Canadian Grocer December 2021

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Three tech trends Game on! Super Bowl What’s next for changing grocery merchandising tips the supply chain?


Generation Next MEET OUR 2021 WINNERS

INNOVATING FOR THE FUTURE, TODAY Kruger Products is revolutionizing for the future with the latest AI technology to bring bathroom tissue and paper towels into the homes of Canadians when they need it most. We’re investing $25M of leading-edge AI technology at our Sherbrooke, Quebec plant to optimize performance and advance supply chain capabilities across the company.

Inspired by innovation? Expect to do something great at Kruger Products. *


© 2021 ® Registered Trademarks and TM Trademarks Kruger Products L.P. ®’ Registered trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc., used under licence. * Made in Canada with domestic and imported material.


Dec. 2021/Jan. 2022 || Volume 135 - Number 8

Opinions Cover Story

5 || Front Desk 19 || Behind the Trends 21 || Food Bytes 23 || Consumer Connection People 6 || The Buzz

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

8 || The sauce bosses



25 Meet Canadian Grocer’s 2021 Generation Next winners

Bow Valley bbq’s Jamie Ayles and Chris Dean are building a sauce empire

Ideas 11 || Sobeys’ new flexible design

The grocer debuts the Flexstore system at new Orangeville store

12 || Q&A with T&T’s Tina Lee

The ceo chats about the supermarket’s plans for Quebec

13 || 6 trends to watch in 2022


A roundup of the next big things in food (according to experts)

14 || E-comm, stores and more!

Perspectives on a changing industry from ceos Michael Medline, Anthony Longo and Ken Keelor

15 || NielsenIQ’s 4 consumer trends to act on now! Carman Allison lays out key growth opportunities for 2022

Aisles 43 || Alternative goes mainstream


A look at what’s happening in the world of alt meat and dairy

49 || Game on!

Merchandising tips to help you score big in the run-up to Super Bowl

51 || Moringa: Four things to know

Get the lowdown on this trendy plant



TECH TRANSFORMATION 37  From smart stores to voice apps and AI analytics, how tech is changing grocery retail WHAT WILL THE SUPPLY CHAIN LOOK LIKE IN 2022? 40  Though global challenges are putting the squeeze on grocery, it can adapt through lessons learned during the pandemic

53 || New on shelf

The latest products hitting the market

Express Lane 54 || Evolving E-comm

Mercatus Technologies’ Sylvain Perrier on keeping up with e-commerce

Follow us on     @CanadianGrocer     @CanadianGrocerMagazine     Canadian Grocer Magazine

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 3

Introducing the

Canadian Beef Information Gateway Canada Beef has created a digital ecosystem of consumer information to simplify selection, preparation and enjoyment of a wider variety of beef cuts.



Surveyed shoppers* who purchase beef at least once a week expressed interest in accessing the following types of information by scanning a QR code:


For more information about the Canadian Beef Information Gateway contact: Rod Koning, Executive Director, Channel Marketing

Nutrition (75%) Recipe videos (68%) Cooking methods (71%) Food safety (72%) Beef quality and grading (72%) * Consumer research commissioned by Canada Beef.


✓ Sales Growth ✓ Profitability ✓ Customer Experience

Front desk PUBLISHER

Vanessa Peters


Shellee Fitzgerald


Carol Neshevich


Kristin Laird


Josephine Woertman


THE FUTURE IS IN GOOD HANDS Grocery’s next generation of leaders are proving they have the right stuff

Michael Kimpton


Donna Kerry


Megan Judkins


Lina Trunina


Valerie White


Katherine Frederick


Karishma Rajani

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

“What I’m most excited about is the talent we’re able to bring into the industry now and attract,” said Empire Company’s president and CEO Michael Medline at Canadian Grocer’s Grocery Connex conference in November. Medline made the comment during a Retail Leadership Panel discussion that tackled, among other things, the subject of talent. He added: “The people who are joining us now and who have been with us just a few years are going to be fantastic leaders, and better than any leaders we’ve ever seen before.” We couldn’t agree more that Canada’s grocery industry has a deep pool of rising talent, a fact we’re reminded of each year when executing our Generation Next Awards. For 11 years now we’ve been celebrating the industry’s best and brightest under age 40, and the accomplishments of this year’s 18 winners truly wowed us. Among this year’s winners is a marine biologist-turned-­grocer who launched a package-free grocery store in Vancouver to help reduce waste, another is leading Walmart Canada’s first-ever innovation accelerator, while yet another winner is a key part of the team leading Sobeys’ sustainability initiatives, including the elimination of plastic bags at its stores. (Read all of their stories starting on page 25). We’re certain you’ll be as impressed with these trailblazers as we are. On the subject of rising talent, in this issue we also have a profile of Jamie Ayles and Chris Dean, the team behind Bow Valley BBQ. From their base in Canmore, Alta., the former chefs-turned-entrepreneurs are building a sauce empire with their elevated condiments, dressings and

rubs. As if that weren’t enough, the pair have designs on the beverage market as well. (Read their story on page 8). So, despite all the challenges the grocery industry is currently facing, on the talent front at least, the future looks bright. On behalf of the team here at Canadian Grocer, we wish you all happy, healthy holidays. See you in the New Year!

Shellee Fitzgerald Editor-in-Chief

Keep up to date on the latest news by signing up for our e-newsletter. It’s free and we’ll deliver it to your inbox four times a week. Visit to subscribe December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 5

The Buzz

The latest news in the grocery biz

OPENINGS CALGARY CO-OP has opened its first new store in five years in Calgary’s Sage Hill neighbourhood. Located in a new mixed-use development, the new store, at 30,000-sq. ft. has a smaller footprint than a typical Calgary Co-op, but CEO Ken Keelor told Canadian Grocer: “We have been able to plug in all the wonderful products and services members have been used to … You can do a full shop and I don’t think you’ll miss a thing.” Among the store’s features: a full-service bakery as well as deli, meat and floral departments, a pharmacy and about 2,400 local products. The Sage Hill store also incorporates a number of environmentally-friendly features including LED lighting, energy-efficient refrigeration systems and an electric vehicle charging station. METRO has opened three new stores in Ontario in recent weeks. The grocer introduced a new 40,000-sq.-ft. store under the Metro banner in Ottawa’s Lincoln Heights neighbourhood in late October. The new build is located on the same site as a previous Metro location, but is bigger with an expanded fresh and local product offering. In November, the grocer also opened two new FOOD BASICS stores—one in Kitchener’s Williamsburg community and the other in Porcupine, Ont., near Timmins.

Calgary Co-op opened its first new store in five years in a mixeduse development in Calgary’s Sage Hill neighbourhood

Metro has opened three stores in Ontario in recent weeks including one in Ottawa’s Lincoln Heights neighbourhood

T&T SUPERMARKETS has announced it will be opening a Toronto location at CF Fairview Mall in winter 2022. The 36,000-sq.-ft. store will take over a space previously occupied by Sears and is part of the 50-year-old mall’s redevelopment plan. The grocer has also revealed plans to enter the Quebec market in 2022 (read more on page 12). With 29 stores in its network, T&T is Canada’s largest Asian supermarket.

Fast-growing FARM BOY opened a new store in Ottawa’s Stittsville community in mid-November. The 28,729-sq.-ft. store is less than 2 km from Farm Boy’s original location on Main Street, and president and general manager

Jean-Louis Bellemare says the new space is “bigger and brighter” with an expanded assortment and new features including a burger bar food truck and grill station.

Goodness Me! has revealed its revamped flagship store on Hamilton’s Upper Gage Street

6  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2021/January 2022

The Montreal borough of Anjou is home to a new COSTCO . At 155,733 sq. ft., the new warehouse is 20% larger than its previous location, which is just down the street. The retailer says the old location will be converted into a Costco Business Centre. Along with a food court, pharmacy and optical centre, the expanded store also features six self-checkout stations, which is new to the Anjou Costco experience.


GOODNESS ME! NATURAL FOOD MARKET held a “Reno Reveal Party” in mid-November to debut its new and improved flagship store on Hamilton’s Upper Gage Street. Following five months of extensive renovations, the grocer says the 40-year-old store’s transformation will provide its customers with a “much improved shopping experience” with a fresh, vibrant feel that incorporates art from local artists.


At Empire Company Limited, Matt Reindel and Michael Vels have new roles. Reindel, the company’s former senior vice-president of finance, has stepped into the chief financial officer role, which was previously held by Vels. Meanwhile, Vels is now the company’s chief development officer. Empire says the changes are part of a “rigorous succession” plan to develop the “next generation of talent for key leadership roles.” Olymel has named Yanick Gervais as its new president and CEO. Gervais, who joined Olymel in 2016, previously served as the Quebec-based meat company’s senior vice-president, operations. He succeeds Réjean Nadeau who passed away in October. Patrick Heffernan has taken on the role of senior vice-president of customer and client development at Tree of Life Canada. Heffernan, who has experience at REMBrands and UNFI Canada, will succeed Chris Powell who is retiring after 31 years at Tree of Life. At Ferrero Canada, David Rabu has been promoted to vice-president, trade marketing and category management. Rabu joined the confectionery company in 2010 and was recently its senior director, sales, national accounts and e-commerce. At UNFI, Claude Carvalho has taken on the newly created role of director customer experience and sales operations. Carvalho, who joined the company four years ago, has previous experience at Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé and PepsiCo. Sun Rich Foods Canada has announced a number of promotions. Kulvinder Bhatti is now the company’s national human resources manager, while Bruce Cusker is now national operations manager. Ashley Van Dam, formerly manager, sales and marketing has been promoted to director, national sales and marketing. At Crossmark, Marc Lynch has been promoted to director, client services. The role gives him responsibility for many of the company’s headquarter client relationships. Lynch joined Crossmark earlier this year as senior business account manager.


Matt Reindel

Michael Vels

Yanick Gervais

Canadian Grocer wins again at the Folio Eddie and Ozzie Awards! Our March/ April 2021 issue won an Eddie for editorial excellence in the Best Full Issue, B2B Food & Beverage category. The 2021 awards were handed out in New York City in October.

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

Patrick Heffernan

NOTICE OF APPOINTMENT Yanick Gervais, MTax, CPA, CA President and CEO, Olymel L.P.

David Rabu

Olymel is pleased to announce that Yanick Gervais has been appointed President and CEO of the company. Mr. Gervais took up his duties on November 11. By appointing him to lead the company, Olymel’s Board of Directors has recognized Mr. Gervais’ entrepreneurial talent and leadership qualities, as well as his ability to pursue Olymel’s mission of Feeding the World while addressing the challenges that the agri-food industry faces. With the experience of his management team, owner support, and employee commitment, Mr. Gervais will undoubtedly keep Olymel on the path to growth and prosperity.

Claude Carvalho

Born in Trois-Rivières, Mr. Gervais holds a graduate diploma and a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and a master’s degree in Taxation from Université de Sherbrooke. He joined Olymel in 2016 through the acquisition of La Fernandière, a company specialized in the production of a wide range of fresh sausages, of which he had been co-owner and CEO for more than 10 years. From 2018 until his appointment as President and CEO, Mr. Gervais held the strategic position of Senior Vice President, Operations, which involved overseeing the smooth operation of over 30 Olymel processing plants across Canada.

Ashley Van Dam

Olymel is Canada’s leader in the production, processing and distribution of pork and poultry meats. The company has production and processing facilities in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. Its annual sales reach $4.5 billion.


Who you need to know


Bow Valley BBQ’s Chris Dean and Jamie Ayles are building a sauce empire  By Andrea Yu Photography by Colin Way


n 2012, Jamie Ayles had spent a decade working as a chef in Canmore, Alta. He was turning 30 years old and felt ready for a change. “I had been in the industry for a long time,” Ayles recalls. “I had done everything that I wanted to do as a chef and in food and beverage.” Ayles always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so he focused on how he could apply his years in kitchens to a business concept. He landed on the idea for a sauce and condiment company, which would come to be known as Bow Valley BBQ. “At the time, people were moving away from buying generic, cost-valuefirst products,” Ayles recalls. “It was an exciting time to try and evolve [the sauce and condiments category].” Initially, Ayles rented the kitchen of the local Royal Canadian Legion after hours to develop his sauces. After receiving a government grant he was able to move to the Alberta Food Processing Development Centre. Ayles came up with a line of five products: Missing Link Spice Rub, Sweet Chili Corn Salsa, Bigfoot Bold BBQ Sauce, Blueberry Merlot Steak Sauce and Winged Buffalo Hot Sauce, and found success selling them at farmers markets and small retail shops. “I was going doorto-door to local grocers, wherever I could drive to regularly to service it,” he says. Bow Valley BBQ soon caught the attention of Mary and Ernst Huerlimann, owners of the longstanding Canmore-based salad dressing company Boccalino Fine Foods. The Huerlimanns were selling their business because they were retiring. Since Boccalino was already stocked in grocery stores in Western Canada like Federated Co-op and Sobeys, Ayles saw the potential to take over an established brand and use those connections to grow his own sauce business. But he knew he’d need help running two businesses, so he reached out to Chris Dean, a fellow chef he had met back in 2001. “We had worked together for a few different places over about a 10-year period,” Ayles recalls. “I knew he was somebody I could trust.” For Dean, Ayles reached out at the right time. He was at a similar crossroad as Ayles was facing earlier. Having worked in kitchens for two decades, by 2015 Dean was “looking for something different, something a little more static,” he says. The pair put in 70- to 80-hour workweeks as they transitioned to running two companies. “Every single bottle

of dressing and barbecue sauce was made by Chris and me, and labelled and packaged and sent out,” Ayles explains. The next stage was bringing in a co-packer to help the pair produce their growing lineup of products and to give Dean and Ayles more time to expand their business and retail connections. “Our strategy was: how do we start building relationships with the grocers to where we’re getting insights into what they’re thinking and what they’re looking for?” Ayles says. This led to the launch, (in 2016) of their private-­l abel company, which they named Sauce Boss. The move saw the duo developing private-­l abel sauces and dressings for several of Canada’s biggest and best-known grocers. “That allowed us to start getting much better communication with these major grocers without having to pay the big listing fees and real estate fees the big guys do,” says Ayles. Dean stepped into the role of product development, creating unique items like plant-based dressings. Their next major milestone came in 2017 when they struck an investment deal with District Ventures Capital, the fund of famed Dragons’ Den investor Arlene Dickinson. “It made us focus on how to build a working scalable model,” says Ayles of the investment. From there, the company has grown 210%, on average, year-over-year. “We’re fully across Canada with almost all of the major grocers,” says Ayles. “We do business with Costco, Loblaws, Sobeys, Save-On-Foods, Co-op and we’re working on Metro right now.” They were on the brink of signing a co-packer in California to break into the United States when COVID hit. With inflation rising and supply chain issues, they’ve since put that expansion on hold and instead are entering a different market—beverages. “We’re working with Park Distillery [in Banff, Alta.] to do a plant-based Caesar cocktail mix,” Ayles explains. They have a ready-to-drink version of the Caesar, with alcohol, launching across Canada and grocery stores later in 2022. For Ayles and Dean, it’s been a whirlwind since hanging up their restaurant aprons. But there’s no looking back. “You kind of just wake up and you’re like, ‘wow, we’ve been in business [together] for five years,’” says Ayles. “We’re still making payroll and hiring people. It’s an exciting, huge change of mindset from that first stage of being terrified every day of fear of the unknown.” CG

30 seconds with …

JAMIE AYLES AND CHRIS DEAN What’s the best part of your job?

DEAN: The ability to be creative and maintain relationships with people in stores. It’s satisfying.

What’s the best customer feedback you’ve received?

AYLES: We got a letter from a 92-year-old customer. She penned a beautiful handwritten note about what she does with our lemon pepper dressing and how she now tells all of her friends about it.

What is your favourite product that you make and how do you use it?

DEAN: My favourite sauce is probably the Winged Buffalo Hot Sauce. It’s got a lot of heat, but not too much. And it’s got that smokiness. You could use it as a barbecue sauce and chuck it on wings. I love it on pizza. AYLES: My wife is a condiment queen. She puts dips and sauces on stuff that you have no business putting dips and sauces on; like Pad Thai, she’ll put Swiss dressing and jerk sauce on it. People can do whatever they want with our products and that’s what’s cool about it.

What do you like to do when you’re not working? AYLES: Chris and I both used to be pretty avid bikers, skiiers and snowboarders. But with the company being just the two of us, we have to be a lot safer because if one of us goes down, we’re looking at a work stoppage. So we play a lot of golf now.

