Canadian Grocer May 2023

Page 1

Grand Prix finalists

How tech is enhancing the in-store experience Honey—buzzing with opportunity
Exclusive interview

Canadian cattle beef-up ecosystems.

Cattle grazing brings balance to the ecosystem as many species rely on grassland habitat. Without cattle grazing, the grasslands change and can no longer sustain wildlife.

Raising cattle uses just 33% of agricultural land in Canada but provides 68% of wildlife habitat capacity. Scan QR code to learn more.

FACT
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Features

Departments

5 Front Desk

6 The Buzz

61 New on Shelf PEOPLE

8 Growing up The Rashti brothers are revolutionizing smart agriculture in Canada with their indoor farming operation, UP Vertical Farms

IDEAS

13 Leveraging loyalty Survey says: grocers can better engage customers and deliver the savings they crave

15 Circulr thinking Ontario startup is helping the grocery sector be more sustainable

17 Urban scale From clicks to bricks, Wild Fork is breaking into the Canadian retail market with a new storefront

19 The big question Leaders share their strategy when it comes to local products

21 Global Grocery News and ideas from the world of food retail

COLUMNS

27 Sizing up ai Mintel’s Joel Gregoire on how artificial intelligence might impact our relationship with food and drink

29 An appetite for cheese

Caddle’s Ransom Hawley on why budget-conscious Canadians are still adding cheese to their carts

AISLES

53 Time to ‘cue up sales

Inflation is still coming in hot, but there are opportunities beyond traditional summer fare to get sales sizzling

58 Say cheese! Consumption is down, but there are ways grocers can adapt to changing consumer habits

60 Honey: Four things to know As a condiment or a natural sweetener, we explore the versatility of honey

EXPRESS LANE

62 Art of the steal Loss prevention expert Stephen O’Keefe shares ways grocers can take aim at theft

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 3 Contents 30 View from the top Walmart Canada’s new president and CEO talks tech, data and delivering value 37
tech in the grocery store In-person shopping is back on track and customers are expecting a seamless in-store experience 41 Ain’t it grand! 30th
Product Awards finalists
Higher
Annual Canadian Grand Prix New
On the cover 37 Walmart Canada’s Gonzalo Gebara Photography by Mike Ford 60 8 TOP, FROM LEFT: GETTY IMAGES/SUPPARSORN, GETTY IMAGES/YOKAEW, LUCAS FINLAY May 2023 || Volume 137 - Number 3 How tech is enhancing the in-store experience Honey—buzzing with opportunity Grand Prix finalists Exclusive interview
THIS BLUE COW DRIVES BUSINESS TRUSTWORTHY HIGH QUALITY GREAT TASTING 3-in-4 Canadians associate these statements to products featuring the Blue Cow Logo REQUEST YOUR LICENSE NOW AWARE OF THE BLUE COW LOGO of Canadian consumers are 86% ENCOURAGES PURCHASE Canadians say it 4 in 5 Based on research provided by IMI, Q1 2022 https://dairyfarmersofcanada.ca/en/blue-cow-logo/producers/apply 100% CANADIAN MILK HIGH CANADIAN BLUE COW LOGO STANDARDS. STANDS FOR. That’s what the

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DEFINING VALUE

In the world of retail, “value” is a word that’s tossed around a lot. So much so that most of us probably think we have a pretty good handle on what it means. Not so, according to Ken Wong, associate professor at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University.

In a session titled “The Value Challenge” at Grocery & Specialty Food West in Vancouver last month, Wong spoke of the disconnect between how shoppers and retailers perceive value, especially in times of high inflation. To consumers coping with rising costs, value simply comes down to low price, whereas retailers tend to think in terms of quality and added value, not the lowest price. And this difference in perception, says Wong, can create a lot of friction in the industry. “The consumer wants action,” he says, “and that action metric they’re using is ‘how low are your prices?’”

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CORPORATE OFFICERS

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Jennifer Litterick

CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER Jane Volland

CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Derek Estey

CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER Ann Jadown

CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER Joe Territo

Walmart Canada is a retailer whose go-to-market strategy is Every Day Low Prices. In this issue, we speak with the retail giant’s new president and CEO Gonzalo Gebara about a wide range of subjects, among them how Walmart Canada is working to keep prices low—both in inflationary times and outside of inflationary times, “that’s the way we gain trust,” says Gebara. (Read the interview starting on page 30.)

press releases, promotional items and images) from time to time. Canadian Grocer, its affiliates and assignees may use, reproduce, publish, republish, distribute, store and archive such submissions in whole or in part in any form or medium whatsoever, without compensation of any sort. ISSN# 0008-3704 PM 42940023 Canadian Grocer is Published by Stagnito Partners Canada Inc., 20 Eglinton Avenue West, Ste. 1800, Toronto, Ontario, M4R 1K8.

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In “Time to ‘cue up sales,” we look ahead to the summer and how high food prices might impact the upcoming grilling season. Though price-conscious consumers will be closely watching their budgets and gravitating to more affordable proteins to toss on the grill, the experts tell us there are still lots of opportunities to win

during this key selling period—retailers just need to follow the trends.

Also in this issue, the latest instalment in our Generation Next Thinking series, “Higher Tech in the Grocery Store” (page 37) looks at how technology can help meet evolving in-store expectations with solutions that create a frictionless, more engaging experience to keep customers coming back. We also look at where grocers should be investing their tech dollars right now—forget flashy innovation, the experts say it’s all about targeting customer pain points.

See you next time! CG

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 5 GETTY IMAGES/CYANO66
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The Buzz

T&T Supermarket will open a 39,000sq.-ft. store in

OPENINGS

T&T SUPERMARKET plans to open a 39,000-sq.-ft. store in London, Ont.—the home of Western University—in a newly renovated strip mall in summer 2024. Promising to be the largest Asian supermarket in the city, the new store will offer fresh produce, groceries, bakery, in-store prepared foods, sushi, Hong Kong barbecue pork and a Tianjin crepe station. Customers will be able to order for home delivery or click and collect via T&T’s website and app. An alumna of Western, T&T CEO Tina Lee says: “I am delighted that I finally get to bring the T&T experience back to my old school stomping grounds.”

Calgary Co-op’s COMMUNITY NATURAL FOODS banner is opening its fourth store in Alberta, and its first store outside of Calgary, this June in the Edmonton community of Old Strathcona. The 10,000-sq.-ft. store will offer an array of organic produce, meat and dairy; a selection of grocery items; a supplement and natural body care section; and a fresh juice, elixir, smoothie and grab ‘n’ go bar. The store will also host free educational events in support of whole food nutrition, sustainability and general wellness.

GET RECOGNIZED FOR MAKING A POSITIVE IMPACT!

Canadian Grocer’s Impact Awards are back! We want to recognize the initiatives introduced by retailers, suppliers and solution providers that are making a meaningful difference in four areas: sustainability; diversity, equity & inclusion; supporting employees; community service/local impact/giving back. Please take a few minutes to tell us about the great work being done at your company. It’s free to nominate and winners will be featured in our August issue. Visit cgimpactawards.ca by May 31 to nominate.

FARM BOY is setting up shop in the Mississauga, Ont. neighbourhood of Port Credit. The new store will be the anchor tenant of the planned 72-acre Brightwater community that promises green space and trails as well as 300,000 square feet of retail, commercial and office space. The new 25,000-sq.-ft. store is scheduled to open mid-2024.

After 18 years on 744 Adelaide Street in London, Ont., SUNRIPE opened the doors to its relocated market at 1800 Adelaide Street. With 7,000 additional square feet, the new store features a popcorn station, a guacamole and salsa station, sushi station and brand-new equipment, including a smoker in its kitchen.

SAVE-ON-FOODS has opened a 20,500-sq.-ft. store in Richmond, B.C.’s Garden City shopping centre. It features a meat and seafood section; bakery; Save-On-Foods Kitchen grab ‘n’ go items including sandwiches and homestyle fried chicken; a wing and appies bar; and a variety of organic and natural products. The Western grocer celebrated the store’s grand opening in March with a gift card giveaway to the first 500 customers.

6 CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023
London, Ont. in summer 2024 London, Ont.’s Sunripe recently relocated to a larger space
News to share? Tell us about your openings, comings and goings, etc. by dropping a line to sfitzgerald@ensembleiq.com The latest news in the grocery
Mississauga, Ont. is getting its first Farm Boy—a 25,000sq.-ft. space slated to open mid-2024
biz

Galen Weston is stepping down from the day-to-day operations at Loblaw Companies Ltd., with European retail executive Per Bank stepping into the president and CEO role in early 2024. Bank is the outgoing CEO of Denmark’s Salling Group A/S, which owns 1,700 multi-banner supermarkets across three countries. He has been serving as CEO since 2012. Weston will remain chairman of Loblaw and chairman and CEO of holding company George Weston Ltd.

At Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Ltd., Tara Scott has been named chief commercial officer. She began her career with the company in 2018, joining as director of revenue growth management capability before moving into the vicepresident of commercial growth strategy and execution role. Scott has also worked for Maple Leaf Foods, Olivieri Foods, Henkel Consumer Goods Canada and The Kraft Heinz Company.

Traci Wildish has moved into the role of vice-president of sales for McCormick’s consumer products division Canada and North American retail operations, replacing Erin Rooney who retired in April after more than three decades in the industry. Wildish joined the company in 2020 and was most recently director of trade marketing, category management and sales operations for Canada.

Flashfood has appointed Jordan Schenck to the role of chief brand officer and Sepideh “Sepi” Burkett to the position of head of partner development. Schenck and Burkett are the first executive hires under the leadership of Nicholas Bertram, who joined Flashfood as president in February 2023.

Simon Somogyi is leaving the Arrell Food Institute at the end of the summer to join Texas A&M University. Somogyi currently serves as the Arrell chair in the Business of Food. He is also a professor at the University of Guelph’s School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management. Somogyi joins Texas A&M University as the Dr. Kerry Litzenberg Chair in sales and economics, and director of the school’s Weston Agrifood Sales program.

Bel Canada Group has appointed Christine Verreault as vice-president of human resources. Verreault brings more than 20 years of experience to the role. She began her career as a consultant, business partner and manager in various organizations such as Discount Auto Rental, White Birch Paper, WSP and Héroux-Devtek. Verreault most recently served as vice-president of human resources for Groupe Crevier.

Sergio Mazzuca, Fortinos’ senior director of produce, floral and bulk, passed away March 18 from cancer. Mazzuca’s professional legacy spans more than 45 years. Outside of the grocery business, his passions included fishing and hunting. He leaves behind his wife Julie, children Samantha and Victor, daughter-in-law Maria and son-in-law Peter. “Sergio was a highly valued and respected member of the Fortinos management team and will always be remembered for his tireless efforts to ensure Fortinos was the best destination for fresh produce,” the grocer said in a statement.

AWARDS/RECOGNITION

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) is recognizing Sam Silvestro with its 2023 CPMA Lifetime Achievement Award. Silvestro has worked in the industry for 40 years, having held senior roles at Sobeys and Walmart Canada, and is currently serving as an executive consultant for national brands. He has also been involved with government committees on food safety and has served on several

boards including cpma and Ontario Produce Marketing Association (OPMA).

Retail Council of Canada (rcc) and Food Health & Consumer Products of Canada (fhcp) are recognizing Serge Boulanger and John Pigott with its 2023 Canadian Grand Prix Lifetime Achievement Award. Boulanger began his career with Metro in 1996 and rose through the organization, spearheading several key initiatives until he retired as svp, national procurement and corporate brands earlier this year. Pigott, meanwhile, started at mli as a student in 1971 and worked summers through 1979. After a stint at Xerox, he returned to MLI as vice-president in July 1986 and was appointed president and ceo in 1989. He became president and ceo of Club Coffee upon its acquisition by mli in 2007.

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 7 OPPOSITE: T&T SUPERMARKET, CANADIAN GROCER, FARM BOY. THIS PAGE, GALEN WESTON: THE CANADIAN PRESS/CHRIS YOUNG
Per Bank Galen Weston Jordan Schenck Traci Wildish Simon Somogyi Sepideh “Sepi” Burkett Christine Verreault
PEOPLE
In remembrance
you need to know
UP
Rashti and his brother Shahram are revolutionizing smart agriculture in Canada with their indoor farming operation, UP Vertical Farms
People Who
GROWING
Bahram

was 2010 when Bahram Rashti, who was completing his dentistry residency at Vancouver General Hospital and The University of British Columbia, visited satellite clinics in remote northern communities in the province. “In these areas, you pay more for fresh produce, and it’s not as fresh as in the mainland,” says Rashti. That experience got him curious about fresh produce supply and distribution chains, and what effects climate change would have on those processes. He soon discovered that more than 90% of baby leaf greens sold in Canada come from the United States. “I was concerned and curious about food security,” he recalls, thinking: “Supply from the U.S. and other countries would eventually not meet Canadian demand.”

Rashti’s research brought him to a relatively new agricultural concept—indoor vertical farming. “It’s a new ecosystem to grow food indoors reliably, all year round,” he explains. “It can be a greenhouse hybrid, but it’s completely indoors, in a warehouse.”

Indoor vertical farming had already taken off in the United States, Europe and Asia, but Canada was lagging behind. Rashti not only saw a business opportunity to start an indoor vertical farming operation here, but also play a part in creating a more reliable source of produce for Canadians and help with the problem of food insecurity.

Rashti discussed the idea of starting such an operation with his brother, Shahram, who was working in IT at the time. “The more we looked at it, the more fascinated we became that indoor vertical farming didn’t exist in Canada,” says Rashti. Over the next five years, they continued working their day jobs— Bahram in dentistry and Shahram in IT, while developing their new farming concept. The brothers did market research, built a prototype in the garage of Bahram’s Vancouver home, and tested different equipment and lighting. They had to ensure the leafy greens could be grown cleanly, consistently and at a high-enough density to be profitable. “We had to manufacture our own lights and develop our own light recipe,” Rashti explains.

