Canadian Grocer December/January 2023

Page 1

Metro merchants of Quebec with president and CEO Eric La Flèche.

(LEFT TO RIGHT):

DECEMBER 2022 • JANUARY 2023 Meet our new crop of GenNext winners! The growing appetite for global foods Seven trends to watch in 2023
Jean-Christophe Plouffe; Mylène Bellemare; Simon-Pierre Dalpé-Messier; Eric La Flèche; Frédéric Thibeault; Karine Ferland; Gabriel Riendeau; Dominic Beaulieu As the retailer marks a major milestone, its focus is firmly on the future metro at 75

Christmas always finds a way

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December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 5 71 COVER PHOTO: CHANTALE LECOURS, PEOPLE PORTRAIT: TOBI ASMOUCHA, DATES: GETTY IMAGES/LOVE_LIFE, TREND PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/ANDREY_POPOV Contents Features Cover Story GROCERY'S GOT TALENT 50 Meet Canadian Grocer's 2022 Generation Next winners SEVEN THINGS TO WATCH 71 A look at the trends that could impact grocery in 2023 and beyond FULL STEAM AHEAD 32 As Metro marks a major milestone (75 years in business), Canadian Grocer catches up with its president and CEO Eric La Flèche Opinions 7 || Front Desk 29 || Food Bytes 90 || Publisher's Note People 9 || The Buzz Comings and goings, store openings, awards, events, etc. 12 || Crafty Ramen See how these Ontario restaurateurs are creating a buzz in grocery with their unique meal kits Ideas 17 || Clear the (ingredient) decks The clean-label challenge facing the plantbased food and beverage industry 19 || The big question Grocery leaders weigh in on industry hot topics 21 || Up and up and up! New report forecasts food prices to rise 5% to 7% in 2023 23 || Seen and heard Big names in the industry took the stage at Canadian Grocer’s GroceryConnex conference in Toronto Aisles 77 || Tasting the world As the appetite for global foods continues to grow, the segment has gone
niche
need-to-have 82 || Coffee trends and troubles Canadians love their coffee, but potential shortages are a looming concern 83 || Dates: Four things to know From snacks to spreads, we look at the rising popularity of this sweet fruit 84 || What's the catch? Against a backdrop of inflation, the demand for traditional and plant-based seafood is on the rise 87 || New on shelf Shining the spotlight on the latest products hitting shelves Express Lane 88 || Looking ahead Kantar's Casey Ferell on what consumer behaviours might shape grocery in 2023 12 FOLLOW US ON Canadian Grocer @CanadianGrocer Dec. 2022/Jan. 2023 || Volume 136 - Number 8 83
from
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Congratulations to our friends at Metro on your 75 years of success – here’s to many more!
Here’s to a great partner.

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FUTURE FORWARD

Recognizing the next generation of grocery leaders

Attr Acting A nd keeping talent has long been an issue that grocery has had to grapple with and at Canadian Grocer’s GroceryConnex conference in November, big names in the industry addressed the talent question. On a panel discussion, Geraldine Huse, president of P&G Canada, spoke of the desire people have for flexibility. Not simply flexibility in terms of scheduling or remote work (which is not always possible) but also flexibility in terms of career path. “People aren’t looking for a career in just one function necessarily anymore. They’re looking to move from sales to marketing to finance to research and development and so on, and what we found during COVID is that the old idea of functions is changing,” said Huse. “So, we've got to get more flexible in what we offer people.”

young leaders who are already making a difference in the industry—our 2022 Generation Next winners.

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.

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Whatever it takes to woo and retain talent in this industry should be pursued because to keep moving forward, the grocery industry needs a robust pipeline of talented people who can seize opportunities and confront challenges with fresh perspectives and creativity.

With that in mind, we're delighted to introduce you to a group of talented

Twenty-two individuals from across grocery were selected as winners of this year’s award, which is now in its 12th year. From sales, marketing and logistics pros to store managers, a development chef and a co-founder of a booze-free beverage company, this year’s Generation Next winners are an impressive bunch. Impressive not only for their professional achievements, but also for the many ways they give back to their communities be it through supporting programs to feed families in need, raising funds for a hospice or volunteering as a crisis responder for Kids Help Phone. Not only do the next generation of grocery leaders have talent, they have a lot of character, too. (Check out all of their stories on page 50.)

On behalf of the Canadian Grocer team, we wish you happy holidays. See you in the New Year! CG

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 7 GOLDMEDIA.CA
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Fitzgerald Editor-in-Chief sfitzgerald@ensembleiq.com
Canadian Grocer recognized this year’s GenNext winners at GroceryConnex
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The Buzz

The latest news in the grocery biz

COMINGS AND GOINGS

(Clockwise from top) Metro's Super C has two new stores in Quebec, a new Loblaws City Market opened in Edmonton, and T&T Supermarket unveiled its fourth Calgary location

After two decades with Giant Tiger, CEO Paul Wood exited the company in November. Wood took on the role of CEO of the discount retailer in 2020 and held several senior positions during his time at the company. Giant Tiger’s board of directors has appointed Gino DiGioacchino interim CEO.

OPENINGS

A new T&T SUPERMARKET opened in Calgary’s Sage Hill neighbourhood in December. The 45,000-sq.-ft. store features a wide assortment of Asian foods, live seafood, produce, self-serve hot meal options as well as the retailer’s lineup of 400 private-label products. T&T, which is owned by Loblaw, says the new store will also be the chain's first in Calgary to offer a dessert bar featuring treats such as brown sugar bubble tea and shaved snow ice cream. “We are excited to bring this experience to the growing community in Northwest Calgary, with our Sage Hill location, and welcome 150 new colleagues to the in-store team,” said T&T CEO Tina Lee, in a statement. The Sage Hill store is the Asian supermarket chain's fourth location in Calgary.

Metro marked the opening of two SUPER C locations in recent weeks. In November, the retailer opened its 100th Super C store. Located in Saint-Jérôme, Que., the 40,000-sq.-ft. store came after several months of construction and an investment of $13 million. And on Dec. 1, Metro unveiled a new, 35,000-sq.-ft. Super C in Beauharnois, Que. “The addition of this new store is part of a deployment plan that

will allow us to consolidate our position as the best discounters in Quebec,” said Jean-Guy Tremblay, senior vice-president, Super C, in a statement.

Downtown Edmonton is home to a new LOBLAWS CITY MARKET . The 22,000-sq.-ft. store opened its doors in the city’s ICE District in November, two years behind schedule. Located in a mixed-use sports and entertainment district, the store joins other tenants such as Rogers Place, JW Marriott, the Oilers Official Team Store and Grand Villa Casino, among others.

GOODNESS ME! NATURAL FOOD MARKET has made its debut in London, Ont., with a new 18,000-sq.-ft. store. Among the store's features is an in-store eatery called The Good Kitchen, fair trade coffee from Indigenous-owned Spirit Bear Coffee Company, a wide selection of organic produce, supplements and a clean beauty section. Goodness Me! currently operates 13 stores in Ontario.

GIANT TIGER has expanded again with a new, 17,500-sq.-ft store in Windsor, Ont. Located at 1745 Huron Church Road, the store is the discount chain’s fourth in the city. Giant Tiger has a network of more than 260 locations across Canada.

T&T Supermarket has appointed Justin Wu as its new creative director. Toronto-based Wu is an award-winning photographer and was previously a director on the television show, Kim’s Convenience. According to the company, Wu will use his artistic expertise to introduce “the T&T experience and Asian food culture to the mainstage.”

Acosta Canada has announced some changes to its executive team. Three leaders have been promoted: Sam Magnacca, (formerly vice-president, customer development) is now senior vice-president, client and customer development; Deb Voigt-Hetland (formerly vice-president, retail operations) is now senior vice-president, retail operations; and Tal Dovas (formerly, vice-president, retail operations) is now senior vice-president, business development.

At Mars Petcare, Daniel Calderoni has been named general manager of its pet nutrition business in Canada. Calderoni, who has been with the company eight years, previously served as vice-president of emerging markets for Mars pet nutrition.

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 9 METRO, T&T SUPERMARKET, LOBLAW
Justin Wu Sam Magnacca Paul Wood Deb Voigt-Hetland Tal Dovas Daniel Calderoni

AWARDS/RECOGNITION

The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG) handed out its INDEPENDENT GROCER OF THE YEAR AWARDS at a gala in Toronto in late October. The National Gold Award winners for 2022 are: Summerhill Market, Forest Hill, Toronto (small surface category); Longo’s, Walkers Line, Burlington, Ont. (medium surface); and Freson Bros., Rabbit Hill, Edmonton (large surface). Summerhill Market also nabbed the David C. Parsons Award in the specialty food retailing category for its Rosedale location. The awards recognize retail excellence in areas such as customer service, store layout, merchandising, creativity and community involvement.

The 2022 Golden Pencil winners were honoured at a special ceremony at GroceryConnex in November. Pictured here (L to R): Carmen Fortino, executive vicepresident, national supply chain and procurement, Metro and Michel Manseau, senior vice-president and general manager, consumer business Canada at Kruger Products. The Food Industry Association of Canada has been presenting the awards, which recognize lifetime contributions to the grocery industry, since 1957

Remembering Frank Lovsin

CFIG GOLDMEDIA.CA, FRESON BROS.

Fr A nk Lovsin , founder and chairman emeritus of Freson Bros. , passed away peacefully at home with his family by his side on Nov. 20. He was 88. Lovsin has been described as a visionary entrepreneur who seized business opportunities while bringing quality food to rural Alberta communities.

Lovsin got his start in the food business back in 1955 when he opened a small butcher shop in the town of Hinton, Alta. From there he grew the business, building it up to a chain of 16 grocery stores across the province, earning Freson Bros. the distinction of being the largest familyowned independent grocer in Alberta.

In addition to his business success, Lovsin also earned many accolades for his philanthropy. Most notably, in 2010, he became a member of the Order of Canada. As a community and business leader, Lovsin was recognized by his industry peers with numerous lifetime achievement awards including the Golden Pencil Award, which he received in 2009, as well as by communities including the Aboriginal and First Nations communities in Northern Alberta. He also served as Board Chair of Fairview College, Alberta Energy Board, Alberta Premier's Council and as a founding member of the Independent Retail Grocers Association.

Lovsin is survived by his children Mike, Paula, Doug and Ken as well as his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

10 CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023
CFIG's Independent Grocer of the Year Awards were handed out at a gala in Toronto last October
The Buzz

GETTING CRAFTY

People Who you need to know
ramen restaurateurs pivoted to selling meal kits during the pandemic. Now, their products can be found in Ontario grocery stores
These

hen Miki FerrALL and her husband Jared moved from Japan (where Miki is from) to Guelph, Ont. (where Jared is from) in 2016, Miki felt a longing for her home country—the food especially.

“Ramen is one of those comfort foods that we both really love,” Miki says. But there were no ramen shops in Guelph at the time. Jared has a culinary background (he’s a Red Seal-certified chef who has worked in high-end restaurants in Canada and Japan), so it was a natural fit for the couple to open a ramen restaurant. Jared would be in charge of the kitchen, while Miki would manage the front-ofhouse operations. Crafty Ramen opened in downtown Guelph in 2017, 10 minutes away from where Khalil Khamis lived.

At the time, Khamis had been operating five Harvey’s and Swiss Chalet franchise restaurants with his family in the Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo areas. Aside from being a fan of the restaurant himself, he saw the potential of Crafty Ramen. “I thought they did an incredible job with the restaurant,” Khamis explains. “I was like, ‘Hey, I’m passionate about food and I know the restaurant world. We should partner.’” By November 2019, the trio opened a second Crafty Ramen location in Kitchener with a longer-term vision to open five restaurants in five years.

Then, just a few months later, COVID19 hit. “Survival mode started to kick in,” Khamis recalls. “We thought about what we could do to generate revenue and bring our Crafty Ramen experience to customers.”

By mid-April 2020, the trio had developed a ramen meal kit that customers could prepare at home. The kit included everything—a protein, broth, noodles and toppings—customers would need to make a bowl of ramen in their own kitchens. It would be the first ramen meal-kit subscription the trio knew of, and within weeks the kits were selling out in minutes. “We started to get people messaging us from all over the country asking us to ship it to them,” Jared recalls. So, in December 2020, the company launched an e-commerce platform to service more parts of Ontario, including Ottawa, Kingston, the Muskokas and the Greater Toronto Area. At the same time, the team also launched its own chili oil called Szechuan Tears.

It was in January 2021 that independent grocery stores began calling. “They were reaching out and saying, ‘Hey, this

is cool. Nobody’s doing this. We’d love to sell your product’,” Khamis explains. But selling in grocery stores required the team to reformulate their kit to have a longer shelf life. The solution was to develop a frozen kit instead, which would also allow it to be shipped and sold further afield while still maintaining quality.

Recognizing the potential for their grocery and e-commerce businesses to grow even larger, the trio then raised $3.5 million from a group of investors in Toronto. “It was a pretty incredible feat,” Jared recalls. “We had an idea and we got validation from the investor community to help us grow.”

Growing is what they did. In November 2021, they opened a production facility in Waterloo. Then, in the following summer, Crafty Ramen brought on a sales partner that got their noodles and chili oil on the shelves of six Whole Foods Market locations in Ontario, as well as a handful of independent Loblaws and Foodland stores in the province. By October of this year, the trio appeared in an episode of Dragons’ Den, landing a $600,000-deal with Arlene Dickinson for a 12% stake in the company. In that same month, Crafty Ramen began shipping kits to Vancouver and cities in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

The company now employs about 30 staff between its two restaurants, plus 25 people at its Waterloo production facility, and five office and operations staff. Crafty Ramen’s kits and products can now be found in more than 100 grocery stores, mostly in Ontario. And the trio shows no signs of slowing down. They’re currently in talks to partner with a national distributor who would bring Crafty Ramen’s products into grocery stores across Canada. They’re also launching a ready-made “heat and eat” option in 2023. “This one is for the super convenience-focused customer who doesn’t necessarily have time for the meal-kit experience, but still wants high-quality, restaurant-style ramen at home,” Khamis explains. Two more restaurant openings are also in the books for 2022, both in Toronto.

Looking back at their journey, Miki says being part of Crafty Ramen has made Canada feel more like home. “One day, I want to see a Crafty Ramen restaurant in the Toronto airport,” she says. “So, when I go to Japan, I go home. And when I arrive back in Canada, I can have ramen and feel like I’m home, too.” CG

30 seconds with …

MIKI & JARED FERRALL AND KHALIL KHAMIS

What do you like best about your job?

JARED: I love learning in constant change.

MIKI: I like the freebies [laughs]. Like, if a brewery opens up nearby, they offer us some samples. We’ve received a lot of free samples that way.

KHAMIS: The people. Continuing to provide different and better opportunities for our team as we grow.

What inspires you and keeps you passionate about what you do?

KHAMIS: The feedback we get from our customers. Over and over, we get amazing feedback on the tastes and flavours that come out of our kitchens.

JARED: My answer is going to be boring because it’s the learning and innovation again that drives me.

MIKI: For me, it’s the people—our crew and customers. As more people get involved with Crafty Ramen, our identity changes. These ongoing changes keep me interested.

If you weren’t in the food business, what would you be doing?

MIKI: I love fashion.

JARED: Construction. I like to work with my hands and make things.

KHAMIS: I would be some type of travel blogger. I absolutely love travelling.

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

KHAMIS: Philanthropy, golf and travel.

JARED: Spending time with my wife and my daughter.

MIKI: I like skiing, karate and I enjoy doing crafts, like sewing.

What is your favourite food?

MIKI: Japanese food and sea urchin.

KHAMIS: Outside of ramen, it’s Indian food and dim sum.

JARED: My last meal would be a bowl of ramen or a full English breakfast.

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 13
W

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CLEAR THE (INGREDIENT) DECKS

though pLAnt-bAsed food and drink products have made incredible strides in both taste and texture over the years, there are still certain hurdles the industry needs to overcome to grow the category and appeal to an even greater consumer segment.

During a panel discussion at “Plant Forward”—a two-day conference hosted by Protein Industries Canada, Pulse Canada and Plant-Based Foods of Canada in November—executives from Metro and U.S.-based grocery giant Kroger agreed that consumer education and simpler ingredient lists are two ways to keep the appetite for plant-based foods growing.

There is still a misconception among consumers that plantbased foods are an unhealthy alternative to animal products, said Charles Buhagiar, senior category manager, Metro Ontario, but there are ways that retailers and manufacturers can try and set the record straight.

Food and beverage brands, for instance, can keep it simple. “Look at the ingredient deck. If it’s long, is it necessary to have all those ingredients or synthetic ingredients in there?” he asked.

