Canadian Grocer December/January 2020

Page 1

2020’s Gen Next winners The lure of seafood DECEMBER 2020 • JANUARY 2021

Empire Co.’s

Michael MEDLINE talks Voilà, private label

and leading and learning during covid-19

Canadian Beef – a choice you and your customers can feel good about.

Beef cattle belong in Canada’s landscape, doing their job to maintain healthy ecosystems. The environmental benefits of cattle is a powerful untold story that needs to be herd (pun intended). There’s a secret life to cattle that doesn’t tend to make the headlines...

Cattle keep grasslands going.

Cattle are key to healthy soil.

Don’t take grass for granted. Canada’s pasture and prairie store up to 1.5 billion tons of carbon, equal to the emissions from 3.62 million cars annually. Cultivation of grasslands can lead to a 30-35% loss of soil organic carbon.

Healthy soil is the secret to life. Cattle sustain soil with the nutrients from manure for healthy grass. Healthy grass = ground cover protection from blazing sun and pounding rains. Cattle are the ultimate manure spreaders. No bull.

Cattle help birds.

Cattle are ‘upcyclers’.

Birds live in the grasslands that cattle sustain. Cattle maintain 68% of the wildlife habitat capacity that comes from our agricultural land. Many bird species would lose their habitat to overgrowth without cattle grazing. Keep calm. Graze on.

Cattle do amazing things – they eat and digest grasses and crop by-products we can’t, turning them into one of nature’s most powerful proteins.

Cattle are a perfect fit with Canada’s climate, pasture and prairie ecosystems. With 74% of Canada’s native grasslands already lost to cultivation, grazing cattle are key to preventing these important spaces. For more info visit:

Contents Opinions 5 || Front Desk 18 || Food Bytes 20 || Behind the Trends People 6 || The Buzz

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

8 || Chanaka Kurera and Marise May

Creating healthy food and positive change for growers is a labour of love for the founders of Cha’s Organics

Cover Story


36 Empire’s Michael Medline chats with us about e-commerce, private label and the grocer/ supplier relationship Features

UP-AND-COMERS 43 Introducing Canadian Grocer’s 2020 Generation Next award winners!

Ideas 11 || What's next?

Eight trends to watch in 2021

14 || On the rise

Canada’s Food Price Report forecasts prices to climb by up to 5% in 2021

Aisles 59 || The lure of seafood

COVID-era consumers are adding more seafood (of all kinds) to their baskets

62 || Sweet comforts

From nostalgic classics to new innovations, candy is getting a new lease on life

Dec. 2020/Jan. 2021 || Volume 134 - Number 8


65 || New on shelf

THE GREENING OF GOODS 54 Product and packaging innovation is helping consumers make environmentallyfriendly choices

Shining a spotlight on the latest products hitting shelves

Express Lane 66 || Special delivery


Five questions for Instacart’s Nilam Ganenthiran

Follow us on     @CanadianGrocer     @CanadianGrocerMagazine     Canadian Grocer Magazine


59 December 2020/January 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 3








Front desk


Vanessa Peters


Shellee Fitzgerald


Carol Neshevich


Kristin Laird


Josephine Woertman


Michael Kimpton


Donna Kerry


As this challenging year winds down, we’re looking at the bright spots ahead


Derek Estey


Michael Cronin


Alexandra Voulu


Lina Trunina


Valerie White


Katherine Frederick

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MAIL PREFERENCES: From time to time other organizations may ask Canadian Grocer if they may send information about a product or service to some Canadian Grocer subscribers, by mail or email. If you do not wish to receive these messages, contact us in any of the ways listed above. Contents Copyright © 2020 by EnsembleIQ, may not be reprinted without permission. Canadian Grocer receives unsolicited materials (including letters to the editor, press releases, promotional items and images) from time to time. Canadian Grocer, its affiliates and assignees may use, reproduce, publish, republish, distribute, store and archive such submissions in whole or in part in any form or medium whatsoever, without compensation of any sort. ISSN# 0008-3704 PM 42940023 Canadian Grocer is Published by Stagnito Partners Canada Inc., 20 Eglinton Avenue West, Ste. 1800, Toronto, Ontario, M4R 1K8.

“No question, we’re going to come out of this a stronger company,” said Eric LaFlèche, president and CEO of Metro. He made the comment on a panel discussion at Canadian Grocer’s Thought Leadership conference in late November. By “this” he was referring to the lingering COVID-19 crisis, of course. LaFlèche, along with fellow panellists Michael Medline, president and CEO of Empire Co., and Darrell Jones, president of Save-On-Foods, all spoke of the “tremendous” amount they've learned through operating in a pandemic. Learnings, they said, that would strengthen their businesses going forward, including the ability to act quickly, the importance of communication, being transparent and also the value of listening. “We learned even more how strong our operators were and how much we can listen and learn from our stores,” said Medline. “The teammates in the stores came up with so many of the great ideas. It wasn’t from some corner office. It was from the people on the ground who understand our customers best.” (Read our Q&A with Michael Medline on page 36). Undeniably, this year has reminded us how remarkable the people working (in all parts) of Canada’s grocery industry are. That’s why this year, we’re especially proud to introduce you to our 2020 Generation Next winners. (Turn to page 43 to learn all about them). This is the 10th year we’ve handed out the Gen Next award

Congratulations to this year’s outstanding group of Gen Next winners!

and this year’s crop of winners are a truly impressive bunch—innovative, passionate and hardworking. The future of the industry looks very bright indeed! On behalf of the entire team here at Canadian Grocer, we wish you all happy holidays. See you in the New Year!

Shellee Fitzgerald Editor-in-Chief

Printed in Canada

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

CANADIAN GROCER WINS AT THE FOLIO: EDDIE & OZZIE AWARDS! Our December 2019/January 2020 issue won an Eddie for editorial excellence in the Best Full Issue, B2B, Retail category

December 2020/January 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 5

The Buzz

The latest news in the grocery biz ON THE MOVE

Angie Kim

John Carmichael


Ana Silva

T&T Supermarket opened its new Deerfoot location in Calgary in late November. It’s the grocer’s sixth supermarket in Alberta and the 27th in its network of stores in Canada. “In these tough times, it gives me great pride to be able to continue to expand our business to bring authentic Asian food to the South Calgary community,” said CEO Tina Lee in a release.

John Kotsopoulos

Matt Kohler

Calgary got a brand new T&T Supermarket in November

Rosa Checchia

Derin Bello 6  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

Ana Silva has been named the new president of The Very Good Food Company. Previously, Silva was the chief financial officer at Daiya Foods. Silva steps into the new role in January. The J.M. Smucker Co. has announced John Kotsopoulos is its new vicepresident, sales and trade marketing; he will also be a member of the company’s Canadian Leadership Team. Kotsopoulos replaces Stephen Kouri who retired in November.

Kamloops, B.C. is home to a new FRESH ST. MARKET. The 38,000-sq.-ft. store, which opened in November, is located in the city’s Aberdeen Mall, in a space once occupied by Sears. The store is the sixth Fresh St. Market in the province and the largest; the other locations are in the Greater Vancouver area and in Whistler. COSTCO has set up shop in Niagara Falls, Ont. The 155,343-sq.-ft. new build warehouse, which opened in mid-November, is the retailer’s first in the city. An existing Costco location in the neighbouring city of St. Catharines will be converted into a Costco Business Centre next year.

Nestlé Canada has announced that John Carmichael will take over the role of president and CEO, replacing longtime exec Jeff Hamilton. Hamilton is relocating to Switzerland in February, where he will lead Nestlé Purina EMENA (Europe, Middle East and North Africa). Carmichael is currently president of the Foods Division at Nestlé USA.

McCain Foods Canada has announced that after 37 years at the company, Mike Barry is retiring from his position as vice-president, retail sales at the end of December. In other McCain news, Matt Kohler has taken on the newly created role of managing director, Canada retail. Previously, Kohler was VP of marketing at Clorox. And company president Danielle Barran has assumed an expanded role, now also leading the North American potato business. Rosa Checchia is now chief marketing officer at Dairy Farmers of Ontario. Most recently, Checchia was vice-­ president of marketing, total cheese and tablespreads division at Lactalis Canada. At Mars Wrigley Canada, Derin Bello has been promoted to vice-president, sales. Bello joined the company in 2006. And Shannon Denny has joined the company as its director of corporate affairs, Canada.


A new 38,000sq.-ft. Fresh St. Market opened recently in Kamloops, B.C. This is the sixth Fresh St. Market in the province

Angie Kim has been promoted to the role of vice-president, operations, national wholesale at Loblaw. Kim joined Loblaw in 2011, and most recently served as the grocer’s senior director, finance.

AWARDS/RECOGNITION The 2020 Golden Pencil winners were honoured by the Food Industry Association of Canada at the Grocery Connex event in late November. Pictured here: Farm Boy’s Jeff York and Jean-Louis Bellemare, and Burnbrae Farms’ Margaret Hudson.

Dave Powell

Stephen Kouri

The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers recognized the recipients of its LIFE MEMBER AWARDS at its Celebration of Grocers ceremony, part of its GIC Live @ Home event in November. Dave Powell of Powell Group of Companies was recognized in the Independent Grocery category and Stephen Kouri, recently retired from J.M. Smucker Co., was recognized in the Industry Builder category. The Life Member Designation recognizes the lifetime achievements of those who have made a significant contribution to independent grocers, their communities and the food industry.


The Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) has announced it is taking a fresh approach to its 2021 event.  CPMA Fresh   Week  will take place from April 12 to 16 and will offer education sessions, virtual tours and social activities. Visit for more details.


If you grow it, produce it, process it, pack it or move it, we can help your business. Partner with the only lender 100% invested in Canadian food.

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Who you need to know


The husband-and-wife team behind Cha’s Organics set their sights on creating healthy food and positive change for growers By Michele Sponagle  Photography by Michael Abril


hey call it serendipity. In 2004,  Marise May and Chanaka Kurera met in a Tokyo nightclub neither had ever visited. He spotted her on the dance floor and approached. Their connection was immediate, despite being from worlds apart. She was a Canadian from Montreal and he hailed from Sri Lanka, but they realized quickly how much they had in common—an interest in Ayurveda (a form of traditional Hindu medicine), healthy living and organic food. May had a degree in nutritional science from the University of British Columbia. Kurera had an entrepreneurial spirit and was working for a car manufacturer in Japan after leaving his home country, which was still struggling under the weight of civil war. Their meeting would mark the beginning of a romantic and business partnership. As their relationship bloomed, they got married and started talking about what their future might look like. “We were thinking at first that it would be neat to have an Ayurvedic spa offering treatments,” says May. “Then we decided to spend some time in Sri Lanka with Cha’s family and relocate to Canada afterward.” Getting Kurera a visa to come to Canada was proving difficult, but once again, serendipity stepped in. The tsunami of 2005 that devastated so many areas of Southeast Asia also impacted the village where his family lived. They fled their home before the water came rushing in. The silver lining to the disaster was that Canada was fast-tracking visas for those affected by it. Kurera was able to join May, who had returned to Montreal. Finally reunited, it was time to launch a business that reflected their skills and interests. Kurera thought about the farmers he had met in Sri Lanka when acting as a translator for some Japanese businessmen trying to buy tea. “I met these farmers and learned so much about everything they do,” he recalls. “They were practicing organic farming and biodynamic traditions, while embracing cultural values. I thought, we need to preserve this.” They started small in Montreal, selling Ayurvedic teas at an outdoor counter in space shared by a boutique. It was a tough slog. In 2006, customers didn’t know much about the benefits of Ayurveda. But their spiced chai had earned a following,

30 seconds with … and they continued to sell it. “In the beginning, I had my days when I made $10 a day,” remembers Kurera. “At the same time, Marise was pregnant. I wondered how I was going to feed my baby. But I always believed somebody would recognize what we were trying to do.” As winter approached, it became too cold to keep selling their chai outdoors. But customers still wanted it, so they packaged up the tea and made it available inside the boutique. Other health food stores soon started carrying the tea, too. That’s when May and Kurera realized the potential of offering customers high-quality, organic products. They soon expanded into spices, then coconut milk, curry pastes and canned fruit (including mango and jackfruit). Today, Cha’s Organics, still based in Montreal, has 10 employees and almost 100 SKUs in its lineup. Grocers across the country, including Sobeys and Metro, now carry their products and the lineup continues to expand. The latest launch is Watermelon Chips, created in response to a surplus of watermelons in Sri Lanka, thanks to the pandemic. With fewer tourists coming to the country, big buyers such as resorts no longer needed the crops, so Cha’s stepped in. “We were able to prevent all that fruit going to waste and to help local farmers,” says May. Other new products are coming in 2021. Next, Cha’s will offer heirloom rice, grown using traditional organic regenerative methods. Having close relationships with their Sri Lankan growers and suppliers is important to them. “Organic practices should be used for everything,” notes Kurera. “All businesses should be fair trade. Those things shouldn’t be marketing tools. They should be the norm.” Cha’s Organics’ approach to business is making a positive change in Sri Lanka, where most of their ingredients are sourced. Hundreds of people there are employed in growing and manufacturing. For example, the village producing handmade packaging (used for spices) provides 40 women with jobs, a living wage and benefits. Indeed, May and Kurera say they always get so much joy from finding ways to help Sri Lankans. “This was a dream for me,” Kurera says. “Now it’s a reality for us. It has all come together and the impact is so natural.” CG

MARISE MAY & CHANAKA KURERA What’s it like working with your spouse?

may: Today’s good because he’s

at home and I’m in the office. [Laughs.] I think it makes you closer. A lot of families probably don’t see each other for most of the day, but ours has always been close because we started our business from home. kurera: It’s a package. It’s challenging. It’s happiness. Marise is the closest person I have to share my feelings. It’s a mixture of things, but it’s also the most beautiful thing that has happened to me.