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 9


Natural choices can lead to great things. We’re proud to support




The Flexstore system used at this Sobeys features mobile fixtures that can be rearranged



Sobeys’ flexible store format Sobeys debuted its new-concept store in Orangeville, Ont., in November that uses the “Flexstore” system by European design firm Interstore | Schweitzer. The modular concept features mobile fixtures that can easily be rearranged, allowing grocers to expand, reduce or make other adjustments to various departments as needed. The units, many of which are on wheels, attach to building services such as water and electricity using connections from the ceiling that are fed into the counters and fixtures. This allows retailers to change counters (or switch from service to self-service) and rearrange entire departments quickly and easily, without major construction costs. For example, the pizza counter can easily be replaced by a salad bar by simply moving and exchanging the counters. Elements of the Flexstore concept are being used by some of Interstore | Schweitzer’s European clients, such as Swiss food retailer Migros. The Sobeys location is the first grocery store in North America to implement Flexstore. In an interview with Canadian Grocer, Interstore | Schweitzer CEO Bernhard Schweitzer said there is strong interest and demand from

grocers to have the ability to adapt store layouts and product assortment more frequently as consumer trends shift. “For example, serviced meat departments are becoming smaller and areas like HMR and convenience products are becoming bigger,” he says. “Rather than have to completely change and renovate the store every eight to 10 years [when budgets allow], retailers have the possibility of changing or reconfiguring the store every year or two years without big investments.” “The big advantage is [that] now whenever Sobeys wants to make changes, whether it’s to enlarge, reduce, or change the composition, they can do that easily,” said Schweitzer. “Nothing is fixed to the floor, which makes it very quick and easy to adapt and that’s what Flexstore is all about.” While a big selling point of the Flexstore concept is not having big renovation costs down the road, grocers can also experiment with shorter-term changes. “In Europe, some of our clients are testing seasonal layouts, for example, expanding the offering in the fresh departments for the holiday period and then reducing them in January and February,” said Schweitzer.— Rebecca Harris

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 11


T&T sets its sights on Montreal CEO Tina Lee on the Asian grocery chain’s Quebec plans  By Chris Powell In December, T&T Supermarket announced plans to open its first Quebec store on the Island of Montreal sometime within the next 12 to 24 months. The country’s largest Asian supermarket chain is “on a roll” says its CEO Tina Lee. Canadian Grocer caught up with Lee to ask why T&T is turning its attention to Quebec now, what the rollout will look like, and what’s next for the specialty banner.

Why is T&T entering the Quebec market now?  Robert Sawyer [COO with parent Tina Lee, CEO of T&T Supermarket

company Loblaw] had a lot to do with it. He lives in Montreal, and since joining the team he has come to know more about our business and loves it. He’s a very big driver [of the decision] and gives me more confidence that T&T can be successful in Montreal. I’ve only visited Montreal a few times, and more often recently to make this decision, and I’ve really grown to admire the culture. They love and enjoy food. It’s part of French heritage to enjoy every bite of food. They [Montrealers] love to explore different flavours, and T&T should be part of that food ecosystem. We continue to have a lot of growth opportunities in the provinces in which we operate, and Loblaw has a good team on the ground in Quebec, so they’ve been very supportive in helping us take this big step. With Robert’s encouragement, this is why now is the time.

Had Montreal been on your radar prior to Robert Sawyer’s arrival?  It’s a very specific market … and we have to do more preparation to enter the province. We have a heightened awareness of that. Before that, we’d been focusing on the other three provinces in which we operate [British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario] to maximize our growth there. It’s easier and faster to grow our footprint [in those markets] but now we have a solid foundation and we’re ready to take that next step into the next province. While there are additional processes [required] to break through in Quebec, I’m confident it’s going to be worth it. 12  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2021/January 2022

Other than language, are there cultural differences you have to account for? Do you anticipate it’s going to be radically different to other store openings in the country?  I hope not. If T&T sticks to what we do best, I’m hoping the people of Montreal will come and enjoy exactly that. For us, the biggest piece we have to get right is the language. I’m not coming into Montreal with a store selling local cheese and wine. That’s not our forte. It’s to bring an Asian flair to Montrealers, which is what we do best. I think they’ll enjoy that.

Do you anticipate your product assortment will be different in any way, or will it mirror that of other T&T locations?  It will largely mirror that of our other stores. But, the reason [we’re announcing this now] is … to open up the channel for local vendors.

Is this approach typical in other markets?  This is different. T&T stores are, in my view, quite complex and it takes time for a new department head or supervisor to learn the ropes and execute our business model. We think it’s going to take more than a year to train someone who doesn’t have any T&T experience to be able to efficiently manage a part of our store. In Ontario, we don’t need to do that as we can transfer talent from other stores. Quebec is a new province, and we want to to hire French speakers. That’s the reason why we’re coming out early, to do recruiting and vendor outreach, even before we are announcing the exact location. We want to make sure the service offering is the best it can possibly be.

Can you talk a little bit about your growth strategy and where you’d like to be let’s say five years from now?  T&T is very opportunistic when it comes to locations—we evaluate each on their own merit as they come up. We’ll grow as the right locations come up. I’m really happy and proud of the team we’ve built, especially over these last couple of tough years. I think we’ve built a solid foundation, enough to position us for growth. We have the confidence to step into mall locations, where traditionally supermarkets haven’t seen success. Fairview Mall [in Toronto] is the most recent announcement, but in October we opened in Willowbrook Shopping Centre in Langley, B.C. We are at Promenade Mall in Thornhill, Ont., we’re in Metro Town Mall in Burnaby, B.C., we’re in West Edmonton Mall, we’re in Lansdowne Centre in Richmond, B.C., so we have a successful track record where we feel there is still a lot of runway for growth for our model. That would likely make us one of the faster-growing banners in the country. We are announcing today our first store in Montreal. Depending on whether the community likes it or not will define how many more stores we can open. I have no idea whether the people of Montreal will actually like what we do, and if they do, there’ll probably be more opportunities.



1  NEXT GEN PLANT-BASED FOODS While plant-based foods continue to gain momentum, nutrition and sustainability will play a bigger role in the next generation of these products, according to Innova Market Insights. The market intelligence firm identified “Plant-based: The Canvas for Innovation” among its top 10 trends for 2022. “We’re not just now mimicking meat, mimicking milk, but plant-based has really become a canvas for innovation,” said Lu Ann Williams, Innova’s global insights director on a recent webinar announcing the trends. “We really are going to see a major shift in terms of the types of products that we see made,” she said. This will include growth of plant-based products with a premium or indulgent claim (think desserts, ice creams). Innova is already reporting a 59% increase in new plant-based products carrying such claims. Williams noted that as more and more chefs work on high-end vegan menus this will change perceptions around what plant-based foods can be.

6 FOOD TRENDS TO WATCH What those in the know say will be the next big things in 2022


The New York-based Specialty Food Association (SFA) tasked its Trendspotter Panel of experts to examine the trends that will drive growth in 2022, and top of the list: pasta. While pasta’s popularity may have dipped in recent years thanks to keto and low-carb diets, COVID has spurred a return to comfort food “reviving the pasta category.” SFA says it’s seeing new and less familiar pasta shapes along with a resurgence of gluten-free and alternative grain pastas like black rice, pumpkin, red lentils and purple carrot that are serving up a twist on the traditional.

3  POTATO MILK The humble spud is poised to step into the alt milk spotlight. U.K. grocer Waitrose identified potato milk as a “future trend” in its recent Food and Drink Report. Low in sugar and saturated fat, potato milk is also touted for its sustainablity—potatoes don’t need much to grow so have a low carbon footprint. Experts also say it boasts more minerals and vitamins than its plantbased rivals. Watch your back, oat milk!




A few firms (including Innova, Nourish Food Marketing and ADM) predict gut health will become more important in 2022 as consumers become more aware of the link between gut health and things like immune health, energy levels, improved sleep and mood. While probiotics and prebiotics have been familiar to consumers for awhile, a new “biotic” is emerging. “We’re starting to see some of the suppliers in the industry talk more about postbiotics,” says Innova’s Williams. Postbiotics, as defined by Harvard Health, refers to the waste left behind after prebiotics and probiotics are digested, which can be beneficial for gut health.

Whole Foods Market ranked this lesser-known Asian citrus No. 2 in its Top 10 Food Trends for 2022. The natural grocer’s Trends Council (who determined the list) say yuzu, with its tart and sour taste profile, is taking the culinary world by storm. It’s now popping up in everything from mayo to hard seltzers and cheesecake.

4  BUZZ-LESS SPIRITS The “sober curious” movement, which emerged pre-pandemic, continues to gain relevance, says The Hartman Group and it has sparked a reimagining of non-alcoholic alternatives for consumers, expanding the options available. Whole Foods also listed “Buzz-Less Spirits” among its Top 10 Trends for 2022, noting that the dialed-down spirits category saw record-growth in its stores this year.

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 13


E-COMM, STORES AND MORE! Three of Canada’s grocery leaders give their perpsectives on navigating an ever-changing industry At the Retail CEO Panel at Canadian Grocer’s GroceryConnex conference in November, we asked three of the industry’s leaders for their take on some of the big things shaping grocery. From e-comm to in-store tech and talent, here’s some of what Michael Medline, president & CEO of Empire Company; Anthony Longo, president & CEO of Longo’s; and Ken Keelor, CEO of Calgary Co-op had to say:

Michael Medline

Anthony Longo

Ken Keelor

E-COMM – GREAT EXPECTATIONS E-comm continues to be a hot topic in the industry so we asked the three leaders how they see it evolving from where it is today and how consumer expectations are changing in this space? “Where it’s going is really to a more interactive experience online,” said Calgary Co-op’s Keelor. Having the basics in terms of assortment and functionality of e-comm, is one thing, he said, but consumers will want more, so bringing the great things you do in-store to life as much as is possible will be important. Empire’s Medline added that few customers are strictly online shoppers, many do both. “When they think of our banners and our brands they think of just shopping—they don’t differentiate like we think sometimes they do,” he said. The panel all agreed that with so many options available, today’s customers have greater expectations around e-comm. “That sort of base crummy e-commerce shop that some were offering during COVID and continue to offer is not going to make it,” said Medline. “Customers are going to get pickier and pickier and expect more and more frills like they have in the store, [when they shop] online.” And with consumers wanting what they want when they want it—be it click-and-collect or delivery to home—Longo added that the challenge to retailers

14  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2021/January 2022

is to figure out how to provide these services in a way that’s profitable. “There’s still a cost to serve and we need to figure out how to make sure it pays for itself in some way,” said Longo. BUT DON’T FORGET THE STORES! While the acceleration of e-commerce has been the big news story in retail over the course of the pandemic, Medline said grocers must remain focused on the stores. While e-comm’s share of sales has climbed steadily, the bulk of groceries continue to be (and will continue to be for some time) purchased in store. “We can’t lose sight of that,” he said. “I believe that a lot of companies around the world in retail and especially in grocery are putting all their money into e-commerce and into technology, but the stores have to be kept up. We have to keep investing in them for our customers … Customers expect great shopping conditions and great service when they return to the store; not less but more. I think people are losing that.” And while retailers are investing heavily in technology to enhance the store experience, innovation for innovation’s sake is useless, said Medline. True, you have to make in-store shopping exciting, but before adding all the bells and whistles, you first need to get the basics correct. Medline said this means having things like great teammates in-store, a friendly checkout experience and fully stocked shelves. “If you don’t have the basics right … you’re building an infrastructure on a house of sand, it’s a disaster. So that’s what I’m trying to balance all the time—you’ve got to get the fundamentals right and you have to have amazing teammates in the store, as we do. Then you can add to that. But sometimes I’m seeing a lot of innovation that’s just not adding a lot to the customer.” THE TALENT QUESTION With Canada in the grips of a labour shortage and persistent headlines warning of “the great resignation” the panel was asked what retailers need to be doing to attract and retain talent today. “I think you need to do what you always have to do as a great employer and that’s to provide meaningful work, work with a purpose,” said Longo. He added that employers have a responsibility to provide opportunities for their employees to learn new skills, in IT, for example. “We’ve got to be investing in their education, investing in how they learn and give them the opportunity to grow and do cool things … not just keep the lights on kind of work.” And then there’s mentorship. Longo says it’s important that your best employees have mentors within the business to help them navigate whatever challenges or opportunities they encounter in their roles. “Really, it comes down to investing in your team and investing in your people. When you do that, people know you care … and you want them to succeed.”

Ideas Keelor added that it’s important to be mindful of the different generations within your ranks and know you must be open-minded and flexible, especially with younger teammates who are challenging the norms. If they can get a job done in two hours, they’re asking why do they need to work an eighthour shift or work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.? The younger generation also expects authenticity from an employer. “They want to know what we’re doing about the environment, what we’re doing socially … they’re not joining companies anymore; I think they’re joining movements,” said Keelor, adding that these employees will move on quickly if they find the company doesn’t live up to their expectations. “It won’t be about the money. We save to buy a house; they don’t

care. They rent or live with a relative ... They’re more mercenary; not about money, but about what they want out of their lives. So that’s a lot to think about and it’s not an easy nut to crack.” Grocers also need to do a better job at selling grocery retail as a place to have a great career. “Retail is the most exciting place, bar none. If you like innovation, if you like technology, if you like people, if you like competing, it’s a great place to be,” said Medline. “People today, to their credit, are more choosy … and they should be choosy and not work at places that aren’t good places, that don’t fit their values. So, more and more, we need to think about values as part of the way we convince people that we’re great places to work.” CG —Shellee Fitzgerald

NielsenIQ’s 4 consumer trends to act on now Carman Allison outlines key growth opportunities for 2022 CONSUMERS AND GROCERS alike are under pressure on all sides: from a record 4.4% inflation, Canada’s household debt crisis, the rising price of fuel and transportation costs and ongoing supply chain issues, along with lingering effects of the pandemic on buying behaviour. “There’s a lot of pressure right now that potentially is impacting growth [for grocery retailers], and CPG is not immune to the inflationary trend,” said Carman Allison, vice president sales development, North America at NielsenIQ, at Canadian Grocer’s virtual GroceryConnex conference in November. In his keynote, “Consumer Spending: Rewrite or Rerun?” Allison provided data-driven insights on the consumer shifts that will define 2022. There are “rewrites” or trends that will rewrite future growth opportunities, and “reruns” or pre-COVID trends that are coming back. Here’s a look at four key trends: Stagflation with rising prices (Rewrite): Stagflation is defined as slow economic growth occurring alongside high rates of inflation. Allison said that’s happening now in the grocery industry, where we’re seeing higher prices (-1% dollar sales) and a low-growth environment (-4% consumption). For grocers considering price increases, Allison cautioned against blanket increases. “They don’t work,” he said. “Every single item in your portfolio has different price sensitivities and promotional effectiveness ... So you need to be more strategic on your pricing strategies.” Buying on promotion (Rerun): Buying on promotion is almost back to pre-pandemic levels: 48.1% in 2021 compared to 50.3% in 2019. However, Allison said shoppers aren’t running around to different

stores to buy what’s on sale. They’re doing one-stop shops and taking advantage of those in-store promotions. “Even though I’ve described promotional activity as a rerun, we have an opportunity to make this a rewrite,” said Allison. “There’s still a need to offer promotions to consumers, but we don’t want to have aggressive price cuts because that’s not a sustainable growth strategy.” Spending continues to shift online (Rewrite): The shift to online grocery shopping was perhaps the most notable shift during the pandemic. Now, grocers should pay attention to “omnishoppers”: those who shop online and in-store. Allison said they’re a powerful cohort that spends 33% more per shopping trip and 29% less on promotion. “They’re shopping more for convenience and are less promotionally driven,” he said. Another trend is that food departments are leading online basket growth, at 63.4%. “The biggest shift we’re seeing is that consumers are becoming more comfortable with buying fresh [food] online,” said Allison. “They’re now trusting retailers to put those items in their baskets.” Shopping discount retailers (Rerun): Discounter grocers’ share of wallet is almost at pre-pandemic levels (44% in 2021 versus 44.2% in 2019). While discounters offer lower price points than conventional grocers (about 14% less), they also carry about 10% fewer items. “If you’re going to have 10% fewer items, make sure you have the right items in that store because you need to focus on high-turnover items to drive retail sales and profit,” said Allison. “If you have products that are 14% lower priced, you have to sell 14% more items to make up for that lower sales potential as consumers shift over to discount.” —Rebecca Harris

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 15

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for options to incorporate Canadian pork in other recipes like stir fry.

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BEHIND THE TRENDS  ||  Matt Godinsky

Price pressure As prices continue to rise in Canada, consumer habits are changing. What impact will this have on grocers?


