Why these 3 Super Regionals continue to win share
Checkoff’s CEO emphasizes dairy opportunities
Cold-storage solutions evolve to meet retail needs
Why these 3 Super Regionals continue to win share
Checkoff’s CEO emphasizes dairy opportunities
Cold-storage solutions evolve to meet retail needs
11 retailers that have successfully reimagined grocery over the past century
MilkPEP CEO Yin Woon Rani talks
innovation, sustainability and retail sales opportunities in dairy.
This year’s honorees have demonstrated the many ways that they have been able to effect positive change across their market areas — and there’s much more to come.
Sausage and ham brands find new ways for shoppers to enjoy classic meats.
Learn how efficient day cleaning satisfies customers and empowers employees.
Here’s what grocers need to know about evolving cold-storage solutions.
From unique content to technical upgrades, retailers are finding new ways to earn more e-commerce dollars.
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t already seems like a really long time ago that Americans were afraid to leave their homes.
When COVID-19 descended on the world in 2020, grocery stores were an essential lifeline that kept Amer ica fed. The U.S. consumer couldn’t say enough good things about the front-line heroes working in the grocery industry during this historically challenging time.
But times have changed — thankfully, the pandem ic is under control — and memories are short. Last month, Gallup reported that the grocery industry sud denly has a reputation problem.
Since 2001, Gallup has asked Americans to rate U.S. business sectors and industries on a five-point scale ranging from “very positive” to “very negative.” The company’s latest poll found that positive ratings for the grocery industry have dropped by 14 points to 40% from last year. The grocery industry has historically been among the top-rated industries by Gallup. The restaurant (60%) and farming/agriculture (57%) industries were the only sectors with majority-level positive ratings this year.
Overall, Gallup’s August 2022 Work and Education poll found that an average of just 36% of Americans gave all U.S. business sectors “somewhat” or “very” positive ratings this year. While a 34% rating in 2008 was the record low, the record high was 49% in 2017. According to Gallup, the declines coincide with Americans’ lower confidence in the nation’s institutions amid struggles brought on by historic inflation.
Indeed, the high inflation and sup ply chain pressures giving the U.S. consumer negative perceptions of U.S. businesses — and the grocery industry in particular — are real and lasting, for now. So it’s critical for grocers to have a game plan to fight against these perceptions by creating an opportuni ty to tell a different story.
One grocer leading by example on this is Wegmans Food Markets. The retailer has a monthly newsletter called “Values in Action” that shares all of the ways that Wegmans is “liv ing its values every day to help make a difference in the communities it serves.” In the September edition, there was a story about how Wegmans is focused on improving the efficiency and sustainability of its fleet, another story about battling food insecurity on college campuses, and another item about the We gmans Organic Orchard, a sprawling 168-acre property where the focus is on fresh, organic and sustainably grown produce.
Wegmans frequently ranks high on corporate reputation surveys, and its ability to connect and build trust with its shoppers on various plat
forms and channels is one reason for that. This year, the company ranked fifth in the 23rd annual Axios-Harris Poll 100 list of the companies with the best corporate reputations. While some grocery retailers are employing keep ing-customers-loyal-during-inflation strategies such as offering coupons, promoting store brands and prioritiz ing personalization, Wegmans is also reminding shoppers that it’s still that es sential critical community outreach that came through when times were (very) tough, and that continues to make a difference every day.
Fuel rewards, meal kits and shoppa ble videos are just a few of the ways that food retailers are engaging with consumers throughout their shopper journey through high inflation. But along with coupons and sales, grocers should also remember that now is the time to reaffirm relationships with cus tomers by elevating brand awareness, credibility and reputation. In times of uncertainty, trust is what keeps shop pers loyal, as we saw during the pan demic. As long as grocers have a trust and reputation advantage, they will also have a business advantage. That’s why reputation marketing needs to be a priority now.
Gina Acosta Editor-In-Chief firstname.lastname@example.org
Along with coupons and sales, grocers should also remember that now is the time to reaffirm relationships with customers by elevating brand awareness, credibility and reputation.
Holiday Gift Check
you sell turkeys or hams!
Holiday Gift Checks to their employees or clients,
in turkey and ham sales and a positive impact on
the Holiday Gift Checks,
with any other business
win with an
recipients use their check in
store to purchase turkeys or hams.
National Pear Month
National Volunteers Month
Root Vegetables and Exotic Fruits Month
Worldwide Food Service Safety Month
Eat a Red Apple Day. The produce department is the perfect place to find one.
Safety Razor Day.
After a month of Movember-inspired facial hair, many male shoppers will head back to the shaving products aisle, so be ready to welcome them.
