Canadian Grocer August 2021

Page 1

Design for the times

Specialty Grand Prix cheese please! winners



Darrell J  ones The SaveOn-Foods president talks expansion, e-comm and always going the extra mile for customers

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August 2021 || Volume 135 - Number 5


Cover Story


5 || Front Desk 21 || Shopper Sense 23 || Consumer Connection 24 || new Horizons People 6 || The Buzz

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


26 Save-On-Foods’ president Darrell Jones on how the company is always working to be the best in the West

8 || Alex Simonelli

How the founder of Daydream Drinks is helping the world relax

Ideas 11 || Groceries in mere minutes

What’s up with ultra-fast grocery delivery?

12 || A growing partnership

Sobeys expands its Infarm deal with four new growing centres


14 || The sentiment on sustainability

Sustainability’s importance to consumers is on the rise

17 || Global grocery


News and ideas from the world of food retail


19 || Catching up with Gen Next

We chatted with past winners of our Generation Next Award to find out: “Where are they now?”

A NEW DAY FOR DESIGN 33  Local connections, flexibility, and a return to shopping “experience” will shape store design as we look to the future GRAND GROCERIES 41  Introducing the winners of the 28th annual Grand Prix New Product Awards!

Aisles 47 || Healthy hits the spot

New innovations abound in the better-for-you snack market

53 || Say cheese!

Specialty cheeses are in style, thanks to a passion for charcuterie boards and a quest to mix it up

57 || Yuzu: Four things to know Learn more about this trendy, tasty citrus

59 || New on shelf

Shining a spotlight on the latest products hitting shelves

Express Lane 62 || Advancing A.I.

Deloitte’s Stefan Ivic on navigating artificial intelligence’s potential

57 Follow us on     @CanadianGrocer     @CanadianGrocerMagazine     Canadian Grocer Magazine

33 August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 3

Congratulations to all the winners of the

2021 STAR WOMEN in Grocery Award

Bimbo Canada is a proud sponsor of the annual Star Women in Grocery Awards

Nourishing a Better World by building a sustainable, highly productive and deeply humane company.

Front desk PUBLISHER

Vanessa Peters


Shellee Fitzgerald


Carol Neshevich


Kristin Laird


Josephine Woertman


Michael Kimpton


Donna Kerry


Derek Estey


Lina Trunina


Valerie White


Katherine Frederick

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In the COVID era, wellness takes centre stage Consumers’ interest in, and pursuit of, health and wellness is not new; it’s an area that has been growing for years—as evidenced by the proliferation of health and wellness departments in grocery stores across the country. But after enduring a year-and-a-half long pandemic and all the uncertainty it has wrought, consumers’ focus on health has intensified. In a recent blog post, Food Industry Association (FMI) chief Leslie Sarasin wrote that her organization’s data points to momentum building in the “food as medicine” movement and that the time is “ripe for food retailers to leverage their position as trusted allies in supporting it.” And it’s not only FMI that is calling attention to the growing health and well­ ness opportunity. A new report from Innova Market Insights identified immune health, specifically, as a key area of consumer concern that’s “here to stay.” And its data shows that 59% of consumers globally are looking for immune support from food and beverages. One thing’s for sure, there’s no shortage of health and wellness positioned products being unleashed on the market, claiming to help with everything from immune health to stress and weight management, to energy—you name it. The challenge for grocers will be how to make space for consumers’ evolving health and wellness needs. Designers are already thinking about it. In our “A new day for design” feature (starting page 33), JeanPierre Lacroix, president of Toronto-­ based Shikatani Lacroix Design tells us that as consumer interest grows, we can

expect health and wellness to play a more significant role in store design and these sections could take over some space currently devoted to centre store. Staying on the topic of health and wellness, in this issue, writer Jessica Huras digs into better-for-you snack trends in “Healthy hits the spot” (page 47) and in his column this month, Caddle’s Ransom Hawley lays out the opportunity grocers have to win consumers seeking to lose the weight they’ve gained during COVID. Finally, in this issue we introduce you to Daydream Drinks founder Alex Simonelli (page 8) who has created a hemp oil extract and adaptogen-infused water to help people relax. Happy (and healthy) reading!

Shellee Fitzgerald Editor-in-Chief

Keep up to date on the latest news by signing up for our e-newsletter. It’s free and we’ll deliver it to your inbox four times a week. Visit to subscribe August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 5

The Buzz

The latest news in the grocery biz


The Edmonton suburb of Sherwood Park is home to a new ITALIAN CENTRE SHOP, the fifth in its network. The store, which opened in July, features a 50-seat cafe, a 30-seat patio and a 70-ft. deli counter, full-service pizza bar as well as an in-house gelateria. At 22,500 sq. ft., the store, located in the Emerald Hills Urban Village development, is the largest in the Italian Centre Shop’s network and was built from the ground up. “Every time we open a new store, we always wish there was more space, so we’ve made this one bigger,” Italian Centre Shop owner and president Teresa Spinelli told Canadian Grocer. “We’re hoping this model works for us, because it’s a little different from our other stores.” The Italian Centre Shop commissioned OCI Architecture to design the new store to reflect the Spinelli family’s passion for Italian culture and tradition. Spinelli said the Italian Centre Shop is looking at further expansion, eyeing additional stores in Calgary and potentially Saskatoon.

In Nunavut, THE NORTH WEST COMPANY has opened what it’s calling a “first-of-its-kind” wellness hub in July. Called Inuulisautinut Niuvirvik, the store’s name, selected through a community contest, means “a place to get things for a healthy mind and body.” In a release, the company said it recognized the need to bring more healthy food choices to the North and the store offers a range of healthy foods, a full pharmacy, an optical centre and Nunavut’s first Booster Juice franchise. “We worked hard to select products

and develop recipes, blogs and signage to make healthy living easy,” said store manager Tom Kennedy. After completing a major renovation, COMMUNITY NATURAL FOODS’ flagship downtown Calgary location has reopened. The revamp was part of a five-year strategy developed when the business (which includes two other locations in the city) was acquired by Calgary Co-op in 2019. “One of the great things we talked about was it’s great that we have a rich, 40-year history, but we wanted to make sure we had a health food store that fit the 21st century,” general manager Adam Martin told Canadian Grocer. The store features a new cafe, expanded bulk and health and wellness offerings and a “vibrant, alive” customer experience.

News to share? Tell us about your openings, comings and goings, etc. by dropping a line to sfitzgerald@ 6  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2021


GIANT TIGER is continuing to add to its store count. The discounter recently opened a new 18,000-sq.-ft. location in the community of Ancaster in Hamilton, Ont. The privately-held company has been aggressively expanding in recent years and now has about 260 stores across Canada.


Olivier Lemire will become Keurig Dr Pepper Canada’s new president on Oct. 1. Lemire, who is currently vice-president of commercial strategy and partner brands at the company, will replace Stephane Glorieux who is departing the company after nine years. Lemire joined Keurig Dr Pepper in 2011.


Retail Council of Canada’s  RCC Store  is taking place virtually on Sept. 13 through Sept. 16. For more information visit Olivier Lemire

High Liner Foods has named Anthony Rasetta its new chief commercial officer. Previously, Rasetta was an executive at snack giant Mondelez, where he oversaw customer and category development, revenue growth management and sales strategy. Claire Bara has been promoted to president of A. Lassonde Inc. Most recently, Bara served as executive vice-president and general manager, marketing, trade and product development with the Quebec-based food and beverage company. Mars Petcare Canada has added two members to its leadership team. Mike Martinello, who joined the company in 2013, has been appointed vicepresident of sales. And Fawad Farrukh has joined Mars Petcare to become its head of marketing. Farrukh was previously at General Mills where he was business unit director for cereal, e-commerce and venture capital. Outcast Foods has added Tara Wickwire to its executive team. As the food tech company’s new vicepresident, strategy, Wickwire will oversee marketing, communications and strategic positioning. Most recently she was associate vicepresident of marketing at National Public Relations.


Pierre Lampron was re-elected to a third term as president of Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC). Lampron, a sixth-generation organic dairy farmer from Quebec, joined DFC in 2007 and has led it since 2017. Two promotions have been announced at Crosby Molasses Co. Ltd. William Crosby is now the vice-president of sales and business development; he previously led the company’s sales function for retail and industrial molasses. And Bruce Wright is now director of brand and marketing where he will be focused on the next-generation consumer.

Anthony Rasetta

SIALCanadaConnect  is a daylong virtual conference focused on food innovation, slated for Sept. 21. Visit for more information. The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers’  GIC Live@   Home  event will be taking place virtually on Oct. 26 through Oct. 28. For event details, visit

STAR WOMEN IN GROCERY AWARDS CEREMONY Join us on October 20 when we celebrate our 2021 Star Women in Grocery winners! For our 10th annual awards ceremony we are inviting you to cheer on this year’s winners either in-person (at The International Centre, Mississauga, Ont.) or virtually. For more info and to get your ticket, visit


Claire Bara

Fawad Farrukh

Save-On-Foods’ president Darrell Jones has been named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 Pacific. The prestigious award recognizes “visionary entrepreneurs from across the country who are transforming our world through innovation, growth and prosperity.” As president of B.C-based Save-On-Foods, a post he’s held since 2012, and the president of the recently formed Pattison Food Group, Jones leads a team of more than 30,000 employees. (Read our feature on Jones on page 26). As a regional winner of the Ernst & Young award, Jones is now in the running for the national Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Tara Wickwire

Pierre Lampron

GENERATION NEXT – CALL FOR NOMINATIONS! We want to hear about the grocery industry’s rising stars! If you know an up-and-comer, under age 40, nominate them for the 2021 Generation Next Awards. Winners will be featured at our Grocery Connex event in November and in the December/January issue of Canadian Grocer. Deadline to nominate is Sept. 15. August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 7


Who you need to know

DAYDREAM BELIEVER Alex Simonelli is committed to helping the world relax, one Daydream Drink at a time By Carolyn Cooper Photography by Mike Ford


hen Alex Simonelli lost his sales job after the company he worked for was sold, he took almost a year considering his next business move. “I wanted to make sure the next thing I did was something I was passionate about, and that I had ownership for,” recalls the founder and CEO of Toronto-based Daydream Drinks, which makes sparkling water infused with hemp oil and adaptogens. “As somebody who had a lot of different ideas, I really wanted a way to express myself.” Early on, he says he had “these ideas of what I saw cool CBD or hemp beverages to be,” so he decided to explore these ideas further. “I learned that hemp was a better route to go—CBD is extremely highly regulated— and I pivoted to plant-based ingredients and found adaptogens.” Adaptogens are herbal extracts that help the body’s endocrine system better combat stress while promoting balance and clarity. Daydream Drinks feature hemp oil extracts, which are rich in omega 3, 6 and 9; moringa, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant; ginseng for focus and memory; and schisandra berry to reduce stress. “I like adaptogens because they are anchored in the same kind of states that CBD would be anchored in, which are productivity, calm and stress reduction,” explains Simonelli, noting that unlike many functional beverages on the market, Daydream isn’t all about energy. “The goal was to have a whole different kind of effect centered around calm—calm being the new productivity.” The entrepreneur launched Daydream Drinks in 2019, and found early fans through independent businesses like coffee shops, where consumers often pick up beverages with functional benefits. The three varieties—Peach Ginger, Blackberry Chai and Cucumber Lime—all feature adaptogens, carbonation and natural flavours, plus black carrot, gardenia and spirulina extracts, with either five or 10 calories and 150 mg of potassium per serving. The swirling mix of various pastel colours that cover the cans also allude to Daydream’s mood-enhancing properties. “We took our design philosophy very seriously and made it our products’ ethos, or a way we want people to feel when looking at the brand or interacting with the brand,” says Simonelli.

