Canadian Grocer September/October 2021

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2021 Impact Awards: Boosting Meet the winners! holiday sales

The new world of work SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021


Giancarlo  Trimarchi The new Chair of cfig talks changing with the times, grabbing opportunities and championing independents


Sept/Oct 2021 || Volume 135 - Number 6 Cover Story

Opinions 5 || Front Desk 17 || Food Bytes 19 || Behind the Trends 20 || Eating in Canada



People 6 || The Buzz

22 Vince’s Market’s Giancarlo Trimarchi talks changing with the times, grabbing opportunities and championing independents

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

8 || Ahmad Yehya

Nabati Foods’ CEO is taking the plant-based food world by storm

Ideas 11 || The rise of ghost kitchens

The potential benefits of this new foodservice trend are anything but spooky

12 || Walmart Canada’s e-comm play

The retailer’s SVP of e-commerce on the challenges of rapidly expanding e-grocery



MAKING A POSITIVE IMPACT 27 Introducing the winners of the first-ever Canadian Grocer Impact Awards!

14 || Serving the lgbtqia+ shopper

Companies need to look beyond Pride to win over these shoppers

Aisles 59 || Season’s eatings!


What food and drink trends will shape holiday entertaining in 2021?

65 || The ultimate comfort food

Pasta’s renewed popularity has sparked interest in traditional, premium and better-for-you options


67 || Ube: Four things to know

Learn all about this trendy vibrant purple tuber

Express Lane 70 || Curbing cybercrime

Richter’s David Greenham on protecting your business in the current cyber threat landscape

THE WORKFORCE OF THE FUTURE 51  As a new world of work emerges, how can grocers prepare for the changes ahead?

Follow us on

@CanadianGrocer     @CanadianGrocerMagazine     Canadian Grocer Magazine

September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 3

For more reasons to love California Raisins, visit:

Front desk PUBLISHER

Vanessa Peters


Shellee Fitzgerald


Carol Neshevich


Kristin Laird


Josephine Woertman


Michael Kimpton


Donna Kerry


Derek Estey

DOING THE RIGHT THINGS When the world needs it most, companies are stepping up


Lina Trunina


Valerie White


Katherine Frederick


Karishma Rajani

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

We’ve long been told that doing good is good for business. A steady stream of studies have supported this idea, with research concluding consumers have motivations that reach beyond price or the quality of a product. Consumers, we’ve heard again and again, want to support businesses that align with their values and that are doing the right things for society and the planet. It’s not surprising, then, that the challenging time we’re living in is only reinforcing this sentiment. In its global study of 25,000 consumers in 22 countries (including Canada), Accenture found 50% of consumers surveyed said the pandemic has “caused them to rethink their personal purpose and re-evaluate what’s important to them in life” while 42% said the COVID crisis has made them realize they need to focus on others more than themselves. What’s more, they’re “changing their buying habits accordingly” and applying their new mindsets to where, what and how they buy. While tackling the world’s problems is a daunting prospect, the encouraging news is that many companies in Canada’s grocery industry are stepping up and doing the right things. We thought there was no better time to recognize this good work, which is why this year we launched the Canadian Grocer Impact Awards. The volume and quality of nominations we received for this program was truly incredible. And in this issue, we are thrilled to introduce you to the

33 winners (starting on page 27) of the inaugural awards. The winners are an impressive bunch of retail and CPG companies that have stepped up to make a positive impact in four key areas: sustainability; diversity, equity and inclusion; supporting employees; and community service. From a Sobeys initiative that has resulted in the annual removal of 800 million plastic bags from circulation to SPUD’s “Period Poverty” campaign aiming to provide those in need with critical hygiene products to Kellogg’s mission to create “Better Days” with the launch of 10 commitments to fight racism, discrimination and inequality, we’re sure you’ll find their stories as inspiring as we do.

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 September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 5

The Buzz

OPENINGS T&T SUPERMARKET returned to downtown Toronto in late August. The store, located at 297 College St., had lineups stretching down the block on opening day. CEO Tina Lee said there was much anticipation for the store, as downtown Toronto had been without a T&T since the city’s waterfront revitalization forced it to close its Cherry St. location in the Port Lands in early 2020. The new store, located in a former Independent City Market, is T&T’s 28th location. Another store is set to debut at Willowbrook Shopping Centre in Langley, B.C. this fall. Lee also told Canadian Grocer the company would soon be announcing another Ontario store that would be larger than the College St. location and would have “regional pull.” CHOICES MARKETS is heading to Vancouver Island. The B.C. retailer, which focuses on organic, local and specialty foods, will open its first location on the island in the city of Parksville in fall 2022. Part of the Pattison Food Group, the new 22,000-sq.-ft. Choices will take over a space previously occupied by another Pattison banner, Quality Foods. Established in 1990, Choices currently has 10 locations across Vancouver, Burnaby, South Surrey, Abbotsford and Kelowna as well as an industrial kitchen and bakery in South Burnaby.

A new RABBA FINE FOODS opened in Toronto’s Regent Park in August. The location is the 35th in the retailer’s network of stores in the Greater Toronto Area. The new location is the third to feature a takeout service in partnership with Middle Eastern restaurant chain Paramount Fine Foods. The Rabba Kitchen by Paramount concept debuted in 2020 and is expected to be rolled out to more locations. FARM BOY opened its 41st location in mid-September. The Toronto store, located at 5245 Dundas St. West, is the chain’s second in the city’s Etobicoke area and will employ 136 people. As in other Farm Boys, the 25,000-sq.-ft. store has a focus on local produce, private-­ label items and offers a range of plant-based and on-the-­go options. The fast-growing chain has plans to open two more locations before the end of the year. 6  CANADIAN GROCER || September/October 2021


Online grocer Goodfood Market Corp. has announced that Bipasha Chiu will be joining its management team as chief technology officer in late September. Most recently, Chiu was vice-president of business technology solutions at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and prior to that she held roles at Apotex, Canadian Tire and Capgemini. Ian Roberts has been appointed vice-president and general manager of Conagra’s foodservice business, a position based out of the company’s Chicago headquarters. Roberts was previously the vice-president and general manager of Conagra in Canada. Kimberly-Clark has added to its sales team, naming Michael Graaf as its customer vice-president on the company’s Walmart Canada business. Graaf was previously at Reckitt Benckiser. Righteous Gelato has added Tracey Myers to its team as vicepresident of sales. Myers brings more than 20 years of industry experience to the role; previously she has held positions at Cold FX, Swiss Herbal Remedies and Organika Health Products.

Bipasha Chiu

Ian Roberts

Michael Graaf

Tracey Myers


STAR WOMEN IN GROCERY AWARDS — Be a part of the virtual celebration! Join us on October 20 when we celebrate our  2021 Star Women in Grocery  winners in a virtual celebration! Visit for more info and to get your ticket.

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


[Clockwise from left:] T&T’s new Toronto location; Farm Boy opens second Etobicoke store; Rabba’s 35th GTA store

The latest news in the grocery biz


Ahmad Yehya and his wife Afaf Miri turned a homemade vegan cheese­ cake recipe into a thriving plant-based business By Andrea Yu Photography by Curtis Comeau

Who you need to know


N 2013, Ahmad Yehya and his wife, Afaf Miri, began adopting a vegan lifestyle. They went on the hunt for healthy, plant-based snacks at local supermarkets in Edmonton, but were disappointed with what they found. “A lot of it had too much refined sugar,” Yehya recalls. Ingredient lists were long, with unpronounceable items. Gluten was another common ingredient in the few snack offerings they came across, and the couple was avoiding gluten due to health issues. So they retreated to their kitchen and experimented with vegan recipes using simple ingredients. At the time, it was a fun project for the couple while they continued their day jobs: Yehya as an engineer at a biomedical company and Miri as a business administrator. “Plant-based foods are really not new to us in our culture,” says Yehya, who hails from Egypt (Miri is from Algeria). There, nuts and fruit, especially dates, are commonly used in desserts. They focused on developing a cheesecake first, since Yehya and Miri love desserts. “The breakthrough was really about process rather than ingredients,” explains Yehya. “How do you take fruits and nuts, like cashews and dates, and make something that is really creamy and rich?” After months of experimenting, Miri developed a winning cheesecake recipe with less than 10 ingredients. In early 2014, they began selling their cheesecake in farmers markets and received rave reviews from customers. A few months after that, Miri quit her job to commit to the new business, and she began approaching cafés to stock and sell their cheesecakes. Orders grew from there and the couple moved the operation into a production kitchen. They named the growing business Nabati Foods—‘nabati’ meaning plant-based in Arabic. The first few years were focused on increasing foodservice orders and getting their slices of cake onto more café and restaurant menus in Edmonton and Calgary. By 2016, Yehya had quit his engineering job to go all-in, becoming president (and later CEO) of the company. In 2018 came the next big win—­ developing a retail version of the cheesecake s and getting them sto cked in Safeway and Sobeys stores in Alberta. Shortly after that, they began selling in grocery stores out of province, via SaveOn-Foods locations in British Columbia and Saskatchewan (in addition to SaveOn-Foods in Alberta). Today, Nabati

products are also found in Sobeys in Quebec, Whole Foods Market in British Columbia and Ontario, Metro in Ontario, and more than 100 stores (mostly independent health food retailers) across the United States. Yehya recalls the first time he saw Nabati products on grocery store shelves. “It felt awesome,” he says. After their cheesecake success, the couple moved quickly to expand product offerings, developing plant-based cheeses in 2019. “The focus was making it a cheese alternative that mimics dairy cheese in every aspect: the taste, texture, the retail pack,” recalls Yehya. After four months of testing, Nabati launched its mozzarella and cheddar cheese-style shreds. Next up was plant-based meat alternatives such as burgers (including f ’sh burgers and chick’n burgers), chick’n nuggets and strips, and “grounds” (a plant-based version of ground beef). Yehya was just gearing up to start selling Nabati products in far-flung locations like Hong Kong, along with targeting foodservice buyers in the United States, when COVID hit. But that didn’t slow the company’s progress. Instead, it pivoted from foodservice to an e-commerce website where customers could purchase products directly. The company also started working on its next big product launch—plantbased liquid eggs. It was a particularly difficult challenge for Yehya, who hired a special research and development food scientist just to tackle it. “[Eggs] were the most difficult, because we wanted something to go from liquid to solid on heat,” he explains. “It’s very hard to find the right ingredients and combinations that would react together.” They finally cracked the code with the use of a bean called lupin, which is traditionally pickled and eaten as a snack in Mediterranean cuisines. Combined with pea protein, Nabati finally had the right base for its liquid Plant Eggz, which launched on its e-commerce website in late August. Shortly after, in September 2021, Plant Eggz debuted on Sobeys shelves in Quebec and at Whole Foods across British Columbia and Ontario. For the past three years, Yehya has been pulling 18-hour days, including most weekends, to grow the business. But for him, it’s all worth it. “We’re creating products that help people transition away from animal-based protein to a more sustainable lifestyle,” he says. “It’s important that we leave something for future generations and fix what we have right now.” CG

30 seconds with …

AHMAD YEHYA What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

When I started my career in the medical industry, my first boss told me not to focus on your pay or others around you. Focus on doing the best job you can and the quality of your work. Be proud of what you achieve and that will take you a long way. I still take that advice to heart here at Nabati Foods. Everything is focused on delivering great work and making sure we do things right and pay attention to all the details.

Do you have a favourite product from your lineup?

I have a favourite out of each category. I like the tiramisu cheesecake. That’s a must, because I love tiramisu and there’s nothing really in the market like that. For our cheese, it’s the mozzarella. It was designed for pizza. For the plant-based meats, it’s our Chick’n.

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

I love to enjoy the serenity and quiet of nature. I’ll go with my wife and my daughter, Liana— she’s two and a half. She loves the mountains. Our favourite location is Jasper, Alta.

What other cuisines do you like to eat?

I like Japanese cuisine, that’s for sure. That should give you a hint for what’s next for us ...

September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 9


NEW - Ground and Whole Bean, 300g



Kroger has teamed up with Kitchen United to offer in-store ghost kitchens



THE RISE OF GHOST KITCHENS While “ghost kitchens” sounds spooky, the potential benefits of this foodservice trend are anything but. Ghost kitchens are spaces where restaurant branded meals are prepared for takeout and delivery. Multiple brands can operate out of the same kitchen with one team of staff, lowering costs for all operators involved. While this trend began pre-COVID, the pandemic-related boom in demand for takeout and delivery meals boosted momentum. “[Ghost kitchens have] turned into a very enterprising business where you’ve got four or five restaurants coupling into a venue with a common kitchen and common storage,” explains Kevin Kelley, principal at California-based design firm Shook Kelley. “And now, we’re starting to see those inside of grocery stores.” Indeed, major grocers have announced their foray, via partnerships, into the ghost kitchen space. In March, Walmart Canada announced it was teaming-up with the (aptly named) Toronto company Ghost Kitchen Brands. The first Walmart-based Ghost Kitchen opened in the spring in St. Catharines, Ont., followed by Toronto and Woodstock, Ont., with locations planned for Lachenaie and Saint-Constant, Que. Customers can either order

from a kiosk in the Walmart store or online for pickup or delivery, choosing from more than 20 brands including Quiznos, The Cheesecake Factory Bakery, Rocky’s Italian, Canadian Jerk, Saladworks, Taco del Mar, and Ben & Jerry’s. In September, a Walmart Supercenter in Rochester, N.Y., became the first U.S. location to feature a Ghost Kitchen operation, with at least 30 more locations in that country planned over the next two years. And this August, U.S. grocery giant Kroger announced a similar partnership with California-based Kitchen United, whose onsite kitchens in Kroger stores will feature up to six local, regional or national restaurant brands. The first is slated to open in Los Angeles this fall, with additional sites planned for the rest of the year. For grocers, ghost kitchens offer the opportunity to build traffic and revenue while also offering customers convenient prepared meal solutions. “Our customers’ appetite for fresh, on-demand meals continues to accelerate,” said Dan De La Rosa, Kroger’s group vice-president of fresh merchandising, in a release, “and we remain focused on offering new and innovative products that provide anything, anytime, anywhere.” —Carol Neshevich

September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 11


Walmart Canada’s aggressive e-comm play Laurent Duray, the retailer’s senior vice-president of e-commerce, on the challenges and rewards of expanding e-grocery so quickly  By David Brown Like just about every other business in the grocery industry, the pandemic has driven massive and long-lasting change at Walmart Canada. In the last 18 months, Walmart’s online grocery pickup offering has doubled. It has been introduced to 150 Walmart Supercentres, and by the end of the year, 99% of all Walmart Supercentres (approximately 350) will provide the option for online grocery shopping. The pandemic has accelerated everything when it comes to online shopping for Walmart, says Laurent Duray, the retailer’s senior vice-president, e-commerce. “It really forced us to pivot, make drastic investments in our stores and infrastructure, and [to adjust] how we think about our stores,” he says. “[And] not just the stores; how we think about parking lots, invest in the backroom, in our associates’ training.” He adds: “There were plans, but we had to accelerate drastically to meet the demand … probably by three to four years.” Duray recently spoke with Canadian Grocer about how Walmart expanded its online grocery business so quickly and lessons learned from the experience.

