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WALMART LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

Retailer explores alternative revenue streams

MEAT AT A PREMIUM

Demand for prime cuts steady despite in ation

GET ON BOARD WITH CHARCUTERIE

Innovative trends fueled by at-home entertaining

PROFILES IN CONSUMER PACKAGED GOODS
SUSTAINABILITY
April 2023 Volume 102, Number 4 www.progressivegrocer.com These companies
it look easy to be GREEN
make
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As part of its sustainability efforts, The Giant Co., a banner of Ahold Delhaize USA, recently added four electric vehicles to its delivery fleet in Philadelphia.

Profiles in Sustainability

These five CPG all-stars are among the best at advancing eco-friendly strategies.

Contents 04.23 Volume 102 Issue 4 14 NIELSEN’S SHELF STOPPERS Bakery 15 MINTEL GLOBAL NEW PRODUCTS Coffee and Tea 16 ALL’S WELLNESS Health-Focused Store Brands Departments 64 EDITORS’ PICKS FOR INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS  66 AHEAD OF WHAT’S NEXT A Matriarch’s Legacy in Bloom 10 EDITOR’S NOTE Sustainability Redefined 12 IN-STORE EVENTS CALENDAR June 2023 6 progressivegrocer.com COVER STORY 10 Most Sustainable Grocers These companies make it look easy to be green. 18 34
Premium. Outstanding. Authentic. Award-winning authenticity. S tock GOYA® Extra Virgin Olive Oil , winner of the ChefsBest Excellence Award * . Your shoppers will taste the exceptional quality that sets our single-origin Spanish olive oil apart from the competition. ©2023 Goya Foods, Inc. Learn More! Contact your GOYA representative or email salesinfo@goya.com | trade.goya.com * Earned by products that surpass quality standards established by professional chefs.

42 EQUIPMENT & DESIGN Smart Salad Bars

Schnucks becomes the latest retailer to deploy Picadeli’s innovative concept.

44 RETAILER DEEP DIVE Walmart Fires Up the Flywheel

The retailer doubles down on a new business model for the future.

52 FRESH FOOD Placing a Premium on Meat

Despite economic headwinds, market demand for quality eating experiences and shared-value sourcing are keeping higher-end cuts in the case.

56 FRESH FOOD Across the Board

Inventive new trends in charcuterie add zest to a revitalized home entertaining landscape.

TECHNOLOGY Taking on In-Store and Online Promotional Strategies

Data, personalization and more help grocers and brands reach customers at the right moments along their buying journey.

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52 62 44 Contents 04.23 Volume 102 Issue 4 8 progressivegrocer.com
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Sustainability Redefined

RETAILERS SUCH AS RE_GROCERY ARE LAYING A FRAMEWORK FOR THE FUTURE.

hat does it mean to be a sustainable grocer? While many large and small grocers featured in this special “Earth Month” issue of Progressive Grocer are making big strides in sustainability, a small operator in California is trying to redefine how grocery stores think about going green.

Re_grocery, in Los Angeles, is a “refill your own container” grocery store; there’s no plastic packaging to be found. Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own containers for dry grocery, oils, vinegars, honey, and a select number of fresh dairy and other perishable products. The store offers 100% post-consumer recycled paper bags for use, and reusable glass jars/bottles and cloth produce bags for purchase.

I visited re_grocery while I was in town for Natural Products Expo West, and I was impressed not only with the assortment of dry grocery, but also with the shopping experience. Re_grocery offers more than 500 refillable bulk goods, and the company strives to source only the highest-quality organic, non-GMO and clean products, all plastic-free. The store offers items such as bulk grains, pasta, dried fruit, nuts, dried herbs, psyllium seed husk, protein powders, matcha, coffee, tea and much more. It has a wall with pour-your-own white wine and red wine vinegars, olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, canola oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, manuka honey, agave, and tamari. There’s also a kombucha tap. The refrigerated case allows customers to serve themselves yogurt, tofu, butter or cream cheese out of glass jars. Re_grocery even has a beauty department featuring “closed-loop skin care” products — that is, items whose packaging can either be refilled, composted, or returned to the store for refilling and reuse. The store also stocks reusables and zero-waste accessories. At re_grocery, shoppers fill their containers — whether it’s almond flour or toothpaste or cheese — write the product code on a piece of paper, weigh their containers at the self-checkout station at the front of the store, and pay through a fast and easy process. There’s also a human cashier and other employees ready to answer questions about products or the checkout process. Re_grocery accepts SNAP and offers free next-day delivery on orders of more than $150. There’s a

$9 delivery fee on orders over $50; orders under $50 are charged a $15 fee.

Re_grocery might seem niche, but since opening its first store in April 2020 at the height of the pandemic, when fewer consumers were shopping in stores, the retailer has now grown to three locations and is attracting scores of consumers that every survey says are looking for more sustainable products and shopping options. “It feels more important than ever to reconnect with each other, with our food and with our planet. Our glass is always half-full. And refillable,” the grocer’s website says.

Re_grocery’s rapid expansion proves that grocers don’t have to choose between sustainability and revenue growth. Consumers want to see grocers innovate more on these issues, and they will reward those retailers that do with their loyalty.

10 progressivegrocer.com EDITOR’S NOTE
Grocers don’t have to choose between sustainability and revenue growth. Consumers want to see grocers innovate more on these issues, and they will reward those retailers that do with their loyalty.
Since opening its first store in April 2020 at the height of the pandemic, re_grocery has grown to three Los Angeles-area locations.

Scaling with Personalization

The 1st annual GroceryTech event, produced by Progressive Grocer and RIS News, brings together the combined PG/RIS community of business & technology grocery execs who are on the journey to modernize their technology infrastructure to support innovation.

The event’s theme, Scaling with Personalization, focuses on how grocery execs can build a technology infrastructure to pro tably serve shoppers now and into the future. GT will bring together the full spectrum of grocery stakeholders, including leadership and business implementation executives across IT, supply chain, marketing and store operations.

Who Attends

A cross-functional representation of IT, marketing, merchandising, store operations, supply chain, data/analytics, digital commerce, and corporate leaders across multi-channel large and mid-sized grocers

July 12-14 Cincinnati Presented by
View the full agenda and register today at: GroceryTechEvent.com Contact Gina Acosta gacosta@ensembleiq.com Jamie Goodman jgoodman@ensembleiq.com WANT TO SPEAK? Contact your sales representative or John Schrei for details! jschrei@ensembleiq.com WANT TO SPONSOR?
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THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS: TITLE

National Candy Month

National Dairy Month

National Dairy Alternative Month

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month

1

World Milk Day. Run a discount on the popular beverage to increase traffic in your dairy department.

National Frozen Yogurt Month

National Iced Tea Month

National Rose Month

National Safety Month

2

National Donut Day. Look to the right for the perfect accompaniment to your in-store bakery assortment.

3

The Big Lunch. Already observed in the United Kingdom, this highly social occasion sees communities across the country get together for a large shared midday meal. Now it’s our turn.

4 National Cheese Day. Sample some of your more unusual varieties in the deli department.

5 Sausage Roll Day. These yummy appetizers are also known as pigs in blankets.

6 National Applesauce Cake Day. Provide a recipe to enable consumers to make this moist baked treat — no butter or oil needed — at home.

7

World Food Safety Day. Check over procedures at your store(s) to ensure that everything is up to snuff.

8 National Best Friends Day. Encourage the BFFs among your customers to do their shopping in matching outfi ts.

9 National Meal Prep Day. No time like the present to get all of the preliminary work for dinner out of the way.

10 National Iced Tea Day

11 National Corn on the Cob Day. If some kernels get stuck between our teeth, please let us know.

18

Father’s Day. Help Dad get his due by stocking stuff the old man will love, like juicy steaks to put on the grill.

25

Global Beatles Day. Any excuse to play the Fab Four’s music for hours is welcome.

12 International Falafel Day. Spotlight these delicious fritters, made with ground chickpeas, as part of a broader focus on Middle Eastern cuisine.

19 Juneteenth. Sponsor an essay contest asking students to describe the meaning of this holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States.

26

World Refrigeration Day. Where would we be without it?

13

National Chamoy Day. Educate those not in the know about this unique Mexican condiment, which contains fruit, dried chiles and lime juice, and its uses.

20

National West Virginia Day. Let your customers discover the unique eats enjoyed in the Mountain State.

27

Decide to Be Married Day. Promote your fl oral department’s services for all those happy couples planning to walk down the aisle.

14 Flag Day National New Mexico Day

15

World Tapas Day. Hold an in-store demonstration to show customers how they can prepare these Spanish small plates for at-home entertaining.

16 National Flip Flop Day. Have a supply on hand for beachbound shoppers.

17

National Mascot Day. If your store/ chain doesn’t already have one, what are you waiting for?

21 Summer Solstice. It’s the longest day of the year, so enjoy it while you can.

22

Positive Media Day. Make sure to post something uplifting on your digital channels today.

28

National Insurance Awareness Day. Remind associates of the importance of being insured, and if you have a retirement plan, urge them to opt in.

29

National Bacon Burnt Ends Day. Eat up!

23 National Family-Owned and -Operated Businesses Day. Celebrate by sharing your origin story — and how far you’ve come — with associates and customers.

30

National Corvette Day. Drive yours to work — if you’re lucky enough to have one.

24 Farmer Day. Salute those who grow and raise the food we eat.

S M T W T F S IN-STORE EVENTS Calendar 06.23 12 progressivegrocer.com
14 progressivegrocer.com FRONT END Shelf Stoppers Bakery Latest 52 WksW/E 03/04/23 Latest 52 WksW/E 03/04/23 Latest 52 Wks YAW/E 03/05/22 Latest 52 Wks YAW/E 03/05/22 Latest 52 Wks YAW/E 03/06/21 Latest 52 Wks YAW/E 03/06/21 Basket Facts How much is the average American household spending per trip on various bakery items versus the year-ago period? Source: Nielsen, Total U.S. (All outlets combined) – includes grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, select dollar stores, select warehouse clubs and military commissaries (DeCA) for the 52 weeks ending March 4, 2023 Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Feb. 25, 2023 Cake Cookies Pies Cupcakes Regular Muffins Total Department Performance Top Bakery Categories by Dollar Sales $19,216,640,956 $16,689,207,249 $14,457,874,724 Bakery Generational Snapshot Which cohort is spending, on average, the most per trip on cookies? Millennials $5.65 Gen Xers $5.30 Boomers $5.22 The Greatest Generation $5.73 Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Feb. 25, 2023 $5.78 on all bakery items, up 15.1% compared with a year ago $3.61 on artisan bread, up 5.78% compared with a year ago $6.78 on cake, up 10.9% compared with a year ago $4.21 on dinner rolls, up 23.2% compared with a year ago Cross-Merch Candidates Wine Nuts and Seeds Cheese Spirits Fruit Dips and Spreads Lunchmeat Extracts, Herbs, Spices and Seasonings $4,500,000,000 4,000,000,000 3,500,000,000 3,000,000,000 2,500,000,000 2,000,000,000 1,500,000,000 1,000,000,000 500,000,000 0

Coffee and Tea

Market Overview

Price increases, organic growth driven by consumer interest in premium home coffee experiences, the rise of remote work, and the shift away from roasted coffee toward higher-priced ready-to-drink and single-cup formats are all driving factors behind the coffee market’s overall growth.

Current economic conditions largely benefit the retail coffee market as consumers increasingly cut back on their foodservice coffee expenditures.

Tea category sales are settling back into familiar tepid growth, with 202227 sales more closely resembling pre-pandemic patterns. Inflation is behind much of the category’s projected sustained momentum in 2022 (4.3%) and 2023 (2.2%).

Tea’s relative affordability, along with strong connections to routine, suggest that the category and its brands are well positioned to maintain steady engagement with category users despite ongoing fi nancial volatility.

Key Issues

While foodservice will continue to affect retail coffee trends, social media infl uencers (particularly those on TikTok) are playing a growing role.

Tea is a multisensory experience that consumers use as a tool in wellness pursuits, whether their goals are physical (i.e., replacing less healthy beverages) or holistically oriented (i.e., creating a moment of calm).

Although tea is a logical vehicle for added functionality, consumers consistently rank functional benefits below general health interests as important attributes of tea — all of which come after price and product satisfaction.

What Consumers Want, and Why

Consumers are most interested in indulgently flavored ready-to-drink (RTD) coffees that satisfy personal treat occasions, but 35% are interested in RTD coffees that offer functional benefits in addition to energy.

PROGRESSIVE GROCER April 2023 15 MINTEL CATEGORY INSIGHTS Global New Products Database
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT WWW.MINTEL.COM OR CALL 800-932-0400
Gen Z’s preference for cold coffee indicates key growth opportunities for RTD coffee brands and a need for roasted coffee brands to connect with Gen Z consumers or risk future declines.
Functional innovation can bring RTD coffee into new consumption occasions, and innovations that supplement/enhance coffee’s inherent energizing properties could position RTD coffee as a natural alternative to energy drinks.
Tea’s correlation with age means that to sustain sales volume through 2027 and beyond, brands will need to appeal to younger consumers as demographic distributions change.

ALL’S WELLNESS

Health-Focused Store Brands

tore-brand or private label foods and beverages have long competed on price, an edge that’s more important than ever as costs continue to rise. But unlike the plain “generics” of the past, many store brands today offer shoppers great taste, top quality, attractive packaging, and sought-after health-related attributes related to health, nutrition, ingredients and sustainability.

What Shoppers Want

When consumers were asked what they look for when shopping in person for foods and beverages, products labeled “natural” topped the list, at 39%, followed by clean ingredients (27%), raised without antibiotics, no added hormones or steroids, locally sourced, and organic (25% each), and nonGMO (23%), according to the International Food Information Council 2022 Food and Health Survey.

Also mentioned were plant-based (15%), fair wage/fair trade (14%) and small carbon footprint/carbon neutral (13%).

Many store brands deliver entire product lines with at least some of these attributes, making it easier for health-minded consumers to shop with confidence. A few examples follow:

Albertsons’ Open Nature line is free from artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives, and includes 100% natural chicken, 100% grass-fed beef, items that are free from added hormones and antibiotics, and wild-caught seafood that’s free from preservatives. Gluten-free, high-protein, nondairy and plant-based options are also available. Additionally, Albertsons’ O Organics product line is USDA Certified Organic.