Consumers have also favoured discountfocused store formats, leading to increased revenues for grocers focused on offprice grocery retail. While some grocery retailers have seen revenues dip in 2021, discounters are among those likely to see strong revenue growth in 2022

Throughout 2021, Canadian consumers have seen a marked increase in the cost of groceries across nearly all categories. While price increases vary by product category and across retailers, the increasing cost of a trip to the grocery store is having a noticeable effect on the way consumers shop for food. Notably, consumers are seeking private-label products, are less loyal to grocery brands and are altering their purchase habits of food items like meat where prices have increased more rapidly. Ongoing global supply chain disruptions, continued concerns about COVID-19 and environmental issues all play a role in inflation, meaning food prices will likely remain elevated well into 2022. The implications are significant for both Canadian consumers and the grocery industry at large. For Canadian consumers, particularly those living near or below the poverty level, inflation poses

significant challenges. In addition to seeing higher prices at the grocery store, consumers are also seeing price increases in housing, energy, transportation and virtually every other category of consumable goods and services. Over time, sustained inflation will put additional pressure on families in need— many of whom are already feeling this. A recent poll from the Angus Reid Institute found that 45% of Canadians currently find it difficult to feed their family. Sustained inflation will likely cause that percentage to continue rising throughout the next year. To combat these pressures, consumer shopping behaviours are shifting, changing the outlook for grocery retailers in Canada. Coupon clipping and bulk purchasing have been gaining popularity among Canadian consumers throughout the latter half of 2021. In addition to leveraging shopper rewards programs, consumers are turning to apps such as Flipp and Checkout 51 to find deals on groceries. Consumers have also favoured discount-focused store formats, leading to increased revenues for grocers focused on offprice grocery retail. While some grocers have seen revenues dip in 2021, discounters are among those likely to see strong revenue growth in 2022. Bulk purchasing has also become a popular strategy for consumers seeking to save money on grocery purchases. The trend towards bulk purchasing helps explain the success of Costco this year. Costco’s Canadian revenue has grown by upwards of 15%, and the company will continue to see revenue growth in the months ahead thanks to its focus on bulk retail and a highly competitive pricing strategy. With pandemic-related supply chain issues continuing to linger into 2022, inflation will likely continue affecting grocery prices for the bulk of the year. Consumers will feel the pressure imposed by higher prices and seek out grocery deals via coupon clipping, bulk purchases and discounted-oriented stores. For retailers, pricing strategy and supply chain management will be crucial for driving revenue growth and maintaining customer loyalty. Retailers with discount store formats and those focused on bulk retail are poised for continued growth in the year ahead, but unforeseen developments in the broader economy could lead to sudden changes in the grocery industry. Only time will tell when inflationary pressures might subside, but Canadian consumers are eager for relief from the elevated food prices of 2021. CG

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

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 19


Aiding the Amazon Made of 100% USDA Organic Arabica coffees, ¡Tierra! Organic For Amazonia is hand-picked from Peru in South America. Balanced and aromatic, with refreshing tropical notes and floral undertones this blend supports reforestation of the Amazon Rainforest through the Lavazza Foundation.

Bringing Kibbeh to Canadians Introducing KabKeb – Canada’s first brand specializing in ‘Kibbeh’ - the Middle East’s most popular stuffed entrée. Originating from the Mediterranean, this versatile dish gained popularity throughout Europe, Africa and South America. KabKeb is proud to bring this delicacy to Canada, using locally sourced natural ingredients. Consumers can enjoy four unique flavours including beef, chicken and plant-based spinach as a main course, appetizer, snack, or pair them with tabbouleh, greek salad, hummus, or tzatziki for a hearty, delicious meal.

Avocados all year-round Fresh, delicious, versatile, and super healthy, avocado is an excellent substitute for many ingredients and perfectly in line with healthy— and fun!— eating habits of Canadians. The fruit is known for being a source of “good fat”, which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and it is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. For any occasion, in any form, and whether the recipe is hot or cold, Avocados From Mexico are widely available all year round and can be enjoyed sweet, salty or spicy. Talk about versatility!


FOOD BYTES ||  Joel Gregoire

Elevating frozen meals With the lines between dining in and dining out continuing to blur, there’s a growing appetite for higher quality frozen meals


After a long day of work with a family to feed and little energy to spare, frozen meals can be a lifesaver on weeknights. Many of us have had the experience of grabbing these items for a quick, convenient meal. But it’s in this context that frozen meals have been limited, as they’re often viewed by consumers as emergency food. This will always be the case to some extent, but during the pandemic frozen foods have also undergone a renaissance. As people hunkered down at home, filling up chest freezers with foods that would last in an emergency became appealing. That was then, and this is now. Canadians are becoming less anxious, and foodservice is rebounding. As a result, this is putting pressure on retail compared

With an air of authenticity, The Pie Commission makes “gourmet, savoury pies” made with whole ingredients

to 2020. The main question that companies need to ask is, how can they adapt to this “next normal?” Canadians expect elevated meal experiences, at least some of the time. Value may be the dominant topic right now with inflation surging, but value doesn’t just mean low prices. Mintel’s data shows the main reasons Canadians turn to unique at-home meal solutions, such as meal kits, is they’re hungry for new ideas and they want what they prepare to be simple. Frozen foods, crafted with care and quality, can fulfil these needs. Formulation matters, of course, but so does positioning. There are more examples of frozen offerings in the market that are building a reputation for offering real ingredients and, to some extent, restaurant-quality meals. These products also tell compelling stories about their origins, which make for compelling brands. The Pie Commission, a company whose products can be found at self-branded stores and select grocers, demonstrates how frozen foods can be elevated. The Ontario-based company produces what it describes as “gourmet, savoury pies” such as Tourtières, Chicken Mushroom Pot Pies and Braised Beef Rib Pies made with whole ingredients. The packaging is dead simple with no glossy pictures on the front of the package. In a funny way, this makes the pies stand out, giving off an air of authenticity and confidence when it comes to quality. Though not cheap, anyone who’s tried these savoury pies would have a hard time arguing that they don’t deliver great value for the price. As for whether shoppers will buy in, findings from the United States show an ample selection of consumers say they will. When asked what they would like to see more of when it comes to frozen, prepared meals, “hearty comfort food” tops the list at 44%. “Restaurant-branded” meals (37%) and “gourmet items” (36%) are the next most commonly cited areas of interest, according to Mintel research on the U.S. prepared meals category. In short, there are many consumers who are looking for quality and convenience and they are willing to pay for it. If anything has changed during the pandemic, it’s been a blurring of the lines between dining in and dining out occasions. The past two years have only amplified the importance of the at-home dinner occasion, which means there’s opportunity for the frozen meal space to step up with elevated offerings. Frozen meals need not be relegated to emergency occasions, but can be a “go-to” when looking for simple, restaurant-quality dinners that can be heated up at home. 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

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 21









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Rising grocery costs cause concern The practical effects of food price inflation are set to hit grocery retail especially hard in 2022


According to Caddle’s 10,000-member Daily Survey Panel (September 2021), 86% of consumers believe food prices are higher now than six months ago—including 93% of baby boomers, 89% of gen Xers and 79% of millennials

IT’S BEEN SPLASHED across the newswires and picked up by major media outlets across the country: Canada’s food inflation rate is sitting at close to 5%. (According to the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, this number is more accurate than the 2.7% value proposed earlier by Statistics Canada.) Which categories are driving the increase? For one, meat products, which Statistics Canada identifies as one of five main upward contributors to Canada’s Consumer Price Index over the last 12 months, with prices spiking nearly 10% since September 2020. Canadians are by no means blind to the rising cost of putting food on their tables. According to Caddle’s 10,000-member Daily Survey Panel (September 2021), 86% of consumers believe food prices are higher now than six months ago—including 93% of baby boomers, 89% of gen Xers and 79% of millennials. What’s more, 52% of consumers believe the

price of “meat products” have increased the most among seven distinct food categories. (Compare the next-closest categories: “groceries and others” at 16%; “vegetables” at 11%; and “fruits” at 9%.) Regardless of whether increases have been driven by unseasonable weather, supply chain challenges or other proposed factors, retailers and manufacturers alike are already feeling the practical impact of rising food prices on Canadians’ spending habits. For example, half of consumers have reported a reduction in meat purchases in the past six months due to higher prices. (Particularly surprising, consumers in Canada’s largest beef-producing provinces—including Alberta and Saskatchewan—over-index on this measure by at least four points.) Meanwhile, upwards of one in three consumers are taking concerted steps to save money during their grocery trip. Such tactics include using more coupons, purchasing more private-label/store brands and discounted goods, and shopping more weekly flyer deals. The implications of such shifts in consumer behaviour will be far-reaching and are likely to cause downward pressure on various levels of Canada’s retail sector, from retailers all the way up the supply chain to product manufacturers. • For retailers: We expect to see an acceleration in consumer spending on private-label SKUs because of increased costs in major food categories. • For meat producers: Consumers are likely to continue to shift their eating habits away from premium-priced protein (e.g., beef) toward cheaper meat options (e.g., chicken). At the same time, as more meatless protein options become available—and as prices decrease, following the glut of products that hit the market either just before or during the pandemic—we expect more consumers will turn to meat alternatives to round out their meal planning. • For product manufacturers: This season of inflation could be “make or break” for national brands that may have rested on their laurels throughout the pandemic, in effect waiting out the situation and hoping that consumers will return to pre-pandemic levels of spending. Pre-pandemic, Canadians were already overwhelmingly a nation of savings-seekers. The ongoing challenges of COVID-19 have only intensified this behaviour. As consumers continue to seek out value-conscious alternatives in the grocery aisles, the onus is on stakeholders at all levels, including retailers as well as producers and manufacturers, to more intimately understand the factors that drive consumer decision-making—so both the industry and the shoppers can win at shelf. CG

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

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 23

Congratulations, Eli Browne! Eli was recognized as one of this year’s recipients of the Generation Next Awards, for her work in spearheading meaningful sustainability initiatives at Empire and Sobeys Inc. Eli’s bold leadership was integral in Sobeys Inc. becoming the first Canadian grocer to eliminate single-use plastic checkout bags nationally — resulting in 800 million bags taken out of circulation as more customers reach for reusable options. Her innovative vision and passion for helping both the planet and communities nationwide established a national partnership with Second Harvest to divert surplus food to those in need. Since May 2021, more than 2 million meals have been donated to families across Canada as a result of this partnership. Thank you, Eli for your dedication to building a better future and blazing a trail for the Canadian grocery industry for generations to come! Eli Browne Director Corporate Sustainability

Generation Next

TOP of the class By Carolyn Cooper, Chris Daniels and Rosalind Stefanac

No question, Canada’s grocery industry is bursting with talent. And for 11 years now, Canadian Grocer has been shining a light on up-and-coming talent with the Generation Next Awards. This year’s impressive Gen Next winners work in all areas of the industry in roles that range from supply chain and sustainability directors to store managers, marketing and innovation leaders and CEOs, too. What these 18 rising stars have in common is that they’re young (all are under age 40), they’re incredibly accomplished and they’re passionate about what they do. Let’s meet the 2021 Generation Next winners:

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 25


Generation Next SARAH AU

Director of Marketing MUSKOKA BREWERY The craft beer industry is not known for being diverse and inclusive. As a proudly gay woman born to immigrant parents, Sarah Au is changing all that. Au helped develop a new IPA for Muskoka Brewery and marketed it to a neglected audience in the beer category. Named after the anthem of the LGBTQ community, Born This Way


Omnichannel & New Revenue Streams Team Lead UNILEVER CANADA During her 10 years at Unilever, Laura Dobson has steered the integration of SheaMoisture and Schmidt’s deodorants and soaps into Canadian retail after the company acquired both global brands. She describes this as “a career highlight.” The work was “end-to-end,”

IPA devotes partial proceeds from sales to help fund antiracism and LGBTQ corporate inclusivity training via the non-profit Get REAL. In 2021, Born This Way IPA raised more than $25,000. Launched as a “smallbatch program” prior to Pride Month in June 2020, the IPA has become “a core brand in our portfolio,” explains Au. “That’s great because the LGBTQ community is year-round.” During the pandemic, Au also helped to keep Muskoka Brewery growing with the launch of two new brands, Tread Lightly and Muskoka Spirits Hard Sparkling Water, in categories Ontario craft breweries weren’t playing in. In previous roles, Au worked on brands like Burt’s Bees and Brita, creating a campaign for the latter that provided 60,000 Kenyans with clean water. “Those are the campaigns I will remember years from now,” she says. “I want to keep striving for having that kind of impact.”

from strategy to launch, and on “purpose-led brands, which I am super passionate about,” says Dobson. In her current role since March 2021, Dobson is credited for having raised the bar on Unilever’s e-commerce push, and leads the Healthy Working team in Canada, meeting monthly with her global counterparts to share mental health best practices. Dobson has also embraced her role as a mentor. “I get a lot of energy from developing people and


Director of Corporate Sustainability SOBEYS Even as child, Eli Browne was passionate about protecting wildlife from the perils of plastic. So, it’s fitting that she and her team spearheaded the elimination of plastic bags at all checkout counters in Sobeys and its associated banners. Not only did this initiative help eliminate

800 million single-use grocery bags from circulation annually, but it encouraged 85% of Sobeys shoppers to bring reusable bags or go without. “I think the fact we have such a high percentage [of customers] who don’t require single-use bag shows we are impacting customer behaviour,” she says. Earlier this year, Browne announced Sobeys’ partnership with food rescue group Second Harvest, which enables the grocer and its banners to divert food waste and provide Canadians with more access to fresh food. A 12-week pilot of the program, which Browne helped implement in 16 stores, diverted more than 110,000 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. Since May 2021, Sobeys has donated more than one million meals to families in need. In playing such a pivotal role in Sobeys’ commitment to sustainability, Browne says she is simply responding to what customers are asking for.

helping them to do their best work,” she says. Working in consumer packaged goods runs in the family for Dobson. “My dad spent his entire career in CPG, and initially I fought him tooth and nail about studying business,” says the former arts student, who eventually realized where her true passion was. Her brother also works in the industry, but, fortunately, in confectionery. “It means dinner table conversations are less stressful,” she jokes.

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 27

Congratulations Erin McKeever MARKETING MANAGER | eCommerce & Digital

Please join us in congratulating Erin McKeever on her Canadian Grocer’s 2021 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!

© 2021 ® Registered Trademarks and TM Trademarks Kruger Products L.P. ®’ Registered trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc., used under licence.

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


Ryan Nesbitt Store Manager, Save-On-Foods Whitehorse

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


Marketing Planning Manager CALGARY CO-OP Calgary Co-op’s privatelabel brand, Cal & Gary’s, launched with more than 800 products in 2020 and is flying off shelves at the Co-op’s 23 food stores. That’s owing “to the public awareness we generated for the label,” which, in the face of tough competition during lockdown, “exceeded all expectations,” says Melissa Edighoffer.


District Manager FOOD BASICS/METRO Never one to shy away from a challenge, Kyle Findlay opened his first store within his first three months as district manager, and his second store during a pandemic. For the latter, he hired staff and coordinated orientation, training, stocking shelves and merchandising, as well as the grand opening, all

Edighoffer deserves a good amount of the credit— she has led the brandbuilding marketing efforts. Fun, smart and markettailored, the award-winning launch campaign featured headlines like “Ready to Crack. Like your windshield” for Cal & Gary’s Organic Brown Eggs, a clever nod to Alberta’s brutal winters. Born and raised in the province, Edighoffer says “it was super exciting to work on a campaign that resonated specifically with Calgarians.” She also makes sure to spotlight

local growers and producers in the Co-op’s marketing, from in-store signage to promotions. Calgary Co-op has grown the number of local products it carries to 2,300, from about 1,200 just a few years ago. “Their support of local is what attracted me to apply here in the first place,” says Edighoffer, who joined the company in 2019 from clothing retailer Mark’s, another Calgaryheadquartered company where she managed content and consumer marketing.

while complying with COVID-19 provincial health protocols. An employee with Food Basics since 1998, Findlay has held a variety of positions, from department head to grocery specialist and even HR manager. As a result, he has a keen sense of the business from a variety of perspectives and has been lauded for his ability to identify issues and resolve conflicts. Since becoming district manager in 2019, he has become a true advocate for training and development, promoting numerous employees and developing a training program for assistant managers to further develop their skills. “In my role overseeing multiple stores, I can make a difference in morale and in pushing my teams to do better,” he says. “I love being there for my managers in helping them achieve results—we hit our targets and, more importantly, our customers are happy.”


President BLIND BAY VILLAGE GROCER James Inglis credits his time working in the grocery industry in dozens of communities across British Columbia and Alberta with helping him “learn from some of the country’s best grocers.” Among those lessons, he says, is that “success occurs when your employees are highly engaged and driving for results. The better your people do, the better they look after the customer and, in turn, the better the business performs.” This kind of thinking has worked well for Inglis, who has been president of Blind Bay Village Grocer in B.C. since 2018, winning the grocer numerous awards and a prominent place within the region for its many community initiatives. “I’m also proud of how our store stepped up to help our community during COVID,” says Inglis, noting the store launched online

and automated ordering and added new departments like fresh seafood. “I’m most passionate about helping people, whether it is helping customers in unique ways such as grocery delivery, or helping an employee achieve personal and professional goals. And I love how grocery stores are such a staple in the communities they serve; it gives us a chance to be difference makers in our towns and have a longlasting impact.”