Can you point to one or two of the most difficult challenges of expanding online so much in the past 18 months? We’ve been hiring thousands of people through the pandemic, and mostly in our store network, to answer the demand. That’s been a challenge because not only do you have to recruit, but you have got to train them to make sure you deliver against customer expectation. The other piece is technology, but it’s capacity as well. You have to make sure the stores are ready to handle that level of volume. We considered 12  CANADIAN GROCER || September/October 2021

a number of things, like how do you free up capacity and create a store-in-a-store in the backroom so they can have access to the SKUs turning the fastest? We wanted to make it efficient, fast and less disruptive for the in-store customers.

You said you’ve had to hire thousands of people. For what parts of the business? Teams across the board that would help to make the life of our customers much better; from pickers in stores, to drivers, to people in our home office working on the site experience, or on the tech team. It really is a broad range.

One of the common consumer concerns about online grocery shopping is about fresh product. Have you done anything to make your customers feel better about buying produce from Walmart? I think it’s a constant way of working and improving. We’re obviously learning and training our associates to be able to pick a produce item in a different way, and to handle those items in a different way than they would a box of cereal or a pair of socks. So, it’s a lot of investment in training. That’s where we spend most of our time. Then there is a customer promise around freshness that we keep pushing, so if the customer is not satisfied we will reimburse them.

More online shopping means more consumer data. Can you say anything about what Walmart has learned about its customers in the last year? When they shop online, that behaviour is different than what they would do in stores. [We] get a lot more information on what they buy for themselves and their family. That helps us to improve our recommendation engine and get to personalization in terms of, “Hey, David is an organic customer. Make sure that we recommend a lot more of the new items that have organic attributes to David and his family.” So that has helped us to be more personalized and, ultimately, more connected with our customers.

Have you been able to use that to increase basket size? There are a few things. If you usually buy a bag of 2% milk and for some reason this week it’s not in your basket, we would be able to remind you, “Hey, did you forget about this?” And, in most cases, yes they forgot about it. So that helps to create a better customer experience because now they don’t have to run to a convenience store last minute to [buy milk].

What are you most proud of from the last 18 months or so? We pivoted very quickly as an organization. And, we’ve been able to unlock a lot more assortment than probably anybody in Canada at the minute. We’re the only retailer that can offer a wide range of fresh food, consumable, general merchandising, at a high speed and very low price. We’re very proud of that and we’re going to keep making that experience better and faster and with more range for the customer.



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Companies need to look beyond Pride to win over these shoppers

To best serve Canada’s LGBTQIA+ shoppers, first you need to understand them, according to market research firm Numerator. In the recent webinar “Beyond Pride: Understanding the Canadian LGBTQIA+ Shopper,” part of the firm’s New Frontiers series exploring Canadian consumer

Big gains for private label

NielsenIQ data shows privatelabel grocery sales grew by 10% in the first quarter of 2021

behaviour, Numerator consultant Hannah Libot said with the rise in social movements in recent years, consumers are demanding brands play a larger role in acknowledging and supporting social justice initiatives. This is especially true of younger consumers, with gen Z shoppers expecting brands to speak up and take more responsibility on these issues. “This is important because gen Z shoppers are starting to mature into the marketplace and make those choices on the brands and the stores they want to buy at,” said Libot, adding that research at both a Canadian and a global level reveals a larger portion of the younger population is no longer identifying as straight. “So the issues the LGBTQIA+ community face will be incredibly important to them, as well as to their friends and family. Brands need to ensure their social

Private label is on the rise as Canadian shoppers seek more bang for their buck. According to the NielsenIQ “Private Label Trends During the Pandemic” report, private label in Canada accounted for 18% of volume dollar share in the 52 weeks ending Q1 2021. Sales grew by 10% in Q1 2021 versus Q1 2020, while national brands grew by 8%. Private label fared better than name brands—especially at the beginning of pandemic—for a number of reasons, explains Rachel Guo, shopper insights lead at NielsenIQ. “Many name brands struggled to meet the sudden spike in demand due to panic stock up and experienced supply chain challenges,” she says. In addition, private-label brands have been a beneficiary of the trend towards consumers’ hunt for greater affordability.

14  CANADIAN GROCER || September/October 2021

initiatives resonate with the LGBTQIA+ community and the issues they face.” Some highlights from Numerator’s recent survey of LGBTQIA+ consumers in Canada: • LGBTQIA+ shoppers are young, value-driven and trend-seeking—and most importantly, they make up a large part of the population (7.6% of Numerator’s panellists identify as LGBTQIA+). • The LGBTQIA+ shopper is educated, from a smaller household and more likely to live in a larger city. • The LGBTQIA+ shopper is committed to living a healthy, sustainable life and is more engaged online. However, in-store is still a viable touchpoint as these shoppers like to browse displays, and smaller-format offerings can cater to their impulse buying behaviours. • Close to two-thirds believe brands and retailers are doing a better job representing the LGBTQIA+ community than in previous years (Quebec and 55+ shoppers being the exception). But 72% of respondents believe brands should do more to support this community outside of Pride. By providing real, authentic support all year long, brands will be more likely to win LGBTQIA+ shoppers.

—Shellee Fitzgerald

Fully 100% of Canadian households purchase privatelabel products, spending an average of $1,319 per year. People’s perception of privatelabel brands is also changing: the report found that 45% of Canadians believe private-label brands provide better quality than national brands, up from 38% in 2018. There were a few standout categories in terms of volume share of private label by food department: frozen foods: 32%; baked desserts/breakfast: 32%; processed meat: 32%; dessert: 28%; condiments and sauces: 27%. “Private labels are developing more in the food departments than non-food departments,” says Guo. “Moreover, private label is more successful in the categories that are more commoditized and have less

differentiation between private label and branded—for example, baking needs and frozen food.” Asked if she expects the momentum to continue, Guo said it’s difficult to forecast amid today’s economic uncertainty. “My personal thought is that private-label growth might continue for a while, but it is not practical that private label maintains the same momentum in the new normal era when the supplies and promotions of branded products are back to the market,” she says. Guo believes the biggest opportunity for grocery retailers isn’t a specific category or format, but the opportunity to refine their private-label strategy and figure out how they can translate shortterm momentum into long-term customer loyalty.  CG —Rebecca Harris


Serving the lgbtqia+ shopper


The Wheel

Canadian Chicken Delivers on Consumer Expectations Seven Quick Facts About Canadian Chicken Chicken Farmers of Canada’s Animal Care Program has strict standards for the care and handling of chickens. The program is mandatory, third party audited, and enforced across ALL Canadian chicken farms. More than 90% of Canadian chicken farms are family owned and operated. There are no ‘factory farms.’ Litter is monitored daily and barns are cleaned out after every flock. Light intensity and duration is carefully managed to ensure proper periods of rest and to promote flock health. The density of Canadian chicken production is lower than or consistent with other countries. The use of hormone and steroids has been illegal since the 1960s. Chicken is the lowest cost Canadian meat protein. The Canadian chicken sector has lowered its carbon footprint by almost 40% in the past 40 years.

The Raised by a Canadian Farmer brand provides assurance that restaurants are committed to supporting local, Canadian farmers and their commitment to excellence in food safety, animal care, and sustainability.

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FOOD BYTES ||  Joel Gregoire

Avoiding the fate of the dinosaurs

With the work-from-home trend likely to continue post-pandemic, grocers and restaurants alike will need to adapt to the new reality I sometimes wonder what went through the minds of the dinosaurs that looked up and saw a meteor hurtling towards Earth, which, unbeknownst to them, would cause their extinction. If they had the tools, could they have adapted and prevented themselves from going extinct? In March 2020, the pandemic seemed like the meteor that was hurtling toward us. Although, thankfully, COVID-19 hasn’t ended life as we know it, its impact will undoubtedly leave a lasting mark. One mark that will likely last is the shift in where many people work. About a third of Canadian employees aged 15 to 69 worked at home most of the time in January 2021, according to Statistics Canada’s research. This represents a massive leap from 4% in 2016.

ATTITUDES TOWARD COMMUTING “Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about commuting?” n agree  n disagree Commuting less (or not at all) has allowed me to save money or treat myself more * I am eating out (including getting coffee) less due to changes in my commute ** I plan on commuting less after the covid-19 pandemic ***

76% 69% 48%

24% 31%

Much debate is taking place around whether we’ll see a return that’s close to pre-pandemic norms when it comes to workers going into the office Monday through Friday. In all likelihood, this will no longer be the reality for many. Indeed, technology in the form of Zoom meetings and cloud computing has enabled companies across multiple sectors to not only survive but to thrive, with workforces remaining connected and productive outside of physical offices. Employees have also taken to this “next normal.” According to Mintel’s research from the United States, 70% of employees see “the benefits of working remotely outweighing the benefits of working on-site.” Furthermore, nearly two-thirds say they are “less likely to consider taking a new job if it did not allow remote work.” In a post-COVID world, many companies will have to allow for flexible work arrangements to attract A-list talent. This reality will undoubtedly remain a challenge when it comes to eating out. When Mintel surveyed Canadians, half of those who commuted in the year leading to March 2021 said they plan to commute less after the pandemic. Among those who say their commuting habits changed since the beginning of the pandemic, 69% said they are eating out less. As Canadians’ commuting habits shift, certain businesses face a historic challenge. How to address it? The first task is to identify how vulnerable any given food-related business is. For instance, does it rely mostly on traffic from offices or from homes? Is the traffic more reliant on the lunch or breakfast dayparts during the week, or dinner when social or family occasions likely play a greater role? The second consideration: is it easy for shoppers to place orders using intuitive online tools? Not playing in this space is no longer an option. Having to call orders in or line up and wait is an unwelcome barrier in an era of increased competition, and at a time when there’s greater focus on personal safety. For grocery, specifically, it stands to reason that as retail took share from foodservice during the lockdowns, foodservice will look to win that share back. Retailers that have a focus on home meal replacement or “grocerants” will undoubtedly battle for that share in the “next normal” as new commuting habits lead to a more sustained shift. While Canadians are eager to support businesses in the food industry, retailers and restaurants alike will need to adjust to a new reality. The good news is, unlike the dinosaurs, we are able to recognize the meteors that hurdle towards us and adapt to their lasting impact. CG



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

September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 17

Consumer packaged goods and private label brands are

INVITED TO COMPETE in the 29th Annual Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards!

Finalists and winners of this prestigious awards program benefit from:

INCREASED VISIBILITY AND EXPOSURE Our jury of retailers and industry experts will test, evaluate, and provide feedback on your product, packaging, and positioning. PERSUASIVE TRADE MARKETING Finalists and winners are featured in showcase flyers on reebee and leading grocery industry publications like Grocery Business, Canadian Grocer, Western Grocer and Food in Canada Magazine. INDUSTRY-WIDE RECOGNITION Celebrate your team and recognize their outstanding work.


For questions about this year’s Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards program, inclucing the submissions process, please contact Pierre Chartier | or (514) 830-5429

BEHIND THE TRENDS  ||  Matt Godinsky

What will drive e-comm success for grocery retailers? Centralized fulfilment and distribution may be the key

The benefits of microfulfilment centres largely outweigh the costs in the current landscape where grocery e-commerce sales are accelerating

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, e-commerce sales have grown at a staggering pace in Canada. In fact, Euromonitor International estimates show that e-commerce sales grew by more than 70% year-over-year in 2020. E-commerce growth has been more subdued in 2021 but has still grown by more than 40% through the first five months of the year when compared to the same period in 2020, according to Statistics Canada. Furthermore, Euromonitor estimates that grocery e-commerce sales have grown even faster than overall e-commerce sales during this period. Over the past 18 months, grocers across Canada—and more broadly North America—had to scramble to keep up with the rapidly increasing demand for online grocery ordering. Grocery retailers face several overarching challenges regardless of whether e-commerce sales are managed through third-party distributors, direct delivery or click-and-collect services. Grocers must operate and maintain a functional and attractive e-commerce platform, which could require a large upfront investment in resources such as technology and staffing. Grocers also must manage inventories and potentially hire employees to fulfil orders if there is no existing partnership with a third-party service. Additionally, space requirements need to be taken into consideration. With third-party and direct delivery, grocers have to dedicate portions of their real estate to pickers who shop for items on behalf of digital consumers.

Centralized fulfilment and distribution centres, often referred to as micro-fulfilment centres or local fulfilment centres, are rising as a popular method of facilitating online grocery orders. Micro-fulfilment centres are smaller than traditional fulfilment centres and are located closer to densely populated cities, as they don’t require as much space. Micro-fulfilment centres are not without their own challenges, such as a potentially large upfront investment in space and technology, staffing and management of additional operations beyond the traditional brickand-mortar store. The benefits of micro-fulfilment centres, however, largely outweigh the costs in the current landscape where grocery e-commerce sales are accelerating. Several brands across the Canadian grocery industry are adopting this approach. Walmart Canada, for instance, has broken ground on a new central distribution centre in Moncton, N.B. that will ship groceries to the retail chain’s 40-plus stores in the region. Empire introduced an e-commerce platform, Voilà by Sobeys, in 2020 that delivers online orders from an automated fulfilment centre in Ontario. Empire recently acquired grocery retailer Longo Brothers Fruit Markets, a staple in the Greater Toronto Area. Empire plans to share its central fulfilment strategy to deliver groceries across Toronto and southern Ontario. Centralized fulfilment and distribution strategies require substantial investment that may not be feasible for smaller or independent grocers, but the benefits for larger grocery chains are clear. Centralizing the fulfilment and distribution process allows grocers to effectively separate brick-and-mortar and e-commerce sales, bringing greater efficiencies to each channel. The separate facilities allow in-store shoppers to purchase groceries without the interference of item pickers, and the packing and shipping of online orders run more efficiently in a dedicated environment. While the initial investment can be steep for retailers, online grocery shopping is unlikely to decelerate in the near future. Investing in centralized fulfilment and distribution now will allow grocers to maximize their reach to both in-store and digital consumers, and will increase profitability of grocery e-commerce in the long run without substantially driving up prices or negatively impacting food quality. While not every grocer in Canada has invested in centralized fulfilment (as of mid-2021), many more will likely adopt this model in the coming years as grocery e-commerce continues to expand. CG

Matt Godinsky is an analyst at Euromonitor International, an independent provider of strategic market research.

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EATING IN CANADA ||  Kathy Perrotta

What behaviours will be stickiest?