Trader Joe’s private label products contain no artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, MSG, genetically modified ingredients or partially hydrogenated oils. Colors are derived only from naturally available products.

All items sold at Whole Foods Market meet strict quality standards for ingredients, sustainability practices and more. The 365 by Whole Foods Market brand in many cases goes “above and beyond” these standards in terms of sourcing, worker and animal welfare, and supply chain transparency. Whole Foods is the first and only certifiedorganic national grocery store, with 20,000 organic offerings.

Wegmans’ Food You Feel Good

About line, which comprises nearly 90% of all Wegmans brand items, promises “great taste with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives,” according to the grocer. Wellness Keys

16 progressivegrocer.com
THESE RETAILERS’ FOODS AND BEVERAGES DELIVER SHOPPERS’ DESIRED ATTRIBUTES.
Dietitians are trusted sources of health and nutrition information who can lend credibility to health-focused store brands.

on Wegmans brand products highlight nutrition or ingredient information like “high-fiber” or “gluten-free” to help shoppers quickly find items that support their health-and-wellness goals.

The Kroger Co.’s Simple Truth line is free from more than 101 artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners; contains no artificial ingredients; and offers minimally processed, naturally raised meats that are fed a 100% vegetarian diet, without antibiotics or added hormones. Simple Truth also includes a line of certified-organic products.

Retail Dietitians Help Reach Shoppers

Dietitians are trusted sources of health and nutrition information who can lend credibility to health-focused store brands. For instance, they can:

Select a series of rotating “dietitian picks” to include on shelf tags and in weekly ads;

Develop programming that highlights store brands during health-related and seasonal promotions and theme months, cooking classes, samplings and store tours; and

Create web content and social media outreach to educate shoppers about the key health-related attributes of store brands.

Learn more at go.unfi.com/smallbusiness SOLUTIONS FOR SMALL BUSINESS
Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN, specializes in nutrition communications for consumer and health professional audiences. She has assisted national retailers and CPGs with nutrition strategy, web content development, trade show exhibiting, and the creation and implementation of shelf tag programs.
“It’s great to know that I have the Professional Services team behind me as a one-man show. When we decided to build a second store, I knew exactly who to call. They immediately said,”Okay, how can we help?”
PROGRESSIVE GROCER April 2023 17
-Jason Keen, Village Beach Market

Almost every week one grocery retailer or another rolls out a new sustainability commitment.

Why?

Sustainability is still top of mind for grocery shoppers, even amid inflation and high prices. According to a March survey from Panasonic-owned software and consultancy company Blue Yonder, 48% of respondents said that their interest in shopping with an eye toward sustainability in the past year has increased, while 74% of

consumers have shopped at a retailer promoting its products as sustainable at least once in the past six months. Additionally, 69% of shoppers said that they’d be willing to pay more for sustainable products.

Meanwhile, a January survey of grocery executives conducted by Incisiv and Wynshop revealed that 71% of grocers regard sustainability as a key priority in 2023, while 76% also regard it as a C-level issue. The survey showed that waste reduction is grocers’ primary sustainability focus (86%), followed by energy efficiency (77%) and

packaging improvement (66%).

Sustainability has certainly been a key theme over the past few years in the grocery industry, and that focus is only accelerating. That’s why Progressive Grocer’s editors decided to profile the 10 grocers doing the most innovative work on such sustainability topics as ethical sourcing, climate commitments, fair trade certifications, food waste, green buildings, and more. These sustainable grocers have woven sustainability into their DNA, and their customers are rewarding them for their efforts.

18 progressivegrocer.com
These companies make it look easy to be GREEN.
COVER STORY Operations
Imagine the

Prairie Fresh USA Prime® is the best of our best. Our industry-leading proprietary technology helps to select premium cuts based on superior marbling, color and tenderness. So you can deliver a higher level of consistency and quality to your shoppers.

That’s the Prairie Fresh® Way. prairiefreshway.com

©

AHOLD DELHAIZE

In an effort to play a leading role in driving sustainability across the food retail sector, Zandaam, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize revised its interim CO2 emissions reduction target for its entire value chain to at least 37% by 2030, with the aim of becoming net zero by 2050. For its own operations, the retail conglomerate remains committed to achieving net-zero status by 2040, with an interim target of a 50% reduction by 2030. Through this updated target, Ahold Delhaize intends to decarbonize its entire value chain and ensure that all of its climate targets are in accordance with the United Nations’ goal of keeping global warming below 1.5°C.

U.S. banners like The Giant Co. are also contributing to the company’s sustainability ambitions. The Carlisle, Pa.-based grocer recently added four electric vehicles to its delivery fleet

ALDI

It isn’t easy being green at a time of super-high inflation, but ALDI knows how to do it. The German-owned discount grocer, which first put down roots in the United States back in 1976, is now the third-largest grocer in the country by store count, with a current total of 2,285 stores.

One big reason that ALDI has become the fastest-growing grocer in the United States over the past year is inflation — penny-pinching shoppers love its value proposition. But another big reason for ALDI’s unstoppable rise

in Philadelphia. The electric vans will save more than 9,000 gallons of gasoline each year compared with standard delivery vehicles and can travel 108 miles per charge. According to The Giant Co., the vehicles’ zero-tailpipe emission design, coupled with their avoidance of gasoline, will prevent 171,963 pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions annually.

Then there’s the banner’s efforts with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. The two recently rolled out their third annual Healing the Planet grant program. This year, $300,000 will go to projects addressing food waste prevention, reduction and recovery across The Giant Co.’s market area of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. Since the program began, more than $800,000 has gone to 87 recipients for projects that connect people and families to green spaces, and improve or help to protect local water-

ways and water resources.

Ahold Delhaize’s Stop & Shop banner is also ramping up efforts to curb food waste by expanding the availability of the Flashfood program. In January, the retailer widened the digital marketplace to 34 more stores in Massachusetts and statewide in Rhode Island. Toronto-based Flashfood is now at nearly 70 Stop & Shop stores in those two states, as well as in New York and Connecticut. The banner estimates that it has diverted nearly 170,000 pounds of food from landfills through the program, which connects consumers with discounted food close to its best-by date.

has been the retailer’s sustainability commitments. ALDI hasn’t offered single-use plastic shopping bags for more than four decades and has always encouraged shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. Further, the company has pledged to remove all plastic shopping bags from its stores by the end of 2023, an initiative that is estimated to remove 4,400 tons of plastic from circulation every year.

ALDI has also committed to diverting 90% of operational waste by 2025, and to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. To accomplish this, the grocer has rolled out nonfood donation programs to nearly all stores and distribution centers, expanded recycling and food recovery initiatives, and piloted and expanded composting.

The company is also remodeling and building stores and distribution centers with sustainability top of mind. It has installed rooftop solar panels on more than 155 stores and 14 distribution centers, and has plans to continue adding them to even more stores to increase its use of green energy. The U.S. Environmental

Protection Agency’s GreenChill program has recognized ALDI as a grocery industry leader for reducing harmful refrigerant emissions. Further, in its supply chain, the retailer is working with its business partners to promote sustainable sourcing.

“Shoppers shouldn’t have to choose between doing what’s right and saving money,” says Joan Kavanaugh, VP of national buying at Batavia, Ill.-based ALDI U.S. “That’s why we make sure they don’t have to. We keep sustainability in mind with everything we do, from our smaller-footprint stores to our curated selection of private label products. Our customers can feel good about their purchases without straining their budgets. As a leader in the industry, we have paved the way with aggressive goals to reduce our carbon footprint, rethink our product packaging, advocate with suppliers for ethical sourcing, and support the health and welfare of our communities. Every day, ALDI is taking actionable steps to advance our sustainability goals, and we won’t stop until we’ve achieved our vision to make sustainable shopping affordable for everyone.”

22 progressivegrocer.com COVER STORY Operations

PROFITABLE AND SUSTAINABLE:

A Winning Solution for Transforming Fresh

Speaking with...

In 2017, Matt Schwartz co-founded Afresh with the goal of eliminating food waste and making fresh food accessible to all. Progressive Grocer asked Schwartz to discuss the state of Fresh today and how the company’s AI-driven platform is helping grocers move beyond traditional inventory management to optimize decisions across the fresh supply chain, driving profitability and sustainability in the process.

Progressive Grocer: Why do retailers need a technology solution specifically purpose-built to manage their fresh departments?

Matt Schwartz: Customers care about fresh more than ever. Data shows that 93 percent of grocers have seen the demand for fresh food rise since 2020.1

WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS SAY

But Fresh is fundamentally different and more complex than Center Store due to multiple factors that shift daily, making the category highly variable and hard to predict. And unfortunately, many grocers arerelying on rigid technology that cannot adapt to the complexities of fresh food.

Afresh is changing the game with a platform designed to recognize and respond to that ever-changing, often hard-to-predict world of fresh. It streamlines fresh operations, resulting in a significant reduction in food waste, fresher food, and happier customers — all while improving grocers’ bottom lines.

PG: What does all of that have to do with sustainability?

MS: The important thing we want grocers to realize is that preventing food waste doesn’t have to come at the expense of revenue goals. Afresh is driving massive results for several functions across the organization, like merchandising, operations, sustainability/ESG, finance, and IT. Bottom line goals and ESG goals are not mutually exclusive.

The Afresh platform improves order accuracy — and with more accurate ordering, inventory turns over faster, displays remain fresher, and over-ordering is

STORES HAVE TYPICALLY EXPERIENCED

3% sales increase

7% faster inventory turns

20% increase in labor efficiency

25% shrink reduction

80% stockout reduction

reduced chain-wide. With better visibility into supply and demand, grocers can also consolidate orders, which leads to efficiencies in the delivery and handling of fresh food. And finally, preventing food waste means saving water that would otherwise be used to grow that food.

PG: Is there data that shows results stores have achieved by using the Afresh platform?

MS: We have a lot of data — and perhaps one of the most impressive figures is the +3 percent sales increase stores have realized. That can translate into millions of dollars in additional annual sales depending on the size of the store. Stores also have typically experienced 7 percent faster inventory turns, 20 percent increase in labor efficiency, 25 percent shrink reduction, and 80 percent stockout reduction.

PG: What makes the Afresh platform unique in the industry?

MS: Afresh is the only technology solution that intelligently navigates incomplete and imperfect information to drive optimal decisions across fresh departments and the entire fresh supply chain. We leverage cutting-edge machine learning models and easy-to-use workflows to deliver transformational benefits in fresh ordering and inventory management.

At the end of the day, our relationships with partners like Albertsons, Cub, and Fresh Thyme always link back to our vision: to sustainably nourish the world with fresh food.

1Opportunities in Fresh: 2022 Report, Afresh

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GIANT EAGLE INC.

When it comes to sustainability, Giant Eagle Inc. is laser-focused on waste, carbon emissions and plastics. The Pittsburgh-based company’s specific goals include diverting 90% of waste from landfills by 2025, achieving 50% carbon neutrality by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and also eliminating all single-use plastics from its operations by 2025.

Through its Full Plates Zero Waste program, Giant Eagle aims to provide access to fresh, healthy meals for those in need, while also reducing its food waste, by donating 80 million meals between 2021 and 2025. The grocer’s partnership with Flashfood has also helped it divert more than 1 million pounds of food from landfills to date. In reaching that milestone with Giant Eagle, the Toronto-based program that connects shoppers with heavily discounted food nearing its best-by date has also saved consumers nearly $2.5 million on groceries.

Giant Eagle’s roadmap to net-zero carbon emissions has led it to reducing carbon dioxide emitted throughout its operations by 22% over the past eight years while also converting about 70% of its truck fleet to alternative energy, LED retrofitting, and more efficient heating and cooling. Sustainability is also apparent in the grocer’s brick-andmortar operations through infrastructure improvements that target carbon reduction and energy efficiency, smart lighting solutions that use automation and innovation, and investments in green energy solutions.

The grocer was also honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill program with both Superior and Exceptional Goal Achievement awards, which recognize partners that meet or exceed their annual and stretch GreenChill refrigerant emission goals, respectively.

As for plastics, Giant Eagle recently relaunched its effort to eliminate single-use plastic bags across its footprint, with plastic bags no longer available at checkout in stores throughout Columbus, Ohio, and Indiana. The retailer has also undertaken strategic partnerships to reduce plastics in other parts of its operations, including one with Pittsburgh-based vertical-farming pioneer Fifth Season to reduce plastic packaging for leafy greens, lettuces and salad blends by 40% per package. Giant Eagle also carries products from Ohio craft brewery The Brew Kettle, which uses biodegradable 6-pack rings made out of spent grain from the brewing process.

THE KROGER CO.

Sustainability is continually woven into The Kroger Co.’s DNA through its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social and environmental impact plan, and the urgency for greater climate action is prompting the Cincinnati-based grocer to make even bigger bets on seafood sustainability, lowering its climate impact, creating more sustainable packaging, and more.

As it shared its updated environmental, social and governance (ESG) action plan in the fall, Kroger formally committed to setting a more aggressive greenhouse-gas reduction goal. While its current 2030 goal is aligned with a well-below 2°C climate scenario, the company has strengthened its goal to support a 1.5°C climate scenario. Kroger will also set a new Scope 3 goal for supply chain emission reduction.

Kroger’s sustainable packaging goals include 100% recyclable, reusable and/or compostable private label brand packaging by 2030. A baseline assessment focused on grocery and fresh food products, as well as health, beauty, household supplies and cleaning items, found that 40% of in-scope product packaging already meets the company’s definition of “recyclable” when measured by weight.

Among Kroger’s other major sustainability goals are eliminating food and operational waste; reducing water use, finding reuse opportunities and managing water discharge quality; and creating a truly sustainable supply chain to include responsible seafood sourcing. In 2021, 94% of wildcaught seafood sourced by Kroger met sustainability criteria, and 98% of farm-raised seafood did the same.

Additionally, Kroger had 79% waste diversion from landfill company-wide in 2021, and 48.8% food waste diversion from landfill in its retail stores. Its broader goal is to divert 95% or more of food waste from landfill company-wide in the next two years. Also in 2021, Kroger donated 94 million pounds of surplus food to Feeding America’s network of food banks and agency partners.