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 29

is proud to recognize

Natacha Roy and

Kyle Findlay

Natacha Roy Director, National Procurement, Grocery – METRO

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

Kyle Findlay District Manager, Food Basics

107693 M Ad-Canadian-Grocer.indd 1

2021-11-24 14:58

CONGRATULATIONS on your GenNext Award!

Calgary Co-op would like to recognize

MELISSA EDIGHOFFER Marketing Planning Manager

We appreciate your commitment towards making a difference in the grocery and retail industry. Your focus on innovation and dedication to hard work is making a positive impact on our team and the 440,000 members we serve.


Generation Next REHAN IQBAL


Almost every morning, Rehan Iqbal spends an hour or two walking around his store, catching up with staff and greeting customers. “That is my favourite part of the job,” he says. Those interactions are what attracted him to the grocery business when, at age 16, he got a part-time job in the hot foods department at his local Loblaws store. After university, Iqbal


Vice-President, Ice Cream Category AGROPUR COOPERATIVE After seven years at Agropur, Claudia Joanis became vice-president of the ice cream category this April, making her one of three Agropur vicepresidents under age 40, and the only woman. The ice cream category has grown under her leadership, with net sales

completed Grad@Loblaw, the company’s 18-month management program, and was offered a position as assistant store manager at one of the grocer’s superstores. After managing a few stores, in 2019, at age 30, Loblaw awarded Iqbal with his own Your Independent Grocer franchise in Sudbury, Ont. The focus on community has translated to business growth. Iqbal’s store has partnered with about a dozen local vendors and carries their products exclusively. “We can see on our Google Maps business profile that people drive 30 or 40 minutes for those products,” he says. Iqbal’s store has collected 5,000 pounds of food in the past year for the Sudbury Food Bank and raised $5,000 for the Infant Food Bank. “I could never imagine my baby daughter going hungry,” he says. “We’ve just scratched the surface on the impact we can have in the community.”

increasing by 7% between 2020 and 2021. “I thoroughly enjoy working in the grocery industry, and I love finding new ways to add value and grow with customers and connect with consumers. And I really appreciate working with products that fulfil an everyday need,” says Joanis. “Over the years, I have developed specific skills around managing and growing B2B partnerships, and I’m proud to say that I have been a key player in transforming Agropur into a


Head of Innovation, Blue Labs WALMART CANADA A business disrupter through and through, Lee Jeyes is accustomed to pushing the boundaries to bring retail to the next level. In his new role, he is leading Walmart’s first-ever innovation accelerator and incubator, which is focused on testing and scaling radical innovations in retail.

In his previous roles at Walmart, Jeyes developed the Store Innovation team structure to advance the smart store strategy and was one of the founders in developing the online grocery business for Walmart Canada in 2015. “We created and launched five smart stores across the country and connected them so the technologies could work individually, as well as together in harmony,” he says, noting that his team built all the mobile apps used by store associates and implemented computer vision cameras and machine learning technology to detect out-of-stock items. “If we can use technology to automate those boring, mundane tasks we can focus on the more important things,” he says. “What really motivates me is helping reinvent what future retail stores look like and how to serve customers better.”

major Canadian B2B player and a customer-centric organization.” Joanis is also committed to mentoring, and has coached Agropur employees on a one-on-one basis. She is also a member of “LIFe (Inclusive Women’s Leadership), a company initiative to inspire and influence employees and management to enhance and accelerate the development of inclusive leadership.”

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Generation Next


Almost every year since 2011 Marcin Krzyzanowski has been promoted, thanks to hard work, dedication, and his go-getter attitude. He joined Maple Leaf Foods in its Canada Bread division with a master’s degree in labour relations, and a week into the job presented his boss with a career plan. “She still references it as the most realistic plan from a

twentysomething she’s seen. I wasn’t looking to be CEO in three years,” he says with a laugh. Krzyzanowski helped the company overhaul pay and bonus structures. And when Grupo Bimbo acquired and rebranded Canada Bread as Bimbo Canada in 2014, he was promoted to human resources manager. When an opportunity arose to manage logistics and distribution in Western Canada, he seized it. “I always see myself as someone who can contribute more,” he explains. A project he led cut annual transport travel by 40 roundtrips on the TransCanada highway. A three-time President’s Award winner for being a high-performer, Krzyzanowski was named a Bimbo Canada director in 2021. That’s two years behind the aforementioned plan, but impressive given his ascent hasn’t been linear. His problem-solving skills are now being brought to bear on a high-priority function: supply chain.


Marketing Manager, eCommerce & Digital KRUGER PRODUCTS Six weeks into Erin McKeever’s job at Kruger Products, the pandemic hit and Canadians started emptying grocery shelves of products like bathroom tissue including Kruger’s Cashmere brand. McKeever led an initiative in partnership with Mercedes-Benz that saw more than 30,000 care packages delivered 32  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2021/January 2022


Store Manager LONGO’S Mathew Maiss has been working at Longo’s since the tender age of 15, so it’s no surprise it feels like family. He also makes it his mission to ensure Longo’s “guests” feel the same way. “We have a culture at Longo’s where we treat our guests like family and nothing makes me happier than getting comments saying they feel well taken care of,” he says. In fact, getting compliments from Longo’s patrons for his exemplary customer service and compassion is a regular occurrence. As a store manager at the Longo’s Bayview location in Thornhill, Ont., Maiss has also created a positive atmosphere where team members not only feel appreciated but are encouraged to cross-train and thrive in new opportunities.

to frontline workers at 32 hospitals across the country. “They weren’t getting an opportunity to get the products they needed,” she explains. The pandemic also dramatically accelerated online shopping, and with the professional poise she’s known for, McKeever helped get Kruger up to speed. She spearheaded the creation and management of online content and partnered with product development and manufacturing on products like a ready-to-ship case of Cashmere bathroom tissue

While he admits the pandemic has been among the most challenging periods of his career so far, Maiss credits it for inspiring moments of great professional pride, too. When his elderly guests expressed fear in leaving their homes to get groceries, for example, he quickly took charge to offer phone orders with curbside pickup or delivery. “I was happy we were able to respond to the community when they needed us most and create a safe space.”

for launch on Amazon. “We were on key retailer websites,” she says, “but we didn’t have our own e-commerce content, online media activity or e-commerce-specific products.” McKeever cut her teeth at digital ad agencies and moved to the client side in 2014 at Nestlé Purina. She was its first hire to bring digital marketing skill sets in-house. “I love the client side,” she says. “You get to be integrated into the work at every stage of the discussion.”

Generation Next


Co-Founder and CEO NADA GROCERY Brianne Miller’s interest in the food system began with her love of the oceans, and a realization of the impact industrial food production had on the ecosystems and endangered species she studied as a marine biologist. She launched Vancouver’s Nada Grocery


Senior Finance Director, Canada & International JM SMUCKER (CANADA) Doug Palmer has been with JM Smucker for 16 years. His move from the United States to Canada for what he thought would be a one-year contract, ended up changing this life. After progressive finance roles with the company, Palmer took over responsibility for supporting its Canadian and

five years ago to help tackle food and packaging waste within the supply chain. “We’re now on a mission to connect people to a regenerative food system, championing a community food system by linking buyers to suppliers and offering healthy, unpackaged products,” she says. Nada Grocery has also become a certified B-Corporation and 1% for the Planet company (the latter group recently recognized Nada as its global business member changemaker of the year), donating 1% of all top-line revenues to grassroots environmental organizations tackling food insecurity, education and conservation initiatives. Miller says surrounding herself with industry experts has been key to Nada’s success, which includes her team of approximately 50 employees, who, she says, “bring me so much joy! I am so lucky to be surrounded by passionate, smart and talented folks who care so much about their community and making local foods more accessible.”


Store Manager SAVE-ON-FOODS As manager of Save-on-Foods’ only store in the Yukon, Ryan Nesbitt has supported many new team members transferring to his store throughout the pandemic, resulting in an almost 27% reduction in staff turnover. Under his leadership, the store has also tailored its product offerings to better

international businesses. Palmer has supported the launch of three new brands into the Canadian market, as well as the integration of the Big Heart Pet Brands business into Smucker’s Canadian business. “I very much enjoy being able to provide the support to bring new products to market in the best way possible,” he says. “It’s unique in CPG that the work you do has the ability to be seen and experienced by your friends and family directly.” Palmer also established

serve a growing South Asian population and, in doing so, improved sales by nearly 14% in 2020 over the prior year. “We felt it was important to fill that need not only to give us a competitive advantage, but to support our friends and neighbours,” he says. Given that his store acts as a grocery hub for many outlying communities beyond Whitehorse, Nesbitt launched the hamper program in collaboration with the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate (YFNED) to bring food supplies to those in need over the holidays. Since the initial hamper order in 2019, the program has grown exponentially. “We deliver close to 10,000 boxes of food in more than 10 semi-trucks to 1,650 families in the span of a couple weeks,” says Nesbitt. “It is, by far, one of the most exhilarating and rewarding experiences of my career.”

a sales finance team, which he says continues to inspire him with its accomplishments. “I find it extremely rewarding to be able to recruit and build a high-performing team that has been integrated into the various functions of the business,” he says. “By embedding resources in key areas, we are able to bring financial insights and assist in making key decisions across the organization.”

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Generation Next NATACHA ROY

Director, National Procurement, Grocery METRO Natacha Roy has been on all sides of Canada’s food industry, starting at the age of 22 when she was a transport dispatcher for the meat and produce warehouse of a national grocery chain. With myriad roles since then—from private-label merchandising and category management to regional sales and


Category Sales Development Manager MAPLE LEAF FOODS Mandy Siu joined Maple Leaf Foods right out of university under its Leadership Track Graduate program, and after working at other major CPG companies, she returned to Maple Leaf three years ago and is now category sales development manager. “I love how grocery and CPG touch people’s lives, and take pride in working for products I believe in and that I can see my friends and

procurement—she has demonstrated her ability to lead, collaborate and think outside the box to challenge the status quo. Roy joined Metro’s pharmacy division in 2010 as a banner development manager where she developed new concepts in health and wellness foods. She gleaned further industry perspective with roles in manufacturing where she was in charge of the Metro accounts for Quebec and Ontario. In her current job, Roy is

family enjoying.” Siu is also a committee member of Maple Leaf’s Multicultural Advocacy Network, which supports and celebrates cultural diversity. “I have been able to support the planning of powerful sessions that inspire meaningful discussion and action for Maple Leaf employees,” she says. “I’m a strong believer that everyone has something to give. By keeping an open mind and working together, we can make something better.” That’s why teamwork is also key, says Siu. “When we work together, we bring in different experiences, perspectives, ideas. It’s this interaction and collaboration to problem solve and push for better that inspires me every day. My goal is to inspire others and to support the growth of my team members and empower them, just as my leaders have empowered me.”

34  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2021/January 2022

managing and developing Metro’s purchasing program in Quebec in tandem with many national categories. Under her leadership, the number of local suppliers increased by 22% in fiscal 2020 from 2019, and sales rose by 10%. “I’m really happy to have found this industry at the beginning of my career,” says Roy. “I’m constantly in touch with suppliers and banners with new innovations coming to market—what we’re doing is really dynamic.”


“I joined Three Farmers because I saw an opportunity to bring great tasting, healthy foods to market in a more direct manner—from farmer to consumer,” says Natasha Vandenhurk, who has been CEO of Three Farmers since 2011 when the Saskatchewan-based healthy snack company launched. Vandenhurk says the best part of her job is “the challenge of learning something new every single day, whether it be stretching myself to be a better leader and communicator, or learning about a new market and figuring out the keys to success to getting product on shelf in that new market.” She’s most excited about the changes Three Farmers Foods has made in the past year, “specifically our new stock options program that we rolled out to everyone during our farm tours in August,” and

says the company plans on expanding its annual farm tour. “I would love to get more people in the industry involved in coming out to our farms and seeing firsthand where our food comes from. I really believe that we’re making a positive impact in this world with the products we put out into the market.” CG

Unilever Canada would like to congratulate Laura Dobson for her Gen Next award. We appreciate Laura’s strong contribution to the organization and culture. She is a passionate leader and inspires those she works with to reach new heights.

Congratulations Laura!

The J.M. Smucker Co. is proud to celebrate Doug Palmer as a Generation Next Award winner!

Congratulations Matthew Maiss,

Store Manager at Longo’s Bayview, for your well-deserved Generation Next Award presented by Canadian Grocer!

Doug’s passion for our people, our brands and the industry has helped shape our strong organization.

Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition, Doug! Thank you for being an exceptional leader and for your commitment and passion to the grocery industry. You truly demonstrate Longo’s values and vision each day.


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Tech trends

TECH TRANSFORMATION By Carol Neshevich and Rosalind Stefanac


Technological innovation is changing the grocery business, and at a rapid pace. But which technologies have the potential to be truly transformative and where should retailers be investing? Canadian Grocer spoke with the experts to get their take on everything from computer vision tech to voice apps and AI analytics. THE RISE OF THE “SMART STORE” From electronic shelf labels and digital wayfinding tools to smart carts and even checkout-free stores (à la Amazon Go and its ilk), the digitally powered “smart store” looks to be the way of the future. In October, Instacart acquired smart cart company Caper AI, further blending the in-store and online shopping worlds. And while Amazon Go was the first big example of cashier-less stores with the debut of its “just walk out” technology in 2018, there’s now a proliferation of similar stores— including Canada’s Aisle 24 (with locations in Toronto and Montreal) as well as Tesco, which recently launched its own checkout-free GetGo in the United Kingdom and Carrefour Flash in France. “We’re very much seeing this blending of the digital and physical worlds of shopping. Up until very recently, I think many supermarket retailers that got into e-commerce always thought of it as, ‘Well, online shopping happens over there, and my physical stores are over here, and never the two shall meet. They’re two different things.’ But they’re not, not in today’s world,” says Gary Hawkins, CEO of The Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART). He notes this blending of digital and physical includes everything from shoppers simply using their smartphones to scan QR codes in the store to learn more about products to smart carts that help customers not only navigate the store, but also offer recipes, product suggestions and the ability to check out right in the cart, skipping the checkout line.

