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Retailer Deep Dive: ALDI Balances Price and Planet OCEAN’S BOUNTY Learn more about what differentiates Alaska seafood LET’S MEAT Beef can attract health- and eco-conscious shoppers THOSE THINGS THEY DO Functional beverages are meeting a plethora of needs IT’S TIME FOR YOUR ANNUAL RENEWAL Scan the QR code to confirm your subscription


From left: Ed Sands and Nancy Deering Sands, of Tom’s Food Markets, with Jon Wojtowicz, of Short’s Brewing Co.

February 2024

Volume 103, Number 2


PG’s Outstanding Independents are uniquely tuned into the needs of their communities

We help stores wor home

At KeHE, we believe food distribut routes, and forklifts. It’s what’s ins fresh foods with tastes and stories stores. We’re not just freight peop create best-in-class fresh exp



p make rth leaving e for.




tion transcends brown boxes, truck side those boxes that matters most: s that inspire – driving visits to your ple; we’re food people too, helping periences. So, let’s talk fresh…




Let’s talk fresh.


IT WAS HERE. Every now and then a product comes along that becomes iconic in the home + housewares industry. An innovation in functionality or design that captures the hearts and minds of consumers and becomes ubiquitous in households of all shapes and sizes. But before it was in every consumer’s home, it was at The Inspired Home Show. Over the years, the most renowned home + housewares products have made their mark in Chicago in March. It was an idea—maybe a prototype—maybe from a company or inventor no one had ever heard of. But the buyers who recognized its potential early brought competitive differentiation and consumer loyalty back to their stores with them. Somewhere on our Show floor is the next industry icon. You can find it, or your competition will.

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Contents 02.24

Volume 103 Issue 2




Local Heroes

This year’s crop of indie standouts succeed by tuning into the needs of the community members who shop at their stores.



Powering the Next Era of Food Retail

Hot Grilling Trends

Find out how to get ready for peak barbecue season.

Husmann’s CEO explains how the company is innovating for its customers.


A New Frontier for Beef


ALDI Strikes a Balance Between Price and Planet The deep-discount grocer manages growth and loyalty while making sustainability strides.


Food retailers can drive sales by attracting health- and ecoconscious consumers. 47 SOLUTIONS

Formulating Function

Innovative ingredient combinations, key benefits and whole new subcategories are driving functional beverages.


South From Alaska

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute provides insight into what makes the product it promotes so special.




Fresh Meat

The ROI of Food as Medicine




Best in Show



April 2024



Tomorrow’s Technology Today



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PROGRESSIVE GROCER (ISSN 0033-0787, USPS 920-600) is published monthly, except for July/August and November/December, which are double issues, by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 225, Chicago, IL 60631. Single copy price $17, except selected special issues. Foreign single copy price $20.40, except selected special issues. Subscription: $150 a year; $276 for a two year supscription; Canada/Mexico $204 for a one year supscription; $390 for a two year supscription (Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement No. 40031729. Foreign $204 a one year supscrption; $390 for a two year supscription (call for air mail rates). Digital Subscription: $87 one year supscription; $161 two year supscription. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631 and additional mailing offices. Printed in USA. POSTMASTER: Send all address changes to brand, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 225, Chicago, IL 60631. Copyright ©2024 EnsembleIQ All rights reserved, including the rights to reproduce in whole or in part. All letters to the editors of this magazine will be treated as having been submitted for publication. The magazine reserves the right to edit and abridge them. The publication is available in microform from University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for product claims and representations.

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EDITOR’S NOTE By Gina Acosta

Best of Show HERE ARE FIVE GRE AT TAKE AWAYS FROM CES, NRF AND FMI. t Progressive Grocer, the new year always starts off with the same resolution: doing everything we can to help our readers stay “ahead of what’s next.” That’s what appears below the masthead on the cover of our magazine each month. It’s our value proposition to our readership. It’s our guiding principle. With that in mind, January provided a unique opportunity to attend three backto-back-to-back industry events — CES, NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show and FMI Midwinter — that offered a glimpse of what’s trending in the grocery retail channel. Here are five trends that have people in the business buzzing:

4. FMI’s beloved Midwinter Executive Conference was set on a beach this year,

in Marco Island, Fla. Grocery executives from across the country met and mingled to talk about the pressing issues: theft (it’s still up); unit volume (it’s still down); foodservice (it’s up from the pandemic but still down from 2019); customer engagement initiatives (loyalty and promotions are key this year); empowering employees with data and AI to do their jobs better and improve the customer experience; and how to leverage the opportunities offered by retail media.

5. One of the best takeaways from the three shows came at the end of FMI Midwinter, during one of the last sessions, when many attendees had already gone home. John Ruane, president of The Giant Co., talking about “The New Normal” 1. At CES 2024 in Las Vegas — the self-titled “Most Powerful Tech The start of the in the grocery industry, Event in the World” — Walmart made its biggest splash ever at a year provided a trade show with a powerful keynote presentation by CEO Doug unique opportunity touched on topics such as supply chain, the econoMcMillon. It was just supposed to be McMillon doing the keynotto attend three my, digital sales and the ing, but instead he introduced key company executives to talk about back-to-backconsumer search for value. all of the ways that the retailer plans to keep transforming itself in to-back industry “One of the things that 2024. New initiatives announced include AI and AR innovations, events that offered we’re going to really foan expansion of InHome now featuring replenishment, a social a glimpse of what’s cus on is getting back to commerce Shop with Friends platform, new exit tech at Sam’s Club, trending in the basics, whether it’s buildand a massive expansion of drone delivery, starting off in the Dallas grocery retail ing better plans with our area. Walmart had a 50-foot-by-140-foot experiential “booth” at channel. CPG partners now that CES this year, chock full of executives from the company’s Global we have better supply, or Tech, Sam’s Club, Walmart U.S. and other divisions. doing more for our teams to make sure they are trained to do what they need 2. Although AI was certainly The Big Theme at CES, many speakers disto do in this business,” noted Ruane. cussed the people implications of the technology (using AI to serve people, “At the end of the day, it’s about delivand not the other way around). This was a major theme in McMillon’s ering the right value product, which is keynote as well. There was also a lot of talk about the cybersecurity impliquality, price, variety, service, facilications for retailers implementing AI tools in their operations. ty — all those things that build our business. And those pieces may change 3. By the time I arrived at NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show in New York as we evolve, but I think it’s still going City, I thought I’d heard enough about AI, but I was wrong. At NRF, to come back to that.” several retailers, from Wegmans Food Markets to Schnuck Markets to Meijer, spoke about how regional grocers might benefit from the AI revolution, but not in the way we might think. According to several retailers, the more that large companies adopt AI, the more that good old-fashioned human interactions will be a differentiator for regional players. Many retailers also said that theft in-store is getting worse, Gina Acosta and, in keeping with that assessment, loss prevention solutions for Editor-In-Chief grocery were ubiquitous at this show, especially for self-checkout. Some of the other tech at NRF included companies offering shoppable livestream and recorded video, workforce management software, RFID platforms, personalized GPT sales assistants, license plate recognition, music sommelier apps, AI-powered forecasting solutions, biometric retail signage, and customer engagement and supply chain platforms.



Calendar S



National Nutrition Month National Peanut Month National Sauce Month Quinoa Month

Berries and Cherries Month National Celery Month National Frozen Food Month National Noodle Month





























April Fools’ Day. Make sure that any pranks pulled are good-natured ones.

National Coffee Cake Day. Provide a go-to recipe for visits from the in-laws, weekly book club meetings and more.

National Gardening Day. Highlight your supplies in this category.

International Kids Yoga Day. Have your health-and-wellness team develop an online routine for young practitioners.

Jackie Robinson Day. Pay tribute to No. 42’s enduring legacy in baseball and beyond with an in-store art display.

Children’s Picture Book Day. Create a fun reading list for kids and families, based on suggestions from shoppers and associates.

Ougadi. Mark the start of the Hindu new year by stocking the necessary ingredients for those who celebrate to create a feast.

Wear Pajamas to Work Day. Just make sure they haven’t actually been slept in.

Fish Fingers and Custard Day. Fans of long-running sci-fi show “Doctor Who” will understand.

National Siblings Day. This is a fine occasion to bring Sis or Bro to the grocery store.

International Carrot Day. Who doesn’t love this versatile root vegetable?

National Marketing Operations Appreciation Day. Salute the professionals behind your promotional efforts.

National Haiku Day. International Jugglers Day Shopping in the store,

National Caramel Day, or “carmel,” depending on where you’re from.

International Day of Pink. Stand up against bullying of LGBTQIA+ community members by wearing the color indicated.

Refresh Your Goals Day. Take the time to check in with associates about their future career paths.

I accept a free sample.

Fresh Tomato Day. Offer a range of ways to use this beloved produce item that’s scientifically a fruit but legally classed as a vegetable.

National Silly Earring Day. Request that customers post photos of their most ridiculous pairs, including foodrelated examples.

National Cheddar Fries Day. Why should customers head to the local diner when they can create their own?

Best thing I’ve eaten.


National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day. Today, it’s cashews, but don’t forget other nuts are also pretty good after they’ve been dunked in chocolate.


National Superhero Day. Ask customers and employees for real-life examples of these in their own lives, and post the results on social media.


Earth Day Passover begins, running through the 30th.


Viral Video Day. Now’s your chance to create something that will break the Internet.




National Cherry Denim Day. This Cheesecake Day. isn’t every day? The in-store bakery beckons for shoppers who wish to observe this occasion properly.


Mr. Potato Head Day. Fun fact: This ubiquitous toy once consisted of plastic parts to stick in a real spud.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Enable your associates’ kids to see what their parents do all day.

National Static Cling Day. Remind shoppers that they can prevent this annoyance with the right fabric softener or dryer sheets.

National Little Pampered Dog Day. Fifi mustn’t be denied!


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Shelf Stoppers

Fresh Meat

Average Unit Prices

Total Department Performance Fresh Meat

Latest 52 Wks W/E 12/30/23

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 12/31/22

Latest 52 Wks 2YA W/E 01/02/21




Top Fresh Meat Categories by Dollar Sales Beef




What is the average unit price for fresh meat products versus the year-ago period?





for all fresh meat products, up 3.3% compared with a year ago







Latest 52 Wks - W/E 12/30/23

Latest 52 Wks 2YA W/E 01/02/21

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 12/31/22

for beef, up 6.0% compared with a year ago

Source: NIQ, Total U.S. (All outlets combined) – includes grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, select dollar stores, select warehouse clubs and military commissaries (DeCA)

Cross-Merch Candidates


Diapering Needs

Fruit Snacks

Snack and Variety Packs

Frozen Bread

Frozen Fully Cooked Meat


Toaster Pastries

Meal Combos

Sweet Snacks

Frozen Meat

Dough and Batter Products

Sauce and Seasoning Mixes


Generational Snapshot Which cohort is spending, on average, the most per trip on beef?


Gen Xers


The Greatest Generation





Source: NielsenIQ Panel On Demand Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Nov. 25, 2023


for lamb, up 1.4% compared with a year ago

for pork, up 0.7% compared with a year ago

Source: NIQ, Total U.S. (All outlets combined) — includes grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, select dollar stores, select warehouse clubs and military commissaries (DeCA)


Global New Products Database


Wine What You Need to Know

Concerns about health, coupled with a saturated alcohol market, have reduced wine to a secondary alcohol choice for most. Overcoming objections will need to be on a case-by-case basis; not all wines can, or should, lean into all claims. Choosing one claim (BFY, sustainable, high-end) and getting out the message in force comparable to beer and ready-todrink beverages is key.

Reaching intended consumers requires meeting them where they are, at the point of purchase. Marketing should be happening at wine stores, next to wine lists and/or on social media.

Much of the growth in wine can be attributed to inflation, which doesn’t bode well for future potential. That said, brands that are able to win in the current climate are those balancing value, quality, ease and accessibility within the more traditional idea of what wine is. What wine can be, however, remains critical for the future.

Consumer Trends: Key Takeaways

Glass bottles are by far the most popular wine format, indicating that the wine experience includes sensory inputs from corking, pouring and sipping. Connecting wine to other values, like sustainability, can help expand consumer imagination and bring about a much-needed renaissance.

Consumers are increasingly willing to believe that quality wine can come in any package, and they maintain the belief that some wine is worth the extra spend. A fi nal push is needed on both sides to translate to purchase: trial on the lower-price end, and knowledge for higherpriced wines. Individual wines don’t need to meet every need at once. Driving home the message that there’s a wine for any occasion matters for category longevity, whether the occasion is happening at a causal third space (neither home nor work) or requires an elegant gift. Trying to be everything to everyone within a single brand muddies claims and confuses consumers.