“We live our purpose — to feed the human spirit — through Kroger’s commitments to advance positive impacts for people and our planet and create more resilient global systems,” says CEO Rodney McMullen. “We are proud to report that Kroger continues to make progress toward key ESG goals. I am especially proud of the Kroger team’s collective effort to create communities free from hunger and food waste.”

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COVER STORY Operations

MEJIER INC.

Meijer doesn’t leave many stones unturned when it comes to sustainability. Last year, the Grand Rapids, Mich.based retailer invested in beach-cleaning robots that sorted through sand and stone to find and remove garbage from beaches in the Great Lakes region.

Meijer’s priority of protecting natural resources is evident in projects in and around its physical stores. In fall 2022, the company added rain gardens to its store in Benton Harbor, Mich., with the aims of attracting environmentally important pollinators and improving water quality in a nearby creek.

Repurposing is another hallmark of Meijer’s sustainability efforts. From a building and grounds standpoint, the company teamed up with Midland, Mich.-based Dow to create a parking lot made with post-consumer recycled plastic. Taking steps to ensure that products are used and not discarded, the retailer

MISFITS MARKET

When it first began in 2018, Misfits Market aimed to offer all consumers access to quality but affordable food by minimizing food waste in the traditional food supply chain. Since that time, the Delanco, N.J.based e-grocer has more than lived up to that promise, as exemplified by its rescue of 55 million pounds of food in 2022. In fact, since it was established, Misfits has rescued 278 million-plus pounds of food, with efforts now encompassing conventional as well as “ugly” produce.

This mindset was also apparent in the company’s September 2022 acquisition of Imperfect Foods, another online food retailer dedicated to reducing food waste.

“The strengths of the Imperfect Foods organization, from its in-house delivery fleet and robust private label program to its sustainability commitments and innovation, add immediate scale and depth to what we’re building at Misfits Market,” notes Kai Selterman, Misfits’ chief strategy officer.

also doubled down on its partnership with Toronto-based Flashfood. In addition to diverting more than 1 million pounds of food waste by offering shoppers the chance to get discounted fresh and packaged products nearing their sell-by date, Meijer recently widened the Flashfood offering to SNAP beneficiaries. That earned the company a shout-out from the Biden Administration as it rolled out its White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities.

Meijer’s multi-pronged sustainability commitments encompass several actions to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint. The company recently deployed two all-electric semi-trucks for deliveries, becoming the first retailer to track those energy-saving

vehicles in a cold climate. Back at its physical stores, the company opts for eco-friendlier refrigerant gases and has won awards for its refrigerant gas management from the GreenChill partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Like many businesses, Meijer sees sustainability as a work in progress, gauging results while setting new goals. The retailer is currently working to meet its targets of cutting food waste in its stores by 50% by 2030; switching to 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging for its private label Own Brand packaging by 2025; and halving its absolute carbon emissions by 2025.

President and CEO Rick Keyes recently commented on Meijer’s sustainability strides, noting: “Our company’s earliest beginnings were marked by doing what’s right while keeping an eye toward innovation. That philosophy still guides us today and is exemplified by our company’s commitment to lessening our carbon footprint.”

In fact, since the acquisition of Imperfect, Misfits has rolled out a packaging return program, making it, according to Selterman, “the only grocer to take back packaging for reuse, and this is a program we plan to scale in 2023.” In tandem with that initiative, the company is leveraging its delivery fleet to reduce the number of ice packs and the amount of packaging needed for cold items.

Beyond those efforts, Misfits has leaned into growing and streamlining what it calls its “value supply chain” through such methods as partnering with suppliers to bring upcycled products to market and working with vendors to rescue food that would otherwise end up in landfills.

“We’ve become a destination for emerging, sustainable brands, and that kind of treasure-hunt experience is valuable for customers and suppliers alike,” observes Selterman. “Our customers are excited to try new items and be introduced to alternative, quality products that you can’t find everywhere, and

brands get immediate visibility in front of a highly engaged customer base.”

Additionally, in regard to conservation, Misfits teamed up with a group called Watershed last year to measure and reduce its carbon footprint.

Selterman believes that the company’s greatest opportunity going forward is “[c]ementing our status as the only grocer that leverages sustainability to create affordability. By virtue of our opportunistic buying strategy, we can deliver high-quality products at a great value while fighting food waste.”

PROGRESSIVE GROCER April 2023 27

What the Environmental Connection Between Planet and People Means for GROCERY RETAILERS

Sustainability is at the forefront of many companies’ initiatives today. Fair Trade USA — the leading 501(c) (3) nonprofit, third party certifier of fair trade products in North America — is one of them. Progressive Grocer spoke with Leslie Simmons, Fair Trade USA’s Senior Director of Business Development, Fresh, to learn how the organization is working to foster production practices that both enhance people’s lives and ensure the health of the planet.

Progressive Grocer: Let’s talk about the interconnectedness between people and the environment.

Leslie Simmons: People and our planet are intertwined in such an intricate way that the livelihoods of individuals and entire communities are inextricably linked to the environment. The production of the food and goods that society relies on every day impacts the environment in myriad ways. Likewise, shifts in the natural environment — extreme weather, for example — impact society because they threaten the long-term viability of things like agricultural production.

PG: How does Fair Trade USA work to further sustainability and its relationship to people’s everyday lives?

LS: Fair Trade USA fosters production practices that preserve the environment, enhance resilience to climate

change, and protect the health and quality of life of farmers, fi shers, workers, their families, and their communities. Preventing and reducing direct harm to the local environment from production activities is the focus across all of our programs.

For example, Fair Trade USA’s Agricultural Production Standard starts with good practices that minimize environmental impacts on natural ecosystems and improving the resiliency of crop production to both preserve the natural environment, as well as ensure economic viability for farmers. Standards include requirements related to deforestation, land management, and proper disposal of waste, hazardous materials, and

into these funds, which can and have been used to support a wide range of projects related to the environment. In 2022, we reached a significant milestone by exceeding $1B in financial impact to farmers, fishers, workers, and communities around the world over the 25-year history of our organization.

PG: Why is this important for grocery retailers?

LS: Consumers care about the environment and are more and more willing to support companies that do, too. In our Consumer Insights Report, new research shows that consumers increasingly see fair trade as one of the easiest ways to improve lives,

SEVENTY-EIGHT PERCENT OF THE GENERAL POPULATION

TRUST THE FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED LABEL AND MORE CONSUMERS RECOGNIZE THE LABEL THAN ANY OTHER SOCIAL CERTIFICATION.

wastewater. Requirements address the importance of identifying and managing risks, such as the risk of contamination of local waterways.

We empower and build capacity with farmers, fishers, and workers to produce sustainably. Unlocking access and opportunity is at the heart of the fair trade model. We seek to ensure individuals have the capacity and knowledge to safeguard the natural environment while enhancing production.

And we provide funds to support those sustainability journeys through the Community Development Fund, which provides money that industry and brand partners pay to producers of fair trade products. In 2021, more than 75 million U.S. dollars were paid

communities, and the environment through their purchases. Seventyeight percent of the general population trust the Fair Trade Certified label and more consumers recognize the label than any other social certification. In fact, 55 percent of Millennials and 48 percent of Gen Zs — even with inflation — say they would pay 20 percent more for a Fair Trade Certified product.1

12022 Consumer Insights Report, Fair Trade USA, January 2023

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT USA’s position on the environment and how stores can benefit by carrying Fair Trade Certified products, visit go.fairtradecertified.org/progressive-grocer

Fair Trade

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NATURAL GROCERS BY VITAMIN COTTAGE

How is sustainability a cornerstone of Natural Grocers’ operations? Sustainability is the first tab on the company’s website and is a guiding principle on virtually all aspects of its food retailing business.

Shoppers who browse Natural Grocers’ aisles can know that products in the stores have been vetted for sustainability attributes. The Lakewood, Colo.-based company offers 21,000 SKUs of natural and organic products per store that meet its rigorous product standards supporting the sustainability and health of food systems and communities. Team members regularly visit farms and ranches to ensure that foods meet a high bar for practices and metrics. The grocer also goes to great lengths to share what it won’t carry, via a list posted on its website.

In addition to putting sustainability at the forefront of its assortment, Natural Grocers takes steps across its operations to lighten its environmental footprint, whether through efforts to reduce waste, investing in carbon dioxide refrigerant technology, eschewing single-use bags at checkout or pursuing other measures to maximize efficiencies.

Even the store layouts reflect a prudent use of resources. Natural Grocers locations don’t include deli, meat or seafood counters or a salad bar, to reduce the use of refrigerants, electricity and water. The store washrooms feature low-flow faucets and toilets, and the company also uses xeriscaping, a form of water-saving landscaping, on its properties.

Sustainability is an end-to-end proposition for Natural Grocers, as it also implements measures in its bulk packaging facility and distribution centers. The retailer uses corrugated boxes with 48% recycled content for bulk packaging, along with recyclable resealable bags and film. In 2022, its operations slashed the use of plastic stretch wrap by half from the previous year.

The company continues to build on its green practices, often turning to technologies to make them happen. Last year, for example, Natural Grocers added a new cooler technology that streamlines temperature tracking in its stores, and switched over to a new automated ordering process as a way to curb over-ordering and waste.

“We hope to inspire other companies to follow our lead,” assert Co-Presidents Kemper Isley and Zephyr Isley in Natural Grocers’ most recent environmental, social and governance report.

PCC COMMUNITY MARKETS

On the occasion of its 70th birthday this year PCC Community Markets, a Seattle-based grocery cooperative with 16 stores in the Puget Sound area, took the time not only to reflect on its past, but also to look forward to its future by revealing that it was hard at work on its next set of five-year environmental, social and governance goals.

As it stands, the co-op is already well known for its wide-ranging sustainability endeavors. This past year alone, PCC updated its long-standing product standards to include such changes as not selling any fresh and frozen raw seafood that’s rated an “Avoid” by Seafood Watch, and that all whole-bean and pre-ground coffee, both pre-packaged and bulk, must be certified organic and fair trade or direct trade by a third-party certifier. These reviews are carried out by the grocer’s Quality Standards Committee, an internal cross-departmental forum that discusses social and sustainability concerns regarding products and the supply chain.

“Not many grocers have publicly available standards that are focused on sustainability, and setting criteria for health, environmental benefits, animal welfare [and] toxics concerns,” noted Rebecca Robinson, PCC’s senior product sustainability specialist, in the May 2022 issue of the co-op’s Sound Consumer publication at the time that the new product standards were revealed. “The main goal and purpose was to articulate what we’re doing and what our merchandisers do.”

In its April 2022 “Co-op Purposes Report,” PCC reported a year’s worth of sustainability progress, including the achievement of carbon-negative store operations. The grocer also observed that since the implementation of its social and environmental operational goals, created in 2017 with input from co-op members, community representatives, vendors and partners to help boost its sustainability impact, the co-op has made progress every year on those goals, among them lowering its energy use and reducing water waste.

30 progressivegrocer.com
COVER STORY Operations

WEGMANS FOOD MARKETS

Sustainable packaging has been a focus of Wegmans Food Markets for a number of years. But the Rochester, N.Y.based retailer recently upped its game by using reusable plastic containers (RPCs) to get fresh seafood from its suppliers to its stores, eliminating the need for single-use Styrofoam coolers. The use of RPCs for transporting food instead of using single-use packaging isn’t new, but Wegmans’ application is: The grocery chain is the first retailer to launch such a program for seafood.

RPCs perform as well as foam coolers do in keeping product cold and secure during transportation. They’re also collapsible and stackable, taking up less room, and the cost of the containers is equal to or less than the cost of foam coolers.

With all of these benefits, however, there was one hurdle for Wegmans to overcome: size. The grocer thus reached out to Atlanta-based packaging provider Tosca to see about getting a smaller crate that would be more suitable for its seafood team’s needs.

Once the development of the smaller crate was completed, Tosca sent samples to local Wegmans salmon supplier JD & Sons for testing in a four-store pilot. As expected, the pilot was a success, and Wegmans has since expanded the program to additional suppliers, which are using the new half-sized totes to transport a variety of fresh seafood items. Currently, five of Wegmans’ suppliers have made the switch to RPCs, a change that resulted in more than 1.2 million pounds of Styrofoam being eliminated from its supply chain at the end of 2022.

“From the very beginning, this idea of using reusable containers that have a lifespan of at least eight to 10 years and can then be recycled, in place of single-use foam coolers, was about doing what’s right for the environment, and getting the seafood industry as a whole on board,” says Mark Fromm, Wegmans’ seafood category merchant.

The grocer also successfully eliminated single-use plastic bags in 2022 chainwide, another example of its commitment to reduce single-use plastics. In fact, the grocer is devoted to reducing its in-store plastic packaging made from fossil fuels, along with other single-use plastics, by 10 million pounds by 2024.

WHOLE FOODS MARKET

Since Whole Foods Market first opened its doors in Austin, Texas, in 1980, sustainability has been its hallmark. When shoppers walk into a Whole Foods store, they will find vibrant stacks of produce, animal welfare-rated meat, responsibly farmed and sustainable wild-caught seafood, and body care products with natural ingredients. The operator of 514 locations carefully vets products to make sure that they meet the company’s high standards for ingredients, labels and sourcing practices.

Whole Foods touts six key core values: selling the highest-quality organic and natural foods, satisfying and delighting customers, taking care of its team members, creating win-win partnerships with suppliers, generating profits and prosperity, and advancing environmental stewardship. While many grocery retailers are still in the throes of deciding whether to get rid of plastic bags, Whole Foods eliminated plastic grocery bags way back in 2008. Today, North America’s largest organic and natural food chain is focused on supply chain transparency. The company has traceability programs in place to track its more than 3,500 365 by Whole Foods Market private-brand products back to the manufacturer or farm of origin, and it requires fair and safe working conditions for the men and women who grow the food it sells — both inside and outside the United States. Whole Foods also has traceability programs for its meat and seafood departments, eggs in the dairy cases, canned tuna, and more.

The Whole Foods Sourced for Good program helps support workers, communities and environmental stewardship where products are sourced. The program relies on internationally recognized third parties such as Fair Trade USA to verify social practices, environmental practices and/or working conditions. Shoppers can find the Sourced for Good seal on hundreds of products, including bananas, bell peppers, tomatoes, tulips and roses.