National Cookie Day. This could actually be any day, but why not mark the occasion today?
Provide a recipe for this decadent European treat.
National Microwave Oven Day. Show shoppers how to whip up tasty no-fuss meals using this ubiquitous kitchen appliance.
National Illinois Day. Introduce customers to the best foods and beverages from the Land of Lincoln.
National Brownie Day. Encourage home cooks to dress up these stalwart baked goods with festive embellishments.
Christmas Card Day. Remind shoppers to address and send out holiday greetings to all of those on their list.
National Green Bean Casserole Day. It’s not the holidays without this classic among the sides.
National Lager Day. Arrange an in-store tasting where attendees can sample a range of locally brewed brands of this beer type.
World Choral Day. Engage a group to sing seasonal songs for shoppers.
12 Gingerbread Decorating Day. Ask customers to contribute their ideas for adorning this holiday treat.
13 National Cocoa Day National Cream Cheese Frosting Day
National Alabama Day. Now is the time to showcase the Yellowhammer State’s standout food and beverage producers.
Since International Tea Day and Lemon Cupcake Day fall on the same date, why not combine the two?
Las Posadas, held through Dec. 24, is a Latino religious festival in which participants gather to mark Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn on the night of Jesus’s birth.
National Maple Syrup Day. It’s not only great on pancakes and waffles, but also as an ingredient in a range of baked goods.
Hanukkah begins. This year, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights runs through Dec. 26.
National Oatmeal Muffin Day. Feature these in the in-store bakery, with the option to purchase a box of them to share with others.
Sacagawea Day. Celebrate the life of this literally trailblazing interpreter for Lewis and Clark on their expedition of the Louisiana Territory.
Winter Solstice. The days can only get longer from here on out.
National ReGifting Day. Publish a newsletter article on the best ways to do this without getting caught.
National Christmas Movie Marathon Day. Suggest snacks to accompany those back-to-back screenings.
National Egg Nog Day. Along with posting surefire recipes from customers online, make sure there are ready-made options on hand.
25 Christmas 26
National Candy Cane Day. What are some postholiday uses for this quintessentially Christmas candy in foods and beverages?
Make Cut-Out Snowflakes Day. Hold a contest in which young participants can enter their best efforts, and paste the winning designs to the store windows.
National Card Playing Day. The Earl of Sandwich supposedly invented his namesake meal so he wouldn’t have to leave the card table, so convenient foods are always appreciated at such a time.
Still Need to Do Day. Help shoppers get more organized in the kitchen and beyond with a range of easy tips.
National Resolution Planning Day. Your retail dietitian can hold consultations for those eager to eat better in 2023.
New Year’s Eve. Raise a glass to another successful year, thanks in large part to your hardworking associates.
By 2023-24, vegetable sales should return to the steady but slow growth that the category has seen for much of the past decade, buoyed by consumer interest in nutrition and aspirations of eating healthier.
Seven in 10 U.S. consumers eat cooked vegetables, and one in five eats raw vegetables.
Grocery retailers have kept their leading position among channels shopped for vegetables, but the category did see a definite shift toward online ordering, whether from online-only retailers or from brick-and-mortar stores. The convenience and ease of online options will increasingly play a bigger role in shopping behaviors and in vegetable purchases.
Half of younger consumers are recognizing protein alternatives as a viable source of vegetables, offering a degree of healthy competition for the category and indicating that these consumers are willing to make a tradeoff for convenience and ease.
Personal health is, without question, the significant driver for the vegetable category, but there’s a role in the category’s messaging for environmental awareness and the health of the planet, particularly in connecting with younger consumers and parents.
Locally grown options have a relatively wide appeal, with significantly more than a third of consumers indicating that they buy them as often as possible. However, the concentration of this sentiment among more affluent consumers indicates that not only is there an issue of availability in underserved areas and food deserts, but there’s also a price threshold.
As consumers’ routines adjust to more out-of-home activities, they will seek convenient solutions that speak to their renewed interest in nutrition and well-being, boding well for vegetables, especially those that are convenient time-savers (precut, seasoned or in ready-tocook packaging, for example).
Nearly 100% of U.S. consumers (95%) have eaten fresh vegetables in the past three months.
The past year has seen consumers not only increase their at-home consumption of vegetables, but also seek out a greater variety of them. This has afforded exposure to a broader array of vegetable offerings, particularly fresh options.
People may generally associate health with freshness, but the proliferation of plantbased meat alternatives demonstrates that consumers will accept healthy foods such as vegetables in a processed form, a notion that packaged-vegetable brands can tap into.
oday more than ever, shoppers feel the pinch of rising food prices while facing the daily task of getting meals on the table. Retailers can help shop pers by providing recipes and meal ideas that satisfy the need for speed, ease, value and nutrition.