30 seconds with … Daydream’s customers cut across a wide demographic, although Simonelli says the product currently skews female. “I think women know more about adaptogens, but I think that’s going to change as time passes because we are just carving out this category in Canada,” he explains, noting that while functional beverages are generally all lumped together in Canada, adaptogenic beverages are already a growing category in their own right in the United States. “So eventually people will see it as they see functional drinks such as kombucha. It’s a lifestyle, ritual-based product that can be used at multiple occasions every day.” In that way, he says, Daydream is less of a beverage to accompany a meal, and more of a standalone product. “Functional beverages are now thought of more as a dietary snack, with people supplementing beverages and juices as that snack, like a grab-and-go option of getting your adaptogens.” Consumers report choosing Daydream for various occasions, says Simonelli, including as a midday drink to replace caffeine, after work to unwind, post-exercising to deal with inflammation, and to either replace alcohol or use as a zerosugar cocktail mixer. “This is why we created a new use occasion called ‘having a daydream,’” he says. Simonelli believes the pandemic may have accelerated uptake of Daydream, as early adopters swapped out sugary or caffeine-heavy drinks with healthier options. “Who would have known when I was creating this in 2019 that we’d be subjected to living more in our own spaces? For me, at least, it pushed me away from energy drinks that made me have to go, go, go, because I was actually trying to be calm and still, and have more mindfulness in the space I was in.” Daydream Drinks are now in several hundred Loblaws stores, as well as Metro, London Drugs and approximately 400 independent retail locations. Simonelli already has plans for scaling up the business, but says that means expanding Canadian distribution and innovating with adaptogens rather than growing the current lineup. “Right now, we’re focused on making sure we do a really good job supplying products and building the brand,” he says. “Because when you have an awesome brand, it can lend itself so well to other products—the innovation pipeline is limitless.” CG

ALEX SIMONELLI What do you like most about your job?

I like that it’s so versatile. The other day I ran from my office to deliver products to a photoshoot and ended up staying, then jumped on a sales call, then had my end-of-month meeting. There are so many different things that I’m able to jump from and I’m having so much fun.

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

A mentor I had when I was 18 or 19 pushed me to dream, to be limitless in my way of thinking and really believe in my ability to create bigger things. Also to be aware of the impact your words and your integrity have on people and on your world— doing what you say you’re going to do in all aspects of your life, and that it is worth fighting for your ideals. If you value yourself, then you fight for your own ideals and your own happiness.

What do you enjoy most about this industry? The people are fantastic!

What’s your favourite beverage?

I like fizzy waters, carbonated water and sparkling water. I recently discovered radlers (a mix of beer and juice), which are the coolest things.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I love music. I’ve been playing the piano since I was a child, and I pick up the guitar all the time. It’s a way of expressing myself, and it helps me de-stress; it’s pretty therapeutic.

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 9

Congratulations to all the

2021 STAR WOMEN ©From Unilever, a proud sponsor of Star Women in Grocery Awards.





GROCERIES IN MERE MINUTES How fast is fast when it comes to grocery delivery? A fresh batch of well-funded startups has the process—from ordering to picking to drop-off on doorsteps—down to mere minutes. “Ultra-fast” grocery delivery is the latest buzz in the e-commerce­ space, as the model is expanding rapidly across cities in Europe, Russia, Asia and the United States. The app-based services promise delivery of smaller baskets of essentials and impulse buys in just 10 to 15 minutes. Berlin-based Gorillas, whose very tagline is “faster than you,” operates in more than 25 European cities. This past May, Gorillas made its U.S. debut in Brooklyn, New York and plans to expand to other major cities. Istanbul-based Getir, which calls itself the pioneer of ultra-fast grocery delivery, currently operates in 33 cities in Turkey and this year launched in the U.K., the Netherlands, Berlin and Paris. Philadelphia-based Gopuff delivers in 500 cities in the U.S. and aims to become “the world’s go-to solution for immediate needs.” The company plans to expand across North America, the U.K. and Europe. Other catchily named players include Weezy, Dija, Jiffy, Cajoo and Flink.

How do they work? The ultra-fasts operate out of microfulfilment centres, or “dark stores,” in each neighbourhood they serve. They typically offer a limited selection, including essentials, produce and household items, delivered by bike couriers. While ultra-fast delivery companies are hailed as the new disruptors in grocery, the market isn’t without challenges. A research report by Sacra notes the economics of ultra-fast are hard, and micro-mobility is a cautionary tale. “Both are capital-­ intensive industries with no customer loyalty, low switching costs, and limited network effects,” the report states. And grocery retailers might not have to worry too much about the new competition, either. U.K.-based online grocer and tech company Ocado has said the new entrants pose much more of a threat to neighbourhood corner stores than supermarkets. Still, as shoppers get used to having their bread and butter delivered in minutes—even Instacart can now deliver groceries in 30 minutes—it will raise expectations across the board. For any grocery retailer, that means the future of delivery will be likely fuelled by the need for ultra-fast speed.—Rebecca Harris

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 11


A growing partnership

Sobeys is expanding its partnership with German vertical farming startup Infarm, with new growing centres to be built in Calgary, Halifax, Winnipeg and Hamilton, Ont. by 2023. This will bring Infarm’s active growing operations to 130,000 square feet, and will supply more than 1,000 stores within Sobeys’ retail network.

A 3D virtual market trip FOLLOWING A 2020 PILOT program with Toronto’s McEwan Don Mills that it describes as “a huge success,” grocery delivery service Inabuggy is expanding its 3D virtual grocery shopping portal to include the city’s St. Lawrence Market. The service will enable Torontonians to virtually “walk through” the famed Market and shop with approximately 25 vendors using the service’s app and website. Users navigate through a 3D environment with clickable links to specific products 12  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2021

Sobeys parent Empire first partnered with Infarm last year, rolling out the company’s in-store units across 26 Safeway and Thrifty Foods stores in both Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.; and the company recently introduced Infarm units to 16 locations throughout Ontario. Produce grown inside the in-store Infarm units includes leafy greens, lettuce, kale and herbs such as basil, cilantro, mint and parsley. With this recent announcement, Infarm will add tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, mushrooms and potted plants to its range of products. “We are passionate about bringing Canadian families the best, freshest, most delicious produce every single day,” said Niluka Kottegoda, vice-president customer experience at Sobeys Inc., in a press release. “The expansion of our exclusive partnership with Infarm demonstrates our commitment to delivering that in a technologically advanced and sustainable way.”

such as meats, fish, produce, baked goods and dairy products. “For customers who have never been to the St. Lawrence Market, it would be a shame for them to not see the Market, the vibrant colours and brickwork and all that is the market,” says Akram Hasanov, director of growth and strategy for Inabuggy. “They are able to seamlessly walk through the space, and can look left or right, or look up.” He likens it to using Google Street View for navigation. Inabuggy first began offering groceries from the St. Lawrence Market last year, but the 3D component brings one of the city’s premiere shopping destinations to life at a time when consumers are increasingly shopping online. Hasanov calls the program a “natural next step” in the partnership with St. Lawrence Market, saying the company’s vision is for the 3D virtual space to provide a new way for customers

Loblaw expands electric fleet

The grocery giant is aiming for a fully electric fleet by 2030 Loblaw’s plan to green its fleet is trucking along. The grocery company recently announced it has ordered five battery-­ electric Freightliner eCascadia trucks, which are manufactured by Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). The trucks will be delivered in 2022-2023 and will be used on routes in British Columbia. The move follows a trial that began in early 2020 as part of Freightliner’s Customer Experience (CX) fleet. “We know that through our own actions, we can play a critical role in helping Canada reach its carbon reduction targets,” said Brian Springer, vice-president, transport operations, Loblaw Companies Limited, in a release. Loblaw was one of the first Canadian companies to pre-order Tesla’s electric truck called Tesla Semi in 2017. At the time, the grocer said its goal was to have a fully electric fleet by 2030.

to access the Market’s vendors. “Virtual shopping has really been validated for us by the growing number of customers that use the feature every single day,” he says. “We’ve received a tremendous amount of positive feedback.” St. Lawrence Market spokesperson Samantha Wiles says its partnership with Inabuggy has helped the Market and its vendors respond to the shifts in

food retail brought about by the pandemic. “A part of shopping at the Market has always been the in-person experience, seeing the vibrant colours, historic setting and amazing products,” she says. “We are excited to be able to take some of the Market’s magic online with this new virtual experience, allowing more people to access Market vendors in new ways.” —Chris Powell


Sobeys’ expansion deal with Infarm includes plans for four new growing centres


The Wheel

CHICKEN FARMERS DELIVER ON ANIMAL CARE Canadian consumers want Canadian chicken. But, did you know that the Canadian chicken industry works to some of the highest international standards of animal welfare and food safety? That’s not a phrase thrown around lightly – there are comprehensive, national programs which ensure this.

If you’ve ever been approached on issues of animal welfare, you’ll be familiar with the uncertainty, questions, and concerns that some approaches can raise. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel because Chicken Farmers of Canada has already done the heavy lifting to develop and implement a mandatory Animal Care Program that you can count on and defend.

Ask us – we’re here to help. @chickenfarmers @chickenfarmers @chickendotca | |



A new Deloitte report shows sustainability’s importance to consumers continues to rise  By Chris Daniels Following a summer of extreme weather events in Canada and around the world, the threat of climate change has become frighteningly real for many of us. Consumer awareness around the urgency to take action about it is at a fever pitch. One way consumers want to do their part is by making educated food choices based on environmental and ethical grounds. According to a new report from Deloitte Canada, The Future of Food: The Sustainability Conviction, nearly three-quarters of consumers (72%) prefer to shop at food retailers with sustainable or ethical practices. Nearly as many (71%) say it’s also important they understand where their food comes from. “Consumers are starting to mentally calculate their environmental impact,” explains Rob Carruthers, a partner in Deloitte’s risk advisory and consumer business team and a co-author of the report. He points to the rise of personal carbon footprint



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calculators as further evidence of that. “Food manufacturers and retailers that provide consumers with an option to do better will influence their shopping decisions,” he concludes. This includes bringing online shoppers less delivery waste. The survey found 61% of Canadians are concerned about the amount of packaging used for food they order online. Twenty-three per cent of consumers are ordering takeout more often as a direct result of COVID-19, according to the survey. Yet many food companies aren’t nearly as far into their sustainability journey as shoppers might hope. Some firms have yet to even outline their goals and steps to achieving CO2 reductions. This could lead to financial challenges, as governments look to make good on their net-zero emission targets by 2050, the minimum set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. “If they wait too long, regulators will catch up and expect very time-sensitive changes from food companies to reduce their environmental impact. This will be a huge cost burden with little upside, since they’ll be trailing consumer expectation,” says Carruthers. “That is why we are encouraging our clients to make investments, change the philosophy of their organization and take advantage of this market-shifting opportunity now.” Innovation is already taking shape, especially around food waste. When food ends up in landfill, it spews methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2. One grocer unnamed in the report is on track to reduce food waste by 50% by 2025 through a new digital food waste management system, which flags items nearing their best-before date and brands them as flash-sale items. In keeping ahead of consumer sentiment, Joe Solly, a partner in Deloitte’s sustainability and climate change team and co-author of The Future of Food report, says forward-thinking retailers have also been collaborating with their supply chains—a critical move, given more than 90% of carbon emissions produced by food retailers derive from the supply chain. As an example, the report describes a food processor that has been encouraging farmers to adopt no-till farming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “A company cannot solve this on their own. Sobeys, for instance, won’t solve plastics packaging without suppliers like Maple Leaf Foods,” says Solly. “It is going to take broad partnerships, collaboration and systemic contribution.”


The Uses

The Ingredients Our soy sauce is brewed with four simple ingredients; Water, Soybeans, Wheat, and Salt, with No Added Preservatives.

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An all purpose seasoning that adds an umami boost to all your favourite dishes!

The Brewing Our soy sauce is traditionally brewed for several months to create a rich umami flavour.

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*Kikkoman Sales USA, Inc. calculation based in part on data reported by NielsenIQ through its Markettrack Service for the Soy Sauce Category) for the 52-week period ending Nov 28 2020, for National Canada All Channel, according to the NielsenIQ standard product hierarchy. Copyright © 2021, Nielsen Consumer LLC.


We are honoured to receive the Partner of the Year Award from DCI Thank you to all our supply partners, customers and employees for making this possible.

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Lidl’s super sustainable store


In July, Lidl opened what it is touting as “the most sustainable supermarket in the Netherlands.” Located in the green Almere Oosterwold district, east of Amsterdam, the store is the first CO2 and energy neutral supermarket in the country. Lidl Zero Almere Oosterwold was constructed using sustainable and circular materials—for instance, the wood used in the outer wall was processed using the Japanese shou-sugi-ban technique that makes the wood last longer and require less maintenance. Even the employees’ old uniform shirts were processed to make the building’s insulation. The sustainable grocery store also features solar panels, free charging stations for electric cars and bikes, and the store’s goods are supplied by an electric truck with a fully electric cooling system.


News and ideas from the world of food retail


In the U.K., Asda is rolling out its refill zones to more of its stores. Asda first introduced refill zones at its Middleton “Sustainability Store” in Leeds last October; that trial was so successful, says the retailer, that several products in the zone outstripped packaged sales and customers travelled from outside the local area to shop more sustainably. This October, Asda will open its largest refill store in York, which will feature 18 standalone bays featuring more than 70 branded (from Kellogg, Tilda rice, Unilever, Nestlé, etc.) and private-label products ranging from cereals, tea, pasta, cleaning products and pet food, all in refillable format. “Our ultimate goal is to make refill and reuse a part of every Asda shopping trip,” says Susan Thomas, the retailer’s director of commercial sustainability in a post on its website. “And to achieve this we have to make it easy, accessible and affordable for all our customers to shop this way.”