Finally, Whole Foods is building greener stores that educate shoppers on its purpose to nourish people and the planet. One location, in Needham, Mass., boasts recycled steel beams, a white roof, solar panels, reclaimed water, and recycled grocery bags and receipt paper, and 80% of store waste is reused.

PROGRESSIVE GROCER April 2023 31

A TASTE OF

peaking with… atherine arry, Vice President of Marketing, National Honey Board

Sustainability is a buzz word in most every industry today — and nowhere is that word more applicable than when talking about honey! Progressive Grocer asked Catherine Barry, Vice President of Marketing of the National Honey Board, to explain why honey bees are so important to the health of people and the planet and how grocers can tap consumers’ interest in sustainability to keep honey sales buzzing.

Progressive Grocer: What role do honey bees play in the ongoing quest for environmental sustainability?

Catherine Barry: A big one! Bees pollinate 35 percent of the food we eat — which means more than one-third of the world’s food supply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the work of beekeepers and honey bees. Imagine your stores’ shelves and produce departments without honey, apples, blueberries, cherries, watermelons, avocados, almonds, and broccoli! None of those products would exist without managed pollination, which is the practice of caring for hives and honey bees in order to pollinate crops.

The coexistence of beekeepers and honey bees sustains ecosystems and humanity. Beekeepers who manage pollinators are unsung heroes who have evolved their practices to protect honey bees, habitats and local economies. Together with researchers, they have discovered innovative solutions to combat threats like parasites, pathogens, poor nutrition, and pesticides. Responsible beekeeping also supports best practices to find

innovative solutions for planting healthy pollen and nectar sources, as well as effective but considerate pest control. All of those things ensure there are healthy habitats to grow the food we all rely on.

PG: How important is honey to a grocer’s bottom line?

CB: Consumers love honey — and they’re showing that love at checkout! Honey category dollar sales at retail advanced 15.4 percent in 20221 and in 2021 U.S. honey demand reached an all-time high.2 Two things are driving demand: the growing population, and the fact that consumers consider honey a delicious and nutritious sweetener. Consumers are beginning to understand when you choose honey you are getting a perfect all-natural sweetener and supporting honey bees and beekeepers who help feed the world. If you don’t have a variety of honey on your shelves, you’ll likely lose sales to retailers who do.

PG: What are some initiatives retailers should know about when it comes to the honey industry?

CB: This is the third year of Honey Saves Hives, an educational program designed to bring awareness to the importance of honey bees and their crucial role in our ecosystem and global food supply. In 2022, during September in celebration of National Honey Month, the National Honey Board partnered with food and beverage brands dedicated to protecting honey bees to educate consumers about how supporting honey bees helps the broader ecosystem. Consumers were encouraged to participate by purchasing honey and made-with-honey products from those partners at retail stores nationwide.

And this September, we’ll celebrate

National Honey Month again with print and digital advertising, public relations efforts, influencer-driven awareness and social media activities. Our Honey Saves Hives initiative will see us continuing to partner with a variety of food and beverage brands dedicated to protecting honey bees. We may be biased, but we see a big opportunity for retailers to support this initiative, educating their shoppers about the importance of honey while driving added sales throughout National Honey Month. Interested retailers should reach out to learn more and to inquire about the support we can provide.

While specifics change from year to year, the message remains the same: Use honey. Protect honey bees. Help the planet.

PG: How can retailers incorporate honey into their merchandising and marketing plans?

CB: The National Honey Board is a go-to resource for grocery retailers. We have a wealth of information, consumer research, recipes, photos, and funding to help retailers promote honey. We’re at the ready to help them communicate this message to their customers: Honey — it’s good for you and good for the planet!

1Total US xAOC, Latest 52 Weeks Ending 11/05/2022, 2Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook report published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) FOR MORE INFORMATION, BUZZ ON OVER TO THE NATIONAL HONEY BOARD!

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There’s no shortage of consumer packaged goods companies that are doing their bit to help make the planet a better place for us to live, but the five companies profiled in the following pages are doing an especially stellar job in that department.

From ambitious goals to achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions to innovative consumer-facing campaigns, Hormel Foods, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Stonyfield, and Unilever have all placed more earth-friendly policies at the center of what they do. Such moves by these companies and many others are in direct response to consumers’ evolving attitudes toward sustainability. According to a recent report from on-demand consumer research program Glow, a Nielsen IQ partner, shoppers

are increasingly “shedding the brands that don’t meet their sustainability expectations, and moving to brands that better align with their values.”

Glow adds that younger consumers in particular are switching brands at much higher rates than those of other demographics, with brands leading in environmental, social and governance perceptions benefiting the most. This propensity for switching to more sustainable brands is especially high within food and grocery. The consumer researcher uncovered rates of between 30% and 40% in food

and grocery departments. The risk of switching was greatest in health and beauty, meat, beverages, and household products, but even among lower-risk categories like bakery and dairy, Glow cautions that “no business can risk losing up to a third of its customers!”

Given these figures, it’s imperative that companies get their sustainability stories out there, and all of the CPG businesses spotlighted by Progressive Grocer have done an admirable job of this. In fact, Dawn, a brand of Procter & Gamble, was identified as the most responsible food and grocery brand by consumers, according to Glow’s research, while Dove, manufactured by Unilever, came in fifth and Quaker, one of PepsiCo’s brands, was No. 10.

To find out what PG’s five profiled companies are doing right when it comes to sustainability, read on.

34 progressivegrocer.com OPERATIONS Sustainablity
These ve CPG all-stars are among the best at advancing eco-friendly strategies.
Progressive Grocer Staff

HORMEL FOODS CORP.

Last month, in a testament to its longstanding commitment to making the planet a better place to live, Hormel Foods Corp. was named to Barron’s list of the 100 most sustainable U.S. companies for 2023, coming in at No. 23. To come up with its sixth annual list, the business publication evaluated the 1,000 largest publicly traded companies across more than 200 environmental, social and governance performance indicators. Through its award-winning Our Food Journey program, Austin, Minn.-based Hormel strives to produce food responsibly by investing in its people and partners, improving communities and the world, and creating products that enrich peoples’ lives. The company also has an ambitious

set of corporate responsibility goals that it will aim to achieve by 2030, known as the 20 by 30 Challenge. This includes initiatives related to climate leadership, regenerative and sustainable agriculture, packaging sustainability, water stewardship, food security, and human rights.

“As a Fortune 500 global branded food company, we must take a leadership position in addressing climate change,” Tom Raymond, Hormel’s director of sustainability, tells Progressive Grocer. “One of our 20 by 30 challenge goals is our commitment to set a Science Based Target for the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2023. We sub mitted our materials into the Science Based Targets Initiative for validation in mid-2022, and we are currently in the active validation period. We expect to have an aggressive goal set that will include targets for our emissions and our supply chain this year.” Adds Raymond: “We know we have a responsibility to our team members, shareholders, customers, consumers and communities.

In fact, our 20 by 30 challenge goals are some of the most robust in the industry, and we are working hard to achieve them. As a company, we remain committed to continuous improvement, and these 20 qualitative and quantitative goals and commitments will help make the world a better place for everyone.”

PROGRESSIVE GROCER April 2023 35
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RFM Certified — An Eco-Label That Can Drive Seafood Sales

Progressive Grocer: What is RFM Certification and why is it important for seafood retailers?

Megan Rider: Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) is one of the most credible and robust wildcapture sustainable seafood certification programs in the marketplace today. RFM Certification gives the entire supply chain including grocery retailers and the customers they serve proof that any seafood that carries the RFM logo comes from responsibly managed, certified sustainable fisheries. And it does that without charging licensing fees to use the logo, which most other seafood certification programs do.

PG: Do consumers really care about certification when they’re shopping for seafood?

MR: Absolutely! 46% of consumers overall and 55% of Milennials believe seafood certification is very/extremely important when making purchasing decisions. With 50% of Americans increasing their seafood consumption, proving that you source from certified sustainable fisheries is more important than ever it really can help make your store a destination for seafood shoppers.

PG: So, shoppers want the seafood they buy to be certified. But do they know what RFM means?

MR: Yes! Research conducted by Datassential for the RFM Certification Program shows that the RFM eco-label has a significant impact on purchase. 71% of consumers are willing to pay more for seafood with the RFM eco-label and 44% would pay up to 20% more!

PG: How does Alaska Seafood fit into the picture?

MR: That same Datassential research shows that origin matters to seafood shoppers. 64% of U.S. consumers want to know the source/origin of seafood they purchase. Even more important for grocery retailers, 73% of affluent U.S. consumers and 66% of all U.S. consumers are more likely to purchase when they see the word ‘Alaska’.

44% 71%

of consumers are willing to PAY O E for seafood with the RFM eco-label would pay up to 20% O E!

RFM recognizes that origin is a key motivator for seafood purchase, so the RFM logo always includes place of origin including for Alaska’s fisheries. 85% of consumers say including origin on RFM eco-label is important and 89% say the RFM ecolabel drives purchase.

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PEPSICO

Since PepsiCo is the largest food and beverage company in North America, and the second largest globally, a resilient food system is essential to its business. In March, the Purchase, N.Y.-based company revealed a $216 million multiyear investment in long-term strategic partnership agreements with three farmer-facing organizations — Practical Farmers of Iowa, Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, and the Illinois Corn Growers Association — to drive adoption of regenerative agriculture practices nationwide. The combined impact of these three partnerships is expected to support the accelerated uptake of climate-smart regenerative practices on more than 3 million acres and deliver approximately 3 million metric tons of greenhouse-gas emission reductions and removals by 2030. Based on progress to date, these collaborative efforts are expected to deliver more than 500,000 regenerative acres by the end of 2023.

PepsiCo is also combating the nation’s water crisis with the help of its Frito-Lay subsidiary. The companies have revealed a commitment of $3.3 million in funds toward water replenishment projects across North America. These projects will advance PepsiCo’s ambitious effort to become net water positive by 2030, which includes

reducing absolute water use and replenishing the local watershed with more than 100% of the water used at company-owned and third-party sites in high water-risk areas.

The company’s efforts have been recognized with the 2023 Industrial Water Reuse Champions Award, from the WateReuse Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Veolia and the University of Pennsylvania Water Center, for best-in-class water recycling and reuse programs inside and outside its plants.

Additionally, PepsiCo is applying its reuse strategy to packaging. The company unveiled its global packaging goal to double the percentage of all beverage servings it sells delivered through reusable models from 10% to 20% by 2030. Reuse is a critical component to meet PepsiCo’s aims of reducing virgin plastic per serving by 50% by 2030 and to become net zero by 2040.

To achieve these objectives, PepsiCo will expand its SodaStream business, both at home and in workplaces through SodaStream Professional; build out its refillable plastic (PET) and glass bottle offerings in partnership with PepsiCo bottlers; grow its fountain drink business with reusable cups; and accelerate growth in powders and concentrates.

PROCTER & GAMBLE

According to a recent Procter & Gamble study of U.S. consumers, more than half — 55% — said that they don’t make environmentally conscious choices at home as often as they’d like, so the Cincinnati-based CPG powerhouse decided to lend a helping hand through the third iteration of a popular initiative.

“P&G’s #ItsOurHome campaign is designed to show that sustainable choices don’t have to be hard: There are easy ways for consumers to live a more sustainable lifestyle, get great results from the products they love and — in some cases — even save money on household bills,” explains Megan Timberlake, SVP of sales at the company, serving on its Walmart team and as the North America sustainability commercial leader. “The highest environmental footprint of many everyday tasks — like doing laundry, washing dishes and washing our hair — comes from the water and energy needed to do the job. P&G scientists are innovating to design superior products to help save energy, water and waste without tradeoffs in performance. That’s why this chapter of the #ItsOurHome campaign is called Made Better, Made to Save.”

During the campaign, shoppers will be able to take advantage of in-store rebates for Cascade, Tide and many more well-known brands, and can get involved at P&G Good Everyday, a free rewards program that helps turn everyday actions into acts of good.

Beyond #ItsOurHome, P&G is focusing on four areas where the company believes it can make the biggest difference for its business and the planet: climate, waste, water and nature. This includes goals to achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions across its operations and supply chain by 2040; have all of its consumer packaging be recyclable or reusable by 2030; reduce water in its operations to help conserve local water supplies; and ensure responsible sourcing of key commodities like wood pulp, palm oil and paper packaging.

When asked what the future of sustainability for CPG companies looks like, Timberlake replies: “People increasingly want products that perform and delight while leaving a smaller environmental footprint. This is a big opportunity for our industry to create value for people and the planet. Retailers and CPG companies can make it easier for consumers to lead more sustainable lives without sacrificing product performance.”

38 progressivegrocer.com OPERATIONS Sustainablity

STONYFIELD ORGANIC

If they didn’t actually write the book on sustainable farming and food production, the founders of Stonyfield Organic did get their start schooling others on the importance of nourishing the land and animals to best nourish people. Gary Hirshberg and the late Samuel Kaymen operated a nonprofit farming school in New Hampshire, an educational endeavor that led to the production of yogurt made with milk from the farm’s cows.

Flash-forward 40 years, and Stonyfield remains a thought leader and innovator in organic foods. Supporting a network of organic family farms and providing dozens of organic yogurts, smoothies, and milk and cream products, the producer runs a parallel track learning about and implementing

UNILEVER

Unilever is made up of brands and people with a purpose to make sustainable living commonplace. The multinational company, whose U.S. headquarters is in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is taking steps to achieve net-zero emissions across its value chain by 2039 while also transitioning to renewable energy across its operations, finding new low-carbon ingredients, expanding its plant-based product range, and developing cleaning and laundry products free of fossil fuels.

The company’s vision for a nature-positive future includes bringing people, partners and technology together to create a deforestation-free supply chain, find ways to protect and preserve water, and use its Climate & Nature Fund to undertake tasks such as landscape restoration, reforestation and reinstating wildlife habitats. Specific goals include 100% sustainable sourcing of its key agricultural crops and using 100% biodegradable ingredients by 2030.

sustainable practices.

In 2021, for instance, Stonyfield unveiled a move to use 100% renewable energy at its Londonderry, N.H., manufacturing facility by buying renewable energy credits and supporting the construction of new solar projects in the East and Midwest regions of the country. The company has also invested in new materials and systems to make its packaging more sustainable, switching from petroleum-based to plant-based cups for its yogurt products.

Stonyfield is making additional progress toward its goal of reducing its carbon output by 30% by 2030. The company is one of 50 in North America with an approved Science Based Targets Initiative goal in that regard.