For Sylvain Charlebois, senior director, agri-food analytics lab at Dalhousie University, a big focus of all of this is the “exit” part of in-store shopping. “I call it ‘Grocery Exit 2.0,’” he says. “The exit part of the grocery experience has always been mismanaged, in my view. And those things like Amazon Go and the smart cart, I see this as more of a focus on making the exit experience better.” He views these two solutions as different approaches to the same issue: “One is an infrastructure-heavy model, which is Amazon Go and the like; and the other one is empowering the customer, using tools in real time as they go through the store themselves. [With the smart cart] you basically tool them and they’ll go in different directions and they’ll design their own experience, their own way, based on their own needs.” Charlebois sees the smart cart as a more practical, less infrastructure-heavy tool for a grocer to invest in, as opposed to the complete overhaul needed to implement a cashier-less store like Amazon Go. Vinayak Madappa, an advisory partner at information technology services firm Capgemini, believes the pandemic has accelerated many smart store technologies. “From my perspective, a big part of the smart store evolution happened due to the change in consumer behaviours, and that was largely accelerated through the pandemic. But if you look at it, consumers, by nature, what do we want? We want convenience, we want speed. We want localization and personalization,” he says, noting things like digital wayfinding (to help

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Tech trends

38  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2021/January 2022

time to sit back while others innovate. “Retailers have often preferred to let a competitor try some new tech or innovation or process, figure it out, make sure it works, and then they’ll [invest in it themselves],” he says. “I don’t believe that’s a safe business strategy anymore. We live in a world of exponential growth of these technologies, computer vision being a classic example of that. And forward-looking retailers today, of all sizes, can’t look at what’s going on today around this solution or that capability. They’ve got to be looking out a year, two years, three years, four years from now. And that’s what should be driving their investments.” Capgemini’s Madappa agrees. “There’s always that question of what’s table stakes versus what’s innovation,” he says, “and, in my view, innovation is becoming table stakes.” THE POWER OF VOICE—USING TECHNOLOGY TO COMMUNICATE AND CONNECT In an ideal world no one would ever run out of eggs or their favourite coffee cream. Instead, long before that happened, your fridge would determine what products were running low, send an order to your local grocery store and then alert you when it’s ready for curbside pickup or delivery. Communicating with your fridge is not that far from reality. In fact, Amazon is currently working on a “smart” fridge that will track inventory and expiration dates, suggest recipes based on what’s on hand, and then make it easy to order more from an Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods grocery store. In the meantime, companies like Samsung and LG are already offering AI-powered refrigerators that can scan what’s inside and let you know when inventory is running low. In finding ways to make seamless connections between home and food shopping, voice technology is gaining traction with grocers as more consumers get comfortable communicating in a digital word. Last year, French supermarket giant Carrefour Group partnered with Google to launch a voice-activated online grocery service where consumers can add items to their digital grocery carts by talking to their smart phone (or other device). Shoppers who link their Carrefour and Google accounts simply add items to their carts by saying product names or brands. Opportunities for voice technology applications in-store are gaining momentum, too, says Marty Weintraub, national retail leader at Deloitte Canada. Deloitte’s research shows people are interested in using voice tech to locate products, learn about discounts and deals, and get help at checkout. “I think there will be a lot of these sorts of in-store applications of voice that we haven’t seen come to market yet,” he says. David Ciccarelli, founder and CEO of Voices (a marketplace of freelancers trained to do voice-overs and other audio requests), says harnessing opportunities for voice technology applications will be important for grocers for a variety of reasons, including the need to alleviate concerns around high-touch surfaces in stores,


speed up the shopping trip), electronic shelf labels and increased digitization of the in-store experience can address many of these wants. “And with COVID and the post-pandemic world, as normal as it gets, it’s going to “With a include contactless.” computer For CART’s Hawkins, however, it’s computer vision vision technology (a key part of Amazon Go’s “just walk out” platform intech) that’s one of the biggest game changers. Put sim- store, I know ply, computer vision is a complex computer system that how many essentially “sees” as a human would—so it’s more than people are just recording video of what’s going on, but also uses coming in the artificial intelligence (AI) to “understand” what it’s seefront door, ing. “On the retailer side, the technology I’m watching, every minute which I think is really going to be transformative, is the of the day. I computer vision … and that space is moving really fast,” can feed that he says. “They opened the first Amazon Go store in 2018 information to and it was about an 1,800-sq.-ft. store. Then about a my scheduling year later, they opened a 10,000 sq.-ft. store. Then Amasystems, zon Fresh opened this year at 25,000 sq. ft., and they’re so I know taking [the “just walk out” tech] to a Whole Foods store how many of 37,000 sq. ft. next year.” people I need While that gives an indication of how quickly it’s to have out growing and scaling, Hawkins says computer vision’s in the meat significance is going to be greater than most retailers department, expect. “The sexy part of it right now is, as a shopper, I or the bakery can walk in and I can walk out ... But in my mind, that’s department, just the beginning,” he says. “What that technology is or how many really doing is digitizing that entire physical store, and rotisserie opening the door to countless other applications and chickens to benefits that can sit on top of that.” have out, and As an example, Hawkins says with a computer vision so on and so platform in-store, “I know how many people are coming forth” in the front door, every minute of the day. I can feed that information to my scheduling systems, so I know how many people I need to have in the meat department, or the bakery department, or how many rotisserie chickens to have out, and so on.” ​​It also provides 24/7 monitoring of out-of-stocks, he adds. “The camera sees when product goes out of stock on the shelf, and can automatically notify somebody at the store to refill it. Might seem like a little thing, but out-of-stocks represent around 8% of sales lost. So it’s a huge thing.” This can also have big benefits when it comes to e-commerce: “If you connect a computer vision platform to e-commerce, as soon as that last item was sold, it can automatically be shut off in the digital store. When it’s restocked, it can automatically be put back,” he says. What’s more, a computer vision platform can monitor accidents in the aisle, slip and falls, somebody dropping a bottle of salad dressing; it can also monitor shoplifting and security. “Then the big area that excites me is linking that shopper behaviour data: where the shopper goes in the store, how long they spend there, etc. … in my mind, when you’re talking about the physical store, it’s that computer vision platform that I think is going to be the most transformative.” Deciding which smart store innovations to invest in is undeniably tricky, but Hawkins says now is not the

Tech trends


even post-pandemic. “Everything about grocery shopping is hands-on—from pushing the shopping cart to picking out produce to using the pin pad while checking out,” he says, noting consumers will come to rely on audio in place of physical touch. “Voice technology is not a trend, it’s the new way of doing business.” As more and more people get used to using voice-first technologies such as phone assistants, Ciccarelli says they will expect to be able to do the same at their grocery store. By incorporating audio options, he says the whole grocery shopping experience also becomes much more accessible to those customers who are hearing impaired or struggling with certain physical abilities. The benefits of voice technology extend to grocery staff as well, says Weintraub, especially as employers continue to struggle with labour shortages. “Think about other [voice] use cases that might apply in making employees more efficient to serve customers better,” he says. One example is Walmart’s “Ask Sam” assistant, available to more than 5,000 store associates in the United States. Employees can use Sam to look up prices, find products or for emergency alerts. Using voice technology at point of sale or checkout points in the grocery store can also free up employees to focus on other tasks in the store. But even with all the possibilities, Weintraub notes that scalable application of voice technology in grocery stores is still several years away as investment focuses have shifted to more pressing needs during the pandemic. “I think most grocers of size are experimenting with this kind of technology, but none of it has been brought to scale just yet,” he says. AI ANALYTICS BOOST EFFICIENCIES AND PROFIT POTENTIAL Optimizing inventory, improving delivery times, increasing sales and reducing operational costs; it’s the secret formula every grocer strives for and what AI is being touted to help deliver. According to the June 2021 McKinsey & Company report, “Grocers can fuel growth with advanced analytics,” grocers that have been using AI analytics for a while have already mastered the use of the technology for mass promotion and pricing and are turning to applications like real-time data gathering to improve store efficiencies on the fly. McKinsey Global Institute estimates the annual global value of AI for the retail industry to be at US$400-$800 billion, with grocery experiencing an increase of 2% in earnings before interest and taxes if the technology’s value is truly captured. “It won’t come as a surprise that most of the initial [AI] use cases in grocery are around inventory,” says Deloitte’s Weintraub. “Whether that’s forecasting or replenishment allocations and pricing promotions, that’s where we’ve seen enormous uptake, even before the pandemic.” He also predicts there will be more platforms coming to help “democratize” this technology so it becomes more accessible to the average grocer.

Deloitte’s research shows people are interested in using voice tech to locate products, learn about discounts and deals, and get help at checkout. “I think there will be a lot of these sorts of in-store applications of voice that we haven’t seen come to market yet”

Myles Gooding, national consumer markets leader & global consumer markets advisory leader, PwC Canada, says while retailers are certainly focusing on using AI analytics on the backend to improve capital efficiencies, they’re also starting to explore front-end applications. “Can I take it to the next level of what my customers are doing at the postal code level and can I start to use that to influence things like tailored localized assortments, whether for online or off-line shopping?” he says. In fact, Gooding believes retailers who aren’t at least exploring what AI analytics can do for them will be left behind as their competitors get ahead of the curve in knowing exactly what their customers want and need. This could be especially true as continued labour shortages indicate there could be fewer actual people available to do these calculations. “Technology is the enabler of a data ecosystem and the more you start to adopt that ecosystem mindset, the more opportunity you have to understand your customer and be able to run your business more efficiently.” AI advocates say keeping up with shoppers’ ever-evolving online shopping behaviour to predict demand requires analysis of shopping history and buying trends that humans just can’t compute as quickly or as accurately as machines. The expectation is that AI analytics will also play a key role in being able to see competitors’ progress on a daily or even hourly basis so retailers can quickly make pricing and promotion adjustments accordingly. So, what’s holding grocers back from adopting AI? With cost being an often-cited barrier to technology adoption, the McKinsey report’s authors note grocers looking to try AI use cases in-store will benefit from using external vendors and tools as the “fastest, cheapest and least risky route” to get there. They’ll also need to invest in organizational changes driven from the top down to make these technology impacts stick. Gary Saarenvirta is founder and CEO of Daisy Intelligence, a Canadian AI software company that provides services via the cloud so grocers don’t have to invest in costly infrastructure investments or complicated coding. Retailers get advice on what to promote when and why—and at what price—resulting in a 3% to 5% year-over-year same store sales lift, he says. “What our software looks for is what we call the ‘halo effect’ or combination or products,” he says. Rather than promoting a case of water in your flyer, for example, the software may suggest promoting ground beef this week, which may nudge shoppers to also buy pasta, sauce and wine, leading to a larger transaction. “With 50,000 products, it’s way beyond human ability to optimize the right combination of products every time.” In taking these kinds of mundane calculations and planning processes away from grocers, he says they can focus on more strategic tasks. “There are things people are better at—like negotiating with vendors and talking about new produce ideas,” he says. “Let AI do the gory mathematical stuff.” CG

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Global challenges put the squeeze on the grocery sector, but it can adapt through lessons learned during the pandemic By Rebecca Harris

THE GREAT TOILET PAPER RUN of 2020 may now be a distant memory, but grocers aren’t out of the woods when it comes to pandemic-induced supply chain woes. Globally, retailers are struggling to secure inventory amid shipping delays, product shortages and rising costs, paired with pent-up consumer demand. Manufacturers are feeling the squeeze, too, faced with labour shortages and a lack of raw materials. While there’s no need to panic—or panic buy—the struggles are hitting home for Canada’s grocery sector. “Our food supply chain is very robust, however, there are bottlenecks for grocery suppliers in Canada,” says Amar Singh, principal analyst at Kantar Consulting. He notes that raw materials such as chlorine and resin for plastic and packaging are in short supply. In addition, worker shortages continue to plague farms and food processors, which was a problem before COVID-19. And even if goods are ready to go, Singh notes there aren’t enough truckers to move them: there’s a labour shortage in that sector, too. “So, all of these factors are going to accumulate and pose challenges, and that’s one reason we see grocery prices going up for many categories,” he explains. A recent survey by Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada (FHCP) highlights the ongoing struggle of getting products on shelves. More than 75% of FHCP members report that moderate to severe labour shortages are impacting their ability to supply products in Canada. Other top factors constraining production include high prices and limited supplies of ingredients, packaging and transportation. On the produce side, a joint statement from 21 North American produce associations warns that substantial increases in costs and delays along the supply chain threaten food security and the longterm economic viability of the North American fresh produce sector. The groups are calling for “urgent government action” to resolve supply chain disruptions such as crippling port congestion, delays and rising costs in container shipping, labour shortages and stockpiling of product by consumers. Despite all these challenges, it’s not likely the grocery industry will be hit with widespread product shortages in 2022. “If you’re in the big five—Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro, Walmart and Costco—your supply chains are probably reasonably robust,” says supply chain expert Gary Newbury. “All you’ve got to do is perhaps motivate suppliers to prioritize you over your four competitors.” While there might be some natural product shortages as a result of changes in demand patterns, Newbury says the staples and products customers would normally expect to find will be on store shelves. “It’s in retailers’ interest to have stuff on the shelf, so they’re fighting very hard to get stuff on their shelves.” Being an independent grocer also has its benefits when it comes to supply chain disruptions. “We



Supply chain can be quite agile as far as adjusting our supply chain requirements,” says Giancarlo Trimarchi, managing partner at Vince’s Market and chair of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG). “We’re often not doing our own importing ... So, if a shortage happens we can often pivot and find another supplier.” On the flip side, when product shortages occur, independent grocers are often last on manufacturers’ lists. “We’re not the priority on supply when it comes to national brands, in particular,” explains Trimarchi. “Because we’re working through our wholesale distributors and oftentimes not getting [goods] direct from manufacturers, we seem to be a bit delayed in catching up with the products that have been disrupted.” With produce, Trimarchi notes that Vince’s Market sources from the Ontario Food Terminal so the business is less impacted on that front as well. “Unless there is an item-wide shortage at the market, generally speaking, we’re not waiting for a truck to cross the border.” While he doesn’t foresee any shortages of fruits and veggies, there could be perishability issues. “I think that’s a totally realistic expectation: something that might have only taken two to four weeks [to arrive] from picking now comes in at eight weeks old,” he says. “Once it comes out of its refrigerated state and gets put on shelf, it’s going to deteriorate quicker than we’re used to.” The key to mitigating that issue is having good core operating standards: ordering the right amount, training staff on how they’re culling the produce, and ensuring customers aren’t receiving substandard products.

How to strengthen supply chain resilience

For grocers, other lessons learned during the COVID19 crisis can help them navigate today’s supply chain challenges and build resilience. “One big learning was that machine learning and artificial intelligence does not work when you have things like pandemics and other major disruptions,” notes Singh. “So, you have to go back to the fundamentals of retailing, which is optimizing your assortment with products that you can secure in a timely fashion and with more reliability. Focus on the marquee SKUs that sell well and have fewer constraints.” The big lesson for Vince’s Market was the importance of having robust vendor relationships and multiple supplier partners. Trimarchi says it’s a win-win to have open lines of communication with vendors and provide ample opportunities for them to win the business. “And when you have multiple relationship channels, if you start to experience shortages in a particular product line or category, you have alternatives you can go to quickly.” Another consideration is that it may be time to put down the pencils and start paying more attention to

“One big learning was that machine learning and artificial intelligence does not work when you have things like pandemics and other major disruptions,” notes Kantar’s Amar Singh. “So, you have to go back to the fundamentals of retailing, which is optimizing your assortment with products that you can secure in a timely fashion and with more reliability. Focus on the marquee SKUs that sell well and have fewer constraints”

the frontlines. “The people making the purchasing and category decisions need to be tied to what’s happening on the sales floor,” says Trimarchi. “Not just with statistics and spreadsheets, but to what trends are starting to form, what the staff are saying they’re starting to see issues with, and what the truck drivers are saying at the loading dock. You just have to be hyper-connected right now and then be prepared to be responsive.” While the pandemic taught everyone to expect the unexpected, the recent floods and mudslides in British Columbia are also a reminder to be prepared for the next disruption. The weather-related events, which shut down highways and railways and cut access to the Port of Vancouver, also led to empty grocery store shelves in some areas of the province. Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agrifood Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University says while retailers are very good at adapting and working with their supply chains to secure product, the biggest challenge is managing consumers’ expectations and making sure they don’t panic buy. “Panic buying is the worst. You want to encourage people to do the opposite and buy a little at a time and visit the stores more often,” he says. “Especially now, we’re hearing certain products like produce aren’t as fresh and they’ll be ripe much more quickly at home, as supply chains are much slower than they used to be. That was even before the floods. And so, you want to encourage people to visit your stores as much as possible. Rationing is also quite appropriate, especially in the middle of a crisis like this.” Supply chain disruptions aside, one major factor on the horizon for 2022 is the proposed grocery code of conduct, which will create rules for how suppliers and retailers do business with each other. Newbury says there was “a slight glimmer of hope” in how collectively big grocers worked with their suppliers at the height of the pandemic. “They came to an understanding to reduce their SKUs and they could only focus on so many products, so that all of the big players and the independents going through the buying groups were able to get something on their shelves,” says Newbury adding that suppliers and retailers experienced real collaboration during this period, but, unfortunately, the collaborative spirit didn’t last long. Among the issues the code of conduct aims to address are the lack of predictability and transparency with regards to retail fees and barriers to market access for small suppliers. “I think the code of conduct will start to level the playing field,” between retailers and suppliers and remove some of the barriers to innovation, says Newbury. “As retailers, we’ll need new, exciting products and choice,” he adds, and when suppliers are under pressure, “the first thing that tends to disappear is their ability to innovate on product development.” CG

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ALTERNATIVE GOES MAINSTREAM A slew of new alt meat and dairy products is hitting the market, giving consumers more choice than ever before By Jessica Huras

interest in alternative meat and dairy products remains high, driven by consumers looking to make more eco-conscious and healthier dietary choices. And innovation is making plant-based products more delicious and diverse than ever. While some companies in the alt meat space have recently reported a slowdown in sales, attributed to a range of factors, there’s no denying plantbased foods are still big business. In fact, a 2021 report from NielsenIQ shows plant-based foods are now a $1.1-billion market in Canada with 17% growth in the 52 weeks ending May 15, 2021. Alternative meat and dairy products are leading the category. “It just keeps rising over and over again. Year after year, [we’re seeing] double-digit growth,” says John Mastroianni, vice-president merchandising at Toronto’s Pusateri’s Fine Foods, describing the interest he’s seeing in plant-based meat and dairy.