The Rashti brothers’ big break came in 2018 when they secured a food distribution partner—The Oppenheimer Group, a B.C.-based multinational fresh produce growing, marketing and distribution company. “Oppenheimer has some of the smartest people in produce,” Rashti says. “They understood the potential of indoor vertical farming. It was exciting when we shook hands with them.”

That partnership validated Bahram and Shahram’s decisions to quit their full-time jobs and go all-in on their vertical farming venture. Thanks to The Oppenheimer Group’s existing industry relationships, the brothers were connected with buyers at major grocers across the country. “We got their input about what they wanted in their leafy greens, like the height of the plants, the structure, taste, quality and varieties,” Rashti explains. With that knowledge, they could fine-tune their research and development to create indoor farming systems and grow exactly the types of greens that grocers would stock on their shelves.

One of the brothers’ big “aha”moments during their research and development was growing leafy green mixes together in one tray. Most baby leaf greens are grown separately and then mixed together after harvesting, which results in bruising of the leaves, shortening their shelf life. Instead, the Rashtis, under their newly-named venture UP Vertical Farms, would grow different varieties such as arugula, and red and green lettuces side-by-side on the same tray, then harvest and bag them directly afterwards. This would extend their produce shelf life from the industry average.

By late March 2023, Bahram and Shahram were ready to harvest their first batch of lettuces in their Pitt Meadows, B.C. facility, to be sold in grocery stores in British Columbia. The day their lettuces first hit supermarket shelves, the Rashti brothers participated in a panel discussion about climate-smart agriculture. “After the event, we drove to a store carrying our greens and half of our products were already gone off the shelves,” Rashti recalls. “It was a good sign.” He bought two packages of the greens to eat with his family. “It was a great moment, eating it with my family at dinner and having the same experience that Canadian consumers were having.”

Last month, UP Vertical Farms expanded beyond its home province of British Columbia to retailers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. “It’s a wonderful feeling to see our products that we worked so hard to build and grow be on supermarket shelves,” Rashti says.

The brothers’ next step will be expanding East. They’re currently raising equity to build a growing facility in Ontario and are also looking to expand into the United States. Looking back at his journey and career transition, from dentisty to agriculture, Rashti is humbled.

“It’s a proud moment when you change careers and can have a larger impact on society,” he says. “It’s rewarding—it’s a good feeling.” CG

30 seconds with …

BAHRAM RASHTI

What do you like best about your job?

Innovation. We’re constantly problem-solving and pushing the frontiers of indoor agriculture.

If you weren’t in the food business, what would you be doing?

Probably solving another problem out there on a larger scale. Maybe solving larger problems in healthcare or another industry and trying to have a greater impact than I could create from the dental chair.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

Work hard. Have integrity and always innovate. You have to innovate to evolve. Partner with strong, good people who want to work well and who believe in what you’re trying to achieve.

What’s your favourite product from your lineup?

I really like our Spring Mix, and also the 50-50 Blend. I have a lot of my salads on top of my other foods, like rice-based meals and stews, or I add it to my sandwiches. My wife is a huge salad eater, so we eat a lot of salads on their own as well.

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

I do a lot of deep-sea fishing with my brother. That is the main way we get to relax and disconnect. I also like to go hiking with my wife along the trails in North and West Vancouver.

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 9
IT

WHAT’S NEW

AWARD WINNING* PRODUCTS IN GROCERY

Mouche Bamboo Facial Tissues

Mouche Bamboo Facial Tissues are the sustainable premium facial tissue that works. These premiumquality, 3-ply tissues are tough on sneezes and gentle on the skin while being sustainably made from 100% FSC-certified bamboo without any whiteners, lotions or fragrances. Plus, they come in modern, neutral colour boxes that look great anywhere in the home. Stylish, sustainable tissues for any space. Mouche is proudly a Canadian, female-founded, and family-led business. Available exclusively through UNFI.

Armstrong Cheese Combos

Bringing more familiar flavours to the dairy aisle, Armstrong Cheese Combos are available in two flavours: Mozzarella with Naturally Smoked Salami Sticks, and Marble Farmer’s and Naturally Smoked Ham Sausage Sticks. This perfect snacking pair is a hearty combo typically found on cheese boards—but now great for a quick, onthe-go snack. Twice the snack in just one pack!

Dove Refillable Deodorant

Join the refillable revolution with Dove Refillable Deodorant. Canadians can now stop throwing away plastic deodorant packaging month after month. Each of the deodorant refills are packed in 96% recycled plastic to keep the deodorant sustainable. The caring, creamy coconut and a touch of pink jasmine scent is a soothing treat for the senses to provide a little moment of joy each morning.

Crispers Fiery Jalapeño

The Crispers consumers know and love, but they’ve dialed up the heat. Crispers Fiery Jalapeño are spicy and cheesy –perfect to spice up the day with every crunch. They are baked in Canada and only available in Canada. Originally launched as a limited edition in 2022, Crispers Fiery Jalapeño is now back and here to stay. The heat is on!

Cadbury Caramilk

Cadbury Caramilk chocolatey goodness combined with soft-flowing caramel, now with a hint of sea salt! An indulgence with the perfect combination of sweet and salty, available in two sizes: 50g and 100g. They are prepared in Canada with 100% sustainably sourced cocoa. Cocoa Life is Cadbury’s sustainable cocoa sourcing program that does good by encouraging responsible farming, and by helping fight deforestation and supporting cocoa farming communities. Winner of the Chocolate category.

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL FEATURE IN CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023

Go Pure Soft Baked Oatmeal Bars

Go Pure Soft Baked Oatmeal Bars are available in three delicious flavours: Chocolate Chip, Brownies and Carrot Cake. They are made with 100% Canadian oat, contain between 11g and 13g of whole grain and they are a source of fibre. Go Pure bars are certified peanutfree, it’s pure goodness.

New to the Babybel® family

Babybel®, the snack Canadians love, is now available in a dairyfree, certified plant-based, nonGMO and ‘Vegan Society’ version. The 5-portion pouch is made with 100% recyclable paper, and the cellophane is compostable at home. Perfect for the lunchbox or to grab on the go, it is a great option for adults and kids alike.

OREO Gluten-Free

Following a gluten-free lifestyle can be challenging with limited options and not wanting to compromise delicious taste. Introducing the first ever gluten free OREO cookies! The distinctive OREO chocolate cookie made with rich, sustainable cocoa and the signature smooth crème, now gluten free! Canadians can enjoy the iconic cookie like never before.

Armstrong Cheese Mmmm… Bacon Natural Shredded Cheese

Armstrong has unlocked the perfect combination with its new and delicious Armstrong Cheese Mmmm…Bacon Natural Shredded Cheese made with real bacon. This flavourful, time-saving, shredded cheese is perfect for omelettes, loaded baked potatoes, casseroles or as a salad topper.

Chips Ahoy! Mashups

This isn’t your average chocolate chip cookie. Chips Ahoy! and Cadbury have teamed up on two new flavours to delight the taste buds: Crunchy Chips Ahoy!

Cadbury Mini Eggs cookie with coloured egg inclusions; Chewy Chips Ahoy! Cadbury Caramilk with delightful chocolatey caramel chips. The taste of Cadbury chocolate, now packed in irresistibly delicious chocolate chip cookies.

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL FEATURE IN CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023
*Survey of 4,000 Canadians by Kantar.

This well-deserved award represents his passion for his work and significant contributions to METRO and the industry.

Serge, the METRO family is proud to see you recognized for your lifetime of achievement.

Congratulations!

METRO CONGRATULATES SERGE BOULANGER

ON RECEIVING THE 2023 CANADIAN

GRAND PRIX LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

FROM RETAIL COUNCIL OF CANADA

Serge Boulanger

LEVERAGING LOYALTY

the rIsIng cost of food is undoubtedly affecting shoppers’ behaviours, whether they’re switching to private-label brands or cutting back on pricey meats. A new report from Eagle Eye, a global digital marketing firm, suggests grocers can leverage loyalty programs to better engage customers—and deliver the savings they crave.

The report, Grocery’s Great Loyalty Opportunity, is based on a survey of more than 1,300 consumers and nearly 200 loyalty program managers in North America, Asia, Australia and the United Kingdom. The survey found saving at the shelf is a top priority for consumers. Nearly two-thirds of grocery shoppers (64%) are buying more items on sale or special; 57% are using loyalty program points, discounts or savings, and 48% are finding and using coupons more often. Other ways consumers are trying to save money are shopping among different retailers to find the best price on certain items (46%), shopping more at discount stores (46%), buying more private-label items (42%),

and finding ways to make meals that eliminate food waste (31%).

On the loyalty front, the survey found more than two-thirds of all global respondents (68%) belong to at least one grocery loyalty program. The top benefit members want from a loyalty program is value (69%) followed by discounts (60%).

“This is an uncertain environment for retailers, but consumers are also primed to appreciate the value of loyalty,” said Tim Mason, CEO of Eagle Eye, in a press release. “Grocery retailers are uniquely positioned to use their loyalty programs to deliver the savings their customers demand and the experiences they’ve come to expect.”

In many cases, grocers are responding. More than half of loyalty program managers (54%) report that in the next three to six months, they plan to make it easier to earn and redeem points. In addition, 48% plan to deliver relevant offers, coupons and discounts when customers are shopping; and 41% plan to make discounts and specials easier to find online and in stores.

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 13 GETTY IMAGES/TETIANA LAZUNOVA
Ideas RETAILERS || SUPPLIERS || SHOPPERS || INSIGHTS
SHOPPER BEHAVIOUR
*Best New Product for Single Serve Co ee in a 2023 BrandSpark® survey. The Best New Product Awards logo is a trademark of Best New Product Awards Inc., used under license. **Keurig and K-Cup are trademarks of Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., used with permission. It’s o cial: Lavazza Perfetto K-Cup® Pods win Best New Product Award* Transform your Co ee Ritual

What’s up with plant-based?

Canadians are craving alternatives to meat and dairy, but price is a sticking point when it comes to consumers purchasing plant-based foods, finds a new survey from Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food and Analytics Lab. In fact, of the 5,507 consumers surveyed, just 22% think plant-based alternatives are affordable. Here’s what else the survey reveals about how Canadians consume and perceive plant-based foods:

34% of respondents consumed a plant-based meat alternative over the last 12 months

42.2% have consumed a dairy alternative over the same period

30.7% said they chose plantbased items for health benefits, while 12.6% do so for personal taste and 12.1% for the environment

39.8% believe plant-based alternatives offer high nutritional value

“Our data suggests the plantbased market is real in Canada,” says Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Lab. “But the market and plant-based products clearly remain a work in progress, but price is unsurprisingly the biggest hurdle for the category.” SOURCE:

CIRCULR THINKING

Ontario startup is giving the grocery sector a way to boost sustainability

CIRCULR IS A REUSE program that helps CPG brands recapture and reuse packaging to reduce waste, while rewarding consumers for returning packaging and keeping it in circulation longer. Founded in 2020 by university graduates Tyler De Sousa and Charles Binks-Collier, Kitchener, Ont.-based Circulr works with a growing roster of brands including Funky Ferments, Beck’s Broth and Alchemy Pickle Company, and offers private-label reuse programs for grocery retailers. Here, De Sousa explains how Circulr works and what’s next for the company.

What attracted you to the idea of a circular economy?

It’s a solution I think a lot of people have been waiting for … To me, a circular economy is an environmental solution that is more holistic, rather than a Band-Aid solution. It’s less about taking garbage out of the ocean and more about making sure it doesn’t end up there in the first place.

How does Circulr work?

Circulr runs the back-end infrastructure for the reuse of product packaging in grocery. We currently work with brands that have products in glass jars such as pickles, peanut butter, pasta sauces, soups, spreads and soaps. So, customers can purchase a brand’s products like they normally would. When the consumer is done with the product, they just rinse out any residue in the jar and drop it off in a Circulr bin at one of 23 collection sites [located in grocery stores] across Toronto and the Waterloo-Wellington region. They can track their return through the Circulr mobile app and get their deposit back. [Deposits range from 10 cents to $1.25.] On the retailer front, we help grocers reuse packaging for some of their private-label products. The Stone Store in Guelph, for example, has their own private-label jarred products and we provide the infrastructure for the store to collect jars and reuse them.

What feedback have you received from brands?

We’ve heard from many brands that reuse

is something they have always wanted to do or have been more interested in doing in recent years, but the back-end operations are too cumbersome. They don’t want to take their focus off doing what they love and what they’re good at. And so, we come in and make it easy for them. One of the biggest positives is the brand boost. People are starting to view reuse and the circular economy as an important environmental initiative, so being a part of Circulr reflects positively on the brand. On top of that, most customers who come into a store to return an empty jar leave with a full one. If I have a Funky Ferments pickle jar in my hand when I walk back into the grocery store, I’m going to remember Funky Ferments and buy another one.

What’s next for Circulr?

Glass jars were the first step in this process But [we] can expand to a lot of other products, from cleaning products to bathroom products to cosmetics. In terms of scaling, reuse is quite local inherently and that makes sense environmentally and logistically. You need to do it on a hub basis. That’s why we have a Waterloo-Wellington hub that covers four cities and a Toronto hub that covers Etobicoke to Whitby. Our focus over the next year or so is to get more customer density in our existing hubs, then expand outwards into the wider Greater Toronto Area. After that, I think we’ll add our third hub sometime in late 2024 or early 2025. Right now, we just want to build a strong movement in these cities that could one day grow across the country.

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 15 CIRCULR
DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY AGRI-FOOD ANALYTICS LAB, APRIL 2023
Ideas
Start your 14 Day Risk-Free Trial Today retailleader.com/pro Break through the news barrier. Guide your business decision making with Retail Leader Pro — a premium resource for retail and CPG professionals. Our analysts and experts go beyond the headlines to provide you with the data-driven insights and tools you need to accelerate business growth. CRITICAL INSIGHTS. INSIDE PERSPECTIVES. ◆ Consumer Behavior ◆ Retail Trends ◆ Innovation ◆ Benchmarking Chairman Gold Platinum To our dedicated sponsors for your continued support . Thank You www.convention.cpma.ca #CPMA2023 SEE YOU IN VANCOUVER FRUIT & PRODUCE

URBAN SCALE

From clicks to bricks, Wild Fork is breaking into the Canadian retail market with a storefront in Whitby, Ont.