Our investigation finds consumers’ eating habits are a bit more predictable than you might think

While we may have been forced into change early on in the pandemic, many consumers have found time, cost and lifestyle benefits connected to where they now eat

AS CANADIANS continue to manage through the pandemic, it is clear that the period of initial infection and subsequent lockdown has had a profound impact on the consumer psyche that’s likely to impact behaviours for years to come. Ipsos pandemic sentiment reporting (Ipsos Essentials, Wave 48) finds the majority (65%) of Canadians remain in a period of acclimation to these evolving circumstances, while only 17% believe that we have entered the post-pandemic phase. Identifying and applying learnings from many of the shifts already in the books will have important implications for those in the food and beverage industry. For most, successful results will demand discipline and a commitment to being future-focused, delivering what consumers want at the right time, in the right place and with the right format. Determining the stickiness of consumer behaviours, beliefs and needs is key to being future-focused. FUTURECASTING CONSUMPTION HABITS  Futurecasting work underway at Ipsos is applying the “stickiness” formula to create “what-if” simulations to assist with forecasting initiatives, enhance communications and fine-tune marketing spend. While consumer behavioural changes are not linear, the future stickiness of evolving habits is evaluated in a two-step process. The first step involves investigating satisfaction with current habits. While we may have been forced into change early on in the pandemic, many consumers have found time, cost and lifestyle benefits connected to where they now eat. It’s important to gauge change by evaluating how daily regimes have evolved between March 2020 and today. Some habits with notable stickiness in daily routines are influenced by a variety of factors such as working from home, increased movement out of

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home, presence of kids, on-hand convenience, solo dining habits, evolving needs for comfort and nostalgia and an increased focus on well-being. Here are three behaviours (of the many investigated) that are projected to remain sticky: • Foodservice delivery—Ipsos Foodservice Monitor reports that the delivery channel currently represents more than 8% of all traffic, with usage rates increasing throughout the pandemic period, up 51% versus the pre-pandemic era. •  Coffee at home—Ipsos FIVE reports a rising share of coffee servings now consumed at home (+9%) versus the pre-pandemic period. While there has been a slight softening of home coffee habits since June 2021, home consumption rates remain well above those of the pre-pandemic era. • On the go snacking—Ipsos FIVE reports that while portable snacking occasions plunged in the initial lockdown period, they have slowly rebounded on a monthly basis as a result of easing restrictions. Conversely, a couple of behaviours that emerged early in the pandemic have declined in stickiness: • Scratch baking—Ipsos FIVE reports that early surges in scratch baking have receded considerably, particularly over the past six months. While overall baking remains ahead of pre-pandemic rates, growth has been driven by mixes, kits and frozen options. • Social evening snacking—Ipsos FIVE reports that social evening snacking rates have softened when compared to both the pre-pandemic period and early pandemic period (April 2020 to September 2020) as a result of an increase in afternoon snacking and more solo evening “distracted snacking.” FUTURE ROUTINES The second step of our behavioural stickiness evaluation is critical; it involves determining how a variety of triggers, which are key to behavioural change in data models, will fare in future scenarios. For example, pandemic-era workfrom-home habits have had a tremendous impact. FIVE data reveals that a third of Canadians (33%) now work from home. The majority of those in work -from-home mode (75%) report they would like to remain in a hybrid home/office situation. In a time when little about the future is predictable, our investigation finds consumers actually are somewhat predictable. As we find ourselves well into the second year of the pandemic with many uncertainties ahead, clear habits and routines have emerged and will remain sticky. Identifying, acknowledging and factoring preference shifts into plans can provide retailers, food and beverage manufacturers and foodservice operators with a solid foundation for growth as we head toward the future. CG

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






The virtual event this October with Grocery Innovations Canada, is an opportunity that allows our entire team at Save on Foods to take full advantage of exploring new products and to re-establish existing relationships. We will maximize our participation. -Jamie Nelson, EVP, Save-On-Foods The Big Carrot is a unique retailer that builds our strength from the community we serve. Our stores are constantly looking to buy local and source new and innovative products. Grocery Innovations Canada provides us with a platform to help realize our mission. With the show being virtual this fall, our entire team looks forward to seeing what new and innovative products are available from suppliers that make our industry so robust. Together, we are better. That is what GIC LIVE @ HOME is all about. -Maureen Kirkpatrick, Quality and Standards Program Manager, The Big Carrot





OCTOBER 26, 27, 28, 2021 CONTACT:

Rolster Taylor: | Noah Rose: #GICShow21

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Cover story

CHAMPION of change

Giancarlo Trimarchi of Vince’s Market on changing with the times, grabbing opportunities and championing independents By Shellee Fitzgerald  Photography by Mike Ford ONE OF GIANCARLO Trimarchi’s early memories is pricing cans of food at his father Carmen’s grocery store. “I thought using the price gun was so cool!” he recalls. Like so many independent grocers, Trimarchi has grown up in the business. From a very young age, he was helping his dad in the produce department and years later as a university student he spent his summers interning at Longo’s head office (Joey and Anthony Longo being good friends of the Trimarchi’s). But his route to becoming a partner in Vince’s Market, a five-store operation in Ontario that he runs today with his father, was not a direct one. After graduating McMaster University, Trimarchi worked in commercial banking with RBC for about four years before returning to the family business just over a decade ago. “I took a bit of time to find my own way,” he explains, to build his network and competencies. “If you’re second or third generation, there’s something about being able to carve out your own identity in a family business,” he says. “There’s a delicate period of time when you go from being the boss’s kid to being a part of the management team or becoming the boss … You don’t want it to be something that’s being handed to you; there has to

be a period of learning and working towards that.” It’s that kind of thinking, no doubt, that led to Vince’s Market being named one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies by Deloitte. And has helped win the business other accolades such as Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers’ (CFIG) Canadian Independent Grocer of the Year Award for best small-format store in Canada, which Vince’s received earlier this year for its Tottenham location. In October, Trimarchi will add to his responsibilities when he becomes the new chair of CFIG, and sets about working to make things better for the country’s indie grocers. Canadian Grocer recently spoke to Trimarchi about the industry, independents and the busy year ahead.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given? One really good piece of advice I received was to not duplicate those things in your family business that your company’s already doing really well. Try and find your own place. Try and find things that you’re good at and things you have a passion for, and carve that out. That will elevate your business and elevate those around you. A great example is that my father’s

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Cover story

been buying produce for 40 years and our business is very strong in produce. What I took that piece of advice to mean was don’t try to become another Carmen. Come in and find the parts of the business that don’t have that same level of expertise and add to it. For me to focus on produce would just be a duplication of responsibilities when there were other parts of our business that needed attention—other categories, the culture of the company, and the way we organize ourselves financially. More recently, there’s been a lot of advice about being prepared for change, being open to change and not to feel like you have to stick to what you’ve always done. You have to live in the moment of the operation of the business. It’s okay to be prepared for the future and know what’s going on around you and have eyes forward, but you have to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves in the short term as well. Because if you’re not paying too much attention to the short term, you can really lose the opportunity that this business can give you to not just make meaningful change, but to be successful in the short term. During COVID there were a lot of opportunities for grocers to do a lot of great things, if you were open to doing them and if you were able to adapt quickly.

to e-commerce and e-shopping definitely got a huge push. We partnered with Instacart before the pandemic hit and our deal came into effect during 2020. We were one of the first smaller independent grocers in Ontario to come up with a partnership agreement with Instacart that would allow us to have same-day delivery and a wider delivery range service, which allowed us to serve customers that maybe we traditionally weren’t able to reach. There’s been a huge benefit to that. And we are actually looking at rolling out a loyalty program now. We’ve waited for the technology to catch up to what we wanted. Again, being a small, independent grocer, I had to be very conscious about budget when it came to website development and particularly to app development for a loyalty program. We took our time and in 2020 we were actually ready to launch the program but pressed the pause button when COVID hit because we didn’t know what was going to happen. Now it’s coming back, and I think loyalty programs are a requirement to remain relevant and competitive in today’s grocery environment. Even for a small guy, I think there’s a place for us to play. So that will be a big focus for us over the next two to three years as far as our strategic planning goes.

Can you tell us about some of the innovations launched at Vince’s Market in the last while?

Where do you look for inspiration?

Through the last 16 months, innovation with regards

I’m an experiential kind of person so I love visiting stores, all types of retail stores. I love being connected to this industry and to retail in general. I love seeing what people are coming up with. I love the merchandising side of the business and the creativity of people in different industries for merchandising and signage. And I really get inspiration from other business owners. One of the things I love about CFIG is that I get the chance to interact with other grocers across the country that I otherwise would not have very much interaction with. And you form not just friendships, but you learn from their stories how they got to where they are, how they succeeded, how they got through turbulent times, how they’re still relevant. I take a lot from those conversations.

How would you say independents are faring right now?


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Thank you for your business!

I think you have to acknowledge that it is extremely challenging. There’s a lot of consolidation in Canada as well as non-traditional players entering our space of selling food, making it a highly competitive industry. For me, the health of the industry means there’s good sustainable growth. And that doesn’t mean it has to be double-digit growth year-over-year, but growth that’s sustainable and allows retailers to serve customers properly. And obviously COVID has done massive things to sales growth, but that’s only one piece of the health; the other is the ability for

Cover story

both partner vendors and retailers to make a fair living so there’s reason for them to stay in the industry, but also that there are those extra [dollars] to encourage growth, additional locations and again, building that independent grocer experience, which is very different than a chain experience. There’s always opportunity for those who are willing to understand what role they can play and have a good set of strategies for executing. And I think COVID has provided a bit of a reset for our industry that was long overdue. Every year net profit margins in our industry continue to get shaved away by the need to remain competitive. And price was becoming the only thing that was really getting the focus across the industry. Independents were always trying to carve out our niche to justify that little bit of extra price [customers] may pay for a better experience or a better-quality product. But the industry itself was just pushing everything down. So, a little bit of a reset here hopefully gives us an opportunity to, again, understand who we are, what we are, what we’re trying to do, and to make sure we’re making enough net profit to sustain our activities and then fuel our growth.

Amid such heavy competition, what will independent grocers need to do to survive? You have to know who you are. You have to have a real sense of what you are offering and why your customers choose to shop with you. That’s such an important thing for any grocer, but for the small guys it can be hard to sit down and do strategic planning when you’re really involved in the [day-to-day] of your business. But it’s so important in today’s environment that you have to take a step back and be real about who you are, what you do well, what you can improve, and then put together meaningful action items to progress. But you have to remain relevant to your customer and as your customer changes, you have to adapt. You cannot assume the customer you serve today is going to be the same customer you’re going to serve even a year from now or two years from now.

In your upcoming role as CFIG chair, what will be your priorities? We’ve got a lot of positive things working on our side right now, from a CFIG perspective, particularly the Canadian Food Industry Collaborative Alliance that’s working towards the Code of Practice. That is a huge file and it’s going to be big for CFIG, which has been a proponent of a code for several years. I know that with our leadership team, Tom Shurrie and Gary Sands, we’ve been talking about this for years and now we finally have momentum. So, I want to make sure as chair that I’m pushing that through

and giving the Alliance whatever support is needed. And there are other industry items that we really need to continue to work on; for example, we’ve had great momentum on credit card fee reductions in recent years. And then my other big focus is going to be engagement. I consider myself a young grocer, I’m 37 years old, and I’d like to encourage the next generation of independent grocers to participate in CFIG, to get to know the organization and use it to further their business needs. For the one- and two-store [operators], it can feel like you’re really alone out there sometimes; CFIG can be a wonderful place for community and a resource of real, tangible, direct industry information.

You mentioned the Canadian Food Industry Collaborative Alliance—how will the Code it’s proposing improve things for independents? It creates a more level playing field. I think that’s really what it comes down to. It allows for the best operators and the best retailers to be the ones that are successful. And it’s not just a matter of being about size and scale. Our industry is highly competitive and highly consolidated, and the consolidation piece sometimes can have negative impacts when you have so much power in just a few hands and they can really dictate the terms of engagement. And that really speaks to our vendor community. We need healthy vendors to do business with for our business to succeed. We need a wide range of vendors. If there were only two or three wholesalers doing everything for the whole country there would be no variation in chains, there would be no variation in store experience. Our vendors need to be protected so their business doesn’t go south because a large chain decides it’s going to impose a fee or a penalty or a new charge because they want to invest in their technology. We all want to invest in our technology. And yes, we’re partners in things, but when it becomes so heavily one-sided and when consolidation has led to such huge, huge amounts of power, I think that’s where the Code can balance the playing field.

When you look ahead, what are you optimistic about? I think the industry right now is really healthy. While some struggled through COVID, I think our industry benefitted greatly. So coming out of this period of time we have a lot of momentum on our side. People look to their grocery store as a trusted community partner right now. We did a lot of good work building that trust over the past 16 to 18 months as an industry, so I feel like we’ve got a lot of positive momentum. We have to hold it. We have to find a way now to take that momentum and adjust and change with it as we move forward. CG

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Celebrating Empire’s Impact Awards! By John Sample

Empire is proud to be recognized in the Sustainability, Giving Back and Supporting Employees categories and grateful to our teammates, customers and communities who helped bring these important initiatives to life.

Goodbye plastic bags In January 2020, Sobeys Inc. ushered in the boldest sustainability initiative among Canadian grocers, eliminating plastic bags at the checkout counters of all Sobeys stores across the country. Eliminating single-use plastic bags from Sobeys stores was the first step in Empire’s ongoing efforts to reduce plastic, but it didn’t stop there. Since the launch of the initiative, Sobeys Inc. expanded this to see all bricks and mortar banners officially becoming single-use plastic bag free at all checkouts in May 2021. In total across all banners this equates to approximately 800 million bags removed from circulation annually.

Building a Family of Support On August 26, 2020, Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations (CCHF) announced a groundbreaking partnership with Sobeys Inc. and the Sobey Foundation to address the need for early interventions in child and youth mental health. A Family of Support: Child and Youth Mental Health Initiative funds local mental health programs to support specific provincial needs at 13 Canadian children’s hospitals, helping reduce patient wait times, create and adapt clinical spaces, expand capacity across the healthcare system, and enhance training for mental health leaders, pediatricians, and frontline healthcare workers.

Supporting our teammates At the onset of the pandemic, Empire needed to respond to surging customer demand and evolving health and safety protocols. Since there were so many unknowns and very little data available at the start of the pandemic, the Company’s crisis team needed to distill their strategy down to three core focuses: keeping customers and teammates safe, stocking store shelves, and supporting local communities. Sobeys Inc. also worked to implement many significant measures to ensure the health and safety of its teammates, including becoming the first retailer to install plexiglass shields in all stores. This values-first approach has ensured teammates and customers alike continue to feel safe and supported.

2021 Impact Awards


POSITIVE IMPACT Introducing the winners of the first-ever Canadian Grocer Impact Awards By Carolyn Cooper, Rebecca Harris, Carol Neshevich and Rosalind Stefanac

These days, businesses can’t just be all about sales and profits; consumers want to support brands that stand for something, and employees want to work at organizations that align with their personal values—whether that’s related to sustainability, community involvement, diversity, employee support, or all of the above. To recognize and celebrate Canadian grocery retail and cpg businesses that are going above and beyond to make the world a better place, this year we launched the canadian grocer impact awards . Read on to see how this year’s 33 winners are making a positive impact in four categories: Sustainability; Supporting Employees; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and Community Service. September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 27

FROM FIELD TO CUP, OUR MISSION IS TO PROVIDE A BETTER BEVERAGE EXPERIENCE FOR OUR CUSTOMERS AND THEIR CONSUMERS. • We develop customized tea & coffee blends in leading formats • We help you build a winning assortment based on insights • We believe that great innovation comes in all shapes and sizes • We’re honoured to be recognized for making a positive impact

Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee is committed to doing what’s right for the planet, people and communities in which we operate.

SUSTAINABILITY  Burnbrae Farms  Burnbrae Farms has long recognized the opportunity to reduce agriculture’s environmental impact; that’s why the forward-thinking egg business has been investing in energy-saving technologies and renewable energy sources, including solar power. In 2019, the company completed construction of Canada’s largest solar-powered commercial layer hen farm in Woodstock, Ont., part of Burnbrae’s commitment to reduce the environmental impact of its operations, reduce energy use, and lower its carbon footprint across the business. The farm is completely off the hydroelectric grid, is energy efficient, and has been a commercial success. The company is currently building its second solar farm in Lyn, Ont. Burnbrae has also worked with Bullfrog Power (a Canadian green energy company) since the early 2000s, and currently markets specialty eggs with this program. According to the company, part of Burnbrae’s strategy has always been to offer consumers choice. Eggs from these green energy-powered operations are marketed under the newly developed Green Valley Farms brand name. Says the company: “We are very conscious of our environmental impact and we know that, increasingly, business strategies and environmental consciousness are only to become more closely aligned.”