Opportunities While glass bottles win across demographics, boxes and cans need to strengthen their own associations, whether that includes third spaces, sustainability, value or something else. Meeting consumers where they are matters for both advertising and POS. Show up as they scroll online, dance at concerts or eat fast food to gain brand recognition and spark trial from a hopefully happy captive audience. Wine comes in a range of price points, each with unique consumer associations. Moving wine into a primary beverage, instead of a secondary or tertiary option, requires communication that while not all wine is fit for every occasion, there’s certainly a wine for any occasion. PROGRESSIVE GROCER Februar y 2024



By Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

The ROI of Food as Medicine WHICH T YPE OF PROGR AM WOULD BE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL AT YOUR RE TAILER? ood as Medicine” has been a catchy slogan used in the retail setting over the past few years, often employed to recognize the ways that food can influence health. Notable milestones include the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) formalizing a definition of the philosophy to their Definition of Terms list in 2019, as well as releasing “The Food as Medicine Opportunity in Food Retail” report with FMI — The Food Industry Association in 2021. Also, in a slight variation on the term, the “Food is Medicine” initiative made national headlines as a focus of the September 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. Much of the Food is Medicine movement has been concentrated on efforts that retailers can make to improve health through preventive medicine via food and nutrition security, as well as eating for disease management. Five key Food as Medicine program model categories identified by the AND Foundation, which also significantly impact your retailer’s bottom line, are prescription programs, incentive programs, medically tailored nutrition, path-to-purchase marketing and personalized nutrition education.

The Food as Medicine movement features efforts that retailers can make to improve health through preventive medicine via food and nutrition security, as well as eating for disease management. Path-to-Purchase Marketing

Dedicated efforts to market better-for-you foods, most notably in ways that may induce behavior change, can go a long way toward improving consumer health. A variety of strategies that increase awareness, knowledge and attitudes toward nutrition, including signage, in-store announcements, cooking demonstrations, television promotions and circulars, amplify the Food as Medicine message. This can be accomplished while simultaneously increasing shopper basket size.

Personalized Nutrition Education

In a sea of indirect nutrition advice from outlets like social media or magazines, people are seeking individualized nutrition instruction, specific to them and their needs, lifestyles and preferences. Registered dietitians, and the credible resources they create or activities they lead, are a trusted resource for your shoppers. Many retailers currently employ dietitians or other health professionals who can deliver supermarket tours, in-aisle education, group classes or private nutrition coaching to help customers achieve their health-and-wellness goals, while building loyalty.

Prescription Programs

Imagine a health professional writing out prescriptions for produce rather than medications for your customers. This is what prescription programs aim to do, without undermining the need for prescription medications as appropriate. These prescriptions may appear as a coupon, voucher, or simply a written note from a physical or digital prescription pad, to be redeemed at your retailer in exchange for the prescribed food.

Incentive Programs

These programs aim to lessen the financial hurdles of affording nutrient-dense food for those with limited means to buy healthy groceries. Coupons, vouchers, discounts and rebates may all be examples of approaches to encourage consumers to build better baskets. Conversely, products with less desirable nutrition, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, may be taxed.

Medically Tailored Nutrition

This comprehensive therapy takes the complexities of medical nutrition guidance and translates them to tailored meals or food boxes geared toward specific consumer health conditions. Some medically tailored nutrition options in the marketplace even send daily ready-to-eat customized meals to customers’ doors to simplify healthy eating. A more subtle version of this concept at your retailer might be dedicating a case in the freezer aisle or deli department to curated frozen or prepared meals that address such common chronic diseases as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure.


Citations Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation, “Food as Medicine Retail Nutrition Landscape”; Yoder A., Borra S., Brown N.; food-as-medicine#paper FMI — The Food Industry Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation: “The Food as Medicine Opportunity in Food Retail 2021.” Accessed Jan. 9, 2024. food-as-medicine-opportunity-in-food-retail Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian for Kroger Health.

ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS & CONNECTIONS POWERING BUSINESS GROWTH EnsembleIQ is the premier resource of actionable insights and connections powering business growth throughout the path to purchase. We help retail, technology, consumer goods, healthcare and hospitality professionals make informed decisions and gain a competitive advantage. EnsembleIQ delivers the most trusted business intelligence from leading industry experts, creative marketing solutions and impactful event experiences that connect best-in-class suppliers and service providers with our vibrant business-building communities. ENSEMBLEIQ.COM


Store Operations


f you are a retailer, or even just a student of the industry, it’s difficult not to be impressed by a gleaming 53-foot-long, 700-square-foot trailer truck chock full of the latest in grocery merchandising and sustainable refrigeration solutions. Tim Figge, CEO of retail innovation leader Hussmann Corp., says that the trailer is emblematic of the 117-year-old company’s promise of continuously providing the most customer-focused solutions in the food retailing industry. “We really want to be engaged with our customers, and we found that there’s really no better way than to bring our innovations directly to them in this great space,” Figge shares during an exclusive interview with Progressive Grocer inside the trailer at the company’s headquarters in Bridgeton, Mo. “You’ll see that’s a big theme that we have throughout: How do we become that trusted partner and show our customers that we’re willing to bring the innovations right to them?” Hussmann — which offers a variety of solutions for refrigeration, merchandising, retail technology, e-commerce and service — first launched its mobile roadshow trailer, Shop the Future, in 2017. That turned out to be great timing, because the pandemic hit just a few years later, and many Hussmann customers were unable to travel. “It gave our customers a great space to see some of our innovations and safely meet with us in person,” Figge says. “We did it very safely, and it was a huge success.” Since the pandemic, Hussmann has only ramped up the roadshow, giving the trailer several remodels showcasing the company’s most recent innovations and logging more than 42,000 miles and 2,000 customer visits.


Hussmann's mobile roadshow trailer, Shop the Future, has logged more than 42,000 miles and 2,000 customer visits so far.

Shop the Future

So, what does “Shop the Future” really mean? “We think of Shop the Future at Hussmann as creating those innovations that are going to help our customers move the business forward and change food retailing,” Figge explains. “And it’s always about being that trusted partner and innovating directly with them. We’ll get a lot of feedback on our visits, and we’ll use that

Key Takeaways Since 2017, Hussmann has showcased its latest solutions for refrigeration, merchandising, retail technology, e-commerce and service in a mobile roadshow trailer. The company’s latest offerings include an all-in-one condensing unit and evaporator, predictive analytics software, electronic shelf labels (ESLs) and flexibleuse merchandisers. In response to continuing customer demand, Hussmann will continue to innovate in the area of fresh food merchandising.

feedback as we’re developing new products or as we’re continuing to update display cases and refrigeration systems.” Figge reveals that the feedback comes from across organizations, from the associates on the supermarket floor and store managers all the way to the C-suite. Some of Hussmann’s latest innovations are focused on the new wave of low global-warming potential (GWP) refrigerants poised to be required promptly, a predictive analytics software product called StoreConnect, electronic shelf labels (ESLs) and innovative fl exible-use merchandisers. A top concern for many retailers, according to Figge, is the regulatory environment and the changes coming in the near future when it comes to refrigerants. “The good news is the industry has a little bit of time to get ready for it,” he says. “So part of the roadshow this year was helping to educate retailers around the regulatory environment and options, and also to talk about the solutions that we have at Hussmann and what we are working on today.” The 2023 Hussmann Roadshow featured a few new solutions and merchandisers. For instance, the SIM, a self-service island merchandiser, provides retailers with merchandising flexibility and ease of ownership. “There are island merchandisers in the market today, but this one has a full view — all four sides — plus it’s more energy efficient than other similar shop-arounds,” Figge says. Another highlighted product is the Insight Reach-In, which incorporates innovative design as well as sustainable refrigerant options. This display case demonstrates the Hussmann standard for quality and energy efficiency, while also promoting a modern, modular design. “The Insight Reach-In is ideal for updating a retailer’s store layout and simultaneously enhancing the shopper experience,” Figge notes. “We’re really excited about this product.”

Cooling Solutions

The roadshow trailer also features Hussmann’s newest cooling solution, the Krack MicroDS and MicroSC Monoblock. This all-in-one condensing unit and evaporator solution uses R290 refrigerant and addresses AIM regulations with its innovative air and water-cooled design. The innovative Monoblock is designed for micro fulfillment, indoor walk-in coolers and freezers, making it ideal for dairy, beverage or frozen food applications. “This leading-edge technology provides retailers with an easy installation and energy-efficient cooling solution,” Figge says, calling it “another example of Hussmann helping its customers find innovative, low-GWP solutions.”

“We really want to be engaged with our customers, and we found that there’s really no better way than to bring our innovations directly to them.” —Tim Figge, CEO, Hussmann Corp.

Digital In-Store Media

Figge mentions that another top priority for retailers this year has been increased curiosity about ESLs. “We’ve had some good conversations with Hussmann’s Aperion team, and what they’re bringing to the market,” Figge says. “Retailers continue to realize the challenges that they’re facing around labor, and also where technology is enabling us to push the envelope further on the shelf edge.” Hussmann’s Aperion team is hyper-focused on creating a more efficient and engaging merchandising solution for retailers. Its products provide retailers the ability to connect shoppers with what matters to them. From effortlessly showcasing product attributes to presenting digital coupons and authentic product reviews, Aperion has been at the forefront of redefining the retail experience for customers. “What sets us apart is our dedication to working with our clients to innovate the right retail solutions for their stores, distinguishing us from the crowd of conventional IoT solutions out there,” Figge says. By leveraging its extensive expertise in retail merchandising and its open software platform, it helps transform the shelf edge into a dynamic asset. Whether it’s deploying cutting-edge stocking robots, implementing AI-driven pricing tools or enhancing e-commerce capabilities, Aperion integrates with a customer’s retail strategy and makes it not reactive, but forward-thinking, with the customer in mind. “One of our customers has even taken it and linked it to their own app,” Figge notes. “Then the shopper in-store can click on the product they’re looking for, and that product will fl ash and tell them exactly where to go. There’s so many different opportunities around ESLs and the digital shelf edge that our Aperion team is bringing to market.”

The Hussmann Promise

Hussmann was founded in 1906 by Harry Hussmann as a butcher supply company. In the late 1910s, he created the first food merchandiser — putting a coil in a case — and some fans, really innovating on how fresh meats could be merchandised. Ever since then, Hussmann’s spirit of innovation has never waned. “The Hussmann Promise is always about customer focus,” Figge observes. “And as I look at the industry, I think there’s a lot of different things going on, whether it’s labor challenges, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory changes, or innovations around the future of food retailing tied to becoming better stewards of the environment. I think the future of the industry is pretty bright. Fresh is continuing to be so important for the consumer in the U.S., so we will continue to innovate a lot around fresh food merchandising. At the end of the day, our job is to be the trusted partner for our customers, ultimately helping retailers be successful and be better businesses.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER Februar y 2024



2024 Outstanding Independents

Local Heroes This year’s crop of indie standouts succeed by tuning into the needs of the community members who shop at their stores. By PG Staff


ne key point in common among Progressive Grocer’s class of Outstanding Independents in 2024 — or, frankly, any other year — is their deep connection to the neighborhoods where their stores are located and where, very often, they live as well. This is of course the main differentiator of independent grocers: their ability to anticipate the needs of area shoppers and create a long-lasting bond in a way that larger players, with their extensive demographic research and carefully selected focus groups, can only envy. Whether that connection is forged through offering local products, providing time-saving services tailored to the regional population or supporting area organizations working to make a difference, indies have a natural advantage when it comes to bonding with customers. The 21 honorees included in the following pages have raised that asset into an art form. Take the literally indefatigable Rich Hayes, owner of Hayes Market, in Waymart, Pa., who helps his single store stand apart through his marathon charity bicycle rides to raise money for local animal shelters, a cause near and dear to Hayes’ heart. While not everyone possesses

Hayes’ sheer physical stamina, many of the grocers that we honored this year are able to make contributions every bit as meaningful. One example is Schnuck Markets, which is able to deploy a Community Kitchen on wheels to provide aid in the wake of disaster. The fact that many of these businesses are family-owned is significant, as it points to an important reason for their ability to surmount the many challenges of being an independent operator in a grocery industry marked by ever-increasing consolidation: In the main office, the stores and, ultimately, the towns that their operations call home, it’s all about cultivating and nurturing relationships. In that way, these indies create just the kind of warm, inviting atmosphere that keeps associates and shoppers alike from straying. Read on to find out more about PG’s 2024 Outstanding Independents. Stores operated by 2024 Outstanding Independent Nugget Markets feature creative and attractive merchandising.



Our work in local communities helped us achieve this honor. That includes donating nearly $200 million worth of food to non-profit organizations and food pantries, as well as supporting disaster relief efforts in Missouri and Illinois.