How hard was it for you to get your products listed with a major grocery retailer? may: It wasn’t easy at first. It

took a few years for us to build up a solid base of independent retail customers and smaller health food chains before the larger chains began taking an interest.

Tell us about your first big listing.

may: It was back when it was

just the two of us working from home with our two small children. The phone rang and when I checked the call display I saw the name Sobeys listed. I was in disbelief to find the grocery buyer on the other end of the line calling to say that she had a can of our coconut milk on her desk and she wanted to get it listed. At the time, we didn’t even have a distributor that was selling to larger chains ... so we had to assure them we would be able to offer them our product and then quickly get a national distributor on board, which we did, luckily! The rest is history.

December 2020/January 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 9

the best food, the best people. a BEST EMPLOYER!

Through their PASSION, INTEGRITY and CARING, we're proud to celebrate our INCREDIBLE TEAM.




WHAT’S NEXT? As we prepare to bid adieu to this extra­­ordinary, unpredictable year,  we thought it only fitting that we turn our attention to what might come next. From big breakfasts to upcycled foods, here are eight food-related trends expected to make a mark in 2021.


Home for dinner (and breakfast, lunch, snacks...)

A sharp increase in cooking and eating at home was a defining characteristic of 2020, and this will continue through 2021. “At-home eating will be the name of the game in 2021,” says Melanie Zanoza

Bartelme, global food analyst at Mintel and member of the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel, which had “eating/cooking at home” on its top trends list for 2021. “We will see consumers looking to brighten and enliven the monotony of preparing so many meals in a row.” To that end, there will undoubtedly be an increase in demand for meal solutions for consumers who may be running out of ideas, whether that means innovative home meal replacement items, a greater offering of different types of meal kits or simply helping consumers with easy and interesting meal ideas via clever merchandising and recipe suggestions.

December 2020/January 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 11

Ideas Big breakfasts are back

“Increasing transparency to meet evolving ethical, environmental and clean label consumer demands is key. Brands adopting and pairing new packaging technologies such as invisible barcodes and near-field communication technology with creative, meaningful storytelling will be successful”

With a large segment of the population working or schooling from home thanks to COVID-19, Canadians have more time to devote to their morning meal. It’s no longer about grabbing a granola bar in the mad rush to get to the office—the work-fromhome crowd can now spend a little more time getting creative with heartier breakfasts. Food Network Canada included big breakfasts in its 2021 trend predictions, while “epic breakfast every day” was on Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2021, with the retailer explaining there’s a whole new lineup of innovative products out there “tailored to people paying more attention to what they eat in the morning. Think pancakes on weekdays, sous vide egg bites and even ‘eggs’ made from mung beans.”

Plant-based pushes forward

Plant-based foods are everywhere and, it seems, aren’t going anywhere. The trend, propelled by popular alternative meat and milk brands, has reached mainstream status. Plant-based eating, of course, has been developing for some time and Innova Market Insights forecast we would see a “plant-based revolution” in 2020; next year, the research firm predicts the trend will evolve as mainstream appeal drives expansion and innovation to more categories and more indulgent products. “Now we really see [plant-based] marching forward,” said Lu Ann Williams, Innova’s director of insights and innovation in a recent presentation on Innova’s top trends for 2021. “It’s just a phenomenal trend that’s going to go from strength to strength.” The diversification of plant-based foods is illustrated, she said, by interesting developments in fish alternatives, egg alternatives (ie. made with aquafaba) and even plant-based probiotic beverages. As the trend evolves, however, plant-based products will come under greater scrutiny from consumers, warned The Hartman Group in its The Insatiable Appetite podcast earlier this year. Specifically, there will be more questions about the nutritional profiles and ethical claims of some plantbased products. Melissa Abbott, vice-president of culinary insights at Hartman, said companies competing in this space need to “tread cautiously to avoid that ‘greenwashing effect’ plant-based is actually having” over some of the highly processed food and beverage products in the category.

Immunity boosters & health helpers

With the pandemic persisting, functional food will be more prevalent than ever in 2021, and the lines between food and supplements will continue to blur. According to Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2021, this means things like “superfoods, probiotics, broths and sauerkrauts will take off. Suppliers are incorporating functional ingredients like vitamin C, mushrooms and adaptogens to foster a calm headspace and support the immune system.” Innova also included “in tune with immune” on its 12  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

list of trends for 2021, noting that in its Innova Consumer Survey 2020, six out of 10 global consumers indicated they “are increasingly looking for food and beverage products that support their immune health.” Innova predicts immunity-boosting ingredients will play a significant role in the coming year, “while research and interest in the role of the microbiome and personalized nutrition as ways to strengthen immunity will accelerate.”

Private label 2.0

Last year in this space we included “private brand momentum” in our list of trends to watch, and it’s sticking around in 2021. In recent years, younger shoppers (who tend to be less brand loyal than their elders) and value-seeking consumers have helped fuel sales growth in private-label products, and have even seen them outpacing national brands. According to Nielsen, private-label products now have a market share of more than 18%. “But I do think the pandemic will accelerate that shift and it will almost be a private label 2.0,” said Mark Petrie, analyst at CIBC World Markets, during a presentation at Grocery Innovations Canada (GIC) in November. Petrie said 93% of grocers say private label is either extremely or very important to them, and they are looking to grow this part of the business. “I would expect to see it reaching further away from centre store,” he said, extending to deli, bakery and plantbased items. “I think these are areas where grocers will be pushing even more aggressively.” Petrie added that e-commerce is a huge opportunity for grocers given the influence they have over the customer journey and the shopping experience, and is another way they’ll be able to “push hard with their private-label offerings.”

Channel blurring

As foodservice and food retail continue to overlap, Innova Market Insights has identified “new omnichannel eating” as a trend to watch in 2021. “There are a lot of ways to take advantage of this [omnichannel eating] trend,” said Innova’s Williams. One way is with restaurants making their food available through retail channels. “Consumers [46% of those Innova surveyed] told us that restaurant-branded products are a convenient way to get the restaurant experience and flavours at home.” Williams said she doesn’t see this desire going away as consumers “are definitely going to expect more access to the food they want anytime, anywhere.” Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, speaking at GIC in November, said the lines between foodservice and retail had moved beyond a blurring of the lines. He pointed to Loblaw’s PC Chef platform as an example. Through the PC Chef website, consumers can order a range of meal kits, including those from popular Toronto-area restaurants like The Burger's Priest. “Loblaw has decided to be not just a grocer, but a broker

between foodservice and consumers—selling meal kits they don’t necessarily design," he said. "For grocers, that’s an interesting avenue.”

Demand for transparency ramps up

While transparency has been a growing consumer demand for several years now, its importance is expected to ramp up even more in 2021. Transparency tops Innova Market Insights’ list of trends for 2021, with the research firm noting that six in 10 global consumers are interested in learning more about where foods come from (as indicated in the Innova Consumer Survey 2020). According to Innova: “Increasing transparency to meet evolving ethical, environmental and clean label consumer demands is key. Brands adopting and pairing new packaging technologies such as invisible barcodes and near-field communication technology with creative, meaningful storytelling will be successful.” Key transparency issues for consumers will include human/animal welfare, supply chain transparency and sustainable sourcing.

Upcycled foods on an upswing

According to the year-old Upcycled Food Association (UFA), the industry around reducing food waste is worth more than $46 billion and will experience a 5%

CAGR over the next decade. The UFA, whose membership has grown from 10 to more than 100 companies over the past year, says the appeal of upcycled food— foods made from ingredients that would otherwise be wasted—is that it is a consumer-based solution to a soaring food waste problem. And big players like Whole Foods Market are taking notice. The grocer included upcycled foods on its Top 10 Foods Trends for 2021. “We’re seeing a large number of products launching recently and not just in food and beverage, but in things like pet food and cosmetics—it’s such a growing movement that we clearly notice its importance,” Christopher Davila, Whole Foods’ innovation program manager told attendees of a recent UFA meeting, explaining why upcycled foods landed on the retailer’s list of trends set to take off. Davila said Whole Foods already carries a number of upcycled food products, but that he expects to see even more. But for upcycled foods to be successful at retail, he said, two “important” things need to be addressed. First, messaging and education—“does the consumer understand what these products are and that they’re safe?” And secondly, execution—does the product taste good, and does it meet consumer expectations? Addressing these two things will “really cast upcycled foods into a very successful future,” he said. —by Shellee Fitzgerald and Carol Neshevich

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New report forecasts food prices to climb up to 5% in 2021 By Rebecca Harris The pandemic will continue to hit Canadians in the purse strings next year. Overall food prices are expected to increase 3% to 5% in 2021, according to the 11th annual edition of Canada’s Food Price Report, a collaborative effort between Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph, along with two new partners this year: the University of Saskatchewan and the University of British Columbia. The study uses predictive analytics models applying machine learning to support the analytical process of determining the future of food prices. In 2020, COVID-19 posed major challenges to the global food system and Canadian supply chains. The report notes that the pandemic resulted in shifts in consumer demand, slowdowns and closures of plants and distribution centres, labour shortages and logistics disruptions—all which drove up food prices. “I don’t think it’s going to change, unfortunately,” says Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the AgriFood Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University and lead author of the report. “Some of the challenges related to COVID -19 will continue into the new year.” The report predicts the annual food expenditure for a family of four (two adults, two kids) will be $13,907—an increase of $695 or 5% compared to 2020, excluding money spent on foodservice. In dollars, that’s the highest increase predicted by Canada’s Food Price Report since its inception.

To reflect the diversity of Canadian households, this year ’s report predicts annual expenditure increases based on individual consumers of different genders and ages. For example, a man aged 31 to 50 can expect to pay $169.49 more for food compared to 2020, while a woman of the same age can expect to pay $152.08 more. Meat and vegetables will see the highest price increases, with both categories at 4.5% to 6.5%. That’s followed by bakery (3.5% to 5.5%); restaurants (5%); fruits and “other” (both at 2% to 4%); seafood (1.5% to 3.5%); and dairy (1% to 3%). The report notes that anticipated bakery price increases are related to the increase in wheat futures, while meat price hikes are due to COVID-19 creating a lot of volatility in the meat industry. While the virus will undoubtedly continue to impact food prices, the report points out that those operating along the food-supply chain learned valued lessons and may be more adaptable to future challenges. Grocery retailers, for example, are investing more in their e-commerce capabilities. “The silver lining is that many grocers are better equipped to sell online, which is now perceived as the safest way to do anything,” says Charlebois. “So, consumers are going into the new year with more options.” For retailers, he adds, “it’s really about anticipating behaviour and how consumers will react to whatever is happening.” CG

Anticipated changes to food prices in 2021

3.5% to 5.5%


1% to 3%


2% to 4%


4.5% to 6.5%


2% to 4%

Restaurants 3% to 5%

Seafood 1.5% to 3.5%

Vegetables 4.5% to 6.5%

TOTAL INCREASE IN FOOD PRICES 3% TO 5% 14  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021



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Authenticity of Italian foods still top of mind In this era of uncertainty, one thing still holds true: consumers are looking for authentic, delicious, quality foods they can trust. Matteo Picariello, Italian Trade Commissioner to Canada, explains why Made in Italy products deliver on all fronts.

Why is food authenticity important to Canadian consumers?

A 2019 Nielsen survey showed that authentic Italian products registered a major growth across categories such as pasta, charcuterie, canned tomatoes and sauces. This is despite relatively small value share, which proves that Canadians are willing to pay premium prices for authentic Italian products. Products without Italian brand messaging (whether authentic or non-authentic) are seeing either modest growth or declines. Sales growth for authentic Italian products exceed 16%, while Italian sounding are more than 5% and mainstream 2%. It is important for Canadian consumers to know where their products come from and whether they are legally guaranteed by the European Union to be “authentic,” or made in the original town or region with real ingredients. These IGP and DOP labels mark quality and guarantee the product is produced, processed and packaged in a specific geographical zone and according to tradition.

Can we expect to see more Italian imports in the coming year, even with COVID-19? Yes. We conducted a survey through the major importers and distributors of Italian products to measure the impacts of Covid-19 on the Made in

Italy products and the results were very positive. More than 80% of respondents want to maintain their relationships with Italian suppliers, 36% believe the demand post Covid-19 will remain unchanged and 53% foresee a low to medium decline in the consumption of Italian products. Furthermore, recent data published by Statistics Canada showed a rise for almost all the products imported from Italy. Cheese, for example, was up 18%, while pasta grew 28%. Because of the lockdown, our export of wines to Canada did decrease 8%. But that said, we do not anticipate any branding and reputation problems linked to the pandemic for Made In Italy Products going forward.

What initiatives do you have underway for grocery in Canada for the coming year?

In our pipeline for next year, we have promotions with Walmart and Eataly in Toronto to promote Italian products and raise awareness of their authenticity. The promotion will include in-store communication and digital marketing, as well as masterclasses on all the Italian products (e.g., pasta, charcuterie, cheese, wines and even Italian mixology) which will happen in-store or virtually, depending on the situation.

How can grocers better promote Made in Italy products in their stores?

Continually training staff is key so they can answer customer questions appropriately. It’s important that staff understand the difference between “Made in Italy” and Italian-sound products. Grocer should also have visible signage to highlight these products and, when circumstances allow, they should provide some well-executed in-store tastings so customers can get a first-hand taste of these high-quality products.


