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EDITORS’ PICKS REVEALED: MEET THE CLASS OF 2021

IMPACT AWARDS 31 companies earn ESG accolades BEVERAGES Winning strategies with beer and water BETTER BAKING What’s driving sales now


EDITORS’ PICKS REVEALED: MEET THE CLASS OF 2021

IMPACT AWARDS 31 companies earn ESG accolades BEVERAGES Winning strategies with beer and water BETTER BAKING What’s driving sales now

LIFE AFTER AMAZON

Rob Twyman, EVP/Operations

How Whole Foods nourishes people and planet now September 2021

Volume 100, Number 9 www.progressivegrocer.com


The new look of

M’m! M’m! Good! Redesigned to turn heads in your soup aisle.

®

© 2021 Campbell Soup Company. All rights reserved.


Contents 09. 21

Volume 100 Issue 9

56 Features COVER STORY

56 ‘We’re Still Whole Foods’

PROGRESSIVE GROCER’S 2021 EDITORS’ PICKS

20 Simply the Best This year’s slate of Editors’ Picks does more with less.

EVP/Operations Rob Twyman shares the grocer’s missiondriven strategy for growth.

Departments

14 NIELSEN’S SHELF STOPPERS

General Merchandise

8 EDITOR’S NOTE

Doing Good and Thinking Big

64 Industry Exceptionalism

The stellar efforts of 25 companies changing lives and impacting communities lead to recognition as inaugural Impact Award winners.

16 MINTEL GLOBAL NEW PRODUCTS

Salty Snacks 18 ALL’S WELLNESS

10 IN-STORE EVENTS CALENDAR

A Dose of Health This Holiday Season

November 2021

110 AHEAD OF WHAT’S NEXT

12 MENU TRENDS

Just-Drive-Thru Grocery?

The Healthy Halo 4

12

PROGRESSIVE GROCER’S 2021 IMPACT AWARDS

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Contents 09. 21

Volume 100 Issue 9

8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631 Phone: 773-992-4450 Fax: 773-992-4455

www.ensembleiq.com GROCERY GROUP PUBLISHER John Schrei 248-613-8672 jschrei@ensembleiq.com

77 SOLUTIONS

GROCERY GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Mike Troy 813-857-6512 mtroy@ensembleiq.com

In the Mix

Find out what’s trending in baked goods and bakery ingredients.

EDITORIAL EXECUTIVE EDITOR Gina Acosta 813-417-4149 gacosta@ensembleiq.com MANAGING EDITOR Bridget Goldschmidt 347-962-9395 bgoldschmidt@ensembleiq.com

85 CENTER STORE

SENIOR DIGITAL & TECHNOLOGY EDITOR Marian Zboraj 773-992-4405 mzboraj@ensembleiq.com

Pushing the Boundaries of Beer

SENIOR EDITOR Lynn Petrak 708-945-0415 lpetrak@ensembleiq.com

77

Seltzers continue to sizzle as beer brands seek broader appeal. 90 CENTER STORE

JUNIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER-GROCERY GROUP Natalie Meehan p 773-992-4410 m 619 823-4926 nmeehan@ensembleiq.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE/CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING Terry Kanganis 201-855-7615 • Fax: 201-855-7373 tkanganis@ensembleiq.com

85

CLASSIFIED PRODUCTION MANAGER Mary Beth Medley 856-809-0050 marybeth@marybethmedley.com EVENTS VICE PRESIDENT, EVENTS Michael Cronin mcronin@ensembleiq.com

Consumers’ stepped-up cleaning and disinfecting habits are poised to outlive the pandemic.

90

EVENTS DIRECTOR Karen Mahoney 952-467-8592 kmahoney@ensembleiq.com MARKETING BRAND MARKETING MANAGER Rebecca Martin 773-992-4407 rmartin@ensembleiq.com AUDIENCE LIST RENTAL MeritDirect Marie Briganti 914-309-3378

98 SOLUTIONS

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES/SINGLE-COPY PURCHASES Toll Free: 1-877-687-7321 Fax: 1-888-520-3608 contact@progressivegrocer.com

Closing the Talent Gap Kroger’s Fresh Start initiative aims to achieve greater associate engagement and retention.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART VICE PRESIDENT OF PRODUCTION Derek Estey destey@ensembleiq.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com ADVERTISING/PRODUCTION MANAGER Jackie Batson 224-632-8183 jbatson@ensembleiq.com

101 EQUIPMENT & DESIGN

ART DIRECTOR Bill Antkowiak bantkowiak@ensembleiq.com

Moving the Checkstand Experience Forward

REPRINTS, PERMISSIONS AND LICENSING Wright’s Media ensembleiq@wrightsmedia.com 877-652-5295

98

Mol Belting provides solutions for checkstand sanitation, promotions and convenience to meet grocers’ evolving and acute needs.

CORPORATE OFFICERS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Jennifer Litterick CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER Jane Volland CHIEF HUMAN RESOURCES OFFICER Ann Jadown EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, EVENTS & CONFERENCES Ed Several SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CONTENT Joe Territo

106 EQUIPMENT & DESIGN

Failure Is Not an Option Modernizing facilities management helps retailers understand and manage maintenance and repair costs to improve the bottom line. 109 EQUIPMENT & DESIGN

Connecting the User Experience Dots

A design firm exec offers key considerations for a “phygital” future.

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SENIOR SALES MANAGER Bob Baker (NEW ENGLAND, MID-ATLANTIC SOUTHEAST US, EASTERN CANADA) 732-429-2080 rbaker@ensembleiq.com

SENIOR SALES MANAGER Tammy Rokowski (INTERNATIONAL, SOUTHWEST, MI) 248-514-9500 trokowski@ensembleiq.com

Functional benefits and environmental concerns are top of mind for consumers, manufacturers and retailers.

Sparkling Sales

ADVERTISING SALES & BUSINESS

SENIOR SALES MANAGER Theresa Kossack (MIDWEST, GA, FL) 214-226-6468 tkossack@ensembleiq.com

Water With More

93 NONFOODS

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Mike Duff, Jenny McTaggart and Barbara Sax

101

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). Digital Subscription: $87 one year supscription; $161 two year supscription. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631 and additional mailing offices. Printed in USA. POSTMASTER: Send all address changes to brand, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200. Copyright ©2021 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.


EDITOR’S NOTE By Mike Troy

Doing Good and Thinking Big OUR NE W AWARDS PROGR AM HELPS US SHARE THE PROGRESSIVE GROCER PURPOSE. eptember is a special month for Progressive Grocer. We revealed 31 retailer, supplier and solution provider companies as recipients of our inaugural Impact Awards. These companies were honored for exceptionalism in nine environmental, social and governance (ESG) categories and are featured beginning on page 64. PG is honored to share these companies’ stories of impact, from the local to global level, in a way that’s consistent with our purpose of being ahead of what’s next. This is a special program at a special time, because the grocery industry’s outstanding efforts have been immeasurable during the 18 months that the pandemic has dragged on. This was the ideal time to launch the Impact Awards, but the seeds of the program were sown decades earlier. For many years, the outstanding efforts of those in the grocery industry weren’t fully appreciated beyond the tight radius of those whose lives and communities were affected. My first encounter with this phenomenon came roughly 25 years ago. ESG wasn’t a thing yet — companies hadn’t even begun using the phrase “corporate social responsibility” (CSR), which preceded ESG. Sustainability wasn’t talked about much either, beyond a handful of companies. Most retailers at the time ran their businesses, took care of customers, created opportunities for employees and sought to generate returns for investors. They let the chips fall where they may when it came to corporate reputation, believing that actions spoke louder than words. This was the age of BI (before internet), so if a press release was issued to highlight an effort, the reach was limited and coverage was nonexistent. It was harder for companies to tell their stories of good works beyond those experiencing the impact locally. This point was driven home in January 1997, while I was attending the grand opening of a Walmart in Rutland, Vt. Walmart was guilty of allowing others to define it, which the company would later acknowledge, so there was a narrative at the time that folks in Vermont didn’t want the company. My former boss thought it was a good idea to have me drive five hours north of New York City to check out the potential fireworks involving angry residents at the grand opening. Except that there weren’t any. Of course, some people didn’t want the company there, but I recall plenty of happy people being there on a chilly January morning. Owners of nearby businesses were thrilled by the traffic that the new store was expected to attract, and local officials had plenty of kind words. 8

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It was a real “wait, what?” moment, as my on-the-ground experience didn’t match preconceived expectations. In the nearly quarter-century since my visit to Rutland, a lot has changed about the grocery industry and a lot hasn’t. It’s certainly easier for companies to manage their reputations by directly communicating with the world, as opposed to through media intermediaries. However, cynical media types with a bias for negativity and sensationalism still lean toward “man bites dog” stories rather than those of grocers that make generous donations to food banks, implement innovative training programs or adopt unique sourcing strategies. PG’s Impact Awards program can’t change that dynamic, but we can use our sizable media platform to honor exceptionalism and the wide range of ways that it comes to life in the grocery industry. We look forward to leading this initiative for many years to come and to facilitate the sharing of accomplishments and inspiring ideas with others. Doing so will amplify their impact and help the industry at large get ahead of what’s next in a world where shoppers place ever-greater value on companies that make a positive impact.

Cynical media types with a bias for negativity and sensationalism still lean toward “man bites dog” stories rather than those of grocers that make generous donations to food banks, implement innovative training programs or adopt unique sourcing strategies.

Mike Troy Editorial Director, Grocery Group mtroy@ensembleIQ.com


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IN-STORE EVENTS

Calendar

11.21

Banana Pudding Lovers Month Good Nutrition Month Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month Hunger Awareness Month

Movember Military Family Month National Diabetes Awareness Month National Fun With Fondue Month

S M T W T F S

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2

3

4

5

6

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8

9

10

11

12

13

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15

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National Cinnamon Day. Show this ubiquitous spice some love by offering recipes featuring it for every daypart.

Daylight Saving Time ends. Remind your associates to set their clocks to the correct time.

National Spicy Guacamole Day National Pickle Day

National Gingerbread Cookie Day. As Christmas draws near, it’s time to break these out.

National French Toast Day. Offer fun ideas online to enliven this timehonored weekend breakfast for the whole family.

10

National Cappuccino Day. Show customers how to make a frothy cupful without a machine.

National Spicy Hermit Cookie Day. Ask customers to share their own methods for baking up these autumnal treats.

National Cranberry Relish Day. Be sure to have ready-made options available for those who aren’t making their own.

Cyber Monday. Give online shoppers a special discount for using your e-commerce service.

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National Ohio Day. Promote the best of what the Buckeye State has to offer in foods and beverages.

National Louisiana Day. Beignets, po’boys, étouffée, jambalaya — there’s lots to celebrate here.

National Indiana Day. Showcase Hoosier cuisine with an eyecatching display.

National Cashew Day. As a snack or recipe ingredient, these curved edible seeds — technically not true nuts — offer superior nutrition.

National Mason Jar Day. Tout this attractive packaging for its reusability and storage potential.

Japanese Culture Day sounds like an appropriate occasion to promote your made-on-site sushi.

Marine Corps Birthday. Semper fi.

National Baklava Day. Whether crafted in a bakery or made at home, this originally Turkish delight combines filo pastry, nuts, and honey or syrup.

National Sardines Day. These tasty canned fish can substitute for tuna in a range of easy recipes.

Diwali. Help Hindu shoppers and associates celebrate by dedicating a special section to the necessary ingredients for creating a holiday feast.

Veterans Day. Take the time to pay tribute to all of those who served.

Mickey Mouse’s Birthday. Promote all Disney branded products in honor of the revered rodent’s big day.

Thanksgiving. If you choose to close on this day, your associates will enjoy a well-deserved holiday with family and friends.

National Redhead Day

It’s National Pizza With the Works Except Anchovies Day, but your in-store pizza makers will gladly make an exception for enthusiasts of the small salty fish.

National Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day. Encourage shoppers to stock up on their favorite fizzy drinks, with sugar or without.

Black Friday. Provide a “day after” spread for associates working today.

National Nachos Day. Let your shoppers know about grainfree options.

National Indian Pudding Day. Provide instructions for shoppers to make this classic New England dish, also known as Puritan pudding.

National Child’s Day. Present each customer under 12 with a free activity book on better nutrition.

National Bavarian Cream Pie Day. Spotlight this delicious dessert in the instore bakery.


www.enstrom.com


MENU TRENDS

Research & Analysis

The Healthy Halo Consumer opinions regarding health and wellness have moved beyond just weight loss/management to better-for-you ingredients. According to Datassential’s “New Foundations in Health” keynote, 26% of consumers consider eating right the most important element of a healthy lifestyle, while only 13% of consumers follow a strict diet. So we can’t forget that healthy food needs to taste good, and integrating flavor profiles that blend well together is key. 40% of consumers say that they want to increase their consumption of superfoods and functional foods in the next year. Consumers are becoming more aware of these nutritionally packed foods, and it’s up to retailers to find an approachable way to add them to menus. Collagen MAC stage: Inception – International markets, global independents and fine dining. Trends start here and exemplify originality in flavor, preparation and presentation. We can think of collagen as the glue to the body – it provides the building blocks for bones, skin, muscles and more. In the past few years, this ingredient has grown on menus as consumers seek collagen for its functional benefits, including better skin, healthy hair, stronger bones and joints, and post-workout recovery support. Collagen has almost no flavor, making it a perfect boost for smoothies, functional juices and protein bars/bites. On <1% of U.S. restaurant menus Up 350% over the past four years 55% of consumers know it/20% have tried it/12% love or like it Menu Example Snap Kitchen Chia Berry Collagen Smoothie Paleo, milk-free, glutenfree. Coconut milk, antioxidant-rich strawberries and grass-fed collagen make for an energizing beauty boost.

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Cauliflower Rice MAC stage: Adoption – Globalfoods 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. Low-carb cauliflower rice is made from cauliflower florets pulsed in a food processor to have a rice-like texture. On <1% of U.S. restaurant menus Up 925% over the past four years 68% of consumers know it/38% have tried it/25% love or like it Menu Example Zoe’s Kitchen Cauliflower Rice Bowl Vegetarian chilled cauliflower rice with house-made tzatziki, Israeli zhug, feta, cucumbers and fresh fill. Gluten-free without pita.

Ginger MAC stage: Proliferation – Proliferation-stage trends are adjusted for mainstream appeal. Often combined with popular applications (on a burger, pasta, etc.) While in its pickled form it’s always been commonly paired with sushi, ginger is getting renewed attention for its functional benefits, which many people are unaware of. According to WebMD, “Ginger is especially good at halting growth of bacteria like E. coli and shigella” — this is the reason that it’s traditionally served with sushi. The spice has a large presence in Asian cuisine and imparts an aromatic, pungent flavor to a range of savory and sweet dishes. Ginger can also be used as a digestive aid, and is increasingly found in a variety of beverages. On 55.9% of U.S. restaurant menus

Avocado 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. With the popularization of avocado toast in recent years, avocado has been having a moment. It’s increasingly appearing across the menu on salads, sandwiches, burgers and even pizza. Some healthconscious consumers refer to avocado as a superfood, as it packs a nutritional punch with a healthy dose of fiber, potassium and monounsaturated fatty acid. Given its creamy texture, avocado can serve as a natural dairy replacement. On 48.9% of U.S. restaurant menus Up 13% over the past four years

Up 10% over the past four years 90% of consumers know it/74% have tried it/47% love or like it Menu Example Hi-Vibe Kinetic Lemonade R.O. alkaline H2O, collagen peptides, MCT oil, blue spirulina, lemon, ginger, xylitol, stevia.

96% of consumers know it/81% have tried it/63% love or like it Menu Example Linger Green Horchata Smoothie House-made rice milk, vanilla, cinnamon, kale, lemon, ginger, coconut nectar and avocado. Gluten-free by request. Vegan by request.


ADVERTORIAL PET CARE

SUPPLIER PERSPECTIVES

SERVICE DOGS CHANGE VETERANS’ LIVES Dog Chow’s Service Dog Salute Campaign By Joe Toscano, Vice President, Trade & Industry Development at Purina This September, in honor of National Service Dog Awareness Month, Purina Dog Chow will be launching its fourth annual “Service Dog Salute” campaign to highlight the life-changing benefits that service dogs can provide to veterans experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Over three million military veterans suffer from PTSD, and service dogs are proven to reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms and suicidal behaviors. Unfortunately, due to the cost and time it takes to train a service dog, less than one percent of those in need can obtain one. Dog Chow is on a mission to help change that. The Service Dog Salute campaign supports the care and training of more service dogs for America’s military veterans to ensure that every hero in need can find a canine hero of their own. Dog Chow is continuing to help fund organizations who train service dogs for veterans with PTSD, donating $850,000 since the program began in 2018. This year, Dog Chow’s donations will support Got Your Six Support Dogs in IL and Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation in CA. PTSD service dogs are NOT the same as emotional support, therapy or

companion dogs. Like service dogs for the blind, deaf and physically disabled, PTSD service dogs for veterans must be specifically trained to help their handler perform tasks they cannot otherwise perform on their own. The training process can take from one to two and a half years to learn to perform tasks such as: • Placing body weight on the veteran to promote a sense of calm during panic attacks • Waking the veteran from upsetting dreams or night terrors • Reminding the veteran to take medications • Alerting the veteran when someone is approaching from behind • Patrolling the perimeter of a room for triggers and threats

Purina Dog Chow and Purina associates are working to bring more awareness and support to veteran service dogs. Here are three ways you can help us: • To better understand the life-changing work these service dogs do, watch Dog Chow’s documentary, premiering Sept. 1 at DogChow.com/Service, which follows three veterans on their unique journeys of healing and hope alongside a PTSD service dog.

special Service Dog Salute merchandising shipper units and in-store signage designed to drive attention and awareness for the documentary and information on the benefits of PTSD service dogs. Contact your Purina sales rep to learn more.

• Visit DogChow.com/ Service now to receive updates, get the facts on PTSD service dogs and find helpful resources. • Retailers can make an impact beginning in September by carrying

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


FRONT END

Shelf Stoppers

General Merchandise

Basket Facts

Total Department Performance General Merchandise

Latest 52 Wks W/E 7/24/21

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 7/25/20

$80,904,747,540

$76,608,355,993

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 7/27/19

$69,584,941,980

Top General Merchandise Categories by Dollar Sales Appliances Electronics Kitchen Accessories Home, School and Office Supplies Storage and Space Management $10,000,000,000

How much is the average American household spending per trip on various general merchandise products versus the year-ago period?

9,000,000,000 8,000,000,000 7,000,000,000 6,000,000,000

$15.86

5,000,000,000

on all general merchandise products, up 4.5% compared with a year ago

4,000,000,000 3,000,000,000 2,000,000,000 1,000,000,000 0

Latest 52 Wks W/E 7/24/21

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 7/25/20

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 7/27/19

Source: Nielsen, Total U.S. (All outlets combined) – includes grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, select dollar stores, select warehouse clubs and military commissaries (DeCA) for the 52 weeks ending July 24, 2021

$11.47

on batteries, up 11.5% compared with a year ago

Cross-Merchandising Candidates Nuts and Seeds

Packaged Coffee

Dessert Toppings

Oils, Butter and Margarine

Pest Control

Pet Food

Beer, Flavored Malt Beverages and Cider

$8.09

on food storage, up 11.1% compared with a year ago

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

$11.05

on lightbulbs, up 18.5% compared with a year ago Millennials

Gen Xers

Boomers

The Greatest Generation

$5.70

$5.66

$5.09

$4.87

Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending July 3, 2021

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Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending July 3, 2021


40,000 PEOPLE VOTED

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MINTEL CATEGORY INSIGHTS

Global New Products Database

Salty Snacks Market Overview

Low price is the top driver of salty snack choice, suggesting high-value propositions and special offers can draw consumers. Online retail has thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among younger consumers and parents, as has the use of subscription services. While these comprise a third tier of channels sought for salty snack purchase, they facilitate convenience and customization, and present an opportunity to expand habitual purchase among engaged groups.

Key Issues

When asked “Why are you eating salty snacks less often than last year?” 39% of consumers said that they were reducing sodium intake, and 38% said that they were snacking less often. When asked “Why are you eating salty snacks more often than last year?” 58% were spending more time at home, and 32% said that snacks were easy to stock up on. A third of salty snack eaters report increasing consumption during the pandemic. While this has boosted growth during the past year, it creates a challenge as the country emerges and returns to normalcy.

of households consume salty snacks. A third of category participants increased consumption frequency through 2020, due largely to staying home and snacking more.

What Consumers Want, and Why Price is front of mind, suggesting that offering highvalue propositions will remain important. Brand is also central and bound up with trust, familiarity, and even specific flavors and textures. This has supported the dominance of well-established brands in the category and positioned them to do well during the pandemic. Stalwart brands can continue to leverage popularity and touch on excitement and innovation with brand extensions across segments. Flavor is the key differentiating factor likely to entice consumers to try new products, and is an important area for continued attention. There are opportunities in flavor development, ranging from the traditional to the international, and from the simple to the spicy. Health-related factors are central to a significant share of consumers when it comes to salty snack selection, with a quarter of salty snack buyers factoring sodium or calories into their product choice.

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Innovation That Makes

Back To School A Whole Lot Easier

© General Mills


ALL’S WELLNESS By Karen Buch

A Dose of Health This Holiday Season RE TAILERS AND THEIR DIE TITIANS CAN STEER CONSUMERS TOWARD HE ALTHIER LIFEST YLE CHOICES TO HELP THEM CELEBR ATE MORE WISELY. ow can food retailers prepare for the unpredictable 2021 holiday season amidst the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19? Although many consumers are ready to push the “reset” button and get back to normal with traditional holiday celebrations, there’s no question that the global pandemic will continue to affect consumer behavior, even among those who are already vaccinated. A cross-sectional study of the impact of COVID-19 confinement on eating habits and lifestyle changes found that physical activity decreased, sleep hours increased and eating habits changed. One-third of participants reported increased appetite, with subsequent body weight gain. The safest option may still be to limit in-person holiday gatherings to people who are already part of a household while celebrating with extended family in virtual ways. In response, supermarkets can anticipate consumer needs and offer practical ways to eat and drink better, move more, improve sleep quality, and bolster the immune system throughout the holidays.

Eat Better

Eating well during the holidays is challenging. On average, people gain about 2 pounds and experience increases in body fat, blood pressure and resting heart rate during the festive season. Throughout the pandemic, shoppers frequently turned to meal kit home delivery and online grocery ordering with curbside pickup or delivery to make home meal preparation easier. Expanding on these trends, retail dietitians can offer healthy meal planning and shopping assistance gift packages for health-conscious individuals. Applying their extensive food and nutrition expertise, dietitians can personalize daily meal planning and develop holiday-specific entertaining menus and recipes that match customer-specific health attributes. Retailers can offer single-use and extended-duration bundled subscription packages spanning weeks, months or a year, and align recipe ideas and meal solutions with retail sales promotions to make healthier eating more affordable.

Rethink Drinks

Help shoppers rethink holiday beverage choices with simple swaps. Suggest limiting energy-dense beverage choices such as beer, wine, cocktails, Champagne, hot cocoa and apple cider while boosting intake of herbal tea, black coffee and calorie-free flavored water to hydrate without excess energy intake.

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Encourage consumers to limit caffeine-containing beverages to morning hours, due to of caffeine’s five-hour half-life in the body. Because drinking alcohol can decrease sleep quality by nearly 40%, encourage shoppers to limit alcoholic beverages to just one or fewer drinks per day for women and two or fewer drinks per day for men.

Move More

Design fitness-focused gift baskets filled with items that support healthy snacking, hydration and activity habits. Retail dietitians can offer guided shopping tours focused on Fueling Up for Fitness and help participants make the most of popular wearable personal activity and sleep-tracking devices to easily and accurately gauge caloric intake, measure energy expenditure from physical activity and gain insights into their sleep habits.

Sleep Well

Speaking of sleep, improving sleep quality is important to overall health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly half of all Americans feel sleepy during the day on three or more days a week. To combat holiday stress and fatigue, consumers should be encouraged to combine deep-breathing exercises, guided meditation and steps to reduce blue-light exposure from electronic devices within a consistent sleep routine. In addition, melatonin, an important neurohormone, has been shown to mediate circadian rhythms and the sleep cycle. Point consumers toward high-quality melatonin supplements that have been independently tested for purity and dose accuracy.

Bolster Immune Health

Eating a well-balanced, antioxidant-rich diet, coupled with good sleep quality and a consistent exercise routine, can help to bolster the immune system to stay healthy this holiday season. Help shoppers identify foods with vitamins C and D, zinc, healthy fats, sources of natural fiber, and probiotics for both gut and immune health. 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 NutritionConnectionsLLC.com.


Simply the Best This year’s slate of Editors’ Picks does more with less. By Progressive Grocer Staff

C

onfirming a trend of some years’ standing, many of the products chosen as 2021 Editors’ Picks proudly touted their short ingredient lists, stressing their commitment to uncomplicated recipes and to quality over quantity. For some items, like Ark Foods Clean Label Salads, that brand proposition was in the name, while others contented themselves with providing their bona fides in their entry descriptions. These products, which spanned a wide range of categories — the frozen department, with Nubocha Dairy Free Gelato; the refrigerated case, with Vital Farms Pasture-Raised Egg Bites; the snack aisle, with Pipcorn Heirloom Crunchies; the baking section, with LusOasis’ pancake and waffle mixes; and even health, beauty and wellness offerings, with Topco’s TopCare Mineral Continuous Spray Sunscreen, to name just a few — received a big boost from consumers preoccupied with optimal health amid a lingering pandemic, but make no mistake: Simpler formulations, crafted with “real,” easy-to-pronounce ingredients, are here to stay. The most popular of those ingredients was — also in line with a huge trend of the past few years — plant protein, as evidenced by the dozens of items boasting one or more types of

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this coveted attribute. Entries that won over our editorial judges included American Flatbread Meatless Evolution Plant-Based Pizza, Blount’s Family Kitchen Plant-Based Chili, Bubbies Vegan Mochi Ice Cream, plant milk products from Califia Farms and newcomer NotMilk, Eat the Change Organic Mushroom Jerky, Nasoya Plantspired Breakfast Scramble Superfood Skillets, PlantBoss Meatless Crumbles, RightRice Risotto, Seapoint Farms Mighty Lil’ Lentils, and many more. Meanwhile, keto- and Paleo-friendly products continued to provide lower-carb versions of such consumer favorites as ice cream, cookies, breakfast food, baking mixes, sweeteners, nutrition bars and meat snacks. Another key ongoing trend noted by Progressive Grocer editors was the growing contingent of private-brand products from the likes of Lidl, Schnucks and, as mentioned earlier, Topco. As ownbrand penetration rises in the United States, these items offer price-conscious shoppers affordable on-trend innovation across the store. In 2021, PG’s editorial team sifted through a record number of submissions to arrive at 100-plus Editors’ Picks, which can be found on the following pages.


#1 MEDIA LAUNCH ON THE COKE TRADEMARK IN 4+ YEARS OVER

90% INTENDED REPEAT RATE

CONTACT YOUR COCA-COLA REPRESENTATIVE, CALL 1-800-241-COKE, OR VISIT WWW.COCA-COLACOMPANY.COM

INFUSED WITH BRAZILIAN COFFEE. Source: PR results include earned media mentions as of 1.29.21. Claimed trial and repeat from Wave 1 Kantar, April 2021 © 2021 The Coca-Cola Company. All rights reserved.


ADVERTORIAL

A Spirited New Front in the Frozen Cocktails Category In what the company has described as “the largest new product launch” in its 95-year history, Jel Sert — makers of iconic brands such as Fla-Vor-Ice & Otter Pops — recently introduced SLIQ Spirited Ice, a line of frozen alcohol pops that are a premium entry into the growing boozy frozen novelty category. The brand leads a new frontier of frozen cocktails, defining the category for both the consumer and the retailer in the process.

