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Seafood 2020: Sustainability, plant-based proteins have customers hooked FROZENS ARE HOT Resurgent category lures Millennials, others WHATâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S IN A NAME? Supplier produce brands taking departments by storm WAR ON OPIOIDS How grocers are arming themselves to win
Digital First Jewel Hunt on what it means for Albertsons
Plus: Walmart shares its vision
Volume 99, Number 3 www.progressivegrocer.com
Contents 03. 20
Volume 99 Issue 3
22 DIGITAL-FIRST GROCERY
Racking Up Omnichannel Sales Albertsons is betting on micro fulfillment to win in grocery pickup and delivery.
Departments 6 EDITOR’S NOTE
Turning Over a New Leaf 8 IN-STORE EVENTS CALENDAR
May 2020 10 MENU TRENDS
Global Influences From (Across) the Sea 4
32 Digital-First Grocers in Action
Some examples show what food retailing in the next decade will look like.
36 Kitchen Tech
The grocers’ guide to how the hub of the home is changing.
14 NIELSEN’S SHELF STOPPERS
Prepared Foods 16 MINTEL GLOBAL NEW PRODUCTS
20 2020 PRODUCT OF THE YEAR AWARDS
New, Now and Making a Difference 78 EDITORS’ PICKS FOR INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS
18 ALL’S WELLNESS
Navigating the Frozen Aisles
80 TECH TALK
8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631 Phone: 773-992-4450 Fax: 773-992-4455
43 FROZEN & REFRIGERATED FOODS
GROCERY GROUP PUBLISHER John Schrei 248-613-8672 email@example.com
A resurgent category attracts new fans, and manufacturers and retailers work to keep them buying.
GROCERY GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Mike Troy 813-857-6512 firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORIAL EDITORIAL DIRECTOR James Dudlicek 224-632-8238 email@example.com
50 FRESH FOOD
MANAGING EDITOR Bridget Goldschmidt 201-855-7603 firstname.lastname@example.org
SENIOR EDITOR Gina Acosta 813-417-4149 email@example.com
Sustainability remains a key concern for shoppers as plantbased products find their place in the department.
SENIOR DIGITAL & TECHNOLOGY EDITOR Abby Kleckler 773-992-4405 firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTING EDITORS D. Gail Fleenor, Kathy Hayden, Laura Heller, Bob Ingram, Lynn Petrak and Barbara Sax
60 TOTAL MEAL SOLUTIONS
REGIONAL SALES MANAGER Tammy Rokowski (SOUTHWEST) 248-514-9500 email@example.com JUNIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER-GROCERY GROUP Natalie Meehan p 773-992-4410 m 619 823-4926 firstname.lastname@example.org
64 TOTAL MEAL SOLUTIONS
ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE/CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING Terry Kanganis 201-855-7615 • Fax: 201-855-7373 email@example.com
Ask a Chef
CLASSIFIED PRODUCTION MANAGER Mary Beth Medley 856-809-0050 firstname.lastname@example.org
Phillips Foods’ John Degges offers tips on making a luxury restaurant ingredient more accessible for at-home eating.
Growing ever more prominent, supplier brands can help grocers boost fresh fruit and veggie profits.
SENIOR MARKETING MANAGER Maggie Kaeppel (NEW ENGLAND, SOUTHEAST) 708-565-5350 email@example.com SENIOR MARKETING MANAGER Theresa Kossack (MIDWEST) 214-226-6468 firstname.lastname@example.org
Meijer’s new in-store concept offers sushi and beer in an innovative setting.
66 FRESH FOOD
ADVERTISING SALES & BUSINESS
EVENTS VICE PRESIDENT, EVENTS Michael Cronin email@example.com AUDIENCE LIST RENTAL MeritDirect Elizabeth Jackson 847-492-1350, ext. 318 firstname.lastname@example.org
SUBSCRIBER SERVICES/SINGLE-COPY PURCHASES 847-564-1468 or email at PG@Omeda.com PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART VICE PRESIDENT OF PRODUCTION Derek Estey email@example.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR Colette Magliaro firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING/PRODUCTION MANAGER Jackie Batson 224-632-8183 email@example.com ART DIRECTOR Bill Antkowiak firstname.lastname@example.org
71 EQUIPMENT & DESIGN
Automated kiosks are playing a range of key roles in food retailing.
REPRINTS, PERMISSIONS AND LICENSING Wright’s Media email@example.com 877-652-5295
CORPORATE OFFICERS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Jennifer Litterick
CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER Jane Volland CHIEF INNOVATION OFFICER Tanner Van Dusen
CHIEF HUMAN RESOURCES OFFICER Ann Jadown
Grocers’ pharmacists arm themselves with training, proactive measures to fight the opioid crisis.
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, EVENTS & CONFERENCES Ed Several SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CONTENT Joe Territo
75 PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE By Jim Dudlicek
Turning Over a New Leaf ast year, we prepped 300 pizzas for Super Bowl Sunday. We ran out by 11 o’clock.” That’s Raul Molina, as he led me on a tour of The Mint Dispensary in suburban Phoenix, where medicinal cannabis is legal. Molina’s a partner at Mint, home to what may be the only cannabis kitchen of its kind in the United States. And it demonstrates an opportunity for supermarket prepared foods, depending on how the future unfolds. This year, Mint planned for 500 pizzas, Molina told me during my visit a week before the Super Bowl. His chef-driven kitchen creates cannabis-laced munchies for state residents with prescriptions for medicinal marijuana. The menu selections — which must be consumed at home, not on site — range in price from $7.50 for a mixed green salad with 25 milligrams of cannabis extract in the dressing, to $75 for a pizza (the café’s top seller), burger, wings, mac and cheese, or wrap sandwich, with a maximum dose of 1,000 milligrams. Lower doses are priced on a sliding scale; cheese fries and tater tots top out at $17 for an order with a 100-milligram dose. If this catches on, you can add cannabis dispensaries to the list of businesses competing for consumers’ dining dollars — specialized consumers perhaps, but sales nonetheless. The 12,000-square-foot dispensary also sells pre-packaged edibles like cookies and gummies, along with pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes and bulk cannabis grown on site. So why offer food from scratch? Because for some patients, joints and sugary treats are no-nos. “We heard from older folks who didn’t want to start smoking again, but also had diabetes so they didn’t want more sugar,” Molina explained. So in 2018, the dispensary invested $700,000 in a three-month project to construct the all-stainless open kitchen, which creates a full hot-food menu, including vegan options, as well as an assortment of baked goods, with a gelato and coffee bar in development. A team of six chefs works in Mint’s kitchen, which has attracted the attention of chefs
Will we soon be adding cannabis dispensaries to the list of businesses competing for consumers’ dining dollars?
from fine-dining establishments in the Phoenix area. “We get high-end chefs who want to play with cannabis,” Molina told me. Molina explained that recipes are developed first before the cannabis is worked in, usually as a butter, sauce or glaze. “Anything fatty will hold the oil well and mask the taste,” he said, noting how cannabis oil in the kitchen is kept in portioned cups to provide correct doses based on specific orders. This month, the dispensary plans to roll out a line of cannabis-infused salad dressings, condiments and sauces, including ketchup and hot sauce. The kitchen already offers cannabis-infused garlic herb butter, a response to patients’ requests. At Mint, the kitchen is a top draw; Molina said that lines are out the door on weekends, and that hot food is a huge sales driver. And that’s just for folks with prescriptions — imagine the potential with recreational use. Cannabis has been legal for medicinal use in Arizona since 2010; a 2016 ballot initiative to legalize recreational use failed, but supporters are renewing their efforts, with eyes on the November 2020 election. Meanwhile, the number of states allowing either or both uses continues to grow (cannabis use remains illegal on a federal level). We’re already seeing CBD products (which contain elements of cannabis minus the hallucinogenic THC) making their way into grocery stores. Grocery retailers continue to ramp up their offerings of restaurant-quality prepared foods as a meal solution option for consumers. Many also operate pharmacies, some even health clinics. Combining these core competencies with the legalization of cannabis presents significant sales potential. Grocers know food, and they know wellness. They should consider embracing cannabis beyond the safe confines of CBD products, if the opportunity presents itself.
Jim Dudlicek Editorial Director jdudlicek@ensembleIQ.com Twitter @jimdudlicek
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Celiac Disease Awareness Month National Asparagus Month National Barbecue Month National Egg Month
National Hamburger Month National Salad Month National Salsa Month National Strawberry Month
S M T W T F S
National Chocolate Parfait Day
National Lemonade Day. Set up a stand at the store entrance, with all proceeds going to charity.
National Orange Juice Day. Remind customers not to start the day without it.
Cinco de Mayo
National Totally Chipotle Day
National Truffle Day. Show shoppers how they can use this fab fungus in various dishes.
National Crepe Suzette Day. Have a chef show shoppers how to prepare this dramatic flaming dessert.
National Roast Leg of Lamb Day
National Coconut Cream Pie Day
Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day. Encourage shoppers and associates to participate in this worthy cause.
This year, National Shrimp Day and Mother’s Day coincide, so suggest treating Mom to the popular seafood, cooked at home.
National Walnut Day. Make sure that shoppers are aware of this versatile nut’s health benefits.
National Scavenger Hunt Day. Stage your own in-store hunt, with a gift card prize for the winner.
National Eat What You Want Day
National Cheese Soufflé Day
Memorial Day National Wine Day. We’ll drink to that.
National Macaroon Day. Coconut, almond, chocolate — showcase the many varieties in the bakery.
National Nutty Fudge Day
National Devil’s Food Cake Day
National Blueberry Cheesecake Day
National Crouton Day. Why not challenge customers to try making their own?
National Rescue Dog Day. Hold an in-store event to help match potential pets with owners.
National Senior Health & Fitness Day. Inform your older customers of their best dietary choices.
National Buttermilk Biscuit Day
National Strawberries and Cream Day
National Hamburger Day
National Chocolate Chip Day. Offer ways to use them beyond cookie inclusions.
National Don’t Fry Day. Provide alternative ways to prepare fried faves.
National Coq au Vin Day
National Barbecue Day. Break out the seasonal equipment, and cross merchandise with appropriate foods.
National Taffy Day
National Mint Julep Day. PostKentucky Derby, shoppers may well have developed a taste for them.
Research & Analysis
Global Influences From (Across) the Sea The world’s cuisines are driving innovation all over the store – and they’re having a significant impact on seafood. While climate change, sourcing methods and trade agreements determine some of the supply issues, consumer taste is the most influential factor in what’s hot. The old cliché “you are what you eat” has transformed into “you eat what you are.” And consumers are trying to eat healthier by forgoing meat in favor of vegetables or fish. These four proteins from international waters are coming ashore on U.S. menus and can add excitement to your frozen or fresh seafood sections. Bonito MAC stage: Inception — Ethnic markets, ethnic independents, and fine dining. Trends start here and exemplify originality in flavor, preparation and presentation. Most common on Japanese menus, bonito is eaten pickled, grilled, baked or even as a flavored broth. It’s a smaller member of the tuna family, found in the shallow waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. Bonito flakes, also known as katsuobushi, are little wisps of dried, fermented fish used in Japanese cooking to for their smoky, intensely savory, slightly fishy flavor. On 1.8% of U.S. restaurant menus Up 42% on U.S. restaurant menus 24% of consumers know it / 10% have tried it Menu Example Kona Grill Umami Mushroom Flatbread ($13) With fresh charred mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, fresh mozzarella and parmesan, a white miso glazed crust, and sprinkled with dancing bonito flakes.
Barramundi MAC stage: Adoption — Ethnic aisle at supermarkets, casual independents, fast casual. Adoption-stage trends grow their base via lower price points and simpler prep methods. Still differentiated, these trends often feature premium and/or generally authentic ingredients. Popular in Thai cuisine, barramundi is a type of white fish with a mild flavor and flaky flesh. The species is widely distributed in the waters surrounding the Indo-West Pacific region, from South Asia to Papua New Guinea and northern Australia. It’s typically served as an entrée.
Mahi Mahi MAC stage: Proliferation — Proliferation-stage trends are adjusted for mainstream appeal. Often combined with popular applications (on a burger, pasta, etc.) Hawaiian for “very strong,” this fish is found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. It has a mild and sweet flavor, can be prepared in a variety of ways, and is popular in part for its sustainability. Mahi mahi is most commonly paired with Latin flavors such as salsa, cilantro, garlic and chipotle. On nearly 6.2% of U.S. restaurant menus
On 0.5% of U.S. restaurant menus
Down 3% over the past four years
Up 57% on menus over the past four years
66% of consumers know it / 37% have tried it
18% of consumers know it / 5% have tried it
Menu Example Rubio’s Wild-Caught Mahi Mahi Cali Bowl Choice of all-natural grilled mahi mahi or grilled veggies served with fresh guacamole, citrus rice, black beans, romaine, creamy chipotle sauce and salsa fresca, and your choice of roasted chipotle salsa or salsa verde.
Salmon MAC stage: Ubiquity — Ubiquity-stage trends have reached maturity, and can be found across all sectors of the food industry. Though often diluted by this point, their inception-stage roots are still recognizable. A family of red-fleshed fish living in coastal regions of the Atlantic and Pacific, salmon has a mild flavor and oily texture, making it a versatile protein for any day part. Packed with omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins, salmon is one of the most healthy fish. It’s popular cured in Nordic cuisine and consumed raw in sushi and poké bowls. On 43.2% of U.S. menus Up 5% over the past four years
Menu Example Coco’s Bakery Blackened Baja Barramundi Barramundi seasoned and grilled to perfection. Topped with fresh pico de gallo and avocado. Served with charbroiled vegetables, rice pilaf, a lemon wedge and warm corn tortillas.
92% of consumers know it / 72% have tried it Menu Example Red Lobster Colossal Shrimp and Salmon Wood-grilled Colossal shrimp, paired with a wood-grilled Atlantic salmon. Served with rice and choice of side.
Five Common Questions About Farmed Chilean Salmon answered by some of the world’s most notable authorities on food and health. WHY DO WE NEED FARMED SALMON? Farmed seafood provides half of all the fish we eat in the world and is critically important to relieving pressure on wild fisheries and oceans.1 If we attempt to pull that amount of seafood out of wild fisheries, we will be depleting sea life species that are important to ensuring a healthy ocean.
The farming of fish, also known as aquaculture, reduces pressure on certain overstressed wild stocks and is key to solving this pressing environmental challenge.
OF WORLD FISHERIES OVEREXPLOITED2
100% OF NATURAL FISHERIES DEPLETED2
IS FARMED SALMON AS HEALTHY AS WILD SALMON? Yes. Nutritionally, farmed salmon and wild salmon have been shown to offer the same overall nutritional value, though farmed salmon has a higher content of key nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids compared to most wild salmon.3 Farmed salmon is a staple of healthy and affordable diets around the world.2
IS THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF SALMON FARMING WELL MANAGED? Chilean salmon farmers work hard to ensure fish are raised sustainably, while minimizing impact on the environment.4 This is in compliance with federal guidelines, industry standards, and recommendations shared by NGOs like the World Wildlife Fund.5, 6
HOW DOES FARMED SALMON GET ITS BRIGHT COLOR? Both farmed and wild salmon get their coloring from food sources containing antioxidant-rich astaxanthin. Crustaceans — a dietary staple for wild salmon — are rich in astaxanthin, which is also added to the feed of farmed salmon to give them their color and keep them healthy.