FOOD BYTES ||  Joel Gregoire

Solving for mealtime Meal solutions matter more to consumers now, and they’ll continue to post-pandemic Of all the things that have changed as a result of the pandemic, spending more time at home is likely to be the biggest. Since the lockdown came into effect, life has changed so much that it’s difficult to remember what it was like before. The good news is there is a light at the end of the tunnel with promising vaccine candidates providing hope for a return to “normalcy” in 2021. The question is, what will “normal” look like after COVID-19? More specifically, will the shift to spending more of our lives at home persist? This gradual move was already taking place prior to the pandemic due to advances in technology. Streaming services offer a greater variety of quality entertainment on demand, shopping and getting takeout at home has never been more seamless, and many jobs can now be done from anywhere. COVID-19 has only accelerated the changes that were already happening. What does this mean for grocers? Research affirms

CANADIANS ON COOKING AND MEAL KITS “Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?” % agree

74% 46%

I’m cooking more meals at home because of COVID-19 I would buy meal kits available for purchase at grocery stores


18  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

that Canadians are also spending more time in their kitchens, with three-quarters saying they are “cooking more meals at home because of COVID-19.” One welcome byproduct of the pandemic is many Canadians are likely to become better cooks. In response, grocers can help by providing meal solutions beyond groceries. What this means is proactively offering the ideas and tools to bring meals to life, such as with ingredients conveniently packaged together with instructions to create appealing dinners. In essence, the move to more in-home cooking means grocers would be well-served by having strategy around meal kits. CANADIANS’ CRAVINGS FOR NEW MEAL IDEAS IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR GROCERS More time at home can lead to a scenario where it’s easier to fall into ruts at mealtime. Although there’s something to be said for familiarity and the comfort it brings, too much familiarity breeds boredom. Meal kits are primed to offer a spark of inspiration that encourages trial and promotes new products. When consumers were asked why they used meal kits over the past half year, the top reason they gave is that these kits provide “new meal ideas” followed closely by they “simplify meal preparation.” Aside from capitalizing on meal kits’ perceived benefits, grocers are also in a good position to address the main challenge they face. Meal kits are simply too expensive for many consumers, and by making them available in their stores rather than through delivery, grocers can address this barrier. As many grocers have developed their home meal replacement programs, meal kits represent a similar opportunity to drive traffic and be a compelling point of differentiation. Indeed, there are examples of retailers who have already made this investment, selling meal kits in different formats that require various levels of involvement from the consumer. This includes options that require from-scratch cooking or other variants where much of the preparation is already done and require only some assembly. For grocers considering investing in a strategy around meal kits, now is the time. Proof? More than half of meal kit consumers have stated: “COVID-19 motivated (them) to try meal kits for the first time.” Clearly, COVID-19 has resulted in Canadians spending more time at home and this is a shift that may persist when the pandemic is over. Grocery retailers that invest in providing meal solutions such as meal kits are in a better position to benefit from this dynamic. 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


Made with skim milk


No preservatives


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Made in a dedicated facility free from peanut and tree nuts. LE







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Free from the following common allergens: Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Dairy, Egg, Wheat & Gluten, Soy, Sesame, Fish & Shellfish



Source of Iron No by-products Ready in 60 seconds 6 g of Protein per POGO

BEHIND THE TRENDS  ||  Alexander Esposito

The pandemic shakes up beverage preferences covid’s impact on non-alcoholic

drinks categories will last well beyond 2020

As the pandemic subsides, interest in functional drinks that promote immune system health may remain, benefitting a wide swath of categories, from juices and tonics with added probiotics to medicinal and herbal teas

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its associated effects, such as stockpiling, home seclusion and channel shifts, have had a sizable impact on the trajectory of all non-alcoholic drinks categories in 2020. In addition to changing when and how Canadians shop, these factors are altering the product attributes consumers seek. While the duration of the pandemic remains uncertain, it is clear its impact on drinks will be felt for years to come. Data from Euromonitor International shows a net decline in sales of non-alcoholic drinks in 2020. While public health guidelines that pushed consumers to stay home resulted in stockpiling, this growth in retail sales was easily offset by the on-trade sales decline in cafes, bars and restaurants. During the early months of the pandemic, many hoped that this fall in on-trade sales would quickly reverse, especially in 2021. However, spikes in COVID-19 cases during the early months of fall have cast the chances of a speedy recovery in a much different light. Now, it seems likely that closures impeding on-trade sales will persist well into next year. But perhaps more consequential than temporary closures is the likelihood that many businesses will permanently shutter after going through a prolonged period of inactivity. Euromonitor estimates that away-from-home availability of soft drinks in 2020 is at only 63% compared to previous years. Whether that limited availability becomes permanent depends highly on the pandemic’s trajectory over the next few months. As home seclusion continues, on-trade closures­ have had the multi-pronged effect of driving

20  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

stock­piling and channel shifts such as the replacement of on-trade consumption with drinks that can be enjoyed by consumers at home. Stockpiling has benefitted retail sales of soft drinks almost universally. Categories such as juice drinks (24% or lower juice products) have seen volume growth for the first time in more than a decade. This success holds true across bottled water as well, while many carbonated categories are seeing much slower declines than they have in previous years. Exceptions to this growth do exist, however. Emerging categories just gaining traction have faced challenges in 2020 as many consumers opt for products with which they are more familiar. Carbonated ready-to-drink teas and kombuchas, for example—which are still new to many Canadians— have seen slower growth. Lastly, soft drinks did benefit from channel shifts, but not to the same extent as hot beverages. As trips to cafes are replaced with options prepared at home, ground coffee, pods and whole beans have seen large increases in growth, and most tea categories have also improved their performance. While stockpiling, home seclusion and channel shifts have had a large impact on 2020, we do not expect their reach to extend far beyond 2021. Instead, some of the most indelible results of the pandemic may be trends in product attributes and retail channel distribution. Concerns over contracting COVID-19 have ramped up existing interest in foods and drinks that benefit various types of immunity. As the pandemic subsides, interest in functional drinks that promote immune system health may remain, benefitting a wide swath of categories from juices and tonics with added probiotics to medicinal and herbal teas. The success e-commerce has experienced in 2020 will likely also endure over the next five years, as home seclusion has led to buying drinks online and improved distribution networks for internet retailing. For now, the pandemic has had a dampening effect on overall drink sales in Canada, and the prospect of full recovery does seem more distant than initially expected. On-trade channels, especially, will take years to recover to levels experienced prior to 2020, and off-trade growth is not compensating for this loss. Nonetheless, opportunities exist as certain categories see growth through channel shifts and new trends in product attributes develop. CG

Alexander Esposito is a senior research analyst at Euromonitor International, an independent provider of strategic market research.

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FRESH PERSPECTIVES As we close out 2020 we can all agree that it will be a year to remember, even if many would prefer to forget and move on. The produce sector is certainly no different as many companies experienced record sales and volumes while others were faced RON LEMAIRE with more challenging PRESIDENT, CANADIAN consequences. PRODUCE MARKETING One of the positive ASSOCIATION trends to emerge during the COVID 19 pandemic is the increase in cooking at home. Canadians are returning to their kitchens in record numbers and families are experiencing the joy and fun of cooking and eating together. With parents spending more time at home, meal times have become less of a chore and more of an adventure. The kitchen has become a classroom for children to learn some basic food skills which have been on the decline in recent years. Offering new opportunities for consumer education will help to build on this momentum and interest in learning more about new flavours, where food comes from and how to prepare it. The foodservice sector has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and has faced the greatest challenges within our sector. They have adapted to the situation with new business models, changes to their distribution systems and using their strengths to give back to communities across the country. Recognizing the economic impact of this pandemic was primarily within the service industry, compared to 2008 when the manufacturing sector felt the burden, Canadians in middle to upper income brackets seemed to have navigated or avoided economic hardship to date. Unfortunately, the service sector and many Canadians employed at minimum wage have felt the greatest strain over the past 8 months.

While government subsidies have helped many have relied on food banks or other charitable services. CPMA is proud to have played a role in supporting at risk and marginalized Canadians through our efforts to purchase and distribute over 10 million dollars of surplus food from across the agriculture sector. This Federally funded program not only supported those businesses impacted by changing demand and markets, but Canadians who found themselves in need. The Canadian fruit and vegetable sector is to be commended for its ability to respond to the pandemic, quickly adapt and come together as an industry. Canadians should be reassured by the way the produce supply chain worked to ensure consistent supply of quality, healthy food at affordable prices. As other categories experienced shortages or severe price swings, fresh produce continued to be available across the country. As we move into another winter in Canada our fresh sector will be relying heavily on our import markets to maintain the supply of fruits and vegetables that Canadians have come to expect. At the start of 2020 the issue of plastic packaging was foremost in the minds of most Canadians. For a short period this trend was replaced by the immediate reaction to pandemic issues for many Canadians. We do recognize it has not gone away and CPMA’s Plastics Packaging Working Group has continued to move forward with information and resources for the industry. With the Canadian government focusing on problematic manufactured plastic materials and the ongoing global attention to issues of sustainability this issue, is sure to influence our thinking of how our businesses operate in 2021 and beyond. As we look beyond the pandemic we hope that the positive changes of the past year will remain: Canadians will continue to recognize the strength of our food sector, the importance of healthy food choices and the ability to weather any storm when we remain committed to working together. Never before has this been so important.






AVOCADOS Avocados: nature’s perfect super fruit Miguel Barcenas, Strategic Consultant for Avocados from Mexico, reflects on the growing appeal of avocados.

Why are Canadian shoppers gravitating to avocados more and more? Indeed, the consumption of avocados has significantly increased in Canada by more than 42% between 2015 and 2018 and we owe that success to two things: the delicious taste and creamy texture of the Avocados from Mexico; and the fact that Canadians are increasingly more aware of the versatility and health benefits of this aptly called “super fruit.” Avocados play an integral part in helping consumers lead a healthy lifestyle. They’re loaded with nearly 20 essential vitamins and minerals and are naturally high in “good fat,” which can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. These facts perfectly align with shoppers becoming more conscious of the benefits of a healthy diet.

What makes Avocados from Mexico so unique? Besides the fact that Mexico is the land where avocados originated from, it’s a country that represents the positive, fun and vibrant feeling that avocado lovers enjoy. Throughout the avocado growing, packing and distribution process, our company stays true to its mission to integrate good foods into good times. Plus, our avocados are available all year long!

What are some of the initiatives underway and coming soon by Avocados From Mexico in Canada? As we’re adapting to our customers’ shifting needs when it comes to grocery shopping, Avocados From Mexico took a drastic e-commerce turn in 2020. Last June, we joined forces with Goodfood in an extensive marketing program to develop three recipes incorporating avocados and to offer

subscribers the opportunity to discover the multiple benefits of the fruit. Currently, Canadians can order Avocados from Mexico through the Cornershop and Uber Eats mobile apps and websites to take advantage of sameday delivery. This partnership with Cornershop allows customers to automatically receive a free avocado with the purchase of two Avocados From Mexico when ordering through Walmart, Metro or Longos. On the store side, several e-commerce activations are planned for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. Promotional offers, such as free delivery, coupons and bonus loyalty points, will be offered to customers and promoted through multiple visibility campaigns.

What about in-store initiatives that Canadian grocers can take advantage of? Since traditional programs such as in-store sampling are no longer an option, we’ve had to readjust our strategy along with our long-time partners. To ensure a continuous in-store visibility, we’re in the midst of bringing a touch of Mexican sun to nearly 400 stores in Quebec, Ontario and on the West coast with eye-catching avocado bins branded with our vibrant new visual campaign. Supporting our trade partners is among our top priorities and we’re continuously seeking new opportunities to adapt to this new reality with them.


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Del Monte word mark, Del Monte Gold and the Del Monte Shield Logo are registered trademarks used under license from Del Monte Foods, Inc. HONEYGLOW is the trademark of Del Monte International GmbH Š 2020 Del Monte International GmbH . All rights reserved.



BANANA TRENDS Bananas continue to be one of the most popular fruits for Canadians and as we head into 2021, grocery retailers are looking at more sustainable options when sourcing the fruit. Not only are bananas the world’s most exported fruit, they’re one of the most consumed fruits across Canada. We eat approximately 3 billion bananas a year in Canada, and this sweet yellow fruit accounts for more than 10% of annual produce sales in Canadian grocery stores. Yet the costs of conventional banana production do take a toll on the planet. Fortunately, there is a better way to ensure these delicious fruits continue to fill produce bins. A study by Fairtrade, True Price and Trucost1 comparing the external costs of conventional production vs Fairtrade, showed that the banana sector could dramatically improve sustainability by reducing external costs. The research looked at agricultural inputs, working conditions and environmental impacts at 15 Fairtrade plantations and 97 small-scale farmers in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Peru. The results showed that Fairtrade bananas were found to have average external costs that were 45% less than the conventional sector, which translates into better allocation of resources for more sustainable practices. In fact, farmers who produce Fairtrade certified bananas are guaranteed a minimum price to cover the cost of sustainable production. With Fairtrade Standards, producers and industry stakeholders must pay fairer wages, invest in community programs, create safe and healthy workplaces, adhere to labour rights and negotiate more transparency. In 2018, Canada hosted the World Banana Forum (WBF) in Quebec (the first ever meeting on North American soil). Discussions focused on the changes needed across the supply chain to improve living

wages and environmental impact. Given that Canada lags significantly behind other countries where major retailers are committed to 100% Fairtrade banana sourcing, Fairtrade importer Equifruit is working to get more Canadian retailers thinking about sustainability in their banana supply chain and more involved in the work of WBF. Since 2018, retailers like Longo’s, Farm Boy and Sobeys are offering Fairtrade bananas, with more and more grocers coming on board. Here are more notable impacts from Fairtrade banana production: • Workers on Fairtrade certified plantations invested 33 percent of their Fairtrade Premium in worker housing and home improvements. • Small-scale farmers invested 52 percent of their Fairtrade Premium in improving their businesses, including facilities and infrastructure, training and capacity building, and cooperative administration. • 91% of workers in Colombia have seen household assets increase by an average of 64% since their plantation became Fairtrade certified. Three quarters of farmer cooperative members in Ecuador said their income and wellbeing have improved. The reality is that the consumer appetite for sustainable produce and production methods will only grow, say industry experts across the globe. To stay competitive, retailers need to be on board too. 1



freshreport CELERY

Crispy, sweet and healthy, celery is the perfect veggie for on-the-go and at-home consumers. Nichole Towell, senior director of marketing and packaging procurement at Duda Farm Fresh Foods, whose celery products are sold under the Dandy brand, provides insights into the trends and tastes of the ever-popular celery segment.