Aldi Australia’s Corner Store

German discount retailer Aldi debuted, in July, what it calls a “super convenient” new format Down Under. Located in North Sydney, Aldi Corner Store is a departure from the retailer’s other stores in that it is a smaller-format, urban concept, complete with coffee shop Sonoma (a Sydney-based artisan cafe), a juice bar and an interior enhanced with the work of a local street artist. At just over 10,000 sq. ft., ALDI Corner Store serves up a reduced assortment but emphasizes local goods and convenience. ALDI’s foray into the smaller-format space follows that of its Australian rivals Coles (with its Local stores) and Woolworths (with its Metro stores).

Amazon is continuing its brickand-mortar grocery push with the opening of its 15th Amazon Fresh store in the United States. The Washington D.C. store, which opened in July, features the Just Walk Out technology that made waves when first introduced at the Amazon Go store in 2018. Amazon has also taken the cashierless format across the pond, opening six Amazon Fresh stores in the United Kingdom this year. How long before Amazon Fresh lands in Canada?

Sweden’s unattended grocery shops Over the last few years, Lifvs container grocery shops have been popping up in rural villages bereft of traditional grocery stores. To keep costs down, the shops are unattended and customers access them by creating a profile on a mobile app which they use to unlock the door, scan barcodes as they shop and also pay for their purchases. There are more than 20 Lifvs stores in Sweden, which are open 24/7, and a clickand-collect service with lockers was recently introduced to add convenience. According to Lifvs, the shops have “everything you need in places where it’s needed most.”

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 17


In association with The Golden Pencil Award, Canadian Grocer is accepting nominations for the 2021 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 15, 2021 For full details, visit: Presented by

Exclusive GenNext Partner



Canadian Grocer’s Generation Next awards debuted in 2011 to honour grocery’s rising stars (under age 40). We caught up with a few past winners to find out how their careers have been shaping up  By Carol Neshevich ADAM GROGAN 2013 WINNER Job then: Senior vice-president, retail sales (North America), Maple Leaf Foods Job now: COO, Greenleaf Foods What has changed in your career since 2013? At the time, I was leading the retail sales team for Maple Leaf Foods both in Canada and the U.S. Shortly thereafter I became SVP of marketing and innovation. We led the biggest brand renovation in Canadian food, repositioning our Maple Leaf and Schneider brands. We also made a strategic investment into plant-based protein to support our goal to become the most sustainable protein company on earth. We acquired Lightlife in 2017, Field Roast in 2018 and established Greenleaf Foods based in Chicago. We are now one of the largest plant protein companies in North America. In 2019, I joined Greenleaf Foods as COO. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? To be intensely curious, ask questions, work hard, show your team how much you care and always be humble. And, if you do make a mistake, be accountable, admit it, apologize and fix it. What do you like best about your job? The plant protein industry is an all-out sprint. The growth trajectory is staggering and we are addressing some of the planet’s biggest sustainability challenges. No competitor in our space has launched more innovation, committed more dollars to promoting the category or invested more capital necessary to sustain its supply chain. I love the entrepreneurial spirit and the higher purpose of the work we are doing.

RYAN DENNIS 2014 WINNER Job then: Store manager, Overwaitea Food Group (Save-On-Foods) Job now: owner, Larry’s Market, North Vancouver What’s changed in your career since 2014, when you won the award? After I won, I became a regional director and then general manager with SaveOn-Foods. I was able to learn a lot and contribute to the overall mission in my time at head office. While working as general manager, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. At that point we decided we wanted to live out our dream of owning our own grocery store. We wanted to sell healthy food and provide the community with a very convenient market providing only vegetarian foods. We just celebrated the two-year anniversary of the store opening, and we are going to be expanding our brick and mortar [with the opening of a second store] and one-hour delivery this year! What has been your proudest career accomplishment since then? The Gen Next win made me feel confident that the grocery industry knew it was important for younger people in the business to contribute at the top level. My company believed in me enough to nominate me, and that also made me want to work hard for them and help them grow. With all of that confidence, I was able to open up my own market, which is my proudest accomplishment. What’s your favourite thing about this industry? I love the people. We have so many people who care about providing healthy food to the community that when everyone works together, it is very powerful!

NENA PIDSKALNY 2018 WINNER Job then: Store brands specialist, Federated Co‑operatives Limited (FCL) Job now: Senior manager, GFR category procurement strategy, FCL Tell us about your career since 2018? About a year after winning the Generation Next Award, I was given the opportunity to help lead a procurement transformation at Federated Co-op. This included an evolution of our business to become more strategic and customer focused. I have learned a lot along the way and look forward to continuing to drive strong strategies for our business. What do you like best about your job? My favourite part of my job is collaborating with, and coaching others. I thrive working with others to solve complex problems and look at things in new and innovative ways. Are there any tough lessons you’ve learned along the way? Absolutely. There have been many challenges throughout my career and to be honest, some of the greatest learnings have come from these failures. If you don’t fail at some point, you’re not pushing hard enough. It is more important how you overcome and learn from these challenges because there will always be obstacles to overcome. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? Find something you love and get good at it. For me, the food industry is the perfect blend of my passion for cooking (and eating) and my love of consumer-­ packaged goods marketing. CG

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 19





OCTOBER 26, 27, 28, 2021 CONTACT:

Rolster Taylor: | Young Oh:


SHOPPER SENSE ||  Hanif Mohamed

and beauty, face care, women’s fragrances, cosmetics (eye), men’s cologne and lotions, hair accessories and bath additives are all growing.


Seven key postpandemic trends

As we emerge from the pandemic, grocers face a new landscape. How can they best navigate it?

As of March 2021, fully 30% of Canadian households are considered newly constrained. These consumers will revert to mass merchandisers, dollar stores and online options

We’ve never seen a year like 2020. In March of last year, Canadian stores registered close to $2 billion of additional, unplanned sales. Consumers pantry loaded food like never before. Many categories showed growth unheard of in years. Household cleaners, bathroom tissue, utility cloths, first aid kits, etc.—all saw triple-digit percentage growth. Hand sanitizers, the Holy Grail, were up 833%. Fast-forward a year: while we no longer expect double-digit growth, the market is still breaking records. Channels are delivering fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sales of more than $2 billion weekly, with volumes up 8% by dollars and 3% by units. A recent update from NielsenIQ Canada reveals some opportunities and challenges ahead for the industry. Here are seven trends worth watching:

1 THE NEWLY CONSTRAINED ARE ANXIOUS ABOUT THE FUTURE We track four segments of the population: existing constrained (financially insecure pre-COVID); newly constrained (COVID had significant impacts on their financial and social situation); insulated cautious (financially secure, but planning for an uncertain future); and insulated unrestricted (less concerned about COVID and haven’t had to modify their spending habits). In the past year in Canada, all four segments spent more on FMCG categories. As of March 2021, fully 30% of Canadian households are considered newly constrained. These consumers will revert to mass merchandisers, dollar stores and online options to fulfil their shopping needs.

The grocery aisle is in the palm of Canadians’ hands. In the past six months, 25% of Canadians have ordered groceries online. Another 25% would consider it in the future. Grocery categories remain underdeveloped in e-commerce sales in Canada, but they’re growing the fastest. From 2019 to 2020, online sales were up 148% for food, 60% for non-grocery items, and 63% for health and beauty. Drill down on food, and we find that 20% of Canadians bought fresh categories online last year. The penetration of perishables online was up 30%.

4  CANADIANS ARE TURNING TO DISCOUNT FOR VALUE Conventional stores have fared better since the beginning of the pandemic, but discount stores have gained market share back in the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. In the last 12 weeks we studied, discount stores made gains nationally in most FMCG groupings.

5 KEEP AN EYE ON THE DECLINING NUMBER OF OCCASIONS Working from home and lockdowns had an impact on the visits made to gas outlets and convenience stores last year. This isn’t specific to those retailers; Canadians have made fewer trips to all stores (except online). Looking at rolling 12-week figures, occasions per buyer were at 32.3 in March 2021 versus 37.5 a year earlier. The decline is evident across all regions.

6 LOWER POPULATION GROWTH WILL PUT MORE PRESSURE ON THE INDUSTRY A pandemic baby boom didn’t end up happening. In 2020, Canada had the lowest population growth rate since 2016, at just 0.4%. This has a direct impact on baby categories. Diapers and infant formula are declining, and total baby care was down 7%. As well, COVID halted international immigration to Canada, which had accounted for more than three-quarters of Canada’s population growth since 2016. Keep an eye on urban areas, where immigrants are overrepresented, and focus on Quebec, where lockdown measures curbed the number of cases and optimism is driving growth above the national average.



Will COVID vaccines be a shot in the arm for spending? When the jabs were starting to get in full swing, 53% of Canadians told us it will have no impact on loosening their purse strings. But the vaccines will be sufficient to stimulate some other consumer spends for luxury, non-food and big-ticket purchases. CG

While purchases of “survival” staples are down, it’s a different story for some key health and beauty aid (HABA) categories. Our personal appeal is more top of mind as we emerge from hibernation. In health

Hanif Mohamed is senior vice-president of retail services at NielsenIQ in Toronto.

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 21


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Confronting covid weight gain

Women and younger Canadians are keenly aware of extra pounds. Diet trends offer grocers an opportunity Just about every facet of Canadian consumer life has experienced exceptional shifts in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. From work and the economy to education and pastimes, not to mention health and lifestyle choices, Canadians have weathered an incredible storm of change over the past 17 months. Consumption patterns offer a useful litmus test to measure the effects of such drastic life changes. Just as shoppers began hoarding home-baking necessities in the early days of the pandemic, we witnessed a shift to the freezer aisles for groceries like vegetables and fruits as well as meal and snacking solutions later in 2020 and into 2021. Yet, these shifting patterns have undoubtedly come at a price: According to Caddle’s Daily Survey Panel (June 2021), about half of Canadians have gained weight since the beginning of the pandemic. Of those people, more than one-third gained six to 10

Interest in weight loss influences store loyalty, especially among younger Canadians General Millennials Gen Z Pop. (n = 8,740) (n = 2,268) (n = 961)



“How likely are you to change where you shop for groceries in an effort to lose weight?” “If a grocery store made it easier to shop for products that were healthier and helped you lose weight, how likely would you be to switch to that store?” “How likely are you to shop at another store for specialty products in an effort to lose weight?” “How likely are you to shop online for specialty products in an effort to lose weight?”

“Very likely”




“Somewhat likely”




“Very likely”




“Somewhat likely”




“Very likely”




“Somewhat likely”




“Very likely”




“Somewhat likely”




pounds while 40% gained 11 pounds or more. While gen Xers and millennials attribute at least some of their weight gain to “lack of exercise” (over-indexing against the general population by 2+ points), millennials and gen Zers also rank “poor diet” and “eating habits” as important contributing factors in their weight management challenges. This begs the question: now that the pandemic is coming under control, what are consumers planning to do about their weight management challenges? For 60% of Canadians, “eating healthy” means “eating well balanced.” As such, to start, half of consumers plan to adopt better diets. Among other changes, this means increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and decreasing sugar and carbohydrate intake (notably among women, baby boomers, gen Xers and millennials). Meanwhile, gen Zers and millennials are most likely among all cohorts to use Weight Watchers, keto or other diet plans to lose weight (over-indexing by 13 and seven points, respectively). Finally, 59% of people who have gained unwanted pounds plan to eat out less and 68% plan to cook more homemade meals (particularly millennials and gen Zers, who over-index by at least five points on both measures.) Consumer interest in weight loss also has the potential to overtake store loyalty. At least one-third of consumers are likely to change where they shop for groceries in an effort to lose weight. This includes turning to online sources (particularly for gen Zers, whose digital savviness makes them the group most likely to shop online). At the same time, half of all consumers would move their grocery spend to a store that made it easier to shop for products that were healthier and helped them to lose weight. What can we conclude from all this? Interest in healthy eating will continue to impact consumer decision-making for months to come. From specific product selection, all the way up the funnel to choice of banners, consumers are diverting more of their grocery spend toward healthier options. This could have serious repercussions for retailers’ share of wallet. The opportunity now is for retailers to offer healthier (i.e. well-balanced) food options to keep consumers shopping in their stores. This means continuing to push meal solutions, but with consideration for ingredients that fit into keto or other diet plans. And if they haven’t already, retailers of all sizes and types will want to get their e-commerce presence in order, making sure to prioritize food options that speak to Canadian consumers’ shifting eating habits as the pandemic winds down and life gets back to some semblance of “new normal.” CG

Ransom Hawley, former packaged goods leader, is founder and CEO at Caddle Inc., the largest mobile-first insights platform that rewards Canadians for sharing data and engaging with brands.