On the retail side, Metro leverages its in-store pharmacists to

provide dietary and health information, calls out partnerships with organizations like Plant-Based Foods of Canada in its flyers to add credibility to its plant-based messaging, and uses QR codes to give shoppers additional information, said Buhagiar.

“We try to give as much information to the customer we can so they can make a conscious, wise decision on why they’re going to plant based,” he said. “We’re not trying to convert anybody to become vegan or to replace an animal protein with a plant-based protein—that’s up to the consumer … we’re just trying to help whatever lifestyle they want to choose. Plant based is getting so much talk, both positive and negative, we want to make sure we clear up the clutter.”

Grocers are an important link between product and customer, but when it comes to education, Holly Adrien, natural and organic strategy and innovation manager at The Kroger Co. said “we’re all responsible.”

From farms to manufacturers and the clerks stocking shelves, “everyone should have a part of the education,” said Adrien. “It’s incumbent on all of us.”—Kristin Laird

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 17 SHUTTERSTOCK/STOKKETE
PLANT-BASED FOODS
Ideas
RETAILERS || SUPPLIERS || SHOPPERS || INSIGHTS
leclerc.ca CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR 75 TH ANNIVERSARY! Leclerc celebrates this milestone with you!

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST OPPORTUNITIES YOU EXPECT IN 2023?

“We see two big opportunities in 2023. Externally, while the economic climate will be challenging, customers will be expecting higher sourcing standards. The pandemic revealed major shortcomings in the conventional supply chain. Customers noticed and they have heightened expectations. Internally, next year will be an opportunity to triple down on fortifying our front-line workforce after a challenging few years. This means more attention to mental health, solidifying work flexibility where possible, more cross-training opportunities and leveraging technology to improve the workplace experience.”

“Our mission of 'making everyday life more comfortable' is more meaningful than ever. We know Canadians are having to make important decisions for their households, and we want to ensure our brands provide a range of choices that suit their needs. We also want to continue supporting our 'Made in Canada' position and leverage our new state-ofthe-art tissue plant in Quebec. 2023 is about connecting with consumers on an emotional and purpose-driven level by creating impactful experiences with programs like the Kruger Big Assist, Cashmere Collection and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.”

“2023 will likely be a challenging business environment, which presents an opportunity to strategically invest in our retail partnerships, Quebec manufacturing facility and brand portfolio to help us grow amid the turbulence. We’re focused on taste elevation, on-the-go options and quick-and-easy meals as hybrid work takes hold and consumer habits evolve. Canadian consumers want convenience and value— without sacrificing quality and taste—and we’re accelerating innovation and making investments in technology to deliver operating efficiencies and richer consumer insights.”

FINE FOODS

“As we face the economic realities of the coming year, many Canadians will view restaurants as an indulgence and this will create opportunities for grocers to continue to expand their foodservice options. Continuing to bring high-quality meals and experiences to customers will remain critical, and will be driven by the ability of a grocer to maintain the morale, engagement and training levels of our store teams."

“The biggest opportunities in 2023 will come from communications with our customers. Social media has given us the power to bring customers in on the conversation. This allows us to keep customers informed on the ever-changing landscape of food retailing and for them to tell us what they want in our stores. For instance, we shared information on the recent supply shortages of lettuce. We were honest with customers about why the prices were rising and suggested salad alternatives. When we keep customers in the loop, it helps us build trust and strengthen the relationship.”

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 19
PHOTOS OF RICK RABBA AND RAN GOEL: TOBI ASMOUCHA
Adam Butler Will Willemsen Owner SUNRIPE
THE BIG QUESTION Ideas

Congratulations on your 75th anniversary!

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CANADIANS WON’T see relief at the checkout in 2023.

Food prices are forecast to increase 5% to 7%, according to the 13th edition of Canada’s Food Price Report from Dalhousie University, the University of Guelph, the University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan.

By category, vegetables are forecast to see the highest price increase (6% to 8%), but no section of the grocery store is immune. Prices in bakery, dairy and meat are expected to rise 5% to 7%, while seafood comes in at 4% to 6% and fruits at 3% to 5%. Food prices at restaurants are forecast to rise 4% to 6%.

In 2023, a family of four can expect their annual food spend to reach up to a whopping $16,288.41. That’s an increase of $1065.60 over the total annual cost in 2022, according to the study.

Last year’s report predicted an overall food price increase of 5% to 7% in 2022. The researchers say some considered that “alarmist,” but it turned out to be on the conservative side. The actual figure was 10.3% as of September 2022.

“To understand the forecasts for 2023, it’s useful to first look at what happened in 2022 that was either unexpected or was to a greater extent than what was expected,” says Samantha Taylor, senior instructor

of accountancy at Dalhousie University.

For example, the ongoing war in Ukraine impacted production and supply of three major commodities in Canada: wheat, sunflower oil and fertilizers.

“We also had inflation at a 40-year high and ongoing effects of the COVID -19-related supply chain disruptions, paired with high fuel prices and a falling Canadian dollar,” says Taylor. “So, in our 2023 numbers we are seeing the effects of the larger-than-expected increase to the 2022 numbers.”

The report lays out how rising prices are negatively impacting Canadians. Citing data from Statistics Canada, the report states food affordability is a nationwide problem with 5.8 million Canadians living in food-insecure households in 2021. And Food Banks Canada research finds the lack of affordability Canadians are facing because of rising food prices resulted in an estimated 23% eating less than they should, while use of food banks has increased by 15%.

Canada's Food Price Report also states that for many Canadians this year, food choices were motivated by the ability to save money at the grocery store. More consumers attempted to save by reading weekly flyers, using coupons, taking advantage of volume discounting and using food-rescue apps.

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 21 GETTY IMAGES/GOODGRAPHIC
UP AND UP AND UP! New report forecasts food prices to rise 5% to 7% in 2023
Anticipated changes to food prices in 2023 TOTAL INCREASE IN FOOD PRICES 5% TO 7% Ideas BAKERY 5% TO 7% DAIRY 5% TO 7% FRUITS 3% TO 5% MEAT 5% TO 7% OTHER 5% TO 7% RESTAURANTS 4% TO 6% SEAFOOD 4% TO 6% VEGETABLES 6% TO 8%

SEEN & HEARD

Big names in the industry took the stage at Canadian Grocer’s GroceryConnex conference in Toronto in November, covering a range of topics including sustainability, inflation, employee engagement and supply chain disruptions. Here’s what they had to say:

How tech can meaningfully enhance the shopping experience

“There are a whole bunch of things I could talk around [such as] pricing algorithms or targeting engines. I won't do any of that. That's all important, but I think the biggest thing from a consumer perspective is that you start to engage more digitally before you come into the store, and that you start to build the experience before you're even in the store. And then, when you're in the store, that digital journey continues. That [second part] is a big area of focus.”

ON TREATING TEAM MEMBERS RIGHT

“Fuelling happier and healthier lives is as important for our team members as it is for our customers. So, we’ve started down a path we signed up with an organization called the Good Jobs Institute a few years ago and we’re continuing to roll out [the Good Jobs Strategy]. That includes standard hours so people know how many hours they’re going to get every week. It’s not fluctuating so they can plan and budget for their homes, etc. And we’re making a journey to a living wage, which is a long-term journey for us. We’re doing a lot more cross-training across our stores so a cashier could work in grocery or produce and vice versa … those are the kinds of things that are part of the Good Jobs Strategy, so we’ll continue to focus on those areas; for us it really helps with retention.”

LONGO, president and CEO, Longo’s

After three tough years …

“The last three years have been tough but it really helped build resiliency and a strong team ethic ... It took collaboration and teamwork to another level, so we’re stronger, but there are some side effects and casualties. We have more vacant positions than we’ve ever had ... We need more people and that’s a big challenge.”

—Metro president and CEO ERIC LA FLÈCHE

Elevating e-comm with service

“We don’t have third-party people deliver. We have our own delivery trucks, our own delivery people, our own set of customer service expectations for them. So, if a customer asks to have the groceries brought in and put on their counter, then that’s exactly what we do. We’re trying to do this great service and great prices—that’s where we want to live, where we have to live as we move forward to the next year or two.”

BREAKING FREE OF STEREOTYPES

“We’ve made a commitment to have no stereotypes in advertising. If you looked at a Tide advert or a Pampers advert 20 years ago, it was typically a mother doing the cleaning, changing the baby, and on every aspect of diversity we've said, ‘Right, no stereotypes.’ We can make a difference because those adverts are in everybody's homes. If we make a conscious decision, we're going to get rid of stereotypes and we're going to try and drive the right messages, it can make a big difference.”

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 23
Ideas

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

“What the recent months and years have taught me is, collaboration is everything. We need to continue to build these partnerships. We need to work together. We've got the same objectives to provide great quality products for consumers at affordable prices. And that's what we need to stay focused on because we all share that goal and certainly when we work together, we're stronger together.”

THE BIG SQUEEZE

it’s beginning to Look a lot like a recession. But NielsenIQ isn’t waiting around for the government to call it. At Canadian Grocer’s recent GroceryConnex conference, held in-person in Toronto, Carman Allison explained how NielsenQ is now measuring what it dubs a “consumer recession:” when the core habits of traditional consumption have shifted, forcing shoppers to behave as though a recession is already here.

ON CREATING A CULTURE OF BELONGING

“We recognize a lot of people that work for Bimbo Canada are in manufacturing. We've got to continue to improve the lives of those that work in manufacturing. Historically, it hasn't been sexy to work beside a hot oven. The shift work is hard. So, we've committed to improve the lives of those people, too. We know that it's hard to make sure they get days off together and have a work-life balance, but it's important for those folks.”

In his presentation, “Gauging a Consumer Recession,” the vice-president of thought leadership, North America said: “We don’t want to wait six months for the government to say we’re in a recession. We want to understand consumers.” The overall consumer recessionary gauge for the third quarter came in at 71%. “We’re actually getting there, and when we get to over that 80% level, we’re knee-deep in a recession,” said Allison.

As inflationary pressures continue to squeeze consumers’ wallets, the vast majority of Canadians (94%) are changing how they grocery shop to save money. Nearly half (48%) seek out stores with the lowest prices, 44% shop at retailers with loyalty points, 26% shop at stores closer to their home, and 24% shop more at discount retailers. When it comes to products, 38% of consumers only buy essentials, 37% buy private-label products, 36% buy less expensive brand-name items and 34% buy larger sizes for better value.

Bulk buying is a key savings strategy in a range of categories including paper products (61%); canned foods (54%); laundry and fabric care (46%); coffee or tea (45%); shelf-stable sauces (45%); and beans, rice or pasta (45%). Consumers are also seeking promotions: 66% stock up when items are on sale, 44% only buy items on sale, 31% use coupons and 27% price or ad match.

While Allison said it sounded like “doom and gloom,” there are opportunities for grocers and manufacturers. For example, as consumers look to save money, some out-of-home meal occasions will shift back into the home. In addition, kids are back in school and many people have returned to the office. “So, convenience, value and meal solutions are going to be a great opportunity moving forward,” he said.

When it comes to private label, Allison said retailers would “continue to benefit” from the current landscape. “If you’re a manufacturer, you need to innovate and differentiate even more. It’s not the time to take your foot off the pedal.” When you innovate, he explained, “a lot of times you can justify the higher price point.” —Rebecca Harris

24 CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023 GOLDMEDIA.CA
At GroceryConnex, NielsenIQ’s Carman Allison shared how consumer spending has changed as inflationary pressures mount
Ideas
on 75 successful years nourishing the health and well-being of our communities in Quebec and Ontario

GROCERY’S GRAND RETURN

Canadian Grocer’s GroceryConnex, which combines the Thought Leadership CEO Conference, Generation Next Awards, and the Golden Pencil Awards, made its in-person debut on Nov. 21, bringing together retailers and manufacturers for a full day of presentations, expert panels, networking and awards.

With the theme of " Future Forward," discussions focused on where the industry is heading, what opportunities lie ahead and where change needs to happen.

NielsenIQ’s Carman Allison offered a look at how Canadians are changing how they grocery shop to save money and outlined ways grocers and manufacturers can help. (read more on page 24)

In the retail leadership panel, Anthony Longo

(Longo’s), Darrell Jones (Pattison Food Group) and Eric La Flèche (Metro) delved into consumer trends, in-store technology and dealing with Canada’s labour crunch, while CPG leaders Mark Taylor (Lactalis Canada), Geraldine Huse (P&G Canada) and Wendy Outram (Grupo Bimbo) discussed supply chain issues, DE&I efforts and sustainability.

Canadian Grocer also recognized 22 of the industry’s rising stars with the 2022 Generation Next Awards (read more about the winners on page 50) , and capping off the day was the Food Industry Association of Canada’s Golden Pencil Awards, which this year honoured Carmen Fortino (Metro) and Michel Manseau (Kruger Products). CG

26 CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023
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December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 27
the year of anniversaries! Celebrate 75 years with Metro and 100
with Schär. Wishing Metro another 75 years of success! Congratulations to on your From your friends at TREEOFLIFE.CA A Tasteful Collection
it’s
years

Responding to inflation

What Canadians are seeking from grocers and producers

THE COST OF GROCERIES has risen at the fastest rate in more than a generation. This is plain to anyone who shops for groceries. What is becoming more apparent is shoppers’ frustration with the situation. For most, the blame lands squarely on retailers and food producers, according to research conducted for Mintel’s The Budget Food & Drink Shopper report.

RESPONDING TO RISING FOOD PRICES While most Canadians are feeling the impact of food inflation (and inflation in general), there isn’t unanimity in terms of how they’re dealing with it. The most common strategy for consumers is to look for sales in flyers (paper or digital) and stock up on their preferred items. The next most common reaction is making a shopping list and trying their best to stick to it to avoid buying food that will go uneaten. Consumers are also collecting and redeeming loyalty rewards. Another action being taken is cutting back on items

that have become more expensive and switching to cheaper alternatives such as private-label brands.

Even when budgets are increasingly stretched, Canadians, in general, appear to prefer sticking with the foods and drinks they know and like, but if pushed too hard when it comes to price, they will seek out alternatives to their favourite brands and products.

WHAT SHOPPERS WANT FROM GROCERS AND FOOD MANUFACTURERS Turning the tables, what do shoppers expect of grocers and manufacturers when it comes to helping them save? The most common answer provided is that they want a cap on price increases. This isn’t surprising given the rise in food prices, but also given the news of robust profits in quarterly earnings reports, which get ample play in the media.

The second most common response in terms of what companies can do to help shoppers save is practical, yet somewhat surprising. Packaging that helps limit food waste and allows for food to last longer resonates, such as bacon sold in two pre-sealed portions that can be opened at two distinct breakfast occasions. This allows for food not used at a particular time to stay fresher for longer and helps alleviate the frustration associated with tossing food items and, by extension, hard-earned money.

Canadians also want a helping hand when it comes to comparison shopping. More specifically, in their view, they are looking for per-unit costs to be standardized so they don’t feel they need a degree in advanced calculus to figure out what products are cheaper when comparing items within a category.

FOOD INFLATION HAS A MENTAL TOLL Rising food inflation in 2022 has also led to rising levels of anxiety associated with buying groceries. Grocers need to recognize that rising prices don’t just impact pocketbooks, but emotional health as well, and no one wants their brand to be associated with emotional distress. Three-quarters of shoppers agree “the pace at which food costs have risen has given [them] added stress,” yet they also agree that “no matter how much food prices rise, [they] have no choice but to absorb them.”

What does this mean? Initiatives aimed at helping consumers cope need to be rooted in understanding in terms of the impact rising food prices have on consumers’ lives. How grocers and manufacturers communicate pricing impacts how they're viewed as responsible actors in society. This is underscored by the most agreed-upon statement in the report: Nearly 95% agree “the steep rise in food costs is particularly unfair to those with lower incomes.”