What are you seeing with regards to demand for celery? In 2019, we saw an increase in demand for celery as the juicing trend took off, and the category continues to perform well. We created a celery juicing page on our website to help guide beginners and inspire veteran juicers with recipes, nutritional information and more. We’ve also seen an increase in demand for fresh-cut celery sticks as consumers are looking for pre-packed options during the pandemic. For at-home cooks, celery is increasingly seen as a versatile ingredient in recipes, from dips to salads to main dishes.

Why is celery a popular choice with consumers year round? We work with Mother Nature and a team of scientists to reduce the bitter enzymes in Dandy Celery to ensure it’s the superior, sweeter and better-tasting celery, especially when being enjoyed fresh on its own. We’ve seen the snacking category grow and understand the importance of convenience items. Celery snack packs have seen a 50%+ average weekly dollar increase since March 2020 compared to the same time period the previous year. Through our marketing efforts, we’ve been able to extend celery’s buying season outside of Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl into snacking year-round. Of course, holidays and special events are still a big focus of our marketing efforts. In the U.S., we’re currently holding our largest annual consumer promotion, “Dip It 2 Win It.” Duda is encouraging healthier snacking while offering fans a chance to win prizes to celebrate the Super Bowl in February.

What are some recent product innovations? Innovation is as essential to our identity as is our family farming foundation. We work with our team of scientists and lab personnel to carefully analyze the components that make up celery flavour to ensure our proprietary varieties taste sweeter than any other commercially available seed varieties. With our stateof-the-art flavour and nutrition laboratory, we have made significant investments to better understand and work with nature to perfect growing the sweetest, crispiest varieties available. That means we’re continually studying and testing our product to ensure our customers have access to the highest quality and best tasting celery in the market.

How can grocery retailers encourage celery sales? Cross-merchandising and promotion is one of the best ways to encourage celery sales. By pairing up celery sticks with items like plant-based dips, retailers can capture additional sales. Another great way to entice consumers is with on-pack recipes or QR codes that lead to more information. By providing useful content both online and in stores, we’re able to inspire consumers to add more items to their baskets.



Clean label

No growth hormones and antibiotics in feed

Meat from Europe

Full traceability ‘from farm to fork’

Centuries-old tradition

The content of this promotional campaign reflects only the views of its author and is subject to its sole responsibility. The European Commission is not responsible for any possible use of the information contained in the campaign.



MEAT TRENDS Meat is still a star attraction, with humane treatment and sustainability as important factors for Canadians In this era of more plant-based options than ever, consumers are still gravitating towards meat. Recent research from Nielsen showed that beef and pork sales rose more than 10% to $3 billion and $1 billion, respectively, in the 52 weeks ending August 15, 2020. Sales for chicken, turkey and lamb were up substantially too. According to a survey carried out by ProdegeMR in July 2020, 48% of Canadians said they eat meat or products containing meat on a daily basis, with just over 17% saying they planned to reduce meat consumption in the near future. But "reducing" is a relative term, and Canadians clearly still love their meat. A 2020 US survey by Mintel also showed that the majority of meat eaters (73%) believe “real meat” is still the best sources of protein, and even nearly half of those who limit or eliminate meat in their diets also shared this sentiment.

Sustainability top of mind Yet, even with meat still holding favour in the meal plans of many Canadians, a growing interest in sustainable meat sources can’t be ignored, say experts. According to a sustainability-related report from Mintel, attitudes around reducing meat consumption for environmental reasons was especially high among younger shoppers too. In addition, the humane treatment of animals, as well as more grocery options for hormone-free and organic meat, have become a higher priority for meat-eaters in recent years. Both independent and mainstream retailers are responding by offering more space in their meat departments to naturally raised and organic meats. In turn, major meat manufacturers are putting sustainable practices higher on the agenda as well.

Education is key In addition to sustainable and humane options, it is important that retailers offer a wide range of cuts for consumers to choose from. For example tomahawk rib steaks, inside skirt steaks and flat iron steaks are some of the unique cuts retailers are promoting as well as the more traditional cuts of meat like brisket. In each case retailers have an opportunity to educate shoppers. Consumers often make buying decisions right at the counter, so providing cooking and preparation information at the meat counter can make all the difference. In the case of brisket, this is something that baby boomers may be more familiar with, but not something that the younger generation necessarily knows how to prepare. An uninformed shopper could end up choosing a cut of meat that might look good on the package, but if they take it home and cook it incorrectly, the experience will be negative. In the end they'll think the meat was not good quality, when in fact it was prepared incorrectly. It is important to ensure that consumers have positive eating experiences to help ensure repeat sales.

Other proteins on the horizon Even with the love of meat continuing strong, there’s no denying that alternative meat sources are gaining favour too. According to a 2019 Mintel report, about a quarter of Canadians consider themselves flexitarians, which means they aim to eat a mostly plant-based diet while also eating meat. As more and more companies come out with plantbased “meat” options or a combination of blended meat and plant-based ingredients, the expectation is that grocers will give these products ample space, ideally displaying them alongside their traditional meat offerings. Mintel data shows that consumers of meat alternatives are also looking for a bigger variety of meat alternatives beyond the ubiquitous burger.


TEAM UP with

California Prunes the bar high for myself… “ I setand so should you. An athlete lives in us all.” Anna Roy-Cyr

Canadian Sprint Canoe Olympic Athlete


of Canadians believe that





WOULD BUY PRUNES MORE OFTEN, if they were more available (or more prominent) in the stores where they shop.*

California Prunes are nutrient-dense. A champion snack, ideal for athletes and all Canadians. If you are interested in purchasing California Prunes or obtaining product information and prices, visit for a list of California Prune handlers. | @CAprunesCAN *Based on an independent survey conducted by Rose Research in June 2020 among 1,500 Canadians (primary grocery shoppers).


of Canadians reported they would LOOK FOR CALIFORNIA PRUNES the next time they buy prunes.*


freshreport PRUNES

California Prunes a win for nutrition and flavour Esther Ritson-Elliott is a guru on all things prunerelated, having spent the last 30 years with the California Prune Board, most recently as Director of International Marketing & Communications. She shares her insights on prune trends and why retailers should keep prunes top of mind, especially during pandemic times.

Why are prunes on the radar more than ever? With COVID-19, people are looking for more shelfstable products that are good for them too. Prunes are high in fibre and have high levels of vitamin K and a source of magnesium, which help support the maintenance of good bone health. With their low moisture levels, prunes can be kept in the cupboard for up to a year, ensuring a fresh-tasting, nutritious snack is always on hand. Between August 2019 to July 2020, we saw the overall Canadian prune market grow by 14%, which is further testament that consumers are looking for nutritional, natural foods. In the last two months alone, exports of California Prunes to Canada were up 33%.

research in the area of bone health and know that nutrition combined with physical activity play an integral role in protecting our bones. So, we developed a “Team Up with California Prunes” campaign that includes 36 Canadian athletes as ambassadors to help inspire us to be more active and proactive in our bone maintenance. These athletes represent different demographics and life stages, the idea being that there is an athlete in all of us.

What can retailers be doing to better promote prunes to customers?

Tell us about the latest initiatives from California Prunes?

Given that 54% of consumers eat prunes as a snack, retailers should be thinking about increasing their visibility beyond the grocery aisle for impulse buying. Displaying prunes in the produce section as a salad topper or as an ingredient to blend into smoothies is another way to increase sales. (See our website www. for more ideas for adding prunes to all kinds of sweet and savory dishes.) Shoppers also want reassurance around food safety, so displaying the California designation gives them peace of mind, while denoting quality and taste. Retailers can also help educate shoppers on the health benefits of prunes. One in three women in Canada said they would buy more prunes if they knew about their health benefits and how to use them.

Our goal is to increase awareness of the health and nutritional benefits of California Prunes, specifically pertaining to bone and gut. We’ve done considerable

Source: *Research conducted online in June 2020 by Rose Research among 1,500 English and French Canadian men and women, aged 16 to 75, who were the primary grocery shopper.

What makes California Prunes stand out? California Prunes are synonymous with being consistently large, high quality and sweet tasting. Their versatility makes them a stand-out dried fruit option. Their unique succulent taste makes them perfect for snacking and as well as a baking and cooking ingredient. In fact, 69% of consumers singled out California as producing the best prunes and 42% reported they will look for product of California the next time they buy prunes.




TOMATOES Consumer demand for flavour, variety and convenience is driving innovation in the greenhouse tomato category. Leona Neill, director of marketing and packaging at Red Sun Farms, shares what’s hot off the vine, and Harold Paivarinta, Sr. director of sales, explains how grocer retailers can grow tomato sales.

How is the tomato category performing in Canada and what are the key trends? The snacking category continues to grow, as consumers discover high-flavour varieties like Sweetpops and Artisan Cherry on-the-vine varieties. However, the biggest trend in 2020 has been the shift of consumers cooking and eating at home. This new environment has resulted in consumers rediscovering old classics and new varieties as they replicate their favourite restaurant dishes. Red Sun Farms is committed to delivering flavour and quality all year long, ensuring that consumers have nutritious and delicious options in this ever-changing environment.

What is the appeal of greenhouse tomatoes for both consumers and retailers? Greenhouse tomatoes (and all greenhouse produce) offer consumers a year-round supply of their favourite varieties. Being vertically integrated allows our team full control over our supply, ensuring the quality, flavour and service our customers have come to expect from Red Sun Farms.

What are some recent product and packaging innovations at Red Sun Farms? Sweetpops, Sweetpeaks and Sweetpeps are all about delivering the very best flavour intensity, combined with fun packaging to connect with our consumers. This new collection is quickly establishing itself as a must-have variety! The Sweets Family features our premium snacking varieties that are all about flavour. This unique lineup appeals to kids and young professionals ‘on-the-go’ who want a tasty and healthy snack. The Sweets Family is also perfect

for those who love hosting dinner parties and are looking for unique ways to add colour, flavour and crunch to their cuisine creations. Red Sun Farms is also proud to introduce our newest sustainable solutions – SustainLabel!® and top seal fiber, and to be among the first companies to bring this sustainable solution to the market. This new technology includes wash-away technology and has passed the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) Critical Guidance testing. The fresh new label is a sustainable solution that also delivers our customer demand for product visibility and transparency.

How can grocery retailers boost sales of greenhouse tomatoes? The surety of supply and 12-month availability of greenhouse grown product lends itself to frequency of promotion to boost sales and continued category growth. We work closely with our retail partners to drive consumption through a multitude of collaborative efforts to elevate consumer experiences with greenhouse produce.


Cover Story

Leading an  Empıre Empire’s president and ceo Michael Medline on e-commerce, private label and the bumpy relationship between grocers and suppliers IN THE NEARLY four years he’s been at the helm of Empire Company Limited, Michael Medline has guided the Stellarton, N.S.-based grocery company through some of the most transformative moments in its long history. There was the continued Western expansion of Empire’s discount banner FreshCo, the sweeping reorganization program Project Sunrise, the Farm Boy acquisition, the launch of Sobeys’ e-­g rocery service Voilà and, of course, COVID-19—a defining moment that has thrust massive change upon an

industry that has always been slightly resistant to it. On Medline’s watch, Empire has grown market share and consistently exceeded financial expectations. The company created more than $550 million in savings ($50 million more than projected) through Project Sunrise and embarked on a new, multi-­million dollar cost-savings initiative earlier this year with Project Horizon. And he’s not done yet. In late October, Canadian Grocer spoke with Medline about the relationship between grocers and suppliers (“all we’re doing is hurting each other”),

By Kristin Laird Photography by Mike Ford

December 2020/January 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 37

Cover Story private label (“I think sometimes people do private label just to do private label”) and how the company is preparing for the next wave of COVID-19 (“I think we’re ready, but we’re driven by concerns of safety”). Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

What would you say Empire has learned during the pandemic, not only about its customers but also about its staff? We learned a few things. One is that we can move way faster than we thought possible and make decisions quicker than we thought we could. In a pandemic, you have to make decisions with lightning speed with the data you have, which is not perfect. I think we got good at that. I think we also found out how strong our stores, especially our store managers and franchisees, are. We knew they were good, but [working through the pandemic] gave us a lot more confidence in their abilities. It made us more of an operational culture—less top-down and listening more to the stores, and I think that’s continuing and accelerating, actually. We’ve heard throughout the industry that people who work in grocery stores and distribution centres are tough and will come to work even at risk to their own selves, and so many of our employees—our teammates, we call them—came to work and they felt they were serving a higher purpose.

Empire was quick out the gate to adopt COVID-­related safety measures, most of which remain in place today. How do you prepare for the next wave and even the potential of another lockdown? Even though we had a pretty good summer in terms of COVID, we weren’t out of the woods yet in the country, so we just never let our guard down and we kept our protocols in place so we wouldn’t have to bring it back up again. So, we’re in really good shape now. We have a much better understanding of the risks of COVID and how to protect ourselves and our teammates and customers. It’s just not as hard now because we’re not making it up on the fly or buying Plexiglass all over the country to put in place. I would say that we are concerned it will get worse in the winter. We’re worried about queuing outside our stores [in the cold]. We want a nice customer experience even though COVID is going on. That’s really what we’re looking at, new innovations that we can use like queuing software and how can we make our customers more comfortable. Our standards were kept in place so I think we’re ready, but we’re driven by concerns of safety.