IS FARMED SALMON MORE OR LESS SUSTAINABLE THAN OTHER ANIMAL PROTEINS? Farmed salmon is one of the most sustainable animal proteins. A common gauge of environmental impact is its feed conversion ratio (FCR), the estimated food required to gain one pound of body mass. Of all the animal proteins, fish are the most efficient at converting protein.7
Feed Conversion Ratio ESTIMATED FEED REQUIRED TO GAIN ONE POUND OF BODY MASS
FARMED ATLANTIC SALMON
Fund, W. (n.d.). Farmed Seafood. Retrieved July 2019, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/farmed-seafood
International Salmon Farmers Association 2018 Report. (n.d.). Retrieved July, 2019, from https://sjomatnorge.no/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/ISFA-Report-2018-FINAL-FOR-WEB.pdf
Cahu, C., Salen, P., & De Lorgeril, M. (2004). Farmed and wild fish in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases: Assessing possible differences in lipid nutritional values. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 14(1), 34-41. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0939475304800450.
The fishery and aquaculture sectors in Chile (Rep.). (2010, August). Retrieved July, 2019, from Chile’s National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) website: https://web.archive.org/ web/20100813190353/http://www.embassyofchile.se/espanol/Documentos/Pesca_Acuic_Fishery_Aquac_BD.pdf
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2018 Report on the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. (n.d.). Retrieved July, 2019, from http://www.fao.org/3/i9540en/I9540EN.pdf
WWF Farmed Salmon. (n.d.). Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/farmed-salmon
Bourne, J., Jr. (n.d.). How to Farm a Better Fish. National Geographic. Retrieved July, 2019, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/aquaculture/
Visit us at ChileanSalmon.org to learn more about the delicious, nutritious, sustainably-raised salmon from the Patagonian region of Chile. Follow us:
Chilean Salmon Marketing Council
© 2020 The Chilean Salmon Marketing Council. All rights reserved.
Frozen Vegetables TOTAL FROZEN VEGETABLE SALES REACHED $2.97 BILLION IN THE PAST YEAR
(52 weeks ending April 2, 2016) Prepared Foods
Total Department Performance Latest 52 Wks W/E 1/25/20
Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 1/26/19
Latest 52 Wks 2 YA W/E 1/27/18
Top 5 Prepared Foods Categories by Dollar Sales Complete Meals
How much is the Consumers chose average American frozen broccoli over alternatives for household a variety of reasons: spending per trip on various prepared 12%foods because it’s versus the quick and easy year-ago period?
because it tastes great
Spotlight on Frozen Broccoli
WHEN ARE CONSUMERS EATING FROZEN BROCCOLI? Broccoli as an ingredient is most commonly consumed at dinner, followed by lunch.
Frozen broccoli is most often used in a side dish, followed by as a main entrée. 3%
Latest 52 Wks W/E 1/25/20
Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 1/26/19
Latest 52 Wks 2 YA W/E 1/27/18
Source: Nielsen, Total U.S. (All outlets combined) — includes grocery stores, drug stores, MEAL ITEM OCCASION mass merchandisers, select dollar stores, warehouse62% clubs and military commissaries CLASS 29%select TYPE 35% 61% (DeCA) for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 25, 2020
Though overall growth has slowed somewhat, the majority of prepared foods are DINNER LUNCH OTHER SIDE DISH MAIN ENTRÉE OTHER improving year over year. Nielsen survey data tells us that 36% of U.S. respondents say they eat smaller portions with each meal, while 49% have changed their eating habits for overall health maintenance. Sales data supports that sentiment, with a slight dip in complete meals (down 0.8%) and gains in key category drivers such as potatoes (up 3.5%) and salads (up 2%). Opportunities exist for retailers that cater to consumers looking for the convenience of prepared foods but who also want to control the size of their plate with a la carte options.”
—Eric Brown, manager-global content workstreams, Nielsen
onhealthy all prepared foods, and nutritious up 0.4%
because it’s low in calories, fat and sugar
$7.18 on complete meals, up 0.7%
$6.64 on sandwiches, up 2.4%
Generational Snapshot Which cohort is spending, on average, the most per trip on complete meals?
The Greatest Generation
Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Dec. 28, 2019
$4.24 on mac and cheese, up 1.8% Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Dec. 28, 2019
MINTEL CATEGORY INSIGHTS
Global New Products Database
Sugar Reduction Market Overview
There’s a growing demand for sugar reduction from consumers.
Natural sweeteners such as stevia have grown rapidly in U.S. drink product launches. In the 12 months ending October 2019, 13% of North American drink product launches contained a natural non-nutritive sweetener, and 12% contained an artificial non-nutritive sweetener.
The majority of consumers, and even governments, are citing sugar as a major health concern. There’s a wide variety of sugar alternatives, but consumers aren’t using them or aware of their names.
For children, the war on sugar is a major influencer on meal and snack choices.
of U.S. consumers say that they’re limiting their consumption of sugar to at least some degree.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT WWW.MINTEL.COM OR CALL 800-932-0400
What Does It Mean? Sweet spread brands that are targeting parents should highlight that they use real ingredients and have reduced sugar content. Sweet spreads must keep evolving to meet the sugar requirements set by consumers. Varied techniques will be required, such as more-fruit/lowersugar formulations, a greater use of sugar replacements or offsetting the reduced sugar with other health benefits. Brands should consider launching products that are inherently less sweet and innovating with portion sizes, rather than reformulating in categories where taste is paramount. Brands must work hard to build a positive image for sweetening solutions with consumers, especially products that shoppers are unfamiliar with.
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ALL’S WELLNESS By Karen Buch
Navigating the Frozen Aisles GE T SHOPPERS TO CHILL OUT WITH A R ANGE OF NUTRITIOUS OFFERINGS IN AN OF TEN OVERLOOKED SECTION. early all U.S. households purchase some frozen foods, making for a significant retail department, topping $57 billion in sales. Today’s shoppers choose frozen foods because of their time-saving convenience, ease of trial and ability to satisfy cravings. Some 30% of consumers plan to cook at home more often, creating the opportunity for frozen foods to compete with fresh and prepared foods and subscription meal kits. Increasingly, frozen food manufacturers are adding nutritional attribute callouts, formulating plant-based alternatives to traditional favorites and offering ethnic cuisine with global flavors. A broad array of innovative frozen meal solutions offers simpler, more natural ingredients focused on quality sourcing and sustainability practices while helping to eliminate labor-intense steps to meal preparation.
Dinners and Entrées
With greater than 80% household penetration, the dinner and entrée segment leads the way in frozen sales, at $9.2 billion. Eating trends over the past 20 years show a 68% rise in home meals that include a frozen dinner or entrée prepared in the oven, microwave or pressure cooker. Frozen entrées provide families an opportunity to share wholesome, nutritious, budget-friendly meals that meet individual lifestyle needs.
Fruits and Vegetables
Frozen fruits and vegetables are flash frozen within hours of harvest to lock in key vitamins and minerals and preserve taste. Today’s consumers can blend frozen fruits into smoothies; serve flavorful vegetable-based
A broad array of innovative frozen meal solutions offers simpler, more natural ingredients focused on quality sourcing and sustainability practices while helping to eliminate labor-intense steps to meal preparation. 18
side dishes such as veggie soufflés, riced cauliflower, spiralized beets, zucchini and squash, or grilled-, marinated- and roasted-vegetable medleys; and choose such alternatives to traditional potato-based favorites as veggie-based hash browns, tots, fries and gnocchi.
Frozen par-cooked versions of whole and ancient grains that reduce prep time compared with traditional cooking methods include steel-cut oats, quinoa, farro and brown rice. Consumers can also find whole and sprouted grains in frozen power bowls, waffles, breads and muffins.
Meat, Poultry, Seafood: Solutionsbased, value-added frozen meat and seafood products are gaining sales, from Buffalo-style chicken meatballs to raw, deveined, tails-removed, pre-seasoned shrimp ready to grill, broil or sauté to make specific meals like scampi. Frequently, meat packages call out such claims as organic, humanely raised without antibiotics and added hormones, kosher, halal, Paleo, or keto, while frozen seafood packages tout quality, traceability, sourcing, wildcaught and sustainable fishery practices.
Plant-Based Alternatives: Meatless burgers, brats and sausages are surging along with the plant-forward trend. Some proudly flaunt unique vegetable and grain content, while others focus instead on mimicking the look and taste of meat-containing versions. Specialty plant-based sausages move beyond “Italian” with new habanero cheddar, Asian ginger scallion, chorizo or maple blueberry varieties.
Pizza represents $5 billion in frozen sales. Expanded options for unique pizza toppings and the introduction of vegetable-based pizza crusts (made with cauliflower, chickpeas or broccoli, for example) are redefining the frozen pizza category.
Frozen foods help ease holiday food preparation. Oven-ready versions of traditionally scratch-prepared side dishes include savory herb-and-cornbread stuffing, sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole.
Ice cream, purchased by 86% of households, is a $6 billion market. While sales of whole-fat ice cream continue to rise, portion-controlled indulgences and novelties continue to tempt consumers. In a sign of the times, Ben and Jerry’s is launching its Netfix and Chill’d variety in both dairy and nondairy versions to appeal to vegan and nonvegan segments of the binge-watching public. Annually, grocery retailers recognize March as Frozen Food Month, a program of the Harrisburg, Pa.-based National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association. As part of the observance, retail dietitians can help shoppers better navigate and understand the breadth of frozen food offerings and the journey from farm to freezer.
Karen Buch, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who specializes in retail dietetics and food and culinary nutrition communications. One of the first supermarket dietitians, she is now founder and principal consultant at Nutrition Connections LLC, providing consulting services nationwide. You can connect with her on Twitter @karenbuch and at NutritionConnectionsLLC.com.
2020 Product of the Year Awards
New, Now and Making a Difference Why new products matter more than ever. By Gina Acosta
here aren’t many sure things in retail these days, but one safe bet is that product innovation and quality will be as relevant to shoppers in the future as they are today. No matter how well curated the assortment or how user-friendly the online technology, shoppers won’t flock to any retailer unless it offers the possibility of discovering new, quality products. Every generation, from Baby Boomers to the highly coveted cohort of Generation Z (Zoomers), is looking to retailers to offer the most innovative products inside their stores or on their websites and apps. Zoomers especially are on track to become the largest generation of consumers by the end of this year — responsible for as much as $143 billion in direct spending. And the vast majority of those sales will come from Zoomers actively on the hunt for innovative products. According to Intel Research, 73% of Zoomers like to discover and buy new products, especially in brickand-mortar stores. Meanwhile, 42% of consumers across all generations say that they love trying new products, and a further half (49%) of consumers can be moved to experiment with a new product via marketing, according to Nielsen. With an overwhelming majority of consumers actively looking for product innovation and quality at retail, the risks for retailers and brands ignoring these trends have never been greater. These
Methodology Product of the Year (POY) is the world’s largest consumer-voted award for product innovation. Established more than 30 years ago in France, POY currently operates in 40-plus countries with the same purpose: Guide consumers to the best products in their market and reward manufacturers for quality and innovation. Product of the Year accepts entries every year from consumer packaged goods that demonstrate innovation and were launched within the previous year. Entered products are then placed into specific categories such as food, beverages, personal care and household care, with a product then being chosen as a winner in its category through a nationally representative online study, involving 40,000 consumers, conducted by Kantar TNS. Winning products are announced in February of each year and receive the right to use the POY seal in marketing communications for two years.
attributes are the key drivers of competitive advantage for brands and retailers, and this year’s crop of Product of the Year recipients shows why. Each year, Product of the Year — in collaboration with global research company Kantar — surveys 40,000 consumers in an attempt to find truly inventive products. This year, 41 winners have been recognized in their respective categories. Product of the Year launched 30 years ago in France and 12 years ago in the United States as a way to champion brands for product quality and innovation. The program accepts entries from consumer goods that demonstrate innovation in their function, design, packaging or ingredients, and a category winner is selected through Kantar’s nationally representative study. “For Product of the Year, it’s always been about innovation; yesterday, today and tomorrow — that’s what we love, are laser-focused on and champion. Coupled with that, our unique process of asking 40,000 independent voters means shoppers, retail-
ers and manufactures continue to genuinely trust the seal,” says Mike Nolan, global CEO of Product of the Year Management. “2020 sees exciting new categories that reflect the ever-changing face of innovation in the U.S., delivering us another great group of winners.” This year’s winners were revealed Feb. 6 at the annual Product of the Year Awards Show at the Edison Ballroom in New York City. Progressive Grocer’s parent company, EnsembleIQ, is the program’s exclusive B2B marketing partner in the United States in 2020. Many of the 2020 winners are representative of much larger trends in the industry. For the first time, two cannabidiol (CBD) products were winners in the health-and-wellness space — an emerging category in grocery stores and drug stores nationwide. As more consumers adopt plantbased diets or switch to private label products, it makes sense that plant-based meatballs, veggie bowls and a number of store-brand products also made the list. What is also fundamentally evident from this year’s Product of the Year Awards is that consumers are strongly bound to novel, creative, impactful products that are exciting to share on social media. To drive deeper connections with this increasingly adventurous consumer, retailers and brands must satisfy curiosity through product innovation, new experiences and telling the story behind the product. Retailers and brands have an opportunity to generate excitement and drive sales by creating buzz around these new products (Product of the Year winners Aunt Jemima Pancake on the Go and Mr. Clean Clean Freak went viral on Instagram shortly after launch last year). For retailers and brands of all categories, marketing these kinds of new products to consumers will continue to be a strong driver of sales, and the lifeblood of the industries well into 2020 and beyond.
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PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
UP OMNICHANNEL SALES By Jim Dudlicek
Albertsons is betting on micro fulfillment to win in grocery pickup and delivery. 22
Albertsons' first micro fulfillment center operates out of a Safeway supermarket in South San Francisco, Calif.
Pickers complete up to four orders at a time at the Safeway MFC for pickup or delivery.
or Albertsons, the future is as close as the back room. “We can fill orders five times faster … [and it] puts us in the right position for continued growth,” Jewel Hunt, group VP of ecommerce for the Boise, Idaho-based grocery retailer, says of the company’s new micro fulfillment centers. Launched late last year at two supermarkets in the San Francisco Bay Area, these centers leverage the power of existing grocery stores to expand the grocer’s reach into clickand-collect and delivery services. Micro fulfillment centers (MFCs) help take some of the distance out of the elusive “last mile” of grocery delivery, Hunt explains. “We’re able to put it into the back of our stores, where it’s closest to the customer,” she says. “It combines the efficiency of automation while still having local products that are important to the consumer.” Progressive Grocer was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the company’s first MFC at a Safeway store in South San Francisco, where it opened last October; a second center opened at a Safeway in San Jose,
Calif., at the end of 2019, both through a partnership with Waltham, Mass.-based grocery technology company Takeoff Technologies. The model combines the proximity to customers of a brick-and-mortar store with the automation of a large warehouse. These centers typically hold about 15,000 to 18,000 of a grocer’s most popular SKUs. “The micro fulfillment center model is a key element in the store of the future,” Vivek Sankaran, president and CEO of Albertsons Cos., said in December. “It combines the efficiency of automation with the ease of meeting customers when and how they want to shop. In working with Takeoff, we can evolve how the MFC ties into our store and ecommerce ecosystems, and accelerate our path to best serve our customers.” What does it mean to be a “digital-first” grocer? “It means providing omnichannel solutions our customers are seeking,” Hunt says, “for those who want a brick-and-mortar store and home delivery — a seamless experience for what they want and what they want it in.” By that definition, Hunt says that Albertsons is headed in the right direction. “I think we stack up well,” she
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Digital-First Grocery "Get closer than ever to your customers." This Steve Jobs quote, among the inspirational messages on the walls around the room, explains one advantage micro fulfillment centers bring to retailers.
remarks, adding that the company has “come a long way” since rolling out a delivery service in 2001 and subsequently adding Drive Up & Go, the retailer’s click-and-collect service. “We’re in the early stages, still in the learning mode. We collaborate very closely together,” Hunt says of the relationship with Takeoff. “We’re able to strategize together if problems come up. We feel good about where we’re at.” The partners have been working together since 2018. “In collaborating with Takeoff, we’re able to leverage their thought leadership in ecommerce fulfillment with our expertise in running great grocery stores that meet customers’ everyday needs, and that’s exciting turf for us,” Chris Rupp, Albertsons’ EVP and chief customer and digital officer, said in December. “By placing an MFC in an existing store close to customers, we can carry a diverse and locally relevant selection of products, with the friendly touch of our local team to service the customer.” Hunt was part of an Albertsons team that engaged in a “very robust discussion process” with four tech companies before deciding Takeoff was the right fit. “We focus on the customer together,” she notes. Takeoff is also collaborating on fulfillment solutions with retailers such as Wakefern Food Corp. banner ShopRite in the Northeast, Canadian grocer Loblaw Cos. Ltd., Ahold Delhaize USA’s Stop & Shop, Hispanic grocer Sedano’s Supermarket and, most recently, Big Y in Massachusetts.
