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EDITORS’ PICKS ARE HERE! OUR 100 WINNERS REVEALED AMAZON FRESH Our exclusive interview on new format PLANT-BASED INNOVATION Top trends in the hot sector FIRST LOOK Exclusive research on eating attitudes amid the pandemic

EDITORS’ PICKS ARE HERE! OUR 100 WINNERS REVEALED AMAZON FRESH Our exclusive interview on new format PLANT-BASED INNOVATION Top trends in the hot sector FIRST LOOK Exclusive research on eating attitudes amid the pandemic

Can Wegmans Keep Winning?

A bold push south presents new risks and rewards

September 2020

Volume 99, Number 9


Convenience is king now more than ever. Uptown Wine Cocktails combine flavor innovation and premium ingredients in one stately, 1.5-liter bottle. These multi-award-winning, premixed cocktails are a sophisticated blend of real fruit juices, creams and natural ingredients at 13.9% ABV. Invest in the new, exciting option - an expertly crafted, ready-to-drink wine cocktail.

© 2020 Southern Champion, Carrollton TX “Enjoy Responsibly.”

BIG INNOVATION From the Biggest Brands in the Store

© General Mills

Contents 09. 20

Volume 99 Issue 9





18 All Good Things

Fresh Disruption From Amazon

62 How Wegmans Keeps Winning

One hundred extraordinary products made the cut in this extraordinary year.

Its new grocery concept is part of a multiformat growth strategy.




General Merchandise

Planning for Healthy Holidays Amid COVID-19

The company’s southern expansion features a strategy designed to conquer the seismic shift in shopping habits.


Rise of the Autonomous Grocer 8 IN-STORE EVENTS CALENDAR

November 2020


Potato and Tortilla Chips


Politics Aside, Independents Mean Business


Better-for-You Swaps for Healthier Holiday Eating 4


8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631 Phone: 773-992-4450 Fax: 773-992-4455 GROCERY GROUP PUBLISHER John Schrei 248-613-8672



Aftershock: What’s Next for a Hungry Nation


Understanding the pandemic’s lasting effects on the way America eats, and the implications for retail foodservice and restaurants.

MANAGING EDITOR Bridget Goldschmidt 347-962-9395 SENIOR DIGITAL & TECHNOLOGY EDITOR Abby Kleckler 773-992-4405 SENIOR EDITOR Thad Rueter 773-418-8975



Cultivating Better Produce

Ag tech companies are using hydroponic growing methods and advanced technologies to scale hyperlocal production.



ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE/CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING Terry Kanganis 201-855-7615 • Fax: 201-855-7373

Power Plants


Exciting new products and inventive selling strategies enliven a burgeoning category.


EVENTS VICE PRESIDENT, EVENTS Michael Cronin EVENTS DIRECTOR Karen Mahoney, 952-467-8592 MARKETING BRAND MARKETING MANAGER Rebecca Martin 773-992-4407 AUDIENCE LIST RENTAL MeritDirect Marie Briganti 914-309-3378


SUBSCRIBER SERVICES/SINGLE-COPY PURCHASES Toll Free: 1-877-687-7321 Fax: 1-888-520-3608

Getting the Most From Micro Fulfillment


As grocery e-commerce grows, food retailers need better ways to pick online orders.



ART DIRECTOR Bill Antkowiak

Cleaning House



How retailers are stepping up their store sanitation and disinfection efforts in the wake of COVID-19.


ON THE COVER From left: 1. Store Manager Katie Duchnowski, 2. Wegmans Chairman Danny Wegman; 3. Wegmans SVP Nicole Wegman and 4. Wegmans CEO Colleen Wegman celebrate the opening of the company’s West Cary, N.C., location in July. Photo by John Hansen





PROGRESSIVE GROCER (ISSN 0033-0787, USPS 920-600) is published monthly by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Single copy price $14, except selected special issues. Foreign single copy price $16, except selected special issues. Subscription: $125 a year; $230 for a two year supscription; Canada/Mexico $150 for a one year supscription; $270 for a two year supscription (Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement No. 40031729. Foreign $170 a one year supscrption; $325 for a two year supscription (call for air mail rates). Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631 and additional mailing offices. Printed in USA. POSTMASTER: Send all address changes to brand, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200. Copyright ©2020 EnsembleIQ All rights reserved, including the rights to reproduce in whole or in part. All letters to the editors of this magazine will be treated as having been submitted for publication. The magazine reserves the right to edit and abridge them. The publication is available in microform from University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for product claims and representations.


Rise of the Autonomous Grocer here’s another wave of disruption coming to the world of food and consumables retailing that will fundamentally change many aspects of how an entire industry operates and how consumers interact with retailers. That’s saying something for an industry that has experienced a tremendous amount of change over the past decade, and then squeezed in another decade’s worth of change during the past seven months. Much of the change that happened during the industry’s first, and still ongoing, wave of change involved the collection and usage of data. This type of change fit neatly under the umbrella of digital transformation. The next wave of transformation that will happen in food retailing won’t be as neat, because it involves the movement of physical goods rather than the manipulation of data with artificial intelligence to unlock new insights or improve decision-making. There’s a new age of automation looming for food retailers that’s being driven by profound changes in shopper behavior and the increased cost of labor. Just look at what happened from March through August, when it was common to see retailers report triple-digit rates of growth for digitally enabled sales, with stores functioning as fulfillment centers for the picking of orders for either delivery or pickup. Stores were never optimized for this purpose, and so the picking is incredibly inefficient and costly, which is why success for many is defined as slowing the rate of losses rather than improving profits.

The promise of automation is huge, and there are a lot of experiments out there, or waiting to get off the ground, that will determine the future. The solution is to leverage technology and increase the use of automation for order picking, removing that process from the sales floor so shoppers can shop, and to do so rapidly, thus breaking one of the key tenets of modern food retailing, which is based on the transference of last-mile logistics costs to shoppers, who select their own orders and handle the trans6

port of merchandise. This grand bargain with consumers served the industry well for many decades and was a fundamental aspect of every retailer’s business model, even though there was variation in store sizes, product assortment and presentation, and the level of service provided. But now, well, everything is different, because in the span of seven months, last-mile logistics costs have shifted back to retailers. That’s why the new battle in retail, and food retailing in particular, will increasingly be fought on automation. It’s impossible to overstate the significance of this shift, because nothing happens in retail if products don’t move from point A to point B. Even so, we’re probably in the Gartner Hype Cycle period known as the “peak of inflated expectations.” The promise of automation is huge, and there are a lot of experiments out there, or waiting to get off the ground, that will determine the future. They aren’t all going to work, and at some point we’ll enter Gartner’s “trough of disillusionment.” But then we’ll get to the “slope of enlightenment,” where the benefits of automation are more fully understood, embraced and adopted. Lastly, the industry will enter its “plateau of productivity,” with autonomous technologies and robotics widespread and yielding benefits. This Hype Cycle progression was developed by Gartner in 1995 at the dawn of the digital age, when there was plenty of hype. A year later, Microsoft founder Bill Gates offered his views on hype and where the technology world was headed in his book “The Road Ahead.” In it, there’s an often cited passage about how “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10. Don’t let yourself be lulled into reaction.” That’s not what’s happening in the food retailing world. Change as it relates to automation will be profound in the next two years. That’s not an overestimation, precisely because those driving the change haven’t underestimated how different business conditions and retail operations will look a decade from now.

Mike Troy Editorial Director, Grocery Group

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Adopt a Senior Pet Month Banana Pudding Lovers Month Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month Military Family Month

Movember National Diabetes Month National Fun With Fondue Month



National Cinnamon Day National Calzone Day


National Cappuccino Day. Offer tips on making the best cup of this coffee classic at home.


National Recycling Day. Tout your sustainability efforts, and urge customers to take part in them.


National Cranberry Relish Day. Have your online followers swap recipes for this storied side dish in advance of Turkey Day.


National Lemon Cream Pie Day. Inform shoppers that they can pick one up on sale in the bakery department.



National Deviled Egg Day. Suggest that shoppers whip up a batch of these the next time they entertain at home.


National Scrapple Day. Teach nonPennsylvanians how to make this traditional Amish dish.


National Indiana Day. Celebrate the bounty of products hailing from the Hoosier State.


National Cashew Day National Espresso Day


Cyber Monday. Promote your e-commerce operations on this day devoted to online shopping.


National Sandwich Day. Have your deli counter make the most of the occasion.


National Candy Day. This calls for deep discounts on anything left over from Halloween.



National Vanilla Cupcake Day

Veterans Day



Marine Corps Birthday

National Homemade Bread Day. Encourage people to share online their (mis)adventures in creating loaves at home.


National Sardines Day

National Sundae Day

National Vichyssoise Day. Let shoppers know that this cold French soup can also be eaten hot.


National Parfait Day. Consumers can alternate their ice cream or yogurt with a variety of ingredients at home, or swing by the store to grab a ready-made treat.


National Doughnut Day





National Nachos Day

National Men Make Dinner Day


National French Dip Day. Find out your customers’ favorite versions of this hot sandwich extraordinaire.


Great American Smokeout. Have your pharmacy department publicize the benefits of quitting for shoppers and employees alike.


Thanksgiving. Take time out to express gratitude for your hardworking staff.

World Kindness Day. Reward associates with special certificates for exemplifying this sorely needed quality.


National Peanut Butter Fudge Day. Sounds like the perfect intergenerational home baking project.


Black Friday National Craft Jerky Day

National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day. Ask customers to rate their favorite nut-studded candy bars.

National Spicy Guacamole Day National Pickle Day


National Stuffing Day National Gingerbread Cookie Day


National French Toast Day, a.k.a. the perfect postholiday breakfast occasion.

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Research & Analysis

Better-for-You Swaps for Healthier Holiday Eating The holidays are practically synonymous with indulgence, but after months of comfort food and decreased activity, it may not be all indulgence, all the time this year. According to Datassential’s COVID-19 reporting, 16% of consumers have increased their consumption of healthy/better-for-you foods since the start of the pandemic. Now more than ever, it’s important to offer consumers a balance of indulgent and healthier alternatives throughout the holiday season. Let’s dig into better-for-you ingredients to identify areas to highlight along the grocery store perimeter. Sources: Datassential MenuTrends 2020, FLAVOR 2020, and HotShot Report: COVID-19 Report 5: Sheltered, Custom Research fielded March 25 with n=1,000 consumers

Cauliflower Rice MAC stage: Inception — International markets, global independents and fine dining. Trends start here and exemplify originality in flavor, preparation and presentation. Cauliflower “rice” is a low-carb alternative to rice created by pulsing cauliflower florets in a food processor, giving it a rice-like texture. This is a staple ingredient for anyone following popular Paleo, keto or Whole30 diets, as well as anyone looking to reduce their consumption of highly processed, highcarbohydrate foods. On 0.5% of U.S. restaurant menus

Most often eaten dried and pitted, dates serve as a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory applications. Baconwrapped dates are a popular appetizer, and the fruit can also be added to salads, smoothies and baked goods as a way to impart sweetness with fewer calories than traditional sugar.

Up nearly 3,000% over the past four years

On more than 4% of U.S. restaurant menus

66% of consumers know it/ 35% have tried it/ 24% love or like it

Up 41% over the past four years

Menu Example Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop Half Roasted Chicken with Paleo Rice IPA mustard brine, Paleo cauliflower rice with green peas, roasted garlic, caramelized onion and California organic extra-virgin olive oil


Dates MAC stage: Adoption — Global foods aisle at supermarkets, casual independents, fast casual. Adoption-stage trends grow their base via lower price points and simpler prep methods. Still differentiated, these trends often feature premium and/or generally authentic ingredients.

83% of consumers know it/ 52% have tried it/ 33% love or like it Menu Example La Prima Quinoa Chocolate Bites Quinoa rolled with dates, figs, almonds and coconut, and then dipped in chocolate

Sweet Potato MAC stage: Proliferation — Proliferation-stage trends are adjusted for mainstream appeal. Often combined with popular applications (on a burger, pasta, etc.) An orange-colored root vegetable with a sweeter taste than a white potato, and a superfood packed with nutrients, the sweet potato also contains fewer carbohydrates than a white potato, making it a healthier alternative for many classic holiday dishes, as well as in desserts. On nearly 28% of U.S. restaurant menus Up 14% over the past four years 97% of consumers know it/ 85% have tried it/ 66% love or like it Menu Example Bellemore Sweet Potato Tots With parmesan aioli, espelette chile and lemon

Salmon MAC stage: Ubiquity — Ubiquity-stage trends have reached maturity and can be found across all sectors of the food industry. Though often diluted by this point, their inception-stage roots are still recognizable. Salmon is a red-fleshed fish that lives in the coastal regions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. With its mild flavor and oily texture, it is versatile across dishes and dayparts. Salmon is considered one of the healthiest fishes to eat, thanks to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. On more than 43% of U.S. restaurant menus Up 5% over the past four years 93% of consumers know it/ 75% have tried it/ 59% love or like it Menu Example Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar Pan Seared Salmon Pearl pasta, chickpeas, roasted cherry tomatoes, olive tapenade


Expanding the Meat Snack Category SPEAKING WITH… A Q&A with Marketing Directors Stephanie Leibke (Jack Link’s) and Tracy Fleischhacker Quigley (Lorissa’s Kitchen) Progressive Grocer: What are some of the new products you’re planning to bring to market at the start of 2021? Stephanie Leibke: At Jack Link’s we’re excited to introduce another flavor to the new line of Extra Thick Cut Steak Strips — Cracked Pepper & Garlic. This will add to the already successful launch of the Original Extra Thick Cut Steak Strips earlier this year. It’s an emerging form of meat snack that, from leading retailer data, has proven to drive 70% more incremental sales than the average new meat snack item. Tracy Fleischhacker Quigley: For Lorissa’s Kitchen, we can’t wait to bring our new 2.5-ounce Grass-Fed, Organic Beef Strips to all food and mass retailers beginning this January 2021. After tremendous success with our first Grass-Fed, Organic Original offering this past year, we’re ready to roll out these Grass-Fed, Organic Beef Strips in Original and Teriyaki flavors. Additionally, our Sticks portfolio is introducing new great tasting flavors — Seasoned Barbecue and Teriyaki — to capitalize on the tremendous segment growth. PG: When planning for the launch of these new products, how did you identify a need in the broader category? Stephanie Leibke: We heard from consumers that a top barrier for potential meat snack purchases is texture. Many consumers want a meat snack that doesn’t require a lot of work to chew. Extra Thick Cut Steak Strips address that white space. They’re thicker, heartier and more tender due to higher moisture, with a savory, meat-forward flavor that is steak house inspired. Tracy Fleischhacker Quigley: Lorissa’s Kitchen, founded by a mom, with a mission to better fuel moms and their families, has come to recognize Organic Food Claims as a more intuitive, powerful draw. Today, mothers are striving to improve the health of their families while also being concerned with the environment and humane treatment of animals. Our New Grass-Fed, Organic Beef Strips are perfectly suited for these consumers.

PG: What will be the big benefits to retailers when they introduce these new meat snack products to other customers? Stephanie Leibke: The big benefits of Extra Thick Cut Steak Strips are that this product brings in new households and drives incremental purchase with existing meat snacks consumers. As mentioned earlier, many consumers want a more tender meat snack. Extra Thick Cut Steak Strips deliver a more tender experience and will appeal to new consumers looking for that experience. Additionally, we have found consumers shop for the form of meat snack they want before they select the brand or flavor. Extra Thick Cut Steak Strips deliver a new form that meat snacks consumers will want to try. Tracy Fleischhacker Quigley: Our Lorissa’s Kitchen GrassFed, Organic Beef Strips are also a category driver. Meat Snacks is often perceived as a masculine category; yet, statistics show 60% of buyers are female. Many women are looking for healthy protein snacks for themselves and their families; and now with Lorissa’s Kitchen GrassFed Organic Beef Strips and our 100% Grass-Fed Beef Sticks, we have what consumers want. In 2019, Organic Food Sales reached $60B, with a +7.1% 4-Year CAGR. Lorissa’s Kitchen is excited to bring the highest food credentials (Organic) to Meat Snacks! PG: How does the expansion of the category excite you in the long term? Stephanie Leibke: The meat snacks category has just over 55% household penetration. That means almost half of households are not participating today and that’s significant opportunity for category growth! As we continue to identify the latest consumer trends and desires, and explore new, relevant forms to address the snacking needs of today’s consumers, we are excited and motivated by how Jack Link’s can play to those needs, driving more traffic and growth for our retail partners. Tracy Fleischhacker Quigley: To help drive category household penetration, it’s critical to provide solutions that overcome the category’s consumption barriers: not top of mind, negative health perceptions, taste and texture issues, and price barriers. Lorissa’s Kitchen, The Fuel-Good Snack, provides snacking solutions that are differentiated within the category but are familiar and welcoming to new consumers.

Visit and to learn more.


Shelf Stoppers

Shelf Stoppers


(52 weeks ending April 2, 2016) General Merchandise

Basket Facts

Total Department Performance General Merchandise

Latest 52 Wks 2 YA W/E 07/25/20


Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 07/27/19

Latest 52 Wks W/E 07/28/18



Top General Merchandise Categories by Dollar Sales Kitchen Accessories Home and School Office Supplies Hair Removal Household Maintenance

Batteries and Accessories

$4,500,000,000 4,000,000,000

How much is the Consumers chose average American frozen broccoli over household alternatives for a variety ofper reasons: spending trip on various general merchandise 12% products versus the because it’s year-ago period? quick and easy




because it tastes great

2,500,000,000 2,000,000,000 1,500,000,000

500,000,000 0

9% $14.86

Spotlight on Frozen Broccoli


WHEN ARE CONSUMERS EATING FROZEN BROCCOLI? Broccoli as an ingredient is most commonly Latest 52consumed Wks 2 YA at - dinner, followed Latest Wks YA by52 lunch. W/E 07/25/20 W/E 07/27/19

Frozen broccoli is most often used in a side Wksentrée. dish, followedLatest by as 52 a main W/E 07/28/18 3% Source: : Source: Nielsen, Total U.S. (All outlets combined) — includes grocery stores, drug stores, mass 9% merchandisers, select dollar stores, select warehouse clubs and military commissaries (DeCA) for the 52 weeks ending July 25, 2020



29%annualTYPE CLASS to a61% 62% General merchandise (GM) sales from the end of July are up 1.6% year 35% compared ago, after seeing decline in the previous two periods. During the recent months of April, May and June, dollar percent growth was highest compared to the rest of the year, indicating that COVID-19 has influenced sales. Despite the easing of restrictions related to COVID, consumers are still choosing to remain at home, and many are adopting a do-it-yourself mentality in order to fill the gaps left DINNER OTHER DISH MAIN ENTRÉE by the pandemic. Some of these shifts include LUNCH cooking more meals at home SIDE or experimenting with DIY OTHER personal care. This change in behavior can be seen in the strong growth of GM categories such as canning supplies (up 21.5%), electric razors (up 2.9%), and measuring cups and baking utensils (up 17.0%). GM is also seeing a boost in sales during this time period, due to consumers’ need to stay safe and healthy through wearing household maintenance gloves (up 17.9%) or household maintenance masks (up 70.6%). As consumers continue to limit their exposure, there is an opportunity for GM categories to grow sales by meeting the changing needs of those living in today’s new normal.”

—Katie Hazlett, associate manager - global client delivery, Nielsen

because it’s on general merchandise healthy andup nutritious products, 2.8%


because it’s low in calories, fat and sugar

$10.25 on all batteries, up 10.7%

$9.54 on household maintenance masks, up 67.5%

Generational Snapshot Which cohort is spending, on average, the most per trip on household maintenance masks?

$4.88 Millennials

Gen Xers


The Greatest Generation





Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending June 27, 2020


on pens, up 6.7% Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending June 27, 2020

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Global New Products Database

Potato and Tortilla Chips Marketing Overview

Increased consumer snacking is making an impact on the chip category; Mintel research shows that the category has passed the $15 billion sales mark and has grown 13% since 2014. Category growth has been fueled primarily by strong performances in the tortilla chip segment, yet the diverse and mature potato chip segment still turns in growth.


Key Issues

Only 30% of consumers say that they look for new types of chips to buy. 62% of parents of children under 18 say that they would pay for chips in resealable packaging.

51% of consumers say that price is important to them when selecting chips.

of parents of children under 18 wish that there were more healthy chip options.

What Does It Mean? The relative lack of interest in new chips suggests that consumers are, at best, content with the offerings available, and, at worst, complacent with the category and don’t expect novel innovation to pique their interest. Healthier ingredients and preparation methods for chips actually have an even wider appeal than novel flavor innovation. Parents are significantly more likely to express a willingness to pay for resealable packaging, largely reflecting their concerns about chips going to waste.


Stock Up On Essential Ingredients For A Tropical Holiday Coquito – An On-Trend Puerto Rican Alternative to Eggnog Now more than ever, shoppers are looking for little escapes. So, this holiday season, offer them a delicious, authentic way to get away by carrying GOYA® Coconut Milk and GOYA® Cream of Coconut. These two ingredients are the key to creating Coquito, the festive tropical drink that is quickly becoming mainstream.