Daiquiri, and Pineapple Daiquiri. We’re confident when we say that the product quality and taste are unmatched! The appeal goes beyond alcohol and flavor profiles: each freezer pop has fewer than 100 calories and is naturally flavored with ingredients that are gluten-free, vegan friendly and kosher. For retailers, the fact that SLIQ is shipped shelf-stable is an added plus. PG: SLIQ comes from a company with a lot of history

Progressive Grocer asked Gavin Wegner, Senior Brand Manager of SLIQ and a fourth-generation great-grandchild of Jel Sert’s founders, why he spearheaded the development of this new ice pops brand. Here, Wegner helps us discover “what lies beneath the ice.” PG: Boozy ice pops are one of the latest trends heating up the market for frozen novelty products. What made you decide to enter what appears to be an increasingly competitive category? GW: As the category leader of frozen novelties for over

60 years, we at Jel Sert have always ideated around different extensions of the format, including infusing alcohol into them for the enjoyment by a 21+ consumer. As we began to see nostalgia trend upwards complemented by the modern, readyto-drink cocktail and seltzer surge, we believed it was time to turn the idea into a reality by entering the space with our own brand. Capitalizing on all the advantages Jel Sert offers, SLIQ Spirited Ice was introduced as one of the first movers in this emerging category that is up nearly 2x since last year with an unlimited runway of growth potential ahead of it. PG:What makes SLIQ unique within the category?

behind the brand. Why is that an important fact for retailers to consider? GW: Jel Sert has a proven track record of delivering high-quality, consistent products within frozen novelties for over half a century. We control the entire production process and are fully vertically integrated, from sourcing materials to formula development. With SLIQ, we are the only brand owner within the emerging category of frozen cocktails that can claim this. We know how to build brands and craft emotional connections, as we have done and continue to do with Fla-Vor-Ice, Otter Pops, and others. We are now just adopting the same playbook through SLIQ — a grown-up freezer pop for a grown-up consumer. PG: Sustainability is such an important topic today. How is Jel Sert advancing a sustainability message with SLIQ Spirited Ice? GW: Through our partnership with TerraCycle, consumers can

send in their SLIQ tubes free of charge in exchange for rewards to charities of their choice. From there, TerraCycle processes the collected tubes into usable raw material, which becomes everything from outdoor furniture to storage totes.

Why should retailers add your frozen alcohol pops to their inventory? GW: Unlike other boozy pops within the category, SLIQ ice

pops are crafted with a variety of premium spirits with 8% ABV – 7x distilled vodka, 100% blue agave spirit and superior Caribbean white rum — which means there are options for everyone, no matter alcohol preference. Our portfolio of sophisticated, trending flavors is another perk: Vodka-infused Spirited Ice in Lemonade, Cranberry & Grapefruit, and Blue Raspberry; Agave-infused Spirited Ice in Classic Margarita, Strawberry Margarita, and Mango Margarita; and Rum-infused Spirited Ice in Strawberry Daiquiri, Coconut & Lime

To learn more about how SLIQ can add spirit to your frozen novelty category, e-mail sales @21holdingsllc.com and follow along at @sliqspiritedice.


1776 BBQ Sauce

$2.99 per 21-ounce bottle; www.redgoldtomatoes.com/RedneckRiviera After a successful launch of a restaurant and whiskey, country music star John Rich has turned his Redneck Riviera brand into a lifestyle of “work hard, play hard.” The latest product tied to the brand is 1776 BBQ Sauce, a condiment completely sourced in the USA (including the bottle). Unlike other barbecue sauces, the first ingredient is tomato purée, and the sauce is made with real sugar. Red Gold is donating a portion of the proceeds from every bottle to Folds of Honor, a charity that provides educational scholarships to families of fallen military members. Meanwhile, the company plans to continue growing the brand through upcoming line extensions, while using more marketing tactics to gain trial, including collaborating with influencers who are known for grilling.

a2 Milk Half and Half

$4.49 per 32-fluid-ounce carton; www.a2milk.com Following the successful launch of its a2 Milk line, the a2 Milk Co. recently introduced Half and Half made by cows that naturally produce only the A2 protein. These products are targeted at consumers who get stomach discomfort from the regular A1/A2 protein mix of dairy, or just prefer the taste of the A2 version. The Half and Half contains only real cows’ milk and cream, with no added sugar, additives or rBST growth hormone. The global market for milk containing only the A2 protein is forecast to expand at a 10.3% compound annual growth rate over the next decade, according to the company, which envisions the A2 market as a lucrative premium segment for grocers. It’s supporting its latest launch with an integrated marketing campaign.

Airly Oat Clouds

$2.99-$3.69 per 7.5-ounce package; https://airlyfoods.com Airly Foods is pioneering what it claims is the first-ever climate-friendly snack developed to remove greenhouse gases from the air: Airly Oat Clouds crackers. The company farms in a way that its oats can remove carbon dioxide from the air by sequestering it into the soil. Then, to offset carbon dioxide during production and transportation, Airly invests in agricultural and forestry projects by purchasing carbon credits, which further benefits the land. Every box of Airly Oat Clouds has the carbon footprint printed on the back. To help further educate consumers, the brand is using such marketing efforts as content creation and social engagement. The crackers come in both sweet and savory options.

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Alex’s Awesome Sourdough Plant-Based Vegan Margherita

$8.99 per 13-ounce box; https://awesomesourdough.com Alex’s Awesome Sourdough is the first frozen pizza made with naturally fermented sourdough, which makes it easier to digest and gives it a lower glycemic load, according to the company. The Vegan Margherita uses dairy-free cheese from Forager and other ingredients from carefully curated local suppliers, most of which are organic certified. Alex’s Awesome Sourdough is using a combination of aggressive trade support and consumer outreach to spread the word about its pizzas. In addition, the company has several new SKUs ready to launch in 2022.

American Flatbread Meatless Evolution Plant-Based Pizza

$8.99 per 11.2-ounce box; http://americanflatbreadproducts.com In response to the growing trend of flexitarian diets, American Flatbread developed what it says is its most requested line of frozen pizzas yet: Meatless Evolution. The plant-based products, which contributed to the brand’s nearly 30% growth in the conventional retail channel in 2020, include two vegan and two vegetarian options to cater to various lifestyles. American Flatbread sources 100% organically grown wheat, creating relationships with local New England farmers, and sources organic ingredients for sauces and toppings. Its plant-based meat toppings are powered by pea protein. The company has developed a successful direct-to-consumer business and is backing its retail launch with media outreach, including targeted advertising and social media platforms.


Amy’s Kitchen Organic Tortilla Soup

$3.29 per 14.2-ounce can; www.amys.com The latest soup offering from Amy’s Kitchen was inspired by Mexican flavors and features organic sun-ripened tomatoes, corn masa, bell peppers, black beans and fire-roasted sweet potatoes. It also satisfies a number of dietary restrictions and preferences, including gluten-, dairy- and lactose-free; vegan; kosher; and plant-based. Amy’s Kitchen is promoting the soup via social media, primarily Instagram, to build awareness among its fan base and beyond. If consumers start repeating their stock-up shopping habits from last year, this zesty soup is a good one to have on hand.

Andrew & Everett Rustic Thick Cut Shreds

$4.99-$5.99 per 8-ounce package; https://andrewandeverett.com The latest offering in Andrew & Everett's natural cheese portfolio is Rustic Thick Cut Shredded Cheese, a larger-cut shred that’s great for melting and maintains its flavor and cheesy texture when heated. Available in Sharp White Cheddar, Mozzarella and Fiesta Blend varieties, these cheeses start with high-quality milk from grass-fed cows that are raised humanely on family-owned farms throughout America’s heartland. The products contain no artificial hormones or preservatives. Since the launch occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrew & Everett joined forces with influencers across the nation to promote their favorite home-cooked recipes using the shreds. The company has observed that consumers are purchasing thick-cut cheeses to use in different ways, resulting in organic sales gains versus trade-off gains with regular-cut cheeses.

Ark Foods Clean Label Salads

$4.99-$5.99 per 6.5- to 7-ounce bowl; www.arkfoods.com Ark Foods is bringing plant-based innovation to the grab-andgo category with its new line of Clean Label Salads. While most salad bowls are filled with processed cheeses and dairy-laden dressings, these salads offer a ready-to-eat wholly vegan meal with a short list of ingredients. They also feature some unexpected veggie options: For example, Cashew Kale Caesar contains watermelon radishes and toasted chickpea croutons, while Crunchy Kale Ranch highlights sun-dried tomatoes and shredded Brussels sprouts. Other varieties include Ginger Sesame Greens and Bright Pesto Greens. Ark Foods hopes to encourage repeat purchases by keeping the price point accessible for many consumers. Meanwhile, the company will continue promoting its new line with an omnichannel approach, following up on National Salad Month promotions that it conducted in July.

Aussie Select Lamb Pastrami

$23.99 per package (weights vary); https://aussieselect.com Billing its Lamb Pastrami as the only lamb charcuterie on the market, Aussie Select hopes to persuade consumers that lamb belongs in the deli. Its pasture-raised all-natural lamb offers an “intense, mouthwatering flavor,” according to the company. Aussie Select is backing its claims with a robust integrated marketing campaign focused on the retail and foodservice trade. The company plans to eventually expand the SKU set to other items like salami, pepperoni and mortadella, and is exploring the idea of seasonal offers for holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Lamb Pastrami has performed well with consumers so far, with particular appeal for Muslim and Jewish communities, according to Aussie Select’s research.

Babe 100 Rosé

$8.99 per 4-pack of 8-ounce cans; www.drinkbabe.net With just 100 calories and 0 grams of sugar per can, Babe 100 is the latest bubbly alcoholic beverage from Anheuser-Busch/Babe Wine that’s sure to appeal to the calorie-conscious consumer. Each can is equal to one full glass of wine, at 6.9% ABV. The product recently launched with support from social/digital media and has performed well in test locations, according to Anheuser-Busch. Varieties include rosé, red and white. In July, the brand launched a variety pack featuring all three flavors. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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Babybel plus+ Probiotic and Babybel plus+ Vitamins

$4.49 per 4.23-ounce 6-count package; www.babybel.com Babybel plus+ offers the same cheesy taste of Mini Babybel that many consumers already love, but now with added probiotics or vitamins to appeal to those looking for functional benefits in their foods. Each Babybel plus+ Probiotic contains 1 billion live and active LGG probiotic cultures, while Babybel plus+ Vitamins provides vitamins A and B12, which are touted as supporting eye health and metabolism, respectively. When the products hit the shelves earlier this year, Babybel executed a 360-degree launch plan including video, social media and influencer tie-ins. To prompt trial and retail sell-through, the company rolled out national consumer promotions as well as retail-specific activations. Babybel says that it anticipates more functional dairy snacks like these in the future.

Bio360 Probiotics Cognitive Support Formula

$24.98-$31.98 for 30 tablets; www.bio360.com Bio360’s Cognitive Support Formula features eight strains of probiotics, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which has been shown to reduce stress-induced anxiety, along with vitamins B5, B6 and B12 to help with memory, focus and neurotransmitter synthesis. It also features folic acid, which plays a role in the nervous system as a neuro-protectant. The supplement is manufactured in a GMP-certified, FDA-inspected facility to maintain quality standards and to ensure efficacy. Bio360 is conducting marketing, PR, social media and influencer campaigns to promote its message that its supplements are scientifically proven and targeted for specific health needs.

Bio360 Probiotics Kids’ Formula

$17.98-$23.98 for 30 tablets; www.bio360.com Probiotics specifically formulated for children have become a growing trend, especially as parents look to keep their kids as healthy as possible during pandemic times. The new Bio360 Kids’ Formula is a multistrain probiotic that supports children’s digestive balance and contains the No. 1 pharmacist-recommended strain that has been extensively studied in kids, Lactobacilllus rhamnosus GG, according to the company. Another bonus: The supplement contains no syrup, cornstarch or added sugars, and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Each probiotic is packaged in on-the-go blister packs and doesn’t require refrigeration.

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Blount’s Family Kitchen Plant-Based Chili

$6.99 per 12-ounce bowl; https://blountfinefoods.com With 17 grams of protein per serving, Blount’s Family Kitchen Plant-Based Chili packs a powerful punch in the refrigerated meal sections of grocers’ delis. The company bills its new product as the first plantbased chili in the fresh meal segment. Featuring a “regal chili” taste from pinto beans, plant-based crumbles, mixed bell peppers and onions all simmered in a blend of tomatoes and spices, these microwaveable bowls are now being rolled out at top grocery retail accounts, according to the company.

Blue Circle Lemon and Herb Salmon Salad

$5.99 per 8-ounce package; $10.99 per 16-ounce package; https://bluecirclefoods.com Made with fresh Atlantic salmon that’s sustainably farmed in Norway, Blue Circle Lemon and Herb Salmon Salad is a great catch for retailers’ delis, offering an alternative to traditional tuna salad. The salmon is packed with omega-3s and free from antibiotics and mercury. Blue Circle is committed to “feel-good standards” in its farming and fishing practices: Its fish is 100% traceable, and the company is regularly audited by third-party organizations. This is the first deli product it has launched, and so far, the item has been well received at retail. Blue Circle has supported the salmon salad via social media and a paid influencer campaign.


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Bonafide Provisions Organic Vegetable Broth Made from 10+ Nourishing Vegetables

$4.99 per 32-ounce container; https://bonafideprovisions.com Many vegetable broths that are currently on the shelf are made from powders and concentrates that are concocted miles from an actual field. Bonafide Provisions aims to change that with what it says is a first-of-itskind certified Organic Vegetable Broth made from more than 10 whole vegetables, including broccoli, spinach, collard greens and fennel. The broth contains no powders, extracts, concentrates, “natural” flavors, added sugar, citric acid or canola oil. Created by a nutritionist and chef, the Vegetable Broth is being promoted by traditional marketing tactics such as digital coupons, trade promotions and retail displays, as well as a robust social media strategy including educational videos on TikTok. Bonafide Provisions anticipates that its product will elevate the shelf-stable broth category and stir up interest among new shoppers.

Brazi Bites Homestyle Breakfast Sandwiches

$4.49 per sandwich; https://brazibites.com Brazi Bites Homestyle Breakfast Sandwiches are the first single-serve better-for-you breakfast sandwiches inspired by Brazil’s popular version of grilled cheese, queijo-quente. Available in four varieties, including Turkey Bacon, Turkey Sausage, and Double Egg and Bacon, each sandwich is packed with 16 to 19 grams of protein. They’re also gluten-free and feature “clean” ingredients like nitrate-free bacon and cage-free eggs. Another compelling attribute is the packaging, which uses an innovative Micro-Grill sleeve to crisp the bread, essentially turning consumers’ microwaves into panini grills. Brazi Bites launched the Breakfast Sandwiches in frozen departments earlier this year at Target and has been actively supporting the line’s rollout with both national and regional retailers.

Califia Farms Hemp Barista Blend and Mushroom Oat Barista Blend

$5.99 per 32-fluid-ounce carton; www.califiafarms.com At-home baristas have a new friend in Califia Farms Mushroom Oat Barista Blend, the only ready-touse oat milk and creamer blended with certified organic cordyceps and lion’s mane mushrooms. The product steams, stretches and foams to make the barista experience delicious, easy and accessible. Tapping into the trends of increased at-home coffee consumption, growth of oat milk and demand for functional mushrooms, Califia Farms Mushroom Oat Barista Blend has launched at leading natural and national retailers, including Whole Foods Market and Kroger. The product is shelf-stable, allergen-free and low-sugar. Meanwhile, shelf-stable Hemp Barista Blend, a smooth, delicious hemp milk and creamer with a mild, nutty flavor, is an excellent source of calcium and contains omega-3 ALA fatty acids with no added sugar. To help drive demand, Califia Farms partnered with influencers to create social and video content to showcase the products.

Califia Farms Protein Oat

$5.99 per 48-fluid-ounce bottle; www.califiafarms.com Boasting a nutrition profile that it contends is superior to that of conventional dairy milk, Califia Farms Protein Oat is a protein-packed oat milk that provides consumers with a low-sugar option — just 8 grams of protein. Consumers want more protein in their diets, often from plant-based sources, and Califia Farms Protein Oat delivers, with as much protein as dairy milk, but from high-quality plant-based ingredients such as sunflower oil, sunflower butter Bubbies Individually and pea protein, while outperWrapped Vegan Mochi forming dairy milk’s nutritional Ice Cream $1.49-$2 per 1.25-ounce package; values with all nine essential https://bubbies.com/ amino acids; complete omega-3, Taking the mochi ice cream trend to a new -6 and -9; vitamin D; potassium; level is category leader Bubbies, with its inand 45% of the daily value of dividually wrapped vegan mochi ice cream calcium per serving. Protein Oat in strawberry and chocolate flavors. The offer higher protein levels than mindfully indulgent treats bring a plant-based option to the mochi category at a time when plant-based competing plant-based offerings, is among the most desirable attributes a product can have. Bubbies took super-premium coconut which helped it to secure distrimilk-based ice cream and wrapped it in sweet and delicate mochi dough to provide consumers with an bution at Whole Foods Market, 80-calorie on-the-go indulgent snacking experience that’s certified vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO. Target, Kroger and Sprouts To top it off, the packaging uses 75% less plastic than that of competitors, according to Bubbies. Farmers Market.

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Congratulations Topco Owners! Your dedication to partnering together to build best-in-class brands means big wins in every aisle for your stores and for the shoppers in your communities!


Captain Omega Cod Pearls

Cappello’s Almond Flour Ravioli

$9.99-$11 per 9.9-ounce package; https://cappellos.com Tapping into the trends of clean label and free-from, Cappello’s Almond Flour Ravioli is made with simple, real food ingredients, including cage-free eggs and almond flour. These tasty packages of pasta come in three frozen-fresh, restaurant-quality choices: Five Cheese, Spinach and Cheese, and Butternut Squash. The product sought to stand out from others in the category by blending thoughtful nutrition and best-in-class gourmet flavors. The nutrient-dense product is packed with protein and healthy fats, and gives those with an aversion to grains a flavorful option. The Cappello’s team took a multipronged approach to the product launch, employing classic marketing techniques with a heavy dose of digital to generate awareness, trial and repeat purchase to secure increased distribution.

Meat has met its match!

$6.99 per 16-ounce package; https://captainomega.com Making fish fun for kids is how Captain Omega Cod Pearls has endeared itself to parents who want to feed their children nutritious protein. The MSC-certified product can be ready in 15 minutes or less, and is distinctive in the frozen aisle because it’s the only such product for children with a hero character starring in a YouTube animated series introducing kids to seafood at an early age. In addition to the YouTube series, the product was supported with influencer campaigns, radio spots, programmatic digital advertising, Google ads, social media and merchandising product placement. The strategy worked, and looking ahead, a gluten-free option is due in 2022, with season two of “Captain Omega” set for the fourth quarter.


Carbone Fine Food Sauces

$8.99 per 24-ounce jar; https://carbonefinefood.com It’s all about authenticity for Carbone Fine Foods, which made a splash with the introduction of its Arrabbiata, Marinara and Tomato Basil sauces. The super-premium sauces were created by master chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi using traditional homemade processes in small batches with fresh Italian-grown tomatoes, whole onion and garlic. The sauces also boast many of the attributes that have become key drivers of shoppers’ purchase decisions, such as vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, kosher and no added sugar. There are plenty of sauces claiming Italian authenticity, but to deliver on that value proposition, Carbone shuns the practice of creating sauces by mixing tomato paste with dehydrated ingredients in a process that typically lasts eight minutes; instead, the company employs an hour-long process that relies on fresh ingredients. The trio of sauces launched in March 2021, and to generate awareness, the company placed a heavy emphasis on social media, garnering more than 875,000 impressions, in addition to more than 1 billion media impressions. It’s still early days to determine the brand’s impact on the category, but additional SKUs are in the works, including a Roasted Garlic variety.

Catalina Crunch Keto-Friendly Cereals

$8.99 per 8- or 9-ounce pouch; https://us.catalinacrunch.com Consumers are crazy about Keto, and Catalina Crunch taps into that trend with its line of low-carbohydrate cereals made with 11 grams of plant proteins. Catalina Crunch Keto-Friendly Cereals’ blend of seven plant proteins and fibers is designed for optimal nutrition and to help consumers feel full longer. They don’t contain artificial ingredients, flavors or colors, and are non-GMO. With studies showing that more than 57% of Americans are reducing their sugar intake and an estimated 30 million reporting food allergies, Catalina Crunch makes it possible to enjoy cereal again. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Tik Tok were leveraged to drive awareness and promote sales.


Catalina Crunch Keto-Friendly Sandwich Cookies

$7.99 per 6.8-ounce package; https://us.catalinacrunch.com To deliver a tasty treat that doesn’t sacrifice health was the mission behind the introduction of Catalina Crunch Keto-Friendly Sandwich Cookies. Available in chocolate vanilla, peanut butter, vanilla crème and chocolate mint, the cookies bridge the gap between a satisfying treat that’s plant-based, low-sugar and low-carb, yet deliciously delightful. They enable consumers to eat cookies and have their keto, too. As consumers do so, they will ingest pea protein and prebiotic fiber for a combination of 4 grams of plant protein, 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of net carbs and only 1 gram of sugar in the form of allulose.

Cheeky Panda Plastic Free 100% FSC Certified Bamboo Bath Tissue

$8.09 per 9-pack; https://us.cheekypanda.com The Cheeky Panda brand has incorporated the sustainability attributes of bamboo into a bath tissue product in a unique pack size with distinctive branding elements. Doing so helped the brand break through in the tissue aisle, with shoppers looking for a highly sustainable product made from the fastest-growing plant in the world. Already available in 30 countries, Cheeky Panda is gaining distribution in the United States among retailers eager to offer a brand made from a renewable resource that doesn’t rely on plastic packaging. In addition to tissue, the brand also offers baby wipes, makeup wipes, diapers and facial tissue.

Chomps Pepperoni Turkey

$1.99 per 1.15-ounce stick; https:// chomps.com The meat snack category has become crowded, but Chomps Pepperoni Turkey stands out with a unique blend of attributes to connect with consumers. The product uses a beef collagen casing and sources only domestic, free-range and antibiotic-free turkey that’s also 100% Non-GMO Project Verified. Chomps contains no added sugar and is free from the top nine food allergens. In addition, the brand uses sea salt and celery juice to achieve 13 months of shelf stability and clearly communicates its value proposition through transparency in its packaging and on its website.

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Clio Granola & Yogurt Parfait Bar

$2.49 per 1.94-ounce package; https://cliosnacks.com Guilt-free indulgence comes to life in the Clio Granola & Yogurt Parfait Bar. The product combines a core of creamy Greek yogurt and a layer of crunchy granola made from gluten-free oats, slivered almonds and dried fruit, all wrapped in a decadent chocolate or yogurt coating. It’s a better-for-you indulgent snack that tastes like a sweet treat but contains 10 grams of protein and probiotics. The product is unique in that it’s the first to take Greek yogurt and turn it into a bar by solving the manufacturing challenge of combining a layer of granola and an exterior coating.

Clio Less Sugar Yogurt Bars

$1.89 per 1.59-ounce or 1.76-ounce package; https://cliosnacks.com As the name indicates, the key attribute of the Clio Less Sugar Yogurt Bar is what’s not in it. The product offers guilt-free indulgence with strained Greek yogurt that imparts a cheesecake-like texture within a chocolate coating. The product contains almost no sugar — only 1 gram per bar — along with 8 grams of protein, which makes Clio’s Less Sugar Yogurt Bars a keto-friendly treat option. The product was launched online and at Walmart, and supported by an extensive influencer and PR campaign, in addition to a heavy social media push that resulted in roughly 308 million impressions.


Coca-Cola with Coffee

$2.32 per 12-fluid-ounce can; https://us.coca-cola.com/products/ coke-with-coffee Coca-Cola pioneered a new refreshment category with the introduction of Coca-Cola with Coffee. The innovative beverage provides an option for those faced with choosing between a Coke or a cup of coffee. In development for two years, this “refreshment coffee” is infused with Brazilian coffee and available in three flavors: dark blend, vanilla, and caramel. Additionally Coca-Cola with Coffee Zero Sugar is available in dark blend and vanilla varieties. The United States was the 50th market to receive the product, with the support of a fully integrated marketing campaign that included a clever component involving a drone delivery of the product to a community in Coffee County, Ga.

Compostic Cling Wrap

$8-$11.30 per package containing 150 square feet of wrap; www.compostic.co Compostic is looking to disrupt the consumer products industry by eradicating single-use plastic from consumers’ lives while providing convenient alternatives. This is the case with Compostic Cling Wrap, which relies on a compound of biopolymers that are designed to mimic traditional plastics in functionality, but actually break down in less than 24 weeks — less time than an orange peel. Compostic maintains that its product performs as well as traditional plastic cling wraps, which is important, because the company’s research also shows that consumers won’t sacrifice performance, even though they desire sustainable alternatives to plastic.

Country Archer Provisions Zero Sugar Beef Jerky

$5.99-$6.99 per 2-ounce pouch; www.countryarcher.com Crafting real food for a better world is the mission behind Country Archer Provisions Zero Sugar Beef Jerky. That process starts with a focus on clean ingredients, such as grass-fed and -finished, pasture-raised beef, and by using ingredients such as chickpea miso in place of soy, to ensure the avoidance of allergens. The product was crafted in partnership with New York City chef Will Horowitz, who helped develop unique flavor profiles. This approach helped the brand stand out in the meat snack category, where added sugars are common. Country Archer launched the line as part of an overall rebranding that drew additional interest to the products.

Culinaria Gooey Butter Cake Ice Cream

$5.49 per 48-fluid-ounce tub; https://nourish. schnucks.com/schnucks-brands Schnucks and Perry’s Ice Cream worked together to create an own-brand Gooey Butter Cake Ice Cream. Regarded as a favorite in Schnucks’ hometown of St. Louis, the product, sold under the Schnucks Culinaria brand, is loaded with gooey butter cake pieces and buttery crumb swirls. To drive sales, the grocer featured the Culinaria brand as part of its regular promotional schedule and on end caps, which helped Gooey Butter Cake Ice Cream become the second-highest-ranked flavor in the category. Further growth is expected as promotions continue, and the local-themed product is tied into social media efforts.

Culinaria Raspberry Lemon Italian Soda

$2.99 per 25.4-ounce bottle; https://nourish.schnucks.com/ schnucks-brands Offering a unique variety created with all-natural flavors and colors and no preservatives, Schnucks’ Culinaria Raspberry Lemon Italian Soda comes in an elegantly shaped bottle with attractive label art that helps the product stand out on the shelf. To promote the item, Schnucks ran regular promotions year-round, with secondary displays during the heat of summer and also in the fourth quarter. These efforts have paid off, as in this section, Schnucks’ Own Brand sales and tonnage have grown 18.5% and 19.5%, respectively. The grocer plans to expand its private-brand soda assortment and continue support for the products via promos, displays and social media. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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Culinary Tours Gruyere Cheese

$5.99 per 6-ounce package; https://culinarytoursfoods.com Made according to strict specifications and aged for the appropriate amount of time, Culinary Tours Gruyere delivers a flavorful cheese in distinctive packaging at an affordable price. Topco members have promoted the item prominently in their cheese shop displays, in advertisements featuring complementary products and in seasonal picnic-themed advertisements to encourage trial. The product is also supported via marketing tools and online presence, as part of Topco’s Culinary Tours program. Generating new dollars and increased own-brand assortment for retailers, Culinary Tours Gruyere Cheese offers a competitive option for own-brand sales growth.

DeIorio’s Rectangle Pizza Kit

$14.99 per 42-ounce kit making two pizzas; www.deiorios.com While frozen pizza sections are full of par-baked topped pizzas or whole dough balls, there’s never been anything in between — until now. DeIorio’s rectangle pizza kits fill this gap, providing a foundation for customers to create fresh homemade pizza without having to make the dough from scratch. DeIorio’s initial efforts to drive consumer awareness focused on social media, email drip campaigns, digital ads and sponsorships to drive consumer awareness and interest. Shelf talkers and end cap introductory placement, along with cross-promotions with topping components, are in place to celebrate Frozen Food Month in 2022. In the near future, the kit will boast enhanced packaging and offer pizza shells made with more than 30% superfood vegetables.

Diestel Family Ranch Ultimate Turkey Burgers with Uncured Bacon

$7.99 per 16-ounce box of four patties; https://diestelturkey.com Diestel is one of the only frozen turkey burger brands to add premium ground pork bacon to its grind, which, according to the company, significantly elevates the flavor while still keeping the fat content down compared with beef patties. The result is lower sodium, fewer calories and 20 grams of protein in each 4-ounce turkey burger. Leveraging its relationships with longtime customers, the company introduced a range of promotional offers, some of which are still ongoing, and used digital platforms to help get the word out about the product, with a particular focus on social media and Diestel’s blog. Feedback from customers and consumers will help guide the development of new products and enhancements.

