Canadian Grocer August 2020

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Grocery’s meal opportunity A big appetite for local AUGUST 2020


*Reg. TM/MD McCormick Canada. Used under licence / usage autorisé.


Make mealtime easier with ONE Sheet Pan, Skillet and Bowl seasoning mixes! FOR RECIPE INSPIRATION, VISIT



We put the U in FLAVOUR


Sweetened with Stevia extract

*Reg. TM/MD The French’s Food Company LLC.

† per serving than French’s Original Tomato Ketchup



August 2020 || Volume 134 - Number 5


Cover Story

5 || Front Desk 16 || Shopper Sense 18 || Evolving Retail 66 || Checking Out


People 6 || The Buzz

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

21 Introducing this year’s 38 outstanding winners

8 || Stafford Attzs, Andrew McBarnett & Rosemarie Wilson Neale’s Sweet n Nice co-founders bring a taste of Trinidad to Canada

Ideas 11 || Appetite for meat-free grows New Dalhousie University figures reveal continuing interest in meat-free diets


12 || A fresh face for Freshmart


Loblaw’s affiliated independents are welcoming a new brand identity

15 || Global grocery


News and ideas from the world of food retail

Aisles 57 || Deli days

GROCERY’S MEAL OPPORTUNITY 53  covid-19 threw retail foodservice for a loop, but there are many ways to capture more meal dollars

Nostalgia for sandwiches and a desire for comfort food are fuelling sales of pre-packaged deli fare

60 || Cultured, innovated

Increasingly embraced as an all-day snack and versatile ingredient, yogurt innovations abound

62 || Keeping it clean

As demand continues for on-the-go hygiene products, new brands and formats enter the market

64 || Collagen: Four things to know We give you the lowdown on this health and beauty booster

65 || New on shelf

Shining a spotlight on the latest products hitting shelves

LOCAL LOVE 47  An appetite for locally sourced food is growing. Is it sustainable?


Follow us on     @CanadianGrocer     @CanadianGrocerMagazine     Canadian Grocer Magazine

August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 3

Front desk PUBLISHER

Vanessa Peters


Shellee Fitzgerald


Carol Neshevich


Kristin Laird


Josephine Woertman


George H. Condon


Michael Kimpton


Donna Kerry

SUPPORTING WOMEN In this tough year, we need to celebrate the contributions of women in our industry


Derek Estey

Printed in Canada

In these unusual times, it can be a struggle to find reasons to celebrate. Living under the cloud of COVID-19, many of us are stressed out and the prolonged uncertainty (when will this all be over?) is wearing very thin. But in this climate, perhaps more than ever, it’s important to recognize those individuals among us who are rising above it all, stepping up and making a difference. With this in mind, we’re delighted to shine a light on the contributions of some exceptional women in our industry—our 2020 Star Women in Grocery winners! Selected from a record number of nominations, this year’s 38 winners work in all areas of the industry in roles ranging from plant, food safety and store managers to marketing directors, e-commerce leaders and even a CEO (get to know them all starting on page 21). What these impressive women show us is that passion, commitment and talent run deep in this industry, and that’s cause for celebration in these challenging times. And challenging times they are. As we were putting this issue together, RBC Economics came out with research confirming what we probably already knew—the pandemic has been particularly tough on working women. According to the report: “In a matter of months, the COVID-19 pandemic knocked women’s participation in the labour force down from a historic high to its lowest level in over 30 years.” Regaining lost ground, the report says, won’t be easy. Going forward it will be

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

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Michael Cronin


Alexandra Voulu


Lina Trunina


Valerie White


Katherine Frederick

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MAIL PREFERENCES: From time to time other organizations may ask Canadian Grocer if they may send information about a product or service to some Canadian Grocer subscribers, by mail or email. If you do not wish to receive these messages, contact us in any of the ways listed above. Contents Copyright © 2020 by EnsembleIQ, may not be reprinted without permission. Canadian Grocer receives unsolicited materials (including letters to the editor, 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.

Read all about our 38 Star Women winners on page 21

key to support women. In the near term, RBC says policies to address things like childcare and flexible work arrangements will be key to keeping women engaged in the workforce. And that, the report concludes, is also critical to Canada’s recovery and ongoing success. Our industry is filled with amazing women and we’re proud to call attention to that fact. Congratulations to this year’s Star Women in Grocery winners!

Shellee Fitzgerald Editor-in-Chief

August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 5

John Manax, VP operations at Metro (left) and Bernie Gallo, store manager (below) at a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Food Basics in Bolton, Ont., which opened in late June

EMPIRE COMPANY has announced it will convert three existing Sobeys locations in Ontario to FARM BOY. The stores, located in Oakville, Ottawa and Toronto, will close this fall and reopen as Farm Boy in 2021. In addition to the Farm Boy announcement, Empire said it would convert one of its Sobeys locations in Brampton, Ont. to the Chalo! FreshCo format. It is scheduled to re-open in spring 2021.

Jean-Louis Bellemare and Jeff York

time to nominate! Canadian

6  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

Buy-Low Foods recently announced a number of executive changes. Sam Corea has been promoted to chief operating officer; Troy Dewinetz has been promoted to the position of vice-president, merchandising and marketing; Dereck Hein has stepped into the role of vicepresident, retail operations (for all Buy-Low Foods banners); and Aaron Bregg is now vice-president, supply chain at the company’s Associated Grocers division.

Anna Petrova is the new vicepresident, supply chain at Kraft Heinz Canada. Petrova’s career spans more than 25 years. She previously led supply chain teams at Conagra and Ferrero in Canada. Bel Group has promoted Cristine Laforest to general manager of its Canadian subsidiary, Bel Canada. Laforest joined the company, behind brands such as Boursin and The Laughing Cow, in 2008. Dave Pullar has joined Federated Co-operatives Limited in the role of director of fresh food. Pullar was previously ceo of Way Better Brands and held senior roles at Sobeys and Safeway (U.S.).


Grocer has opened nominations for our 10th annual Generation Next Awards. If you know of an outstanding up-and-comer in the industry please nominate them at generation-next. Deadline to nominate is Sept. 30.


Kimberly-Clark has named Todd Fisher vice-president and general manager of its Canadian business. Fisher, who joined Kimberly-Clark in 2011, has held the position on an interim basis since January. He has previous experience at Target Canada, Crossmark and Deloitte.


The Food Industry Association of Canada has revealed the winners of its 2020 Golden Pencil Award. Farm Boy Co-CEOs Jean-Louis Bellemare and Jeff York, and president of Burnbrae Farms Margaret Hudson are this year’s recipients. The winners will be honoured in a ceremony later this fall. The Golden Pencil is considered the grocery industry’s highest honour.

The latest news in the grocery biz

Margaret Hudson

Bill Ivany retired from his role as president of Tree of Life Canada (tolc) at the end of July. Jamie Moody, the former president who continued to work with the company as vice chair of its advisory board, is overseeing tolc’s dayto-day operations until Ivany’s replacement is found.

Sam Corea

Aaron Bregg

Todd Fisher

Anna Petrova

Cristine Laforest


The Buzz

Bill Ivany

News to share? Tell us about your openings, comings and goings, etc. by dropping a line to

s n o i t a l u t a r g Con 2020 Star Women to all of the


The founders of Neale’s Sweet N’ Nice are bringing a taste of Trinidad to Canada with their flavourful ice creams

By Danny Kucharsky Photography by Ingrid Punwani

Stafford Attzs (left), who acts as an advisor at the company, and CEO Andrew McBarnett (right) co-founded Neale’s with their aunt Rosemarie Wilson

Who you need to know



h e n C h a r l e s A l f r e d are in development. The all-natural, preNeale was looking for a mium ice cream comes in 100-mL single way to feed his family of 12 servings, the standard 500-mL supermarchildren in Trinidad and ket size and in 5.7-Litre tubs for the hospiTobago in the 1940s, he tality and foodservice markets. decided to launch his own business makTo propel the business forward, McBaring ice cream. Neale made the ice cream nett and Attzs appeared on Dragons’ Den using tropical fruit bought from local in 2015. The co-founders actually landed farmers and sold it by peddling his ice a deal with three of the Dragons; however, cream bike through the streets of South- they decided to go their own way and ern Trinidad, shouting “sweet n nice!” maintain full ownership of the company. “From age five or six, I could picture Still, the television appearance boosted him making ice cream. He would always brand recognition and the Dragons strive for excellence,” recalls his daugh- offered helpful advice that the company ter Rosemarie Wilson. “He had a saying: followed, says McBarnett. ‘If you just say that’s good enough, that’s Neale’s has been promoted mainly not good at all.’” Prior to his death in through social media, public relations 1988, Neale passed on his ice cream-mak- and, before COVID-19, via in-store tasting secrets to his family, including Wil- ings. To raise brand awareness this sumson, who immigrated to Canada that mer, Neale’s has opened a pop-up store same year. While the family continued until September at the Stackt Marketto enjoy the ice cream at family get-to- place in downtown Toronto. “People can gethers, they eventually decided to take come to visit us, try our ice cream and things a step further and relaunch Neale’s enjoy it and then visit their local superSweet N’ Nice in Canada. market” to buy it again, McBarnett says. And so, in 2013, Wilson and two of While Neale’s sells a lot of its ice cream Neale’s grandchildren, Andrew McBarnett to the Caribbean diaspora, McBarnett and Stafford Attzs, set out to revive the notes that “everyone loves ice cream.” brand. “We had a legacy that should not Ethnic foods are increasingly trendy have died when daddy died,” says Wilson, and the ice cream is gaining favour with who left a 26-year career with Scotiabank health-conscious consumers. When peoto become vice-president, production and ple look at the ingredient list, “it’s simple operations of Neale’s. “We felt uniquely to understand,” he says. positioned to address the Neale’s has been gainunmet opportunity of tropiing momentum “due to its cal ice cream flavours,” adds premium quality, unique Attzs, who acts as an adviflavours and the inspiring sor at the company. backstory of my grandThe ice cream was inifather ’s business,” Attzs tially sold through a few ethexplains. “It’s different and nic and Caribbean grocery people want to try differstores in the Toronto area. ent things,” adds Wilson. At one store, “we were actu“When they taste [Neale’s], ally being kicked out when they can taste substance. we tried to show it to one of They really get the taste of the owners,” CEO McBarnett the tropics.” says. “But a customer recog- Rosemarie Wilson, daughter Neale’s is available in 500 nized granddad’s name and of Charles Neale, set out to stores as of the end of July, revive her father’s ice cream shouted, ‘Hey, I remember brand with her two nephews including Sobeys, Loblaw, that when I was small. You Foodland, No Frills, Supershould definitely take this ice cream. I’ll store, Longo’s and Metro in Ontario, buy it.’ So, the [owner] took it.” FreshCo in Western Canada and mainly Oshawa, Ont.-based Neale’s Sweet independents in Quebec. It’s not yet N’ Nice started with just two flavours, available in Atlantic Canada. mango and coconut. Pineapple coconut, Wils on says her father would b e guava/passion fruit, and rum & raisin thrilled to see his creation live on. “He’d followed. A banana chocolate flavour is be very proud seeing what [his grandcoming out soon, and at least one vegan children] have done and what they have product will be available by the end of achieved. He would really have been the year. Three or four additional flavours proud of those boys.” CG

30 seconds with …

ANDREW MCBARNETT  & ROSEMARIE WILSON What do you like most about the food industry?

WILSON: When you get feedback from the customers, the love and the appreciation for the product, that has its own rewards. Despite the stress and sometimes the sleepless nights and the worry, our product is well received; and to see the growth over the last few years, it shows how much our product is appreciated.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

MCBARNETT: We had a lot of challenges at the beginning. We had to literally do it ourselves until we grew. The space is pretty competitive. But seeing people come into the store, having never really heard about your brand before, then trying it and saying, “OK, that’s my favourite ice cream,” that’s the rewarding part.

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

WILSON: When it’s hot, I love being outside. I love to get my hands dirty. I love to plant seeds. I really love roses, so I have a lot of roses in my backyard. Being outside, watching the plants grow, I am happy with that.

What’s it like to work with family?

MCBARNETT: Sometimes it’s challenging. We definitely have strong opinions, that’s for sure. We’re not afraid to hide them, but the good thing is we love each other. It’s been great working together, seeing our dreams come to fruition.

August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 9

For more details – please contact Darcy Peters





APPETITE FOR MEAT-FREE GROWS New figures from Dalhousie University (which surveys Canadians about their food choices every quarter) show that interest in meat-free diets continues. Comparing the last pre-COVID-19 survey (February 2020) with the first conducted during COVID (July 2020), rates of vegetarianism, pescatarianism and veganism have increased in the country. Vegetarianism has increased from 1.5% to 2.5% in the latest quarter. Pescatarianism, a diet free of land animals but includes fish and dairy, increased by 0.2%. The rate of vegan diets increased by 0.7%, which means nearly 600,000 Canadians consider themselves vegan now—the highest measured rate

in three years. While the researchers note the rate is relatively low compared to the rest of the population, Canadians continue to be interested in diets that exclude land-animal proteins. Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University and senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics lab, says it’s important for grocery retailers to recognize that plant-based diets are gaining traction. “It is worthwhile to grocers to look at how to support the category,” he says. “You need a strategy beyond just putting a few packages at the meat counter. You may consider a whole plant-based section or something a bit more elaborate.”—Rebecca Harris

August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 11


Loblaw’s affiliated independents are welcoming a new brand identity By Carol Neshevich Alison and Darryl Mudford couldn’t be happier with their rebranded Freshmart in Straffordville, Ont. The overall look and feel of the grocers’ 6,000-sq.-ft. store was updated in 2018 to reflect the new Freshmart branding for Loblaw’s affiliated independents. “Since we’ve done the rebrand, we have had such an amazing response from everybody who’s come into our store,” says Alison Mudford. George Hampson, senior director of Loblaw’s affiliated independents, says the company first embarked on the rebranding program in 2017 as a way to “simplify and clarify our wholesale programs as well as develop a meaningful and consistent customer value proposition” for independent stores affiliated with Loblaw. There have been a number of brands operating under the company’s affiliated independent program, including Lucky Dollar, Shop Easy Foods and SuperValu in the West, Freshmart and Red & White in the East, and L’Intermarché in Quebec—so the goal is to consolidate all of them into one brand, Freshmart (with L’Intermarché still being the brand name used in Quebec). “We thought this would be a great way to help the retailers we serve across the

This Straffordville, Ont., store was part of Loblaw’s rebranding program for affiliated independents 12  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

country with a more consistent look and feel, and a reputation for quality and safety, while still having the freedom to operate independently,” says Hampson. Freshmart was chosen as the brand that others would transition to, he says, because “we believe that Freshmart best reflects the value proposition of the customers’ businesses that we do serve, and where we wanted to go in the future.” The acronym “LIFE” is used to capture the brand essence of the refreshed Freshmart, which stands for Local, Independent, Fresh and Engaged. The logo and colours were updated—“We went with green to help us signify what we thought would say fresh; it’s a modern green, and the font and the look of the Freshmart name is very clean,” says Hampson— while the interior decor was kept fairly neutral and customizable, letting individual stores add “local touches that would allow for community messaging ... really highlighting what makes them special.” For the Mudfords, one of their favourite special touches is the local map feature. “The map is talked about on a regular basis,” says Alison Mudford. “We have a lovely overhang at the entrance to our store and we’ve placed it there. We have many, many tourists in our area because we live close to a provincial park, but the first to see it obviously were the locals and they were thrilled to see our little village, which is never on a map, appearing on a map.” Hampson says the Freshmart rebranding process is ongoing. “This is not a rebrand where it’s going to pop in a tight timeline—we’re dealing with independent customers who, ultimately, have the choice in how they want to participate in this program. When we first started on the journey, we thought it would take us up to 10 years to work through it. We’re now a few years into it and making good progress.”