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 43

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“Taste still rules—and we know it’s the biggest barrier to overall plant-based meat adoption. Ultimately, a lot of consumers are seeking out plant-based options that have the same flavours and textures as the animal products they used to (or may still) enjoy”

The popularity of alt meat and dairy is largely being driven by flexitarian or “plant-curious” consumers who also purchase traditional meat and dairy products. “We know that more and more Canadians are interested in a flexitarian diet and want to introduce more plant-based products into their mealtime routines,” says Kathlyne Ross, vice-president product development and innovation at Loblaw. “In fact, we’re noticing that our plant-curious customers span across all age categories. It’s not just one specific demographic looking for more meat and dairy alternatives.” Experts note that alternative meat and dairy products have broad appeal across age groups because the potential benefits of plant-based eating are equally varied. Older demographics typically turn to alternative meat and dairy as a better-foryou addition to their diet, while younger consumers tend to be motivated by the smaller ecological footprint of plant-based eating. NielsenIQ’s report found 32% of Canadian households that consume plant-based products are driven by health consciousness, while 23% hope to contribute to environmental sustainability. “Older demographics are looking at plant-based products because of health reasons and doctors telling them to reduce their red meat intake. For younger generations, it’s about the environment,” says Tony Morello, CEO of plant-based food company Zoglo’s Incredible. While health has long been a motivator for consumers purchasing alternative meat and dairy products, growing global attention to sustainability is also giving the category a boost. “Consumers are much more aware of the impact their food choices have on the environment,” says Brittany Hull, vice-president, marketing at Earth’s Own, a plant-based beverage company headquartered in Vancouver. “People are starting to come to plant-based eating for environmental reasons, whereas we didn’t see that as much even two or three years ago.” Consumers are also more interested in alternative meat and dairy for the simple reason that as the plant-based food industry continues to innovate, the products taste better and make more appealing replacements for their traditional counterparts. “Product innovation is certainly driving interest in plant-based products,” says Mitchell Scott, co-founder and CEO of the Very Good Butchers in British Columbia. “Taste still rules—and we know it is the biggest barrier to overall plant-based meat adoption. Ultimately, a lot of consumers are seeking out plant-based options that have the same flavours and textures as the animal products they used to (or may still) enjoy.” The Very Good Butchers recently launched a new lineup of premium plant-based meats called Butcher’s Select, which includes burgers, sausages and

meatballs. “These products pack an extra meaty taste and texture, and contain nothing but real and recognizable plant-based ingredients—you will find navy beans, pea protein and organic veggies,” explains Scott. Zoglo’s Incredible recently overhauled its plantbased meat lineup, leveraging new technology to create a more meat-like texture in its 12 new SKUs. “It’s what we call an extrusion process,” says Zoglo’s Morello. “It allows the pea protein and the soy protein to mirror a muscle meat texture.” Jim Delsnyder, Zoglo’s COO, says the brand’s pubstyle chicken tenders have been the bestseller so far from the revamped product lineup. Adam Grogan, COO of Greenleaf Foods, also notes that plantbased chicken is a rising star in the alt meat category. “We’re seeing a revolution in [plant-based] chicken that I think is the next wave—it’s the next [plantbased] burger,” he says. In October, Greenleaf rolled out an unbreaded, whole-muscle, plant-based chicken made from pea protein under its Lightlife brand in Whole Foods Market locations across the United States and Canada. “When you tear it apart, you can almost see the pull of a chicken breast,” says Grogan. Mastroianni says Pusateri’s stores have recently added Heura Mediterranean Chicken Chunks, a Spanish brand made from soy protein, to their alternative meat lineup. “It actually tastes and feels like chicken,” he says. Many of the plant-based chicken items from the Very Good Butchers, Zoglo’s Incredible, and Greenleaf leverage peas as an alternative protein source. Peas are also popular among plant-based milk companies like NotMilk from Chile and Sproud from Sweden. Sproud, which recently made its debut in Canada, claims its pea protein-based milk alternative requires 80% less water to produce compared to almond milk, while also containing five times as much protein. It also claims to offer a more neutral flavour compared to many other plant-based milk options, making it a straightforward substitute for milk in baking. Similarly, sustainability and taste are the main reasons oat milk continues to dominate the alt milk category. “Oat milk is about as perfect as you can get right now for plant-based milk,” says Earth’s Own’s Hull. “It’s creamy and delicious, but it also functions really well in hot drinks. It’s really nutritious and also it’s a bit of an environmental superhero because of how it’s grown. It’s the most environmentally-friendly of all the plant-based milk out there.” Pusateri’s Mastroianni says sales of oat milk “by far outpace” other alt milks in its stores, adding that a heightened consumer focus on sustainability is causing a shift away from once-popular dairy-free beverages like almond milk. “I think there’s still a

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 45


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“Cheese is the last thing people move away from in dairy because they’re so attached to it. It’s such a comfort food. Companies like ours are trying to bring something to the table that you wouldn’t have seen before with dairy-free. Our feta or our halloumi are not things you would have found in a dairy-free alternative years ago”

market for almond milk, but a younger generation understands what it takes to actually make almond milk,” he says. “It’s not just about the food they’re eating but the world that we live in.” Loblaw opted for oat milk as the base of one of the newest additions to its PC plant-based lineup: a yuzu flavoured cultured oat yogurt alternative. “Oat is an alternative plant-based ingredient that has become increasingly popular, especially in alternative beverages,” explains Loblaw’s Ross. “This inspired our PC team to incorporate this slightly sweet and creamy ingredient into a yogurt alternative.” But it’s not just alt milks that are making waves, plant-based cheeses are also gaining momentum. Danone recently added shredded mozzarella and cheddar to its plant-based lineup. Geneviève Bolduc, marketing director, plant-based category at Danone, says the new SKUs currently have a limited roll-out in Quebec and Ontario with a wider national launch planned for 2022. “I think the plant-based cheese area is definitely booming,” says Shoshana Price, head of marketing for Upfield Canada. The company’s Violife brand offers 13 plant-based cheese products, which span from shredded and sliced formats to spreads, hard cheeses like cheddar and a halloumi-style cheese made for grilling—all are produced using coconut oil. Price says a feta-style cheese alternative is currently the brand’s fastest-growing SKU. “Cheese is the last thing people move away from in dairy because they’re so attached to it. It’s such a comfort food,” explains Price, noting consumers have high taste expectations for alternative cheeses. “Companies like ours are trying to bring something to the table that you wouldn’t have seen before with dairy-free. Our feta or our halloumi are not things you would have found in a dairy-free alternative years ago.” In terms of merchandising, some experts suggest meat and dairy alternatives are best placed alongside their traditional counterparts. “It would speak to the ever-changing consumer mindset of that flexitarian that includes both dairy product and plantbased product [in their diets],” says Danone’s Bolduc. “Rather than having to walk the full store to find one or the other, they [the consumer] can be exposed to both and make that informed decision.” Pustateri’s’ Mastroianni also sees success with integrating traditional and alternative meat and dairy. “Let the [alternative] product sit next to what they [consumers] are used to buying or were buying before,” he says. “It’s being able to offer the choices and then letting consumers make that choice.” Earth’s Own’s Hull, however, says placing plantbased meat and dairy together, along with other plant-based products, can often help to drive up basket sizes. “Plant-based milk tends to be the gateway

into plant-based eating. It’s the most developed of all the categories,” she explains. “So actually having a plant-based section is ideal because they [consumers] have already decided they want plant-based [items] and then they see all the other options that are there and they tend to pick up more.” Upfield’s Price notes that different types of consumers tend to look for alternative meat and dairy in different parts of the store. “Vegans are looking for it in the natural section, whereas someone who’s plant-curious and buys dairy would look for it in the dairy section,” she says. “If the grocery store wants to win with plant-based food, truly they should put the items in multiple areas of the store.” Greenleaf’s Grogan also suggests multiple alternative meat and dairy displays are the most reliable strategy. “Consumers are sometimes having a very hard time navigating. They find [meat and dairy alternatives] sometimes in produce, sometimes in the dairy section, sometimes in the meat section. So I think retailers need to look for multiple different distribution points,” he says. With sustainability at the forefront of purchasing decisions for the next generation of consumers, Dana McCauley, chief experience officer for the Canadian Food Innovation Network, predicts alternative meat and dairy is going to continue its strong market growth. “Sustainability is the big driver for gen Z and that’s the next group that’s going to be having kids and having those bigger baskets at the grocery store,” she says. McCauley says some of the exciting innovations she’s seeing in the alternative meat and dairy space involve extracting protein from algae. She says this technology is starting to be used to create plantbased animal feed but predicts it could cross into consumer foods in the near future. “On the dairy side, it seems like millet and other grains are getting a lot of attention,” McCauley adds, although she notes there are still some hurdles to overcome to achieve the right flavour and colour for dairy alternatives. She says motivation to research grains as protein bases is strong because, like oat milk, they’re potentially a more sustainable substitute for many of the other dairy alternatives currently available. “We’ve been seeing so much momentum around plant-based alternatives and that’s been exciting. Now, though, it’s really getting into kind of a mind-blowing place,” she says. Zoglo’s Morello also believes we’ve only just started to see some of the most interesting alternative meat and dairy innovations that are being developed around the world. Future products will further intrigue consumers and drive additional sales in the space. “It’s going to change the way that people consume food,” he says. “If for no other reason than the world needs it.”

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 47

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Aisles highlight high-end offerings like seafood and steaks, too, along with more casual fare, in flyers and online.”


Boosting merchandising efforts around Super Bowl is a winning strategy  By Michele Sponagle


IN THE MIDST of a dreary winter, Super Bowl weekend is a welcome respite full of eating, drinking, celebrations with friends—and perhaps watching some football, too. In 2021, 11 million Canadians tuned in for the half-time show alone. Though the pandemic caused gatherings in 2021 to fumble, they appear to be back on track for 2022. Of course, this bodes well for grocers who start promoting early to create some excitement before game day. According to 2021 data from the U.S.-based National Retail Federation (NRF), 86% of consumers planned to make purchases specifically for Super Bowl with a spend of nearly $75. Many Canadian retailers see that kind of uptick, too, across a range of categories. PRE-GAME WARM-UP “A couple of weeks before the Super Bowl, grocery retailers should ramp up their promotion and merchandising efforts to help generate interest and buzz,” says Diane Chiasson, president, Chiasson Consultants, which specializes in merchandising strategy. This is the time to highlight in-store options to be pre-ordered prior to game day, she notes. Grocers should also make sure to offer an array of take-andbake items, like pizza and chicken wings. She suggests a range of tools to boost awareness, from Super Bowl messaging on receipts, digital displays at checkout counters, and increasing the frequency of social media posts to get customers to shop and plan for their parties. “The goal is to increase foot traffic,” says Chiasson. “That means creating great, eye-catching in-store displays, visible as soon as customers arrive. Retailers need to build interest outside of the store as well, with banners, signage, a giant blow-up football … Anything that tells shoppers this is the place for getting ready for Super Bowl festivities.” While snack foods and munchies are mainstays, elevated fare will be big for 2022. “Consumers are willing to spend more on premium products for gatherings,” she says. “This is a good opportunity to

TOUCHDOWN-CALIBRE MERCHANDISING Nigel Oliver, category manager at Vince’s Market, is betting on robust sales of items like tortillas, guacamole, salsa, wings, frozen appetizers, chips and pop—and any products with Super Bowl called out on packaging. He says Vince’s will advertise those items in flyers and build additional off-shelf displays of popular items to maximize sales opportunities. Food manufacturers are getting in on the action, too. “Snacking is the best part of game time, in our opinion,” says Leslie Mackay, vice-president of sales, Conagra Brands Canada. “We want to make it easier for fans to host friends and family during game night.” For this year’s big game, the company will feature Orville Redenbacher, Pogo and Angie’s Boomchickapop, supported with grab-and-go items such as its new Duke’s Beef Smoked Shorties. “We believe our tasty snacks requiring limited preparation will score big points with consumers,” she adds. Conagra is creating an interactive recipe booklet featuring fan-favourite brands to inspire Canadians to explore new, elevated ways of snacking. Available in-store, it will include coupons for Conagra products. As well, a Pinterest SEO campaign will provide consumers with hosting ideas. At Freybe Gourmet Foods, there’s enthusiasm around its new A Taste of Europe Salami and Cheese Packs for easy game-day charcuterie boards. For larger groups, marketing manager Tanya MacKay is betting on the popularity of retro fare like pigs in a blanket with its crowd-pleasing European Cocktail Wieners, and recommends grocers create pre-made grazing boxes and meal kits. EXTRA POINTS FOR HEALTHY FARE Don’t forget to promote better-for-you choices, too. “We pride ourselves on offering healthier options with products made with organic ingredients without compromising on the fun and tasty, indulgent factor,” says Peter Neal, chief snacking/sipping officer, Neal Brothers Foods. The Ontario company is showcasing its new, non-alcoholic lagers and freshly launched Mexican Street Corn Chips. “Every year, we offer special buy-ins and this year will be similar, but we will also be pairing deals to include our beer with our corn chips, salsas and tortillas—special limited-time offers for retailers, discounted pricing and off-shelf displays,” says Neal. Beer and football tend to go hand in hand. “We often see a nice lift in beer sales at game-day time, driven by those occasion purchases,” explains Jessica Embro, key account manager, Sleeman Breweries. She notes Super Bowl has had a positive impact on the brewer’s mainstream brands such as Sleeman Clear 2.0 and Sleeman Original Draught over the last few years, adding, “Throughout the full year, the better-for-you beer segment is driving the category and we expect the same trend to continue leading into this event.”

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The moringa is a tree with nutrientdense leaves that are high in protein. Its leaves are traditionally eaten raw, ground into a powder, or steeped as a tea. “Moringa has many important vitamins and minerals,” explains Pierre Thiam, chef and founder of Yolélé Foods, which includes moringa as an ingredient in its chip and pilaf lineups. “There are many health benefits associated with moringa including treating diabetes, reducing blood pressure, protecting the liver and healthy bones, to name a few.” Moringa also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, along with digestive and detoxifying benefits, according to Shelley Balanko, senior vicepresident of The Hartman Group.

Moringa Four things to know By Andrea Yu

2  THE TREE OF LIFE While the droughttolerant moringa tree is native to India, it also grows in Asia, Africa, South America and Haiti. “Moringa has been used as a traditional remedy in Ayurvedic healing for many centuries,” The Hartman Group’s Shelley Balanko explains. “Today, the moringa tree is cultivated across Africa and Haiti through women’s agricultural cooperatives, enabling women to generate income, fight poverty and malnutrition and gain bargaining power within their communities.”

Aisles 3 FUNCTIONAL BENEFITS When it comes to selling and promoting moringa, grocers can get creative. “As consumers increasingly shop for specific occasions and seek functional benefits, it would be advantageous to group products in this way,” says The Hartman Group’s Shelley Balanko. “Employ signage that directs consumers to these ‘benefit areas’ within the store or online shopping platform.” Vancouverbased Farafena sells moringa leaf powder as part of its product lineup. Founder Oumar Barou Togola, says customer education can help fuel sales of moringa products. “Highlight the amazing nutritional benefits and environmental impacts,” Barou Togola explains, “and, most importantly, the benefits to smallholder farmers.” Companies like Farafena and Yolélé work closely with smallholder farmers, which are mostly owned and operated by families and are located in rural areas of developing countries. “We introduced the African moringa [to our product lineup] to be able to provide a platform where African women farmers could elevate themselves and their communities through this ancient healthy plant,” says Barou Togola. Sharing stories like this with customers can further help grocers promote and sell moringa products.

4 MORE MORINGA Rachel Bukowski, senior team leader of product development at Whole Foods Market, says powdered moringa is the most popular way its customers consume moringa. “It’s common to add it to smoothies, sauces and baked goods,” she says. Powdered moringa is also added to packaged goods such as frozen desserts, protein bars, teas, sparkling waters and packaged grain blends. Recent additions to Whole Foods’ shelves include Sunscoop’s Mmmint Chip! Dairy Free Dessert featuring moringa, and Elements Truffle Maple Toffee with Moringa Artisanal Chocolate. Whole Foods recently listed moringa on its list of top 10 trends to watch in 2022. Renewed interest in immunity and digestion

during COVID-19 has helped fuel moringa’s recent popularity, adds The Hartman Group’s Shelley Balanko. “The pandemic has focused consumers’ attention on prevention, and it’s become a mainstream belief that the root of all wellness is healthy digestion,” she explains. “Inherently functional ingredients, like moringa that deliver these benefits will have strong appeal.” Yolélé’s Pierre Thiam also believes consumers are becoming more conscious of the climate impacts of their purchases, which is another reason they’re drawn to moringa. “They are looking for food that’s good for them and the planet,” he explains. “Moringa is a superfood that fits this category.”

December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 51

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New on shelf! 1  CLIF BUILDERS MINI For consumers seeking a smaller, snack-sized bar that still packs a healthy protein punch, CLIF Builders Mini feature a generous helping of plant protein (10 grams per bar) and are made with organic ingredients including roasted soybeans. Gluten free and only 140 calories, CLIF Builders Mini are available in Chocolate Mint or Chocolate Peanut Butter.




3  HOORAY FOODS PLANT-BASED BACON After launching in the United States last year, Hooray Foods Plant-Based Bacon is now available in Canada. The baconflavoured strips are made using coconut oil, rice flour, tapioca starch, liquid smoke, umami seasoning (shiitake mushrooms, salt, mushroom extract, calcium carbonate), maple syrup, salt and beet juice concentrate. The strips are also free from soy, gluten, nitrates and hormones.