Conagra Brands  As it aims to address the economic, environmental and social impacts directly linked to its activities and products, Conagra Brands has launched initiatives in four areas: good food, responsible sourcing, better planet and stronger communities. Key goals and successes so far include making 100% of plastic packaging renewable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. In 2018, Conagra introduced Healthy Choice Power Bowls, which feature a serving bowl made from plantbased fibres. By using plant-based fibres instead of plastic, the carbon footprint of manufacturing the bowls is reduced by 50% to 70% across select product lines. Conagra is working with suppliers and other stakeholders to improve the treatment of broiler chickens by 2024, and have a 100% cage-free egg supply by 2025; and the company’s national recycling solution for Angie’s BoomChickaPop via

2021 Impact Awards

TerraCycle Canada allows consumers to recycle their typically non-recyclable packaging, free of charge. Conagra has also committed to reducing absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030. And the Hunt’s tomato facility in Dresden, Ont., cleans and recycles water used to process tomatoes into farm irrigation water, supporting conservation throughout the supply chain and regeneration of local watersheds. “We strive to nourish the planet by sourcing raw ingredients and packaging materials responsibly while generating less waste for disposal, reducing energy use and water use, and helping preserve our forests and other resources,” says Michael Fazio, director of sales & Canadian lead of sustainability at Conagra Brands.

Freson Bros.’ new Edmonton store features a rooftop garden with composting bins for zero net waste

Danone Canada  Since 2017, Danone has been led by its “One Planet. One Health” motto, reflecting the idea that the health of the planet and the health of its inhabitants are closely interconnected. “It is increasingly clear that our global food system requires a more sustainable path forward,” says Isabelle Rayle-Doiron, general secretary & general counsel, Danone Canada. “At Danone Canada, we make decisions that take the long-term interests of future generations into consideration to benefit people and the planet.” To live up to its motto, Danone has committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Danone Canada has made significant changes to its supply chain, including switching its plant-based long-distance deliveries from trucks to train; partnering with retailers to increase payloads; and opening a new distribution centre in Mississauga, Ont. that’s closer to many of its customers. Danone Canada also advocates for regenerative agriculture practices by building relationships with various stakeholders to improve soil health, animal welfare and empower new generations of farmers. To that end, Danone brand Silk is partnering with the New Acre Project, led by ALUS Canada, to support the management and restoration of 90 acres of farmland in seven communities throughout Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. It also prioritizes the circular economy: it’s committed to making 100% of its packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025 and to

Healthy Choice Power Bowls feature bowls made from plantbased fibres

incorporating an average of 50% recycled material into its packaging, and is a founding member of the Circular Plastics Taskforce and a signatory of the Canada Plastics Pact.

Freson Bros.  The folks at Freson Bros. know what it takes to run a sustainable grocery business that’s just as relevant today as it was when it first opened more than 65 years ago. Case in point: its 15th store, launched this past March in Edmonton, takes sustainability to new heights with a series of green initiatives ranging from energy conservation and composting to the cultivation of honeybees. S olar panels provide 15,51 1 kWh of power to the store annually, while charging stations in the parking lot support electric vehicles. Heat is constantly reclaimed from store refrigerators to heat water and the warehouse area, while cooking oil from the kitchen is diverted from landfills and converted for industrial re-use. The rooftop houses a 2,000-sq.-ft. garden with composting bins for zero net waste, as well as a collection of beehives where honeybees

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Proud Winner of the 2021 Impact Awards

Thank you to our partner vendors

for their support of our Community Product Initiative since 2018 and contributing to our local communities.

2021 Impact Awards


Above: Sustainability has long been a core value at Kruger Products; Below: Longo’s exclusively sells Fairtrade bananas

thrive. Through the Bee Project, the grocer is helping educate customers on how honey is produced and the importance of bees in our ecosystem. “The enthusiasm demonstrated by our team members for both the rooftop garden and the beehives has been overwhelming,” says store manager Kerry Waldo. “Our customers have been able to experience the freshest produce from our rooftop gardens and we are looking forward to providing them with really fresh honey in the future.”


Kruger Products  Sustainability has been a core value at Kruger Products for more than a decade—the company launched its first formal five-year sustainability strategy in 2010, called “Sustainability 2015,” which eventually evolved into “Sustainability 2020.” Key achievements during that time included installing the first biomass gasification system in Canada’s pulp and paper industry; being the first Canadian tissue manufacturer to earn Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody certification; achieving ISO50001 Energy Management Certification from the Bureau de normalisation du Quebec;

and being named one of Canada’s Best 50 Corporate Citizens by Corporate Knights. The company reduced its energy consumption intensity by 15%, reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 26%, and reduced its water consumption by 37% (vs. 2009 levels). “When we began our formal sustainability journey more than decade ago, we understood that sustainability is a commitment that requires ongoing dedication, continuous improvement and investment,” says Steven Sage, the company’s vice-president, sustainability. With that in mind, Kruger has now launched a whole new sustainable development strategy called “Reimagine 2030: transformative growth and sustainable innovation.” A 10-year plan, this strategy has been developed to evolve as the business grows, and features new targets in areas where Kruger can make the most impact—fibre, plastic, climate change and water. These targets include: to utilize 100% third-party certified fibre; to reduce Scopes 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 25%; to reduce water consumption by 50%; and to reduce virgin plastic packaging in branded products by 50%. “Our business depends on natural resources, so we have always prioritized the environment,” says Sage.

Lactalis Canada  Canadian dairy giant Lactalis was already using its organic waste materials as nutritional fertilizer for local field crops. But when the company realized the process was still contributing to wastewater pollution, energy consumption, and disruptive odours and noise to neighbouring communities, a better plan was introduced. After consultations with community and local stakeholders, Lactalis Canada launched a four-year project to implement a new $18-million wastewater treatment plant in its facility in Winchester, Ont. Completed in 2020, the plant features a state-of-the-art system that concentrates and dries organic material present in the facility’s wastewater in a closed, climate-controlled building. It also houses a clarifying system to further clean water discharge. Along with reducing odours and noise, the new plant has reduced energy consumption by 35% and significantly improved the quality of wastewater. This major investment is also expected to drive other sustainable initiatives in the

community, while acting as a model for improving wastewater quality in Lactalis plants across Canada. “Lactalis Canada is honoured to receive Canadian Grocer’s Impact Award for Sustainability, which demonstrates our leadership and commitment to building a sustainable future and underscores the importance we, as an industry, must place on responsible and sustainable business practices for our collective success,” says Mark Taylor, president & CEO, Lactalis Canada.

Longo’s  By becoming the first North American retailer to exclusively offer Fairtrade bananas in its stores and via delivery through Grocery Gateway, Longo’s has set a new standard for sustainable produce supply chains. This decision not only ensures the farmers and communities where these bananas are sourced are guaranteed a fair and sustainable income, but these farmers get financial and technical support to lower their impact on the environment, too. “Produce has always been the backbone of our business, and responsible sourcing is not only incredibly important to us, but is at the core of our family values,” says Mimmo Franzone, senior director, produce, floral and merchandising services. Longo’s has spent the last three years working with partner Equifruit on the intiative. Longo’s began with a successful program for organic bananas, which eventually led to the rollout of the Fairtrade organic banana program. Knowing that the success of the program was dependent on customers’ understanding the value of Fairtrade, Longo’s focused on educating its team members through training. Next, it featured prominent in-store signage, flyer features and social media to grab customer attention. With the popularity of Fairtrade bananas, Longo’s is now exploring opportunities in other categories for more Fairtrade offerings.

McCormick & Company  McCormick & Company’s first Purpose-­ led Performance (PLP) report in 2017 outlined its aspirational sustainable sourcing goals based on doing what’s right for people, communities and the planet. As part of these goals, by 2025 McCormick plans to source its five branded ingredients (black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, red pepper and vanilla) sustainably and improve the livelihoods of 90% of

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McCormick would like to congratulate all the winners of the 2021 Canadian Grocer Impact awards. For more information, visit


CDN Grocer Ad_Gourmet Half Pg.pdf



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2021 Impact Awards

SUSTAINABILITY continued smallholder farmers who grow its key herbs and spices. McCormick has also committed to mapping women’s contributions in its supply chains and piloting an integrated global approach to women’s empowerment. “McCormick has adopted a holistic approach to these goals, combining them all under our Grown for Good framework, the first of its kind in the herb and spice industry,” says Michael Okoroafor, McCormick’s vice-president, global sustainability and packaging innovation. “We work with external stakeholders to identify the needs of our sourcing communities and create projects to enhance their social and economic livelihoods.” This year, McCormick achieved 100% sustainable sourcing of its branded red pepper. To promote farmer and community resiliency in red pepper communities, the company funded the installation of safe drinking water facilities, improving water quality in four villages in India where red pepper is grown. McCormick also provided PPE and training to approximately 7,000 households in India during the pandemic through its partnership with CARE International.

Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee


Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee’s Water Wise project in the Lempa region of Honduras began as part of its effort to address water-related issues in coffee-growing origin countries while improving lives, ecology and economies. Working with CARE Canada, the initiative provides coffee producers with training in resilient water practices, while supporting innovative waste management solutions that prevent waste water and coffee pulp from returning untreated to local water sources. So far, 1,459 producers have completed the Good Agricultural Practices training program.

“This effort is important to Mother Parkers as it supports the education of coffee farmers, which will improve their livelihood as coffee producers in crop management (yield, fertilization and crop diversification), farm management (energy, waste and financial management) and social (involvement of women and youth),” says Shannon Higgins, director of corporate sustainability at Mother Parkers. To date, the company has supported 53 waste water management systems by producers and implemented 60 new water catchment systems. Water Wise also supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by addressing clean water, sanitation and gender equality. “We are currently in year four or five of this project and are overachieving in many of our key indicators,” says Higgins. “We hope to continue Water Wise and seek to advance into more coffee-­growing regions.”

Sleeman Breweries With water such a vital resource to the planet—and in making beer—Sleeman has taken action to reduce its water usage every day. By upgrading equipment and modifying its brewing processes across facilities years ago, Canada’s third-largest brewer has incurred daily water savings of 298,000 litres (equal to 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools annually). Its Guelph, Ont. location uses an anaerobic digestion process to treat excess water waste before sending it to the city’s system to ease the municipality’s treatment load. Sustainability efforts don’t tap out at water, either. The first brewer and food

McCormick is helping improve drinking water in four villages in India

Mother Parkers’ Water Wise project addresses water issues in Honduras

Left: Sleeman has taken action to reduce water usage; Right: Sobeys was the first national grocer to ban plastic bags

and beverage company to be certified by the Recycling Council of Ontario, Sleeman runs a nearly zero food waste cycle by giving spent yeast, malt and hops to local farmers for cattle feed. To encourage all employees to think sustainably, Sleeman has its own Green Team, launching initiatives such as vegetable gardens at many of its sites, as well as a bike-towork/carbon-offset program in its Vernon, B.C. location. “We are very fortunate to have employees from across Canada who are dedicated and passionate about lowering our company’s carbon footprint. The progress we’ve made in our sustainability efforts is an achievement we all share here at Sleeman Breweries,” says Linden Gossen, national environmental health & safety manager.

Sobeys Sobeys has sustainability in the bag. In January 2020, the Empire-owned retailer eliminated plastic bags at checkouts at all 255 Sobeys stores across Canada. The move, which made Sobeys the first national grocer to ban plastic bags, was based on research, industry-led conversations, and extensive media monitoring. However, the retailer says Canadians were a major catalyst for change: customers were voicing concerns about plastics and asking how Empire was working to reduce single-use plastics. Empire provided stores with an action plan and key milestones to deplete existing bag stock, train staff, and prepare for the elimination of plastic bags. The company also launched a marketing campaign to say goodbye to single-use plastic bags and encourage customers to use reusable bags. To date, customers are bringing reusable bags or not using bags at all, eight out of 10 times when shopping in its grocery stores. As of May 2021, Empire has expanded the elimination of single-use plastic checkout bags to 15 of its banners and with all 15 banners combined, this equates to approximately 800 million bags removed from circulation annually. “Our customers, teammates, communities, and investors drive our commitment to protect the planet and reduce our impacts. That is why the elimination of plastic bags from our network was so important to us,” says Mohit Grover, senior vice-president, innovation, sustainability and strategy at Sobeys. “This is just the start of our plastics journey. We are excited to continue to innovate for our future.”

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2021 Impact Awards


You can always do a better job

Kootenay Co-op prides itself in going above and beyond (in terms of pay, benefits, etc.) to keep staff happy

of taking care of you.

Freybe implemented the “Not Myself Today” program to help mental health in the workplace Learn how to manage stress at


Chapman’s Ice Cream  From the very start of the pandemic, Chapman’s ensured its employees were protected physically and financially. In March 2020, the Markdale, Ont.-based company instituted a $2 per hour pandemic pay boost for production and distribution workers, and in October 2020 it became the first company in Canada to make the wage increase permanent. The company also instituted an $18.50 starting wage for production employees. “We are grateful to all employees who worked with us through these challenging times. Considering the financial hardships and uncertainties that Canadians are facing today, we recognize that the well-being of our employees is the essential part of moving forward,” says vice-president Ashley Chapman. “With this decision we are stepping forward to embrace a living wage that our employees need, pandemic or not.” In addition, Chapman’s launched a zero-per-cent interest loan program with flexible repayment terms for any employees who could not work due to COVID-19. On the production side, the company has introduced widespread safety measures throughout its facilities, including screening, new uniform rules, altered production scheduling, social distancing and Plexiglass dividers. In other efforts to protect workers and the community, Chapman’s donated thousands of PPE items such as KN95 masks and three-ply

Learn the basics of mental health at

Chapman’s has ensured staff are protected physically and financially since the start of the pandemic

surgical masks to health units, long-term care homes and public organizations in Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec.

Freybe Gourmet Foods  Since April 2019, B.C.-based Freybe has been part of “Not Myself Today” (NMT)—a program administered by the Canadian Mental Health Association to address mental health in the workplace. NMT focuses on building awareness and understanding of mental health issues, reducing stigma, and fostering safe and supportive work cultures. And according to Freybe, NMT has grown beyond being “just a program” that introduces employees to the subject of mental health; it’s now evolved to become an integral part of Freybe’s culture. “Mental Health challenges were always something I found that people hid in business environments due to fear of negative perception from others,” explains

Find out how to be part of a supportive culture at

Angela Doro, Freybe’s president. “When we embarked on our mental health strategies, it was with the belief that we have the power to change this, both inside and outside of Freybe.” With NMT, employees get access to support, tools and resources, including learning modules on subjects like addressing stress and working with emotions; while managers get resources to learn how to talk to employees about— and support—their mental health. Freybe’s program also includes a steering committee comprised of four “mental health ambassadors” who support NMT programming and promote its message; five employees who have undergone third-party “mental health first aid certification” to help others when needed; and a one-to-one “Buddy program” pairing every employee with a designated buddy to address isolation and enable people to check in with a peer if they need support.

Kootenay Co-op  Throughout the fall of 2019, the HR team at Nelson, B.C.’s Kootenay Co-op was working on enhancing the organization’s policies and employee programs. While the pandemic abruptly shifted the focus to health and safety, Kootenay Co-op still

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For more than a decade, we have been committed to sustainability by operating our business in a manner that ensures the long-term prosperity of our people, our communities, our company and our planet. Our results are inspiring, but we also recognize there is so much more to be done. Through Reimagine 2030 we are continuing our relentless pursuit to embed sustainability even deeper into our company.