The MFC at Safeway’s 94,000-square-foot South San Francisco supermarket resembles a store within a store. Cases stocked with refrigerated and frozen foods line the perimeter, and there are aisles of dry grocery and nonfood items. But in the center, a sophisticated automated rack-and-tote system 26
prepares orders for pickup and delivery as part of a process designed to make service quicker and more accurate while keeping order pickers out of the way of brick-and-mortar shoppers. “What makes an MFC successful is being bolted onto a store,” Chad Cummings, Albertsons’ ecommerce director for Northern California, tells PG during a recent visit to the South San Francisco site, which serves an area extending north to the Golden Gate Bridge. “We operate like a normal store from an order perspective.” Incoming goods arrive from the same warehouses and, on arrival at the store, are tagged either for the
“We’re able to put it into the back of our stores, where it’s closest to the customer. It combines the efficiency of automation while still having local products that are important to the consumer.” —Jewel Hunt, Albertsons group VP of ecommerce
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The heart of the MFC is a robotic racking system. Shuttles remove totes from their spaces; elevators move them up and down on their way to a decanting area, where groceries are sorted for each order.
store up front or the MFC, Cummings explains. That means no incremental deliveries or new routing logistics for delivery vendors. “Synergies between the store and MFC are connected, so we can offer a bigger catalog than our competitors,” he adds. The heart of the operation is a robotic racking system housing 6,600 totes, designed by Atlanta-based Knapp and operated by Takeoff’s software. “It’s like a Vegas hotel — long hallways and elevators,” Cummings quips. Shuttles remove totes of product from their spaces; elevators move them up and down on their way to what Cummings calls a “decanting” area, where groceries are sorted for each order. Each tote holds up to eight UPC-coded items. Dry items like paper goods that would take up too much space in the totes are “dry picked” toward the end of the order process. “The magic is determining what needs to be here or be there,” says Trung Nguyen, VP of ecommerce strategies. “There’s a lot of 28
analytics in determining what SKUs go where. We know the exact count of products, what’s been sold and what’s still in there.” Sell-by dates are checked daily to ensure fresh product and reduce shrink. At two picking stations, each picker can fill up to four orders at once. “This allows us to pick a lot faster than traditional ecommerce, where you’re out looking around the sales floor,” Cummings says. “This takes out all those steps.” Chilled products go into insulated totes with dry ice or gel packs; ambient items are loaded into regular plastic totes. And while some fresh items, like produce and deli, are still picked from the main store, Cummings says, “We pick as much as we can within these four walls.” Completed orders go out in one of three ways: picked up as part of the retailer’s Drive Up & Go click-and-collect program, delivery within a two- to four-hour window on one of the grocer’s own trucks, or dedicated one-hour delivery through the grocer’s partnership with San Francisco-based DoorDash. The latter two options could be likened to the difference between UberPool and UberX. These first two locations are seen as the first of many MFCs that will eventually be located at stores among Albertsons-owned banners across the country. However, the retailer isn’t ready to reveal where the next ones might be; Nguyen would say only, “There’s more in the works,” adding, “The end goal is to have high-velocity facilities that can fill large orders in high-density areas.” What the team would say is that they’re not in a hurry to roll out more MFCs, wanting to fully evaluate the system before casting a wider net. “We’re ramping up slowly,” Hunt tells PG. “We’re still in an evaluation stage of what markets we’ll take this to next … still doing due diligence on exactly where.” As such, she declines to lay out any sort of timetable. “We continue to evolve as we roll more value in and expect productivity to increase,” Hunt says. “We have locally relevant products that customers are used to buying. When you can get the same ones by delivery or pickup, that makes a difference and sets us apart in our market.” The store in South San Francisco has operated under various banners over the years and was last remodeled under the Safeway marquee in 2016, before the MFC was added last year. Attention to detail and service in the store demonstrates that the company is committed to serving shoppers however they choose to access the brand. “Brick and mortar’s never going away,” Nguyen says. “People like coming into the stores. But the younger generation is used to the convenience. It’s
“Synergies between the store and MFC are connected, so we can offer a bigger catalog than our competitors.” —Chad Cummings, Albertsons ecommerce director for Northern California
Digital-First Grocery Brian Roth, senior manager of pickup automation and digital operations for Walmart U.S. A broader Alphabot rollout is anticipated after associate and customer feedback is collected. A similar back-of-house fulfillment operation was being launched last fall at Walmart’s test store in Rogers, Ark., near its corporate headquarters, as described by Progressive Grocer in October 2019, when Walmart was honored as PG’s 2019 Retailer of the Year. Further demonstrating its commitment to omnichannel, Walmart last July opened its largest self-standing grocery pickup and delivery center in the United States, in Lincolnwood, Ill., near Chicago. As of Walmart’s first quarter of fiscal 2020, reported in May 2019, the company had about 2,450 grocery pickup locations, almost 1,000 stores with grocery delivery, and 900-plus pickup towers. By the end of 2019, Walmart had expanded its grocery delivery program, branded as Delivery Unlimited, to 1,600 stores in 200 metro areas. The expansion followed a four-market test begun earlier in 2019 in Houston, Miami, Salt Lake City and Tampa, Fla.
Kroger Going Macro
Grocery orders at the MFC are prepared for pickup, group shipment or delivery via DoorDash.
them we’re preparing for — they want it now, and we want to provide that. But we still have customers who want to walk in, touch and feel, and talk to people.”
Mega-retailer Walmart is taking a similar path on fulfillment, and with more than 11,000 stores worldwide, it has the scale to make it work. As reported by progressivegrocer.com in January, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company launched a new fulfillment option at its supercenter in Salem, N.H., using Alphabot, a technology designed specifically for Walmart by North Billerica, Mass.-based startup Alert Innovation, which enables quicker, more efficient order picking. Housed in a 20,000-square-foot addition at the store, the Alphabot system uses autonomous carts to retrieve ambient, refrigerated and frozen items. The products are then brought to a workstation where a Walmart associate checks, bags and delivers the final order. “Ultimately, this will lower dispense times, increase accuracy and improve the entirety of online grocery. And it will help free associates to focus on service and selling, while the technology handles the more mundane, repeatable tasks,” says 30
Meanwhile, The Kroger Co. is pursuing an omnichannel strategy, in partnership with U.K.-based web grocer Ocado, based on a network of macro fulfillment centers apart from its individual store locations. The Cincinnati-based retailer, the nation’s largest traditional grocer, announced its sixth customer fulfillment center (CFC) in November, underway in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., just over the Illinois state line about an hour north of Chicago. And in late January, Kroger revealed the location of its seventh CFC, in Frederick, Md., a location that will allow the retailer to serve several markets, including Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; and Philadelphia. These 350,000-square-foot facilities are expected to be operational within two years and employ up to 400 people at each site. Eventually, 20 automated CFCs are expected, with other locations announced for Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Texas and the mid-Atlantic region. “Through our strategic partnership, we are engineering a model for the region, leveraging advanced robotics technology and creative solutions to redefine the customer experience for our customers,” Robert Clark, Kroger’s SVP of supply chain, manufacturing and sourcing, said in November. Kroger revealed this partnership in May 2018, looking to Ocado to boost Kroger’s digital and robotics capabilities, and help to expand its seamless coverage area to provide every family in America with the convenience of shopping for anything, anytime, anywhere. The partnership will debut the foundations of the Ocado Smart Platform in the United States, what Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen at the time of the announcement called “an innovative, exciting and transformative partnership in pursuit of our Restock Kroger vision, to serve America through food inspiration and uplift.”
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Some examples show what food retailing in the next decade will look like.
nteresting experiments are underway in food retailing: autonomous vehicles, in-home deliveries, predictive replenishment, micro fulfillment centers, and the list goes on. Words like “disruption” and “transformation” seem to be used excessively, but they really aren’t, given the extent of change. Everything food retailers thought they knew about food retailing continues to be turned on its head. That’s why when FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin addressed attendees at the trade group’s annual Midwinter Executive Conference in January, she borrowed a quote from the late futurist Alvin Toffler. “In the future, the illiterate will not be those who cannot read, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn,” was the quote Sarasin shared with senior executives who attended the event. “Toffler was trying to prepare us for the fact that — at the turn of the new millennium — we were entering a time when everything we knew was going to come up for review, revision and possibly revamping.” Those three Rs are in full effect among the universe of companies that sell food and consumables. Future success requires legacy operators to rethink every aspect of their business and approach to serving shoppers, while new operating models and nontraditional food retailers vie for market share. Regardless of the retailer type, a digital-first mindset improves the odds of being successful. “Most everyone I speak with, from industry leaders to high-ranking regulatory officials, and even some of my mom friends, agree that grocery stores and supermarkets, and their supplier partners, have ex-
Online shopping is table stakes for merchants aiming to be "digital first."
By Mike Troy
perienced more change in the past decade than they did in the previous century,” Sarasin said at the conference. And yet, there’s a sense that with all that technology allows, the use cases to be invented and operational processes to be refined, change will be even more dramatic in the coming decade. This much is evident from a look around the industry at the actions and thoughts of market leaders creating a world in which others will need to compete.
Amazon Eliminates the Pain Point
Seattle-based Amazon tops everyone’s list of innovative retail companies, and rightly so in many respects, as whatever it touches, it tends to create new expectations. The same thing is happening now as it applies its cashierless Just Walk Out Shopping technology at its first Amazon Go grocery story. The 10,400-square-foot location at 610 E. Pike St. in downtown Seattle opened Feb. 25. Although smaller than a typical suburban supermarket, the store’s 7,700-square-foot selling space offers an assortment of fresh produce, meat and seafood, bakery items, household essentials, easy-to-make dinner options, and beer, wine and spirits. What makes the store special, and deserving of “digital-first” accolades, is the system underpinning the store experience: friction-eliminating technology that lets members of the Prime program simply walk out with their purchases. Amazon has quietly — to the extent the closely followed company can do anything quietly — opened 25 Go stores
From convenience to grocery, the Amazon Go concept continues to grow.
in New York (eight), Chicago (seven), San Francisco (five) and Seattle (five). Those stores are much smaller, in the 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot range, with a product offering that leans toward convenience items rather than the fuller grocery assortment available at the newly opened Seattle location. The Amazon Go Grocery store creates an entirely new sort of convenience-driven value proposition for food and consumables shoppers, one that will be hard, if not impossible, for traditional grocers that are at a less evolved place when it comes to digital-first thinking and execution to match.
Walmart's omnichannel initiatives include click and collect, supported by the mega-retailer's ongoing technology investments.
What About Walmart?
While Amazon’s every action is scrutinized and analyzed for competitive implications, Walmart’s place in the digital landscape receives far less attention by comparison. That’s a mistake, considering the type of futuristic digital-first thinking and imaginative approaches coming out of Bentonville, Ark. “I think we’re headed towards a time when customers won’t really think about buying their routine items very often,” Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon told financial analysts at the retailer’s investor conference in February. “They’ll tell us once, or less frequently anyway, and we’ll take care of it.” McMillon described a WaaS (Walmart as a Service) future where the retailer functions almost like running water or electricity, a reliable service that customers take for granted to simplify their lives. “Customers will start to think of us like a membership service where we make sure the items they use all the time are available in their homes. Whether it’s that service, the way we design our store offer, or the growth of our pickup business, we’re out to win the big basket stock-up trip that’s delivered on time at an everyday low price,” McMillon said. “When it’s our job to forecast their demand and keep them in stock, it’s not as important to deliver in a day or an hour. It’s just required that their items be there when they need them. Price will matter. Our supply chain will support that strategy. We’ll have a human relationship with customers as they interact with our associates, but we’ll have a stronger digital relationship that saves them time and makes their experience with Walmart more enjoyable.” The digital vision shared by McMillon is also espoused by Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
Digital-First Grocery U.S. ecommerce. Walmart is doing some Amazon-like things, like rolling out Walmart Fulfillment Services for third-party sellers, for example, but the mega-retailer is also attempting to more thoroughly exploit its unique assets and ability to match Amazon’s multibillion-dollar technology investments. “We’re exploring opportunities around conversational commerce, augmented reality, virtual reality, delivery into the refrigerator and
What Does it Take to Win in E-Grocery? That’s the question that the consultants at McKinsey & Co. asked themselves recently. Recognizing that online grocery isn’t new anymore, but that the pace of investment and innovation is progressing at an unprecedented rate, the New York-based firm developed a framework for how grocers should be thinking about their future. McKinsey identified five keys for retailers striving to win in e-grocery:
Set an aspirational customer proposition using a data-driven fact base. Determine the core elements and differentiators of the omnichannel grocery offering, root them in a customer promise, and be prepared to deliver. Examples include fee structures, pricing models and assortment choices. Leverage statistical marketing and ethnographic research to inform the value proposition.
Build a robust demand-forecasting model for current and future markets. Project market demand for trade areas, and forecast potential share. Geospatial-analytics techniques are available to inform demand modeling and the optimal mix of click-and-collect versus delivery offerings.
Determine the optimal fulfillment model, which is likely to be bimodal. Explore the range of picking technologies available in the market, and choose one or more that best suit the desired customer proposition and demand economics. Perform the same analyses when choosing delivery speeds and transportation models.
Design a technology portfolio and prepare IT systems. Build the IT plan that underlies each element of the customer proposition, and select vendors to work with, because most grocers won’t have in-house capabilities. Having a flexible technology stack that supports an agile operating model is key.
Modify the organizational and operating model to embed digital at the core. Align on a reporting structure for the ecommerce team, and agree on decision rights and ways of working. Robust human-capital and talent plans and strategies will be necessary. —Mike Troy
incubating digitally native brands,” Lore said. “We’re innovating to define the retail experience of the future, to anticipate it, to shape it.” That experience of the future is already in place in the markets of Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Vero Beach, Fla., where Walmart has launched its in-home delivery pilot program, which Lore maintains has Walmart on the leading edge of something really big. “In-home is a powerful and effortless experience, and we want to grow it,” Lore noted. “We’re exploring enhancements like delivering items automatically before you even realize you’re running low. An innovation mindset has taken hold at Walmart, and we’re dreaming of concepts, we’re testing them, we’re piloting them and iterating. We’re speeding up the time between concept and delivery. Not all these things are going to work, and that’s OK; we’re going to learn, we’ll pivot.” To make possible what McMillon and Lore describe will require automation, some of which is appearing in store aisles with shelf-scanning robots in 1,000 stores, as well as other technology out of sight in back rooms. Walmart has rolled out a system called Flexibly Automated Sorting Technology (FAST) to 2,000 stores. The FAST unloader is an automated material-handling system that gets merchandise off trucks faster, with a conveyor belt that shunts goods to an area where they’re loaded onto a cart for a designated department. Walmart is also expanding its Alphabot robotic micro fulfillment center concept beyond a single location in New Hampshire to additional locations this year as it eyes automation to improve the efficiency of grocery pickup orders.