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 23

NEW HORIZONS ||  Sarah Alter

employees are less productive, for example. Clearly disproven by research time and time again, put to the ultimate test last year, this “myth” has no basis in fact. But it still has yet to be completely let go in the wake of the pandemic. That women make “toxic” bosses is another deeply ingrained myth that is, unfortunately, still alive and well in our workplaces. Banishing it is a key step to advancing women to leadership roles.

The fiction that women are toxic bosses must be banished in our workplaces in order for women to advance as leaders THE FORTUNE 500 for 2021 has yet again broken a record of more female CEOs than ever—carrying on last year’s trend in the same direction. Yet women still only make up 8.1% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and one has to wonder what old biases might be continuing to contribute to this disparity. We’ve all heard workplace myths, “truths” universally acknowledged about working in the corporate world. Based in feelings, not facts, they nestle deeply into workplace cultures, and can be very difficult to uproot. Take the myth that remote

Women still only make up 8.1% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and one has to wonder what old biases might be continuing to contribute to this disparity

FIGHTING BIAS First, take your temperature on the feedback itself. Examine how you would feel about it if it came from a male co-worker at the same level as the woman who offered it. How would you feel? Would it seem less harsh? More ‘par for the course’? This isn’t to say that all workplace behaviour is appropriate, of course. True toxicity is undoubtedly poison to any workplace, and it’s worth analyzing whether the workplace around you is toxic in itself. Self-­r eflection doesn’t mean you should let bad behaviour go unchecked, far from it; it just means a gut-check is in order. Your strong reaction to criticism could be rooted, if unconsciously, in old ideas about how women should use their voices. For us all to push the cause of women forward, we must look inward, and let go of the preconceptions that limit the potential for women to shine as leaders. CG

Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a learning, leadership and gender equality advocacy organization representing nearly 13,500 members in Canada and the United States. To learn more, visit 24  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2021


Debunking the myth of the critical female boss

THE MYTH OF THE TOXIC FEMALE BOSS When critiqued by a woman in management, I sincerely hope your first reaction isn’t to lump her in with this problematic stereotype. It’s true that your boss may have poor management skills, or be unable to offer truly constructive criticism. It’s one possibility. Another possibility is that you expect a woman to manage in a softer way. According to a recent study Do Workers Discriminate Against Female Bosses by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, both men and women react more negatively to criticism when it comes from a woman. Knowing how many women we lost from the workplace as a result of 2020’s “she-cession,” demolishing bias is more important than it’s ever been. And it can be insidious, affecting our opinions of others even when we think we’re doing everything we can to be a good and supportive ally—and it can affect both women and men.

Western ambition

Cover story

26  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2021

By Shellee Fitzgerald

Photography by Tanya Goehring

Darrell Jones on how Save-On-Foods is always  working to be the best in the West After 45 years in the grocery business, Darrell Jones still brims with positivity. He loves people (his favourite part of the job), he loves the grocery industry, and by his estimate, Canada is “the greatest place on Earth to do business.” Given his track record, Jones has good reason to be positive. Since ascending to the top post as president of Save-On-Foods in 2012, Jones has deftly guided the Jim Pattison-owned company through an ambitious growth plan. Under his watch, more than 50 stores have been added to the chain’s network (a 42% increase, with more than 180 stores now under the Save-On-Foods, Urban Fare, PriceSmart Foods

and Bulkley Valley Wholesale banners) and the chain has extended its reach beyond British Columbia (its home base) and Alberta, to the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as the North with the opening of a store in Whitehorse in 2017. And this year, in particular, is shaping up to be a big one for Jones. In February, he was tapped to head The Pattison Food Group, a new structure formed to unite Pattison’s grocery businesses, which, along with Save-On-Foods includes Buy-Low Foods and Quality Foods, as well as the group’s specialty and wholesale divisions. In June, Save-On-Foods claimed top spot in BC Business magazine’s annual

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 27

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Cover story ranking of most-loved brands in the province for the second year running—suggesting the chain is living up to its “going the extra mile” mantra. And in July, Jones was named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2021, Pacific, a prestigious award that recognizes “visionary entrepreneurs.” Canadian Grocer recently spoke with Jones about everything from Save-On-Foods’ expansion plans to e-comm and the challenges ahead. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

The company has been around for more than a century. As you set Save-On-Foods up for the future, what will be the key areas of focus?

We’re going to continue expanding throughout the West. For the last five years, we’ve opened up about five to 10 stores a year, so we’ll continue that kind of expansion. But, more than just stores, we’ll be making sure we have the right things that we need to deliver to the customer. That’s why we put e-commerce— either click-and-collect or delivery or both—in every one of our stores. That’s really important to us. And it’s also really important, as we come out of the pandemic, to make sure everybody’s feeling comfortable going back into the stores. Soon the masks will be gone and things will get back to normal and we need to be there to support our team members and our customers as they go through that process. That’s a short-term [focus]. Long term, it’s all about being focused on, as we say, “giving the customers what they want, where they want it and how they want it.” Our mission statement is customer-first. That’s been our mantra for the last 106 years.

For the last five years, we’ve opened up about five to 10 stores a year, so we’ll continue that kind of expansion. But, more than just stores, we’ll be making sure we have the right things that we need to deliver to the customer

You mentioned continued expansion—can you tell us a bit more about those plans?

We have two new stores planned for Vancouver Island. We’ve got three or four right in the lower mainland, greater Vancouver. We have a new store in the plans for Regina and for Saskatoon, and we’ve got a couple of stores planned for Alberta as well. So, we’ve got about eight or so stores in the pipeline, in different parts of Western Canada. And we’ve probably got that many slated for next year, as well.

As you continue to expand the business with new stores, how do you ensure the level of service that Save-On-Foods prides itself on is carried across the entire network?

That is probably the most difficult job you can have in the retail food business—to maintain the consistency of your service. And I think it happens when you make that almost the cornerstone of what you do. In other words, you try to hire people with a really good attitude and train them for whatever you need them to do. So, that’s really important. And also [it’s about] having great communication to your management staff, to your team members, all the

way down the line, and appreciating what they do and not taking them or your customers for granted. We have service awards every year where we have a dinner, and hand out various awards for years of service; and we try to recognize all kinds of milestones that people have. So anything you can do to show them [employees] they’re not just a number, that they’re a part of a hundred-and-some-year-old organization that cares about them. And if you show you care about your team members, they’re going to reflect that in how they take care of the customers. That’s our philosophy. It’s always a challenge when you grow and you’re going into new provinces to continue to do that, but we’ve been fortunate in keeping that rolling along.

Meals have been identified as one of the big opportunities ahead for grocers. Would you agree?

Absolutely. Having meals-to-go and meal suggestions for customers is important. Customers want to come in and have a meal ready for them to pick up. Our goal is for the customer to be able to order their groceries online, and also say, “Oh, by the way, I want this for dinner,” and for us to able to deliver that [hot meal]. We’re not able to do it yet, but that’s where we want to be. We’re in the midst of building a commissary so we can produce and have super products available for our customers along with what we make today in the stores. But there’s no question, particularly for full-service supermarkets—maybe less so for the discounters—that you better be able to deliver on what the customer’s looking for. And that is definitely a meal solution for tonight, and one that’s not going to be a lot of work for them. So, that’s going to be a big part of the business going forward. Today, it’s really a share of stomach that you’re looking for as opposed to just share of groceries.

So that’s an opportunity. On the flipside, what is the big challenge ahead?

Competition in the marketplace. There are so many online participants selling groceries—offering groceries at good prices and maybe not so good prices. And now restaurants and grocery stores are starting to compete for some of the same customers. It’s never been more competitive in the retail food business than it is today. Period! We were fortunate to have e-commerce [prior to the pandemic]. E-commerce used to be a nice thing to have, now it’s the cornerstone of your business—it continues to grow and grow and grow.

Can you talk about Save-On-Foods’ e-commerce strategy?

We decided five or six years ago that we didn’t want to third-party the experience that the customer gets at any point when they deal with our company. We

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 29

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Cover story

Talent today, particularly in areas like IT, is really, really tough to get, because everybody’s offering more money, more money, more money. So at the end of the day, you have to figure out how to make it about something more than just money

have hundreds of vans that pick up groceries from the store and deliver them right to the customer’s door. And when groceries get picked in our stores, we get our more experienced people to pick the fresh products to make sure the lettuce is the best, the grapes are the best, et cetera. All of this is to make sure the groceries that get delivered are the very best and freshest possible. It’s really important to us that we control the groceries from the time they get picked in our stores to when they get delivered to the customer’s home.

companies that work with us that are allowing us to get there. We’re also part of the [Canada Plastics Pact] plastics initiative, which I’m proud to say [a lot of companies in] the food industry are participating in—trying to eliminate and lessen the number of plastics being used. And then when it comes to saving energy, for the last 20 years we’ve had our stores using progressively less power. There’s a lot on the go and [sustainability] is something that’s at the forefront of everything we do and think about as we put our new stores together.

You’ve invested heavily in e-comm, making it available at every store. What has been the biggest pain point in rolling this out?

Earlier this year you became head of the new Pattison Food Group—formed to unite Jim Pattison Group’s food businesses. What’s the advantage of this move?

It’s the technology, the glitches that happen—the things that annoy your customers that you maybe don’t have as much control of as you might like; for instance, if something’s gone wrong with their order. And the last mile is really important and it’s the most costly part of delivery. But your focus has to be on the customer as opposed to the transaction, because we know customers will shop three ways— they’ll shop online for pickup, and for delivery, and they’ll shop in person. The experience always has to be fantastic, no matter how you slice it, if you want to keep those customers as your very good customers, because it’s just so competitive today.

As part of your e-comm strategy, you’re adding automation—can you tell us more about that?

There are two pieces to that. We’re actually adding automation to one of our existing warehouses here in Vancouver and we’re building an additional automated warehouse in Edmonton. And we’re going to be exploring automated picking inside of a store— we’ve got a large store with an automated section where a machine will pick a customer’s grocery order and our experienced people will still pick the fresh stuff. The first of those will be underway next year. So definitely automation is going to become a bigger part of reality; it’s going to continue to grow and be a big part of our business moving forward.

Now that pandemic concerns are easing, there seems to be renewed urgency around sustainability. Save-On-Foods has set some ambitious goals; can you talk about the company’s progress and priorities in this area?

Our goal is by the end of 2022 to have zero food waste. Zero! What that means is when we have products we feel aren’t optimal to sell, rather than getting thrown away they are put to the best possible use. The first place they go to is food banks that can take them; next they go to the farm—to animals—and then the final thing to do with the products is turn them into soil. We’re excited to say, we think we’ll be able to get to zero food waste by 2022. And we have

There are two or three things that will really get quick synergies, things like IT. So we’re now able to have one IT platform and profile that we can put through all of the stores [in the Group] and that’s really a big, quick win for us. Also, when it comes to buying synergies, the ability for us to be able to buy for all the companies through a central procurement is a really good opportunity for the companies to reduce their cost of goods. So, that’s certainly a needed one. But the one thing that’s critical to us is we don’t want to do anything that will change the relationships the banners have with their customers. You don’t want the customers ever to feel or think that there’s anything that’s different, because we know they go to Quality Foods because they want the Quality Foods experience. The same thing with Choices Markets, et cetera. So, it gives us the opportunity to get the behind-the-scenes synergies on all kinds of things that help lower costs so we can give our customers the best possible prices. And [members of the Pattison Food Group] are great people and we can learn from each other. It’s also a huge opportunity for people to be able move from one banner to another and to grow their career. So, that’s where the big wins are.

Finally, what would you say is the best part of your job?