Empire offered hero pay to front-line workers through part of the pandemic. With the ­potential of a third wave or another lock­ down, where does the future of hero pay lie? 38  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

Hero pay was a darn good idea. And we actually coined the phrase—it’s used all over the world. We tried to come up with a name for it, we ended up calling it “hero pay” and everyone else kind of adopted it. When our teammates were coming to work, and no one else was, they deserved a special bonus. And we’ve been pretty clear, if we go back in any region to a full lockdown like we were in March, we’ll go back to hero pay. We might structure it slightly different, but it would be the same kind of reward to our teammates for being heroes like they are every day. [Note: in late November, Sobeys announced it is issuing pay bonuses to eligible workers in locked-down areas of Manitoba, Toronto and Peel Region in Ontario.]

The pandemic accelerated online grocery adoption in Canada. You launched Voilà in June. One of the benefits of Voilà in a COVID era is that robots are filling the orders—so less human interaction with the product compared to store-pick models. What are some of the benefits that will outlast COVID? We think there’s a lot of benefit other than that. Having the robots makes it a far better experience for customers, but also a far more efficient way to do business. And there are the attributes of this system: algorithms to ensure very good product substitutions, we deliver in one hour, and the produce and meats are incredibly fresh. And frankly, there’s nothing else like it out there. Nothing. And so all those attributes win every day of the week. And then on top of that, people like that it’s robot-picked now because of COVID.

Is there any concern the data Empire is collecting on Voilà users is skewed because of the pandemic? No. Our forecasted basket size is almost bang on right now. If we had another lockdown, basket size would skew higher, we would probably run out of customer slots to serve everyone and there would be different kinds of buys. I’d say our predictions are a little better than we expected, but almost right on.

Right now you have, which is rich with content including recipes, tips and meal ideas—with a tab for Voilà. Will we see a hybrid version, where maybe people can shop recipes, for instance? We got slowed down a bit by COVID on construction. Many of the really exciting bells and whistles—they’re more important than that, they’re incredible innovations—online, especially around personalizing it for the customer, will be [introduced] over the next six months. Month after month we’ll be adding new innovation on the site. At the beginning, we just wanted to get it open and serve people within the [Greater Toronto Area] because we knew there were a lot of




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Cover Story people who were not comfortable going into stores and leaving their homes. So we hurried that, and now we’re catching up with all these accoutrements.

suggests Sobeys is next. Can you comment?

Is a multi-banner rewards program coming?

I don’t know where that came from because we never contemplated it. I think people are just guessing because [Sobeys is] a grocer. It’s not part of our values. We wouldn’t do that.

We’re always looking at ways to improve our customer experience through our loyalty program and our crush of data and personalization so we can serve customers better. So, I think you should stay tuned over the next three years.

The relationship between grocers and suppliers can be contentious. What do you think it would take to improve the relationship?

You are investing heavily in private label. What opportunities have you identified in that space? Well, we did the work on category resets last year. We got a lot of information in terms of where we could broaden our assortment in private label, but also where we had to grow. When we do customer research, the quality of our products [scores] extremely high. I think the Compliments rebranding and repackaging tells a better story in terms of that quality. We’re also going to be expanding our private label, but in areas that customers want. I think sometimes people do private label just to do private label. We want to do it where it’s going to add value to the customer. I think that will lead to much greater penetration of private label in our stores, which has been a goal of ours for the last few years. And, I think the biggest thing we’re doing now that’s different is we’re not treating private label completely separate—it’s working in tandem with our merchants and operators, so it’s not out there orphaned from the rest of our business. We’re thinking about the customer experience holistically across national brands and private.

What have you learned from Farm Boy products that you have applied to Compliments? Farm Boy has probably the most loyal following for their private-label brands of any retailer. Customers just love their private-label brands. Originally, when you make [the Farm Boy] acquisition, a lot of people think the big company can teach the smaller company what to do. [The Empire team is] really good, but they thought they could learn some things from Farm Boy, and the Farm Boy team is helping our team develop even more exciting products. That’s probably the greatest surprise about the entire acquisition of Farm Boy. We knew [Farm Boy] would be successful, we knew the stores outperformed everyone else, but [Farm Boy leaders] Jean-Louis Bellemare and Jeff York are just incredible leaders who share their knowledge and, in turn, they’re open to learning as well.

Loblaw and Walmart have announced a hike in supplier fees and a Canadian Press story 40  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

Don’t get me wrong, I think a little friction is good. I think people believe if they’re giving up something that it hasn’t been a very good negotiation. But you’ve got to do it with principle and value. I don’t think it can be solved unless the grocers sit down with suppliers and bang out some general rules to make this better. All we’re doing is hurting each other. We’re not making it a very hospitable place to do business. We’re not helping Canadian customers. We’ll negotiate hard, we’ll make sure that our company and our investors are taken care of, we’re not fools, but we will make sure there’s a level playing field and not unilateral moves to redistribute wealth. That’s just not fair.

How has collaboration been impacted with teams connecting virtually, rather than in person? It’s my No. 1 issue right now. We don’t have one head office, so we were always pretty good at [connecting virtually]. And you know, the first few days you go, “Oh this is pretty good” [but] it’s not as good as collaborating in person. It’s more difficult to communicate [and] it’s more difficult to have important sidebar conversations to solve issues. It’s harder to transmit your culture and values; although I think we’re doing a very fine job of it. We’re slowly trying to get people back in the office safely—safely is the key word there, we don’t want people getting sick— because our team finds it better to be in person. And if people are not comfortable with that, we respect that, that’s cool. I can’t wait for the day when we have a vaccine and we get back to normal and people can work together more collaboratively.

What has happened to mentorship and talent development with your people now working from home more? How do you tackle that? It’s harder. We have leaders who have joined our company since COVID started; we have teammates who have joined since and some of them haven’t met their bosses in person. I think you have to do two things better. You have to set your objectives and instructions and what you expect of people to be much more clear. And two, you have to speak to them more often so they don’t feel they’re out there on their own. That’s what I try to do. CG


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IN A YEAR OF unprecedented challenge and change, the grocery world has never needed the talent of its strong young leaders more. And fortunately for our industry, we have some outstanding ones. In its 10th anniversary year, Canadian Grocer’s 2020 Generation Next awards honour 15 deserving winners—all under the age of 40—who were chosen for their leadership, innovative work and commitment to the industry. From store managers and marketing managers to VPs, directors and entrepreneurs, read on to learn more about this year’s impressive winners.

Generation Next

upandcomers By Rebecca Harris & Carol Neshevich

December 2020/January 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 43

Generation Next Sameer Bandeali

in my career thus far,” says the director of e-commerce at Metro, Inc.

For Sameer Bandeali, success has a lot to do with building relationships. “Being adaptable, understanding key people and key resources that I have to build relationships with, and asking the right questions so I can ramp up as quickly as possible—having that ability has been critical for success

While Bandeali has held his role at Metro since January 2019, his wealth of e-commerce experience includes time at Maple Leaf Foods, Walmart Canada and Cartly, an online grocery service for South Asian groceries. Since joining Metro, he’s been responsible for launching and leading Metro Ontario’s online grocery business and has worked tirelessly to help the business adapt to this new, invigorated and increasingly competitive grocery channel.

Director, E-commerce METRO INC.

Bandeali loves knowing that his hard work is having a direct impact on the business. “Online grocery was a niche service preCOVID. It’s now become more of an essential service,” explains Bandeali. “Just being able to be a part of a business that’s able to help keep people a little bit safer and provide to those who are in need is definitely something that drives and motivates me daily.”

Aidan Coleman

Opened in 2017, Colemans Market on Newfoundland Drive combines a home-style environment with leadingedge food offerings.

Known for his innovative spirit and relentless drive to make a difference, Aidan Coleman is making his mark on the family business. The fourth-generation Coleman developed a new concept for the competitive St. John’s, N.L. market. He toured innovative grocers in Canada, the United States and Europe to help inform his vision.

In 2018, Coleman oversaw the acquisition of Belbin’s, a family-owned grocery market in St. John’s. Coleman created a plan to expand and renovate Belbin’s, coming up with a fresh new look and new offerings.

Director, Business Development COLEMAN MANAGEMENT SERVICES LTD.

His current project is Arthur’s Urban Market, a new-concept store in downtown Halifax

44  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

that has great impact, great reach, and the power to change things at scale,” he says. “It’s very important for me to improve people’s lives through what we sell and what we do.”

Guillaume Beaulieu Senior Key Account Manager UNILEVER CANADA

Guillaume Beaulieu’s passion and commitment led him from retail rep to senior key account manager at Unilever in just six years. What he’s most proud of is working on projects that have an overarching impact on the business such as process improvements, trade management and the launch of major product innovations. “The reason I joined Unilever is because it’s a company

named after Coleman’s greatgrandfather who started it all. An independent enterprise owned by Coleman, Arthur’s provides a European-style shopping experience with a focus on products from Atlantic Canada. What inspires Coleman is taking time to remember what’s really important and having fun every day. “It doesn’t matter what you do in your life, but if you have a sense of joy about your work and the people around you, it shapes everything you do.”

Most recently, Beaulieu was integral in developing Unilever’s strategy for a national retailer, which exceeded internal targets and set the business up for long-term growth. As part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, Beaulieu works with his customers to reduce plastic packaging on numerous items in Unilever’s assortment. Beaulieu is passionate about learning and enjoys mentoring new talent. He leads Unilever’s Future Leaders recruitment program by building partnerships with local universities in Quebec. Having worked in Toronto and Montreal, Beaulieu exposes French-speaking candidates to opportunities outside of Quebec by sharing his experiences and the importance of bilingualism in the CPG industry.


William Yu, Senior Customer Business Development Manager, on your well-deserved recognition as one of Canadian Grocer’s Generation Next Award winners.

Thank you for your continued leadership, passion and commitment to the grocery industry. We are extremely proud that you are a member of the Bimbo Canada family. Congratulations to all 2020 Generation Next Award winners.

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

Generation Next Trevor Goodall

Trevor Goodall is helping grocers and manufacturers alike win in today’s datadriven world. With a master’s degree in management analytics, Goodall has worked in the space for nearly a decade, moving from a junior analyst at Nielsen to a team leader at Precima.

becoming their indispensable analytics and insights business partner. Goodall has led or overseen thousands of recommendations that have helped CPG brands list new products, grow their assortment and make profitable merchandising decisions. He is most proud of developing and growing a client services team, as well as getting clients to adopt Precima’s new nextgeneration platform.

During his career, he’s built strong partnerships with numerous companies,

On the volunteer front, Goodall leads Precima’s involvement with Kids Help


In her current role, Hassanie is responsible for regional accounts and a major e-commerce account. Her proudest accomplishment is growing sales within the e-commerce retailer by triple digits, a feat that contributed to her winning the 2020 Tree of Life Customer Development Manager of the Year award. “My main goal is making the people who believe in me proud.”

Randa Hassanie

Customer Development Manager TREE OF LIFE CANADA It’s no wonder Randa Hassanie is known as someone who gets stuff done. “I love working and I love what I do,” she says. Born and raised in Brazil, Hassanie held roles at Nestlé before pursuing a master’s degree in economics. In 2016, she moved to Calgary, and shortly thereafter joined Tree of Life Canada.

Hassanie wants to continue developing her career at Tree of Life and she aspires to become a leader. “I am lucky I work with great mentors and great leaders who help me keep my passion alive,” she says. “I want to do the same for other people and motivate them to succeed.” Outside of work, Hassanie volunteers with the Calgary Food and Drug Executive Board. As a board member, she works with the director of communications supporting their social media management and is engaged in community events.

46  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

Phone. He serves as a “walk champion,” organizing a company-wide fundraising walk for Kids Help Phone. In just two years, funds raised by Precima employees for the charity have more than doubled. Goodall enjoys seeing his team develop and helping them reach their goals. And his motivation at work is to simply help his clients achieve their objectives. “If I can do that for my clients as well as for my colleagues,” he says, “it’s easy to go to work every day.”

Alan Kaarsemaker Store Manager SAVE-ON-FOODS

What started as a part-time job in high school for Alan Kaarsemaker has ended up being a thriving career. Currently store manager at Save-On-Foods in Langley, B.C., he’s spent the past 20 years taking on progressively more senior roles, working in—and helping to open—a number of SaveOn-Foods stores across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon. “I’ve been on the leading edge of a lot of our growth across Western Canada,” says Kaarsemaker. “A huge career highlight for me was being the inaugural store manager for opening our Whitehorse, Yukon location [in 2017].” Other proud moments include two of his stores winning the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers’ Canadian Independent Grocer of the Year awards: a National Gold Award in the large-surface

category for his Heritage store in Calgary in 2017, and a National Silver Award in the large-surface category for the Whitehorse store in 2019. COVID-19 has been his “biggest challenge by far,” he says, but he prides himself in his ability to keep things running calmly throughout the crisis. In fact, Kaarsemaker is known for his “calm, cool, collected demeanour” and as a leader, he loves “really challenging people and inspiring them to do more than what they thought was possible.”


Jacquelin Weatherbee!

We are proud to celebrate Jacquelin, one of this year’s recipients of the Generation Next Awards, for her incredible leadership in driving effective communications to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who shop and work in our stores. As Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, Jacquelin has played a pivotal role in strengthening the Empire brand, communicating industry-leading initiatives, and engaging our teammates from coast to coast. Congratulations, Jacquelin! From your Sobeys Inc. family


Please join us in congratulating Kim Lichtman on her Canadian Grocer’s 2020 Generation Next award win. We’re thrilled that you’ve been recognized for your commitment to innovation and strong leadership in the Canadian Grocery industry.

Well done from all of us at Kruger Products!

Generation Next and the breast cancer cause, needed a new vision because of the pandemic. Lichtman quickly pivoted, collaborating with her team and agency partners to create a virtual event that was attended by thousands of Canadians nationwide. It was the proudest moment of her career to date.