As Canadians deal with the rampant rise in grocery prices, grocers and food producers can take practical steps to help make shoppers' lives easier, which can benefit brands in 2022 and beyond. 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 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 29
FOOD BYTES || Joel Gregoire ACTIONS CANADIANS ARE TAKING TO SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES “Which of the following do you do to save money on groceries?” SOURCE: KANTAR PROFILES/MINTEL, NOVEMBER 2022 BASE: 1,882 INTERNET USERS AGED 18+ WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR GROCERY SHOPPING IN HOUSEHOLD Stock up on food/drinks when they go on sale Look through flyers Make a shopping list Redeem loyalty program rewards Switch to buying cheaper/budget brands Cut back on buying specific items that have become more expensive 62% 60% 54% 54% 50% 46%
Congratulations on your 75th anniversary! Pine-Sol Refresh Logo Master Page 2018 From your partners at Congratulations On your 75 th anniversary! We look forward to many more years of trusted partnership, delivering our passion for flavour to your shoppers! ® Reg. TM/MD McCormick Canada. ANNIVERSARY Congratulations on celebrating 75 great years!
*© 2023, Trademark of Kellogg Company used under licence by Kellogg Canada Inc. From our family to yours, CONGRATULATIONS to Anniversary on its 75th from NESTLÉ PURINA HELP YOUR PET THRIVE WITH BEYOND® NATURAL PET FOOD PURINA TRADEMARKS ARE OWNED BY SOCIÉTÉ DES PRODUITS NESTLÉ S A AND USED UNDER LICENCE. ©2022 NESTLÉ. MSC-C-56801
32 CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023

FULL STEAM AHEAD

As Metro marks a major milestone (75 years in business), Canadian Grocer catches up with its president and CEO Eric La Flèche and learns the company is firmly focused on the future

Ask Metro president and CEO Eric La Flèche what’s behind his company’s success, he’s quick to respond: “it’s not just one thing.”

Indeed, La Flèche rapidly spouts off a long list of things contributing to Metro’s steady growth. For one, a strong financial foundation, which has allowed the retailer to grow through strategic acquisitions; while a “great team” has resulted

in operational excellence and strong execution; and a strategy of putting the customer “at the centre of everything we do,” has helped ensure Metro’s offer resonates with its customers in the towns and cities it operates in across Quebec and Ontario.

Under La Flèche’s watch (he’s been CEO since 2008), Montreal-based Metro has emerged as a leader not only in

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 33 Cover story

grocery retail (with banners that include Metro, Metro Plus, Super C, Food Basics, Adonis), but also in pharmacy where it competes in the market with Jean Coutu (the No. 1 drugstore chain in Quebec, which Metro acquired in 2018), Brunet as well as Metro and Food Basics pharmacies. All totalled, Metro generates annual sales of $18 billion across its network of some 1,600 stores.

As the retailer marks 75 years in business, Canadian Grocer spoke to La Flèche in a wide-ranging interview touching on everything from Metro’s modernization project to its progress on social responsibility and its ambitions with local and loyalty. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A big priority and major investment for Metro in recent years has been its modernization project. How is this effort progressing and what benefits will it bring to the business?

It's been a strategic priority to modernize our distribution network, to improve our supply chain. Nothing to do with COVID, which stressed the supply chains all over the place. We were on this modernization plan pre- COVID. To date, we’ve built two [facilities] in Toronto. One we call “Fresh Phase One,” for produce, the other we call the “Freezer.” The first one is semi-automated, the second is fully automated. And we’re building in Terrebonne, which is just north of Montreal, a fresh and frozen fully-automated DC [distribution centre] for Quebec. We’re also building a “Fresh Phase Two” in Toronto on the same site as Fresh Phase One. Two are done, two are coming over the next two years. They’re long-term projects with our automation partner, WITRON

It’s a major commitment on our part in terms of capital and technology that we’re investing in this project; $800 million is what’s been announced for our DCs. It’s going to give us more capacity, it’s going to allow us to serve our stores better with fresher product, and it brings automation that will allow us to grow without adding too much labour, because in the current world where labour is such a challenge, automation helps to address those challenges.

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about e-commerce, but the physical stores remain important to most customers. Can you talk a little bit about Metro’s investment in its stores? That’s something we’ve been doing consistently for as long as I’ve been with the company [La Flèche joined Metro in 1991]. It’s not a new thing. We invest to renovate and modernize our existing stores, and we invest to build new stores to grow. Hundreds of millions of dollars every year go into our store network. There are maintenance CapEx [capital expenditures], there’s renovation

CapEx, expansion CapEx, and I think it’s key. It’s one of the reasons we continue to be relevant for our customers. We offer clean, modern stores [with attention] to equipment, to store layout and décor. We’ve evolved over the years and I’m very proud of where we are, and we continue to fine tune things every time we do a project, and we try to get better. New stores and renovated stores have new technology such as self-checkouts, electronic shelf labels, click and collect. It’s a key part of our success.

Turning to e-commerce—how do you keep up with rising consumer expectations in this space?

Well, from the beginning with e-comm, our approach has been flexible with multiple models. We try to meet the customer demand and be ahead of that demand, but not too far ahead of it. We all lacked the required capacity at the peak of COVID, but our e-comm sales have settled down and we are able, with our multiple models, to meet demand.

We pick [product] in our stores and deliver to customers’ homes. We offer click and collect. We have partnered with Cornershop and Instacart for customers who want more immediate delivery and we offer our own short window delivery; we have multiple models, which allows us to meet the demands of those customers who are shopping online for a portion or for all their purchases.

We see e-commerce continuing to grow, but it’s really hard to know exactly at what pace it will grow in the current short-term environment of high inflation. [High inflation] doesn’t necessarily favour e-commerce because there’s an extra cost to it—principally fees, whether it’s picking fees or delivery fees. But the customer who is more interested in convenience, we want to serve that customer in store and online. And our most loyal customers do show up both ways and they’re key customers for us that we want to keep happy. But flexibility and measured investments are key, and we think our model is working for us.

Metro has upped its game when it comes to private label and now has a robust lineup of these products, some of them award-winning. What would you say are the opportunities ahead for Metro with its private-label

offer?

Yeah, Grand Prix [Canadian Grand Prix New Product] awards every year. It’s nice recognition. I'm very proud of what the team has done to innovate, to introduce new products with great packaging and that are of high quality. We’re providing really good value. More important than the awards are the sales these products are generating for us. Our private-label sales are growing at a fast pace overall. Customers are loving our products and that’s

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 35 Cover story
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the best recognition. All the hard work has paid off. The team has updated our portfolio and our brands—Selection, Irresistibles, LifeSmart—keep evolving with new, better products to address evolving customer needs and trends. And in these high inflationary times, private label is key to providing value for our customers. I think the evolution of our portfolio is very timely and it’s serving us well. And not just in food, but in HABA [health and beauty aids] we have Personnelle, which came with the Jean Coutu deal. It’s a very strong brand and the products are doing well, not just in our Quebec stores, but in Ontario also.

Inflation is a big issue these days, for sure. It’s gone up quickly the last several months, which is not good for anybody. It’s not good for Canadians, it’s not good for families, it’s not good for our employees. But it’s an industry/global issue where the cost of goods has risen. Our vendors, suppliers, everybody is facing cost pressures, and we have been facing severe cost increases for several months now. Just over the past year [we’ve seen] thousands and thousands of cost increases on, I’ll say over 25,000 products, not just once a year but multiple times. And increases have been unprecedented in terms of size. Not just the number of increases, but the size of the increases has been unprecedented, which has caused this significant inflation. Clearly, it’s something that we’re concerned about, and our teams are working really hard in all our banners to provide our customers the best value possible in this tough environment.

for local products we try to make it easier. And, so far, we have been successful with that.

In Ontario, the program’s called Locally Sourced. The Metro and Food Basics banners do a great job in Ontario; there’s a little more marketing at Metro in Ontario with local. The sponsorship of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto is a good example where we showcase some of the best producers and suppliers in Ontario. And it has provided them good access to our shelves.

Well, our purpose is to nourish the health and well-being of our communities. Local businesses are part of our communities. We’re here for our customers first, and giving back to our communities is not just charity, it’s promoting local companies, local suppliers. So, if we’re going to be the best community supermarket or the best community pharmacy, I think a good part of that is to have a local essence or flavour to it, and that’s what we try to do.

In Quebec, the program is called Essor Québec, and with a supplier association we’re developing a training guide for small and medium-sized businesses to make their products more visible and accessible to our customers. We’re making it easier for small companies to offer their products in our stores—they have a single point of contact for innovation at Metro, so these small suppliers don’t get the runaround. Sometimes with the large chains, the listing decisions take time, but

Metro as a company, especially in Quebec, is well positioned because we own Jean Coutu, the No. 1 pharmacy chain in Quebec, and if we add Brunet to that we are the leading pharmacy retail provider. Pharmacy’s role is primarily a health role. It’s an essential part of delivering prescriptions in Quebec, providing health services [and so on].

On the food side, health is nothing new. It has been a consumer trend for a while. We talked about our private label, but also in the rest of our offer, in our promotional programs or in the meals we prepare in our stores, we try to have a healthier offering. And every year, we’re providing healthier products in our stores. We have a program called My Health My Choices, which is a digital tool that helps customers find products that are suited to their lifestyles, their values and their health needs. Products are classified along attributes like organic, gluten free, vegetarian, no sugar added. That really helps customers to pick up the right products according to their choices and their health, like the program’s name suggests. It’s just one way to make it easier for our customers to manage their health with what they eat. And like I said, the development of better-foryou products has been a large driver of our growth in private label. And we’re committed to increasing our healthy products offering in private label by 10% per year for the next five years. It’s part of our corporate responsibility commitment.

On the subject of corporate social responsibility, we hear again and again that consumers want to support companies that are doing the right things. Can you talk about some of Metro’s key initiatives in this area?

What I’m most proud of is that our work [in this area] didn’t start yesterday; it started more than a decade ago and we’ve been publishing reports for the past 11 years on our corporate responsibility journey. Last January, we issued our plan for 2022 to 2026 with a lot of updated targets on

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 39 Cover story
You mentioned these high inflationary times— how are you navigating this challenge?
Another area Metro has placed much focus, in both Ontario and Quebec, is in promoting locally-made products—what’s behind the local strategy?
Earlier you mentioned that nourishing the health and well-being of your communities is the company’s purpose. Talking about health, how is Metro well positioned to deliver on the health needs of consumers?
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Congratulations on 75 years! Félicitations pour vos 75 ans ! Congratulations on 75 years! —fromyourfriendsat on their 75th Anniversary! We look forward to many more successful years! Congratulations to thomaslargesinger.com

the environment, on waste, on procurement, on diversity. I think we have a rigorous program that we’ve been working at for quite a while, and we will continue to do so in the future.

There’s a lot of focus on the environment for sure. Single-use plastic bags, we’ve reduced them over the years, but now we’re committed to eliminating them. By the end of this year, we will get there. I’m proud of that. With our Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy we’ve done a lot of good work to have responsible procurement and to buy from the right suppliers and to buy the right product. The fish you’re not supposed to sell, we don’t sell.

And recently, we became a supporter of TCFD, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. We’re the first food and pharma retailer to do this; we believe it’s the right thing to do. It’s a reporting standard on your resilience to climate change and the risks associated with climate change; this will increase transparency on climate-related risks and opportunities. We’re proud to have signed on as a supporter of TCFD. Along with that, we have made commitments or set new greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets. We issued that last January. [Our objective] is to reduce GHG emissions by 37.5% before 2035 [compared to 2020]. This is not net zero, but we have committed to continue to assess the feasibility and the costs to achieve net zero to meet the SBTi [Science Based Targets Initiative]. We’re not there yet, but we’re really committed to assessing it and costing it. Before we commit, we need to see the path and make sure that the financial costs can be absorbed. Because we’re not just going to promise and not deliver.

In Metro’s 2021 Annual Report, continuing to develop loyalty programs was identified as a priority, and recently the company announced a revamp of the metro&moi rewards program, now called Moi. What do you hope to achieve with this new program?

Yeah, it was big news for us when we announced that [in September], and it’s a big priority for this next fiscal year to launch the new program, Moi. It’s the evolution of metro&moi, which we introduced in Quebec in 2010. We’re basically relaunching it in 2023 to call it just Moi because it’s going to be available in most of our Quebec banners, both food and pharma, so at Metro, Super C, Jean Coutu, and it should be at Brunet, but we haven’t confirmed that yet. With Moi, people will have more locations [about 700 across the province] and more brands with which to accumulate and redeem points. We think it’s a better, stronger program for our customers with more choice and more ability to collect points.

Plus, we’re going to have a partnership with

Royal Bank of Canada for a co-branded credit card. It’s going to be the Moi RBC Visa, and every dollar spent on that card will also allow customers to accumulate points that can be redeemed in our stores. We have a lot of traffic in our stores; 95% of the population of Quebec comes to one of our stores at some point during the year so we think we have the potential to make the best loyalty program in Quebec with Moi. We plan to launch it in the spring.

When it comes to talent, what has the company been doing to “develop the best team”?

We can’t do what we aim to do or what we strive to do if we don’t have a great team. Being an employer of choice is essential, so we need to offer competitive pay and be a great place to work and that starts with having a good culture and having people with common values, and then you have a shot at being an employer of choice. Again, easier said than done; it’s something that is built over time, but I think we do have a strong culture at Metro. We have a very good team and I do think we have a great place to work. We train, we provide leadership opportunities and it’s not just an HR project, it’s a company project. Everyone is in charge of culture and attracting the best people to have the best team. It’s a company value to develop that, and it’s a value we cherish.

We need to finalize it and rebuild consumer confidence in our industry.

As you look ahead, what are the company’s key priorities next year and beyond?

Well, we have to navigate through this turbulence of high inflation. That’s certainly a short-term priority. And providing the best value possible— that’s No.1. We want to continue to grow as a company; we have been growing steadily for a long period of time, so we want to continue on that path. It’s busy times.

Anything else?

Over its 75 years, even though Metro has grown through many acquisitions, be it Super C, Steinberg, Loeb, A&P, Adonis, Première Moisson, Jean Coutu—they all came at different stages of the company, and what I’m really proud of is that we've been able to form one company, one team, with all these acquisitions. It takes a bit of time— with cultural integration and systems integrations, but we have been successful in growing the company and becoming one strong company, one group, one team that provides value to our customers to serve our purpose. CG

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 43 Cover story
A code of conduct for the industry is in the works and could soon become a reality. What do you hope the code will achieve?
»
/ Danone® / Two Good TM used under lic., © 2022 Cie Gervais Danone. Oikos® used under lic., © 2022 Danone US, LLC. Silk® / International Delight® © WhiteWave Services, Inc. All rights reserved. CONGRATULATIONS ANNIVERSARY! 75TH ON YOUR From your partners at DANONE
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METRO is proud to mark its 75th anniversary by celebrating the people who have continually made our brands a success.

TEAMWORK

“Nothing gets done without a great team,” says Metro president and CEO Eric La Flèche. Across its operations, Metro has close to 90,000 employees that the retailer says come together as one team to serve customers and the company’s purpose of “nourishing the health and well-being of our communities.”

Metro merchants of Quebec with president and CEO Eric La Flèche.

(LEFT TO RIGHT): Jean-Christophe Plouffe; Mylène Bellemare; Simon-Pierre Dalpé-Messier; Eric La Flèche; Frédéric Thibeault; Karine Ferland; Gabriel Riendeau; Dominic Beaulieu TOP

Members of Metro's management team. (LEFT TO RIGHT): Christina Bédard, VP, eCommerce and digital strategy; Alain Tadros, VP marketing, Metro; Marie-Claude Bacon, VP public affairs and communications; Carmen Fortino, EVP national supply

chain and procurement; Lyne Jetté, VP national procurement, grocery, health and beauty; president and CEO Eric La Flèche; Frédéric Legault, VP and chief information officer; and Mathieu Robitaille, head of marketing, Ontario division

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 47
AND BOTTOM, LEFT: MIKE FORD, BOTTOM, RIGHT: CHANTALE LECOURS
Eric La Flèche, president and CEO; Carmen Fortino, EVP, national supply chain and procurement; Marc Giroux, EVP and chief operating officer–food
on your Congratulations Anniversary! 75th FÉLICITATIONS POUR 75 ANS DE SAVEUR ! FÉLICITATIONS POUR 75 ANS DE SAVEUR ! de vos amis à from your friends at CONGRATULATIONS ON 75 YEARS OF FLAVOUR! CONGRATULATIONS ON 75 YEARS OF FLAVOUR! CONGRATULATIONS *Source: Nielsen Scan Data – Canada National Excl NFDLD GB + DR + MM – 52 Weeks End 09/10/2022 – Salty Snacks Sensible Portions is the #1 natural puffed snack in Canada* #1 vegetable chip brand in Canada* FROM THE #1 BFY SNACK SUPPLIER IN CANADA* ON 75 YEARS! ® ® 2023 HAIN CELESTIAL INC.
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GROCERY'S TALENT

50 CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023
GOT
David Brown, Chris Daniels, Danny Kucharsky Rosalind Stefanac || Photography by Mike Ford

From sales and marketing pros to a development chef, co-founder of a booze-free beverage company and more, Canadian Grocer’s 2022 Generation Next award winners are an ambitious, passionate bunch.

Turn the page and get to know these 22 young leaders—all under age 40—who are making their mark on Canada’s grocery industry.