Supporting the communities we call home since 1939. ©2024 Schnucks


2024 Outstanding Independents

Harmons Grocery

Headquarters: West Valley City, Utah Number of Stores: 20 Having first opened as a fruit stand back in 1932 — making it the oldest locally owned and operated grocer in the state of Utah — Harmons now also offers handmade artisan breads and gelatos, specialty foods, gourmet cheeses, and local meats, honey and salt, as well as other unique products. According to third-generation owner Bob Harmon, every decision is made with the aim of delivering an outstanding experience. This extends to store personnel, who strive to select the

freshest products for customers. Among shoppers, Harmons is beloved for its “helpful and professional service,” “amazingly friendly” associates, and 5,300-plus local products sourced from an “incredibly talented network of vendor part-

ners,” in the words EVP of Fresh Foods Todd Jensen. Additionally, the grocer is known for its deep commitment to the community, with donations of money, food and time to improve the quality of life in Utah a huge part of Harmons’ culture. The retailer has given $3 million-plus to local small businesses through its grants program, as well as funding other community causes; contributed more than 30 million pounds of food to Utah Food Bank and mobile pantries; and devoted countless hours of volunteer service to Special Olympics, Bike MS and other nonprofits.

In August 2023, he set off on his 12th year of cycling more than 300 miles through eight counties in northeastern Pennsylvania, raising awareness and a record-breaking $52,000 for area animal shelters.

Additionally, Hayes Market has established partnerships with local school districts, supporting students with developmental disabilities through employment opportunities. For these efforts, Hayes received the Employer of the Year award from Wayne County in November 2023. Among the ways that Hayes markets his company are by maintaining a prominent social media presence and by taking part in a weekly segment on WBRE-TV’s “PA Live!” show, during which the ebullient store owner sometimes appears with his three French bulldogs, known regionally as the official mascots of Hayes Market.

and attractive merchandising: The grocer’s beautiful stores highlight unusual or local items, as well as showcasing great deals. Beyond the walls of those stores, Nugget is a pillar of its communities,

donating to local food banks and participating in area events. It also awards scholarships to associates attending school, or to the children of current associates. Additionally, Nugget employs a sophisticated buying system that enables it to take advantage of best-cost products and procure merchandise in its own warehouse. The retailer networks its own facility with its primary supplier, C&S Wholesale Grocers, to lower delivery costs to each store, allowing Nugget to promote more to its customers. This continual quest to drive costs out of the system enables the grocer to compete better in the markets that it serves.

Hayes Market

Headquarters: Waymart, Pa. Number of Stores: 1 After years of working in and for locally owned Pennsylvania grocery stores — including a 12-year stint at Quinn’s Market, in Archbold — Rich Hayes was finally able to fulfill his dream of owning a supermarket within his community in 2019, with the opening of a location in Waymart. The way that longtime cycling enthusiast and animal lover Hayes decided to set his store apart from the competition was through his commitment to community causes, particularly the annual Pedaling 4 Paws charity bike ride.

Nugget Markets

Headquarters: Davis, Calif. Number of Stores: 16 Nugget Markets is distinguished by its RAVE culture, which stands for Respect, Value, Appreciate Everyone. It starts with hiring associates with a desire to serve and flows through to Nugget’s customers, who are always referred to as guests. To that end, Nugget staffs knowledgeable associates, known as specialists, in every store department to share their information with guests, providing an exceptional shopping experience. Another unique aspect of its business model is creative 18

for voting us one of the top

independents in grocery The entrepreneurial spirit that motivated my grandfather to open our family’s first grocery store in 1960 continues to drive our company today. Thank you for recognizing us as an outstanding independent. – Donny Rouse, CEO, 3rd Generation


2024 Outstanding Independents

Oliver’s Market

Headquarters: Santa Rosa, Calif. Number of Stores: 4 For its 35th anniversary, employee-owned Oliver’s Market decided to celebrate in several ways. These included special sales, in-store Meet the Maker events, and, in partnership with its local paper, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, a 35 Reasons Why Sonoma County Loves Oliver’s contest. Asked to share what they love about shopping at Oliver’s in 15 words or fewer, contestants sent in more than 400 entries, many making reference to the company’s goals of celebrating its employees, serving its community, focusing on local, and offering outstanding quality and

customer service. The top 35 contestants won Oliver’s gift cards, with one entrant randomly chosen to receive one worth $350, and their comments were printed on signage used throughout the grocer’s stores. Oliver’s also created a word cloud to highlight the most popular responses. The Press Democrat then hosted a gallery of the winning answers, accompanied by current and historic photography. “An ultimate measure of how your business is being perceived comes when customers share their sentiments unaided,” Oliver’s notes in its nomination. “As a small business, we cannot afford expensive market research, but to receive such an amazing reflection back of our company goals from our customers is worth its weight in gold.”

Olsen’s Piggly Wiggly

Headquarters: Cedarburg, Wis. Number of Stores: 2 Ryan and Megan Olsen, owners of two Piggly Wiggly stores in Cedarburg and Mequon, Wis., are huge contributors to their local communities, regularly donating to such area organizations as Ozaukee Family Services, Mel’s Charities and the Cedarburg Community Scholarship Fund. Additionally, every year, Olsen’s Piggly Wiggly participates in the Ozaukee County Fair, purchasing the grand-champion steer at the 4H

PCC Community Markets

Headquarters: Seattle Number of Stores: 16 As the largest community-owned food market in the nation, PCC has established the mission of cultivating vibrant, local organic food systems to nourish the areas that it serves. On the occasion of its 70th anniversary in 2023, it introduced a new product standard, the PCC Inclusive Trade Program, to make it easier for people to shop their values and support businesses owned by individuals who identify as members of many historically and currently excluded communities. 20

auction, along with four sheep — a move that helps the 4H program tremendously. The grocer also sponsors a range of area events, including a July 4th fireworks display and a food drive, with all monies staying local. The Olsens came by their community commitment — not to mention So far, more than 60 businesses representing 615-plus products have opted into the Inclusive Trade program, which has created an intentional space for better recognition, elevation and inclusion within the marketplace. “It’s our hope that the work we’re doing to establish and nurture this program at PCC will clear a path for others in the industry to follow,” the cooperative grocer notes in its nomination. Inclusive Trade is rooted in PCC’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) principles. Earlier in 2023, the grocer released a statement of equity and inclusion, acknowledging its commitment to

their extensive grocery know-how — through long-established ties of family and friendship: Ryan’s parents, Layton and Barbara, ran the Cedarburg store before deciding to retire and sell it to their son and daughter-in-law in 2012, while the younger couple later took over the Mequon store from Paul and Karen Godin when they retired. As the Olsens’ nominator observes, “Ryan and Megan’s stores are a pleasure to shop, have outstanding customer service [and are] always looking to be the best grocery store in the area, providing the best services and best quality at the best prices.” justice-centered change within the co-op and community food systems. In alignment with the Inclusive Trade program and standard, the statement now serves as a guiding directive for PCC’s actions, work and approach.

Building a brand takes balance.

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©2023 CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP) is an independent network member of CLA Global. See Investment advisory services are offered through CliftonLarsonAllen Wealth Advisors, LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor.


2024 Outstanding Independents

Rouses Markets

Headquarters: Schriever, La. Number of Stores: 63, with five more under construction Although it’s been around for 64 years, Rouses Markets consistently pioneers innovations as it continues to open new locations and renovate existing stores. It’s simultaneously managed to remain in touch with its roots: In 2023, when Rouses built a new store in Houma, La., a stone’s throw from the site of the family’s first grocery store, which opened in 1960, the company created a drive-thru Houma da Chicken concept allowing customers to pick up

the chain’s famous fried chicken without ever entering the store. In addition to chicken, Rouses offers a range of freshly prepared homestyle dishes reflecting local and

regional tastes, including such top sellers as gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and fried catfish. Not only does it sell more Gulf shrimp and boil more Louisiana crawfish than any other retailer in the region, but also it also makes a whopping 600,000 king cakes during Mardi Gras, more than 10,000 of which are shipped nationwide. Alongside its dedication to distinctive local food and supporting area food businesses, Rouses fights hunger through a food bank assistance program. Community involvement also includes sponsorships of local schools, sports teams — among them the New Orleans Saints — and festivals across the Gulf Coast.

of limited-assortment smaller-box stores and value price points was a blueprint for success, Hays has instituted such pro-

grams as a widely popular one-day meat sale event calendar in the second and third quarter, enabling customers to buy pork steak, Western-style pork ribs and fresh ground beef at a $1.99 a pound for one day only. This has led to tremendous sales growth: In the second-quarter sale, all four of his stores tripled their sales numbers from the same time last year. Through this promotion and Hays’ creative leadership, he’s been able to double or triple sales for all of his stores. Along with his successful supermarkets, Hays’ entrepreneurial spirit has led him to add restaurants and hardware stores to his retail portfolio.

Save A Lot/Dyer Foods

Headquarters: Dyer, Tenn. Number of Stores: 4 Having started out more than 40 years ago as a part-time associate at a grocery store in his hometown of Dyer, Tenn., Save A Lot retail partner Joey Hays still maintains a passion for the business. This can be seen in how he doggedly grew his operations over the years, from a single location in 1981 to eventually acquiring four Save A Lot stores in Covington, Millington, Dyersburg and Brownsville, Tenn. Believing that the Save A Lot model

Save A Lot/Freeman Family Enterprises

Headquarters: Gaylord, Mich. Number of Stores: 19 Run by brothers Tim, Tom and Paul Freeman, Freeman Family Enterprises operates Save A Lot stores in small towns and rural settings across Michigan, with each location committed to delivering high-quality products at value prices. Investing in store updates and reinventing the shopping experience for their customers are important for the Freemans. Over the past three years, they’ve 22

completed remodels of all 19 stores. The revamped stores, which feature wider, easier-to-shop aisles, are driving a 5.5% sales increase. As the owners of a small business, the Freemans understand the responsibility that comes with being an employer, and that their success as a

business extends to all of their associates as well. By employing 300 people in areas that don’t have a lot of job opportunities, they’re helping to bring stability to local families. The Freemans’ pride in their store teams has inspired a desire to help the communities that they serve, including through Save A Lot’s annual Bags for a Brighter Holiday initiative, a giving program that allows customers to purchase a bag of nonperishable groceries for donation to a local charity. For the past four years, the Freemans have had stores in the program finish among the top10 selling locations nationwide.

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2024 Outstanding Independents

Save A Lot/Frenvey Inc.

Headquarters: Lake City, Fla. Number of Stores: 6 With six Save A Lot locations in towns throughout northwest Florida, as well as an IGA, Mike and Mark Boris know that to win over customers, they must always provide fresh, full, friendly and clean shopping experiences. What sets the Borises’ stores apart from nearby big-box retailers is their commitment to their associates. They employ 220 people across their stores


ones to hunker down in safety at the and are known for investing Chiefland store. While spending the in development opportunight there, the grateful family worked nities for their associates. to ensure that the location would be They also promote from ready for customers the following day. within, which has led to a Additionally, Mike Boris served on large number of long-term a Save A Lot advisory council consistemployees, some who have ing of retail partners who provided been with the business for their expertise to help improve the more than 40 years. network as a whole. A great example of the deep bond between the Borises and their people came during Hurricane Idalia. When an assistant Headquarters: Boardman, Ohio manager, Lynette Number of Stores: 19 Barton, expressed Second-generation grocers John and Elaine Kawecki and concern that her Henry Nemenz, of the Horizon Group, own Save A Lot lohome wouldn’t cations across Pennsylvania and Ohio. Horizon’s founding provide adequate belief that everyone deserves access to fresh, high-quality shelter during the food at a value price point, no matter the neighborhood, storm, the brothers remains at the core of the family business today. graciously allowed To that end, Horizon leadership works to ensure that her and her loved its store teams have autonomy to do what’s needed to serve customers and make each location better every day. From an operational standpoint, the teams strive to maintain CRISP stores: clean, recovered, in-stock, signed and priced. This consistent execution has kept customers coming back for 30-plus years. Additionally, Horizon gives back to its less fortunate neighbors with a year-round Hunger Bags program, through which the grocer and its loyal customers donate pantry staples to 16 charitable organizations in the communities where its stores operate. Organizations supported by this initiative include the Alliance Catholic Workers Pantry, the New Castle Rescue Mission and the St. Vincent DePaul Society. The company’s steadfast commitment to its communities was why it was chosen as the 2023 Save A Lot Hometown Hero, an annual honor recognizing a retailer whose community outreach enables it to stand out.