Just as science was behind some of the lessons on its original farm, that discipline guides the company’s efforts today. Stonyfield has assumed an important role in creating a new technology platform that helps farmers trap carbon from the atmosphere in the

soil, which improves soil health while reducing emissions. The eco-minded producer also supported research on testing seaweed from the Gulf of Mexico as a feed additive for enteric methane reduction, and partnered with The Organic Center to create a toxins calculator tool demonstrating the impact of consuming organic products.

Co-founder Hirshberg still takes up the mantle for helping people and the planet, recently forming a partnership to save organic dairy farms in the Northeast.

Unilever is also pursuing a circular-economy approach in which resources are kept in use in a closed-loop system, rather than thrown away, across every aspect of its business. Its waste-free world goals include 50% virgin-plastic reduction and 25% recycled plastic by 2025, while also collecting and processing more plastic than it sells during that same time period. Further, the company is partnering with 70-plus other businesses to promote the adoption of an ambitious and legally binding United Nations treaty that would

create a coordinated response to stemming the plastics problem at its source.

Not only is Unilever making its own sustainable choices, but it’s also working to influence consumers to do the same. A recent Unilever study found that activist influencer social media content has the single biggest impact on people’s green choices today, with both optimistic and pragmatic content effective in nudging people to adopt more sustainable practices.

“People are finding it hard to make sustainable choices due to a lack of simple, immediate and trustworthy information,” said Conny Braams, Unilever’s chief digital and commercial officer. “Our ambition is to continue to collaborate with our partners to improve the sustainability content produced by our brands and support the creators we work with. Together, we are learning what is all ‘likes’ and no action, versus content that makes sustainable choices simple and preferred.”

PROGRESSIVE GROCER April 2023 39
The industry standard for fresh food retail operations Fresh Optimized Forecasting accuracy in fresh demand Of food waste eliminated annually Shrink reduction Think forward. Think fresh. • 1 .866.332.3055 • thinkfresh@invafresh.com • invafresh.com/optimized 90% $150M 40%

Leveraging Data Helps Overcome Challenges in Fresh

SPEAKING WITH STEPHEN MIDGLEY, Vice President of Marketing, Invafresh

While there is no shortage of technology solutions available to grocery retailers today, choosing the right solution is critical to helping them solve or mitigate the risks they are facing, such as supply chain issues, labor shortages, inflation, and changing customer behaviors.

We reached out to Stephen Midgley, Vice President of Marketing at Invafresh — the industry leader of demand forecasting, merchandising, replenishment, and compliancy and sustainability solutions — to discuss how technology can help retailers optimize their fresh operations to increase revenues, reduce waste, and deliver an exceptional customer experience.

Progressive Grocer: Why is fresh such an important category in grocery retailing today?

Stephen Midgley: Fresh is the category that brings customers into stores. And that means it’s imperative for retailers to optimize their fresh departments for continued success. Today, many retailers are using fresh products as their differentiating factor — it’s what allows them to build a competitive advantage and connect with customers.

PG: Can you touch on some of the challenges fresh presents?

SM: There is the time-sensitive nature of fresh products, the demand shifts that occur due to the way consumers shop for fresh products, and the act of balancing product availability with managing operating margins and minimizing shrink. Fresh products need to be made available to consumers perfectly in sync with demand. The number of fresh items offered in-store has increased substantially — not just from a variety perspective, but also from the number of items that are produced, whether in-store or at a commissary. All this is compounded by the fact retailers continue to struggle with finding workers in an extremely tight labor market.

PG: How can stores address those challenges?

SM: Many of these challenges can be resolved by leveraging data into actionable insight. Working with a solution provider that gets you the right information, at the right time, to the right person is key. Production and ordering workflows must be easy to follow and must provide relevant and useful instructions that help not only the newest employee, but

also the most seasoned. Automated accurate forecasting and recommendations need to be flexible. Production planning cycles that can support transformation across multiple departments and commissaries concurrently are critical for today’s retailers. The fresh category is complex, always changing and evolving. Finding a solution that shifts and is flexible to the demands of the marketplace is extremely important. The grocery space has always been a human-centric operation, so technology should be viewed as a means to augment labor resources and make them more efficient.

PG: How does in-store or commissary production planning management help with staffing?

SM: Without it, every time an experienced employee leaves, the production planning capabilities of the grocery retailer takes a hit. Production planning software enhances employee training by building repeatable, scheduled workflows. New staff learn the speed and quality of production needed to become a star performer. It flattens the learning curve, speeds up training, and gets more experience under employees’ belts faster. For fresh departments that use multi-cycle production plans, production planning management software can create a single daily plan enabling stores to see the production requirements for the entire day and organize labor on their own terms, while still being compliant and offering the freshest product.

PG: Retailers need to be margin focused. What role does this technology play in cost savings?

SM: It improves forecasting and inventory management, which creates less shrink and waste. It also leads to a more efficient labor force, which saves money. With our AI-driven production planning, ordering, and forecasting solutions, grocery retailers are seeing improved yield, increased labor efficiency, and an increase in shelf-life for fresh products. Financial losses are turned into gains, and many Invafresh customers see an average increase of $80,000 to $100,000 in incremental growth margins, per store, per year. With the right technology, fresh operations can be optimized to deliver a better experience for customers.

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“ FINANCIAL LOSSES ARE TURNED INTO GAINS, AND MANY INVAFRESH CUSTOMERS SEE AN AVERAGE INCREASE OF $80,000 TO $100,000 IN INCREMENTAL GROWTH MARGINS, PER STORE, PER YEAR.”

Smart Salad Bars

SCHNUCKS BECOMES THE LATEST RETAILER TO DEPLOY PICADELI’S INNOVATIVE CONCEPT.

chnuck Markets Inc. is giving its customers a “smart salad bar” experience, thanks to a partnership with Picadeli. The food technology company’s modular in-store salad bar concept is available at 22 Schnucks locations throughout Missouri and Illinois, and also in its Eatwell Market banner stores.

Picadeli’s high-tech salad bars are primed for food safety and made with hygienic materials, technology-enabled shielding hoods, and automatic hand sanitizer and bowl dispensers, with an innovative mounting system for utensils that ensures that the handle is never in contact with food and that products aren’t mixed. The salad bars are also driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and are customized for each location, learning what ingredients are most sought after in their various markets.

“We know customers are looking for convenient, healthy food options, and they’re going to love the fresh new experience of Picadeli,” says Ted Schnuck, EVP of supermarkets at St. Louis-based Schnucks, which operates 114 stores in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. “With Picadeli’s AI technology, customers will have the freshest food available to them on the salad bar via its digital management and reordering system. We are thrilled to offer our customers a customizable, fresh and healthy food option that complements our existing prepared foods offerings.”

Patrik Hellstrand, CEO of Picadeli U.S., poses with the first Picadeli smart salad bar to launch at a Schnucks store, in Eureka, Mo. Picadeli’s smart salad bar technology has now come to 22 Schnucks locations.

Fresh Food Fast

Picadeli offers full traceability of its supply chain and operations, as well as QR code scanning to ensure that products don’t stay out longer than allowed. The Swedish tech company launched in the United States in October 2021 and currently partners with several Albertsons Cos. and Ahold Delhaize USA banners.

“Schnucks is a digital leader in the grocery space, and their deep understanding of the intersection of technology, operational excellence and high-quality food makes them an ideal partner for Picadeli,” says Patrik Hellstrand, CEO of Los Angeles-based Picadeli U.S. “Retailers today are faced with the unique challenge of both a tight labor market and the demand by consumers for a memorable in-store experience that drives traffic away from delivery apps and into the store. Picadeli has proven to answer both, and most importantly solves the overarching food problem in America: to provide healthy, affordable, fresh food fast.”

Continues Hellstrand: “We have demonstrated that we work in markets big and small and that the need for fast, fresh food is universal. We are thrilled to introduce Picadeli at Schnucks, a well-respected family-owned business for generations, and to accelerate our growth across the country.”

42 progressivegrocer.com EQUIPMENT & DESIGN Fixtures
“We are thrilled to offer our customers a customizable, fresh and healthy food option that complements our existing prepared foods offerings.”
—Ted Schnuck, Schnuck Markets Inc.

Showcase freshness with an attractive wall of produce

Customers all over the world are raving about how ModoShelf™ is changing the way they merchandise and manage their produce section in coolers.

Using standard ModoShelf components, you can create a system that uses various shelving depths and inventory blocker panels. These shelves act as natural “baffles” to facilitate air-flow from the rear of the case to support the “air curtain” at the front, and don’t disrupt the refrigeration efficiency like other upright racking systems. Inventory blockers have large holes to ensure this proper air circulation is not impeded.

Find out why so many grocers are making the move to ModoShelf™!

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the Flywheel

The retailer doubles down on a new business model for the future.

arlier this year, on a rare rainy day in Las Vegas, Walmart executives gathered together to lay out a vision for the future of the grocery retail industry.

At the CES Show, Walmart Chief Revenue Officer Seth Dallaire led a discussion with Cheryl Ainoa, SVP of new business and emerging technology; Julie Barber, EVP of general merchandise; Jill Toscano, VP of media; and Walmart Chief Economist John List. The topic of the conversation was the state of the company’s flywheel business model, first unveiled in 2021. Two years ago, President and CEO Doug McMillon described the company’s future business model as being based on three main pillars: e-commerce, financial services, and health and wellness. But at CES, Walmart execs detailed how that model has evolved to comprise a larger strategic innovation framework with three additional pillars: media, advertising and fulfillment services.

when Walmart teamed up with San Francisco-based Salesforce to get into the last-mile fulfillment business for other retailers. The partnership aims to help small and large retailers offer a “buy online and pick up” service for their customers through an app known as AppExchange. Walmart, which has often been accused of putting smaller retailers out of business, is now offering up its omnichannel order and delivery system

Key Takeaways

Walmart’s new strategic innovation framework is focused on media, advertising and fulfillment services.

E-commerce is still a big focus as the company invests in revamps of websites and fulfillment technology.

A partnership with Salesforce is a good example of another alternative revenue stream.

44 progressivegrocer.com RETAILER DEEP DIVE Walmart Inc.

to independent retailers to help them grow their businesses and serve more customers. The new service is part of Walmart’s larger push to scale higher-margin earnings streams.

“We’re continuing to invest for the future in ways that strengthen our retail advantages by expanding our capabilities and marketplace, ad platform, data ventures, and fulfillment as a service,” said John Rainey, CFO of Walmart, during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call this past February. “We’re providing more convenience for customers, including pickup and delivery, Scan & Go, and Walmart Plus. We’re working in partnership with our suppliers and sellers to use data-scaled fulfillment capabilities and our growing ad platform to elevate inventory accuracy and in-stocks, lower the cost to serve, and drive improved conversion. We’re managing our costs in a way that allows us to achieve our operating income goals with these investments. In other words, we’re staying true to our commitment of everyday low cost, enabling everyday low prices.”

‘Naturally Hedged’

Like many food retailers operating amid this macro backdrop of recession risk, persistent inflation and higher food-at-home sales, Walmart, which operates 5,342 locations in the United States, was optimistic yet cautious when it reported strong fourth-quarter and fiscal 2023 earnings. Walmart’s U.S. division posted net sales of $113.7 billion, an 8.5% increase year over year. U.S. same-store sales rose 8.3% as the company continued to gain market share in grocery, especially among higher-income shoppers looking to save money. Specifically, the retailer said that strength in food sales (up by high teens) reflected continued market share gains and ongoing growth in private-brand penetration; grocery sales increased by low-20s percentages on a two-year stack. Food units sold increased year over year; transactions and baskets were higher, too. Walmart is

attracting more shoppers of more income levels than ever before, thanks to its value prop promising better prices and more convenience options — such as membership, pickup and delivery — than traditional grocers and discounters.

“One of the things I’ve always appreciated about this company is that it’s naturally hedged,” McMillon said on the call. “If customers want more of something and less of something else, we shift our inventory. If the economy is strong, our customers have more money. If things are tougher, they come to us for value. With today’s inflation, we’re continuing to see that happen. We’re gaining share across income cohorts, including at the higher end, which made up nearly half of the gains we saw in the U.S.”

A lot of those higher-end shoppers love Walmart’s online grocery offering. Walmart now has more than 4,600 pickup locations and more than 3,500 same-day delivery locations across the United States. The company also has 157 distribution facilities, plus 31 dedicated e-commerce fulfillment centers. This month, Walmart revealed a revamp of its home page on desktop and mobile, with a customer-centric and curated storefront on walmart.com and the Walmart app so that customers can easily find what they need and be inspired to shop more of the hundreds of millions of items in the retailer’s online assortment.

PROGRESSIVE GROCER April 2023 45
“Who else has the stores and clubs so close to so many customers and members, combined with firstand third-party e-commerce, and the combination of grocery and general merchandise? We’re in the right markets, with a breadth of assortment and ways of shopping like no one else, with impactful and emerging digital and technological capabilities.”
—Doug McMillon, President and CEO, Walmart
Walmart now has more than 4,600 pickup locations and 3,500-plus sameday delivery locations across the United States, as well as 157 distribution facilities and 31 dedicated e-commerce fulfillment centers. The company also recently revealed a revamp of its home page on desktop and mobile.
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“When we think about our business today, compared to what it was during prior economic downturns, we now have a more compelling offer, a true omnichannel experience that makes us optimistic that more higher-income families will continue shopping with us across categories because we have pickup, delivery and membership,” McMillon said.

Getting the Mix Right

Walmart’s last few quarters show that it has acted quickly and aggressively to address the inventory and cost challenges it faced last year. The company is also planning to accelerate automation in its fresh distribution.

“In our perishable DCs, where we put some automation in place, we had a plan that would result in increased throughput in terms of cases per hour,” Rainey said. “The actual results are almost 50% better than that. That gives us conviction to want to accelerate some of this. Same story with some of our e-commerce DCs, where we see a 12-step process going down to five steps, making us a lot more efficient. These are high-ROI investments where we’ve got clear line of sight into the return.”