MUCH ADO ABOUT MASKS While it’s hard to fathom, pandemicprompted mask mandates have sparked protests and even violence around the globe, including in Canada, in recent months. So we asked readers on What has been your experience with customers wearing masks in the store? Here’s what our poll revealed:

35% 34% There has been a slight resistance

I’m surprised/

disappointed by people’s unwilling­ ness to wear a mask

26% 5%

Everyone is on board

People comply at the door, but remove the mask to shop



Poll results

Congratulations to all 2020 Star Women award winners! You’re helping to build a better future.





While self-serve salad bars have all but disappeared from supermarkets during COVID-19, one New Jersey grocer is testing an automated alternative. At the ShopRite in Carteret, N.J., customers can get fresh salads served up by Sally the Salad Robot. Powered by tech firm Chowbotics, Sally uses advanced robotics and self-serve tech, so with a few taps on the screen, customers can create a customized meal or select from chef-recommended options—the fresh food robot contains 22 fresh ingredients. To minimize contact with the robot, the unit dispenses a glove customers can wear as they tap their orders on the screen and pay with credit cards.



News and ideas from the world of food retail


Amid the covid-19 crisis, grocers around the world are seeking innovative solutions to ensure a safe shop for customers. In the U.K., Walmart-owned Asda is testing a high-powered “trolley wash” at one of its locations. Groups or “nests” of shopping carts pass through a unit where they are coated in fine particles containing an anti-microbial solution that Asda says eliminates 99.99% of known bacteria, viruses and pollutants. Developed by The WasteCare Group, the process takes just 10 to 15 seconds and a single tank of the anti-microbial solution can sanitize up to 20,000 carts.

Getting kids cooking, virtually

To inspire a love of food and help young chefs pick up new kitchen skills, the U.K.’s Waitrose & Partners launched a series of virtual cooking classes. Each week, chefs from the grocery chain’s Cookery School teach kids a different recipe (from sausage rolls to cakes) in the hour-long classes. According to the company: “We are looking forward to joining families in their own kitchens and helping to teach the next generation new skills and sharing our love of food.”




Amazon unveiled its version of a smart cart that lets shoppers skip the checkout line. The Amazon Dash Cart, according to the company, uses a combo of computer vision algorithms and sensor fusion that identifies items placed in the cart, and as customers exit through the store’s Dash Cart Lane, payment is processed via the customer’s Amazon account. Other features include a screen that allows access to an Alexa Shopping List and a coupon scanner. The cart will be available at the Amazon grocery store in Woodland Hills, Calif., this year.

Supermarket chain Morrisons is shaking up its work policy. In July, the U.K.’s fourth-largest grocer introduced a four-day working week for some 1,500 staff at its head office. Staff will be paid the same but will be expected to work four nine-hour days (rather than five eight-hour days) each week, and work one Saturday a month. According to the grocer, the plan was in the works long before COVID19 struck (it even piloted the concept in 2019) and a company spokesperson told The Yorkshire Post that the aim was to modernize its ways of working and make the business a more attractive place to work. CG

August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 15

SHOPPER SENSE ||  Carman Allison

Catering to a changing consumer

As the pandemic continues to impact Canadians and their wallets, brands and retailers will need to serve them differently

We may still be eating more meals in our homes, but what we eat and how much we’re able to afford will change, and that change may last years. And it won’t just be food. Consumers will completely reassess what goes in their shopping baskets

the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry experienced significant and prolonged lifts in sales across most categories as COVID-19 spread and drove people into weeks of lockdown. Their lives quickly became centered on the home (whether they liked it or not), and the so-called “homebody economy” was born. In Canada, year-to-date we have seen an explosion in sales with FMCG dollars seeing growth of 12.6%. To put it in perspective, that is 2.7 times higher than total FMCG growth in 2019 in Canada. Sales across many categories that fed this trend remain stronger than in pre-COVID conditions; after all, we’re eating more meals at home, and spending more time in our homes, resulting in everything from paper towels to garbage bags and cleaning products being in high demand. While value and volume growth was inevitable for many FMCG categories during lockdown conditions, that growth may not be sustainable as economic challenges overtake health concerns. The global economy and the behaviours of consumers within it face escalating levels of change. Unemployment will be a significant driver of this change. For some consumers, furloughs will turn into unemployment; for others, reliable employment may remain out of reach for years. Canada started the year with record low unemployment at 5.2%; however, by May it had more than doubled, spiking at 13.7%. June saw minor recovery to 12.4% with phased re-opening approaches across Canada. Even more telling across Canada is that 24% of households have had at least one person who has been impacted

16  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

by job loss and/or furlough, and another 11% of Canadians are expecting impacts in the future. Projections like these clearly highlight that con­ sum­e rs will need to recalibrate their spending habits. In other words, we may still be eating more meals in our homes, but what we eat and how much we’re able to afford will change, and that change may possibly last years. And it won’t just be food that changes. Consumers will completely reassess what goes in their shopping baskets. And that means brands and retailers will need to serve consumers differently, and these are consumers with low confidence levels for economic recovery. Consider the likely shift to demand for more value-for-money products. For Canadians, buying on sale and in bulk are key saving strategies, with 79% using this saving strategy and 54% of shoppers buying larger sizes. However, these strategies will not work for everyone. Large multi-packs may offer the best value, but they may be out of reach for people short on cash. Cash-strapped consumers may be forced to buy smaller pack sizes, and brand loyalty across categories may fade. Consequently, FMCG manufacturers are reassessing their portfolios to adjust. Similarly, retailers are looking at how to stay relevant to consumers who will have rapidly changing consideration sets. In the past, retailers could have performed these kinds of assessments with relatively ample time for testing. That is no longer the case. Changing retail channels are a case in point. Online adoption has taken just weeks to get to a tipping point that would have otherwise taken years. In Canada, online shopping was the fastest-growing FMCG retail channel, increasing 44% in the first quarter. Put in perspective, this is growing 3.5 times the rate of the total market. Whatever the channel, it’s clear that getting assortment and pricing right will be key. So, too, will be packaging and brand claims. Consumers are looking for clear claims that highlight the benefit of the product. Not surprisingly, there is strong demand at all price points for products offering various health benefits such as immunity-boosting capabilities or germ-killing powers. Wherever brands sit along the price spectrum, it will be critical that they shift as consumers reconcile their wallets with their shopping baskets. Keeping pace with those reconciliations will, of course, also be essential. CG

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




EVOLVING RETAIL ||  Michael Nussbacher

Optimizing omnichannel

It’s time to think strategically about an omnichannel solution that prioritizes both customer experience and loyalty

Retailers will need to think more strategically about their omnichannel solution and shed bifurcated thinking that looks at the store and e-commerce as separate entities

While COVID-19 isn’t yet in the tail lights, grocery retail has been the proving ground for much of the COVID-compliant measures that have become the standard for all retailers starting a path to recovery. These days, it’s not uncommon to see Plexiglass dividers and distancing stickers in every indoor retail establishment and we know that all started at grocery. However—and not to diminish those efforts— the ubiquity of those measures is table stakes now when thinking of a future-proofed strategy. As we look to the future of grocery retail and the so-called “new normal,” some forward-thinking grocers have made a leap into e-commerce. It makes sense, of course; why wouldn’t customers want their groceries to come to them? No one-way aisles, no masks, no hand sanitizer! If so, does that mean physical grocery stores will be a thing of the past? Well, that all depends on how one thinks of the sustainability of e-commerce vis-à-vis loyalty and experience. In the midst of the heaviest lockdown measures, customers still showed up to stores despite the numerous e-commerce/food delivery options available. If we are being honest with ourselves, the isolation felt during the lockdown made going to the supermarket a social outlet that was just as important as getting groceries. Furthermore, customers chose to wait in line in the early days of COVID because they were not able to get timely delivery online. That, coupled with out-of-stocks or a disappointing online ordering experience, and store lineups remained long. Other shoppers went in the opposite direction, turning to e-commerce, often from non-grocery stores (i.e. restaurants selling their produce) to ensure they could get the goods they wanted without having to leave their homes.

18  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

But grocers with their finger on the pulse of loyalty and experience are the ones that are going to see continued success. Why? Because pureplay e-commerce is not sustainable long term. Pureplay e-commerce, or simply listing products on a webpage where shoppers “check a box,” runs the risk of your shoppers treating your business as a commodity supplier of consumable goods, turning them into price shoppers rather than customers. The problem with e-commerce in this form is it does little to translate into loyalty retention, and misses out on impulse buying opportunities normally seen in brick-and-mortar because of a lack of applied merchandising principles and follow-up to differentiate one store’s shopping experience from a competitor. What we’re really talking about here is an omnichannel system that takes the above into account; however, not all grocers are ready to take the full plunge without data on how best to execute. One strategy is to build pop-up stores as an intermediary measure to validate theories and steps forward for physical stores to enter the e-commerce world, or vice versa. This clears the “grey area” to help build and tell a more cohesive story on all channels that can uncover which touchpoints to make permanent and which to phase out. What this means is retailers will need to think more strategically about their omnichannel solution and shed bifurcated thinking that looks at the store and e-commerce as separate entities. In the eyes of customers, these are seen as one, and retailers need to respond accordingly and manage their offer and proposition as one integrated, networked, go-to-market solution for customers. New shopping behaviours need to be studied and understood to determine the role of the store within the grocer’s customer base; consistency in customer-facing propositions and experiences across channels need to be aggressively maintained and effective bridges between the two need to be built; new touch points like BOPIS and curbside need to be properly conceived and integrated as new, permanent touch points in the customer’s path to purchase; physical stores need to become more “digitally sensitive,” and the importance of data collection and developing predictive algorithms to help retailers properly manage and extract maximum value and ROI of their investments will be imperative. The pandemic has accelerated the need for deep strategic thinking to connect the dots between a store’s online and brick-and-mortar presence to manage a consistent experience on all channels, while also reinforcing core values that resonate with customers and reward their loyalty for choosing to shop at your store—pandemic or no pandemic. CG

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



Finnish dill vodka with Polish kielbasa Credits: More Than Food Canada

As a restauranteur and grocer, I can tell you that decisions about food are made with the heart as much as they are with the palate.


oday, Canadians are more passionate than ever about the quality of what we eat and drink. We not only expect our food to be delicious, but it also has to be authentic. And, we just love when it has a great story about where it comes from and how it’s made. When it comes to this kind of fare, there are few places as renowned as Europe for the rich heritage and uncompromising quality of their food and beverage offerings. For food lovers, there is no substitute for the unique character of cheeses derived from centuries of tradition, like Pecorino Romano (PDO). Produced in central Italy with whole sheep’s milk from pasture-grazing herds, this cheese is the key to a great carbonara, a staple recipe at my house. While I always enjoy the more known classics there are so many more European cheeses to discover: France alone has over 500 types of cheese. European diversity has resulted in many authentic products that have preserved centuries-old food of making traditions such as Lappi cheese from Finland, Halloumi from Cyprus and Queso


Manchego (PDO) from Spain. There is something truly special about enjoying cured meats that have been perfected over generations, like Kielbasa from Poland, which we’ve used at ONE Restaurant for a fun fondue. Even European produce has historical significance, like mushrooms from France, where they were first introduced for use in kitchens back in the 17th century. The Canadian trade agreement with Europe, CETA, has opened even more opportunities for business operators and making storied European products readily available to Canadian food retailers. What’s more, many products are protected with Geographical Indicators such as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) so consumers know they’re getting the real thing. These European Union (EU) labels are a guarantee for the authenticity of products, as well as their high quality, reinforced by strict production standards. By stocking the best of Europe, you will help satisfy consumers’ appetites for food that offers a real experience, combined with high

safety standards – that feeds our souls as much as our stomachs. Especially at a time when Canadians have had to stay home and many have cancelled travel plans to their favourite food destinations, European food and drink has genuine appeal, by transporting us to another place and time with every bite. Interested to know more? Please visit: Delegation of the European Union to Canada: delegations/canada_en EU Chamber of Commerce in Canada: Head judge on Food Network’s Top Chef, Mark McEwan is the ground-breaking restauranteur, caterer and grocer behind North 44, Bymark, ONE, Fabbrica and McEwan’s Groceries. Prepared in the context and in collaboration with the European Union campaign More Than Food Canada and Mark McEwan. European Union’s quality labels:

Protected Designation of Origin

Protected Geographical Indication

Carlton Cards is honoured to congratulate

Brittany Ford 2020 Rising Star

Brittany, thank you for the dedication and passion you bring with you to work every day. We celebrate you and all of your well-deserved success! Your friends at Carlton Cards


Introducing our 2020 Star Women in Grocery winners By Carolyn Cooper, Shellee Fitzgerald, Rebecca Harris and Carol Neshevich


rom a CEO to VPs to department directors and store managers, this year’s batch of Star Women in Grocery winners—representing CPG companies and grocery retailers—are excellence personified. In one of the most challenging years ever for this industry, each one of these women stepped up, continuing to shape and improve their companies and the industry as a whole with their innovative ideas, strong leadership, hard work and never-­give-up attitudes. In its ninth year, Canadian Grocer’s annual Star Women in Grocery awards celebrate the influence, innovation and leadership of women in the grocery industry. This year’s winners, chosen by Canadian Grocer editors, represent all parts of the industry and were nominated by industry colleagues in one of three categories: store level stars, rising stars and senior level stars. Turn the page to meet this year’s 38 impressive and deserving award winners.

For full versions of the Star Women Q&As, visit

Rising stars

Shilpa Bains

Country Manager, HR Manager (Canada)  || the clorox company How did you get into the grocery business? I have been in human resources for my entire career, but entered the CPG space only 10 years ago. I was fortunate to have been hired on by Clorox after being on maternity leave for one year with my older son. Since joining Clorox, I have moved progressively through various HR roles, which has enabled my experience and skill set to flourish. Biggest career challenge? I once had to make a decision to take

2020 Star Women in Grocery

on a work assignment that would be beneficial to my career, but would have negative impacts on my personal life. It was a really challenging time because at that point in my career I was focused on doing everything that I could to move forward. I knew not accepting this assignment would be a career-limiting move for me but in weighing the consequences and what that would mean for me personally, I decided to stay true to my values and declined the opportunity. I don’t regret that decision and have more confidence in my personal convictions as a result of that challenge. Favourite part of your job? I love connecting with people and having the ability to build and sustain relationships. I have a people-focused role so this does come with the territory, but specifically having the opportunity to connect with people through coaching, training and education, which I am very passionate about, is extremely rewarding.