Save A Lot/Horizon Group

Save A Lot/Houchens Food Group

Headquarters: Bowling Green, Ky. Number of Stores: 90 Houchens Food Group, Save A Lot’s largest retail partner, operates Save A Lot locations across eight states, employing about 1,500 people and often serving as the largest employer in a small rural town. Outstanding sales and operations are hallmarks of Houchens’ stores. Over the past three years, the grocer has fully updated and remodeled 88 locations, including 23 this past year, with new equipment, flooring, paint and décor, along with hot deals for customers. Even more notable is Houchens’ care for the community. The company’s locations take part in Save A Lot’s annual Bags for a Brighter Holiday program, Cram the Cruiser and Cram the Fire Truck events held in partnership with local police and fire department to fill vehicles with food for donation, and Toys for Tots activities. Additionally, all Houchens stores participate in fundraising twice a year for St. Jude’s Research Hospital, raising $160,000 in 2023 alone. The company also went out of its way to help recov-

ery efforts in the wake of devastating floods in eastern Kentucky in 2022, pledging a $120,000 donation to the Foundation for Appalachia Kentucky and, with the help of Save A Lot customers and associates, raising $45,000 for the American Red Cross.




2024 Outstanding Independents

Save A Lot/JCP Groceries

Headquarters: Canton, N.Y. Number of Stores: 9 Jeff Proulx, who got his start working in his dad’s IGA store, now runs nine Save A Lot locations of his own, in which he continues to invest. Currently, Proulx is finishing up remodeling his stores with a new décor package that includes fresh interior and exterior paint, new lighting, and updated exterior signage. Beyond such upgrades to the customer experience, Proulx fully embraces the idea of being involved in the communities where his stores operate. In keeping with this vision, he regularly works with the Lions Club

and the Canton, N.Y., Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, he started

the Canton Pee-Wee Football program in 1989, taking the helm as its first commissioner and later serving as a board member. The program is still around today, helping kids and families get involved in such sports as baseball, soccer, softball and football. The organization’s mission statement reflects Proulx’s goals of providing opportunities for personal growth and development of young athletes while also reinforcing positive influences, self-confidence, and the ability to excel on and off the field. As a result of this work, Proulx has received such honors as the Canton Chamber Member of the Year and the New York State Small Business Administration Award.

Unlike his first store, the new one is in an urban area, something he wasn’t familiar with, although he was eager to jump in and start making a positive impact in the community. As part of

McPherson’s determination to go all in with the new store, he and his family actually moved to the area from their home in Tennessee. According to McPherson, the move was his way of giving all he had to make the store successful. Within three months, he had accomplished that through such strategies as a daily in-store fresh-cut meat program, which helps distinguish his stores from the competition. With two successful Save A Lot stores in his portfolio, McPherson is setting his sights on growth again: He’s just opened a third store, also in the Charleston area, early this year.

Save A Lot/McPherson Ltd.

Headquarters: North Charleston, S.C. Number of Stores: 3 What makes Shannon McPherson’s Save A Lot stores so special? His customers will say that McPherson’s drive to provide high-quality food at affordable prices is what keeps them coming back, along with the welcoming attitude of his staff. Eighteen months ago, McPherson, who already operated a store in Lexington, Tenn., took on a new challenge and purchased a second location, in North Charleston, S.C.

Save A Lot/MVP Foods

Headquarters: Demotte, Ind. Number of Stores: 9 Save A Lot retail partner Todd Hinson’s stores are known for their outstanding customer service and well-merchandised stores, as Hinson realized early on in his career that mastering those two components would set his stores up for success. As a result, his stores outperform others in Indiana by an average of 700 basis points per week in retail sales. Having locations in various communities enables Hinson to merchandise 26

each store to fit the needs of the customers there. This is done by keeping key local products on hand, as well as offerings from area eateries, enabling Hinson to build trust among customers

who know that his stores will carry their local favorites. Another way that Hinson has set his Save A Lot stores apart from the competition is by carrying seasonal plants during the summer. With several stores in rural areas, he often heard customers’ frustrations at having to drive to larger towns to purchase these seasonal items. To help make access easier, Hinson worked to source a variety of seasonal plants at affordable prices. Yet another key differentiator is how invested Hinson is in keeping costs low; he strives to get the best prices to bring customers added value.



The many impressive numbers behind Purina ONE Adding up the ways this cornerstone of the super premium category has spent a decade showing the power of science-backed nutrition on pet health. By Joe Toscano, Vice President, Trade & Industry Development at Purina They say numbers and data tell a story. So I’ll start with a noteworthy statistic. Roughly 40 percent of pet owners say they are willing to pay more for a pet food tailored to their pet’s needs. At this higher price point, pet owners want a food that does it all – a bowl that creates excitement at mealtime, not compromising on taste, but also has a positive impact on their pet’s health. That’s exactly why such outcome-based brands, like Purina ONE®, the largest pet food brand in the aisle, continue to drive tremendous growth in the super premium category.

A Difference From Day ONE


For a brand that has become so synonymous with just a single number, Purina ONE has many digits worth celebrating, especially this year: 28. Making a pet food selection, especially a change, can be a stressful decision for any pet owner. That’s why Purina ONE has championed the 28-Day Challenge: just 28 days to see a difference in your pet. From a shiny coat to bright eyes and strong muscles, including a healthy heart, this time frame is all it takes for dog and cat owners to see the impact a science-backed nutrition formula can have on the life of their pet. 10. It’s been an incredible decade – 10 years – since the 28-Day Challenge was first introduced to consumers in 2014. And for this super premium brand, created around powerful ingredients found in nature, the results have been a consistent proof point of what you can achieve when you bring nature and research together. 61. To ensure the positive difference that begins on day one continues for a lifetime, there are 61 different formulas of ONE available for dog and cat owners, allowing a diet to be customized for the unique needs of each pet as they grow. 500. At Purina, we proudly have more than 500 scientists, veterinarians and nutritionists on staff, who work tirelessly to uncover breakthrough nutrition, like Purina ONE, that helps dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives. These experts fuel the innovation we believe should be pursued relentlessly, always focusing on the

pet’s nutritional needs, safety and wellbeing. We apply our unrivaled scientific experience in pet nutrition, physiology and behavior to make new discoveries and push boundaries, creating real nutritional solutions for your shelves that can make a profound difference in the lives of pets. 2 million. Yes, million! Since its inception, nearly two million dog and cat consumers have registered to take the Purina ONE 28-Day Challenge. We never tire of hearing the success stories of families who signed up and became loyal customers after seeing the positive, visible differences in their beloved family pets. In fact, many of these stories come from our retailer partners like you, and we love when you share them with your Purina sales representatives. Zero. The number of ingredients in Purina ONE – and in any of our pet food brands – without a purpose. At Purina, we believe nutrition starts with understanding nutrients, not just ingredients. The best ingredients are the ones that work together to enhance one another’s performance. A smarter nutrient blend is more digestible and effective for a pet than

a single ingredient. That’s why we don’t formulate our pet food on an ingredient basis but instead measure how different formulations affect a pet’s overall health. Every ingredient in every Purina dog and cat food recipe was selected for a specific purpose, and with your pet’s health in mind. (You can visit to see pictures and read ingredient descriptions and benefits of every ingredient in every Purina food.) All these numbers are important, but at the end of the day (or at least at the end of this page), we know the most important numbers to you are how many consumers are returning to your store for their pet needs. Ensuring the right mix of science-backed, proven formulas on your shelves converts shoppers to loyal customers. Your Purina sales rep can provide you with additional information on the many formulas available that are tailored for the specific needs of your customers’ pets, including the exciting expansions coming to our Purina ONE line this year.

Purina trademarks are owned by Société des Produits Nestlé S.A.


2024 Outstanding Independents

Save A Lot/Saver Group

Headquarters: Berea, Ky. Number of Stores: 39 Operating Save A Lot stores across Kentucky, Ohio and North Carolina, the Saver Group’s Larry Noe and Dale and Wendell Combs work together as a team to serve the various communities that they serve and the people who call them home. When record-setting flooding devastated communities across eastern Kentucky in July 2022, the Saver Group’s Carlisle store sustained extensive water damage and had to close until it could be made operational, forcing residents to travel more than 20 miles to the next largest town to purchase groceries. Because of the severity of the structural damage to the building, the only path forward was to demolish the old building and find a new site. Despite construction delays, the Saver Group was persistent in its goal to get


the Carlisle Save A Lot up and running. In May 2023, just 10 months from the day of the flood, the Saver Group held a grand-reopening event at the new Carlisle store to mark this community milestone. Since the store was a brand-

new build, it enabled Saver Group to give the community a state-of-the-art store featuring the latest technology, and its shoppers have responded positively. Since the store opened, it has served 85,000-plus customers.

Save A Lot/Suzanne Schmitz

Headquarters: Warsaw, N.Y. Number of Stores: 7 Suzanne Schmitz’s love of grocery began with her first-ever summer job, working in a Save A Lot for one of the company’s independent license owners when she was 16 years old. Fast-forward to the present day, and Schmitz now owns and operates seven Save A Lot stores of her own across New York state, with plans to open an eighth this year; she also operates four locations for another ownership group in the area. Schmitz believes that a store owner must know her employees and customers intimately; maintain a consistent, hands-on presence; and be involved in the intricacies and local needs of the business. Further, she keeps her pricing low and always seeks opportunities to woo customers. To that end, Schmitz created a weekend sale event bringing in various novel seafood options to drive traffic. This concept is now widely used by many other Save A Lot owner groups. She also serves on the company’s retailer advisory council to provide feedback and shape programming for the broader

Suzanne Schmitz (left) and Jessica Newman strike a pose in a Save A Lot store that they co-own in New York state.

network, and is a willing test participant in such ventures as an in-store pilot of Healthy Benefits Cards, a program now slated to roll out to all Save A Lot locations in 2024.

Congratulates Nugget Markets

Chosen as Progressive Grocer’s 2024





2024 Outstanding Independents

Schnuck Markets Inc.

Headquarters: St. Louis Number of Stores: 115 Founded in St. Louis in 1939, family-owned Schnucks has a decades-long commitment to its surrounding com-

munities, particularly when it comes to hunger and food insecurity. Its biggest partner in this endeavor is Operation Food Search (OFS); over 40-plus years, the grocer has donated nearly $200 million worth of food to support the nonprofit and its partner food pantries. OFS recently used part of a $15,000 donation from Schnucks to distribute 2,000 $5 fresh produce vouchers to members and patients of four area nonprofits, to be redeemed at the St. Louis MetroMarket, the organization’s mobile grocery store that travels to underserved neighborhoods. The remaining $5,000 of the donation enabled the MetroMarket to make five weekend

flex stops at additional community sites. Schnucks also provided volunteers for two MetroMarket events. The grocer has also rolled out the Community Kitchen, a full-service facility on wheels staffed by employee volunteers and able to be quickly deployed to communities throughout Schnucks’ Midwest footprint to provide relief to areas affected by natural disasters. So far, the Community Kitchen has been dispatched to locations dealing with flooding and power outages, as well as being used for store celebrations and other community events sponsored or supported by Schnucks.

such means as in-store giveaways of sought-after seasonal items, cart bingo promotions enabling shoppers to win store gift cards, and weekly value-added or free items.

Since the Teal family believes that philanthropy and community engagement are key to running successful independent stores, its locations offer a rebate program enabling shoppers to earn 1% on qualifying purchases, to be donated to a nonprofit. The stores also participate in Labels for Learning, an initiative aiding local schools and community organizations. Beyond these ongoing initiatives, Teal’s supports one-time and seasonal projects at local organizations with employee volunteers. These priorities have driven success, leading Teal’s to be a SpartanNash Vision Award winner for its impressive 7% year-over-year sales growth.

Instead, its core strategy has been to develop loyalty based on value, pricing, customer service and merchandise mix. Maintaining its status as the price leader for groceries, fuel and general merchandise is central to the Three Bears brand promise, and the grocer’s consumers have rewarded it with unwavering loyalty in return. Over the past 40-plus years, the company has grown to become the largest family-owned retailer in Alaska while maintaining its commitment to being a one-stop shop with the best prices and selection in its local com-

munities. Currently, with support from private-equity firm Westward Partners, Three Bears describes itself as being “on a continued growth trajectory that will allow [us] to meet consumers where they live and work.”