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Dry Botanicals Bitters & Soda

$8.99 per 4-pack of 8.45-fluid-ounce bottles; https://drinkdry.com Dry Botanical Bitters & Soda deconstructs the essence of conventional bitters by blending notes of botanicals, herbs and citrus for a complex, multilayered nonalcoholic drinking experience. Crafted with zero sugar and natural flavors and extracts, the zero-proof, non-GMO, gluten-free line provides three distinct flavors — Aromatic, Bright/ Herbal and Sweet/Spicy — inspired by the ritual of craft mixology. The product was supported through social media partnerships and giveaways highlighting its attributes, and through targeted broadcast promotion. One of the first ready-to-drink zero-proof craft cocktails on the market, Dry Botanical Bitters & Soda is actively leading both brands and consumers in creating a space where nonalcoholic ready-to-drink cocktails are as accessible and accepted as traditional spirit-based cocktails.

Eat the Change Organic Mushroom Jerky

$5.99 per 2-ounce pouch; https://eatthechange.com Eat the Change uses what it calls “perfectly imperfect” portobello and crimini mushrooms — ones that wouldn’t otherwise make it to grocery stores — to craft its organic jerky, which is marinated and smoked with real hickory wood, like a traditional animal-based jerky, for a rich, savory taste. The company has promoted the line’s approachable but elevated flavor profiles through consumer promotions; digital ads; organic social, email and influencer marketing; press; field marketing; websites; and blogs. Galvanized by the jerky’s success, Eat the Change plans to expand into other categories with plant-friendly snacks, including a kid-oriented product this fall.


Egglife Everything Bagel Egg White Wraps

$5.99 per 6-ounce pouch of 6 wraps; https://egglifefoods.com Compatible with low-carb diets, gluten-, grain- and soy-free Egglife Everything Bagel Egg White Wraps provide just 1 gram of carbs per serving, as well as high-quality, easy-to-digest clean protein and on-trend flavor. Employing media outreach, social and paid media, and customer relationship management, Egglife Foods shared news of the line extension; held a teaser campaign across its owned channels for consumers to guess the new flavor; and hosted such activities ahead of the launch as product giveaways of a year’s supply of wraps. The company is now busily developing additional innovative flavors for the product line, which is made using patented technology that converts liquid egg to solid matter.

Food Club Monk Fruit and Food Club Erythritol

$4.49-$5.99 per 16-ounce pouch of either; https://foodclubbrand.com As consumers seek better-for-you alternatives, sugar continues to be a concern, while traditional sugar substitutes often contain chemicals that shoppers wish to avoid. In contrast to national-brand plant-based, keto-friendly, 100% natural sugar substitute options, Food Club Monk Fruit and Food Club Erythritol offer two own-brand SKUs in this emerging sweetener category at a much more reasonable price. Topco supported the products through Food Club’s marketing tools, online presence and in-store advertisements. The sweeteners have enabled Topco members to capitalize on the category’s largest growth segment while delivering unique and differentiated own-brand offerings. Topco aims to continue educating consumers about the line’s benefits, expanding both shopper knowledge and purchase intent.

Fresh Cravings Pico de Gallo Salsa

$2.98 per 14-ounce tub; $4.99 per 32-ounce tub (Costco only); www.freshcravings.com Fresh Cravings Pico de Gallo Salsa boasts a unique recipe and a competitive price point. Made with fresh Roma tomatoes that are never cooked or pasteurized, the refrigerated item features the larger chunks of tomatoes and peppers of traditional Pico de Gallo, in Mild and Medium Crave varieties. Further, the vegan and gluten- and additive-free product is sold in the produce section, making it stand out even more. The brand focused on Millennial and Gen Z targeted digital platforms and used key social influencers to activate content for Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Fresh Cravings is currently exploring different heats and sizes of the salsa, based on the success of the 32-ounce tubs at Costco.

Fresh Cravings Hummus

$3.99 per 10-ounce tub; www.freshcravings.com Fresh Cravings hummus contains clean high-quality ingredients, including Chilean extra-virgin olive oil, giving the spread a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. Available in such varieties as Classic, Roasted Garlic and Roasted Red Pepper, the tubs sport a clear top window so consumers can see the product within. Further, the vegan, plant-based, kosher, and dairy- and gluten-free hummus is sold at an affordable price point in the produce section, separately from other brands, where it attracts a healthier consumer. Fresh Cravings partnered with Duda Produce for a cross-promotional Olympics-themed sweepstakes pairing the hummus with Duda’s Dandy celery and carrot sticks, with 360 degrees of digital extensions, among other campaigns. Throughout the fall, more SKUs are slated to roll out to new and existing retail partners.

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Full Circle Market Global Spices

$2.99 per jar (various sizes); https://fullcirclemarketbrand.com In response to the pandemic-driven trend of at-home chefs’ greater experimentation with restaurant flavors, Topco’s Full Circle Market brand created nine premium exotic spices that are both accessible and affordable. A first-to-market own-brand offering, Full Circle Market Global Spices are inspired by the flavors of the Middle East, Asia, North Africa and Central America. The collection allows Topco members to grow their own-brand share by differentiating their own-brand assortment from the competitive set. Topco hopes to extend the Full Circle Market Global Spice line, providing more world-flavor offerings within the spice category.


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Full Circle Market Gluten Free Baking Mixes

$3.49-$4.99 per 11.36-ounce to 18.2-ounce package; https://fullcirclemarketbrand.com Knowing that gluten-free offerings can often be bland and uninspired, Topco’s Full Circle Market brand set out to create a line of gluten-free baking mixes with restaurant-inspired flavors in the following varieties: Cheddar Biscuits, Cornbread, Cinnamon Streusel Cake and Oatmeal Cookies. The line has brought flavor innovation to the gluten-free category, providing a destination for Topco members’ specialty diet shoppers with products that not only offer a clear own-brand value proposition, but also innovative flavor options previously unavailable in the category. Topco intends to continue expanding on offerings within the specialty diet category with such products as protein pancake mixes and keto options.

Full Circle Market PlantBased Breaded Chickenless Nuggets

$2.99 per 9-ounce package; https://fullcirclemarketbrand.com Offering parents an affordable betterfor-you own-brand option while providing even the pickiest kids with a flavor they love in a familiar format, Full Circle Market Plant-Based Breaded Chickenless Nuggets are certified plantbased and certified vegan, with a single serving of nuggets delivering a whopping 15 grams of protein. To enhance sales performance, Topco will continue communicating to its membership the superior attributes and profitability/margin rates of Full Circle Market Plant-based Breaded Chickenless Nuggets versus the national brands. Plans are also underway to promote complementary items and meal deal solutions during the key back-to-school season.

Full Circle Market Power Bowls

Full Circle Market Meatless Burgers

$3.49 per 10-ounce box of four 2.5-ounce patties; https://fullcirclemarketbrand.com Offering taste profiles unique to the category, the Full Circle Market California Style Meatless Burger, Southwestern Style Black Bean Chipotle Burger and Caribbean Style Plantain Burger offer consumers a variety of ownbrand frozen options containing 5 to 7 grams of certified vegan protein per serving, with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Topco members have promoted the burgers in ads featuring complementary Crav’n Flavor/ Full Circle Market items or with national brands to encourage trial and meal deal solutions. Generating new dollars and increased own-brand assortment for retailers, Full Circle Market Meatless Burgers provide a competitive solution to grow own-brand sales by meeting in-demand trends at an affordable price.

$2.99 per 9.24-ounce bowl; https://fullcirclemarketbrand.com Full Circle Market Power Bowls provide quick, convenient, vegan-certified, restaurant-quality world flavors in the frozen aisle, with 10 to 12 grams of plant protein per serving. Consumers seeking better-for-you vegetarian and vegan meal options can choose from the Mediterranean Style Power Bowl with Falafel, Korean Style Power Bowl with Tofu, or Moroccan Style Power Bowl with Chickpea and Cauliflower, all conveniently sold in disposable, ready-to-microwave bowls. Shoppers have expressed strong repeat purchase intent with regard to these globally inspired offerings, and the affordably priced bowls have generated new dollars and boosted own-brand assortment for Topco’s member retailers.

Full Circle Market MSC-Certified Sustainable Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon

$12.99 per 12-ounce package; https://fullcirclemarketbrand.com Full Circle Market MSC-Certified Sustainable Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon delivers a safe eating experience at a reasonable price. Freezing the fish whole protects it from environmental impacts, helps preserve the ocean-fresh flavor, reduces food waste, and aids in dramatically reducing emissions across the supply chain. In response to Full Circle Market’s leading-edge category innovation, which yielded a higher margin rate compared with competing items, the salmon has quickly become the top seller in the brand’s traceable seafood program. To further increase own-brand penetration and sales, Topco continues to encourage its member retailers to feature the product in end cap and brand block displays of frozen Full Circle Market traceable seafood items.

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Herdez Avocado Hot Sauce

Gelatelli Crème Brûlée Gelato

$2.99 per 23.6-fluid-ounce tub; www.lidl.com/gelatelli Created in France, Gelatelli Crème Brûlée Gelato from Lidl features the flavors of sweet custard and caramelized sugar, and is made with milk from cows not treated with rBST. Offering a high-quality product at such a low price point may be uncommon, but Lidl forged ahead, launching the gelato with in-store signage and featuring the item on the deep discounter’s website. The release of the Crème Brûlée flavor helped bring more awareness to Lidl’s own-brand ice cream line. The retailer intends to take feedback from this year’s launch to help build upon next year’s product introductions in the Gelatelli line.

Gilbert’s Craft Sausages Tuscan Recipe Chicken Sausage

$5.99 per 10-ounce package; https://gilbertssausages.com Gilbert’s Tuscan Recipe Chicken Sausage offers an easy and sophisticated way for consumers to add their favorite flavors to mealtime. The brand uses a distinctive low-temperature sous-vide process that results in a higher-quality, better-tasting sausage. Offered in individually sealed links that ensure freshness and limit mess, the all-natural sausage provides 13 grams of protein per link. In tandem with the launch of Tuscan Recipe Chicken Sausage, the company rolled out a fun brand campaign, For Friendlier Taste, featuring custom-made puppets and colorful storytelling. A lighter option that comes in no-mess packaging, the once seasonal and now permanent product is an appealing option to bolster the sausage category.

The Good Crisp Co. Potato Crisps

$3.39 per 5-ounce bottle; $6.49 per 12-ounce bottle; www.salsas.com/herdez/ products/hot_sauce/ herdez-avocado-hot-sauce What’s hot, smooth and shaped like an avocado? It’s Herdez Avocado Hot Sauce from Hormel Foods’ Mexican food brand Herdez. The product’s flavor is unique, tangy and well balanced and its texture is creamy and smooth, thanks in part to its base of real avocados, according to Herdez. Its unique bottle shape cleverly resembles an avocado, and the cap mimics the volcanic rock used in molcajete recipes, bringing more authenticity to the product. It was introduced in June with a campaign called Avocado Found its Fire. The Herdez team was also planning to reach more consumers this past summer with a sampling activation. Retail support will include custom plans for in-store displays, banner ads and push notifications.

High Road Brownie Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

$5.99 per 9.52-ounce package (makes nine stuffed cookies); www.highroadcraft.com High Road Craft Ice Cream took two of its favorite cookie doughs and rolled them into one tasty treat to make High Road Brownie Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Sold in the refrigerated dough section, this pop-and-bake dessert was honored with a 2021 Sofi Award for its innovation. The dough contains no artificial colors, flavors or hydrogenated oils. High Road is using in-store promotions, digital marketing strategies and other tactics to build product awareness and drive retail sales. The company also makes a Peanut Butter version of its Brownie Stuffed Dough and plans to continue adding flavors to the line.

$3.49 per 5.6-ounce canister; www.thegoodcrispcompany.com A stacked chip that evokes memories of a popular mainstream brand but adds a clean-ingredient twist, The Good Crisp is free of gluten, MSG, artificial flavors and colors, and many of the most common allergens. The company actively posts on social media channels and supports local events such as sponsored drive-in movie theaters, soccer games, and other family-focused activities, receiving what it calls “a ton of content” from enthusiastic consumers. As a result, The Good Crisp has enjoyed fast growth, particularly during the pandemic, during which it rebranded and added new flavors. The brand plans to continue to increase distribution nationally as well as provide consumers with exciting snack innovations. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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Honest Earth Mashed Sweet Potatoes Brought to You by Idahoan Foods

$2.99 per 9.9-ounce pouch; https://idahoan.com This new heat-and-eat sweet potato offering will save consumers time on preparation, cooking and cleanup, while also providing a great source of vitamin A, fiber, antioxidants and minerals. Each pouch is ready to eat after being heated in the microwave for just 60 seconds. The sweet potatoes, which can be eaten as a side dish or used as an ingredient in sweet and savory recipes, offer a new alternative to canned sweet potatoes. Idahoan Foods developed the product after observing growing sales in heat-andeat pouches, along with an over-indexing among Millennials and young families. The company is backing its launch with a robust public relations program that includes a partnership with a registered dietitian, and in-store marketing plans.

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Hope & Sesame Chocolate Hazelnut Sesamemilk

$4.99-$5.99 per 33.8-ounce carton; www.hopeandsesame.com Described by Hope & Sesame as tasting like “drinkable chocolate hazelnut spread,” this hard-to-pass-up Chocolate Hazelnut Sesamemilk is produced in a decidedly sustainable way that will appeal to many consumers. Sesame is naturally pest-resistant and can self-pollinate, thereby helping to conserve bee populations. Additionally, Hope & Sesame’s core sesame protein comes from the production of sesame oil, so it’s “upcycling” the sesame seeds for this beverage. Sesamemilk contains 8 grams of complete plant-based protein, including all nine essential amino acids, and features vitamin D and calcium, yet the Chocolate Hazelnut flavor contains half the sugar of traditional chocolate dairy milk, according to the company. The beverage has already rolled out to Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market and Kroger, and is on target to expand to additional retailers in 2022.


Hormel Pretzel Bites and Cheese Tray

Hormel Black Label Bacon Thick Cut Ranch

$5.99 per 12-ounce package; www.hormelfoods.com Bacon lovers will appreciate this innovation from Hormel Foods: Black Label Bacon Thick Cut Ranch, a thick-cut hardwood-smoked bacon that’s hand-rubbed with a proprietary blend of seasonings, resulting in a rich, complex ranch flavor. The company suggests trying it on sandwiches, salads and baked potatoes. To drive in-store trial and conversion at shelf, Hormel placed “New” on-pack stickers and instant redeemable coupons on the package. The company also rolled out a multichannel media campaign that included print magazine ads, outdoor billboards, national TV ads and in-store cart signage. Retailer-specific omnichannel campaigns were used to integrate both the digital shelf and in-store shelf. Since launching the product last fall, Hormel estimates that it has already driven nearly $500,000 in incremental dollars for the category.

$5.99-$6.99 per 8.1-ounce package; www.hormelfoods.com Building on its Hormel Gatherings line, Hormel launched the Pretzel Bites and Cheese Tray earlier this year to capitalize on the growing snack trend, an increase in home-based work and school, and the move toward smaller get-togethers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each tray comes with 4 ounces of soft pretzel bites, 4 ounces of cheddar cheese sauce and a packet of sea salt. Ideal for up to four people, it can go from the refrigerator to the microwave to the table in just a few minutes. Hormel is promoting the trays as a perfect addition to retailers’ delis, and has already executed successful retailer-specific promotions during the Super Bowl, March Madness and graduation season.

Hormel Black Label Breakfast Combos

$2.99 per 2.83-ounce or 4.33-ounce package; www.hormelfoods.com These ready-to-heat breakfast combinations will make mornings happier for busy consumers who enjoy traditional breakfast offerings. Packaged in refrigerated microwavable trays, the entrées heat more quickly than frozen products. Hormel says that it developed the products to have “superior flavor and texture,” along with a longer shelf life. New offerings include Pancakes with Sausage and Syrup, and Pancakes with Bacon and Syrup (both sold with syrup on the side). The percentage of shoppers who have tried the Breakfast Combos has tripled over the past nine months, while the percentage of repeat purchases has doubled, according to Hormel. The company is looking to build on this success with more flavor varieties planned for the future.

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Hungry Buddha Keto Bars

$2.49 per 1.4-ounce bar; https://buddhabrands.com Buddha Brands bills its Hungry Buddha Keto Bars as the first keto bars on the market made without the use of palm oils, sugar alcohols, dairy or soy. They’re also peanut- and gluten-free. What they do contain is MCT oil and sunflower seed butter as sources of healthy fats, pea protein for plant-powered fuel, and monk fruit for a touch of sweetness. The company is using social media platforms and traditional public relations, while partnering with like-minded brands and influencers, to get the word out about its products. This summer, it worked with Sprouts Farmers Market on a fun giveaway tied to the bars.

Hungry Planet Chicken Crispy & Fried

Kashi Go Keto-Friendly Cereal

$4.99 per 7-ounce box; www.kashi.com Kashi launched its first keto-friendly offering, Kashi Go Keto-Friendly Cereal, in January to reach consumers who are looking to limit their sugar intake, increase protein and avoid grains. Kashi’s cereal is set at a more affordable price point than other keto-friendly offerings, according to the company, and is also Non-GMO Project Verified. The cereal comes in two flavors: Cinnamon Vanilla and Dark Cocoa (made with cocoa that’s Fair Trade Certified). Each version is made with 12 grams of plant-based protein and contains just 1 gram of sugar (the cereal is sweetened with allulose and monk fruit). The cereal’s launch has been supported by earned media strategy, influencer gifting, shopper marketer promotions and paid social media.

$4.49 per 8-ounce bag of two patties; www.hungryplanetfoods.com These chef-crafted plant-based chicken patties were designed to be true to the natural taste and texture of conventional chicken, according to Hungry Planet Foods. They’re packed with protein and fiber, but are lower in fat and have fewer calories than conventional chicken, and contain zero antibiotics or hormones. Hungry Planet began a partnership with Post Holdings in early 2021 and is now releasing multiple heat-and-eat plant-based meats. With a robust digital marketing strategy, Hungry Planet is drawing traffic to retail via geo-targeted ads, custom creative marketing and a dedicated sales team.

Justin’s Refrigerated Protein Bars $2.29 per 1.4-ounce bar; www.justins.com Justin’s is bringing its beloved nut butters into a new category with the introduction of Refrigerated Almond Butter Protein Bars. Each vegan-friendly bar has 10 grams of plant-based protein and just 5 to 7 grams of sugar, which is 40% less than the leading refrigerated bars, according to the Hormel-owned brand. The flavors in the protein bar line are Almond Butter, Honey Almond Butter and Dark Chocolate Chip Almond Butter. Justin’s has employed both digital and in-store shopper marketing initiatives to drive purchase at the shelf and create awareness of its new products. Looking ahead, the brand is focused on product line extensions and new pack sizes to align with how customers are shopping the category.

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Kidfresh Real Fruit Pops

$3.99 per 12.8-ounce package of eight ice pops; www.kidfresh.com Kidfresh, known for its frozen entrées, is making its debut in the frozen novelty category with Real Fruit Pops. The company is taking a parent-friendly approach with popsicles that are made from real fruit, including strawberries, raspberries and apples; 100% juice; and only 4 to 5 grams of sugar per bar. When Real Fruit Pops launched, they were promoted across Kidfresh’s social media channels, and the company provided free samples to drive awareness and trial. It has pledged to continue promoting the products on its digital channels and through shopper marketing tactics.


The Laughing Cow Blends

$3.29 per 4.9-ounce container of eight wedges; www.thelaughingcow.com There’s nothing funny about The Laughing Cow brand’s latest foray into plantbased dairy trends. On the contrary, these hybrid cheeses offer the same spreadable, smooth goodness of the brand’s beloved creamy cheese, but with ingredients such as beans, chickpeas and lentils. Each wedge is also infused with bold spices and/or herbs to complement the flavors. The line’s varieties are Chickpea & Cheese with Herb, Lentil & Cheese with Curry, and Red Bean & Cheese with Paprika. Edible Inc., the company behind the Laughing Cow brand, has launched a broad campaign targeting both consumers and the trade, including a collaboration with TikTok’s Corporate Natalie.

Litehouse Purely Balanced Greek Yogurt Dressings

$3.49 per 9-fluid-ounce bottle; www.litehousefoods.com Do we need another Greek yogurt dressing? Why, yes we do, and Litehouse Purely Balanced Greek Yogurt Dressings hit all of the attributes that consumers are looking for: no high-fructose corn syrup or artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners; thick and creamy varieties; and all for 45 calories per serving. The pandemic accelerated demand for products that address a variety of dietary and health concerns, and this line of Greek yogurt dressings is available in five flavor-forward SKUs — Garden Ranch, Tzatziki Ranch, Garlic Caesar, Cilantro Lime and Lemon Basil — that are ideal for salads, dips and marinades.

Little Northern Bakehouse Organic Gluten-Free Loaves

$6.99 per 455- to 494-gram loaf; www.littlenorthernbakehouse.com Gluten-free consumers often feel that they need to make sacrifices when it comes to the taste, texture and nutrition of their food. Today, as consumers are also prioritizing organic products more than ever before, the hurdle to find a product that “has it all” is even greater. Little Northern Bakehouse’s Organic Gluten-Free Loaves meet this need, offering flavors that tastes like the “real thing,” and soft textures using only organic, non-GMO and third-party-verified glyphosate-free ingredients. Little Northern Bakehouse launched a two-tier influencer program to share news of the new organic loaves and a unique recipe featuring the brand, which led to more awareness of the products.

LusOasis Pancake & Waffle Mixes

$9.99 per 9.8-ounce package; www.lusoasis.com LusOasis offers triple value to consumers looking for the three most sought-after healthy food attributes —gluten-free, keto-friendly and vegan — which no other brand in the pancake/waffle mix category can match. The product doesn’t just aim to be betterfor-you, it aims to be best-for-you. The pancake/ waffle mixes come in four unique flavors that redefine pancakes and waffles: Raw Chocolatey, Sweet Savory, Tomato Basil and Gourmet Spicy. Unlike other keto products, the mixes have no added sugar or sweeteners that would result in more sugar cravings and hormonal disruption. Consumers are also empowered with LusOasis recipe ideas to create other delicious bakery foods (waffle sandwiches, churros, doughnuts, scones, pizza, peach cobbler, etc.) from the mixes for meals beyond breakfast.

Melinda’s Black Truffle Hot Sauce

$4.99 per 12-fluid-ounce bottle; https://melindas.com Melinda’s is known for bringing the habanero pepper to the United States more than 25 years ago, and now the brand is embracing the super-hot black truffle trend to create a perfect balance of heat and flavor in a hot sauce. Its newest offering, Black Truffle Hot Sauce, combines red cayenne peppers, black truffles from Italy, and a touch of fine Colombian honey to create a sauce with rich and complex flavors and fragrance, along with a hint of sweetness that helps to offset the cayenne peppers to create something that’s truly irresistible on food. The product is the most affordable truffle hot sauce on the market and twice the size of any other truffle sauce option. Within the first week of launching the product, the company sold 700 bottles through e-commerce sales alone, outselling its best-selling Reserve Pepper Sauce five to one. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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MelloSweet

$3.49 per pound; www.topco.com MelloSweet is unique to the melon category due to its super-sweet honey flavor. The fruit also offers a higher-than-average sugar content and softer, juicier flesh than others in the category. In addition to being refreshingly juicy, loaded with fiber and a great source of vitamin C, MelloSweet melons are naturally moisture-resistant, resulting in a longer shelf life — a big plus for grocers and shoppers alike. MelloSweet is supported through a comprehensive turnkey retail playbook including associate/manager education, information on target consumers, ordering information, retail planning and promotion calendars, point-of-sale material, retail mockups, in-store announcements, press releases, logo guidelines, color palettes, typography, writing guides, recipes and social media support. Next up from Topco: a proprietary exclusive-brand mini watermelon.

Milo’s Extra Sweet Tea and Famous Sweet Tea 6-Pack

$1.39 per 20-fluid-ounce bottle of Sweet Tea; $4.99 per 6-pack; www.drinkmilos.com Milo’s Tea is already a leading brand in the category, but the Milo’s marketing team developed and executed a multipronged strategy for two new products: Milo’s Extra Sweet 20-fluid-ounce product and Milo’s Famous Sweet Tea 6-Pack. Milo’s Extra Sweet Tea gives tea drinkers who think store-bought tea “just isn’t sweet enough” a product they love, while Milo’s Famous Sweet Tea 6-Pack offers consumers’ favorite refrigerated tea product in an on-the-go format. Category consumers enjoyed and shared Milo’s Famous Sweet Tea as they brought the 6-pack to work, gatherings with family and friends, and the refrigerator at home. Milo’s multipack also started its own category of multipack refrigerated tea, as there are no others like it in the category.

Mtn Ops Slumber

$1.99 per single-serve packet; www.mtnops.com Anxiety and fear over the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in another pandemic: insomnia. Mtn Ops Slumber is here to fight the world’s sleep problems with a sleep-inducing collagen powder that can be mixed into milk or water. The product includes Hibern8, a deep-sleep formula using local trace minerals from the Great Salt Lake, coupled with melatonin, L-theanine and natural extracts to cultivate a deep, calming sleep, while collagen ensures the health and vitality of skin, hair, tendons, cartilage, bones and joints. Mtn Ops Slumber also includes a non-stimulated, tannin-free rooibos tea. Rooibos has 50 times more antioxidants than green tea, helping to reduce cell-damaging free radicals in the body for optimal recovery.

Nasoya Plantspired Breakfast Scramble Superfood Skillets

$5.99 per 7-ounce pouch; www.nasoya.com Nasoya is looking to make plantbased eating more accessible with its first-to-market breakfast skillet meal solution. The product is packaged in a convenient pouch, ready to heat and serve on its own, or paired with toast or wrapped in a tortilla. Packed with 19 grams of Moocho Dairy-Free Shreds $4.99 per 8-ounce bag; www.moochofoods.com plant-based proMoocho’s collection of shreds aims to change the game for consumers looking to make a tein, Plantspired seamless switch to dairy-free cheese. Moocho cheeses use fermented cultures in the recipe Breakfast Scramand aging to create complex, rich flavors. Cheddar and Mozzarella’s melty texture comble Superfood Skillets feature Nasoya’s plements a perfect pizza or grilled cheese, while the Fiesta blend takes tacos over the top. organic Super Firm Tofu, green Further, unlike other vegan cheeses on the market, Moocho products don’t require heat to peppers and hearty potatoes for a satdeliver rich, tangy flavors. In isfying and flavorful bite, with no prep fact, many consumers report work required. Like all Nasoya prodthat their preferred way to eat ucts, Plantspired Breakfast Scramble them is chilled, straight from Superfood Skillets are a sustainable the bag. Moocho cheeses and nutritious option that doesn’t taste delicious and are offered sacrifice taste. Made with layers of at an accessible price point, chorizo-inspired flavors and satisfying, with the intention of bringing fresh ingredients, Plantspired Breakas many people as possible fast Scramble Superfood Skillets are into the category. delicious, convenient and nutritious.

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Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Pulled Pork

$9.99 per 12-ounce package; www.nimanranch.com American consumers can’t get enough of pork flavors, and Niman Ranch offers a pork product that creates versatility. For one thing, it doesn’t include sauce, which allows the product to be used in many different preparations and cuisines. Consumers are increasingly looking for clean, sustainable and humane meats, and this product checks all of those boxes: The premium pork is slow-smoked over real hardwood, hand-pulled, and free of added nitrates or nitrites. The only ingredients are pork, water, sea salt, and rosemary extract to help the flavor of the pork shine through. The brand is offering recipes featuring this product to showcase its versatility, including Banh Mi Bao, Air Fryer Pulled Pork Egg Rolls, Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Spicy Slaw, and Pulled Pork Empanadas with Cilantro Mojo Sauce.

Nubocha Dairy Free Gelato

$8.99 per 14-ounce tub; www.nubocha.com The artisan ice cream SKUs behind freezer doors just keep proliferating, but Nubocha is not just artisanal, it’s also a brand that aims to start a dairy-free gelato renaissance. Nubocha has created a clean, creamy, vegan, low-sugar gelato for people who care about their health but don’t want to sacrifice sweet indulgences. The product combines sustainably sourced ingredients such as cacao, nuts and spring water to create maximum clarity and smoothness. It also uses allulose, a virtually calorie-free premium rare sugar found naturally in foods like figs, with no aftertaste.