The pandemic fueled increased interest in home cooking — and for some, it never let up. Among those are 3,801 dedicated home cooks, mostly women ages 55 and up, who subscribe to the recipe publication Taste of Home. Earlier this year, they responded to the publication’s online survey asking about their cooking attitudes and behaviors during the first two years of the pandemic.
About half (52%) of respondents said that they began cooking and baking more during the first year of the pandemic; somewhat surprising ly, 75% said that they were cooking and baking about the same amount or even more in year two than they did the year before (17% said more). About six in 10 (62%) look for new recipes more than they did six months ago, and almost seven in 10 (68%) cited “healthy meals/quality ingredients” as a top priority when they cook.
On the flip side, “cooking fatigue” is real for some, FMI’s “U.S. Gro cery Shopper Trends 2022 — Future Outlook” report suggests. In that study, only 19% of shoppers said that they “love” cooking, compared with 23% in 2021. Shoppers also said that they’re spending less time each day preparing meals than in recent years, with 74% taking less than an hour and 30% spending less than 30 minutes, which empha sizes the need for fast recipe ideas. Even the avid cooks in the Taste of Home survey said that they wanted simple meal prep and quick and easy recipes, with this attitude especially true among Millennials.
Retailers can team up with their retail dietitians to provide great-tasting recipes and meal solutions that address shoppers’ concerns about cost, time, ease and health. Here are a few ideas:
Promote and regularly refresh recipe sections on your website that high light attributes like “30 minutes or less,” “budget-friendly” and “healthy.”
Feature recipes that use popular time-saving appliances like air fryers, electric pressure cookers and slow cookers.
Retailers can team up with their retail dietitians to provide greattasting recipes and meal solutions that address shoppers’ concerns about cost, time, ease and health.
Offer meal preparation tips that don’t require a major time commitment. For example, suggest preparing just one recipe component, like a batch of browned ground beef, to speed meal prep throughout the week in casseroles, chili and tacos.
Give tips for using leftovers as the basis for another meal and to reduce food waste. Recommend doubling freez er-friendly recipes like soups and stews for fast future meals.
Display related recipes near nutritious sale items and less costly ingredients like canned seafood, canned and dry beans, and canned and frozen fruits and vege tables. For less budget-conscious shop pers, suggest using pre-cut produce or prepared deli items as convenient recipe components.
Deliver cost- and time-saving tips and techniques in cooking videos, store dem os and recipe headnotes. For example, suggest saving time by using the “mise en place” method of prepping all recipe ingredients and setting out equipment before cooking begins.
Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN, specializes in nutrition communications for consumer and health professional audiences. She has assisted national retailers and CPGs with nutrition strategy, web content development, trade show exhibiting, and the creation and implementation of shelf tag programs.
ll year long, Progressive Grocer has been celebrating a milestone: 100 years of service to the grocery industry. No other publication has been covering the grocery industry as long as PG, and no other publication was there reporting on store openings and other in-person events, on the ground, during one of the most challenging times in recent memory: the COVID-19 pan demic. So perhaps there’s no better time than now, PG’s 100th year, to turn the tables and celebrate the essential and critical players in U.S. food retailing over the past century. Certainly, over the past two years, grocery re tailers have had to reassess and adapt nearly every facet of their operations. Changes to the grocery landscape will continue, shaped by both macro economic factors and those pesky, always-chang ing consumer preferences. PG surveyed the competitive landscape over the past century to identify those companies that have prioritized innovation, differentiation and community service through every conceivable (and previously incon ceivable) operational challenge — and thrived. We are thrilled to honor the ingenuity, courage and drive of each of the following 11 food retail ers with a Retailer of the Century Award, as well as to acknowledge some honorable mentions.
PG honors 11 retailers that have successfully reimagined grocery over the past century.©2022 BuzzBallz LLC Carrollton T X Please Enjoy Responsibly BuzzBallz.com
Bernard Kroger never could have known what challenges awaited grocery retail when he opened his first store in 1883 in Cincinnati, the company’s hometown to this day. Yet wars, global pandemics, supply chain disasters and labor shortages have been no match for Kroger. The $138 billion grocery chain, which saw an earnings boost during the pandemic, is still rocking impressive growth as its 60 million customers keep cooking at home and loading their pantries to save money. Today, there are nearly 2,800 Kroger stores operating under a variety of banner names spread across 35 states. The company has been at the forefront of retail tech nology innovation by opening robotic warehouses to serve customers in places where the company has no stores.