Teal’s Market

Headquarters: Albany, Minn. Number of Stores: 12 The story of Teal’s Market began more than 75 years ago, when George and Pearl Teal opened the Red Owl Grocery Store, in Cass Lake, Minn. Today, the company’s 12 stores are run by fifth-generation owner Andrea Teal, a champion of promoting women in the industry — many of her locations have female managers. Teal’s showcases innovation through a robust and engaged online presence, maintaining a lively Facebook page with 10,000-plus followers. What also sets the grocer apart is a deep appreciation for its customers through

Three Bears Alaska

Headquarters: Wasilla, Alaska Number of Stores: 27 Since its founding way back in 1980, Three Bears Alaska has provisioned the state’s residents with everything necessary to take on the Last Frontier. Whether shoppers are stocking up on ammo and supplies for a big moose hunt, making a weekly grocery run or filling up the tank for a long haul, Three Bears has everything that Alaskans are looking for. With stores located in remote towns along Alaska’s longest highways, the company could easily charge higher retail prices to maximize profits. 30

Tom’s Food Markets

Headquarters: Traverse City, Mich. Number of Stores: 5 Tom’s Food Market is uniquely positioned as a major player in a popular resort area. Guided by Nancy Deering Sands and her husband, Ed, Tom’s stores feature programs to support tourists visiting Traverse City, Mich., year-round. For instance, the company partners with a specialized service enabling shoppers visiting the area to have groceries stocked ahead of time at their cabins or rental properties. Closer to home, Tom’s leverages relationships with Michigan vendors and businesses to provide access to a wide selection of local products. Additionally, it provides access to an exclusive online ordering and pickup service, as well as actively engaging with the community via social media. Shoppers love Tom’s for its exclusive prepared food offerings, including freshly baked bagels, store-made deli sandwiches and pizza. Reinvesting in Tom’s is a top priority for the Sands, who have recently revitalized the brand to create a store environment that’s even more friendly and welcoming. This massive undertaking included renovations, remodels and resets at all locations. The investment has already paid off, as shoppers

Tom's Food Markets leverages relationships with Michigan vendors and businesses, including Short's Brewing Co., to provide access to a wide selection of local products.

love the new look and feel of the stores. Meanwhile, in the area of community outreach, Tom’s was voted “Simply the Best” by readers of the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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Reducing the environmental impact of your refrigeration with NEW LOW GWP SOLUTIONS Meet Michael Lehtinen, Senior Product Leader for CO2 Solutions at Hussmann. With 12 years of experience in the refrigeration industry, much of that background has been dedicated to bringing CO2 technologies to food retail. With regulations now in place, Michael’s focus is about educating retailers on CO2 and simplifying the complex process to adopt these new refrigeration concepts. Progressive Grocer: There are new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules related to low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants that stores will have to comply with soon. Can you briefly explain those regulations and how they’re tied to the impact stores’ refrigeration has on the environment? Michael Lehtinen: For retail commercial refrigeration, there are three important time points that a retailer should become familiar with. The easiest way to explain this to retailers is by focusing on the types of equipment in the simplest terms and the compliance deadline for each type: TYPE OF EQUIPMENT


Displays and equipment with plugs (self-contained units)

January 1, 2025

Single compressor units (typically condensing units)

January 1, 2026

Multi-compressor units (distributed or centralized systems)

January 1, 2027

The impact these regulations will have on the environment is related to what we call direct emissions. Direct emissions are releases of refrigerant gas from leaks or service procedures. The main focus of the regulation is on new stores or stores that replace more than 75% of their equipment. This ensures the most recent generation of stores have refrigerants in use that have a much lower impact on the climate. This is measured by the global warming potential (GWP) of each unique refrigerant gas. The limitation stated in the regulation focuses on limits of 300 and 150 GWP. For example, the GWP of R-448A is 1,387 which would not be

allowed for use under the new regulations. Future stores would be required to use a refrigerant with a GWP of less than 150 which would have a significant reduction of the impact on the environment/climate as compared to traditional refrigerant gasses. PG: What will stores be required to do to meet the requirements? And how challenging will that be? ML: Retailers will be required to place focus on using low GWP options as early as 2025 for new self-contained and 2027 for new supermarket systems. This redesign will consider new refrigerant gases, new technologies and safety systems. Retailers will be able to repair and replace equipment using pre-regulation gases in their existing fleet of stores. We anticipate for many retailers, understanding the new technologies and how to apply them for their chain may evoke some uncertainty or concerns. However, organizations like Hussmann focus on having a wide variety of solutions and partner with retailers to assist in addressing these challenges. Our team of regulatory experts, refrigeration specialists and trainers can all provide guidance and support as each retailer navigates the new regulations. PG: Hussmann has always been a trusted, innovative partner for grocery retailers. You recently introduced a new cutting-edge portfolio called Evolve Technologies. What does that portfolio offer and how can it set retailers up for success within the new regulatory environment? ML: Evolve Technologies is our way of identifying the low GWP solutions available from Hussmann. When customers see the Evolve branding, they can associate that product as a potential future solution for their retail chain — assuring them that it meets regulatory requirements. The Evolve portfolio is comprised of systems and merchandisers that have been qualified to work with the latest low GWP refrigerants. Within this portfolio, we include our offering of propane (R-290) and CO2 (R-744). We believe the Evolve branding simplifies the process of identifying which products have been designed to meet their new challenges. Visit and contact your Hussmann sales representative to explore low GWP solutions for your store.




ALDI Strikes a Balance Between Price and Planet The deep-discount grocer manages growth and loyalty while making sustainability strides. By Lynn Petrak


LDI’s store footprint may be growing by leaps and bounds, but its carbon footprint is shrinking. As the German value-oriented grocer — recently named Progressive Grocer’s Retailer of the Year — is opening stores at a steady clip across the United States, it’s scaling back on elements of its business that don’t meet its sustainability standards. The trick, of course, is to invest in new growth and pursue eco-friendlier practices while maintaining the price proposition that has given the grocer a decided halo among shoppers in recent years. The nuances of that fine-line walk aren’t lost on the company’s executives. “We’re raising the bar on sustainability without raising prices for shoppers,” Emily Wiora, director of sustainability at Batavia, Ill.-based ALDI USA, tells Progressive Grocer in a recent interview. “We know that oftentimes, the more sustainable decision is the more efficient decision. That’s why we make thousands of small, intentional operational decisions every day that have a big impact on keeping our prices and our environmental footprint low.”


Waste Not

To Wiora’s point, incremental changes can have a big sustainability payoff without losing the passionate and often price-driven customer loyalty for which ALDI has become known. One case in point is the removal of plastic shopping bags at the store level. It’s something that customers have not only become accustomed to, but also take some pride in as they look for ways to cut material waste in their own lives. A quick trip to any given ALDI store bears out this theory: Shoppers can be seen slinging their own bags over their shoulders or looking through the store to pick up shipping or display boxes that can be repurposed to bring home their groceries. “ALDI shoppers have been bringing their own bags for quite some time, and they appreciate that we do things sustainably,” notes Wiora. “Before eliminating plastic shopping bags from our stores, ALDI charged for them at checkout. By never providing single-use plastic bags to our shoppers for free, we helped save an estimated 15 billion bags from landfills and oceans. Our

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customers have been a huge part of that success and our progress to date.” Getting rid of plastic bags altogether elevated the cachet of being a mindful ALDI customer while aligning with the retailer’s concurrent move to keep prices affordable. “By eliminating plastic shopping bags from our stores, we are saving 4,400 tons of plastic from going into circulation each year while also reducing unnecessary costs,” adds Wiora. In addition to entirely removing plastic bags from its front end, ALDI is tackling the thorny problem of waste in other ways. Another small but incrementally important change has been the move away from printed to electronic shelf labels, which has reduced paper waste while optimizing labor. Heeding the issue of packaging waste, ALDI is stepping up partnerships across the supply chain. Nearly four years ago, the company became a founding activator of the U.S. Plastics Pact, working with others to move to a more circular economy. The grocer is also part of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. “Packaging innovation is a cross-industry challenge, and we believe collaboration is key to making progress,” remarks Wiora. Collaboration with suppliers is central to its work to minimize packaging waste. ALDI provides guidance to its suppliers and buying teams through its International Recyclability Guidelines, and also works closely with manufacturing partners on innovation. Wiora shares some examples. “By eliminating the clear plastic windows from our pasta boxes, we save nearly 50 tons of plastic from circulation each year,” she says. “We’ve also streamlined the design of our ALDI-exclusive vinegar bottle to use 33% less plastic, and our Fudge Marshmallow Cookie tray design to use 20% less plastic. We then look at improving packaging design to be more sustainable,” she adds, noting that more than 75% of ALDI-exclusive packaging components are now reusable, recyclable or compostable.” As part of its commitment to a circular economy, ALDI ALDI recently revealed its ambitious goal to transition to natural refrigerants across all U.S. stores by the end of 2035.

ALDI has eliminated all plastic shopping bags from its stores, but shoppers can buy a recycled eco-friendly bag to tote their groceries in style.

promotes package waste reduction to its consumer base, too. “We’re working hard to make it clear to shoppers how, where and when they can recycle our packaging,” explains Wiora. “The majority of our ALDI exclusives include an easy-to-locate How2Recycle logo, which has simple instructions about how to best recycle the packaging. We know customers want to make better choices, and we’re here to make that as simple as possible for them.” Curbing overall waste also involves addressing the significant impact of food waste, something that ALDI is working on at several operational points. “When it comes to food waste, our business model is inherently designed to create efficiency and reduce waste,” says Wiora. “Through smart ordering systems and longstanding donation programs, we are making strides to reduce food waste within our own operations by 50% by the end of 2030. Our innovative pricing and markdown tools help reduce food loss and waste, and even prevent excess buying from the onset. And when our excess food doesn’t end up feeding our customers or donation partners, we aim to use it to feed the planet. In 2022, we composted 1,645 tons of food between the ALDI Test Kitchen and select stores.” Again keeping shoppers in that pivotal loop, ALDI encourages customers to manage their food waste at home by selling them products like reusable sandwich bags and a tumbling composter for home use. Of course, ALDI carries nonfood products, too, and is likewise striving to keep more of those items out of landfills. Through its nonfood donation program, the grocer works with nonprofit groups to give away such products as paper goods, shoes and housewares.

Want Not

Aside from its measures to cut down on material, packaging and food waste, ALDI’s format lends itself to sustainability. The typical ALDI store, for instance, spans just 12,000 square feet. “Our smaller store layouts keep operational costs down, create efficiency, reduce waste and minimize our carbon footprint,” notes Wiora. ALDI’s smaller assortment of 1,400 or so products is part of its price-value magic for shoppers, and also offers sustainability advantages. Fewer products, more of which are locally sourced, cut down on transportation resources and, hence, emissions and fuel use. The types of products it carries also help ALDI 36


strike a balance between price and sustainability. “As our stores are stocked 90% with ALDI-exclusive brands, we are able to work closely with our suppliers to ensure they are upholding high standards and taking care of the communities we serve in and the planet while bringing our customers’ favorite products to our shelves,” observes Wiora.

Chilling Effect

ALDI is taking other measures to live up to its green goals. In January, the retailer revealed that it will transition to natural refrigerants across all of its U.S. stores by the end of 2035, including ultra-low global-warming potential (GWP) carbon dioxide and propane refrigerants. Each store has a role to play in that initiative, as ALDI will use the best refrigerant solution for an area’s distinct climate. What’s in place in Texas, then, will be different from what will be used in the Northeast. Here, too, cost and sustainability are in sync. As Wiora puts it: “Environmentally friendly refrigerant systems help us support a

healthier planet and reduce costs, which translates to big savings for customers. It’s a win-win.” On the cost front, carbon dioxide refrigerants have been shown to be 61% cheaper per pound than traditional refrigerants used in older stores, according to ALDI. Moreover, the high pressure that carbon dioxide operates at enables stores to use waste heat from the refrigeration system in HVAC units, also cutting expenses and outputs. As ALDI preps for another big year of store openings and the completion of its deal to acquire Jacksonville, Fla.-based Southeastern Grocers, the company is confident in its ability to hit its metrics and its mission. “Shopping sustainably doesn’t have to be expensive,” asserts Wiora. “We make sure that our sustainability efforts — and everything we do — is good for the planet and wallets, so shoppers don’t have to choose between doing what’s right and shopping with their values.”