The retailer is also working to improve the product mix as it tries to get shoppers to convert in higher-margin (nonfood) categories such as apparel and hard lines. Walmart has been opening health clinics (a footprint of nearly 50 locations by the end of this year) and remodeling thousands of stores to showcase apparel, beauty and other non-grocery categories, and that may already be working to elevate the retailer’s brand. It’s not unusual to see celebrity stylists on social media modeling clothes from Walmart’s Brandon Maxwell collection, for example. “I got it at Walmart” is now actually cool.

“The opportunity in front of us is incredible. Our customer member value proposition has never been stronger. Perhaps, that’s more obvious during times like this, when the consumer is pressured,” McMillon said. “Who else has the stores and clubs so close to so many customers and members, combined with first- and third-party e-commerce, and the combination of grocery and general merchandise? We’re in the right markets, with a breadth of assortment and ways of shopping like no

one else, with impactful and emerging digital and technological capabilities.”

For fiscal 2023, Walmart added $38 billion in sales globally, and crossed $600 billion in revenue for the first time in the company’s history. Internationally, e-commerce now represents more than $80 billion in sales and more than 13% of total sales. Walmart U.S. grew sales by more than $27 billion. Sam’s Club U.S. grew sales by more than $10 billion as it delivered double-digit comp growth for the third consecutive year, with membership count at a record high and strong growth in membership income.

According to Sam’s Club, it plans to invest in opening at least 30 new clubs over the next several years, as well as a supply chain modernization initiative.

“If you look at the actual membership composition, we’re growing with mid to high household income groups with share of wallet,” said Kathleen McLay, CEO of Sam’s Club, on the call. “We’re growing with Millennials and Gen Z as the largest growth area in our membership base. Then, if I look at market share, we’re growing market share in our club channel despite not opening clubs while our competitors were opening clubs. So, if you look at that suite of metrics, you realize that the value proposition we have at Sam’s is winning.”

In addition to its retail divisions, Walmart’s global advertising business grew more than 30% for the year to $2.7 billion, led by Walmart Connect in the United States.

“Over the last three years, while our front-line focus was on navigating the pandemic and inflation, we still launched and started scaling new complementary businesses using the technology and expertise we developed over time,” McMillon said.

The partnership with Salesforce to help scale local fulfillment and delivery solutions for customers is a good example of another complementary business. Walmart’s business e-commerce site is another, where the retailer is helping small- and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits save money and spend less on purchasing the items they need every day.

48 progressivegrocer.com
Walmart Pay lets shoppers speed up the checkout process because they can use it to securely store debit, credit and Walmart gift card information. Shoppers will use a smartphone to check out instead of pulling out cards, cash or loose change.
RETAILER DEEP DIVE Walmart Inc.
Walmart has been enhancing the in-store shopping experience by remodeling many of its locations to include new signage with a bolder typeface, a mobile app to guide customers through the store, and new self-checkout areas.

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Meanwhile Walmart’s omnichannel game gets stronger by the quarter. E-commerce sales were led by continued strong growth in store-fulfilled pickup and delivery in Q4. Over the past two years, store-fulfilled delivery sales have nearly tripled, and the retailer is generating more than $1 billion a month in that segment. The retailer now has 400 million-plus SKUs on its online marketplace, and a significant portion of those sellers avail themselves of the retailer’s fulfillment services as well.

“As we get more assortment on the marketplace, we get more eyeballs coming to our website, [and] that ... makes more advertisers want to spend money there, with a larger audience,” Rainey said. “If you look at our e-commerce business today, it’s an $80 billion business, and still growing. We have a lot of opportunity there going forward.”

As Walmart leverages technologies across its business to elevate the customer experience and generate alternative revenue, the strategy all goes back to the new business model that company executives detailed at CES, in Las Vegas.

Customer Centricity

At CES, Walmart unveiled a new strategy, Customer Centricity, focused on media and advertising. The company plans to leverage retail media, augmented reality and social commerce, with the help of its partners, to “super-serve” the evolving U.S. shopper and be their first choice for everything, from private-brand toilet paper to fresh rotisserie chicken to a new pair of jeans.

Barber, an 18-year Walmart veteran, elaborated on the first prong of Walmart’s approach: retail media and data analytics. Her team meets with the teams at Walmart Connect (the retailer’s ad business) and Luminate (the retailer’s data platform for suppliers), and that “helps us make decisions about what the customer might want to buy or what they have been buying, and how we should think about that. Then we can build a plan with the supplier — ‘Okay, these are the products we need.’ Once we get those products, we then say, ‘How are we going to make sure that they show up in store and online?’”

According to Barber, Walmart has gone full omni.

“We’ve moved from many people [and] suppliers thinking Walmart’s a stores business, and I think we started proving over the last few years we’re much more than a stores business. We have a very strong omni-business, and it’s growing,” Barber said. “We’re seeing suppliers now come to us and say, ‘Hey, we heard you did this with one of your private-brand products, and it’s sold out,’ or ‘what you did with online events and bestselling products.’ People

are starting to see that. We have a lot of traffic on our site, and a lot of traffic in our stores.”

Ainoa explained Walmart’s accelerating adoption of augmented reality. “Our mission with emerging tech is simple: How do we initiate the inspiration and the discovery of a need, and then how do we shorten the distance, time and friction from the point of inspiration or need identification to fulfill that need?” she said. “Whether that inspiration is in a Walmart store or in a Walmart app or is on a social channel or while watching your favorite show on Roku, however a consumer gets inspired or creates a need, we want to reduce the time and distance that it takes to fulfill that need.”

She added that the retailer plans to use more augmented reality and artificial intelligence not just in paths to purchase, but also to power associate tools.

Ainoa then spoke about how Walmart is now doing a lot of things online first, a departure from previous strategy.

“We do see trends of things that go online first,” she noted. “Maybe it even starts on a third-party marketplace. The thing is, we know so much data about the customer that we’re able to say, ‘We think based on the customer that’s buying these probiotics, this subset of stores, it’s really important to go in.’ Each week, our team is getting those Pinterest search terms and trends and they’re saying, ‘Oh wow, people are starting to look for this. Let’s work with

50 progressivegrocer.com
Walmart has been attracting higher-income shoppers with low prices and beautiful presentations in the perimeter. The retailer hopes to keep these shoppers coming back — even when inflation wanes — with remodeled fresh departments that offer hot prepared foods, plant-based meats and organic produce.
“Whether that inspiration is in a Walmart store or in a Walmart app or is on a social channel or while watching your favorite show on Roku, however a consumer gets inspired or creates a need, we want to reduce the time and distance that it takes to fulfill that need.”
—Cheryl Ainoa, SVP of New Business and Emerging Technology, Walmart

our third-party team and make sure we can get it soon. Do we think this is a long-term trend? Maybe we should buy this for Hallowe’en,’ or whatever it may be. We know that we have influencers out there that will ... make a TikTok on something, and the product will sell out immediately.”

T-Commerce Unleashed

Ainoa also reiterated the value of Walmart’s Roku partnership.

“With TV advertising, you can’t really actually ever measure truly what your results are,” she said. “With our T-commerce partnership with Roku, we have direct information. We know exactly how many times it was shown, we can map it back to the actual purchases, who cares about purchasing through that channel, who also then did certain things online, who also made a booking through other ways. We can give a real look at the customer and give them an experience that matches how they want to find things, who they want to give confidence and who they want to connect with to give them confidence in buying, and give it to them how they want to get it.”

Toscano meanwhile weighed in on Walmart’s exploding social commerce business.

“Three hundred and two million Americans are spending over two hours a day on social platforms,” she said. “That is a tremendous amount of attention that they’re giving these

networks.” Toscano noted that the retailer’s social commerce strategy includes re-evaluating where product discovery is now happening. “Product discovery doesn’t happen in just the aisles and in search anymore,” she continued, listing some of the things that Walmart is doing in this space, including the partnership with Roku that’s generating “some really surprising results that we’re looking to scale.”

Toscano said Walmart is also focused on livestreams and monetizing content with its new Creator platform. All initiatives are designed to measure the impact of marketing and media investments. “ROAS [return on ad spend] is not the single source of truth anymore,” she said. “It is an important metric, but it is not the [only] metric. We think about high-value actions in addition to ROAS. We think about customer lifetime value, we think about contribution profit, [and we] think about how our investments at the top of the funnel impact the performance.” Walmart’s push into revenue streams such as media, advertising and fulfillment services is a harbinger for what this year is bound to bring in the grocery industry: a period in which everyone will be looking to improve omnichannel profitability.

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Placing a Premium on Meat

DESPITE ECONOMIC HEADWINDS, MARKET DEMAND FOR QUALITY EATING EXPERIENCES AND SHARED-VALUE SOURCING ARE KEEPING HIGHER-END CUTS IN THE CASE.

s battered by inflation as shoppers may be, not everyone is trading down to value cuts. In fact, many consumers are paying for premium proteins that meet their taste and lifestyle preferences.

Akin to the adage about not putting a price on happiness, there’s a higher ceiling for meat products that are bought for the eating experience and, increasingly, for attributes that mirror personal values. The 2023 “Power of Meat” study, published by FMI — The Food Industry Association and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), shows that although inflation is driving many decisions at the meat case, so are other factors. According to the report, 85% of meat consumers also take into account at least one of the considerations of health, animal welfare, planet or social responsibility when buying meat and poultry, a rate that has stayed consistent despite recent price spikes.

“There’s no hiding that the market outlook shows tough times ahead, with shrinking cattle supplies and changing consumer preferences,” asserts Jim Rogers, SVP at Arkansas City, Kan.-based Creekstone Farms. “However, this presents an opportunity to creatively balance innovation and investments.

Items such as case-ready technology and transparent sustainability messaging will be vital to help retailers capture consumer demand for premium meat.”

Taking a closer look at the retail meat case, some attributes within the broader protein categories are faring well and reflect shoppers’ penchant for premium offerings.

Raising the Bar

One facet of shoppers’ interest in premium proteins is sourcing. How animals are raised, including the land on which they graze, what they eat and how they are cared for, is a consideration for many consumers as they’re weighing their selections at the meat case.

Key Takeaways

How animals are raised and their species are key considerations for many consumers as they’re deciding on meat purchases. The overarching topic of sustainability has also become a selling point for protein offerings. Tying together attributes that make a product premium in the eyes of shoppers, storytelling has become nearly as important as the item itself.

52 progressivegrocer.com FRESH FOOD Meat

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According to the latest “Power of Meat” study, four in 10 meat buyers cite aspects of animal living, feeding and care as part of their animal welfare considerations. More than half (58%) of consumers say that it would be helpful to have some kind of animal welfare ratings or certifications for the meat they purchase.

Meat brands and suppliers with such sourcing claims underscore this kind of value proposition. “People want to know where their products come from. They want to know that the animal and the people involved in growing their food are well taken care of and doing the right thing,” says Tom Windish, primary division managing director for Wichita, Kan.-based North America Cargill Protein, adding that the notion about shoppers’ willingness to pay extra may soon become moot. “That’s always the question when you do consumer research,” notes Windish. “People say it’s important, but what are they willing to pay for it? But we can’t wait for that to resolve — we have to move forward, and we know that it’s of bigger importance to younger consumers.”

Animal care extends to many aspects of production. For example, feed used to be a little-thought-of part of the ranch-totable chain from a consumer standpoint,

Verde Farms recently updated packaging for its 100% grass-fed organic beef, going for a "fun" look that also provides information for consumers shopping the better-for-you segment.

but today’s meat shoppers are learning more about animal feed and how it affects eating quality, nutrition and sustainability.

Take, for example, the interest in grass-fed beef that has continued to grow over the past few years. According to London-based research firm Technavio, the global market for grass-fed beef is estimated to grow by $12.15 billion from 2022 to 2027 as more brands enter this segment.

Indeed, the way animals are nourished has become a selling point for brands that connect with information-seeking consumers. Brandt Beef, part of the One World Beef Alliance, in Solana Beach, Calif., emphasizes the fact that its Holstein steers are raised within the organization and that the cattle feed is grown on 600 acres of adjacent land.

Going upstream a little more, species is another animal-based differentiator in premium products. Here, too, eating quality and stewardship are part of the dynamic behind the trend. In the pork category, some processors and retailers tout pork from the Duroc breed of hogs, known for its darker-red color and rich marbling. The Berkshire breed of pork has been compared to the Wagyu breed of cattle because of its heritage and associated tender and flavorful eating quality.

Beef species typically linked with elevated quality — and hence viewed as more premium — include breeds like Angus that have become common in restaurant menus and have migrated to the butcher counter and self-serve meat case. While Wagyu beef is typically associated with restaurant menus, some specialty meat departments carry those high-end cuts.

As they merchandise premium proteins with some type of breed claim, grocers can choose to add case-ready products or showcase items at their full-service counters as a way to elevate their offerings. Creekstone Farms, for example, offers a case-ready program for its Black Angus beef and all-natural Duroc pork. Meanwhile, True Story Foods, of Fairfield, Calif., offers a line of Berkshire pork, which it calls Kurobuta pork, to food retailers.

Shelling Out for Sustainability

In addition to animal-centric considerations, the overarching topic of sustainability has become a selling point for protein products that are considered premium. Many meat companies have staked a claim on different aspects of sustainability, including the use of resources for production, processing and packaging. Some brands are upping the ante when it comes to sustainability claims. Mississauga, Ontario-based Maple Leaf Foods, for example, became a carbon-neutral company in 2019 by purchasing highly credible

54 progressivegrocer.com FRESH FOOD Meat
As consumers grow choosy about the meat they buy, breed type, such as Duroc pork and Black Angus beef from brands like Creekstone Farms, is increasingly factoring into perceptions of premium.

offsets to account for emissions not yet avoided, reduced or replaced.

“Consumers weren’t yet demanding that Maple Leaf go as far as it did with environmental measures, but we believe we had a responsibility to lead the change, not follow behind shifting public attitude,” explains Randy Huffman, the company’s chief food safety and sustainability officer.

Verde Farms, a Boston-based supplier that produces organic 100% grass-fed, 100% pasture-raised beef, recently relaunched its brand with an emphasis on its commitment to regenerative agriculture with new “Land to Market” verification.

Co-founder and CEO Dana Ehrlich suggests that sustainability claims need to be accompanied by education. “Regenerative is a great buzzword, but there are few who understand what it means,” notes Ehrlich. “We created a short video of our facilities to help explain it, because it’s our job to educate.” He adds that these practices result in higher soil quality, better water retention, healthier grass for feed, and improved animal grow rates and quality.