CEO Rodney McMullen attributes Kroger’s ability to navigate the peaks and valleys of the pandemic to staying true to the company’s core values: growing the food business through the com petitive moats of innova tion, technology, part
nerships and people; leveraging assets such as data, retail media, retail health, fuel and personal finance, which are margin accretive and have clear paths to additional growth outside of the traditional grocery segment; investing in other assets to drive sales growth, which in turn generates data and traffic that enable fast-growing alternative profit streams; and using free cash flow to invest in the business to drive net earnings growth. This flywheel creates value for shareholders and confidence in growth, both of which enable funding of capital projects to grow the business and increase dividends and shareholder return. Then there are its impressive efforts on the environmental, social and gov ernance (ESG) front and amazing private label portfolio, the latter of which is currently helping the retailer attract droves of inflation-stressed shoppers.
Nearly two years after going public, Albertsons Cos. today is focused on reimagination. You could say it has always been this way, however. Founded in 1939 in its current headquarters city of Boise, Idaho, by Joe Albertson, the $72 billion grocery chain operates 2,273 stores in the United States under a variety of banner names that date to the early 1900s, including Shaw’s, Acme, and Jewel-Osco. Some of those banners were reimagining grocery during the late 1800s. The current company has entered a new phase predicated on the belief that satisfied customers create outsized lifetime value and should become “Customers for Life.” The grocery chain is embarking on a five-pronged strategy designed to place the customer at the center of ev erything it does, with the ultimate goal of supporting customers every day, every week and for a lifetime.
The multifaceted strategy includes digitally connecting and engaging customers through the mobile app and website so they can enjoy curated experiences in e-commerce, the community, loyalty, health and media; differentiating the store experi ence by deepening engagement using technology, removing associate pain points to allow them to focus on customer service versus just tasks; elevating the retailer’s distinctiveness in fresh by expanding private-brand products and services, and enhancing product offerings in center store to address custom ers’ changing needs and preferences; modernizing capabilities through an improved supply chain, enhanced data and data analytics, and ongoing pro ductivity, all built on the foundation of being locally great and nationally strong; and further embedding ESG throughout operations.
According to CEO Vivek Sankaran: “At Alb ertsons Cos., we strive to retain the rich history of each banner while enabling customers to benefit from national programs and technologies like the Albertsons for U app, FreshPass, and our DriveUp & Go curbside pickup offerings. Our goal is to provide every customer with great, personalized service and inspiration around food and well-be ing. Working to earn their deep trust will help us build relationships and earn customers for life.”
Especially in hard times, Walmart keeps growing. That’s never been more true than throughout the pandemic and this year, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer’s 60th birthday. The country’s No. 1 seller of food and consumables is just getting started on a whole new business model perfectly suited for hard times and poised to drive even more growth: one that leverages the company’s multibillion-dollar investments in store experience; product assortment, including wonderful private label items; digital convenience; and sustainability.
“For 60 years, we have remained committed to providing our customers with high-quality items at everyday low pric es,” says John Laney, SVP, center of store.
“We are constantly innovating and listening to our customers to bring new and exciting
items that fit into their evolving taste preferences and shop ping behaviors. With 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart store, we want to ensure their shopping experience is convenient and easy whether they are going in-store for their weekly trip, ordering groceries online or
having them delivered to their home.”
The company with $559 billion in annual revenue now generates about 60% of that rev enue from selling food and consumables across a footprint of 5,342 locations, many of which have been getting a redesign. Having presciently debuted online grocery pickup back in 2013, the retailer more recently debuted Walmart+, which offers members several benefits that supplement their shopping experience, including the ability to skip lines with Scan and Go, getting discounts on gas, and having groceries delivered directly to their homes in a matter of hours.
On Sept. 6, 1930, George Jenkins opened the door to the first Publix store in Florida. Today, the Lakeland, Fla.-based com pany has more than 1,300 locations in the Southeast and is the largest regional grocer in North America. The $48 billion retailer is also the largest employee-owned company in the country, and regularly earns accolades for initiatives focused on its 230,000 employees, philanthropy, local communities and the environment.
In April 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pub lix realized that produce and dairy farmers were plowing under or dumping products due to unexpected closures of schools, restaurants and hotels. At the same time, Feeding America shared that it was seeing increases in demand at food banks as high as 600%. Publix saw an opportunity to help both farmers and families, and the company did just that. Within 10 days, Publix had begun purchasing produce and milk from Southeastern farmers and donating the product directly to Feeding Amer ica affiliates in Florida. Publix soon expanded the program to support food banks throughout the company’s seven-state
operating area. From April 2020 through April 2022, Publix purchased and delivered more than 50 million pounds of fresh produce and nearly 550,000 gallons of milk to its food bank partners.