Kim Lichtman

Marketing Manager, Bathroom Tissue KRUGER PRODUCTS L.P. Kim Lichtman is known for living Kruger’s mantra “bring it on,” but that was especially true in 2020. For the past five years, Lichtman has overseen the Cashmere Collection, an annual fashion show that features designs made from Cashmere bathroom tissue. The event, which supports the Canadian Cancer Society

For this year’s “Cones for Crohn’s” fundraiser, Lichtman worked with her team to develop a virtual cone-building app. As a result, everyone at Kruger was able to participate in the event, raising 50% more than in any other year.

Matthew Marrone

Co-Founder and President CYCLE WATER Matthew Marrone is creating waves in the beverage category with Cycle Water, an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bottled water. A first of its kind in the category in Canada, Cycle Water is spring water packaged in an aluminum can that’s resealable and infinitely recyclable. Marrone got the idea for Cycle Water while he was working for a private asset

Lichtman has a master’s in international management and is currently pursuing a chartered marketer desig­ nation from the Canadian Marketing Association. She also volunteers with Ad Standards Canada as a member of its Children’s Clearance Committee. “My goal is to continue to grow and develop to make sure I’m the best marketer I can be,” she says.

Adam Martin

General Manager COMMUNITY NATURAL FOODS Adam Martin entered the grocery industry in 2010 as the foodservice category manager at Community Natural Foods in Calgary. Today, he’s in the role of general manager, where he deftly leads the company’s nearly 200 employees and generates an annual $45 million in revenue. Over the years, Martin has led a number of 48  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

management company. He discovered he had a passion for entrepreneurism, and in his travels, Marrone identified a gap in the market. He set out to start a water company with a more sustainable packaging option, and help Canadians make a positive change. After much research, Marrone and his business partner, Ryan Kucan, launched Cycle Water in 2018. The product has a striking blue design and innovative lift-and-slide lid. “What inspires me is the notion that with design and innovation, you can find a solution to the plastic waste problem, and something as simple as a can of water can have a profound impact,” he says. Cycle Water donates a portion from the sale of each can to Plastic Oceans Canada, which supports remote shoreline cleanups across the country. Cycle Water also supports community groups and charities through product donations.

transformational initiatives including a million-dollar café renovation; an internal life-coaching program; a new employee onboarding program; the opening of a commissary; and the rollout of a human resources management system. Under Martin’s leadership, the company launched a loyalty program and a new e-commerce platform. Martin is particularly proud of his role stewarding last year’s acquisition of Community Natural Foods by Calgary Co-op, in partnership with advisors.

In 2017, Martin joined the board of directors of the Canadian Health Food Association and is involved in lobbying and advocacy for the natural foods industry. “I have a real passion for that space,” he says. “A key motivator for me and what puts a smile on my face is seeing the difference this store makes for our customers,” says Martin. “We really believe that walking through our front door is the best investment they can make in their health.”

Alexander Messina

Vice-president, Sales & Marketing MEMA FOODS INTERNATIONAL INC. Alexander Messina was born into the food business. His father Carmelo, who immigrated to Canada from Sicily, founded Mema Foods in 1989. Messina learned the business from the ground up and, today, operates the company with his brother Gabriel. Messina has been instrumental in developing

Matt Miskuski Franchisee NO FRILLS

Matt Miskuski’s mother worked at a Save-On-Foods store for 40 years, and he credits her for inspiring his initial entry into the industry as a teen. When she got tired of giving him his weekly allowance, “she said, ‘time to get a job!’” he laughs. He got that first part-time job in 2003 working in bakery/ deli, from which he worked his way up through various in-store management-based

roles at Save-On-Foods. In 2013, at the age of 25, he took on a store manager role with Sobeys in Fort St. John, B.C. He became a store manager with Loblaw in 2015, and entered Loblaw’s franchise readiness program in 2018. The following year, he became the proud franchisee of his own location: Matt’s No Frills on Parliament Street in Toronto. Miskuski takes pride in winning the 2019 Community Leader Award, given to an Ontario No Frills franchisee who shows exemplary community engagement. And he’s been praised for his handling of COVID-19—not only keeping employees and customers safe, but also participating in community efforts such as LifeCrates, bringing subsidized food crates to low-income seniors. “I’m proud of my team, and proud of their commitment to the store and the community,” he says. “And I’m proud to continue to serve the market one day at a time, the best way we can.”

innovative products for Mema Foods, a company that prides itself on being a local manufacturer serving independent grocers. Messina came up with the idea for Just Soup and Just Sauce, a new line of readyto-heat soups and sauces made with simple, premium ingredients and sold in recyclable glass jars. Messina also works closely with grocers to grow their private-label offerings with new products. “I love helping retailers and building trust to put their name on a product

that we make,” he says. “Also, knowing we provide so many families with Canadian-made products and clean ingredient decks is a big inspiration for me.” Known for his huge heart, Messina works with various charities, including Community Crew in St. Catharines, Ont., and Blue Door Shelters in Newmarket, Ont. During the pandemic, he teamed up with a radio station to donate cases of sauce and soup to local food banks.

Kimberly Roberts

Senior Director of Merchandising, Produce & Floral WALMART CANADA Kimberly Roberts prides herself on her tenacity. “Any position I have ever held, I’ve approached it with the determination to always deliver great results,” says the senior director of merchandising, produce and floral at Walmart Canada. Roberts began her career just over 15 years ago as an inventory control clerk for Sobeys Ontario, where she eventually ended up in produce buying. After three years as a produce buyer for the grocer, she moved on to Walmart Canada in 2011. “Throughout my career at Walmart I’ve held several positions within merchandising across bakery, produce and merchandise strategy for fresh foods.” Among her achievements at Walmart: Roberts led a sustainability initiative to remove plastic wrap from

bulk peppers and organic bananas in the department; she’s led numerous fresh food initiatives working with the merchandise strategy team, including new fixture pilots and changes to the fresh department layout; and she helped launch an expanded ethnic produce offering across Canada in more than 80 stores that continues to grow. One of the things she likes most about her job, says Roberts, is “the ability to have a positive impact on Canadians coast to coast.”

December 2020/January 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 49

Generation Next Ibon Segura

Senior Channel Planning Manager MONDELĒZ CANADA INC. An exceptional sales leader, Ibon Segura has been at the forefront of transformational change at Mondelēz. Born and raised in Spain, Segura moved to Vancouver to study business at the University of British Columbia. He joined Mondelēz (then Kraft Foods) as a sales rep in 2012 and was promoted two years later to lead a key account. Segura

Jacquelin Weatherbee Vice-president, Communications and Corporate Affairs SOBEYS INC.

In the five years since she joined Sobeys, Jacquelin Weatherbee has clearly made her mark. Working her way up through the communications ranks to her current role as vicepresident, communications and corporate affairs, she’s artfully led key corporate announcements for the grocery giant: the acquisition of Farm Boy in 2018, the

strategy to convert a number of Safeway and Sobeys stores to FreshCo, the implementation of sensoryfriendly shopping, and the recent launch of Voilà. But one of her biggest communications challenges so far has been COVID-19, which hit shortly after she was promoted to the vicepresident role. Being new to the role didn’t stop her from ensuring Sobeys was expertly communicating its pandemic-related strategies and protocols to employees and the public. “There were some moments at the peak of the onset of the pandemic when my teammates and I were working 20 hours a day,” says Weatherbee. “It wasn’t even perceived as a negative thing, it was just we had this renewed purpose, an essential purpose. It taught me so much as a leader— that the more you can truly connect your team to your purpose, the stronger your results are going to be, and the more authentic.”

50  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

came by the CPG industry naturally; his father was a 30-year P&G veteran. In 2017, Mondelēz conducted a massive overhaul of the packaging in its cookie portfolio, the company’s largest-ever strategic initiative. Segura was handpicked to be the project lead and delivered ahead on every metric. From there, he led the business for a major grocer, and his strong performance led to another promotion. What motivates Segura is continuous learning. “I love

to work with different people, learn from their experiences, and take that learning on to the next role,” he says. Segura is also passionate about developing the next generation of leaders. He plays a leading role in Mondelēz’s Leadership Development Program, helping to recruit, train and mentor university graduates joining the company. He has also led workshops on combatting racism in the workplace, and was a mentor in the organization’s Women’s Business Council.

William Yu

Senior Customer Business Development Manager BIMBO CANADA It’s been 15 years since William Yu entered the CPG industry in sales, and he still has as big a passion for it today as he did at the start. That passion, along with his strong leadership and change-management skills, has led to big wins over the years, including major new agreements and double-digit growth with retail customers. “Sales continues to evolve and it’s becoming more datadriven ... I love numbers, but relationships are still a big part of it. It’s a fine balance between the two.” Yu, who’s been with Bimbo Canada since 2011, fosters strong relationships with his customers. It’s because of those relationships that he was able to quickly gain customer support during COVID-19. By immediately implementing a promotional strategy and altering executional plans, Yu was able to satisfy both customer

and consumer needs. Yu also has a well-earned reputation for developing talent within Bimbo Canada. His ability to mentor has led to recognition for many associates on the commercial bread team as future leaders. “Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to have leaders support me through challenging situations, but also put me in a position to succeed. Now, as a leader myself, I have a great passion for doing the same.” CG

is proud to recognize


Sameer Bandeali Director, eCommerce Metro

His leadership, innovation and commitment to the grocery industry have earned him a well deserved Canadian Grocer’s Generation Next Award.

106461 M Ad CanadianGrocer_GenerationNextAwards_3_5625x5.indd 1

Save-On-Foods is thrilled to congratulate Alan Kaarsemaker on his Generation Next Award, which recognizes his outstanding leadership in his store, his community, and our company.


Alan Kaarsemaker Store Manager, Save-On-Foods Langley Downtown

and to all of this year’s Generation Next Award winners!

CONSUMERS ARE CRAVING CHANGE. THEY EXPECT LARGE ORGANIZATIONS LIKE DANONE TO BRING OUR SCALE OF IMPACT TO CHANGE THE WORLD FOR THE BETTER. At Danone, we believe that each time we eat and drink, we can vote for the world we want to live in. This powerful idea is at the heart of the ongoing food revolution, a movement inspired by people who care about where their food comes from, how it was grown, how it arrived on their plates and how it impacts their health and the health of the planet.

Building a sustainable future in the food industry A

s food manufacturers like Danone have had to implement measures to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to safe food during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pascal Lachance, Senior Manager, Sustainable Development, Danone Canada shares how they are paving the way for sustainable business growth while strengthening the resilience of our global food chain. Can you define sustainability from the point of view of a major company producing dairy and plant-based yogurts & beverages? At Danone, we believe that the health of people and the health of the planet are interconnected. As a B Corp certified company, we have made a bold commitment to uphold the highest standards of social, environmental and economic performance. This means taking into consideration the interests of all stakeholders in every decision we make. How are your sustainability goals affecting your business model? Our sustainability goals are part of our business model. They influence the way we source our ingredients, package our products, how we position them and which certifications we strive for that will enable us to ensure sustainable practices. Our brands take part in our actions to protect and nourish both the health of people and of that of the planet and, more and more, they are taking a stand. For example: • Silk® supports ALUS Canada’s New Acre ProjectTM to advance our ongoing commitment to promote sustainable local practices. • SToKTM has teamed up with Movember to help break down the stigma around men’s mental health. • Light & FreeTM, a brand that values individuality, inclusivity and diversity, partnered with a local artist to design unique packaging and art. Why are you committed to regenerative agriculture? What we eat and drink impacts our health, the environment and our communities. That is why we partner with organisations who value sustainable agriculture and farming. We do so to share and explore new ways of working, and to help develop agricultural models that can regenerate

the planet while feeding a global population that is set to surpass 9 billion people by 2050. For example, in 2018 we launched a collaborative project with Nutrinor Cooperative to source fresh, traceable Canadian milk and promote regenerative agriculture. Earlier this year Silk® announced a significant investment in ALUS Canada’s New AcreTM Project to help support the management and restoration of 90 acres of farmland in seven communities across Canada. For the dairy industry, a commonly understood definition of sustainability is “good for people, the planet and community”. How does Danone address those 3 pillars? In line with our frame of action of “One Planet. One Health”, we believe in a food ecosystem that works in harmony with people, communities and the environment. As the largest consumer-facing Certified B Corporation in Canada, we use our business as a force for good. This commitment pushes us to help improve the way food is grown, produced, marketed, distributed and sold: we co-create solutions with our employees and others by leveraging their expertise; we also collaborate and exchange best practices with our business partners — from food producers to retail stores to our social and environmental partners. In concrete terms, what is Danone Canada doing to achieve more sustainable ways of working here in Canada? Our mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible is brought to life every day by our dedicated employees and partners. As a founding member of the Circular Plastics Taskforce in Canada and a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on a global scale, we are committed to making 100% of our packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. As a founding partner of Breakfast Club of Canada, we help meet the needs of children facing food insecurity. Our donations and employee volunteering help ensure that kids in our communities have access to nutritious food. And, our leading approach to human resources has awarded us of a spot on Canada’s Top 100 Employers list two years in a row. We value the contribution of our employees in helping us make a positive impact on the lives of Canadians.