Generation Next December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 51
Opposite page, back row from left: Robert Rigato, Nicole Hamather, Reid Fenwick, Jason Vesely, Thomas Giergont. Front row from left: Vittoria Varalli, Rishi Patel, Megha Ragno, Katelyn Rawlyk, Emmanuel Guimont. This page, back row from left: Alexandre Lévesque, Adam Murray, Angelica Siecinski, Deborah Coleman, Alex Speckman. Front row from left: Liam Fulcher, Leah Milne, Stephanie Benbow, Melanie Carreira, Shabir Sarker. Absent from photo: Hubert Théorêt and Mandi Zolkowski
PROVIDING A CONSUMER EXPERIENCE CANADIANS WILL REMEMBER © 2022 ® R T k TM T k L ®’ R k f b ly-Cl k W l w I , l * M C w p l O l l y f w l p , w k - xp l W ’ C - w f l 2,300 pl y y W p ly pl y M C l p w pp f pl y , y, l l Exp V krugerproducts.ca/careers EXCLUSIVE SPONSOR krugerproducts.ca *

Stephanie Benbow STORE

|| SAVE-ON-FOODS

Having started working with Save-On-Foods out of high school, Stephanie Benbow quickly demonstrated her prowess for leadership and business development. At the age of 22, she was promoted to assistant manager of the busiest Save-On-Foods on Vancouver Island, where she helped increase gross sales to reach No. 1 in the company. Soon after, as one of Save-On-Foods’

youngest store managers, Benbow led operations at the Port Alberni, B.C. store, producing consistent double-digit sales increases for more than a year. Not only do sales continue to boom at her brand-new store in Surrey’s Guildford Village, but Benbow has worked tirelessly to build the grocer’s ties to the community, partnering with local school initiatives and supporting programs that feed families in need.

“It’s really nice to be able to connect with your community and create positive change,” says Benbow. Not only does she thrive in giving back to her community, but also in mentoring others on staff in finding fulfilling career paths. “I’m really grateful for all my mentors, too, as I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am today without all their support along the way,” says Benbow.

Melanie Carreira

DIRECTOR OF SALES— METRO

|| MAPLE LEAF FOODS

One of Maple Leaf’s core objectives is to be the “most sustainable protein company in the world.” But at discount banners like Food Basics, premium products like sustainable meat and chicken can be a tough sell with valueconscious shoppers. Melanie Carreira figured out a way to overcome that disconnect, helping develop programs for Maple Leaf RWA (raised without

antibiotics) chicken and its Greenfield branded wieners, sausage and bacon that broke through with Food Basics shoppers and repositioned sustainable in the value-added space. Carreira's accomplishments there led to a new role as Maple Leaf’s director of sales for Metro, but beyond those business boosting results, she contributes in other ways, including being part of Maple Leaf's Women in Retail Sales network.

“[During] My entire career in the (predominantly male) meat industry there were times where I did not feel comfortable to share my opinions and felt I did not have a voice at the table,” says Carreira. “Sharing these experiences with my colleagues and discussing solutions and opportunities to improve has been rewarding for me personally. If we can help support and build a safer, more inclusive work environment that is the true reward.”

|| LIBRA BEVERAGE CO.

As the co-founder of nonalcoholic craft beer brand Libra, Deborah Coleman loves changing people’s perceptions about nonalcoholic beverages.

“Until the last few years, there haven't been many choices for Canadians,” she says. “At Libra, we’ve created a lineup of great tasting

non-alcoholic beverages so people can fully participate in social occasions—without the alcohol.”

Launched at the end of 2020, Libra recently crossed $1 million in sales over a 12-month period. The brand is now available in more than 1,000 stores including 60-plus Sobeys banners in Atlantic Canada.

Her marketing tactics are a big part of the brand’s success. This summer, Coleman secured Libra as the first non-alcoholic beer

sponsor of the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa. The attention this generated led to all three Costco stores in Ottawa to carry it for “Dry January.” Libra will also be launching at Costco stores across Atlantic Canada in 2023.

Coleman was previously part of Skinfix, another challenger brand based in her native East Coast. “There are a lot of growing CPG companies here,” she says, “and the fact they’re holding up against national brands is so exciting.”

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 53 Generation Next

Rishi Patel Congratulations

All trademarks are owned or used under license by Lactalis Canada,
©Lactalis
2022. All rights reserved.
your leadership,
thinking and passion.
Follow Lactalis Canada on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/lactalis-canada/
Toronto, ON, M9C 5J1.
Canada,
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to Director Sales Strategy, Yogurt Division Lactalis Canada would like to congratulate all the Canadian Grocer Gen Next winners!

Reid Fenwick

SR. BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER || CONAGRA BRANDS

Reid Fenwick has been racking up accolades. Having exceeded targets with his team for growing Conagra’s business with Sobeys last year, he earned a sales award, his second with the company, and earned the distinction of being a close runner-up as “Most Valuable Conagran.”

“It’s a new award, and just knowing I was in the running meant a lot because nominations and voting is done by the employees,” he says. In January 2022, Fenwick was promoted to lead the Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart sales team for Conagra.

With the support of HR, Fenwick also helped launch an employee resource group for young professionals about how to best support them in their jobs and heighten their overall

work experience through empowerment, education and motivation. “I’ve been fortunate to be mentored by amazing leaders and want every young employee to have the same opportunity,” he says.

Fenwick—who was 15 when he got a part-time job at a grocery store in his native St. Catharines, Ont.—also helps organize Conagra’s annual United Way fundraiser and led a silent auction this year that raised close to $4,000 for the charity.

Thomas Giergont

When he began working at Food Basics as a parttime sales clerk in 2000, Thomas Giergont was still in high school. But he quickly climbed the ranks, becoming an assistant manager at age 26, a store manager at 29 and a field specialist at 31.

policy with colleagues.

“My phone goes off seven days a week. I don’t tell them my days off,” he says. Store managers and assistants “come to me for everything. As much as it can be overwhelming at times, I love it.”

Liam Fulcher DEVELOPMENT CHEF

|| FARM BOY

Developing (and sampling) tasty recipes all day may seem like a dream job, but as Liam Fulcher describes, it’s also a science— especially when your recipes are being rolled out to 45 Farm Boy locations.

“I have to be able to take a soup recipe from 1 litre to 500 litres, and make sure it still tastes good,” he says, of developing Farm Boy’s popular in-store dining and take-home offerings. “In my job, I’m really motivated to provide great-quality food to a large group of people.”

As a development chef,

his work has inspired the launch of more than 500 products at Farm Boy— some of which (his garlic sauce and triple-chocolate loaf cake, for example) continue to be top picks among customers.

During the pandemic, Fulcher was also the heart and soul of a new bi-weekly table d’hôtestyle menu that helped to feed thousands of grocery patrons every week. “I really like product development as it allows me to hone my culinary skills while being creative,” he says. When he’s not working his magic in Farm Boy's test kitchen, Fulcher also trains frontline employees on new program delivery.

Over the years, Giergont helped open several new stores while overseeing everything from construction to hiring. Since 2020, he’s been a district manager, responsible for store operations including sales, labour, business analytics, customer focus and efficiency in 16 Greater Toronto Area stores. He says he’s still the rookie among Food Basics’ district managers.

Giergont is proud to maintain an open-door

Promoting people is a great part of his job, Giergont says. In 2022 alone, he trained and developed seven new assistant store managers and three store managers. “I can guide them in the next roles in their careers,” he says. “Watching them succeed is very rewarding.”

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 55 Generation Next
Vittoria Varali, VP Operations, Sobeys Inc Angelica Siecinski, Manager of e-commerce Operations, Longo’s Liam Fulcher, Development Chef, Farm Boy
you for your demonstration of exemplary leadership, creativity, innovation and community involvement that continues to
your teammates
to our 2022 Grocery Connex Generation Next Award Winners
Jason Vesely, Franchise Operator in Training, Sobeys Westlock Thank
inspire
and the wider Canadian grocery industry. Congratulations

Emmanuel Guimont DIRECTOR, DEMAND AND SUPPLY PLANNING

|| DANONE CANADA

Given Emmanuel Guimont’s background, it’s only natural he’s helping a major consumer goods company weather its supply chain challenges. He completed a master’s degree in manufacturing and supply chain management

in food companies at France’s Institut national agronomique Paris-Grignon, before joining Danone.

“I can relate to supply chain challenges in the food industry. I can connect the dots,” says Guimont, who came to Danone Canada after stints with the company in France and Ireland.

Handed his current title two-and-a-half years ago, Guimont was swiftly tasked with dealing with the effects

of the pandemic. However, “we were able to achieve a top-tier service level and get our products on shelves.”

Guimont oversees a team of 20 people and “it’s super inspiring to see them enjoy their work and see them grow within the organization.” Looking ahead, he says he would enjoy getting into an operations role with more opportunity to connect the dots in the organization.

Nicole Hamather

INNOVATION AND STRATEGY CONSULTANT

|| LOBLAW

As an innovation and strategy consultant at Loblaw, Nicole Hamather is laser focused on finding ways technology can make the shopping experience better for customers, constantly searching for ideas that can sometimes seem small but end up having a big impact.

“Nicole is a superstar with a bright future at Loblaw,” says Nelm Khangura, the company’s vice-president of stores and colleague technology.

Since joining the team in 2018, “the Hammer”—as her colleagues call her—has played an invaluable role in launching a number of initiatives including electronic shelf labels, which enable store staff to spend more time serving customers; the Loblaw Concierge program, which provides in-store assistance to the 20% of customers with disabilities; and the “remote optometry” program, which connects patients with a remote optometrist. “This is something I am extremely proud of as it has the potential to increase access to eye exams for all Canadians,” says Hamather. Her success, she believes, stems from a passion for solving complex problems and overcoming any hurdles in her way. “The path of innovation is not linear,” she says.

And her determination to have a big impact extends beyond the office. Last year, she raised more than $46,000 by running 48 miles in 48 hours for Jessica’s House, a residential hospice in Exeter, Ont. named for her sister who died from cancer in 2015.

Alexandre Lévesque

LOGISTICS DIRECTOR || METRO

Metro's distribution centres have been part of Alexandre Lévesque’s DNA since he started working at one as a summer student at age 17. His responsibilities grew over the years and by 2013 he was overseeing logistics at the new Laval, Que. distribution centre, contributing to its planning, design, system configuration and processes. It quickly became one of Metro’s most efficient facilities.

In 2016, Lévesque was tasked with improving operations, productivity and labour relations at the company's meat and frozen food distribution centre in Montreal where he helped negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the union.

Given current labour shortages, he is now working to automate tasks at Metro’s new Terrebonne

distribution centre in Quebec, which is scheduled to open in 2023. He’s the program lead for construction, ensuring everything’s on time and on budget. Once it opens, he’ll shift to operations to make sure it gets off to a successful start.

Lévesque is convinced the experience he has gained in several positions “makes a difference in my management style.” He’s motivated by the opportunity to improve processes and think outside the box. “It's so exciting to wake up and deal with new issues every day.”

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 57
Generation Next

Congratulations

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.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2022 GENERATION NEXT AWARD RECIPIENTS!

Congratulations Angelica Siecinski, Manager, Ecommerce Operations for your well-deserved Generation Next Award presented by Canadian Grocer! Stephanie Benbow Store Manager, Save-On-Foods Guildford Alexander Speckman Store Manager, Save-On-Foods International Northgate Save-On-Foods is thrilled to congratulate Alexander Speckman and Stephanie Benbow on their Generation Next Awards, which recognize outstanding leadership in their stores, communities, and our company. Congratulations to all of this year’s Generation Next Award winners!

launch of new ones, Milne is now the company’s director of marketing.

Adam Murray KEY ACCOUNT MANAGER

promotional activities, and kept conversations less formal with Loblaw.

|| A. LASSONDE

Adam Murray got his start at beverage company A. Lassonde as a DSD (direct to store) account manager for independent retailers in the Greater Toronto Area. Today, Murray manages the Loblaw account nationally. “It’s an exciting desk to be on,” he says.

“It's a challenging time for all parties,” he says. “Being able to communicate openly to identify problems and find solutions is critical.”

Leah

OF MARKETING, PET || SMUCKER FOODS OF CANADA

Leah Milne arrived at Smucker Foods of Canada as an intern while pursuing her MBA at Wilfrid Laurier University. Twelve years later, and after a string of business-building accomplishments that gave a jolt to some of the company’s mature brands and saw the successful

Most notably, Milne relaunched Jif peanut butter in Canada with an integrated campaign shaped by her insight that Canadians wanted a more premium peanut butter. The campaign included a partnership with the Toronto Raptors, TV, social media and retail marketing, all of which launched the brand to the second-leading share position within its first two years. “We heard and responded to an unmet need in the Canadian peanut butter landscape,” says Milne. “When you truly listen to consumers is when you can make a tangible impact.”

Milne also volunteers as a crisis responder for the Kids Help Phone, and she’s been working to make the industry more equitable by advocating for pay transparency. “Over the past year, my passion for pay transparency has led to education and the proposal of practical solutions at [Smucker Foods],” she says. “I want to help make our company and industry more diverse and equitable.”

Aiming to better serve this key account amid supply chain challenges, Murray optimized the product portfolio, ordering patterns and

Murray attributes his ascent to not being afraid to ask questions and leaning in on new projects. “Even if I didn’t think I was ready for it, if someone else believed in me, I would jump in,” he says. For example, he became a liaison for Lassonde at United Grocers Inc., helping roll out marketing programs to its members in the West.

Rishi Patel

DIRECTOR, SALES STRATEGY YOGURT & CULTURED DIVISION

|| LACTALIS CANADA

When he was working at a car rental agency prepping cars, Rishi Patel’s girlfriend at the time told him, “You need to get a real job.” Enter a job at Lactalis Canada where he’s been for a dozen years, rising progressively in the ranks from accounts receivable to overseeing the

trade marketing department.

Patel marvels that “I keep being given the trust to be involved in some pretty game-changing initiatives for the company.”

In 2021, for example, Patel was a driving force in the integration of Ultima Foods into the company, an acquisition that made Lactalis the country’s second-largest yogurt maker. He played a key role in the Canadian launch of Siggi’s yogurt, and in growing the ethnic yogurt

brand Khaas outside of Canada's major cities.

He was also instrumental in setting up a category management and insights team that uses data to analyze product performance and shopper behaviour. And he led crisis management efforts during the pandemic, “when all hell was breaking loose,” ensuring yogurt was always available on shelf. “My jokes and calm demeanour usually help people stay connected,” says Patel.

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 59 Generation Next

CONGRATULATIONS

Reid Fenwick

Sr. Customer Team Lead, Conagra Brands Canada

On his GenNext award recognizing his leadership, passion, and commitment to the grocery industry.

is proud to recognize Alexandre Lévesque and Thomas Giergont

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

Alexandre Lévesque Logistics Director, Quebec Division District Manager,

Megha Ragno SHOPPER MARKETING

MANAGER

||

KRUGER PRODUCTS

It was a full circle moment when Megha Ragno joined Kruger Products in 2020 after spending eight years with Loblaw.

“I was an intern at Kruger when I was studying at the University of Toronto,” explains Ragno. “A lot of the people that I worked with back then are still here. It

has been amazing to come back with that continuity, along with the new connections I’ve made.”

At Kruger, Ragno has established a workflow for shopper marketing, making collaboration easier across functions, from retail operations and sales to marketing, as well as with agency partners.

Ragno’s leadership in this area contributed to the recent success of important brand launches such as SpongeTowels Ultra PRO

and Bonterra, Kruger’s brand of responsibly sourced household tissue.

Over the past two years, Ragno has also led the development of the “Kruger Canadian Made” campaign with both internal and external partners. “The campaign increased brand awareness around the fact that our products are made in Canada at a time when people were hyper-focused on supporting local,” she says. “It’s some of the work I am most proud of.”

food development centre in Saskatoon to develop products, so I’m in every taste-testing meeting, too,” she says. “I really get to be privy to the whole process.”

Robert Rigato

SR. MERCHANT, PRODUCE || WALMART CANADA

At Walmart Canada, Robert Rigato wants to help alleviate some of the worry families have about high inflation.

Katelyn

Rawlyk STORE BRANDS SPECIALIST

FEDERATED CO-OPERATIVES

LIMITED

In her role, Katelyn Rawlyk is responsible for getting innovative new products to grocery shelves. This includes everything from choosing strategies for product categories to sourcing vendors to supply the goods. “Sometimes I’m even working with ingredient suppliers and connecting them with the

Rawlyk is passionate about working with local producers and establishing closer connections between grocery products and the farmers who grow the ingredients to create them. “I come from a farming background myself, so being able to connect those suppliers— who grow and produce here—to create new products that will serve Western Canada is really satisfying for me,” she says.