Beyond nourishing its communities, shoppers tend to heap the most praise on the company’s customer service, clean-freak-clean stores and tasty prepared foods, including its famous “pub subs.” On social media, it’s common to see shoppers leav ing kind comments about the grocer. One lifelong customer recently shared her fond memories, con cluding, “I’m 74 and I still shop at Publix!”
Walking into the Meijer Heritage Center inside the retailer’s Grand Rapids, Mich., corporate headquarters, visitors pass a wall emblazoned with quotes from company founders and leaders. There, in big red letters, is one of the best-known quotes attributed to Frederik Meijer: “Customers don’t need us, we need them.” That turn of phrase exemplifies Meijer’s approach to the grocery business, from its innovative store for mats to way that it treats shoppers, employees and communi ties at large. Since Fred Meijer, at the age of 14, helped his par ents, Gezina and Hendrik, open their first store in Greenville, Mich., in 1934, the business has turned on what the retailer can best do for its customers. To this day, the Meijer organization is more outward facing. That’s true in even the smallest details, such as the way employees at all corporate and store levels wear name tags not just for security reasons, but also to greet one another on a first-name basis. And yes, that applies current CEO Rick Keyes. Operating 262 stores across a Midwest footprint and with reported revenues of nearly $19.6 billion in fiscal 2021, family-owned Meijer continues to hone its customer-centric model. Some 60 years after unveiling the first Meijer Thrifty Acres — credited as the first supercenter in the United States — the retailer is about to launch Meijer Grocery, midsized neighborhood stores that are between traditional full-scale Meijers and the chain’s handful of smaller urban market locations.
“Meijer built its legacy upon bold choices and innova tion in the face of difficult circumstances,”asserts Keyes. “Hendrik and Fred Meijer opened our first store during the Great Depression to feed their neighbors and support their community. They then took another profound risk by pioneering the first-ever supercenter 60 years ago. That spirit of innovation, driven by a passion for serving our customers and communities, is what continues to drive us today.”
He continues: “At Meijer, one of our greatest strengths is our ability to take risks and make investments with an eye to the future, rather than making decisions based on shortterm gains and losses. From opening new store formats to expanding the many ways we offer our customers to shop our stores digitally and in person, that drive for innovation continues to push us, especially when times are difficult and our community needs us most.”
The story of Whole Foods Market began in 1978 in Austin, Texas, with a guy who just wanted to sell natural foods as a way to nourish people and planet at the same time. Forty-four years and 500 stores later, that core value remains the same. The world’s first certified-or ganic grocer has been credited with innovations such as mainstreaming natural, organic and plant-based foods and setting the bar ever higher for food sourcing and supplier standards.
According to the com pany’s new CEO, Jason Buechel, who began his tenure as the still Austin-based company’s third chief executive on Sept. 1, nourishing peo ple and planet is “not just writing on the walls. It’s alive in our stores, embedded in our culture, and it serves as our North Star.”
That mission now has some help from Amazon, which acquired the retailer in 2017 in a $13.7 billion deal that’s still reverberating through the grocery industry today. Since merging with the Seattle-based e-comm giant, Whole Foods has cut some prices, rolled out self-checkout, and changed the way it offers delivery and pickup. It has also launched Amazon’s cashier-less Just Walk Out tech in some stores, among other moves.
“We are extremely proud of what our team members, customers and supplier community have accomplished together since we started more than 40 years ago,” notes SVP of Op erations Bill Jordan. “When the first Whole Foods Market opened, there were less than half a dozen natural food supermarkets in the U.S. Since that time, our industry-leading quality standards and sourcing practices have had a tre mendous impact on the food landscape — and we continue to raise the bar for the industry.”
Amazon started selling groceries on its website in 2006. Sixteen years later, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant is close to truly transforming grocery with its Amazon Fresh supermarket format. Since the company launched the format in Woodland Hills, Calif., in August 2020, 44 Amazon Fresh stores have opened in eight states and the District of Colum bia, and Amazon reportedly has plans to open dozens, if not hundreds, more in major U.S. metros in the next three years. Amazon Fresh stores, which range in size from 25,000 to 45,000 square feet, join the company’s other U.S. physical locations selling food and consumables, including Whole Foods Market and Amazon Go stores.