54  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

IN SPITE of a recent uptick in single-use products, the research shows that even a global pandemic can’t shake consumers’ desire to make sustainable choices when it comes to food and food packaging. “Conscious consumption was gaining traction before and COVID has only accelerated that,” says analyst Shelley Balanko, senior vice-president at the Hartman Group. “Consumers are looking for foods that are sourced in sustainable ways—and produced and packaged in a way that’s in accordance with their values.” According to a 2020 U.S. survey by global management consulting firm Kearney, 48% of respondents said the pandemic has made them more concerned about the environment, and 55% said they were now more likely to purchase environmentally-friendly products. The survey also showed an 85% increase in consumers who planned to decline plastic utensils with food orders and a whopping 164% increase in those who were planning to buy more items in bulk. W h e re a s s h o p p e r s m ay h ave focused on sustainable packaging pre-pandemic, Balanko says now that they’ve gotten “up close and personal” with the fact our food supply chain isn’t infinite, they’re also looking at food waste and carbon impact when selecting products. She expects consumers will not only be looking to see if retailers are carrying sustainable brands, but whether they have sustainable programs in place at the store level, too. Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, says we can also expect to see some truly innovative developments in packaging coming down the pipe. “Making packaging compostable, biodegradable or easy to recycle will be more and more important going forward,” she says. A good example is SupraPulp, a plastic-free packaging made of sugarcane waste from Israeli food tech startup W-Cycle. Not only is it fully compostable and toxin-free, but it’s durable enough for greasy, wet or hot food and can be frozen or heated. During these pandemic times especially, Williams says packaging with antimicrobial properties (which can kill foodborne diseases) are gaining particular favour. (A European Unionfunded project called NanoPack has already produced one successful option.) Even big-name brands are looking to mitigate plastic in landfills by turning to more sustainable packaging solutions. This year, Johnnie Walker launched a paper-based whisky bottle, while PepsiCo is using aluminum cans instead of plastic for its Aquafina water brand. For those retailers still hesitating to implement sustainable

programs into their business strategies now, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (a U.K.-based charity focused on inspiring a circular economy) estimates that converting just 20% of plastic packing into re-use models (such as refill and return packaging options) is a US$10-billion global opportunity. According to the Foundation’s 2019 Reuse: Rethinking Packaging report, reuse models can cut down on packaging and transportation costs, improve user experience and build loyalty.

Reuse and recycling programs at work Some of Canada’s grocery giants have already made concerted efforts to go sustainable, especially when it comes to products and packaging. This year, Sobeys released its first sustainability report establishing “key action pillars” of People, Planet and Products to steer its future strategies. Part of that is the commitment to reduce food waste, maximize recycling efforts and make it easier for customers to reuse in general. The retailer has already introduced reusable mesh produce bags (partially made from recovered plastic found in oceans), in all Sobeys, Safeway, IGA and Foodland stores. It’s also working with Dartmouth, N.S.based LakeCity Plastics to turn plastic bags into waterfront benches and tables for installation in public spaces across Atlantic Canada. This project will help divert 720,000 plastic bags from landfills. Last year TerraCycle—a global company that offers free recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers and retailers—partnered w i t h L o b l aw i n u s i n g i t s L o o p platform, which gives consumers the option to get commonly used products delivered to their door in branded, sustainable packaging that is later collected, cleaned, refilled and reused. “Loblaw is our exclusive grocery retail partner in Canada during the pilot phase … [and] ultimately, Loop’s goal is to be integrated into as many retailers and channels as possible to make the biggest impact,” says Anthony Rossi, executive vice-president of business development at TerraCycle & Loop. Loblaw will launch an online pilot program using Loop in the Greater Toronto Area in early 2021. (Just this past October, Tim Hortons announced it was partnering with Loop on a plan to offer reusable food and beverage containers at select Toronto stores in 2021.) Rossi encourages grocers to promote brands that use TerraCyle right on the landing page of their websites and in-store to prompt shoppers to make sustainable choices. “Retailers can partner with TerraCycle and the brands to offer compelling, emotionally engaging retail programs with

The Greening of GOODS

Consumers still care about making environmentallyfriendly choices. Innovation in products and packaging is helping them do it

By Rosalind Stefanac Illustration by Kara Pyle December 2020/January 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 55

Sustainability simple, intuitive and accessible ways to recycle,” he adds. In the meantime, online grocers like are using TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes to recycle products for their customers. While the program is currently on hold during COVID-19, pre-pandemic shoppers simply left their empty packaging in the SPUD bin for pickup and the retailer would ship it back to TerraCycle in bulk. (Consumers can also drop off their used containers to any of the SPUD-owned Be Fresh Market and Cafés or Blush Lane Organic Markets located in British Columbia and Alberta.) SPUD has introduced several other recycling initiatives to its customers, including glass bottle distribution and pickup for milk and soap refills. Michelle Austin, SPUD’s sustainability lead, says the fact SPUD is doing the pickup removes the barrier of customers having to return containers to a store. “Customers are actually asking us to do more in this space and we’re responding,” she says. “We’re glad they see value in the zero waste that we do.”

Focusing on food waste At Organic Garage, an independent grocer in Ontario, zero food waste initiatives have been a priority from the onset, says Randee Glassman, director of marketing. “We have a fantastic bulk program with up to 60 items,” she says. “We have amazing teas and spices in bulk, along with household cleaners and soaps.” Even with COVID-19, she says they’ve been able to bring the bulk program back by providing containers and featuring hand sanitizing stations throughout. The grocer also works with waste companies to ensure all vegetable trimmings and fruit waste are recycled into cattle feed. Inedible byproducts from its meat department (i.e., meat bones, discarded meat fats and store grease) are also transformed into both industrial and consumer fare. This whole idea of “upcycling” (or using food waste to create new products) is a trend that both analysts and retailers anticipate will gain momentum in the coming years as the effort to tackle the world’s 1.3 billion tons of annual food waste becomes a bigger priority. “We make an effort to identify and bring in upcycled products where available as it is a category that is growing,” says Anthony D’Addario, vice-president of operations at Nature’s Emporium in Ontario. He points to favoured brands like Barnana, which upcycles bananas to make sweet and savoury treats, and Outcast Foods, which makes protein powder and vitamins from imperfect produce. In fact, Outcast Foods is now working with Sobeys in Nova Scotia to divert the grocer’s unsellable fruits and veggies from landfills into quality products. This aligns with Sobeys’ pledge to reduce food waste across its operations by 50% by 2025. As more and more upcycled products come into the market, the expectation is that shoppers will want complete transparency, too. The Upcycled Food Association is in the process of developing a certification program that will allow qualified products to carry an identifying seal clearly showing they are upcycled or contain upcycled ingredients.

Cutting carbon footprint It’s not surprising that shoppers concerned about climate change will be looking for food products with smaller carbon 56  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

footprints. To that end, this year Panera became the first restaurant chain to partner with the World Resources Institute (WRI) in listing entrees on its menu as climate-friendly “Cool Food Meals.” Similar to recommended calories per day, the WRI has established a maximum recommended daily carbon footprint for a person’s diet, which is 38% smaller than the current average. While carbon labels on grocery products aren’t new, there’s been a resurgence of late in this area, with companies like Oatly and Quorn Food in the United Kingdom launching carbon label initiatives in 2020. To further raise awareness around the environmental impact of food, Swedish food company Felix opened a pop-up “Climate Store” in Stockholm in October and based all product prices on carbon footprint: the bigger the emission, the higher the price. The company is also starting to add low climate impact labels on products with emissions that are at least half of the average for food in Sweden. Nespresso is another manufacturer that recently announced plans to better tackle carbon emissions across its products and supply chain. Along with increasing the use of low-carbon virgin aluminum in its coffee capsules, the company has committed to planting trees in coffee farms and investing in forest conservation and restoration projects. The goal is for every cup of Nespresso coffee to be carbon-neutral by 2022.

Sustainable next steps As manufacturers and suppliers address a growing trend towards sustainable products and packaging, grocers are, ultimately, tasked with helping consumers make sustainable choices. “One challenge with sustainability is the metrics can vary so it’s hard to say one product is more sustainable than another in absolute terms,” says Innova Market Insights’ Williams. “But there is always the opportunity to look for products that have attributes that are sustainable so shoppers looking for that could more easily find [them].” To keep sustainability initiatives on track, there’s also a need to make “sustainable choices the sustainable choice,” says Eli Browne, director of corporate sustainability at Sobeys. “[Consumers] may be asking for sustainable products but there is always that value pricing pressure, and we need to be able to respond accordingly to provide quality products at price points people can afford,” she explains, adding that this is both the challenge and opportunity in working with suppliers. Browne says there are instances where suppliers have come to Sobeys or vice-versa to come up with new innovations when it comes to sustainable packaging. “I think a great example is our cucumber trays, which went from a non-recyclable plastic to a molded fibre tray that can be recycled,” she says. “Now it’s grown to be an industry standard.” Along with providing shoppers with sustainable choices in products and packaging, there’s an onus on retailers to educate their customers in how to promote environmentally friendly habits at home too, adds Browne. “I see education and engaging customers to make the right choice going hand in hand,” she says. “Being in a retail space where people have to go to eat, we have that privilege and responsibility to be part of the solution.” CG


All eska’s non-carbonated bottles will now be made from 100% recycled plastic. eska is committed to bringing you Quebec’s naturally pure spring water in a responsible and sustainable manner. Our new 100% recycled plastic spring water bottles are made of the highest quality recycled plastic and virtually identical to our original bottles. We believe we can make a difference by maximizing the resources we have instead of creating more. And we won’t stop until every one of our bottles are made from recycled plastic.


What if food packaging were carbon-neutral?

Go nature. Go carton. Food packaging plays a critical role in getting food safely to consumers around the world. But it can also cause problems for the planet. What if all food packaging came from plant-based materials and didn’t impact the climate? At Tetra Pak, we already have paper-based carton packages with reduced climate impact. But we won’t stop there. Our aim is to create cartons made solely from plant-based materials that are fully renewable, fully recyclable and carbon-neutral. It’s all part of our journey to deliver the world’s most sustainable food package. Learn more at





THE LURE OF SEAFOOD Thanks to innovation, convenience and variety, covid-era consumers are adding more seafood to their baskets By Carolyn Cooper

It’s been a big year for fish and seafood, as consumers have dramatically changed their consumption and buying habits as a result of COVID-19, leading to higher seafood sales for grocers able to reel in consumers with an imaginative range of offerings. “Fish and seafood consumption has been flat since 2016,” says Jo-Ann McArthur, president and chief strategist of Nourish Food Marketing. “But seafood is largely consumed in what I call finer dining, so with the shift in stomach from foodservice to at-home consumption, grocers are absolutely selling more seafood.” Nielsen data confirms it—in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 21, fresh seafood sales were up 9% to $787 million, while frozen seafood sales jumped by 20% to $1.07 billion. Here, we take a closer look at four seafood categories—fresh, frozen, tinned and plant-based—and the opportunity for grocers:

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Aisles Fresh Fresh is a major driver of the growth in seafood sales, says Amar Singh, principal analyst for Canada, Kantar Consulting. “Canadians are cooking at home, trying new recipes, and seafood is in high demand,” he says. “We’ve seen seafood sales increase year-over-year since the pandemic began, and fresh with value-added items are showing some of the largest increases,” agrees Colin Johnston, director of meat, seafood and deli at B.C.’s Quality Foods. The chain’s seafood counters feature fresh seasonal fish such as halibut, groundfish and wild salmon, as well as value-added items such as coated, breaded and cream cheese-filled crab patties. For supplier Lagoon Seafood, top-selling fresh products include salmon, cod, haddock, shrimp and scallops, says marketing director Tony Vartivarian, who notes the company is also seeing high demand for its value-added items such as seasoned salmon tartare, bacon scallops, and salmon and tuna sashimi slices. In addition to variety, transparency is also a big demand, says Randell Neal, vice-president of retail sales for Export Packers. “[Consumers] want to know where the seafood is coming from, how it was raised or caught, and what the nutritional benefits are for each product. Consumers are realizing the health benefits of seafood, and millennials and gen Zs seem to be more conscious of what foods they put in their bodies. So, there is still room to grow, to educate consumers on seafood, and make it easier for everyone to eat.” Offering pre-portioned, semi-prepared products, signage with buying and cooking tips, and providing links to online recipes are some smart tips for merchandising fresh fish, says McArthur, especially since the fresh seafood counter can sometimes be intimidating to unfamiliar customers.

Frozen “Frozen food has had a phenomenal year since the COVID-19 outbreak,” says Singh, adding that even before the pandemic, Canadians were rediscovering the convenience and versatility of frozen seafood. Toronto grocer The Sweet Potato has seen higher seafood sales this year overall, says founder and co-owner Digs Dorfman. He notes this is led by frozen formats such as battered fish portions and frozen raw shrimp. “Frozen sales have increased by over 55% from the same period, October to

November, from last year," he says. Glenn Grandy, senior director, seafood, Tree of Life Canada and president of Green Ocean Seafood, says consumers want “very good quality frozen fish that they can thaw and then season or marinate for an easyto-prepare healthy meal.” The company’s Green Ocean’s Wild caught products, produced without preservatives or additives, are currently its most popular, appealing to a wide demographic. Sofina Foods’ Janes brand of frozen fish has also seen strong growth this year, says Daniele Dufour, senior director, communications, public relations and consumer inquiries. Frozen seafood appeals to all age ranges, she says. When merchandising frozen products, retailers can always look to producers for help. “Janes will work with grocers to merchandise with custom and generic pointof-sale [tools]—shelf blades located in the frozen food section, and wraps for frozen bunkers,” says Dufour. “And retailers can leverage their digital apps and loyalty programs to target consumers about seafood.”