AFTER INTRODUCING Canadians to its brand of frozen, premiumcut meats and seafood through e-commerce and home delivery earlier this year, Wild Fork is setting up shop in Whitby, Ont. —a suburb an hour east of Toronto.

The company, which also has omnichannel operations in Brazil, Mexico and the United States, will open the doors to a 4,000-sq.-ft. space (including a 500 to 600sq.-ft. back-of-house freezer) later this spring.

An opening date has yet to be confirmed, but Sherryl Woodward, head of brand experience at Wild Fork, says the store’s product assortment will mirror what’s currently sold on its e-commerce site. The offer will include affordable, premium cuts of beef, Berkshire pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, fish, specialty meats such as bison, elk, boar, duck and

venison as well as ready-made sides such as truffle mashed potatoes, lemon orzo salad and roasted acorn squash. Wild Fork also offers spices and sauces as well as frozen fruits, vegetables and desserts.

Wild Fork blast freezes its protein at prime freshness, which the company says seals in vitamins and minerals to keep the product fresher for longer. In-house chefs test each product to ensure the grade and cut meets company standards.

“All of our products are frozen and that’s to maintain that product integrity so it locks in freshness in a super-fast amount of time,” explains Woodward. “The first time something is defrosted is when you are going to have it for dinner.”

At its core, Wild Fork is a “protein company,” says Woodward,

with a product offering that is “complementary” to what a grocery store sells.

“We don’t offer all the same selections that your standard supermarket does,” says Woodward. “We see ourselves as complementary. We have a great protein selection. We don’t think of ourselves as purely just a frozen food company.”

Visually, the store will be an extension of Wild Fork’s e-commerce site. The space will have a clean, modern feel with natural light, soft paint colours and food photography will play a particularly important role in the physical store.

“We’re selling food. It’s different than selling fashion,” says Woodward. “You want people to say, ‘Oh man, I want to eat that.’ So, we do great photography of all our products, whether that’s

showcased on the website or on the walls of our store to drive that.”

Max Izen, head of real estate and construction at Wild Fork, says Whitby is an ideal market to open its first store in Canada. The store is located along Taunton Road, which is an arterial road running east and west through Whitby and the surrounding cities of Ajax, Pickering and Oshawa.

“We like the demographic there and we believe that it’s a good foray into the Canadian market,” he says. “We like the co-tenants and we liked that opportunity. I felt that was a good one to start with.”

In terms of expansion, Wild Fork will focus on growing its physical presence in the Greater Toronto Area over the next couple of years and hopes to introduce e-commerce in Western Canada in 2024 with bricks-and-mortar locations to follow.

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 17 WILD FORK
Ideas
Submit your nomination online goldenpencilaward.com Presented by The Food Industry Association of Canada, this award honours individuals who have made significant and worthwhile contributions to improving the Canadian food industry as well as their respective companies and communities. The ideal candidate should be actively involved with the Canadian grocery industry for a minimum of 10 years, achieving senior executive status. Nominate for the Golden Pencil Awards today Recipients will be recognized at the annual Golden Pencil Awards presentation held at GroceryConnex this fall. Deadline to enter: May 26, 2023

WHAT’S YOUR STRATEGY WHEN IT COMES TO LOCAL PRODUCTS?

Giancarlo Trimarchi President VINCE’S MARKET

“Our business strategy has always been to buy local first, when available. When we buy and sell local products, it helps to stimulate the local economy and promote sustainability. By sourcing products from local vendors, we can support small businesses and local farmers, who, in turn, can reinvest in the community. Additionally, local products often have a smaller carbon footprint as they require less transportation. By promoting local products, we are also able to connect with customers who prioritize buying local and sustainable products, helping to build brand loyalty and community support for our business.”

Consumer marketing manager FEDERATED CO-OPERATIVES LIMITED

“Local is weaved into our DNA and how we show up for Western Canadians. We serve our members in several business lines from food to fuel to agriculture, and we build community at each level of the value chain. As a result, we are positioned to support local growers, producers and ranchers with their operations in terms of advice and inputs, and on the manufacturing side with our store brands. We support local producers with our food and convenience stores to bring local products to our members. And, as a co-operative, the profits from these products go back to the communities we serve.”

Beacham CEO GOODNESS ME! NATURAL FOOD MARKET

“At Goodness Me! we believe in buying local. Why? It’s all about people. Getting to know and work and socialize within our community, getting to know our neighbours and, yes, developing friendships with wonderful people we can journey with through life. It’s easier to develop great relationships with people who live and work in proximity to us, which is why we reach out from each of our stores into our communities to include the healthy and delicious products that are often available from local folks. Our customers are delighted to know they are helping others in their local community.”

Grant Daisley Senior local forager for Pacific Northwest and Canada WHOLE FOODS MARKET

“First and foremost, we’re looking for products that are free from the ingredients that are banned in our stores. Also, we’re looking to partner with suppliers that lead with innovation in flavours and trending ingredients, raise the bar on the transparency of ingredient sourcing, as well as brands that are exploring [sustainable] packaging options. We also prioritize missionforward brands that give back to local and global communities.”

Mike Longo Chief merchandising officer LONGO’S

“Longo’s has a ‘you can’t beat local’ approach so our guests get the best that Ontario has to offer. We have built long-standing, generational relationships with farmers and producers. In season, 75% of our produce is local and many items travel from farm to Longo’s within 24 hours. And, 100% of Longo’s chicken, turkey and pork is locally raised. We seek out and support local providers for items throughout our stores, including Longo’s-branded products. Additionally, our team members are very committed to the communities we serve, which is why we consistently contribute through charitable giving and volunteering.”

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 19
Bruce
THE BIG QUESTION
Ideas

Flexible pay at Asda

U.K. retailer ASDA has teamed up with financial well-being app Wagestream to help its 140,000 employees better manage their finances and deal with the rising cost of living. The app allows employees to see how much they’ve earned throughout a pay period and gives them instant access of up to 50% of their earned contracted pay. The app also features tools to improve financial education and allows employees to set aside money automatically as a “rainy day pot.” And, each month, employees are entered into a prize draw for a chance to double their pot. “We understand that from time to time our colleagues may need a bit more financial help, something which would be made worse by the current cost of living crisis,” said the company’s chief people and corporate affairs officer, Hayley Tatum, in a press release. The partnership with Wagestream follows Asda’s decision to up hourly pay for its retail employees by 10% this year.

GLOBAL GROCERY News and ideas from the world of food retail

A POP-UP FIT FOR A KING

To celebrate the coronation of King Charles III, U.K. grocery giant Tesco opened a pop-up pub for two days in early May. “The King in the Castle” pop-up was a temporary takeover of the Castle pub located in Farringdon, London. The pub served up an “affordable” Coronation-themed menu that included items such as Camilla’s King Prawn Curry and The Prince’s Crust Pie, along with standard pub bevvies. Tesco said proceeds from the two-day pop-up would be directed to The Prince’s Trust, a charity founded by the King in 1976 to help vulnerable young people get their lives on track.

Albert Heijn trials true pricing

Sainsbury’s sustainable packaging

Sainsbury’s has stepped up efforts in recent months to reduce plastic in its private-label packaging. In March, the U.K. supermarket chain launched its liquid laundry detergent in cardboard cartons, a move it says will save 22 tons of plastic annually. The cartons are also 35% lighter than the original plastic packaging, and Sainsbury’s estimates that will remove 13 delivery trucks off the road each year, reducing carbon emissions. The grocer also set its sights on chicken and removed single-use plastic trays from its By Sainsbury’s whole chicken range. The company says the move to trayless chicken packaging is expected to save 10 million pieces of plastic a year. The grocer also announced it would be removing single-use plastic lids across its ownbrand dip containers.

Art Bags for communities

Woolworths in Australia has launched an Art Bag range to “celebrate and support Australian communities.” The reusable bags feature designs from some of the country’s up-andcoming artists. The first Art Bag was created in collaboration with Jessica Johnson, founder of Nungala Creative, a First Nations owned and operated agency. To launch Art Bag, the grocer donated the equivalent of C$90,000 to support indigenous education in Australia’s Northern Territory.

To raise awareness of the social and environmental costs of products in its stores, Dutch grocer Albert Heijn has embarked on a price experiment. In three of its stores, customers are presented with two prices when paying for a cup of coffee—the price they’d normally pay and the “true” price (a slightly higher one), which considers other production costs such as harmful CO2 emissions, water consumption and working conditions. Albert Heijn says the purpose of the experiment is to provide customers with insight into hidden costs, stimulate sustainable choices and study customer reactions. The grocer says proceeds from the extra amount customers are willing to pay for the true price coffee will be directed to Rainforest Alliance improvement projects. CG

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 21
Ideas
SHUTTERSTOCK/ALANMORRIS, TESCO, ALBERT HEIJN, WOOLWORTHS, SAINSBURY’S

A trailblazer in specialty foods

Finica Food Specialties Ltd. has been pleasing palates in Canada for 55 years and counting

It takes a stellar instinct and solid business sense to determine what food innovations will appeal to consumers time and time again—and fortunately Finica Food Specialties Ltd. has plenty of both. In fact, the company’s foresight around gourmet fare has enabled Canadians to access some of the best cheeses, spreads, sauces, oils and specialty foods from around the world, right in their local grocery stores.

As an importer and distributor of specialty and gourmet items for the past 55 years, the company has nurtured partnerships with suppliers across continents who are passionate about their craft and committment to producing quality products. In turn, Finica’s mission is to provide Canadians with the best possible products at the best possible price. “It’s a hallmark of our success and the reason we’ve thrived this long,” says President Joe Dal Ferro who likens the company’s long-standing success to a three-legged stool. “You need the right product at the right price and the ability to get it there, and if any of those three things are frail, the stool collapses.”

First to market with innovative flavours

Paramount to the company’s longstanding success has been its ability to introduce novel flavours and food innovations to the Canadian market. A prime example is when Finica supplied goat cheese logs to Canadian retailers via the Celebrity Goat brand 20 years ago. “It has now become a segment in the cheese category and every major grocery retailer has a goat cheese in their own brand assortment,” says Dal Ferro. “Finica put goat cheese on the map in Canada.”

Milestones over 55 years

1968 German expats launch Finica in Canada, focusing on German food specialties and Finnish cheese.

1995 Atalanta Corporation (of the Gellert Global Group) acquires Finica, helping expand the company’s cheese imports and premium exclusives to include products from across Europe and the U.S.

2003 Finica brings flavoured goat cheese logs to the Canadian market through Celebrity Goat products.

2011 With its partner Mariposa Dairy in Canada, Finica introduces Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar and wins top prize in the category.

2013 Finica finds a new home for its flourishing business by setting up shop in its current head office, a state-of-the-art facility in Mississauga, ON, that feature a boardroom that opens into a test kitchen.

2022 Finica introduces Fresh sheep’s log as a new segment into the Canadian cheese market under the Celebrity brand.

Finica put goat cheese on the map in Canada.
« » Special Promotional Feature in Canadian Grocer, May 2023
– President Joe Dal Ferro

Fresh, sliced mozzarella logs are another cheese innovation Finica brought to Canadian retailers through the Zerto brand. “This mozzarella is so unique because portions are equally sliced, making it very convenient and attractive in presentation,” he says.

Dal Ferro expects this year’s introduction of Celebrity sheep’s milk cheese to be another favourite with shoppers. “We traditionally think of sheep’s cheese as hard and heavily brined, but this one is silky smooth, with a creamy flavour,” he says. “Already these products are a hit, particularly the one with honey and lavender.”

Staying on top of food trends means Finica’s team is often travelling to the best gourmet trade shows around the world and meeting with key suppliers to learn about the latest and greatest in top-quality fine foods. “We are also in alignment with our parent company, the Gellert Global company, who have resources committed to finding products that consumers are looking for,” says Dal Ferro. Evolving to meet customer demand since 1968, when Finica’s founders Gunther Mueller and Henning Strait launched the business from a humble home basement, the company has been steadily growing and meeting the needs of Canadian consumers. Initially the exclusive importer for Finland-branded cheeses, Finica was able to expand its offerings when it was acquired by Atalanta Corporation (of the Gellert Global Group) in the U.S. in 1995. “They’re a family organization and importers of fine foods

and we have a great synergy between us to be able to drive our mission forward,” says Dal Ferro. “That acquisition helped give us resources and the introductions to so many suppliers around the world.” Today Finica imports and distributes cheeses from the UK, Greece, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Wales and the United States, including Beemster Cheese since 2008, Sartori since 2008 and Collier’s Cheddar since 2010.

Beyond cheese, the company continues to spearhead other innovative specialty items too. In 2004 it was the first to bring Dalmatia Fig Spread from Croatia to deli cheese counters in Canada— pushing it to a leading brand in the the category—and recently expanded the line with a new chili version this year. “We cover the gamut for what can be found in the deli and on charcuterie boards,” says Dal Ferro, noting that Finica carries 2,300 SKUs across all brands. In addition to “tierone products” through brands like MENU™ that are prepared by chefs for chefs, he says there are also options for consumers looking for more value. “It’s important for us to be able to offer quality products for any budget,” says Dal Ferro.

Going forward he says grocery patrons can expect to see more innovation and unique flavour profiles coming. “We’re working on that right now with our suppliers and have outstanding relationships with our Canadian grocers to be able to bring these great tastes and great value to consumers,” says Dal Ferro.

Zoning in on the latest tastes

Finica continues to bring new flavour profiles to the market by zoning in on the latest tastes through its partners with the goal of becoming charcuterie board mainstays.

Here are highlights of Finica’s very latest innovations in cheese and spreads.

September 2022

Celebrity Sheep’s Milk Cheese—Original and Lavender Honey

January 2023

Bellavitano Garlic and Herb & Dalmatia Fig Chili

March 2023

So Irish Mature Aged Cheddar & So British Double Gloucester

Special Promotional Feature in Canadian Grocer, May 2023

Wishing Finica a Happy 55 Years!