No Fade Fresh

$14.99 per 6.4-fluid-ounce bottle; www. nofadefresh.com No Fade Fresh isn’t your grandmother’s semi-permanent hair color. It’s the only on-shelf product that can make the following claims: vegan, gluten-free, no sulfates, no PPD, no parabens, no mineral oil, and PETA-Certified/ Cruelty Free, with no animal testing ever. All No Fade Fresh products contain built-in bond rebuilder to repair past damage to hair. The brand has offered a new incremental category to food, drug and mass retailers that enhances the box hair color category. No Fade Fresh’s shampoos and conditioners work together as a system, along with the stand-alone BondHeal conditioning mask, and encourage multi-SKU sales. The introduction of the category has allowed retailers to generate additional sales and offer further color options to the customer, including Blue Blast, Hot Pink, Spicy Copper, Sunflower Brite Blonde and Raspberry Rush.

NotMilk Whole and NotMilk 2% Reduced Fat

$4.99 per 64-fluid-ounce carton; www.notco.com NotMilk is unlike any other nondairy milk. The company uses patented AI technology to create plant-based options that taste, feel, cook and function just like their animal-based counterparts; as a result, NotMilk is nearly indistinguishable from dairy milk. Also, the brand is available in Whole and 2% Reduced Fat options to give consumers the ability to choose their preferred option the same way they’re used to choosing their dairy milk. The product mimics cow-based milk through an unexpected combination of ingredients — such as peas, pineapple and cabbage — making it free of lactose, soy and gluten. It’s also non-GMO, kosher and Certified Halal to cater to a wide variety of specialty diets while serving as an excellent source of calcium, potassium, and vitamins D and B12.

Om Mushroom Superfood Mushroom Coffee Blend

$19.99 per 10-pack of 0.21-ounce packets; www. ommushrooms.com According to a recent Shopify report, innovative superfoods marketed to boost immunity will be one of the top food and beverage industry trends in 2021 – and functional mushrooms are at the top of that list. That’s because consumers are becoming more familiar with the benefits of functional mushrooms and, at the same time, wanting more nutrition out of the foods and beverages that they’re consuming. Om Mushroom Superfood Mushroom Coffee Blend is crafted with single-origin Arabica bean coffee and organic superfood mushroom powder to create a new kind of coffee beverage with many functional benefits. The combination of lion’s mane, turkey tail, cordyceps and Om’s proprietary whole-food reishi extract standardized to 35% beta glucans, plus 120 milligrams of naturally occurring caffeine and ginkgo biloba, supports cognitive performance, promotes immune health and provides sustained energy throughout the day. Om Mushroom Superfood Mushroom Coffee Blend offers more mushrooms per serving than the leading brand of mushroom coffee, along with a bolder, better coffee taste. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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Otamot Organic Vodka Sauce

Organic Valley Egg Bites

$3.99-$4.49 per 4-ounce 2-pack; www.organicvalley.com Ready in 90 seconds, Organic Valley’s Egg Bites are portable, organic, onthe-go breakfast offerings that consumers will be clamoring for, especially as they return to offices in autumn and winter. With 14 grams of protein and only 220 calories per 2-pack, the egg bites are made the same way as every other Organic Valley product: without antibiotics, synthetic hormones, pesticides or GMOs. Organic Valley Egg Bites come in Feta & Chives, Ham & Swiss, and Sausage & Pepper Jack flavors. They’re also the only egg bites on the market that are made with clean-label organic ingredients, including organic freerange eggs from small family farms.

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�ick & Creamy Garden Ranch Cilantro Lime Lemon Basil Garlic Caesar Tzatziki Ranch

$6.99 per 16-ounce jar; www.otamotfoods.com Otamot is disrupting the sauce aisle by putting a high-fiber and plant-based twist on a classic sauce. Otamot’s Organic Vodka Sauce provides a creamy texture while staying dairy- and gluten-free, non-GMO, and USDA Organic. Substituting organic cashew butter for dairy, the sauce features 10 vegetables, including carrots, red pepper, sweet potato, butternut squash, beets and shiitake mushrooms. Packing the sauce with 6 grams of fiber in a single-serving size, with no added sugars, Otamot is turning pantry staples into pantry superstars by providing consumers with a healthy alternative to their favorite sauce while still maintaining the authentic and flavorful taste of vodka sauce.


Outer Aisle Everything Sandwich Thin

$7.99 per 6.75-ounce package; www.outeraislegourmet.com Consumers watching their carb intake can take advantage of Outer Aisle Everything Sandwich Thins, with zero filler flours and a full serving of fresh cauliflower in every bite. The thins can easily be swapped for bread, bagels, tortillas, wraps, and hamburger and hot dog buns. Unlike an everything bagel, which has 53 grams of carbs, Outer Aisle Everything Sandwich Thins have only 3 grams of carbs per slice. They’re made with just five ingredients: fresh cauliflower, eggs, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast and “everything” seasoning. This alternative to bread is nutrient-dense, grain- and gluten-free, and non-GMO. Outer Aisle is perfect for consumers with inflammatory conditions and diabetes, or for those who are keto-conscious.

Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese

$6.99 per 16-ounce package; www.paneraathome.com The past year was all about product mashups, and no one did it better than Panera by combining its iconic Broccoli Cheddar Soup with its craveable Mac & Cheese. Available in the refrigerated deli section, Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese adheres to Panera’s No No List of ingredients. And who could forget the video campaign that went viral, “When Some Mac Loves Broccoli Cheddar,” sung by singer/ songwriter Michael Bolton? Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese has since become the No. 2 mac-and-cheese variety in the brand's lineup, behind Panera’s classic mac, while also breaking into the top 10 items for the refrigerated mac-and-cheese category, as reported by IRI over 26 weeks ending May 16.

0g ADDED SUGAR

BEST NEW PRODUCT

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No Artificial COLORS, FLAVORS, OR PRESERVATIVES

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Path of Life Organic Steel Cut Oatmeal

$5.99 per 10-ounce 2-pack; https://pathoflife.com Path of Life has answered the need for convenient better-for-you plant-based breakfast options in the freezer aisle during busy mornings. While many other products in the breakfast category are frozen waffles and meat-based breakfast sandwiches, there was white space in the market for an organic oatmeal line that satisfied consumers’ desire for a nutritious yet convenient solution. Available in Apple Cinnamon and Berry flavors, Path of Life’s organic steel-cut oats appeal to individuals who have a desire to eat well but have limited time to do so. By uniquely positioning itself as gluten- and dairy-free, organic, and plant-based, Path of Life Organic Steel Cut Oatmeal is driving incremental sales in the frozen breakfast category.

Pipcorn Heirloom Crunchies

$3.99 per 7-ounce bag; www.pipsnacks.com Pipcorn Heirloom Crunchies has revolutionized comfort snacks with the line’s staple ingredient: heirloom corn, a culinary delicacy untainted by modern engineering and technology that sustainably preserves the corn’s flavor and nutrients. Baked, not fried, with clean ingredients (like organic cheese and buttermilk) that are whole grain, gluten-free and Non-GMO Project Verified, these crispy and cheesy treats are a better-for-you take on your childhood-favorite snack. With 20% less fat compared with the leading crunchy snacks, Pipcorn’s Heirloom Crunchies are available in three flavors: Cheddar, Cheddar Jalapeño and Parmesan Truffle. Additionally, with each harvest, Pipcorn saves the seeds to plant the next time around. The category has a new expectation that goes beyond ingredients — consumers want to know the larger impact of products.

Oatmilk is the Fastest-Growing Plant Based Milk Category Ensure your brand is part of the trend. In the last year, oatmilk sales have increased by 112%,* making it the fastest-growing plant-based milk in the alternative milk category. Country Pure Foods can help you meet the demand in this rapidly expanding category and further grow your brand.

Visit CountryPure.com/plant-based-alternatives to learn more. *Nielsen sales ending 7/17/21

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Plant Boss Meatless Crumbles

$6.99 per 3.35-ounce pouch; www.plantboss.com Plant Boss is creating a new product category: shelf-stable meat alternatives. Its meatless crumbles have turned the world of meat and meat alternatives upside-down, bringing innovation to center store. The product is the first plant-based meatless crumble made with organic yellow peas grown in North America and seasoned with organic spices. Plant Boss meatless crumbles are low in fat, provide an ideal source of protein and have zero soy. The versatile crumbles can be prepared to add to any dish in need of a vegan protein boost, including tacos, soups and salads. Since Plant Boss is shelf-stable, merchandising costs are low. It also keeps eco-consciousness in mind with packaging that’s store drop-off recyclable.

Remedy Organics Berry Immunity

$3.99-$4.99 per 12-fluid-ounce bottle; https://remedyorganics.com Remedy Organics Berry Immunity is the ready-to-drink beverage category’s first immunity-focused plantbased functional protein offering, filling the demand for immunity-supporting products during the pandemic. Remedy Organics filled a gap in the market by creating a holistic functional wellness shake. According to SPINS data, Berry Immunity has seen 52-week growth of more than 190%. Its generous serving of plant protein — 10 grams — is ideal for muscle recovery, and the beverage’s immune-boosting ingredients include elderberry, camu camu, echinacea, lion’s mane and dragon fruit. Berry Immunity also contains prebiotics for gut health, a critical component for immune support. This meal replacement option is convenient for all consumers, whether they’re enjoying it at home or on the go.

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ReThink Ice Cream Chocolate Almond Butter

$5.99-$6.99 per 14-fluid-ounce tub; https://rethinkicecream.us Tummy-friendly dairy ReThink ice cream is made with lactose-free A2/A2 dairy. ReThink addresses both causes of dairy intolerance: lactose (milk sugar) and the A1 casein (protein chain). It’s the responsible indulgence that 80 million dairy intolerants and 110 million people living with diabetes can enjoy without any side effects. The better-for-you product is 70% lower in sugar than typical premium ice cream, making it low-glycemic, keto-friendly and gluten-free, plus it’s made with marine collagen, whey isolate protein and prebiotic fiber. The Chocolate Almond Butter flavor has an advantage over plant-based options, because it delivers the decadent and creamy ice cream texture that comes from real dairy.

Roar Organic Complete Hydration Beverage

$2.49 per 18-ounce bottle or $28.99 per case of 12 18 fluid-ounce bottles; https://roarorganic.com/ Roar Organic trademarked the term “Complete Hydration,” which refers to the electrolytes, vitamins and antioxidants included in its beverage to address consumers’ complete hydration needs. Roar Complete Hydration Beverage includes consumers’ 100% daily value of energy and immunity vitamins B5, B6, B12 and C in one bottle. In addition to being gluten-free, vegan and keto-friendly, it’s low in sugar and calories; further, each bottle contains only 20 calories and 3 grams of sugar. Roar Complete Hydration Beverage is an ideal way to stay hydrated throughout the day for such occasions as pre/post workout, a day at the office, a long car ride and mocktail/cocktail hour. The product line is available in four flavors: Cucumber Watermelon, Mango Clementine, Georgia Peach and Blueberry Açai.

RightRice Risotto

$3.99 per 6-ounce pouch; https://rightrice.com A modern twist on a traditional Italian dish, vegetable-packed RightRice has reimagined risotto with a first-of-its-kind shelf-stable, dairy-free product that’s easy to cook in one pot in just 12 minutes. Made with 90% veggies, RightRice Risotto is ideal for vegans and flexitarians alike, since it delivers a creamy, dairy-free bowl of risotto packed with plant-based protein (10 grams) and fiber (5 grams), and has fewer carbs than regular risotto, enabling consumers to enjoy a healthier and quicker version. RightRice’s simple packaging further emphasizes the easier approach it offers to cooking the usually time-consuming dish.

Rind Snacks Coco-Melon

$5.99 per 2.75-ounce pouch; https://www.rindsnacks.com/ By keeping the rind on its dried fruit, Rind Snacks maximizes nutrition and minimizes waste. Featuring just two ingredients, organic coconut and dried sweet watermelon, the Coco-Melon blend comes in a resealable bag so people can enjoy it at their leisure or in one sitting. The whole-fruit snack naturally contains more fiber, vitamins and antioxidants than other dried-fruit brands. One serving of Coco-Melon provides 18% of the daily value of fiber, while the whole bag offers 45% of the daily value. The gently air-dried snack has no added sugar and contains 10% potassium per serving. Last year, Rind also helped divert more than 120,000 pounds of edible peels from entering landfills.

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Rollin’ n Bowlin’

$5.99 per 6.1- to 7.0-ounce pouch; https://rollinnbowlin.com With versatile single-serve Rollin’ n Bowlin’, consumers can create a smoothie or an açaí bowl, depending on how much liquid they add to the pouch. Rollin’ n Bowlin’ has all of its ingredients clearly listed, with icons on the front of its packaging for easy identification when shopping, so consumers know exactly what they’re getting. It’s the only retail bowl/smoothie kit that sells products with açaí, pitaya and nut butter options. All nine blends have unique flavor combos with ingredients like cold brew, lime juice and nut butters, and fun names like Lime Feelin’ Good and Train Your Dragon. The blends are vegan and GMO-, gluten-, soy- and dairy-free, and contain no added sugars.


Seapoint Farms Mighty Lil’ Lentils Rx A.M. Oats Packets

$5.49 for a 5-pack of 1.94-ounce packets; www.rxbar.com RxBar created Rx A.M. Oats Packets to provide a premium oatmeal option made with real ingredients, increased protein and less sugar than competing instant-oatmeal packet brands, and to make it easier for consumers to store breakfast in bulk as they began to buy more pantry staples. Made with egg whites, fruit, nuts and gluten-free oats, Rx A.M. Oats Packets stay true to RxBar’s “No B.S.” mission, providing 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving. Each packet can be prepared hot in just a few minutes, or as overnight oats. Available in Maple and Cinnamon Spice flavors, Rx A.M. Oats Packets have increased the category on rxbar.com by 25% during peak hot-cereal season.

RxSugar Organic Chocolate Syrup

$12.99 per 16-fluid-ounce bottle; https://rxsugar.com According to market research by FMCG Gurus earlier this year, many consumers want to reduce their sugar intake. RxSugar’s Organic Chocolate Syrup stands out from its competitors because it has only two ingredients: organic allulose and organic cocoa powder. The chocolate syrup contains zero calories, zero net carbs and zero blood sugar impact. Although made with just two ingredients, the multipurpose product can be used for baking, protein shakes, granola, yogurt, fruits and desserts — making it ideal for shoppers looking to add a touch of sweetness to their healthy lifestyles. Safe for diabetics, the syrup is Non-GMO Project Verified, kosher, Keto Certified, FODMAP Friendly Certified, and grain-, gluten-, dairy- and soy-free.

$3.99 per 5-ounce pouch; https://seapointfarms.com Seapoint Farms LLC has added a line of mini lentil snacks to its plant-based portfolio. Mighty Lil’ Lentils are available in four flavors: Pink Himalayan Salt, Barbecue, Falafel and Cinnamon Sugar. The products are gluten-free and can be eaten right out of the bag as a salty snack, or added to yogurt parfaits, trail mixes, salads, soups and other dishes for a bit of crunch and extra protein. Seapoint Farms also offers frozen and dry roasted edamame, seaweed crisps, riced veggie meals, and organic edamame pasta.

SkinnyDipped Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt Bars

$3.99 per 2.8-ounce bar; https://skinnydipped.com With just 3 grams of sugar per serving, these bars aim to live up to their SkinnyDipped name. The Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Bar has 4 grams of net carbs per serving, and the Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt Bar contains 5.5 net carbs. The products’ sweetness comes from a blend of maple and cane sugar and naturally low-calorie allulose that tastes like cane sugar but isn’t metabolized the same way in the body. Sold in brightly colored wrappers, the bars are made without sugar alcohol or artificial ingredients, and are non-GMO.

Scripto Hybrid Jet Flame Lighter

$2.59 per single pack; https://calicobrands.com The Scripto brand from Calico Brands Inc. is lighting it up with a Hybrid Jet Flame lighter that’s part multipurpose lighter and part pocket lighter. Among other suggested uses, the lighter can be used to ignite campfires, barbecue grills, fireplaces and more. It features an adjustable jet flame with a generated stream of superheated air, a push-button start and an extended nozzle for safer lighting, and comes with an eco-friendly refillable tank. The lighter is available in teal, purple, orange, dark blue and red hues, and can be merchandised in single packs or a 50-count display-a-tray. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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SkinnyDipped Peanut Butter & Jelly Peanuts

$4.99 per 3.5-ounce pouch; https://skinnydipped.com It’s a two-fer for the SkinnyDipped brand in this round of Editor’s Picks. The ultimate sandwich combination of peanut butter and jelly is now available in a better-for-you snack version. This item is made with premium Virginia peanuts enrobed in a sweet strawberry coating, and a rich source of plant-based protein. Like other SkinnyDipped snacks, the new PB&J peanuts are non-GMO and gluten-free, and made with real ingredients with no artificial flavors or colors. A vibrant red package and easy-open pouch engage consumers and signal that this is a pop-able snack.

Skippy Peanut Butter Squeeze Pack

$2.99 per 6-ounce pouch; www.peanutbutter.com You can still squeeze out innovation from a perennial food favorite. For onthe-go or convenient portion-controlled eating, the Skippy brand from Hormel Foods has developed a Squeeze Pack for mess-free enjoyment right out of the pouch or pumped onto crackers, fruits, veggies or another snack partner. Available in a colorful, creatively shaped pouch with a twist-off cap, the product is made with roasted peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil and salt, with no preservatives or artificial flavors or colors. The varieties are Creamy and Natural Creamy, and each pouch contains five servings, at two tablespoons per serving.

Sliq Spirited Ice

$17.99 per three-flavor package of 100-milliliter tubes; https://sliqspiritedice.com From the company that helped make ice pops famous, these premium alcoholic freezer bars are at once a snack and a cocktail. Sliq Spirited frozen ice pops, launched by the Jel Sert Co., represent a new category of alcohol in keeping with other recent successes in hard seltzer and ready-to-drink cocktails. Each box of vodka, rum or agave ice pops includes a trio of single-serve flavors: vodka-infused Spirited Ice in Lemonade, Cranberry & Grapefruit, and Blue Raspberry; agave-infused Spirited Ice in Classic Margarita, Strawberry Margarita and Mango Margarita; and rum-infused Spirited Ice in Coconut and Lime Daiquiri, Pineapple Daiquiri, and Strawberry Daiquiri. Each treat contains 8% ABV, is 100 calories or fewer and comes in a recyclable package.

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Sown Organic Oat Creamers

$5.29 per 32-ounce carton; https://sown.com New from plant-based food and beverage company SunOpta, Sown Organic Oat Creamer is an alternative to traditional dairy-based creamers. The product is made from organic oats grown by North American farmers and formulated using a proprietary enzymatic process that turns whole oats into a finished product without the bitter, chalky taste associated with other oat drinks. Sown creamers come in Vanilla, Unsweetened and Sweet & Creamy varieties, and are USDA Certified Organic and NonGMO Project Verified.

Spudsy Sweet Potato Puffs Vegan Sour Cream and Onion

$3.99 per 4-ounce bag; www.spudsy.com A classic potato chip flavor has made its way onto a sweet potato puff. The base snack is made with a blend of rice flour, pea protein, sweet potato flour and tapioca starch, and, for this particular product, is seasoned with a tangy sour cream and onion flavor that satisfies salty snack cravings. These Sour Cream & Onion Sweet Potato Puffs have a lot of claims: vegan, free of the top eight allergens, gluten-free, kosher and non-GMO. Plus they’re made with upcycled “imperfect” sweet potatoes that might otherwise go to waste. Spudsy offers other flavors of this snack, including spicy and sweet versions.


Stryve Peppered Biltong

$5.99 per 2.25-ounce flat pouch; https://stryve.com As biltong has caught on with consumers as a meat snack, Stryve has boosted the appetite appeal of its offerings with a peppered variety. Made with air-dried seasoned steak slices and featuring an ample amount of cracked black pepper, this snack is also infused with hints of garlic, coriander, clove and nutmeg. The high-protein and better-for-you crowd will appreciate the fact that Stryve Peppered Biltong offers 16 grams of protein with zero grams of sugar, zero carbs, no MSG, no nitrates and no preservatives. The packaging also sports high-impact graphics and features an easy-open, grab-and-go format.

SuckerPunch Gourmet Pickle Snack Packs

$14.99 for a 6-pack of 3.4-ounce pouches or $26.99 for a 12-pack; https://suckerpunchgourmet.com Fueled by interest in pickles as a snack, this Editor’s Pick(le) delivers on convenience and flavor. This is one of the latest innovations from gourmet pickle brand SuckerPunch Gourmet, consisting of portioned pickles in a peekaboo pouch (say that 10 times fast!) and available in three varieties: Fiery-Hot-3 Pepper, Classic Dill, and Bread and Butter. Available in 6- or 12-pack options, the resealable pouches keep the pickles fresh and the pickle juice in its place, and sport colorful graphics for extra eye appeal.

Tillamook Frozen Custards

$4.99 per 15-ounce carton; www.tillamook.com Tillamook Frozen Custards were designed to elevate the everyday ice cream experience to richer, creamier and more indulgent heights. The custards are made with at least 16% butterfat, extra cream and cage-free eggs, and contain no bioengineered ingredients. The line offers eight mouthwatering flavor combinations: Oregon Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Fudgy Brownie, Sea Salt & Honeycomb Toffee, Bing Cherry Cheesecake, Cold Brew Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate & Red Raspberry, Maple & Candied Pecan, and Salted Caramel. To promote the new custards, Tillamook used a combination of targeted paid media, earned media outreach, dedicated email blasts and social media channels to encourage consumers to use Tillamaps, an online GPS-based product search tool to help them find the closest location where they could buy Tillamook products.

TopCare 1% Diclofenac Sodium Topical Gel

$7.99-$17.99 per 50-gram, 100-gram or 150-gram tube; www.topcarebrand.com TopCare’s Diclofenac Sodium Topical Gel gives retailers a more affordable option of pain relief to offer their customers who live with arthritis. As the average age of arthritis patients is just 48, the audience for an over-thecounter medication like this is pretty substantial. Topco is offering the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory topical drug in three sizes: 50 grams, 100 grams and 150 grams. The company is using its marketing tools and online presence to promote the product, and is also looking to cross-promote it with other items commonly used by arthritis sufferers to treat their pain. Topco plans to continue its marketing partnership with the Arthritis Foundation and the Live YES Network. Looking ahead, it’s considering launching a club pack size of the gel to provide an even better value.

TopCare Castile Lavender Soap $9.99 per 32-ounce bottle; www.topcarebrand.com Naturally sourced, biodegradable and moisturizing, TopCare Castile Lavender Multi-Use Cleaning Soap is made without animal testing or animal byproducts, and is free from synthetic detergents. The product provides retailers with an appealing discount version of the traditional boutique-brand soap to offer their customers. Clean-ingredient items continue to be the growth driver within the soap category, according to Topco’s research. With lingering pandemic concerns, consumers have been leaning toward eco-friendly options versus traditional cleaning products. Going forward, Topco plans to offer additional clean-label products in its cleaning product line.

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Veggies Made Great Sausage, Egg & Cheese Frittata TopCare Flesh Tone Fabric Bandages

$1.99 per box of 30 bandages; www.topcarebrand.com Topco is representing the diverse skin tones of American shoppers with its TopCare Flesh Tone Fabric Bandages. These sterile antibacterial bandages are available in three shades to better match different colors of skin. According to Topco, private label is positioned as the No. 1-selling brand in first aid/ wound care, with high shopper trust in the products’ quality. The innovative product actually spurred national brands to offer their own versions of diverse colored bandages. Since the TopCare launch in March, Topco members that have added the bandages to their mix have seen sales steadily increase week by week, according to the company. This fall, Topco is planning to expand its Self-Adhering Compression Wrap line to include three additional flesh-tone shades.

$5.99 per 12-ounce package of six frittatas; www.veggiesmadegreat.com As sales of plant-based foods continue to explode, the frozen breakfast category is one space that’s ripe for opportunity. Veggies Made Great developed the Sausage, Egg & Cheese Frittata using its best-selling veggie-packed frittatas and adding plant-based meat from well-known brand Beyond Meat. The individually wrapped frittatas go from frozen to ready-to-eat after less than 45 seconds in the microwave. With their small grab-and-go size, they’re perfect for on-the-go eating and snacking. The line also includes a Sausage & Pepper Frittata made with Beyond Meat. Veggies Made Great is promoting these products using media relations, email marketing and coupons, as well as social media outreach.

TopCare Mineral Continuous Spray Sunscreen

$11.99 per 6.3-ounce spray; www.topcarebrand.com Mineral sunscreens have become more popular lately due to their reef-safe, ocean-friendly, eco-biodegradable attributes, as well as the fact that they don’t contain oxybenzone, octinoxate or parabens. TopCare’s lower-priced spray version of mineral SPF 30 sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection and is hypoallergenic and water-resistant. For Topco members, the sunscreen has been driving the largest sales growth in the category, up double digits when compared with the largest national sun care brand that they carry. The company has encouraged retailers to feature TopCare Mineral Continuous Spray Sunscreen in end cap displays promoting the brand’s seasonal and sun care items during times of high demand.

Upcycled Vanilla Oatmilk Cookies

$4.99 per 6-ounce package; www.fancypantsbakery.com It’s not every day that you get to eat cookies that fight food waste and climate change, but that’s exactly what Fancypants Baking Co. has set out to do with its Upcycled Vanilla Oatmeal Cookies. Two ingredients in the cookies – oatmilk pulp and vanilla bean — would have ended up in landfills, but instead the company has used these byproducts to create snacks. To launch the new product initially, Fancypants joined forces with e-grocer Imperfect Foods. Fancypants also created a social media campaign with Instagram influencers and sent samples to trade publications. Most recently, the cookies launched on Amazon with significant advertising dollars to support promotions. Fancypants has rolled out two additional flavors — Upcycled Chocolate Chip Cookies Baked with Okara Flour and Upcycled Double Chocolate Cookies Baked with Coffee Cherry — with more to come.

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Vevan Snax

$2.29 per 1.48-ounce single-serve package; www.vevanfoods.com Vevan Snax were designed for consumers who follow flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan diets and want dairy-free snacking options. The individually packaged snacks feature Vevan, a plant-based cheese alternative made in Wisconsin that resembles the real thing in taste and texture, paired with dried fruit and roasted nuts. The colorfully packaged line consists of Lemon Poppyseed Mozza Cubes with Dried Blueberries and Roasted & Salted Cashews, and P’Jack Cubes with Dried Cranberries and Smoky Almonds. So far, the launch has received “an outpouring of support,” according to Vevan Foods.


Wide Awake Seasonal EcoPods

Vital Farms Pasture-Raised Egg Bites

$4.99 per 4.6-ounce package of two bites; www.vitalfarms.com Shoppers will get a big protein boost from Vital Farms Pasture-Raised Egg Bites, a line of single-serve refrigerated bites made with such high-quality ingredients as Vital Farms pasture-raised eggs. They’re available in four flavor combinations: Uncured Bacon & Cheddar Cheese; Roasted Red Pepper & Mozzarella Cheese; Uncured Ham, Bell Peppers, Onions & Cheddar Cheese; and Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Cheese. Each package contains two 2.3-ounce egg bites, delivering 16 to 18 grams of protein per pack. Further, they’re ready after just 45 seconds in the microwave. Vital Farms employed an integrated approach to promote the egg bites, including awareness through myriad marketing channels and a campaign called Where Honest Food is Raised. Next up: The company is launching a line of egg-based breakfast bars.

Volpi Small Bites

$2.99 per 1.5-ounce package; www.volpifoods.com Now consumers can sample charcuterie at an entry-level price point, thanks to Volpi Small Bites. These little packages contain big flavor, featuring Volpi Foods’ most popular meats, thinly sliced. The product line can be used to mix and match or to incorporate into new recipes. Even before the pandemic, Volpi recognized the need for smaller versions of its products, but the Small Bites have been particularly well received during a time when consumers have been staying home more yet looking for a little indulgence. Volpi Small Bites led to an incremental increase in deli dollars of $319,000 during the product’s launch period, according to the company. Meanwhile, the items have been ideal for cross-merchandising initiatives across departments like dairy, center store and liquor.