Amazon recently hired Tony Hoggett, a veteran of British supermarket chain Tesco, to lead its grocery ambitions.“We’re incredibly honored to be selected as a Retailer of the Century by Progressive Grocer,” Hoggett says. “Amazon has been innovating across the grocery space for many years, learning from customers and developing new offerings along the way. We now operate a large online grocery business across 5,000 cities/towns through Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market, plus we have over 530 Whole Foods Market stores and over 60 Amazon Fresh stores. Whole Foods Market remains the pioneer and leader in natural and organics, and Amazon Fresh delivers a wide selection of groceries and high-quality freshly prepared foods at low prices, whether you’re shopping in-store or online. We’re delighted with the customer reception to Amazon Fresh stores, and we look forward to growing our store footprint while con tinuing to learn from customers along the way. We’ve built a strong grocery leadership team, and we’re excited about what we can deliver for customers through both Whole Foods Market and Amazon Fresh.”
Target has been affectionately known as “Tar-zhay” by its guests since it was found ed in the 1960s, and it has been building on that legacy ever since. Today, the Minneapolis-based retailer, long known for making style accessible to all, has become a goto for grocery shoppers with its magic mix of ease, value and inspiration. In the process, its fast-growing food and beverage business is delivering on Target’s purpose of helping all families discover the joy of everyday life.
In 2021, Target delivered record sales — $106 billion in total revenue — and deepened trust with guests as food and beverage delivered record growth on growth. Target’s food and beverage business generated more than $20 billion in sales last year and has hit double-digit comp-sales growth in nine of the last 10 quarters. Since launching in August 2019, Good & Gather, Target’s flagship owned food and bever age brand, has quickly become its No.1-selling food brand, generating more than $2 billion in sales in 2021. Meanwhile, Favorite Day, a Target owned food and beverage brand that debuted in 2021 and offers sweet and savory indulgences, continues to build momentum among guests. The food and beverage business also plays a big part in Target’s commit ment to diversity, equity and inclusion. With plans to end the year with 50 Black-owned food and beverage brands on its shelves, Target will have quadrupled the number of Blackowned brands in its grocery assortment since 2019. Last but not least, Target’s omnichannel strategy is making it easier than ever for guests to shop for foods and beverages.
“Over the last few years, Target has transformed from a company that sells food and beverage to one that celebrates food and beverage, and we’re honored to be recognized as a retailer of the century,” says Rick Gomez, EVP, chief food and beverage officer. “We are one of the biggest digital grocers in America, our guests absolutely love what we’re doing with our owned brands like Good & Gather and Favorite Day, and the scores of grocery industry experts we’ve hired are helping us raise the bar in every thing we do. Today, food and beverage is truly a gateway to the entire Target experience — and there’s a lot more to come.”
Is there anything more astonishing this year than the fact that Costco hasn’t raised the price of its $4.99 rotisserie chicken? Costco’s loss-leader, vertically integrated chicken has stood firm against a deadly pandemic, supply chain gridlock and now historic inflation. The chicken is so popular among Costco members that it even has its own Facebook fan page, with more than 19,000 followers.
It’s just one reason that the retailer with a foot print of 564 locations has a highly loyal base of 117 million members. Costco’s business model, born in Seattle in 1983, is designed to provide value, offering na tional and regional brands priced below traditional wholesale or retail outlets to mem bers, who pay an annual fee. Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco, whose U.S. business generates $142 billion annually, also has one of the most successful private brands in history: Kirkland Signature. Kirkland raked in $58 billion in sales during Costco’s latest fiscal year, making up around a quarter of the company’s total revenue. It’s America’s biggest consumer pack aged goods brand, measured by sales.
“Maintaining consistent product quality, competitive pricing and availability of Kirkland products is essential to keeping members loyal to Costco,” the company said in its annual filings. “If Kirkland experiences a loss of member accep tance or confidence, sales and profit margins may suffer.” For his part, CFO Richard Galanti notes: “If you get 99 things right and one thing wrong, people are going to remember the one thing. So you don’t get it wrong. From an opportunity standpoint, Kirkland is known. It’s a brand.”
Costco is also known for paying its employ ees well (its average wage is $17.73 an hour). Further, about two-thirds of the company’s selling and general administrative expenses go to employee labor and benefits. Here’s the bottom line: Costco has revolutionized grocery shop ping by making every customer visit feel like an exclusive experience, a treasure hunt and a really great value all at the same time.
The Zaandam, Netherlands-based operator of 7,452 stores with more than 400,000 employees came into existence in July 2016 when Dutch company Royal Ahold and Bel gian firm Delhaize Group merged. The banners of Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. business, Ahold Delhaize USA, have much longer histories, however. The company’s “family of great local brands” comprise Food Lion, FreshDirect, The Giant Co., Giant Food, Hannaford, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., Peapod Digital Labs, and Retail Business Services.