No question. It’s the people. People are fantastic! And one of the biggest challenges in your business is trying to find the right people. It’s difficult sometimes to get the right talent that you need. Talent today, particularly in areas like IT, is really, really tough to get, because everybody’s offering more money, more money, more money. So at the end of the day, you have to figure out how to make it about something more than just money. But this is a people business. Sure, you retail groceries, but at the end of the day, it’s all about people. They’re the ones who make the company a success or a failure. It’s not the brilliance of the management; it’s the quality of the people. CG

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 31

Store design



By Carol Neshevich

Local connections, flexibility, and a return to shopping “experience” are all major themes in grocery store design as we head towards a post-pandemic era

As we start to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and a semblance of normal is beginning to return, Kevin Kelley, principal and co-founder of Los Angeles-based design firm Shook Kelley, says he’s busier than he’s ever been. Demand for his firm’s retail design services, he says, started booming as soon as pandemic safety measures began to lift. “We have so much work now that we’re in the mode of turning jobs down left and right,” he declares. But as the world emerges from the COVID-19 era and grocers look to create new stores or renovate old ones, what sorts of design trends will we see? “The pandemic can be viewed as ‘the great accelerator’ of shifts in the retail industry,” says Debbie Kalisky, associate, retail development at Montreal design firm GH+A. “It helped accelerate the monumental shifts that had already started pre-pandemic.” Canadian Grocer spoke with a handful of top retail designers from around the globe to glean insights on how the pandemic accelerated some existing food and shopping trends while taking others into new directions, and how all of this will affect grocery store design trends as we move forward.

Swiss retailer Migros opened Bridge this spring, a 21,000sq.-ft. grocery/food hall in Zurich. Using a flexible design strategy, the retailer views it as a “lab store” where it can foster innovation and try new ideas

The return of “experience” Online grocery shopping soared in the past year and a half, and grocers everywhere rapidly improved their e-commerce operations to meet demand, making the process easier and more reliable than ever.

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Store design

Esselunga in Brescia, Italy moved the checkouts from the front to the side of the store to make room for a large, glassed-in area where customers can see food being made as they enter

At the same time, at the height of the pandemic, the in-store shopping process was stripped down to something almost clinical—get in and out as fast as you can, with as little contact as possible. While most experts agree online shopping is here to stay, many consumers are feeling the urge to get out and enjoy their shopping trip, now that pandemic safety measures are easing. “There’s a pent-up well of desire for consumers to get out,” says Kelley. “I think consumers used to look at their home as a refuge, and their work and commute as drudgery, but now they’re like, ‘My home is not my refuge. It’s my nightmare and I need to get out,’” he laughs. “We’re hard-wired as humans to get out. We’re meant to have our senses activated by a million different things, so getting out is very important for us. It helps us to find memories and differentiate experiences in life.” And food, he says, is one of the most important sensory experiences for most people, so grocers are well-positioned to answer that call. But when online ordering is so convenient, enticing customers to the store may require retailers to add some extra appeal to the in-store experience. “For the grocery store to thrive amongst increased online grocery ordering, the appeal of the physical experience needs to be enhanced. Why should customers want to make the trip to the store?” says GH+A’s Kalisky. Mark Landini, creative director of Sydney, Australia-based Landini Associates, says elevating the in-store experience can be as simple as putting certain back-of-house processes that are already happening at the store—say, pizza-making or bread baking—on display for all to see, behind glass panels rather than hidden away. He likens it to a busy “market” feel. “People love markets, the movement, delivery and removal of goods, the yelling and the colour of commerce in action. People also like these as places to gather, gossip and gander,” he says. “I predict activity will return, open up and be displayed again. Maybe robotics will play an increasing role.

They’re certainly fun to watch.” So if you’re looking for experiential retailing, Landini argues, “it’s there already. You just have to move a few walls.” With this strategy in mind, Landini says retailers can even challenge the standard grocery store format with some forward-thinking rejigging. “Why, for example, should you not plan for the death of the checkout—Amazon is marketing ‘Just Walk Out’ [technology] to third parties already—by moving the checkouts from the front to the side, and replacing this with [on-display] bakeries and kitchens that already exist?” he says. His firm’s recent work for grocery retailer Esselunga in Brescia, Italy did just this, moving the checkout stations to the side to display bread baking and food production behind a glass wall in a prominent spot by the entrance, giving shoppers a glimpse into where their food is coming from as they enter the store. Of course, pre-pandemic, the idea of in-store dining was probably one of the hottest trends when it came to grocery “experience”—and this is one of the elements that completely disappeared in 2020. Most designers agree in-store restaurant-style dining will be back in fashion at grocery stores as pandemic safety restrictions continue to lift—but perhaps not as quickly as grocers might like. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, president of Toronto-based Shikatani Lacroix Design, thinks consumers who are keen to dine out are going to hit all their favourite traditional restaurants before they start dining in grocery stores, “because there is this pent-up demand to go to restaurants.” That said, Lacroix suggests grocers continue to focus on expanding and improving their in-store dining areas and offerings to cater specifically to local demographics—because as the post-lockdown restaurant rush eventually slows, grocers will be there to fill a niche. “What supermarkets have [going for them is] large commissary kitchens at the back and their local presence. So they’re not driven by creating a chain of restaurants and finding their operational efficiency—they can make brands that are targeted to key consumer segments based on the trading area, which is a competitive advantage to them,” he says.

Food and shopping trends, even prior to the pandemic, shift so rapidly it’s sometimes hard for grocers to keep up. This pattern of fast-changing trends prompted Italy-based design firm Interstore | Schweitzer to create its new store design concept called Flexstore. “Having worked with food retailers for decades, there’s been this ongoing issue around how to adapt the store to fit with changing demands. And if you think about it, as an operator, if I want to add a vegan counter or a pizza oven, I may have to make a decision about ‘what do I give up to create the space for that?’” says Nathan Watts, creative director at the firm’s London office. “And the classic problem retailers face is that it’s so expensive to refit a store because of the plumbing 34  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2021


Focus on flexibility


and all of the heavy cost of engineered equipment and how to move it,” Watts explains. “So I think what happens is retailers have this point of inertia or lack of action because the cost makes it hard to do anything. Over time, that actually leads to a bit of a state of decline and a loss of relevance, because the retailer is not keeping up with the needs of the customer.” Enter the Flexstore model, which “effectively puts the store on wheels,” says Watts. “So instead of plumbing everything in from the ground and the wall, we’re providing all the services from the ceiling, and a set of bespoke equipment that can basically plug-and-play and be moved around and arranged much more easily than a traditional set of equipment.” This gives retailers significantly more freedom, he says, “to act when they realize they have something that needs to happen in their space.” While this concept was already in the works when the pandemic hit, the importance of flexibility in design was undeniably magnified by the crisis. All of a sudden salad bars closed, in-store dining was shut down, and many parts of the store had to be re-jigged for COVID-safe shopping. “I think retailers have never come across a moment where it’s been so obvious that change is needed quickly in store,” says Watts, “and this is why the development of Flexstore was quite timely for us.” One of the first stores featuring the Flexstore design strategy is Bridge in Zurich, opened this spring by Swiss retailer Migros. The 21,000-sq.-ft. grocery/food hall location is being viewed as a “lab store” by the retailer, a place where it can foster innovation by trying out new ideas to be implemented in other stores. “They’re trialling our Flexstore system as much more of a pop-up strategy around how to bring in local producers, local foodservice operators, and to enable this space to have a bit more of a dynamic life of ever-changing food content.” One flexible element in the store is the cooking/ food lab area: “Customers can go there and meet, and they can have cookery schools in the space, but the whole environment is flexible—so they can completely convert the environment into smaller cookery classes or large almost amphitheatre-like experiences with big-name chefs, and so on,” Watts says, referring to it as a kind of “mobile kitchen” that can be moved around the space. Another example is the checkout stations, which are on wheels and can be moved around if you want space for something else at the front of the store. “The checkout classically lives in a quite important real estate space towards the front of the store—so having a mobile checkout area where you can just push the checkout slightly to one side to enable you to open that area up for other events and pop-ups has been built into the store, so they can move things around and address whatever they need to in that space,” says Watts, who notes that while the details are still under wraps, his firm is currently working with a Canadian client on implementing the Flexstore-style design.

Bridge in Zurich uses the Flexstore design concept, which effectively puts the store on wheels with a set of bespoke equipment that can be moved and rearranged more easily than traditional equipment

All things local While the desire for all things “local” was trending well before the pandemic, it’s been amplified significantly in the past year and a half. But now, it’s not just about sustainability or quality; it’s also about the supply chain and supporting your local economy and community when times are tough. Most designers agree the idea of “local” will increasingly make its way into store design in various interesting ways. “Localization in food retail is a powerful consumer draw. It determines what makes a grocery store feel integral to the local community. It’s what gives it its sense of place and fosters pride of belonging,” says GH+A’s Kalisky. “This can be achieved through design cues that incorporate indigenous materials into the store design, or highlighting merchandise produced by local vendors such as artisanal cheeses, butchers, farmers’ produce, bakers.” To sum it up, she says, “the space needs to be contextualized to reflect the values of its community.” Sabrina Fan, principal at Shook Kelley, points to its design of the flagship Save Mart in Modesto, Calif. (which opened just prior to the pandemic) as an example of a store consciously designed to reflect its local Central Valley/Central California community. “The whole store is designed using a local agriculture industry and warehouse inspiration of corrugated metals, concrete blocks, industrial I-beam structures

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Store design

Sustainability in design While sustainability initially took a backseat to virus-related concerns at the start of the pandemic, environmental worries soon returned stronger than ever. With sustainability again topof-mind with consumers, expect to see it take on a higher importance in store design, too. According to JeanPierre Lacroix of Shikatani Lacroix, this will include everything from rooftop solar panels and sustainable building materials to a move away from cardboard signage toward digital signs. “You’re going to see a lot less of that cardboard hanging as supermarkets focus on sustainability. They are going to drive that agenda,” he says. “Part store, part dark store” With online grocery shopping and delivery clearly here to stay, some larger-sized sized stores may decide to restructure to become “part store, part dark store,” as Interstore | Schweitzer’s Nathan Watts refers to it, meaning one section of the store will be the in-person shopping area, while another section will be solely dedicated to online order fulfillment. “There’s a lot of talk about how certain retailers will address the use of their spaces, especially when we think about how dark stores are integrated in the future to help to supply online ordering,” he says. Health & wellness Interest in wellness has been rising for several years, but COVID-19 led to greater interest in immunity, and this is an area poised to grow considerably. “You’re going to see health and wellness play a more significant role in the store design,” says Lacroix, noting health and wellness-related areas may take over some space previously devoted to centre store, as people move to buying centre-store staples online. “So we may think of a pharmacy [inside a grocery store] right now as kind of an add-on, but you’re going to see pharmacy and wellness get larger and larger.” 36  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2021

Aldi Corner Store made its debut in July in North Sydney, Australia. The 10,635-sq.-ft. store is aimed at a local, predominantly walk-in customer base, with a focus on fresh offerings

At the flagship Save Mart in Modesto, Calif., the in-store restaurant embraces local with its food offerings as well as its shipping container format, a nod to the agricultural focus of the area

and other raw materials, as well as exposed framing and ductwork,” she says, noting the produce section “especially captures this feel, as a ‘produce depot.’ The depot concept is visually raw and taps into the local area’s agricultural wealth. Its large concrete wall backdrop is anchored by a plant wall made of industrial pallets and painted ‘Local’ [lettering] graphics that also speak to the brand’s local roots.” The in-store restaurant, the Tipping Point—which looks like a huge, brightly coloured shipping container—also taps into the idea of local by reflecting the community’s food culture, says Fan. “The restaurant is all about doing barbecue tri-tip really well, and extending that ‘hero item’ into many forms that show an understanding of how the community eats through fun takes like tri-tip tacos, tri-tip tortas, tritip sandwiches. Tri-tip’s a California barbecue staple popularized along the Central Coast, so embracing it, doing it well, and having some fun with it, is about




embracing the specificity and understanding the specialness of the community,” she explains. And design-wise, the Tipping Point “has an iconographic quality with the two-level shipping container form, which references the dominance of the agricultural industry in the Central Valley.” As we emerge from the pandemic, the importance of community will increasingly play a critical role in store design, echoes Lacroix, “so you’re going to see a big push by grocery store chains to reaffirm their commitment to the community.” Interestingly, Landini also connects this local/community focus to the simultaneous trend we’re seeing toward smaller stores. “As space becomes a premium, and daily shopping desires focus on safety and convenience, retailers are looking for spaces closer to their customers. This can drive frequency, potentially engender loyalty and probably require specialization. Local often means smaller and, as such, necessarily tailored to their community’s needs. That’s a good business model if you can deliver.” Other designers agree smaller-format is trending when it comes to store size. “You’re definitely going to see a shrinking of the stores,” says Lacroix. “Consumers are going to want more representation of smaller, local stores versus the large superstores.” Kelley concurs, adding that “around 10,000 square feet seems to be the magic size.” Landini Associates worked on a 10,635-sq.-ft. store for Aldi in North Sydney, Australia under a new small-format banner called Aldi Corner Store, which made its debut in July. Aimed at a local, predominantly walk-in customer base with a focus on fresh offerings, each store under this new banner will commission a local artist to create artworks celebrating the store’s surrounding neighbourhood. At the inaugural Aldi Corner Store in North Sydney, for instance,

renowned Australian street artist Mulga (Joe Moore) uses his signature bright colours to illustrate ideas of not only tasty food and fresh produce, but also to evoke elements of the North Sydney area itself (examples include images of the red Banksia plant, native to North Sydney, as well as wavy blue lines that symbolize the nearby harbour, according to the artist.) Overall, Shook Kelley’s Fan suggests the increased focus on local and community may stem, in part, from a backlash against the rise of the massive online entities like Amazon. “If Amazon and its mostly place-less yet convenient approach is the big ‘enemy’ of the future for traditional grocery, being their opposite can be about capturing a more detailed reflection of ‘local’ or providing a more tailored experience that Amazon doesn’t fulfill—for instance, a sense of neighbours and neighbourhood; what it means to really be within and from a community,” she says. “On a broader scale, the prominence of ‘local’ in grocery design probably just reflects how much culture and society are grappling with questions and tensions between convenience versus quality; best value versus best experience; and being for anyone versus being for you.” CG

To emphasize its local focus, Aldi Corner Store commissioned a local artist to fill the North Sydney location with artworks that celebrate the store’s surrounding neighbourhood

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category close-up

Abonanza beer Convenience and variety have shoppers heading to grocery stores for the latest in beer blends


hese days grocers are carrying an impressive selection of beer styles and flavours luring more and more consumers to the grocery aisle for their favourite picks. After all, why line up at the liquor or beer store, when you can find what you need to pair your favourite foods and beer varieties at your local grocer.