©2020 Goya Foods, Inc.

Visit or email us at



Planning for Healthy Holidays Amid COVID-19 RE TAILERS SHOULD BE PREPARED TO PIVOT THIS FESTIVE SE ASON. fter months of widespread lockdowns The percentage of Americans that have made of nonessential businesses, shelter-inchanges in the food they eat, or how they place orders and unprecedented safety prepare it, because of the coronavirus pandemic. precautions geared to slow the spread Source: International Food Information Council Foundation of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), food retailers will soon be preparing for a holiday season unlike any other. comfort surrounding virtual meetings; use The uncertainty of the pandemic has video-conferencing technology or corporate had far-reaching effects on consumer social network apps to offer live cooking behaviors and attitudes toward food classes taught by retail dietitians and chefs. and nutrition. According to the InternaSuch classes can help first-time hosts plan tional Food Information Council Founfor Thanksgiving and offer other holiday-cendation 2020 Food & Health Survey, conducted in April, 85% of Americans tric meal ideas while easing the process have made changes in the food they eat, or how they prepare it, because with preparation checklists, shopping lists, of the coronavirus pandemic. Consumers are cooking more at home, and ready-to-use menus featuring mixsnacking more frequently and generally thinking about food more often. and-match recipes for appetizers, soups, During this newly adopted quarantine lifestyle, food-purchasing habits main dishes, sides and desserts. Because have shifted as well. Fewer shoppers are using multiple trips per week to consumers are snacking more often, sugshop for groceries. Although consumers continue to stock up, shopping gest ways that healthy appetizers can stand in person has decreased. In response, retailin for main meals, such as snack boards ers have ramped up online digital solutions, that combine fresh fruits and vegetables, Grocery retailers shopping assistance, home delivery and hummus dip, lean meats, and whole grain will move away from curbside pickup services. crackers or artisan breads. sales programming In addition, consumers have expressed aimed at traditional, new or enhanced concerns about food’s safeLook Ahead to 2021 ty, security and pricing. They are more careful Expect greater-than-normal New Year large-scale holiday about their own food handling at home, and celebrations, as Americans say “Good consumption to have elevated expectations for store cleanliriddance” to the year 2020 and turn their offer retail solutions ness and safe food-handling and preparation sights toward hope, personal health that help consumers processes in the food retail setting. and renewed prosperity in 2021. Adcelebrate the In totality, these striking changes to normalvancements in COVID-19 treatments and holidays during cy have disrupted how consumers are thinkanticipation of effective vaccines against ing, behaving and prioritizing their own health. the virus signal optimism for the coming the new normal. Taste, price and healthfulness still reign as the year. Whenever consumers are finally able top drivers of food-purchasing decisions; however, concern surrounding to refocus to prioritize fitness and a healthy COVID-19 has overshadowed concern for personal well-being, with 60% lifestyle, retailers can be there to guide, of Americans more focused on their overall health than concerns for how educate, supply and support better-for-you their food and beverage choices may impact their body weight. choices every step of the way.

Prepare to Pivot

Grocery retailers will move away from sales programming aimed at traditional, large-scale holiday consumption to offer retail solutions that help consumers celebrate the holidays during the new normal. Expect smaller and fewer gatherings with more socially distanced celebrations. Suggest healthy holiday additions to the shopping basket via mobile and digital shopping platforms. Take advantage of the new level of


Karen Buch RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who specializes in retail dietetics and food and culinary nutrition communications. One of the first supermarket dietitians, she is now founder of, and principal consultant at, Nutrition Connections LLC, providing consulting services nationwide. You can connect with her on Twitter @karenbuch and at

H IS HOLI DAY SE ASON, let’s raise a glass. Here’s to keeping spirits bright and serving up cheer.

Here’s to you!

Tropical Holiday Punch 750 mL Tito’s Handmade Vodka 750 mL sparkling wine 32 oz cranberry juice 8 oz pineapple juice 8 oz water, optional 4 oz lime juice

Add all ingredients to a punch bowl. Garnish with cranberries and lime slices, if desired.

nce again, Progressive Grocer ’s intrepid editors have sifted through the scores of new products submitted and come up with our slate of Editors’ Picks. This year, we agreed on an even 100 items that we felt more than lived up to the following judging criteria:

All Good Things One hundred extraordinary products made the cut in this extraordinary year. By Progressive Grocer Editorial Staff


INNOVATION: In overall product differentiation; new packaging application (not just new graphics or rebranding); ingredient enhancements; ability to grow/ develop a new and/or existing category; new flavors/ varieties/portion sizes; and positioning against the most important market and consumer trends, among others. It should really be new, not just a “me-too.” IMPACT: How the new product was promoted for consumer awareness, as well as functionality and utilitarian attributes. Will the product have retail sell-through? OVERALL VALUE: How well the product delivers on its overall value proposition (i.e., price, packaging, quality and convenience). Is it a product that’s going to appeal to mainstream supermarket shoppers? We set ourselves an additional challenge with the 2020 submissions — or rather, one was thrust upon us by the logistical difficulties of sending packages to a geographically far-flung editorial staff sheltering at home during a pandemic — by forgoing samples, making us rely all the more on the qualities outlined above to make our final decisions. While the sampling sessions of previous years were a much-loved part of the judging process, we found that we were able to adapt to the “new normal” of Editors’ Picks with alacrity, poring over fascinating product descriptions, accounts of inventive marketing strategies, and comprehensive images displaying packaging and contents alike. As always, the winning products were in the vanguard of consumer trends. Plant-based innovation has continued apace, with winning entries spanning the frozen dessert, granola, jerky, protein bar, nondairy creamer, snack food, alternative protein, baked goods and yogurt categories, among others. Paleo and keto were among the most commonly invoked attributes, indicative of consumers’ ongoing concerns with health and weight management, while “vegan” as a descriptor made its way into several selected items, heralding the diet’s decisive arrival into the mainstream. From the beverage alcohol aisle, creatively formulated and promoted hard seltzers proved irresistible choices for us, along with mixers and readymade products enabling consumers to enjoy cocktails at their own home bars — a particular necessity during a national public-health emergency. Additional points of interest were private-brand products offering national-brand quality at value prices, and natural sweeteners promising all of the delights of sugar, but none of its drawbacks. All 100 of the products in the following pages left us surprised, intrigued and hungry for more — and we hope that they do the same for you.



To learn more about this entirely new energy drink option from Coca-Cola, contact your Coca-Cola Representative, call 1-800-241-COKE or visit

©2020 The Coca-Cola Company

a2 Milk Coffee Creamers

$4.49 per 32-fluid-ounce carton Consumers who enjoy cream in their coffee but have issues with dairy now have an alternative for their morning routine, thanks to the a2 Milk Co. With just five clean, simple ingredients, a2 Milk Coffee Creamers’ key point of difference is that they’re made with 100% real milk from cows that naturally produce only the A2 protein, which allows some people to enjoy dairy without discomfort. Available in Sweet Cream and Creamy Vanilla varieties, a2 Milk Coffee Creamers brought the benefit of the A2 protein to a well-established category and supported the launch with targeted social media, coupons and point-of-sale marketing. In addition, the broader brand campaign included national TV to help drive awareness and trial.

a2 Milk Fat Free Milk

$3.99-$4.99 per 59-fluid-ounce carton Innovation in the milk category tends to be plant-based, but the a2 Milk Co. took a different approach with its new fat-free milk. The product is 100% real milk from cows, but what makes it special is that it comes from cows on farms that have received the Validus certification of animal welfare attesting that they haven’t received growth hormones. These cows naturally produce milk with only the A2 protein, which allows some individuals to enjoy dairy without discomfort. The a2 Milk Co. delivered 53% year-over-year growth for the 52 weeks ended May 17 in the overall flat milk category, according to SPINS data.

Acme Smoked Salmon Candy

$6.99 per 3-ounce package There aren’t many products with “candy” in their name that can boast 16 grams of protein and 1,600 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids. Those nutritional aspects of Acme Smoked Salmon Candy make for a nutritious, protein-rich snack that’s great for an on-the-go lifestyle, or as a replacement for bacon as a salad topper or sandwich addition. Made from cuts of Atlantic salmon loin and double smoked, Acme Smoked Salmon Candy comes in attractive gray packaging with a window to see the product and a distinctive border that helps the overall package resemble the cover of National Geographic.


Acme Smoked Salmon Convenience Pack $16.99 per 8-ounce package (four 2-ounce packs) Snacking and convenience are the hot trends that Acme Smoked Salmon capitalized on with its new Convenience Pack product. Four individually sealed packs of 2-ounce smoked salmon can fit in a purse, backpack or gym bag, and be eaten any time thanks to easypeel serving packets that stay fresh for up to 30 days when refrigerated. Initial sales results have been positive, thanks to a public relations and social media-oriented campaign, along with store-level efforts at launch.

AHA Sparkling Water

$1.59 per 16-ounce can $3.79 per 8-pack of 12-ounce cans AHA Sparking Water hit the market in 2020 and was the first major new brand launch from the Coca-Cola Co. in more than a decade. The launch included eight unique flavor combinations, two infused with caffeine, and was supported with the full force and marketing expertise of the Coca-Cola organization. AHA Sparkling Water disrupted the category by taking familiar flavors like citrus, apple and peach, and pairing them with more exotic tastes like green tea, ginger and honey to create flavor duos that are intriguing and approachable. Additionally, by including caffeine where consumers would expect it, in flavors like green tea, AHA provides 30 milligrams of caffeine to pep consumers up. Top it off with bold branding and vibrant packaging, and sell-through at retail was predictably strong. Three months after launch, AHA was already a $30 million brand, and its growth will be a top priority for Coca-Cola in 2021.

Announcing a Sweet Gift from Enlightened Monks


All New SweetLeaf Monk Fruit Organic Sweetener

The sweetening power of this native fruit was discovered 800 years ago by Buddhist monks in Southeast Asia. Today, SweetLeaf Sweetener has created a delicious family of nineteen Organic Monk Fruit products now ready for your customers to enjoy. The new line is available in packets, loose and liquid, both flavored and clear. With no calories or sugars, it is truly the perfect way to sweeten foods and drinks.


Alden’s Organic Dairy Free Double Strawberry Frozen Dessert

$5.49-$5.99 per 14-ounce container After experimenting with 29 variations, Alden’s developed an Organic Dairy Free Double Strawberry Frozen Dessert that tastes good and looks good. The key to the flavor was to create a base of brown rice, coconut oil, oat flour and pea protein with a neutral flavor profile that would allow the organic strawberries to shine through. The result is true-to-flavor taste and creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture that’s hard to find in the category. Now shoppers looking for dairy-free desserts have a tasty new option. Based on early success, Alden’s 2021 plans call for the introduction of five new offerings.

Art of Green

$2.99 per 22-fluid-ounce bottle or 7.3-ounce container of wet wipes The combination of sustainability and effective cleaning is the value proposition behind Art of Green. The line of nontoxic, 98% naturally sourced, biodegradable multisurface cleaning products is infused with fragrant plant-based scents to provide a deep clean, ensuring that consumers don’t have to trade off between efficacy and performance and sustainability considerations. Those attributes have never been more important to shoppers intent on keeping their homes clean and safe. Demand for cleaning products during the first half of 2020 helped Art of Green secure national distribution with well-known retailers.

Applegate Naturals Slow Cooked Ham

$5.99 per 7-ounce package Consumers looking to eliminate sugar from their diets this holiday season have an ally in Hormel Foods Applegate Naturals Slow Cooked Ham. The product eliminated sugar, which is normally used to offset salt used during the curing process, yet maintained the salty/sweet flavor that consumers have come to expect from hams. This no-sugar deli item comes to market at an optimal time, when consumers have been increasingly looking to diets like Whole30 to take control of their health and overall well-being. The attributes of “no sugar” and “Whole30 Approved” are clearly called out on the product label.


Ark Foods Veggie Bowls

$4.99-$5.99 per 8- to 9-ounce bowl Plant-based, clean ingredients and nutrient-dense are the winning attributes of Ark Foods’ line of heat-and-eat Veggie Bowls. In developing the line, the company left out common allergens like dairy and gluten to create a culinary experience to be enjoyed by all after three to five minutes in the microwave. The product line’s distinctive white packaging and compelling images help it stand out on the shelf, and shoppers can feel good about their purchase, because the bowl is compostable. The brand executed promotional strategies relating to healthy moments and sought to be there for consumers when they craved healthy alternatives, especially after holiday weekends and at key reset moments such as back-to-school season and New Year’s resolutions.

Atkins Peppermint Patties

$5.99 per 6.53-ounce 5-pack of 1.31-ounce patties The introduction of Atkins Peppermint Patties to the diet/weight control and nutritious-snacking categories brought new users to those categories and drove incremental growth for the Atkins brand. The premium product with a dark chocolate coating is the only peppermint patty in the weight control category, and the packaging showcases the product’s premium nature. To drive awareness of the innovation, Atkins relied on staples such as a national print and TV ad campaign, but elevated the creative by featuring actor Rob Lowe. The brand also relied on in-store shelf danglers and displays, as well as a national free-standing insert.












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Atkins Sweet & Salty Crunch Bites

$6.89 per 5.29-ounce package Great-looking photography that shows the details of ingredients in Atkins’ new Sweet & Salty Crunch Bites makes the product the star on packaging that also calls out key nutrition facts such as 9 grams of protein and 4 grams of net carbs. Available in two flavors, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel and Honey Almond Vanilla, the crunch bites offer calorie-conscious shoppers a snacking experience in a portion-control-friendly resealable bag. To help promote sell-through, Atkins relied on a multimedia campaign with actor Rob Lowe and executed retailer-specific coupons and in-store promotions.

Aura Bora

$2.29 per 12-fluid-ounce can Unique flavor combinations and a colorful can featuring whimsical characters helped the Aura Bora brand of sparkling waters get shoppers’ attention. The beverage brand rejected the conventional flavors of mainstream sparkling waters, opting instead to combine real herbal extracts and natural fruit flavoring to give consumers a unique overall taste and sensory experience. Aura Bora prides itself on using only real herbs, fruits and flowers, with a clean ingredient list using natural flavorings such as lavender flower extract, lemongrass leaf extract and rose flower extract. The brand’s goal is to bring earthly tastes and heavenly feelings to the sparkling water aisle.

Bacon Up Bacon Grease

$7.99 per 14-ounce tub More bacon is a good thing for millions of Americans, and the folks at John Gordon’s Bacon Up are providing that opportunity with a unique product. Bacon Up Bacon Grease is rendered bacon fat that’s triple-filtered and shelf-stable for use in frying, cooking or baking to provide next-level flavor. A key element of the brand’s value proposition is the ability to add bacon flavor to almost anything cooked, without the mess of actually frying bacon. For retailers, Bacon Up helps expand the cooking oil category by providing a new trade-up option for cooking enthusiasts, and promotes incremental usage occasions due to its versatility.


Barefoot Hard Seltzer

$1.99 per 250-milliliter can E. & J. Gallo’s Barefoot Hard Seltzer was the first nationally distributed wine-based hard seltzer made with real Barefoot brand wine, sparkling water and natural fruit juice. To help the innovative product stand out, Barefoot Hard Seltzer was featured in a TV commercial featuring Kenan Thompson, of “Saturday Night Live,” and Aubrey Plaza, of “Parks and Rec.” In the ad, the two dream of a party where they have everything a good summer party needs: Barefoot Hard Seltzer and Barefoot Spritzer cans. They debate which drink is better, before deciding both are a great choice. The creative worked, helping the new product drive incremental category growth.

Bear Naked Grain Free Granola

$4.49 per 8-ounce package Leave it to America’s No. 1 granola brand to redraw the boundaries of the granola category by introducing a grain-free version. That’s what Bear Naked did with a new product that’s also Paleo and Gluten-Free Certified, thanks to a base of sunflower seeds, almonds and coconut. The reformulation allows those who eat a grain-free diet to enjoy flavors like Almond Coconut, Honey Cinnamon and Dark Chocolate Almond without compromising on taste, flavor or ingredients. It was a bold move, considering that grains are often synonymous with granola, but with more people looking to eliminate or reduce grains from their diets, Bear Naked sought to bring innovation to the category.

Blue Moon Light Sky Citrus Wheat Bella Sun Luci Plant-Based Tomato Jerky

$5.39 per 2-ounce package Mooney Farms and the Bella Sun Luci brand pioneered the sun-dried tomato category more than 35 years ago. Now the company has brought a new kind of innovation to the healthy-snacking category with Bella Sun Luci Plant-Based Tomato Jerky. The savory product is non-GMO and provides 6 grams of protein and fiber, zero cholesterol and fat, and plenty of the antioxidant lycopene; plus, with only 80 calories per serving, it’s a truly guilt-free snack. Available in three flavors — Hickory Smoked, Sriracha, and Teriyaki and Cracked Pepper — the product line gives mindful snackers a healthy plant-based option.

Blackhawk Network Happy Holidays Gift Card

$20-$500 per card value Shoppers want personalization and choice with stored value cards, too. Market leader Blackhawk Network recognized this in 2018 with the introduction of multi-merchant cards, and it took that concept to a new level last year with the Happy Holidays Gift Card. The no-fee card proved popular with gift-givers and recipients alike, due to the flexibility of spending options. That flexibility is expected to be a key sales driver during the upcoming COVID-19-impacted holiday season. Given seasonal uncertainties, many consumers will be looking for ways to streamline their physical shopping experience. The ability to pick up a Happy Holidays card from the Gift Card Mall at the local grocery store — one of the few places shoppers continue to visit regularly these days — is an added value for consumers, and can also drive foot traffic and incremental sales for retailers.

Blount’s Family Kitchen Meals

$14.99 per 12-pack of 12-ounce cans Molson Coors’ Blue Moon brand has been on the market for 25 years, and during that time, it has become the No. 1-selling craft beer brand. Helping the brand stay on top was the launch earlier this year of Light Sky Citrus Wheat, a light and refreshing wheat beer brewed with real tangerine peel, which contributed more than 20% year-to-date growth for the Blue Moon franchise. With only 95 calories and 3.6 grams of carbohydrates, Light Sky Citrus Wheat is balanced, crisp and easy to drink. Helping the new product stand out is its availability in cans, something that’s unique in the craft beer segment.

Bobo’s Nut Butter Protein Bar

$2.49 per 2.2-ounce bar In a marketplace filled with protein bars, Bobo’s Nut Butter Protein Bars made their debut this year with a clean-abel approach and plant-based protein. The bars feature 10 simple ingredients, with no sugar alcohols, dairy, gluten or GMOs. Each bar is packed with organic whole grain oats, peanuts or almonds, and 10 to 11 grams of plant-based protein, making Bobo’s the perfect option for a flexitarian lifestyle. Compared with other protein bars, Bobo’s is lower in calories and sugar, sweetened with organic honey, and comes in four flavors: Almond Butter, Banana Peanut Butter, Cherry Almond Butter + Hemp Seeds, and Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter.

$5.99 per 12-ounce package Busy families want fast and easy meals, but they also demand a delicious solution made from quality, wholesome ingredients, and Blount’s Family Kitchen Meals line delivers on all fronts. Just as when Blount raised the quality standards in the soup business 20 years ago, the company looked to do the same thing with its line of Family Kitchen Meals, offering high quality at an attractive price. Consumers responded so well to the initial four-product lineup of Macaroni & Beef in Tomato Sauce, Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo with Penne, Beef Stroganoff with Noodles, and Chicken with Noodles in Marsala Wine Sauce that three more items, Chicken with Noodles, Chicken & Penne with Marinara Sauce, and Chicken, Bacon & Noodles in Ranch Style Sauce, were added shortly after launch.



Partner with the leader for Category Growth in Nutritional Snacking and Weight Loss.



6 Test Kitchens with in-house chefs for Grocery and Fresh Showcase Innovation Centers focused on GM/HBC products with full planogram capabilities Seasonal Showrooms with nearly 50K square feet of combined to showcase seasonal opportunities Customer Interaction Centers that are continuously utilized by our retail partners for any of their needs


• Home field advantage: A 10,000-squarefoot product showroom allows you show a broad range of products during presentations and mini trade shows and doubles as an innovation center and test kitchen. • Top coaches: Each Marketing League leader brings passion and decades of knowledge, rising to the challenge to create fast, often-custom solutions for retailers. • Winning rosters: Dedicated teams for each account, conveniently located near major retail headquarters, enable the most focused, successful approach.

READY TO WIN? CALL US AT 877.400.6688 | WEB:


A Whole New League The Marketing League is comprised of CDZ Sales, D&H Marketing Group, Select Sales, Distinct Sales, and Merritt & Associates. This group offers a unique ability to drive vendor performance while maintaining focus on the retailer’s strategies and specific needs. Through consistent investment and collaboration, this team can adapt quickly in an ever-changing marketplace. It is obvious they have no intention of being a “traditional broker”. This team’s tireless pursuit to find innovative ways to add value to the retailers they service and the companies they represent is what sets them apart.