A HAPPY ANNIVERSARY WISHING 55th ai168252510751_Colliers Finica 55th Anniversary.pdf 1 26/04/2023 17:05:37

WHAT’S

NEW

Refreshing Sweetness

Refreshingly sweet and juicy when ripe, the subtle sweetness of green Anjou pears hints at a crisp lemon-lime flavour. Consumers love their dense flesh because it holds up well in heated applications like baking, poaching, roasting, or grilling and they are delicious when sliced fresh in salads or eaten as an on-the-go.

New Tropical Flavour From SunRype

Sugar and calorie reduction remain top of mind for consumers today, and SunRype is making it easier with a delicious new Slim flavour. Slim Orange Passionfruit brings more tasty variety to the popular 5-flavour lineup, with no aspartame, and only 10 calories and 1 gram of sugar per 250mL serving.

Grilling Season Is Here

Heat up your summer sales with Shahir’s new All Beef Halal Franks. Mildly seasoned with a taste your consumers will love, these fully cooked franks are naturally wood smoked, gluten free, and certified Zabeeha by hand. Perfect for this grilling season.

NEW
GROCERY
SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL FEATURE IN CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023
PRODUCTS IN

Sizing up AI

How might artificial intelligence impact our relationship with food and beverages?

WHEN WE LOOK back at 2022, it may be remembered as a turning point for AI (artificial intelligence). At this point, you’ve likely heard of Open AI’s ChatGPT. In case you haven’t, ChatGPT is a natural language processor developed by Open AI that can respond to queries using human language. In other words, you can ask it a question or give it a task and it will respond in a way that’s, mostly, understandable and accurate.

AI will, undoubtedly, impact the grocery and food and drink industries in ways that are difficult to fathom. The real promise, or threat, of AI is the rate at which it’s developing. For instance, just a few months after the introduction of GPT3, a newer version, GPT-4, was released in early 2023. By all accounts, this enhanced version represents a step change in processing power and reflects the rapid pace at which AI is evolving.

AI’s swift development brings with it many questions related to how it will affect our lives, which many experts predict will be profound.

In terms of how food and drink brands relate to consumers, there are a couple of areas where AI can have a nearer-term impact around how individuals plan and prepare meals, and how brands engage with consumers.

AI can help brands develop more personal connections with consumers

Coca-Cola offers a prime example of how brands can leverage AI to form deeper connections with consumers. Using GPT-4 and DALL-E, Coca-Cola created a platform called “Create Real Magic.”

As noted, GPT-4 produces human-like text from queries and DALL-E produces images from text. Leveraging these platforms, digital artists in select countries were invited to visit CreateRealMagic. com where they could generate creative content related to Coca-Cola with AI that incorporated content from Coke’s advertising archives.

Creators were also invited to submit their work for the opportunity to be featured on Coca-Cola’s digital billboards in London’s Piccadilly Circus and New York’s Times Square.

This campaign can be viewed as a test case for how companies can use AI to engage consumers and deepen their connection with brands. With most advertising campaigns, customers are passive recipients of messaging. In this case, AI allowed individuals to be active participants, providing them with tools to create brand-related content that also offers a sense of ownership.

AI can also help answer the question, “what should I make for dinner?”

Some days, deciding what to make for dinner is one of the toughest questions consumers have to answer. In this respect, AI has the potential to be a co-pilot, suggesting meal ideas based on different criteria such as diet, budget, preferred ingredients or occasion. Microsoft’s search engine Bing, for instance, utilizes AI from OpenAI and uses meal planning as an example for how to use its AI capabilities. Upon opening Bing’s chat mode, a suggested question is: “I need to throw a dinner party for six people who don’t eat nuts or seafood. Can you suggest a three-course menu?”

It’s easy to envision a situation in which AI will increasingly be the source of meal recommendations, particularly for younger adults who are already more likely to rely on online recommendations from social media sites including TikTok and YouTube. One has to wonder, however, if advances in AI will encourage consumers to prepare a wider variety of dishes. It’s difficult to say, but as AI becomes better at supplying recommendations on what to cook and eat, predicting what Canadians want for dinner may become more challenging for grocers as options become more expansive.

AI’s impact is uncertain, but profound

The future impact of AI on the food industry remains uncertain and we’re likely at the beginning of this journey. What can be said with greater certainty is AI will impact nearly every area of our lives, and brands that leverage its potential to connect with consumers on both emotional and practical levels will be better positioned in the near and long term. CG

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 27
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
FOOD BYTES || Joel Gregoire
AI will, undoubtedly, impact the grocery and food and drink industries in ways that are difficult to fathom

WHAT’S

NEW

Italy’s Top Tomato

Mutti introduces Mutti Organic Passata made from 100% organic Italian tomatoes. Mutti Organic Passata retains the bright red colour of tomatoes and has a velvety composition with an intense but sweet taste. And like all products signed Mutti, the fruits are picked at peak ripeness and packaged within 24 hours of harvest to maintain the freshness and flavour that consumers expect from Italy’s #1 tomato brand.

How Sweet It Is

For those looking for the perfect treat this spring, Divine Flavor has got it covered with their delicious Sweet Globe™ green seedless table grapes. This variety has a unique combination of crunch and size, but grape lovers go wild for this fruit because of its juicy, sweet flavour.

More Cheese Please

New from Cracker Barrel, his naturally smoked cheddar has a mild and unique smoky flavour that brings a delicious taste to favourite dishes for Canadians. It is available in block, slices, and individual snack formats to satisfy every cooking, snacking and entertaining occasion.

NEW PRODUCTS
GROCERY
SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL FEATURE IN CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023
IN

An appetite for cheese

Survey says: Budget-conscious Canadians are still adding cheese to their shopping carts

SKY-HIGH INFLATION and hefty food prices have many Canadians tightening their belts on their grocery budgets. But while sticker shock is causing some consumers to think twice about adding certain luxuries to their carts, when it comes to cheese, shoppers are staying steady with their purchase behaviour.

Although it’s not seen as a luxury, some consumers have changed where they shop for cheese. In fact, cash-strapped millennials are the most likely to have switched stores for their cheese purchases

According to Caddle’s Daily Survey Panel (March 2023) of 9,928 Canadians across provinces and generations, 83.7% of consumers say they plan to continue buying the same amount or more cheese and just 16.3% say they plan to buy less.

Indeed, no matter if it’s cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, havarti or parmesan, the dairy product remains a clear staple for most Canadians. While 23.9% of respondents say they consume cheese daily, 45.1% say it’s something they consume a few times a week. Overwhelmingly, it’s a planned purchase rather than an impulse item. By and large, it’s consumed by the whole family, any day of the week, and it shows up most frequently at the dinner table, though it’s also a common choice for lunch, snacking and breakfast.

To keep their fridges stocked, about one-third (34.4%) of Canadians say they purchase cheese a few times a month, with 31% buying it monthly and 16.5% weekly or more often. Geographically speaking, Ontario has the highest percentage of weekly cheese shoppers, followed by Quebec. A much smaller percentage of prairie populations and people living in Atlantic Canada buy the product that often.

Although it’s not seen as a luxury, some consumers have changed where they shop for cheese. In fact, cash-strapped millennials are the most likely to have switched stores for their cheese purchases. More people of that generation are now buying from discount grocery stores versus traditional grocers. Costco is the cheese purveyor of choice for 32.8% of shoppers and 31.2% make their purchases at Walmart.

It’s clear that Canadian consumers are brand loyal when it comes to cheese. If their pick is not available, 41.9% of respondents say they’ll wait until their next shopping trip and hope it’s back in stock, compared to just over 37% who say they’ll try another product. Compare that to the budget-conscious millennial shopper and the numbers tell a different story. More than 46% of that generation say if their preferred brand of cheese is not available they’ll look for it at another store. But not every generation is so loyal— gen X is most likely to switch to a different brand if their go-to isn’t in stock.

Although online shopping saw a surge in popularity during the pandemic, only 1.8% of those surveyed buy their cheese online. In fact, most shoppers—a whopping 85%—say they don’t shop for cheese online. Of those who do, convenience is key. Just over 38% buy online to collect in the store and 34.6% purchase for curbside pickup.

Whether they’re buying in-store or online, when selecting a product, most shoppers do not take reviews and ratings under consideration. When they do read other people’s opinions, however, they’re more likely to be swayed by better quality reviews and higher star ratings.

There’s a generational caveat though: those who say reviews and ratings are a very important part of their decision-making process when buying cheese are all millennials. They’re more likely to consult with ratings, whether online or in-store. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, it’s mostly younger demographics who are taking to their screens to buy cheese. Millennials are most likely to buy cheese online, followed by gen X and gen Z.

Those differences continue when it comes to which generations are choosing to buy less cheese— for financial or other reasons. Millennials were most likely to say they were planning on buying less of the product, followed by gen-Xers.

While they’re in the minority, just over 11% of respondents say they rarely buy cheese and 7.5% say they never buy it. There’s a generational trend to those who abstain from the product altogether—the social justice savvy gen Z is leading the charge for the plant-based market, and it’s no coincidence they were most likely to say they never buy cheese, with millennials trailing close behind.

In the current market, shoppers are taking steps to stretch their dollars. But, cheese still plays a big role in Canadians’ diets and, as such, is considered a priority for purchase. CG

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 29
CONSUMER CONNECTION || Ransom Hawley
Ransom Hawley, former packaged goods leader, is founder and CEO at Caddle Inc., the largest mobile-first insights platform that rewards Canadians for sharing data and engaging with brands.

theViewfrom top

Walmart Canada’s new president and ceo Gonzalo Gebara talks to Canadian Grocer about tech, data and delivering value

THERE’S A LARGE crowd gathered outside the main hall doors like an army of sports fans waiting to enter an arena. Some are armed with mini pom-poms; others are blowing into noise makers and one man has even brought a cow bell. The excitement helps take the chill off the early March morning.

Beyond the doors are enough seats to accommodate the 1,500 associates attending Walmart Canada’s annual company meeting, and a stage that is about to house an impromptu dance session and a boisterous rendition of the big-box retailer’s corporate cheer.

Employees from across Canada are in attendance— some even opted to make their own T-shirts with their store numbers proudly on display—and they’re all waiting to hear from their new president and CEO Gonzalo Gebara.

Gebara has an impressive 23-year career at Walmart. He joined the company in 2000 and has held roles in

finance, strategy, e-commerce, marketing and operations across multiple markets including the United States, Argentina and, most recently, Chile.

He joins Walmart Canada at an interesting time. Over the past few years, successive changes have rocked the grocery industry, from supply chain disruptions and labour shortages to skyrocketing inflation and general cost-of-living challenges.

During his 10-minute speech at the annual meeting, which also includes a video call from his wife and kids, who at the time were still living abroad, Gebara shares areas of opportunity for the company and his optimism for its future success.

Canadian Grocer chatted with Gebara a few weeks after that meeting in Toronto to discuss some of those topics and to find out what, if anything, keeps him up at night. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. »

30 CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023
Cover story
Carlton Cards is a celebrations leader helping Canadians build meaningful connections with our broad assortment of greeting cards and gift packaging. www.carltoncards.ca Carlton Cards is the #1 greeting card company in Canada! With our unmatched portfolio of brands and industry leading merchandising, we drive sales conversion in your stores

You’ve been on the job two and a half months. How’s it going so far?

Very well. I’m excited by everything I’m seeing. Walmart Canada is a powerhouse. It’s not only a big business, but we’re doing very well with the community and with sustainability, regeneration, talent development and diversity. So many things are going on. It’s exciting to be here.

What surprises you about the Canadian market?

A few things, I’d say. I had visited Canada a couple of times, but never lived here, of course, and I just think it’s an interesting country not only because of the diversity of the people, but also how big it is and how diverse its geography is. You have metro areas and you have remote areas. And the thing that I like is, as Walmart, we’ve found a way to connect very well with communities across all of Canada. And the other thing I enjoy about Canada is the culture of embracing diversity and being interested in how anyone can contribute based on their histories. I come from a Latin American market, I was born and raised there, and the differences and nuances are quite interesting to see.

You recently told a parliamentary committee that Walmart Canada is not trying to profit from inflation. How are you communicating this to your consumers?

Well, the first thing is to highlight our EDLP [Every Day Low Prices] strategy. Our EDLP strategy is not just a commercial strategy, it’s basically the way we go to market: by keeping our costs low and by investing all the savings into prices so that we can pass along the savings to our customers. That’s the way we have been doing business forever, not only in Canada but around the world. The way I like to describe ourselves is that we are agents for our customers. We try to go as slow as we can so that we can keep prices low. We do that in inflationary times, and we do that outside of inflationary times—that’s the way we gain trust. And, unfortunately, inflation is one factor we’ve had to deal with over the last several years—there’s the pandemic, war in a certain part of the world affecting supply chain networks and production capabilities as well as supply shortages. So, it’s a combination of many things. And, as we evolve into the next stages of the post-pandemic era, we’re going to continue to work on developing processes and staying close to our customers so that we can keep prices low and continue to execute our EDLP strategy in Canada.

As inflation continues, food retailers are ramping up their private-label offering.

What is Walmart’s strategy in this area?

Yes, our private label is a key component of our customer value proposition. I think it builds trust with our customers as we develop products that are high quality. We follow the highest standards together with the suppliers that produce our private-label brands. We have developed sourcing capabilities around the world to make sure we source from the right places in the right

way, and we will continue to grow our private-label program. We have great brands that provide “great value.” [Great Value is the name of Walmart Canada’s private-label grocery brand.] I’m playing with words there, but it’s true. Also, we have brands that bring a lot of innovation and I think that’s the right way to connect with customers, by giving them options and giving them choices.

When calls for a grocery code of conduct were renewed in 2021, Walmart made it clear it wasn’t interested in participating. Where does the company stand today?