5  THE LITTLE POTATO COMPANY’S NEW MICROWAVE READY VARIETIES The Little Potato Company has introduced two new flavours to its Microwave Ready line: Roasted Garlic, Rosemary & Thyme; and Smoked Salt. Each kit contains one pound (454 grams) of potatoes in a steam tray and comes with a seasoning pack. The potatoes can be prepared and ready to eat in as little as five minutes, according to the Edmontonbased company.  CG

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2  POURABLE JUST EGG Pourable JUST Eggs cook, look and taste just like their non-vegan counterparts and come in an easy-to-use liquid format, according to Eat Just, Inc., the product’s California-based maker. They’re also ideal for scrambles, omelettes, quiches, breakfast sandwiches and even baking. Pourable JUST Eggs are also non-GMO Project verified, cholesterol-free and made without artificial flavours.

4 NOTMILK Just as the name implies, NotMilk is not a traditional dairy milk, but a 100% dairy-free plant-based alternative, which—according to NotCo, the Chile-based food tech company behind the brand—tastes, cooks, blends and froths the same as cow’s milk. NotMilk is available in 1% Low Fat, 2% Reduced Fat and Whole varieties.



5 December 2021/January 2022 ||  CANADIAN GROCER 53

Express Lane


Mercatus Technologies’ Sylvain Perrier on the fast-changing e-grocery space By Shellee Fitzgerald AS E-COMM continues to evolve and grow—albeit at a slower clip than at the height of the pandemic—so, too, are consumer expectations. As president and CEO of Toronto-based Mercatus Technologies, a firm that provides digital commerce solutions, Sylvain Perrier spends a lot of time thinking about how grocery retailers can better compete in e-commerce. Canadian Grocer recently spoke with Perrier about what’s happening, what’s next and what it will take to succeed in this fast-changing part of the business. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

Mercatus recently released the results of its annual grocery shopper survey. What findings surprised you? It’s the largest e-commerce survey in North America; this year we hit 40,000 households and we saw a pretty significant decline in people over the age of 60 buying online—their routines are getting back to normal and they’re likely migrating back into the store. And the fastest-growing segment is people in the 30 to 44 age group. But what really surprised us was the popularity of pickup versus delivery.

Why are consumers now preferring pickup? It’s interesting. Pre-pandemic, the industry was marching, fundamentally, towards delivery. But what we’re seeing now is that 75% of consumers prefer pickup. Why? They have more control over pickup; it’s more predictable. They might be out driving anyway—either coming home from work or picking up the kids—so they can just stop by their grocery store and pick up their order. And, quite frankly, I hate to say this, a lot of the delivery companies have not figured out how to deliver ice cream without it melting in the middle of the summer. 54  CANADIAN GROCER || December 2021/January 2022

And that is fundamental—you can’t succeed in the delivery space if you can’t figure that out.

With pickup increasingly relevant to consumers, how can the experience be improved? It’s putting the customer at the centre of the experience and making sure their satisfaction is achieved; so ensuring the quality of the products you’re picking and packing, thinking about the way the order is transitioned. It’s also about the operational process you’re using from the moment you get the order. So, how are you preparing the order? How are you staging? A lot of retailers forget the staging aspect— where you are handing off an order to a customer. The time you take to retrieve the order and walk it to the customer can burn as much in resource time as picking and packing; understanding that is paramount. Another thing sometimes overlooked by the retailer, but not necessarily overlooked by the marketplace providers (the Instacarts and the DoorDashes of the world) is how are you messaging your customer to say ‘here’s where we are in your order process’ or ‘ your order is ready for pickup?’ And so on. I find, more often than not, there’s romance around the technology being used, without really understanding where these things fit in and drive customer convenience and satisfaction. So, put the customer at the centre of the experience and think about how to close that loop to make sure they’re happy with your service and you’re driving them back to your website or mobile application.

Many grocers have struggled with e-comm. What are the obstacles they continue to face? An ongoing obstacle is certainly labour. We’re also seeing margin erosion—and a lot of it is caused by inflation. A lot of retailers have some flexibility to recover margin through service fees and so on, but when they’re dealing with third-party marketplaces, where they don’t necessarily control final product price, the risk is that those companies are increasing prices, which has a detrimental effect on the consumer’s perception of the retailer’s brand. But I think the broader, third, challenge is fundamentally understanding where e-commerce fits in the strategic direction the retailer wants to take.

So what’s next for grocery e-commerce? Retailers are reaching a level of sophistication around using digital tools/technology to enhance customer acquisition and retention. What you’ll see in 2022 is retailers taking control of their digital experiences, leveraging marketplaces as an acquisition tool to enhance their data position and enhance how they service customers. Retailers will strengthen their omnichannel presence and understand, “I have a type of consumer that prefers mobile; here’s what I’m going to do with mobile.” It’s not going to be at parity with the store. The dot-com is going to be entirely different from the in-store experience. CG






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AVOCADOS The festive fruit that’s perfect year-round Miguel Barcenas, Strategic Consultant for Avocados From Mexico, shares his thoughts on why the avocado is the perfect go-to fruit for both nutrition and fun.

Are Canadians still eating plenty of avocados? Absolutely! Think of all your favourite gatherings (i.e., New Year’s Eve, Cinco de Mayo, Canada Day) and no doubt avocados are a part of the celebration, adding a healthy dose of memorable Avomoments. In the past five years, avocados have become a go-to fruit for people in their 20s and 30s in particular. In fact, Canadians enjoyed more than 100 thousand tonnes of avocados last year and Avocados From Mexico made up nearly 95% of the Canadian market share.

How has the pandemic affected things? The popularity of avocados is inextricably linked to a healthier lifestyle. During the lockdown when people began to cook their meals mostly at home, they were looking for more nutritional choices and Avocados From Mexico fit the bill. Avocados are being used in everything from salads, burritos, smoothies and brownies to the ever-trending avocado toast. When the pandemic hit, we adapted our marketing tactics away from live events and in-store tastings to online, with more e-commerce programs so consumers could purchase avocados from the comfort of home. In addition, our social media strategy on Facebook and Instagram has played a crucial role in engaging our Avolovers. Avocados are trendy worldwide with more than 1.5 million posts on Instagram tagging #avocadotoast and 11.6 million #avocado.

What’s in the works for Avocados From Mexico? We will keep working to inspire and educate consumers, highlighting not just the health benefits but also the versatility of this superfruit through

multiple touchpoints. For a third year, Avocados From Mexico is back with its “Anytime Is Avotime” campaign. In the fall of 2021, we took Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square by storm with an onsite activation leveraging on the iconic brand jingle “Avocados From Mexico.” We’re also displaying colourful bins—some featuring a hockey vibe—in hundreds of stores across Canada, running promotions with major retailers and renewing a collaboration with Cornershop by Uber. As for 2022, we will be off to a strong start - be on the lookout for your TV screens! - thanks to the Super Bowl in February, Nutrition Month in March, followed by Cinco de Mayo in May.

What can grocers do in-store to meet shopper expectations? It is important to educate consumers on everything avo-related, from how to choose an avocado to tips on slowing or speeding up the ripening process. The avocado is an easy sell: it’s delicious, versatile and healthy. It’s also an excellent substitute for many ingredients in vegan recipes. Our avocados are easily identifiable by their sticker which guarantees their origin and quality. Avocados From Mexico, and more precisely those from the Michoacán region, are synonymous with freshness, quality and authenticity. THE FRESH REPORT 2022




BANANAS Bananas: looking towards a brighter future Banana news of late has warned of looming price increases due to pandemic-inspired supply chain issues. Meanwhile the sustainability of the world’s most commonly exported banana remains in jeopardy due to the Tropical Race 4 (or Panama) disease, the fungal strain that has been steadily destroying Cavendish banana crops around the globe for decades. Yet even with these challenges, the future of the world’s most popular fruit remains positive. Banana love the world over is spurring a host of innovative initiatives to save this sweet fruit from extinction, including breeding new varieties more resistant to disease and developing new uses for banana waste. Last year, French retail giant Carrefour introduced two new banana varieties, the Caribbean organic Pointe d’Or and a banana produced without insecticides using “agro-ecological” methods and blockchain technology. In India, farmers are popularizing banana flour as a versatile way to make use of banana waste. Industry stakeholders are also working towards improving sustainability in current banana farming methods. Certifications, like Fair-trade and Rainforest Alliance—which help farmers produce better crops, increase productivity, and reduce costs—also provide companies and grocery shoppers with a steady and secure supply of certified products. Additionally, sourcing certified products is helping businesses and suppliers meet consumer expectations. In May 2021, Longo’s became the first grocery retailer in North America to offer only Fairtrade bananas

in all its stores and since then, grocers like Nature’s Emporium have followed suit. In the meantime, the demand for organic bananas continues to grow globally, particularly in Canada and the US. According to the latest data from global technology research firm Techavio, the global organic market will grow at a compound annual rate of 9% between 2021 and 2025, with North American consumption contributing to 60% of that. As organic options become more and more mainstream among grocery retailers, social responsibility is turning out to be a key product differentiator. The World Banana Forum has partnered with IDH, the sustainable trade initiative, to start an online portal to promote more sustainable agricultural practices in the organic banana sector, and increase access to small producers in the value chain.

A banana boost Did you know bananas are healthier than apples, offering twice as many carbohydrates and five times the iron and vitamin A? Bananas are also packed with potassium and vitamin C, and contain high levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which regulate mood—and relax both body and mind.




freshreport CELERY

From summer salads to winter soups, celery is a versatile and healthy option for consumers year round. Nichole Towell, senior director of marketing and packaging procurement at Duda Farm Fresh Foods (whose products are sold under the Dandy® brand), discusses key category trends and eating occasions for celery, as well as how growers can give sales a boost.

What’s the growing season for celery been like this year and how is the category performing overall? Canada’s celery growing season was excellent this year with some fresh stalk availability that carried over into late fall. The growing season in the U.S. has also been a great season with no relative issues. As the weather begins to shift to colder temperature, we expect to see demand increase for celery as the key ingredient for comfort dishes and soups. We anticipate the market to tighten during these times of higher demand.

Tell us about your product lineup and how you’re keeping celery in the spotlight. We offer a variety of fresh and fresh cut celery options to meet the needs of both retailers and consumers. Whether they are looking for a pre-portioned snack or something a bit larger to feed the whole family for a week, Dandy has it covered. Products include full celery stalks, celery hearts, and fresh-cut celery sticks in a variety of pack sizes ranging 1.6 ounces to 2.5-pound bags.

What continues to drive consumer demand for celery, and what are the eating occasions that make celery a year-round staple? Celery is such a versatile vegetable and can be used in many recipes as well as enjoyed on its own. Our marketing efforts engage with consumers by sharing recipes on social media as well as communication via email and frequent promotions to help drive demand year-round. The most popular celery eating occasions include the Super Bowl, Thanksgiving and Christmas (the holiday season), but Easter and the back-to-school

season are also important. During the warmer weather months, there is an emphasis on using celery in lighter dishes such as added crunch to a salad. During the colder months, celery is often used as a soup base.

How can grocery retailers boost sales of celery and drive repeat purchases? We all know price drives consumer sales, but there are a number of other ways to boost purchases. We encourage retailers to utilize bright and engaging displays that offer recipe inspiration, produce application or coupon discounts in the store. Cross merchandising is another great way to boost celery sales in store! Placing fresh dips in the produce section (especially near celery) offer additional ideas for consumers to combine and enjoy the product. Cross promotion with in-store coupons on the items that are merchandised together are also key to completing that path to purchase. THE FRESH REPORT 2022


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FRESH FROZEN Fresh and frozen are not something you typically hear when talking about juices, particularly cold-pressed juices. These are usually found in the grab-and-go section, while the freezer is reserved for traditional juice concentrates that need to be reconstituted before consuming. La Presserie changed that by offering premium-quality, unpasteurized cold-pressed juices and smoothies that can be sold directly from the freezer or in grab-and-go areas. Rich Rotzang, general manager of La Presserie, discusses trends in the category, its appeal to consumers and retailers, and what’s new from the company.

How is the fresh-frozen juice category performing in Canada, and what are some key trends? La Presserie is the only Canadian cold-pressed juice brand that we know of offering this type of product so we really are leading the category. Our coldpressed smoothie line has seen particular interest from consumers looking for an easy alternative to the frozen fruits and pucks they’re used to buying to make smoothies at home. The biggest trend we’re seeing is the move towards plant-based nutrition. Our products check all the boxes for health-conscious consumers: they’re vegan and plant-based, made with 100-percent raw fruits and vegetables, and have no added sugars, colours or preservatives. We expect this trend to continue, with consumers becoming even more educated on the benefits of raw plant-based diets.

convenience of thawing the product when they’re ready to enjoy it, without worrying about it expiring. For retailers, La Presserie juices create almost no shrink. Our frozen juices have at least a year shelf life from the date of production, and a minimum of two weeks when thawed. Retailers selling our refrigerated products can put out a few at a time and replenish when needed.

What are some recent product innovations from La Presserie? We’ve recently launched our frozen varieties of multipacks offering an assortment of kids’ juices, smoothies or vegetable-based blends that are perfect for lunches or snacking. Another addition is our line of plant-based, cold-pressed fruit and vegetable-based dressings, which have very little oil, and are never cooked, so they retain all their nutritional benefits. We also have a line of creamy dressings that are 100-per-cent vegan—this includes Caesar, Ranch and Dill.

What is the appeal of fresh-frozen juice for consumers and retailers?

How can grocery retailers boost sales of fresh-frozen juices?

Most cold-pressed juices are inherently healthy at the outset. They typically start by being pressed with slow hydraulic pressure which keeps the flavours, nutrients and enzymes intact. However, once pressed, these juices are frequently pasteurized using heat or high pressure to increase their shelf-life, which destroys some of their original goodness. We freeze our juices immediately after they’re bottled, locking in all the nutritional benefits, and giving consumers the

With samples, trial and both consumer and store employee education. We offer in-depth training for staff members on the benefits of cold-pressed juice, and the fresh-frozen format. To support product sampling La Presserie manufactures sample-size versions of all our juices and smoothies that are singleserve and COVID-safe. We also provide retailers with point-of-sale materials including door clings, shelf talkers and tags.




THE SCIENCE OF SWEET We’ve cracked the code, run the numbers. The result is a new level of sweetness for every recipe and snacking occasion.




HEALTHY SNACKS Cloud 9® Tomatoes Offer a Sweet Opportunity for Canadian Families Pure Flavor® is making sure that parents never have to sacrifice nutrition when choosing sweet snacks for their family. The brand’s award-winning Cloud 9® BiteSized Fruity Tomatoes are a unique veggie snack that bursts with juicy sweetness and satisfies every kid’s sweet tooth. Since launching in early 2021, these premium, sweet, greenhouse grown snacking tomatoes have shown the power of fresh produce to help people across North America Live Deliciously®. They are redefining the category by offering families a convenient, healthy option that’s available year-round with consistent quality they deserve.

Cloud 9® Tomatoes have received awards and have gained the attention of consumers across North America. What sets them apart from the crowd? From the moment you try your first Cloud 9® Tomato, you know this is not like any other tomato – or any other fresh snack for that matter. Consumers of all ages are immediately drawn in by the unique, fruity sweetness in every bite, and after that first bite, they can’t stop snacking! What makes this a premium experience is the nuance behind that intense fruity sweetness. With every bite, the flavor develops, and you begin to appreciate the full experience: a tiny taste of heaven®. That vibrant, deep flavor has been attracting consumers to the produce aisle for snacks but has also earned the recognition of professional chefs for its versatility as a premium cooking ingredient.

What accolades have Cloud 9® Tomatoes earned? The flavor of these super sweet greenhouse grown snacking tomatoes is worldrenowned. They were a 2021 winner of the prestigious International Taste Institute’s Superior Taste Award, the result of blind sensory testing conducted by 200 jury members

comprised of head-Sommeliers and Chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants. Cloud 9® Bite-Sized Fruity Tomatoes were also awarded the ChefsBest® Excellence Award after a rigorous judging process and Sensory Attribute Quality Analysis™ by a panel of executive chefs. Randi Coulthard, Acting CEO of ChefsBest®, said, “When evaluated along with other products in the category, Pure Flavor® Cloud 9® Tomatoes surpassed the standards required for the ChefsBest® Excellence Award.”