The Digital-First HR Department
The proliferation of robots and other forms of autonomous capabilities has analysts at Gartner forecasting that retailers will need to create new organizational structures to manage the hybrid workforce of the future. By 2025, at least two of the top 10 global retailers will establish robot resource organizations to manage nonhuman workers, the consulting firm projects. “The adoption of new digital technologies and the ever-changing expectations of customers continues to challenge traditional retailers, forcing them to investigate new human-hybrid operational models, including artificial intelligence (AI), automation and robotics,” says Kelsie Marian, senior research director at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. The firm’s research shows that 77% of retailers plan to deploy AI by 2021, with the deployment of robotics for warehouse picking as the top use case. Gartner predicts that retailers will establish units for procuring, maintaining, training, taxing, decommissioning and proper disposal of robot resources. In addition, they will create the governance required to ensure that people and robots can effectively collaborate. Many retail workers want to use AI specifically as an on-demand or predictive assistant, meaning that the robot will need to work alongside humans, according to Gartner.
“This means the robot will have to ‘mesh’ with the human team — essentially meaning that both sides will need to learn how to ‘collaborate’ to operate effectively together,” Marian notes. This digital mindset is evident every time that Amazon announces a new fulfillment center location and touts the creation of jobs and how the new facilities present an opportunity to work alongside Amazon robotics to pick, pack and ship items. But Amazon isn’t alone. By 2025, the top 10 retailers globally will leverage AI to facilitate prescriptive product recommendations, transactions and forward deployment of inventory for immediate delivery to consumers, according to Gartner Retail Analyst Robert Hetu. The reason for this is that’s the new expectation of what Hetu calls Generation AI. It’s a cohort of 650 million humans born after 2010, ranging in age from 5 to 9, who purchase goods with a family member’s money after seeing and hearing AI-driven marketing messages. “This generation has never been without the inﬂuence of AI and relies increasingly on technology to support its needs, aspirations and desires,” Hetu observes. “In just 10 short years, these consumers will start spending their own disposable income in the consumer market. Having been trained to expect ‘anticipatory’ actions from devices, they will expect products, services and experiences that are catered to their tastes, and to be available exactly when and where they want.”
Groceries from Target are as close as one's mobile device via Shipt.
Rather than having to research product speciﬁcations, ratings or prices, consumers will expect that the best offering will be preselected for them, Hetu contends. Additionally, these items will never be out of stock or delayed, but delivered in a seamless and timeless experience. That’s the trajectory that the retail industry is on, with technology making it all possible. For that reason, a digital-first mindset and the strategic initiatives that spring from it today will create the winners of tomorrow.
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The grocers’ guide to how the hub of the home is changing.
he concept of being “digital first” is causing food retailers to rethink every aspect of their operations and think differently about the shopper’s traditional path to purchase. That means looking further upstream to a place where innovation abounds and technology is altering how shoppers engage with retailers, brands and the process of meal preparation. To be a digital-first grocer means understanding the dynamic landscape that’s quickly becoming the connected kitchen. Retailers are currently focused on delivery and in-store pickup options for online orders, mastering the operational basics and growing transaction sizes to improve profits. The kitchen of the future is coming, however, and, like all innovation, it represents both a threat and an opportunity for food retailers. Imagine a kitchen, bright and white, with splashes of green — living green things that grow as food sources inside the home in the form of hydroponic and aeroponic garden walls. Small-scale fruit trees grow in rows of pots, nourished by output from a new iteration of the garbage disposal — one that composts instead, with a vacuum seal to block odors. Countertops double as inductive cooktops that heat cookware but are cool to the touch (today’s are red- hot). Prep sinks don’t just have pot-filling faucets, but also steam vegetables. Cutting surfaces reflect portion sizes, and water dispensers gauge hydration levels. Cameras are everywhere, and they’re coming 36
By Laura Heller
Digital-First Grocery for our food — not in the form of Instagram-worthy glamour shots, but inside the refrigerator, where they promise to solve all kinds of problems, ranging from personal out-of-stock notices to reducing food waste on a global scale, and helping to minimize environmental damage.
The Future is Now
This futuristic connected kitchen, one with the potential to upend the traditional food shopping experience, is already here. All of these technologies were on display by Boston-based appliance maker General Electric at the massive Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year. The consumer technology industry’s largest trade show offered a glimpse of futuristic kitchens as imagined by GE’s industrial design team, including concepts that shift as use cases change. Someday, countertop heights may even adjust for better accessibility or to compensate for disabilities. Some technologies are less “out there.” Already, smart appliances are available and installed in homes, albeit in small numbers. As of September 2019, household penetration of smart appliances (those connected to the internet) was just 3.9%, as measured by Hamburg, Germany-based Statista. Smaller connected appliances, like smart speakers and robotic vacuums, are enjoying greater adoption — 9.2%, according to the same study. By 2024, household penetration is projected at 8.3% for large Samsung has led the charge in smart-fridge technology that automates the replenishment process for consumers inside the home.
Staying Safe in the Connected Kitchen There are robotic chefs, induction cooktops, automatic reordering — thanks to cameras in pantries and refrigerators — recipe recommendations based on ingredients on hand (more cameras), food composting and home growing, but technology promises to have a big impact on in-home food safety. There are 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually in the United States, and in 2018 — the most recent year for which data is available — there were 125 food recalls by the USDA and 386 Class I recalls by the FDA, including pet foods. So how can technology at home and in the field help? “There is definitely room for AI and machine learning to assist in this area,” says Mitzi Baum, CEO of the nonprofit organization Stop Foodborne Illness, based in Chicago. Research is being done, with not a lot being implemented. Many new smart features are designed to address nutritional needs and health concerns — great selling points — but those that address reducing foodborne illnesses with often deadly consequences would go a long way toward solving problems for consumers, suppliers and retailers alike. Smart kitchens thus far mostly address issues of convenience. “A smart refrigerator is great,” notes Baum. “It
beeps when you leave the door open, but does it give you a signal when it’s too warm? A lot of seniors are worried about energy costs, so instead of setting it at a safe temperature, it’s set in the danger zone, which can cause problems.” Smart faucets, like Wisconsin-based Kohler’s Setra touchless model, keep bacteria off the surface, but North Olmstead, Ohio-based Moen’s Experience the U Smart Faucet promises to personalize things with precise temperature settings, making sure that hand washing is done at temps that prevent cross contamination from food handling in the home. Refrigerators from multiple brands now, or
appliances and 15.6% for small items. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) included smart appliances in its consumer survey for the first time in 2019 and found that 17% of U.S. households said they owned at least one such appliance (refrigerator, washer, dryer or dishwasher), although many use smart technology to identify and solve for maintenance issues, according to Steve Koenig, VP of research for Arlington, Va.-based CTA. “More recently, we’ve started to see more convenience issues addressed,” he says. “The features that are going to be forthcoming in the next two to three years will be around services — where the contents of a refrigerator are monitored, for example — and more advanced features, and tied in with business partnerships with a retailer for replenishment.” “From a hardware perspective, ‘Big Tech’ has been desperate to get into the kitchen for 20 years. Kitchen PCs were the initial foray, but that has always been a challenge, given the size of a PC,” notes Stephen Baker, VP of industry analysis at The NPD Group, in Port Washington, N.Y. “Tablets have had a great run at this, from delivering videos while you are cooking, recipes on demand, or just watching TV while you work in the kitchen.” The problem is that these devices could leave the kitchen and have other uses. Today, there’s a drive to embed video screens connected to the internet either as small, less mobile devices in the kitchen that are inexpensive to replace and upgrade, and embedded displays in installed appliances like refrigerators and microwaves.
will soon, include interiors that automatically adjust for optimal temperatures and report ripeness of fresh foods. Even more opportunities exist to help the industry better manage food recalls. Blockchain technology is often cited as a way to track products and contamination to the source, identifying and removing dangerous food items from the supply chain. Leafy greens have presented a particular problem, with large recalls in 2018 and 2019 of romaine lettuce that may have been contaminated by E. coli. Nearly 100,000 pounds of packaged lettuce sold through retailers such as Aldi, Giant Eagle and Sam’s Club were affected just before Thanksgiving. Blockchain’s traceability allowed for quicker identification of the source of these tainted foods. There’s opportunity for smart appliances to help further by identifying contaminated foods inside the home. “Some kind of sensor that could tell if listeria is present, that could measure and give a signal,” Baum suggests. “Green, the food is good. Yellow, eat it soon. Red, it’s been in there too long and there’s bacterial growth — throw it away.” Listeriosis can cause miscarriage and birth defects. “If you have something that can read a barcode and tell you that an item is recalled and to throw it away, that would be a game changer,” Baum adds. Retailers have struggled to notify customers. Shopper loyalty cards have helped by
"The features that are going to be forthcoming in the next two to three years will be around services — where the contents of a refrigerator are monitored, for example — and more advanced features, and tied in with business partnerships with a retailer for replenishment.” —Steve Koenig, Consumer Technology Association
“Going forward, the battle for tech in the kitchen will be between those two concepts,” says Baker. “This should not be construed as thinking these are the only kitchen devices that will be connected. At some point everything will be connected — oven, dishwasher, Instant Pot, etc. — so it can be controlled, managed, integrated and examined by the central controlling intelligence of your Smart Home platform.” Chinese electronics company Haier’s smart kitchens are controlled by the refrigerator, which acts as a hub — a common setup in today’s iteration. This one connects to Amazon to create zones for optimal food storage. There’s
keeping a record of purchases and enabling messaging, but they don’t reach everyone affected. Advancements in food safety are unfortunately not considered a competitive advantage, Baum acknowledges. Some brands and merchants are working behind the scenes to secure a cleaner food supply and improve reaction times to outbreaks. Few see a marketing angle, however, and organizations are hesitant to make public statements about something with such a high degree of risk and accountability. AI, when paired with computer vision, can help identify items by label, potentially intermediating outbreaks with greater alacrity. The current focus on reducing food waste places an emphasis on capturing expiration dates and letting consumers know when an item is close to its noted end. But expiration dates tend to be arbitrary and have less to do with foodborne illnesses than most consumers know. That will take a long-term consumer education effort, but the real goal, according to Baum, is to save lives — with a little help from technology in the forms of smart kitchens and blockchain. —Laura Heller
PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
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also a feature to scan items and order directly from Amazon Fresh, which is now available in Europe, while other versions are being developed to work with a wider variety of retailers in the United States. GE’s microwave hood that installs over a stove is integrated with the Google Assistant and comes complete with a 27-inch high-definition display and Bluetooth-enabled speakers. Cameras inside the refrigerator can detect items and recommend recipes based on what’s there, or identify any missing ones that might require a run to the store or home delivery. German multinational engineering and technology company Bosch’s Home Connect is an open platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) and home appliances that has already been adopted by a handful of other high-end brands, including Irvine, Calif.-based Thermador. The number of connected devices are projected to triple by 2025 to 75 billion, according to Statista, making a more open platform to connect them critical.
Catching the Consumer
“When change does come, it will unlikely be something so radical that it would change the core structure of the home kitchen,” observes Brendan Witcher, VP and principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester. “For example, it is unlikely that consumers will adopt some form of mini ecosystem where food waste is minimized through an in-home, gray-water composting system.” Manufacturers at CES were indeed showcasing future-forward solutions that recirculated water from dishwashers to nourish the root systems of plant-based foods grown in the home, and that replaced garbage disposals with composting systems that also fed plants. And while these may be more advanced than we can expect to see in the next decade or more, there are elements of smart kitchens with realistic near-term implications. “The promise of a smart kitchen is intriguing from a retailer and brand point of view. Everyone would want the opportunity to have a direct relationship with the consumer, potentially dis-intermediating the traditional retailer,” says Neil Stern, senior partner at Chicago-based McMillanDoolittle. “If I can win the consumer at the point of a purchase decision, it could effectively lock out competition. Smart refrigerators, voice assistants — all have the power to catch the consumer much closer to the point of decision.” This has been Amazon’s game plan all along. It’s the impe-
"The future could bring smart pantries, where sensors know that a consumer has run out of an item, and automatically order a replacement — or three — of that same item, without the consumer having to do anything.” —Brendan Witcher, Forrester
tus behind the Seattle-based company’s Dash buttons, which have morphed from small devices into new digital iterations being preloaded onto new appliances like Seoul, South Korea-based LG’s ThinQ washing machine and a prototype refrigerator. Amazon also previewed at CES Dash-integrated packaging that lets consumers reorder as they open and use an item. “The kitchen of the future will more likely be built around ‘systems’ people already use, but are not digitized,” Witcher predicts. “The future could bring smart pantries, where sensors know that a consumer has run out of an item, and automatically order a replacement — or three — of that same item, without the
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Connected kitchens of the future will contain uniquely shaped appliances that offer customers the ability to digitally engage with their food.
"At some point everything will be connected — oven, dishwasher, Instant Pot, etc. — so it can be controlled, managed, integrated and examined by the central controlling intelligence of your Smart Home platform.” —Stephen Baker, The NPD Group
consumer having to do anything. “The changes to ordering grocery will come slowly, because grocery shopping is considered utilitarian, and most consumers are quite comfortable shopping in their chosen grocery store,” he adds. Forrester estimates ecommerce grocery to be at about 3%, compared with 16% for general retail. The tipping point will come, but not until technology offers solutions for problems that exist for real consumers. Robotic chefs may be mesmerizing to convention crowds, and reducing food waste is a grand political talking point, but technology doesn’t take off unless it solves a consumer problem, even if that problem is one consumers don’t realize they have.
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FROZEN & REFRIGERATED FOODS
Millennials, especially parents of young children, spend the most on frozen foods.
Deep Freeze A RESURGENT CATEGORY AT TR ACTS NE W FANS, AND MANUFACTURERS AND RE TAILERS WORK TO KEEP THEM BUYING. By Lynn Petrak
A funny thing happened when folks thought the frozen food category was stagnant and outmoded: It received a new lease on life. It wasn’t that long ago that sales across many frozen food segments were flatlining, leading some to believe that such products would be out in the cold as the fresh perimeter took off. While the fresh sector continues to thrive, however, many frozen products are performing well and capturing interest across a broad spectrum of shoppers.
Cold Cash, Warmer Sales
First, the big picture. According to the 2019 “Power of Frozen” report from the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and FMI — the Food Industry Association, both based in Arlington, Va., sales of frozen foods have topped $57 billion annually. The more revealing statistic is growth, and to that end, the report finds that both dollar and unit sales grew in 2018, up 2.6% and 2.3%, respectively. The Harrisburg, Pa.-based National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) just released its annual “State of the Industry” report showing a second consecutive year of sales growth, reaching $54.6 billion. Several segments within frozen experienced “solid” growth in the past 12 months, including pizza, vegetables, seafood, prepared potatoes and desserts, with increases between 3.7% and 5.1%.
Key Takeaways Although the fresh sector continues to thrive, many frozen products are performing well and capturing interest across a broad range of shoppers, with particular interest shown by younger consumers. The bounce in frozen over the past few years is largely attributable to product innovation, including better-for-you items, plant-based offerings, snack products and even greater convenience, aided by industry campaigns. Production improvements such as nitrogen flash-freezing also have helped boost frozens category.
PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
FROZEN & REFRIGERATED FOODS
When we asked consumers what drove them to use frozen products, one thing that came up is that they wanted something new and different.”