Well, I’m sure you’ve read or heard my comments during my participation at the committee a few weeks ago. I said there, and I’ll continue to say, we’re happy to participate in the discussions around the grocery code of conduct. We think if it’s the right thing for our customers, it’s great for the business. We recently got access to [a draft code] because we want to be engaged, so it’s a little bit premature to reach some conclusions. The other thing I would say is that we have a strict internal code of conduct, and integrity is one of the key pillars of our culture. We engage with customers and we drive value through this whole chain in a very good way, in a very transparent way. Our associates are committed to doing the right things across the whole chain all the time. What I’ve seen in Canada is that we have a good scenario where we can compete fairly across all the different components of the industry.

Have you read the draft? What are your initial thoughts?

The team has seen it. I haven’t been engaged yet, but I’m going to be briefed shortly. Our first impression is that it’s going in the right direction.

Jumping to e-commerce. In 2020, Walmart Canada announced plans to invest $3.5 billion over five years to improve service in stores and online, renovate 150 stores and build two distribution centres. Where are you on this journey?

We’re in the middle, not in the middle mathematically, but rhetorically in the middle of the journey. We’ve done quite a few of the things we said we would. We have invested in upgrading our supply chain network, we have opened distribution centres of different capacities, fulfilment centres for e-commerce, high velocity distribution centres and refrigerated supply chain networks. Our business is growing and we need to make sure our supply chain is developed to serve our customers in the way they want to shop with us. We want to be the best option for customers however they want to shop, whenever they want to shop. We’re building the network so we can support that the right way. That’s underway and we’re going to continue to invest in the supply chain network because it’s a critical component of that ability to deliver that value.

Technology is another area where we’re investing and over-indexing compared to previous cycles, I would say.

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 33
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And we will continue to do that. There’s a lot of value to unlock that we can deliver through additional technology and digital capabilities, not only in e-commerce, but also enhancing the experience in stores.

Store remodels are also a key component of our investment program. We think updating and upgrading our stores to fulfil our customers’ needs when they choose to visit our stores is very important.

You mentioned digital capabilities, can you provide some examples?

The options are multiple and I couldn’t even start to describe all the crazy ideas we have around this, but one thing is customers can check prices using the Walmart app without the need to use a price verifier or go to the checkout. So, making our customer’s life easier is something technology is allowing us to do. Checking prices is just one of the many examples where the technology, and the technology built into cellphones, is going to bring new options and new experiences to our customers.

Self-checkout is an in-store tech that’s growing. How do you balance modernization against alienating those customers who aren’t comfortable using this kind of technology?

It goes back to the concept of choice. We need to provide choices and options to our customers. We have our own models on how many self-checkouts we need to have versus the traditional checkouts. It’s on a storeby-store basis, and we continue to learn based on customer behaviour and customer experience. We take all of that into consideration to define how many of each we open. The whole point is it must be a seamless and frictionless experience for our customers, whether they choose to have a regular checkout or whether they choose self-checkout.

How do you combat the perception that more in-store tech means less customer service?

I think we should be very clear with the customers, again, giving them options. It’s not one way or the other. It’s one way and the other so that you can choose as a customer. I think, in current times, giving customers more freedom to do their shopping the way they want is a point of differentiation. Servicing our customers is what we are here for and we will continue to provide a friendly service, and availability of products, and cleanliness, and easy and safe environments to shop. That’s never going to change. We are just complementing that with technology to make it easier for our customers to go through our stores.

More online shopping means more consumer data. What has Walmart learned about its customers over the last couple years from the increase in online shopping?

It’s interesting because when we get into data, I always reflect on the fact that Walmart has been a pioneer on managing data going back to the ‘80s. We have been sharing our sales information with our suppliers so we

can build better networks, and sharing that information has been a big part of how we run our business together with our suppliers. Now, thanks to technology and to digital capabilities, we can take that one notch higher and better understand [shopper] behaviour so we can deliver on our customer value proposition faster and, again, get better options for our customers to solve their problems. The whole point of getting more information and data is to be able to better understand customer needs and customer expectations and adapt the way we deliver our customer value proposition so we can solve our customers’ needs.

Walmart recently launched Walmart Rewards in the U.S. as part of its paid subscription service Walmart+. Are there plans to launch these or similar initiatives in Canada?

I’ll start with the obvious, which is each market has its own nuances and even though we have lots of similarities across the markets, each market runs their business depending on what’s right for each market. The U.S. has done quite a few developments lately in that arena, and we have done a few as well with our Walmart Rewards [Mastercard credit] Card. But, we are not going to copy exactly the programs in any of the markets. We’re going to continue to try to understand customer needs, and develop the programs based on the information that we gather and the intelligence that we have behind it.

How are you approaching store remodels?

It’s a combination of different things. There are changes in the design and in the flow of how the categories are laid out and the adjacencies. There’s a lot of new technology related to equipment and making sure we have the right equipment and refrigeration so we can continue to grow the grocery business. Also, setting up a nice environment for our apparel, for our housewares and for our home products. We have great assortment in those categories and we want to continue to invest in the in-store shopping experience around those categories as well.

Last question. What keeps you up at night?

Well, I’m lucky that I can sleep very well at night. I have a very strong team, we are 100,000 [associates] strong in Canada. We wake up every morning thinking about our customers and how we can deliver value [to them] and solve their needs. But there are a few challenges. How can we deploy our ideas with speed? It’s a very intense, competitive landscape and we want to make sure that we remain as relevant, or even more so, for our customers. So, moving with speed is very important to me. Making sure we provide our teams with the right environment to continue to learn and upskill is another key priority for us. And, deploying technology to improve our customer value proposition and our customer experience in stores and online is another area that’s on my mind. [We’re] working on all those things, but I’m sleeping very well, fortunately. CG

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 35
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FOR OUR CONSUMERS A : “M ” –F S T ® S ®' W S ® C q –E Ex V krugerproducts.ca/careers EXCLUSIVE SPONSOR E Ex © 2023 ® R T TM T I ®’ R -C W I
MAKING EVERYDAY LIFE
COMFORTABLE

HIGHER TECH IN THE GROCERY STORE

In-person shopping is back on track and customers are expecting a seamless experience

DURING THE PANDEMIC, grocers big and small made significant strides in improving their e-commerce platforms to make online shopping a viable way to buy groceries. But now that shoppers are back in-store again, they’re looking for the same conveniences they’ve become accustomed to online. With brick-and-mortar stores still being the primary sales channel and driver of long-term loyalty in grocery, analysts say retailers who want to keep tech-savvier customers coming back will need to use technology tools that help meet evolving in-store shopping expectations. That means implementing solutions that will create a frictionless and more engaging in-store experience.

“Digital engagement is becoming really, really important to shoppers in the physical store,” says Gary Hawkins, CEO of the U.S.-based Center for Advancing Retail & Technology. Yet, he adds, many grocers aren’t yet delivering on expectations. He points to grocers’ mobile apps as a key example. If shoppers can access a store’s full inventory and get recommendations based on their preferences online, why can’t they do that while they’re standing in-store with their mobile

phone. “So, if I’m in front of the pasta section, help me identify those products that are gluten free or best for a diabetes diet,” he says. “As a shopper, give me a way to easily research and find what’s most relevant to me among the 30,000 items in the store.”

PERSONALIZING THE CONSUMER EXPERIENCE

These days, not only are consumers continually connected with their smartphones when shopping, but the latest statistics from Forrester Research show that 48% use these devices with a specific research purpose. The most common categories of in-store mobile research are looking for or redeeming coupons, comparing prices or searching for product information.

Along with more intuitive mobile apps, interactive digital signage is expected to gain favour in the grocery sector to showcase product information, promote special deals and give customers a more personalized experience through touch screens. We can expect to see further innovation such as displays that provide customers with personalized maps of the store so they can find specific areas they’re looking

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 37 GETTY IMAGES/SUPPARSORN
Generation Next
thinking

Generation Next thinking

for. Hawkins says QR codes—introduced more than a decade ago—are also making a comeback to provide product details or promote deals. Major U.S. supermarkets like Hy-Vee have even slashed the size of paper flyers by adding codes customers can scan to access promos and coupons digitally while shopping.

Looking ahead, the analysts say we’re still a way off from truly immersive virtual reality grocery stores, but some retailers are starting to experiment in blending live and virtual worlds. “Over the next two to three years, companies like Apple and others will bring out their smart glasses and that will be game-changing,” says Hawkins. Driven by all the processing power on your smartphone, these glasses will provide a digital overlay to the physical experience, giving customers instant information on products they’re perusing or relevant coupons based on their specific food selections.

In the meantime, enhancements in computing power due to 5G networks, edge computing and the cloud are making it much more feasible for grocers to effectively push the right kinds of promotions for their customers, says Marty Weintraub, partner and national retail leader at Deloitte. “All the big grocers have been relaunching loyalty programs over the last few years and these programs and the platforms they sit on will be able to serve up personalization in-store just like online.”

Weintraub says improving the customer experience in-store through friction-free checkouts is very much a priority for the grocery sector, too. “We see self-checkout continuing to roll out, even though it comes with risks around shrink,” he says. Truly frictionless checkout options like Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh (where customers scan an app upon entering the store and receive a digital receipt when leaving), however, are still too expensive to scale, he says. “[This tech] relies on camera vision, which is getting cheaper, but you still need to outfit the store with lots of cameras and then connect them … so there is lots of expensive infrastructure at work.”

IMPROVING OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCIES

With major advancements in computing power and artificial intelligence (AI), more and more grocers are also looking to invest in technologies that improve operational efficiencies on the back-end. According to the 2023 Connected Retail Experience Study, sponsored by Verizon, the vast majority of grocery and general merchandise retailers are focusing upcoming investments on inventory accuracy and visibility (96%), store and digital integration (94%), store operations efficiencies (96%) and sales and associate productivity (88%).

While the use of robots for store associate tasks is still very niche, retailers surveyed expect that to change over the next few years. In fact, they anticipate up to 70% of routine tasks to be partially or fully automated by 2025. Respondents also said this would allow them to redeploy their associates to more

customer-facing tasks and business operation support.

“What’s changing now is a focus on smart-task management,” says Weintraub, noting that new technology applications allow store leads to get digital signals that help them more intelligently deploy labour hours. “The biggest controllable cost in a grocery store is labour, so how do we optimize that spend by deploying your talent at the highest and best use of their skills.” Grocers like Kroger (see sidebar on the next page) are actively working with technology providers to do just that.

Evolving AI capabilities are also helping grocers more rapidly harness large quantities of data (big data) to improve operational decisions. “We tend to think of AI as this science-fiction type thing, but it’s really this robust technology that can process data very, very quickly,” says Ethan Chernofsky, senior vice-president of Placer.ai, a U.S.-based, AI-driven technology solution that helps grocers (and others) determine customer trends, demographics and brand preferences by analyzing big data. One application of the technology could be to help a small chain looking to expand operations to find an ideal location. The technology analyzes the retailer’s current performance metrics and then determines where its best customer demographic would be (including the optimal co-tenants) for a new location. Chernofsky says rather than expanding based on a grocer’s perceived trade area, the technology can more accurately determine where the opportunities for growth truly are.

Once the technology assists in optimizing a retailer’s footprint from a real estate perspective, it can be used to garner competitive intelligence with real metrics to show how the chain is doing compared to its competitors. “It’s one thing to have your own data, but to be able to compare it side by side with everyone else’s is extremely valuable,” says Chernofsky. “During a certain period your chain may be down by 5%, but if everyone else in your segment is down 20% you’re doing pretty great.” (Placer.ai collects all its data by working with other app makers who collect consumer data and provide un-identifiable aggregate data.)

Whereas retailers—especially smaller chains with fewer resources—were historically forced to make decisions based on predictions and hunches, Chernofsky says AI is levelling the playing field for grocers of all sizes. “Data is how we improve decision making,” he says. “With better access to information, [retailers] can make better researched, more strategic decisions.”

WHERE SHOULD GROCERS BE INVESTING NOW?

As for where to focus technology investment right now, it’s about targeting “customer pain points” first rather than the latest “cool and flashy innovation,” says Brendan Witcher, vice-president and principal analyst at Forrester. “I guarantee that there is no customer waiting at their door saying that their package better come by drone or they’re not shopping with

38 CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023

this grocer,” he says. Instead, as consumers are more likely to avoid pain than seek pleasure, Witcher says having pain points in the customer’s journey creates a reason for them to say, “maybe I’ll shop elsewhere.”

Pain point examples such as missing labels for prices, out of stock or expired items, malfunctioning self-checkout kiosks or the lack of associates on the floor to answer customers’ questions can be improved with technology solutions, says Witcher. It’s also important to recognize that pain points differ depending on the customer. “It’s not trying to find that one silver bullet that will solve everyone’s problem, but finding the things that solve groups of customers’ pain points and applying them over time,” he says, noting that most grocers already know what these pain points are. “If you truly believe creating better customer experiences will deliver better revenue, why wait,” says Witcher.

Deloitte’s Weintraub expects the days of using technology on a use-case basis are gone as we continue to build technology platforms that can be shared (interfacing to the cloud, edge computing, etc.). “The difference now will be in looking for common denominators from a tech ecosystem perspective, to enable multiple-use cases over longer periods of time,” he says. “It’s going to be about how many things can we enable by setting up this new infrastructure so we don’t have to redo it every time we have a new idea.”

On the operational side, demand forecasting and inventory management are both areas where grocers can better utilize the power of AI and other well-established technologies right now. “If you’re able to order more accurately, the less you’ll have to

Generation Next thinking

discount or throw away to end up in landfills,” says John Harmon, senior analyst at Coresight Research.

In surveying more than 200 large grocery retailers in North America, he and his team discovered most weren’t taking advantage of AI tools to better manage supply. Coresight’s report showed 68% of prepared food is discarded due to overproduction or over-ordering and 15% of unsold food is thrown away or sent to landfills. On top of environment issues associated with food waste, that translates into billions and billions lost in potential grocery revenue. Food waste, as the report notes, represents a “huge, largely avoidable drag on grocery retailers’ revenues and margins.”