Teresa Blakney Sr. Brand Manager  || conagra brands

How did you get into the business? I studied computer science, which is totally unrelated to what I am doing today. Even though I excelled at school, I realized I prefer talking to people more than machines. I started my career in advertising (Ogilvy & Mather Malaysia, Publicis China) and was poached by one of my clients back then, Nestlé Waters (China). I loved the marketing and CPG world, and haven’t looked back. Career highlight/greatest achievements? Heating up

focused on getting things done.

Stephanie Egan Director, Marketing  || piller’s fine foods

How did you get into the food business? I joined the Piller’s team in 2012 after graduating from the honours Bachelor of Business Administration program at Wilfrid Laurier University, where I specialized in brand communication. I jumped at the opportunity to work with a trusted Canadian food brand, and was thrilled to find a company local to the Waterloo, Ont. region with strong community ties. Your best quality? I am driven to succeed, quick to take action and 22  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

Best advice ever received? Play to your strengths and organize around your weaknesses. This rings true in work and personal life. There are always going to be things you naturally excel at, and other skills that prove to be a challenge. The best leaders are self-aware, understand their weaknesses and build teams with diverse skill sets, where team members can rely on one another for support, learning and growth. Career highlight/greatest achievements? In 2017, Piller’s embarked on the largest masterbrand refresh in the company’s 60-year history. The project touched all aspects of the Piller’s brand including refining brand positioning, a new logo and packaging updates for more than 150 products. It was an incredible learning experience to lead the marketing team and the company as a whole through this transformative brand change.

Beverley Foley

Director of Store Development || farm boy What are your greatest career achievements? Throughout my 22 years with Farm Boy, there have been many highlights. I started as a meat wrapper and became a department manager after a year and half with the company. Four years later, I was a store manager. I moved on to become a retail specialist and procurement manager for our deli, cheese and kitchen departments. I managed to surpass company sales and profit targets in all three departments four years in a row. Six years ago, I was promoted to

the frozen ready-to-eat meals segment through the launch of a robust innovation pipeline across different brands and platforms. My relentless work paid off and has set a precedent for the most innovation launches in the history of Conagra Canada, and is contributing to business performance. We are changing the way consumers perceive frozen foods. I also pioneered and head up the Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Conagra with the mission of empowering women professionally. As the group head, I have the privilege to set the strategy to help promote inclusivity and diversity, as well as creating a brave and safe space for employees to network, collaborate and grow together. What do you like most about your job? I like that it provides a continuous learning opportunity. Also, working with amazing, talented people and the opportunity to influence consumers’ behaviour through food.

project manager of store development. In a matter of six years, I managed the opening of 16 new Farm Boy stores [across Ontario]. Now, as a newly appointed director of store development, I feel my greatest career highlights are still to come, and the next challenge will be my next achievement. What is your best quality? Over my career, my best quality has been my ability to reflect on my own performance and hold myself accountable. We can always strive to do it better tomorrow. In my current position, I like to think my best quality is adaptability to any situation. There is no “it can’t be done” in my vocabulary because I believe there is always a way! Advice for others? Remember to teach, coach and mentor the next generations. Let their success be your success and then let them teach you.

Marie-Claude Bacon Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications

is proud to recognize four of its team members for their leadership, innovation, dedication and contribution to the grocery industry.

Congratulations to all the winners of Canadian Grocers’ Star Women in Grocery Awards!

Christina BĂŠdard Vice President, eCommerce and Digital Strategy

Philippa MacLeod Director, Merchandising Planning & Analytics Customer Intelligence

Katherine McDonald Store Manager, Food Basics

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2020 Star Women in Grocery

conversationalist, I always aim to communicate in a considerate manner with transparency and sincerity.

Brittany Ford Account Executive  || carlton cards

How did you get into the card business? I shifted from a science education to a career in sales, beginning with positions in retail management followed by account management. It quickly became clear that Carlton Cards was an excellent fit when I joined four years ago and, in this role, I have had the opportunity to work with grocery and pharmacy partners. Your best quality? Thoughtful communication is a quality I take pride in and continually strive to improve. While I am naturally a

Career highlight/greatest achievements? A recent career highlight was participating in a multi-year project, from early negotiations through to execution, which significantly expanded the availability of Carlton Cards across Canada. While this project was a company-wide success, it was also a personal growth opportunity for me to broaden my understanding of the business, develop my network of contacts, and garner a greater sense of accomplishment. Best advice received? Become comfortable with silence. Whether there is silence as you take a moment to gather your thoughts before responding, or silence as you wait for a response, recognize that silence can be productive and carry as much weight as words.

Brenna Gillespie

Manager of Ecommerce Operations || save-on-foods How did you get into the grocery business? To make ends meet, I took a job as a cashier in a grocery store. I had no idea that my decision to take that job would lead me to store management, merchandising, human resources, labour relations, communications and now, e-commerce. I thought it was just a job; little did I know it would evolve into a career that I absolutely love. Biggest challenge faced in your career? COVID-19 was a challenge like no other. I’m very fortunate to

the job, and, as it turned out, it was one of the best jobs I have ever had, and it launched me into the career I have today.

Carol Henry

Director of Human Resources || longo’s Best career advice you’ve ever received? Be open to new opportunities, and whatever you do, no matter how small or unimportant the job may seem, do it confidently with your head held high. After graduating from university, I had a difficult time figuring out my next career move. When I was offered a role that I wasn’t sure about accepting because of a negative pre-conceived notion I had, my mentor told me, “If you can’t look someone in the eye and tell them what you do proudly, then that job is not for you.” I took 24  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

Your best quality? I love coaching and encouraging others to be the best they can be. I think I do that in all my interactions with others, even when I’m not aware of it. It’s part of who I am and what I think I’m put on Earth to do. Career highlight? Perhaps one of the greatest highlights has been the growth and development of various individuals I have had the privilege to lead over the years. I’ve been able to work with very talented people who have also helped and challenged me to grow as a leader. Favourite part of your job? I love the freedom I have to bring my passion for innovation and learning to work every day, knowing that I will get the support, guidance and feedback needed to get things done.

Lisa Jones

Director of Sales – Ontario/ Atlantic || sleeman How did you get into the beer business? Funnily enough, I would have never imagined myself in the beer business. When I started with Sleeman, I didn’t even drink beer. I was working for Unilever and had a job posting sent my way by a co-worker. With nothing to lose, I went for the interview. I left Sleeman that day thinking I needed to work there. The comradery, strong work ethic and amazing products are definitely a winning combination. Best advice ever received?

work with an incredible group of highly committed individuals that all pulled together under difficult circumstances and they absolutely knocked it out of the park! In a few short weeks we increased our fleet, hired and trained well over 100 drivers, and revamped all our processes and procedures to ensure the safety of our team, customers and the communities we serve. I am very proud of the amazing work our team has done to ensure we were and are able to get groceries to people when they needed it most. What do you like most about your job? Whether it’s increasing sales, margins and productivity at retail or reducing grievances and resolving conflicts in labour relations, or finding efficiencies in e-commerce operations, I love the sport of the job as well as the art of coaching the team to be more satisfied, productive and profitable.

Do not be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. My father immigrated to Canada from Italy in 1965 with very little. He worked hard his entire life to provide for our family and build a successful business in the welding industry. My father pushed me to be my best, be curious and never give up. In every job I have ever had I’ve tried to go above and beyond, doing more, helping more and being more. Career highlight? A highlight of my career is the partnership we formed with Sobeys in 2017 to grow the beer and cider category in their stores. They are an incredible partner to work with and a leader in the industry. This was also the first partnership of its kind for Sleeman, which was very special. Also, becoming a sales leader in a predominantly male industry has been a huge achievement for me.


Nathalie Cusson Vice President, Fluid Milk on winning a Star Women Award from the team at Lactalis Canada.

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2020 Star Women in Grocery

alongside Metro, I took on a role within the business to build out the new customer intelligence division in Ontario.

Leadership style/philosophy? Lead with service, not your title. You can’t lead without people who are willing to follow you, and you won’t win their trust if you don’t put them first.

Angie Kim

Sr. Director, Finance  || loblaw companies ltd. How did you get into the grocery business? I worked as a consultant for the Canadian Convenience Stores Association for a number of years, which opened my eyes to the greater retail industry. By stroke of luck or fate, I stumbled upon a booth hosted by Loblaw in one of the retail trade shows when they were looking for a business development representative for their wholesale division. Even though I was new to the grocery business, Loblaw valued my ability to make authentic connections and brought me into the team.

Greatest achievement? I spent close to four months volunteering on the front line to help our store teams through the COVID-19 crisis. As exhausted and fearful as I often was, the experience allowed me to grow, both personally and professionally—which I would consider a great reward on its own. But through amazing support from my peers and customers, my story also caught the attention of established publications such as Forbes and Financial Times that wanted to recognize the spirit of service, courage and leadership. No words can describe how proud I felt to represent and celebrate our brave men and women who are the true heroes of the pandemic.

Philippa MacLeod Director, Merchandising Planning & Analytics Customer Intelligence  || metro

How did you get into the grocery business? I entered grocery through the world of analytics, working for data consultancy Dunnhumby in the United Kingdom. I spent the first two years working with the Tesco business and its CPG partners to leverage insights in retail planning. In 2012, I jumped at the opportunity to come to Canada with Dunnhumby, to work on the Metro business in leveraging data. In 2019, after years working

first step, and I’m excited about what’s to come as we look into other sustainable solutions.

Julia Mallett

Manager Retail Operations, Customer Experience & Learning & Development || sobeys Career highlight? Sobeys was recently the first national grocer to eliminate single-use plastic checkout bags. Leading the transition for our store operations team and saying goodbye to 225 million plastic bags annually was one of the proudest moments in my 14 years with Sobeys. It takes everyone to be part of the solution and find new ways to drive real and meaningful changes in our communities. Eliminating plastic checkout bags is only our 26  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

Biggest challenge faced in your career? A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work out west for a year, which meant many trips across the country and time away from family and friends. Instead of focusing on what I was missing at home, I took the opportunity to develop new skills and expand my network while also exploring the West Coast. Taking advantage of different opportunities outside of my comfort zone has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. Favourite part of your job? It is always changing and evolving. Every day brings a new challenge, adventure and opportunity to learn, grow and build new relationships. I’m proud to work for a company that prioritizes supporting our communities, sustainability, and diversity and inclusion.

Rhonda Mitchell Consumer Development, Director of Strategy  || unilever canada

How did you get into the CPG business? After graduating from university and college I was offered a role at Lipton Foods (now Unilever Canada) and my father, a successful entrepreneur, encouraged me to pursue it. He believed CPG was a vital industry that played a pivotal role in the lives of consumers. I took his advice, joined Lipton, and I haven’t looked back! What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

Greatest career achievement? One of my greatest achievements is playing a role in establishing data analytics as “table stakes” in merchandising decisions and processes—an accomplishment that has been the accumulation of many people, projects, processes and leaders. Over my years in Canada, I have seen evolution in the appetite and application of analytics at Metro, and like to think I have played a role in helping to shape this journey. Best advice ever received? Your career path is in your own hands. To shape this, you need to seek out learning, stretch your own comfort zone and build out your network. Sometimes the path may not flow as you originally expected, but embrace the journey and find the learning opportunities along the way.

A few years ago I was offered an incredible opportunity to move from a well-established and well-defined position to play a pivotal role in a somewhat risky transformational project. At the time I was excited about the opportunity, but equally nervous about whether the project would succeed. In the end, the project did not fully materialize, but the insight and experience gained during the 18 months was invaluable. It completely changed how I approach a challenge or setback. Looking back, it was one of the best career moves I’ve ever made. Career highlight? My current role really brings together my collective experience over the last 20-plus years—it’s truly a career highlight to lead an integrated team of more than 40 people across shopper marketing, sales operations, deductions management, in-store visualization and trade marketing functions.

Congratulations, Danielle! On your Star Women in Grocery Award Your boundless energy, positivity, experience, drive and commitment to business objectives set the bar high for the entire organization. Your calm and focused leadership during COVID-19 has been exemplary and has inspired all of us. You are an exceptional role model and the entire Kraft Heinz Canada team is extremely proud of this signiďŹ cant achievement. Passionate People like you help Spark Happiness at Every Canadian Table! Danielle Nguyen, Plant Manager, Mont Royal

As a founding sponsor of the Star Women in Grocery Awards, Kraft Heinz Canada congratulates all recipients on this outstanding achievement.

Congratulations, Kelly! On your Star Women in Grocery Award From consumer insights to product development, your positive attitude and collaborative leadership style mean high engagement from customers to consumers to your team members. Your optimism and can-do approach show that you lead by example. The entire Kraft Heinz Canada team is extremely proud of this significant achievement. Passionate People like you help Spark Happiness at Every Canadian Table! Kelly Fleming, Vice President, Marketing

As a founding sponsor of the Star Women in Grocery Awards, Kraft Heinz Canada congratulates all recipients on this outstanding achievement.

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Shirley Mukerjea Sr. Marketing Director – Frito Lay Core Brands || pepsico canada

Proudest moment? Being nominated by my team early in my career as a people leader for the PepsiCo Canada Coach of the Year award. It meant a lot to know I had impact helping others unleash their potential and helping them feel confident. One of my favourite quotes (introduced to me by my dad and credited to Tony Adams of Arsenal Football Club) has been a mantra for me professionally: “Play for the name on the front of the shirt, and they’ll remember the name on the back.”

Danielle Nguyen

Plant Manager || kraft heinz canada

How did you get into the CPG business? My background is grounded in science, having received my Bachelor of Engineering degree from Concordia University in 2004. I held various roles at pharmaceutical and CPG companies prior to joining Kraft Heinz in 2019. What do you like most about your job? Ikigai is the Japanese concept of “reason for being” (do what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs and get paid for it). There is a 30  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

2020 Star Women in Grocery

Career highlights? Some of my marketing career highlights involve campaigns that were consumer-centric, captured “Canadiana” and told stories in bold and unexpected ways. On Tropicana, for instance, we brought “the sun” (a large balloon that simulated the 100,000 lumens of the sun) to Inuvik, N.W.T., during the winter when it experiences 24-hour darkness. The campaign received the Cannes Gold Lion. On Gatorade, we celebrated Canada’s game by surprising a team of competitive sledge hockey athletes with NHL superstars like Sidney Crosby, who joined them in a game of sledge hockey. The campaign won a Clio Sports Marketing Award. Best part of your job? The people. Yes, the powerhouse brands and incredible opportunities to have broad and deep career experiences brought me to PepsiCo, but I stay because of the bright, passionate and amazing people I get to work with every day.

passion inside all of us, a unique talent that gives meaning to our days and drives us to share the best version of ourselves. I’m very fortunate to have discovered my ikigai at my job. As a plant director, I’m responsible for all activities in the factory—from safety to supply chain operations to people. Each day, I show up with positive energy and passion to inspire and position my team members to succeed and grow to their full potential. Biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? 2020 has been one of the most challenging years because of COVID-19. Our challenge at the factory is to keep our people safe and to inspire trust by over-communicating both internally and externally, while helping to feed Canada without supply disruptions. To lead effectively during the pandemic, we have had to make smart choices quickly by thinking and communicating clearly and then executing flawlessly.