Way to Go! Chocolate Bars

$2.49 per 6.3-ounce bar; www.lidl.com Lidl has created what it’s calling the first and only private label chocolate bar in the United States that contributes directly to a living income for cocoa farmers. The Way to Go! Bar uses 100% traceable and sustainable Fairtrade cocoa from farmers in Ghana. It launched in December via a joint press release by Lidl and Fairtrade International, and was featured in Lidl’s leaflet and via a landing page on the deep-discount food retailer’s website. The line now features Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Milk Chocolate with Caramelised Almonds and Sea Salt, and Dark Chocolate Pecan Coconut. Lidl says that it plans to continue adding private label chocolate bars to its assortment.

$5.99 per package of 10 0.36-ounce pods; https://wideawakecoffee.com Consumer response to Topco’s Wide Awake Seasonal EcoPods has been “astounding,” according to the company. With flavors like Limited Edition Peppermint Stick, Cinnamon and Maple Cream, it’s no wonder that shoppers are excited about these seasonal surprises in an otherwise conventional coffee aisle. Topco members promoted the product launch last fall using seasonal fliers and in-store advertisements to encourage trial. The company also promoted the items through its own marketing tools and online presence tied to the Wide Awake Coffee brand. Topco is now working on promoting its seasonal offerings for the fourth quarter of 2021.

Wild Planet Ready-to Eat Tuna Bowls

$4.99 per 5.6-ounce bowl; www.wildplanetfoods.com It’s not a wild idea: Wild Planet recognized an opportunity in center store to create convenient, shelf-stable Ready-to-Eat Tuna Bowls that can serve as a snack or light meal. The salads contain only responsibly sourced skipjack tuna with organic, non-GMO vegetables, pasta and legumes. Packaged in fully recyclable bowls, each 5.6-ounce salad features 17 grams of protein and an average of 89 milligrams of EPA and DHA omega-3s. Wild Planet kicked off the launch earlier this year with a dedicated push on its social media channels and information on its website. Retail sell-in followed and continues to be supported by a comprehensive marketing campaign. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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COVER STORY

Whole Foods Market

‘WE WE’’RE STILL WHOLE FOODS’’ FOODS

EVP/Operations Rob Twyman shares the grocer’s mission-driven strategy for growth. By Gina Acosta

he story of where Whole Foods Market is headed begins where it all started: a mission to create a healthier world by selling healthier foods. “We are a mission-based company,” says Rob Twyman, EVP/ operations at Whole Foods. “We are doing it because we believe in it. We are doing it because it is the right thing to do, and we want to effectively change the world and nourish people and planet. That is a lofty goal, but it is a real goal, it is a heartfelt goal, and it is something we are still very committed to.” That mission has only grown stronger since Amazon shocked the grocery industry in 2017 by buying Whole Foods for $13.6 billion. Since then, the natural foods retailer co-founded 41 years ago by CEO John Mackey in Austin, Texas, has implemented a slew of changes, some big, some small and none of them all that shocking for an Amazon-owned company: price cuts, e-commerce enhancements and operational restructuring. Through it all, however, Whole Foods has never wavered from its core mission, according to Twyman. “Amazon still is who they are, and we’re still who we are,” he says, “and yet we’re learning from each other and growing from each other. With delivery, I think that’s a great example of where we’ve leveraged the two businesses together. They’ve helped us understand through data the different aspects of our business, and we continue to bring philosophy around food in particular that I think is important as they continue to get into the food business.” More on delivery changes and Amazon’s grocery aspirations later. For now, Twyman notes that Whole Foods’ path to growth is not just paved with the highest quality standards in the food retail industry. The grocer, which last year had annual sales of more than $16 billion, also aims to win by focusing on hyper-local store design and merchandising, doubling down on its bottom-up leadership style, and expanding its more-than-500-store U.S. footprint by at least 40 locations. The timing of those openings hasn’t been disclosed, but the pace of recent openings shows Whole Foods is capable of moving quickly. Five new stores have opened so far this year, on top of 16 locations in 2020, one of which was the second location of a smaller format called Ideal Market.

Sticking to High Standards Whole Foods Market EVP/ Operations Rob Twyman, who has worked for the grocer for more than 25 years, is especially proud of the grocer's Culture Champions program.

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When Amazon bought Whole Foods, there was a lot of speculation about what the “Amazonification” of a natural food grocer with a list of banned ingredients and animal welfare practices would look like. The result has been “sort of like a marriage bringing two people together,” Twyman says. “While they create a


COVER STORY

Whole Foods Market new union, they still retain a sense of individuality. Amazon has done a great job of allowing us to do that.” To prove just how much Whole Foods is still Whole Foods, the company accelerated the evolution of its quality standards this year when it launched the Sourced for Good seal, an exclusive third-party certification program that supports responsible sourcing. The Sourced for Good seal is also designed to help shoppers easily identify products that meet the high sourcing standards required by the program. “Transparency is really important,” Twyman emphasizes, “and it’s not just about the animal or the product, it’s also about the people. The need to ensure that people are treated well and they’re making a living wage is important insofar as how we view the food that we eat. With Sourced for Good, worker welfare is a key component to that. Our goal is to expand that program to other areas and other categories.” Whole Foods cites a recent study conducted by The Harris Poll among more than 3,000 U.S. adults, which found that 75% of Americans say when grocery shopping, it’s important to them that products are responsibly sourced, while 65% of U.S. shoppers are confused about how to determine whether a product is responsibly sourced. The retailer’s desire to leverage these sustainability-related consumer trends can be seen not just on labels, but also in its push to operate hyper-local stores with locally focused assortments.

Hyper-Local Advantage

Whole Foods opens stores of varying sizes and selling spaces — a location could be 20,000 square feet or 70,000 square feet, Twyman points out — and that’s all by design: Despite

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Whole Foods' Sourced for Good seal is an exclusive third-party certification program that supports responsible sourcing. The seal is also designed to help shoppers easily identify responsibly sourced items.

being owned by Amazon, which operates other food retail banners such as Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods isn’t trying to be anything other than Whole Foods, he notes. “Our stores are different sizes; they’re different formats or layouts,” he says. “There’s some markets that maybe demographically are less core customer and maybe have a higher proportion of other shoppers that aren’t the core natural food shopper, whereas in other parts of the country, you may have a very, very solid core customer, Whole Foods opens stores of varying sizes and selling spaces — a location could be 20,000 square feet or 70,000 square feet —depending on the market. Stores are designed individually to be consistent with the personality of each community.


After more than 100 years in produce, we’re still growing strong. At Bolthouse Farms, we’re not just in the carrot business — we’re in the passion and innovation business. It’s what made us your go-to partner in the produce department for fresh, high-quality carrots, cutting edge carrot-based meal solutions, super-premium juices, smoothies, beverages and dressings for over a century. As a privately-owned, Bakersfield, California-based company — and leader in the produce space — we look forward to helping keep your consumers happy and healthy for the next 100 years and beyond.

visit us at bolthouse.com


COVER STORY

Whole Foods Market

“We are a mission-based company. We are doing it because we believe in it. We are doing it because it is the right thing to do, and we want to effectively change the world and nourish people and planet. That is a lofty goal, but it is a real goal, it is a heartfelt goal, and it is something we are still very committed to.”

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—Rob Twyman, EVP/Operations, Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods prominently calls out its quality standards in-store. The company has banned hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup, and more than 150 flavors, colors, preservatives and other ingredients.

somebody who’s really looking for organic or local. And the great thing is, we have the ability to flex within our stores and be able to do that.” According to Twyman, Whole Foods stores are designed individually to be consistent with the personality of each community. “There’s certainly core elements that we incorporate into all our stores, but there’s always unique elements,” he observes. “In particular, the product assortment, heavy emphasis on local products, products from the local area in the community. That’s always a heavy focus for us.” When it comes to merchandising, the retailer strives to find the right balance of national brands,

local brands and private-brand products, which the company has been expanding into new categories. “Our 365 private label program is an area where we are continuing to innovate with new offerings and exclusive brands,” Twyman says. “We have delved into our consumer research, evaluated category trends, knowing that a lot more people are looking for plant-based opportunities.” Most assortments place a heavy emphasis on direct-delivery local items, however, which are called out prominently in the store with colorful signage.

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Last year the company promoted Will Betts to VP of local merchandising to elevate the local program at each store; Betts partners with a team of local “foragers” in each region. “The foragers are out there in the field to help to bring those local products,” Twyman explains. “Some of those are just great stories. They may be great stories about sustainability [or] regenerative agriculture, but they bring something to the table that’s differentiated in that way.” Twyman notes that Whole Foods has increased its penetration of local product SKUs by 30% since 2016, adding that the retailer has the unique ability to scale those products to take them from local to global. “Justin’s Nut Butter is a great example of this,” Twyman says. “It was a product that really started with us, and now they’re a global supplier.” The retailer also focuses on local when it comes to its famously expansive prepared food offering. Before the pandemic, Whole Foods had perfected a unique in-store shopping experience with restaurants, bars and other experiential offerings. Twyman insists that the consumer seeking that culinary experience will be back. “Last year, we made an additional investment in culinary, which is prepared foods and bakery,” he recounts. “We brought in Jeff Turnas, who had previously been the president of our 365 banner. Jeff has worked to build a team to support culinary focused on convenience and quality. Our prepared foods use the same ingredients, the same products, on our grocery shelves, so it’s restaurant-quality food with the same food philosophy that we have elsewhere.”

Culture Champions

Earlier this year, the company revealed a restructuring involving changes to its regional and global support teams, including the areas of corporate merchandising and operations, team member services, and technology. The global and regional merchandising teams were merged into a single team, and the team member services group was realigned for greater support in key areas such as recruiting and training. In December, the company broke ground on a new five-story office building just east of its corporate headquarters in downtown Austin. Twyman, who has worked for Whole

Whole Foods Market Store Count by State Almost half of Whole Foods stores are located in five states, although the company has a near-nationwide presence. Number State of Stores California 92 Texas 36 Florida 32 Massachusetts 32 Illinois 28 New York 26 Colorado 22 New Jersey 22 North Carolina 16 Pennsylvania 15 Virginia 15 Georgia 12 Ohio 12 Washington 11 Arizona 10 Connecticut 10 Maryland 10 Oregon 10 Tennessee 8 Louisiana 7 Michigan 7 Minnesota 7 Washington, D.C. 6 Indiana 5 Nevada 5 South Carolina 5 Alabama 4 Hawaii 4 Missouri 4 New Hampshire 4 Utah 4 Kansas 3 New Mexico 3 Oklahoma 3 Rhode Island 3 Wisconsin 3 Arkansas 2 Kentucky 2 Nebraska 2 Idaho 1 Iowa 1 Maine 1 Mississippi 1 Wyoming 1 Total 507 Source: Whole Foods Market

Foods for more than 25 years, says that the company, which has more than 500,000 employees, attracts and seeks to elevate people who are committed to the grocer’s mission, which embraces transparency beyond food products. Whole Foods raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour back in 2018, and most employees know more or less what everybody else earns. It’s a practice called “wage transparency.” The average pay of professional titles of employees is published on the Whole Foods website. It’s all part of the culture of the company. “One of the things I’m most excited about is our Culture Champion program,” Twyman asserts. “It’s an internal education program designed to engage team members, to ensure that our culture isn’t just maintained as we grow, but that it’s alive, that it’s vibrant, that it’s evolving as we grow.” According to Twyman, the program also offers employees a chance to understand the history of the company and the evolution of natural and organic foods. “We have an empowering culture,” he says. “We’re not typically top-down driven. We’re really focused on bottom-up power so that team members at the store level are empowered to make decisions and be a part of the growth of the business. We have over 12,000 Culture Champions now. We just launched the program in 2018, so that is a tremendous amount of folks who have gone through it.” The company also offers a certified cheese professional program in partnership with the American Cheese Society, a cicerone program (for beer) and a sommelier program. In addition, each of the company’s 12 regions has a meat program in which employees are learning to cut meat — something that other grocery retailers are eliminating. “It’s becoming a lost trade in the industry, so we are continuing to create and train new butchers,” Twyman notes. He says that when he asks employees, “What do you think about Whole Foods and what’s your experience been?” they talk about the culture and how it stems from a higher purpose. “In terms of folks who have been with the company for a long time, it’s a compelling reason to stay with the company,” Twyman says. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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COVER STORY

Whole Foods Market

Above, shoppers can find Sourced for Good products in the seafood department. At left, the bakery features organic breads, sweets and even pre-made frozen items that customers can take home and bake themselves, such as scones, cookies and pies.

Life After Amazon

Before the Amazon acquisition, Whole Foods had been reporting sales declines as more traditional food retailers entered the natural food space. Since joining the Amazon grocery ecosystem, shopper traffic and sales metrics have been harder to estimate, since the e-comm giant doesn’t provide detailed data for Whole Foods. Yet the brand is reportedly benefiting from the reopening of the economy this year. According to PacerAI, traffic to Whole Foods stores improved in May and June com62

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pared with the 2019 equivalent periods. In a July second-quarter earnings report, Amazon reported that its physical stores, which include Whole Foods and its other banners, increased sales by 10%. Amazon seems to have reinvigorated not just shopper traffic at Whole Foods, but also its e-commerce operations, especially during the pandemic, when online orders have skyrocketed, and having the opportunity to try new things and fail, while smaller competitors can’t, has been key. To wit, Whole Foods has been testing delivery-only dark stores — at least six so far — as it plays around with micro-fulfillment options. The company is also now testing a $9.95 delivery fee for Prime delivery orders in several U.S. cities. “The goal is to cover the operating cost,” Twyman says. “Delivery costs money, due to the equipment, technology, other costs. It’s something that is not sustainable; it’s an additional cost to a grocery order, and so we opted to pass that on. But we didn’t want to peanut butter it and just raise prices; we didn’t feel like that was the appropriate thing to do.”


Hyper-Local in Florida By Gina Acosta

Whole Foods has been adding self-checkout to most stores, including this one in midtown Tampa. The company didn't say whether the chain plans to experiment with the cashierless checkout tech found at Amazon Fresh stores.

Whole Foods shoppers, whether they’re Prime members, who in the United States number 150 million and counting, are still welcome to use the retailer’s grocery pickup services at no charge, he says. According to Twyman, Amazon’s technology know-how and data analytics are “like no other, and that’s really helped us.” “Amazon is very specific, and that approach and way of working has really helped us to be better,” he continues. “I think that’s the best of all worlds: When you bring two companies together, you want to be able to leverage what each one does best. I think that delivery, our ability to do delivery, especially during the pandemic, to be able to grow it, to be able to launch pickup in the midst of a pandemic, are examples of where the two organizations and the two cultures really met.” Since 2017, Whole Foods has also launched numerous Prime promotions and discounts, not to mention price cuts, as it tries to get away from its “Whole Paycheck” image. “We are continuing to look for ways to provide better prices for our customers, and certainly not at the expense of quality; we want to continue to provide the same great quality product,” Twyman says. “We work with our suppliers on that; we also work internally on our own ability to manage expenses.” He notes that three major price investments since the Amazon acquisition, including lowering prices across all departments, have resulted in improvements in customers’ perception of the grocer’s pricing. Now for the question that everyone wonders about when drifting off to sleep at night: What does Amazon plan to do with its Amazon Fresh grocery banner (16 locations so far), and how might that affect Whole Foods? “There’s room for everybody to play, and I think they’re offering something a little bit different than what Whole Foods offers, and we offer something different from them,” Twyman replies. “In the long term, we’ll learn from each other, too.”

From the minute a shopper walks into the new 48,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market store at the intersection of Dale Mabry Highway and Midtown Drive in Tampa, Fla., which opened in July, the company’s 41-year-old core values of nourishing people and planet are on full display — literally, in signs right above the cheese case: “Our core values are: We sell the highest-quality natural and organic food. We satisfy and delight our customers. We care about our communities and the environment. We promote team member growth and happiness. We practice win-win supplier partnerships. We create profits and prosperity.” At the front end, no Amazon Dash Carts or Just Walk Out cashierless technology can be found. In fact, there are few signs of Amazon’s ownership at the Midtown Tampa Whole Foods, save for a few promotional cards indicating sale prices for Amazon Prime members. This new format is all about showcasing the next evolution of the natural food retailing standards that CEO John Mackey put in place when he co-founded Whole Foods in 1980. Shoppers browsing the rest of the store will see other signs consistent with Whole Foods’ messaging: “Our purpose is to nourish.” “How animals are raised matters.” “Seafood standards like nowhere else.” Signs also abound directing shoppers to locally sourced options in every category, from fresh seafood to nuts to cookies in the bakery. Other innovative features of the store include: A full-service seafood counter with a focus on locally sourced options Prepared foods with a local-focused selection of hot and cold food bars A cheese department overseen by an in-store American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional and featuring locally made cheeses A center store with locally made toffee and chocolate An expansive Wellness and Beauty section with local products in the body care, supplement and home categories A floral department offering locally grown orchids PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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FEATURE

2021 Impact Awards

Industry Exceptionalism The stellar efforts of 25 companies changing lives and impacting communities lead to recognition as inaugural Impact Award winners. By Mike Troy usinesses can be a force for good, and serving others is the foundation on which the food and consumables industry was built. This reality is reflected in the way that grocers, suppliers and service providers positively affect society through environmental, social and governance (ESG) actions. These actions tend to be profound and wide-ranging, but often aren’t fully appreciated. This was especially evident throughout the pandemic as company after company rose to the challenge of taking care of their communities, employees and customers through innovative approaches, the expansion of existing efforts, and the generous donation of time and resources. Progressive Grocer sought to address this recognition gap with the creation of a first-of-its-kind Impact Award program designed to honor industry exceptionalism. The goal was to discover and then showcase the positive impact that companies large and small are having through ESG efforts. In addition, by highlighting and

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amplifying the accomplishments of those leading in ESG, others in the industry could be inspired to adopt similar approaches tailored to their unique businesses. We branded this approach “honoring exceptionalism” and requested submissions in the following areas: Sustainability/Resource Conservation Diversity and Inclusion Ethical Sourcing/Supply Chain Transparency Workforce Development/Employee Support Community Service/Local Impact Educational Support/Learning Advancement Food Security/Nutritional Leadership Philanthropic Innovation/Corporate Giving Entrepreneurial Support/Free-Enterprise Enablement The call for entries began this past spring, and the reaction from the industry was outstanding. Stories flowed in during the summer of selfless acts of giving and unique approaches to address complex challenges, highlighting how special and integral the grocery industry is to society.


Community Service/Local Impact BriarPatch Food Co-op

The Patchworks program, developed by the BriarPatch Food Co-Op, in Grass Valley, Calif., is an innovative approach to rewarding volunteers for their increased commitment of time. The food co-op launched the program in January 2020, just prior to the pandemic, to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with other nonprofits and owner-volunteers. The timing was impeccable, as COVID-19 increased demand for services offered by BriarPatch and its 10 launch partners. Co-op owners who participate in Patchworks receive 15% off a single shopping

Brookshire Grocery Co.

Through countless actions in support of communities throughout Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, the Brookshire Grocery Co. (BGC) exemplifies what’s good about the grocery industry. The company was founded by Wood T. Brookshire in 1928 to serve humanity, and that’s what the company did throughout the

Hy-Vee Inc.

The exemplary actions of Hy-Vee throughout the pandemic illustrate what a high level of community support looks like. The 280-store chain became synonymous with the word “first,” as its actions were often replicated by others. Hy-Vee was among the first retailers to offer COVID-19 testing, providing an outdoor drive-thru testing process and rapid testing. The company’s leadership was recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and it was asked to be an early vaccine provider. Community support in Hy-Vee’s eight-state footprint took other forms as well, including a Register Roundup event that

trip if they work six hours a month, or two shopping trips if they work 12 hours. In 2020, the 181 volunteers worked 2,596 hours, and as of midJune, BriarPatch was on track to surpass that figure, with more than 1,700 volunteer hours worked at 15 participating nonprofits. “Witnessing so many BriarPatch owners come forward to ensure these nonprofits are rich in the resources needed to accomplish their important work is incredibly inspiring,” says Jason Patton, BriarPatch’s community engagement coordinator.

pandemic, with its commitment to volunteerism, philanthropic giving, and support of causes that promote hunger relief, education, family health and well-being, active-duty military, veterans, and first responders in communities that support its 185 stores. BGC committed $1 million to community food banks and matched an additional $100,000 in customer donations. An annual food drive provided one week of meals to approximately 18,000 households, and a partnership with Hormel Foods provided $100,000 in protein donations to community food banks. BGC increased staffing and expedited the rollout of curbside service to better serve customers, particularly those with vulnerabilities; expanded its senior discount; and created a daily discount for critical and emergency service providers. The company also introduced its Community Kitchen food trailer to provide meals for hospital workers and first responders, as well as for residents affected by hurricanes. BGC’s commitment to its communities throughout the pandemic earned Chairman and CEO Brad Brookshire a seat on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s task force focused on helping businesses reopen safely.

raised more than $1 million in food and supplies for local food banks, and 115 drive-up contactless produce and meal giveaways that resulted in nearly 1 million pounds of fresh produce donated. A week-long Stuff a Truck campaign sent 18 trucks filled with $800,000 worth of food and supplies to 10 nonprofits and food banks in the Twin Cities. To further show community support, Hy-Vee created a Hometown Heroes campaign, asking local heroes and essential workers to submit photos of themselves for inclusion in a series of videos that were shared on social platforms to publicly demonstrate its appreciation. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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FEATURE

2021 Impact Awards

Community Service/Local Impact Pompeian

Pompeian partners with local nonprofits on The Olive Branch to amplify its efforts, and more recently sponsored an initiative called Taste Wise Kids (TWK). This unique program helps educate more than 1,000 students each year about healthy eating. The company’s impact has also extended to the main waterway through which its olive oil is imported: Pompeian partnered with Healthy Harbor to adopt two of the organization’s four trash wheels, which have removed 250 tons of waste from the Baltimore harbor.

Publix Super Markets

18 million pounds of produce and 500,000-plus gallons of milk, but the company’s spirit of service didn’t stop there. A new six-week program was added to the Farmers & Families program to support six of Florida’s largest food banks with donations of pasta, canned vegetables, canned beans, cereal and boxed potatoes. This program provided nearly 1.3 million pounds of additional food. “For decades, Publix has consistently looked for creative ways to support those in need,” says Paco Velez, president and CEO of Feeding South Florida. “Their leadership in 2020 has played a vital role in sustaining our clients throughout the most challenging and unusual year,”

There are many ways that brands can have community impact, and Pompeian showed its creativity with a program called The Olive Branch, which launched in 2015 in the company’s hometown of Baltimore. In keeping with its mission of helping people eat and live well, The Olive Branch is about empowering Baltimore’s youth and offering local schools and children’s organizations the opportunity to visit the company’s headquarters, bottling facility and lab to be immersed in the world of olive oil and healthy eating.

Leveraging its position as the Southeast’s leading grocer, Publix launched an innovative program in April 2020 called Farmers & Families. Publix quickly recognized at the onset of the pandemic that supply chain disruptions were leaving some farmers without a market for their products, while at the same time economic disruptions were causing increased food insecurity. Publix filled the void by purchasing fruits, vegetables and milk from sources throughout the Southeast, which were then donated to Feeding America member food banks in the seven states where Publix operates. By year end, Publix had purchased and delivered more than

Diversity and Inclusion Afia

Syrian refugee Farrah Moussallati Sibai founded Afia in Austin, Texas, in 2017 with a commitment to diversity and inclusion. The idea for the Mediterranean food company came to Sibai while she was volunteering with a refugee organization and beginning a new life in Austin. Using her mother-in-law’s old-world Syrian recipes, Sibai created Afia’s signature frozen falafel and kibbeh, began selling the products at an Austin farmers’ market in 2017, and by 2019 had become one of H-E-B’s Supplier Diversity Supplier of the Year award recipients and a Chobani Incubator brand.

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With Afia now available at 800 locations nationwide and expected to double that number in 2021, Sibai, president of Afia, and her co-founder, CEO Yassin Sibai, have made diversity and inclusion core to their hiring practices. The company has majority-women ownership and minority leadership in the executive positions, and 75% of the company’s growing staff are people of color. In addition, from its infancy, Afia has sought to support the refugee community in central Texas through employment, mentoring and hunger relief.


Southeastern Grocers Inc.

Southeastern Grocers (SEG) took diversity, equity and inclusion to a new level this year, when the grocer launched several new initiatives to build on its legacy of action. In 2020, The Romay Davis Belonging, Inclusion and Diversity Grant Program was founded to provide funds for nonprofits committed to making communities stronger by leveling the playing field for those that face racial disparities in education, health care and food insecurity. The program is named after Romay Davis, an inspirational African-American woman and 20-year veteran of the company who continues to work part-time at Winn-Dixie at the age of 101. Grant applications were accepted and reviewed by the SEG Belonging, Inclusion and Diversity Committee, a group of nine associates and leaders from diverse backgrounds. Last October, nine nonprofits were awarded grant funds totaling $100,000 to provide inspiration and opportunities for others in the community to break barriers and push for equity. In addition, SEG’s seven associate resource groups organize and lead celebrations aligned with events such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Juneteenth, Hispanic Heritage Month, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Veterans Day. These efforts have paid off, with SEG receiving a perfect diversity and inclusion rating from Glassdoor, in addition to being certified as a Great Place to Work in September 2020.

Shipt

Information Resources Inc.

As a Big Data and analytics innovator, Information Resources Inc. (IRI), recognized that it was uniquely positioned to make a difference in combating social injustice and generating economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities. That’s why a group of IRI volunteers created the Diversity Advantage Program (DAP) to support minority- and women-owned CPG companies that are looking to take the next step to growth. IRI works with accredited minority- or women-owned consumer goods companies with $1 million to $25 million in annual sales, and provides free access to data, tools and expertise. The program is a great way to level the retail playing field, because IRI is training DAPers in skills that include understanding measurement and data sets and leveraging its visualization platform to turn data into insights. Doing so helps establish a basic foundation in category management that facilitates collaboration with retailers. Brands that have partnered with IRI provide DAPers with coaching to prepare for retailer meetings. Even with the program still in its trial phase, IRI has already confirmed the participation of nine retailers in DAP, including Ahold Delhaize, Amazon, Kroger and Target, and is on track to having 50 DAPers in the program.

is using point of sale fundraising to engage and retain customers, and to save lives.

You can too!

A diverse, engaged and purpose-driven team is the key to driving innovation at Shipt. That philosophy is woven into Shipt’s purpose and embraced at all levels of the organization, as evidenced by recent initiatives. The company partnered with the Pivot Technology School to cover tuition for 30 students, including internal candidates, with priority given to those in groups underrepresented in the technology world. All of the chosen students participate in a 20-week tech boot camp. Upon completion, 30 jobs at Shipt will be available for graduates. In addition, throughout the past year, Shipt established four employee resource groups (Black, LGBTQ+, Asian American & Pacific Islander, and Women) to provide employees and allies with an environment where they can be their authentic selves. More than half of Shipt’s 1,200 employees participate in the groups, which take the lead on cultural heritage month celebrations and company culture with respect to their group. Over the past five months, Shipt employees have given their time and money to effect change, contributing more than $74,000 toward diversity, equity and inclusion causes and volunteering nearly 700 hours toward recent service initiatives. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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FEATURE

2021 Impact Awards

Educational Support/Learning Advancement Hormel Foods

lege students, each is assigned a mentor to provide support. The program has been successful in other ways, too. Hormel notes that other large global corporations, including direct competitors, have inquired about establishing programs similar to Inspired Pathways. “We believe equality in education can be a game-changer, and we have decided to take on that challenge,” says Hormel Foods CEO Jim Snee. “When you think about how a college education can change lives and start a ripple effect that will be felt for generations, that’s the change-maker Hormel Foods wants to be.”

Hy-Vee Inc.

with a program that teaches kids how to exercise properly and eat a balanced diet. The program has been phenomenally successful, with participation from more than 400,000 kids since inception. It helps that Hy-Vee has gamified the program with a dedicated KidsFit app and the ability to create an avatar that can go on a virtual journey across the world, participate in educational games or view exercise videos. More recently, Hy-Vee has found even more ways to increase KidsFit engagement by offering a wellness guide for schools, fun challenges, and a “summer of fun” box filled with dietitian-approved snacks and related nutrition education products.