With more pandemic-inspired home entertaining going on this past year, Canadian retail sales of beer, wine and liquor increased some $15 million between April 2020 and 2021—and industry experts expect this shopping behaviour to continue even as the world opens up again. With that in mind, here are some trends for grocers to consider when stocking their beer aisles. Local love = bigger baskets: While exported beer has been in decline for years, COVID-19 has prompted an even greater shift to local product, especially with more independent craft breweries now offering a variety of local options. (There are 300+ craft breweries in Ontario alone!) The result is larger basket sizes, with shoppers opting for four- and six-packs of locally brewed beer instead of single cans. Feel-good brews: Value is always top of mind, but consumers are also looking for products they can feel good about consuming. They’re gravitating to beer brands that promote diversity and inclusion, or those contributing back to their communities, the environment or other important causes. Be sure those brands are part of your offering. For example, proceeds from every can of Muskoka Brewery’s Born this Way IPA goes to the Get REAL Movement to help combat discrimination and promote acceptance for all.

Top Shelf Picks

Survival Pack: For a little of everything Muskoka Brewery offers a six-pack featuring its all-malt Craft Lager, Detour India Session Ale and a lighter option with Tread Lightly lager. Plus, each pack helps restore 1m2 of Canadian water with a contribution to

The perfect pair: Shoppers are always keen on discovering new food and drink combinations and the grocery store provides the perfect opportunity to do that. IPAs are good with spicy foods, for example, and stouts pair well with heartier carbs. Grocers can promote interesting beer and food pairings via their flyers, website or through in-store signage. They can also consult with brewers for new pairing suggestions. SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL FEATURE IN CANADIAN GROCER–AUGUST 2021

Ebb & Flow Sour: A combination of fresh raspberry, meyer lemons and a squeeze of citrusy yuzu, it’s a refreshing beer and a flavour explosion.

Grand Prix Winners


GROCERIES Croissant bread, meatless burgers, compostable coffee pods and bamboo toothbrushes were among the 40 products earning the distinction of being winners of the 28th edition of the Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards. The awards recognize the best new grocery products to hit the market in 2020, as determined by a jury of industry experts. With Canadians spending more time at home, “they are craving products to

prepare at home to satisfy their need for variety. They are looking for new taste experiences from dishes made with high-quality ingredients that appeal to various taste preferences,” said Diane J. Brisebois, president and CEO of the Retail Council of Canada, which presents the annual awards. “We’re always impressed with how the winning products reflect the changing interests of Canadians.” Here’s a rundown of all the winning products:

National brands

FOOD Bakery Fresh – Par-baked Oroweat Organic 22 Grains & Seeds Bread || BIMBO CANADA

Baking Needs & Dried Bakery Robin Hood Organic All Purpose Flour || THE J.M. SMUCKER CO.

Beverages Maxwell House Compostable Coffee Pods || KRAFT HEINZ CANADA

Condiments & Sauces Heinz Mayoracha Sauce


Confectionery & Shelf Stable Desserts Chunkies Energy Bites || THEOBROMA CHOCOLAT

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 41

Grand Prix Winners National brands food (continued) Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese & spreadables) Gay Lea Specialty Butters || GAY LEA FOODS CO-OPERATIVE

Deli Meats and Cheeses Balderson Natural Cheese Slices || LACTALIS CANADA

Frozen or Refrigerated Prepared Foods & Entrees SOUP’S ON Plant-based Soups || VICTORY’S KITCHEN

Fruit, Vegetable & Produce (fresh/ refrigerated or frozen) Arctic Gardens’ Pesticide Residue Tested Frozen Vegetables || BONDUELLE CANADA Shelf Stable Prepared Foods & Entrees Bonduelle Mini Cans || BONDUELLE CANADA

Snack (savoury) Hardbite Potato Chips Explorer Pack || HARDBITE

Snack (sweet) Patience Fruit & Co Organic Dried Cranberries - No Added Sugar || FRUIT D’OR


Winner: Patak’s Veggie Curries || AB World Foods


Winner: Patience Fruit & Co Organic Dried Cranberries – No Added Sugar || Fruit d’Or


Winner: Maxwell House Compostable Coffee Pods || Kraft Heinz Canada

• I NNOVATIVE PACKAGING Winner: SOUP’S ON Plant-based Soups || Victory’s Kitchen •O VERALL CONSUMER VALUE

Winner: Western Family Ultimate Cheesecake Collection || Save-On-Foods

42  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2021

National brands

NONFOOD Appliance & Cookware Alcan Made with 100% Recycled Aluminum Bakeware || REYNOLDS CONSUMER PRODUCTS CANADA

General Merchandise Papyrus - Hello Kitty Patch || CARLTON CARDS

Health Care – Over the Counter Nutrameltz Orally Dissolving Supplements || NUTRAMELTZ

Paper, Plastic & Foil Reynolds Kitchens Unbleached Compostable Parchment Paper


Personal Care Live Clean Body Lotion


Pet Needs Purina Pro Plan LiveClear || NESTLÉ PURINA

New Product Award Winner

Vegan Protein Powder • Plant based

• Dairy free

• 21g protein per serving

• Source of Fibre

• Non GMO

To find a Rexall location near you, visit

Grand Prix Winners

Private label

FOOD Bakery Fresh (par-baked) Co-op Gold Croissant Loaf


Beverages Life Smart Organic Kombucha || METRO INC.

Condiments & Sauces Life Smart Naturalia Grapefruit & Pink Pepper Dressing || METRO INC. Confectionery & Shelf Stable Desserts Selection Premium Fruit Jelly Box || METRO INC.

Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese & spreadables) Delicious Kitchen Original Coconut Milk Beverage || WALMART CANADA

Frozen or Refrigerated Prepared Foods & Entrees Longo’s Chickpea Veggie Burgers


Fruit, Vegetable & Produce (fresh/refrigerated or frozen) Cal & Gary’s Meatless Burgers || CALGARY CO-OP

Meat, Egg & Seafood (fresh/refrigerated or frozen) Compliments Naturally Simple Pork Sausages || SOBEYS INC. Shelf Stable Prepared Foods & Entrees Co-op Gold PURE Pasta


Snack (savoury) Irresistibles Old-fashioned Chips || METRO INC.

Snack (sweet) Selection Premium Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Peanut Butter Cups || METRO INC.

Deli Meats & Cheeses Co-op Gold PURE Cheese


Desserts (fresh, refrigerated or frozen) Western Family Ultimate Cheesecake Collection || SAVE-ON-FOODS

Private label

NONFOOD Baby Care Personnelle Baby Wipes || METRO INC. General Merchandise Selection Eco Compostable Tablewear Party Pack || METRO INC. Hair Care Personnelle Cleansing Wipes for Beard and Moustache || METRO INC.

44  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2021

Health Care – Oral Hygiene Personnelle Bamboo Charcoal Toothbrushes || METRO INC. Health Care – Over the Counter Be Better Vegan Protein Powder || REXALL Household Products Co-op Gold PURE Concentrated Pods


Personal Care Personnelle Eco Ultrathin Organic Pads with Wings || METRO INC. Pet Needs Special Kitty Flushable Clumping Cat Litter || WALMART CANADA

We took our CO-OP GOLD PURE® Concentrated Pods to the Retail Council of Canada Grand Prix New Product Awards and cleaned up. We’re honoured to announce that four innovative Co-op products have been recognized by the tastemakers of the food industry, joining an already impressive roster of award-winning Co-op items.

! y a d o s t t r e in repo l n o / y m p o o c . c r 1 e c 2 o 0 r 2 g r n u a o i y nad r e Ca Ord


Annual directory of chains and groups in Canada


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HEALTHY HITS THE SPOT As more consumers look for better-for-you snacking options, innovative new products are answering the call By Jessica Huras

Demand for healthy snacks is growing, as consumers seek out betterfor-you ways to satiate their cravings. Research from NielsenIQ reveals many snack categories saw increased sales over the past year in Canada, including healthier options like “snacking fruits, nuts and seeds,” which grew by 15% to $949 million, and “puffed cakes” (such as rice cakes), which grew by 18% to $102 million. And globally, the healthy snacks market is forecast to reach $98 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 5.8% between 2020 and 2025, according to Euromonitor International. As more proof of better-for-you snacking’s popularity, even heavyweight companies like Mondelēz and Mars are eager to get in on the action. Earlier this year, Mondelēz International acquired Hu Products, which specializes in vegan and paleo-friendly chocolate bars; while Mars acquired healthy snack company KIND North America in late 2020.

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 47

The growth of the healthy snack category is largely it. “People just want to treat themselves a little, and being driven by younger generations, suggests Dana food is a good comforting factor, especially in these McCauley, director of New Venture Creation at the uncertain times,” says Crouch. He says consumers University of Guelph. By contrast, “baby boomers are drawn to snacks that help them achieve their tend to still eat three meals a day,” she explains. health goals while also satisfying a craving, adding The pandemic has spurred snacking in general (a that Riverside has seen an uptick in sales of its choc2020 survey from The Hartman Group showed 35% olate SKUs in recent months as a result of this trend. of consumers said they were snackRemix’s Lee believes her brand’s ing more often), including healthier “Snacking overall high-protein, high-fibre dark chocooptions. “Snacking overall as a cateas a category late bark products similarly tap into gory has surged because of people has surged this consumer desire to indulge but being home and able to graze all day because of people with a better-for-you snack. “It still versus being in the office or at school,” being home and tastes good, yet you’re getting some says Melinda Zoccoli, vice-president able to graze all benefits and it’s keeping you full for marketing and supplier services for day versus being longer,” she says. United Natural Foods (UNFI). in the office On the savoury side, Elysia VandenZoccoli adds the pandemic has also or at school” hurk, chief revenue officer for Three impacted which healthy snack formats Farmers, says the company is leveragconsumers prefer. She notes, for example, that larger, ing consumer interest in healthier alternatives by family-size snack formats were more in demand over creating roasted pulse snacks with traditional chipthe past year. Jamie Lee, co-founder of Remix Snacks, like flavours. “We’ve taken the approach to make sure has observed a similar trend. “We’ve been seeing less that we use very familiar, craveable flavours,” says single-serving snacks and people have been buying Vandenhurk, highlighting products such as Dill Pickle more bulk items,” she says. “There’s no more need for Roasted Peas and Sea Salt & Vinegar Roasted Lentils. putting it in your purse or backpack to go to school.” When it comes to the nutritional benefits consumThe pandemic also seems to have fuelled con- ers are seeking from healthy snacks, high-protein sumer desire for snacks that offer “permissible options are among the most popular. “Those diets indulgence,” as Wade Crouch, head of marketing that people have created tribes around, such as keto at Riverside Natural Foods (a company with brands and paleo [diets], there are huge snacking innovation that include MadeGood and Good To Go) describes opportunities there,” explains McCauley. “They keep launching products, so that does seem like a fairly insatiable market.” Riverside’s Crouch says Good To Go bars have been a hit with consumers because they’re keto-friendly while also having a cake-like texture that feels like a treat. “It’s low-sugar and keto-friendly but it’s also really honing in on that indulgence trend people are looking for,” he says. Three Farmers is also doubling down on its high-protein offerings with the launch of its new roasted fava bean products, which feature almost double the amount of protein as the brand’s popular chickpea snacks, according to Vandenhurk. Beyond achieving specific nutritional goals, consumers are increasingly choosing healthy snacks that also offer clean labels and minimally processed ingredients. “People are looking to really understand the ingredients of products and what they’re actually eating and what’s going into their bodies,” says Crouch. MadeGood’s recently-released Star Puffed Crackers, for example, are organic and free from common allergens, both of 48  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2021




Parchment Paper Perfection Reynolds Kitchens® proudly introduces a new unbleached compostable parchment paper lineup – completely chlorine free, made with 75% unbleached fibres, fully compostable (TUV Certified), and sustainably sourced (FSC Certified). Now consumers can not only enjoy making wholesome recipes, but also feel good about baking them with Reynolds Kitchens® Unbleached Compostable Parchment Paper.