Leona Neill

Director of Marketing and Packaging || red sun farms How did you get into the CPG business? I was introduced to the food industry through an internship with Hershey Canada. This introduction sparked a passion for CPG and launched a 26-year career with positions in industry-leading companies like Unilever, Kraft Heinz and now Red Sun Farms. Across all these experiences, the common thread is an industry filled with incredible people with generations of knowledge to share. The opportunities are there to learn, making each day a unique experience.

Sadie Park

Property Manager  || colemans How did you get into the grocery business? After stepping away from my career for five years to raise my children, the opportunity arose to accept the role of executive assistant to the president of Colemans Group of Companies. I was eager to join the tightknit family-run grocer that I had grown up frequenting, and that I knew exemplified the community values of my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Career highlight/greatest achievements? In 2019, I stepped

Career highlight/greatest achievements? My proudest career achievements are all about innovation. Packaging plays such an important role in functionality to consumers in protecting our foods and protecting our environment. I’ve been blessed to be part of many game-changing packaging redesigns that all presented unique challenges and opportunities, from developing displayready packaging for Unilever, to high-acid baby food pouches with Heinz, and now compostable punnets and PLUs for produce. What do you like most about your job? The people, the challenge and the sense of accomplishment. I also enjoy being part of an industry that provides families with healthy meal options throughout all stages of life. Through food we are part of people’s lives, their celebrations, comfort and nourishment.

into the position of property manager for the entire chain. This transition into a more operational role allowed me to develop and hone new skill sets as I was faced with unique challenges every day. A challenge no one had anticipated was COVID-19. It quickly became apparent that our front-line workers needed to feel safe to continue working. I was consumed by brainstorming ways to ensure both employee and customer protection and had the idea to install Lexan glass barriers around each cash register. After confirming that this method would be effective, our team rapidly installed the protective barriers in all Colemans grocery stores across the province. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from staff and customers. Your best quality? I see it as essential to treat everyone within the company with equal respect and kindness, no matter their role on the spectrum of business hierarchy.

Congratulations Angie Kim on being named a 2020 Star Women in Grocery Award winner! Your hard work, passion and dedication to the grocery retail industry inspire us all daily. From your family at Loblaw Companies Limited.

Rising stars

Arlee Rosenberg Director, eCommerce  || nestlé canada

How did you get into the CPG business? I’ve been working for Nestlé for over a decade, although my roles have evolved over the years. I actually started in sales, working primarily on the Walmart account. I then moved to the marketing group and spent four years working on our coffee business. From there I developed a passion for e-commerce—our e-commerce business was growing rapidly, I was gaining expertise in this area, and felt like I could contribute to it. I’ve been with e-commerce ever since and

2020 Star Women in Grocery

have really enjoyed it, and I was fortunate enough to be promoted to director earlier this year.

COVID-19. This initiative helped supply food to front-line workers and at-risk community members.

Biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? When I switched to the e-commerce team we were a team of one (me). We’re now up to eight full-time members. Getting to where we are today has been incredibly challenging. We’ve overcome many obstacles through hard work and the strength of our team and our leadership. I’m proud to say that over the last four years we’ve built up our group into an integral— and rapidly growing—part of the business.

Biggest challenge faced in your career? Definitely the biggest challenge has been COVID-19. We were one of the few industries that became an essential service, which meant more than 100% growth in a matter of weeks. My team and I worked on communication plans to help all our existing and new customers navigate online groceries and in-store shopping, while experiencing the issues that all grocery stores were facing at the height of the pandemic. We needed to pivot away from all of our planned marketing messages and focus on daily communication to our customers on changes and updates we were making to serve as many people as possible.

Best career advice you’ve ever received? Work hard but don’t take the work home with you. I think it’s really important to take time to decompress, because if you’re going hard 24/7 you will end up burning out, and that won’t help anyone.

Arndrea Scott

Director of Retail Marketing and Creative Strategy || and blush lane organic market

Greatest career achievements? Some of my greatest career achievements to date have been working with my team to build out sustainability as the top initiative in our company. We put the customer first and then factor in the most sustainable way we can promote, package and deliver food to those customers. The Stay Home box program is another achievement I’m proud of. We launched Stay Home boxes in April during the height of

areas at Federated Co-op, another highlight was the work I did with the development of our sustainable seafood policy.

Lisa SparrowMoellenbeck

Food Safety Manager  || federated co-operatives limited

Greatest career achievements? One career achievement has been the development of various food safety programs over the years, including documented standard operating procedures and training programs to guide the operations for food safety practices. Another achievement was the development of crisis management manuals for handling various situations that may arise in the grocery and food business. Since I am lucky to be involved in many 32  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

Proudest moment? There are many, but most recently I am proud of the leadership I provided to our food team and grocery retailers through the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation was changing so quickly, sometimes by the minute, and I was able to provide meaningful information, guidance and recommendations to our teams during this uncertain time. Just knowing that what I contributed made the circumstances easier for our teams makes me proud. Leadership style? I believe in working together and considering the opinions, thoughts and feedback from all team members to achieve the best result. I also believe a collaborative approach helps team members develop in their roles and can help create engagement and buy-in with all.

Erin Towns

Sales Director || kellogg canada

What do you think is your best quality? I work very hard to create an environment where my team members feel like they can bring their ideas and be heard. I expect my team to challenge each other as much as I challenge them, but in a respectful way that brings out the best in all of us. Career highlight/greatest achievements? Innovation has been the most gratifying part of what I have accomplished in the past 14 years at Kellogg Canada. There’s nothing like working

Your best quality? My positive and outgoing attitude. Instead of seeing problems, I look for solutions.

through the challenges of bringing a new product to market, and then feeling the success of seeing it on the shelf and especially in customers’ carts. The launch of Keebler Crackers at Loblaw in 2018 is one of the more notable initiatives for me. That specific launch created a path to launch Cheez-It Crackers in Canada across all [retail] customers. What do you like most about your job? I’m very fortunate to work with great people. People have made the difference in my career. My team is exceptionally supportive and positive. I work with great customer partners, and I’ve been able to coach and mentor some amazing people. I’ve also been lucky to be on the receiving end of great coaches and mentors. Overall, I thoroughly enjoy working with my teammates and colleagues across the organization.

Kellogg Canada is proud to recognize our very own sales leaders Erin Towns and Wendy Woods for their outstanding leadership, innovation and contributions to the grocery industry. Congratulations to you and all the 2020 Star Women in Grocery aWard WinnerS maKing a differenCe.

Wendy Woods

Director, Customer Marketing A 25+-year Kellogg veteran, Wendy Woods is a seasoned, courageous and respected leader who consistently drives for results. Her strategic, collaborative approach and laser focus on delighting our customers, shoppers and consumers inspire us every day.

erin Towns

Sales Director, Team Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart With almost 15 years experience at Kellogg Canada, Erin Towns is a well-respected, solutions-oriented sales leader who brings a well-honed strategic mindset to her role. Her dedication and commitment to our people, our customers and our business is second to none.

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2020 Star Women in Grocery

and coach many talented people. Seeing those people promoted and excel in their careers is something I consider a personal achievement as well.

Wendy Woods

Director of Customer Marketing || kellogg canada Greatest career achievements? Having 26 fantastic years with Kellogg is one of my biggest career achievements. I am a very proud employee and I’ve been fortunate to have several unique and challenging roles with the same company. Throughout the years, I have split my career between various sales and marketing roles, and worked on many global teams, which provided a great opportunity to meet and learn from so many diverse and talented people. I’ve also had the opportunity to recruit

Favourite part of your job? I am driven by the fast-paced environment of sales—managing multiple priorities and working as part of a commercial team. I love seeing strategies come to life with our retailers, our shoppers and our consumers. I also find it very rewarding to see them embrace initiatives I’ve helped to develop. Biggest challenge faced in your career? I’d say my biggest challenge is work-life balance—how to prioritize both my family and demands of my job. I work hard to set a good example for my family, living by the “be here now” mantra and demonstrating that I can do both. With their help, we make it all work.

challenges, it has been incredibly intense and interesting so far.

Marie-Claude Bacon

VP, Public Affairs and Com­munications  || metro Greatest career highlights? I feel lucky to have had a rich career at Metro with many opportunities. The projects that have been highlights include my role in the announcement of Metro’s major acquisitions: A&P Canada in 2005 and The Jean Coutu Group in 2018, as well as the Première Moisson and Adonis partnerships. I also have no doubt that working through this pandemic will be a career highlight and achievement. While there is still more work to do and we’re all still facing

What is your leadership style? I put an emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. As in a team sport, the goal is to bring together all the expertise to reach a common goal. This refers to a pillar of our Metro business strategy that we call “Best Team.” It is also the one that I am most passionate about because I know we have an excellent team at Metro. Advice for others? Don’t hesitate to invest in your own development. It is so critical to continue with training opportunities and special projects, find a mentor and collaborate with colleagues and superiors. Above all, ask for and listen to feedback from your managers and colleagues because there’s always room for improvement. It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to achieve your ambitions, but it’s worth it.

learned all there is to know about distribution, and being profitable. In 2007, I started as a buyer with H.Y. Louie (now Georgia Main Food Group). I was able to bring all those transferrable skills and apply them to the retail grocery business.

Joyce Young

Leader, Category Management || georgia main food group

How did you get into the grocery business? There have been a diverse variety of roles that led me into the grocery business. After college I started working for Raimac Food Store Equipment. Being a small sales organization, I was exposed to every aspect of the business, and completed accounting and marketing courses. I moved into a sale’s role at Serca in 2000 (now Gordon Food Service). A position came up in the marketing department as a buyer, and that’s where I 34  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

Your best quality? I’m thankful to my father for instilling my work ethic, honesty, integrity and loyalty. He once told me, “Wear your uniform (which was a polyester Dairy Queen one at the time) on the bus home and be proud that you have a job.” Favourite part of your job? I love meeting with local entrepreneurs and listening to them pitch what they have created from the ground up. I love collaborating on launch plans and working through all the details to execute at store level. These fabulous entrepreneurs light up when they see it all come together, and they feel like they have made it; they feel successful.

The Canadian Grocer team congratulates all of the 2020 Star Women

Bimbo Canada is pleased to recognize

Marie-Eve Royer, Senior Vice President, Business Transformation, for her leadership, passion and commitment to the grocery industry.

Leading Bimbo Canada’s long-term strategic initiatives, Marie-Eve has accelerated the company’s business transformation, aligning our Commercial and Supply Chain functions. She drives change, helps the business adopt new behaviours and introduces disruptive thinking that has built an agile and responsive business.

Delicious and nutritious baked goods and snacks in the hands of all. Every meal. Every day. MD

We are proud to celebrate and recognize our Star Women! Kerry Tompson – Vice President of Talent & Inclusion Kerry is innovative, customer-driven and willing to set bold ambitions to drive results. Since she joined Sobeys Inc. in 2018, Kerry has worked tirelessly to ensure the company’s people practices were “best in class” so that Sobeys could attract and retain the best talent. In 2020, when the company faced the COVID-19 pandemic, Kerry, together with a dedicated team, rallied to create a national Talent Acquisition SWAT team, employment branding and labour dashboard to ensure our stores were supported to serve families during a difficult time.

Vittoria Varalli – Vice President of Sustainability and Chief of Staff to the CEO As a future- oriented strategy driver, Vittoria is highly skilled at building consensus and mobilizing action plans as the retail industry evolves. Vittoria’s commitment to reducing avoidable plastic in grocery retail has already created a lasting impact. In July 2019, under Vittoria’s direction, Sobeys Inc. was the first national grocer to announce it would eliminate single-use plastic grocery bags at all banner locations in Canada, starting with its 255 Sobeys stores, taking 225 million plastic bags out of circulation annually.

Julia Mallett - Manager Retail Operations, Atlantic Division Julia is knowledgeable, passionate and solution-orientated. She does not hesitate to find opportunities for improvement, whether they be for the industry, our stores or our customers. Focused on serving the total team, Julia actively works towards identifying root cause issues and solutioning them, helping to improve internal processes, communications and reporting which benefits everyone. Recently, Julia worked diligently with the strategic sourcing of key supplies to assist with pandemic safety measures.

Alice Warner - Store Manager, Safeway McBride, New Westminster, BC Alice is a store operations professional with a unique leadership style that inspires strong team engagement, customer loyalty and community recognition. She is a committed advocate for the advancement of leadership opportunities for talented women in store-level grocery operations at Sobeys. Alice is dedicated to mentoring her store staff to pursue career development opportunities, and has committed her time and energy in helping to establish Sobeys’ Women’s Inclusion Network in B.C.

Suzanne Horner - Store Manager, SobeysWest River Road, Pictou, NS Suzanne’s depth of store operations experience and an approachable and highly motivating leadership style have been essential to building strong workplace engagement and business performance. A key element to her success is a commitment in creating opportunities to welcome and advance diverse talent within her community to support operational success. Her inclusive hiring experiences have brought process improvements and identified areas to improve accessibility within her store that have resulted in more inclusive experiences for both employees and customers.

Leslie Robb - Store Manager, Safeway Fort St John, Fort St John, BC Leslie is a strong, experienced business and community leader who goes above and beyond to support her store teams as an authentic role model and mentor of individuals in early stages of their careers. As a member of Sobeys’ Alberta Women’s Inclusion Network, she has undertaken a deep interest in supporting advancement of female professionals in her store and within her operating district, and boasts a high-performing and accomplished team of department managers that consistently contribute to operational success.

Congratulations and thank you to Kerry, Vittoria, Julia, Suzanne, Leslie and Alice from all 127,000 of your teammates at Sobeys. We are so proud of your dedication to driving innovation, inclusivity and excellence at Sobeys Inc. and in the Canadian grocery retail industry.

Senior level stars

Christina Bédard VP, eCommerce & Digital Strategy || metro

Proudest work achievement? I am most proud of the incubator working culture I have contributed to create in growing our e-­commerce business. It has allowed us to be agile as we continuously test, learn and adapt based on results and customer expectations that are changing fast as they embrace digital. As a result, we’ve been able to help simplify the lives of our customers through a fully personalized digital ecosystem suited to their individual needs and behaviours.

Biggest challenge in your career? The biggest challenge I’ve faced was the launch of the metro&moi loyalty program in 2010. It was the first time in my career that I had the opportunity to lead a multi-disciplinary team on a large-scale project. It was both extremely challenging and rewarding because it gave me the chance to develop my leadership skills. I feel extremely proud to have been part of the team that launched a loyalty program that today is still considered best in class in Canada. Favourite part of your job? My job combines retail, food and digital, and I love that all three areas are in continuous evolution. Digital provides so many opportunities to better serve our customers and allow them to easily access and enjoy products they like. I love my job!