Learn more at





© 2021, ® Registered and TM Trademarks of Kruger Products LP. ®’ SCOTTIES is a trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide Inc., used under license. | ® Forest Stewardship Council and FSC Logo – Forest Stewardship Council, A.C.



2021 Impact Awards Canada—and, in fact, the company’s WorkSafeBC industry liaison even asked to use these procedures as the standard within the industry. Employee safety has consistently been a top priority for the B.C.-based grocer. “Since this pandemic began, we’ve never had more opportunities to support our people and although it’s been very challenging, we’ve been able to take on those challenges together, and overcome them as a team,” says Heidi Ferriman, senior vice-president, people & corporate affairs, Save- OnFoods. And company president Darrell Jones adds that through it all, it’s been about more than just physical safety: “This pandemic brought the importance of teamwork, resilience, and especially the need to always be empathetic and kind to the forefront.”

Save-On-Foods quickly enacted comprehensive COVID protocols; the company also prioritizes teamwork and empathy

business has is people,” he says. “Healthy, happy, stable, well cared-for staff make businesses better; more fun, meaningful and profitable. Here’s to a future where everyone can be fairly compensated for a hard day’s work.”



went above and beyond to look after its 150-plus staff members. The grocer introduced an extra week of “isolation” sick pay for employees; adapted its regular sick pay policy, providing paid time off for unexpected life events, family care obligations, or mental health; and issued staff appreciation bonuses. While many grocers introduced “pandemic pay” programs, Kootenay Co-op introduced a more permanent measure by increasing its entry-level wage to above the provincial minimum wage. This allowed the organization to provide all staff with a pathway to a living wage ahead of its 2024 goal. Kootenay Co-op also provides meaningful benefits and perks to employees, including a store discount, health and dental benefits, RRSP contributions, and a vacation policy that goes beyond employment standards. For Ari Derfel, Kootenay Co-op’s general manager, supporting employees is fundamental. “The most precious and important resource any

When the pandemic hit and it was clear grocers would have to act fast to ensure safety, Save- On-Foods quickly established two teams: the Ask COVID team and the COVID Response Task Force. The Ask COVID team was created to handle positive case investigations, team member inquiries, isolation requirements, and return-to-work plans for staff who miss work for any COVID-related reason. During investigations into positive cases, the Ask COVID team works closely with the team member to identify any close contacts and review facts about their illness, including date of testing, date of first symptoms, etc., confirming close contact exposures in the store by reviewing work schedules and camera footage. After that investigation is done, it’s the COVID Response Task Force’s turn to review the case with store operators and managers, guiding them through the notification process for all team members in the store or department. This task force supports management through every step of the process. Since 2020, Save- On-Foods’ health and safety team has developed more than 40 standard operating procedures to keep up with evolving guidelines from health authorities across Western

Sobeys  Throughout COVID-19, Sobeys has acted quickly to engage its teams and set safety priorities. “Keeping our teammates, customers and communities safe was our main focus as we faced the daunting impact of the pandemic. Our core values—community engaged, customer driven, people powered and results oriented—were foundational to the organization successfully navigating the challenges we faced this past year,” says Simon Gagné, chief human resources officer. “Of particular note is the dedication of our front-line teammates who came to work every day, ensuring Canadians had the essential supplies they needed.” Daily team meetings early on enabled Sobeys to roll out sweeping national operational changes as quickly as the next day. The team worked tirelessly to communicate changes to stakeholders, including more than 127,000 teammates working in 1,500 communities under 26 different retail banners. Sobeys was the first retailer to install Plexiglass shields in all its stores, along with cancelling all product demos, sampling and events in community rooms. Senior leadership led by example by staying personally connected with teammates and sending words of encouragement and thanks. And by launching private employee Facebook groups, the company could also connect more directly with front-line teammates and provide support, including mental health tools and virtual sessions that connected employees to mental health and wellness professionals.

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2021 AWARD WINNER At Save-On-Foods, our team members consistently go the extra mile for our customers, communities and one another, earning them two Canadian Grocer Impact Awards for giving back and supporting employees. Congratulations Save-On-Foods team members and all 2021 Impact Award winners!

Proud Winner

of the

2021 Impact Awards

Better Together. Rehan’s Your Independent Grocer believes that as a community we truly are better together. Through various initiatives Rehan’s YIG has seen how generosity and kindness can positively impact a community through the thoughtful actions of their employees and customers. Employees are more than ready to donate their time to help with the store’s hot meals initiative at local schools, feeding over 300 students at a time while their customers have donated over 100 food bank bags weekly! We can achieve greater success together than we ever could alone. Rehan’s YIG emulates this every day.

2021 Impact Awards

DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION  Bimbo Canada  Since 2016, Bimbo Canada has focused on training its leaders to be effective in a diversity, equity and belonging (DEB) environment. Last year 118 “people leaders” completed the Diversity and Inclusion training course (with the goal of eventually having all leaders complete the course), while 250 people leaders completed Healthy Minds training. “Belonging is our ultimate goal. When we ‘belong,’ we can be our authentic selves at work,” says Teresa Schoonings, the company’s senior director, government relations and sustainability. Early this year Bimbo re-launched its diversity, equity and belonging (DEB) committee, staffed with employee volunteers, and is working on initiatives that include building representation and inclusion of specific demographics, creating a culture of belonging, and supporting diversity and equity. Already more than 50% of Bimbo Canada’s executive team are women, and the company supports employees through internal organizations such as the Women in Operations leadership circle and the Successful Millennials leadership circle. “Bimbo Canada is committed to living our diversity statement,” says Schoonings, adding that the company is partnering with BlackNorth Initiative and the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.


Conagra Brands  For Conagra Brands, diversity has always been important, but the company is making deeper diversity and inclusion commitments built around two strategic goals: increase representation of people of colour and women in management roles, and decrease turnover within both groups. “At Conagra Brands, we seek to nourish communities through our products and our practices,” says Lindsey Williams, senior director of human resources. “Our inclusive culture encourages openness, acceptance and individual authenticity. Healthy backgrounds, perspectives, life experiences, and opinions are valued and belong here. It’s what fosters our innovation and growth.” To achieve its goals, Conagra has established a D&I Leadership Council, comprised of Conagra’s senior leadership and

HR diversity and inclusion teams, to drive accountability and execution of the company’s commitments. It also launched a new inclusive leadership development program in October 2020. To date, nearly 1,400 people managers have been trained in inclusive leadership practices. The goal of this learning series is to meet leaders where they are and show the importance of D&I as a means to succeed in the marketplace and achieve business objectives. The company also set ambitious representation and retention goals, including doubling the representation of people of colour in management and middle-management roles and having at least 40% of management-level roles held by women within the next five years.

Danone Canada  Danone Canada has an “inclusive diversity” strategy embedded throughout its business. “Danoners embrace our culture that welcomes and supports members of diverse communities,” says Melanie Lebel, the company’s vice-president of human resources. “In fact, last year, three inclusive diversity-driven ‘Employee Resource Groups’ (ERGs) emerged, driving impact within our workforce and beyond, reaching consumers and communities.” The three new ERGs were: LIFT (Leading and Inspiring Female Talent); the 1DanONE Black, Indigenous & people of colour leadership group (BIPOC); and the PRIDE LGBTQIA2S+ group.

Conagra is striving to increase representation of people of colour and women in management roles, and to also decrease turnover within both groups

Bimbo Canada’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are focused on creating “a culture of belonging” throughout the organization

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DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION continued The LIFT ERG’s activities have included International Women’s Day events as well as the launch of the Danone LIFT Leadership Award, in collaboration with the Schulich School of Business, recognizing an outstanding female student with a prize and mentorship opportunity. Danone also launched annual LIFT Awards to celebrate employees who inspire, empower and support women. Then there’s the 1DanONE Black, Indigenous and people of colour leadership group (BIPOC). Education is a key driver for this group, with initiatives including presentations on First Nations topics, #StopAsianHate Group sessions and Race in Canada listening sessions. Similarly, the PRIDE ERG held speaker sessions to educate employees on LGBTQIA2S+ community topics, and celebrated Pride Month with a series of events. “By encouraging employees to be their best selves, and creating an environment in which their different personalities, views and perspectives are embraced, we fuel collective performance,” says Lebel.


Kellogg Canada  Kellogg is on a mission to create “Better Days” with a focus on equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I). On the heels of racial unrest in 2020, that mission came into stronger focus with the launch of 10 Kellogg Canada ED&I Commitments, demonstrating the company’s resolution to fight racism, discrimination and inequality. Kellogg is bringing these commitments to life through initiatives such as an annual day of reflection dedicated to self-directed learning on topics such as the “History of Racism in Canada” or “Indigenous History.” This year it also launched a new training program consisting of two 4.5-hour virtual sessions to help leaders develop skills needed to become inclusive leaders. Through its Better Days programs, in partnership with Food Banks Canada, Kellogg is also ensuring donated funds and food items go to marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by hunger and food insecurity. (It has committed to investing $1 million by 2025 to support these communities.) “These commitments are focused on enhancing equity, diversity and inclusion for our people, the communities in which we live and work, and our business,” says the company’s president Tony Chow. “We’ve already made significant progress on

2021 Impact Awards

many of them, and we continue to focus our efforts on creating ‘Better Days’ and a place at the table for everyone.”

P&G Canada  P&G’s Crest brand has long been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, and created a series of videos telling true stories of when a smile turned a fearful moment (coming out as gay, for example) into something to celebrate. Pantene Canada joined the global brand’s Hair Has No Gender Project in 2020, a campaign aiming to give transgender and non-binary people the confidence to express themselves through their hair. And Gold Series, a hair care line created by Black scientists specifically for textured hair, launched in Canada in early 2020—and the new brand quickly set out to break the negative stereotypes Black women face related to their hair through its #MyHairMyStory campaign, which celebrated the stories of eight Black Canadian women and their hair journeys; how they are expressing themselves through their hair and, therefore, resetting narrow beauty ideals. Secret Deodorant has taken on the issue of gender inequality in sports— after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded in 2019, Secret stepped in to support a more inclusive future

for women’s hockey, connecting their existing #EqualSweat campaign to the issue. The brand partnered with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), and featured players Hayley Wickenheiser, Sarah Nurse and Mélodie Daoust in a digital video series looking at what it means to be a female hockey player and the obstacles they face. To top it off, Secret made a $1-million dollar commitment to the PWHA. And on Menstrual Hygiene Day, P&G brand Always partnered with the Government of Alberta and United Way Central Alberta to provide period products to 100 schools across Alberta as part of a pilot project starting September 2021. “P&G has been a champion for gender equality, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, and people of colour for many years, both internally and externally,” says Geraldine Huse, president, P&G Canada. “We know that an equal world is a better world—for everyone. Over the years, we have committed to creating a more equitable world for our employees, with our brands, through our partners, and in our communities. Most importantly, we believe in the power of our differences and the impact we can make when we come together united by shared values and purpose.”

Crest’s support for the LGBTQ+ community is just one of many examples of P&G brands supporting diversity

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1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness this year. Freybe is committed to talking about mental health. We know through the CMHA that 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness this year, and almost 50% of workers say they have or have had a mental illness or mental health issue. As an employer we know that talking about our mental health is key to our team’s success and well being, and that it's time to end stigma in the workplace and beyond.

If you’re ready to learn how the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Not Myself Today program can make a difference for your team, we’d love to share our experience with you. Drop us a line at

If you’re in crisis, call 1-833-456-4566 to talk to someone who can help.

2021 Impact Awards

COMMUNITY SERVICE  Blind Bay Village Grocer  Community has always been a focus for Blind Bay Village Grocer (BBVG), which supports a variety of local initiatives and organizations. So it was only natural the B.C.-based grocer would play a vital role in supporting local businesses during the pandemic. “When the pandemic hit, the importance of supporting our local community was crucial to our survival,” says president James Inglis. “We immediately rebranded ourselves with the tagline ‘Love Local.’ This tagline is all-encompassing in that we love our community, our local vendors, our local customers, and the messaging also asks our customers to love BBVG as their local grocer.” Using the Love Local branding, the store featured local businesses and vendors in its flyers, succeeding in raising awareness and sales for these companies. The grocer also became one of the first retailers in Canada to sell Girl Guide cookies in-store to assist the group with sales during COVID-19, and it supported the small business community by offering a 10% discount on groceries from April to December 2020. Because Blind Bay has a large snowbird population, many of whom needed to quarantine when they returned home last year, the store established a personal shopper program for delivery of groceries to seniors’ homes with the help of the South Shuswap Chamber of Commerce and the volunteer group at Cedar Heights Community Association.

Made with Local products are made and shipped by workers who experience barriers to the mainstream workforce

Blind Bay Village Grocer implemented its “Love Local” messaging to convey its strong support for local businesses and the community

Calgary Co-op has donated more than $2.2 million to community initiatives during the pandemic, with a focus on food security

Made with Local


Calgary Co-op  Throughout the pandemic, Calgary Co-op has taken a holistic approach to supporting the community. To support its more than 1,700 local farmers and vendors, the grocer launched a “shop local” campaign in all its stores, along with a series of live Zoom cooking classes with Calgary chef Julie Van Rosendaal to encourage customers to shop local and get cooking. The grocer also delivered free care packages of non-perishable grocery items to the vulnerable in the community, and to date has donated more than $2.2 million towards community initiatives during the pandemic, with a focus on food security. And since its staff are also community

experiences, Penney McTaggart Cowan. “People are at the heart of everything we do. We are so grateful to everyone who is part of the Calgary Co-op family.”

members, Calgary Co-op wanted to ensure they all felt a sense of safety, confidence and comfort, regardless of the circumstances. So, it implemented the Calgary Co-op Champions Program, which included increased wages and additional benefits. It also worked with local vendors to install stringent safety measures and video screens in break rooms to keep team members up to date on protocol. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have focused on supporting our front-line workers, providing safety and confidence to our members and helping those who are most vulnerable,” says vice-president, marketing and member

Since launching in 2012, Nova Scotia-­ based Made with Local has fulfilled its mission to be a responsible business that acts as a force of good in the community. The snack maker operates through two social enterprise production partners, which means all Made with Local products are produced and shipped by people who are experiencing barriers to the mainstream workforce, or just need an extra supportive work environment. “In working with these groups, we are providing valuable, good work for those not able to find employment due to physical or intellectual limitations,” says company founder Sheena Russell. With its Real Food Bars and Granola Bar Mixes now sold through more than 1,500 retailers across Canada, the

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COMMUNITY SERVICE continued company has been able to increase the number of jobs at its bakery partners, expand their kitchens, invest in new equipment, and build a whole new team for shipping and distribution. In 2020, the company sourced ingredients from 11 Canadian producers and growers, nine of whom are independently owned and operated. “When we choose Canadian producers and growers, we are choosing to invest the hard-earned money of our customers back into our local economies, and this is something that makes our customers feel good about supporting us,” says Russell.

Muskoka Brewery  Last year, Bracebridge, Ont.’s Muskoka Brewery reached out to customers with campaigns to help support local businesses, as well as healthcare and frontline workers. When the pandemic hit, Muskoka Brewery began a series of free virtual events to support the South Muskoka Hospital Foundation, and began Rehan’s Your Independent Grocer helped feed community members with its “food bank bag” program

2021 Impact Awards

donating $1 per delivery/curbside order to the foundation. As a result, the brewery was able to donate $10,000 to the hospital. The brewery also pivoted to produce hand sanitizer during the pandemic, and supplied more than 2,000 bottles to local front-line businesses and organizations. In December 2020, the company took $5 per curbside and delivery order and donated $5,000 in local restaurant gift cards to the local food bank. In another more lighthearted campaign, for every 10 packs of beer sold, the brewery donated a four-pack to front-line workers, and every Friday last summer delivered a much-needed beer break to workers in hospitals, grocery stores and nursing homes across Ontario. In total, the brewery donated more than 4,000 four-packs of beer. “Our community is so important to us and when the pandemic started, our team got to work to find every way possible to make an impact. I’m so proud of this team and what we’ve accomplished,” says president Todd Lewin.