Progressive Grocer: How is the Marketing League a different kind of manufacturer’s representative company? Tommy Zitiello: We are different in both the makeup of our team and the solutions we offer. Our showrooms provide our retailers and our manufacturer partners a place to create solutions and make business decisions. In addition to our showrooms being tailored to each retailer, our teams focus and expertise is on that specific customer as well. We will continue to invest to make sure that our customer and manufacturer experience is second to none. Rhett Durham: Our state-of-the-art “Customer Interaction Centers” are another point of distinction. No other manufacturer rep company offers vendors this kind of ability to showcase, sample and propose merchandising solutions to customers the way that we embrace and offer. Most of our competitors are eliminating infrastructure and cost in an effort to maximize revenue to meet debt obligations. We have been and will continue to add resources, facilities and retail assets as a point of difference and value-add for our vendor companies and retailers. PG: What are the advantages of working with Marketing League and how are you looking to the future? TZ: We have constructed a sales force with a mix of experienced veterans and homegrown talent that allows diversity of thought within our organization. Part of our culture which we are very proud

of is our weekly call including our entire organization where all team members are encouraged to share distribution wins and insights. The culture that we have created gives our team the ability to have fun with our customers and manufacturer partners in an atmosphere of mutual success. We are in the business of growing sales and profits, but we believe it is also important to have fun and make great memories along the way! We encourage any potential partner to reach out, or preferably come meet us in person. Come experience a round of golf at the TPC Sawgrass, and a nice Italian meal as we believe that is the best way to get to know each other! RD: I am especially proud of the way our member companies approach each of their customer’s (i.e., retailer’s) needs. Our business model is unique in that we allocate our resources and people in a targeted manner – aimed specifically at what it takes to succeed at each individual account. We conform based on what is best and most efficient for each retail culture. It is ironic to me when I hear of other “brokers” restructuring or creating a model for different points of contact. Our first priority is maintaining flexibility and the ability to respond to our retailers differently as their needs change.

TOMMY ZITIELLO, Owner/President, CDZ Sales

RHETT DURHAM, CEO, D&H Marketing Group

opportunity because of our ability to adapt and make changes daily. With retailers not allowing product presentations in their offices, and trade shows being cancelled indefinitely, we have created an environment where new product opportunities and innovation can be consolidated and on display in our facilities 7 days a week. We have also invested in state-of-the-art virtual technology that allows us to showcase product and meet virtually to discuss product opportunities in a safe and flexible environment. RD: The most impactful way for me to assist my retailers is to focus on their needs and work to anticipate what they are going to want from a marketing partner. More importantly, we have to build flexibility into our companies. It is vital that we remain extremely fluid, with the ability to deploy resources quickly and efficiently. I believe that our companies’ combined survival depends on our ability to anticipate, change and never be too comfortable with our current situation.

PG: How are you helping retailers move forward at this unique time of disruption?


TZ: We do not focus on the disruption, but view this as a time of tremendous

WEB: PHONE: 877.400.6688 EMAIL:

Bomani Cold Buzz

$3.99 per 11-ounce can $13.99 per 4-pack Bomani Cold Buzz cuts a striking figure in the cooler, thanks to a slender black can with an elegant matte finish. But it’s what’s inside the can that counts, something Bomani proudly displays on an ingredient panel that conveys quality, transparency and taste. Each can has only 110 calories, with zero carbs and zero sugar. The product contains only four ingredients, making it easy for consumers to see what’s in the beverage: 100% ethically sourced Arabica bean cold brew, water, alcohol from sugar, and natural flavors. Bomani Cold Buzz is innovating the new cold-buzz category, which it views as a complementary evolution to the hard-seltzer space.

Bowery Cilantro

$3.99 per 1.5-ounce package Unlike most of the rubber-banded bunches of cilantro stems that consumers find near the parsley in the produce department, Bowery Cilantro comes in a pretty 1.5-ounce package fit for the pegged herb section. The product is grown locally in the company’s vertically integrated indoor farms, which are controlled environments protected from unreliable weather, pollutants and pests. Bowery Cilantro is pesticide-free and comes from non-GMO seeds. It also boasts a stronger flavor profile than other herbs in the category. Bowery supported the launch of its herbs in 2019, including cilantro, with a robust marketing campaign employing retailers and in-store campaigns to drive consumer awareness.

Boyer’s Mash-Up Coffee

$6.98-$14.98 per 11- to 30-ounce package Welcome to AR coffee! Boyer’s Mash-Up Coffee features interactive augmented-reality (AR) programming built into its packaging. Coffee drinkers are able to visit mashupcoffee. com on their smartphones to launch an augmented-reality platform, which features video content and consumer-friendly resources such as suggested brewing methods for optimal flavor profiles, food-pairing recommendations, recipes, and information about the beans and their flavors. The beans are roasted by Boyer’s Coffee, a Colorado-based family-owned company that has been roasting at Rocky Mountain altitude since 1965.


Bud Light Seltzer

$14.99 per 12-pack Hard seltzers are still hot, and Bud Light has created an easy-drinking beverage with a hint of delicious fruit flavor. Bud Light Seltzer is made with a unique five-step filtration process, which ensures a clean finish to deliver the most refreshing taste possible. The natural carbonation and quality ingredients, including sparkling water, real cane sugar and natural fruit flavor, create a light and bubbly seltzer for any occasion. Bud Light Seltzer appeals to two main consumer preferences: the desire for low-calorie, no-sugar-added products, and flavor variety. Featuring 100 calories and less than 1 gram of sugar, Bud Light Seltzer is giving consumers exactly what they’re looking for.

Cacique Queso Dips

$4.49-$4.99 per 16-ounce tub With the popularity of Mexican food showing no signs of slowing down, Cacique Queso Dips is looking to leverage a growing opportunity for fresh dips and spread sets in retail that offer Latin flavors. Specifically, consumers are increasingly looking for authentic and fresh Mexican foods without fillers. Cacique’s dips, unlike so many other queso dips on the market, feature queso fresco as the first ingredient and have no artificial preservatives. To enjoy the dips, consumers simply heat the product in the microwave for two to three minutes, right in the packaging, and they can then dunk their favorite tortilla chips, crudité or even tacos. Cacique Queso Dips are available in four Mexican flavors: Queso Blanco, Southwestern, Chipotle and Jalapeño.


To learn more about this flavorful sparkling water, contact your Coca-Cola Representative, call 1-800-241-COKE or visit

©2020 The Coca-Cola Company

Calbee Reduced Sugar Frugra Fruit & Granola

$1.99 per 15-ounce package Calbee Frugra Reduced Sugar Fruit & Granola aims to be wholesome, and boy, does it deliver. With more Americans looking for low-sugar, high-protein and high-fiber attributes in their breakfast foods, this product offers 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and only 6 grams of total sugar per serving, which is 50% less than the average of the top three leading granola brands on the market. Frugra Fruit & Granola is the No. 1-selling granola in Japan. The product took the traditional idea of granola, added carefully selected grains, fruits and nuts, and baked the recipe to create a unique-to-market, crispy-crunchy texture. The crunch lasts longer than traditional granola and doesn’t get soggy when eaten with milk or yogurt. Currently, the company has original and reduced-sugar options for health-conscious consumers, but will soon introduce Chocolate Crunch & Banana as a kid-friendly SKU.

Califia Farms Oat Creamers

$4.99 per 25.4-fluid-ounce bottle Did you know that oatmilk is the new avocado? This extra-creamy, semi-sweet, vegan beverage has taken the world by storm: Oatmilk lattes are everywhere, and the vegan creamer section in the dairy case is expanding proportionately. Califia Farms Oat Creamers aim to deliver a new experience for plant-based-focused consumers. The product is made with North American-grown oats to deliver a smooth, creamy and delicious taste. Available in Unsweetened, Hazelnut and Vanilla flavor varieties, Oat Creamers have 1 gram of sugar or less per serving, are gluten-free, and don’t contain any artificial flavors or sweeteners. Califia is aggressively ramping up new distribution and has secured commitments from about a dozen new retailers.

Cappello’s Almond Flour White Pizza

$9.99 per 10.85-ounce box Cappello’s Almond Flour White Pizza is the world’s first and only grain-free white pizza at retail. The product features buttery whole-milk mozzarella and white cheddar cheese, topped with fresh spinach and caramelized onion above a creamy, garlicky white sauce. Every ingredient was carefully chosen for its power to improve health by reducing inflammation and symptoms of autoimmune disorders, increasing energy and cognitive function, and nurturing a healthy gut. With its clean ingredient list, this nightshade-free pizza is a real trailblazer. The pizza is also gluten-, yeast- and soy-free, with a conveniently quick cook time, crisping up in just 15 minutes or less. It’s poised to be a great product for quarantiners looking to fill their home freezers.

Carrington Farms Ground Lupin Bean

$4.99 per 7-ounce bag Lupin beans are proving to be a hit with health-conscious consumers, as Carrington Farms has discovered with its delicious new product made from sweet Australian-grown lupin beans (similar to chickpeas and lentils). Served like rice and cooked like couscous, ground lupin beans boast 16 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber and only 1 gram net carbohydrate, for a low-glycemic dish with just 130 calories per serving. Ready in only three minutes, Carrington Farms Ground Lupin Bean can be eaten as a side dish, a main protein source in grain bowls and salads, or as a breading for tofu, fish and chicken. Ground Lupin Bean is bringing new customers to the side-dish category who are searching for high-protein, nutritious, plant-based, gluten-free, flavorful meals that cook fast. The item has changed the way that consumers view side dishes: They’re now seen as an additional source of nutrients and energy.


Culinary Tours Fusion Bars Chloe’s Oatmilk Pops

$4.99-$5.99 per 10-fluid-ounce box of four pops Chloe’s Oatmilk Pops look to leverage the opportunity in skyrocketing oatmilk sales, but this time in the dessert section of the freezer case. The pops offer a decadent and creamy mouth feel, yet are dairy-free and better for you. Chloe’s Oatmilk Pops are perfect for clean-label seekers who still want to indulge in a sweet treat, as all three varieties – Mint Chip, Salted Caramel and Raspberry Chip — are plant-based, Non-GMO Project Verified, gluten-free and made without the artificial ingredients found in many frozen novelties. Furthermore, the Oatmilk Pops are more environmentally friendly than other leading frozen treats. Oatmilk requires less water than traditional dairy milk or other nondairy options, and oatmilk produces relatively few greenhouse gases. It’s a win-win for today’s consumer seeking better-for-you and earth-friendly attributes.

$3.49 per 9-fluid-ounce box of three bars Culinary Tours Fusion Bars offer sophisticated flavors of ice cream and sorbet swirled together, and then wrapped in a real chocolate coating made from Utz Certified Cocoa. The brand’s unique flavor profiles are Vanilla and Forest Fruits, Hazelnut and Coffee, Coconut and Pistachio, and Caramel and Vanilla. Frozen novelties have a reputation as hyper-sweet, candy-inspired offerings designed to appeal to children’s palates. Culinary Tours Fusion Bars seek to elevate the category by turning that model on its head. With high-quality, elegant flavor options and a unique, innovative taste experience in an otherwise under-inspired category, Culinary Tours Fusion Bars aim to be a delicious departure from the ordinary.

Cleveland Quick Original Crépe Mix and Cleveland Quick Gluten Free Crépe Mix

$5.99 per 16-ounce package (Original) $7.99 per 16-ounce package (Gluten Free) Shoppers are becoming more health-conscious, and one increasingly popular healthy food is crépes. This iconic French food is low in carbs, high in protein and quick to prepare, and can be filled with vegetables for an easy plant-based meal any time of day. As more consumers look to buy restaurant-quality foods in the supermarket — especially during the pandemic — Cleveland Quick has introduced two mixes that meet consumer needs for quick and easy crépe-making. Original Crépe Mix features non-GMO ingredients and is trans fat-, soy- and preservative-free, while the Gluten Free mix looks to fill a void on the shelf, where very few, if any, gluten-free crépe mixes can be found.

Coca-Cola Energy

$2.29 per 12-ounce can In January, Coca-Cola launched an energy drink for the first time under the Coca- Cola brand that gives consumers the energy that they want and the great Coca-Cola taste that they love. The new drink comes in four energizing options: Coca-Cola Energy, Coca-Cola Energy Cherry, and their Zero Sugar counterparts. With that familiar Coca-Cola taste that people already know, Coca-Cola Energy features 114 milligrams of caffeine in every 12-ounce can, along with guarana extract and B vitamins. Unlike other energy drinks, Coca-Cola Energy can bring new drinkers into the category and unlock growth by delivering energy drink credentials on a platform of great taste and the approachability of the Coca-Cola brand.


Daily Crunch Sprouted Almonds

$7.99 per 1.5-ounce bag While the idea of sprouted nuts may be new to many consumers, Daily Crunch is ready to educate shoppers on a fun and healthy approach to plant-based snacking. Consumers are increasingly shifting away from sugary snacks and looking for more plant-based protein options. Also, snacking has become a fourth meal in the United States, and views in regard to snacking are changing rapidly. Daily Crunch is bringing innovation to the “trusty but dusty” snack nut aisle, taking commoditized products and turning them into value-added snacks with bright, cheery packaging. Daily Crunch’s Sprouted Almonds have the phytic acid removed from them, resulting in increased absorption of many nutrients. Only all-natural non-GMO ingredients are added to the nuts. Additionally, the sprouting process makes the nuts taste great and not have the waxy texture of many brands of raw almonds. All of Daily Crunch’s sprouted nut snacks are non-GMO Project Certified; free of gluten, salt and oil; and vegan-, Paleo- and keto-friendly.

Daring Pieces-Original

$7.99 per 8-ounce bag When founders Ross MacKay and Eliott Kessas created Original Daring Pieces in 2018, the product was the world’s first 100% plant-based chicken alternative that looked, felt and tasted like the real thing. Original Daring Pieces foster a new category of plant-based eating, with the smallest ingredient list of any plant-based chicken alternative. The offering is also high in protein (14 grams per serving) and non-GMO. This is in contrast to other plant-based red-meat alternatives that don’t serve the same everyday dietary functionality. Original Daring Pieces are unlike any other food in the plant-based chicken category. Made from five plant-based, non-GMO ingredients: water, soy protein concentrate, sunflower oil, natural flavoring, and spices (paprika, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, mace, cardamom and salt), the pieces cook quickly, via sautéing, frying or wok frying, with zero hassle for great taste and versatility.

Dawn Sourdough Donut Mix

$1.99 per doughnut In January, Dawn Foods introduced its Sourdough Donut Mix, a mashup between a yeast-raised doughnut and sourdough bread, to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary. The mix is made from an authentic sourdough starter, giving it real sourdough flavor. Fresh butter is added to the mix, resulting in a unique preparation and a buttery taste. The Sourdough Donut has an unusual texture, with the open-cell structure of sourdough and the soft, tender eating quality of a yeast-raised doughnut. It has a darker-brown crust that resembles the rustic appearance of sourdough bread. Most importantly, it’s extremely versatile — allowing bakers to create a range of doughnut creations from a single mix, ranging from a sourdough sweet glaze roll to a savory honey butter-fried chicken sandwich.

De La Rosa Organic Pomegranate and Raspberry Vinegars

$7.99 per 16.9-fluid-ounce bottle Premium vinegar is poised to be the new kombucha as consumers demand more from this pantry staple, including health benefits. De La Rosa Organic Pomegranate Vinegar meets a lot of those demands. The product is raw, unfiltered, kosher and organic. It’s perfect for salads, marinades, drizzles, sauces or just drinking. The Organic Raspberry Vinegar is another healthy addition to the company’s line of organic vinegars. It’s an excellent option for consumers seeking the bold fragrance and taste of fresh raspberries in their cooking, as well as for home chefs looking for an elevated vinegar product.


Defiance Fuel Magnetized Structured Box Water

$11.99-$12.99 per 2.6-gallon box The bottled-water market is evolving as consumers stay home during the pandemic, but bottled water continues to be America’s favorite drink as more consumers decline soft drinks and other flavored beverages. Defiance Fuel’s magnetically structured water hydrates 300% faster and comes in eco-friendly packaging. It took 42 years to research, design and define what would ultimately become Defiance Fuel — a structured water that supports elite performance. Although everyone can benefit from better hydration, both Defiance Fuel and Defiance Sport, the company’s most recent innovation, were created to hydrate and fuel today’s top athletes in ways that the industry has never seen before. For the past three years, Defiance Fuel hasn’t been sold in stores, being exclusively offered by gyms, wellness centers, chiropractic clinics and sports teams. In that time, the brand has gained the following of some of the best athletes in the world.

Diestel’s Sous-Vide Turkey Meatloaf

$8.99 per 16-ounce package Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, was predicted in 2019 to be one of the hottest food trends in the nation. Then came the COVID-19 era, with a lot of homebound consumers having more time than ever before to cook a meal, leading to the brisk sales of sous vide machines. Diestel’s Sous-Vide Turkey Meatloaf is pre-formed, pre-sauced and fully cooked, so this American classic can be on the table in a mere 20 minutes. In addition, the sous vide cooking method delivers a moist, tender meatloaf every time, making dry meatloaf a thing of the past. Available in Traditional and Florentine flavors, Diestel’s Sous-Vide Turkey Meatloaf delivers a whopping 20 grams of protein per serving and is low in fat, calories and cholesterol, providing a leaner alternative to other meatloaves on the market. It’s also crafted from no-antibiotics-ever turkeys that are fed a 100% vegetarian diet.

Dot’s Pretzels Southwest Style Pretzels

$5.99 per 16-ounce bag Snacking was already trending up before the pandemic, but quarantining during the COVID-19 crisis has made snacking all day the food lifestyle du jour. Many salty-snack producers are adding interesting flavors and ingredients to their pretzels. Several factors are driving growth in the pretzel market: increasing demand for convenience foods, the continued popularity of snacking, and consumer preference for healthier snacks. Dot’s Southwest Seasoned Pretzels offer a bold and zesty flavor, contributing to the company’s 114% salty-snack sales growth in 2019. Looking ahead, Dot’s plans to offer a variety of sizes, and a pretzel crumble for baking.

Elmhurst 1925 Oat Lattes

$4.99 per 12-fluid-ounce bottle Ready-to-drink beverages and plant-based alternatives are two prominent trends on their own, and Elmhurst 1925 combines these with its Oat Lattes. The line includes two coffee-based Oat Lattes — Cacao and Flash Brew — and two tea-based Oat Lattes — Matcha and Golden. They each contain 95 milligrams of caffeine, no added gums or oils, and 6 grams of sugar per serving. They’re also certified vegan, gluten-free, Non-GMO Project Verified, dairy-free and OU kosher. The lattes provide 26 grams of whole grains per carton and are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Dorot Gardens Crushed Turmeric

$2.99 per 2.5-ounce package The turmeric trend started in 2018, and it’s not over. Store shelves are brimming with an ever-expanding assortment of turmeric teas, capsules, nuts, ghee and more, and food companies are adding the spice to everything from juice shots to cocktails. Meanwhile, consumers are now demanding it in more fresh yet convenient forms. Enter Dorot Gardens Crushed Turmeric: It’s farm fresh and flash-frozen within 90 minutes of being harvested. The product contains curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Additionally, Dorot Gardens is currently the only brand to offer this innovative product.

Ecos Mother & Child Dishmate Dish Soap Refill Kit

$14.99 per two-bottle pack (64 and 16 fluid ounces); Ecos has targeted sustainably minded consumers with its new kit that includes an everyday bottle and a mother bottle that refills the product, providing the volume of five containers in one compact kit. Patented packaging with a “click-in” design keeps the everyday bottle securely in place in the refill bottle to save space and plastic, with no shrink wrap needed to hold them together. The packaging launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, gaining popularity among customers who wanted to limit trips to the store and have products at home in bulk.


Food Club String Cheese Bites

$3.29 per 6-ounce bag These bite-sized cheese sticks are great for kids, but tasty for adults, too, with varieties like grilled cheese and jalapeño. The packaging’s pouch structure allows the product to stand up for simple sharing, and the easy-open resealable closure enables snackers to have as much or as little as they’d like in a serving. The private label product from Topco Associates has helped build the snacking selection at member stores and can be displayed in multiple locations for quick and easy sales. A greater variety of flavors, including those that appeal to a more adult palate, is in the works.

Foodstiks Compostable Wood Cutlery

$3.20 per 24-piece set Foodstiks Compostable Wood Cutlery is made from 100% natural birchwood. The implements are also 100% compostable and don’t require a commercial composting facility to break them down. They can be disposed of in the yard-trimmings bin or backyard compost. The 24-piece sets can include eight of each utensil — forks, knives and spoons — or all 24 of the same. Foodstiks has been working with food event organizers and social media influencers about the benefits of using a renewable resource to replace single-use plastics.

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Forij Superfood Granola

$8.99 per 8-ounce bag Forij Superfood Granola isn’t just another healthier snack option; it also includes functional mushroom extracts to provide additional benefits beyond macronutrients. The nutritional content comes in at 5 grams of protein, 3 grams of sugar, 8 grams of net carbs and 10 grams of healthy omega fats per serving. Pending new flavors and product lines will be defined by when a consumer eats granola (morning breakfast, midday snack, nightcap, etc.), so that the mushroom extracts will align with the customer’s intent.