2020 Star Women in Grocery

fluid division—a business of more than $700 million in turnover, with nationally renowned brands such as Lactantia and Beatrice.

Nathalie Cusson VP, Dairy Fluid  || lactalis canada

How did you get into the CPG business? At the age of 15, my very first job was in a grocery store working as a cashier. After university, I decided to get back into the food industry. It’s a dynamic industry that fits well with my personality. I joined Parmalat Canada (now Lactalis Canada) 20 years ago as a sales representative. Since then, I have progressed through a variety of roles in sales, culminating in my current role as vice-president, dairy fluid, leading the sales function of the Lactalis Canada

Taste Elevation Business Unit.

Kelly Fleming

Head of Grocery/VP Marketing || kraft heinz canada

How did you get into the CPG business? My first taste of the CPG world was during internships at Molson Coors and Kraft Foods. I was instantly attracted to working on brands that play a role in people’s lives every day. I was hungry to make an impact and jumped at the opportunity to join Kraft, the pioneer of comfort foods, right out of university. Over the last decade I’ve held various marketing roles, and most recently transitioned from “Sauce Boss” to head of the newly formed 38  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

What do you think is your best quality? A positive attitude. Having an optimistic perspective has allowed me to lead with enthusiasm and encouragement, while also giving me the confidence to take chances as I know I’ll be able to persevere no matter what the outcome. Career highlight/greatest achievement? A career highlight was surpassing the billion-dollar mark for my portfolio, being responsible for over half of Canada’s profit. Yet, something that still excites me to this day is seeing innovation on the shelf. From my first product launch (Delissio Garlic Bread Bruschetta Pizza!) to our most recent Kraft Hazelnut, it’s a journey from consumer insights to product development, and takes a tremendous amount of effort from a cross-functional team. It feels like a decade of achievements when I watch a consumer pull our products off the shelf.

Proudest moment? A defining moment in my career came immediately after I was promoted to my current role. I was responsible for leading several business negotiations that could have had a significant impact on the success of our business. It was my first mandate as the head of our commercial division, and it came at a very challenging and competitive time in our industry. I was extremely proud to finalize all of these negotiations with positive outcomes for the company and even stronger partnerships with our customers. Best advice you ever received? Have faith in yourself, believe you can do it and, most importantly, you deserve it! It seems so basic but the first step to success is self-esteem.

and challenge usually brings out the best in us. When I embrace challenge, when I turn problems upside down, when I seek inputs from a variety of people, when I truly listen, I find that I end up in a much better place than if everything were smooth sailing.

Catherine O’Brien Sr. VP of Corporate Affairs || nestlé canada

Best advice received? I think as we all develop in our careers, we can periodically suffer from “imposter syndrome” and someone very wise once reminded me that regardless of who you are in front of, you are the expert of what you are going to say. You bring knowledge and experience to the table and people want to hear your point of view. That has served me well in many situations. Biggest challenge in your career? I find that challenges are really just precursors to opportunity

How would you describe your leadership style/philosophy? When you surround yourself with great people like we have at Nestlé, leadership is really about three things: be accountable to have your words match your actions, set a high bar for yourself and others and support those around you to be successful. A fundamental truth is everyone wants to be great and it’s my job to encourage and support and then get out of the way. Anything else you’d like to say? Having our products on our customers’ shelves and in the cupboards in Canadians' homes is a huge honour, and every day I am grateful to be a small part of it.


to Stephanie Ames, Brenna Gillespie and Carla Turnbull for their outstanding leadership, commitment and contribution to Save-On-Foods and the entire grocery industry. Congratulations to all of the 2020 Star Women in Grocery Award winners.


Shilpa Bains! Country Manager, Human Resources


Senior level stars

Marie-Eve Royer Sr. VP, Transformation  || bimbo canada

Best advice received? During my career, I have had the privilege of working with many outstanding mentors. The best advice I received was that you’re only as good as your team. People are at the heart of the organization and you need a high-performing and agile team that is focused on consumer needs, which is critical to success. How did you get into the grocery business? When I graduated university, I knew I wanted to work in the food sector, so I

Vittoria Varalli

VP, Sustainability and Chief of Staff || sobeys. How did you get into the grocery business? Food has always been a passion of mine. My dad manufactures frozen Italian food, so I spent much of my childhood exploring the frozen food section of grocery stores. As a retail consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, I worked on the Empire [Sobeys’ parent] account. After working with the company on its Project Sunrise transformation, I fell in love with the culture. When the opportunity arose to work for a visionary CEO like Michael Medline, I couldn’t pass 40  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

joined the Leadership Management Training Program at Maple Leaf Foods, which, at the time, owned Canada Bread. It is an outstanding program that gave me the opportunity to work in various functions across the company including supply chain, marketing, sales across Montreal, Toronto and the United Kingdom to gain broad-based experience. Twenty years later, I am still with the same organization, now called Bimbo Canada, and I am now the executive sponsor of that same program. I take a lot of pride in feeding Canada. Biggest challenge of your career? The disruption our industry is going through right now with the pandemic is definitely one of the biggest challenges I have faced. It forces us to be even more agile, break down silos and adapt quickly. I don’t see it as a challenge though, but an opportunity to accelerate even more our transformation journey.

2020 Star Women in Grocery

Kerry Tompson VP, Talent and Inclusion || sobeys

Proudest moments? My proudest moments have been when I have worked with a committed team to take on a very significant challenge—where the path wasn’t clear, but we had a common purpose and vision to make that happen. Setting up a national talent acquisition function to support our stores through COVID in a matter of a couple weeks is a good example; we were in it together to serve Canadians. What’s your leadership style/ philosophy? I am a collaborative

leader, and love bringing team members together who have diverse perspectives and talents, and leveraging strengths for a better outcome. My goal is to support, enable and challenge teams to reach their potential, meeting team members where they are at in their journey, and creating a safe space to talk about challenges and “be real.” Important for me is knowing what gets team members out of bed in the morning, and to harness that passion and conviction. Career highlight/achievement? I have found the biggest challenges have been career highlights. Most of my career has been in the transformation space, and working with leaders/organizations and teams to define a vision, and then create the collaboration structures to achieve that vision. My career highlights have always involved developing amazing teams who rally together to make a difference.

on it. After a few career pivots, it makes sense that I found my way back to my passion: food.

follow their dreams and help make a much bigger impact for those around you.

What is your proudest moment? In January 2020, I led the elimination of single-use plastic grocery bags at our 255 Sobeys stores across Canada. We were the first national grocer to make a bold move on single-use plastic bags. As a result of this initiative, we removed 225 million plastic bags out of circulation annually. Empire’s entire family of brands is committed to follow suit over the next few years. This initiative has undoubtedly been one of the proudest moments of my career so far.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? The biggest challenge was giving up the comforts of a great career, and bootstrapping to create a new company as a single mom. Even when you may not have all the answers, steer away from non-­ believers in your vision, stay the course, and believe in yourself and your goals. Be resourceful, and surround yourself with positive, like-minded supporters.

What is your best quality? Staying calm and focused in chaotic situations has been invaluable to me throughout my career and was especially important during the early days of the pandemic. The journey isn’t always pretty, but if you stay calm and focused, you’ll find the way.

Andrea Watson President and ceo  || nature knows

What are you proudest of? Taking the risk to leave my corporate job and build Nature Knows from the ground up, with the mission to help everyone live healthier lives, and help save our planet at the same time. I’m also proud when my daughter gets excited to attend events with me or wants to share our story. As I hear in her own style why and how we should eat well and choose plant-based packaging, it truly is the most rewarding feeling to see the legacy I’m helping create for her to inspire women to

What is your leadership style/ philosophy? Serving others, community and collaboration. Supporting the people around you and with you will always make the greater impact. It’s also about tenacity, creativity, and the drive to get into the weeds and make it happen.


JOYCE YOUNG Leader, Category Management

Photo Credit: Jamie Culpo

Store level stars

Stephanie Ames

Store Manager, Kimberley, B.C. || save-on-foods How did you get into the grocery business? I was brand new in my community and was looking for work that would be meaningful in my life. I soon realized that my personality and skill set were perfect for the grocery industry and I flourished in the store environment. I was very driven and took on a lot of responsibility early on, which helped jump-start my career. Career highlight/greatest achievements? I have been fortunate in my 11 years with

Katherine McDonald

Store Manager, Food Basics, Midland, Ont. || metro Proudest moment? My proudest career moment was becoming a store manager in 2017. I started with the company 24 years ago as a part-time cashier, and have held several roles through the years. Becoming a store manager was a goal I set out to achieve early in my career. Another proud moment was in 2018, when my store in Midland, Ont. won Metro’s Q4 Customer Promises Award. I’ve always been customer service-oriented, so I was very proud of this recognition. 42  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

2020 Star Women in Grocery

Save-On-Foods to have opportunities to get involved in many different initiatives. I am a regional representative for our internal Inspire Network, which is aimed at empowering women and promoting diversity in our organization. Today in Kimberley, B.C., we are in the process of building a brand new store, which has been so exciting and will be a major highlight in my career. I am extremely passionate about my role as a store manager in Kimberley. In the last four years, we have achieved some amazing results financially and culturally, and it has been the best part of my career. What do you like most about your job? I love the people. Each day I have the opportunity to grow and develop future leaders and help them achieve their career goals. I also really enjoy the fastpaced environment that tests my ability to find solutions to problems of all shapes and sizes.

Favourite part of your job? I enjoy the opportunity to be a leader—training and teaching a team of people how to excel in their roles. I have strong instincts when it comes to my team and will move employees from one department to another to help not only achieve store results, but also for the individual to maximize their own potential. What are your greatest career achievements? Over the years, I’ve played a big role in opening nearly 20 stores throughout Ontario, overseeing employee hiring and training on the front end. When Food Basics rolled out a new payroll system in 2017, I played an active role as a trainer for eight stores. I’m also really involved with the community. My store’s Toonies for Tummies is always a great success, contributing thousands of dollars to local school nutrition programs.

Suzanne Horner Store Manager, Sobeys West River, Pictou, N.S.  || sobeys

How did you get into the grocery business? I began my career at Sobeys in 1989 in the deli department at a store in Dartmouth, N.S., and quickly advanced to deli manager at two Sobeys stores. I pursued opportunities as a retail and category analyst before becoming an assistant store manager at Sobeys Tacoma Drive store, and am now manager of Sobeys West River in Pictou, N.S. Greatest career achievements? For me, achieving operational

success goes well beyond excellence in product assortment, store conditions and satisfaction. I’m committed to creating opportunities to welcome and advance diverse talent, including advancing career opportunities for women. I also look beyond job postings and connect with local community partners to find new talent. I’ve been actively involved in programs through Summer Street Industries, a local employment service provider and social enterprise dedicated to connecting diverse talent with local employers. In 2019, I engaged in a partnership with Career Connections and the Canadian National Institute of the Blind in Dartmouth to hire new talent. Leadership style? I work closely with my teams and assist them to not only achieve their personal best, but to embrace shared goals. Maintaining a passionate and co-ordinated team effort benefits everyone, including our loyal customers.

and work for an organization that not only supports me but encourages me every step of the way.

Danica Parilac

Store Manager, Longo’s Walkers Line, Burlington, Ont. || longo’s What are you proudest of? The most gratifying part of my career is helping people achieve their personal and professional goals. I’m also a strong supporter of giving back to the community. Being a leader is a gift that should never be taken for granted. Helping someone on my team reach their full potential truly brings me joy. Influencing a team to raise funds for worthy causes and to help those in need gives me purpose. I’m very fortunate that I can do those things daily,

Your best quality? Honesty. I truly believe the only way to grow and succeed is by being honest with ourselves and each other. It’s good for people, and it’s good for business. Best career advice ever received? Take care of your people, and the rest will take care of itself. Motivate them, challenge them, understand them, listen to them, learn from them, empathize with them, hold them accountable, and recognize them. In short, show them you care. Favourite part of your job? Seeing people smile, do better, and get better every day. I also enjoy accomplishing tasks, building displays, overcoming obstacles, exceeding goals, and having fun in the process.





Leona Neill

Red Sun Farms is proud

to recognize

for her leadership, passion and creativity to the grocery industry. Congratulations to all the winners of the 2020 Star Women in Grocery Award

Store level stars

2020 Star Women in Grocery

great experiences since those first days as a student, but my proudest moment was becoming a store manager in 2012.

Leslie Robb

Store Manager, Safeway || sobeys How did you get into the grocery business? I started in the grocery business when I was a high school student. At that time, I didn’t think I would still be with Safeway 43 years later, but I’ve had an amazing career along the way. Your best quality? My ability to communicate with teammates and customers. I always take the time to listen carefully, and to ensure that the directions and advice I give are clear and thoughtful.

Career highlight? Winning the International Women’s Day Award in 2020 at Sobeys was a career highlight. It was amazing to be chosen from among so many incredible women store leaders that could have also been selected. It was very humbling to be counted amongst my talented teammates. What do you like most about your job? What I enjoy most about my job is the people I work with and the customers I engage with every day. Each day is different and there is never a dull moment. In fact, I welcome the challenges that come my way. Plus, I get to make a difference in someone’s life by doing my job in the best way possible and leading by example.

Proudest moment? I’ve had many

into more senior positions within the store.

Carla Turnbull

Store Manager, SaveOn-Foods Summerwood, Sherwood Park, Alta.  || save-on-foods How did you get into the grocery business? I heard about a B.C. grocery chain opening stores in Edmonton, so I applied and was hired as a part-time clerk in one of the original four stores that opened in the early 1990s. I had a young family at the time, and the job provided me with the flexibility that I needed. I learned very quickly that I really enjoyed the work and the environment. As my children got older, I took on more responsibilities and moved

What are you proudest of? I’m proudest when I see team members that I have coached and mentored succeed in advancing their careers. I’m also proud of being able to recognize the talent and find the best way to nurture it to allow that success. Biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? My biggest challenge was overcoming my own insecurities and not believing in my own talent and skills. I had to take my learning into my own hands, ask lots of questions and take on extra tasks to build confidence in myself. I took on new roles and succeeded. Today, I feel that my skills and knowledge are an asset to my team and company. Best career advice you’ve ever received? Take care of your team and they will take care of you; and don’t be afraid to fail because you will never succeed if you don’t try.

Expo Line SkyTrain. My proudest moment, though, was becoming a store manager.