Trader Joe’s Charts Its Course for Affordable Sustainability to share more than 104 million pounds of While ALDI and Trader Joe’s are comfood to those in need. pletely separate businesses, some Meanwhile, a big signal of sustainconsider them to be cousins of sorts in ability to Trader Joe’s shoppers — and the retail industry. Both operators can central to its business — is the high trace their roots to the Albrecht family number of organic and natural products that founded the original retailing busioffered at its stores. The grocer assures ness, which later split into Aldi Süd customers that its Trader Joe’s branded and Aldi Nord. products contain no artificial flavors or Part of Aldi Nord since 1979, Monropreservatives, and are made with colors via, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s maintains derived only from naturally available sustainability as a cornerstone of its products, During the R&D phase, Trader operations, as does the ALDI USA Joe’s asks suppliers to provide docubusiness of Aldi Süd. Its stores are also mentation that ingredients come from smaller than typical supermarkets, and its private label offerings help keep non-GMO sources, and the company costs and resources down. conducts random audits of items with As a privately held company, Trader potentially suspect ingredients. Joe’s hasn’t recently published the That commitment to sustainability Trader Joe's introduced reusable shopping bags in 1977 and now offers compostable same kind of sustainability progress extends to Trader Joe’s popular seafood bags in the produce section. report that ALDI has shared, but the products. The retailer aims to procure chain does tout its efforts in recyclabilfresh and packaged seafood from ity and reusability. Indeed, its reusable shopping totes can sustainable sources, dropping items deemed non-sustainable, be considered a fashion accessory of sorts, with shoppers like Chilean sea bass and frozen swordfish from Southeast looking forward to the latest designs. (Fun fact: Trader Joe’s is Asia, and adding items that align with the Seafood Watch list. credited as the first grocer to provide reusable bags, way back As Trader Joe’s adds more stores — a location in Middlein 1977.) Additionally, customers encounter compostable bags town, N.J., is expected to open this year, and a new site is in the produce department as they stock up on fresh fruits reportedly in the works in the Nashville market — the retailer and vegetables, arguably finding them easier to open than the is following its own multipronged path to provide price savings regular plastic bags usually provided in produce sections. for customers, achieve business growth and offer products Another avenue for reducing waste is through food rescue efthat meet its responsibility parameters. As for its release of a forts. The company recently reported that through its Neighborsustainability progress update this year, time will tell. hood Program, crew and nonprofit partnerships, it’s been able —Lynn Petrak




Seafood opportunities across the globe. The still relatively small organization promotes the full breadth of Alaska seafood product forms from every commercial fishery.

South From Alaska THE AL ASK A SE AFOOD MARKE TING INSTITUTE PROVIDES INSIGHT INTO WHAT MAKES THE PRODUCT IT PROMOTES SO SPECIAL. By Bridget Goldschmidt o find out how retailers can continue to create excitement in the seafood section, Progressive Grocer connected with Megan Rider, domestic marketing director at the Juneau-based Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, who provided plenty of information on how her organization is doing just that, thanks to the distinctive products found in the forty-ninth state’s fish-abundant waters. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. PG: What are the origins of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI)? Megan Rider: In 1981, the Alaska legislature enacted a seafood levy to be approved and paid by the state’s salmon fishermen. Thus began a public-private partnership that would earn Alaska a leadership role in the wild seafood sector that has yet to be paralleled, much less bested. ASMI is the gold standard for seafood marketing. Not only is ASMI a pioneer in this space, but every other region or brand that enters into the seafood landscape looks first to ASMI as a model. Its success and reach set the standard industry-wide. In the last four decades, ASMI has evolved from a small agency primarily tasked with moving canned and frozen salmon into diverse markets, to an organization that finds new market


PG: What seafood products does Alaska offer, and what makes the state’s seafood stand apart from other regions’ offerings? MR: Alaska has a long history of sustainable fishing practices. Whole communities have been intimately involved with harvesting and processing Alaska seafood for generations. Here, fishing is more than just a source of income; it’s a way of life, representing a real relationship with the land and sea. This fishing culture and the connection with the resource defines communities. Alaskans depend on sustainable fish harvests, year after year, and are dedicated to protecting this important natural resource for future generations. The fish that is commercially harvested from our waters includes five species of Pacific salmon — king, sockeye, keta, coho and pink; whitefish — halibut, cod, pollock, sole/flounder, sablefish, rockfish and surimi seafood; and shellfish — crab (king, snow, Dungeness), weathervane scallops, and spot prawns. What’s unique to seafood from Alaska is that we are the only state to have written strict conservation language into our state constitution. Since statehood in 1959, it has been mandated by the Alaska state constitution that fisheries must be maintained on the sustained yield principle. It is because of this constitutional mandate, comprehensive fishThe Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute considers convenience and ease to be the most important factors when developing on-trend recipes.

eries management platform and the proven track record that Alaska is recognized as a model of sustainability for the world. PG: How is the sustainability of Alaska seafood ensured? MR: In addition to Alaska being the only state to have written sustainability into its state constitution, our fisheries are dual-certified by independent sustainable seafood certification programs, Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), so you can trust our seafood is verified as sustainable. RFM was the first certification program to be benchmarked by the rigorous Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), and RFM standards are based on the United Nations’ FAO standards, so you can trust that they’re vetted, stable and comprehensive. One of the key elements of RFM certification is its Chain of Custody certification, which preserves the story of our fish so that it’s traceable through the supply chain back to its point of origin. RFM is the only program that includes the origin on every pack logo without charging a logo license fee. PG: What does ASMI offer to help retailers sell seafood, and what new offerings are rolling out? MR: ASMI has tools and resources to make it easy for retailers to build successful promotions, including educational materials; recipes; training in the selection, handling and uses of all varieties of wild Alaska seafood; promotional support; photographs, videos and artwork to customize your needs; ready access to seafood marketing consultants; a directory of Alaska seafood suppliers; social media support; and consumer trends data, Our consumer trends data is critical for us in supporting retailers in their seafood marketing efforts. We have new research that we just finished working on with Circana. Our “2024 Seafood Report,” which is available on our website, looks at usage behaviors, usage trends, perceptions and drivers of seafood and other protein usage. Circana found that eight in 10 consumers are motivated to purchase seafood when they see the word “Alaska” or when they see the Alaska Seafood logo. Seventy-eight percent say they would pay more if they saw the Alaska Seafood logo displayed. PG: In creating recipes for supermarket foodservice or for consumers to try at home, how does ASMI come up with ideas and what criteria does it use? MR: While we look at trends data, including menuing, flavor forecasts and what influencers are doing, we consider convenience and ease to be of utmost importance when developing recipes. Right now, we are cooking up new air fryer recipes, and for each recipe, we make sure that we aren’t burdening the consumer with having to buy loads of ingredients that they don’t already have in their pantries. From a taste standpoint, we focus on the popularity of global flavors that can be easily and quickly made. PG: How does ASMI develop its consumer-facing campaigns? What programs are currently in the pipeline? MR: Regular market research about purchasing behaviors at foodservice and retail provides us with key insights to consumer preferences and trends. Research shows us that for cooking inspiration, consumers turn to social media, experts and easy recipes. The domestic marketing program works to keep abreast of the

“The best option for retailers is to focus in on seafood as the healthiest, most delicious protein shoppers can purchase.” —Megan Rider, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute

shifting tides of American palates and purchasing habits. Relationships with chefs, social media influencers and members of the media help our ASMI staff identify and roll out the many arms of consumer outreach featuring ASMI fishermen ambassadors and partner chefs. We’ve seen increased reach year over year by leaning into “wild” and “taste” with our consumer campaign. We are currently running a “Cook Wild. #AskforAlaska” omnichannel consumer campaign. Alaska seafood is the ultimate wild and responsibly sourced ingredient. PG: What are consumers’ biggest concerns when it comes to seafood, and how can they be addressed? MR: According to Circana, 62% of consumers say they are trying to increase their consumption of seafood — a higher rate than any other type of protein. The next nearest protein is chicken/poultry, at 46%. Less than one-third are trying to increase their beef, pork or plant-based proteins. Conversely, while about one-third are trying to decrease consumption of beef and pork, very few (5%) are trying to decrease the amount of seafood they eat. The No. 1 reason buyers choose seafood most often is because it is perceived to be healthier overall (79%). Taste preference is also a key driver (59%). About four in 10 also say they choose seafood for environmental reasons, it’s easier to prepare and it’s thought to be higher in protein. The best option for retailers is to focus in on seafood as the healthiest, most delicious protein shoppers can purchase. PG: What are retailers’ biggest concerns when it comes to seafood, and how can they be addressed? MR: Circana asked consumers what would encourage eating more seafood, and 78% said having a greater selection (fresh and frozen) would encourage them to eat seafood more often. Price remains an issue for retailers, and offering a wide variety of seafood throughout the store, especially in frozen and deli, where it’s more affordable, is key. Additionally, 39% of consumers said preparation instructions and recipe ideas are key to helping them purchase more seafood, and 35% said knowing the seafood retailers offer is wild-caught would encourage greater purchase of seafood. PROGRESSIVE GROCER Februar y 2024



Grilling Guide Global barbecue dishes like spicy Jamaican jerk chicken should prove popular this grilling season.

Argentinian asado, a style of grilling that originated in Argentina, is known for its method of wood-fired cooking. While pork chorizos or blood sausage are popular, beef cuts are typically the star.

Cooking With Convenience

Hot Grilling Trends FIND OUT HOW TO GE T RE ADY FOR PE AK BARBECUE SE ASON. By Marian Zboraj he Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2024, held in January, introduced plenty of hightech grilling solutions, from indoor smokers to AI-assisted grills. As a result, grocers should expect consumers to be more eager to host elevated backyard barbecue gatherings this year. Plus, grilling isn’t just for dinner anymore. According to the Arlington, Va.-based Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association’s 2023 “State of the Barbecue Industry” report, 12% of respondents grilled for brunch and 7% for breakfast, showing that consumers are expanding their grilling expertise. So, with peak grilling season in much of the United States just around the corner, grocers need to start strategizing on how to capitalize on the latest cooking trends.

A Worldly View

Backyard grills are no exception to the explosion of interest in global flavors. Grilling equipment provider Smokin’ Ugly, by Jamestown, N.Y.-based WeberKnapp, predicts that international fare will gain momentum in the barbecue community in summer 2024, and grocers highlighting global barbecue styles, like the ones pointed out below by Smokin’ Ugly, can capitalize on this trend: Korean barbecue is a popular restaurant style of food that’s now making inroads in consumers’ backyards. This type of barbecue adds depth of fl avor by placing marinated meats like bulgogi and kalbi on the grill. Jamaican jerk is a seasoning blend originating from the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica and consisting of spices and flavors such as allspice, thyme and Scotch bonnet peppers. This style of cooking is known for its spiciness and is most popular in chicken dishes.


Britney Banuelos, senior brand manager at Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods, predicts that there will be more increased consumer creativity in grilling choices this summer. “In order to address budget considerations while ensuring an enjoyable grilling experience, anticipate a rise in the preference for thinner cuts such as top sirloin or flatiron steaks,” she says. “This strategic selection aims to provide consumers with a fulfilling grilling experience while effectively managing their grocery expenses.” Banuelos also expects an uptick in flavor-infused burger patties in such varieties as bacon and cheddar. Of course, it’s not just about the products on the grill, but also the items that pair with them. “St Pierre offers authentic brioche products in the form of American bakery staples, which means for consumers who are continuing to look for ways to treat themselves well at home, we offer an easy way to elevate a barbecue,” notes Neil Pittman, director of U.S. sales for Manchester, U.K.based St Pierre Bakery.

Move Over Meat

A desire for healthier proteins will have consumers sizzling up more shrimp, salmon, scallops and other foods from the sea, while more non-carnivorous consumers will also get into grilling this season with plant-based products like seitan briskets and burgers that mimic the texture and flavor of animal-based meat. Further, fruits and veggies are redefining barbecue fare: Dishes like grilled peaches, lightly grilled bananas or even grilled wedge salads are ready to take center stage. Finally, don’t forget that more women are stepping up to “man” the grill. Retailers would do well to keep the female perspective in mind when creating merchandising displays. While “girl dinner” was a big trend last year, look for “women who grill” to rule 2024.

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Beef Report zinc. That same 3-ounce portion will also provide about 25 grams of protein, which is 50% of the recommended daily amount. To attract health-conscious consumers, retailers should highlight beef’s health benefits by spotlighting its leanness and high protein levels, two attributes that resonate the most with consumers.

Raising Beef Better

A New Frontier for Beef FOOD RE TAILERS CAN DRIVE SALES BY AT TR ACTING HE ALTH- AND ECO-CONSCIOUS CONSUMERS. By Marian Zboraj n 2023, U.S. meat department sales were more than $122 billion, up 3.2% over last year, according to Chicago-based consumer insights company NIQ. Grocers looking to keep up this momentum in 2024 should lean more heavily on the beef case. What was once considered an unhealthy and environmentally harmful segment is on the verge of redeeming itself to shoppers. As a result, food retailers will want to diversify the meat case with products that feature nutritional callouts and that highlight better raising claims.