In 2021, Ahold Delhaize USA reported annual sales of $53.7 billion, up 3.6% from 2020. U.S. online sales at the company were up 16.4%. Although the increase wasn’t as strong as the 61% jump in the prior-year quarter, it was an impressive feat nonetheless, considering an economic environment in which shoppers are counting every penny due to historic inflation, and e-commerce sales overall have been slowing.
In the United States, Ahold Delhaize now has more than 1,400 online grocery pickup points, and it has also added
new instant-delivery options with partners such as Instacart. Last November, The Giant Co. opened a new state-of-the-art direct e-commerce fulfillment center in Philadelphia to serve more customers in the City of Brotherly Love and — for the first time in its 98-year history — southern New Jersey. Ahold Delhaize USA has also been busy putting into place a supply chain transformation plan since 2021, a three-year journey to establish an integrated self-dis tribution network to support the division’s omni channel growth. In March, the company shared that it had converted its first facility of 2022 into a self-managed network, in Bethlehem, Pa., bringing the total number of network facilities to 21.
The Trader Joe’s way of retailing is to make the grocery shopping experience feel like a trip around the world. The Monrovia, Calif.-based chain, born in 1967 and now with 500-plus stores and $15 billion in annual sales, is beloved by shoppers across 42 states for its panoply of private label items sourced from such ex otic places as Thailand, France and Brazil. In fact, Trader Joe’s is credited with making private-brand foods cool again. Mandarin orange chicken, chocolate chip Dunkers cookies and cranberry oatmeal are just a few of the items with cult followings among shoppers. Now, with autumn in full swing, shoppers are lining up for the retailer’s famous pumpkin spice and apple cider products, many of which create some serious buzz on social media. This year, new fallthemed goodies include pumpkin cream cheese, Honeycrisp apple candles, pumpkin overnight oats and a pumpkin overnight face mask.
The founder of Trader Joe’s, Joe Coloumbe, revealed in a 2021 posthumous memoir how he turned a store into a national obsession: He didn’t allow suppliers to pay for specific store placement and created a whimsical in-store atmosphere that makes customers feel
relaxed and happy. It’s a strategy that keeps working even for a grocer with no e-commerce presence whatsoever.
The company recently explained on its popu lar podcast how it survived the pandemic-driven e-comm surge without digital options. “While other retailers were cutting staff and adding things like self-checkout, curbside pickup and outsourcing delivery options, we were hiring more crew, and we continue to do that,” said Trader Joe’s Marketing Director Tara Miller. “We know that this period of distancing will end, and when it does, our crew will be in our stores to help you find your next favorite
Today’s consumers are seeking extraordinary eating experiences they can enjoy without guilt — like the world-class sophistication of Trusted Veal from Europe. The trusted taste of traditional Dutch veal is the finest in the world — with lofty standards of quality, sustainability, animal welfare and food safety that live up to the legend. Give today’s confident cooks an irresistible reason to keep coming back to your meat case — the continental allure of European Veal.
While PG celebrates 11 Retailer of the Century honorees, we would be remiss not to honor the success of other food retailers that have made tremendous impacts on the industry during the past 100 years.
Founded in 1946, Wakefern Food Corp. has become the largest retailers’ cooperative group of supermarkets and the fourth-largest cooperative of any kind in the United States. Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern consists of nearly 50 mem ber companies that independently own and operate more than 360 retail supermarkets under the ShopRite, Price Rite
Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hamp shire and Rhode Island markets.
Founded in 1919 in Rochester, N.Y., and still based there, Wegmans today operates 108 stores across the East Coast and inspires a rabid fan base of loyal shoppers who cram the company’s supercenter-size stores for items like fresh truffles, chocolate chip cookies made with butter, and organic chicken dog treats.
H-E-B began in Kerrville, Texas, with one fam ily-owned store. Today, the San Antonio-based company is still family-owned but operates more than 400 locations across Texas and Mexico, all of which offer grocery pickup and delivery. H-E-B is virtually a religion in Texas — is there any other grocery retailer in the United States that opens stores with drive-thru barbecue restaurants?
Hy-Vee founders Charles Hyde and David Vre denburg had a goal to provide “good merchan dise, appreciative service and low prices” when they opened a small store in Beaconsfield, Iowa, in 1930. Today, the West Des Moines, Iowa-based company has more than 240 stores and is cele brated not just for its produce, meat and dairy, but also for its community initiatives focused on wellness and hyper-local products.