Underpinning sustainability claims, of course, is the ultimate driver of taste. “Organic consumers want a great eating experience as much as conventional consumers do,” Ehrlich points out.

Other processors are likewise redoubling their sustainability and transparency efforts. Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods recently unveiled a Brazen Beef line, produced using 10% less greenhouse-gas emissions, as part of its Climate-Smart Beef program.

“As we take this step, we are focused on three things: climate friendly, grass- and grain-fed, and tracking every animal,” notes Kent Harrison, Tyson’s VP of fresh meats marketing and premium programs. “Those are the most critical things, and they are all on the label.”

Meanwhile, Cargill is making strides in its BeefUp initiative, which launched in 2019 to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 30% across its North American beef supply chain by 2030.

According to Windish, consumer insights conducted for Cargill show that people are interested in knowing more about sustainability

actions and results. “We are starting to see sustainability in purchases slowly go up the list of attributes,” he notes. “It’s growing, and what’s really emerging is this holistic view. It’s not just about carbon sequestration.”

A Story to Tell

Tying together attributes that make a product premium in the eyes of shoppers, storytelling has become nearly as important as the item itself.

The brands that fall under the One World Beef umbrella, for example, highlight attributes such as breed type, feed and sustainability measures. Likewise, Tyson Foods shares more stories behind its products as a way to connect with information-seeking consumers. That includes storytelling for products in its new Brazen Beef line, as well as its Open Prairie and premium Chairman’s Reserve brands, among others.

Storytelling takes place across messaging platforms to reach shoppers who are browsing premium proteins. At the point of sale, packaging is a crucial method of delivering information, especially as smart-packaging technologies like QR codes advance. Processors and brands are also using a host of website and social media platforms to share why higher-priced products are worth the bump in price.

As meat suppliers focus on storytelling, grocers can share those stories in their physical and online stores as well. In addition to educating meat department staff — especially those at the butcher counters — about premium product features, grocers can leverage point-of-sale materials that link shoppers back to farmers and ranchers.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market, for instance, regularly shares information and resources related to its selection of Animal Welfare Certified local, organic and grass-fed proteins. Another example is Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee Inc., which has added video screens in some of its meat departments providing insights on its 100% natural Choice Reserve line and heralding the fact that only “6 out of 100 cattle make the cut” in accordance with its discerning standards.

PROGRESSIVE GROCER April 2023 55
“Items such as caseready technology and transparent sustainability messaging will be vital to help retailers capture consumer demand for premium meat.”
—Jim Rogers, Creekstone Farms
Even during a period of high inflation, shoppers are willing to pay — if less frequently — for premium cuts like higher-end pork for a satisfying eating experience.

Across the Board

INVENTIVE NEW TRENDS IN CHARCUTERIE ADD ZEST TO A REVITALIZED HOME ENTERTAINING LANDSCAPE.

n the world of charcuterie, Gelson’s Markets is a star. Ahead of the recent Academy Awards telecast, the Encino, Calif.-based indie rolled out a selection of “show-stopping, jaw-dropping charcuterie boards served with specially picked wine and champagne, perfect for a classy night celebrating the silver screen with friends and family.”

The inclusion of alcoholic beverages with its charcuterie boards is strategic for the grocer, which operates 27 stores in Southern California. “We cross-merchandise with various departments, i.e., the liquor department, create signage that drives customers to learn more about a product or event, and have knowledgeable employees in-store to help sell the product,” notes Gayle De Caro, Gelson’s category manager of specialty cheese and deli merchandising.

Key Takeaways

Charcuterie, grazing and snacking boards are more popular than ever.

Consumers are increasingly enjoying charcuterie boards all year round and during all dayparts, with a more varied assortment of ingredients, including sweet treats.

Digital marketing is as important as in-store efforts when it comes to promoting charcuterie options to shoppers.

56 progressivegrocer.com FRESH FOOD Deli
Foods
and Prepared
Fiorucci Foods offers a variety of specialty meats and cheeses suitable for inclusion on charcuterie boards.

Deli and Prepared Foods

That’s Entertaining

To know how to meet consumers’ entertaining needs, it’s useful to look at what they’re seeking. Shawn Munk, director of marketing, European brands and foodservice at Colonial Heights, Va.-based specialty meat and cheese provider Fiorucci Foods Inc., a division of Sigma USA, asserts that “we are seeing [that] charcuterie, grazing and snacking boards [are] more popular than ever. According to Technomic’s Ignite Menu data, charcuterie and meat/cheese platters have grown 7.7% over the last year. Many options now feature a variety of cultural infusions from different countries and regions across a wide array of meats, cheeses, crackers and other accompaniments.”

On the retail front, Munk says: “We’ve found that consumers are purchasing our specialty products with other Italian ingredients found throughout store shelves. In fact, based on internal consumer research we’ve conducted, nine out of 10 consumers link our products to premium Italian cheeses, and roughly two-thirds associate our products with oils, vinegars, pasta sauces, and more. There are opportunities for cross-selling throughout the deli section that retailers and suppliers can capitalize on … to help drive incremental growth. And charcuterie is not just for the fourth-quarter holidays – consumers are entertaining now throughout the year and getting back together more than ever before, so keep in mind upcoming seasonal moments throughout the year.”

Any Time of Day, and Many Types of Food

Other interesting trends include when consumers are enjoying their boards and what they’re including on them.

“What was once called a cheese board is now referred to as a charcuterie board, and really almost anything goes as long as it includes cheese,” points out Debbie Seife, director of marketing at Dutch multinational dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina, whose U.S. headquarters is in Paramus, N.J. “Traditionally, consumers were making a board for entertaining before dinner, with just cheese and meat. Today, consumers are enjoying boards throughout the day. Brunch boards, appetizer boards, dessert boards and even personal boards are being created across the United States. Consumers are having a lot of fun with boards, mixing and matching cheese with meat, crackers, crusty bread, veggies, [and] fresh and dried fruit, as well as chocolate. Brunch boards have croissants, muffins, hardboiled eggs and bacon, [and] dessert boards have fruit, chocolate and pastries. It has really become a canvas to be creative.”

“We’re seeing charcuterie boards and cheese trays not only being served as an appetizer, but as the main event when used in the popular grazing table trend,” agrees Allison Schuman, chief business development officer at Fairfield, N.J.-based Schuman Cheese. “Grazing tables are a great option for hosting because they save you the task of cooking and serving up food the whole time, so you can focus on enjoying the company of

Above: Fruit can be a welcome addition to a charcuterie board, as this display from ham and cured meat producer Rovagnati USA shows. Below: A show-stopping charcuterie board from Gelson's Markets highlights gourmet cheese.

your guests. To take it one step further, pre-made trays and charcuterie boards, like our Cello Simple Pleasures Trays, have been a hit with consumers because they get to eliminate the task of figuring out which cheeses to include and what to pair them with.”

Munk describes the current consumer attitude to charcuterie as a “make-it-your-own type of approach,” and also observes that “[c]harcuterie boards are now inviting more vegetable and fruit pairings that are continuously updated throughout the year as these ingredients [go] in and out of season.”

To aid the creation of innovative boards like the ones described above, Seife recommends that retailers “[g]ive consumers ideas and make adding the pairings and accompaniments easy for consumers. Specialty cheese can be enjoyed throughout the day and for different occasions.”

Seeing Is Believing

Asked what retailers should be doing to promote such products as home entertaining gains steam once more, De Caro replies: “They should use their social media platforms, along with virtual events. Gelson’s has been successful with our virtual Build Your Own Cheese and Charcuterie Board sessions, where customers can sign up for an online presentation from our certified cheese professionals on how to build their own boards at home. These are in addition to our educational virtual wine-and-cheese pairing events.”

“For the past couple of years, the search trend for ‘charcuterie board’ has exploded,” observes Lorenzo Tedeschi, sales director at New York-based Rovagnati USA, a producer of ham and cured meats. “Millennials – and the internet in general – can’t get enough of them, for many reasons. They are the perfect

58 progressivegrocer.com FRESH FOOD
“Charcuterie has really become a canvas to be creative.”
—Debbie Seife, FrieslandCampina

Deli and Prepared Foods

vory or spicy factor that elevates the flavors of the board.”

Meanwhile, Rovagnati USA’s Tedeschi cites unusual food combinations and new usage occasions: “We are starting to see more exotic and out-of-the-ordinary ingredients, … such as tropical fruits, dried fruit and jam, paired with traditional ingredients such as cheese and fine cold cuts. Also, new consuming occasions are trending on Pinterest, such as ‘birthday’ charcuterie boards, replacing birthday cakes [at] celebrations.”

Looking to the second half of the year, Schuman predicts: “With spring/summer on the horizon, we expect to see in-season fruit like apricots, peaches, strawberries, etc., that we typically don’t see on winter boards making a comeback to add those bright colors and new textures. We also anticipate these fruity flavors to show up within the cheeses themselves during this timeframe.”

She goes on to note the continued rise of sweet additions: “We have also seen people getting more and more adventurous with adding non-cheese and -meat inclusions onto their cheese boards. We have seen people play around with putting our Delve Mascarpone Truffles on cheese boards as a fun pop of mascarpone and chocolate, for an unexpected sweet indulgence.”

“I think it is great fun to add chocolate to a board,” enthuses FrieslandCampina’s Seife. “Chocolate-covered espresso beans, chocolate-dipped strawberries and stroop waffles are all crowd pleasers and not expected.”

shared finger food for your guests when you host, looking beautiful, combining lots of interesting and delicious foods, and letting every guest get creative on the combinations they choose. This helps to elevate the concept of finger food itself, shifting slowly towards Italian-style gourmet gatherings and aperitifs. Also, there is the undeniable fact that they look great on Instagram, Pinterest and social media in general.”

That being the case, Tedeschi advises “[g]iving the consumer ideas and inspiration on how to consume their products (recipes), how to pair them and when to consume them (consuming occasions). This can be done directly at point of sale or digitally [through] social media content, videos, etc.”

Schuman is also big on digital marketing. “Social media is a great way to connect with consumers and create an interactive charcuterie board-building experience,” she notes. “As part of our Cheesing with Cello program, we’ve partnered with influential experts to host live classes on Instagram showcasing how to build your own charcuterie board at home. It is such a great way to spark that inspiration for consumers and help educate them on the best cheese selections/pairings, so they can confidently put together a board for their next party.”

The upshot is, whether online or in-store, image is everything. “A photo can be really helpful for consumers to see how creative they can be, especially if around a holiday,” says Seife.

Next on Board

Upcoming trends in the charcuterie space promise to be just as exciting as what’s already happening.

Gelson’s De Caro identifies the following ingredients as contenders: “Fermented foods and crunchy elements like unique flavored chips, pork rinds and caramel popcorn, because they add that crunch, sa-

Fiorucci Foods’ Munk is perhaps the most granular when it comes to the types of ingredients that consumers will want to place on their charcuterie boards: “According to recent consumer research we’ve conducted with help from Datassential, some fast-growing sweet options include pomegranates, passion and dragon fruits, pineapple, and tangerines. Some salty and savory ingredients are hot honey sauce, dulce de leche spreads, macadamia and pecan nuts, mangos, and Gouda and Romano cheeses. [F]inally, some unique dessert offerings are becoming more prevalent, like gingerbreads, truffle chocolates, churros, toffee crisps and mini birthday cakes, because why not? Really, the list of emerging and groundbreaking ingredients … is endless, and we believe that’s because consumers are open to experimenting more with exotic flavors and letting their tastebuds take them on a [journey] to world cuisine from the comfort of their homes.”

60 progressivegrocer.com FRESH FOOD
Sweet items like chocolate-dipped strawberries are increasingly showing up on charcuterie boards, as in this example from Fiorucci Foods.
“For the past couple of years, the search trend for ‘charcuterie board’ has exploded. Millennials — and the internet in general — can’t get enough of them.”
—Lorenzo Tedeschi, Rovagnati USA
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Taking On In-Store and Online Promotional Strategies

DATA, PERSONALIZATION AND MORE HELP GROCERS AND BRANDS REACH CUSTOMERS AT THE RIGHT MOMENTS ALONG THEIR BUYING JOURNEY.

In-store promotions can benefit from a tech-driven strategy that helps offer a more interactive experience.

standing of why the customer is shopping, not just who they are.”

Whichever avenue a grocer or brand decides to go down with its promotional strategy, there are a few considerations that should be taken into account.

The Personalization Imperative

echnology is changing the status quo for food retailers, with tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), social media and next-generation personalization making it easier than ever to streamline operations and connect with customers. When it comes to promotions, grocers and brands are finding ways to harness these types of technology to encourage trial and repeat purchases.

Today’s promotional strategies run the gamut from standard in-store marketing displays to promoting products across multiple channels, including email marketing, smartphone push notifications, online advertising and so much more. Promotions can often be a sure-fire way to get customers into physical stores and onto websites and mobile apps, but using the right tools is more important than ever.

Michael Della Penna, chief strategy officer at Los Angeles-based InMarket, explains that the technology used in today’s omnichannel promotions has helped grocers and brands truly connect with consumers on their buying journeys instead of blindly trying to sell to them.

“For a long time, marketing has been so focused on who to advertise to, leveraging audiences, demographics and psychographics, and all those traditional targeting approaches,” says Della Penna. “What I think technology and data have done over the last couple years is really shift the focus to when and where the consumer is so you can connect with them, and also provide a deeper under-

Along with a deeper customer understanding comes the need to speak directly to that customer to serve up pertinent promotions. Today’s consumers are inundated with many daily emails from retailers offering generic discounts and offers, according to Sujeet Naik, research associate at New York-based Coresight Research, who further explains that personalization is vital to cut through the noise.

“Personalization allows retailers to provide targeted promotions more relevant to indi-

Key Takeaways

When it comes to promotions, grocers and brands are finding ways to harness technology to encourage trial and repeat purchases.

With mountains of consumer data available to them, along with data analytics and machine-learning technologies, food retailers have the ability to tailor promotions at an individual level.

While online promotions can inherently lean on technology and tools such as social media, in-store promotions can benefit just as much from a tech-driven strategy.

62 progressivegrocer.com TECHNOLOGY Omnichannel Promotions

vidual consumers, increasing the likelihood of a positive response,” explains Naik. “Offering personalization across promotions and recommendations, through text messages, social content and app content, typically leads to increased sales and basket size.”