Be it premium pasta or chickpea ice cream, Rawlyk's ability to identify and capitalize on trends has resulted in two Canadian Grand Prix New Product awards. “My background is in business marketing and my passion is food, so this role comes quite naturally,” she says.

“I feel it’s our responsibility as an industry to help make fresh food affordable for Canadians,” he says. “While there are things out of our control, we can find innovative ways to help reduce food costs through efficiencies in areas like supply chain and packaging.”

He has done that at Walmart, where he’d like to model the career path of his coach and mentor, 2020 Generation Next winner Kimberly Roberts, who is Walmart Canada’s senior director of merchandising, produce and floral.

“I want to continue to grow within the business and be a passionate leader

in the produce category,” says Rigato. The seeds of Rigato’s flourishing career were first planted at age 15 when he got a part-time job in produce at a Loblaws store in Richmond Hill, Ont. “I loved the bright colours, tastes and smells of the produce department—it appealed to my creative side,” he explains.

Today, Rigato also finds inspiration in growing fruit and vegetables in his garden “and researching new and innovative growing methods within the industry.”

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 61 Generation Next
||

Congratulations Katelyn!

Co-op is proud to recognize Katelyn Rawlyk, on being a Canadian Grocer 2022 GenNext award recipient.

Katelyn, your passion and dedication to the grocery industry are on full display everyday. Congratulations on your Canadian Grocer 2022 GenNext award, and thank you for everything you do at Co-op!

Congratulations Megha Ragno

Please join us in congratulating Megha Ragno on her Canadian Grocer’s 2022 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 Prod

®CO-OP and design trademark are registered trademarks of Federated Co-operatives Ltd., Saskatoon S7K 3M9.
Katelyn Rawlyk
© 2022 ® Registered Trademarks and TM Trademarks Kruger Products L.P. ®’ Registered trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.

Shabir Sarker CUSTOMER TEAM DIRECTOR

||

MCCORMICK CANADA

Shabir Sarker began his career as an intern at Frito-Lay “driving around in trucks selling potato chips.” By age 22, he was leading a team of 15 people, most of whom were older than his dad, which “really developed my leadership and set me up for success longer term.”

Now at McCormick, that success has included being instrumental in breaking up an exclusivity pact, giving French’s Ketchup access to

grocery shelves nationwide and transforming it from a brand that wasn’t growing into a major player. News about the ketchup using only Canadian tomatoes and consumer engagement “definitely helped build a story to increase distribution of the brand nationally,” he says.

Sarker, who is responsible for the Loblaws account, also launched McCormick’s revenue management department at the beginning of the pandemic. He developed an educational plan that helped the sales team understand and drive net sales and profit.

These days, having a crossfunctional view of the organization is necessary, he says. “You can’t be a salesperson anymore and not care about supply or about marketing. Everything’s just so integrated,” says Sarker, whose longterm goal is to become a general manager.

Angelica Siecinski

MANAGER, ECOMMERCE OPERATIONS

|| LONGO’S

After starting her career at Longo’s bricks-andmortar stores, Angelica Siecinski transitioned to the e-commerce side of the business just as the pandemic hit. During a particularly stressful period, she played a key role in ensuring the successful operation of the company’s Grocery Gateway delivery service, reaching record targets in sales.

As the chaos of those uncertain times subsided, Siecinski made it her mission to improve team member engagement and promote a supportive and “family-like” work culture. “That meant celebrating wins when we reached our KPIs (key performance indicators) and always being advocates of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I),” says Siecinski, who oversees

350 staff. For Orange Shirt Day, for example, team members created shirts to sell, with proceeds going to an Indigenous foundation. A DE&I board on-site lists all the celebrations and events that are happening each month. “It’s great to be successful, but bringing the team along with you is the best part,” says Siecinski. “I also like to think of myself as an uplifter—coaching and mentoring others to lead strong teams, too.”

Alex Speckman

||

With a reputation for creating strong, cohesive teams, Alex Speckman has played a major role in opening new Save-On-Foods locations in Yorkton and Prince Albert, Sask., as well as Winnipeg over the last six years.

During the height of COVID-19, he was promoted to store manager and

launched yet another location. “Opening a new store in the middle of a pandemic and being entrusted to hire 120 team members and instill our workplace culture has been one of my greatest accomplishments to date,” says Speckman, who has more than 15 years of experience in the grocery sector under his belt. His desire to keep learning and growing professionally is ongoing. Speckman recently

started managing SaveOn-Foods’ biggest flagship store in Winnipeg, while also planning to start an accelerated MBA program next year at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business (with support from Save-On-Foods’ master’s degree sponsorship program). “I still have lots of runway left in my career and aspire to work towards a senior leadership role at Save-On-Foods, eventually,” says Speckman.

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 63 Generation Next

McCormick Canada is thrilled to congratulate Shabir Sarker for his Generation Next Award which recognizes his outstanding leadership of people, our business and our customers.

He is an inspirational leader with a great commitment and passion for Lassonde, our customers and the grocery industry.

Congratulations to this year’s Gen Next Award recipients.

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

Leah’s passion for delivering on the unmet needs of Canadians through her brand leadership and charitable service has helped shape a stronger grocery industry.

Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition, Leah!

202 2 Winner! Demand and Supply Planning
Director
Emmanuel Guimont
Lassonde would like to congratulate Adam Murray for his Gen Next Award.

Hubert Théorêt MARKETING DIRECTOR, FINE CHEESE

|| AGROPUR COOPERATIVE

Through the introduction of Agropur's Monsieur Gustav brand, for which he built the strategy, Hubert Théorêt has made fine cheese accessible to a younger demographic. Not only is the brand attracting millennials to a category they often view as intimidating, but it’s bringing the Quebec-based

company $20 million a year in net sales for pre-packed fine cheese and more than $10 million for cheese cut and wrapped in-store. “Those are great numbers,” Théorêt says. “We increased the consumption of fine cheese by 43%, bringing new consumers to the category and increasing sales among people who were already buying fine cheese.”

Since most fine cheese buyers make their decisions in-store, Théorêt put a QR code on Monsieur Gustav packaging,

directing consumers to an augmented reality version of the brand mascot, which dispensed advice on everything from storage to wine pairings.

Théorêt also helped reposition Agropur's legendary Oka cheese as a more premium brand, modernizing the packaging and introducing Oka Mushrooms & Truffle, which he says is overselling.

As for the future, Théorêt says: “I’m keeping my doors open. As long as I love what I do, I’m good.”

Vittoria Varalli

|| FOODLAND ONTARIO, SOBEYS

No matter what her role at Sobey’s, Vittoria Varalli has proven that her progressive and innovative leadership style has a positive impact. As vice-president of sustainability, she played a pivotal role in eliminating single-use plastic bags at checkout counters. Then, as

vice-president of national wholesale, she revamped the operating model and pivoted the business to focus more on grocery, resulting in a 33% rise in earnings before interest and taxes.

In her current role, Varalli is responsible for a more than $1-billion business, leading a team of nearly 200 employees and franchisees who operate 136 Foodland stores across Ontario. “It’s easy to list all these accomplishments, but what it really comes back to is the people,” says Varalli. “For me it’s about empowering my team and I feel most proud when I see people who were on my team move on to bigger and better things.” She is particularly grateful to all the female leaders in the grocery sector who came before her. “What fuels me is that I need to continue to pave the path for all the women to come.”

Jason Vesely

Jason Vesely’s education in the grocery business began early. “I was a few years old when my parents got a grocery store—and so, you could say I’ve spent my whole life in one,” he says.

Initially, he would play under the desk in his father’s office. As Vesely grew up, however, he bagged groceries, re-stocked shelves and got to know customers. It didn’t feel like work.

“It’s always been fun,” he says. “With grocery being seasonal, there’s always something exciting going on.”

Earning a bachelor’s degree in commerce at MacEwan University in 2019, Vesely became the first student in Western Canada to complete the Sobeys Store Manager in Training (MIT) franchise program. His plan is to take over his parents’ Sobeys store in Westlock, Alta., a town just north of Edmonton.

“People don’t grow up

thinking, ‘I want to sell groceries,’” he says. “But it is rewarding work. And I think programs like Sobeys MIT will bring in more young people, contributing continuity and growth to the industry.”

Vesely is also part of a new committee with the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers tasked with helping the sector attract and retain the next generation of talent.

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 65 Generation Next

FOUNDER

plenty of consumer interest and demand. But Mandi Zolkowski was passionate about it long before it was a popular consumer trend. “I was in the industry before it became cool,” she says with a laugh. That passion traces back to her childhood growing up on a farm. She developed an interest in natural foods, while also learning about some of the unnatural processes involved with food production, including the use of chemicals, additives and genetic modification.

|| BLUME NATURAL SALES & MARKETING

Natural products and health food is a hot category these days, with

Zolkowski started working in natural foods retail when she was just 19 years old, then moved onwards and upwards to key account manager for a natural foods brokerage,

a brand manager for a distributor and a category manager for a national brand. Then a little more than five years ago, while looking for a next step on her career path, she realized she could start her own business. “I wanted to do what I’m passionate about and start a business that has ethical values and a positive environment.” And that’s what Zolkowski did. Today, her natural products brokerage company Blume Natural Sales & Marketing, which is based in B.C., is growing a lineup of ethical, innovative brands in the Canadian marketplace, representing more than 17 brands in grocery with plans to add more. CG

Generation Next
Mandi Zolkowski
RELIABLE FOOD PROCESSING EQUIPMENT FOR THE LONG RUN www.birosaw.com 290RB-12-17 BRING THE BEST BEEF TO YOUR CUSTOMERS letstalk@intercitypackers.ca
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AUTOMATION NATION

As the world continues to seek a return to pre-pandemic normalcy in 2023, it seems certain the grocery sector will continue to see an accelerated shift toward automation. There are a few reasons for this: consumer behaviours changed by the pandemic—including the shift to self-serve and digital transactions—are here to stay; automation is one way to mitigate the labour problem, and there’s the progress and innovation in the technology itself. While most may think of self-checkout systems, service kiosks, touch point-of-sale (POS) terminals and so on, there are more and more examples of automation being used to improve stocking, merchandising, order fulfilment and delivery, to say nothing of the distribution centres that are nearly fully automated.

Research firm imarc predicts the global retail automation market will grow to US$26.3 billion by 2027 (from $15.1 billion in 2021). And McKinsey believes the automation opportunity in grocery is high compared to other industries. “Research suggests one third of grocery retail tasks could be automated over the next eight years,” the firm concludes.

1

TIKTOK AND SHOP

Should you be on TikTok? A better question might be why aren’t you on it already? TikTok only arrived in North America in 2018, but the short-form, video-sharing app became a social and pop culture juggernaut during the pandemic, growing with such pace and energy that business and media experts are still trying to make sense of it. One thing’s for sure, TikTok has become a

SEVEN THINGS TO WATCH 2

powerful platform for food. Recipes and cooking is always a top category on the app, and when something foodie goes viral on TikTok (like using dates to make Snicker-bar facsimiles) it can cause a run on ingredients at grocery stores. If you want to be talking with consumers about food—or listening to what they are saying about food—yeah, you want to be on TikTok. It’s clear TikTok wants

ELEVATED E-COMMERCE

E-commerce adoption exploded during COVID-19 as consumers looked for a safe and reliable way to shop for groceries. Though e-commerce activity has slowed with the easing of restrictions and the rollout of vaccinations, there is still room for it to grow and in ways some grocers may not have considered. Customers are no longer satisfied having static relationships with the companies they buy from, which is why enhanced customer service is key. Take chatbots, for instance—one of Hootsuite’s top 10 retail trends for 2023—which can answer your customer's questions, automate personalized shopping experiences, provide multilingual support and gather feedback and data. “They can do all this at any time of day, without getting tired, and without the need to pay multiple salaries,” says Hootsuite. “Chatbots are, in essence, the perfect addition to any retail team hoping to provide an omnichannel experience for customer support.”

to expand its social commerce business: making it easier for users to buy items without leaving the app. And the fact Walmart expressed interest in buying TikTok says a lot about the perceived value to retailers. For now, it seems likely 2023 will be about more people consuming more food content on TikTok, so start figuring out if you can make any other chocolate bars with dates.

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A look at the trends that could impact grocery in 2023 and beyond 3

PLANT-BASED FINDS ROOM TO GROW

Though the sector may have hit stumbling blocks along the way, improvements have been made to the taste and texture of plantbased foods and beverages. Still, Innova Market Insights says there is an opportunity for brands to diversify within the category to meet “consumer demands for high quality, flavoursome products.” The market intelligence firm identified “Plantbased: Unlocking a New Narrative” among its top 10 trends for 2023. In the plant-based space, there is a “huge appetite,” says Innova, for creativity and “worldwide flavour profiles.” Impossible Foods, for instance, recently launched a line of single-serve frozen entrees called Impossible Bowls made with alt beef, chicken and pork. There is also an opportunity for grocers to increase consumer education around plantbased products.

CONSIDERING THE CLIMATE

“This was the year climate change became impossible to ignore,” says Waitrose & Partners in its Food & Drink Report 2022-23 Indeed, devastating weather events (floods, fires, heat waves) around the globe have caused consumers to think about what part they can play to help the planet. According to the report, consumers are becoming more aware of the “carbon counts” of food—how far it travelled to get to the shelf, how much water was needed and the amount of greenhouse gases that were emitted in producing the food. And a growing number of food companies are highlighting their sustainability efforts on packaging with things like carbon labels. According to Innova Market Insights, product launches with a carbon reduction claim are on an uptick and Whole Foods Market recently listed “climate-conscious callouts” among its Top 10 Food Trends for 2023. But consumers are confused by ecolabels and, according to an Innova survey, 55% of global consumers say there are too many of them. In the United Kingdom, some groups are calling for government and industry to come together to

introduce unified front-of-pack labelling for carbon claims to limit consumer confusion.

Another climate-related trend to watch in 2023 and beyond is what Mintel calls “weatherproofed provisions.” According to the market intelligence firm, consumers will need food and drinks that will help them “adapt to the realities of living with climate change.” This entails everything from products that help bodies withstand extreme temperatures to functional foods that can protect consumers’ skin from stronger UV rays.

IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE

With the pandemic taking a toll on physical and mental health, it’s no surprise the Specialty Food Association (SFA) Trendspotter Panel is predicting consumers will focus on their overall well-being in 2023, especially as they become more nutritionally savvy. Not to worry, SFA says there is still room to indulge, with the balance between health and moments of joy driving this trend. Functional foods remain important to consumers seeking a wholistic approach to health and wellness—“with interest in immunity, gut health, memory ... manufacturers are introducing functional ingredients into products anywhere they can,” says SFA. But, the desire for consumers to reward themselves is also strong.

ELEVATING CONVENIENCE

“Quick quality” is a trend that has been building and one that Innova Market Insights has identified as one of its top trends for 2023. While convenient products have long been important to consumers, now they are seeking convenience foods with added benefits such as clean ingredients that have a flavourful impact or that allow them to have a part in preparing the food. “Twenty-five years ago, Tesco set the world on fire with its chilled ready-meal case ... you just had to heat and eat it. Now, consumers are a bit more willing to participate in the cooking,” said Lu Ann Williams, Innova’s global insights

director on a recent webinar announcing the research firm’s trends forecast.

The New York-based Specialty Food Association (SFA) also expects convenience will be important to consumers in 2023. SFA’s Trendspotter Panel anticipates that after sharpening their cooking skills during lockdowns, consumers still have ambitions to cook, but they're tired and want their meal prep to be easy and exciting. According to SFA, the coming year will see curated meal kits that won’t sacrifice “authenticity, convenience and taste,” and specialty food companies will make it easier for those who want to cook from scratch by promoting the appropriate cooking tools and recipes. CG

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TASTING THE WORLD

When it comes to the foods and flavours consumers are seeking, the world is their oyster.

Globally, the ethnic foods market is projected to grow from US$49 billion in 2021 to US$98 billion in 2028, growing a staggering 10.33% annually, according to Fortune Business Insights. The market research firm notes Asian cuisine will dominate the segment, with rising exports of Asian products such as Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese. Increased consumer spending, rising immigration and demand for ready-toeat food products are all expected to boost sales in the sector.

In Canada, consumers are wholeheartedly embracing global eats. Mintel

research from 2019 found that more than half of Canadians view themselves as being more open to eating international foods than they were a few years ago, with more than three-quarters (77%) also viewing international foods as being more mainstream than they used to be.

While those stats are a few years old, they have a long shelf life. “A lot of the data is not going to have changed since 2019,” says Joel Gregoire, associate director, food and drink at Mintel. “It takes time for consumer behaviours to really change.”