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Fresh Victor Craft Cocktail Mixers

Fresh Cravings Plant-Based Dips

$5 per 8-ounce tub Fresh Cravings has taken beloved flavor profiles and turned them into plant-based dips such as Kickin’ Queso, Creamy Garlic, Spinach Artichoke and French Onion. All of the dips are packed with whole food ingredients and are soy-, gluten- and dairy-free. Targeting a health-conscious perimeter shopper, the dips are placed in the produce section. Cashew and almond bases provide a creamy texture, while savory spices like paprika and habanero chili powder add zest. The dips are also packed with superfood ingredients such as chia seeds, tahini and coconut aminos.

$7.69 per 16-ounce bottle $19.99 per 64-ounce bottle Refrigerated fresh-juice cocktail mixers are a niche segment already, but these premium cold-pressed and clean-label juice-blend mixers stand out even more. Fresh Victor’s Craft Cocktail Mixers line has seven unique blends with all-natural, non-GMO, gluten-free and Fair Trade ingredients, including 100% fresh fruit juices, organic cane sugar, organic agave nectar, and herbs and spices. Customers can find a different cocktail or mocktail recipe on each bottle, along with more ideas on the company’s website. Just add alcohol and ice to enjoy.



High Noon Sun Sips

Good Source Snacks Chocolate Protein Clusters

$5.99-$6.49 per 4-ounce pouch Good Source Snacks takes a unique approach to its chocolate protein clusters, offering three varieties for different times of the day: Morning Jump for energy and focus, Afternoon Boost for avoiding the midday meltdown, and Evening Chill for relaxation and sleep. All three deliver a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, natural sugars, fiber, vitamins and minerals. They’re also Non-GMO Project Verified and gluten-free. The use of pea protein, which contains essential amino acids and is rich in plant-based iron, aims to prevent a spike in blood sugar and instead offer sustained energy.

$9.99 per 4-pack of 355-milliliter cans Hard seltzers continue to gain momentum as many customers pick them as their summer drink of choice. E. & J. Gallo’s High Noon Sun Sips, however, have one distinguishing characteristic: They’re made from real vodka, real fruit juice and water, not malt or sugar alcohol. High Noon is priced above many other brands intentionally to translate into increased dollar sales in the category, higher revenue opportunities for retailers, and a superior product for consumers. Available flavors include pineapple, grapefruit, lime, peach, watermelon, black cherry and variety packs.

Green Garden Freeze Dried Herbs

$5.79 per bottle Green Garden’s unique growing, harvesting and freeze-drying technique for herbs means an average shelf life of three years, making them a great pantry staple that doesn’t require any cutting or dicing. They can be used in cooking, baking and cocktail recipes just like fresh herbs, and with the same bold flavor, color and smell. Offered by Litehouse Foods, Green Garden Freeze Dried Herbs is the first line of USDA organic and non-GMO herbs found in the spice aisle. On the convenience front, they instantly rehydrate when combined with moisture from water, oil, meat or vegetables.

Hormel Cup N Crisp Pepperoni

Herdez Salsa Cremosa

$2.38-$3.49 per 15.3-ounce jar Herdez Salsa Cremosa is a brand extension of creamy, authentic flavor that seems like a perfect fit. The new line consists of three creamy salsas: Cilantro Lime, with tangy tomatillos, lime, garlic and jalapeño; Chipotle; and Roasted Poblano, with garlic and cilantro. Each can be used as a go-to ingredient to enhance favorite recipes, or poured directly over a traditional dish to add creamy flavor just before serving. These salsas aren’t dips, but instead an ingredient, building on the success of Herdez Guacamole Salsa.


$3.49 per 5-ounce package This pepperoni does exactly what the product name alludes to: cupping while cooking, and crisping at the end to create the perfect crunch. Hormel Cup N Crisp Pepperoni aims to provide high-quality restaurant flavor for a new kind of eating experience compared with traditional pepperoni cooked at home that remains flat while cooking. Hormel Foods has also designed the new packaging to resonate highly with younger, more food-forward consumers, whereas the bulk of the category is packaged in bright colors tailored more to a family audience.

“I and Love and You” Stir-Mix-A-Little

$3.29 per 3-ounce cup Stir-Mix-A-Little is a fresh alternative to canned food for pets. Its recipes are 100% dehydrated meals with human-grade meat, veggies and fruit. Customers simply add water and stir to prepare the wet food in a resealable container. Stir-Mix-A-Little contains no fillers and nothing artificial. The three flavors are Chicken and Bone Broth, Beef and Bone Broth, and Turkey and Bone Broth. Stir-Mix-A-Little can also make for great on-the-go meals, whether pets and their parents are camping, hiking or at home. The cups are recyclable in many regions, as well as recyclable through TerraCycle.

Jèn Collagen + Aloe Vera Infused Water

$3.49 per 15.5-fluid-ounce bottle Food and beverages with functional benefits to the body are growing in popularity, and that’s exactly the space for Jèn Collagen + Aloe Vera Infused Water. It contains 2,500 milligrams per serving of marine collagen tripeptides derived from fish scales, which the company says stimulate the body’s natural collagen production to help with maintaining young-looking skin. The real aloe vera straight from the leaf, not from powder, supports digestive health and improves skin elasticity by increasing collagen production. The water is available in unique Blood Orange & Lemon, Apple & Lychee, and Peach & Plum flavors.

Jenny Lee Sticky Bun

Just Desserts Vegan Cupcakes

$4.99 per 8-ounce 4-pack As customers’ diets shift, in-store bakeries have to innovate. Just Desserts Vegan Cupcakes offer a plantbased option free of eggs, dairy and animal byproducts. The product is also made in a nut-free bakery, meaning that it’s free from six of the top eight allergens: eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. The cupcakes come in a four-count pack, with three flavors to choose from: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry vanilla. The price point is good for a 4-pack in the baked goods category’s premium segment, and the taste is better than just “good for vegan.”

Just Egg Folded

$4.99 per 8-ounce 4-pack Just is a true innovator in plant-based foods, using modern technology and culinary expertise to make better-for-you and better-for-the-planet food. Its Just Egg doesn’t come from chickens; instead, each “egg” contains 7 grams of protein from the mung bean. According to Just, the product’s ingredients consume 98% less water, use 83% less land and emit 93% less carbon dioxide than animal proteins. The eggs are also cholesterol- and dairy-free and non-GMO. They come frozen and prebaked in a pack of four.

$2.49 per 3-ounce package For customers who want a single-serve, heat-and-eat sweet indulgence, Jenny Lee’s Sticky Bun seems like a perfect fit. The compostable, recyclable packaging design speaks to the company’s focus on sustainability in the single-serve category while being cost-effective. The cinnamon bun comes with a honey-walnut schmear that oozes down the sides after being heated in the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds. Known for its cinnamon swirl bread, Jenny Lee plans line extensions with other bun flavors and topping options, and is testing similar heat-and-eat lines with monkey bread, brownies and danishes.


Justin’s Dark Chocolate Crispy Peanut Butter Cups

$2.29 per 1.32-ounce 2-pack Justin’s better-for-you peanut butter cups have been on the market since 2011, but now the brand has added organic quinoa for extra crunch. The Dark Chocolate Crispy Peanut Butter Cups are Non-GMO Project Verified and use Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa, grounded peanut butter and organic quinoa. These simple additions have resulted in a crispy-creamy-crunchy snacking experience all in one. What’s more, the palm oil used in all of Justin’s nut butter cups is organic, sustainably sourced and fully traceable.

Kashi Grain Free Granola Bars

$3.99 per 6.1-ounce box of five bars en_US/home.html Kashi’s newest granola bars give customers with gluten or grain intolerances or diets a great on-the-go option. Kashi Grain Free Granola Bars are made with simple whole-food ingredients such as peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds and pumpkin seeds. They are also Non-GMO Project Verified and don’t contain anything artificial. The snacks are available in two flavors: Coconut Almond, which has 5 grams of sugar and 5 grams of protein, and Peanut Butter Chocolate, with 6 grams of sugar and 6 grams of protein.

Kidfresh Pasta With Cauliflower

$3.49 per 6-ounce package Nearly every parent looks for ways to add vegetables to their children’s diets at one point or another, and Kidfresh Pasta With Cauliflower tackles this in a sneaky manner. The pastas are made with real ingredients like tomatoes, cheese, beets and hidden cauliflower. Both the Marinara Sauce and Cheddar Sauce varieties are gluten-free and contain up to a half-cup vegetables and 9 grams of protein per serving. The items come frozen to preserve nutrients and flavors while extending the shelf life without any artificial flavors or ingredients, synthetic colors, or preservatives.


KidsLuv Peach Me, I’m Orange Vitamin Enhanced Beverage

$8.99 per 4-Pack of 8-fluid-ounce cartons KidsLuv beverages aim to attract kids with all of the flavor and none of the sugar of many traditional juice box options. KidsLuv Peach Me, I’m Orange has zero sugar coupled with a functional vitamin delivery system, giving kids a healthy dose of nine essential vegan vitamins and minerals that their bodies need. The beverage comes in a 4-pack of 8-fluid-ounce recyclable, resealable and straw-free drink cartons. Each serving has 10 calories and 2 grams of net carbs.

Kos Chocolate Peanut Butter Organic Plant Protein

$30 per 1.3-pound (20.6-ounce) tub Kos’ new mixture of soil-derived power is a complete protein from plants with all of the essential amino acids. Kos Chocolate Peanut Butter Organic Plant Protein is made with organic pea protein, quinoa, pumpkin seed protein, chia seed, flax seed, coconut milk and inulin fiber. It has 20 grams of protein and 160 calories per serving, but no additives. The made-in-California product is fitting for smoothies, pancakes, muffins, and more. According to Kos, its proprietary digestive enzyme blends help to maximize metabolic absorption, with little wasted energy.

Lemon Perfect

$1.99 per 12-fluid-ounce bottle Lemon Perfect is an upgrade to water, containing 100% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C in every bottle. The naturally refreshing, zero-sugar and shelf-stable cold-pressed lemon water uses California-grown lemons that are gently processed and cold filled to maintain the benefits of freshly squeezed lemons. The four available flavors are Just Lemon, Blueberry Açaí, Dragon Fruit Mango and Peach Raspberry. Each bottle has hydrating electrolytes and essential antioxidants, and comes in at 5 calories.

Lightlife Plant-Based Burgers

$5.99 per 8-ounce 2-pack The plant-based meat alternative field keeps getting more populated, but this product stands out because it’s made from pea protein, not soy, and otherwise has a relatively simple list of ingredients. In fact, this year the Lightlife Burger recipe was reformulated to remove modified corn starch, yeast extract and ascorbic acid, leaving such ingredients as coconut oil, garlic powder and beet powder. Additionally, the packaging is attractive, featuring bold colors and — perhaps most importantly — easily understood health and nutritional information, which is so vital these days.

The Little Potato Co. Microwave Ready Lemon & Garden Herb

Life’s Grape Peanut Butter-Dipped Vine Dried Grapes

$9.99 per 10-ounce package $14.99 per box of 12 0.8-ounce snack packs These gummy bear-like snacks provide the taste of a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, but with only 140 calories, and they’re free of sulfates and preservatives — which speaks to the growing number of natural food fans out there. The grapes are wrapped in a coating of peanut butter and can give consumers a quick dose of energy when most needed. Since the grapes never meet the soil, there’s no contamination from herbicides, fertilizers or rodents, giving consumers peace of mind. The snacks come in 10-ounce and 0.8-ounce packages.

$3.99 per 1-pound package This quick and easy product from The Little Potato Co. is designed to get children to eat their vegetables — although their parents and other adults will like the convenience of not having to peel or wash any food before heating it up for five minutes. Each kit contains four servings of vegetables and no artificial colors or flavors, and offers gluten-free fare packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including fiber, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6. The product has already made significant gains during the pandemic and could find further growth in the coming months.

MCT Cookie Dough Bar

$2.99 per 1.34-ounce bar Cookie dough has probably been popular for centuries, but this latest product to riff on that basic product is keto- and Paleo-friendly, with only 2 to 3 total net carbs per bar, no added sugar and monk fruit used as the sweetener. Cookie dough also gets other health-conscious updates via this bar, including being gluten-, dairy- and soyfree, and without any GMO ingredients or sugar alcohols. Next up? A contactless demo system with half-size pre-packaged bars and the use of sampling to further drive sales during this pandemic era.


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Mighty Sesame Whole Seed Tahini

$4.99 per 10.9-ounce squeeze bottle Simplicity is bliss, right? That’s the idea behind this product, which has ground sesame seeds as its only ingredient, and comes available in an easy, ready-to-serve squeezable bottle. The product is not only trendy and convenient, but also serves as a good source of both plant-based protein and calcium, appealing to nutrition-focused consumers in search of a condiment, dressing or dip. A well-funded social media campaign that encompasses Facebook and Instagram, as well as a partnership with a major Food Network influencer, could help build the popularity of this product into 2021.

Molten Lavva

$2.99 per 4-ounce cup Molten Lavva is the first product within the plantbased yogurt category to receive the Paleo Foundation’s keto certification. A proprietary sweetener blend of erythritol, monk fruit and mesquite complements indulgent flavors and allows each serving to contain only 3 to 4 net carbs. As with all of Lavva’s products, Molten Lavva is uniquely powered by the pili nut, a sustainable, rich, buttery tree nut high in nourishing fatty acids, vitamins and minerals — it contains more magnesium and vitamin E than any other nut. Pili nuts are the lowest-carb nut on earth and, when blended, impart a creaminess that gives Molten Lavva its spoonably thick texture.

Mother Raw Ranch and French Onion Dips

$5.99 per 8.8-ounce jar Mother Raw Ranch and French Onion Dips bring higher nutrition to the snacking aisle. Organic, plant- based and vegan Mother Raw dips are naturally creamy, made with a blend of cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, ground hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and loads of fresh minced herbs — creating a gourmet eating experience. The refrigerated organic dips come in 100% recyclable glass jars; are free from dairy, nuts and six other common allergens, as well as all stabilizers, fillers and preservatives; and contain no refined sugar.

Nasoya Vegan Kimchi

$5.99 per 14-ounce container For many consumers, Korean fare still represents food adventure, but this gluten-free and vegan product, which comes in mild and spicy options, could open the door to more exploration. Nasoya Spicy Kimchi is made the traditional way, with Napa cabbage that has been salted and fermented with onion, garlic, pepper and ginger. It maintains a bold, tangy flavor without MSG, preservatives or artificial flavors, providing all of the health benefits of kimchi without sacrificing authentic taste or flavor. Food influencers and social media are promoting this product, including via videos and associated recipes.

Nature’s Script CBD Bath Bombs

$19.99 per 6.77-ounce canister The CBD trend is still going strong. One of the most interesting recent entries is this line of bath bombs that dissolves and fizzes when added to warm water, releasing essential oils, scent and effervescence. Formulated and crafted in-house, each Nature’s Script CBD Bath Bomb includes 75 milligrams of premium hemp-derived CBD to encourage relaxation, soothing comfort and stress relief. The bath bombs come in three varieties, which are named after Greek gods: The Asclepius (Heal & Restore), The Hypnos (Sleep & Rest), and The Pasithea (Relax & Meditate).


Panera Refrigerated Mac & Cheese With Creamy Cheddar-Veggie Sauce

Nellie’s Free Range Sous Vide Egg Bites

$3.99 per 4-ounce package of two egg bites The new Nellie’s Free Range Sous Vide Egg Bites are the first and only Certified Humane egg bites in the country — reflecting larger trends toward sustainability in retail and food production, along with efficient and healthy nutrition. Using the true sous vide cooking method for better taste and texture — most other products in this category are actually baked — these egg bites could appeal to a variety of diets like keto and Paleo, and are also perfect for on-the-go breakfast, lunch and snacking. The bites come two to a pack in three delicious flavor combinations: Uncured Ham & Swiss, Broccoli & Cheddar, and Uncured Bacon & Pepper Jack.

$6.99 per 16-ounce package Panera’s traditional Mac & Cheese has been a staple and fan favorite for years. Now the brand has introduced new Mac & Cheese with Creamy Cheddar-Veggie Sauce, which combines the same indulgent flavors consumers love with a more plant-forward sauce for a recipe they can feel even better about. The product is designed to appeal to consumers looking for more veggies. The smooth cheese sauce — featuring real cheddar and parmesan cheese — is made from more than 25% puréed vegetables, including butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots.

No Fade Fresh

$14.99 per 6.4-fluid-ounce bottle No Fade Fresh offers salon-quality, patented shampoo and conditioning technology, stemming from more than 30 years of R&D in professional hair color. No Fade Fresh doesn’t compete with box hair color, but rather enhances the category incrementally by fighting “color fade” to keep color fresh when used between box colorings, maintaining color without damage. The product also offers the potential for a two-product purchase by offering the color-depositing shampoo and conditioner to be used routinely to keep color fresh and stop color fade while depositing color into the hair. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2020


Poppilu Bold & Tangy Lemonade Kids’ Pouches

$3.99 per 8-pack of 6-fluid-ounce pouches Standing among the latest innovations in the kids aseptic juice category, Poppilu has eye-catching branding and a bold and tangy flavor (not watered-down juice), which could appeal to younger consumers. Parents, meanwhile, will like its nutrition features: organic, no added refined sugar, only 7 grams of sugar and 100% of the daily intake of vitamin C. Poppilu offers a strong temporary price reduction program to drive early trial as well as retailer geo-targeted paid social media, including a “free-bate” offer. The product is being promoted via social media, influencer collaborations and meal-kit partnerships.

Progress Face Masks

$19.89 per 50-count box As more businesses begin to open across the United States, regular trips to the grocery store and doctor’s office have already become part of a return to normal. Shoppers look for face masks that are comfortable, and these Progress masks feature soft fabric along with dual filtration. Progress has the capacity to maintain a high level of inventory, so as the demand becomes greater, the brand has the capability to keep consumers supplied. Manufacturer TrueChoicePack has initially used social media marketing in the introduction of its new personal protective equipment (PPE) items, prior to establishing a shelf presence. The company has also used social media platforms to connect with audiences to build the brand, increase sales, and drive website, and eventually retail store, traffic.

RX A.M. Oats

$2.69-$2.99 per 2.18-ounce cup RX A.M. Oats are a premium take on traditional single-serve oatmeal cups. With the inclusion of egg whites, fruit and nuts in the recipe, RX A.M. Oats provide consumers with added nutrition benefits, including 12 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. The line’s single-serve cup format makes it easy to enjoy, whether at home or on the go, and it’s made with simple, real ingredients that offer both wholesome nutrition and a delicious, satisfying taste. The cups can also be prepared in one of three ways for a better morning in minutes, any time of year: with hot water, in the microwave or as overnight oats.


Ser!ous Bean Co. The Perfect Bean Jalapeño & Bacon

$1.89 per 15.5-ounce can Ser!ous Beans are gluten-free and contain no high-fructose corn syrup. All of the brand’s other flavors are also vegan and preservative-free. Its latest product is made with applewood smoked bacon and real jalapeños for a robust, not-too-hot flavor. Consumers get jalapeños and bacon in every bite. The product can be enjoyed as a side dish to any meal, in a recipe or, for real bean lovers, just straight out of the can. Additionally, the bright-green color of the can really stands out in a sea of baked bean cans on food retail shelves.

Siggi’s Plant-Based Line

$1.99-$2.19 per 150-gram (1-cup) container Consumers who aren’t able to digest dairy, and those who just wish to avoid it, can now enjoy Siggi’s plant-based line, made with a proprietary blend of coconut, macadamia, and pea protein. The Icelandic skyr brand’s plant-based products deliver three times the amount of protein of other yogurt alternatives — that’s 10 grams per cup — 40% lower sugar, and a satisfyingly yogurt-like taste and texture. Siggi’s supported the launch of its plant-based offerings with a fully digital media campaign featuring founder Siggi Hilmarsson, and also through social media and extensive earned-media coverage.


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Sir Kensingon’s Everything Sauces

$5.99 per approximately 8-fluid-ounce bottle Sir Kensington’s Everything Sauces are globally inspired premium condiments crafted from regional, single-origin ingredients. The Non-GMO Project Verified line consists of Mexican-inspired Chile Lime Crema, Moroccan-inspired Garlic, Korean-inspired Gochujang and Indian-inspired Curry Masala, each made with the highest-quality ingredients, including Certified Humane free-range eggs. Additionally, the sauces come in 50% post-consumer recycled plastic in an effort to reduce the brand’s environmental footprint. The bottles, featuring a convenient drizzle dispenser, sport labels designed by female and nonbinary illustrators from the culinary cultures of the initial four flavors. Supported through Sir Kensington’s owned communications and social strategy, the line will add more varieties in 2021.

Skinny Butcher Fresh Ready Meals Featuring Plant Protein

$5.99 per 10-ounce package Plant-based proteins are the star of the new brand of Skinny Butcher Fresh Ready Meals, featuring a quirky animated brand ambassador and interesting flavors. The fresh, never-frozen, products are skinpacked in individual-serving microwavable trays and are ready to eat in two minutes. The high-pressure processing (HPP) packaging allows the products to be made without the use of preservatives, and provides a 45-day refrigerated shelf life. Because fresh ready meals are a relatively underdeveloped category, Skinny Butcher launched with an aggressive price-promotion strategy designed to drive trial and entice consumers to integrate the convenience of fresh ready meals into their busy lifestyles.