Beyond sales figures, other research confirms consumer interest in frozen foods and the reinvigoration of segments within the category. In its daily tracking of U.S. consumer eating behaviors, The NPD Group, based in Port Washington, N.Y., found that frozen foods were included in the 9.8 billion at-home eating occasions last year, a 2% increase from a decade ago. That figure represents billions of meals, by NPD’s estimation. Meanwhile, the 2019 “Power of Frozen” report concludes that an overwhelming 99.4% of U.S. households buy frozen foods. Taking a closer look at those households, the AFFI/FMI report indicates that shoppers in urban and suburban areas consume frozen food more often. Men are more likely than women to be high-frequency frozen food consumers, and families with kids in the home between the ages of 7 and 12 tend to have higher consumption. Underscoring the broad interest in frozen, the report reveals that core frozen food consumers represent all income levels, and that frozen food consumers generally tend to rely on frozen items as both backup and planned meal occasions. Other consumer research studies show that many frozen food shoppers are younger, boding well for the future of the category. CB Insights, a tech market intelligence company in New York, pegs frozen foods as one of a dozen industries that will do well thanks to interest among Millennials. According to CB’s findings, Millennials spend 9% more on frozen foods per supermarket visit than house-
—Darren Seifer, The NPD Group
holds of other age-based demographics. Behind the Millennials, members of Gen Z are also heating up frozen foods. A recent report from Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts, “Looking Ahead to Gen Z: Demographic Patterns and Spending Trends,” reveals that consumers under the age of 25 are 26% more likely to eat frozen breakfast entrées and sandwiches, and 23% more likely to eat frozen dinners. Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for NPD, says that the embrace of frozen foods by younger consumers stems from the convenience that such products offer. “As Gen Z starts to enter adulthood, we see their greater desire for convenience,” Seifer explains. “They don’t know what to make at this life stage and are
FROZEN IS FLOURISHING
YEAR-OVER YEAR GROWTH
DRIVEN BY CATEGORY ANNUALLY
IN ANNUAL SALES Source: NFRA
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FROZEN & REFRIGERATED FOODS
willing to take the help they get from manufacturers.” Meanwhile, there’s also good news for food retailers as they review their frozen food offerings and merchandising efforts. According to NFRA’s recent industry report, the frozen department drives 31 trips per buying household and adds $10.90 to shopping baskets per trip. “Both the frozen and dairy departments have strong, broad appeal among consumers, with the potential to drive short- and long-term growth for retailers,” notes NFRA President and CEO Skip Shaw.
The bounce in frozen over the past few years is largely attributable to product innovation, aided by industry campaigns from AFFI and NFRA focusing on the benefits of frozen foods. “Frozen foods have seen strong growth over the last few years as innovative products now align with consumers’ demands for organic, plant-based, gluten-free and so much more,” says Shaw, adding, “NFRA’s consumer PR efforts have been successfully working to tell this positive story about today’s frozen foods.” Seifer likewise credits innovation for helping revitalize frozen foods as a whole. “When you look at what was being offered until the last few years, the varieties looked pretty familiar — what we’d seen for decades,” he recalls. “When we asked consumers what drove them to use frozen products, one thing that came up is that they wanted something new and different. Several manufacturers took note of that, revamped lines and changed flavors. Now there’s boldness for younger generations and products that reflect growing demographics, like Asian and Hispanic influences.” One manufacturer that took heed of the new potential in frozen
With demand for plant-based meat alternatives climbing, products like Dr. Praeger's Perfect Burger aim to please flexitarians and can be merchandised for grilling season.
Frozen foods have seen strong growth over the last few years as innovative products now align with consumers’ demands for organic, plant-based, gluten-free and so much more.” —Skip Shaw, NFRA
was Chicago-based Conagra Brands Inc. “Working across their portfolio, from Birds Eye to Marie Callender’s and Healthy Choice, Conagra is really seeing the future in frozen foods and has repositioned itself as a market leader,” observes Burt Flickinger III, managing director at New York-based Strategic Resource Group, pointing to Conagra’s sustained growth in frozen sales. At the same time, smaller companies have built brands in frozen, like Cascadian Farms and Amy’s. Newer brands have done especially well in frozen's organic, natural and otherwise better-for-you segments. In addition to a focus on new product development and parallel educational and marketing campaigns, improvements in production have also helped boost the frozen category. “The development of state-of-the-art technology in flash-frozen has been big,” says Flickinger, citing success in flash-frozen produce. Some companies are using better freezing technologies to distinguish their offerings. For instance, Cadence Kitchen, based in Corona, Calif., is a company started by “serious foodies” who use the latest nitrogen flash-freezing technologies for its line of entrées. Varieties include classics like macaroni and cheese and beef stew, as well globally inspired dishes such as Paella Valenciana and Japanese Style Curry Chicken.
Plant-Based is Blooming
A recent driver of innovation in frozen is consumers’ growing interest in all things plant-based, from flash-frozen vegetables to entrées made with plant proteins. “Plant-based is one of the biggest questions I get all the time, and there is movement there — it’s not the biggest, but it’s something we are slowly gravitating toward,” notes Seifer, adding that the trend is showing up in frozen as well as in fresh and center store. “New product innovations in plant-based proteins and vegetables are breaking through,” Flickinger says. If product launches are any indication, there’s a bumper crop of plant-based frozen foods that's part of the innovations shaping (and reshaping) the frozen category. As in the fresh meat case, plant-based meat alternatives are changing the face of the freezer case. On the heels of its successful efforts to revive its frozen food brands, Conagra recently introduced an Ultimate PlantBased Burger under the Gardein brand. The 4-ounce
FROZEN & REFRIGERATED FOODS
frozen burger patties, made with pea protein and boasting no GMOs, are formulated to taste like beef. Another example is a new line of Perfect Burgers from Elmwood Park, N.J.-based Dr. Praeger’s, made with non-GMO pea-based protein and sweet potato, butternut squash, beets and carrots. The demand for alternative proteins is mixing things up in other traditional frozen segments, like frozen pizza, where plant-based and vegan options are complementing mainstream items. The frozen breakfast segment now include products like plant-based individually wrapped breakfast burritos from Vancouver, British Columbia-based Daiya, made with an “egg-style” scramble, meatless “beef-style” crumbles, seasoned potatoes, maple syrup and “cheddar-style” shreds. In the competitive frozen entrée arena — the largest frozen segment, with $9.2 billion in sales, according to the “Power of Frozen” report — plant-based items have been developed by several brands. The DiGiorno and Stouffer’s lines from Glendale, Calif.-based Nestlé USA have added meatless items using a plant-based ground beef
alternative: DiGiorno Rising Crust Meatless Supreme and Stouffer’s Meatless Lasagna. Novel kinds of frozen plant-based items are garnering buzz, too. San Francisco-based Eat Just Inc. is set to debut a frozen folded plant-based scramble product made from mung beans, the latest addition to a portfolio that also includes plant-based mayo and refrigerated Just Eggs for scrambling. Putting the novel in novelties, frozen desserts made with plant-based ingredients are making inroads in that mature segment. Examples include new CashewMilk Dipped Salted Caramel bars from the So Delicious brand, a division of Broomfield, Colo.-based WhiteWave Foods, and Burlington, Vt.-based Ben & Jerry’s line of nondairy pints made with either almond milk or sunflower butter.
Snack Tracks, Entrée Eats
As consumers continue to snack all day, frozen snacks are another pocket of sustained interest. According to Chicago-based IRI, sales of products
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in the frozen appetizer/snack roll segment grew 2.7% from January 2019 to January 2020, reaching more than $2.06 billion. While little bites are a big deal, that’s not to say that entrées are frozen out. NPD’s “Future of Dinner” study, for example, projects that frozen entrées will continue to grow over the next four years. Some of that growth will likely come from the plethora of plant-based frozen meals entering the marketplace.
Frozen foods, already touted for their convenience, include items designed to make prep easier for end users, from smoothie-ready fruit blends to zucchini spirals that can be used to make at-home meals. Conagra, for its part, recently expanded the Birds Eye brand to include Veggie Shreds, with combos like white cabbage and carrots, carrots and broccoli florets, Brussels sprouts and potatoes, and sweet potatoes with broccoli and cauliflower florets. Julie Henderson, VP of communications for NFRA, says that these kinds of shortcuts appeal to conve-
nience-minded consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z shoppers. “Younger generations are embracing semi-homemade meals, which offer a lot of opportunities for frozen foods,” Henderson notes. “They are looking for more involvement in meal creation, but not necessarily more complexity.”
Although innovations and sales are ticking up, grocers can continue to entice shoppers to the freezer case through a more diverse assortment of frozen foods, as well as through merchandising programs. March is National Frozen Food Month, an opportune time for frozen promotions. Throughout the year, however, there are other ways to engage consumers to browse and buy more frozen foods. “According to Mintel, freshness and good taste are the two most important factors when shopping for food. [In the] frozen food department, find ways to communicate freshness, and that frozen foods are real foods, just frozen, says Henderson, adding that NFRA’s Real Food. Frozen” campaign also works to lift the category with retailer collaboration. Displays that best spotlight frozen foods, from light-up cases to the advent of “digital doors” that spotlight products inside, also hold potential for bringing shoppers into the cold.
2020 Retail Seafood Review
Fishing Expedition SUSTAINABILIT Y REMAINS A KE Y CONCERN FOR SHOPPERS AS PL ANT-BASED PRODUCTS FIND THEIR PL ACE IN THE DEPARTMENT. By Bridget Goldschmidt
ven as demand rises for plant-based proteins, consumers haven’t lost their taste for seafood. In fact, they plan to eat even more of it. According to Chicago-based Nielsen’s 2019 “Protein Proliferation” report, 19% of consumers surveyed said that they intended to increase their consumption of meat and seafood — more than any other protein group. Meanwhile, fish and seafood dollars and units rose 8.7% and 2.7%, respectively, from 2017 to 2019, outpacing the growth of other proteins, including legumes, nuts and seeds. “There have been numerous reports showing seafood consumption is on the rise,” agrees Megan Rider, domestic marketing director at the Juneau-based Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), citing Chicago-based Mintel’s “Fish and Shellfish — US, November 2018” report, which found that “seafood consumption is up 13 percent over the last five years and is expected to continue to grow an additional 15 percent over the next five.” What more, adds Rider, “the same Mintel report predicts the frozen segment to grow the fastest over the next five years. Frozen items (across various food groups) are experiencing a revival as consumer perception shifts towards viewing frozen foods as equally nutritious to their fresh counterparts.” All of this adds up to a solid performance over the past year. “Seafood … posted strong growth in dollars and in pounds as an entire department, [up] 4.4% and 3.1%, respectively,” affirms Meagan Nelson, associate director at Nielsen.
Progressive Grocer’s annual exclusive Retail Seafood Review survey, which gauges the observations of retail executives — 77% of whom have service seafood sections in their stores, accounting for about 7.8% of total sales — similarly finds consumer interest in seafood still strong: 65% of respondents say that sales of the category have increased over the past 12 months, down from last year’s 70%, while 32% say that they’ve held steady, and 3% say that they’ve declined. On average, sales rose 7.6%. Projecting ahead, 68% of respondents think that seafood sales will rise — slightly down from 70% in 2019 — and 32% think that they’ll stay the same, with no one predicting a sales decrease. On average, respondents forecasted sales growth of 5.4%. “We had a strong growth year in 2019, driven largely by shrimp, crab and lobster sales,” asserts Maria Brous, spokeswoman for Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets. The company expects some challenges in the year to come, however, thanks to a recent outbreak of illness. “China is a major driver in the global market, and with the coronavirus, we are seeing demand from China decline,” explains Brous. “This has resulted in some unexpected price drops, and price is a major component [in] seafood performance.” “Our seafood sales were above expectations simply due to concentrating this past year on quality,” says Justin Glover, VP perishables-store manager at the Perryville, Ohio, location of two-store independent grocer Walt Churchill’s Market. “We beat numbers over years past easily, due to stepping back to be sure our quality matched our price.” Glover foresees higher sales in the coming year, as the company is already “exceeding sales from last year,” due to the fact that it’s “concentrating more on quality products over quantity.”
Sustainability’s Staying Power
Sustainability remains a major selling point in the seafood section, although perhaps not one being leveraged to its fullest potential. According to PG’s survey, 65% of respondents have a sustainable seafood program in place at their stores, and of those, 14% believe that they promote these programs extremely well and 23% think they do so very well. The 45% who say that they promote their programs only moderately well and the 18% who admit to not promoting their sustainable seafood very well at all leave room for improvement in this area, however. Shoppers continue to purchase sustainable products in solid numbers, with 41% of respondents noting an increase in demand for them and 56% reporting no change in demand. Savvy grocers and their partners have been responding to that demand. “Lidl is unique in the market to require that all listed fresh and frozen seafood is certified sustainable or
2020 Retail Seafood Review responsibly farmed,” notes Chandler Ebeier, spokeswoman for the Arlington, Va.-based deep-discount grocer. “Partnering with highly regarded certifying organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council ensures that customers have a simple, straightforward choice when it comes to their seafood. Our industry-leading commitment, coupled with Lidl’s industry-leading prices, makes Lidl an easy choice for seafood and is another way we make healthy eating more attainable across our markets.” “ASMI works with retailers to tell the story behind the seafood they sell, including highlighting origin, quality and sustainability as differentiators that make seafood from Alaska some of the best in the world,” says Rider. “Sustainability is a big consumer concern when buying seafood,” affirms Iréne Moon, VP of marketing at Portland, Mainebased supplier Bristol Seafood. “When they walk into the store, they already trust that the grocer has done their diligence. The best thing for the grocer is to talk about sustainability before the shopper decides where to buy seafood.” Offering sustainable products offers an additional advantage to food retailers. “Not only are consumers placing importance on sustainable seafood practices, they are willing to pay more for food that was produced sustainably or is perceived to be higher quality,” points out Rider, citing a 2019 study from Arlington, Va.-based FMI — The Food Industry Association, “The Power of Seafood.”
Year-Over-Year Seafood Department Sales
Stayed the same
30% YEAR AGO
Sales Projected for 2020
30% YEAR AGO
Stay the same
Source: Progressive Grocer market research, 2020
Do you have a sustainable seafood program in place at your store(s)?
Source: Progressive Grocer market research, 2020
Much has been made lately of plant-based meat alternatives jostling for supermarket space with their animal protein counterparts, but piscine equivalents are flowing into the market as well, including Good Catch’s shelf-stable and frozen vegan seafood SKUs and Atlantic Natural Foods’ Loma Linda Tuno plant-based canned and pouched tuna, in addition to new items in this space reportedly due from plant-
METHODOLOGY Progressive Grocer’s Retail Seafood Review survey was fielded online by EIQ Research Solutions in November and December 2019 to supermarket retailers involved in the meat/ seafood category. A total of 44 responses are included in these results, split between operators of fewer than 10 stores, 10 to 99 stores, and 100 or more stores. By title, 60% are from the c-suite (owner, CEO or executive over fresh departments); 23% are category managers, merchandisers or buyers; and 11% are store managers, with the remainder serving in various capacities, including marketing, consulting and analysis.
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CRAB King, Snow & Dungeness
Citrus Macadamia Alaska Polllock Lettuce Wraps
OYSTERS, SPOT PRAWNS & WEATHERVANE SCALLOPS
THE BIG CHILL All species of Alaska seafood are available frozen. The best around, frozen Alaska seafood can be cooked frozen. Show your customers just how easy Cook It Frozen is with a video demo and recipe ideas available at wildalaskaseafood.com/cook-it-frozen.
Share the story of Alaska seafood, including sustainable harvesting practices.
Capture shopper interest with available POS materials.
Alaska Salmon Sliders
Alaska Salmon with White Bean Salad
Sample, and provide recipes.
Merchandise seafood in the refrigerated case, freezer aisle, prepared food area and deli.
Cast out to us for POS materials, recipes and a haul of other information, images and videos Contact Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute at (800) 478-2903 • email@example.com
* Nielsen research study, Unpacking The Sustainability Landscape, November 2018
2020 Retail Seafood Review another 17% offer them elsewhere in the store but would prefer to merchandise them in the seafood section. Thirty percent carry them elsewhere in the store, with no plans to place them next to seafood items. Reflecting the relative newness of this trend, 73% of respondents that offer plant-based seafood alternatives note that they’ve been doing so for less than a year, while 17% have offered them for one to two years and 10% have
based meat makers Prime Roots and Impossible Foods, and even products being developed from cells in a lab, like the items recently demonstrated by San Diego-based BlueNalu. Among the respondents to PG’s survey, 38% already carry plantbased seafood alternatives, while 50% say they don’t but would consider it. Just 12% don’t carry such items and have no interest in doing so. Out of those that already carry plant-based seafood alternatives, a solid 53% merchandise them right alongside seafood products, while
How well do you promote your sustainable seafood program as a point of differentiation?