What has changed over the years is that international foods "have gone from being a nice-to-have to a need-to-have for grocers in a lot of cases,” adds Gregoire. In fact, 56% of Canadians agree grocery stores

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As the appetite for global foods continues to grow, the segment has gone from niche to need-to-have
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that don’t offer internationally inspired foods are not keeping up with the times. And 45% say they’re more likely to shop at grocery stores that offer these foods.

Given Canada’s immigration trends, the appetite for diverse foods will only grow. According to Statistics Canada’s population projections, immigrants could represent from 29% to 34% of the total population by 2041. Asia, including the Middle East, remained the continent of birth for most recent immigrants (62%), and almost one in five were born in India.

“Growth [in the grocery sector] is going to come from diverse Canadian ethnic groups, which will define and shape [food products] and merchandising decisions in stores,” says Amar Singh, senior director at Kantar. “That’s something retailers have to start thinking about right now ... The new demographic mix is going to be very non-mainstream Canadian, so it’s important to cater to their taste palates, dietary restrictions and sensitivities.”

Nature’s Emporium, which has four stores in the Greater Toronto Area, is among the retailers catering to both diverse populations and Canadians who are open to trying new-to-them foods.

“Nature’s Emporium has locations in communities with diverse populations, so there is a need from our customer base to provide healthy, natural and organic options that can help them create a wide array of culturally-inspired dishes,” says Terry Samaroo, director of grocery at Nature’s Emporium. At the same time, “Western tastes have shifted to become more diverse and inclusive.”

Customers’ appetite for global cuisine drove the development of a private-label line of organic spices, seasonings and marinades including butter chicken seasoning, cajun seasoning, garam masala, Jamaican-style jerk marinade and Peri Peri marinade. “Nature’s Emporium customers love trying new recipes, especially ones inspired by cultures from around the world,” says Samaroo.

Mike Longo, chief merchandising officer at Longo’s, is also seeing an interest in cooking different global cuisines at home. “[Our guests] are excited to experience cultures in different ways by trying new products and discovering new flavours,” he says. “[They] tell us that one of the best ways to tap into global foods is by cooking them at home. Utilizing our heritage as an example, we have curated a line of Italian imports, Longo’s Curato, which

features a lineup of authentic premium products.” Products in the Curato line include dry-cured meats, dried pasta, pasta sauce and gelato sorbet.

While many consumers want to try global cuisines at home, not everyone wants to prepare these dishes themselves. Shivani Dhamija, founder of Halifax-based Shivani’s Kitchen, says with people heading back to the office post-pandemic, they’re once again looking for convenience. The company, which started with selling ethnic spice blends and ready-to-use sauces, is now getting in the market of ready-to-eat meals in microwavable, recyclable containers. Three varieties recently launched: Butter chicken and rice, chicken curry and rice, and chickpea curry and rice.

“Now, people want to go out to eat but, with increasing prices and salaries not increasing, they’re looking for cheaper solutions,” says Dhamija. “That’s where we come in: Helping people get the same authentic flavours without being heavy on their pocketbooks.”

Convenience is also a focus at Lola’s Food, a Latin food company based in Mississauga, Ont. that offers fresh, locally produced products that are ready-to-heat at home in the oven or air fryer.

A popular product for the company is gluten-free empanadas: precooked cornmeal patties that combine different fillings such as cheese, meat and beans. Co-founder Mateo Maslov says: “Lola’s Food is freshly Canadian and authentic Latino, demonstrating that Latin gastronomy goes far beyond Mexican tacos.”

Rakesh Sharma, is managing director of Mississauga, Ont.-based PTI Foods, an importer and manufacturer specializing in South Asian foods. The company is seeing growth in the authentic flavours and products newer Canadians enjoyed in their home countries. “They’re not really [widely] known, but there’s huge demand for these products,” says Sharma. These products include jaggery, a type of unrefined sugar made from sugar cane juice or palm sap; atta flour, which is used to make flatbreads such as chapati; and ghee, a type of clarified butter.

Asha Wheeldon, founder and CEO of Kula Foods—a Vancouver-based company offering a variety of Afro-vegan foods—says she’s seeing a growing demand for gluten-free and flavourful meat alternatives. The company recently launched Ginger Beef—a versatile base

for a variety of meals—and G.O.A.T Curry, which was inspired by the traditional Caribbean classic.

“High in protein, and packed with flavour, we’re making culturally diverse plant-based nourishment accessible for everyone,” says Wheeldon. “Our sauces and meat alternatives are gluten and soy free, made with Canadian-grown pea protein, whole ingredients and contain no added sugars or artificial sweeteners.”

With the proliferation of global foods, the question for retailers is how to effectively merchandise them. At Longo’s, merchandising is done by product type and not by international region, incorporating global products throughout the store. “As an example, all of our noodles and sauces are merchandised together so our guests have access to what they are looking for, but also an opportunity to discover other items they may not have been aware of,” explains Longo.

The key for grocers, says Kantar’s Singh, is localizing their merchandise mix. “If you go to Scarborough, you’re going to find more Chinese cuisine options and if you go to a Walmart in Brampton, you’re going to see more South Asian options,” he says. “In the bigger city centres, there’s no such thing as the ethnic aisle anymore. Ethnic products are in the high-traffic areas and placed in the categories where they should be found.”

With rising immigration comes the need to better understand customers’ tastes, which can serve up opportunities. “Demographic trends can have impacts [a retailer or manufacturer] might not necessarily consider,” says Mintel’s Gregoire. “For example, a lot of South Asians will pair a spicier meal with a creamier, richer dairy product such as lassi [a drink made from yogurt or buttermilk] or yogurt. If you’re in the dairy business that’s something to recognize. If this is where the growth is coming from, how do you position yogurt as being a complement to a meal, not just a snack? There’s nuances [the industry] needs to understand.”

Overall, Sharma of PTI Foods says global foods will continue to grow, as more retailers get to know the products that consumers want from home and as Canadians try new foods. “Canadians, in general, like trying new things,” he says. “At home, we have every different kind of food throughout the week. So, as it becomes more available, it’s going to help propel it even further.”

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WHAT’S

NEW PRODUCTS IN GROCERY NEW

For a Better Planet

Kruger Products has launched Bonterra™, a new sustainably focused line of household paper products. Bonterra Bath Tissue is made with 100% FSC® certified recycled paper and wrapped in plastic-free, recyclable paper packaging. Winner of GIC’s 2022 Top 10 in Grocery Award for Best Sustainable Product, Bonterra is made in Canada and partners with 4ocean to remove 10,000lbs of plastic annually from the world’s oceans, rivers, and coastlines. An excellent o ering for today’s sustainable consumer.

Sweet with the Heat

TABASCO® is expanding with a unique o ering in both format and flavour. Introducing the new TABASCO® Sweet & Spicy Sauce in an easy-to-use squeeze bottle. TABASCO® Sweet & Spicy Sauce is the ultimate dipping sauce: the perfect balance of sweet and heat. Its sticky-sweet flavour includes hints of ginger, pear and garlic while it gets its mild heat from red peppers and a dash of the legendary TABASCO® Sauce. It is free from gluten, allergens, preservatives and fat, is non-GMO, Kosher, Halal and vegan friendly.

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SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL FEATURE IN CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023

WHAT’S

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Call of the Wild

Since 1995, Wildly Delicious Preserve Co. has been a leader in flavour innovation and food product design through collaboration with some of the world’s most notable retailers and chefs. A new era for Wildly Delicious begins in January 2023 with the launch of a reimagined Wildly Delicious. From tip to tail, a fresh new, colourful look and brand image that is as vibrant as their flavours.

Adding Mmmm to mmmmeals!

Saputo has unlocked the perfect combination. A first of its kind in dairy, Mmmm…. Bacon will take Canadian’s favourite recipes to the next level. This flavourful, timesaving, shredded cheese is perfect for omelettes, loaded baked potatoes, casseroles, as a salad topper, and much more.

You say Tomato

Made to o er a clean label of organic farmed tomatoes to Canadians, Mutti introduces Mutti Organics - 100% natural Italian tomatoes canned without need of additives or preservatives. Synonymous with high-quality, Mutti Organics includes Mutti’s top selling products - Passata, Peeled, Chopped tomatoes and tomato Paste. And like all products signed Mutti, the fruits are picked at peak ripeness and packaged within 24 hours of harvest to maintain the freshness and flavour that consumers expect from Italy’s no. 1 tomato brand.

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL FEATURE IN CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023

COFFEE TRENDS AND TROUBLES

COFFEE SHORTAGES AHEAD?

Yet, even with all the coffee love happening, there are longer-term factors at play that are now contributing to potential coffee shortages in the future, whether that be climate change affecting crop supply or labour issues stalling products from reaching grocery stores. “Supply chains are a problem, and few people understand what that means,” said Sylvain Charlebois, professor in food distribution policy and senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, noting that lab-grown coffee is in the works already as a potential antidote. “It doesn’t taste the same yet, but they are getting there.”

Charlebois said the one thing society is starting to understand—given climate change and the pandemic—is that risks never disappear, they simply move across the supply chain. One way to mitigate future supply chain concerns, he said, is to take a “wholistic approach and talk to each other because the risks are moving and you have to come up with sustainable solutions.”

COFFEE HOLDS strong as Canadians’ drink of choice, but sustainability is going to be a bigger issue going forward, heard attendees at this year’s Coffee Association of Canada’s annual conference themed “The Road Ahead.”

“Coffee penetration remains strong with seven in 10 people having had at least one cup of coffee yesterday,” said panellist Cheryl Hung, vice-president of research at Dig Insights, citing findings from the 2022 National Coffee Data Trends report. “Even the consumption of espresso-based coffees like lattes and cappuccinos have stayed steady.”

Vince Sgabellone, director of client development at The NPD Group, said at least one-third of consumers have purchased a new piece of coffee brewing equipment over the last two years and are determined to make good on their investments. “Lots of people think they are home baristas now,” he said, noting that 25% have said they would bring coffee from home when going out given their new home brewing devices. While traditional coffee still ranks No. 1, he said specialty/ iced coffees are most popular among the younger set, with 62% of generation Zs consuming these types of coffees compared to

50% of millennials and 30% of boomers.

With inflation concerns still looming, it’s not surprising that price is the key factor driving coffee growth. And while grocery stores have the lion’s share of the category, there is some “channel shifting” happening, noted NielsenIQ’s Jenny Mabley, vice-president, consumer panel services, as people go to warehouses, mass merchants and even drugstores for their java fix.

Mabley also stressed the rise in popularity of private-label coffee brands, which have 16% of the market. “I can’t stress enough how important [this segment] is,” she said, adding that more than one-third of consumers (regardless of demographic) are also opting for coffee pods.

In speaking of ways retailers can better engage coffee-drinking consumers after two-and-a-half years of pandemic hibernation, Vanessa Toperczer, senior vice-president, IMI International, said they could be a “connector” and provide some excitement around the category again. She noted that coffee is an ideal category because it’s not particularly highstake or high cost. “Sell the dream through visuals and messaging—sell that moment of togetherness.”

Kate Burnett, president of coffee company Bridgehead, said inequalities in wages for farmers is forcing them to start diversifying their products. “More significantly, we will see the next generation who have watched their parents work so hard and lead challenging lives, move away from [a coffee growing] career entirely,” she said. “As an industry, coffee farmers are the backbone and if we don’t ensure everyone on the supply chain is making a living wage, we won’t have the industry we have now.”

Fred Schaeffer, president and CEO, Mother Parkers, said the whole coffee sector could be doing a better job in helping consumers understand the sustainable options available so they can make better choices. “We have fair trade, organic, birdfriendly [and so on] and collectively we have an opportunity to talk to consumers in a more unified way,” he said.

Telling consumers how they can make a dent in climate change also gives them a sense of control during a time when control has been lacking, said Mary Graham, president of Toronto’s Fresh City. As a longer-term plan, she said regenerative farming (i.e., regenerating soils to improve their fertility) would be a more sustainable solution from the onset. “These are costly agricultural processes, but it’s the next phase [of] where coffee needs to go.”

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1 UP TO DATE

Dates—known for their caramel-like sweetness—are enjoying a renaissance, both as a fresh fruit and as a partial or full substitute for sugar in everything from snack bars to condiments. Whole Foods Market calls it a food trend for 2023.

“Dates offer a natural sugar option that match the ongoing clean label trend,” says Lu Ann Williams, global insights director at Innova Market Insights. “They tick a lot of boxes that consumers are seeking.”

The fruit of date palm trees, dates are rich in nutrients, says Kelsey Moore, nutrition operations manager at B.C.based grocery chain Choices Markets.

Their high fibre content is wellknown, but “dates also have more vitamins and minerals than natural sources like honey and maple syrup,” she explains. “They are a great source of magnesium, potassium and copper.”

Dates Four things to know

2 FRESH IMAGE

3 FROM SNACKS TO KETCHUP

Once relegated to healthy cereals and on-the-go snacks, dates are now a hero ingredient in other products. Looking at the market share of product launches in the spreads category globally, three times more of them include dates than two years ago, according to Innova Market Insights. Its research indicates the category is also growing faster in its use of dates than any other (+43%, global CAGR 2017-2021).

Ottawa-based Bisou is one of several chocolate and cinnamon date spreads available on Canadian shelves, including at Whole Foods Market stores.

Sales of dates in the U.S. are up 11% for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 6, 2022: NielsenIQ

In the sauces and seasoning category, Toronto-based Good Food For Good has recorded “triple-digit growth annually” since launching an organic ketchup— “sweetened only with dates,” reads the label—in 2017, according to its founder Richa Gupta. Sobeys, Metro, Whole Foods, Loblaws, Walmart Canada and Choices Markets all carry it, and the company also has a line of barbecue sauces and cooking sauces sweetened with date paste.

The brand has avoided an inflationary hit, having stocked up on organic dates more than a year ago. “It’s an expensive ingredient, but so far we’ve been able to avoid the impact,” says Gupta.

4 TRENDING

Dates became a viral sensation when TikTok creator and food blogger Hajar Larbah shared a recipe for chocolate-covered, peanut butter-filled dates during Ramadan in March. Her post attracted 2.8 million views.

“That is when dates got their groove back,” says Moore of Choices Markets. “Once a food starts to trend on TikTok, it's generally followed by a huge sales spike.”

That was the case for packaged fresh dates at Choices Markets stores, though the category retracted between June and October. "There was a significant price increase on [dates] in the spring, and for most people, dates are a luxury item,” says Moore.

The average unit price on dates rose by 13% for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 6, 2022, according to NielsenIQ.

the

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However, sales in the category were up 11% during same period.
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North American producers of the fruit have been partnering with influencers on dispelling the myth that dates aren’t sold fresh. “People are sometimes shocked to hear they aren’t a dried plum,” notes David Baxter, director of marketing at Bard Valley Natural Delights, which harvests and packages fresh Medjool dates from southeastern California and northern Mexico. This summer, Bard Valley Natural Delights partnered with celebrity chef Anna Olson on a harvest tour to drive awareness and education. “We are positioning dates as a companion to the savoury, like being bacon-wrapped or cheese-filled,” explains Baxter.

WHAT’S THE CATCH?

FISH AND SEAFOOD—as well as their plant-based alternatives—are gaining in popularity among Canadian shoppers seeking healthier choices and different protein options.

The fresh seafood market in Canada sits at around $800 million, according to the latest figures from NielsenIQ. But, expectations for the category are being tempered somewhat by skyrocketing food prices, which are taking a Jaws -sized bite out of Canadians’ food budgets. Jo-Ann McArthur, president at Nourish Food Marketing in Toronto, says sales of fresh seafood, and particularly those of category staple salmon, are falling as customers look to cut costs in a “high-inflation environment.” They are also increasingly looking to lower-cost seafood items, such as canned tuna, to stock their pantries.

The good news is that the evolving seafood market appears to fit with consumer attitudes towards both healthier eating and sustainability. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 report, seafood accounts for 7% of the protein consumed globally, and Accenture’s The Big Catch report says because seafood’s carbon footprint is significantly lower than other animal-based food products such as beef, its potential to sustainably feed the growing world population is “significant.”

CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION Seafood is well-aligned with a broader consumer shift towards conscious consumption, says Accenture, with sustainable foods currently growing 5.6 times faster than conventionally marketed products.

Adam Bent, CEO of Vancouver-based Scout, which specializes in “restaurant-quality” canned seafood including tuna, rainbow trout and lobster, says a consumer shift towards more responsibly sourced seafood and greater supply chain transparency is translating into increased demand for “responsible players,” with young entrepreneurial companies happily stepping up to fill the void.