Alice Warner

Store Manager, New Westminster, B.C. Safeway || sobeys Career highlights/greatest achievements? On March 8, 2020, International Women’s Day, I received a Female Store Operator Award from Sobeys. I felt very honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious award. Another career high was opening a brand-new concept Safeway Store at the Plaza in New Westminster Station in 2011. At the time, it was considered to be a one-of-a-kind store in North America as it literally was built underneath rapid transit, the 44  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

Your best quality? My best quality as a manager is my ability to give my teammates what they need to manage the needs of the business, but also to manage their lives. I’m very intuitive, so I use that gift to reach people in their time of need and to manage my team and the store. What do you like most about your job? I love the people part of the business, building longlasting relationships with my team and my customers. I want my customers to walk into my store and have an awesome experience, whether it’s shopping for Christmas dinner or picking up some fresh local berries on a hot summer day. I really want my teammates to want to be at work. Grocery retail is hard, challenging work so it’s important for me to make the workplace an inviting place to be.  CG

Join the celebration on OCTOBER 29 For more information and registration details visit

Congratulations to stephanie and all of the winners of the

2020 star WoMen in groCerY aWarD the Piller’s Family is very proud to recognize stephanie egan for her influence, dedication, and leadership in guiding the modernization and consistency of the Piller’s brand. Your contributions to Piller’s and the grocery industry have been outstanding.

Stephanie Egan,

Director of Marketing Piller’s

Longo’s would like to recognize

Carol Henry & Danica Parilac for their dedication, leadership and voglia in the grocery industry.

Congratulations on your 2020 Star woMen awards!

Congratulations, to all 2020 Star Women Award Winners! from

Our North Star is to Spark Happiness at Every Canadian Table – and it’s driven by our Passionate People, Beloved Brands, Customer Partnership and Sustainability.

Fresh St. Market recently partnered with 20 local farms to bring hyper-local fruits and veggies into its stores every Saturday

LOCAL LOVE An appetite for locally sourced food is growing. But is it sustainable?


By Rosalind Stefanac

As the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to go on for the foreseeable future, Canadians are not only staying closer to home, they’re opting for foods produced closer to home, too. Already, more than half of Canadians (55%) say they currently buy local to support the environment and 41% would consider buying local, according to Mintel’s latest Sustainability in Food—Canada report. And as consumers settle into this new pandemic lifestyle, COVID-19’s impact on food systems is making them think twice about longer-haul imports when making produce purchases.

According to a Food Secure Canada report on Growing Resilience and Equity, released in May 2020, COVID-19 has exposed Canada’s overreliance on long-distance import/export food chains that are too vulnerable to market, labour and border disruptions. (We currently import 30% of food, yet export 50% of what we grow.) Instead, the report calls for the need to implement more resilient and diversified food systems that can “revitalize communities” and ensure access to healthy and fresh foods while supporting lower-emission food systems. Based on qualitative research, Shelley Balanko, senior vice-president at the Hartman Group, says consumers certainly are talking about a preference for regional food supply chains. “Right or wrong, there is a heightened trust now around food safety with local producers,” she says. “There’s this belief that folks producing food near you won’t put you in harm’s way, whereas there is this unknown entity on the other side of the [traditional] supply chain.” If eating local goes mainstream post-pandemic,

August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 47

however, Balanko says consumers will have to change their whole mindset around the kinds of fresh foods they can eat year-round. “Yes, more and more consumers will be paying attention to the issues of food safety and access, but as a culture we’ve gotten used to eating [fruits and vegetables] out of season,” she says. “We’ll see if this continues, but for now it’s definitely a trend to watch.” In the meantime, some grocers are already gearing

Top: Calgary Co-op launched a new local-focused brand called Cal & Gary’s; centre: Longo’s takes pride in its selection of local produce; bottom: Freson Bros. emphasizes local across departments, including cheese

48  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

up for what they expect will be a much more locally conscious consumer in the aftermath of COVID-19. In June, Fresh St. Market in British Columbia partnered with 20 local farms to bring hyper-local fresh fruits and vegetables into its five stores every Saturday. Produce category manager Aaron Usher says the Farm to Fresh St. Market program allows customers to get produce that was literally picked on a Friday for their Saturday shop. “It feels like a farmers market, as shoppers don’t quite know what they’re going to get,” he says. “We also have the ability to work with smaller farmers who may not have the capacity to service the big stores, but are still developing some unique new crops.” Usher says Fresh St. Market has always had a mandate to carry B.C.-grown foods whenever possible. But with COVID-19 he expects customers’ desire for local produce will be even stronger this summer as they continue to cook meals at home. “This program is our way to increase our customers’ access to locally grown foods while strengthening our relationship with farmers,” he explains. “Hopefully by doing this we can help, in our own small way, to move more locally grown produce through the system.” Calgary Co-op is also placing bets on a growing love of local among its more than 440,000 members. Beginning several months before the crisis, the grocer had already banked on doubling the number of local items in its stores to 2,500. Recently, it also launched two new brands—Cal & Gary’s and Founders & Farmers—with products curated specifically to local tastes. The brands feature items like Alberta-raised beef burgers, local produce and breads; even product names play on local “Calgaryisms,” such as Stampede City Trail Mix. The co-op’s senior director of private brands, Chris Gruber, says the advantage in creating product lines like these is an ability to “create a much deeper connection with our members looking for high quality and unique, local attributes” when it comes to the groceries they purchase. In addition to the 600 products launched already, members can also expect another 250 fresh and frozen private-label items this fall, centred around entertaining in the festive season. Ken Keelor, CEO of Calgary Co-op, says one silver lining to the pandemic has been an opportunity for locally sourced foods and private labels like these to really grow. “The sentiment among our members is that they want to invest their dollars in the local economy now more than ever,” he says, noting there is sense of reliability and trust inherent to buying locally sourced items. “[Our members] know these suppliers and can even drive by their premises.” Across the pond, the pandemic has prompted several U.K. retailers to place a heavy emphasis on promoting local, too. Waitrose is helping support local artisan cheesemakers by offering a special cheese selection box filled with British cheeses, while Morrison’s is offering British food boxes filled with local meats, dairy and vegetables. It’s then donating one


Local love


British pound sterling (about C$1.72) from each box that it sells back to local farming charities. PRICE A KEY FACTOR FOR MAINSTREAM GROWTH Yet even with consumers’ growing interest in locally sourced foods, analysts say value will play a key factor in whether this trend goes mainstream and takes root long-term, especially as economies continue to suffer post-COVID and people tighten their budgets for the foreseeable future. While there may have been a perception pre-pandemic that consumers should pay a premium for local because it costs more to produce, Hartman Group’s Balanko says shoppers these days will be putting their money where they see good value and placing a greater focus on “conscious consumption.” She notes: “COVID has shone a light on injustice issues and marginalized groups and there is this sense that it is no longer OK for food that is healthier and local to cost more.” Joel Gregoire, Mintel’s associate director of food & drink in Canada, points out that even if more consumers demand locally sourced foods at lower prices, a lack of supply could make that unsustainable. “There has been a lot written already about farming challenges in finding people to pick produce and keeping workers from abroad safe,” he says. “Plus, part of sustainability when it comes to food is making sure those doing the work are paid a decent wage.” He expects the changes we’ll see in food choices post-pandemic will centre more around how food is presented (such as online delivery) rather than food types. “I’m not overly convinced that these behaviours people have adopted during COVID will remain once we get past the pandemic,” he says. “Eating behaviour is almost glacial in how it changes—it doesn’t happen overnight.” More than locally sourced foods, shoppers will be looking for transparency with sustainable sourcing and value, believes Amar Singh, principal analyst with Kantar Consulting. “There are definitely seasonality factors when it comes to fresh produce in Canada and growing food here is relatively expensive,” he says. “I see shoppers in Canada paying more attention to ingredient lists and ‘clean’ product lines—and pricing will always be important.” In fact, Singh says the potential for local to go more mainstream, ultimately, depends on manufacturers and retailers keeping prices low enough to drive growth. “At the end of the day, we are value hunters at heart, and price sensitivity is a big factor in our purchasing decisions,” he says, pointing to retailers like Loblaw who he says have done a great job in providing private-label, locally sourced produce (such as strawberries) at an attractive price point. “Supporting the local economy is one factor that could drive this trend in the short term,” he says. “But if retailers, suppliers and farmers can work together to bring in locally produced products at a decent price point going forward, there is a chance for sustainable growth.” CG

TAKING    FARM FRESH TO A NEW HYPERLOCAL LEVEL What could be even better than sourcing seasonally available fresh produce from local farms? Growing crops right in the grocery store for flavourful produce all year long. Sobeys has partnered with in-store farming platform InFarm to grow and harvest a range of fresh produce and herbs in 18 of its Safeway and Thrifty Foods stores in the Greater Vancouver area, with more to come in Victoria and Toronto. The farming unit is a standalone ecosystem that relies on machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) technology to create the ideal environment for plants to flourish. Individual units are remotely controlled from a central farming platform that can adjust and improve the growing conditions as needed. Not only does growing the plants in-store reduce carbon emissions associated

with transporting produce by 90%, the in-store farms also use 95% less water and 75% less fertilizer than industrial agriculture. “We are very pleased with how our customers are responding to this innovative urban farming solution,” says Niluka Kottegoda, vice-president of customer experience at Sobeys. “Not only do they appreciate the sustainable nature of the farms, but they certainly love having access to the freshest possible leafy greens, lettuce and herbs all year long.”

August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 49

Simply snacking: navigating beyond COVID-19

Food industry veteran Martin Parent, President of Mondelēz Canada, weighs in on the surge in snacking during COVID-19 and how his company is helping grocers prepare for the future. First off, how has Mondelēz Canada responded to COVID-19? Our priority throughout the pandemic has been to provide a safe working environment for our 2,600 employees across retail, logistics and our five Ontario-based factory operations, while helping keep Canada’s food supply chain strong. As we continue to navigate this ever-evolving situation, we are keeping pace with consumer behaviour to help our retail partners make sure shelves are stocked with the foods Canadians love—now and into the future. How has the pandemic changed Canadian consumers’ shopping behaviour? While there have been various spikes in pandemic panic purchasing, snacking is here to stay, increasing by as much as 60% in recent months.1 We’re seeing shoppers going “Back to the Future” with the return of the weekly grocery shop, and a simultaneous leap forward in online food shopping. As Canadians shop for both instant gratification and future consumption, we’re also seeing more items purchased per visit, and a preference for larger product formats. Faced with continuing change, stress and uncertainty, consumers are increasing their “comfort snacking” with trusted iconic brands that make them feel good. Even as lockdown measures are relaxed, increased snacking of brands Canadians know and love will remain part of their new snacking habits.

How has Mondelēz Canada responded to these changes? Even before the pandemic we had a strong strategy aimed at being Canada’s Snacking Partner of Choice to help drive category growth with the right products, in the right place, at the right moment. This includes leveraging our iconic brands, simplifying our product portfolio, and converting shoppers in-store. As pandemic measures changed shopping habits, we accelerated our strategy to help our customers


keep their shelves stocked and their shoppers happy. As a result, we’re seeing tremendous growth from our global brands like Oreo and Cadbury, along with beloved local brands like Premium Plus and Crispers through targeted marketing investments, new product launches and creative adjacencies in-store. Watch for a reboot of the classic Cadbury Caramilk’s iconic “secret” marketing campaign this summer! How will the pandemic affect innovation in the food sector? Reducing complexity in our portfolio and launching innovative new products go hand-in-hand for us; they are both strategies aimed at understanding consumers and giving them what they want. Our targeted, smart innovation process is firmly rooted in our deep understanding of the consumer. For example, our first global State of Snacking report late last year showed two out of three Canadian adults felt quick, on-the-go bites more suited their lifestyle than full meals. As Canadians staycation this summer, the goal of our launch of a new Crispers Cheddar flavour in July was to support moments happening across Canada with domestic summer travel, socially distanced entertaining and stay-at-home activities. How are you working to help Canada’s grocery industry prepare for the future? As a leader in snacking in Canada, we have a big role to play in helping retailers answer increased demand caused by the spike in at-home eating over the past five months, as well as prepare for a potential second lockdown and post-COVID future. The $250 million invested in our plants over the last few years alone—including $40 million in our candymaking plant (home of Sour Patch Kids) last year—is helping ensure that our supply chain can meet spikes in consumer demand with agility. Our unique insights also aim to drive category growth and purchase. For example, our Canadian Demand Spaces “snacking database” helps us understand what drives snacking behaviours by looking at unique emotional and functional needs, such as “taking a break” during a busy day or

an “evening unwind” moment once the kids are in bed. By better understanding Canadians’ motivations, we can help them make mindful decisions about choosing the right snack, for the right moment, made the right way. How have you adapted your business strategy for 2020 and beyond? We entered the pandemic with a strong strategy to invest and simplify. Once we ensured a safe working environment for our colleagues across our Canadian operations, we accelerated this plan—making quick decisions and seeing the benefits in real-time. Ultimately, crises teach us not to expect to have all the answers. As we move into the next phase, we are focusing on what’s important to Canadians by investing in the products, brands and formats they want. Our team continues to work with our retail partners to keep things simple, stay agile and drive mutual efficiencies so that together we can emerge stronger.

Mondelēz Global COVID 19 consumer behaviour tracker 2020




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There was one grocery category left untouched by the impacts of COVID-19— in the literal sense, that is: meal solutions. When the world suddenly went handsoff, grocers had to rethink self-serve options like salad bars, soup stations and hot bars. With their shared serving utensils and frequently touched surfaces, these once-popular areas became the stuff of kitchen-contagion nightmares. Grocers addressed consumers’ safety concerns by shifting to pre-packaged grab-­ and-go options, but the pivot in meal solutions doesn’t stop there. Consumers’ food preferences and shopping behaviours are changing in the wake of the pandemic— some perhaps for good. For retailers, the race is on to get sales sizzling again in the meal solutions category. Rick Stein, vice-president, fresh, at the Food Industry Association (FMI) emphasizes that, as in other categories, the foodservice story changes from week-toweek and month-to-month. But his general observation is that in the first couple of months, consumers were primarily focused on food safety. Now, they’re looking for creativity in the kitchen. “They have menu fatigue because they haven’t had a lot of options in terms of traditional foodservice,” says Stein. “They’re also getting a bit fatigued of cooking the same meals over and over again.” Pandemic or not, consumers want fresh, convenient meals that save them time, offer variety and take up less mental space. While retail foodservice will be impacted by COVID-19 for the near future, there are new opportunities to capitalize on, and ways to meet consumers’ new needs. HEALTHY FOODS GET A BOOST In times of uncertainty, people crave what’s familiar. That’s why in the early stages of the lockdown, prepared-food customers “just really wanted comfort food, like chicken pot pie and mac and cheese and all those types of foods,” says Christy McMullen, co-owner of Summerhill Market, which has three locations in Toronto. “Where I see the opportunity going forward is that people have gone out of that comfort food and they’re coming back to wanting healthier foods.” However, customers aren’t ready to go entirely plant-based. McMullen says at the start, the appetite for vegan prepared foods went by the wayside. “I don’t think people are back to vegan yet, but they are looking for healthier options. Our

At Summerhill Market in Toronto, prepared-food customers largely sought comfort food early in the pandemic, but are now looking for healthier options once again


While covid-19 has thrown retail foodservice for a loop, there are plenty of ways to capture more meal dollars By Rebecca Harris