Has consumer demand increased, decreased or stayed the same for sustainable seafood products in the past year?
Extremely well Very well Moderately well
Not very well
Do you currently or would you consider carrying plant-based alternatives to seafood products?
Source: Progressive Grocer market research, 2020
Elsewhere in the store, but would prefer them in the seafood department
Yes, we currently carry them
Not currently, but we would consider it
Which of the following best describes where you merchandise plant-based alternatives to seafood in your store(s)?
No, and we have no interest in carrying them
Stayed the same
Alongside seafood in the seafood section
Elsewhere in the store
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2020 Retail Seafood Review How long have you been carrying plantbased alternative seafood products?
Less than a year
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Source: Progressive Grocer market research, 2020
scrod, scallops and trout were the top-selling species that saw declines in volumes in 2019.” “Salmon, shrimp and crab are best-sellers due to the customer’s familiarity with the seafood,” notes Brous, while Glover observes that “Atlantic farm-raised salmon carries the sales” at Walt Churchill’s Market. “This is a Foley Fish branded product that is always consistent, and our customers love it.” provided them for three to five years. When asked how these plant-based products are faring, although it was too soon to tell for 38% of respondents, 50% say that their sales in this area are rising, while only 13% report that they’re on the wane. The plant-based seafood trend is still trickling its way into stores across the country. Walt Churchill’s Glover hasn’t personally experienced demand for plant-based seafood yet, while Publix’s Brous points out: “There is very limited demand for plantbased seafood at this time, as it is fairly new to market. We offer plant-based options at our GreenWise Market stores.” There, she adds, “Plant-based seafood is merchandised in the seafood department. Research and testing indicate that this consumer is a flexitarian. We wanted to provide adjacency to make shopping more convenient for our customer.” Regardless of where the plant-based segment is merchandised, Moon counsels that it should be “clear that it is a plant-based alternative to seafood, so the shopper knows what they are purchasing. Transparency and honesty from a brand are extremely important to U.S. consumers.” Rider, of ASMI, agrees with clear labeling for plant-based alternatives, giving as a reason that “many health benefits and key nutrients of wild, sustainable Alaska seafood, for example omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, can’t be easily replaced by plant-based options.”
Popular Products and Promotions
Which seafood items are consumers buying most? Respondents to the survey pinpointed U.S. wild-caught seafood, which 68% say has seen an increase in consumer demand over the past year, followed by imported wild-caught seafood, which 50% note has experienced higher demand, and farm-raised seafood, which 30% describe as being more in demand. Regarding particular species, Nielsen’s Nelson observes: “Salmon, crab, catfish, tilapia and tuna all outpaced the department pounds growth; of those, only tilapia did not see dollars grow as pricing fell. Lobsters, cod/ PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
2020 Retail Seafood Review Convenience also plays a key role in shoppers’ choices. For instance, Bristol Seafood’s best-selling retail item is the frozen value-added ready-to-cook My Fish Dish line encompassing scallops, cod, and Atlantic and Sockeye salmon, which, Moon explains, “has simple 1-2-3 cooking instructions and gives [consumers] the confidence they can cook it at home.” In the realm of seafood promotions, Brous is direct in her advice: “Consistently merchandise the highest-quality seafood that offers a value to the consumer.” “We run a wide array of promotions to help drive awareness and sales of wild seafood at key moments throughout the year,” notes David Sanz, meat and seafood merchandiser at Seattle-based PCC Community Markets. “We have seen the most success when our programs align with the seasonality of seafood through a fully integrated promotional campaign including in-store signage, social/ digital promotion and in-home marketing efforts. For example, timed with the wild Alaska salmon season, we ran a robust program that included in-store display signage, recipe features across our owned social channels, and direct-marketing BOGO offers, which led to a significant increase in sales during the summer.” “So far this year, we have been advertising double points with our loyalty card on select fish,” says Glover. “Last month was on hake filets from Foley,
and we almost doubled sales in hake that we would not have had before. [In February, we did] a local walleye. … So far, sales seem to be on the upswing.” “Larger-scale promotions can … grow sales substantially,” observes ASMI’s Rider. “One of our retailer partners, Hy-Vee, recently conducted a significant promotional push around wild Alaska crab season in its stores. For their annual month-long crab promotion, Hy-Vee utilized television, print ads, digital channels, and coordinated instore sampling by dietitians and chefs to create excitement and inspiration. Ahead of the promotion, Hy-Vee trained its employees to ensure they had the knowledge to instill purchase confidence in customers, share preparation tips and help shoppers differentiate between the various species of wild Alaska crab that were included in the promotion.” For her part, Bristol Seafood’s Moon simply notes, “Merchandising the product off-shelf, together with an ad in the retailer’s flier, delivers the highest rate of sale.”
Seafood Department Category Performance Total U.S., 52 Weeks Ending Dec. 28, 2019 Pounds Average Percent on Retail Dollar Pounds Pounds Promotion Average Percent Dollars per Percent Percent Percent on Change vs. Retail Change vs. Supercategory Store/Week Change Pounds Change Promotion Year Ago Price Year Ago
Cod + Scrod
Source: Nielsen Perishables Group
TOTAL MEAL SOLUTIONS
Craft Works MEIJER’S NE W IN-STORE CONCEPT OFFERS SUSHI AND BEER IN AN INNOVATIVE SE T TING. By Bridget Goldschmidt
The Hissho Sushi & Craft Beer Bar opened in February within a Brighton, Mich., Meijer store.
Meijer store in Brighton, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, has debuted a first-of-itskind sushi and craft beer bar created in collaboration with Hissho Sushi. “With this new concept, Hissho Sushi is redefining the experience of a customer’s evening at their local grocery store,” says Dan Beem, CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Hissho, the second-largest sushi franchise in the country, with almost 2,000 locations in 42 states, and partnerships with such other food retailers as Walmart. “It is our commitment to deliver hand-crafted, premium sushi that’s prepared by local chefs daily to Meijer shoppers. The Hissho Sushi & Craft Beer Bar allows us to go even further, providing one-of-a-kind experiences where shoppers can conveniently enjoy our products, a local craft beer and get in their weekly grocery run.” “This is a great opportunity to provide customers another option to consider while shopping our stores,” notes Becky Bronkema, director of merchandising at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer, which operates more than 245 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
TOTAL MEAL SOLUTIONS
and Wisconsin. “We offer fresh to-go options, including pizza, sandwiches and sushi, at most of our stores already, so we envision the in-store restaurant concept to allow local neighbors to meet friends, have a quick business meeting or just grab a quick snack while checking grocery shopping off their list of to-dos.”
Elevating the Shopper Experience
The sit-down sushi restaurant's menu offers traditional favorites as well as more innovative items, along with craft beer on tap.
Supermarket prepared foods are the fastest-growing sector of the foodservice industry — now north of $12.7 billion, according to Arlington, Va.-based FMI — The Food Industry Association. Hissho conducted research finding that, beyond product variety and competitive pricing, consumers seek experiences. To maximize growth and meet consumer expectations, Hissho determined that it must deliver an innovative idea that combined a premium experience with convenience. The resulting sit-down sushi restaurant located within a Meijer store elevates the shopper experience to provide not only fresh, hand-rolled sushi, hot appetizers and more, but also a new way to enjoy them. The 840-square-foot space employs 15, including highly trained local sushi chefs using premium-quality, responsibly sourced ingredients. Along with traditional favorites such as California rolls and Krispy Krab, the venue offers Spicy Red Pepper and Crunchy Shrimp rolls for more daring palates. Further, for those in search of grab-and-go options, the fresh rolls are made and packaged daily in the store’s deli. Besides sushi, the menu provides hot appetizers, including Asian Chicken Wings and Boom Boom Shrimp, Dim Sum, and an ever-changing list of craft beer on tap, as well as a Healthy Morning Collection offering a.m. fare like avocado toast, açai bowls and real fruit smoothies. “Hissho wants to provide our partners with the most creative, craveable products and concepts possible, so our relationship and sales can continue to grow,” adds Beem. “We’re excited for the opportunity to reach new audiences and partners with this concept, and continue to share our passion for sushi that is recognized for its high quality, convenience and innovation.”
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Ask A Chef PHILLIPS FOODS’ JOHN DEGGES OFFERS TIPS ON MAKING A LUXURY RESTAUR ANT INGREDIENT MORE ACCESSIBLE FOR AT-HOME E ATING. By Kathy Hayden iners travel from all over the world to the mid-Atlantic region in search of the best crab cakes, and often a Phillips Seafood restaurant is their destination. John Degges, corporate chef at Baltimore-based Phillips Foods, wants to bring sweet, tender crab meat to more tables, and has some ideas about how supermarkets’ prepared food sections can help further that goal.
Progressive Grocer: Crab meat can be seen as a luxury reserved for eating out. How can prepared food programs in retail settings help customers consider crab meat as an ingredient they can use at home? John Degges: Crab can be a luxury item, but using some of the lesser grades of crab meat works well for home use. Claw meat, which is picked from the swimming fins of the crab, is a brown meat with a stronger flavor profile, making it a good fit for dishes with spicy or highly flavored sauces, as the flavor of the crab still comes through. I suggest this meat for casual meals and in a wide variety of applications, [like] everyday broth-based soups or chowders, and for grilled cheese, quesadillas, basic pasta dishes and mac-and-cheese.
PG: What are some food trends and global influences you are currently exploring in your work, and how does crab meat fit with some on-trend foods? JD: We continue to see food trends influenced by chiles and spices from around the world. I travel most often to Southeast Asia, where we do business and where our founder, Steve Phillips, travels extensively. He developed a love for local cuisine prepared by the street cart vendors in towns and cities across Southeast Asia. His love of the region inspired our restaurant, Street Carts, an Asian kitchen in Washington, D.C. Crab meat goes very well with the sweet, savory, salty and spicy notes of a lot of Asian cuisine. I especially like to use crab in small-bite appetizers like mini crab cakes, salad rolls, pot stickers and crab Rangoon.
PG: How can cooks of different skill levels take advantage of some of these trends and influences? JD: People can be intimidated by using crab, but it’s actually an easy ingredient to work with. For staff with basic kitchen skills, making a simple grilled cheese with crab meat and our seasoning mix is an easy sandwich to make. Combining rice, cut vegetables, crab and purchased Asian sauce makes for an easy stir-fry, or offering all of these ingredients merchandised together can inspire an easy meal for shoppers. The key is not to limit yourself because the ingredient looks intimidating. Try new things and experiment with different flavors. Crab with queso over potato tots or fries is a great party item with lots of flavor. Appetizers are a great way for prepared food programs to put ideas together for customers, who can grab tots from the hot bar and buy a tub of prepared queso and some prepared crab meat for some elevated tots.
Appetizers are a great way for prepared food programs to put ideas together for customers, who can grab tots from the hot bar and buy a tub of prepared queso and some prepared crab meat for some elevated tots.” —John Degges, Phillips Foods
PG: What best practices can prepared food programs put in place to assure that delicate ingredients like crab meat retain the best flavor and texture when being reheated at home? JD: Train grocery store staff to tell customers to keep the crab cold, and don’t overwork the meat. When working with crab meat, treat it delicately so that it won’t turn to shreds. If it breaks apart too much, it can get lost in your favorite dishes.
PG: What recommendations do you have for operators who want to add crab to retail hotbar menus? JD: We have a lot of customers who use crab for soups and bisques on a hot bar. I have seen crab used for stir-fry, crab mac-and-cheese and fritters. I have used and seen crab on top of many proteins, from chicken, pork [and] shrimp to a variety of fish.
PG: Your website has some great ideas for quick dinners. Describe some ways that busy families can use prepared crab meat to get dinner on the table quickly. JD: Easy meals tend to be quick and involve little preparation done ahead of time. One easy idea is to suggest shoppers use our appetizer crab cake miniatures as a quick topping for stuffed shrimp. This item is quick, easy and creates a restaurant-quality meal. Similarly, you can make a decadent Chicken Chesapeake entrée with just two ingredients, frozen Phillips Maryland Style Crab Cakes and chicken breasts. Another idea is to make a quick batch of pasta with some sautéed vegetables, crab, garlic, basil and white wine for a great meal that can be done in under 15 minutes. For a fourth idea, offer some pre-chopped onions and peppers from the produce department, together with some Tex-Mex seasonings, a tub of crab meat and pre-made tortillas, for a quick crab fajita dinner.
PG: Where else can crab go that might be unexpected? JD: For grab-and-go items, we have made some great items using our crab meat. We have made simple crab salad wraps, summer rolls, crab banh mi sandwiches, bao bun sliders with pickled vegetables, crab club sandwiches, and our take on the lobster roll with crab. Crab is a natural for topping salads. We have a recipe online that puts a delicious twist on the classic Cobb Salad, where you use crab meat instead of chicken.
Crab meat complements the sweet, salty, savory and spicy notes of Southeast Asian cuisine, and quick-serve bowl meals are a great way to apply these flavors to prepared food programs. PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
One of Stemilt's signature apple varieties is Rave, a Honeycrisp cross.
Name Game GROWING E VER MORE PROMINENT, SUPPLIER BR ANDS CAN HELP GROCERS BOOST FRESH FRUIT AND VEGGIE PROFITS. By D. Gail Fleenor uppliers are moving to the forefront in produce departments as they brand an increasing portion of their product. Over the past five years or so, supplier produce with catchy brand names has fought for space with unbranded and national company-brand produce. When supported by national advertising and display space in store, supplier-brand sales have taken off. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a shift going on in the produce department as these items fight for space.
Key Takeaways Customers look for supplier brands as they do for national companies' products. Club variety apples must be licensed to be grown and sold. Cross merchandising supplierbrand produce within the department and around the store can bring incremental sales.