Scout recently announced a US$4 million seed round it will use to accelerate its Scout Snack Kits, which boast the same quality and ethical sourcing standards its customers expect, but at a lower price to appeal to a broader consumer market as an everyday option. The kits are launching into large U.S. retailers in January, and direct to consumer in Canada the next month.

Looking ahead, Bent predicts a shift away from so-called “monoculture species” like salmon and tuna that have dominated the market for decades. “Consumers are embracing new products, and brands are helping to make under-served seafood more appealing,” he says.

THE HEALTHY, EVERYDAY CHOICE Seafood has long been perceived as a healthy choice when compared to other proteins like beef, but in a recent survey of U.S. consumers conducted by Mintel, nearly

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Against a backdrop of inflation, the demand for traditional and plant-based seafood is on the rise
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three-quarters (73%) cite taste as the reason they eat seafood, ahead of health benefits (48%) and ease of preparation (45%). Nearly one third of respondents (32%) say it’s healthier than other animal proteins.

But grocers are also fighting the consumer perception that seafood is not an everyday food, with 58% of respondents aged 18 to 34, and 54% of those 35 to 54, telling Mintel that fish/shellfish are more suited to special occasions than everyday meals.

The survey suggests there is room for grocers to grow the category, with nearly three-quarters of respondents in both the 18 to 34 and 35 to 54 demographics (73% and 71%, respectively) saying they would like to see more meal ideas in-store—such as recipe cards and cooking demonstrations—on how to use seafood.

Shoppers in this category are also seeking reassurance around freshness and are keen to buy local, says Nourish’s McArthur. “Sourced in Canada, as well as omega-3 messaging is of top importance with consumers,” she explains.

ALT SEAFOOD Plant-based seafood is also establishing a toehold in grocery retail. Digs Dorfman, CEO of Toronto-based independent grocer The Sweet Potato, has seen a sharp increase in plant-based

seafood at trade shows over the past year. His store listed its first alt seafood SKUs about two years ago, and is in the process of expanding its selection.

“We’re listing everything from frozen crab-less crabcakes, to tuna-less cans of tuna, and we’re seeing a real uptick in demand,” says Dorfman. One company whose products The Sweet Potato is “almost certainly” going to list is Port Coquitlam, B.C.’s TMRW Foods, which offers a product called Ocean Cakes made from what the company describes as “a blend of TMRW protein, jackfruit, seaweed, herbs and capers.”

The Sweet Potato also introduced a carrot-based smoked salmon consisting of slices similar to lox that Dorfman says has become a surprise seller.

Amar Singh, senior director at Kantar, says there’s “traction for plant-based products,” but it remains a niche segment. “I don’t think they’re becoming mainstream by any stretch of the imagination,” he says. “People are still experimenting with them.”

And as the ongoing decline of the plant-based meat market suggests, it’s also subject to the whims of consumers. “The whole premise [of plant-based meat] was that you’re getting something deemed better for you,” says Singh. “But then they’re looking at the sodium content and all the other ingredients and saying, ‘Wait a second, this is manufactured food.’ ”

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1 BABYBEL PLANT-BASED

Babybel—the brand of classic smooth, creamy cheese rounds—is now available in a certified plant-based option, wrapped in a green wax coating to make it easy for customers to identify. Babybel PlantBased is sold in pouches made with 100% paper and the cheese rounds are wrapped in compostable cellophane.

2 TWO GOOD BY DANONE

Too good to be true? Two Good by Danone is a creamy Greek yogurt that offers eight grams of protein and only two grams of sugar (80% less sugar than the average Greek yogurt, according to Danone) in each 95-gram serving. Two Good is sold in packs of four or in 625gram tubs, and is available in a range of flavours including plain, vanilla, raspberry and strawberry.

New on shelf! 1 2 3

3 CADBURY PLANT BAR

The vegan alternative to the classic, creamy Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar has arrived in Canada. Following a launch in the United Kingdom last year, Cadbury Plant Bar is available at grocery stores across the country in two flavours: Chocolatey Smooth and Salted Caramel. The 90-gram bars are made with almond paste instead of milk and 100% sustainably sourced cocoa.

4 GOLDFISH MEGA BITES

More than just a bigger fish (actually, twice the size of the original), Goldfish Mega Bites crackers are also bolder, cheesier and pack a bigger crunch for what Campbell Company of Canada calls an “adult-sized snacking experience.”

Sold in 167-gram bags, Goldfish Mega Bites are available in Sharp Cheddar and Cheddar Jalapeño.

5 TRE STELLE CREAM CHEESE

Whether spread across a bagel, used for baking or as a creamy addition to a cheeseboard, Tre Stelle’s new cream cheese is additive-free and made with four natural ingredients: milk, cream, salt and culture. Tre Stelle Cream Cheese is available in a variety of flavours including Original, Organic, Light, Lactose-Free, and Herbs & Spices. Available in grocery stores across Canada. CG

The latest products hitting shelves

December 2022/January 2023 || CANADIAN GROCER 87
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LOOKING AHEAD

What consumer behaviours might shape the grocery industry in 2023?

IT WAS THE BEST of times; it was the worst of times. A sense of relief and hope emerged in 2022 as the country slowly returned to "normal" following more than two years of COVID -19, only to be met with record-high inflation and rising food prices. Both have had an impact on Canadians’ shopping behaviour. So, what’s ahead in 2023? We spoke with Casey Ferrell, Kantar’s senior vice-president, head of U.S. and Canada MONITOR—which delivers insights and trends based on a nationally representative study of 5,000 Canadians conducted at the beginning of the year—about the trends grocers should pay attention to and how the definition of value is evolving. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What consumer trends should grocers be aware of heading into 2023?

Well-being trends are always at the top. What we're seeing in our data is people are increasingly thinking about mood as something they can have on demand. We call this trend “mood to order.” We're seeing people going into retail spaces, not just looking for products that offer some kind of mood boost or benefit, but also a mood boost from the environment itself. They expect a mood boost from the experiential part of shopping.

Something else we've been tracking is what we call “supernatural.” As consumers look for the latest in natural, the ingredients are getting more exotic. We

see companies looking farther afield for ingredients that they position front and centre because there's an appetite for the increasingly exotic.

“Rest and reset” is a third trend we're tracking. Sleep is obviously understood as a critical component of people's well-being, but bucking the busy culture is something we're seeing, especially among gen Z, where the quiet quitting narrative suggests people are looking for a healthier relationship to their schedules. This is manifesting in ways people think about routines, occasions and rituals around food.

How does mood to order translate to the e-grocery experience?

The Canadian consumer's relationship to technology has always been at arm's length—we don't embrace invasive technologies. Yes, e-comm experienced an explosion in 2020 and 2021 and there's no putting that toothpaste back in that tube, but e-comm affinity has not changed at all. People do not like it any more than they did before the pandemic.

Canadians generally are not bowled over by the emotional component of technology. It’s transactional. There is probably some effort being put towards making these online retail experiences more experiential, but I don't know how far that's going to get with Canadian consumers.

The bigger opportunity with a trend like that is in real-life experiential. And

Canadians are all too happy to get back to brick and mortar.

How will these trends impact consumer loyalty and how can grocers maintain that loyalty during inflationary times?

Loblaw’s price freeze on its No Name products was greeted with skepticism, but I think the optics of it were smart. We’re seeing a correlation between trust and price—people have price thresholds.

It’s beneficial to think about which products you are willing or unwilling to budge on when it comes to price. For instance, Costco won't change the price of its hot dog/soda combo even though it's a loss leader. If they do, it'll trigger a wave of consumer behaviour that'll be bad for business. Loblaw’s and those chains making proclamations to hold certain prices steady is a way to build trust and loyalty.

People react as if they've been lied to when they see businesses or brands adjusting prices without warning, or adjusting prices on things that are at the centre of the brand’s value proposition. There are peripheral brands, but then there's the flagship brands and those items have certain emotional meaning to people. When you mess around with those prices, you can trigger an emotional reaction in addition to a dollars and cents reaction. CG

88 CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023 KANTAR
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THIS IS A PEOPLE BUSINESS

As Another yeAr draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your support of Canadian Grocer over the last 12 months. The team has worked incredibly hard to bring you content that is not only engaging but helps you in your business.

To anyone who was able to attend our events in 2022, it will come as no surprise that these were a highlight for us this year. While our virtual gatherings provided value for retailers and served a real purpose in 2020 and 2021, nothing replaces being in a room and networking with friends and colleagues face-to-face. One of our goals at Canadian Grocer is to continue to bring this industry together to exchange ideas and find solutions to the challenges being faced. This is at the heart of everything we do—in print, digital and most notably through our events and awards programs.

The Star Women in Grocery Awards, Generation Next Awards, Impact Awards as well as GroceryConnex are ALL about inclusivity—bringing together retailers and vendors, men and women, young and old to gain valuable insights. They also provide us with the opportunity to highlight some of the great things people in this industry are doing—important initiatives others can learn from, and hopefully apply to their own business challenges and goal setting. They also ensure that we take the time to

celebrate the individuals and companies themselves. To the 2022 Generation Next, Star Women and Impact Award winners, your profiles in Canadian Grocer are your moments to shine in front of the industry and, to those called up on stage, this was your opportunity to see the appreciation on the faces of your peers. Bravo!

At this year’s GroceryConnex conference we learned about the growing importance of new technology, big data, artificial intelligence, and the like. There is no doubt these are amazing tools that will help this industry be more responsive and efficient as it adapts to never-ending change. But if being in this industry for some 18 years has taught me anything, it’s that this industry is filled with incredibly smart and talented people—proven leaders as well as those who are up and coming who can take all those analytics and apply them with wisdom and compassion to move the industry forward. After all, as was mentioned throughout GroceryConnex, this is a people business, let’s never lose sight of that.

90 CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023 GOLDMEDIA.CA
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Avocados 5 Celery 7 Healthy Snacks 9 Peppers 11 Prunes 13 Raisins 15 Salad Kits 17 Strawberries 19 Tomatoes 21 AN INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP SUPPLEMENT FROM CANADIAN GROCER
F R DINNER. OR LUNCH. OR DESSERT. PERFECT DINNER @avocadosfrommexico.ca @avocadosfrommexicoCA avocadosfrommexico.ca

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AVOCADOS

Miguel Barcenas, head of marketing for Avocados

From Mexico international markets, shares his thoughts on why avocados are the perfect go-to fruit for both nutrition and fun.

Why are avocados gaining popularity?

Canadians love avocados! Not only are they healthy, versatile, and delicious, but they are super fruits, literally bursting with nutrients! They contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as being a great source of "good fats," which help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and are essential for muscle recovery.

Avocados From Mexico are appropriate for any time and for any recipe. As a matter of fact, avocados can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner—or even as a midnight snack—in any form: sliced, diced, mashed, in a sauce, in a paste or in smoothies. And whether the recipe is hot or cold, avocados can be enjoyed sweet, salty or spicy. Talk about versatility!

Avocados are also the “IT” fruit of the Gen Z diet, starring in more than 13 million videos generated on Instagram and more than six billion views on TikTok alone.

What avocado trends can we expect in 2022/2023?

Avocados From Mexico will be the foundation for any healthy eating plan, especially in Canada. This is the second-largest market for Avocados From Mexico after the USA. On average, people across Canada enjoy more than 99 million kilograms of avocados every year. Our avocados are widely available in Canadian grocery stores, with close to 95% of the market share.

Canadians want more sustainable products, too. Avocados From Mexico has announced its commitment to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which proves our dedication to the planet and desire to invest in a better tomorrow.

What are some unique ways to use avocados? Avocados for guacamole, on toast or in tacos is common, but lately there are more requests for new recipes. A 2021

IPSOS online survey we conducted in Canada, showed that 45% of respondents eat avocados in a salad, 14% in a smoothie and 7% in dessert! Avocados are also a great fat substitute for butter or mayo! With the ever-growing flexitarian community, they are perfect to add texture, taste and health benefits. Check out our website www.avocadosfrommexico.ca for recipes!

What initiatives are underway from Avocados

From Mexico?

We will continue our mission to inspire and educate with our “Anytime Is Avotime” campaign. We were at the National Bank Open this summer in Montreal and Toronto. As an official partner, Avocados From Mexico was visible on the central court and in different areas of both cities, as well as via a new TV commercial aired on TVA Sports and Sportsnet. We also activated grocers through online and in-store visibility programs. This led to announcing our partnership with Canadian tennis player Leylah Fernandez as our new brand ambassador.

We’ve also sponsored an epic “win or go home” avocado challenge in Top Chef Canada! Given only 20 minutes, chefs had to create an avocado-based dish that would win over judges. This autumn and winter, we will be boosting our in-store visibility with new shelf blades, bins and tastings across Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

What can grocers do to promote avocados?

Consumer education is key: giving shoppers tips and tricks on how to ripe an avocado or safely cut it, can reduce their apprehension when handling the fruit. In the past months, we’ve installed POS displaying educational content and will keep doing so. Also, with consumers always on the lookout for brands they share their values with, we’ll keep promoting our traceability and sustainable initiatives.

Presentation is also key. Having eye-catching POS close to fresh complimentary items like tomatoes or bread items, can attract shoppers. Retailers can contact Avocados From Mexico to imagine different merchandising solutions for both packaging.

CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023
THE FRESH REPORT 2022 5
Year-round production and a commitment to quality and traceability means a steady supply of this delicious fruit

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CELERY

Due to its versatility, celery is a year-round pantry staple, and as the weather gets colder, Duda Farm Fresh Foods sees demand increase for celery as the key ingredient for comfort dishes and soups. This winter is no exception, and Duda anticipates the market to tighten during this time of higher demand. The company says 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 good, with no relative issues. Here are more insights from Duda, which markets celery under the Dandy brand.

Why is celery so popular with consumers year-round?

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 obvious and most popular celery eating occasions include the Super Bowl, the holiday season including Thanksgiving and Christmas, but Easter, Canada Day and 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.

What products and innovations do you offer?

We offer a variety of fresh and fresh-cut celery options to meet the needs of retailers and consumers. Whether consumers 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 oz. to 2.5-lb bags.

What can grocers do to encourage high

celery sales?

We all know price drives consumer sales, but there are several other ways to boost purchases. When applicable, 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 promotions with in-store coupons on the items that are merchandised together are also key to completing that path to purchase. Considering that celery shoppers are more likely to purchase radishes and bunched greens, retailers may also consider placing these items close together in their produce section to ensure higher basket size.

THE FRESH REPORT 2023 7
CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023

Exotically Delightfu

A melon for every meal, the exotic flavors of alonna™ Canary Melons meld effortlessly with fine cheeses, cured meats, mixed berries and honey. With its lunar like glow & silky texture, the quality & consistency of availability of a greenhouse grown alonna™ Melon ensures consumers have a flavorful & continuous supply regardless of the season

A L W A Y S ™
greenhouse grown
Live Deliciously® PURE-FLAVOR.COM/ALONNA

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HEALTHY SNACKS

P ure Flavor® has officially debuted a sweet, sustainably grown melon that will entice you with its tropical allure. Alonna™ Canary Melons are your own personal paradise, complete with an ambrosial, refreshing flavour that can persuade effortlessly with a single bite.

Introduced in October 2022 at the IFPA Global Produce & Floral Show in Orlando, FL, Alonna™ Canary Melons are the brand’s second greenhouse grown melon to hit grocery store shelves in 2022. In May, Pure Flavor® announced the very first personal-sized, sustainable, greenhouse grown melons: Solara™ Mini Galia Melons. Shoppers are savouring the tropical flavours of these unique, new products that offer summer sweetness and sustainability 365 days a year.

What makes Alonna™ Canary Melons such an enticing healthy snack for consumers of all ages?

Tropical flavor combines with a smooth, creamy texture and refreshing juiciness for an Exotically Delightful™ experience. What’s not to love? With each bite, you will discover a healthy cocktail of fresh flavours: it’s your own personal paradise, right in the palm of your hand.

The convenient size of Alonna™ melons make them an easy, healthy choice to mix into your daily routine. For families always rushing before school, it’s easy to scoop or slice a taste of paradise to take on the go. Older students or busy parents can add a touch of tropical flavour to their lunch by incorporating Alonna™ melons in a healthy salad or simple cheese tray.

With their distinct tropical taste, what other flavours pair well with Alonna™? The supreme sweetness of these melons is perfectly complemented by cured meats like prosciutto and fine, creamy cheeses like Brie, making them a great choice for an elegant charcuterie board. They can be added to a fruit bowl with berries and honey or combined with herbs and spices like dill, parsley, and oregano in a variety of recipes.