The Power of Protein

The Gold Standard The Co-op Gold Croissant Loaf is a revelation in the world of comfort food. This flaky croissant comes in a sliceable loaf, making it the best sliced bread since sliced bread! This ingenious snack is produced by a small bakery in Delta, British Columbia. Available in two varieties, cinnamon brown sugar and classic croissant, these loaves are light, fluffy and perfectly flaky. Anything bread can do, croissant loaf can do better!

Be Better Vegan Protein Powder is plant based, dairy free and packed with 21g of protein per serving. Ingredients include non-GMO pea protein isolate, organic rice protein, hemp protein, natural flavours, and more. One level scoop is mixed with water or any other beverage of choice until desired flavour and consistency is achieved. For optimal results, it is recommended to consume immediately after exercise. Available in Vanilla Bean or Decadent Chocolate flavours.


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Let’s be bold and make fine cheese fun. Monsieur Gustav cheeses focus on innovation to enhance the tasting experience.


Double Crème



Aisles which are big selling points for consumers. Similarly, Vandenhurk says Three Farmers’ minimal processing resonates with its customers. “We don’t take a bean and turn it into something that it’s not,” she says. “The bean is still the bean. It’s real food from a real farm.” Three Farmers’ pulses are sourced from Canadian farms, gaining the brand fans among consumers who prioritize local products. “I think consumers are extremely concerned about where their food is coming from,” says Vandenhurk. Three Farmers’ packaging includes information about each product’s traceability, as well as a code that customers can enter via the brand’s website to learn more about where the snack comes from and how it’s made. George Bachoumis, general manager of McEwan Fine Foods in Toronto, says the pandemic has driven its customers to double down on supporting local products in general, including healthy snacks. “People are trying to support local businesses because of what has been going on. I think it’s across the board,” he says. Consumers are also showing strong interest in healthy snacks that aren’t just good for their own bodies but are good for the environment, too. “There are a lot of new products coming out that are using what used to be the waste stream of food manufacturing and saying, ‘Hey, what else can we do with this?’” says McCauley. Remix Snacks, for example, uses imperfect, upcycled fruit in its chocolate recipes. “I think something that resonates with customers is our double-sided mission,” Lee explains. “Our label is clean and our other mission is to be as environmentally responsible and as sustainable as possible.” Lee says Remix is currently developing a new snack that puts an even greater emphasis on upcycled fruit in its recipe. “Slowly, we’re seeing upcycled fruits, we’re seeing eco-friendly packaging, more sustainable and responsible farming, fair trade chocolate—all of these environmental aspects of snacks—in the spotlight now,” she says. UNFI’s Zoccoli says this trend towards eco-friendly, healthy snacks extends to packaging, with brands like MakerBars using compostable packaging for their products. “Millennials and gen Z, they’ll pay a little bit more for products that are better for the environment and good for them,” she says. In-store, showcasing healthy snacks near their traditional counterparts can be a helpful way to convert new customers, says Robin Langford, product category manager for grocery at Ontario’s Goodness Me! Natural Food Market. “That’s based on watching customer patterns, where they move down the aisle and they see, ‘Oh, I don’t always have to grab that bag of chips, maybe I can go with seaweed with a salt and oil base and see how I like that snack,” she says. Three Farmers’ Vandenhurk says secondary placements for healthy snacks can also be a smart strategy. “The other great place for us is in the produce area,” she says. “Our products are primarily a snack

but they’re also a really great gluten-free salad topper option.” Remix’s Lee adds that secondary placements can also serve to highlight the wholesome ingredients found in certain snacks. Putting Remix products in the produce section, she says, can help “play on our upcycled fruit and make that link [for the customer].” Riverside’s Crouch says that with many grocers continuing to see increasing online sales, it’s important to not overlook online merchandising. He suggests the impulse nature of snack buying can be incorporated into the online experience, perhaps through add-ons or extra purchase suggestions. He also recommends grocers think about the drivers behind healthy snack purchases when marketing these products online, such as desire for sustainable, local products and the benefits of the ingredients. “We’ve found that’s very important to really help shoppers because [when buying online] they can’t touch the product—so the content is key.”


Whether your customers’ preferred snacks are healthy or indulgent, there’s no question that snacking in general is big business in Canada. Check out NielsenIQ’s data on various snack categories for the latest 52 weeks ending July 17, 2021: $ SALES

$% CHG









Dry fruit



Lunch kits



Lunch packs



Marshmallow treats



Meat sticks & beef jerky



Nutritious portable foods



Popping corn



Puffed cakes



Salty snacks



Snacking fruits nuts & seeds



Candied snack foods

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 51


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SAY CHEESE! Specialty cheeses are in the spotlight, thanks to a passion for charcuterie boards, social media and a quest to mix it up


By Michele Sponagle Once upon a time, saying the word “cheese” would make most Canadians picture a simple, straightforward cheddar. But today, peek inside the average person’s fridge and you’re just as likely to find Gouda, provolone or feta sitting next to that standard orange cheddar block. While cheddar is undoubtedly still a favourite, specialty cheeses as a group are being consumed at a higher rate per capita in Canada than cheddar these days, according to Statista data. Sales of “exact weight deli cheese” are up by 9% to $808 million, while “random weight deli cheese” sales were up by 4% to $318 million in the 52 weeks ending July 10, 2021, according to NielsenIQ data. And Statista research shows the average Canadian is estimated to have consumed about 12.5 kg of cheese in 2020. Over the last decade, that’s an increase of more than 15%, while, interestingly, milk sales have declined by about one-third since 2004. Fuelling sales of specialty cheese are a few wild

cards, like a recent viral TikTok pasta recipe that sparked a meltdown in North America’s feta supply; headline-making cheeses, like those made from yak milk and aged underwater; and, recently, a Food Network show called Cheese: A Love Story that has viewers swooning over cheese from around the globe. Add to the mix the current obsession with charcuterie boards. “I’ve marvelled at their rise,” says Debbie Trenholm, a cheese sommelier and president, Savvy Company in Ottawa. “I’ve noticed photos on my social media feeds that show charcuterie boards as works of art. They have transitioned from party trays to meal alternatives.” Trenholm, whose company offers services like monthly cheese subscriptions and taste-to-buy events, has also noticed customers appreciating cheeses for their ability to conjure up travel memories. “Even before COVID, visiting the cheese counter at a grocery store with an array of cheeses from interesting places was like taking a mini trip around the world without leaving home,” she says. “This has helped to fuel our sense of adventure even while not being able to travel.” The quest for “new” has been unstoppable. Shep Ysselstein, cheesemaker and owner of Gunn’s Hill Cheese in Woodstock, Ont., was initially sticking with his trusty roster of award-winning, Swiss-inspired artisan cheeses (sold at major chains), but then changed his thinking. “I was inspired by craft breweries and how they constantly offer fresh choices to their customers,” he explains. “So, we

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 53



Aisles started introducing new products pretty much each At Denninger’s Foods of The World’s five Ontario month. This approach has been very popular for us.” stores, signage to promote specialty cheeses is Supporting local is big, too. Ysselstein has part- important, says marketing and procurement mannered with other nearby businesses to create new ager, Nathalie Coutayar. “Cheese is like wine so it’s flavours, like a cheese made with Early Bird Coffee helpful to not only offer tasting notes, but also the espresso beans and another made with local horse- story behind it,” she says. “Selling cheeses is about radish (coming soon). While feeding consumer appe- the experience. As well, one of our key strategies has tite for the latest and greatest, those smaller batches been to merchandise by country and by cheese type.” give an artisanal cheese producer like Gunn’s Hill The retailer’s prime cheese demographic is custhe chance to test out products before scaling up and tomers aged 35-plus. “Charcuterie boards have introducing them to grocery retailers. allowed us to really promote specialty cheeses,” she With more than 1,000 types of cheese adds. “And we’re finding cheeses infused available globally, boredom is not an option. “Cheese is with alcohol, like whisky, wine and beer Teresa Spinelli, president, Italian Centre like wine so are trending, along with hard cheeses Shop (with outlets in Edmonton and Calit’s helpful like Gouda, and Swiss cheeses such as gary), is seeing customers choose uniquely to not only Emmentaler. ‘Comfort food’ as a trend flavoured cheeses, like those infused with offer tasting throughout COVID has helped with sales truffle or even a Dutch cheese made from notes, but of cheeses used for cooking.” coconut cream, as well as colourful varietalso the story Arla Foods also recognizes the role of ies like a green pesto cheese. Bold cheeses behind it” specialty cheeses as feel-good foods. The are also trending—sharp, well-aged and company offers a broad portfolio of brands exceedingly flavourful; as well as halloumi, a semi- covering everything from Gorgonzola to brie (Cashard unripened cheese from Cyprus ideal for grilling/ tello) to cream cheese (Arla), as well as mozzarella frying and as a meat substitute. (Last year, Saputo even and mascarpone from Arla’s 61-year-old Canadian introduced a halloumi “burger,” sliced patties that can brand favourite, Tre Stelle. The company has seen be grilled on the barbecue or in a pan.) strong retail sales during COVID as Canadians conWhen it comes to adding to Italian Centre Shop’s tinue to embrace home cooking. roster of cheese, Spinelli stays tuned to new trends Ricotta, bocconcini and feta sales have been popping up on social media and television. But most exceptional. “We’ve seen accelerated consumer of all, she listens to her customers. “When 10 people behaviour among those in their 20s and 30s inspired in a day ask for a certain type of Gruyère, we know by the abundance of social media trends in food, it’s a trend and make sure we’ve got it on hand,” she especially while restaurants were closed,” explains explains. “Our older clients tend to stick with their Ryan Baraniuk, the company’s director of marketing. favourites, but we’re finding the younger customers The pandemic has made consumers hyper-aware are more adventurous.” of their health, which has likely pumped up the It would be remiss not to mention vegan specialty appeal of specialty cheeses as part of the increasingly cheese—Transparency Market Research estimates popular flexitarian trend. As many consumers aim to North American vegan cheese sales to be US$600 eat less meat, “our specialty cheese options have million in 2021, potentially reaching US$1.4 billion been able to step in and serve as a protein source,” by 2031. In Canada, new vegan cheeses are com- says Baraniuk. Les Tomaszewski, Arla’s vice-presiing at a steady pace. From Alberta, Red Seal chef dent, sales, notes the company’s year-to-date sales Michelle Byrt has introduced Prairie Melt, resem- of halloumi are up by 50% and paneer by 40% (both bling mozzarella in taste and melting ability; and of which are commonly used as meat alternatives). Upfield, the world’s largest plant-based food com- “These products cater not only to the flexitarian pany, will open a state-of-the-art plant in Brantford, trend, but also to the interest in ethnic products as Ont. in 2021 to produce vegan cheeses under its new consumers look for new flavour profiles and explore Violife brand, including varieties akin to feta, provo- different global cuisines after a year and a half of lone and mozzarella. cooking at home,” he says. Nuts For Cheese in London, Ont. has expanded its A drive for convenience will also continue, as cusplant-based lineup to add a black garlic cheese made tomers look for easy options, right-sized packaging with fermented cashews, and will launch a cranberry and little extras, like the strainer provided with the pink peppercorn one—its first limited-edition sea- company’s feta products. “Anything like that will sonal cheese—this fall. In the absence of in-store go over nicely as Canadians resume their busy lives sampling, Margaret Coons, founder and CEO, says again,” says Baraniuk. At the top of the consumer wish Nuts For Cheese has been doing a few key things to list, however, is still great taste and comfort. “Can you drive sales, including sending retailers $1 off and free name a comfort food that doesn’t have cheese in it?” coupons not just for customers, but also staff who asks Tomaszewski. “Pizza, lasagna, grilled cheese… can help promote its vegan cheeses to those seeking Cheese is part of our Canadian lifestyle, and it makes non-dairy options. you feel good about what you’re eating.”