DRIVING CATEGORY GROWTH IN
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We have ... changed the produce department by expanding produce purchase opportunities to other departments.”
to purchase a seedless lemon, and 81% believe seedless lemons would be more convenient. Sumo Citrus, based in San Francisco, offers one of the largest and sweetest mandarins for a few months each year —Adam Cooper, The Wonderful Co. beginning in January, according to Sunnia Gull, director of brand management. The fruit is a hybrid derived from pomelo, navel and mandarin oranges, so it’s very different in its look and taste, she notes. According to the company, Sumo Citrus appeals to “a super-passionate Millennial consumer that supermarkets are trying to reach.” Ripened on a tree that has been hand-pruned, and then handpicked and hand-packaged, Sumo is a sensitive fruit. Easy to peel, large, seedless and a “no-mess experience” for on-the-go snacking, the non-GMO, seedless Tangy Citrus variety was originally cultivated in Japan in the 1970s. Wonderful Halos and Pistachios have brought change to proIt became known as the “dekopon” in its home country duce departments by providing customers with high-graphic because of its topknot, which is reminiscent of a sumo in-store point-of-sale displays, including bin bases, postwrestler — hence its Western name. ers and balloons, allowing these supplier brands to build Only a handful of farms in California supply the eye-catching displays, according to Adam Cooper, SVP of United States with this difficult-to-grow fruit. Extra marketing for The Wonderful Co., based in Los Angeles. “We efforts are taken to ensure that the fruit isn’t bruised. have also changed the produce department by expanding The Sumo must pass several standards before going produce purchase opportunities to other departments,” he to market. As the company says, “Call it big, call it notes. Wonderful Citrus is the leading grower, shipper, packer delicious, just don’t call it an orange.” and distributor of citrus in North America. As far as Wonderful Pistachios go, plant-based protein retail display bins have rolled out at point of purchase. The pistachios Join the Clubs Stemilt has long been the source of crispy, juicy offer a plant-protein-powered snack to consumers, Cooper apples for produce departments. The supplier/growobserves. The company expects the POP display to give retailers er has some signature apple varieties that are either a lift in sales and propel the campaign through 2020. Wonderful grown and supplied outright, or that are part of a club no-shell pistachios are advertised nationally. that grows/supplies the fruit, according to Brianna Wonderful’s latest introduction is Wonderful Seedless LemShales, senior marketing manager for Wenatchee, ons. This naturally seedless, non-GMO Project Verified lemon Wash.-based Stemilt. “Our signature varieties are is available in limited supply through May 2020, packaged in Rave apples, SweeTango apples and Piñata apples,” 1- and 2-pound bags. Seeds are eliminated for baking, cooking Shales adds. or squeezing. According to a third-party survey of lemon buyers, Each branded apple has its own characteristics, commissioned by The Wonderful Co., 83% say that they’re likely such as Rave, a Honeycrisp cross and the first apple harvested in Washington state in late July. Shales notes that retailers can jump-start their apple season with a premium apple like Honeycrisp during a time when that apple is hard to come by. “It truly helps build new sales to the apple category,” she observes. SweeTango is also a Honeycrisp successor. “We grow ours for the West Coast region, but there are other growers in Michigan and New York, so it is available nationwide,” Shales says. She recommends featuring the apple during early fall and winter. Piñata is an heirloom apple. “It is the only true new apple with culinary appeal,” Shales asserts. The bi-colored apple with high sugars and acids plus a tropical finish is The sweet citrus hybrid Sumo originally hails from Japan, where its distinctive topknot eventually gave rise to its Western name, promoted with a tropical theme on boxes. Rave, Sweeevoking the traditional hairstyle of sumo wrestlers. Tango and Piñata are all exclusive to Stemilt.
“The apple category is filled with new flavors and names, so it’s important that club apples stand out to shoppers, and retailers give customers information about the fruit, so that they give it a try,” Shales suggests. Sales of club apples are regulated, and only members can grow and sell them. Yakima, Wash.-based Proprietary Variety Management recently introduced Cosmic Crisp, a club apple developed after 20 years of study and research by Washington State University’s tree fruit breeding program. A cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp, the apple is naturally slow to brown when cut and maintains its texture and flavor in storage for more than a year. The name, Cosmic, was chosen because of the apple’s starburst-like pattern on the surface, “resembling the cosmos,” in the company’s words. “Crisp,” meanwhile, comes from its ancestor, Honeycrisp. Displays of this apple are already in stores. The Cosmic Crisp is also a club variety. After obtaining a license, it can be planted anywhere in Washington state. Beyond the orchard, licensing is required at several points. Production facilities, sales organizations and importers are required to hold a valid license to handle Cosmic Crisp.
Many suppliers regard what they do as assisting customers in finding responsibly grown produce. Irvington, N.Y.-based BrightFarms is a good example of this. “We give more people access to the freshest, tastiest, cleanest, most responsibly grown produce available,” according to the supplier’s website. “Why do we do it? For the health of all people, and our planet.” BrightFarms is the leading supplier of locally grown salads for supermarkets. Its largest greenhouse opened in January 2020 in Pennsylvania; across 280,000 square feet, BrightFarms will grow more than 2 million pounds of fresh local produce year-round. The next greenhouse is planned for North Carolina. BrightFarms has three new greens varieties for 2020. Fresh Kick is a mix of peppery, spicy and zesty greens, including mustard greens, which have a horseradish or almost wasabi-like flavor. Happy Beet features beet greens, which grow on the top of beets. BrightFarms harvests these beet greens at baby leaf size, when they’re sweet and juicy. The supplier says that even those who aren’t fond of beets will like Happy Beet. Sunny Crunch looks like a leafy green but eats like iceberg lettuce. It’s light, crispy and crunchy — perfect for a salad aimed especially at kids. Mastronardi Produce, with headThe apple category quarters in Kingsville, Ontario, deis filled with new scribes itself as “Greenhouse Grown, Family Owned, 4th Generation.” The flavors and names, so it’s company has kept up with the times important that club apples with its Sunset Produce and Campari stand out to shoppers, and tomato, the latter first branded in 1995. retailers give customers According to Mastronardi, the information about the fruit, introduction of Campari was a groundbreaking moment for the fresh so that they give it a try.” produce industry and changed the —Brianna Shales, Stemilt way consumers look at and shop for tomatoes, noting on its website, “We PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
established the premium category we continue to dominate.” The company didn’t stop there and is currently “revolutionizing the berry category,” according to its site, with offerings like its rebranded WOW berries, which “taste better than chocolate.” Several years ago, in Eden Prairie, Minn., C.H. Robinson created a new business brand called Robinson Fresh. From grower development to proprietary seed development, the venture has become one of the largest produce companies in the world. Robinson Fresh is a market share leader in categories such as asparagus, corn, dry vegetables, greens, melons and tropical produce. “Robinson Fresh reflects our progress over the past 100 years as a high-quality fresh product supplier and provides our customers, growers and employees with an identity closely aligned to fresh food,” a company representative notes.
This Produce is Special
Growing Health Wenatchee, Wash.-based grower/supplier Stemilt is joining with the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) to create the produce industry’s first pop-out merchandising display featuring the Have A Plant consumer call to action. Brentwood, Mo.-based PBH is a nonprofit national organization dedicated to the goal of helping consumers live healthier lives through eating more fruits and vegetables, and Have A Plant is its main initiative in this goal. “We’re big supporters of PBH’s strategic transformation and the new Have A Plant call to action,” says Brianna Shales, senior marketing manager at Stemilt. Launching in March 2020, the pop-out orchard display is a 3D tree designed to help retailers increase apple display sets promoting multiple varieties of apples at once. The display can serve as a merchandising piece for three upcoming events: March’s National Nutrition Month, Earth Day, and Family Wellness Month in May. The display was designed with merchandising flexibility in mind. “They can help promote bulk or bagged fruit, or a combination of both,” notes Shales. “Spring is an important time to promote apples in produce, and ads featuring multiple varieties have proven to be an effective way to lift the entire category.” Stemilt, which also displays the Have A Plant logo on its packaging, will work with retail dietitians at participating retailers to extend PBH’s promotion and messaging.
Los Angeles-based Melissa’s/World Variety Produce is the largest specialty distributor of variety produce in the United States. “We have a brand that is special and uniquely known for its quantity of produce, and especially for great-looking and -tasting produce,” says Robert Schueller, the company’s director of public relations. Melissa’s has a line of more than 1,500 produce items. “There is not a produce item we don’t offer ... and in many cases, we are an exclusive, or one of few that actually carry certain items commercially in the U.S. marketplace,” Schueller adds. New items for 2020 include cactus leaves (both whole and diced), also known as nopalitos. Melissa’s prepares these prickly pear leaves, including pulling the spines. Their vegetable flavor is similar to green beans or green peppers. The cactus leaves can be added to salads, soups and eggs. Another new item, Costa Azul Hot Sauce, is made from red jalapeño peppers, which are more mature and hotter than the traditional green variety, but slightly sweeter. Jackfruit pods from Melissa’s are convenient and ready to eat. Each jackfruit contains hundreds of pods, which are popular as a meat substitute, in fruit salads or eaten raw. Jackfruit is large and unwieldy and the pods are difficult to extract, so Melissa’s makes it easier. New jicama wraps are healthier than corn or flour tortillas, which they can replace. The wraps are also low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. Organic EZ open sweet young coconuts are available year-round from Melissa’s. No tools are needed to open them, and a straw is included to drink the coconut water, which is sterile, healthy and hydrating. Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Specialty Produce has a mission that remains unchanged, even after the recent death of company founder and produce pioneer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, who introduced the kiwifruit to the American market, among other industry achievements. “There are so many incredible and delicious fruits and vegetables in our world, many that people have never heard of, let alone experienced,” the company notes in its creed. Some of Frieda’s new items include mandarinquats, a hybrid of mandarin oranges and kumquats, and Lemonade Lemons, which are very sweet and can be eaten out of hand.
EQUIPMENT & DESIGN
Vertical Variety AUTOMATED KIOSKS ARE PL AYING A R ANGE OF KE Y ROLES IN FOOD RE TAILING. By Bob Ingram
he term “kiosk” has now become part of the lexicon, just as automated kiosks have become part of the supermarket experience. “There are a variety of benefits to implementing automated kiosks in food retailing applications,” notes Rob Meiner, senior technical sales engineer at Aurora, Ill.-based Peerless-AV. “For customers, automated kiosks offer a faster and more convenient checkout experience where they can control the speed and bagging process. Automated kiosks also offer time-saving benefits for retailers and their staffs, as there will be fewer employees needed for checkout lanes, in turn creating more opportunities for profit.” Another benefit of automated kiosks is the ability for retailers to share relevant content with customers, because self-service kiosks are networked and can be remotely accessed and controlled from anywhere with an internet connection using cloud-based software, Meiner says. Peerless-AV designs and manufactures standard and custom indoor and outdoor kiosks for many applications in food retailing,
Key Takeaways Automated kiosks offer the following benefits for consumers: a faster and more convenient checkout experience, time-saving benefits for retailers and their associates, and the ability for retailers to share relevant content with customers. In a world where shoppers are subject to thousands of daily marketing messages, kiosks can stand out as an interactive way to deliver customized information. Tablet kiosk technology has risen in popularity as retailers seek more compact yet durable and much more affordable kiosk hardware platforms than traditional kiosks. PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
EQUIPMENT & DESIGN
including self-service payment, digital I foresee supermarkets signage, wayfinding and electrical vehicle-charging stations. incorporating the features “We also offer all-in-one solutions where and benefits of the Amazon Go customers can seamlessly set up their kiosk model where customers can enter right out of the box,” Meiner says. “From card the store, pick out their items readers to integrated touchscreens to cameras that gather crucial analytical data, our and then leave — without waiting kiosks can be equipped with any technology on lines or going through the to improve the customer experience.” checkout process.” Peerless-AV’s design team meets with —Rob Meiner, Peerless-AV retail customers to discuss their needs and budget, and then designs kiosks accordingly. The company also offers tools to aid retailers in creating kiosks right from their own computers. “I foresee supermarkets incorporating the features and benefits of the Amazon Go model where customers can enter the store, pick out their items and then leave — without waiting on lines or going through the checkout process,” Meiner predicts. Competitive Advantage Between autonomous delivery and mobile checkout options, more and more grocers are looking to new Kiosk Evolution Coinstar can lay claim to technology to maximize the shopper’s experience. having invented self-service “Grocery store self-service kiosks can provide a coin-counting kiosks in the streamlined experience for both customers and emearly 1990s. And while the ployees alike,” says Dave Loyda, director of strategic company still has a single initiatives at Frank Mayer and Associates, in Grafton, kiosk type in supermarkets, Wis. “Grocers can personalize orders for bakery/deli kiosk functionality and product items, provide wayfinding and loyalty program sign-up offerings have evolved over the options. This can free up time for employees to focus years, observes Michael Jack, on order delivery, food prep and more.” VP of products at the Bellevue, Wash.-based company. Coinstar’s turnkey service lets retailers focus on their customers and invest capital and talent where it matters most, Jack says. Additionally, there’s added value for retailers, as customers cashing in coins have extra cash on hand and are likely to purchase additional items or upgrade purchases for a higher basket ring. This past year, Coinstar introduced AdPlanet, a digital ad platform that sits atop its kiosks and provides unblockable viewability, mapping, tracking and precise targeting capabilities. “AdPlanet gives retailers ultimate flexibility for advertising products catering to their demographic,” Jack notes, “and can be customized in real time based on dayparts, conditions or events. AdPlanet works seamlessly with existing campaigns and systems. Coinstar will continue to add new products to its kiosk to create more choices for consumers and increased value for retailers.” Analysts’ reports such as Frost & Sullivan’s show continued growth of self-service kiosks globally and in key sectors, including retail, Jack points out: “We believe kiosks are here to stay and will Kiosk Group specializes in tablet kiosk hardware solutions. only increase in sophistication, functionality and variety of offerings.”
Frank Mayer provides custom kiosk solutions as well as a recently launched a line of self-service kiosk solutions called Approach, which includes floor, counter, wall and tablet options. The company has worked on a variety of retailer programs, including the Kroger Scan, Bag, Go program. “Our kiosk solutions can perform many services, including self-order, transactional, loyalty, wayfinding, informational and more,” Loyda asserts, adding that the kiosks are designed and engineered specific to the targeted environment, which is especially crucial for the high-traffic grocery and supermarket sector, where the enclosure and hardware components must withstand the rigors of the store environment. “The solutions offer various form factors,” he says, “and feature commercial-grade touchscreens, Windows and Android options, payment terminals, optional barcode scanners, and printer options. The kiosks can also offer assistive technology that allows for users with impaired vision, and our designs meet ADA guidelines for wheelchair accessibility for height and reach.” Today’s shoppers are subject to thousands of daily marketing messages. In this “world of oversaturation,” Loyda says, kiosks can stand out as an interactive way to deliver information that feels customized to the recipient. “Kiosks provide a competitive advantage and are an effective tool in branding efforts targeting the modern connected consumer,” he adds. “Offering customers everything from convenience to personalization, kiosks maximize the patron’s experience while delivering steady opportunities for a brand or retailer’s return on investment.”