With ongoing labour issues, Harmon says grocers can finally use established technologies like RFID or other electronic tags/labels and AI to offer safe food to consumers—while doing their part to avoid waste. “If you want to manage food waste you need to know what you have and when it’s expiring so you can bundle product or discount accordingly,” he says.

On a cautionary note, Forrester’s Witcher says grocers need to be careful about making investments that will crush margins but not create incremental revenue or value for their business. “It’s sad to see some grocers chase the shining objects and kill their balance sheets and profitability in the process,” he says. “I really do encourage companies to take a more strategic approach to winning customers through technology.” CG

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

GROCERY INNOVATION IN PRACTICE

» French grocery giant CARREFOUR has been using AI tools like ChatGPT to create videos on its website that use human-like avatars to answer shoppers’ queries around purchasing healthier foods for less. Earlier this year, the grocer also began testing robots (i.e., selfdriving shopping carts) that bring groceries to consumers’ homes in Zaventem, Belgium. Eventually, the chain aims to deploy the robots in small and medium-sized areas not currently served by home delivery.

» AEON STORES in Hong Kong has automated its cash counting process in the back office with the latest high-speed, large-capacity

cash recycler solution from Glory to reduce errors and shrinkage and allow employees to spend less time on repetitive cash handling.

» In the U.S., KROGER is working with Google Cloud and Deloitte to enhance employee productivity through two new applications across some 2,800 locations. The first gives night crew managers a better handle on the volume and type of merchandise arriving on any given day, as well as store staffing information and stocking needs, so associates can be quickly informed of inventory or delivery changes in real-time. The second is a standardized audit tool so

managers and department heads can be less dependent on paper tools. It also includes a customizable store walk path to guide store audits and give employees some flexibility in how store conditions are evaluated.

» To bridge the real and digital worlds, U.S.-based ALBERTSONS became the first grocery store to sell and deliver products using the metaverse this past December. In the pilot program launched on Decentraland (a browser-based 3D platform), the grocer offered a limited-time promo on several items with free delivery. Users scanned QR codes to then pay for items via credit card for delivery in as little as 45 minutes.

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 39
Here’s a look at how some grocers around the globe are tapping into technology to improve experiences for customers and employees

MORE THAN WATE R

We are proud to be a finalist of the 30th ANNUAL CANADIAN GRAND PRIX NEW PRODUCT AWARDS. Thanks to all that have been a par t of this refreshing wave!

simpl e d r o p. c o m J O IN T HE WAV E

ANNUAL CANADIAN GRAND PRIX NEW PRODUCT AWARDS

A. LASSONDE Simple Drop Enhanced Water Beverage

Vitamin-enriched water brand

Simple Drop is low in sugar and in calories, contains no artificial sweeteners, colours or flavours and is available in two varieties: Support and Active.

Ain’t it grand!

Over the last three decades, the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) has recognized the country’s most impressive new branded and private-label products to hit store shelves, and this year was no exception. From premium cheeses to quick-and-easy meal options, frozen fare and protein-packed snacks, 107 products were selected as finalists for the organization’s Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards.

“As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards, it is thrilling to see how companies across the country continue to raise the calibre of new products they introduce to delight consumers,” said RCC president and CEO Diane J. Brisebois, in a statement.

A jury of 31 food and grocery industry experts evaluated food and non-food products based on innovation, taste, texture, consumer value and packaging. Here’s a look at this year’s finalists:

AGROPUR DAIRY COOPERATIVE oka Mushrooms & Truffle

oka Mushrooms & Truffle is a lactose-free cheese that combines the taste of the popular oka brand with a hint of truffle, encased in a rind that is speckled with wild mushrooms.

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 41
30TH
Grand
Finalists
Prix

GRAND PRIX WINNERS WILL BE REVEALED MAY 31

Food Finalists

Boursin Truffle Salt & Hint of Pepper

Boursin’s limited-edition Truffle Salt & Hint of Pepper cheese is made with 100% Canadian milk. It combines the creamy taste of Boursin brand cheese with subtle floral tones and pepper.

CANADA Dempster’s Zero Zero Bread

Made with Canadian wheat flour, this whole grain bread contains 11 grams of plant-based protein per two-slice serving, with no added sugar or fat.

CAVENDISH FARMS All-Day Breakfast Mini Quick Cook Hash Brown Patties

These hash browns are specially formulated to be cooked in as little as five minutes in an air fryer, while maintaining the brand’s classic crisp texture and potato taste.

CANADA Two Good

Too good to be true? Danone’s Two Good creamy Greek yogurt offers eight grams of protein and only two grams of sugar in each 95-gram serving.

42 CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023
BEL GROUP CANADA BIMBO DANONE

LACTALIS CANADA

Balderson Aged

Gouda

Made with 100% Canadian milk, this is a natural Gouda that is aged to one year with a mildly sweet, nutty flavour and a smooth body.

MORE FOOD FINALISTS

AGROPUR DAIRY COOPERATIVE

• Monsieur Gustav

ARCTIC GARDENS

• Roastable Market Harvest

BISCUITS LECLERC

• Go Pure Oatmeal Bars

CORA

• Cora Crepe Mix

DANONE CANADA

• Activia Immune System

FINICA FOOD SPECIALTIES

• Sheeps Milk Cheese

LACTALIS CANADA

• Black Diamond Cheese Sauce

LACTALIS CANADA

• Cracker Barrel Cheese Sauce Kits

NATURALLY HOMEGROWN FOODS

• Hardbite Rugged

OGGI FOODS

• Four Cheese Tortellini Pasta

PURDYS CHOCOLATIER

• Vegan Hawaiian Black Salt Caramels

QUALITY CHEESE

• Stracciatella

SAPUTO DAIRY PRODUCTS CANADA

• Armstrong Cheese

Mmmm…Bacon Shredded Cheese with Real Bacon

Grand Prix Finalists

LIQUID INTELLIGENCE

opus Expertly Handcrafted Cocktails

These ready-to-drink mocktails are hand-crafted using real spices and herbs. They’re sugar free, preservative free, gmo free, gluten free and vegan, but don’t compromise on taste!

PATREATS

Infus’d Fruit

Gourmet Spread

Ideal with cheeses or pastries, Infus’d Fruit Gourmet Spread is a curated blend of premium dried fruits slowly cooked in a fusion of real Caribbean rum, fortified wines and various spices.

SAPUTO DAIRY PRODUCTS CANADA

• Vitalite Plant-Based Shreds

SUN-RYPE PRODUCTS (A. LASSONDE)

• SunRype Good Bites Minis

TIM HORTONS

• Tim Hortons Ice Cream

MONDOUX CONFECTIONERY

Apéro

Cheers to Apéro— a line of gourmet, non-alcoholic cocktail-flavoured gummies for adults!

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 43
Food Finalists
S v ng Reuse a Jug More Clean – Less Waste Reusing your detergent jug and making the switch to eco-refills will reduce plastic waste by up to 97% S v n g New!

NONFOOD FINALISTS

CARLTON CARDS

• Magic Moments Birthday Carlton Cards’ one-ofa-kind, pop-up Magic Moments Birthday card is a fun way to celebrate family and friends on their special day.

PRANA ORGANIC

Granolove on the go

Developed with timestarved consumers (who also may be out of milk) in mind, Granolove on the go can be made into a tasty, readyto-eat, gluten-free granola simply by adding water.

Grand Prix Finalists

CARLTON CARDS

• Papyrus Quilling Birthday Cake

JOHNSON & JOHNSON

• Children’s Tylenol Easy Dissolve Powder, 16 Packs

KRUGER PRODUCTS

• Bonterra Bath Tissue

SODASTREAM

• SodaStream Art Sparkling Water Maker

PRELAM ENTERPRISES

• EZ Pur Eco Concentrated Laundry Detergent

SUNSTAR AMERICAS

• gum Dual-Defence Twisted Floss

THE J.M. SMUCKER COMPANY

• Nature’s Recipe Premium Paté Recipes

PROMISE GLUTEN FREE

Promise Gluten Free Mini Pitas

Promise Gluten Free Mini Pitas are high in fibre, low in saturated fat and sugar, and are also free from gluten, wheat and dairy. They can be served with dips or as an alternative to a sandwich.

RANA

MEAL SOLUTIONS CANADA

Rana Lasagna

Rana refrigerated lasagna can be prepared in the microwave in just eight minutes or baked in the oven for 20 minutes. This family-sized meal is offered in two varieties: Meat Lasagna and 4 Cheese Lasagna.

Food Finalists

ROSSDOWN FARMS & NATURAL FOODS

Marinated Meal Helpers

Marinated Meal Helpers is a line of ready-to-cook marinated chicken meals that includes boneless skinless breasts, skewers, diced thighs and wings marinated in such flavours as Chipotle & Maple Syrup, Rosemary & Herb, Sweet Chili, Lemon Citrus, and Teriyaki Orange. The meals can be cooked on the stovetop, in the oven, on the barbecue or in the air fryer.

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 45

Grand Prix Finalists

SAPUTO DAIRY PRODUCTS CANADA

Armstrong Cheese Combos

Armstrong Cheese Combos include both meat and cheese sticks in two varieties: Mozzarella with Naturally Smoked Salami Sticks, and Marble Farmer’s and Naturally Smoked Ham Sausage Sticks. The sticks are individually wrapped and contain 90 calories or less.

THE SPICE TAILOR

The Spice Tailor Asian Curry Kits

One kit. Three pouches. Three simple steps. The Spice Tailor Asian Curry Kits contain individually wrapped spices; curry paste and a coconut milk sauce that can be ready in 10 minutes. Consumers can opt to add seafood, chicken, beef or tofu to the curry.

PRIVATE LABEL - FOOD

Calgary Co-operative Association

• Cal & Gary’s Frozen Desserts

• Cal & Gary’s Luxury Tea

Farm Boy

• Farm Boy Organic Flavoured

Sparkling Water

Federated

Co-operatives Limited

• Co-op Gold Cafe

Latte Almonds

• Co-op Gold Naturally

Smoked Bison

• Co-op Gold Pure

Mini-Frittatas

• Co-operative Coffee Tanzania

Longo Brothers

Fruit Markets

• Longo’s Candied Almonds

• Longo’s Curato Uno Spuntino

Metro

• Discovered by Irresistibles

Deli Meats

• Irresistibles Advent Calendar

• Irresistibles Artisan Bacon

• Irresistibles bbq Sauces

• Irresistibles Broths

• Irresistibles Cookie Dry Mixes

• Irresistibles Fusion Cakes

• Irresistibles Gingerbread

Holiday Tree

• Irresistibles Ice Creams

• Irresistibles Old-Fashioned

Potato Chips

• Irresistibles Plant-Based

Frozen Bars

• Irresistibles Premium Mixes

• Irresistibles Probiotic

Yogurts

• Irresistibles Raisin Loaf

• Irresistibles Seafood

Hors-d’Oeuvre

• Life Smart High Protein Bars

• Life Smart Naturalia Dried Fruits Blends

• Life Smart Organic Fairtrade Coffee

• Life Smart Organic Flours

• Life Smart Organic Low

Sugar Kombucha

• Life Smart Plant-Based Sauces

Rexall Pharmacy Group

• Nosh & Co. Birthday Cake

Cookies

• Nosh & Co. Sriracha Heat Mix

Save-On-Foods

• Only Goodness Organic

Protein Pancake Mix

• Only Goodness Plant Based

Almond Dip Garlic & Herb

• Only Goodness Smoothie Blend with Dragon Fruit,

Pineapple, Mango and Sliced Bananas

• Western Family 4 Cheese

Breakfast Bites

• Western Family Buttery Tarts

• Western Family Everything

Bagel Bites

• Western Family Signature

Swiss Milk Chocolate Honey

Almond Nougat

• Western Family Spicy

All Dressed Flavoured Kettle

Cooked Potato Chips

Sobeys

• Compliments Baking Chips

• Compliments Baking

Chocolate

• Panache French Onion

Soup Bites

• Panache Mistletoe Wish Ice Cream

46 CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023

THREE FARMERS FOODS

Dark Chocolate Roasted Chickpeas

It’s not cheating, it’s chickpeas!

An indulgent, better-for-you snack, Dark Chocolate Roasted Chickpeas contain five grams of protein and five grams of fibre per quarter-cup serving. They’re nut and peanut free, Non-gmo, gluten free and vegan.

PRIVATE LABEL NON-FOOD

Calgary Co-operative Association

• Cal & Gary’s Bar Soap

Canadian Tire

• paderno Signature

10-Piece Stacking

Stainless Steel

Cookware Set

• Stainless Steel Patio Heater

• Vermont Castings

Electric Balcony Grill

• Vida by paderno 6-Slice

Digital Air Fryer Toaster

Oven

• Woods Illuminate

4 Tent

Federated Co-operatives Limited

• Co-op Gold MultiPurpose Cleaner

• Co-op Gold Pure All Life Stages Dog Food

Mastermind Toys

• Mastermind Toys Baby Stacking Wave Puzzle

8 Pieces

• Mastermind Toys diy

Fort Construction Set Metro

• Personnelle Baby

Silicone Tableware

• Personnelle Fresh

Body Wash for Men

• Personnelle Nature’s

Secrets Repairing

Shampoo

• Personnelle Whitening

Mouthwash

• Selection

Eco Compostable Sandwich Bags

Pet Valu

• Performatrin Ultra

Freeze-Dried Raw Bites

Petsmart Canada

• Nate & Jeremiah Spiced

Mahogany Universal Console

• Nate & Jeremiah Faux

Leather Small Pet Couch

Rexall Pharmacy Group

• Be Better Serum

• Be Better Whey Protein

Concentrate Powder

Save-On-Foods

• Only Goodness

Compostable Dinner

Plates (10 inch)

• Western Family

Dishwasher Detergent Pacs (48 pack)

2022 Master Merchandiser Awards Winners

Every year the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers’ (CFIG) Master Merchandiser Awards Program honours and recognizes the best point-ofsale merchandising in the grocery industry within the calendar year.