With the growing popularity of protein-rich diets also comes consumers’ rising concerns about sustainable beef practices. According to NIQ, shoppers are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from and how it was raised. In fact, the market researcher finds that responsible sourcing is one of the most important sustainability claims to 45% of consumers. Brands and retailers are responding to this trend by investing in more sustainable solutions. They’re also making use of qualified and stated product attributes by labeling their meat products with information about their sustainability practices. This helps draw in consumers and ensures products aligning with shoppers’ demands aren’t overlooked. “Regenerative agriculture” is the term currently generating a lot of buzz within the meat space, with customers showing a preference toward regeneratively grown meat. Regenerative agriculture approaches land management in collaboration with nature, a practice many believe is central to the food system of the future. Efforts such as FreshDirect’s 100% Grass Fed Beef

Nutritional Value

Beef has always been known as an excellent source of protein. Currently, with more consumers discovering the health benefits of these complex molecules, many are switching to high-protein diets. Euromonitor International’s Health and Nutrition Survey 2022 reveals that the top two reasons given for following a high-protein diet are “to improve my fitness” and that it “makes me healthier.” Popular diets such as keto — which advocates consuming higher amounts of protein over carbohydrates to aid in weight loss — are another driver of increased protein consumption. Advocates say that because eating more protein keeps blood sugar levels more stable, it keeps one fuller for longer, assisting in weight loss as it decreases the need to snack on unhealthy foods. Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets also claim that higher muscle mass demands more energy, further aiding weight loss by creating a calorie deficit. Trade organizations Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association also stress beef’s nutrient-rich profile that can support hearthealthy diets when enjoyed in sensible portion sizes. On average, a 3-ounce cooked serving of lean beef has about 170 calories and is a natural source of 10 essential bioavailable nutrients, including protein, B vitamins, iron and


Key Takeaways Retailers should highlight beef’s health benefits by spotlighting its leanness and high protein levels, two attributes that resonate the most with consumers. In the area of sustainability, customers are showing a preference toward regeneratively grown meat. As beef prices once again tick up, retailers would do well to focus on affordable meat staples, as well as offering sales and promotions; at the same time, however, customers are willing to pay extra for timesaving products.

Program work with family-owned farms that ensure cattle are never given antibiotics, added hormones or grain-based feed. The grass-fed beef market is in fact projected to rise by $3.66 billion at a compound annual growth rate of 5.48% between 2023 and 2028, according to Elmhurst, Ill.-based Technavio, a global market research firm. North America was the largest grassfed beef market by revenue in 2023. Hence, consumer demand for grass-fed beef in North America, especially the United States, should remain high during the forecast period. Companies like Silver Fern Farms, a New Zealand-based producer of 100% grass-fed beef, has helped fuel that growth and awareness. The company launched its first Net Carbon-Zero Certified Beef products in the United States last year. Silver Fern Farms achieved Net Carbon Zero within its own farming system by insetting emissions through on-farm brush and vegetation, a process unique to New Zealand’s farm environment. Satellite mapping and AI technology have also been deployed to measure on-farm vegetation. The USDA-approved Net Carbon Zero By Nature branded Angus ribeye, New York Strip steaks and premium ground beef are currently stocked in 75 New York City supermarkets and select stores in Los Angeles, with plans for national distribution. New Carbon Zero products from Silver Fern Farms are also expected to roll out soon. Meanwhile, Woburn, Mass.-based Verde Farms partnered last year with big-box membership retailer BJ’s Wholesale Club and

Raising claims, such as no antibiotics ever, animal welfare, organic or grass-fed — as seen here with Verde Farms’ beef burgers — are influencing consumers’ purchasing decisions in the meat case.

family-owned grocery retailer Schnuck Markets on the launch of refrigerated organic 100% grass-fed burger patties. The ready-to-cook raw single-ingredient patties are available at BJ’s clubs on the East Coast and in the Midwest, and also at Schnucks’ Midwest stores. The Verde Farms team anticipates a national rollout of the product this year as the brand continues to grow. Also last year, Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods revealed its own big beef news: the introduction of its Brazen Beef line. The new brand is said to be produced using 10% less greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. Beef under the Brazen brand is produced from cattle that are part of




Beef Report Tyson’s Climate-Smart Beef Program. That program was developed with input from a variety of cross-industry experts in sustainability and addresses GHG emissions on an animal-by-animal basis. As Tyson continues to work on the science of producing a line of beef built around reductions in GHG emissions, it’s running a parallel marketing track. Describing the brand identity, Kent Harrison, VP of fresh meats marketing and premium programs at Tyson, says, “We are trying to be upbeat and different, with something that speaks definitively to that group” of younger Millennial and Gen Z consumers. Messaging will share sometimes complicated scientific information in a consumer-friendly, understandable way.

To attract health-conscious consumers, retailers should highlight beef’s health benefits by spotlighting its leanness and high protein levels.

Other Trends Driving Beef

Besides nutritional callouts and raising claims, grocers should be aware of other ongoing beef trends, some of which might actually interfere with category growth. For instance, Chicago-based Midan Marketing points out that challenges in the beef supply chain are ongoing. Beef has been flat and inching toward constriction in recent months, due to drought conditions and higher feed costs. The USDA is currently estimating that the global beef supply will be down 3%, even with an increase in exports out of Brazil. With beef production falling a bit in 2024, this will likely continue to affect prices. As beef prices once again tick up, this is a signal to retailers to focus on affordable meat staples like ground beef or private label brands. Further, Michael Uetz, principal at Midan Marketing, notes that offering sales and promotions is ideal for getting fiscally challenged consumers to the meat case. “Last year, Midan updated its Meat Consumer Segmentation research, and from that we learned that three in 10 consumers say they only purchase meat when it is on sale,” he observes. “Additionally, we learned that 29% of consumers say any meat product that saves them time is worth paying extra [for],” continues Uetz. This is leading to increased demand for pre-cut meats as well as the renewed growth of in-store butcher shops, where customers can have their meat cut to their specifications. Grocers can also highlight pre-marinated meats for time-strapped consumers. Plus, offering quick and easy recipes can benefit sales. Whether creating a TikTok with a store butcher on how to braise beef chuck roast or showing creative ways to use leftovers, or providing QR codes and recipe cards at the point of sale, retailers can open up new avenues for growth and give consumers more choices for proteins that meet their budget and preferences.

Teton Waters Ranch’s new breakfast sausages feature 100% grass-fed beef, which is described as “better for you, better for the animal and better for the planet.”


Meal kits or even case-ready options are other viable sales options. “The demand for case-ready packaging continues to evolve,” notes Britney Banuelos, senior brand manager at Tyson Foods. “Whether shopping in-store or online, consumers are looking for freezer-ready, leakproof packaging that keeps their meat purchases fresher longer.” Banuelos adds that Tyson Foods is working to add caseready beef products to its portfolio.

It’s Not Just for Dinner

Grocers have the opportunity to further capitalize on beef in other areas besides the perimeter. For example, over in the frozen food aisle, Teton Waters Ranch, a subsidiary of Loveland, Colo.-based GrassFed Foods, recently introduced breakfast sausages. While most breakfast sausage is made from pork, Teton Waters Ranch sausages feature 100% grass-fed beef, which GrassFed Foods CEO Jeff Tripician describes as “better for you, better for the animal and better for the planet due to being fully traceable by WholeChain and third-party verified by Certified Humane.” Tripician explains that Teton Waters Ranch offers a skinless link, which means it’s plumper and juicier than a pork version of a breakfast sausage. The product line also boasts “a clean, short and simple ingredient statement,” and is even sugar-free, except for the maple variety, which contains sugar as a sweetener. “We are committed to providing high-quality products at an affordable price, and our new and improved breakfast sausages are no exception,” says Tripician. Beef doesn’t have to be confined to the major meals of the day, however. For example, over in the snacking category, Country Archer Provisions has launched a protein-packed meat stick line: Ancestral Beef Blend Meat Sticks. The meat sticks are crafted with grass-fed beef and wholesome organ meats. Available in two flavors, Original and Spicy, Country Archer Ancestral Beef Blend Meat Sticks are available now nationwide. Combining organ meats’ nourishing properties with modern snacking convenience, they provide a nutritious on-the-go option. “At Country Archer, our aim is to produce better-for-you snacks made from only the highest-quality and nutrient-dense ingredients, featuring bold flavors and textures, often venturing into uncharted territories,” says Eugene Kang, co-founder and CEO of San Bernardino, Calif.-based Country Archer Provisions. “Considering the rise in demand for organ meats, we set out to create a delicious and nutrient-rich snack specifically for these consumers. Packed with beef liver and heart, low in sugar, and abundant in protein, this meat stick offers a protein-packed punch.”


Functional Beverages Portland, Ore.-based New Seasons Market does a strong business in kombucha and other functional beverages. Products have strong appeal among young, educated women. This makes innovation and new products particularly important.


In 1996, Red Bull turned heads when it hit the U.S. market. Its unique formulation of ingredients had never been marketed on a grand scale — caffeine, sugar, taurine and B vitamins, to name a few. The hip, aggressively promoted product was a hit among young adults. Other energy and hydration drinks quickly followed. Today, the functional beverage category racks up $1.2 billion in sales in grocery alone, according to analysis from New York-based Alix Partners, and continues diversifying with new ingredients and segments. It seems that the sky is the limit. In addition to energy and hydration, newer products emphasize benefits like gut health, other vitamins and minerals, and, more recently, stress relief and relaxation. Some combine multiple benefits, come in tasty on-trend flavors,have no artificial ingredients, and contain little or no sugar. “Functional beverages has been a fascinating, fast-evolving segment,” says Jennifer Saenz, EVP and chief merchandising officer at Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos. “For a few years, shoppers have been looking for beverag-

es that do more than quench thirst. This desire for more than just refreshment accelerated during the pandemic, creating a surge in new attributes, functional ingredients, vendors and brands.” While the original Red Bull was popular among the stay-up-late club crowd, newer functional beverages are favored by workout enthusiasts, the nutrition conscious and those who just want to live a healthy lifestyle. Some products are marketed as alcohol alternatives. “Years ago, we thought we’d be taking ‘pills’ for everything,” notes Ryan White, program category manager at Portland, Ore.-based New Seasons Market. “That’s kind of what functional beverages offer. It’s more than flavor and taste. Beverages offer a benefit and an experience. There’s a pretty broad list of beverage types: caffeine, energy, hydration and gut health. They combine convenience with an enjoyable experience. Being in Portland, people here are into being fit and healthy.” For retailers, functional beverages’ higher price tags make them very important versus traditional soft drinks. “They’re extremely valuable to retailers compared to a bottle of water,” says Benjamin Witte, founder/CEO of New York-based Recess, whose relaxation beverages go for a suggested retail price range of $2.99 to $3.49. Most functional beverage consumers

Key Takeaways Newer functional beverages are favored by workout enthusiasts, the nutrition conscious and those who just want to live a healthy lifestyle, with some products marketed as alcohol alternatives. One of the category’s latest segments involves beverages that promote relaxation. Further, the three-decade-old energy drink category is seeing new twists, including more affordable stick powder forms. PROGRESSIVE GROCER Februar y 2024



Functional Beverages are young adults in a category driven by newness and innovation. “Brands often target young, often educated females who are a bit higher income,” adds New Seasons’ White. “New products are more important in this category, where there’s much innovation and a lot being introduced. While they don’t always generate sales, new products allow customers to try things. With just 20 stores, we can jump on trends. We’re a good gateway. Conventional grocers typically take a while.” New products are so important that functional beverages are part of the second annual Albertson Cos. Innovation Launchpad competition. The contest searches for emerging independent specialty and natural food, beverage and pet brands in the $2 million-to-$8 million sales range. Fifty applicants are chosen to present brands. Three winners will receive prizes valued at $300,000-plus. Top brands will be considered for retail distribution.

Relaxation and Gut Health

One of the category’s newest segments involves beverages that promote relaxation. Recess’ magnesium-infused mood beverage is positioned as an alcohol alternative. The relaxation trend began about five years ago, notes Witte, who adds: “It’s still early in its lifecycle. These are increasingly stressful times. People are prioritizing mental wellness and moving away from alcohol and cigarettes.” Recess also offers Mocktails, a line of “virgin” cocktails, as well as CBD-infused beverages (see the sidebar on page 50). Kombucha and other probiotics continue making inroads. With sales of $469 million, kombucha is the largest functional beverage category in grocery, according to Alix Partners. Kombucha and other products appeal to shoppers who want to augment gut health with “good” bacteria. White observes that beverages containing probiotics have “staying power,” with Olipop, Culture Pop and Skinpea among the popular brands. “It’s a really big category,” he adds. Tapping into a growing relaxation trend, Recess' magnesium-infused mood beverages are marketed as alcohol alternatives.


Jel Sert's Pure Kick energy/ hydration beverages come in stick powder form, making them very affordable — at around 20 cents per stick — and portable. They also require less retail space.

Launched in 2018, Olipop was initially marketed as a “sparkling tonic.” Two years later, it was rechristened as a “new brand of soda.” Functional ingredients include eight botanicals, plant fibers and prebiotics, and it’s low in sugar. “People love soda,” says Steven Vigilante, director of growth and partnerships at the Oakland, Calif.-based company, “but they wanted a soda that wasn’t bad for them and has functional benefits.” Olipop comes in 14 permanent flavors. The suggested retail price is $2.49 per 12-ounce can.