What kind of savory recipes can they be added to? Alonna™ Canary Melons are the melons for every meal. From sunrise to sunset, create some culinary magic with savoury recipes like Glazed Pork Chops with Melon Slaw, Melon & Prosciutto Pizza, and Spicy Shrimp & Melon Kabobs. Make sure to visit pure-flavor.com/alonna for more recipe ideas.

What makes Alonna™ Canary Melons a great sustainable option for Canadian shoppers this winter? Each melon is grown in climate-controlled greenhouses where it’s paradise year-round. Inside these state-of-the-art greenhouses, a team of expert growers can dial in the optimal amounts of light, water, humidity, heat, and nutrition to deliver the flavour consumers love, regardless of how cold the weather may be outside.

Thanks to the latest in growing technology, Pure Flavor® is able to guarantee a consistent supply of highquality products every day of the year. For Canadian consumers, that means the melons they love will taste just as great in winter as they do in the heat of the summer.

THE FRESH REPORT 2022 9
Introducing Alonna™ Canary Melons
CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023

Divine Flavor is a company dedicated to flavor.

We are a family-built company commitment to treating the land and people with respect, and it is our mission to provide Better Food for a Better World.

divineflavor.com

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PEPPERS

A s Quality Assurance & Public Relations Manager at Divine Flavor, Michael DuPuis has first-hand knowledge about the high standards needed to ensure that bell peppers coming to Canadian grocery stores from Mexico maintain their taste and quality. He tells us why bell peppers from Mexico should be on every grocers’ radar—now more than ever.

Peppers are a produce staple but what makes them so popular now?

As the temperatures get cooler and we get further into cold and flu season, peppers are really beneficial to our health. They support a strong immune system and healthy heart, and they are a great source of vitamin C. Did you know that red, orange and yellow peppers have more than double the vitamin C of oranges? If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that people have chosen to cook more at home and they’re choosing healthier ingredients.

Plus, when it comes to preparation, there is so much you can do with peppers—from eating them raw with a guacamole or other dip, stuffing them, or sauteing them with some steak or other protein. There are also mini bell peppers which make a convenient-sized snack or salad addition. For grocers, peppers are also one of those items that bring a lot of colour to the produce aisle, and they are easy to work with because they hold up in quality very well.

So why are Mexican peppers a hot commodity now? Working with our growers in Mexico allows us to provide Canadian consumers with fresh, high-quality bell peppers year-round. These aren’t merely just peppers either; they have a story behind them that includes the growers themselves with more than 40 years of experience, organic growing methods starting with high-quality soil, and a focus on sustainability. We always promote responsible growing principles to ensure our products are sustainable for the long-term, which also means producing them in a way that is beneficial for the growers too. A philosophy of our company is that we want to give back to the land we take from. That means restoring the soil in a way that produces healthy plants, which in turn produces high-quality products that consumers—and retailers—can rely on.

What are some ways Divine Flavor is driving excitement around bell peppers?

Our newest campaign, Product Hero, (which we launched at the recent International Fresh Produce Association’s Global Produce and Floral Show in Orlando in October), aims to highlight the strength and power of fresh fruits and vegetables, so we can educate consumers about all their health benefits. We’re starting with peppers as our first super-power hero of the produce aisle. We’re doing lots of fun promotions on Instagram and will be including QR codes on our packaging where consumers can learn more about all the health benefits of bell peppers. For more information on this campaign go to https://divine flavor.com/bell-pepper-vitamin-c-hero/.

THE FRESH REPORT 2022 11
As the temperatures dip, bell peppers are a nutritious and reliable go-to
CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023

Consumers are going into stores looking for not just any dried fruit or prune — they want California Prunes. 47% of Canadians reported they would prefer to PURCHASE PRUNES FROM CALIFORNIA than anywhere else.* Don’t miss out! Make sure it says “California” on the label. Contact us at CAprunes@harbingerideas.com to inquire about placing the Prunes logo on pack to signal quality to your customers.

*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.

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PRUNES

Esther Ritson-Elliott, Director of International Marketing and Communications at California Prunes, shares her thoughts on why prunes are increasingly popular, and what makes prunes from California so special.

What makes California Prunes unique?

They come from a stock of plum trees that was imported to California from France during the Gold Rush. When combined with the state’s legendary sun and soil, plus the industry’s innovative and precise tunnel-drying technique, you get the larger, sweeter, great tasting, and higher-quality prunes that California is recognized for. They’re not like other dried fruit, and consumers have become loyal to California Prunes as they become more aware of their great taste and health benefits through our extensive promotional activities in Canada.

What are some ways consumers use prunes in their diets?

Why should prunes be on the grocer's radar in 2023?

Canadians of all ages love prunes for their health benefits and exceptional taste, and they are seeking them out in their local grocery stores. And they’re not looking for just any type of prune—they specifically want prunes from California because they know they’re higher quality.

The California Prune Board has a comprehensive promotional program that reaches millions of consumers across Canada every year. We’ve had exceptional success with our marketing efforts, with traffic to the Canadian californiaprunes.ca website more than doubling in the last year alone. We also consistently see increased awareness, as well as purchasing intent and frequency, of California Prunes in regular third-party consumer surveys.

Our sampling program, which takes advantage of inperson events in various regions across Canada, has also shown us the popularity of California Prunes. We’ve discovered that of those who aren’t already regular prunes purchasers, about 80% plan to purchase California Prunes after sampling the product. They’re always impressed by how juicy and sweet our prunes are. There is nothing else like them on the market.

California Prunes are commonly eaten straight out of the bag as a quick and healthy snack, but we’re also seeing them used in sweet and savoury dishes. They’re great paired with chocolate for a sweet treat, chopped and tossed into a salad, simmered into sauces for poultry or pork, or pureed to use as a fat or sugar substitute in baked goods. At the end of the day, a bag of California Prunes goes a long way in a consumer’s kitchen. They can be used in dozens of ways, plus they’re also providing invaluable nutrition.

Consumers are looking for functional foods that help maintain their health. California Prunes are full of nutrients to boost immunity, support gut health, and enhance bone health. They’re a high-performing food that is also delicious and versatile.

Anything grocers can do in-store and online to better promote prunes?

Consumers are seeing California Prunes at events, on social media, in their favourite magazines, on TV, and more. The number one thing that grocers can do to take advantage of the increased awareness and demand is ensuring their products say “California” on pack. Even better, contact us at CAprunes@harbingerideas.com about placing the California Prunes logo on pack to signal the highest quality to your customers.

Consumers are going into stores looking for not just any dried fruit or prune—they want California Prunes specifically, so make sure they’re labelled and easy to find instore, particularly in the baking aisle and produce section.

THE FRESH REPORT 2022 13
Delicious and filled with nutrients, consumers are gravitating to California Prunes
CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023

California Raisin Academy: Raisinomics 101

California Raisins can be added to trail mixes, salads, smoothies, yogurt and more, so consumers get more for their money (and you get cross-promotional opportunities)

California Raisins are dried naturally in the sun, to produce their unique carmelized flavour (and better for the environment too!)

California Raisins represent a sustainable, reliable fruit grown close to Canada (and available year round)

ADDITIONAL CALIFORNIA RAISINS RESEARCH:

There are a lot of reasons California Raisins were purchased by more Canadians than any other dried fruit in 2022. And if customers are looking for California Raisins, that’s an opportunity to drive more sales with creative merchandising!

Your homework assignment is to learn novel ways to utilize this superfruit by visiting:

Californiaraisins.ca

@raisins.ca @raisins.ca

LET’S EXPLORE SOME REASONS TO PUT CALIFORNIA RAISINS FRONT AND CENTRE IN YOUR STORE!

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RAISINS

Tim Kenny, vice-president of marketing for the Raisin Administrative Committee shares some insights on raisin trends in Canada and why this grocery staple continues to be a favourite among Canadian shoppers.

What are some recent raisins trends in Canada?

According to our latest consumer survey results, raisins are the most popular dried fruit purchase choice for Canadians (67% purchased raisins last year and 77% purchased products that included raisins). Two-thirds of Canadians feel that raisins are “one of the most healthy and nutritious foods” or “very healthy/nutritious.” When fresh fruit isn’t available, raisins are a reliable option you can always have on hand at home. Statistics from Trade Data Monitor (January to September 2022) show that year to date, raisin consumption in Canada is up 1% in volume and 6% in value.

Why opt for California raisins in particular?

Our survey results show that Canadians are five times more likely to recognize the California/USA origin than any other raisin-producing origins and three-fifth believe they’re a better quality. As California raisins are processed, they are washed numerous times, which ensures a very clean food product. Taste comes into play too. Whereas other producers use drying ovens, California raisins are completely sun-dried which is a far more sustainable method. Sun-drying them also gives California raisins a caramelized taste that is delicious and unique.

How are consumers using raisins

these days?

Adding raisins to traditional trail mix is always a popular choice in Canada, as it’s a great nutritious snack to bring along when you’re outdoors. Raisins are naturally low in sodium and a source of potassium, fibre and iron. They’re also versatile in other uses: raisins can be added to salads or other savoury meals and of course, they’re a great

addition when baking. Raisins can be used in sauces, glazes, stir-fries, chutneys and salsas too. As consumers look to cut down on processed sugar, raisins also add that natural sweetness with no added sugar. I even see people around the world doing things like soaking California raisins in alcohol for a more ‘spirited’ snack.

How can grocers better promote their raisin products?

Consumers already know about raisins but sometimes familiar can be boring. One of our goals is not only to remind consumers about the health benefits of raisins but to show them interesting new ways to incorporate more raisins into their diet. Grocers can help by crossmerchandising raisins in various parts of the store such as the baking, snacking and produce sections. Grocers can also highlight the nutritional attributes of raisins beside displays or online and in flyers. For recipe ideas and more information visit, californiaraisins.ca.

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The most popular dried fruit around, this Canadian staple from California continues to shine
CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023
TAYLORFARMS.COM

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SALAD KITS

The value-added salad category continues to grow, and in Canada salad kits are the largest segment of that category, with 36 per cent of dollar sales. Amanda Knauff of Taylor Farms explains why salad kits are a win with consumers and retailers, and discusses some of the company’s recent innovations.

What is the appeal of salad kits for consumers and retailers?

We constantly strive to create new categories and innovative flavours that bring convenience to consumers. Our fan favourite chopped salad kits feature bold, provocative flavours that can simply be prepared as-is or tailored to your personal taste, at home or on-the-go. The ability to adapt our chopped salad kits to the perfect side dish or main dish, adding your favourite protein or mixing in additional vegetables or toppings, is something consumers love about our offerings. For retailers, chopped salad kits are some of the fastest-selling items in the value-added salad category. Our most popular Taylor Farms flavour in Canada is the Taylor Farms Dill Pickle Chopped Salad.

Chopped Kit, Sunflower Crunch Chopped Salad Kit and Steakhouse Wedge Chopped Salad Kit. We also recently introduced a Spiced Apple Chopped Kit to complement cozy winter meals.

What should consumers know about sustainability in the category?

Our new 2022 Taylor Fresh Foods Social Responsibility and Sustainability Report is now available in the social impact section of our website: www.taylorfarms.com. The report highlights a variety of strategies, practices, and investments in innovation, environmental stewardship, and ways in which we are building healthy communities. With each chopped salad kit made, we carry on our mission of

What new salad kits have you launched this year?

This year we wanted to explore how to execute seasonal trends through salads kits, as we have seen success in other areas of the grocery store and in restaurants that offer rotational items for consumers. To play up refreshing seasonal flavour options we launched the Tangerine Crunch Chopped Salad Kit, Watermelon Crunch

Shoppers are currently drawn to promotions that lower the purchase price on desired items, so promotions on value-added salads, including our chopped salad kits, can help encourage the sale of these products. Leaning into the versatility and flexibility of chopped salad kits can encourage consumers to purchase and adapt the product to exactly their liking. It’s important for retailers to focus on the right assortment of chopped salad kits based on consumer purchasing habits, especially considering that refrigeration spaces aren’t increasing at the same rate as category growth.

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CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023
F
Strawberries Retailers around the world depend on Florida’s farmers to supply high-quality produce. For information on sourcing Florida products, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Whitney.Lett@FDACS.gov | (850) 617-7330 | FDACS.gov December
First in Season
Sweet
lorida
- April

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STRAWBERRIES

Delicious and nutritious, strawberries continue to be a favourite fruit for consumers of all ages. Strawberries from Florida perform very well, and are the number one commodity in the fresh produce category exported to Canada. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) shares why strawberries are so appealing to consumers and grocers.

Why are strawberries so popular with consumers?

Strawberries are an incredibly versatile fruit. From a healthy breakfast staple to pair with oatmeal or blend in smoothies to a classic fruit featured in desserts, Florida strawberries’ bright colour and sweet flavour appeal to consumers all year long. Consumers also enjoy strawberries on their own, muddled in craft cocktails, dipped in chocolate, or paired with sparkling wine for special celebrations such as New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. Thanks to Florida’s warm climate, consumers can enjoy strawberries in the winter months when Florida is a top producer and exporter of strawberries to Canada.

What should consumers know about sustainability and safety in the strawberry category?

When shopping for strawberries December through April, look for the “Fresh From Florida” logo. Consumers can feel confident they’ve selected quality fruit when they choose

strawberries from The Sunshine State. Visit our website followfreshfromflorida.com or follow @freshfromflorida on Facebook and Instagram to find food safety tips, strawberry recipes and more.

How can grocers encourage sales of strawberries?

Featuring the “Fresh From Florida” logo alongside Floridasourced produce in weekly circulars and advertisements is key to driving sales of Florida strawberries. Grocers can partner with FDACS to develop “Fresh From Florida” strawberry promotions. Cross-merchandising and recipe promotions have proven successful at driving impulse buys by simplifying consumers’ shopping experience while offering a visually appealing display. “Fresh From Florida” sampling events have also been very effective at driving shopper interest in Florida products. Of course, the best results come from a multi-faceted approach. This can include a range of promotions from display contests to “Fresh From Florida” point-of-purchase materials and product stickers to the inclusion of the “Fresh From Florida” logo in weekly circulars. “Fresh From Florida” marketing specialists collaborate with retailers on customized promotions based on their needs and offer retail incentive dollars.

For more information on sourcing Florida products or promotional partnership opportunities, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at (850) 617-7333 or email Whitney.Lett@FDACS.gov.

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CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023

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TOMATOES

Demand for tomatoes continues to grow, with bitesize, snacking varietals being the primary driver behind the growth in Canada, says Leona Neill, director of marketing and packaging for Red Sun Farms. “Fresh produce has become part of all three main meals, desserts, and snacks in Canadian households. There are tomato varieties that can be incorporated into virtually any recipe, and one-bite tomatoes are the most popular option in vegetables.” Here are more insights from Neill on the tomato category.

Here are a few key initiatives.

• New Varieties: 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.

• Light Technology: We’re planning for the second season of our winter pepper crop with one-of-a-kind LED technology that will supply Ontario peppers yearround.

• Sustainability: Our farms have been using sustainable practices in water recycling, yield optimization, and minimizing food waste. Red Sun Farms is a proud industry leader in sustainable agriculture, closely working with packaging suppliers to develop new and sustainable options.

What trends are you seeing?

New variety and premium categories designed to deliver flavour, texture and consistency year-round. This was the foundation for our Sweetpops, Sweetpeaks, and Sweetpeps. We have received great feedback on our Sweetpops, and are excited to continue supporting the growth of this new tomato experience to retail partners. We also continue to see interest in innovation, technology and sustainability from retailers and consumers.

What is the appeal of tomatoes for consumers and retailers?

Tomatoes are a staple in North American cuisine. Versatile enough to be used as a condiment, a side dish, or an ingredient, this delicious fruit is a necessity in every kitchen. Consistency plays a significant factor as well, so many of the newer varieties we offer today were created and cultivated to deliver a premium eating experience, 365 days a year.

What are some recent innovations from Red Sun Farms?

Red Sun Farms has been focused on our product innovations, our investment in technology, and doing our part to improve sustainability from the farm to finished goods.

How can grocers boost sales of tomatoes?

Canadian retailers do a great job merchandising their fresh produce offerings. Tomatoes are a huge category with dozens of commoditized and specialty varieties to choose from, and there’s been a lot of heavy lifting done in recent years to entice the consumer to “trade up.” While a TOV consistently moves volume, specialty tomatoes allow grocers to cast a wider net and introduce consumers to something new. We’ve experienced significant top-end category growth with many of our retail partners who’ve done great work in executing this strategy. For example, we receive countless emails each week from consumers thanking us for our Sweetpops. When a shopper takes the time to send you an email regarding a $3 or $4 purchase, it validates all the hard work we do at our farms and facilities.

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CANADIAN GROCER || December 2022/January 2023
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