SkinnyDipped Lemon Bliss Almonds

$4.49 per 3.5-ounce bag The brand’s first yogurt-covered, non-chocolate variety, SkinnyDipped Lemon Bliss Almonds are made by thinly dipping each almond in creamy, rich, non-GMO yogurt, creating an all-natural, gluten-free treat with more nut than coating, and providing almost double the amount of plant protein per serving and less sugar than in conventional coated nuts. To support the launch and drive retail sell-through, SkinnyDipped tasked PR with driving media coverage in key consumer outlets, and called on its brand loyalists and community of influencers to spread consumer awareness. The product’s vibrant, indulgent flavor profile appeals to better-for-you and traditional consumers alike, helping to make healthy snacking accessible and delicious.


Spindrift Pineapple

$5.99 per 8-pack Made with ripe, juicy Costa Rican pineapples, Spindrift Pineapple is the first sparkling water made with real pineapple, according to the brand. The slightly pulpy beverage is free of natural flavors, essences and artificial sweeteners, with just 13 calories and 3 grams of sugar per serving. Spindrift decided to deliver one of its most-requested flavors to its fans first, supporting the launch on social media while its team worked with the brand’s community to generate buzz organically, and the first batch was offered free online. The result: Pineapple has become Spindrift’s top-performing flavor and most successful launch.

Stonyfield Organic Fruit & Veggie Smoothie Pouches

$1.79 per 3.2-ounce pouch Stonyfield’s Organic Fruit & Veggie Smoothie Pouches contain half a serving of fruit per pouch, with no added sugar. Made with smooth coconut cream, the convenient, kid-friendly plant-based product comes in three flavors, Berry Cherry Blast, Tropical Twist and Strawbana Smash Smoothie, each with fewer than 80 calories and boasting only six ingredients. Stonyfield supported the product line with a variety of tactics, including media relations, social media and influencers. The company also plans to build on the item’s success by introducing more products in the category prioritizing both convenience and nutrition, as well as additional nondairy options.

Tippy Toes True

SweetLeaf Monk Fruit Sweetener

$5.49-$10.99 for various package sizes SweetLeaf Monk Fruit is a natural plant-based sugar replacement available in multiple formats and 18 on-trend flavors appealing to audiences of all ages. The organic sweetener also provides affordable value, with a cost of just 4 cents per serving for the 300-serving format and 6 cents per serving for 80 servings. Featuring a package design intended to be informative, simple and fun, the product line targets all who are interested in healthier eating. Along with launching digital and social media campaigns reaching nearly 9 million consumers per week, SweetLeaf works with retailers on in-store and on-shelf promotions, as well as online geo-targeted promotions to specific audiences.

$1.99-$9.99 for various package sizes From Topco Associates, dermatologically tested, chlorine-free Tippy Toes True diapers, made with renewable materials and offering 12-hour leakage protection, opened the clean-ingredient baby care segment to own brands, providing retailers with a top-tier product poised to compete with the national-brand leader. The release of the product line was supported primarily by the brand website, along with in-aisle promotion targeting parents seeking affordability and clean-ingredient baby care. With 33% of parents buying organic or clean-ingredient products, and 47% believing that clean-ingredient products are safer, the baby care segment is ripe for value-priced product extensions, including soaps, lotions and even snack options, according to Topco.

Tillamook Farmstyle Cream Cheese Spread

$3.99 per 7-ounce tub Made without gums, fillers or preservatives, Tillamook Farmstyle Cream Cheese Spreads come in four varieties; Original, containing just four ingredients; Aged Cheddar, a first in the category; Seriously Strawberry, made with real fruit; and Very Veggie, featuring bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, onions and more. In addition to the retail rollout, Tillamook teamed with Postmates for a direct-to-consumer activation. Citing major retailer data, the Tillamook farmer-owned co-op says that after just six months on the market, the spreads have helped grow the category, not only by giving existing consumers a cleaner option, but also by bringing new consumers to the soft cream-cheese set.


TopCare Children’s Sugar Free Multi-Vitamin Jelly Beans

$6.99-$7.99 per 120-count bottle Easy-to-swallow TopCare Children’s Sugar Free Multi-Vitamin Jelly Beans, with 11 vitamins and minerals, satisfy parents’ desire for dietary wellness and kids’ sweet cravings in one fell swoop. Chewable and completely sugar-free in a shape unique to the category, the Topco Associates own-brand product received nothing more than at-shelf support. Blocked alongside the national brand, the format and flavors captured kids’ attention, while the price point appealed directly to parents’ budgets. Own-brand vitamins rank No. 1 in unit vitamin sales, and gummies are now the dominant-selling format in children’s vitamins, garnering 50% of sales, so a line extension from Topco is definitely in the pipeline.

Vizzy Hard Seltzer

Uptown Cocktails

$14.99 per 1.5-liter bottle Uptown Cocktails is a high-quality, premixed cocktail line crafted with natural ingredients and real fruit juice in six indulgent varieties: Lime Margarita, Mango Margarita, Strawberry Margarita, Lemon Tea, Ruby Red Grapefruit and Chocolatini. Each is 13.9% alcohol by volume, gluten-free, and kosher certified. By creating custom POS for select retailers and targeting prime decision-makers through trade advertisement, manufacturer Southern Champion LLC was able to get the product line prime placement in retailers across the country. Just months after its launch, Uptown Cocktails was named the No. 13 wine-based RTD, premixed cocktail brand in the country for the 52 weeks ending May 16, according to Nielsen. | 800-837-2881 58

$14.99 per 6-pack of 12-fluid-ounce cans The first hard seltzer made with antioxidant vitamin C, derived from the superfruit acerola cherry, Vizzy comes in four unique flavors: Pineapple Mango, Blueberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Kiwi and Black Cherry Lime. Merchandised in eye-catching bright-orange packaging, the Certified Gluten Free beverage contains 100 calories per serving and is low in sugar and carbs. Vizzy’s launch was supported by Molson Coors with virtual sampling, breakthrough TV and out-of-home ads, and disruptive social and digital tactics, among other tools. Introduced in April, the product had already contributed more than $6 million in scanned sales in total U.S. food through June 13, according to Nielsen.

Wholesome Allulose

$6.50 per 12-ounce bag or 11.5-ounce bottle With sugar reduction a highlighted trend among wellness-seeking consumers, Wholesome Allulose provides a solution. The all-natural, zero-calorie, zero-sugar sweetener tastes and performs just like sugar, according to the brand, which adds that allulose, naturally found in figs, raisins and kiwi, is technically a sugar, but our bodies don’t digest it, so it has no effect on blood glucose levels, has has zero net carbs, is safe for diabetics, and won’t cause tooth decay. Available in liquid and dry crystalline forms, it can be used in myriad ways. To promote the product, Wholesome ran a combination of digital, educational and event partnerships.

Wholly Avocado Diced Avocado and Smashed Avocado

$4.48-$4.99 per 8-ounce container or 8-ounce bag of four 2-ounce cups Hormel Foods/MegaMex’s Wholly Avocado brand has built on its success in the guacamole space by introducing diced avocado and smashed avocado — two products that are paving the way for convenient, ready-to-eat avocado products while meeting the consumer need for perfectly ripe, preservative-free avocado anytime. Through creative packaging design, the brand conveyed the freshness of the new products, which can be used in salads and sandwiches. A comprehensive launch support plan included retailer-specific shopper marketing strategies, and media and influencer outreach. To drive trial, $2-off instant redeemable coupons appeared on packaging. The brand is also hoping to expand the products into foodservice.



Wonderful Pistachios No Shells Chili Roasted and Honey Roasted

$6.99 per 5.5-ounce bag Driving 94% of all flavored snack nut growth across the category since their 2019 debut, Wonderful Pistachios No Shells Chili Roasted and Honey Roasted flavors come in bright-red and -orange packaging, enabling them to stand out, easily communicate their bold flavor and spur sales right from the shelf. A dedicated digital campaign targeting adventurous snackers launched last year, with additional support including influencer marketing, and sampling in SnackNation office snack boxes in September 2019. The No Shells flavors have proved to be incremental to the brand portfolio, with 38% of consumers making them their first Wonderful Pistachios purchase ever.

Wonderful Seedless Lemons

$3.49-$3.99 per 1-pound bag A true produce innovation, Wonderful Seedless Lemons are a naturally seedless, Non-GMO Project Verified variety of lemon, sold October through May, with year-round distribution to come in future years. The Wonderful Co. owns the exclusiverights to this variety, which was promoted with dedicated in-store POS displays of the strikingly packaged fruit, and a robust marketing campaign. Since company research has found that 81% of people don’t like seeds in their lemons, consumer interest was virtually guaranteed. As a vertically integrated company, Wonderful is able to ensure the highest-quality product, managing the entire process from tree to table.

Woodridge Snacks Tempura Seaweed Chips

$3.49 per 0.7-ounce bag Available in vivid single-serve packaging, crispy plant-based Woodridge Snacks Tempura Seaweed Chips are inspired by the globalization of regional cuisines and the rising popularity of fusion dishes. Dipped in a light batter and gently fried, the item comes in three globally inspired flavors — Sea Salt, Sriracha and Hickory BBQ — whose ingredients are sustainably sourced. To increase reach and awareness, Woodridge implemented a robust social media strategy identifying influencers, who received product samples in exchange for social posts. As vegan foods increasingly become mainstream staples, the chips are well positioned to capitalize on the trend and expand the savory snack segment.


Yasso Dipped Greek Yogurt Bars

$5.49 per 10.6-fluid-ounce box of four bars Consisting of a chocolatey coating with crisped quinoa covering smooth and creamy Greek yogurt bars, Yasso Dipped Greek Yogurt Bars come in four varieties, each one containing 140-160 calories, with 4 grams of protein, live and active cultures, and no high-intensity sweeteners. Yasso promoted the frozen treats through paid digital media, newsletter and organic social media support, earned media support via public relations and influencer marketing, and in-store/shopper marketing tactics. In the short time it’s been on the market, the line has already delivered $2.3 million in retail sales, and provided a better-for-you alternative to the high-calorie chocolate-covered frozen novelty options that currently exist.

Zoku Pocket Utensil Set

$15.99 per set As the world moves toward doing away with single-use plastic products in the name of environmental health, consumers eager to do their part can start using Zoku’s Pocket Utensil Set. Housed in a compact yet sturdy form-fitting carrying case, the reusable utensils boast a clean, utilitarian design, and also help promote personal hygiene habits at a time when people are anxious to avoid disease. The product complements Zoku’s previously introduced eco-friendly food-to-go containers. To raise the visibility of the utensil set, the company has deployed social media posts and advertisements, promoting the idea of less waste along with Zoku’s other food-to-go products.

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Insights & Innovation Food retailing's foremost thought leaders, operators and innovators share their views on the state of retail foodservice, coping with adversity and innovative approaches to serving customers. Day One presenters will offer fresh insights, real world experiences and a look around the corner to get ahead of what's next.

Oct. 1

Safety & Foodservice Innovations Retail foodservice will never be the same in a post-pandemic world where altered customer expectations will create new operational challenges and opportunities. Our Day Two speakers will provide their unique perspectives on an evolving market and the type of problems retailers need to be thinking about today to solve tomorrow.

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Wegmans Food Markets

The company’s southern expansion features a strategy designed to conquer the seismic shift in shopping habits.

By Gina Acosta Photography by John Hansen,

ince the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, dire predictions about the state of the grocery industry have been pouring in from all directions: “It’s an extinction event for the grocery store as we know it.” “The pandemic will change the grocery experience, and not for the better.” But the post-pandemic grocery experience is already here, and it might be even better than the pre-pandemic grocery experience. In a sparkling new strip center in the Raleigh, N.C., suburb of West Cary, shoppers at the new 103,000-square-foot Wegmans Food Market there enthusiastically proved all of the doom and gloomers wrong last July 29 with a packed house on opening day — attended by customers wearing masks and socially distancing, of course. 62

Katie Duchnowski, store manager of the new Wegmans in West Cary, N.C., oversees 103,000 square feet of fresh food, prepared foods, dry grocery, a wine department and an extensive e-commerce operation — all during an unprecedented public health crisis.

Key Takeaways At its new West Cary, N.C., store, which opened in July, Wegmans has adapted its signature expansive foodservice offering to emphasize safety and sanitation during the current pandemic and beyond. The grocer is also attracting customers by accelerating efforts to become an online destination and focusing on sustainability. Wegmans’ formula for the ultimate one-stop shop might be the path forward for the grocery industry in a postCOVID world.


Wegmans Food Markets

Shoppers grabbed tongs with their bare hands and served themselves chocolate chip cookies and bagels from the self-service bakery case. A woman and her grandson headed for one of the store’s many restaurants to sample — yes, sample — Carolina pulled pork. And for digital shoppers avoiding the store, cars could pull into a lane outside and pick up groceries curbside. Curbside grocery pickup during a pandemic is nothing new, of course. But the premise of opening an experiential grocery store in 2020 with restaurants, sampling and self-service features would seem at odds with the behaviors required to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet Wegmans, the family-owned grocer with one of the most devoted followings in retail, is betting big on this strategy as it continues its expansion southward during a historic crisis. And

Wegmans' famous produce departments showcase seasonal and local produce in a farmers' market-style format. The company says that it develops trusting relationships with suppliers "to ensure we’re able to offer our customers a unique variety of products they aren’t able to find anywhere else."

We have always believed that, if our people are valued and supported, they will give their best to our customers and to each other. I am grateful and proud of what they are able to accomplish every day.” —Colleen Wegman, CEO, Wegmans Food Markets


“The Wegmans Way” could serve as a blueprint for grocery retailers desperately trying to figure out what shoppers will want, and how they will want it, in 2021 and beyond. “One of the wonderful things about our company is that, with a continuous improvement mindset, we always strive to achieve excellence in everything we do,” says Deanna Percassi, Wegmans’ director of public relations. “We know the only way to achieve that is by listening and responding to our customers, watching the evolving environment around us, and finding new ways to meet our customers where they are.”

Southern Comfort

Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets, which operates 104 stores and is led by the family of Colleen, Danny and Nicole Wegman, has achieved growth over its 104 years in business by opening huge stores in East Coast suburbs. Today, its locations span 80,000 to nearly 150,000 square feet and offer about 52,000 SKUs (4,000 of them organic). Wegmans aims to operate “destination stores” designed to look and feel like a European food hall. This is accomplished through warm and cozy lighting, farmers market-style displays of organic and conventional produce, expansive in-store dining spaces, and whimsical elements (a toy train choo-chooing over the dairy case, a crowing rooster over the coffee bar) that re-











Wegmans Food Markets inforce the fresh market atmosphere. The seafood department features a massive live lobster tank. The meat department sells everything from ground chuck to ground Wagyu beef to ground wild boar. A Dessert department dips strawberries by hand. And the stores have large international food and cheese stations. Lately, the retailer has been moving out of its Northeast and Mid-Atlantic comfort zone and expanding south, putting it in direct competition with beloved banners such as Kroger, Harris Teeter, Lowes Foods, Publix, Food Lion and many others. Wegmans’ expansion in North Carolina, where it plans to build five stores, is a big test for the company. If successful, the move will further validate Wegmans’ highly adaptive strategy and allow it to enter even more markets. So far, Wegmans seems to be passing the test with North Carolina consumers.

Frustrated Foodies

At the new Wegmans in West Cary, thousands of pandemic-weary shoppers rushed in to buy fresh-baked peach crostatas from the bakery or made-to-order Impossible Burgers from the Wegmans Burger Bar. Foodservice, which comprises roughly 10% of Wegmans’ annual sales of nearly $10 billion, is what makes many shoppers drive past all of those competitors to a Wegmans location. At the West Cary Wegmans, foodservice has been localized to highlight delicacies such as North Carolina-style barbecue, at left. Below: The company has, for now, moved its self-service hot bars to the perimeter, encased them in plexiglass and made them full-service, with plenty of associates on hand to serve Asian stir-fries and Buffalo chicken wings to customers.


“We have expanded our traditional sushi department to offer a made-to-order poké station, as we know sushi is popular among our customers,” says Katie Duchnow- ski, store manager of the West Cary Wegmans. “We also expanded our Indian and Asian offerings for the same reason. In bakery, we sell our North Carolina-inspired hummingbird cake that is now sold in most of our stores as well. We also try to source locally wherever we can. We will continue listening to our customers and find ways to incorporate new products that they know and love.” According to the company, it adjusted its West Cary foodservice offering based on different customer tastes in the area and gleanings from its first North Carolina store, in Raleigh. “We learned a lot about our product mix and what key products our customers were looking for,” Percassi says. “Those learnings were used when selecting products for the West Cary store. For example, we added products from local bakery La Farm that we knew were important to our customers. With many upstate New York transplants in the area, we also found customers love Rochester and Buffalo staples, and made sure to offer those at West Cary, as well as [at] Raleigh.” Early on in the pandemic, Wegmans shut down its famous hot and cold bars, which feature barbecue meats, Asian cuisine and salads. Today, they are back, but have been moved to the perimeter, encased in plexiglass and made full-service as a COVID-related precaution. “Some of the foodservice areas look a little different now,” Duchnowski admits. “It’s what we felt most comfortable with. But our innovation team, behind the scenes, is trying to figure out what’s next in those areas.” During the early days of the COVID crisis, most shoppers became less concerned with choice and more concerned with simply being able to get the products they needed as safely as possible. That trend is ebbing, however, as COVID fatigue sets in. Shoppers at the West Cary Wegmans seemed relieved, after months of socially distant and rushed shopping, to return to indulging in pre-pandemic-style immersive food experiences in a grocery store. Hundreds of shoppers grabbed hot food and seemed perfectly comfortable eating in Wegmans’ large seating area with tables, comfy booths and kid-friendly spaces. The seismic shift in shopping habits this year means that many consumers are making larger-basket, less frequent trips to the store (Wegmans reports that its basket size is up as much as 40% this year). At the same time, many shoppers have grown tired of cooking at home during months of quarantine, and they want convenient ready-to-eat meals at a value in a safe social setting as they continue to avoid traditional restaurants. This means that operators such as Wegmans that have expan-

Wegmans' bakery offers artisanal breads, fruit crostatas, French patisserie and lots of gourmet cookies. The meat department sells everything from ground chuck to ground Wagyu beef to ground boar. Additionally, the store has an impressive dessert section, which always boasts colorful, freshly frosted cupcakes.

sive foodservice offerings — with recession-friendly prices and pandemic-friendly larger spaces — seem poised to hold a significant advantage over competitors. The large common dining areas that are the hallmark of Wegmans stores can give shoppers a sense of dining in a safe yet social setting, with less risk of contracting the coronavirus. “We opened West Cary with a team in place to focus solely on the sanitation of high-contact touchpoints and ensuring routine preventative measures throughout the store,” Duchnowski notes. “Plexiglass shields were installed at all our registers. We placed visual indicators throughout the store to encourage all customers and employees to be respectful of social-distancing guidelines. In addition, we installed a camera outside the store to allow customers to see if there is a line to enter the store.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2020



Wegmans Food Markets Ominchannel Omnivores

Another way that Wegmans is winning over customers is by accelerating efforts to become a destination online. Among its key competitors along the East Coast, Wegmans is blazing a new trail by putting everything — and I mean everything — online, from paper towels to hard seltzer to hot egg rolls. Earlier this year, the grocer redesigned and the Wegmans app to allow shoppers to see digital coupons as they build a personalized shopping list. Shoppers also now get more personalized search results on both platforms. Addition-

Major Supply-Chain Move Aids Southern Expansion By Mike Troy One of the ways that Wegmans Food Markets plans to keep winning is with much-needed supply-chain investments to serve the expanding base of stores that it operates in a wide range of sizes and sometimes unique locations. A good example of the latter is a store scheduled to open later this fall in Tysons Corner, Va. The urban location is part of the Capital One Center mixed-use development, a complex of buildings that includes the headquarters of financial services firm Capital One, a hotel, residences and an 80,000-square-foot Wegmans on the ground floor of a 10-story building with a 1.2-acre rooftop park dubbed The Perch. The Tysons Corner store is a little on the small side for a Wegmans, although it’s larger than a 74,000-squarefoot store that opened in Brooklyn, N.Y., in October 2019. The company has also been known to think much bigger when the right opportunity arises. That was the case in April 2018, when the retailer took advantage of a two-level

Wegmans’ Expansion at a Glance Nine stores totaling nearly 1 million square feet have been added over the past three years. Location

Opening Date

Store Size in Square Feet

Cary, N.C.

To be determined


Holly Springs, N.C.

To be determined


Wake Forest, N.C.

Summer 2021


Chapel Hill, N.C.

Spring 2021


Tysons Corner, Va.

Fall 2020


Harrison, N.Y.

Aug. 5, 2020


West Cary, N.C.

July 29, 2020


Brooklyn, N.Y.

Oct. 27, 2019


Raleigh, N.C.

Sept. 29, 2019


Virginia Beach, Va.

April 28, 2019


Lancaster, Pa.