August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 53

MEAL KITS AND HEAT-AT-HOME EATS While there’s been a lot of hype about meal kits in recent years, meal-kit delivery companies have struggled and the mania never quite took hold in grocery stores. That could change, though, as many consumers are stuck at home and making their own meals. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. meal-kit providers like Blue Apron, Sun Basket and Home Chef are expanding operations and adjusting offerings to

meet growing demand. Revenue for the sector has almost doubled year-over-year after sinking earlier in 2020. A recent report from San Francisco-based Grand View Research highlights what types of meal kits consumers will be digging into in the coming years. The cook-and-eat offering is expected to be the fastest-growing segment because of the convenience it offers to newbies in trying new recipes. Heat-and-eat options will also have a large share of the mealkit market due to busy, overworked consumers. Online is expected to be the fastest-growing channel for meal kits, at 13% from 2020 to 2027. “If a grocer can streamline the process and use existing stores as micro distribution hubs, the demand for home delivery on meal kits could make it an attractive business,” says Bruce Winder, a Toronto-based retail analyst and author of the new book, Retail Before, During & After COVID-19. “Customers have grown accustomed to some of the convenience that home food delivery has offered during the pandemic—assuming they are willing to pay for it.” COVID-19 notwithstanding, generation Z (those born between the mid-1990s and 2010) could be a boon to the mealkit segment. PwC Canada’s “Canadian Consumer Insights 2020” survey found that, not surprisingly, gen Z consumers have a higher tendency to use online food options like meal-kits and food-delivery apps compared to boomers. “The reality is restaurant food delivery is not completely sustainable on its own when you think about the lifestyle of gen

Z,” says Myles Gooding, national retail and consumer leader at PwC Canada. For this young cohort, there is both a convenience factor and an experience factor. “Gen Zs are thinking about, ‘where does my food come from,’ ‘how natural are the ingredients,’ and ‘I feel better when I prepare meals myself and am using fresh ingredients,’” says Gooding. “So, there is a bit more of a conscious play that goes into their gravitation towards meal kits versus fast-food deliveries.” Not everyone is sold on the appeal of meal kits, though. “When people want to take home dinner, they don’t necessarily want to take home a box and do the prep. They want most of the work to be done,” says Jay Cummings, director of bakery and deli at Freson Bros., which operates 15 stores across Alberta. “So, we found a lot of heat-and-eat and grab-and-go items do really well, but we’ve kind of shied away from meal kits.” Cummings says he hasn’t noticed any big changes in the buying habits of Freson Bros.’ customers because of COVID 19, other than they’re taking food to go rather than sitting in the in-store restaurants. The company is forging ahead with new prepared-food programs that were already in development. For example, Freson Bros. recently launched a new made-to-order, take-home pizza program that was two years in the making. The retailer’s Fort Saskatchewan location features the Father Dough pizza station, where thin-crust pizzas made with in-house sourdough for the crust are cooked in a stone-fired oven. Now, the pizzas are available at every location for

To satisfy consumer demand for fresh and convenient meals, grocers like Farm Boy and McEwan offer fully prepared specialties, from chicken pies and signature pasta dishes to a wide variety of salads


pre-packaged green salads, for example, are doing really well.” FMI’s Stein says health and wellbeing is a “huge platform grocers can play on now.” While health and wellbeing was a macro trend prior to the pandemic, he believes there is an opportunity to cater to consumers who have underlying health conditions—a topic that’s getting a lot of attention right now—such as diabetes or heart issues. “My advice to retailers is to have those options available and promote the idea that this is a heart-healthy meal or this is low in sugar,” he says. “You want to create options that customers feel good about buying.”


Meal opportunity


customers to take home and cook themselves. “It’s a raw dough pizza, and when the customer gets it home, they put it in the oven and bake it and it pops up like the sourdough at Fort Saskatchewan,” says Cummings. This fall, Freson Bros. is also launching a new scratch-made, heat-at-home soup program. “With everything that’s going on in the world, it’s important to give people the option to take it home, but still have high-quality restaurant food,” explains Cummings. With any prepared food option, there’s a growing consideration for grocers: value. Given the pandemic’s economic fallout, consumers are watching their wallets more closely. Retailers now have to address two different types of consumers: ones on the high end and ones on the low end, says FMI’s Stein. “I see it as a bifurcation, where we’re losing that middle ground.” Even people who have money want value, he adds, so if a grocer is selling a $49 family-of-four meal, it should still offer value. However, “You can’t be selling a $49 family meal to a person who’s either lost their job or is now on entitlement money. You have to have lower price points for the consumers who are economically disadvantaged.” One way to accomplish this is to have a full-service hot bar (more on that later) where customers can select what they want. “That way someone who

is more price-conscious has the option of choosing items that have lower costs per pound or per item,” says Stein. THE RETURN OF SELF SERVE, SORT OF While grocery shoppers went cold on self-serve options, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of soup, salad and hot bars in grocery stores. Some elements can open back up with increased safety precautions, while others can offer the customization of self serve without it actually being do-it-yourself. Stu Smith, director of fresh programs at Georgia Main Food Group, says the company has re-opened soup bars at its Fresh St. Market and IGA locations, with vastly more stringent safety controls. “We require everything to be wiped down after every use,” says Smith. “We’ve given our customers the availability of hand sanitizer and wipes at our soup stations.” What he doesn’t see opening back up are salad bars, which the company has at just a few stores. “We have done surveys in our stores that have them, and in talking to our staff and our customers, there’s just not an appetite for salad bars at this point.” At one forward-thinking U.S. grocer, the robots are coming to the salad bar. ShopRite is piloting Sally the Salad Robot, which offers a contactless and customized salad bar experience, at its Carteret, N.J. store. The robot, made by food robotics company Chowbotics, contains

Research shows cook-and-eat kits are expected to be the fastest-growing segment of meal kits, because of the convenience they offer to newbies in trying new recipes

22 ingredients including dressings, fruits, nuts, vegetables and proteins such as chicken, eggs and ham. Sally can combine two main base ingredients, up to six toppings and a dressing to make a custom salad, grain bowl or pasta salad. Sally also offers menu items such as chicken brown rice bowl and Cobb salad. Customers get a glove from a dispenser to wear as they tap the screen. The customized salad is dispensed into a bowl that customers can top off with a lid and take on the go. ShopRite said it hopes to roll out similar Sally salad bars at other store locations. In a press release, Jonathan D’Orsi, vice-president of operations at his family’s ShopRite said, “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, my family’s ShopRite store was looking for a salad bar solution that was touchless, fresh and innovative. The current health crisis made it even more of a priority.” Another solution is to get staff to do the serving. FMI’s Stein says some grocers are converting their delis into hot bars that are staffed by someone wearing gloves, a mask and a face shield. “They do these things to show they are making sure the customer gets safe food, and the customer gets to pick and choose what they want and how they want it,” says Stein. “I think customers enjoy the idea of picking out their own. They’re pointing to what they want and they can customize their order.” For cost reasons, though, Stein says this approach is in the experimental phase. “Retailers will do a financial analysis to figure out if they’re selling enough to pay for that person who is doing the full service. But right now, it’s interesting to see it develop.” While the pandemic has certainly changed the meal solutions category, one thing remains the same: customers have a big appetite for it. According to FMI’s 2020 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report, prior to the pandemic, consumer foodservice spending was on the verge of overtaking food retail spending for the very first time. The research indicates higher retail-sector food spending will continue for the foreseeable future as home cooking displaces spending on foodservice. “The data shows foodservice at retail was way down in March and April, and not quite as far down in May and June,” says Stein. “It’s not back to even yet, but it’s slowly working its way and that’s because retailers are figuring out ways to address consumers’ concerns.” CG

August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 55

EuRoPeAn InSpIrEd

MeAt SnAcKs BaVaRiAn NaVaRrE


Snacks inspired by the delicious flavours of Europe! With three varieties to choose from and no refrigeration required, our salami snacks are perfect for any occasion. Guten Appetit! Buon Appetito!





A NEW DAY FOR DELI Nostalgia for sandwiches and a desire for comfort food fuel consumer sales of pre-packaged meat and cheese By Michele Sponagle

Consumers continue to seek comfort food as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. When service deli counters closed in the midst of the crisis, shoppers looked to pre-packaged deli meat and cheese for their sandwich and charcuterie board fixings. Data from Ipsos FIVE from the end of May showed consumption of packaged deli meat and cheese has increased by 10% versus the same time last year. Sandwiches have made a bold return as more consumers are eating in a highly homebound environment, says Kathy Perrotta, vice-president of market understanding and strategy at Ipsos. “There’s a sense of nostalgia that’s very appealing to consumers,” she says. “They were likely brought up eating sandwiches. It’s a nice meal experience for them.” While charcuterie boards and “deconstructed lunches”—an assortment of things to nibble on such as crackers, olives, cheese and hummus—are

August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 57

Aisles still popular, Ipsos research shows buy- sales of its pre-packaged deli meats. In ing deli meat and cheese for that purpose fact, the company saw a massive spike in is flat compared to last year. Further- sales through March and April as grocers’ more, the data reveals more than 37% of service deli counters were closed. With pre-packaged deli foods are being con- customers eating at home more, Piller’s sumed at lunchtime. Research indicates is seeing strong growth in pre-cut prodthe top reasons consumers buy pre-pack- ucts such as pepperoni and diced chorizo, aged meat and cheese include a desire for which can, of course, be added to homesomething easy to prepare, that it satis- made pizzas. “We also see that with more fies hunger, and can be eaten quickly—all social experiences happening at home, of which could point to sandwiches. consumers are looking for some indulWhat might be surprising is which gence with more specialty, dry-cured shoppers are embracing sandwiches. meats and snacks,” explains Stephanie Ipsos data sees growth coming from Egan, director of marketing for Piller’s. young adults without kids. Likely it’s for “And charcuterie boards are a great way the reasons cited above, and a current to enjoy a bit of variety at home.” desire for foods that are less trendy and A desire for hunger-satisfying and more comforting. It’s a shift worth not- convenient light bites has also increased ing for grocers aiming to offer customers demand for favourites such as Piller’s what they want now, including safety and Turkey Bites. In July, the lineup of meat security with their food choices. snacks grew with the addition of Bavarian At McEwan Fine Foods locations salami and Navarre-style chorizo, joinin Toronto, customers also seek deli ing Tuscan-style salami sticks, which products that are nitrate-free, have less launched last year. “These are great prosodium and no preservatives, says gen- tein snacks you can quickly grab out of eral manager George Bachoumis. He the fridge to enjoy,” notes Egan. notes that cross-merchandising helps With travel abroad still restricted, commaximize sales of pre-packaged deli panies have focused on new globally-infare. “We are always stocked with cheese, spired products. “We believe that with the crackers, crisps, olives, pâtés, mixed nuts, reduction of travel, people are looking for berry platters, and antipasto.” With shop- easy ways to bring authentic foods found pers spending less time browsing during at vacation destinations into their meals,” the pandemic, retailers will want to have says Angela Doro, vice-president, operacomplementary items located near those tions, at Vancouver-based Freybe Gourgrab-and-go meat and cheese staples. met Foods. “For example, we recently New consumer behaviours established launched our Taste of Europe charcuterie during the pandemic will likely stick trays as an offering of authentic German around, predicts Nathalie Coutayar, mer- and central European dry-cured salami. chandising and marketing manager at This new line surpassed our expectations. Denninger’s Foods of the World (with five We believe, strongly, this is related to conlocations in southern Ontario). sumers’ desire for experienc“Shoppers will return to the “They want ing cultures in different ways.” deli counter, but slowly,” she a safer way B eyond sandwiches and says. This has prompted the to buy those charcuterie boards, consumgrocer to “adjust and adapt.” foods. They ers have been adding pre-packDenninger’s, which produces want less a g e d d e l i m e a t s to p i z z a , many of its own pre-packed touch points flatbreads and sauces, as well deli items, has more than and longer as tossing them into breakfast tripled the number of SKUs shelf life” items such as omelettes. The [including new flavoured sauversatility and convenience sages] it offers to provide customers with of these products is also contributing to an even greater product selection. sales growth. Consumers have responded Pre-sliced meat and cheese works with by stocking up and looking for resealable how customers shop now. “They want a packages, too. Doro points out that volsafer way to buy those foods,” says Couta- umes of large formats of Freybe’s Smokyar. “They want less touch points and ies sausages have jumped by 25%. “With longer shelf life. Customers are shopping fewer visits to the grocery store weekly, less often, but they’re also pantry loading we have found all varieties of pre-packso we’re seeing a larger basket size.” aged deli meat selling well.” Piller’s Fine Foods is seeing robust Cheese lovers can find plenty of new 58  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

ideas in the deli section, as well. Manitoba’s Bothwell Cheese recently introduced Cheddar Variety Pack slices. “We have managed to keep up with the demand in the market,” says brand manager Lynne Roy. “Our new product contains sliced award-winning marble cheddar, medium cheddar and old white cheddar. We expect to see more of these slice packs on retail shelves in the following months.” Agropur, meanwhile, has found consumers are spending their grocery dollars strategically, choosing to make selections from its large offering of Canadian cheeses such as OKA, L’Extra, Champfleury, and Saint-Paulin. The pandemic has also brought a few challenges—but not unsurmountable ones. Agropur’s new Rougette Bon-fire, a creamy, buttery cheese that can be grilled on a barbecue without making a mess, was launched as COVID-19 hit. “In a period where our sales representatives were not allowed to visit stores, we managed to reach a distribution of 50% in eight weeks,” says Diane Jubinville, director, public relations and external communications at Agropur. While new product launches scheduled for September will be put on hold until 2021, the company remains optimistic about the future. “In the context of a health crisis, the supply of pre-packaged cheeses is definitely an advantage as it avoids handling by store employees,” she says. “The safety, practicality and attractiveness of our pre-packaged products are assets that are undeniable.” And vegans won’t be left in the cold in the pre-packaged deli section. They’ll find strong options from the likes of Nuts For Cheese, a London, Ont.-based company offering plant-based variations of popular cheeses, including top performers like Un-Brie-Lievable (a new black garlic flavour has recently been added). Sales have been steady during the pandemic, says founder and CEO, Margaret Coons, who expects to see growth as the company rolls out its new Nuts For Butter and enters the U.S. market. As health remains a big focus for many consumers, Coons says her company’s products appeal largely to people avoiding dairy for whatever reason, including vegans and people who are lactose intolerant. Like many food companies, Coons is looking forward to being able to do in-store demos again—when it’s safe—and to working with retail partners on promotions to drive sales in the future.