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 55


*Survey of 4,000 people by Kantar




Product of the Year Canada



Yuzu has recently increased its profile on Canadian grocery store shelves with new products. One of the earliest offerings came from Quebecbased soda company 1642, which launched a yuzu soda in February 2019. “At the time, this flavour was not known by consumers,” says 1642 founder Bastien Poulain, who says his yuzu sodas are commonly purchased as a mixer to make cocktails and mocktails. Jo-Ann McArthur, president and chief strategist at Nourish Food Marketing, says yuzu appeals to “adventurous foodies as well as younger generations who love to travel and try new tastes from around the world.”

Yuzu Four things to know By Andrea Yu

2 GRAPEFRUIT MEETS MANDARIN Yuzu is a tangerine-like citrus fruit that originates from Asia. “Imagine a grapefruit and a mandarin orange had a baby,” says Nourish’s Jo-Ann McArthur. When fully grown, yuzu is palm-sized and has a thick peel that’s firm and lumpy. It’s refreshing with a slightly tart flavour. While yuzu is believed to have originated in northern China, it made its way to southern Japan about 1,000 years ago and is now more commonly associated with Japanese cuisine.

Aisles 3  DO YOU YUZU? Google searches for the phrase “what is yuzu?” are up by 800% in Canada since May. Nourish’s Jo-Ann McArthur pinpoints the increased interest in this citrus fruit to a Loblaw summer campaign aptly titled “Do you yuzu?” “When I first tried yuzu, it stopped me in my tracks,” says Kathlyne Ross, vice-president of product development and innovation at Loblaw. “It had to be PC’s flavour of summer, and in every possible product.” The grocer developed a range of yuzu products for its President’s Choice brand, from chicken wings to hot sauce, cold brew coffee and Japanese-style cheesecake. Ready-made products such as the PC yuzu line are a great introduction for consumers new to the citrus. Once customers are familiar with it, grocers might consider stocking fresh yuzu in their produce aisles so they can experiment with it at home. But Nourish’s Jo-Ann McArthur cautions against placing yuzu directly alongside lemons. “Consumers will be confused as to the similar appearance,” she says. With sampling being a challenge during the pandemic, McArthur suggests listing tasting notes for customers so they can get a sense of what to expect from the fruit. For yuzu-based products that can also be incorporated into other dishes or beverages, like 1642’s yuzu soda, Bastien Poulain says recipes are a great merchandising tool. “It’s a simple way to promote how to use 1642 Yuzu,” he says. “Print a recipe and put it next to the product in your store. It’s easy and useful for your clients.”

4  SWEET & SAVOURY The tart and slightly bitter aroma of yuzu is considered its most appealing characteristic. Like lemons, yuzu is used to flavour dishes, rather than eating its flesh like you would with oranges. Traditionally, yuzu peel is grated and sprinkled over meat and fish as a flavour enhancer. The peel can also be used to make marmalade or to garnish soups. Long distances previously made it cost-prohibitive to send and ship this Asian citrus fruit to North America, but increased interest in international foods

and flavours has recently put yuzu in the spotlight here. Nowadays, you’ll see chefs of all cuisines incorporating yuzu into pastas, sautées and desserts. It’s an especially popular addition to beverages like cocktails, soda and beer. “It’s so flavourful—a little can go a long way,” Nourish’s Jo-Ann McArthur explains. “Because of its botanical notes, it can work well in both sweet and savoury product applications like cheesecakes, vinegars, dressing, hot sauce and even squeezed juice.”

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 57


Nominations are in!

And we can’t wait to share these inspirational stories with you Don't miss the Sept/Oct issue of Canadian Grocer featuring the 2021 Impact Award winners. In this issue we will be honouring retailers, suppliers and solution providers that are making a positive impact by helping the planet and supporting employees and communities across Canada in the following categories: • Sustainability (food waste, ethical sourcing, energy efficiency initiatives etc.) • Diversity, Equity & Inclusion • Supporting Employees • Community Service/Local Impact/Giving Back The Canadian grocery industry has been doing amazing work. Look for our exclusive coverage next month!

New on shelf!


2  EARTH’S OWN DAIRY-FREE SPREADS AND DIPS Earth’s Own, the Vancouver-based maker of alternative milks, is getting into dips and spreads with the launch of a spreadable plantbased butter, a dairy-free cream cheese style spread, a dairy-free sour cream and a creamy plant-based ranch dip. Ideal for anything from bagels to baking, they’re not only dairy free, they’re also free from gluten, nuts and soy.


3  BUTCHER’S SELECT PLANT-BASED MEAT Plant-based meat company The Very Good Butchers has launched a premium line of sausages, meatballs and burgers called Butcher’s Select. Products in the new line are made with ingredients that include pea protein, navy beans, chickpeas, garlic, onion, hemp seeds and organic peppers and, according to the B.C.-based company, are packed with an “extra meaty taste and texture.”

5  DEL MONTE FROZEN BARS Del Monte has introduced a new line of frozen bars in five varieties: Real Banana Half Dipped Chocolate Fruit and Frozen Dairy Dessert Bars; Berries and Cream Fruit and Frozen Dairy Dessert Bars; Mango Frozen Fruit Bars; Strawberry Frozen Fruit Bars; and Mixed Berry and Peach Ice Pops. Made in Canada with sustainable packaging, the bars contain real fruit and simple ingredients with no artificial colours or flavours.  CG

The latest products hitting shelves


1  CHOCXO CHOCOLATE NUT BUTTER CUPS ChocXO has launched two new chocolate cup products: Coconut Almond Butter Cups and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. The Coconut Almond Butter Cups are made with organic 70% cacao, and according to the company, are a tasty spin on ChocXO’s Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups but with shredded coconut mixed in. And the 70% Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are a betterfor-you peanut butter cup featuring certified organic chocolate and organic peanut butter.

4  GOOD TO GO GRAIN-FREE GRANOLA Canadian healthy snack brand Good To Go has launched Grain-Free Granola, made with premium organic nuts and “super seeds” like pumpkin, sunflower and cashews. This glutenfree granola is also a good source of vitamin D, according to the company, and comes in a recyclable, resealable pouch. It’s available in two flavours: Chocolate and Vanilla Coconut. The low-net-carb, low-sugar granola is also free from artificial colours and flavours.


5 4

August 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 59

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Innovation in Salad Dressings La Presserie, a Toronto-based company known for their delicious premium cold pressed juices and smoothies, has launched a revolutionary line of plant-based cold pressed salad dressings. With four delicious fruit and vegetable-based flavours, and three dairy-free creamy classics made with fresh herbs, La Presserie’s innovative collection hits the right flavour points with consumers. Their products can be found at fine food retailers or online at

Say Aloha! to Good Bites Coconut

Sweet & Savoury Sausage Snacks Piller’s introduces the perfect snacks for busy mornings! These sweet & savoury sausage snacks have a firm bite, are made with real Canadian fruit, contain no artificial sweeteners and are naturally wood smoked. With two varieties to choose from and no refrigeration required, these sausage snacks are perfect for on-the-go mornings. Rise N’ Shine!

At SunRype, the delicious taste of simple ingredients shines through. Good Bites Coconut is made with the goodness of real coconut and no artificial colours or flavours. High in fibre, low in sodium and just one gram of sugar per bite. Plus these tasty treats are gluten free, nut free, vegan and kosher. Good Bites, a whole lot of goodness in every bite!

Retail Ready Danishes Introducing a new dessert option for customers to enjoy from the comfort of their homes. These premium quality pastries from Upper Crust are packed with a flavourful punch. Available in two flavours (Apple & Raspberry) these danishes are crafted with a traditional pastry, delicious real apple and real raspberry, finished with a sweet icing drizzle. Portable and convenient, these are classic pastries with a modern twist for today’s consumer.


Express Lane


Deloitte’s Stefan Ivic on navigating the potential of A.I. By Shellee Fitzgerald FROM AMAZON’S Just Walk Out tech to robot-­powered warehouses and more, artificial intelligence (A.I.) is transforming retail (and just about every other industry). Earlier this year, Deloitte Canada launched its AI Institute with a mission to expand Canadians’ understanding of it and accelerate awareness and adoption of A.I. technologies within organizations. We caught up with Stefan Ivic, partner at Omnia AI, Deloitte Canada’s A.I. practice, to discuss the potential of A.I., where best to invest and the pitfalls to avoid when implementing A.I. Here are edited excerpts from our interview.

How does Canada rank when it comes to A.I. understanding and adoption? I would say we’re one of the leaders, from an academic perspective, when it comes to A.I. But I think what we are lacking is more on the demand side. So, although our supply of A.I. talent is robust and often gets exported, we haven’t done a very good job building robust demand for A.I. and the understanding of how it helps businesses improve performance. Some of the research we’ve done shows only 16% of organizations have implemented A.I. in retail. And only 8% of Canadian companies are planning to increase their spending by more than 20% in the upcoming year on A.I.-type workloads. So there’s nascent understanding of the value that A.I. can drive within businesses; there’s a lot of robust talent and robust supply, but the demand doesn’t match up quite yet.

There are lots of predictions of what the store of the future might look like. How does A.I. figure into this? I think if you look five to 10 years out, we’re going to see a lot more applications of A.I., especially if you’re thinking of the physical store. A lot more of the computer vision use cases will start to surface and start to 62  CANADIAN GROCER || August 2021

drive value. If you think of a typical grocery store, for example, and if you have bananas on the shelf, these cameras can indicate when the bananas are starting to rot and that customers are not buying them as a result, [and the retailer] can then take action; that’s going to be one of things computer vision can solve. There’s also lots of loss prevention use cases around identifying potential theft risks, and identifying shelf holes is an important one. And we’re seeing a lot more cameras being used; for example, the Amazon Go model where you can pick products off the shelf and exit the store, and your purchases will get charged to your loyalty account or your credit card. A lot of computer vision use cases, I think, will be something broadly adopted in grocery retail.

With something as complex as A.I., how do retailers know where to invest? That would depend on the retailer. I think starting small and identifying areas or opportunities where there are the right inputs, as I would call them, from a data perspective, and then showing small wins and proving the value in terms of how A.I. can be applied to solve a particular problem or to generate value. Those are usually the first targets to go after because they help prove the value. And then you can decide as a grocery retailer, with the margins always being under pressure, where to invest real dollars and capacity and resources to scale that value to other areas, or to deepen the value in a particular proof of concept that has been conducted.

What are some pitfalls to avoid when pursuing A.I.? Often the pitfalls are softer in nature. It’s never around technology or the abundance of data. It’s usually starting with a very tangible business problem and working from there, instead of gravitating towards the flashiest technology and then looking for a problem to solve with it. So starting small and improving value is often the right approach. And once there’s value, how do you scale that out? We often see a lack of executive buy-in over something like this. A lot of the decisions are still being made through gut-feel, which is often a very hard cultural thing to change within any organization. So if you have buy-in from the executive team and they are data-driven and want to embed insights and the use of A.I. to drive business performance, that often leads to better sponsorship and also better adoption at all levels of the organization. The last thing I will say is the fundamental prerequisite to all of this is proper data governance and investment in the systems that help store, collect and manage data. Focus has been adequately placed on this, just not so much, until lately, on the different uses of that data and how it can start to drive insights that drive better decision-making, inform how you manage your operations, how you build your strategy, and really ingraining that data-driven culture within all facets of your business. CG




2021 Star Women in Grocery Leadership Panel Exclusive Webinar presented by


Last year’s Star Women in Grocery Leadership panel was so well received, and inspired so many, we knew we needed to bring it back again this year. Thank you for hosting this great webinar. These women are so inspiring!

What a great event today. To hear that others are experiencing similar challenges reminds us that we are not alone.

Thoroughly enjoyed the Star Women panel this morning.... A wonderful motivator for me and my team.

Moderated by Editor-in-Chief Shellee Fitzgerald, this engaging session will catch up with past Star Women in Grocery winners to talk about leadership, career and a changing grocery industry. This year’s panelists include: Erin Rooney, VP Sales and Marketing Consumer Products at McCormick Canada (Star Women winner 2013)

Sandra Sanderson, SVP Marketing at Sobeys (Star Women winner 2015)

Kathlyne Ross, VP Product Development, Innovation & Sustainability at Loblaw (Star Women winner 2016)

Naniss Gadel-Rab, VP customer development at Unilever Canada (Star Women winner 2017).


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