“Rabba Roots” helps people access food, health and emergency services

Rabba Fine Foods  Rabba Fine Foods believes a good community starts with good neighbours, which is why the company has many long-standing partnerships and initiatives in communities throughout the Greater Toronto Area. “Rabba Roots is a community giving program led by Rabba Fine Foods and its founding partners, and it contributes to people’s lives through access to food, health and emergency services,” says Rick Rabba, the company’s president. “Through the program we have supported Trillium Health Partners for many decades, and recently donated $20,000 to Trillium’s intensive care units. We have also supported Covenant House and Good Shepherd Ministries with a Super Bowl event for the past three years, designed to draw attention to the growing problem of homelessness, while allowing homeless, trafficked or at-risk youth a chance enjoy the Super Bowl and to know they are not forgotten,” says Rabba. Over the years, Rabba has partnered on many initiatives that raise awareness while celebrating music and culture. In 2017, it partnered with former child soldier Emmanuel Jal to present a fundraising concert in conjunction with World Refugee Day, and since then has been sponsoring the annual Tim Hortons Southside Shuffle Blues & BBQ Festival in Port Credit (Mississauga) featuring local and First Nation community artists and entertainers.


Rehan’s Your Independent Grocer

Muskoka Brewery’s Front Line Fridays involved delivering a beer break to workers in hospitals, grocery stores and nursing homes across Ontario

Thanks to one Sudbury, Ont.-based grocer, hundreds of children are getting access to hot, nutritious meals, as well as education on the importance of healthy eating. Before COVID-19 restrictions, owner Rehan Iqbal and his team were preparing and serving hot breakfasts and lunches at local public schools, feeding more than 300 students at a time—and they’re heading back again as schools open. “At Rehan’s YIG, utilizing our strengths to give back to our community is part of working here every single day,” says Iqbal. “We are a food store and, therefore, giving back to the community using food—specifically a healthy, hot breakfast—is a very rewarding experience for us.” Among its many community efforts, the grocer launched a “food bank bag” program, resulting in more than 150 bags

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Michael Medline

Joe Fusco

Anthony Longo

Paul Bravi

Sam Corea

Darrell Jones

Tom Shurrie

Many children who would have walked into school to have a mid-morning snack aren’t having the same access that they had pre-pandemic. That means children are suffering. When students aren’t safe, they’re not learning. The same goes for nutrition. If they’re not fed and they’re hungry, they’re not going to be learning. It doesn’t matter what socio-economic background any of the families come from ..... Having healthy snacks, - Toronto School Principal supports all learners.


COMMUNITY SERVICE continued of groceries reaching the Sudbury Food Bank weekly. It also partnered with local charities to provide Thanksgiving meals to Sudbury families and donated more than $5,000 worth of baby food. Rehan’s is also an avid supporter of local business. Last September the grocer started a local market day so vendors in the area could set up booths in the store to promote their products.

2021 Impact Awards Sobeys is helping fund mental health programs at 13 children’s hospitals

SPUD’s Period Poverty campaign helps women access menstrual hygiene products


Save-On-Foods  When the pandemic hit, school closures made it hard for Canadian kids who relied on school-based nutrition programs to regularly access meals. To address this, Save- On-Foods launched its Feeding Hungry Kids campaign, consisting of an initial $500,000 donation to Breakfast Club of Canada and an invitation for customers to donate at the till or online— with any customer donation being matched by the company (up to a total of $500,000). Store employees and customers embraced the campaign and quickly raised $1 million. Breakfast Club of Canada distributed the money to its school and community organization partners in the same communities where the donations came from, and Save-On- Foods’ initial $500,000 was similarly portioned out to each community. (Other partners in this campaign included I Can for Kids, a Calgary-based charity supporting kids in need of food over summer break; and Backpack Buddies, a B.C.-based charity that helps fill the weekend hunger gap.) All told, Save-On-Foods’ customers donated 200,804 times at the till, and the campaign supported 182 communities across Western Canada. “A stable supply of nutritious food has long been linked to better school performance and higher functioning in kids, and we are committed to helping our community partners continue their critical work of feeding young Canadians,” says Darrell Jones, president, Save-OnFoods. “Together with Breakfast Club of Canada and our other lead partners in this effort, we are proud to give back to schools and students across Western Canada. Our generous customers share our commitment to our communities and have absolutely blown us away with their support.”

Sobeys  Mental health issues are on the rise among Canadian kids, yet most don’t (or can’t) access help until their situation

Stong’s has partnered with Harvest Project since 2016

initiative has made 15 unique programs possible across 10 provinces through the partnership with 13 children’s hospital foundations. “These innovative programs are unique and diverse in nature, with a few very important elements in common: they put children and youth first; they work to support the full family; and they identify and seek to address mental health challenges early,” says Sanderson.

Stong’s Market

hits a crisis point. That’s why Sobeys and the Sobey Foundation partnered with Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations to launch “A Family of Support: Child and Youth Mental Health Initiative.” The initiative is aimed at funding local mental health programs at 13 Canadian children’s hospitals, helping reduce patient wait times, create and adapt clinical spaces, expand capacity across the healthcare system, and enhance training for mental health leaders, pediatricians, and front-line healthcare workers. “Our company’s purpose of being ‘a family nurturing families’ was our inspiration for this initiative focused on child and youth mental health,” says Sandra Sanderson, senior vice-president of marketing for Sobeys. Launched in August 2020, Sobeys committed to donating and raising millions of dollars for the initiative. From September 17 to October 1, 2020, Canadian shoppers were able to donate in what Sobeys is calling its largest in-store fundraising campaign for a single cause. By the end of the campaign, the initiative surpassed its fundraising goal, raising $2.1 million during its first fundraising drive. According to Sobeys, the

Stong’s support for local community initiatives and charities began when it opened its first Vancouver store in 1931, and continues today. Since 2016, Stong’s has partnered with Harvest Project, an organization that helps North Shore residents experiencing challenging life circumstances by providing physical, emotional and spiritual support. The organization offers a grocery support program, clothing donations, workforce re-entry support and client coaching. Throughout the year, Stong’s encourages customers to donate to Harvest Project at checkouts, and has raised more than $60,000 and donated thousands of pounds of necessary food items to the organization. “We are amazed by the generosity of our customers and the impact we can have as a community when we work together,” says president Brian Bradley. The grocer also provides lunches to five local schools for professional development days in support of teachers. “Our community in Dunbar is very close to the schools in this area; 60% of our part-time staff members are currently attending or have attended these schools in the past,” explains Mike Ngsee, store operations manager. “The [parent advisory council] members are loyal, long-time customers

September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 47

Lactalis Canada partners with Canadian fintech WhatRocks™ to empower Canadians to donate to their charity of choice with digital currency Lactalis Canada joins WhatRocks™ as founding member and first Canadian partner

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2021 Impact Awards

COMMUNITY SERVICE continued Unilever’s Courage is Beautiful campaign recognizes the sacrifices of essential workers

Vince’s Market makes an impact with its Community Product Initiative

and we just wanted to support them along with the teachers for all their hard work on the front lines.”


Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD)  It’s called “period poverty”: when women are unable to access or afford essential menstrual hygiene products. And it’s a critical public health issue that SPUD has tackled as part of its commitment to cultivate healthy communities. “We have committed to the Period Poverty campaign for the past three years and continue to explore ways we can help the members of our community who need it the most,” says SPUD’s director of marketing, Arndrea Scott. For the March 2021 “Period Poverty” campaign, SPUD teamed up with two of its vendors: DivaCup and Organyc. Customers could participate in any (or all of) four ways: buy any Organyc product, and 25% of the proceeds would go towards purchasing menstrual hygiene products for those in need; buy a DivaCup and one would be donated to a local organization; donate

unopened menstrual hygiene products to their returnable e-commerce grocery tote; and make a physical or monetary donation at Blush Lane retail locations. The campaign also worked with organizations near SPUD’s three distribution facilities. Donations in Vancouver were given to BC Housing’s This is Me.Period project; Calgary donations were given to Humainologie’s The Period Project; and in Edmonton, all donations were sent to No Woman Without. Period. The campaign raised nearly $10,000 and collected approximately 9,800 units of cups, tampons and pads across all three cities. Soon after the campaign ended, the City of Edmonton announced it would provide free menstrual products to all women’s and gender-inclusive city-owned washrooms. SPUD hopes its campaign played a small part in the city’s decision.

Unilever Canada  During the pandemic Unilever recognized the need to help front-line workers in a meaningful way. Through its Dove brand it launched the Courage is Beautiful campaign in 2020 to recognize the sacrifices being made by essential workers, and donated $1 million of Dove and Dove Men+Care products to front-line medical workers and hospitals across the country. And in response to shortages of PPE at the beginning of the pandemic, Unilever’s Simcoe and Rexdale, Ont. plants donated 30,000 surgical masks and 2,000 N95 masks to front-line healthcare workers. Other initiatives launched in the last year include a commitment of $500,000

over three years to organizations creating a more equal society for BIPOC communities, including Black Moms Connection, FoodShare and Innovate Inclusion. Unilever is also building an incubator program to support early-stage Black social entrepreneurs, and through its SheaMoisture brand launched the Salon Relief Fund to provide financial support to Black female entrepreneurs in the hair care industry. In addition, Unilever employees donated their time to community action during the company’s September 2020 Day of Service campaign, as well as $17,600 to various charities, which was matched by Unilever. Employees donated an additional $5,200 to food banks during the 2020 holiday season, which was again matched by Unilever. In total, the company donated more than $3 million dollars of food, soap, personal and home hygiene products to food banks across Canada.

Vince’s Market  Back in 2018, the owners of Ontario-based Vince’s Market wanted to make a powerful community impact, even as a smaller, independent grocer. They launched the Community Product Initiative, with a unique fundraising concept: 15% of sales for one product featured for six to 10 weeks across Vince’s stores went to an annual fund for a year-end donation to a local non-profit. Different products were featured from across categories, and vendors who brought forward featured items also participated with a one-time donation. “We realized if we worked with our partners and provided a share of our margins, we could do something really meaningful to align with our mission to make a difference in the communities we serve,” says partner Giancarlo Trimarchi. Initially each store chose one not-forprofit to receive its donation of $4,000 to $5,000, but in 2020 the grocer decided to pool efforts for an even bigger impact. This year’s entire fund will go to the Southlake Regional Health Centre Mental Health Program. In four years of fundraising efforts, Vince’s Market has collected more than $58,000 to benefit life-changing community organizations. “It just goes to show that with a little creativity you can make a big-impact initiative,” says Trimarchi. CG

Canadian Grocer’s Impact Awards will be returning in 2022. Look out for our call for nominations in the New Year. September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 49




Expect to do something great at Kruger Products.


© 2021




LP |® K


Generation Next thinking

THE WORKFORCE OF THE FUTURE As a new world of work emerges, how can grocers prepare for the changes and challenges ahead?


By Rebecca Harris

NEARLY 18 MONTHS and four waves into the COVID19 pandemic, businesses are faced with a tsunami of a different kind: employees leaving their jobs in droves (or wanting to) in search of something better. Dubbed “The Great Resignation,” this phenomenon bubbled up as people found room to reassess their work situations and life priorities during the pandemic. Multiple studies suggest workers in Canada and around the world are seeking a job or career change. To wit: a Microsoft study found that 41% of the global workforce is likely to consider handing in their resignation within the next year; 57% of Canadians would change careers if given the opportunity, according to a survey by tech education company Lighthouse Labs; and 33% of generation Z and millennial professionals in Canada plan to pursue a new job, reports global staffing firm Robert Half. Stephen Harrington, a partner in human capital at Deloitte, describes the current state of mind as an existential crisis. “It’s not surprising that people sitting in their home office on endless virtual meetings or hauling themselves into a workplace that doesn’t feel safe are having a bit of an existential crisis,” says Harrington, who also leads Deloitte’s Future of Work advisory business. “Some people are making a big change by moving house, while others are changing jobs to try to regain a sense of control over their lives.”

September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 51

Generation Next thinking While there’s no data on how the grocery sector specifically might be affected by The Great Resignation, there’s no doubt that recruiting and retaining people is a formidable challenge. In the Food Industry Association (FMI)-Deloitte “Future of Work: The State of the Food Industry” study, food retailers named talent availability (44%) as their most pressing challenge, followed by talent retention (40%), and retraining and re-skilling employees for new technology (39%). On top of the philosophical shift, COVID-19 disrupted the when and where of work—at least for people with office jobs. “It disrupted it so fundamentally that many people who used to think there was only one answer to the when and where of work changed their minds,” notes Harrington. “And so, in the shorter term, we’re going to see organizations change their workforce and workplace strategies to accommodate new ways of working.” For Jean McClellan, who leads PwC Canada’s national people and organization practice, the opportunity for organizations to reimagine their workforce strategies is one business-related bright side of the pandemic. “As people are disrupted, they’re also open to a lot of possibilities they never were before,” she says. “And so, that’s a wonderful opportunity for organizations to design strategies that lead to a great experience for their people and for their customers as well.”

Reimagining the work environment

One of the more immediate needs is to figure out a new workplace model for office staff. Many companies are pivoting to a hybrid model, which allows employees to combine in-office and remote work. This is the post-pandemic model most desired by employees, as they seek greater control and flexibility in their work life. In a recent survey of 2,000 Canadians by the Angus Reid Institute, 44% said they preferred a hybrid work model, while 29% would like to continue working from home and 27% want to return to the office. Longo’s is one grocery retailer that’s pivoting to a hybrid model. Chief human resources officer Liz Volk notes that in an internal survey, 60% of employees indicated they’d like a hybrid model, ideally working in the office two to three days a week. Currently, employees are asked to come into company headquarters (or support centre, as Longo’s calls it) once a week, and the retailer will eventually move to a minimum of two in-office days a week. “We feel it’s important to bring people back in and we’ve tried to communicate the reasons for this faceto-face interaction,” says Volk. “The overarching reason is the importance of our culture—we are a relationship-driven culture. But we really feel it’s important for connection and creativity, and to create community.” To prepare for the new hybrid work environment, 52  CANADIAN GROCER || September/October 2021

Volk says the company’s leaders are getting upskilled. For example, they’re attending workshops on how to run meetings effectively when some team members are in person and some are virtual. “We will be focused on how to really operate in a hybrid world and how to keep everybody connected,” says Volk.