Rosauers Supermarkets

certificate since the program’s inception in 2019. A fourth avenue helps employees in their current positions through internal training videos and course materials for several departments, while working toward the goal of department-specific training for all. Nearly 800 employees have participated in this training. A fifth avenue was created for department managers, which includes eight hours total of coursework on topics such as basic market math, understanding budgets, regulatory authorities, inventory, leadership, human resources, and department-specific policies, procedures, and measures of efficiency.

In August 2020, during the height of the pandemic and amid great social unrest, Hormel Foods sought to take action that would be monumental and inspirational while also having a lasting impact. The result of that thinking was the creation of the first-of-its-kind Inspired Pathways program, which provides a free college education to the children of Hormel Foods employees. Launched earlier this year, the program has exceeded expectations, with more than 200 students beginning classes this fall for the 2021-22 academic year. To bolster the chances of success for program participants, many of whom are first-generation col-

Nutritional education can be lacking in public schools, but that’s not an issue for kids in Hy-Vee’s eight-state trading area. The grocer launched a program called KidsFit in 2015 as part of its mission to make lives easier, healthier and happier. KidsFit promotes health, exercise and nutrition by providing a free online personal trainer and nutritional programming for children, teens and families, with the goal of encouraging kids to eat well and stay physically active. Hy-Vee’s certified personal trainer, Daira Driftmier, and Hy-Vee dietitian Stacy Mitchell teamed up to provide customers

A commitment to helping employees succeed in their personal education goals is part of Rosauers Supermarkets’ credo. The Spokane Wash.-based chain, which operates 22 stores, brings its education commitment to life through five avenues of engagement. Two of the avenues involve scholarship programs at Gonzaga University and Washington State University. A third avenue is a custom-created Retail Management Certificate (RMC) Program Scholarship that covers up to eight quarters of business classes. Twelve Rosauers employees have earned an RMC

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Entrepreneurial Support/ Free-Enterprise Enablement Farmer Focus

Changing chicken farming for good is the mission of Farmer Focus, a company bringing fair trade to domestic chicken farming and transparency to shoppers. The Farmer Focus brand of chicken was born of sixth-generation chicken farmer Corwin Heatwole’s desire to promote and protect family farmers. The company that he started began with 300 birds and has grown to now support more than 60 family farms that meet Farmer Focus standards to produce 100% organic flocks of free-range chickens marketed under the Farmer Focus brand and sold at retailers such as Kroger and Publix.

masonways.com

A unique operating model means that farmers own their own birds and feed, and are paid a set rate per pound rather than competing for payment through a bidding process. The supportive model has resonated with farmers throughout the Virginias, helping to make Farmer Focus the largest exclusively organic chicken processor in the United States. According to the company, it has a waiting list of 100 farmers ready to participate in the network, and whose participation will be visible to shoppers, as each package contains a Farmer Focus Farm ID, which allows the product to be traced back to the farm on which it was raised.

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FEATURE

2021 Impact Awards

Entrepreneurial Support/ Free-Enterprise Enablement The Giant Co.

The Giant Co. lived up to its name by having a huge impact on small businesses throughout the pandemic. As small businesses in Pennsylvania’s food supply chain were being negatively affected during the pandemic, Giant summoned its purpose of “connecting families for a better future” and launched the Small Business Emergency Grant Program. The initial goal was to award $250,000 to 20 companies; however, an overwhelming response quickly saw funding doubled to $500,000 to help 110 recipients. Among those benefiting were family farms, local food artisans, and manufacturers.

To quickly develop the program, review submissions and allocate funds, Giant worked with Team Pennsylvania, a nonprofit that connects private- and public-sector leaders to achieve and sustain progress for the commonwealth. Action was swift, with only about 45 days passing from the time that applications were submitted until funds were disbursed, with grants ranging from $2,500 to $15,000. A survey of grant recipients revealed unanimous agreement that the funds helped their businesses stay operational through the pandemic. The program was a success in another way, as it now serves as a model for Giant’s more recent initiatives focused on child care and sustainability.

Sustainability/Resource Conservation Apeel/Robinson Fresh

nies. As a result of their collaboration, Apeel’s technology has increased operational flexibility for Robinson Fresh to optimize logistical efficiencies and reduce transportation impacts. One example of success involves preventing an estimated 1.6 million limes from going to waste, in the process avoiding 110 million metric tons of greenhouse gases and conserving 25 million gallons of water. Robinson Fresh and Apeel are looking for ways to expand their impact and support retailers’ and consumers’ efforts to reduce food waste.

The Giant Co./Flashfood

this fall it will be available in all 184 Giant and Martin’s stores. The expansion will have a huge impact on reducing food waste, considering that the pilot program alone diverted more than 250,000 pounds of food from landfills.

Making fresh food last longer to reduce food waste is the vision behind the partnership of Apeel and Robinson Fresh. The companies began collaborating in 2020 on an initiative featuring Apeel’s plant-based coating to dramatically extend the lifespan of produce. The Apeel coating provides an extra layer of protection to seal in moisture and keep oxygen out, resulting in few products being thrown out. Apeel is a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, and Robinson Fresh is one of the world’s largest produce compa-

Efforts underway at The Giant Co. to reduce food waste took an interesting turn in 2020. The company’s initiatives were already yielding impressive results, including the Meat the Needs program, which saw more than 5 million pounds of safe, consumable meat frozen and donated to food banks last year — more than 15 million pounds since the program began in 2009. However, to have an even bigger impact, Giant in May 2020 began a four-store pilot with Flashfood, an app-based marketplace that connects consumers with discounted food nearing its best-by date. Shoppers browse deals on fresh items like meat, produce, bakery and snacks that are nearing their best-by dates to make in-app purchases that are picked up the same day from a Flashfood zone located in stores. The program worked so well at reducing waste and increasing access that it was expanded to 33 stores last year, and by

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The Kroger Co.

There’s more to being America’s largest natural and organic brand than offering great products. Kroger took a 360-degree view of its Simple Truth brand and in July 2020 launched the Simple Truth Recycling Program, offering customers a free and easy way to recycle the flexible packaging of more than 300 products. In partnership with TerraCycle, the platform enabled customers to recycle a wide range of flexible packaging not currently accepted in curbside recycling programs, including produce bags, potato chip and snack bags, and plastic overwrap. The packaging materials are collected by consumers in special containers and shipped to TerraCycle recycling locations. The program was so effective — and so aligned with Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social impact plan — that it was expanded earlier this year. In April 2021, Kroger became the first retailer in the world to offer an Our Brands Recycling Program, supported by TerraCycle and enabling customers to recycle nearly 2,500 products from Kroger’s private label portfolio. The program is off to a fantastic start,

Milo’s Tea Co.

A commitment to conservation and sustainability is part of the culture that permeates 75-year-old Milo’s Tea Co. Internally, Milo’s has teams of employees dedicated to specific initiatives, including zero waste, energy efficiency and packaging reduction, and the company’s zero-waste initiatives are a critical part of the onboarding process for new employees. The commitment to sustainability is evident everywhere at Milo’s. In 2020, its plant in Bessemer, Ala., achieved T.R.U.E (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) GBCI Platinum Certification. More than 98% of all waste generated at

United Natural Foods Inc.

United Natural Foods’ (UNFI) history of leadership on matters of environmental, social and governance issues was taken to a new level in January, when the company launched its Better for All framework

with more than 41,000 packages collected at 5,000 TerraCycle recycling locations, and volumes are expected to build as awareness grows.

the plant is diverted from landfills, and 16,000 gallons of water is reused per day. Milo’s has gone 100% paperless in its payroll process to reduce annual usage of paper by more than 60%. Corrugated shipping boxes have been re-engineered to reduce corrugate and glue usage. A wastewater system eliminates harmful contaminants and restores natural pH levels. Those are just a few of the company’s current and planned initiatives. Milo’s has partnered with the EPA’s WasteWise program and Walmart’s Gigaton sustainability efforts to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions and set metrics to ensure continued progress.

to focus on six priorities: climate action, waste reduction, food safety, food access, associate safety and wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion. To ensure progress in each of these areas, UNFI established new stretch goals, including 20% of electricity from renewable sources by 2023, a 50% reduction in food waste by 2025, and by 2030, zero waste to landfills from distribution centers, the reduction of distribution center energy intensity by 30%, the donation of 250 million pounds of food, and 200,000 associate volunteer hours logged. By year end, plans call for the launch of the UNFI Climate Action Hub in partnership with The Climate Collaborative, to spur climate action among brands and retailers alike. UNFI will provide tools, resources, education and thought leadership to help the industry deliver meaningful greenhouse-gas emissions reduction. One way the company is doing that is through electrification of its supply chain. UNFI recently added 53 solar-powered, all-electric refrigerated trailers to its fleet in California and plans to add 1 square mile of solar capacity in North Carolina. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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2021 Impact Awards

Ethical Sourcing/ Supply Chain Transparency The Kroger Co.

the Dominican Republic. Kroger’s Simple Truth brand has more Fair Trade Certified products — more than 108 items — than any other U.S. private label brand. In 2020, nearly 59 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified ingredients were purchased, an almost 100% increase from 2019, boosting premiums sent to workers by 44%. As Kroger associate and customer interest in Fair Trade products grows, Kroger is expanding certification to its Private Selection brand, with all Private Selection coffee that’s sourced internationally to be Fair Trade Certified by the second quarter of 2022.

Tony’s Chocolonely

beans from seven co-ops across Ghana and Ivory Coast, and by signing five-year contracts, the co-ops receive an additional premium on top of the fair-trade premium for cocoa beans. In the last growing season, Tony’s paid more than $4.3 million in premiums to 8,457 cocoa farmers who harvested 6,711 metric tons of beans. Enabling that level of supply chain transparency is a tool called the Beantracker, which leverages blockchain technology. The Beantracker digitally logs where the beans are at all points in the supply chain, starting with individual farmer deliveries that are tracked via GPS.

Responsible sourcing is a key element of Kroger’s comprehensive Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative, and having a massive private-brand portfolio enables the company to achieve a significant impact. Kroger partners with Fair Trade USA, a program that supports income sustainability, environmental stewardship, empowerment and the well-being of every participating farming community. Since the inception of the Simple Truth brand in late 2012, Kroger has purchased Fair Trade Certified ingredients, and the company’s global supply partnerships have positively affected the lives of farmers in countries like the Philippines, Colombia and

By developing technology and investing in novel infrastructure, Tony’s Chocolonely is demonstrating that transparency in the cocoa supply chain is achievable, scalable and profitable. The company’s mission to create a cocoa supply chain free of modern slavery and child labor is achieved by innovative sourcing measures and appeals to consumers eager to influence the chocolate industry through their purchase behavior. Tony’s U.S. revenues doubled last year, and the company now has a 5.1% market share in the natural supermarket category. Tony’s sources cocoa

Workforce Development/ Employee Support Hy-Vee Inc.

Hy-Vee has lived up to its mission to “be the best place to work and shop in America,” and then some. The operator of 280 stores, intent on creating a fun, inclusive and supportive work environment, paid more than $167.2 million in bonuses and other benefits to employees last year. It also provided a 10% discount on purchases, boosted pay for those who worked on holidays, paid appreciation bonuses totaling $28.3 million, and enhanced its 401(k) program by matching 50% of every dollar contributed, up to 7% of pay. Hy-Vee paid nearly $30 million in matching contributions last year, and also provided tuition assistance of up to $10,500 to eligible employees to

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attend Bellevue University. The past year was special for Hy-Vee because the company observed its 90th anniversary by awarding more than $1 million in prizes and bonuses of $68.7 million to full-time employees. Other benefits that Hy-Vee introduced in 2020 included free employee membership in Care.com, access to PerkSpot for discounts, paid parental leave, and adoption and fertility reimbursement. Hy-Vee also deployed a mobile communications platform, Retail Zipline, across the company to facilitate communications directly with front-line employees, including weekly update videos from CEO Randy Edeker.


Stemilt Growers LLC

Leading produce company Stemilt took its commitment to workforce development to new heights with an increased focus on helping employees achieve Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) certification. To become EFI-certified, leadership teams at Stemilt’s orchards and packing facilities are trained on more than 300 rigorous standards regarding labor practices, food safety and pest management. The standards also emphasize collaboration, respect and creating a culture of food safety. Three Stemilt employees, Marcela Covarrubias, Rosa Madrigal and Melissa

Gonzalez, took the lead on the initiative, completing 40 hours of training to achieve internal training certification to provide EFI-related training throughout the Stemilt organization. Stemilt views EFI certification as a proactive step forward to continue building its company culture to reflect its vision, mission, values and goals, with certified EFI trainers responsible for understanding EFI standards, along with identifying problems that could affect compliance. An aggressive rollout of EFI training continued throughout 2021, with all orchards and operations recently certified.

Food Security/Nutritional Leadership Farmbox Direct

Access to healthier food equals a healthier diet, which is why Farmbox Direct established its unique approach to providing subscription boxes that deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to homes nationwide. Beginning in April 2020, during the height of the pandemic, the company transitioned from being a premium delivery service to an essential one by safely delivering farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to those who were unable to find products at their local grocer or who simply didn’t want to risk venturing out.

Farmbox grew by 2,200% overnight and was able to meet the demand created by the pandemic, due to stay-at-home orders. Additionally, at the start of 2020, the company entered the health care industry through its FarmboxRx initiative to expand its mission of making healthy foods more accessible. This branch of the company is revolutionizing the future of health care by partnering with Medicare Advantage plans to offer qualifying members a box of fresh fruits and vegetables under their health insurance coverage or member benefit programs.

HelloFresh

In furtherance of its mission to change the way people eat forever, HelloFresh pursues a wide range of initiatives to advance its cause. To increase access to fresh, nutritious food, the company makes bulk donations to organizations near its distribution centers, and in April 2020 it also launched an initiative called Beyond the Box, featuring two major components. One aspect involves strengthening community support by providing meals to those in need through a Meals with Meaning initiative that allows customers to add on or donate a box to the food insecure. Since January 2020, HelloFresh has received more than 70,000 customer contributions through the AddOn and Donate your Box options, and provided more than 6.6 million meals with the Beyond the Box program, via surplus donations and through Meals with Meaning. The company also amplified education and provided nutritional leadership with the @TheTable program, collaborating with the Food Education Fund and the Fund for Public Schools, in New York City. HelloFresh provided free meal kits to culinary students

for hands-on experience. As a majority of the students live in historically underserved communities, the HelloFresh boxes were designed to provide extra meals to both enhance the educational experience and help combat food insecurity at home. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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2021 Impact Awards

Food Security/Nutritional Leadership The Giant Co.

them Mini Chef Mornings, when children ages 6 and younger could enjoy a story and learn to make a nourishing snack. A Junior Chef Creations program engaged those ages 7 to 18 in a seasonal nutrition topic. A Family Meals at 5 class, which started last September, helped families prepare affordable, simple meals. The creativity and innovation of Giant’s nutritionists resulted in a new way to engage consumers in nutrition education for the future. The total monthly attendance grew to nearly 400 a month at the end of 2020 and to nearly 1,600 more recently, well above what the company was able to achieve when classes were held in person.

Hormel Foods

Mower County Senior Center for distribution to the elderly, creating a win-win-win situation. The company’s “SPAMbassadors” also helped the senior center with meal distribution for several months when the company’s SPAM Museum was closed. In total, more than 50,000 meals were provided through the company’s one-of-akind Inspired Meals program. “There was never a discussion about whether we should do it,” says Jim Sheehan, Hormel’s EVP and CFO. “There was never even a discussion where we pulled out the calculator and figured out how much it was going to cost. It was the right thing to do, and we needed to do it.”

Thrive Market

ceries by 2025. In January 2021, Thrive Market onboarded FoodCorps as a partner to provide more than 10,000 families and children with access to healthy food and to fund food education for 6,000-plus kids at two highneed schools. Underscoring Thrive Market’s consumer relevance with its offering of more than 5,000 organic and non-GMO products, the brand surpassed 1 million paid members this year. It also became the largest grocer in the nation to achieve B Corp certification and has been carbon neutral since its launch, with a goal of becoming carbon negative by 2025.

To take the guesswork out of nutrition, The Giant Co. offers the Guiding Stars nutrition navigation rating system. When COVID-19 hit, however, the company needed a new way to support customers’ needs for nutrition support. Giant’s nutritionists got creative and took their traditional cooking and nutrition classes virtual. The live online nutrition classes began via Zoom in May 2020. A complete listing of ingredients needed for each virtual class was available on the event page, and customers could also earn reward points for attending the entire class. Classes included a mix of adult and kid-friendly offerings, among

As the pandemic was devastating the foodservice industry, Hormel took notice in its hometown of Austin, Minn. In addition to donating cash and products to nonprofit organizations around the world, the company implemented a unique Inspired Meals program in Austin that helped local restaurants, a nonprofit organization and seniors. Hormel began purchasing meals to provide its employees at the start of the pandemic, but as most of its office team members began working remotely due to state orders, the company came up with another idea. Hormel began ordering meals from local restaurants each week and donating them to the

Founded in 2014 with a mission to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone, e-grocer Thrive Market saw how the pandemic exacerbated food affordability and access issues. To address the situation, it launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund that to date has raised more than $1 million and helped support 30,000 families while shipping 65 million healthy essential products. Taking things even further, last November Thrive Market launched the Food Equality Fund to increase food access. The fund is expected to reach $10 million in donations of healthy gro-

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FEATURE

2021 Impact Awards

Philanthropic Innovation/ Corporate Giving Bashas’ Family of Stores

recent technology upgrade. Bashas’ generous customers donated more than $2.6 million to nonprofits in 2020, doubling 2019’s contribution. The grocer also remained steadfast in its commitment to Arizona’s nonprofits, with more than 1,400 organizations participating in the Bashas’ Community Support Card program. Through this program, the grocer provides reloadable grocery gift cards to nonprofits, which then distribute the cards to their supporters. When the gift cards are reloaded, 6% of the reloaded amount goes directly back to the card’s linked nonprofit organization. In 2020, Bashas’ gave back more than $72,000 through this program.

FoodStory Brands

philanthropist Khloe Thompson was able to accept her nonprofit’s donation from Fresh Cravings, its broker Empire and Ralph’s executives. Mariano’s, the Kroger banner in the Chicago area, teamed up with Fresh Cravings in its support of Project I Am, a nonprofit founded by teen Jahkil Jackson that supports the local homeless community. These stories are brought to life by Fresh Cravings’ in-house videographer, with the vignettes posted across the brand’s social media channels to amplify each nonprofit’s important message. Stories are further promoted in partnership with Upworthy, a platform dedicated to sharing the best of humanity.

The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co.

pital workers didn’t have time to grocery shop during this unprecedented time, Stop & Shop also began an Essentials for Essentials program that brought the grocery store to the hospitals. At Hartford Hospital, in Hartford, Conn.; Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston; and Mt. Sinai South Nassau, on New York’s Long Island, Stop & Shop donated thousands of bags filled with essential items. The bags were distributed to hospital workers at the end of their shifts to alleviate the burden of shopping after a long workday. Stop & Shop continued to support health care workers through 2021, including the donation of meals to dozens of vaccination mega-sites across its five-state footprint to support those administering the vaccines.

For nearly 90 years, Bashas’ has been an integral part of Arizona. The family-owned and -operated grocery chain of more than 100 stores is one of the state’s largest employers and a community-minded organization. Since its inception, Bashas’ has given back more than $100 million to Arizona communities, and as the pandemic unfolded, the company was keenly aware of the challenges that underserved families, children and vulnerable individuals would face. This extra motivation prompted Bashas’ to double its Charity of the Month program and begin accepting customer donations at the point of sale, thanks to a

To highlight the unsung heroes behind grass-roots efforts in communities across the country, FoodStory Brands developed a campaign called Salsabrate The Good. The family-owned company committed $250,000 to be distributed among 50 nonprofit organizations. The maker of Fresh Cravings salsas and dips took funds out of its marketing budget to support nonprofits nationwide and to advance the company’s credentials as a purpose-driven brand. Fresh Cravings sought out small, impactful organizations for its contributions, and then orchestrated in-person events with grocers meeting organizations face to face. At Kroger banner Ralph’s, teen

Tremendous demands were placed on health care workers during the pandemic, and Stop & Shop recognized that it had an opportunity to make a difference. After hearing from an emergency room doctor’s mother who was making sandwiches for the staff at Boston Medical Center, the grocer decided to leverage its more than 400 stores throughout the Northeast to donate 5,000 fresh meals each day for five months, beginning in March 2020 at major hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic. The donations also included energy and nutrition bars for when health care workers didn’t have time for a meal as they worked around the clock to care for COVID-19 patients. Knowing that hos-

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SOLUTIONS

Bakery Trends

In the Mix FIND OUT WHAT’S TRENDING IN BAKED GOODS AND BAKERY INGREDIENTS. By Lynn Petrak aked goods have had a good run lately. From eponymous sourdough starters during the early days of the pandemic, to the near-rush on baked goods for entertaining over the summer, items from the in-store bakery and the baking aisle have been a regular source of comfort and sustenance. According to the Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA), the perimeter bakery fared better in July than in June, with improvements in breads/rolls and morning bakery. Those categories, plus desserts and sweet snacks, are performing strongly compared with 2020 and 2019, IDDBA’s research found. In the center store, there has been a leveling off of sales of breads/rolls and desserts compared with spikes during the pandemic stock-up and stay-athome weeks in 2020. Still, according to data from market research firm 210 Analytics, center store breads/rolls are up 9.2% compared with the pre-pandemic year of 2019, while sales of sweet snacks are 8.7% higher than 2019 and morning bakery items rose 16.7% compared with two years ago. Ingredients for baking are also on the upswing. The pandemic really did propel consumers back to the kitchen: A third of U.S. adults reported that

Key Takeaways From a category perspective, one of the more intriguing aspects of the current bakery market is the see-saw of sales between the perimeter and center store. Somewhere in between the trends of health and decadence are products that can be enjoyed in a spirit of permissible indulgence. Consumers looking to build on their sense of culinary adventure are fueling growth in unique flavors and formats of baked goods and ingredients.

they were baking more often than they did before the pandemic, according to findings from market research firm Mintel. From a category perspective, one of the more intriguing aspects of the current market is the see-saw of sales between the perimeter and center store, which reflects societal trends at the time. Depending on the COVID-19 situation, consumers stayed home more, baking and enjoying readyto-eat baked goods, or started to feel more comfortable shopping the perimeter

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Bakery Trends In-store bakery sales rebounded over the summer with the return of entertaining, but upcoming holiday sales will depend on the local pandemic situation at the time, according to experts.

to pick up baked goods for occasions or choosing rolls in bulk. “The in-store bakery has been doing very well recently. It was a department that had struggled, but made a tremendous comeback. The commercial bread aisle and bakery did better than the perimeter last year, which made sense,” agrees Eric Richard, industry relations coordinator for IDDBA, noting that the dynamics have helped lift baked goods overall. “These areas are setting trends for each other. They really have a partnership where they are feeding trends that can be replicated from their perspective.”

An Inside Look

To see what trends are baked into the current marketplace, it can help to see what’s literally baked into these products. The use and emergence of various baking flours, sweeteners and inclusions provide clues to what consumers are seeking, both in goods they can take home and in ingredients they can use to make their own treats. Those clues point to some key drivers. The groundswell of interest in health and wellness among today’s consumers is fueling growth of better-for-you baked goods and bakery ingredients. At the same time, although it’s seemingly contradictory, baked to include a variety of options. “Ancient grains and goods that can be considered indulgent are also doing well, a whole grains are certainly trending among consumers,” trend often attributed to the concurrent desire for comfort and affirms Richard. enjoyment. The novelty factor, already important during “normal” The bread segment has long included whole times and elevated in an era when entertainment options are grains and ancient grains, and there are still newmore limited, is also influencing shopper decicomers to that corner of the market sions. Further, the ongoing desire for locally made and to other types of bakery products. Although the foods is affecting the bakery categories. For instance, this past summer, Miss way they have Even if there are additional shifts in consumer Jones Baking Co. rolled out a line of shopping behaviors in a still-uncertain marketplace, Everyday Delicious mixes made with shopped has changed, these trends are defined enough for manufacturers 100% whole grains and sweetened what consumers are and retailers to take heed, Richard notes. “Although with a proprietary blend of sugar, chiclooking for has not.” the way they have shopped has changed, what ory root, tapioca and monk fruit. —Eric Richard, IDDBA consumers are looking for has not,” he observes. In addition to ready-to-eat and -make baked goods, flour manufacturers are tapping into consumer interest in grains The Picture of Health Increasingly, the baking ingredient and bakery categories reflect perceived to be healthy. Examples include millet, buckdemand for products geared toward health and wellness. That’s wheat, brown rice, quinoa and spelt flours. a pretty big umbrella, covering attributes like free-from, better-forSuch alternative flours are also touted as ingredients you, allergen-free and immunity, to name just a few. in ready-to-eat baked products. Snack company SimIn the better-for-you arena, which includes products that pack ple Mills, for its part, recently introduced a cookie made a nutritional punch, baked goods and ingredients are expanding with a seed and nut flour blend of watermelon seeds,

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SOLUTIONS

Bakery Trends

The keto corner of the baked goods segment is still hot, with mixes from startup brands like Keto Queen Kreations finding a niche.

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cashews, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds. Gluten-free and other items with a free-from description likewise fall under the better-for-you umbrella. “In some cases, it might be because of dietary restrictions, but the gluten-free fad isn’t going away. It has a certain health halo,” says Richard, citing data showing that the majority of people who buy gluten-free products don’t have celiac disease. Today, more allergen-free options are available for consumers who must avoid certain ingredients. The allergen-friendly brand Partake, for example, offers a baking mix free from the top eight allergens and also free of gluten and dairy; the mix is made from a blend of gluten-free oat, buckwheat and tapioca flours, with oat milk and organic cane sugar. Consumers following certain eating plans also have a greater choice of baked goods and bakery ingredients than ever. Products geared toward low-carb and/or high-protein diets, for instance, appeal to a certain segment of consumers. Jordan Sanabria, founder of Keto Queen Kreations, launched her own line of keto baking mixes when she couldn’t find many lowcarb desserts on the market. The Brooklyn, N.Y., resident quit her day job as an orthodontic assistant to create her own brand, which now includes a range of mixes for sweet baked goods and bread available online and at independent grocers. “The indulgence portion of it was key for me — I wanted to make sure it was enjoyable from all aspects, and healthy, too,” Sanabria explains, adding that she uses only organic ingredients and creates


We’ve seen an increased demand for products without artificial flavors, preservatives or colors in the marketplace.”

products that are nut-, gluten- and sugar-free. To make the keto-friendly mixes for bread, biscuits, brownies, cake, cookies, coffee cake and muffins, Sanabria uses —Ben Friedland, KeHE Distributors coconut flour as a base and incorporates other ingredients such as golden flaxseeds and the natural sweetener allulose. “I just started using cucumber seed flour, too,” she says. Vegan pastries, cakes and breads are also part of the betterfor-you movement. Plant-based ingredients like tofu, ground flaxseeds, plant butter and avocado, among others, are being used as alternatives to eggs and butter in these formulations. As with flours made from different grains instead of traditional white processed flour, some plant-based flours are also incorporated into baked goods, such as those made from banana, cassava, sweet potato, mango and coffee. In a health-centric era, immunity-boosting ingredients like turmeric, ginger, citrus and nuts are also part of recipes for some baked goods. Probiotics are being added to some baked goods as well, as a way to bolster gut health. Global ingredient supplier ADM, for instance, offers dietary fiber ingredients that are said to nourish microflora in the human gut. The health-and-wellness trend in bakery and baking also encompasses shopper interest in minimal, wholesome ingredients. “Transparency and sustainability are still important, and clean labeling plays an important role,” asserts Richard. “I think consumers will continue to seek out those kinds of products.” Several brands are moving in this direction. KeHE Distributors’ Made With brand recently added a line of “attribute-driven” bakery products made with clean ingredients; the line offers dairy-free, kosher and non-GMO brioche hamburger buns, hot dog buns and a braided challah loaf. “We’ve seen an increased demand for products without artificial flavors, preservatives or colors in the marketplace,” says Ben Friedland, executive director for the KeHE exclusive brands. “This new line fits that consumer demand, but also our ingredient philosophy of a clean and great-tasting product.”