Tinned Tinned fish and seafood experienced huge jumps in sales at the start of the pandemic, as Canadians loaded their pantries with shelf-stable cans. In fact, during the week ended Mar. 14, 2020, when lockdowns began, Statistics Canada says sales of canned fish, meat and seafood jumped 169% over average 2019 sales. “Our canned seafood sales have been trending upward, definitely influenced by COVID,” says Dorfman. “Overall, we sell more canned tuna than canned salmon, and unsalted tuna as a whole outsells the salted SKUs by at least 20% or more. The top-selling item is Raincoast Global Skipjack Tuna. To me, this is related to the everyday price, as it is one of the lower-priced items in the tuna category, without sacrificing quality, as well as being sustainable. Sardines, as a whole, have also been trending up since COVID.” While the early hoarding behaviour has stopped, tinned seafood is still seeing strong sales as consumers rediscover its quality and convenience. “We’re also seeing a resurgence in artisan canned seafood, and there’s definitely a new appreciation for the quality,” says McArthur. Chef Charlotte Langley co-founded Scout Canning with the aim of reviving the tradition of premium-quality, locally made tinned cuisine. “There’s not much

60  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

innovation in the process itself, it’s a very old and well-designed process, but regarding the ingredients, sourcing and packaging, a lot of innovation is happening,” she says. Scout’s canned products include Butter Poached Lobster, Ontario Trout with Dill, Wild Albacore Tuna with Garden Herb Pesto, and PEI Mussels in a Smoked Paprika & Fennel Tomato Sauce. McArthur suggests mixing premium canned seafood in other departments, pairing it with complementary meal components to boost impulse buys. This could include putting it near the deli counter with cheeses and other high-end items.

Plant-based There is “immense room for growth and innovation” in the plant-based seafood market, says Christine Mei, CEO of Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch. While plant-based seafood is still fairly limited in Canadian grocery, it is growing. Quality Foods currently has a small range of plantbased seafood, says Johnston, but the chain is working with local artisan suppliers to add to its lineup. “We recently listed a company called Modern Meat from Vancouver, which makes fantastic plant-based crab cakes,” he adds. Good Catch, which offers frozen “seafood” appetizers and entrees, launched in Canada in October 2020 through a distribution partnership with Loblaw. Its frozen lineup includes New England Style PlantBased Crabless Cakes, Thai Style PlantBased Fishless Cakes, and Classic Style Plant-Based Fishless Burgers. “The frozen entrees and appetizers are crafted from Good Catch’s proprietary six-legume blend (peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans and navy beans), which is high in protein and used as the base of Good Catch products to create the texture that mimics the flakiness of seafood,” says Mei. “Our plant-based products are geared towards the curious consumer who is looking to expand into plant-based alternatives and is, perhaps, experimenting with a vegan lifestyle,” she says, so they want "products that offer up a similar nutritional benefit as the real thing." Kantar’s Singh believes plant-based seafood products are best merchandised next to other fish and seafood. “Beyond Burgers got retailers to place their products next to other meat products, to show it as a real taste alternative to biological meat. And that’s going to be the trend with plant-based seafood entering the market.”

Thank you 2020 sponsors It is with your support that we are able to bring retailers and manufacturers together to celebrate and gain valuable insights at GroceryConnex






From nostalgic classics to new innovations, candy is getting a new lease on life during the pandemic  By Jessica Huras If you’ve found yourself indulging in sweet treats more often over the past few months, you’re not alone. Canadians seem to be finding comfort in candy amid the stress of the pandemic, with Nielsen reporting Canadian confectionery sales were up by more than 3% in August 2020, compared to the previous year. And at Mintel, Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight, food and drink, says the pandemic changed the trajectory of 2020 confectionery sales, which were initially down from 2019. “Consumers began to defect from candy categories, cutting back on consumption in order to maintain their health; but COVID changed that,” says Mogelonsky. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that consumers, seeking comfort and security, are buying candy again.” Mintel’s data indicates that young adults, in particular, enjoy the sense of nostalgia that some candy products bring. Nostalgia and comfort seem to be the driving forces behind the growth in candy sales at Alberta-based grocer Freson Bros., according to Lesleah Horvat,­general manager and floral specialist. Horvat says their stores have seen an increase in candy sales, overall, but the boost has been especially large in the specialty candy section, which focuses on retro products.

Indeed, sales in the retailer’s specialty candy section have jumped by as much as 20% in some stores this year, says Horvat. “This candy isn’t your traditional grocery candy—the price points are higher—so [consumers] are treating themselves to a higher-priced item,” she says. It may not have been the ideal year for new releases, however, says Kimberly Snyder, candy brand manager for Dare Food Limited. She says sales of Dare Cherry Canadian Eh, which was released in the summer of 2020, were not as strong as the company had hoped. “We chalked that up to the fact that fewer consumers were physically in stores and they wouldn’t see it,” explains Snyder. “If they’re doing online shopping, they wouldn’t have heard of it because it was new so they wouldn’t be searching for it.” The desire for comfort also seems to be fuelling a trend towards bulk candy purchases. Mike Dziadyk, space and category management director for B.C.-based grocer Quality Foods, says he’s seen an uptick in the sales of larger-format candy packages this year. “I think with COVID, people are choosing to indulge more at home and [are] picking up a lot of what they want,” he says. Dziadyk adds that long, phy­­­­s ically-distanced lineups of

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the pandemic have created an opportunity for Quality Foods stores to add more displayers around the check-out areas to showcase these larger-format packs. “They’re right there as people are lined up, so they have no choice but to see them,” he says. The trend towards larger format packs has also been observed by Mars Wrigley, according to marketing director Barbara Cooper. “We see ourselves in a category centred around moments, and many of them are rooted in immediate or impulse consumption,” explains Cooper. “Mars Wrigley quickly identified that stay-at-home restrictions and less frequent trips to the store meant that how and when people shop was changing, and that this was going to have an impact on these impulse moments,” she adds, noting that consumers are now more likely to stock up on larger bags of candy for future consumption. Consumer desire for larger bags of classic candy, however, doesn’t mean the trend towards better-for-you candies is slowing, says Dare’s Snyder. “I think low-sugar is here to stay. It’s not a fad,” she says, pointing to Vancouver-based SmartSweets as a company that’s shaken up the market with its low-sugar candies. SmartSweets debuted its first plant-based candies in 2018, and Snyder adds that vegan and plant-based candy is another emerging trend. Vegan candy has long been a pillar for Squish, a Montreal-based candy company that launched in 2014. “I was surprised there weren’t more interesting vegan options in the market and I still think it’s quite limited in terms of flavour,” says Squish founder Sarah Segal. “Brands don’t have as much fun with it,” she adds. “They think it’s a serious category, whereas we think it’s as exciting as non-vegan. I think that’s why we’ve resonated.” Ultimately, while consumers seem to crave the choice offered by low-sugar and plant-based candies, it’s important not to underestimate the classics. “The thing with candy is there’s a difference between what people say they’ll do and what they actually do,” says Snyder. “No one wants to admit ‘yeah, I’m eating way more candy.’ People will say they’re trying to be healthier, but then there’s the reality of dealing with a global pandemic and wanting to have affordable luxuries and indulgences. That’s where candy fits in.”




How Sweet it is! “A beer ahead of its time”, Sleeman Honey Brown is crafted with natural honey for a rich, smooth, and unforgettable flavour that’s unmistakably Sleeman. This lager pairs well with something sweet like honey garlic BBQ, and beer nuts. Sleeman Honey Brown is now available in a 6x355ml shrinkwrap in Ontario.

Supporting Reforestation Lavazza ¡Tierra! Organic Amazonia is being launched to support reforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. 100% hand-picked organic Peruvian coffee, Amazonia is a balanced, aromatic medium roast with tropical and floral notes. Founded in 2004, the Lavazza ¡Tierra! Foundation promotes and implements economic, social and environmental sustainability projects in 17 countries. Purchases of Amazonia results in the planting of trees in Peru, with over 6,000 acres reforested so far! Available in Ground and Whole Bean 300gram bags.

South Korean Street Food Arumi Deep Fried Spicy Squid is a crispy Korean fried food, one of the famous street foods or snacks in South Korea. It is full of chewy, plump squid inside spicy frying rolls with an easy cooking method. Consumers can now experience the premium quality of Deep Fried Spicy Squid in their own homes.


All trademarks are owned or used under license by Lactalis Canada, Toronto, ON, M9C 5J1. ©Lactalis Canada, 2020. All rights reserved.




New on shelf! 1  A2 MILK Launched in New Zealand in 2000 and in the United States in 2015, a2 Milk is now available in Canada. While conventional cows’ milk contains a mix of both A1 and A2 protein types, a2 Milk comes from cows that naturally produce only the A2 protein, which the company says makes it easier to digest. Produced in Canada and sourced from Canadian dairy farmers, a2 Milk is available in 1%, 2% and 3.25% homogenized.

Aisles The latest products hitting shelves



2  THAT’S IT. FRUIT BARS That’s It. Fruit Bars are now available in Canada. Already popular in the United States, the bars are known for containing just two ingredients. They contain no added purees, juices or concentrates, and are preservative-free, nonGMO, and free from all priority allergens. This launch brings four of the brand’s flavours to Canadians: Apple + Blueberries, Apple + Mangos, Apple + Strawberry, and Apple + Cherry. 3  LA PRESSERIE FROZEN COLD-PRESSED JUICE La Presserie is a premium, frozen, cold-pressed juice line that its Toronto-based maker says retains “superior flavour and the integrity of its nutrients for up to a year frozen or 14 days refrigerated once thawed.” The lineup of unpasteurized, preservative-free juices includes Orange Passion Fruit with Canadian Maple Syrup, Pineapple Kale with Lemon, and Fresh Turmeric Root and Pomegranate Raspberry with Strawberry.


4  SILVER HILLS BAKERY ORGANIC SPROUTED LOAVES B.C.’s Silver Hills Bakery has launched two organic sprouted breads: Full Seed Ahead and Oat So Lovely. The Full Seed Ahead loaf features seeds and sprouted whole grains, with each slice packed with sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and flaxseed; and Oat So Lovely features high-fibre oats and a touch of natural sweetness from date syrup. Both are certified organic, vegan, Non-GMO, and are free from peanuts and other nuts. 5  CLIF NUT BUTTER BARS Made with organic and non-GMO ingredients— including Canadian rolled oats and real nut butters—the new plant-based Clif Nut Butter Bars come in five flavours: Coconut Almond Butter, Tart Cherry & Cashew Butter, Peanut Butter, Chocolate & Hazelnut Butter, and Chocolate & Peanut Butter. Each bar contains nine to 11 grams of whole grains and five to seven grams of protein.  CG



December 2020/January 2021 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 65

Express Lane


Instacart president Nilam Ganenthiran talks growth, challenges and oppor­ tunities for the grocery delivery giant  By Carol Neshevich Founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Apoorva Mehta (a graduate of Canada’s own University of Waterloo), California-based Instacart was a relatively early entrant into the North American grocery delivery scene. Eight years later, Instacart is a house­hold name across the United States and Canada, with Canadian retail partners including the likes of Loblaw, Walmart, T&T Supermarket, Costco and M&M Food Market. Here, Canadian Grocer chats with the Toronto-based president of Instacart, Nilam Ganenthiran, about the challenges and opportunities 2020 has brought.

2020 was challenging across the board. How’s it going for Instacart? Everyone is a customer of a grocery store but, prior to March, a small fraction of groceries were bought online in Canada and the U.S. We always believed more people would get their groceries online in the coming years, but with COVID-19 we’ve seen adoption accelerate significantly. Over the last year, we’ve seen an unprecedented surge in customer demand with more customers than ever before using Instacart. As a result, we’ve welcomed more than 150 new retail partners and more than 10,000 new stores to the Instacart marketplace this year, giving customers more choice and selection. Today, more retailers and customers are relying on us than ever before, and that’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly.

How did you manage the soaring demand at the start of the pandemic? The health and safety of the entire Instacart community has been, and remains, our first priority. Over the last several months, our teams have worked to ensure we can reliably serve the millions of customers turning to Instacart as an essential service. We’ve launched more than 15 new products as part of a COVID-19 rapid 66  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2020/January 2021

response product roadmap that we designed to meet the changing needs of customers and shoppers in the early days of the pandemic. We introduced “Leave at My Door” delivery, and we rolled out new delivery window options like “Fast & Flexible” and “Order Ahead” to improve availability for customers. We also expanded our Instacart shopper community to meet the increase in customer demand—growing from 200,000 shoppers at the beginning of March to more than 500,000 active shoppers today.

What are some other challenges you’ve had this year? Early on, with bulk buying and product shortages impacting stores across North America, one of the biggest challenges we saw across the industry was item availability. We’ve worked closely with our retail partners to address this by making substantial changes to our “Item Availability Model” and introducing new in-app features for customers like “Out of Stock” badges and item limits. These enhancements have made it easier for customers and shoppers to quickly understand what’s out of stock and immediately explore replacements.

The flipside of challenge is opportunity—how have you seized opportunities this year? In the wake of the pandemic, Instacart became an essential service for millions of people across North America. With this increase in demand, we’ve found more ways to reach across the digital aisles of our retail partners to give customers access to more products and more selection. This includes expanding our alcohol delivery offering to more states and retailers; adding office supply delivery across the U.S. and Canada with Staples; extending our household essentials offering with Costco Canada; and providing health, beauty and wellness goods from Sephora.

Pandemic aside, what’s new and exciting for Instacart? We’re constantly expanding our offerings to meet the needs of our retailer partners and their customers. This focus has been core to our business, and is shown through the growth of our marketplace offering and Instacart Enterprise products. Over the course of the last year, we’ve expanded our marketplace with the addition of features like Rx delivery with Costco, a new Instacart Meals product for made-to-order food from Publix, and the addition of more than 1,500 new Instacart Pickup locations across North America. We’ve also continued to drive the growth of our Instacart Enterprise product. Today, national and regional retailers—including many in the last year like Costco Canada—have partnered with Instacart to digitize their catalogs, build online storefronts, and develop their ordering, fulfillment, pickup and delivery e-commerce channels. We continue to tailor all of our products and services to meet the needs of our retailers and their customers, and look forward to iterating on these offerings in the months and years to come. CG



Here’s To A Safe And Cozy

Holiday Season

Must be legal drinking age. Please drink responsibly.

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