Giving employees what they really want “Commun­icating that you have clear career paths that are tailored to the individual can be an effective attraction tool. It’s also important to build a succession plan and communicate with your high potentials that you see a great path in their future, and this is often overlooked”

When it comes to developing new workforce strategies, Deloitte’s Harrington strongly believes in the ‘something for everyone’ principle to attract and retain employees. “This is not just for people who work in the corporate office,” he says. For retailers, that could mean scheduling flexibility to make it easier for store-level workers to balance their work and life. “We can even go as far as crowd-sourced scheduling so that store employees can schedule amongst themselves through a portal system,” suggests Harrington. Just as important, retailers need to foster a culture of autonomy and trust to engage employees at all levels. “It’s about how to show people that their job is more than a set of processes to follow,” says Harrington. “There are dynamic outcomes that organizations can ask of them and they can achieve on their own. They can feel that trust and accomplish something that they’ll wear on their sleeves.” As part of Longo’s talent attraction and retention efforts, the retailer has partnered with the Good Jobs Institute, a social enterprise that helps companies improve the jobs and lives of their employees, while boosting their company’s performance. “We’re very focused on providing a good wage and making sure our team members are getting consistent hours, both at the full-time and part-time level, so it’s not disruptive to their lives,” says Volk. In addition, Longo’s has an employee assistance program, so employees across the organization—even students—can get help with their physical and mental health. Another way retailers can Great Resignation-proof their businesses is through career pathing, which provides an overview of an employee’s skills and competencies, and charts a course for their career development. “Communicating that you have clear career paths that are tailored to the individual can be an effective attraction tool,” says Donna Koop, an executive relationship manager at ADP, a global HR services firm. “It’s also important to build a succession plan and communicate with your high potentials that you see a great path in their future, and this is often overlooked.” Also on the recruitment front, Koop’s advice to grocery retailers is to align with school programs and attend career fairs and speaking engagements to raise awareness about their organization and the benefits of choosing a career in grocery, as well as get involved in the community. “If they don’t already have community-related initiatives, they should find one or two that they become known for,” she says.


*Survey of 4,000 people by Kantar




Product of the Year Canada

Generation Next thinking “This speaks to employees’ personal interests and builds your employer brand as well.”

The power of purpose and values

In addition to helping out in the community, retailers will also have to look inward. Well before the pandemic, people cared about their employers’ purpose and values—essentially how they’re a force for good. But with pressing societal concerns and environmental issues, this has climbed higher on employees’ wish lists. “People want to be connected to the same social values their employers are connected to, and that’s going to become increasingly important for both attracting and retaining employees,” says Myles Gooding, national consumer markets leader and global consumer markets advisory leader at PwC Canada. “Social values are quickly becoming a business currency.” For organizations to be successful, they need to clearly articulate what their values are and clearly live up to them—not just market them, advises Gooding. “For example, if you’re known for sustainability and great training programs, you have to be able to deliver on that.” That’s because employees will see through their employers’ empty promises and start eyeing the exit signs. In fact, a 2020 survey of U.S. employees by communications firm Porter Novelli found the vast majority (93%) of employees today believe now, more than ever before, companies must lead with purpose. In addition, 88% of employees believe it’s no longer acceptable to just make money, but companies have to positively impact society as well. What’s more, Porter Novelli’s 2021 “Business & Social Justice Study” found that 43% of employees are reconsidering their current position because their company is not doing enough to address social issues externally. Generation Z workers are more likely to say they would want to work for a company that speaks up for, or addresses social justice issues (64% versus 59% of the general population). Generally speaking, PwC’s McClellan notes that connecting to purpose and social values is certainly important to younger generations. However, she cautions retailers not to paint employees of any age with a broad brush. “Be cautious about generational characterizations because you may very well have tech-savvy seniors and career-oriented younger folks who are motivated by money,” she says. “Catering to a number of different personas within your employee group is an important consideration.”

Training for tech skills, keeping the human touch

Technology and lightning-fast consumer behaviour shifts are also impacting the workforce in the grocery industry. According to the FMI-Deloitte report, three change drivers—the shift to online shopping, evolving customer service demand, and curbside and in-store pickup—are mostly affecting the nature of work itself. 54  CANADIAN GROCER || September/October 2021

“Grocery stores require an element of theatre and customer service ... If customers are looking for an item or multiple items, that requires service. They like human interaction and people asking about their day ... I don’t think that will go away”

“Consider that promoting items on a website or app is a different kind of work than building attractive end-aisle displays, or that rapidly picking items while inherently making decisions on behalf of consumers, engaging with them in chat through the app, and delivering groceries to a vehicle curbside is different from operating a cash register,” the report states. “Executives also report that the skills required to do this work are changing and so are the physical locations, which might include a dark store, which is used only for fulfilling online orders.” New skills will also be required as grocery stores become increasingly more automated thanks to technologies like self-checkouts and robotic devices. “Whenever you add automation into a grocery store, you then have to add the technical experience to manage that automation,” observes Peter van Stolk, CEO of Freshlocal Solutions, the parent company of; Blush Lane Organic Market and Be Fresh Market/Café; and FoodX Technologies. “So, I think there is a shift to a higher knowledge workforce when you add automation.” That’s not to say he’s a proponent of eliminating the need for humans. “Grocery stores require an element of theatre and customer service,” says van Stolk. “If customers are looking for an item or multiple items, that requires service. They like human interaction and people asking about their day ... I don’t think that will go away.” Deloitte’s Harrington echoes the importance of people—and people skills—even if a grocery store becomes more futuristic. “How long will it take until every grocery retailer has exactly the same human-replacing technologies?” he wonders. “In the short term, those technologies create value for the whole industry, but they don’t create a sustained advantage for a single employer.” That means retailers will need a much more human advantage. For instance, if a grocery store becomes more automated and employees aren’t needed at the checkout, they can be deployed elsewhere. “You might have an opportunity to have people working in that store doing very different things for customers, such as helping them plan a meal or discover a new product,” says Harrington. Whether a grocery retailer is reimagining a workforce strategy for store-level employees or head-office staff, the key is to figure out what skills they will need in the future that they don’t have today. “It’s not just about technology, it’s about a whole platform of skills,” says Harrington. “And both for a business advantage and to take care of their employees and customers, companies need to start building these future skills in people now.” CG Generation Next Thinking is an ongoing series that explores cutting-edge topics that will help grocers gain the knowledge they need to tackle the future of this rapidly-changing industry.


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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.




SEASON’S EATINGS What food and drink trends will shape holiday entertaining in 2021? GETTY IMAGES/KNAPE

By Michele Sponagle

While pandemic woes threaten to continue playing the role of Grinch for the upcoming holidays, there are reasons for grocery retailers to feel festive this year. Though normalcy and a return to pre-pandemic times still eludes us, consumers will have enough confidence to resume some traditions, like holiday gatherings—even though they may look a little different than before. That bodes well for putting some cheer back into the holidays following the less-than-robust 2020 winter holiday season. According to Kathy Perrotta, vice-president, market strategy and understanding, Ipsos, “celebratory consumption and events” for that all-important quarter were down last year by 34% compared to 2019. “People still celebrated,” she says, “but there weren’t those lead-up events and parties we normally see before the holidays. While sales this year won’t be at 2020 levels, they will be dependent on the environment we’re in at that point in time.”

September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 59

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Aisles The pandemic and COVID-19 infection rates will be the wild card for holiday 2021. As case numbers climb into the fall, there’s a nervousness about the future. Perrotta expects consumers will find a middle ground by welcoming smaller numbers of guests, and perhaps devise safer ways to gather and celebrate. What else can grocers expect for the holidays? Here’s a look at some key trends impacting this year’s festive season. A RETURN TO TRADITION Last year was an atypical holiday season. Turkey sales took a dive, while top-tier cuts of beef and seafood did well for grocery retailers. For 2021, things aren’t expected to be as foul for fowl. “We are expecting a huge demand since people will be entertaining again,” says Cynthia Beretta, co-owner of Beretta Farms in King City, Ont. “We began our turkey sales this year at the end of August. In 2020, we sold very few turkeys. People were apprehensive.” She’s also confident that hams and larger bone-in cuts of beef, like prime rib, will sell well this year as shoppers fully embrace the “support local” movement. Beretta Farms, which works with more than 100 farms and ranchers across the country, is also launching bone broth, a very on-trend offering touted for its many health benefits. And to promote holiday sales of its hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, chicken and pork products, the producer will focus on digital advertising and social media. DESIRE TO EAT HEALTHIER With health topof-mind, some consumers are re-evaluating their meat consumption. An Angus Reid survey conducted in 2020 revealed 43% of Canadians indicated an openness to including more plant-based foods in their diets. That shift in attitude has led to success for Vancouver’s Larry’s Market, a vegetarian grocery store that opened two years ago. Owner Ryan Dennis has seen strong support from vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters as well. For the holidays, Larry’s will expand its lineup of heatand-serve entrees made with organic ingredients, adding a cauliflower jerk Wellington. “Many people have vegans and vegetarians in their families and they want something special and delicious for their holiday dinners, too,” he says. He’ll also launch “vegcuterie” trays to capitalize on the super-hot charcuterie trend,

but swap in plant-based meat and cheese. Plant-based desserts, too, will be big. The grocer will be adding plant-based Nanaimo bars to its roster of baked goods, beautifully packaged for gift giving. “We have found that when people can’t get together over the holidays, they like to send their loved ones a little something.” To build store traffic over the holidays, Larry’s will host special events every Friday and Saturday until Christmas. It will promote non-alcoholic beverages— booze-free ciders, beer flights and premium cocktails—that its customers can serve at home. “Everybody drank a lot during COVID,” explains Dennis. “We’re providing an option to people who are sober-curious. It’s also a great way to encourage trial of unfamiliar products.” CHEERS TO YOU! While not all grocery stores are licensed to sell beer and wine in Canada, those that do will find some new and returning SKUs. On the beer front, Cowbell Brewing Co., located in Blythe, Ont., will introduce a seasonal pack featuring three core brands plus three seasonal products, including a Sugar Plum Sour. To support grocery store sales, Tyeler Walker, director of sales, says the brewer will be doing end aisle promotions and will work with grocery partners for placement in flyers around the holidays, especially December, Cowbell’s busiest month. Social media campaigns will also broaden exposure. “The grocery channel is going to be the next big player in the brewing industry,” he says. Low- and no-alcohol beers continue to show strength, thanks to rising demand from millennials and older gen Zs. Last year, Budweiser Canada introduced Budweiser Zero to market in response to consumer demand; and Neal Brothers, best known for its snack foods, brought three lagers (regular, lime and grapefruit) to market with 0.45% alcohol. Premier Brands has a solid roster of alcohol-free beer, too, with strong performers like Paulaner, Schneider Weisse and DAB Ultimate, Europe’s first all-natural, low calorie and low-carb beer. Consumers who may be missing holiday travel can take a sip of the world through wines from Corby Spirit & Wine. “From Australia, Spain and New Zealand, you’ll be sure to find a high-quality wine at accessible price points,” says Michelle Finn, the company’s regional trade marketing manager. To promote sales, Corby

will provide $3 discounts from the end of November to the beginning of January for its Ontario grocery top-sellers, including the popular Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc and Campo Viejo, the top-selling Spanish wine brand family. Jacob’s Creek, the leading Australian brand in Canada, will offer larger 1.5L formats. Cocktails continue to trend strongly, making it an ideal time to offer unique mixers. Fever Tree’s new Distillers Cola will please rum lovers, while Genuine Tea’s handcrafted sparkling iced teas hit shelves at Loblaws in September—suitable for sipping straight or to blend into cocktails, with potential health benefits coming from functional ingredients like turmeric, ginger and elderberry. SIZE MATTERS Finding the sweet spot for package and serving sizes may be challenging for the holidays. On one hand, people are still prone to pantry loading, which is up by 30%, says Perrotta. “It’s a case of consumers having FOLO [Fear of Lockdown], not FOMO [Fear of Missing Out],” she says. “They’ll want to have food on hand to be prepared for entertaining.” On the other hand, there will be strong demand for multi-packs with individual servings for greater flexibility. It’s something that M&M Food Market has noted. “A trend we’re seeing is smaller, manageable portion sizes that are more convenient to serve and allow hosts to spend more time with family and guests,” explains chef Michael Gray, the company’s director of product development and quality assurance. “At the same time, we’re also offering traditional items, but with new flavour profiles; something we call comfort with a twist.” With that in mind, shareable holiday appetizers will be launched in early November, including a crispy chicken poblano firecracker, cream Cheese wonton with spicy Thai sauce for dipping and a decadent lobster puff, featuring sustainable North Atlantic lobster with herbs and spices wrapped in a butter puff pastry. For mains, M&M will offer a marinated lemon and thyme Canadian pork loin, a jalapeno and honey stuffed pork tenderloin, and turkey stuffed pasta shells with a seasoned crumb and cheese topping. On the vegetarian side, it has rustic root vegetable gratin with celery root, sweet potato and turnip in a creamy cheese sauce. Its new dessert lineup has unapologetically decadent items: a standalone 4-inch

September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 61

Holiday promotion tips

Keep the one-stop-shop momentum going. During the pandemic, consumers got into the habit of viewing grocery retailers as the places to go for everything. For the holiday season, build on that reputation by providing entertaining essentials, from utensils, napkins and candles to gift items and cookware. Be careful around your messaging. Grocers need to be cautious about how they are com­municating around gatherings, notes Kathy Perrotta from Ipsos. “The messaging needs to encourage connection and socializing—what con­sumers are longing for—in responsible, safe ways.” Surprise consumers. Unusual items, including global cuisine like tapas and foods with unique flavours, may be appealing to those looking for something exciting to brighten the holiday after a challenging year. Wave the flag. Canadians are more aware of where their groceries come from than ever before. They’ll be checking labels, so consider displays highlighting local producers and putting maple leaf stickers on packaging. Up your ready-to-serve game. Consumers are now demanding convenience. Even if they take care of the mains for the holiday meal, they’ll appreciate easy side dishes. Grocers would be well served to expand their range of grab-and-go holiday options so hosts can spend more time with their guests.