New Twists on Energy

Meanwhile, the three-decade-old energy drink category is seeing new twists. At Celsius, ingredients are “a little cleaner” than those of some competitors, notes Kyle Watson, EVP of marketing at the Boca Raton, Fla.based company. Its Live Fit With Essential Energy line contains seven vitamins and zero sugar. The newest flavor, fizz-free Blue Razz Lemonade, is a refreshing combination of sweet blue raspberry and crisp, zesty citrus. Celsius also unveiled a 16-ounce package size. “It’s a refreshing flavor profile that pairs well with food and isn’t medicinal tasting,” adds Watson. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Odyssey Elixir offers a proprietary blend of 2,750 milligrams of lion’s mane and cordyceps (both functional mushrooms) per serving to support mood and provide sustained energy. Its three lines contain varying caffeine levels (0 milligrams, 85 milligrams and 222 milligrams per serving). Other ingredients include adaptogenic botanicals like L-theanine and panax ginseng root. Beverages contain no added sugar, preservatives, and artificial flavors or sweeteners. “Three lines provide options for every scenario, delivering sustainable energy, mental clarity and mood-boosting benefits,” says Scott Frohman, founder/ CEO. “Products are positioned to replace traditional energy drinks, which give an immediate boost, then result in an energy crash after a few hours. Odyssey was formulated for sustained energy.” Continues Frohman: “The functional beverage category has experienced a notable shift over the past year as consumers seek products with health benefits and high-quality ingredients. Our product contains natural ingredients and added benefits beyond conventional taste, hydration and energy.” Energy beverages also come in more affordable stick powder forms. Jel Sert’s Pure Kick hydration/energy drink mix retails for about $1.25 for six sticks — about 20 cents each. Sticks should be dissolved in 500 milliliters of water.


Functional Beverages

Liquifying CBD and THC Beverages in this space are making inroads in markets where they’re allowed, but clarity is still needed at the national level. By Debby Garbato

Social Media and Sampling

Promotions are important when it comes to driving functional beverage sales, particularly social media and infl uencers. This is how young adults discover the latest products and trends. Sampling in stores and at special events is also key. While retailers call out new products, “talking about benefi ts is tough to do in stores,” admits White. Albertsons’ Saenz identifies social media and digital platforms as “critical communications channels, adding that “with shoppers spending limited time at the shelf, these are the best and most targeted ways to get messages to the most relevant consumers. Popular and top products would include a heavy social and digital approach, along with appropriate in-store tactics like sampling, display and promotion.” Looking toward the future, the functional beverage category should continue diversifying, with newness always the name of the game. What comes next is anyone’s guess. Organic salad in a can, maybe?


CBD beverages are meeting with mixed success. While some major regional chains and independents offer such products, CBD isn’t legal at the federal level, dissuading national retailers and large suppliers. “Most chains are still a little reluctant to get into the category,” says Greg Billmeyer, COO of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia-based Hemp Hydrate. Retailers that do become involved are doing well, however. This is particularly true of those that position the products as alcohol alternatives, such as New Seasons Market, which operates only in Oregon. “We’re leaning on the nonalcoholic space more than others,” notes Ryan White, program category manager at Portland-based New Seasons. One product offered by several regionals is Noble Brands Inc.’s Plift. It contains 4 milligrams of Delta 9 THC. Sweetened with stevia, products come in Tart Lime, Crisp Ginger and Juicy Grapefruit flavors. “There’s a utility to CBD beverages that supplements don’t have,” explains Todd Harris, CEO/co-founder of Chicago-based Plift. “They have cachet in the nonalcoholic movement. We can speak to a cannabis connoisseur or a nonalcoholic connoisseur and not change our tone. It’s a way to unwind that doesn’t involve alcohol and has just 50 calories per can.” Another brand of CBD wellness/recovery beverages is from Chicago-based Mynd Drinks. Mynd is designed to help people recover from everyday stress. The hemp-infused, plant-based products contain no added sugar and come in elderberry, lemon ginger and orange mango flavors. Available at Wrigley Field, they are being promoted through an alliance with the Chicago Cubs. Hemp Hydrate’s CBD-infused water is an alternative to Smart Water or Vitaminwater; it’s not marketed as an alcohol alternative. The product contains vitamin C, electrolytes and 10 milligrams of CBD per liter. “We talk about products in terms of hydration, recovery and replenishment,” says Billmeyer. Hemp Hydrate recently added a line of stick powders in multiple flavors that contain higher doses of CBD and are convenient for on-the-go consumers. Despite some successes, lack of FDA guidelines has made some CBD beverage suppliers refocus. New York-based Recess started its business with CBD beverages, but then morphed into other products. The CBD segment now comprises just 10% of sales, according to Benjamin Witte, founder/CEO, who adds, “Large national chains are waiting for clarity at the federal level.” By 2033, however, Yahoo Finance predicts that THC beverages will be an $8.7 billion category. “The horse is out of the barn, and the category is starting to gain speed,” asserts Plift’s Harris.

Forecast: With and Without Federal Guidance Without guidance, the CBD market is expected to remain more niche. Brightfield has two forecasts for the CBD market, one assuming the implementation of federal regulation by 2024, and the other assuming the status quo.

U.S. CBD Market Size (2020-28, with and without federal guidance by 2024) $12.0 10.0

With federal regulation

Without federal regulation




Key ingredients are B vitamins and caffeine. Many ready-to-drink functional beverages retail for $10 to $14 per six-pack, about the same price as IPAs and other upscale beers, according to Ken Wegner, president of Chicago-based Jel Sert. “Pure Kick is affordable functionality,” adds Wegner. “Seventy-fi ve percent of the country lives from paycheck to paycheck.” Pure Kick also requires less retail display space and is easily transported in a pocket or gym bag. Wegner cites an uptick in the powder form of functional beverages, with other companies also offering this option. Jel Sert’s powder business is heavily driven by flavors that it licenses from branded suppliers, including Skittles, Starburst, Sunkist, Margaritaville and Sonic drive-thrus’ limeade. “Brands get us acceptance,” he observes. “Consumers already know what it tastes like.”

6.0 4.0 2.0 0.0




Source: Brightfield Group, “Striving to Thrive in U.S. CBD,” 2023






Food, Beverage & Nonfood Products

Something in the Air Fryer

Now available nationwide, Perdue’s Air Fryer Ready Crispy Wings, available in Roasted, Hot N’ Spicy, and Lemon Pepper varieties, are the first-ever at-home chicken wings specifically formulated for air frying, although they can also be prepared in an oven. The flavorful, mess-free frozen offering enables consumers to make restaurant-quality wings quickly and easily at home. Like all Perdue products, Air Fryer Ready Crispy Wings are made from chicken raised without antibiotics, hormones or steroids; fed an all-vegetarian diet; and raised cage-free. A 22-ounce bag of any variety retails for a suggested $9.99, although retailer prices may vary. To mark the release, for a limited time and in limited quantities, the No. 1 brand of fresh chicken in the United States provided The Ultimate at Home Wing Kit, featuring everything needed to conveniently make wings at home, including an air fryer. The kit included a package of each new wing flavor, a 4-quart air fryer, a “Crispy Business” apron, one pair of tongs, a tote bag, and a coupon redeemable at participating retailers.

Planet-Forward Flour

The latest from America’s oldest baking company, King Arthur Baking Co., is Climate Blend Flour, a unique blend of wheat varieties grown using regenerative practices that help farmers improve soil health and farm resilience. Offering environmentally minded bakers a planet-forward product that they can feel good about, without compromising the taste and quality that King Arthur prides itself on, the regenerative flour offers a rich, nutty flavor and tender texture and can be used in any recipe that calls for whole wheat flour, including bread, muffins, scones and other favorite baked goods. The product was created in collaboration with the Washington State University Breadlab, which breeds wheat varieties that are better for the soil and encourage sustainable farming practices, and has been Certified Regeneratively Grown by third-party organization Regenified. Among the varieties used to create the flour is an innovative perennial wheat that will grow back naturally without needing to be planted again for two to three years. The wheat for this batch of Climate Blend was grown in North Dakota and Montana by multigenerational farmers. A 32-ounce package of the flour retails for a suggested $5.95.

Fish and Chips

Goldfish has unveiled Goldfish Crisps, a light and airy snack baked in the beloved brand’s iconic shape. The first Goldfish in the brand’s history made with potato, the item is bigger than traditional Goldfish and comes in three chip-inspired flavors: Sour Cream & Onion, Cheddar, and Salt & Vinegar. Goldfish Crisps are available nationwide at a suggested retail price of $4.79 per larger 6.25-ounce bag suitable for grazing occasions. The munchable snack joins the Pepperidge Farm brand’s portfolio of more than 20 cracker varieties.

Foamy Delight

International Delight’s latest offering, Cold Foam Creamer, quickly transforms any hot or cold coffee beverage into a foamy coffeeshop-style beverage. This fi rst-of-its-kind refrigerated product meets a defi nite need: According to research conducted by Mintel, more than 50% of consumers are creating such beverages at home. International Delight Cold Foam Creamer comes in three fan-favorite fl avors, French Vanilla, Caramel Macchiato, and Sweet & Creamy, each of which both creams and foams the coffee, gradually mixing with the beverage in the cup for a unique, indulgent experience that creates sippable foam in seconds – no frothers or extra tools needed. A 14-ounce bottle of any variety retails for a suggested $5.49. International Delight is a brand of Danone North America.; PROGRESSIVE GROCER Februar y 2024


AHEAD OF WHAT’S NEXT By Bridget Goldschmidt


nyone in search of retail tech inspiration need look no further than the National Retail Federation (NRF) Innovation Lab at the trade organization’s Retail’s Big Show. This year’s iteration of the annual event, which took place Jan. 14-16 at New York City’s vast Javits Center, featured a lab full to bursting with creative solutions for grocers and other retailers, from autonomous robots to smart shopping carts, with companies making sure to spotlight how artifi cial intelligence — that current darling of the tech world, especially in its generative form — powers many of their offerings. A press tour that I took to this section of the show set the mood right away — attendees were welcomed by a real-time hologram of Seth Webb, EVP at venture-based strategy fi rm Tusk Strategies and a longtime curator of the lab, where “there’s always something new.” The hologram was the brainchild of Toronto-based AHRT Media, whose CEO, Larry O’Reilly, was on hand to discuss the technology, which he noted could be used to “create experiences in retail stores that you can’t get online.”

Pay With Your Face

One particular solution that caught my attention at the lab was the result of a partnership between Wink, a Plano, Texas-based biometric authentication provider, and Bold Commerce, a Winnipeg, Manitoba-based purveyor of “tailored checkout” offerings. The two companies have teamed up to develop a biometric payment platform, Bold Checkout with Wink, to enable consumers to pay for products through facial recognition. Already in use in Asia and coming soon to North America, this “headless checkout” concept, as Wink CEO Deepak Jain described it, allows for checkout to occur anywhere, with no credit card needed, since the information is already entered in the system on an opt-in basis. The platform is also device agnostic, unlike Apple Pay and Google Wallet, which require certain devices to work. “No other solution can do that,” noted Jain proudly. Among the potential uses for grocers cited by Jain were to prevent minors from purchasing age-restricted products and to enable shoppers to pick up ordered products from smart lockers. In fact, Jain divulged that one grocer had already expressed interest in adopting the solution for the latter purchase. Meanwhile, Bold Commerce co-founder Jay Myers observed that the platform also served to address the lingering issue of cart abandonment — shoppers not completing their e-commerce purchases for a variety of reasons — by speeding up the transaction process, since no credit card is required to complete the order.


The Innovation Lab at NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show this past January featured such creative tech solutions as smart shopping carts.

No Gaming This System

In answer to my admittedly tongue-incheek question about possible ways to “game the system” through such crafty means as an underage daughter who strongly resembles her mother posing as the mom to buy some beer, or an identical twin assuming the identity of their onetime wombmate to purchase products that would then be charged to the sibling, Jain assured me that the platform could distinguish between similar-looking people, as well as living people and dummies or photographs, for that matter. In cases where the resemblance between the actual person and the one attempting to use the platform is great enough to raise doubt, the solution will step up the authentication process by asking for the person’s voice. Since each voice, even of twins, is unique, this extra step will stop any would-be fraudsters cold. So, sometime in the near future, when you order online and arrange to pick up items from a smart locker, before you can get your stuff, you may very well be asked to show your face. That’s just one fascinating example of tomorrow’s tech, according to NRF. Bridget Goldschmidt Managing Editor

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