In 2022 there was a record 13,193 submissions to the program, an 11% increase over the previous year’s submissions. “It’s an outstanding achievement to all participating companies,” said Tom Shurrie, president and CEO of CFIG. “Not only does the Master Merchandiser program encourage team building between store and supplier associates, but it also creates an impactful and changing shopping experience for customers, resulting in incremental sales and customer loyalty.”

In 2022, a total of five prizes were awarded in each store size grouping and merchandising category. Winning stores received a plaque recognizing their best in class in merchandising at the awards ceremony held on October 25th, 2022, as part of Grocery Innovations Canada in Toronto.

To find out more about the 2023 awards program, visit www. MasterMerchandiser.ca; and view the webinar: https://event.webcasts. com/viewer/event.jsp?ei=1571245&tp_key=3d4170b946

Deadline for 2023 entries is August 11, 2023 Register at www.GroceryInnovations.com to attend.

First To Market – New Product

SMALL SURFACE GOLD

South Hill Fine Foods, Moose Jaw, SK

Russell Mulvey and Store Team

Supplier: Cary Bailey, Saputo

Description: This Grey Cup display of Saputo’s new Armstrong 220 gram slices scored big for South Hill Fine Foods.

MEDIUM SURFACE GOLD

Buy-Low Foods, Didsbury, AB

Greg Poirier

Supplier: Sharon Gower, Saputo

Description: This May long weekend display featured Saputo’s new Armstrong Slices. Thick Marble and Mexican Fiesta were the perfect choices for a start of summer barbeque.

LARGE SURFACE GOLD

Coleman Food Centre, St. John’s, NL

Coleman Family

Supplier: Jacqueline Stanford, Kruger Products

Description: Coleman Food Centre and Kruger created this display to introduce Bonterra for a Better Planet – Kruger’s newest brand.

Themed Event

SMALL SURFACE GOLD

Rabba #141, Oakville, ON

George El Moussa

Supplier: Christine Golfetto, A. Lassonde

Description: Rabba #141 worked with Lassonde to set up this large display of Jones Soda for the back-to-school crowd.

MEDIUM

SURFACE GOLD

Buy-Low Foods, Langdon, AB

Christina Marshall

Supplier: Sharon Gower, Saputo

Description: Saputo and Buy-Low Foods

Langdon studied hard and came up with this top-class back-to-school display featuring Armstrong and Milk2Go.

LARGE SURFACE GOLD

Tremblett’s Independent, Ingersoll, ON

Rob Tremblett and Team

Supplier: General Mills

Description: Tremblett’s and General Mills created the Old El Paso Stadium with 300 cases of kits and components for Super Bowl game night.

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL FEATURE IN CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2023

Perimeter Display

SMALL SURFACE GOLD

Central Fresh Market, Kitchener, ON

Mike Willamson and Team

Supplier: Dave Farley, Maple Leaf Foods and Wonderbrands

Description: Central Fresh Market’s barbeque display featured Maple Leaf and Schneider’s products merchandised with Wonder buns. Readi Crisp Bacon, Hot Rods and Pepperettes were there too for summer snacking.

MEDIUM

SURFACE GOLD

Market Street

Vulcan, Vulcan, AB

Scott Mitchell

Supplier: Sharon Gower, Saputo

Description: The back-to-school bus stopped at Market Street Vulcan. The custom-made POS and decorations highlighted Armstrong Cheese, Milk2Go and Vitalite products from Saputo.

LARGE SURFACE GOLD

Calgary Co-op #8 Oakridge, Calgary, AB

Karrie Fox

Supplier: Darlene Taylor, A. Lassonde

Description: Lassonde and Calgary Co-op Oakridge created this stunning Apple Month display at the store entrance, featuring the Co-op truck and SunRype 75th anniversary POS surrounded and filled with apples, SunRype juices and fruit snacks.

Multi Manufacturer

SMALL SURFACE GOLD

Vince’s Market, Newmarket, ON

Giancarlo Trimarchi

Supplier: Brandon Fuselli, Peter Settecase, and Carly Watts, Tree of Life and David Brown, Coca-Cola

Description: Tree of Life brought Guacachips and Coca-Cola brought AHA Water to this Fiesta at Vince’s Newmarket. The flavourful chips and thirstquenching AHA were the perfect pair.

MEDIUM SURFACE GOLD

Freson Bros., Hanna, AB

Don Boos

Supplier: Rick Friesen, McCormick and Kraft Heinz

Description: Freson Bros. encouraged their Hanna shoppers to make barbeques even tastier with these McCormick and Kraft Heinz products.

LARGE SURFACE GOLD

Save-On-Foods #980 – Orchard Plaza, Kelowna, BC

Eric Falkenberg, Scott Nazaruk and Orchard Plaza Team

Supplier: Cory Morash, Kevin Kentel, Coca-Cola, Kevin Olexson, Old Dutch, and Linda Laidlaw, Nestlé Canada

Description: It was good versus evil for Halloween at Save-On-Foods Orchard Plaza, with Spiderman on one side of the display, and Venom on the other, featuring products from Coca-Cola, Old Dutch and Nestlé.

Single Manufacturer

SMALL SURFACE GOLD

Rabba Fine Foods, 256 Jarvis St. Toronto, ON Mike Bro and Lindsay Rabba

Supplier: Patrice Provencher, Nestlé Canada Inc.

Description: A Perrier Christmas tree put the large bottles of the popular Nestlé brand front and centre at Rabba Fine Foods.

MEDIUM SURFACE GOLD

Stong’s Northwoods, North Vancouver, BC Stu Maciver

Supplier: Lilian Paiement, General Mills

Description: General Mills and Stong’s Northwoods get straight A’s for this back-toschool display featuring Annie’s products.

LARGE SURFACE GOLD

Save-On-Foods Park & Tilford, North Vancouver, BC

Supplier: PepsiCo Foods

Description: PepsiCo Foods and Save-OnFoods, Park & Tilford brought it all together in the name of love for Valentine’s Day.

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL FEATURE IN CANADIAN GROCER || March/April 2023
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SUMMER GRILLING GUIDE

TIME TO ‘CUE UP SALES

It’s nearly summer and the living (not to mention the grilling) should be easy. Yet, the combination of rising food prices and changing consumer habits are impacting a key selling season that has remained reliably unchanged for years.

But, the good news is, it remains as popular as ever. According to Mintel, 49% of consumers look to cooking outdoors as an affordable way to prepare meals. Ipsos research, meanwhile, suggests the barbecue was the top-growing dinner appliance for meal preparation in 2022.

For grocers, this means grilling shoppers are valuable shoppers. According to proprietary research conducted for McCormick & Company by Caddle, they deliver 2.5 times more dollars than the average grocery shopper.

While grilling classics like steak, burgers and chicken breasts continue to be mainstays, Ipsos research finds changing consumer tastes are also

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 53 GETTY IMAGES/ALEXRATHS
Inflation is still coming in hot, but there are opportunities beyond traditional summer fare to get sales sizzling
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having a pronounced effect on the category.

Ran Goel, CEO of Fresh City Farms in Toronto, points to several emerging factors that grocers need to consider for this grilling season including, but not restricted to, a growing consumer preference for convenient, ready-to-go fare.

Consumers are also increasingly seeking what Goel describes as “clear, straightforward communication” that educates them on the value of products, as well as growing interest in cleaner ingredient lists, nitrate and preservative-free products, and items with low or no sugar.

Canadian Grocer spoke with experts across the entire food ecosystem, from retailers to food and beverage companies, to get a sense of what grocers should expect for the 2023 grilling season. Here’s what they told us.

Giving them the pork shoulder

Though rising costs have been singled out as the primary cause that’s driving change in consumer behaviour, Vince’s Market president Giancarlo Trimarchi says purchasing decisions are complex and influenced by a multitude of factors beyond price, such as taste preferences, dietary needs, and cultural and ethical considerations.

However, one of the by-products of rising meat prices is that customers are looking to cheaper cuts that tend to do well in a low and slow cooking environment, such as brisket, pork shoulder and chuck roast.

“They can be more budget-friendly and provide a lot of flavour when cooked properly,” says Trimarchi. “These cuts are also ideal for cooking in a slow cooker or smoker, which can help tenderize the meat and make it more flavourful.”

It’s the time of the seasoning

Citing internal research, Traci Wildish, vice-president of Canadian sales and North American retail operations with McCormick & Company, says more than three-quarters (77%) of consumers are looking to try new flavours of seasoning blends, while 60% are seeking low-sodium options.

Canadians are also demonstrating what Wildish calls a “strong preference” for homegrown products across key barbecue categories such as spices and condiments, with clean ingredient labels also of continued interest to consumers.

“Grillers are motivated by versatile flavours and express a desire to try new products—especially when they are entertaining,” says Wildish, adding that the grilling category, in particular, is trending towards smoky and savoury flavours.

Trimarchi says in recent years there has been “growing interest” in experimenting with different flavours for sauces and marinades. Old-school flavours like barbecue and teriyaki still dominate the category, he says, but consumers are also increasingly willing to try something different.

There is also growing consumer demand for plant-based sauces and marinades, including vegan barbecue sauces and teriyaki sauces made from ingredients such as soy and mushrooms. The use of fresh herbs and spices is also becoming more prevalent, he says, “providing a healthier and more flavourful alternative to store-bought options.”

What are you, chicken?

Chicken remains one of the most versatile and affordable choices for grilling, as suggested by its enduring popularity. Per capita consumption of chicken totalled 34.5 kilograms in 2021.

Lauren Kennedy, director of public affairs and communications with Chicken Farmers of Canada, says one of the by-products of higher food prices is consumers purchasing more whole chicken because it has greater value, and the ability to transform it into multiple meals and chicken stock. Chicken Farmers of Canada also noted marked growth in premarinated products like kebabs and chicken breasts.

Hot, hot, hot

Rosie Di Matteo, demand science manager with Conagra Brands Canada, says spicy sauces are

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growing in popularity as grilling season approaches, particularly among “foodie millennials.” According to Mintel data from 2022, half of consumers aged 25 to 34 used hot sauces in the past six months.

The sauce and condiments category is also being driven by a growing appetite for global flavours, particularly among younger Canadians.

According to Di Matteo, more than half (52%) of foodie millennials have tried a new flavour, with Asian flavours a particular favourite. “Sauces that offer Asian cuisine flavours and/or spicy flavour profiles will be emerging trends in the condiments and sauces aisle for at-home summer barbecues,” Di Matteo explains.

Sauces offer a simple way to change up flavours and can perform particularly well when they are merchandised near meat, says Di Matteo. Consumers can feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of sauce options available to them, she says, and it’s up to retailers to provide some guidance.

“Retailers should look to provide new ways of helping consumers make easy choices and utilize their go-to ‘staple’ ingredients for an easier experience,” she says. “Sauces are a great way to change-up flavour and perform well when merchandized near meat.”

Trimarchi says consumers are also seeking more exotic and international flavours such as Korean gochujang (a red chili paste that also contains glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt and occasionally sweetener), Middle Eastern harissa (a smoky-spicy North African hot chili paste made with roasted red peppers and Baklouti peppers) and Jamaican jerk.

Summer suds

Like most food categories, inflation is also having a “ripple effect” on beverage alcohol, says Kyra Dietsch, marketing and communications manager and master beer sommelier with Muskoka Brewery.

One of the tactics the Ontario-based brewer is using to circumvent the challenges created by inflation is offering consumers an improved value proposition through new 568-millilitre cans for its signature light lager Tread Lightly.

“[Those cans] are over 20% larger than the traditional 473-millilitre cans, and by doing that we’re offering value to the consumer,” explains Dietsch. “It’s a little more bang for your buck and more of a value purchase.”

Another product Muskoka is releasing this year is a tropical IPA made using calamansi, a Filipino citrus that is described as a combination of lemon, lime and orange. “I love to try different fruits and foods, and seeking out these unique citruses has been so interesting,” says Dietsch.

Citrus-inspired flavours within the beverage alcohol space are growing in popularity, she says. “You go to the grocery store in Canada and you’ve got your lemon, lime, mandarin and tangerine, but you look to different Asian countries and they’ve got a wider variety of fruits I haven’t heard of.”

Master of merchandising

Trimarchi at Vince’s Market says there are several techniques that can help build product awareness and sales during grilling season, beginning with display. To be effective, it must be eye-catching and showcase the products required for a successful grilling experience such as grills, charcoal, utensils, sauces, marinades and meats.

At Vince’s, the merchandising team uses bright colours, signage and images of sizzling food to attract attention and inspire consumers to make the necessary purchases. It’s best to start using these tactics early in the season to ensure strong sell-through and repeat purchases, as well as to establish customer favourites, says Trimarchi.

Teresa Spinelli, president of Alberta’s Italian Centre Shop, says there are several ways to merchandise grilling items, including presenting recipes featuring the various showcased ingredients. “We also had ready-to-go items close so, if you don’t want to make a pasta salad, we’ve made it for you,” she says. “And we have the recipe if you want to make it yourself the next time.”

She says Italian Centre Shop plans to put portobello mushrooms (“in my opinion the best plant alternative”) close to the steaks and sausages as a way of encouraging shoppers to try something new.

Spinelli says calling out organic or grass-fed products as such helps consumers recognize it’s different. The store’s Piedmontese beef, for example, is grass fed and cooks 30% faster than other beef.

With convenience also key for many customers, Vince’s Market spotlights grill-ready meal solutions featuring pre-marinated meats, vegetables and seasoning. Trimarchi recommends prominently displaying those kits, and offering options suitable for different tastes and dietary needs.

Vince’s also cross-merchandises complementary products in its meat department. “Our value-added fresh-made products like tzatziki and hummus with souvlaki and kebabs are always a success,” he says. Introducing pre-sliced and packed cheese with fresh burgers has also proven to be a successful tactic.

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 57 GETTY IMAGES/NUNGNING20
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“Sauces that offer Asian cuisine flavours and/or spicy flavour profiles will be emerging trends in the condiments and sauces aisle for at-home summer barbecues”

Aisles SAY CHEESE!