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SOLUTIONS

Bakery Trends The Comfort Factor

Center store sales of breads and rolls are off their 2020 pandemic peak, but are still 9.2% higher than in 2019, new data shows.

In a complex world, especially in the recent marketplace, it’s not unusual for consumers to balance their interest in healthy products with more indulgent choices. These parallel eating trends are evident in bakery categories, both at the in-store bakery and center store areas for packaged baked goods and baking ingredients. In this area, brioche products have been having a moment. The category has reached the $320 million mark as of July, according to Paul Baker, founder of St. Pierre Bakery, in Manchester, England. “It’s also worth noting that in the past year, the bakery has only grown by 8%, while the brioche category is 37% up. Put like that, it’s clear to see the opportunity in offering consumers an upgrade from bread to brioche,” Baker notes, adding that the St. Pierre brand comprises almost a third of the market, outpacing private label brioche.

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SOLUTIONS

Bakery Trends Novel Approaches

Reflecting shoppers' taste for indulgence, brioche is booming, and St. Pierre Bakery is accordingly expanding its brioche offerings.

According to Baker, brioche aligns with the sense of comfort and reward that consumers are pursuing. “During the pandemic, shoppers were looking for ways to treat themselves well at home, and now, as we move away from restrictions, consumers won’t just return to old habits — especially when it comes to the quality of the food they buy,” he says. As demand expands, so do St. Pierre’s brioche offerings, which include burger buns, hot dog rolls, baguettes, loaves, sliced loaves and, coming in September, bagels. St. Pierre also offers croissants, crepes and waffles. In addition to brioche, nostalgic flavors are a hit with many shoppers today. The rise of flavor varieties like “birthday cake” and “cake batter” are a testament to consumers’ penchant for baked goods that evoke a memory or deliver on sentiment. The Killer Brownie Co., for one, tapped into the marriage of nostalgia and premium taste with its line of decadent brownies, including a PB&J offering made with peanut butter, raspberry jelly, roasted peanuts and caramel. Speaking of caramel, that ingredient has been highlighted recently in baked goods, as well as other categories like ice cream and confections. In its many forms – traditional, salted, toffee, dulce de leche, miso and cajeta, among others – caramel is an increasingly common inclusion in a variety of baked goods available at the in-store bakery and in the center store. Somewhere in between the trends of health and decadence are products that can be enjoyed in a spirit of permissible indulgence – delicious but not over the top in portion size, calories or fat content. These kinds of products often have some added ingredients that make them a healthier choice, like extra protein.

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Consumers who are weary of early-‘20s challenges and also looking to build on their sense of culinary adventure are fueling growth in unique flavors and formats of baked goods and ingredients. “In general, people want to try new things. It applies across all generations and demographics, and I think that trend will continue,” says Richard, adding, “That plays well with both manufacturers and food retailers who are trying new varieties and alternatives.” One area of novelty in the bakery arena is the combination of sweet and savory flavors. Such unique pairings, whether it’s a green tea macaroon, a salted caramel cookie, or another inventive take on sweet and savory, can work in a range of products and can also include the addition of hot and spicy flavors. Color, too, keeps things new and exciting in the baked goods arena, especially in the social media era. Vibrantly colored ingredients – exemplified in the recipe for blueberry cookies that went viral this summer on TikTok — are enticing to consumers who appreciate visual appeal as well as taste. Venerable brand Duncan Hines, from ConAgra Brands Inc., offers a brightly colored mix for Blue Velvet cake, while Pillsbury continues to add to its Funfetti brand, which is known for fun colors. Duncan Hines also seeks to meet the demand for color, experience and sentiment with its new baking kit collection. The line of ready-to-use kits consists of five varieties: Fruity Pebbles Cake, Salted Caramel Brownie, S’mores Brownie, Cookies & Cream Cookie, and Cookie Dough Cookie. Finally, another way to provide what many shoppers are keen on and distinguish a store’s offerings is to use local ingredients in the in-store bakery or even in the ingredient aisle. Items like regionally made chocolate or fresh berries sourced from a nearby farm can be attractive to discerning customers seeking fresh, unique foods. “It can be challenging for some retailers, but we’ve seen some stores that are sourcing things like wheat flour from local producers,” observes Richard. “I think you’ll see more of that, as people gravitate toward local.”


CENTER STORE

Beverages

Pushing the Boundaries of Beer SELT ZERS CONTINUE TO SIZ ZLE AS BEER BR ANDS SEEK BROADER APPE AL. By Mike Duff

Key Takeaways he face of the beer business has changed over the past several decades, but the fundamentals of merchandising and promoting the category at retail remain much the same, even though there are new complexities related to juggling the broader range of category segments. For example, ciders; hard versions of soft drinks, including the explosive hard-seltzer category; and canned wine and cocktails all compete with core domestic beer today, even if many of the new beverages emerge from established brewers. Most notably, the hard-seltzer category is conspicuous for its growth at retail within the broad market defined by IRI as “total U.S. multi-outlet,” which consists of grocery, drug, mass market, convenience, military, and select club and dollar retailers. To get a sense of the growth, IRI in the 2016 calendar year showed sales in the category defined as “beer seltzer centric” of only $30.5 million in

With hard-seltzer sales soaring and other beverage alcohol segments on the rise, big brewers and major importers have been retooling to feature alternative beverages under new and established branding. The relative fragmentation of the beer market has prompted producers to rethink their brands and execute accordingly. Mintel predicts that adult beverages will feel the effects of experiential shopping in e-commerce, and of interest in beer and cider made with sustainable ingredients, as well as nonalcoholic products for adults.

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Beverages

Despite online inroads, beer and wine remain top destination departments in physical stores, resulting in inventive merchandising treatments such as this "beer cave" at a Target store in the Northeast.

multi-outlet. In the 52 weeks ended this past Aug. 8, however, sales totaled a whopping $4.48 billion. The gain for “beer seltzer centric” has outstripped other segments in the larger beer category, even if growth on a percentage basis has begun to moderate off a larger base of sales. Even so, the “beer seltzer centric” segment was up 44.3% in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8. As a result, the category has begun to comprise a larger percentage of the larger share of the domestic beer category, and now stands at 10.2%, according to IRI data.

$4.48B “Beer seltzer centric” sales as of Aug. 8, 2021. Source: IRI

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“Our consumers have continued to reach for Bud Light Seltzer because they know we consistently deliver the great taste and fun flavors they’re looking for,” says Andy Goeler, VP of marketing, Bud Light at Anheuser-Busch. “Our ability to remain nimble has allowed us to run the edge of innovation, like we did with the Bud Light Seltzer Retro pack, and its success speaks for itself. We’re thrilled to now be offering Retro’s flavors to fans and new seltzer drinkers alike year-round.” The Seltzer Retro pack made a splash over the summer with its distinctive colorful packaging, which made for lively and compelling promotional displays that helped goose sales. Big brewers and major importers have been retooling to feature alternative beverages under new and established branding. For example, Molson Coors this summer expanded its Vizzy hard-seltzer product line with an all-watermelon variety pack. Common in the segment, fruit flavoring can draw consumers who might not like beer’s more bitter taste profile. Molson Coors draws attention to a health-related element that has been critical in the rise of hard seltzers, which hit the market as lower-calorie alternatives to beer. Vizzy’s new 100-calorie, 12-ounce can launch featured an added focus on its vitamin C content and real watermelon juice formulation. “After 234 years under the label of a ‘brewing company,’ we redefined ourselves in 2020 as the Molson Bud Light Seltzer Retro pack flavors will be available year-round after colorful packaging aided sales this past summer.


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Source: IRI Seltzer Purchase String Analysis Jun 20; IRI Panel All Outlets 02-21-21; Morning Consult weekly t survey (n = 6,000 total alc drinkers) // Remesh Live Consumer Session (n=200 light beer/seltzer drinkers) // GameChanger At Home Usage Survey (n = 282 21-29 seltzer drinkers) Jun’20

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Lead Future Growth, Together.


CENTER STORE

Beverages The key to growing awareness among retailers and consumers is attaching relevant sales promotion programming or incentives to special packaging and line extensions.” —Ligia Patrocinio, Heineken USA Coors Beverage Co., ready to commit and expand our offering inside and beyond the beer aisle as a serious player catering to new consumer demands and evolving repertoires,” notes company spokesman Frédéric Bourgeois-LeBlanc. “This was the largest outward marker of our global revitalization plan, which is rooted in our exploration of CBD and cannabis products, nonalcohol beverages, wines or spirits. The Molson Coors Beverage Co. will seek out the significant growth opportunities.” Molson Coors looks at a wide variety of products under the banner of refreshment beverages that appeal to consumers who are interested in alternatives to traditional drinks, as well as new experiences. Bourgeois-LeBlanc adds that 48% of North American consumers have been “searching for new beverages other than beer and traditional sodas. With the explosive growth of better-for-you beverages over the last couple of years, nutritional elements are now table stakes for American and Canadian consumers exploring alcoholic beverages.” Hard seltzers are just one factor in a market that’s evolving in a broader sense. “Hard seltzer has been a strong growth category, and while growth has been decelerating in 2021, there isn’t another part of the beer industry with that kind of potential,” he observes. “Seltzers remain the fastest-growing part of the beer industry anywhere in North America. We believe that we have two clear and differentiated winners with Vizzy and Topo Chico Hard Seltzer on the U.S. market. Also, while it’s very early, we recently launched the spirits-based Proof Point.” The relative fragmentation of the beer market has prompted producers to rethink their brands and execute accordingly. However, they haven’t broken with successful traditions, such as promotions during holiday occasions. Heineken USA just unveiled its Dos Equis merchandising graphics for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, after significantly realigning the brand not only to continue appealing to existing customers, but also to generate awareness and trial among additional consumers. “We continue to leverage strong distributor and retailer partnerships to drive sales and marketing execution, ensuring that our products are available to shoppers where and when they want them,” says Ligia Patrocinio, senior brand director, Dos Equis. “Our consumer-oriented innovation strategy is working and confirms that the brand can stretch into new segments beyond beer.”

Properly Tuned Promotions

“The key to growing awareness among retailers and consumers is attaching relevant sales promotion programming or incentives to special packaging and line extensions,” Patrocinio adds. “With the brightly colored Dos Equis Lime & Salt Variety Pack ... that attracts attention on shelf, branded merchandise to augment

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The beer category offers seasonal merchandising opportunities such as this end cap featuring the Samuel Adams OK-To-Beer-Fest promotion at a Tampa, Fla., Winn-Dixie store.

display, and consumer giveaways, there is opportunity for retailers to capture impulse purchase and incremental profits.” Although young people have helped make seltzers a key part of the beer business, Marsha Everton, principal, corporate director and advisor at market researcher The AIMsights Group, notes that Millennial drinker enthusiasm might not last as it becomes more commonplace and less Instagrammable. “It’s important not to lose focus on the cash cows of the alcoholic beverage business,” she observes. “Seltzer appears to have been strongly driven by off-premise consumption rather than being the beverage of choice in a bar or restaurant. With the return to social life outside the home, beer is taking share back from seltzer.” Over the next five years, market research firm Mintel expects that the adult-beverage business will feel the effects of experiential shopping in e-commerce, and of interest in beer and cider made with sustainable ingredients, as well as nonalcoholic products developed for adults. Mintel food and drink analyst Jenny Zegler notes that “beer and cider will continue to be shaped by consumer health consciousness and sustainability priorities. E-commerce emerges as a retail channel to watch.”


CENTER STORE

Beverages

Water With More

Essentia Water created its new multiserve 2 Gallon Box in direct response to consumer demand for large-format and more sustainable options.

FUNCTIONAL BENEFITS AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS ARE TOP OF MIND FOR CONSUMERS, MANUFACTURERS AND RE TAILERS. By Bridget Goldschmidt

ottled water isn’t just water anymore. Today’s consumers have more on their minds than merely quenching their thirst. Citing August data from Brightfield Research, Tom Hutchison, newly minted chief marketing officer at The Alkaline Water Co., notes that “the top areas consumers are looking for in their functional beverages are health, immunity, digestive, hydration, energy, lower cholesterol, sleep, cognitive support, stress and inflammation. The ingredients that they are looking for are vitamins C and D, caffeine, ... calcium, vitamin B12, and probiotics, zinc, and turmeric.” The company makes Alkaline88 water, which it describes as “perfectly pH-balanced alkaline water, enhanced with minerals and electrolytes.”

Key Takeaways Bottled water is increasingly viewed as a functional beverage, with consumers expecting additional health benefits from products. The return of people to their physical workplaces has spurred further sales of bottled water, on top of pandemic gains. Environmental concerns have moved the category toward multipack solutions and packaging options beyond single-use plastic. PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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Beverages “Consumers are looking for ways to stay better hydrated with a product that tastes great,” observes Kazumi Mechling, SVP corporate communications and strategic alliances at Essentia Water LLC. “Essentia Water achieves both with our ionized alkaline water that has a pH of 9.5 or higher, with a clean, smooth taste. Essentia also has an added mineral blend that replenishes drinkers’ natural mix of electrolytes as they exert energy throughout the day or during their on-the-go activities. Our customers tell us they love the taste of Essentia and feel better hydrated with it.” “ShineWater strives to meet consumers at the cross-section of convenience and wellness by solving a widespread problem: vitamin D deficiency, which affects nearly half of the U.S. adult population,” says Ryan Coon, chief marketing officer for the recently launched brand, which comes in six flavors. “As the only ready-to-drink hydration beverage on the market with a 100% daily serving of vitamin D in each bottle, we believe it is our role to provide a solution to this widespread issue, because few people are aware of the negative impact that deficiency can have on their health.” Leaving aside the addition of any vitamins, minerals or other better-for-you ingredients, Coon contends, “At its core, bottled water is a functional beverage, providing us with the hydration our bodies need in a convenient format.” Brands like Alkaline88, Essentia and ShineWater are tapping into consumers’ desire for enhanced bottled water products, and grocers are taking notice, with smaller natural food retailers in the forefront. According to Scott Owen, senior grocery merchandiser at PCC Community Markets, a 15-store cooperative in the Puget Sound area of Washington state, “One of the largest trends we are seeing in terms of customer demand and sales is water with high pH, so we’re ensuring we keep these products stocked.” Meanwhile, at New Seasons Market and New Leaf Community Markets, Kevin Wiese, group director, nonperishable at the sister independent West Coast banners, says: “Across stores, we’ve seen more customers looking for beverages with collagen from brands like SkinTe, Flow or Vital Protein. Items with attributes like multi-mineral,

At its core, bottled water is a functional beverage, providing us with the hydration our bodies need in a convenient format.” —Ryan Coon, ShineWater

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Alkaline88's eco-friendly, fully recyclable 16-ounce aluminum bottle is now available at more than 9,000 locations across the country.

whey protein, alkaline, electrolyte and oxygenated are also showing growth. There’s also been an increased interest in waters with caffeine, though our assortment is less developed at this time.”

Water, Water, Everywhere

According to Owen, sales of bottled water in PCC’s stores remain strong. “The past year has certainly had its share of challenges, from the obvious with the pandemic to political and environmental issues,” he points out. “We have seen that water sales go up in response to issues like this, and last year was no exception. This year, we have already seen some increases in sales, with the largest factor being when we started to see the shift of people returning to work.” Wiese sees a similar trend at his stores, where water sales were declining before people began going back to their physical workplaces instead of continuing to work remotely. Unprecedented heat waves in the Portland, Ore., area also played a role in lifting bottled water sales at New Seasons. Sales events are an effective way to keep bottled water sales flowing, among other tactics. “In any given month, PCC typically has some brand of water on sale,” asserts Owen. “Most of our sales are from smaller formats, with shoppers buying a bottle to go with lunch or bring back to the office. Gallons and bulk are the staple format for customers purchasing to be prepared for emergencies, or if they don’t drink municipal supply due to concerns with quality.” “We continue to evolve our planograms to create destination sections driven by attributes within both [the] shelf-stable and refrigerated beverage sets,” says Wiese. “When relevant, we also leverage our weekly flier to highlight emerging-item attributes to inspire the customer shop before they arrive in store.” Meanwhile, manufacturers rely on such strategies as “high-impact, visually attractive displays,” as Essentia’s Mechling notes, and “brightly colored, vibrant packaging and matte-finish bottles,” in the words of ShineWater’s Coon.


CENTER STORE

Beverages

Pacific Northwest independent grocer New Seasons Market calls out resusable bottled water options at the shelf.

Additional Options

When it comes to new bottled products, bigger is apparently better. “Our biggest product announcement this year is the Essentia Water 2 Gallon Box that launched earlier this month,” notes Mechling. “The new multiserve 2 Gallon Box is the first of its kind for ionized alkaline water. … Essentia created this new product innovation in direct response to its customers’ desires for large-format and more sustainable options.” Earlier this year, Essentia added a 500-milliliter 6-pack to its premium water lineup in direct response to increased consumer demand for multipack options during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Mechling, “Essentia is the first high-pH water offered in a 6-pack of 500-milliliter bottles and is a convenient, on-the-go size.” For its part, The Alkaline Water Co. has joined forces with basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal on the Shaq Paq, a 2-liter 6-pack slated to roll out across the country. The company also plans to release by the end of this month six CBD beverage products offering formulations for relief, rest, relaxation, re-energizing, resistance and refreshing.

Better for the Environment

Countering the image of empty plastic water bottles creating an environmental nightmare, Alkaline88’s eco-friendly, fully recyclable 16-ounce aluminum bottle is now available in more than 9,000 locations across the country, with a new 750-milliliter fully recyclable and refillable white aluminum bottle set to debut. This may prove to be a shrewd move, since New Seasons/New Leaf’s Wiese observes, “Sales of items in aluminum are significantly outpacing the total category results.” Apart from the aluminum packaging options, the Alkaline Water Co.’s products are bottled in 100% recyclable PET BPA-free bottles, with all components domestically sourced and substantial use of recycled materials, and its bulk packaging already exceeds the 2022 recycling standards for the state of California.

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Essentia’s new 2 Gallon Box is made from recycled corrugate and uses 80% less plastic per volume of eight 1-liter bottles. The brand’s bottles are PET-1, which is BPA- and phthalate-free, with wash-away labels and recyclable caps, and can be recycled at virtually any recycling facility in the United States. Additionally, last year Essentia achieved CarbonNeutral Packaging certification under The CarbonNeutral Protocol, the leading global standard for carbon-neutral programs. At retail, PCC has expanded its ban on plastic water bottles to include sizes below 1 gallon, and also no longer offers plastic-flat bottled water in refrigerated impulse locations. “We transitioned those options to water in new packaging options, including paperboard, glass and aluminum packaging,” explains Owen. “So far, the response has been favorable.” Meanwhile, New Seasons and New Leaf are focusing on more than plastic bottles. This past April, the banners discontinued sales of still water in single-use bottles of 1 liter or less. “The initiative applies to single-use bottles in plastic, fiber, aluminum and glass containers as we look to reduce single-use waste beyond just plastic,” notes Wiese. “To provide a further example, plastics, while detrimental to our oceans and waterways, can actually have less impact than other materials due to their light weight, which reduces emissions during transportation, and their ability to be reused before they are recycled. Our initiative considers the entire environmental footprint of all materials, on top of the lifecycle of a package.” He adds: “In tandem with our water bottle elimination, our off-shelf strategy has shifted and we’re focusing less on single-serve displays and more on reusable or multiserve items to align better with our sustainability efforts.”

Coming Right Up

With regard to emerging trends, “the two biggest are in regards to sustainability in packaging and in functional and flavor benefits,” affirms Owen. “We will continue to look for ways to reduce plastics and meet shopper demand for water with added vitamins, high pH, bubbles and flavor, with no added calories.” On the functional front, Hutchison sees “adaptogen-enhanced, botanical, keto and probiotic as upand-coming trends,” while in the eco-friendly realm, Mechling notes, “There is an increasing need to protect our planet and ensure products are sustainable and friendlier to the environment.” In the wider sense, as Coon points out, “You have only one body, and consumers have a right to demand more from food and beverage brands in terms of how their ingredients are contributing to a lifetime of healthy living.” The Alkaline Water Co. has teamed up with Shaquille O'Neal on the forthcoming Shaq Paq 2-liter 6-pack of the company's Alkaline88 brand of water.


NONFOODS

Cleaning Products

Sparkling Sales CONSUMERS’ STEPPED-UP CLE ANING AND DISINFECTING HABITS ARE POISED TO OUTLIVE THE PANDEMIC. By Barbara Sax

leaning was a big part of pandemic survival strategy. Driven by fear of contracting COVID-19, consumers cleaned and disinfected like never before and sent sales of household cleaning products through the roof. “Disinfectants and sanitizers remain top of mind for consumers and could become long-lasting habits,” says Kathleen Kemmet, an executive for Information Resources Inc. (IRI) “Products with these claims are likely to outperform traditional all-purpose cleaners for some time.” As an example, Lysol, famous for its disinfecting products, saw its spray product sales grow by almost $296 million during 2020, according to IRI data. “Major brand names, which are known for their performance and efficacy, are the products consumers turned to during the pandemic, and we expect to see continued high use going forward,” observes Kemmet.

Key Takeaways Thanks to unprecedented cleaning and disinfecting during the pandemic, consumers have become more discerning category shoppers with a better handle on germ management. This major uptick in usage and sales has spurred innovations from established and disrupter brands alike, although price is still a key factor in purchasing decisions. As supply issues subside, natural cleaning products have new opportunities.

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NONFOODS

Cleaning Products Lysol is looking at ways to improve germ killing, cleaning speed and ease of use to serve consumer needs.

Consumers who were stuck at home concentrated on cleaning as well as disinfecting, and Reckitt Benckiser reports that sales of its Air Wick and Finish products were also particularly strong. This obsession with disinfecting led to months-long shortages, and retailers were forced to cope with empty shelves. Key manufacturers in the space say that they’re working to correct supply and demand imbalances. “We have largely restored inventories across the bulk of our portfolio,” says Linda Rendle, CEO of The Clorox Co. “We do have some additional work to do.” Rendle adds that the company took the opportunity to simplify its product assortment, which helped retailers optimize their mix and leverage their store shelf space and online mix during the pandemic. Typically, stores have continued to offer smaller brand assortments.

Germ Theory

“When products were not available in store, many consumers turned to purchasing home cleaning products online,” says Kemmet. “This may become a routine, as consumers have grown accustomed to the benefits of products delivered directly to their home. Retailers should be prepared to not only support in-store product availability, but products available via their e-commerce platforms.” The hyper-focus on cleaning has also created some longer-term trends in the category. Consumers have become more discerning category shoppers with a better handle on germ management. “Increased knowledge about bacterial and viral

Retailers should be prepared to not only support in-store product availability, but products available via their e-commerce platforms.” —Kathleen Kemmet, IRI

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hazards and how to both prevent and remove these microscopic threats will impact category engagement,” notes a recent Mintel report. Consumers are looking for products with enhanced “germ-killing, cleaning speed and ease of use,” according to the consumer research firm, and higher engagement will drive category sales going forward. The rise of variant strains of coronavirus indicates that the focus on disinfecting isn’t going away any time soon. “We continue to see germ sensitivity,” says Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of Reckitt Benckiser Group. “The majority of consumers still are concerned about COVID.” “Consumers feel disinfecting is a priority in cleaning, and 35% prioritize using disinfecting/sanitizing cleaning products,” observes Kemmet. “We expect consumers will continue to take a heightened approach to cleaning. In fact, consumers are continuing to buy household cleaning products above historical levels. Average weekly sales for household cleaning products are almost 23% higher — an increase of almost $50 million more per week — in 2021 versus 2019.”

Emerging Innovation

The timing was right for Procter & Gamble’s launch of Microban 24, a line of antibacterial home sanitizing products that kills 99.9% of bacteria on contact and continues to fight bacteria for 24 hours. The brand launched in February 2020 and delivered more than $143 million in retail sales in year one. “Microban 24 was a major disrupter in the home cleaning aisle in 2020 and remains a threat to biggername products,” asserts Kemmet. “This is a brand to watch long term.” She adds that several other new brands/manufacturers, such as Libman, Bactive and Redi Wipes, are also worth watching. Innovation is a focus for Reckitt Benckiser’s Lysol brand, and Narasimhan says that the brand is looking at ways to improve germ killing, cleaning speed and ease of use to serve met and unmet needs for consumers. Consequently, retailers can expect a broad suite of innovations from Lysol.


NONFOODS

Cleaning Products The Natural Choice

Product shortages gave a boost to the natural cleaning segment. Mintel research indicates that natural brands saw sharp sales growth when they became the alternative for consumers who couldn’t find their regular cleaning products. As supply issues subside, natural cleaning products have new opportunities. Trial drives adoption of natural products, and many consumers who may not have been inclined to try natural products may now find them preferable to more traditional brands. Price does remain a hurdle in this segment, but research shows that there’s an upside opportunity in the natural cleaning product segment. Research from Mintel reveals that compared with 2020, fewer consumers are abandoning natural for mainstream products, particularly disinfectants, and 24% of all consumers and 36% of parents of children age 5 and under resolve to use more natural products once the pandemic is over. Mintel experts believe that green will evolve to stand for better convenience as big brands acquire successful natural brands or launch natural brands of their own. For instance, Procter & Gamble recently launched 9 Elements, a line of laundry and home care products with vinegar and plant-based ingredients. The line’s home cleaning products are made without artificial preservatives, dyes, thickeners and synthetic fragrances, and include a bathroom cleaner, a multipurpose cleaner and dish soap. “Increasingly, consumers will expect green niche brands to be more innovatively nimble,” notes Mintel’s report. Small green brands that can make the leap to natural formulas that deliver unique benefits will shape the future of natural home care, the research predicts. Kemmet points to the rising interest in reducing waste through concentrates, and tab/pod refill options that allow the consumer to reuse bottles. “Although the category size is still very small and these products tend to be sold more online, it’s a trend worth watching,” she says. “Grove Collaborative, a direct-to-con-

Procter & Gamble's 9 Elements laundry and home care products feature vinegar and plant-based ingredients.


Of consumers cite price as their most important purchase criteria. Source: Mintel

sumer products company which recently hit shelves at Target, is a company focused on ‘clean’ products for the home that also don’t spoil the earth or our health. They are creating a reality where household essentials of every kind are actually good for you and the world.” While consumers are always looking for innovation — and the pandemic heightened the desire for products that do more — Mintel’s research shows that price is still a major factor in purchasing decisions. More than 60% of consumers cite price as their most important purchase criteria, followed by “familiar brand” (47%) and “products that are safe for the whole family” (44%). Retailers need to stay sharp on prices in this category. “We are starting to see promotion frequency increasing, but depth of discount and investment levels are still deflated compared to 2019,” observes Kemmet. “Given the increase in demand for cleaning products, compared to 2019, retailers should look to increase displays of cleaning products.”


SOLUTIONS

Workforce Management

Closing the Talent Gap KROGER’S FRESH START INITIATIVE AIMS TO ACHIE VE GRE ATER ASSOCIATE ENGAGEMENT AND RE TENTION. By Gina Acosta

he grocery industry is in the middle of a workforce revolution. Rising wages, a historically tight labor market, a pandemic, digitization, automation and myriad other challenges are forcing food retailers to rethink their approach to talent management as hiring, training and retaining the right employees become more critical than ever before. In recent months, Target, Walmart and other food retailers have gone to new lengths to attract and retain workers. Aldi recently boosted its average starting wages for store and warehouse workers to $15 and $19 per hour, respectively. Costco raised its hourly minimum wage to $16 for U.S. employees. Both Walmart and Target have rolled out recent initiatives to help employees pay for college, and Walmart is doling out signing bonuses to warehouse workers. For the first time, the average wage of restaurant and grocery workers has risen above $15 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But even with wage increases and companies expanding benefits, unemployment rates for the retail industry are higher than the overall U.S. rate of 5.4%, coming in at 6.4% as of July, according to BLS. Retail workers are leaving their jobs as a result of the pandemic and other worries; a recent survey commissioned by retail operations platform Zipline shows that a majority of retail workers think that

Key Takeaways Food retailers should offer an engaging culture in which workers can join, thrive and advance. The right training technology can provide meaningful metrics to help establish an employee’s baseline understanding. Staying agile and focused on upskilling and reskilling employees is the way forward in an omnichannel world. their employers aren’t focusing enough on improving their working conditions. “It’s a highly competitive labor market, and we absolutely know that talent is selective and attracted to companies that offer competitive wages and benefits, and are also leading with a clear purpose and offering an engaging culture where, honestly, they can join, thrive and advance,” says Senchal Murphy, senior director of training and onboarding at The Kroger Co., which employs more than 500,000 associates. Kroger recently teamed up with Axonify to launch a personalized training program to support greater associate engagement and retention, and redefine what it means to be a great place to work. “Axonify really offers, in our opinion, a modern approach to training that works the way our associates work, with personalized, bite-sized learning bursts,” Murphy continues. “It helps our associates learn key behaviors and best practices, and they also have a lot of fun. I think that’s really important, that our associates come to work and have a lot of fun as they serve our customers. It also offers us meaningful metrics to help us establish an associate’s baseline understanding and helps them assess their knowledge growth. So over time, we’re able to assess what impact training has on our business results, which is really important for us.” The program, called Fresh Start, allows associates to access personalized training quickly and easily in the course of their day. The solution is being launched in a phased

Kroger has teamed with Axonify on the Fresh Start program to offer personalized training to the grocer's associates via app.