• • •

classic tiramisu and two individual miniature cakes available in packages of six—a triple chocolate mousse cake and a mini apple crisp cheesecake. “Everything is perfect for sharing or individual indulgence,” says Gray. During the pandemic, shoppers have gotten used to stocking up on frozen foods. “ The pandemic has changed shopping and product preferences and we know that will influence behaviour during the holiday season and beyond,” says Andy O’Brien, CEO, M&M Food Market. “We saw Canadians shifting to smaller stores where operational standards made them feel safer. Lastly, as much as we love to see customers in our stores, we’ve seen a significant jump in e-commerce sales and that’s only going to grow. The holidays are always busy, but we expect these factors will translate into an even busier 2021 season for us.” CONVENIENCE RULES The challenges of the pandemic often had frazzled consumers relying on quick-to-prepare foods, and convenience became an even greater

Aisles expectation than before. “Convenience is a point of entry needed now,” Perrotta says. In pre-pandemic days, convenience often meant picking up dinner at a restaurant on the way home from work. Now, consumers are looking more to grocers for easy meals, especially since many Canadians are still working from home; and this behaviour is likely to extend into holiday entertaining. O’Brien says M&M prides itself in being able to make celebrating more convenient. “Rather than fussing and stressing in a hot kitchen, we offer people the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones and share a meal they can feel proud to serve.” Part of that equation also means having staff who can offer consumers suggestions. M&M has trained in-store meal advisors who can provide a variety of product suggestions, details on ingredients, pairings and preparation tips. At Oliva Market, a specialty grocery store in Burford, Ont., product knowledge is shared in person and online. Along with heat-and-serve meals, Oliva offers a wide array of gourmet products, from olive oils to artisan coffees and upscale snacks. But while unique products are great, they’re not so appealing if consumers don’t know how to use them. “That’s why we’ve introduced online cooking videos,” says Dan Santos, Oliva’s vice-president, operations. “They’ve become very popular and are helping to drive sales. After videos air, we get a swarm of people coming to pick up the ingredients needed to recreate the dish.” For the holidays, the retailer will also help customers by making available charcuterie kits containing everything they need. CHOICES FOR ALL DIETARY NEEDS Good holiday hosts understand the importance of being prepared to accommodate guests’ dietary requirements, including gluten-free options. Carbonaut, a Silver Hills Bakery brand that launched in early 2021, will soon introduce gluten-free bagels in three flavours (plain, cinnamon raisin and everything), ideal for a holiday brunch, along with gluten-free pizza crusts. All are keto-certified, too. Keto-diet followers can also try the brand’s recently introduced gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread, featuring only one gram of net carbs per slice. And for those wanting to make gluten-free turkey stuffing, Little Northern Bakehouse breads (also from Silver Hills

Bakery) offer the taste and texture of traditional breads, minus the gluten. “More and more people are looking to make healthy food choices and are seeking out products made with whole foods and that feature a clean ingredient list,” says Jodie Douglas, marketing director at B.C.-based Silver Hills. For holiday promotions, the company will continue to work with brand partners and registered dietitians to share holiday meal solutions and recipes. On social media channels, it will promote seasonal content to help prepare shoppers for the holidays and offer discount pricing to retailers. When it comes to desserts, Sweets from the Earth will be launching vegan, tree nut- and peanut-free holiday festive four-pack cupcakes featuring seasonal flavours, like peppermint, beginning on November 15. Its lineup of fall and holiday selections also includes pumpkin pie and apple, peach or blueberry crumble pies. And for consumers preparing charcuterie boards, consider having betterfor-you cracker options available. “What’s great about Eve’s Crackers is that they can be enjoyed by every guest, no matter their dietary restrictions,” says founder and co-partner Eve Laird. “Our crackers are gluten-free, vegan, and keto-friendly.” The brand’s Chili Pepper Pumpkin Seed crackers are very on-trend, she adds, courtesy of their spicy kick. And as a healthier alternative to pop, new bubbly beverage brand Chrisoda goes the functional beverages route by incorporating organic apple cider vinegar, natural mushroom extract, coldpressed juice and low levels of organic cane sugar. These premium drinks are available in raspberry, pear ginger and vanilla rhubarb. WARMING TRENDS And finally, don’t forget to offer consumers tasty ways to chase away a winter chill as they embark on winter activities. Stock a range of hot chocolate products, like Nesquik’s revamped line of chocolate syrups and powders with cleaner ingredients and 100% sustainably sourced cocoa. And for something a little more unique, Vermont-based Sillycow Farms features 13 flavours of hot chocolate mixes (including festive varieties such as ginger snap and peppermint twist) packaged in old-fashioned milk bottles. For inspiration, place complementary items like marshmallows and thermoses nearby.

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Meet the Newest Addition to Our Family

Italpasta Artisan Pasta •


Inspired by an age-old Italian way of making high-quality pasta combined with Canadian craftmanship and made with 100% Canadian wheat. The result is a rough surface texture, helping sauce cling to our nutritious pasta for a fuller delicious flavour with every bite.




Discover why 9 out of 10 people who sampled Artisan pasta would recommend it. Contact: Piero Luciano, Director National Sales Tel: 905-792-9928 x 221 Email: Source: Retailer Online Sampling Survey, 169 respondents, May 2021. * Registered Trademarks of Italpasta Ltd.




Pasta’s renewed popularity has sparked interest in traditional, premium and better-for-you options  By Jessica Huras Pasta: It’s familiar, adaptable and budget-­f riendly. These qualities, as it turns out, have made pasta one of the comfort foods many Canadians turned to during the pandemic. NielsenIQ reports the dry pasta category grew 20% to $427 million in the 52 weeks ending Aug. 22, 2020 (that number dipped a bit this year to $403 million in the 52 weeks ending Aug. 21, 2021, but was still well above pre-pandemic sales). “[In the early part of the pandemic], everyone was stocking up on shelf-stable, emergency foods and pasta really benefited from that,” says Melanie Bartelme, global food analyst at market research firm Mintel. Gino Rulli, general manager at Barilla Group Canada, adds that pasta’s affordability continues to make it an appealing choice for consumers who may have struggled financially over the past year. “It’s a very economical meal for a family,” he says. Pasta sales also seem to have benefited from more in-home cooking during COVID. “It’s so versatile you can just really do anything with it,” says Bartelme. Some grocers say the rise of in-home cooking is also fuelling consumer interest in new styles of pasta. “We saw an increase in people looking for less ‘traditional’ types of pasta,” says Bethany Roberts, category manager at Colemans in Newfoundland.

“With more home cooks experimenting, there was an increased interest in orzo and bucatini, for example.” Mintel’s Bartelme says specialty styles like bronze-cut pasta are also becoming more popular. “It has a hardier exterior that’s got more texture so it holds the sauce better,” she says of bronze-cut pasta. “This is still a premium feature, but it’s something that we’re seeing more regularly.” Angelo Boras, vice-president of sales at Italpasta, says sales of the brand’s Italpasta Artisan pasta, which is extruded through traditional bronze dies, have doubled over the past year. Similarly, Nico Dagnino, managing director of Eataly Canada, says that Pasta di Gragnano IGP—an air-dried, bronze-extruded pasta—is currently a bestseller. Meanwhile, pasta made from alternative grains is capturing the attention of consumers looking for better-for-you options, and Rulli says Barilla has noted a growing interest in gluten-free pasta. The brand acquired Catelli Pasta in early 2021, expanding its portfolio to include a number of health-conscious products, such as the SuperGreens line, which is made with dried vegetables. “More people are interested in specific diets, such as keto, or functional foods, and they’re interested in pastas that fit

into those categories,” says Colemans’ Roberts, noting that its stores now carry pasta brands like Chickapea (made from chickpeas and lentils) and Rizopia (made from whole grain brown rice). “More and more consumers are wanting to include plant-based products into their diets but they want items that are accessible and recognizable to them,” adds Victoria Watts, president and CEO of Pasta Tavola. The brand, which focuses on frozen ravioli made without additives or preservatives, recently launched a line that’s vegan, plant-based and non-GMO. While interest in alternative pasta is certainly growing, the classics continue to be the top sales performers. “There are over 300 SKUs in the dry pasta category, but 10% of that really makes up 80% of the volume,” explains Barilla’s Rulli. “It goes back to what people are familiar with. The top 10 SKUs tend to be spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna, penne, etc.” Bartelme says Mintel’s research indicates there is often a discrepancy between the pasta types consumers report wanting and what they actually buy. “People say whole wheat and fibre and all these health attributes are really important to their pasta purchasing, but then when you look at the percentage of people who say that they [actually] eat whole wheat pasta or whole grain pasta, it’s so low,” she says. ”It seems like people have an idealized version of what they should be doing.” Barilla’s Rulli suggests the sheer number of pasta types to choose from can sometimes deter consumers from branching out beyond their favourites. “I think people try to navigate and explore, and they get a little bit confused and then they revert back to habits and buy what they would normally buy,” he says. Streamlined displays are, therefore, key to merchandising pasta, particularly when introducing new types to consumers. “Specific to the primary shelf area, I think that working to bring simplicity— fewer brands, meaningful brands in the category—will go a long way,” says Rulli. Adding secondary displays and pairing pasta with complementary items is also key, says Italpasta’s Boras. “We analyzed a recent off-shelf program and found that when the participating retailer added offshelf displays, store sales increased by 105% over sales at stores without the off-shelf displays,” he says. “Examples include creating a ‘pasta night’ display by merchandising the complete meal solution in one display.”

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S d f







A starchy purple yam grown in the Philippines, ube (pronounced OO-beh) has long been popular in the Southeast Asian country. With a mellow nutty character and hints of vanilla and pistachio, it is the star ingredient in many Filipino desserts, from cakes, flans, and jelly rolls to jams (called halaya), ice cream and more, turning everything it touches into a vibrant violet. That has recently made ube a social media sensation, raising the profile of the tuber globally. “It is very photogenic, and getting lots of love on Instagram,” says Jo-Ann McArthur, president and chief strategist of Nourish Food Marketing. She says consumers also rightly assume the purple hue makes ube good for you; its pigment comes from anthocyanins, an anti-inflammatory that blueberries are also rich in.

Ube Four things to know By Chris Daniels

3 TASTE TEST Ube ice cream flavours at Filipino-focused grocery chain Seafood City earn the most visible frozen shelf space because it is “our best seller, more popular than vanilla and mango,” says Ed Convento, operations manager at Seafood City East. “We also do in-store sampling to raise awareness of new products with ube,” he says, like rice porridge flavoured with the yam. During warmer months, Seafood City also sells made-to-order halo-halo, which features ube as a topping with condensed milk, mixed fruits, gelatin chunks and ice shavings.

Aisles 2 SUPPLY AND DEMAND Last summer, Ramar Foods announced the ube flavours of its Magnolia ice cream brand would be limited, due to supply issues from the Philippines caused by COVID-19. (The U.S.-based Filipino food manufacturer imports ube to make frozen treats for North American distribution.) But there was another reason as well: surging demand. “Sales of our ube ice cream perform two times better than all of our other flavours of tropical and Asian fruits,” says Gabriel Quesada, strategic project management lead for Ramar Foods. But when the pandemic hit, sales surged “between 10% and 20% depending on our ability to supply it, up from the national average for ice cream [in the single digits per year],” he says. “Our conclusion was that it has been very much a comfort food during the pandemic.” In Canada, Ramar has expanded distribution from small ethnic stores to bigger chains, like T&T Supermarket and Seafood City, and Quesada thinks “it’s just a matter of time” before mainstream grocers carry Magnolia. Pointing to social media, the subtle nutty taste and the popularity of plantbased diets, Frances Cefaloni of Mississauga, Ont.’s Marylenn’s Filipino Fine Foods also believes “ube goodies could expand outside Filipino grocery stores.”

4  UBE EATS Given ube has a short, temperamental growing season, it’s rarely imported as a tuber in North America. (Those are often purple sweet potatoes from the United States you might see in the produce section.) Typically, ube is sold frozen in grated form, or as an extract or jam. Ethnic food retailers in Canada also import ube-related packaged desserts, like condensed creamers, candies (Aiza’s Sweets is a popular brand from the Philippines) and biscuits. Grocers also turn to local suppliers for baked goods made with ube. Seafood City (with locations in Calgary, Edmonton, Scarborough, Ont., Mississauga, Ont. and Winnipeg), for example, partners with Marylenn’s Filipino Fine Foods in Mississauga, Ont. Since the company was founded by her mother, Marylenn Solis, in 2017, pastry chef Frances Cefaloni says “every year we have been seeing a steady increase in demand for all of our ube products, between 20% and 40%.” CG

September/October 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 67

VIRTUAL CELEBRATION EVENT OCTOBER 20 10:30 - 11:00 am edt Virtual Networking 11:00 - 12:30 pm edt Star Women Awards Space is limited – Buy your tickets today!








Creamy Castello’s Deliciously creamy and spreadable, Castello’s new 1879 Triple Crème Bleu cheese will delight the senses. The savoury blue flavour is balanced and buttery, with notes of fresh cream. 1879 Triple Crème Bleu is made with pure, fresh 100% Canadian milk – all collected within 100km of the award-winning dedicated blue cheese plant in Perth County, Ontario. 1879 Triple Crème Bleu possesses a mild to medium blue flavour which is perfect for use on a charcuterie board, in salads, risottos, pastas, pizzas, or melted over steak.

New from Italpasta Introducing the new Italpasta Artisan pasta range in new 100% recyclable packaging. Inspired by an age-old way of making high quality pasta combined with Canadian craftsmanship and made with 100% Canadian wheat. Extruded through traditional bronze dies to create a delicious premium pasta with a rougher texture, Italpasta Artisan pasta holds more sauce for a fuller flavour with every bite. Inspired by Italy, proudly Made in Canada.

Go for the GUSTA Introducing a new line of GUSTA products: veggie ground made from soy protein. Plant-powered and made with GUSTA’s special spice mix, these delicious and versatile products will enhance a variety of dishes. In addition, the veggie grounds have a short list of 100% natural, nonGMO ingredients which makes them good for consumers and good for the planet!




Richter’s David Greenham on protecting your business in the current cyber threat landscape  By Shellee Fitzgerald A RANSOMWARE attack that compromised Swedish grocery chain Coop’s computer system forced it to temporarily shutter 800 stores last spring, while a cyberattack on JBS SA, the world’s largest meat processor, disrupted production for several days last July and saw the company forking over a US$11-million ransom. These cases, along with several others, prompt the question: how vulnerable is your business? Canadian Grocer recently spoke to cybersecurity expert David Greenham, vice-president at accounting consulting firm Richter, about current cyber risks and how to mitigate them.

We’ve seen some high-profile cases making the news recently. Has the risk of cyberattacks increased? Being a risk person, I think of it in two factors. One is, what is the likelihood that an attack will happen or will be successful? And then, what will be the impact if that attack is successful? So, [multiply] impact times probability to get an idea of what the risk level is. From that perspective, I think the likelihood [of attack] has remained fairly constant, but attackers are always innovating and exploiting newly-discovered vulnerabilities. And there are some areas where there’s been higher risk—for example, 2021 saw an increase in supply chain attacks where technology vendors were breached and backdoors and/or malicious code was deployed downstream to customers; those kinds of attacks are significant because they breach, in some cases, thousands of customers.

How has the pandemic changed the risk to companies? In a number of ways. First, with more employees working from home, organizations’ “attack surface” has increased. Employees who work from home are using a network not under the control of the 70  CANADIAN GROCER || September/October 2021

organization (in most cases), and the security posture of the employee’s home network is not known to the organization. There could be other devices on the network that are infected with malware, or a weak Wi-Fi protocol or password could be in use so someone external to the network could potentially break into it. Additionally, [there may be] others in the household with physical access to the employee’s work computer, and who may be exposed to sensitive information they should not be privy to. Second, there was an increase in pandemic-related phishing e-mails, which leveraged people’s thirst for information about COVID-19; so, they’d have a ‘click here for more information’ link in an e-mail that would take them to a malicious website, for instance.

What advice do you have for mitigating risk? I advise my clients to adopt controls and processes that contribute to good security hygiene, such as identifying where the organization’s critical data is and how it typically flows, protecting the data through access controls and encryption, implementing detective controls to identify potential security incidents, establishing an incident response plan to respond effectively to events and incidents, and establishing good data backup and recovery processes and business continuity plans. Some of the low-hanging fruit includes keeping systems up to date with vendor security patches, and providing security awareness training to employees. As grocery retailers are heavily dependent upon the supply chain, they not only need to worry about their own security posture, but also that of their suppliers. It’s important that retailers have a process for monitoring or checking in with suppliers regularly on their security posture. Some organizations use security questionnaires, others use third-party vendor management services, and still others may have established a right to audit in their supplier contracts.

For the businesses not taking the threat seriously, what are the risks? The key risks are reputational damage and, along with it, declining customer confidence. Of course, there’s also financial impacts including costs to bring systems back online, conducting forensic investigations, paying ransom—although I don’t recommend it unless it’s the last resort—and compensating customers or business partners. This could also result in a loss of competitive advantage; for example, if your organization gets hit by ransomware and the systems are offline for an extended period of time, customers will simply migrate to other retailers. And there are supply chain risks—those are very real.

Anything else? As much as we would like it to go away, cybercrime is here to stay. The best way to be prepared is to assume that you will be breached at some point, and develop, test and improve a cybersecurity incident response plan to respond to security incidents quickly and efficiently, to reduce their impact. CG


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