Sept. 23, 2018


Chantilly, Va.

June 3, 2018


Natick, Mass.

April 29, 2018

146,500 (two-level)

Source: Company reports


ally, both the website and app were updated to offer more options for curbside pickup or delivery. At the West Cary store, Wegmans didn’t just add just one curbside pickup lane, it offered two: one for groceries and one for foodservice. Today, shoppers can order a hot dinner of chicken tikka masala for four — or 24 — and pick it up curbside while never having to get out of the car. “Our catering is available on Meals 2 Go,” Duchnowski says, “so if a customer is hosting an

space vacated by J.C. Penney at the Natick Mall, in Massachusetts, to open a 146,500-square-foot store. These locations tend to be anomalies, though, as Wegmans’ sweet spot, based on the majority of recent openings, is in the 100,000- to 120,000-square-foot range. This was evident with the company’s first North Carolina store, a 104,000-square-foot location in Raleigh that opened last September, followed by a 103,000-squarefoot location that opened in West Cary in July. Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans has big plans for North Carolina, with two more locations confirmed to open next year in Chapel Hill (spring) and Wake Forest (summer), followed by other locations in Holly Springs and Cary. To support those locations, Wegmans plans to open what it calls a “retail service center,” or what others refer to as a distribution or fulfillment center, near Ashland, Va. The $175 million facility won’t become operational until 2022, but when it does, the roughly 1.3 million square feet of office and warehouse space will accommodate further growth in North Carolina while improving support for stores in Virginia and Maryland. The facility is much needed, since Wegmans’ current retail service center in the central Pennsylvania community of Pottsville requires trucks to travel great distances to service stores. For example, the new stores in North Carolina are nearly a seven-hour drive from the Pottsville facility, which also services stores in eastern Massachusetts that are roughly five hours away. Retailers typically prefer supply-chain facilities to be in closer proximity to stores for more efficient and timely replenishment, and reduced transportation costs. Wegmans’ Ashland facility addresses the proximity issue and sets the company up for growth in southern markets with growing populations to offset challenges in some northeastern areas with flat to declining populations. “Once it’s up and running, this facility will allow us to deliver products to our southernmost stores with increased speed and freshness, and will help support our growth well into the future,” Wegmans President and CEO Colleen Wegman said when the Ashland facility was revealed. By the time the facility opens, in two years’ time, Wegmans expects to have 25 stores operating in Virginia and North Carolina, and to be expanding at a rate of two to three locations annually, according to planning documents submitted to Virginia’s Hanover County.

event, having a party, or even just having a nice dinner with family, all of that can be ordered from our catering department, and all of it is something that we can deliver as well.” In addition to partnerships with food delivery app DoorDash, Wegmans is also pioneering a new arrangement with Instacart. “Instacart does our grocery delivery, but some of the shoppers in-store are Wegmans team members, and some are Instacart,” Duchnowski explains. “We team up with the Instacart shoppers. We learn from each other, grow efficiencies together. They teach us how to shop a little quicker, and we know the store better, and so we’re able to help them. So it’s kind of like a nice, you know, collaborative thing that we do that we started because of the demand we really had.” Last year, Wegmans launched Wegmans SCAN, a free mobile app that customers can use to scan and bag their groceries while they shop. The app tracks a running total for the order, so consumers know how much they’re spending, and it automatically applies any available coupons or discounts. When customers finish their shopping, they simply walk up to a kiosk or register to pay. “After a customer downloads our app, they can bring their bags and start filling them up as they go, and then they can take their phone to the self-checkout register and scan a bar code and they’re done,” Duchnowski says. The company is also working on checkoutless technology to make shopping even more convenient. “In the near future, the customer won’t even have to go to the register,” Duchnowski observes. “We’re actually working with Toshiba on that project right now.” Another way that Wegmans is winning is with its sustainability efforts. The grocer routinely tops various lists of best workplaces and grocery stores in the United States. It has been named one of the 100 best companies to work for by Fortune magazine for 22 consecutive years, and this year, it tied for first place as the top-rated grocery store chain on the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Wegmans is also known for its history of charitable donations and community outreach programs, as well as for its environmental initiatives. “We focus our sustainability efforts on three priority areas: reducing waste in landfills, offering sustainable packaging and reducing emissions,” Percassi says. “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been able to maintain the sustainability programs already in place. We have long focused on reducing food waste in our stores, and that hasn’t changed. A key part of those efforts is our Perishable Pick-up Program, where unsaleable perishable food items are picked up at our stores by local food pantries and food banks throughout the week. All year long, and particularly during this time of increased need, not only does this program play a vital role in reducing food waste, but also [in] getting wholesome food to those who need it most.” When the dust settles from the pandemic and Americans return to dining out and shopping their grocery stores with ease,

The new Wegmans in West Cary has wide aisles to allow for social distancing. The store also has a team in place to focus solely on the sanitation of high-contact touchpoints and on ensuring routine preventive measures throughout the store. Plexiglass shields were installed at all checkouts. Outside, the company installed a camera to allow customers to see whether there's a line to enter the store. The Wegmans e-commerce operation offers several lanes for curbside pickup of hot meals such as pizza, a rack of ribs, or a batch of Indian curry with rice.

Wegmans’ formula for the ultimate one-stop shop might be the path forward. The company has survived a range of disasters over the past 104 years and knows how to quickly pivot to satisfy a broad range of shoppers’ needs and wants. “We have always believed that, if our people are valued and supported, they will give their best to our customers and to each other,” Wegmans CEO Colleen Wegman says. “I am grateful and proud of what they are able to accomplish every day.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2020



Store Formats


hree years after it acquired Whole Foods Market, Amazon is planning to disrupt the grocery industry once again, this time with innovation not seen in any traditional food retailer — ever. After months of speculation, the Seattle-based company opened its first stand-alone supermarket banner in late August: a 35,000-square-foot, digitally perfected store in Woodland Hills, California, called Fresh. T he Fre sh banner isn’t an of fshoot of Whole Foods Market, nor doe s it look like one of those che ckout-le ss A ma zon Go store s that have be e n popping up in urban are as across the United State s, nor doe s it re semble the 365 banner that A ma zon scrapped last ye ar, either. The new Amazon Fresh supermarket takes elements of all of those concepts — micro fulfillment, contactless features, a curated assortment of premium and conventional products, and highly personalized service — and melds them into one innovative store that offers something for every type of food shopper, from low-touch cashierless checkout to high-touch made-to-order prepared foods. This is a store designed to appeal to a shopper looking for the best of everything: the best product mix, the best technology and the best shopping experience. “The Amazon Fresh grocery store is designed from the ground up to offer a seamless grocery shopping experience, whether customers are shopping in-store or online,” says Jeff Helbling, VP of Amazon Fresh stores, in an exclusive interview with Progressive Grocer. “We’ve taken our decades of operations experience to deliver consistently low prices for all, and free same-day delivery for Prime members.” The Fresh store opened this past Aug. 27 to a select group of invited customers who could shop the store in Woodland Hills, part of the Los Angeles metro area, before it opened widely to the public in the coming weeks; an exact date had not been revealed at presstime. Store hours for the new Fresh store are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

The Amazon Fresh grocery store is designed from the ground up to offer a seamless grocery shopping experience, whether customers are shopping in-store or online.” —Jeff Helbling, VP, Amazon Fresh stores


Key Takeaways The new Amazon Fresh supermarket takes elements of various concepts — micro fulfillment, contactless features, a curated assortment of premium and conventional products, and highly personalized service — and melds them into one innovative store. As well as traditional checkout carts, checkout lanes and point of sale, the concept offers such features as the Amazon Dash Cart enabling customers to bypass the checkout line, and Ask Alexa stations throughout the store to help shoppers find items. Additional Fresh stores are planned for the Los Angeles and Chicago regions, along with dozens of smaller Amazon Go and Amazon Go Grocery locations.

Helbling, who has held several high-level roles at Amazon, says that the company had been operating the location as a dark store, with hundreds of associates providing online grocery delivery out of the location over the two months prior to the opening, and was now ready to introduce Amazon’s representation of the perfect grocery store to the world. Of course, the new Fresh store will have pandemic safety measures in place for the foreseeable future. Helbling says that the company has taken learnings from Whole Foods and applied the same safety measures in Amazon Fresh stores: requiring daily temperature checks for all employees, requiring face coverings for all employees and customers entering the store, offering free disposable masks for any customer who wants one, and operating the store at 50% capacity.

One of the most innovative features at the new Amazon Fresh store has to do with Alexa and voice technology. Alexa permeates the shopping experience in aisles and on Dash Carts, helping customers find items while they shop.

Amazonian Assortment

Consumers shopping Amazon Fresh can find a wide assortment of national brands and high-quality produce, meat and seafood. Although declining to offer SKU specifics, Helbling says that the assortment consists of “all the items you’d expect to see in a full-service grocery store,” including national, private and local brands. So shoppers can find natural products such as those found at Whole Foods, conventional and local products such as those found at traditional grocers, and private brands from all of Amazon’s banners, including Amazon and Whole Foods. Specifically, the company is launching at least two new exclusive private label brands at Fresh stores: Fresh and Cursive. “Our Fresh brand offers great value on things like meat, PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2020



Store Formats

The new Amazon Fresh banner may be tech-heavy, but it also offers some of the signature high-service departments frequently found at Whole Foods Market and other grocery store chains, such as a fresh seafood market.

seafood and bakery items. For example, we will offer our Fresh brand natural whole chicken with no added hormones, for 99 cents,” Helbling says. “And our new Cursive brand is an exclusive wine brand to Amazon. It offers a selection of reds and whites, also with terrific value. My favorite of this group is our Cursive A, which is great for this time of year, and was also recently awarded a 92 rating by James Suckling.” Amazon Fresh additionally offers locally produced and regional products curated to each store. “So, at the Woodland Hills Fresh store, we will have Groundworks coffee and RokenWagner bakery products,” Helbling says. “And we will offer a selection of regional favorites not typically found in L.A., such as Duke’s Mayonnaise, which is from South Carolina, and Ellenos yogurt, from Seattle.” An in-house culinary team offers a range of prepared foods made fresh in-store every day, from fresh-baked bread and made-to-order pizzas, to rotisserie chickens and hot sandwiches. Full-service meat and seafood departments join a massive produce department carrying many Whole Foods brand organics. A full-service deli department is offered, as are hot and cold food bars.

Powered by Alexa

The store isn’t 100% checkout-less, another nod from Amazon as it looks to give its customers as many choices as possible. The Fresh concept offers traditional checkout carts, traditional checkout lanes, and traditional point of sale (using cash, credit, SNAP, With the Fresh store, Amazon has developed a sort of omnichannel one-stop shop offering various touchpoints (such as the customer service counter for digital returns and package pickup) that have nothing to do with grocery.


etc). The new Fresh store will also feature new ways to make grocery shopping more convenient, however, including the Amazon Dash Cart, which enables customers to bypass the checkout line, and new Alexa features to help customers manage their shopping lists and better navigate aisles. The Fresh stores feature Ask Alexa stations throughout the store to help shoppers find that organic steel-cut oatmeal. Customers using the Dash Cart simply place their bags in the cart, sign in using their Fresh QR code in the Amazon app, shop, and exit through the Dash Cart lane to automatically complete their payment. The cart uses a combination of computer vision algorithms and sensor fusion to identify items put in the cart. “We’re excited for customers to try it out,” Helbling says of the Dash cart. “I’ve used it as a beta tester now for a while, and I use it when I do my in-store shopping at Woodland Hills, and I love it. I find it super-convenient. You just sign in using the Amazon app, you shop at the store, you walk out through the Dash cart lane, and that’s it. You skipped the checkout line.” The store will also offer same-day delivery and pickup. Customers can pick up their orders by visiting an in-store

customer service counter or by pulling up to a dedicated pickup parking spot. Helbling seems to indicate that Amazon believes the American consumer wants to shop for groceries online and have both in-store pickup and delivery as fulfillment options. “We are doing both,” he observes. “Prime members get both for free, and the store will have a bunch of dedicated spots immediately out front of the store for curbside pickup as well.” Amazon Fresh stores will also offer package pickup and free package-less product returns. Helbling stresses that this relentless focus on customer wants and needs, satisfied in a seamless way, won’t come at a steep price for shoppers, however. “We’ve taken our decades of operations experience to deliver consistently low prices for all,” he asserts. “When customers visit the store, they can shop low prices across a range of national brands, quality produce, meat and seafood. For example, a 3-pound bag of onions for $1.69, and a 10-count box of Quaker Oatmeal (all flavors) for $2.50.” Additionally, customers earn 5% back at Amazon Fresh when they use their Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card or Amazon Prime Store Card at checkout.

Fresh Future

The opening of Amazon’s new Fresh concept appears to be part of a multiformat growth strategy from Amazon to appeal to as many different kinds of food shoppers as possible, and especially to the kind of affluent consumer who tends to be an Amazon Prime member. Amazon wants to have a grocery format for every shopper, for every use case. According to Helbling, the company will open additional Fresh stores in the Los Angeles and Chicago regions. The planned Fresh openings are in addition to dozens of slated Amazon Go (around 2,000 square feet) and Amazon Go Grocery (around 10,000 square feet) store openings already announced, some on the East Coast. Many more are sure to come. “We’re currently operating online grocery delivery from Woodland Hills, Irvine and Northridge,” Helbling says. “We’ve also announced that we’re going to open a Fresh store in North Hollywood shortly. And in Chicago, we’re operating online grocery delivery out of our Naperville store, and we’ve announced that we’re going to open in Oak Lawn and Schaumburg.” In July, the company reported sales that surpassed all estimates for the second quarter, proving that shoppers continued to turn to the online giant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon’s net sales increased 40% to $88.9 billion in the second quarter, compared with $63.4 billion in the second quarter of 2019. Grocery sales were also a bright spot during this time period. Amazon increased grocery delivery capacity by more than 160% and tripled grocery pickup locations to support customers not wanting to shop in stores because of COVID-19. The result was that grocery sales tripled in the second quarter when compared with

Customer-obsessed Amazon is all about giving shoppers a broad range of options, which is why the Fresh store offers traditional checkouts, contactless checkout (above), and cashierless checkout through its Amazon Dash Carts.

the same period last year. Amazon’s physical-store sales, however, were down 13% to $3.774 billion, compared with $4.330 billion in the second quarter of 2019. A portion of the decline may be attributed to how Amazon reports physical-store sales. Unlike other retailers, Amazon’s physical-store sales reflect only those sales where customers physically select items in a store. Orders placed online with Whole Foods, either for curbside pickup or delivery, are classified as online sales. The approach is the opposite of how retailers such as Kroger, Walmart or Albertsons account for digital sales, and tends to obscure the true performance of Whole Foods, especially as more shoppers choose digital methods of fulfillment. “Ultimately, what customers care about is the combination of great prices and great food, the kind of food that their families want and love, [delivered] as conveniently as humanly possible,” Helbling says. “And if the current situation has done anything, it’s just magnified that. Customers have been leaning more on grocery versus restaurants for food solutions, so the bar for grocery has gone up there. Price is more important than ever, and convenience, whether that’s having things delivered to your door, curbside delivery, or getting in and out of the store quickly, the bar has just gone up for it all.” As for why Amazon is opening a physical store when so much of the demand for groceries is shifting online, the short answer, according to Helbling, is to give customers the option. “You know, we find certainly that online shopping, as you well know, is up during the pandemic,” he continues, “but a lot of customers still prefer to shop either all the time or a lot of the time in a physical grocery store. And so we’re investing in online, and we’re investing in a store. This store is sort of a manifestation of this. And so that’s why we’re doing it. We want to give customers choices.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2020



Exclusive Research

Aftershock: What’s Next for a Hungry Nation UNDERSTANDING THE PANDEMIC’S L ASTING EFFECTS ON THE WAY AMERICA E ATS, AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR RE TAIL FOODSERVICE AND RESTAUR ANTS. By Mike Troy s the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded this year, food retailers and foodservice operators experienced a massive swing in market shares. A situation that had taken decades to achieve, in which food away from home had overtaken food at home, suddenly diverged sharply. Food retailers could barely keep shelves full as Americans ate virtually all of their meals at home, while restaurants with indoor dining sat empty due to social-distancing restrictions. The extremes of this situation were most evident in March and April, before gradually lessening in May and June. By July and August, Americans weary of being exiled at home ventured out more regularly to restaurants that had reopened, many having found inventive ways to accommodate diners. Meanwhile, retailers also found inventive ways to adjust their foodservice operations with new approaches to presentation, packaging and service. Throughout the pandemic, lingering questions for retail foodservice operators and restaurants have centered on how Americans’ eating behaviors would change once the COVID-19 situation is resolved. Would shopping patterns return to normal — meaning the way people shopped and dined out prior to the declaration of a national emergency on March 13 — or would the behaviors established during the pandemic stick, leading to further transformation in the way that America eats? These were among the key areas of exploration in a major foodservice study conducted by researchers with Progressive Grocer’s parent company, EnsembleIQ. The goal was to gain insight into Americans’ future behaviors regarding retail foodservice and restaurant usage by gauging current sentiment across a range of eating and food preparation behaviors. Researchers also employed a unique approach by assessing satisfaction levels with the quality of in-home food preparation and related product purchases, which offer hints as to how the balance between retail foodservice and restaurants could shake out this fall and beyond. “We’ve seen the world of food retailing and foodservice undergo tremendous disruption since March, and we wanted to better understand how Americans feel about the new eating behaviors thrust upon them by the pandemic,” says Laura Nicklin, VP of


Key Takeaways Progressive Grocer’s parent company, EnsembleIQ, conducted a major foodservice study to gain insight into Americans’ future behaviors regarding retail foodservice and restaurant usage by gauging current sentiment across a range of eating and food preparation behaviors. The research findings suggest a high probability that nearly 40% of consumers will continue to cook homemade meals more often than they did prior to COVID-19. The study also found that onethird of Americans increased their use of prepared foods during the pandemic.

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Exclusive Research Nearly 90% of those surveyed experimented with new recipes and ways to cook food during the pandemic.

research, insights and innovation with Chicago-based EnsembleIQ. “The research shows us that the new behaviors we’ve all learned the past few months are likely to have profound and lasting effects on food retailing and prepared foods.” The survey of 1,072 consumers, of which 80% said they do most of their household’s meal planning and cooking, was also strategically timed to gather responses during the latter part of July. The logic behind when the survey was fielded, according to Nicklin, was to better assess satisfaction with behaviors established during the earlier months of the pandemic, as a means to gauge future behaviors with a higher degree of accuracy. This approach came to life in the findings by asking survey respondents about their eating behaviors before and during the pandemic, but then going beyond such base-level insights to find out about their satisfaction with their new lifestyles. For example, some of the key insights from the research showed:

Close to 70% said that they enjoyed “a lot” the meals they prepared. Roughly half said that they got a lot of enjoyment out of cooking. One reason for this is that close to 35% said they bought new utensils, countertop appliances and cookware to “play with.” Roughly 42% said that they generally prefer their household’s home cooking to that of restaurants, while only 13% said that restaurant food is far better than home cooking.

Consumers who cooked at home during the pandemic generally enjoyed it; a large number also saved money Describes me/my household Enjoyed most of the homemade meals eaten


Enjoyed cooking


Experimented with new ways to cook food


Saved money on food/meals


Got tired of cooking at home


A little

A lot


67% 54%

38% 44%






During the pandemic, how do you feel about going to restaurants? Not comfortable eating in restaurants due to safety concerns


Eager to get back to restaurants


Can no longer afford to eat in restaurants


It is no longer part of my routine


Source: Progessive Grocer "How Shoppers are getting Meals in 2020"


Many bought new supplies to “play with” during the COVID-19 outbreak

Bought new cooking utensils

Bought new counter appliances

Bought new cookware

The research shows us that the new behaviors we’ve all learned the past few months are likely to have profound and lasting effects on food retailing and prepared foods.” —Laura Nicklin, EnsembleIQ

Despite this broad and high level of satisfaction with home cooking, a fatigue factor was also evident. When asked if they got tired of cooking at home, 28% said that they were very tired of cooking, and 45% said that they were a little tired. All things considered, Nicklin contends that the research findings suggest a high probability that nearly 40% of consumers will continue to cook homemade meals more often than they did prior to COVID-19. A key reason for this has to do with lingering safety

concerns about eating at restaurants. Roughly 40% of those surveyed in late July indicated that they weren’t comfortable yet eating in restaurants, and only 22% said that they were eager to return to restaurants. Retailers with foodservice operations fared somewhat better in terms of usage, despite adjustments made to restrict self-serve options. Even so, findings showed that one-third of Americans increased their use of prepared foods during the pandemic, typically to save money versus restaurant food, and from a desire to have the sensation of home cooking without the effort required to cook. “The key driver of increased use of prepared foods uncovered in the research is that roughly half of those surveyed viewed it as more affordable than restaurant food,” Nicklin says. For more insights contained in “Aftershock: What’s Next for a Hungry Nation,” be sure to register for Progressive Grocer ’s Retail Foodservice Innovation Summit, scheduled for Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Visit









Vertical Farming

Cultivating Better Produce AG TECH COMPANIES ARE USING HYDROPONIC GROWING ME THODS AND ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES TO SCALE HYPERLOCAL PRODUCTION. By Abby Kleckler raditional soil-grown crop production has worked well for thousands of years, but there’s one fact that has placed strain on conventional agriculture: The human population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. With that comes a demand that already stressed fields can’t necessarily supply. “We need traditional farming, and traditional farming is going to have to produce at maximum capacity for all of eternity, for all of the future,” says Nate Storey, who is the co-founder and chief science officer of San Francisco-based vertical farming company Plenty Inc. “One of the issues that we have is that we cannot produce enough. We only produce half to two-thirds of what we actually need just to meet demand.” Plenty and many other ag tech operations are hoping to bridge the gap between supply and demand by growing in highly controlled indoor environments instead of traditional outdoor methods. These hydroponic Continued on page 82

Key Takeaways With a steadily rising world population, vertical farming offers a way to meet demand for enough food to feed the planet. Backed by venture capitalists, hydroponic companies use water instead of soil to grow produce that has become popular with consumers. These companies are now figuring out how to scale their operations.