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Cultured, innovated

As consumers embrace yogurt as an all-­day snack and versatile ingredient, producers are responding with an ever-expanding array of styles  By Andrea Yu The fruit-bottom yogurts of our past have come a long way. This cultured category has seen a remarkable expansion in styles and varieties, which Dana McCauley, food trend tracker and director of new venture creation at the University of Guelph, says can be credited, in part, to the changing ways yogurt is viewed. “I think it’s really come to fruition in the last five years of yogurt being more than just a breakfast thing and more of an anytime snack,” McCauley says. As well, the increasing popularity of plain, unflavoured yogurts makes it a versatile ingredient in baking or as the base for savoury dips and dishes. Consumers are paying more attention to ingredient labels, shying away from added sugars and stabilizers. This makes Greek and Skyr yogurts—which tend to be produced using natural and familiar ingredients—more appealing. “Consumers are shifting towards healthier eating habits,” says Jeremy Oxley, vice-president of marketing, strategy and insights at Danone. “We continue to see Canadians trying to reduce their sugar consumption. We’re fully embracing the 60  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

shift towards lower or no-sugar options, and have reduced the sugar content in some of our yogurts.” The continuing desire for high-protein foods is also fuelling yogurt sales, according to Oxley. “We’re seeing a big trend towards people wanting to buy yogurt with higher forms of protein, whether that’s Greek or Icelandic-style.” The latest sales data from Nielsen confirms Oxley’s observations. Greek yogurt has grown by 5.2% in the 20 weeks ending May 23, 2020, while Skyr has grown by 12.8% in the same period. The total yogurt category, meanwhile, has grown by 3.7%. In 2019, yogurt sales actually decreased by 2.8% overall, and this year’s growth to-date is credited, in part, by more at-home eating during COVID-19. Most impressively, the non-dairy yogurt segment, which accounts for just 1% of the yogurt market, has grown by 79.1%, according to Nielsen’s latest figures. Robin Langford, product category manager at the natural food market Goodness Me!, has noticed an increased demand for plant-based, non-dairy yogurts. “We’ve had great expansion in

this area with almond, coconut and oatbased options,” Langford says. While vegans are a strong consumer base for non-dairy yogurts, Langford says flexitarians and those with lactose intolerances are also purchasing these alternatives. Improved research and development has helped this plant-based category compete with its dairy equivalents. “Coconut yogurt has a very similar taste and texture to a conventional dairybased yogurt,” explains Langford. Another emerging cultured food product is kefir, which is fermented at a lower temperature than yogurt. Last summer Lactalis Canada launched its first line of kefir products under its Astro brand. Kefir originates from the Caucasus mountains of Eastern Europe, but is becoming popular in Canada. Burhan Khan, national marketing director for the cultured division of Lactalis Canada, believes globalization, immigration and growing interest in worldly food products is fuelling interest in different yogurt styles. “You have so many more people travelling to different countries and people coming in as immigrants and bringing in their food styles,” Khan says. “That has really helped bring these new trends and innovations into yogurt.” To draw consumers towards new products, Khan recommends creating an “innovation window” to highlight these items in the dairy aisle. “You can take that same concept to flyers by having dedicated pages for innovations to help drive awareness,” Khan says. “It’s an interesting way to get people to try new products.” Danone’s Oxley also encourages grocers to think out of the box when it comes to merchandising different yogurt styles. “We’ve had success putting refrigerated units in the produce section where people are buying fruits to pair with yogurt. It becomes a natural touch point for them to see new innovations in yogurt.” While the emergence of newer styles of yogurt is exciting for consumers, it can pose a challenge for grocers with limited shelf space. “Our yogurt sections need constant realigning to accommodate the trends of what’s selling,” says Brad McMullen, co-owner of Toronto’s Summerhill Market. A broader selection of products means different sizes and formats for grocers like McMullen to accommodate. “It’s a challenging section to have looking at its best at all times, so it just needs some extra attention.”



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As demand continues for on-the-go hygiene products like hand sanitizer and wipes, new brands and formats are entering the market  By Carolyn Cooper The importance of hand hygiene was highlighted early in the global COVID-19 pandemic. Health departments advised Canadians to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, or if that wasn’t available, to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Within days demand spiked, and consumers began stockpiling hand sanitizer, antibacterial liquid soap, disposable wet wipes and spray disinfectants. According to market researcher Statista, year-over-year hand sanitizer sales in Canada jumped 735% during the week ending March 14, 2020, while sales of personal wipes grew 268%. The Canadian hand sanitizer segment is now worth US$29.11 million, and Statista expects 5.5% annual growth for the next five years. As consumers cleaned out shelves of sanitizers and wipes, Health Canada began fast-tracking licenses for businesses to manufacture, package, label and/or import alcohol-based hand sanitizers. As a result, hundreds of distillers and brewers entered the hand hygiene market, while pharma and skincare companies also pivoted to produce sanitizer. The interim measure, says Health Canada, “will be in place until the regular supply of hand sanitizers stabilizes.” 62  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

That could be some time, says Amar Singh, Kantar Consulting’s principal analyst for Canada. “It’s not an out-of-stock problem, it’s basically that the manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand.” In June, for example, GOJO Industries, maker of Purell, announced it had more than doubled its pre-pandemic production levels, and was opening two new Ohio facilities to “expand its capacity to meet exponential increases in demand for Purell sanitizer, soap, wipes and surface spray,” according to the company. “Demand is going to stay strong,” says Singh, “but the supply is actually going to come from smaller, more local manufacturers. Sourcing and traceability will be key, and the format size will be key, because people are not going to carry a one-litre jar of gel around with them.” He adds that portable sanitizers “will be part of our sanitary regimen for the foreseeable future,” especially as hygiene habits become ingrained. But while it’s currently “more about functionality,” consumers will soon start looking for value-added products. “For instance, hand sanitizer is bad for your skin in the long run, and there are health studies that have come out around strong hand sanitizers … so

there will be a revisit of making it safer, there will be new fragrances, new chemical compositions, and even new innovations from this space such as products that are a moisturizer and sanitizer at the same time.” Hawkesbury, Ont.-based The Green Beaver Company introduced its Antiseptic Spray Hand Sanitizer during the pandemic, although the company’s marketing project manager Yannick Brown says it was already planning to add sanitizer to its line of all-natural body-care products. Available in a 90-mL container, the spray features 70% USP-grade ethanol, essential oils and plant-based glycerin. Brown says he’s seen “an explosion of both conventional and natural alternatives now available,” and although demand “is declining over time,” he expects it to remain high. Moncton, N.B.-based Prelam Enterprises also launched its E-Z Pur Soap On The Go at the peak of the pandemic in purse- and pocket-size spray bottles. “I realized we can’t carry the usual hand soap bottles with us to the grocery store, so I developed this convenient carry-withyou hand soap,” says Prelam co-founder Luc Jalbert. The soap contains five essential oils with “antimicrobial and antiseptic properties,” purportedly first used against the Black Plague. Jalbert adds that “since this innovation launched, we’ve developed a new alcohol-free hand sanitizer with glycerin, that is effective and that is approved by Health Canada.” Also new is its E-Z Pur Shopper’s Helper Surface Disinfectant in a portable 53-mL bottle. We can expect to see even more antibacterial wipes and other new formats of hand sanitizer appearing on the market, says Singh, adding that “those innovations will be quick-selling items at the front of the store.” He suggests merchandising hand sanitizer as part of a hygiene regime that includes moisturizer and other skin lotions, in the same way after-sun products are sold with sunscreen. Brown agrees, saying hand sanitizers should be “with the hand soaps, and at impulse purchase points like the cash.” Singh also suggests grocers take their cues from U.K. chains like Marks & Spencer and Boots, which now sell mini versions of their private-label sanitizers in single and multi-pack formats. “It depends on the margins, but it’s an area of investment grocers should look into because it does add incrementality.”




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

NOW ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS Deadline to enter: September 30, 2020

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Often referred to as the structural “glue” in our bodies that holds everything together, collagen accounts for 75% of the protein in our skin, and a third of our overall protein production. It has long been touted for promoting hair growth, developing strong nails and reducing fine lines. We also need collagen to help repair bruises and broken bones.   Today, more and more science is showing that collagen is also essential to improving gut health and reducing arthritis pain by slowing down joint degradation as we age. Since our natural collagen production already starts to decline by the age of 25, outside sources of this protein may be beneficial in reaping these benefits.

64  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

Collagen Four things to know

2 COLLAGEN RISING The global demand for collagen was estimated at 920.1 tons in 2019, and its compound annual growth rate is expected to be 5.9% from 2020 to 2027, according to the Collagen Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis report, published by Grand View Research in February 2020.

Collagen’s compound annual growth rate is expected to be


from 2020 to 2027

3  BEYOND SKIN CARE With its connection to combating wrinkles, collagen is already widely used topically in skincare products. But more and more companies are finding ways to add it to a variety of foods and beverages—including protein bars, popcorn and bone broths. This year, Canadian company Organika released the first low-sugar, high-protein collagen cookie called FÄV; and Flow Water released three flavours (cucumber, pink grapefruit and watermelon) of collagen-infused water. “While it’s easy to add your own collagen supplements/powders to smoothies, tea or coffee, I’m excited to see companies bringing it into functional snacking too,” says Rhiannon Lytle, a registered holistic nutritionist at Organika. With so many flavour options for collagen supplements these days, consumers are making their own juices and collagen popsicles too, adds Katie Mitton, product category manager at Goodness Me! Natural Food Market in Ontario, where collagen has been particularly popular over the last year. “Even those who are doing intermittent fasting are putting it in their morning coffee for a protein boost until they can eat again,” she says. “This is a trend that I think will keep growing.” But Dana McCauley, director of new venture creation at the University of Guelph, cautions this is still an area of “fuzzy science,” as we don’t know for certain how the body absorbs collagen from outside sources. That said, she expects collagen products to appeal to baby boomers looking to improve skin and joint health, and millennials looking to discover that next new thing.

4  VEGANS BE WARY Collagen is sourced from bovine, chicken and marine animals, so people with animal and seafood allergies need to be careful consuming these products, says registered dietitian Jane Dummer of Jane Dummer Food Consulting. Some companies are working on plant-based alternatives with ingredients that encourage the body to make its own collagen, but they don’t actually contain the protein. Dummer encourages consumers, as well as grocers who

carry collagen products, to check whether manufacturers are sourcing collagen ethically and using evidence-based research to develop items that really do deliver on their collagen promise. She points to the Collagen Stewardship Alliance as a good source of information for global standards and scientific research. “The source of the collagen, how it is delivered and if the efficacy is there should all be transparent to the consumer.”—Rosalind Stefanac



New on shelf! 1  WIZE COFFEE LEAF ICED TEA Wize, the Vancouver-based coffee leaf tea brand, has launched a new canned iced tea line made from coffee leaves—the first of its kind available across North America. The iced tea boasts just one gram of natural cane sugar, 35 mg of light caffeine and an all-natural ingredient list, and comes in mango, original and grapefruit flavours. 2  EARTH’S OWN OAT CULINARY EDITION One of the most challenging aspects of creating plant-based recipes can be replicating the creamy texture that comes with dairy as an ingredient. So, Earth’s Own has created this special oat milk culinary edition that provides the creamy texture home chefs are seeking when creating dairy-free soups, sauces or even baked goods.

Aisles The latest products hitting shelves

2 1

3  HEALTHY CRUNCH CHIA JAM Healthy Crunch has launched its new Chia Jam, the world’s first keto certified jam. With only two grams of sugar per serving and 50% less sugar than traditional jam, this naturally sweetened spread contains chia seeds for extra fibre and healthy fats. Healthy Crunch’s Chia Jam comes in three flavours: raspberry, strawberry and blueberry. 4  CRISPERS CHEDDAR FLAVOUR Christie’s Crispers has launched its first new flavour in more than a decade. The new Crispers Cheddar snacks join a family of flavours that already included Dill Pickle, All Dressed, Barbecue, Ranch, and Salt & Vinegar. The new Cheddar variety offers consumers a familiar and nostalgic flavour at a time when Canadians are craving comfort, according to manufacturer Mondelez. 5  YOATS OAT YOGURT Yoso, the Canadian plant-based yogurt, spread and dip maker, is launching a brand new oat yogurt. Called Yoats, this new product is made from 100% Canadian-sourced, Non-GMO Project Verified and certified gluten-free oats, and is available in plain, vanilla, and blueberry. The yogurts are peanut free, preservative free and unsweetened.  CG




August 2020 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 65

covid is killing cash

The cashless shift accelerated by the pandemic could end up costing grocers big time

“Many Canadians are perhaps not aware that for the billions of credit-card transactions that take place across Canada, some $5 billion annually is siphoned out of the pockets of those businesses in interchange fees”

It has been about half a year since COVID-19 first caused us to take extreme measures to prevent its spread; unfortunately, it remains a serious disease that is far from under control worldwide. That means all the heroic grocery store workers in Canada, who have done such Trojan service for their customers by protecting them as they shop for groceries, must continue to sacrifice for many weeks to come. As grocers have done everything in their power to minimize exposure to the virus (sanitizing carts and shelves, putting Plexiglass between cashiers and customers, enforcing social distancing, wearing masks and even bagging individual selections of produce), there is one more virus-related problem to worry about. That’s the unprecedented, rapid migration from using cash to using credit and debit cards. Cash has become problematic, since there is a perception that handling cash can spread COVID-19. Customers are choosing instead to use their cards, especially those cards that can simply be tapped to complete a purchase. Some grocers themselves are reluctant to handle cash, even when wearing gloves, while some have abandoned cash checkouts entirely. There are two major fallouts from the migration from cash to cards: the first is the added cost to

66  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2020

grocers from processing fees imposed by the major credit card companies. The second is the incredible inconvenience caused to those people, many lower income, who do not have credit or debit cards. Grocers certainly don’t want to turn away customers, but there is little choice when cash is no longer accepted. Those customers with cash only are forced to find grocers, convenience stores or specialty stores that accept cash, even though in some cases the goods at those stores could end up costing them more. It is not a happy situation. As for the additional cost to grocers of accepting credit cards, we have documented the problem several times in recent years. When COVID-19 first struck, there was already a long-running standoff between grocers—particularly independents—and Visa and Mastercard. Grocers have long complained that the fees they are charged are unnecessarily exorbitant. With COVID-19 continuing to rage around the world, grocers, card companies and governments have all been preoccupied with fighting the virus and the debate over the fees has been put to the side. In a recent opinion piece in the Toronto Star titled “Going cashless a boon for banks,” Gary Sands, senior vice-president public policy and advocacy at the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG), wrote: “It’s a fairly safe assumption the migration from cash to credit will be permanent … Many Canadians are perhaps not aware that for the billions of credit-card transactions that take place across Canada, some $5 billion annually is siphoned out of the pockets of those businesses in interchange fees.” These fees provide a windfall to banks, credit-card companies and payment processors, he writes. A new framework supposed to take effect this year would bring fees down to an overall average of 1.4%, which is “still indefensibly and inexplicably higher than what other retailers such as Walmart and Costco pay. It is also a rate far higher than that paid by businesses in other jurisdictions,” writes Sands. And it’s important to note that those reductions were announced in the pre-pandemic world. “The postCOVID-19 landscape will be a much different one and will clearly benefit the card companies in a way that could not have been foreseen even a few months ago. But COVID-19 should not translate into a win for credit. The card companies don’t need more. But small and medium businesses in Canada will,” Sands argues. The federal government is clearly (and understandably) preoccupied right now with fighting the coronavirus and keeping the economy afloat. CFIG has testified before the finance committee about the card fees. So, for now, it seems grocers must balance continuing their heroic efforts in store with hoping the government hears them over the matter of these excessive transaction fees—and takes action.  CG

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


CHECKING OUT ||  George Condon

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