With mountains of consumer data, including age, location, purchase history and the type of promotions a given shopper responds to, along with data analytics and machine-learning technologies, food retailers have the ability to tailor promotions at an individual level, notes Naik.

According to Della Penna, while true personalization requires technology and a slight mindset shift, it can make all the difference when a customer is reaching for a particular product.

“It goes back to the data and the technology,” he says. “It’s really about thinking differently about how you’re connecting with that customer and really looking at how to be of service to the customer, as opposed to just selling something.”

In-Store Upsells

While online promotions can inherently lean on technology and tools such as social media, in-store promotions can benefit just as much from a tech-driven strategy. Della Penna recommends making the brick-and-mortar experience as interactive as possible by offering options like the ability to scan a barcode to understand what the ingredients are in a given product.

InMarket’s location-based advertising, for example, uses a proprietary network of apps and a software development kit (SDK) that can connect with customers via smartphone as they enter a store. Brands and retailers can use that technology to drive real-time promotional programs that serve up a relevant experience to each individual shopper.

“It’s about surrounding the customer with helpful technology to have a better experience in the store,” notes Della Penna.

When it comes to in-store promotions in general, Naik has some advice for grocers looking to bolster their strategies:

Optimize product placement: Grocers must ensure that the promoted products are placed in prominent locations throughout the store. This could be in high-traffic areas, on end caps or on special displays.

Timing: This is critical when it comes to promotions. Grocers need to plan their promotions around key shopping events when the stores see high traffic, such as holidays or seasonal changes, to maximize the impact of their promotional campaigns.

Leverage technology: Grocers can use technology to improve their in-store promotional strategy. For example, they can use beacons or location-based technology to send targeted offers to customers in specific areas of the store. They can also use digital signage to promote products and highlight deals.

A Multifaceted Approach

Retailers looking for the real deal when it comes to an omnichannel approach should ensure that customers receive a consistent message across all channels, regardless of where they choose to shop, says Naik. One such approach includes disseminating coupons that can be redeemed both in-store and online, which

incentivizes customers to visit both channels and can help drive sales across both platforms.

When it comes to buy online, pickup in store and curbside pickup, retailers should also employ functionality that triggers push notifications to inform customers of in-store offers and deals that could prompt them to either enter the store or add those items to their carts. Additionally, Naik explains that grocers can offer loyalty programs that are accessible both in-store and online to allow customers to earn rewards for purchases made in either channel, which can help drive engagement and repeat business.

PROGRESSIVE GROCER April 2023 63
“Personalization allows retailers to provide targeted promotions more relevant to individual consumers, increasing the likelihood of a positive response.”
—Sujeet Naik, Coresight Research
InMarket helped SmartyPants drive a highly engaging mobile campaign with a Taregt callout and a $5 coupon.

Food, Beverage & Nonfood Products

Raising the Bar for Snack Cakes

Long beloved for its iconic products, Hostess Brands has now launched a first-of-its-kind candy-bar-inspired innovation within the snack cake market. Hostess Kazbars combine layers of soft chocolate cake, crème, candy crunch, and caramel or chocolate fudge. Available in two fan-favorite flavors, Chocolate Caramel and Triple Chocolate, the bars are enrobed in a rich chocolate-flavored coating and topped with a drizzle. Hostess Kazbars come in two sizes: 10-ounce boxes containing eight individually wrapped 1.25-ounce mini bars retailing for a suggested $4.49 at grocery and mass retailers nationwide, and single individually wrapped 2.75-ounce bars with a suggested retail price of $2.79 at convenience stores as well as at grocery and mass retailers across the country. https://www.hostesscakes.com

Pu Pieces

In keeping with its mission to clean up the flour tortilla category and provide families with better food choices, Rise & Puff has made its debut after three years of developing an authentic healthier tortilla. The product line features tortillas that puff, thanks to the brand’s decision to remove eight of the 12 ingredients found in processed supermarket tortillas. Rise & Puff offers three varieties, Original, Certified Organic and Gluten-Free, with Original containing just four premium ingredients: non-GMO wheat flour, pure avocado oil, sea salt and filtered pure water. Taking only 60 seconds to cook, the tortillas have less sodium (170 milligrams versus 420 milligrams), fewer calories (100 versus 140), and no sugar, compared with most tortillas on the market today, according to the brand, which is looking to disrupt the tortilla category with more products. An 8-ounce airtight resealable package of eight tortillas that lasts 40 days in the fridge retails for a suggested price range of $5.99-$8.99. https://riseandpuff.com/

Even More Impossible

The most recent products from plant-based company Impossible Foods are Impossible Spicy Chicken Nuggets & Patties and Impossible Chicken Tenders, a move that doubles the company’s plant-based chicken portfolio to six products,along with Impossible Beef Lite. Designed especially for heat-seeking palates, the spicy nuggets and patties feature a custom seasoning blend that adds a kick to the crispy, juicy, tender bite of the original Impossible Chicken recipe. They’re ready to heat in the air fryer, oven or microwave. Featuring a savory blend of spices in a larger, elongated shape, the tenders can be used for a range of different eating styles, including wraps, salads and baskets. A serving of any of the three chicken products packs 10-12 grams of protein, but no cholesterol and less total fat and less saturated fat than their animal counterparts. Featuring a whopping 21 grams of protein, no trans fat or cholesterol, and 75% less saturated fat, as well as 45% less total fat, than 90/10 lean beef from cows, nutrient-packed Impossible Beef Lite is also a good source of fiber, iron, B vitamins, zinc and potassium while featuring 33% less sodium than a competitor’s plant-based beef product. It tastes, cooks and satisfies like lean ground animal beef, and can be added to such dishes as tacos, chilis, stir-fries, soups and lasagna. Further, like all Impossible products, the latest items have a significantly smaller footprint than their animal counterparts, according to the company. A 13.5-ounce bag of either the spicy nuggets or patties and a 12-ounce bag of the tenders each retail for a suggested $8.99, while a 12-ounce package of Impossible Beef Lite goes for the same suggested price at retail. https://impossiblefoods.com/

Smooth Operator

Offering the nutritional benefits of cottage cheese and the creamy, smooth texture of yogurt, Kemps Smooth Cottage Cheese gives parents a healthful, curd-free option for their kids. The 4% whole-milk cottage cheese contains almost twice as much protein per ounce as most yogurts, along with real blended fruit (no chunks to navigate or mixing to do); probiotics; and no high-fructose corn syrup. According to a survey conducted by Kemps, more than 40% of respondents said that they’d be motivated to eat cottage cheese if it tasted better and had a better texture, so the brand gave them their wish. Available in child-friendly Mixed Berry, Strawberry and Strawberry Banana flavors, Kemp Smooth Cottage Cheese comes in packaging adorned with beloved characters from the powerhouse portfolio of global branded entertainment leader Hasbro: Peppa Pig, PJ Masks and Transformers. A convenient 4-ounce pack of four cups of any variety retails for a suggested $3.98, although prices may vary depending on location and retailer. https://kemps.com/

64 progressivegrocer.com EDITORS’ PICKS

Hot Like Sheeran

The Kraft Heinz Co. has joined forces with chart-topping musician Ed Sheeran on “the ultimate” hot sauce under the Tingly Ted’s brand. Tingly Ted’s is the latest insight-led innovation from Kraft Heinz as it continues to grow its Taste Elevation platform worldwide, expanding into different categories and channels to fuel its transformation. Having already worked with Kraft Heinz on previous collaborations involving Heinz Ketchup, Sheeran, a self-described sauce fanatic who carries a bottle of the stuff in his suitcase whenever he travels, sought out the company’s expertise to create a unique hot sauce. The resulting product comes in two flavors, Tingly Sauce and an Xtra Tingly variant, both made using red jalapeños and capsicum chilies. Named after Sheeran’s childhood moniker, the sauce line promises to propel Kraft Heinz’s Taste Elevation strategy forward into the ever-expanding hot sauce category, which is expected to grow at a rate of 6.3% to $5.4 billion in 2027. A 248-milliliter (approximately 8-ounce) bottle of either variety will retail for a suggested $6.49. Tingly Ted’s is slated to roll out globally through 2023. www.tinglyteds.com; www.kraftheinzcompany.com

Nuts (and Seeds) on the Run

Mixed-nut and -seed butter brand NuttZo has added Chilled Nut & Seed Butter

Bars to its family of better-for-you nut and seed butter products. The refrigerated bars enable consumers to take NuttZo’s unique blend of nutritious nut and seed butters anywhere. Available in two flavors, Almond Butter Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chocolate, the bars contain 7-8 grams of protein and 4 grams of sugar per serving, with no artificial preservatives, while offering healthy fats, omega-3s and amino acids. The Almond Butter Chocolate bar contains NuttZo’s Power Fuel blend of cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds, and the Peanut Butter Chocolate bar features the brand’s Peanut Pro blend of peanuts, cashews, almonds, flax seeds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds. Although they’re sold in the refrigerated section of grocery stores, the bars can be stored and enjoyed unrefrigerated for up to two weeks, making them the ideal snack for on-the-go activities. As with all NuttZo products, a portion of all proceeds will be donated to Project Left Behind, the brand’s sister nonprofit benefiting orphaned and underprivileged children worldwide. Chilled Nut & Seed Butter Bars retail for a suggested price range of $2.59-$2.79 per 12-bar box of either variety.  https://www.nuttzo.com/

Lower-Cal Desserts

Already known and loved for its better-for-you frozen treats, Halo Top has now arrived in the baking aisle with Halo Top Desserts, a product line consisting of Light Cake Mix Single-Serve Cups in Chocolate, Strawberry and Birthday Cake flavors, and Light Baking Mixes for fudge brownies and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. All offer the flavors of classic baked goods, but with a third fewer calories than the leading mix in the category. Containing only 170 calories, the single-serve 1.76-ounce cake cups are prepared in the microwave, while the 12.1-ounce Fudge Brownie and 12.6-ounce Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip mixes are made in the oven, with 90 calories per brownie and 80 calories per cookie. Manufactured by General Mills, the light desserts are currently available at Walmart and Kroger stores, with additional national availability coming this summer. The suggested retail prices are $2.89 for the light cake mix single-serve cups and $4.99 for both light baking mixes. https://halotop.com/baking; https://www.generalmills.com/

Sleepytime Cereal

For the more than half of American adults who have trouble sleeping,  Post Consumer Brands has a solution: Sweet Dreams, which the company bills as the first ready-to-eat cereal designed to be part of a healthy sleep routine while still satisfying nighttime food cravings. The product line comes in two flavors, each packed with ingredients like whole grains, a nighttime herbal blend, and vitamins and minerals such as zinc, folic acid and B vitamins to support natural melatonin production. Blueberry Midnight contains natural flavors of blueberry, lavender and chamomile, while Honey Moonglow offers notes of honey, vanilla, lavender and chamomile. Available in the cereal aisle at grocery stores nationwide, Sweet Dreams retails for a suggested $4.48 per 13.5-ounce box of either variety. https://www.postconsumerbrands.com/sweet-dreams/

PROGRESSIVE GROCER April 2023 65

AHEAD OF WHAT’S NEXT

A Matriarch’s Legacy in Bloom

KAMILAH WHITFIELD IS WORKING TO ESTABLISH A COMMUNITY NUTRITION HUB IN BUFFALO, N.Y., IN HONOR OF HER BELOVED GRANDMOTHER RUTH.

rocery stores are often viewed as community gathering spots or even havens, but on May 14, 2022, a Tops store in Buffalo, N.Y., became a scene of horror when 10 African Americans were gunned down in a massacre perpetrated by a lone white shooter. One of those lost was 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield. Now, one of her grandchildren, Kamilah Whitfield, is working to honor Ruth’s legacy in a unique way: a community nutrition hub.

“My grandmother was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt,” recounts Kamilah of the woman she lovingly called “Grandmommy,” adding that Ruth “was a faithful member of our church, Durham Memorial A.M.E Zion, and continued regular attendance until her untimely passing. … My grandmother also took great pride in her authentic soul food cuisine, making most things from scratch. She began a tradition of Sunday dinners, which we still continue. … She was fiercely independent, a woman on the go. She was someone you could talk to about your problems, with no fear of judgment. She was my downstairs neighbor, our family’s matriarch. We miss her every day.”

Asked how the nutrition hub project came about, Kamilah explains: “The idea of My Grandmother’s Garden … came about after the mass shooting. I always knew that I lived in a food desert, but I never thought that I would be the person to do something about it. After the shooting, the issue of so many people being without access to food was alarming. I wondered why thousands of people in East Buffalo were primarily dependent on one store. … I have nothing against the actual store. In fact, when many other stores refused to come into the area, that store worked alongside community members and activists to be there. … The day that the grocery store reopened, I was flooded with emotions. Rather than allow those emotions to consume me, I had an idea: I would open a store! I would provide my community with a place to shop for their families, and also offer healthy alternatives to fast food for days when cooking is just not an option.”

From Idea to Reality

Despite her lack of experience in the retail food industry when she decided to develop My Grandmother’s Garden, Kamilah is determined to succeed. “This mission is much bigger than me,” she says. “We will provide jobs, we will invest in the community, educate community members about health and nutrition. We will make eating healthy a more realistic option for those without transportation. We will support the growth of our employees. I have decided that everyone will be a manager at My Grandmother’s Garden. Employees will be able to leave with manage-

ment experience, giving them a leg up in the workforce. … We will deliver groceries directly to East Buffalo residents, and I also hope to shuttle residents to and from the store.”

To help make the store a reality, Kamilah sought education and experience. “I became a certified gourmet food store owner after completing my coursework through IAP Career College,” she notes. “I’ve been reaching out to potential mentors and have been extremely blessed to meet people who are willing to share knowledge and information with me. Soon, I will be a part-time employee at Braymiller Market, owned by one of my mentors, Stuart Green. I have been researching and planning. It won’t be easy. I have a long road ahead, but the community deserves it.”

As well as helping her neighbors and friends, Kamilah wants to pay tribute to one special person who has inspired her all her life and continues to do so: “I look forward to being able to serve my community and honor the legacy of my grandmother Ruth E. Whitfield.”

66 progressivegrocer.com
“I always knew that I lived in a food desert, but I never thought that I would be the person to do something about it.”
—Kamilah Whitfield
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