Plenty's vertical farms feature walls that are two to three times more space efficient than if the company had just stacked the crops.

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Vertical Farming

Plenty’s hydroponic greens, grown indoors in vertical farms, are already sold by Albertsons and other retailers, but according to the company, it has built a platform for growing other kinds of crops as well.

companies, which use water instead of soil, have been securing huge funding from venture capitalists, and the produce they yield has become highly popular among consumers. Hydroponic farming comes in a variety of formats, but all boast benefits such as an ability to pivot quickly, a cleaner crop, a hyperlocal supply chain and a more sustainable operation than traditional farming. Now, many of these companies are figuring out one of the most important components to their viability: scale.

Ability to Shift

but also in their everyday operations. Sensei Ag has two main mantras, according to Lo: First, be good farmers; second, don’t grow food that people won’t eat. “If you see that something is not selling, or people are not interested in it, or they think it’s weird or it doesn’t taste very good, if you are a conventional farmer, and even if you’re a standard indoor grower, it’s going to take you 18 months to pivot,” says Lo. “Our goal is to be able to pivot much more quickly.” Getting these farms up and running can also happen much more quickly than clearing fields and tilling the soil to make it suitable as productive farmland. As companies like Sensei Ag and Plenty think about expansion, this new form of farming offers a lot of advantages by being able to scale quickly to meet demand. “We can basically build the building, put our equipment in the building, train all of the local folks that will be manning the farm, and get it going in pretty short

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of stress on the industry’s supply chain, and not just for hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Shoppers have also loaded up on produce, meat and center store items as they took to consuming more from supermarkets when restaurants were ordered to close their doors. “COVID has merely highlighted the inefficiencies There are and difficulties of our current food and ag system,” says Sonia Lo, CEO of Santa Monica, Calif.-based very few people ag tech company Sensei Ag. “We saw bare grocery that argue with the idea shelves. We saw suppliers and farmers unable to pivot that something that away from choices that they’d been forced to make in was picked sooner to the terms of crop selection and routes to market, generally two years before the crisis hit, because that’s the usual date the consumer eats it, timeframe that we all have to work to as farmers.” something that’s grown Indoor growing methods like those in action at closer, is something Sensei Ag’s pilot farm on the Hawaiian island of that folks want.” Lana’i don’t have to follow this two-year cycle to get crops into the market. Instead, the farms can —Nate Storey, Plenty pivot much more quickly, not only in times of crisis



Shelves don’t stock themselves. Predictable stocking times used to make stocking easy, but now, every day is totally different. And absent employees leave no one to do the job. Paul Obos gets it. He’s doubled his own workday, visiting twice as many stores to help with planning, stocking and even cleaning. Having a partner on-site so often has helped restore some normalcy to the shelves and stores. for the full story Del Monte word mark and the Del Monte Shield Logo are registered trademarks used under license from Del Monte Foods, Inc. © 2020 Del Monte International GmbH . All rights reserved.


Vertical Farming

efficient than if the company had just stacked things up, according to Storey. The farm features a lot of sensors that tell the farmers what’s happening, and how. “It could be anything from light levels, to nutrient solution, temperatures, to how many towers have been processed and how many have been transmitted,” Storey says. “Pretty much everything is automatic, so the humans in the farm are not touching the plants that much.”

A Better Product

Sensei Ag primarily uses the nutrient film technique (NFT) system, in which shallow channels of tubing provide nutrients to crops, at its farm on the Hawaiian island of Lana’i.

order,” Plenty’s Storey says. “We’re looking at a matter of months, as opposed to years, to get farms going and running and operating.”

Inside the Farms

Not having to touch the plants in each stage of harvest is one of the ways that ag tech companies can produce a cleaner crop. “The more you can minimize human contact with the vegetable, the better,” Lo says. “The product, because it has a relatively low bacterial count on its leaves or on its surface as it leaves the farm means that the decay cycle is much more prolonged, so it’ll last on a shelf for 20 days, 30 days, as opposed to three.” The longer shelf life is also driven by hyperlocal production. These farms are being positioned near distribution hubs and nearest to the people that need them. “There are very few people that argue with the idea that something that was picked sooner to the date the consumer eats it, something that’s grown closer, is something that folks want,” Storey says. “It’s important to us both from a quality standpoint as well as a distribution function.” Many hydroponic growers are going to market with leafy greens, and Plenty is no different. The company struck a deal with Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos. in August to carry Plenty’s Baby‌ ‌A rugula, Baby‌ ‌K ale‌, Crispy‌ ‌L ettuce‌ and Mizuna‌ ‌M ix in more than 430 stores across California. The technology, however, goes beyond greens. “What we built is a platform. It’s a platform for growing lots of different kinds of crops, not just grow-

These new hydroponic farms come in a variety of formats. For example, Sensei Ag primarily uses the nutrient film technique (NFT) system at its farm in Lana’i, with shallow channels of tubing providing nutrients, while at Plenty’s largest farm to date, near San Francisco, plants are grown in two-sided walls that are more than 16 feet tall. The technology in these large-scale, high-tech operations sets them apart from outdoor farming and even other indoor growing methods. Sensei Ag was founded by Larry Ellison, co-founder of the multinational computer technology powerhouse Oracle Corp., and Dr. David Agus, a leading oncologist and scientist at the University of Southern California. Even this partnership is a testament to Sensei Ag’s focus on both the technology and the science of growing. Lo notes that Sensei Ag is focusing on artificial intelligence in regard to plant health, plant yield and the nutritional aspects of a crop by using extremely high-end cameras. “The cameras are able to see from quite a COVID has merely distance how a vegetable is structured, and from highlighted the that, we can detect moisture content, we can deinefficiencies and tect the level of chlorophyll, we can detect levels of certain parameters that we would be looking difficulties of our current for to determine that plant health, but also to food and ag system.” determine, for example, the amount of lycopene,” —Sonia Lo, Sensei Ag Lo explains. “Because we use all of this technology, the plants should taste spectacular and look spectacular all year round.” Plenty looked to the field for a lot of inspiration when designing its farms, resulting in those really large planes to grow its products on, with walls that are two to three times more space


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Vertical Farming

ing one kind of crop,” Storey says. “But when we think about the future, we see an almost unlimited opportunity for new crops. I really get excited about things like strawberries and tomatoes, and some of the other crops that we have in the pipeline to develop and release.” Sensei Ag is going to market with leafy greens in early September, and then will have tomatoes and cucumbers toward the end of the month. Lo is also looking to go beyond what’s traditionally being grown in hydroponic operations to include fats and carbohydrates. “I think we are going to have to eat more plants,” Lo predicts. “I

Publix Cultivates Hydroponic Offerings Hydroponic-grown produce isn’t new to Publix Super Markets. The Lakeland, Fla.-based grocer has had one variety of hydroponic butter lettuce on its shelves for years, but after seeing it become a best-seller, Publix has decided to invest more heavily in hydroponic offerings. “We’re trying to really align ourselves with the many suppliers, growers, around our market that do this same type of growing,” says Albert Gottuso, category manager, produce, at Publix. “The idea is that every state, and each store within that state, can have an expanded hydroponic selection.” Publix is currently working with approximately eight hydroponic growers located near its stores. Earlier this year, Publix’s GreenWise Market banner, which focuses on natural, eco-friendly, local and organic products, took hydroponics one step further than simply on-shelf offerings. After conversations with St. Petersburg, Fla.-based hydroponic grower Brick Street Farms, GreenWise’s Lakeland location added an on-site trailer farm that holds the equivalent of 2.5 to 3 acres of traditional farmland. “We’re very excited about that first venture into on-site growing,” Gottuso says. Brick Street Farms does all of the feeding, harvesting and packaging on-site, and then the produce is all sold inside the store or used in the grocer’s deli. GreenWise is turning over the entire container and is now working with Brick Street Farms to put its product in the Lakeland distribution center as well, since customer support has been so strong.


Sensei Ag's line of leafy greens is coming to market this month, followed by its tomatoes and cucumbers.

think we’re going to have to design nutritionally relevant meals that are plant-based, and we have to be cognizant of that as we figure out our crop mix going forward.”

One of the main reasons Publix was interested in the Brick Street Farms partnership was because of the hyperlocal component and the company’s strategic initiative to work with local growers, according to Gottuso. “As you’re buying fresh produce, time is of the essence, and it’s important for us. So the closer it is, the smarter we are as buyers,” he says. “We’re able to respond quicker and react to our customers’ needs. We’re able to source that product and get it in a matter of hours versus a matter of days.” Although some plans have had to shift during the COVID-19 pandemic, education is still a key component of Publix’s hydroponics initiative. The Brick Street Farms container has a window for customers to see what’s going on inside. “It’s an awesome opportunity to show and tell and bring schoolkids by, or bring our customers by,” affirms Curt Epperson, business development director, produce and floral at Publix. “Even our own retail management and support team go by and see how this product is grown and how it’s being harvested and then directly packaged.” Publix also works with hydroponic grower Vertical Roots in South Carolina. In February, a program launched in which Charleston-based Vertical Roots would bring a truck with hydroponic produce grown in it (called “the locomotive”) on-site to one of its stores. Customers could walk through the trailer, see how the produce is grown and learn about the process.

Publix is investing more heavily in local hydroponic offerings in various markets, including Vertical Roots, in South Carolina, which brought a truck in which it grows produce to one of the grocer’s stores.


Plant-Based Innovation


If there’s one thing we’ve learned by now, it’s that people want to eat plants in all sorts of ways. An illustration of that key fact: For the 52 weeks ending December 2019, U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods rose 11.4%, bringing the total plant-based market value to $5 billion, according to a report released earlier this year by the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) and The Good Food Institute, featuring commissioned data from SPINS. Responding to this solid trend, some grocers, among them Albertsons Cos. and The Kroger Co., have even introduced own-brand plant-based food lines, while many tout their plantbased offerings in sections called out with prominent signage. “Growing environmental concerns around the impacts of animal agriculture and the need to feed 10 billion people by 2050 are shifting consumer preferences, thrusting plant proteins into the spotlight,” explains Thomas Hayes, an analyst at New York-based Lux Research. “Companies like

Key Takeaways Health and environmental concerns are driving more consumers to opt for plant-based food products. Innovation is occurring not only within the plant-based meat sector, but also in a range of items across the store, including plant-based seafood, eggs, beverages, soups and sauces. Grocers must be ready to evolve their assortments to meet shifting consumer demands regarding plant-based foods.

Impossible Foods are looking to capitalize on this opportunity, pushing the envelope to create plant-based products with sensory profiles as similar as possible to their animal-derived counterparts.” Impossible Foods now also offers its popular Impossible Burger product in pre-formed patties at retail.


Beyond Meat's latest offerings include its limited-edition 10-pack of Cookout Classic burger patties, released in time for summer grilling season.

Beef-less Burgers

Speaking of Redwood City, Calif.-based Impossible Foods, the company recently raised $200 million in its latest funding round, led by new investor Coatue, for a highly impressive total of about $1.5 billion raised since its founding in 2011, and introduced pre-formed 4-ounce patties of its popular Impossible Burger product, available at retail in a 2-pack. Impossible Foods is hardly the only game in town, however. One of its major rivals in foodservice, retail and now the direct-to-consumer channel, Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat, the No. 1 brand in the refrigerated plant-based meat category, according to SPINS data for the year ending July 12, has its own plan for success — and product development is a crucial part of it. “We expect the plant-based meat category to continue to grow within the overall plant-based foods industry,” says Chuck Muth, Beyond Meat’s chief growth officer. “At Beyond Meat, we have a very specific goal — to perfectly build delicious, nutritious meat from plants that’s indistinguishable from its animal protein equivalent. We have three core platforms for innovation — beef, pork and poultry — and we’ll continue to innovate across these platforms, both by renovating existing products as well as by introducing new product offerings. We’re proud of our products in-market today and are committed to a rigorous approach of rapid and relentless innovation to improve our products in terms of taste, nutrition and price.” Another important element of the plan is merchandising. According to Muth, “Part of our strategy to democratize plantbased meat and bring it from niche to mainstream has been to meet the consumers where they’re already shopping for their protein” — that is, the meat case, where Beyond Meat was the first plant-based meat to be sold, with Impossible Foods following suit when it arrived at retail in 2019. This approach is borne out by a study undertaken in late 2019 and early 2020 by PBFA and Kroger, in which plant-based meat sales increased by 23% when those items were sold in the meat department. The study, which placed all plant-based meat in a 3-foot set within the meat department, ran for 12 weeks at 60 stores in Colorado, Indiana and Illinois.

plant-based ingredient solutions available to food manufacturers across the country. “These new products are designed to help food manufacturers incorporate more plant-based foods into their offerings for the growing number of consumers interested in adding these items to their diets,” explains Paul Sheehan, director of sales for Hormel Ingredient Solutions, part of Hormel Foods Corp. Made with various types of pea protein and a small amount of mushroom to provide a taste of umami, the offerings include fully cooked crumbles and uncooked ground products, with the former available in options ranging from traditional and Italian, to breakfast and chorizo-style flavors. According to Sheehan, the advantages of pea protein include its superiority as “a platform that [drives] some quality flavors.” Adds Amy Thielking, marketing manager at Burke Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Hormel, as a “custom formulation house,” Hormel Ingredient Solutions can “custom create any kind of flavor customers want,” such as Asian or Mediterranean. The company has also developed blended products — 70% meat, 30% veggie — for flexitarians interested in reducing meat consumption in response to consumer health needs, notes Thielking.

The Joy of Soy

While Hormel Ingredient Solutions and Beyond Meat are formulated from pea protein, Impossible Foods is Hormel Ingredient Solutions has been working on plant-based meat products that include fully cooked crumbles available in various flavors.

Ready to Crumble

In the realm of innovation, Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Ingredient Solutions has been working hard, releasing a new line of PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2020



Plant-Based Innovation

Breakfast and snacks ... which are built with high-quality complete plant proteins, including soy, are a particularly exciting area for development.”

Soy-based products like tofu can be promoted as sources of a complete, highquality protein. Photo: United Soybean Board.

—Pam Smith, Soy Connection

created with soy protein, which also appears in a plethora of other plant-based foods, including Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co.’s recently released MorningStar Farms Incogmeato products. According to culinary dietitian Pam Smith, from a nutrition perspective, one of the advantages of soy protein is that it’s a complete, high-quality protein on par with animal protein — that is, it provides a sufficient amount of each of the nine essential amino acids that humans need in their diet. “We know from [the United Soybean Board’s] research that 88% of consumers prioritize ‘complete’ protein sources when choosing plant-based foods, so formulating with soy fits this consumer preference,” says Smith, who’s part of Soy Connection, a collaboration of health, nutrition and food industry experts and U.S. soybean farmers under the auspices of the Chesterfield, Mo.-based United Soybean Board. “Knowing this, companies should be encouraged to label and promote soy protein ingredients as ‘high quality’ and ‘complete,’ key motivators for all consumers.” Observing that “findings from the United Soybean Board ‘Plantbased Protein Study’ showed that consumers across all demographics reported eating more plant-based foods, meaning there is opportunity for innovation across many product categories,” Smith goes on to note, “Breakfast and snacks ... which are built with high-quality complete plant proteins, including soy, are a particularly exciting area for development.” “The two top motivators identified for incorporating plant-based foods into the diet were improving overall health and wellness and improving the quality of protein in diet,” she adds, but in addition to their own health, the health of the planet is important to plant-based food consumers, a concern appreciated by the soy industry. As Smith points out, “Environmental sustainability is a priority to U.S. soybean farmers, who have reduced energy usage by 42% since 1980 and follow sustainable farming practices.”

Sunny Side Up

While a lot of innovation is taking place in the alt-meat area, plant-based counterparts of products containing animal proteins exist across the store. New York-based Gathered Foods, whose Good Catch plant-based seafood, made from a proprietary six-legume blend of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans and navy beans, has captured the attention (and sales, distribution and logistics know-how) of traditional seafood purveyor Bumble Bee, in August opened a 42,500-squarefoot dedicated production facility in Heath, Ohio, constructed specifically for high-tech production of the brand's products.


Another example is San Francisco-based Eat Just Inc., a maker of such products as the Just Egg and the recently launched folded Just Egg, one of PG’s 2020 Editors’ Picks. “Eat Just Inc. continues to explore plant types from around the world to identify proteins and new functionality,” says Matt Riley SVP, global partnerships at the company. “As plant-based food continues to improve in quality, taste and price, I believe we will see more and more categories offering plant-based products.” Explaining the success of the company’s plant-based egg offerings, Riley notes: “Consumers increasingly expect plant-based products to taste like and function like their traditional protein counterparts. That’s why we continue to improve on our Just Egg products to taste and function like a chicken egg.” This attention to quality is paying off: “While burgers get a lot of buzz, dollar sales of plant-based eggs have surged 192% in the last year, and we own about 99% of the category,” asserts Riley. Moreover, the company’s not done innovating. “Eat Just has several exciting new product launches planned for 2021 that leverage the ubiquitous nature of the egg and build off our success in the breakfast category,” reveals Riley, adding that these new items will be sold in the frozen breakfast aisle.

Made from mung beans, Just Egg offers a product that tastes and functions like a chicken egg.



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Plant-Based Innovation

No Longer a Niche

For some manufacturers, plant-based products of various types are embedded in their DNA, dating back to well before the concept was a conscious dietary choice. “Campbell Soup Co.’s key strength has always been around plant-based food innovation, shown by the strength of a variety of our soups, pasta sauces (Prego), plant-based beverages (V8 and Pacific) and salsas (Pace),” notes Jennifer Moss, VP R&D meals and beverages at the Camden, N.J.-based company. “As our consumers continue to look for more plant-based options, we are innovating to meet their needs. Of the recent new product launches over the past year across our entire portfolio, 60% were vegetarian and 30% vegan.” Adds Moss: “Delivering plant-based options continues to be top of mind as we look at our innovation pipeline over the next 12 months. The macro trend of plant-based is growing among consumers and is no longer a niche diet requirement. V8 is the original plant-based beverage, and as we look to appeal to the Millennial and Gen Z audiences, our plans to expand and reposition the line for the next generation is top of mind.”

Something for Everyone

What do consumers and retailers have to look forward to as plant-based foods continue to evolve?

“We can expect the plant-based industry to draw closer to ‘sensorial parity,’ i.e., achieving flavor, texture and color parity between plant-based and animal-based products, through careful processing and formulation,” predicts Lux Research’s Hayes. “Realizing this goal is the critical piece to further broaden the consumer appeal of plant-based products, and will be necessary to generate any interest from lifetime nonvegetarians and those not already interested in flexitarian diets. As the market grows, economies of scale will also help plant-based products move towards price parity with animal-based products.” Price is indeed a major consideration for plantbased manufacturers across the board, along with health and sustainability. “We know that to be successful long term, we have to win on taste, win on nutrition, and ultimately win on price,” acknowledges Beyond Meat’s Muth. “As we grow and achieve economies of scale, we’ll look to drop our pricing as quickly as possible and have set an internal goal to have at least one product in one meaingful category that achieves price parity with its animal protein equivalent by 2024.”

More grocers are merchandising plant-based meat products alongside their animal protein counterparts, as at this recently opened Giant store in Fairfax, Va.

“Our focus at Eat Just is on building a food system that nourishes human and plant health,” says Riley. “As availability and quality continue to improve and costs continue to drop, I believe that traditional proteins could be replaced by plant-based offerings in time.” While the factors noted above could combine to usurp animal proteins entirely, as he speculates, other manufacturers take a more inclusive view. “Beyond Meat isn’t telling consumers not to eat meat; we think that would be the wrong approach,” counters Muth. “We’re simply

providing another delicious meat option for consumers to enjoy — no compromise required. We believe if we can create a product that tastes delicious, is better for you and is cheaper than animal meat, we see tremendous opportunity to transition consumers from animal-based to plant-based meat.” “The consumer’s demand for a more plant-based diet is all about choices,” observes Campbell’s Moss. “These choices may be driven by views around health, sustainability or moral choices, but the macro trend is growing. Today, regular users of plant-based alternatives such as almond milk, tofu and veggie burgers do not actually consider themselves vegan or vegetarian. This is a major macro consumer shift, and both food companies and retailers need to ensure they have products and solutions for this consumer need.” In the end, grocers must be ready to evolve their assortments to meet shifting consumer demands regarding plant-based foods. “Retailers, if [they’re] not already, will need to rethink their definitions of ‘meat,’” counsels Hayes. “The future of meat is a diverse mix of proteins, and plant proteins will be a significant portion of that future landscape.”