Ordering kiosks provide convenience and faster service to customers, which Karla Guarino, director of sales and marketing at Frederick, Md.-based Kiosk Group, says equates to more repeat business, as well as lower overhead by offering 24/7 access. Kiosk Group specializes in compact, durable and affordable tablet kiosk hardware solutions for iOS, Android and Windows, which are fully customizable with affordable custom branding and a five-year warranty. The company’s recent innovations, according to Guarino, are compact printing kiosks with front servicing
Above: Frank Mayer and Associates' Approach line of kiosks. Below: Peerless-AV makes standard and custom kiosks.
using desktop printers, and personal tablet devices to increase the comfort level of servicing the kiosk by employees without requiring third-party field service, as well as custom side brackets for a wide variety of payment devices to provide full ordering and transaction capabilities in a compact footprint. “Tablet kiosk technology has been trending in the last few years as retailers are welcoming a more compact yet durable and much more affordable kiosk hardware platform than traditional kiosks,” she notes. In the works from Kiosk Group: a custom coffee cup-label printing and ordering kiosk for coffee shops, full-transaction small-footprint kiosks, and wall-mount kiosks with adjustable height for ADA access, as well as a short-tall consumer viewing experience. In the future, Guarino foresees custom ordering kiosks in many departments for when shelf products are low or stores don’t stock what the consumer is looking for — and including free home delivery to increase the consumer incentive not to shop around. “This would include the ability to order and pay directly from the kiosk, saving customers valuable time and reducing cashier assistance and labor at the front end,” she says. Retailers will be literally stepping up to kiosk value and variety — and consumers will be right behind them. PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
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Health, Beauty & Wellness
Battle Plans GROCERS’ PHARMACISTS ARM THEMSELVES WITH TR AINING, PROACTIVE ME ASURES TO FIGHT THE OPIOID CRISIS. By Barbara Sax
s some of the most trusted health professionals and dispensers of prescription medications, pharmacists are often on the front lines of the opioid crisis and can play a crucial role in combating opioid misuse and abuse. “Pharmacists have a unique and meaningful opportunity to communicate directly with their customers about the safe use, storage and disposal of opioid medication,” says John Parker, SVP of communications for the Arlington, Va.-based Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA). To be most effective in the fight against opioid abuse, pharmacist training is critical. One recent study of pharmacists in Utah finds that although pharmacists are knowledgeable about opioid pharmacotherapy and prescribing guidelines, there remains a “lack of active participation by pharmacists in this major public health challenge.” The study concludes that there’s a “need for education in several aspects of opioid dispensing, naloxone use and efficient use of risk identification tools.” Last year, the HDA launched Allied Against Opioid Abuse (AAOA), a national opioid education and awareness initiative. Formed by a network of national and local partnerships across the pharmaceutical supply chain, the AAOA has created a comprehensive toolkit of resources to help pharmacists better inform and
Key Takeaways Pharmacists, including those at supermarket chains, are engaging in training in response to the ongoing epidemic of opioid misuse and abuse. More supermarket operators are installing takeback receptacles to give customers a safe and responsible way to get rid of unused, unwanted or expired drugs. Many grocers are also now carrying naloxone to help reverse overdoses for people at risk of opioidrelated issues. PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
Health, Beauty & Wellness
Take-back kiosks give patients a safe way to dispose of unused drugs, a factor in curbing abuse.
guide patients at that crucial moment when the prescription is dispensed to the patient. “The more we can communicate effectively about the rights, risks and responsibilities associated with prescription opioids, the more successful we will be in our efforts to curb abuse and misuse in our communities,” says Parker.
those with substance-use disorder, and effective communication with patients and prescribers.” According to Rapley, Albertsons has enhanced its pharmacy training and policies while improving its oversight functions. “We also continue to leverage Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) integration in our dispensing software in states where allowed,” she notes. Tops Markets LLC provides education on this subject at its annual pharmacist meeting as well as through programs offered by the State University of New York at Buffalo. “In our Pennsylvania and New York stores, we have prescription-monitoring programs that allow our pharmacists to monitor and limit doctor shopping so we can identify a problem before it becomes a risk,” says Matthew Hamed, director of pharmacy at the Williamsville, N.Y.-based grocery store chain. At The Kroger Co., pharmacy staff are required to take annual controlled-substance compliance training, which includes how to identify and resolve red flags. “We work with the American Pharmacists Association to offer additional trainings that include an overview of existing opioid-prescribing guidelines, general strategies for addressing the needs of patients with substance-use disorders, and review approaches to take when converting patients from one medication to another,” says Nicholas Gonzales, health and wellness compliance officer at Cincinnati-based Kroger. Last year, Hy-Vee changed its pharmacy policy on refilling or filling opioid prescriptions. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company no longer allows its pharmacies to subsequently fill a Schedule II controlled substance or refill a Schedule III or Scheduled IV controlled substance more than 72 hours early without authorization from the prescriber. The grocer is also limiting the initial quantity of opioids prescribed for treatment of acute pain to seven days, or an even shorter time period where state law or a third-party payor requires. The new seven-day limit doesn’t apply to chronic pain; pain being treated as a part of cancer care, hospice or other end-of-life care; pain being treated as part of palliative care practices; and medications used to treat opioid addiction.
Supermarkets Take Action
Many supermarket chains are also stepping up pharmacist training on this key topic. “This year, we released a comprehensive training program that addresses this need,” affirms Jennifer Rapley, pharmacy communications manager at Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos. “All our pharmacists are now required to complete a multi-module training program that addresses controlled substance dispensing from top to bottom, including regulatory requirements, therapeutic and monitoring considerations, naloxone use, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for
All our pharmacists are now required to complete a multi-module training program that addresses controlled substance dispensing from top to bottom.” —Jennifer Rapley, Albertsons Cos.
Several pharmacists have administered naloxone real-time in their stores to customers experiencing an opioid overdose.” —Nicholas Gonzales, Kroger
Safe Disposal is Critical
Disposal of unused opioids is also a key factor in controlling misuse, and more supermarket operators are installing take-back receptacles to give customers a safe and responsible way to dispose of unused, unwanted or expired drugs. Hy-Vee recently completed the installation of drug take-back receptacles in all 276 pharmacy locations throughout its eight-state footprint. “Kroger is heavily invested in our participation in the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day,” notes Gonzales. “Since October 2018, we have collected nearly 75,000 pounds of unwanted medications.” Tops installed take-back kiosks near the pharmacy in 20 of its 51 stores in New York state, and the chain is on track for the remaining 31 to be installed in the coming months, according to Hamed, who observes, “Our customers are more likely to make the effort to bring these items to Tops, because they are already going to our grocery store on a regular basis, versus making that extra trip to a hospital or police department.” Kroger, H-E-B and Albertsons are among the grocery store chains that have partnered with Sanford, N.C.-based DisposeRx for safe disposal of unused drugs. When mixed with water and DisposeRX powder, unused drugs can be thrown away in the household trash, giving patients a safe and easy way to get rid of drugs.
Kroger pharmacies offer naloxone without a prescription in every state where it’s allowed. “Several pharmacists have administered naloxone real-time in their stores to customers experiencing an opioid overdose,” says Gonzales. Tops runs clinics for patients to help educate the community on how to administer naloxone. “Under the Harm Reduction Coalition, when pharmacists dispense naloxone, it must be accompanied by patient education on the appropriate use and administration, which takes place at the pharmacy,” explains Hamed. “Since naloxone can be dispensed to either a patient or person in a position to care for a patient at risk of an opioid overdose, those individuals also receive counseling on risk factors, signs and how to respond to an opioid overdose.” In Iowa, Hy-Vee pharmacies partnered with the Iowa Department of Public Health to dispense hundreds of Narcan kits free of charge on the state’s Narcan Access Day, June 29, 2018. “We know the availability of this medication has the potential to save lives,” notes Christina Gayman, Hy-Vee’s director of public relations. Chains are also expanding community outreach on this critical topic. For instance, Hy-Vee pharmacies in Iowa post information on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s YourLifeIowa.org website, which raises awareness and offers help to individuals and families dealing with substance abuse. Additionally, Kroger has teamed with Everfi, a Washington, D.C.-based education technology company, to offer a computer-based program to teach high school students about the dangers of opioids and other controlled-substance medications. Kroger funding has allowed Everfi to bring the curriculum to participating schools free of charge. Notes Gonzales, “In the 2018-19 school year, our partnership allowed this program to reach 18,325 students at 282 schools, and we are on track in 2020 to exceed our 2019 numbers, engaging more students.”
A Matter of Life and Death
Many grocers are also now carrying naloxone, often available under the Narcan brand, to help reverse overdoses for people at risk of opioid-related issues. To date, more than 1,700 Albertsons pharmacies in 30 states have pharmacists trained to administer the drug, and 4,500-plus Albertsons pharmacists are trained to counsel patients on the benefits and availability of naloxone therapy. “We provide training and encouragement to all our pharmacists to promote the prescribing and dispensing of naloxone to those who are at risk, and those who may be able to assist someone at risk,” says Rapley. “We’re seeing an increase in naloxone prescriptions and patients choosing to keep this life-saving medication handy.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
Food, Beverage & Nonfood Products
Already offering a wide range of baking mixes targeting every taste and dietary preference, including high protein, whole grain, gluten-free and Paleo, Bob’s Red Mill has now opted for the ultimate in convenience with a Homestyle Pancake & Waffle Mix that can be prepared in just a single step: the addition of water. “We recognize convenience is a growing priority for our customers, who also value wholesome ingredients,” notes Bob’s Red Mill CEO Dennis Vaughn. “Just as we’ve done with our on-the-go oatmeal cups, we’re making one of our favorite products easier to prepare than ever before, while taking care to use nothing but simple ingredients.” Made with Non-GMO Project Verified buttermilk, butter, eggs and Bob’s Red Mill’s famous flour, the product provides everything necessary for a complete mix. The suggested retail price is $4.89 per 24-ounce bag. www.bobsredmill.com
Snack on Turkey
As part of its renewed focus on innovation in the turkey space, Butterball has unveiled a product in a previously unexplored category for the iconic brand: snacking. Premium Snacks consist of high-quality seasoned turkey breast slices paired with unique sweet and savory sides. Inspired by distinct meal occasions, the three varieties in the line are Thanksgiving, seasoned turkey breast with stuffing bites and dried cranberries (2.8 ounces); Citrus, teriyaki seasoned turkey breast with sesame sticks and dried pineapple pieces (2.8 ounces); and Cajun, seasoned turkey breast with cornbread crisps and dried apple pieces (2.4 ounces). Each convenient portion-controlled snack offers 100% all-natural turkey breast with 10 grams of protein, only 140 to 180 calories per serving, and a generous portion of meat with lower sodium than comparable products. The suggested retail price is $3.49, with a recommended promotion of two for $6. www.butterball.com
Limerick, Ireland-based all-natural fruit snack company CHUM Fruit Bites — named for a word that can be used to describe shark bait or a close friend — has now expanded into the United States. Featuring no artificial ingredients and added sugars or colors, the bites are made from fresh fruits picked in season and baked slowly at a low temperature to retain all of the goodness nature has to offer. The vegan, gluten-free and kosher snacks are available in strawberry, peach, apple, berry and mango flavors, with each variety’s pouch highlighting an endangered species. A single pouch retails for a suggested $1.49, while a 4-pack has a suggested retail price of $4.99. Established at its founding as a give-back company, CHUM donates 15% of all profits to support WildAid, a nonprofit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade. www.chumbites.com/home-us
The Thick of It
The nation’s largest farmer-owned organic cooperative, Organic Valley, has brought to market the first organic thick-cut off-the-block shredded cheese. The line comes in five popular varieties made without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones or toxic pesticides: Mozzarella, 3 Cheese Italian, 3 Cheese Mexican, Mild Cheddar and Sharp Cheddar. According to Organic Valley, the thick-cut shredded cheeses offer consumers the cheesier flavor, better cheese pull and gooier melt they want to make restaurant-quality dishes at home. What’s more, the company points out that shredded cheese is the largest segment of natural cheese, showing strong growth year over year, with thick-cut sales outperforming finely cut cheese. A 6-ounce bag of any of the thick-cut cheeses retails for a suggested $5.49. www.organicvalley.coop
Pete’s Gourmet Confections’ six-SKU line of natural candy bars — called Royle bars in a playful riff on company founder and President Pete Croyle’s last name — are attuned to eco- and health-conscious consumers seeking better-for-you candy options. Explains Croyle, “The idea for our new Royle bars was to make them simply delicious and good to go, using only the highest-quality real chocolate, real butter, real cane sugar and real vanilla, with no preservatives, no GMOs, no soy, no high-fructose corn syrup and nothing artificial, because real tastes better.” The Royle collection consists of the Royle Nutter (peanut nougat and caramel dipped in milk chocolate); Royle Road (semisweet chocolate, marshmallows and almonds enrobed in rich chocolate); Royle T (matcha green tea nougat dipped in dark chocolate); Royle T Latte (white chocolate-enrobed matcha green tea nougat); Royle Royale (rich chocolate-dipped nougat and caramel); and Royle PAIN (spicy chili-peanut nougat smothered in caramel and milk chocolate). A 1.75-ounce bar of any variety retails for a suggested $1.79. www.petesgourmet.com
In its first venture outside of chips, plant-based brand Beanfields is taking snacking to a whole other level with Vegan Cracklins. The first-to-market kosher and gluten-, grain- and allergen-free product offers 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per serving. Made from beans, cassava flour and chickpea protein, the crunchy baked snack comes in two spicy flavors: Chile Limon and Spicy Nacho. A 3.5-ounce bag retails for a suggested price range of $3.29-$3.69. www.beanfields.com
The Butter Alternative
Amarlane Foods, a company dedicated to developing plant-based foods using only a few natural ingredients, has created Betterine, an alternative to butter and margarine that’s 100% free of dairy products, chemicals and additives, although it measures and behaves exactly like the products it seeks to replace. Containing no trans fats and lactose, vegan, certified kosher (pareve) Betterine is made from just four natural ingredients: pure coconut oil, water, organic soy lecithin and arrowroot powder. It has a neutral taste that can be used wherever butter or margarine are called for. The item comes in a 16-ounce 4-stick package retailing for a suggested $5.80, and an 8-ounce 2-stick package that goes for a suggested $2.99. www.amarlanefoods.com; www.betterine.com
Family-owned California business Life’s Grape has added Peanut Butter Dipped Vine-Dried Grapes to its collection of handcrafted snacks. Reminiscent of the classic American peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the bite-sized treats consist of the company’s signature Selma Pete vine-dried grapes coated with creamy peanut butter. The kosher, gluten- and sulfur-free, low-sodium snack is made with 100% real fruit and contains fewer calories than a traditional PBJ. The item retails for a suggested $9.99 for a 10-ounce resealable pouch, or $14.99 for a box of 12 0.8-ounce snack packs. www.lifesgrape.com PROGRESSIVE GROCER March 2020
TECH TALK By Abby Kleckler
Breeding Freshness HYDROPONIC TECHNOLOGY CAN CRE ATE SUPERIOR PRODUCTS AND ONE-OF-A-KIND IN-STORE E XPERIENCES.
ocal. Fresher. More sustainable. These are some of the demands from customers, having an ever-increasing importance on what they’re purchasing at the grocery store. As someone who was in the horticulture industry for a number of years, I’ve seen firsthand how hydroponic technologies can answer many of these calls. Hydroponics, or the growing of plants without soil in a controlled environment, can promise fresh produce 365 days a year. In any part of the country, truly local produce becomes an option, cutting down on transportation times and reaching the grocer in a fresher state. Eliminating outside factors, farmers can grow everything from tomatoes to strawberries to leafy greens without pesticides or herbicides, using 95%-plus less water and with a much lower risk of foodborne illness. In a world where food recalls increased 10% between 2013 and 2018 — according to the nonpartisan Public Interest Research Group — this sounds like a promising technology.
Vertical farming methods are advancing at a rapid rate with soilless methods, efficient lighting and additional technologies.
A Greener Era
Hydroponics has been around for centuries, but its use in retail, restaurants and foodservice is now exploding. Shoppers can likely find hydroponically grown greens on shelves in their favorite supermarkets, right next to those grown conventionally. There are also an increasing number of players in this space. Gotham Greens has grown from one greenhouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., to eight sprawling facilities in some of the largest urban areas in the country, including a 20,000-square-foot location on top of a Whole Foods Market store. Ohio-based startup 80 Acres Farms has taken its indoor robotic farming vertical, further minimizing the amount of space needed to maximize yield. 80 Acres Farms’ sister company Infinite Acres, which designs and builds farms for customers around the world, entered into a noteworthy partnership last year with Ocado Group — yes, the same U.K.-based online grocery retailer powering 20 automated customer fulfillment centers across the United States for The Kroger Co. Venture capital-backed Plenty’s new high-tech farm outside of San Francisco, called Tigris, is an epicenter of robotics and technology, with no humans touching the crops at any point of harvest. The farm can reportedly supply enough greens for 100 grocery stores, and its greens are carried by Safeway and Whole Foods in the area, with a new farm slated to open in Compton, Calif., in 2020.
Customers wanting to buy produce at its maximum freshness was only a matter of time at retail.
Right at Store Level
These companies, along with many others, are on a mission to prove the economics and scalability of hydroponic farming. Germany-based Infarm, however, seems to be working on making even the last few feet of produce delivery local. Infarm has partnered with Kroger to add modular vertical farming systems to 15 QFC stores in the Pacific Northwest. These modules take up about 20 square feet, look like refrigerators, and actually provide all of the light and nutrients to grow in the supermarket. They’re monitored remotely through a cloud-based platform that uses machine learning to continue improving the system. Customers wanting to buy produce at its maximum freshness was only a matter of time at retail. Similar modules, such as those from Brooklyn-based startup Farmshelf, are already operating in restaurants and universities across the country. Hydroponics is now playing a huge role in the produce in people’s shopping carts and on people’s plates, and it will inevitably be important in the future of food.
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Electrolit 15 Elkay Plastics
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International Dairy Deli Bakery Association Iovate Health Sciences Int’l Inc.
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