CANADIANS’ LOVE affair with cheese peaked during the pandemic, as lockdowns had people returning to their refrigerators for a snack more often and diving deeper into home cooking, frequently using cheese as a key ingredient. COVID led to record-breaking consumption, with the average Canadian eating cheese 388 times per year in 2021, according to Ipsos FIVE, which tracks individual consumption behaviours across all food and beverage categories.

This pandemic spike provides critical context for assessing a downturn in the past year, as Ipsos FIVE reports a 5% decrease in consumption rates compared to 2021. When it comes to cheese, this may be a return to normal.

“We’ve settled down to near prepan demic rates,” says Kathy Perrotta, vice- president of market strategy and understanding with Ipsos Canada, who notes that the average Canadian still reached for cheese 375 times last year—a figure nearly identical to 2019.

Still, several triggers are impacting everything from purchase decisions to product development and could affect the size of the market in years to come.

INFLATION According to a Statistics Canada report released last August, the cost of cheese rose 10.4% year over year. Perrotta confirms that inflation is contributing to declines at the dairy case and with more expensive deli options as well.

Jean-Philippe Leblanc, vice-president, cheese and butter at Agropur, says the company is doing what it can to keep costs down for consumers. “We try to reduce the effect of inflation by putting pressure on our own manufacturing costs, by doing things like renegotiating agreements for things like packaging and transport.”

Teresa Spinelli, president of Alberta’s Italian Centre Shop—a specialty store that offers artisanal cheeses such as Drunken Goat and Moliterno with Truffle—says rising costs have affected which products

her customers are buying. “We’ve definitely seen a de cline in the past year in those high-end cheeses, as opposed to the mozzarellas of the world.”

PRODUCT INNOVATION Cost-conscious cus tomers and an emphasis on home cooking are driving the development of both cheap-and-cheerful products to highend fare.

More consumers are returning to work, and at the same time maintaining a desire to make their meals at home. The resulting time constrictions are inspiring products like Saputo’s Armstrong Mmmm… Bacon Shredded Cheese, a SKU that incorporates bacon to deliver convenience and taste for a variety of recipes, including as a homemade pizza topping.

“We know that while consumers are looking to save, many are also seeking convenience,” says Iva Barukcic, vice-president, consumer and market insights, strategy and innovation for Saputo.

Agropur is also experimenting with new flavours, from jalapeno cheddar in the dairy aisle to the more upscale maplewashed OKA and smoked Saint-Paulin cheese in the deli department.

“We’re seeing more and more people experiment with different cheeses and using them in unique ways,” says Lucy Antonacci, senior category manager, deli and prepared foods at Longo’s, who adds that smoked cheeses and versatile options like burrata are especially popular with customers.

Also proliferating is plant-based cheese. According to Ipsos FIVE , this category counts for 9% of cheese consumption. Products in this vein include Babybel plant-based cheese, Daiya’s Feta Flavour Block and Grilling Cheeze Block.

Consumers are also seeking products that promise functional benefits, such as Black Diamond Cheestrings Probiotic from Lactalis. And Saputo is addressing digestive issues with its new Armstrong

Lactose Free Triple Cheddar Shredded Cheese and Lactose Free Marble Cheddar Cheese Block—with a lactose-free feta expected to hit the market soon.

“Rising focus on personal health goals, unique dietary regimes and restrictions and conscious consumption priorities are all factoring into growth,” says Perrotta.

MARKETING & PROMOTION Retailers are working to maintain Canada’s love affair with cheese. Antonacci says Longo’s introduces customers to products by sharing recipes in its Experience Magazine, while also highlighting new cheeses in its flyers and through its Thank You Rewards program.

Others, like the subscription-and-delivery-based Savvy Company, focus on making connections between consumers and cheese producers. Its Cheese of the Month Club profiles new cheeses for subscribers, and through virtual fondue parties participants get the featured products delivered and go online to talk— and melt—cheese together.

AN EMERGING OPPORTUNITY Perrotta says while conventional chains will likely never beat the likes of No Frills and Walmart on price, they may dominate the deli cheese segment—especially with smaller niche cheese markets recovering more slowly from the pandemic.

“We see in our data that there’s an opportunity for conventional grocery to own the specialty cheeses in the current environment,” Perrotta says. “It’s a real opportunity for conventional grocers to ensure they have a nice array of cheeses, presented well.”

58 CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023 GETTY IMAGES/SHOTSHARE
Consumption is down, but there are ways to adapt to changing consumer habits

Mother Nature is amazing. Consider how bees make honey: They regurgitate the nectar they’ve collected from flowers to other honeybees in the hive with an enzyme that converts the nectar’s sucrose into fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose (blood sugar), the two components of honey. Bees also give honey its trademark stickiness. Using their wings, the bees fan the honeycomb, helping evaporate excess water.

Fortunately, honeybees make more sweet stuff than they need. The National Honey Board says one hive produces about 55 pounds of surplus honey a year, which beekeepers extract for human consumption.

Honey Four things to know

2 MONEY IN HONEY

In 2022, the value of honey produced in Canada amounted to approximately $253.5 million, according to Statistics Canada.

And in the United States, the honey category grew 15.4% to US$920 million for the 52 weeks ending Nov. 11, 2022, versus the prior year period, reports NielsenIQ. Even with grocers reporting a 15% inflation hike on honey since 2020, Canadians are still sweet for it. From tea to oatmeal, they are naturally sweetening food and drink with honey in addition to enjoying it as a spread.

“Honey has been a really steady growth category, which is nice in this economy,” says Robin Langford, product category manager at Goodness Me! Natural Food Market.

The Ontario-based grocer generates most of its honey sales from Dutchman’s Gold, a brand of jarred honey whose bestseller is Raw Honey. Compared to traditional honey, which is pasteurized to smooth out the texture and extend shelf life, raw honey contains more bee pollen, beeswax and royal jelly, which are high in vitamins and anti-inflammatory properties.

Angela Ysseldyk, partner at Dutchman’s Gold and a certified nutritionist, says unpasteurized honey has become popular amid growing consumer awareness that it keeps “more of these health benefits intact due to less heat in production.”

Grocers have traditionally placed honey in the spreads aisle with peanut butter and, more recently, added it to the baking aisle for shoppers looking for a natural substitute to sugar. Goodness Me! also adds it to the condiment aisle during barbecue season. “Hot honey is the new thing,” says Langford. “If you haven’t had chicken and waffles with hot honey, you have to try it.”

Drizzle launched Raw Hot Honey, which is infused with crushed chilies. “It’s our latest release and has helped bridge our customer, who was 85% female, to men looking for a marinade,” says Horsley.

In 2022, the value of honey produced in Canada amounted to approximately $253.5 million: Statistics Canada

Under its private-label brand, Farm Boy saw honey’s same-store sales increase by 8% year-over-year. The grocer’s artisanal varieties, Raw Honey and Buckwheat Honey, outpaced Creamed Honey and Liquid Honey with a more than 10% sales increase.

Noting they cost the same, Alison McFarlane, Farm Boy’s private label manager, says: “We’re attributing this growth to customers shopping for healthier, more functional food.”

3 GENERATING BUZZ

The plight of the honeybee population and the need to protect it has created promotional opportunities for retailers and honey brands. British Columbia, for instance, has declared May 29 the “Day of the Honey Bee.” National Pollinator Week (June 19 to 25), meanwhile, has become a global celebration of the bee, among other insects that pollinate the global food supply.

“We’ve done displays and giveaways of little bee boxes, which have been really successful,” says Aja Horsley, founder of Calgary-based Drizzle Honey, a brand carried in Whole Foods Market, Save-On-Foods and Loblaws. “People love bees.”

In the United States, 15.5% of honey sales are made on promotion, providing an incremental sales lift of 7.1%, according to data collected by NielsenIQ.

60 CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023 GETTY IMAGES/YOKAEW
4 BEE–BQ 1 NATURE’S SWEETENER

New on shelf! 1

1 MADEGOOD DRIZZLED CRUNCHY OAT BITES

Adding to its lineup of healthy, organic, gluten-free snacks, MadeGood has launched Drizzled Crunchy Oat Bites in two of the company’s best-selling flavours: Birthday Cake and Cookies & Crème. Both flavours are available in 100-gram family-sized pouches and 34-gram single-serve packs.

2

MINI RITZ CRACKERS

Mondelēz International has launched a bite-sized version of its iconic Ritz cracker and it’s available in two sizes—a 200-gram resealable bag perfect for home entertaining and a carton of six, 30-gram pouches for on-the-go snacking.

3

CLIF BUILDERS PROTEIN + CAFFEINE

CLIF’s newest bar combines 20 grams of plant-based protein with 65 milligrams of caffeine in each bar—equivalent, the company says, to one shot of espresso. Available in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavour, the bars are gluten free, low glycemic and made using Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa.

4 WONDERFUL PISTACHIOS NO SHELLS SEA SALT & PEPPER

For consumers, finding a delicious and healthy snack can be a hard nut to crack. Meet Wonderful Pistachios No Shells Sea Salt & Pepper, a protein and fibre-packed snack in a convenient format. Sold in 155-gram bags, No Shells Sea Salt & Pepper joins the company’s line of unshelled pistachios that already includes Sea Salt & Vinegar, Smoky Barbecue and Honey Roasted flavours.

5 THE GRANOLA KING BLUEBERRY ORANGE GRANOLA

Hand crafted in North Vancouver, The Granola King Blueberry Orange Granola is dairy free, wheat free, preservative free and lightly sweetened with honey. The granola—made with only 10 ingredients including organic and conventional rolled oats, sunflower seeds, dried blueberries, molasses and orange zest—contains two grams of fibre and protein per serving. The Blueberry Orange Granola joins a lineup that already includes Gourmet Classic Granola and Hazelnut Hemp Granola. CG

The latest products hitting shelves

2 3 4 5

May 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 61
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ART OF THE STEAL

WHILE MORE Canadians are pinching pennies to contend with soaring food prices, others are pinching items off grocery store shelves. Though theft is an issue outside of recessionary times, food inflation has consumers under strain and it’s fuelling an increase in stolen goods. Canadian Grocer recently asked Stephen O’Keefe, president at Bottom Line Matters in Georgetown, Ont., for advice on how grocers can try to safeguard against shrink, and the important role employees play in these efforts. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Grocers have always had to contend with theft. How has the issue evolved or grown more complicated in recent years?

We are at a point where there is a perfect storm happening that presents conditions whereby shop-theft is increasing. Overburdened courts, law enforcement resource issues, violent crime and socio-economic conditions have either inspired or provided an excuse for seemingly honest people to do dishonest things. They chalk it up to an “honest mistake” when confronted.

What impact is this having on grocers?

For grocers, this means a few things. There remains less room for markdown to move slow-selling product and offer deals for customers. It eats away at profitability. Arguably, this is more of a concern for smaller independents; grocers are forced to raise prices to stay afloat and, as we’ve seen recently in the U.S., it’s forcing

retailers to shutter their doors and exit the geographic area where crime is rampant.

What strategies should grocers consider for loss prevention?

Policy, people, technology and data! It is important for a grocer to operate their business on a foundation of risk management. They are well versed in this notion since they deal with food safety and security. The same logic should be applied to loss prevention, not as a separate program, but rather as an embedded loss prevention management system in every area of the business.

Which grocers are getting loss prevention right and why?

All grocers do some things very well, but there are always challenges to do everything right. That is why a loss prevention system must be reviewed on a regular basis. There are a number of grocers, however, who have a loss prevention professional on staff to advise on the direction of business activity. Rather than reacting after the fact, a preventative strategy suggests the loss prevention executive has a “seat at the table” when big decisions are being made. They look at things through a different lens.

What role do employees play in loss prevention efforts?

Employees are the ears, eyes, hearts and minds of the grocer. They generally know what the issues are. Before expensive programs or technology is incorporated,

I would always advise a client to sit down with a focus group of employees to hear them out. The employees are the No. 1 line of defence against criminal activity. Most shoplifters—the traditional shoplifter and not the violent offender—can be persuaded to think twice about stealing with simple one-on-one customer service. Acknowledgment removes the opportunity to steal without being exposed or identified, and most casual shoplifters still fear the intervention of law enforcement and subsequent prosecution.

How common are self-checkout scams? Self-scanners do pose a challenge and dishonest customers undoubtedly have taken advantage of the lower level of supervision on these devices. There are new technologies, however, that detect [when shoppers] fail to scan or [an] incorrect product scans. Separate from the weight scales, these systems can detect and send silent alarms to security personnel who have the right to take action up to, and including, prosecution for theft or fraud.

What are some common tricks thieves use at self-checkout?

As an industry, my colleagues and I refrain from openly discussing techniques thieves use. We have realized that past discussions of this nature are shared amongst the criminals online, almost as a shoplifting training camp. I can tell you where we do know the “tricks” we are actively and aggressively looking for ways to identify and take action against bad actors. CG

62 CANADIAN GROCER || May 2023 BOTTOM LINE MATTERS
Shoplifting appears to be on the rise. Loss prevention expert Stephen O’Keefe shares ways grocers can take aim at theft
Express Lane

Last chance to nominate!

Canada’s grocery industry is filled with examples of companies making a positive impact whether it is improving the planet, supporting employees or helping local communities.

Canadian Grocer is now accepting nominations for the 2023 Impact Awards to recognize the initiatives introduced by retailers, suppliers and solution providers that are making a meaningful difference in four categories:

• Sustainability (food waste, ethical sourcing, energy efficiency initiatives etc.)

• Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

• Supporting Employees

• Community Service/Local Impact/Giving Back

Tell us about the amazing work being done at your company! Winners will be featured in the August issue of Canadian Grocer

Have questions? Please contact Shellee Fitzgerald, editor-in-chief, Canadian Grocer at sfitzgerald@ensembleiq.com

Submit your nominations at cgimpactawards.ca DEADLINE EXTENDED TO: MAY 31, 2023 Here are just some of our past winners. To see all the winners visit: cgimpactawards.ca Metro Sobeys Unilever Canada P&G Canada Nature’s Emporium Cha’s Organics Atlantic Grocery Distributors
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