How does Pure Flavor® grow an exceptional snacking tomato like Cloud 9®? Everything comes down to the precise growing conditions, the selection criteria, and the dedication of our growers to meet the highest standard. In state-ofthe-art, hightech greenhouses, growers can carefully fine-tune the growing conditions from a smart phone, including air temperature, lighting, humidity, irrigation, plant nutrition, and more. When a plant is ready to be picked, trained teams’ hand-select each tomato according to a precise selection criteria that ensures only the best bear the Cloud 9® name. These teams are looking for a vibrant burgundy color and a signature teardrop shape – signs that the fruit has reached the perfect sweetness to meet the Cloud 9® Standard. Visit




– CHOOSE QUALITY, TRUST PROFESSIONALS! Quality control at every stage of production

Respect of the welfare of animals

Care for the environment

Meat from Europe

Full traceability ‘from farm to fork’

Faithfulness to 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.


freshreport MEAT

Despite the steady flow of meat alternatives hitting the market, the average consumer isn’t giving up on animal proteins. In fact, NielsenIQ reports that the overall meat category in Canada has experienced a 12% increase in sales over the past year. The market research firm mainly attributes the growth in sales of beef, chicken and pork to the corresponding surge in home cooking amid the pandemic. While 82% of Canadians list meat as their primary source of protein, according to NielsenIQ, consumers are also looking for healthier, more ethical and affordable meat options. With many Canadians facing financial challenges as a result of COVID, consumers are seeking a bigger bang-for-their-buck resulting in increased sales of lower-priced cuts of meat. At the same time, widespread restaurant closures have motivated consumers to experiment with cooking different types of cuts at home, for example, whole cuts, particularly in the beef category hits a sweet spot of offering good value while lending itself well to more adventurous cooking and eating.

While 82% of Canadians list meat as their primary source of protein, according to NielsenIQ, consumers are also looking for healthier, more ethical and affordable meat options. While interest in recreating restaurant experiences at home continues to drive up meat sales, consumer consciousness about the ethics and sustainability of meat consumption continues to be important. According to research from NielsenIQ, 84% of Canadian consumers are concerned about animal welfare, while 59% prefer all-natural products. Canadians increasingly want to know where and how their meat is sourced. For example: Is it verified organic? How is it being raised? Is it 100% grass-fed?

Consumers are continually educating themselves and learning why certain farmers are implementing practices to be more sustainable. A 2020 report from Mintel suggests that eating healthier is a key reason Canadians who are eating less or no meat at all are choosing to do so. Some meat manufacturers are aiming to address this consumer concern with better-for-you meat product launches with less fat, no preservatives or artificial flavours or sweeteners. Whether it’s new cuts, new flavours or, better-foryou options, in-store signage, as well as print flyers and online pages highlighting these messages, can be helpful in driving sales. Grocers can capitalize on consumer demand for new cooking techniques by featuring online recipes with links to the required cuts. It remains to be seen if the recent boost in meat sales will persist as the country moves into a postCOVID era. Nielsen’s research suggests 78% of Canadians plan to continue consuming the same amount of meat they eat now. In addition, it doesn’t appear that plant-based proteins will dethrone meat any time soon, with Mintel predicting consumers will show continued interest in the meat cooking techniques they’ve picked up during the pandemic. Consumers have had the time to experiment and add cuts to their repertoire. Now that they have the skills, they will likely continue to use them, even as restaurants return to normal.



Good food for you!



MUSHROOMS Consumers are enjoying mushrooms more often, thanks to their beneficial nutritional profile and their adaptability in any meal. Erinn Stockman, Director of Sales for Windmill Farms, talks about performance and demand in the category, and explains what makes mushrooms so appealing for consumers and retailers.

What are you seeing in regard to demand for mushrooms, and what are some of the category trends? The Canadian mushroom market grew at a CAGR of 3.6 per cent between 2016 and 2019 to a market size of $590 million, and forecasts indicate the market will grow to $800 million by 2025, representing a six-percent CAGR moving forward. As a result, the demand for mushrooms continues to outpace supply in our marketplace. To help meet this demand, Windmill Farms is expanding our Manchester Farm in Port Perry, Ont. with the construction of 18 growing rooms and a new centralized pack house and distribution centre. The $35-million investment will contribute an additional 10 million pounds of fresh mushrooms to Windmill Farms’ annual production.

What is the appeal of mushrooms for consumers and retailers? The key demand drivers for the Canadian mushroom industry, including specialty mushrooms such as cremini and portobello varieties, are population growth, exports, and healthy and organic eating trends. Consumers are focused on healthy and functional foods and plant-based diets, and mushrooms are a superfood. Known for boosting the immune system, mushrooms contain riboflavin, niacin, copper and selenium, as well as other important vitamins and minerals. They are also tremendously versatile, with a multitude of uses in soups, stews and sauces, as a side dish or entrée. Consumers are also blending mushrooms with protein and other ingredients to create innovative dishes and promote healthy eating habits.

What should consumers know about sustainability and safety in the mushroom category? We’re continuing to research compostable/ biodegradable packaging with the objective of eliminating single-use plastic containers, and we are looking at alternatives to the current PVC overwrap. At Windmill Farms we employ leadingedge cultivation technology in our growing systems, resulting in the consistent production of high-quality fresh mushrooms with a superior shelf life. Our quality assurance commitment to food safety protects our consumers and private-label partners. Our QA team has been expanded further this year and continues to outperform, scoring 98 per cent in a recent SQF audit and representing the top one percentile in scoring on a global basis.

How can grocery retailers encourage mushroom sales? We offer national brand and private-label packaging, merchandising and technical support for all of our customers in retail, wholesale and independent businesses. A major tip for our retail partners is promotion. As mushroom popularity grows, promotion is an excellent opportunity for retailers to spark consumer interest and build tonnage. When COVID restrictions allow we will continue to participate in in-store demonstrations, with a chef preparing simple dishes using our mushrooms as the main ingredient, for a more hands-on learning experience for the consumer. THE FRESH REPORT 2022


TEAM UP with

California Prunes This winter, California Prunes is teaming up with

10 professional Canadian athletes to share the health and nutrition benefits of prunes, inspiring Canadians to incorporate them into their diet as a healthy snack or ingredient.


of Canadians reported they would prefer to PURCHASE PRUNES FROM CALIFORNIA /USA than anywhere else*

Emma Lunder, Biathlete

California Prunes can help contribute to…

Strong Bones


Healthy Gut




Heart Health

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 2021 among 1,502 English- and French-speaking male and female Canadians, aged 16 to 75, who are the primary grocery shopper and have ever purchased any dried fruit. Photo credit: Doug Stephen


freshreport PRUNES

California Prunes pack taste and nutrition Esther Ritson-Elliott, Director of International Marketing and Communication at California Prunes, shares her thoughts on why California Prunes should be on every grocer’s radar in 20222.

What’s new in the world of prunes? This is a time of big growth for California Prunes in Canada, as we have seen a 15% increase in market share from 2020 to 2021.* In the last two months of reported data alone, exports of California Prunes to Canada are up 15% in volume compared to the same period the year before!** We’ve just launched our “Team Up with California Prunes” campaign, which features incredible Canadian winter athletes and para-athletes, many of whom will be competing on the world stage in 2022. Our campaign is all about motivating Canadians in their own health/athletic journey, no matter their age, ability, or skill level. The importance of bone health, including the ways that California Prunes can proactively protect our bones, is especially relevant for the cold months of winter! Through their own voices and platforms, our athlete ambassadors will share California Prunes’ health and nutritional benefits.

What are the benefits of prunes? California Prunes are a source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, which together support overall health and immunity. Research shows that nutrients found in prunes work together with calcium and vitamin D to improve bone mineral density, enhance bone formation and protect against bone breakdown for both men and women. In fact, more men are becoming regular purchasers of prunes, partly because of their health benefits.*** New research also suggests eating 5-6 prunes daily can improve risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including raising antioxidant capacity, improving

cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation in healthy, postmenopausal women.

What are some ways to add more prunes to your diet? • Add chopped prunes to salads for texture, sweetness and nutrients • Simmer prunes in sauces to complement proteins, like chicken and pork • Puree prunes to replace butter in baked goods, cutting calories and eliminating most fat • Puree prunes for a healthy boost to baby food • Blend them into your favourite smoothie for added nutrients, fibre and flavour • Add chopped prunes to desserts and baked goods Of course, California Prunes are the perfect snack all on their own.

How can grocers meet consumers expectations? When asked what factors were important when choosing prunes, taste ranked number one at 90%, followed by quality (89%) and health benefits (84%).*** Now more than ever, consumers also care about where their food comes from, and the California origin is an important value proposition. Consumers love that California Prunes are larger with the perfect balance of moisture, sweetness and texture. Given that California Prunes denote quality and premium taste, grocers can make them more visible. Display them in the produce department in addition to the snacking aisle. Leveraging the California designation and ensuring California Prunes are placed in the right areas of the grocery store can help satisfy consumer expectations and drive increased sales. Visit for more information and recipe ideas.

* Trade Data Monitor Aug-Sept 2020 and 2021 ** U.S. Census Bureau Trade Data, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Aug-Sept 2020/21 *** Research conducted online in June 2021 by Rose Research among 1,502 English- and French-speaking male and female Canadians, aged 16 to 75, who are the primary grocery shopper and have ever purchased any dried fruit.



California Raisins. A natural choice.



California Raisins are a nutritious option for hungry snackers. Portable, and convenient, these little gems are a pantry asset!


Give more customers more reasons to buy. Raisins are a whole fruit, consider cross-promoting them in the produce department. California Raisins are also great in salads, smoothies and trail mixes.


California Raisin farmers and packers take no chances when it comes to food safety standards. This includes stringent inspections, testing and grading in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure a top-quality product.

For more reasons to love California Raisins, visit: *Canadian Grocer – Healthy hits the spot **Raisin Administrative Committee – Canada Evaluation, Rose Research LLC


freshreport RAISINS

California Raisins: The double duty pantry staple raising the snack and ingredient game Tim Kenny, Vice-President of Marketing at the Raisin Administrative Committee, oversees promotion of California Raisins and has more than 20 years of experience developing natural and nutritious food brands at leading international companies. He shares his insights on why raisins are becoming more and more appealing as a snack and kitchen staple.

How has COVID-19 impacted the market and raisin trends among consumers? COVID-19 impacted the entire supply chain. It prompted changes in how all produce—including raisins— is harvested and processed to protect workers. California Raisin growers and packers were swift to adapt, never wavering in their ongoing commitment to produce the world’s best raisins. The pandemic also spurred many changes in consumer eating habits, increasing snacking, baking and cooking at home, along with a desire to eat more natural, healthy foods. Raisin consumption in Canada has increased due to these trends. Consumers also have a growing interest in avoiding added and artificial sugars, which is spurring interest in natural sweet ingredients, including raisins. Recent changes in Canadian labeling laws now group “sugar-based” ingredients together in the nutrition facts label enabling consumers to better identify all sources of added sugars. California Raisins, like other whole fruit ingredients with no added sugar, do not get included in this grouping as they contain added nutrients, such as fibre and potassium. Most Canadians don’t consume enough potassium, which is important in maintaining healthy blood pressure.

How are consumers using raisins, and are there specific demographics eating more?

Many Canadian consumers of all ages are consuming more raisins for a variety of reasons. Older Canadians

are baking more as they spend time at home and rediscover family favourites, like cinnamon raisin bread, oatmeal raisin cookies, carrot cake and butter tarts (with raisins of course). Younger Canadians are also snacking more on raisins, as this convenient and portable snack provides a quick boost of natural energy with no added sugar.

What can grocers do to promote/educate consumers about raisin benefits? California Raisins are a great product to feature in your nutrition communications, whether on grocer websites or in weekly flyer ads. To further enhance visibility and increase sales, grocers should consider secondary displays to help shoppers rediscover the naturally sweet goodness of California Raisins. They can display California Raisins: • In the produce section for consumers looking for other whole fruit options, especially when other fresh fruit is less plentiful • In the baking aisle during holiday baking season with a recipe for butter tarts or rum raisin pudding • With nuts in the summer months under a “Make Your Own Trail Mix” theme • Next to oatmeal with recipes for oatmeal raisin cookies and/or overnight oats to spur sales of both products. For more information about California Raisins, along with tasty recipes, please visit THE FRESH REPORT 2022





SALAD KITS Salad kits remain a consumer favourite for their health, convenience and versatility, especially as producers launch kits with flavourful and nutritious combinations. Amanda Knauff, director of Sales for Taylor Farms Canada, the leading chopped salad brand in Canada, discusses trends in the salad kit category, its continued appeal with consumers, and a delicious new product innovation from the company.

How is the salad kit category performing in Canada, and what trends are you seeing? Salad kits are the largest segment within the valueadded salad category, with 5% dollar growth in the last 12 weeks compared to 3% for the overall category. Chopped salad kits are driving this growth within the salad kit segment, with a 19% increase in the last 12 weeks. The salad kit category continues to expand as consumer demand increases for high-flavour, innovative varieties such as Taylor Farms’ Watermelon Crunch and Guacamole Crunch. Our Dill Pickle Kit is our top preference for consumers.

Why are salad kits so popular with consumers? Canadians are strapped for time and don’t always have the energy to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals. They’re on the hunt for simple, convenient ways to enjoy restaurant-inspired meals in minutes, with quality products that are clean label and full of plant-powered nutrition. Free from any artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, Taylor Farms’ Chopped Salad Kits are the foundation and inspiration for a variety of meals because they provide a quick and easy way to enjoy a nutritious, quality meal. Consumers are also seeking products that deliver appetizing flavour profiles and international cuisine such as Mexican, Korean and Thai. Taylor Farms allows consumers to create a new flavour adventure each night with a variety of salad kits, including Thai Chili Mango and Buffalo Ranch. And because of their versatility, consumers can customize their salad kit in so many ways. Add smoked salmon to your Everything Chopped Kit or wrap your Caesar Chopped Kit with a tortilla!

Are there any recent product innovations from Taylor Farms? Taylor Farms prides itself in its unique innovation, sourcing of quality ingredients, and carefully curated blends of vegetables. We recently launched a one-ofa-kind Watermelon Crunch Chopped Kit using a light vinaigrette made with real watermelon, combined with almonds, toasted watermelon seeds and feta cheese. Canadian summer months are beautiful, and we wanted to create an edible celebration of that beauty through a quintessential flavour that inspires people to enjoy the season.

How can grocery retailers encourage sales of salad kits? Grocery retailers play an important role in boosting sales for salad kits. An increase in flyer exposure throughout the store and in advertisements, coupled with promotion on social media, can help drive consumer awareness towards products they may not have considered in the past. In addition, grocery retailers can cross-promote with Taylor Farms’ Fresh Department to promote quick, nutritious and delicious meal solutions. We also collaborate with social media influencers who target our key demographics to create impactful, positive campaigns introducing consumers to their new favourite salad kits. THE FRESH REPORT 2022




TOMATOES Consumer demand for healthy foods continues to climb, and the popularity of tomatoes is growing along with it. To meet demand, Red Sun Farms is boosting its stake in greenhouse tomatoes (along with peppers and cucumbers) with big investments in its operations. Harold Paivarinta, Sr. Director of Sales at Red Sun Farms, discusses the grower’s expansion plans along with key category trends and product innovations.

What are the key trends in the category? The health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables are always important factors for consumers as they look at ways to improve their wellness through healthy eating. Responding to consumer demand, we are making significant investments in our facilities, which will bring Red Sun Farms to 788 acres in 2022. This includes 223 acres (52 lit) in Ontario, 537 acres in Mexico, and 28 acres (10 lit) in the US. Another big trend is sustainability. Red Sun Farms has focused our sustainability initiatives in a couple of key ways. We will begin planning for the second season of our winter pepper crop with our oneof-a-kind LED technology that will supply Ontario peppers year-round. This unique technology recreates and modulates the full spectrum of the sun's natural light, essentially enabling the farm to de-seasonalize productions. Our farms have also been utilizing sustainable practices in water recycling, yield optimization, and minimizing food waste. We’ve also worked closely with our packaging suppliers to develop new and sustainable options. This has resulted in the commercialization of recyclable flow wraps, increased recycle content in clamshells, fibre punnets, compostable PLUs, and labels with washable adhesives.

What are some recent product innovations? Our product innovation delivers a whole new eating experience through flavour and quality. In the Sweets Family, Sweetpops is quickly redefining our snacking

tomato standards. This variety is all about delivering an explosion of flavour, in a snack-size tomato. As a sweeter-than-sweet snacking tomato, Sweetpops has already established a dedicated consumer following that has connected with the brand and redefined the expectation of sweetness in tomatoes. The packaging was designed with the millennial generation in mind. It creates a connection and makes the exploration of this tomato an experience.

How does Red Sun Farms encourage consumption? We deliver the highest quality and best flavour to ensure an unforgettable eating experience through our variety selection process. The Red Sun Farms team is always creating new recipes designed to showcase our tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. These inspirational recipes are delicious and will get the creative juices flowing. THE FRESH REPORT 2022


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