUSED WATER Earlier this year, Flow Alkaline Spring Water announced it had acquired BOONS collagen water. As a result of that transaction, this spring, Flow is introducing Flow Collagen Infused Water. Made with spring water and infused with 10 grams of grass-fed, pastureraised collagen protein, it’s available in three flavours: Watermelon, Pink Grapefruit, and Cucumber.  CG



May 2020 Canadian Grocer


CHECKING OUT George Condon

Distressed over covid-19?

It’s a difficult time for us all, but positive thoughts can provide some solace CORONAVIRUS HAS completely occupied the world’s attention for months now, with little sign of abating. Speculation abounds, and the truth hurts. One sure thing is that the world will never be the same again. Despite the herculean efforts of medical personnel and all frontline workers (including, of course, the near-heroic services provided by grocers and all their employees in maintaining safe stores while keeping their shelves full), the covid-19 pandemic persists. Grocers have erected shields for their cashiers, sanitized checkouts and display cases, bagged products that used to be self-serve, paid staff extra, hired more people, controlled the number of shoppers in their stores (and the distance between them), and tried to carry on as normal as possible—which, of course, is impossible. We must salute their efforts. One wonders what the future, after covid-19, will look like for grocery stores and supermarkets. A number of years ago, I visited a supermarket in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was surprised (no,


May 2020 Canadian Grocer

shocked!) to find virtually everything in the produce department—bananas, apples, melons, berries and so on—were presented in clear plastic wrapping. The same was true in the bakery department; everything was in a bag. At the same time, an employee was wiping down the display tables with what I assume was an antiseptic. The cashiers were not behind shields, but were seated at their tills about five feet from customers. There was no viral breakout in Buenos Aires at the time; the store manager told me it was simply normal business practice intended to reassure customers of the purity of their purchases. Is that what a Canadian supermarket will look like in a year or two? I would guess most of us hope not, and to make sure things get back to normal sooner rather than later, we are hunkering down in self-isolation. To keep our spirits up, some people are trying to look for silver linings. Kevin Coupe, my former colleague and the brains behind the retail website Morning News Beat,

George Condon is Canadian Grocer’s consulting editor. He’s based in Toronto.


Messages of hope and encouragement drawn by children, pinned on a message board in Waterloo, Ont., help brighten spirits during the pandemic

writes: “This could be a lot worse if we didn’t have the internet … it actually is going to allow us to be connected to loved ones and co-workers.” He adds, “I’ve found some solace in reaching out to people, to getting on the phone and calling old friends.” That act of connecting, he says, is also something businesses must do. “Reach out to your customers … tell them you are thinking about them and acting in their best interests … be as loyal to them as possible.” Even though we have to practice social distancing, he writes, “it doesn’t mean that we have to be distant. In fact, precisely the opposite.” Then there’s this piece of positive thinking, attributed to Kitty O’Meara, which has gone viral on social media: “And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” Yes, it’s tough just now—with some of us hunkering down at home, and others continuing to go out to work at essential services such as supermarkets where they must exercise extreme hypervigilance to ensure safety for everyone. But if we do this well, we will get back to some kind of normal, eventually. And thinking positive thoughts certainly can’t hurt in getting us through it all.  CG


In association with The Golden Pencil Award, Canadian Grocer is accepting nominations for the 2020 Generation Next Awards, which recognize emerging leaders (under age 40) in the grocery and consumer packaged goods industries

NOW ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS Deadline to enter: September 30, 2020

For full details, visit: Presented by

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