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Build a resilient grocery frontline workforce

Your our fr frontline ontline associa associates as es mak make or break your success In an era where agility is the must-have survival skill for grocers, your frontline people have to be ready for anything. So they need meaningful, right-fit support to safely perform, learn and thrive at work every day. It’s the right thing to do for them and you. Because when you give your frontline the tools to succeed, your business does too. Support them right or get left behind. axonify.com/grocery


SOLUTIONS

Workforce Management approach across all of Kroger’s businesses. “The application can be downloaded on an associate’s personal device or accessed on a shared device,” Murphy explains. “It’s training that takes a couple minutes a day. Our associates will complete training at the beginning of their shift, short, personalized training sessions that will help them build knowledge and confidence over time. There’s some really cool gamification aspects, other cool enhancements as well. We’re really focused on the things that matter most to our customers. So if we think about behaviors that support and drive our full, fresh and friendly customer experience, those are the things that we’re really focused on teaching our associates to ensure those are the outcomes that we see in our customer experience.” Kroger leverages a variety of methods to communicate with associates in different ways, but the Axonify solution is another big boost in that area, especially when it comes to training workers to perform new tasks related to e-commerce. “The nature of the work for our front-line associates is changing and challenging,” Murphy notes. “Getting information and training to them quickly and consistently is so important. It’s more important now than it ever has been. In the past, we’ve relied on various methods to deliver training and communication, and we just know that there is a need to do things differently, moving forward. So we’re really excited to find new ways to meet our associates where they’re at to deliver and provide an effective, real-time training and engagement experience for them.” According to Murphy, the company is focused on properly and effectively upskilling and reskilling associates on best practices to ensure that they can support the customer experience, no matter the omnichannel platform. “So, things like training through the application is a heavy focus for our e-commerce teams and departments,” she says, adding that the communication capability of the Axonify solution is a game-changer, especially during the pandemic, when everything, from safety protocols to out-of-stocks, is changing so fast. “We’re actually able to communicate direct to our associates on items that are really important,” Murphy asserts. “Safety is incredibly important to our company and one of our core values. So, if we have any shifts in or any data that we need to share, whether it’s around vaccines or around math or ... anything that’s really specific around safety, we have a modality now to connect in a very simple way. Everyone processes information ... different-

ly, but we do know that we’ve at least got some new avenues, methods, vehicles to better communicate the things that matter most to our associates, and safety is very much a driving priority for us.” With continual learning performed in less than five minutes per shift, each associate’s training experience is tailored to their individual needs and knowledge gaps via Axonify’s app. On the hiring front, Kroger recently held its first-ever virtual and in-person hiring event across the company, with a goal of hiring more than 10,000 associates. Through that event, Kroger was able to offer more than 5,000 opportunities in a single day, a record for the company. Kroger’s average hourly wage has been $15 an hour since 2019. The grocer also offers benefits such as affordable health care, a 401(k) and a pension. “Honestly, those are many things that our competitors do not offer,” Murphy notes. “The pandemic has definitely brought us new challenges,” she adds. “It has really challenged us to be more efficient, more effective, more streamlined. This is ... the way that we’ll need to train in the future, training in the flow of work, training on items that matter most to our customers, prioritizing training, utilizing technology to communicate and connect with our associates faster. I think the pandemic has really accelerated our need to ensure that our methods to connect and engage are most effective.” As far as what grocers need to be thinking about next when it comes to training and retention, Murphy observes: “It’s incredibly important ... to stay close to the business and to really understand what’s coming in the business that’s new, innovative, compelling, exciting, and ensure that we have associates that are upskilled and ready to deliver against that future vision. So, something that’s important for us is staying connected to our leaders at multiple levels around what is coming down the pike and ensuring that we are agile with our training, in our approach, in our methods.”

In today’s highly competitive labor market, we know talent is selective and attracted to companies that offer competitive wages and benefits, and are also leading with a clear purpose and offering an engaging culture where they can thrive and advance. At Kroger, we continue to improve every day and in every way. We are truly driven to be the best employer in America and one of the best places to work, no matter your skill set, role or ambitions.” —Senchal Murphy, Kroger

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EQUIPMENT & DESIGN

Conveyor Belts

Moving the Checkout Experience Forward MOL BELTING PROVIDES SOLUTIONS FOR CHECKSTAND SANITATION, PROMOTIONS AND CONVENIENCE TO MEE T GROCERS’ E VOLVING AND ACUTE NEEDS. By Lynn Petrak he checkstand conveyor Mol Belting supplies almost belt is one of the last points all — 95% — of checkstand conveyor belts for the of contact between a shopgrocery industry and is per and a retailer, but it’s ahead of trends in that certainly not the least. area of store design. In a climate of fast-moving changes in the grocery sector and a heightened awareness of sanitary surfaces, updates in conveyor design and installation are moving along accordingly. Mol Belting, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based manufacKey Takeaways turer and wholesale dealer of conveyor belts that supplies about 95% of The supermarket checkout conveyor the conveyor belts used in grocery stores in this country, is focusing on belt can be a key multifunctional innovations that help retailers meet their needs for service, convenience, component; for instance, it can cleanliness, and even marketing and promotions. be used to convey promotional Indeed, it may just seem like a piece of equipment that moves products messages or produced in other from Point A to Point B in the checkout area, but the conveyor belt can be colors beside black. a key multifunctional component. As the lead provider in this segment by a Even before COVID-19 emerged, wide margin, Mol Belting has some insights into why and how that’s true. Mol Belting was working on greater checkstand sanitation.

Conveying a Message

For example, grocers can use checkstand belts to literally and figuratively convey messages to their customers. Mol Belting offers new QR code-printed belts that can be customized with retailers’ logos and messages via a high-volume inkjet printer that provides high-resolution, high-impact graphics and colors. Mol also offers belt covers, which are also treated with an antimicrobial coating, and are installed by the company’s experts in less than five minutes via a pressure-sensitive adhesive, and can be easily removed by store employees once a particular promotion or message event is over. In addition to promotional messaging, the belts and belt covers can be part of community outreach and fundraising programs. In 2020, Mol Belting worked with retailers in Michigan on a conveyor belt for the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign for the holidays. “In 15 lanes, over a 35-day period, they raised over $9,000 using this — and that’s in the middle of a pandemic. When you run the numbers out, for every 100,000 belts you can raise millions,” says David Hathaway, Mol Belting’s SVP and general counsel, adding that the company is currently working with the Salvation Army organization to widen the use of themed belts for this year’s holiday campaign.

A QR code on Mol’s conveyor belts enables shoppers to link to a site featuring information on a store’s sanitation practices as well as other store updates.

Beyond conveyor belt covers, grocers can build on their brand and elevate the look of their checkstands by opting for a different conveyor belt color than the standard black. “We can make any color you want – even your store color,” says Edward Mol, president of the company and second-generation leader of the business. Duane Nizinski, Mol Belting’s director of strategic marketing initiatives, agrees that color can differentiate a store’s look and feel. “Retailers want to try something new right PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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Conveyor Belts now to get people back into the stores,” he notes. “Experience is more important than ever.” While black belts have traditionally been chosen because they mask dirt, grime or other imperfections, grocers can both clean and sanitize the surface with cloths, cleaning pads and cleaners that Mol Belting provides, according to Mol and Nizinski.

Coated for Cleanliness

Certainly, COVID-19 has brought the importance of sanitation to the fore and provided an even greater impetus for grocers to button up sanitary practices across their operations. Grocers are also demonstrating their commitment to shoppers in a visible way, from protective shields installed at checkout areas to stalls To help retailers turn conveyors into billboards of of pre-sanitized carts. sorts, Mol Belting offers printed belt covers that can Even before the coronavirus emerged, Mol Belting was working on be customized and installed for special or seasonal greater checkstand sanitation. About seven years ago, the company promotions. began exploring technologies to treat belts with a sanitizing compound, after assessing the results of a checkstand sanitation study ferent from traditional hand sanitizers in that it extends from former Michigan State University microbiologist Dr. Zhinong Yan. protection for hours and is nontoxic and nonflammable. “Dr. Yan found that high microbial populations were present in It will be available in a 2-ounce foaming pump bottle, 100% of the samples collected from checkstand conveyor belts in an 8-ounce foaming pump bottle, a 1-gallon jug, a grocery stores, but no foodborne pathogens,” explains Hathaway. 5-gallon pail and a 55-gallon drum. Mol Belting also “He concluded that more stringent sanitation practices are necesoffers Molchem hand purifier stations in a floorstand sary in the retail checkstand environment.” station format, like the ones already in use at Harding’s According to Mol, the emergence of COVID-19 injected a new Markets in Michigan. need and urgency into belt sanitation. “Viruses are a whole other Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst and author, thing,” he observes. “Viruses are not technically alive, but they has partnered with Mol Belting to share the benefits are replicable, and that is a problem.” of the Molchem technology with the grocery industry. As its past research and current COVID-19 events coincide, Mol According to Lempert, the trends of the pandemic – Belting is launching a new Molchem technology and product line especially the expectation for cleanliness – will continue that includes coated checkstand belts and other products designed in the long term. “As the pandemic slowed down, some for surfaces and personal hygiene. Its multilayer PVC people got sloppy. Now, with the Delta conveyor belt has been treated with a compound variant, there’s no question that consumRetailers comprising a surface hardener, liquid polyurethane, ers want a clean, safe store and want it and an antimicrobial agent approved by the U.S. Food to align with their values,” Lempert notes, want to try and Drug Administration and registered with the U.S. adding that retailers are — and should be something new right Environmental Protection Agency. The belt is designed — addressing such needs and demands. now to get people to be scratch-resistant and easy to clean. “It sends a message that ‘I, as a retailer, back into the stores. To accompany the coated belt, Mol Belting offers care about you,’ and Molchem is bringing a checkstand and belt multipurpose cleaner that attention to front end sanitation.” Experience is more can also be used on other surfaces like metal, plasLempert also underscores the conimportant than ever.” tic, stainless steel and shopping carts, among other vergence of the shared values of health —Duane Nizinski, Mol Belting areas within a store. This cleaner is proven effective and wellness and sustainability among on bacteria and viruses compared with other cleantoday’s consumers, noting that Mol Belters that aren’t designed for conveyor surfaces, and ing has developed a DC motor that uses that can negatively affect belt material. 78% less power than a traditional AC motor and can be As part of its complete sanitary system, the pros at the Molchem run with no oil. The motor will be available in early 2022. brand recommend first cleaning debris between the belt and conveyor strikeplate, spraying with the belt cleaner, wiping the area using a lintQR on the QT free cloth and/or cleaning pad, and coating the surface of the coated The Molchem checkstand belt is designed to convey belt with an antimicrobial coating like Molchem’s Biotrexx 247. To products in a clean way from a shopper’s cart to the confirm and track cleaning from checkstand to checkstand and store bagging area, but that piece of real estate can be to store, grocers can use an app that was developed for the Molchem valuable to grocers from a marketing perspective, brand, with a detailed dashboard and accessible data. too, thanks to a QR code on the conveyor and in Extending the cleaning technology to a personal level, the comsupporting materials displayed at checkout. Through pany has also developed a new hand purifier. The product is difthat code, shoppers can link to a site that features

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EQUIPMENT & DESIGN

Conveyor Belts information on a store’s sanitation practices as well as other store updates, from product highlights to sale information. “The checkstand conveyor hasn’t been conceived of before as a media platform, and this really changes the whole conversation on what a checkstand can be,” Lempert says. “It affords a retailer a new way to engage with shoppers.” The fact that 60% of consumers are using their phone as their primary device supports the potential of the QR code at the checkout area, he adds. Grocers, in turn, can engage with their CPG partners to invest in advertising on this kind of platform. “Retailers can be empowered to have a new revenue source,” Lempert points out. Company president Ed Mol says that efforts to add messaging and antimicrobial protection to grocery checkstand conveyors, with a supporting cleaning system, has allowed Mol Belting to tap into its engineering talent and create new avenues for growth. “This is truly a startup,” he observes. “From the testing that was required to the rest of the whole project, we had to do things like a startup company would do.”

Just Scratching the Surface

Mol Belting is also diversifying its portfolio with a new Molchem antimicrobial coated messenger mat that can be placed throughout a store, including self-checkout areas, customer

More than half of checkstand conveyor belts are shipped from Mol Belting's Grand Rapids, Mich., facility to retailers within a two-day turnaround.

service desks and other departments, like the pharmacies and deli counters. Meanwhile, as a solution for in-store bakeries, the company is also rolling out a new Molchem industrial silicone baking sheet that cuts the cost and waste of parchment. Finally, as it expands its offerings and helps grocers address sanitation and service, Mol Belting has embraced the greater concepts of wellness and sustainability by taking part in a nonprofit group called the Clean and Green Pledge Society, created by Hathaway. Through this initiative, organizations such as growers, producers, manufacturers and retailers make a “clean and green” commitment to minimize environmental impact and take steps to ensure cleanliness and sanitation, among other measures. Ultimately, according to Hathaway and Mol, the organization will be a 501(c)(3) charity, and a portion of the proceeds from Molchem sales will help support these causes.

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One Pork Avenue • Tipton, PA 16684


EQUIPMENT & DESIGN

Facilities Management

Failure Is Not an Option

Grocery is the most asset-intensive sector of retail, thanks to refrigeration equipment, which is also the leading source of maintenance and repair costs.

MODERNIZING FACILITIES MANAGEMENT HELPS RE TAILERS UNDERSTAND AND MANAGE MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR COSTS TO IMPROVE THE BOT TOM LINE. By Mike Troy

roperly functioning facilities, the equipment and systems that make grocery go, are the unsung heroes of every retailer’s operation. They serve their purely utilitarian roles of keeping products chilled, frozen or hot while ensuring store environments are clean, comfortable and well lit. And they have to do so efficiently and reliably. It’s a tall order, and the stakes of getting facilities right are high. Facilities failures are costly for a variety of reasons that go beyond the obvious cost of repairs, which

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Key Takeaways Many grocers don’t manage and optimize facilities with the same rigor as merchandising and marketing. The other element of facilities failure is the message of neglect that it sends to shoppers. Overall facilities investments have risen from last year as brands seek to lure customers back to their stores in person.


can be quite significant. Just how significant was documented in great detail in a recent “Grocery Facilities Benchmark Report” from ServiceChannel. The provider of facilities management software and services explored how much grocery stores in the United States spend on facilities management and what they spend it on. It did so by looking at data on its platform, which includes about one-fourth of all grocery locations in the United States and five of the top 10 largest grocers in North America. The headline from the report, which looked at 2020 calendar-year information and roughly $2 billion worth of transactions, was that the average spend amount on facilities maintenance and repair per location was $101,900, which works out to about $1.71 per square foot. Those numbers were basically flat from 2019, with a roughly 5% increase in invoice cost offset by a corresponding decline in invoice volume. The visibility provided by ServiceChannel’s new report presents a valuable way for grocers to get a handle on whether they’re spending too much or too little, relative to others in the industry, on maintenance and repairs. That information, combined with a breakdown on expenses by asset type, is crucial for understanding the scope of the facilities opportunity overall while pinpointing areas to improve performance. “The reason why retailers need to care about facilities performance comes down to assets, because when you look at a typical grocery business, property, plant and equipment make up roughly 40% of the assets on the corporate balance sheet,” says Grant Salisbury, chief marketing officer with ServiceChannel. “In a highly competitive low-margin business like grocery, you want to be sure that you’re getting the best possible return on those assets. Those assets tend to be critical for supporting revenue or customer experience and for broader company goals like sustainability.” Those observations may seem basic, but the reality for many grocers is that facilities aren’t managed and optimized with the same rigor as merchandising and marketing. In these areas, retailers deploy sophisticated technologies to make precise assortment and pricing decisions or to optimize the performance of personalized marketing campaigns. That’s not the case with facilities, generally speaking. “Too often, the status quo today is that facilities is decentralized, and it’s inconsistently digitized, which practically means departments tend to live in spreadsheets,” Salisbury explains. “Companies aren’t in control; they’re reacting to breakages and outages rather than understanding the root causes or being able to take preventative measures. As a result, facilities can feel like a black box where a lot of money gets spent, but perhaps company leadership doesn’t always see value created.”

The Role of Facilities Has Changed

Store-remodeling activities include painting, new fixturing, signing, changing category adjacencies, and the configuration of checkstands. Remodeling even extends outside the four walls to include grocery pickup capabilities, parking lot resurfacing and navigation enhancements, and even upgrading landscaping. The overlooked aspect of upgrading stores involves modernizing retail facilities essential to operations. That’s a mistake, because the role of facilities, like everything in retail, has changed.

The changes driving the need to modernize facilities can be broken down into six areas: Business innovation: New service offerings such as grocery pickup require new types of equipment and increased capacity. Financial pressures: Equipment breakage is unpredictable, but costs can be controlled through better management of repair and maintenance processes. Regulation: Increased complexity and regulation variability across a retailer’s operation have further elevated the importance of compliance. Labor market dynamics: Employee turnover among repair technicians has affected the availability and reliability of service. Technology: The availability of affordable technologies to improve monitoring and early diagnosis of repair needs or impending failures has changed the calculus on investment decisions. Sustainability: Proper maintenance of existing refrigeration systems or installation of high-efficiency equipment is a key way for retailers to reduce their carbon footprint. The grocery sector has always been the most asset-intensive sector in retail, thanks largely to the huge installed base of refrigeration, but the intensity has grown due to more expansive foodservice operations and e-commerce. That means there are more opportunities for things to break and chances to disappoint customers.

Facilities can feel like a black box where a lot of money gets spent, but perhaps company leadership doesn’t always see value created.” —Grant Salisbury, ServiceChannel

“We see leading retailers being more proactive in the way they manage the performance and the cost of these revenue-generating assets, because when assets are unmanaged, there’s no source of truth,” says Chris Zach, a senior product marketing manager with ServiceChannel. “You don’t know what assets you own, if they’re under warranty, how old are they and how many there are. If there’s a lack of data for reducing the down time and understanding which units break down the most and the root causes of those breakdowns, then the capital spend PROGRESSIVE GROCER September 2021

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Facilities Management becomes reactive. You’re not planning ahead — you’re just running the assets until they catastrophically fail and you have to replace them at that point.”

The High Cost of Failure

Repair and maintenance costs, when not properly managed, can be quite high, as illustrated by ServiceChannel’s “Grocery Facilities Benchmark Report.” However, there are costs beyond the actual funds expended to fix equipment. The most extreme examples involve refrigeration, where broken equipment can require product to be discarded if not repaired quickly enough. To address the situation, some retailers are employing Internet of Things (IoT) devices to provide a steady stream of performance details, allowing for early identification of problems. “Some of the leading use cases that we are seeing for IoT are with refrigeration,” Salisbury affirms. “If you can lose $250,000 of product because of a single case or rack failure, there’s a really strong business case for using IoT to accelerate diagnosis and get ahead on preventative maintenance.” The other element of facilities failure is the message of neglect that it sends to shoppers when they encounter an improperly functioning cold case, or a lapse in service due to a broken piece of foodser-

We see leading retailers being more proactive in the way they manage the performance and the cost of these revenue-generating assets, because when assets are unmanaged, there’s no source of truth.” —Chris Zach, ServiceChannel vice equipment. This issue has gained new relevance as shopper traffic began returning to stores in 2021. Throughout much of 2020, when repair and maintenance costs were largely flat, there was greater spending on janitorial aspects of facilities due to pandemic concerns; however, those expenses have waned and at the midpoint of 2021, overall facilities investments had risen. As Zach notes, “We’ve seen that spend is up 15% in 2021 versus last year, so it’s clear that brands are investing to attract customers back into their stores in person and making sure that they have a good experience when they show up again.”

Where Grocers Spend the Most

Facilities repairs and maintenance cost grocers an average of $1.71 a square foot in 2020. Here’s a spending breakdown by top areas: REFRIGERATION

HVAC

GENERAL REPAIRS

PLUMBING

KITCHEN EQUIPMENT

9%

6%

6%

33% 9% Refrigeration in Focus

There are an average of 36 refrigeration repairs per year at a typical store, and almost half are emergencies. The average repair cost of $1,136 breaks down as follows: LABOR

MATERIALS

TRAVEL

OTHER

55% 32% 7% 6% Repair Cost Scorecard

The average repair cost by asset type includes the following: HVAC

REFRIGERATION RACK

$ 2,772 $ 2,013

ROTISSERIE

AUTO SLIDING DOOR

REFRIGERATED CASE

FLOOR SCRUBBER

$ 654

$ 575

$ 507

$ 413

Source: ServiceChannel, "Grocery Facilities Benchmark Report"

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Store Remodeling

Connecting the User Experience Dots A DESIGN FIRM E XEC OFFERS KE Y CONSIDER ATIONS FOR A “PHYGITAL” FUTURE. By Greg N. Simpson fter 18 months of tremendous change accelerated by an enduring pandemic, the retail industry has reached an inflection point. Expanding and varying customer needs, coupled with re-emerging competition, require new ways of thinking. Or is it an old way of thinking? The customer is always right, but for that premise to be true, then the future of grocery must be designed for the benefit of the customer, not to coerce them. It’s not the user experience that is changing, but that the customer will change it. However, to give a better grocery experience requires connecting a series of dots that meet the evolving customer ethos. Grocery must be evaluated across all the channels, forming a network with a new portfolio. Let’s call it Retail Portfolio 2.0 – a concept centered on the entire store portfolio, addressed from the customer point of view. It requires connecting the need, the timing and the delivery method to succeed, but that success only happens when the silos of logistics, store design and construction fade away. This isn’t a simple process. Retailers often appear just as confused and are divided in attitudes toward innovation, the ability and willingness to make capital investment, and the need to rethink the future store. Over the past two decades, retailers considered only a physical retail portfolio network. Fast-forward to today, and we see a new interconnected environment.

The Future Is ‘Phygital’

We believe that providing an optimal store experience means the merging of physical and digital strategy. Customers are coming to expect the option of a digital experience to meet their variety of needs. With that in mind, here are four typology “dots” that need to be considered and merged to create this new interconnected retail portfolio network. They are: 1.

Fully Virtualized: embracing e-commerce and adopting technology like never before.

2. Hybrid: the implementation of delivery, buy online and pickup in store, and beacons, to meet fresh and immediate needs. This also includes the hybridization of food channels. Brands from grocery and convenience stores are blurring formats and competing, including the rising sector of retail foodservice that targets a convenience culture. Overall, e-commerce volumes are increasing, and technology is a transforming disruptor. 3. Experiential Retailing: This is the showrooming model. Design and store-planning considerations include three critical factors: product and SKU assortment, a brand’s value proposition in the marketplace, and convenience. We also can’t forget smart shopping technology (kiosks and smart carts), equipment technology (smart shelving), and e-commerce logistics. These factors all create the total customer experience. 4. Dark Stores/Hubs/Ghost Kitchens: These new models enable local delivery and a fresh approach to operations. It’s repurposed space for retail and not open to the public. The dark store can also serve as the hub location for van/box truck delivery.

Keeping Up With Marketplace Changes

These typologies are designed and networked to optimize clusters and address consumer need states via huband-spoke logistics, in-store automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), and click-and-collect. As with a traditional retail portfolio network, the key focus here is on customer convenience in a way that keeps up with changes in the marketplace. Connecting the dots really is all about a long-term view of the future, because the store of the future is not always a place, but rather an experience of how brands continue to address customer need states, regardless of the era. A few things to keep in mind: 1. The future of retail is a “phygital” ecosystem, transforming the new “dot” portfolio of retailing with tiered models, multiple formats and unique solutions. Design, innovation and technology are key to transforming the new real estate portfolio of retailing. From virtualized to in-store hybrid retail, it’s fundamental to know what format best supports each cluster. 2. Environmental, social and governance factors will be advanced by innovation and are future proof that your brand will remain relevant in a marketplace focused on sustainability. 3. Innovate with velocity by connecting the dots and providing the customer experience that you would want as a customer. Determine your differentiator and provide it with a competitive edge. Would you want to shop at your store?

The entire retail ecosystem innovates and drives the customer experience forward. It’s more than just knowing the need states of your shoppers; it’s knowing how to address those needs in a way that marries technology with shopper convenience and a sophisticated back-end network.

Greg N. Simpson is CEO of Cuhaci & Peterson Architects, Engineers & Planners, with headquarters in Maitland, Fla., and three additional locations in Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; and Boston.

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AHEAD OF WHAT’S NEXT By Gina Acosta

Just-Drive-Thru Grocery? REFLECTIONS ON AMA ZON’S POSSIBLE E XPERIMENT IN FLORIDA. he next innovation from Amazon may not involve artificial intelligence, machine learning or Just Walk Out cashierless technology. In fact, Amazon’s latest experiment might involve technology that originated in a burger joint in Missouri in 1947, but has never been fully leveraged by many in the grocery industry — until now. According to public records, Amazon is intending to open a 35,000-squarefoot Amazon Fresh grocery store in Boca Raton, Fla., the company’s first such store in that state and its first store in the Southeast. The store is being built from the ground up in a former Lucky’s Market planned space in the upscale Uptown Boca shopping center on Glades Road. The mixed-use complex features tenants such as REI, Chick-Fil-A, Bonefish Grill, SportsClips and BurgerFi. What makes the Uptown Boca Amazon Fresh different from the other 16 Amazon Fresh stores now open nationwide is what appears to be a drive-thru. According to workers at the site, the drive-thru will help facilitate online pickup orders. The drive-thru has one lane, covered by a canopy, that’s adjacent to the east side of the building, where double-glass doors lead to the interior of the store. Parking spots, possibly also for pickup orders, are also available on the far east side of the building. Amazon didn’t respond to e-mailed questions about the store. But if the workers are correct, the Boca store would be the first Amazon Fresh with a drive-thru, a natural evolution for a company that has a relentless obsession with customer experience and solving the last-mile profitability problem. Now that the pandemic has super-charged demand for e-commerce, both delivery and click-and-collect, it’s probably a good time to reimagine online grocery pickup. Does it make sense to have workers roll large carts of groceries — in rain, sleet or snow, in record heat or record cold — out to waiting customers in a parking lot or lane? A proper drive-thru could cut labor costs and other expenses associated with pickup, and may also

Now that the pandemic has super-charged demand for e-commerce, both delivery and click-and-collect, it’s probably a good time to reimagine online grocery pickup.

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offer a better customer experience, especially in a state with residents who love their drive-thrus. It’s not just Floridians, though — Americans have rediscovered their love of the drive-thru amid pandemic safety concerns. To wit, Taco Bell just revealed plans for a four-lane drivethru slated for summer 2022. Suddenly, everybody in retail is looking at drive-thrus as a convenient way for shoppers to feel safer visiting stores. To their credit, the grocery wizards at Amazon have been playing with the drive-thru concept since at least 2017. That’s the year Amazon launched AmazonFresh Pickup. Shoppers could order online, pick a time slot (as soon as 15 minutes after an order), and drive to an AmazonFresh Pickup location with pickup spaces. Of course, a lot has happened since then, including Amazon’s e-commerce innovations with Whole Foods Market, as the September cover story details, and who knew we’d be talking about “pandemic-driven online grocery surges” all these years later? There’s no doubt, however, that Amazon is never not rethinking how to do grocery shopping, and this new Amazon Fresh store looks like another interesting experiment for a company that’s always looking ahead of what’s next. Gina Acosta Executive Editor gacosta@ensemleiq.com


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