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Micro Fulfillment

Getting the Most From Micro Fulfillment AS GROCERY E-COMMERCE GROWS, FOOD RE TAILERS NEED BE T TER WAYS TO PICK ONLINE ORDERS. By Thad Rueter big bright spot — if you can call it that — during the pandemic has been the blazing growth of food retail e-commerce, which is enjoying triple-digit sales growth. But even as evidence mounts that many grocery shoppers will stick with e-commerce — online ordering, curbside pickup, home deliveries — after the pandemic subsides, food retailers face the stiff challenge of how to keep up with all of that digital growth and activity. That helps to explain the quickening rise of micro fulfillment centers, which are designed to act as mini distribution centers that enable grocery workers to efficiently and profitably pick online orders without disrupting other store operations. “Micro fulfillment is central to our expansion strategy,” says Tim Knoll, COO of Bronx, N.Y.-based FreshDirect.


Key Takeaways As shoppers’ pandemic-driven e-commerce adoption becomes permanent, food retailers that need to keep up with all of that digital growth and activity will turn to micro fulfillment centers (MFCs). Grocers can buy MFC systems that make use of empty retail space, or which deploy automated and robotic systems within a grocery store’s existing real estate; a supercenter retail store might support its own center. Food retailers face a steep learning curve if they really want to make MFCs a permanent part of their operations.

Micro fulfillment centers can be configured for different retail environments to facilitate all types of food retail e-commerce. Successful deployments are able to bridge the gap between physical and online stores.

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Micro Fulfillment

As food retailers plan to spend more on warehouse automation over the next few years, companies such as Swisslog are ramping up their efforts to provide micro fulfillment systems for different types of retail locations — stores that may have different needs based on product volume and mix.

During the pandemic, the online grocer has seen a 100% growth surge in its suburban footprint and is now working to quickly expand its services while consumer interest in food retail e-commerce reaches all-time highs. “The combination of the technology with our expertise in automation and fresh food enables us to get closer to our customers quicker and more efficiently with two-hour on-demand delivery of the same great-tasting, quality fresh and prepared food selection mix we offer our customers in New York City,” Knoll adds.

MFC Models

But deploying micro fulfillment center (MFC) systems can be much easier said than done. Still, strategies and best practices centered on micro fulfillment are taking shape quickly, thanks to trends that solidified during the pandemic. “Most people using curbside pickup will continue using it in some fashion” after the pandemic subsides, says Coleman Roche, VP, sales and consulting retail, e-commerce Americas for Swisslog. Home delivery interest might fade a bit, given the cost of the service, but e-commerce will remain strong in the food retail world. As Roche notes, “The upswing is largely here to stay.”


Indeed, according to U.K. company Interact Analysis, food retailers plan to increase their spending on warehouse automation infrastructure by 20% each year over the next five years. You can bet that much of that money will go toward MFCs, which come in various models. Food retailers can buy MFC systems that make use of empty retail space, or which deploy automated and robotic

The combination of the technology with our expertise in automation and fresh food enables us to get closer to our customers quicker and more efficiently with two-hour on-demand delivery of the same great-tasting, quality fresh and prepared food selection mix we offer our customers in New York City.” —Tim Knoll, FreshDirect

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Micro Fulfillment

Growth via Micro Fulfillment Online grocer FreshDirect keeps growing, and its use of micro fulfillment technology offers a solid view of how the trend is playing out in the food retail space. Over the summer, FreshDirect revealed that it was enlarging its service footprint in the Washington D.C., metro area, as well as adding on-demand delivery, through a new partnership with New York-based micro fulfillment provider Fabric. In addition to the D.C. facility, FreshDirect operates two other on-demand micro fulfillment centers — one in Brooklyn, N.Y., and one in Manhattan — that can deliver in as short a time as an hour an order that a customer places on their phone or desktop, according to Tim Knoll, COO of Bronx, N.Y.-based FreshDirect. “In terms of the micro fulfillment center in Washington, D.C., which will launch in late 2020, about 85% of all products we sell will go through the system,” Knoll says. “The building is refrigerated, so we can store fresh. We made a conscious decision to hold out things that need the human touch — hand-cutting fish and meat, star-rating our produce — all of which we will continue to do manually. We will put more durable items, including fresh, into the system.”

Fabric is helping FreshDirect set up its MFC operation — technology critical to the online grocer as it continues to expand, thanks to ongoing demand from consumers for various products, including refrigerated items.


Alert Innovation's Alphabot robot helps retailers automate replenishment and significantly increase the number of SKUs that each MFC can support, further boosting retailers' e-commerce efforts.

systems within a grocery store’s existing real estate. A supercenter retail store might support its own MFC. Raleigh, N.C.-based Tompkins Robotics, for one, wants to make a splash in this area by selling MFC tech and services designed for smaller, lower-volume stores — an offering that requires no new permits from local officials, explains President Mike Futch, and is portable and can fit into a row of existing pallet racks, with no construction and no expansion costs. Alert Innovation, another MFC player, sells a service based on a robot called Alphabot, with the Billerica, Mass.-based company promising to automate micro fulfillment center replenishment at lessthan-full case levels, dramatically increasing the number of SKUs that each location can support. Generally, MFCs are ideally meant to serve the e-commerce needs of a neighborhood or another small segment of a particular area, and normally take up no more than 100,000 square feet, according to Mitch Hayes, VP e-commerce and retail for Newport News, Va.-based Swisslog Americas. An MFC is “designed to hold maybe 24-48 hours worth of inventory,” Hayes


Micro Fulfillment

notes, “and is designed to eliminate the last mile [of delivery]. It’s taking that massive distribution center and localizing the inventory.” Being clear on what an MFC really is matters, because as new providers see the profit potential and get into the game — among them Tompkins Robotics, which launched its offering in April — food retailers will come under increasing pressure to buy this system or that, and the MFC label might be tacked onto a service or technology that really doesn’t qualify.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

That’s to say nothing of the other variables: How many square feet? What amount of produce, refrigerated items and frozen goods should — and can — the MFC handle? Can the system eventually handle, say, an order from a consumer who prefers green or black bananas rather than yellow ones? How will it deal with the relatively low ceilings of grocery stores, at least compared with distribution centers? How much time will zoning approvals and permitting take? What are the best ways to train workers to use the system? That’s the thing about MFCs: Not only is the trend new, but also, because of the localized nature of the technology, many food retail locations might have their own unique requirements. “Retailers that have highly 1repeatable for instance, KinterCSN_PrintAdFINAL.pdf 1/30/20 stores, 9:13 AM

could actually have installation times of about 12-14 weeks,” says John Lert, who founded Alert Innovation in 2016. Other companies’ products might have longer or shorter deployments — especially as experience accumulates regarding MFC deployments — driving home the point that in this area of retail tech, one size truly does not fit all. As Steve Hornyak, chief commercial officer of New York-based micro fulfillment provider Fabric, humorously puts it: “You can’t just put Grandpa in skinny jeans.”

Micro Fulfillment ROI

Still, there’s at least one solid thread running through all of this, even as this early stage: the importance of software when it comes to the overall MFC effort. The cleanliness and speed of data take on added importance for MFC operations, especially as food retailers seek not only to sustain a certain amount of online orders a day to justify the investment, but also to keep adding more perishables to the mix. Software must handle automated picks, manual picks, product returns and various other tasks. Even small failures with software could mess up the process to

MFCs are ideally meant to serve the e-commerce needs of a neighborhood or another small segment of a particular area, and normally take up no more than 100,000 square feet. An MFC will typically have a day or two of inventory on hand.

the point that consumers are receiving wrong items, which could diminish their e-commerce enthusiasm. Among the main challenges, according to Lert — a challenge that highlights the role of not only having reliable software, but also

integrating it into store operations — is making sure that you’re anticipating how e-commerce orders might change over the course of weeks or a month, calculating how to handle that shift in SKUs, and directing efforts accordingly. In fact, food retailers face a steep learning curve if they really want to make MFCs a permanent part of their operations. “Retailers have a lot to learn about how to shift employees and have them think in different ways,” Lert notes. So, going into 2021, what’s the return on investment for food retail micro fulfillment? That depends on deployment speed, store size and online order volume, among other factors. “The typical ROI is two to three years and coming down,” says Hornyak, of Fabric, which worked with FreshDirect on its MFC deployments. “Pretty much everyone who had planned to look at micro fulfillment in 2021, the majority of them are looking at it this year. They’ve basically been told, don’t worry about the budget, [because] they need to figure out the solution.”

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concerned about being exposed to the virus from other shoppers, and 44% report that they worry about picking up the virus from store surfaces. Worried consumers can benefit from systems that do the cleaning for them and by being educated about proper protocols and techniques. One study conducted for Missoula, Mont.-based sanitation provider Cennox reveals that 50% of shoppers wrongly believe that bleach and alcohol wipes immediately kill the virus that causes COVID-19. “In the case of alcohol and bleach solutions, these can take up to 10 minutes to be effective, so if anyone else carrying COVID-19 has used your basket, trolley or payment terminal in that time, it will have done nothing to stop the spread of infection,” points out Nick Cockett, COO at Cennox, noting that education and enhanced sanitation techniques go hand in hand.

Stationed for Sanitation

rom the first step inside a grocery store, it’s apparent how much COVID-19 has affected sanitation and disinfection practices. Many stores now have stations set up with spray bottles of cleaners, paper towels and wipes for customers to clean their carts before they start shopping. Others have posted dedicated staff at entryways to sanitize carts right in front of shoppers. Inside the store, various sanitation practices visually demonstrate a retailer’s commitment to protect customers the best they can from exposure to COVID-19. As with carts, these practices are often a combination of personal cleaning via mobile hand-sanitizing stations or wipes, and employees tasked with regular or constant sanitation of touchpoints such as door handles and knobs, countertops, basket handles, and case rails. In addition to consumer-facing sanitation measures, grocers are taking other steps behind the scenes to reduce the risk of viral spread. While less visible, these tools – many of them newly implemented in retail settings — are important in keeping physical spaces and employees who interact with consumers and products as clean as possible. Stepped-up sanitation is the right thing to do, and it’s also important to today’s wary consumers. According to the 2020 “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends” report released this summer by FMI — The Food Industry Association, 57% of consumers say that keeping the store sanitized is a priority, and 52% say that providing wipes for carts is a priority. The same survey found that 54% of shoppers are


As part of in-store infection control practices, hand sanitizers have become ubiquitous. While retailers stock an array of hand sanitizers for purchase, they also provide sanitizers at various spots in the store for their customers to

Key Takeaways In tandem with increased consumer concerns, retailers have stepped up their sanitation practices since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Along with rigorous deep-cleaning protocols, grocers are making use of such solutions as handsanitizing stations, portable sinks, ultraviolet-C light disinfection systems and improved HVAC to lower the risk of viral transmission. Proper training of associates goes hand in hand with enhanced sanitation measures and practices.

use while shopping. Many of these are touchless dispensers set up in what could be considered critical control points, including near checkout areas, doors, and areas with many surfaces, such as the deli or produce section. Even as sanitizers become fixtures in stores, grocers are adding other personal hygiene solutions to help shoppers stay clean while on the premises. Ozark River Manufacturing, based in Nashville, Tenn., offers portable sinks that can be installed in certain areas of the store so that customers can wash their hands with soap and water for the recommended 30 seconds. The NSF-certified portable hand sinks don’t require any plumbing and can also be set up in employee back rooms, in addition to key shopper sites like the deli, bakery and produce sections. “It’s time to get hand washing out of solely the bathroom and into public areas — at entrances, in break rooms, and more,” says Ozark River Manufacturing founder and CEO Martin Watts.

It’s time to get hand washing out of solely the bathroom and into public areas — at entrances, in break rooms, and more.” —Martin Watts, Ozark River Manufacturing

Portable sinks can allow customers and employees alike to wash their hands in various areas of the store.

Points Taken

Apart from hygiene solutions for shoppers and employees, retailers are deploying several other methods of sanitation and disinfection to safeguard against viral transmission on contact surfaces, or fomites, within their stores. A deep clean during off hours, performed by thirdshift employees or outside sanitation contractors, has become daily protocol since the pandemic began last spring. To enhance sanitation and show consumers that they take cleanliness seriously, grocers are adding to that by cleaning throughout the day, sometimes on a near-constant basis. As part of such thorough cleanings, virus-killing mists and fogs can be used to disinfect food preparation areas and handling spaces as well as in-store dining areas. Floor-cleaning robots are another tool in the deep cleaning of heavily trafficked surfaces. Electrostatic sprayer systems also help retailers cover more ground when sanitizing. Ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light is another weapon in the arsenal against the coronavirus. Bluewater Technologies Group, based in Farmington Hills, Mich., offers a sanitizing shopping cart system in which carts are put through a medical grade UV-C experience and sanitized in under a minute, covering spots that manual sanitation might miss. Cennox, for its part, has developed a keypad cleaner that uses UV-C light to neutralize viruses such as COVID-19 in less than 30 seconds. The company’s survey of shoppers affirmed that they’re watching for such interventions at perceived points of vulnerability: 53% expect to see technology solutions put in place at payment terminals and believe that the responsibility for disinfecting payment areas should be taken away from employees, while an overwhelming 89% say that they would be willing to accept a 30-second delay at checkout if that meant

thorough sanitation between transactions. Retailers are using UV-C light in other ways to reduce the potential for viral spread on surfaces. PurpleSun, based in Long Island City, N.Y., offers a UV-C light disinfection system for commercial and public spaces. The provider has collaborated with experts at Northbrook, Ill.-based Underwriters Laboratories to make sure that its system meets industry safety standards. Because poor ventilation has been shown to be a risk factor for the potential spread of COVID-19 inside buildings, retailers can make improvements to their ventilation and air filtration systems. From simply increasing the amount of outside air or using ceiling fans, to switching to MERV 13 filters in HVAC systems, small changes can make a difference in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. One new tool designed to kill this virus and others is a plug-and-purify air filtration system from Houston-based Integrated Viral Protection.

All in on Sanitation

Cennox's keyboard cleaner uses UV-C light to neutralize COVID-19 and other viruses in under 30 seconds.

Tools are one thing, but the proper use of tools is another. To ensure the effectiveness of various elements of in-store sanitation, retailers need to work closely with their employees. Posting wall charts and signing off on sanitation checklists are relatively easy ways to make sure that sanitation tasks get done. Training also goes hand in hand with sanitation measures and practices. That’s especially true with the use of UV-C light and in regard to certain chemicals that aren’t effective or can be downright dangerous for employees or customers if not used properly. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2020



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Maxxit has built its reputation by creating unique environments that enhance the customer experience. And nowhere is that customer experience more important than in retail grocery stores, where shoppers are looking for more than product— they’re looking for assurance that their experience will be a safe and sanitary one, too. Progressive Grocer reached out to Steve McElwee, managing director at Maxxit Systems, to discover how the company has stepped up to help grocers create the kind of safe, sanitary experience today’s consumers demand. Progressive Grocer: Why is it so important for grocers to remain laser-focused on the steps they are taking to keep the shopping experience as safe as possible as we move through the COVID-19 crisis? Steve McElwee: Supermarkets have been on the front lines of this pandemic; and their ability to keep stores as safe as possible will have a huge impact on their success today and as we get beyond COVID-19. According to FMI, germ avoidance has been a key factor in consumers’ increased reliance on omnichannel shopping since the pandemic began. To restore customers’ confidence in in-store

shopping, it is crucial to let customers know that you’re doing all you can to keep stores safe. In fact, the National Grocers Association says it is paramount to communicate the steps your business is taking to protect against COVID-19. PG: What are some ways that Maxxit is helping grocery retailers? SM: We have always tackled the toughest challenges the marketplace has faced and have always come up with innovative solutions. And that’s what we’re doing to help grocery retailers weather the challenges they’re facing due to the pandemic. Shopping carts are the first things customers look for when they walk into a grocery store and keeping them sanitized on a regular basis is a constant struggle for front-line workers. We’ve developed the Protekt Shopping Cart Sanitizer Tunnel to ease that task. Carts are automatically and thoroughly sanitized after each use when they pass through the tunnel. There’s no need for messy wipes and sprays, and no residue is left on the carts after they’ve been sanitized. The unit is compact enough to fit most any configuration. And it can even be branded with your logo, which helps communicate your safety message and boosts customers’ confidence in shopping your store.

PG: How does The Protekt Shopping Cart Sanitizer Tunnel work? SM: It uses an infusion process that converts regular water into Aqueous Ozone (AO), which is non-toxic oxidizer that kills 99% of all germs on many surfaces. All you need are water and a power source to operate the tunnel. When the unit is turned on, its AO generator and air compressor power up to create a mist that effectively sanitizes any type of shopping cart and dries quickly. The nozzles that deliver the mist are motionactivated, so there is no waste of water and electricity. When the process is complete, the water evaporates and the ozone reverts back to oxygen— it’s really a sustainable process.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE Protekt Shopping Cart Sanitizer Tunnel, call toll free 1.855.762.9948 or visit


Politics Aside, Independents Mean Business THE NGA LAYS OUT ITS LEGISLATIVE AGENDA TO HELP THE SECTOR KEEP FEEDING THE NATION. he United States is poised to elect a president at a time in the nation’s history when Americans seem more divided, more anxious, more uncertain than ever about their future. A pandemic has gripped the country for more than half the year, setting a robust economy on its ear, and renewed demands for social justice have brought uneasiness and unrest nationwide. Grocery retailers have striven to bring stability to daily life, and independent supermarket operators are uniquely equipped to monitor the pulse of their communities. Driving an essential industry in a time of crisis, associates continue to work tirelessly to deliver on basic human needs. Regardless of politics and who is chosen to lead the nation beyond next Jan. 20, independent grocers have a specific list of priorities for doing business in the foreseeable future, among them rewarding essential front-line workers, limiting liability exposure of essential businesses and expanding nutritional access for hungry Americans. The independent supermarket industry continues to experience ongoing and unexpected challenges as it works unceasingly to feed the American public. To help grocers continue to meet these challenges, NGA urges quick and decisive action on several key issues that, at this writing, were stalled in a deadlocked Congress. TAX RELIEF: The bipartisan Ag Chain Act (H.R. 6841) and FRNT Line Act (S. 4213) provide an exclusion from gross income taxes and temporary payroll-tax relief to essential food and agriculture workers. The industry’s ability to meet customers’ needs wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated and talented front-line workers who show up to work every day to move product and keep store shelves stocked. While most grocers have increased pay and provided bonuses to their employees, the federal government should also recognize these individuals’ sacrifices.

Grocery retailers have striven to bring stability to daily life, and independent supermarket operators are uniquely equipped to monitor the pulse of their communities. Driving an essential industry in a time of crisis, associates continue to work tirelessly to deliver on basic human needs. 106

LIABILITY PROTECTION: The Safe to Work Act (S. 4317) would help ensure that grocers are protected if they made their best efforts to comply with federal, state and local guidance. Despite being designated essential businesses, grocers are under threat of frivolous litigation simply for remaining open during the pandemic. Congress must protect essential businesses from unnecessary liability exposure, provided these businesses took reasonable steps to comply with the guidance from the CDC or other health authorities. INCENTIVE TO WORK: Further, Congress should consider modifying the unemployment insurance (UI) program by adding a cap on total unemployment benefits at a certain percentage of the applicant’s previous compensation level, as an alternative to the current policy of offering additional benefits that have proved to be a disincentive to continuing or returning to work. BETTER SNAP ACCESS: To help grocers better serve consumers, NGA urges expanding access to the SNAP online purchasing program by providing grocers with technical assistance to help in implementing an online program and deferring expensive startup costs for retailers that lack the capacity and resources necessary to get online. Additionally, Congress should consider emergency funding to help shore up the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, formerly known as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, a popular initiative that increases the purchasing power of SNAP customers when they buy healthy fruits and vegetables. CBD REGULATION: To help retailers fulfill the growing demand for cannabidiol (CBD) products, NGA actively supports the regulation of CBD as a dietary supplement. Removal of CBD and hempderived products from the Controlled Substances Act has led to the quick growth in business and consumer interest, and CBD products have flooded the marketplace in a variety of forms, including tinctures, pills, lotions and oils. Many independent food retailers have responded to this demand and are experiencing growing sales, but others are deterred because of the lack of legal clarity surrounding CBD products. NGA supports commonsense FDA regulation of CBD products. Classifying CBD as a dietary supplement will ensure product safety for consumers while providing grocers with muchneeded regulatory certainty.

Support from our lawmakers on these key issues will allow independent grocery operators to better fulfill their mission as essential businesses in feeding their communities, whether in times of crisis or normalcy. To get involved, visit Greg Ferrara is president and CEO of the National Grocers Association, in Arlington, Va.


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