Aldi may not have gotten its start in the United States, but it’s now an international phenome non, with nearly 7,000 stores spread across 11 countries. In the United States, where the German deep-discount retailer is based in Batavia, Ill., there are more than 2,200 stores in 36 states. About 90% of its 1,400 products are private label, and stores are smaller and easy to shop. It’s an even more popular destination these days for shoppers as grocery prices have shot up.
s the grocery industry weathers consolidation and dig ital disruption, a few regional grocers are thriving by finding ways to outsmart big players, scale while keep ing costs down and create a hyper-localized customer experience that’s highly differentiated.
Specifically, grocers such as Publix Super Markets, H-E-B and Meijer all stand out as Progressive Grocer Super Regionals because they offer first-rate customer service, innovative omnichannel options and assort ments that create shopper loyalty for life.
At 7 a.m. on Aug. 4, Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets quietly opened its 1,300th store. The little-publicized opening in the fast-growing city of Crawfordville in the Florida Panhandle came a little over a month after the company broke ground on its first store in Kentucky – another quiet milestone for a grocery chain that’s on an aggressive push north- and westward.
At the ground-breaking in the Bluegrass State, Publix CEO Todd Jones said: “It’s an exciting day for Publix Super Markets as we break ground in our eighth state. When our founder, George Jenkins, opened the first Publix store, he wanted to create a better grocery store — one that kept associates and customers top of mind.
More than 90 years later, we’ve kept true to our values, including supporting the communities in which we live and work. We look forward to sharing the Publix difference with Kentuckians.”
The Publix difference is knowing your customers and treating them very, very well. When a shopper walks into a Publix store, everything, from the floors to the checkouts to the bathrooms, is sparkling clean. The employees greet shoppers walking into the store with “Good morning, welcome!” The shelves are stocked, and everything is in its place. It’s not unusual to find the store manager sweeping the floor or checking
Publix began offering a bakery department in 1957. Today, the company offers more than a dozen scratch-made varieties, including some original recipes. Shoppers are especially fond of the retailer's cakes, Key lime pie and guava pastries.
out a customer or emptying a trash can or carrying groceries to a shopper’s car. Everything that Publix does is all about Southern hospitality and convenience, and not spending a lot of time or money on fancy prepared foods, oversized stores or robotic fulfillment centers.
The Publix difference has resonated so well with shoppers that the Florida chain has been expanding north for years as it looks to woo non-Southern ers with its unique brand of down-home differentiation. At the end of 2021, the company operated 60.9 million square feet of supermarket space. The com pany’s supermarkets vary in size, but current prototypes range from 28,000 to 55,000 square feet. Stores are often located in shopping centers where the company is the anchor tenant (the majority of the company’s supermarkets are leased). The company supplies its su permarkets from nine primary distribu tion centers located in Lakeland, Miami, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Orlando, Deer field Beach and Boynton Beach, Fla.; Lawrenceville, Ga.; and McCalla, Ala. A new distribution center is currently under construction in Greensboro, N.C., which could fuel the grocery chain’s expansion. In any case, there’s no sign of a growth slowdown for the country’s largest employee-owned company and its 225,000 employees.
When San Antonio-based H-E-B opened a new store in New Braunfels, Texas, in 2021, it wasn’t enough to have 122,000 square feet of sushi; meal kits; housemade tortillas; a full-service pharmacy; Texas-themed furniture and home décor; fresh meat and dairy; a produce section with organic, locally grown and fresh-cut, ready-to-serve fruits and vegetables; and a floral department with certified floral designers. The store also had to have a barbecue drive-through. Well, not just a barbecue drive-through, but a two-story True Texas BBQ restaurant with two-level indoor seating, contactless ordering kiosks, and a window serving up brisket, sausage and “dinosaur-sized Texas beef ribs.”
H-E-B expertly taps into Texas pride and the saying that ev erything really is bigger in that state, and shoppers eat it all up. The grocer’s recent expansion includes two nearly constructed locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, in Allen and Mansfield, which are set to open next year. The grocery chain is also adding frozen capabilities to its distribution facilities in Temple, Texas, in an effort to grow its current facility footprint by 325,000 square feet.
Earlier this year, H-E-B opened a 50,000-square-foot e-commerce fulfillment center in the central Texas town of Le ander. The facility is expected to employ 150 people and will also feature various forms of automation to pick and carry out the grocer’s home delivery and curbside orders throughout the region. This is H-E-B’s fifth e-commerce fulfillment center to be built since 2018, and the company has plans to open additional facilities by the end of next year, including one in Plano that will service the Dallas-Fort Worth market.
“At H-E-B, we’re always looking for ways to offer Texans a better shopping experience and more options to choose how they shop, pay for and receive their products,” says Kedar Patel, VP of e-commerce. “Across our business, we are adopting innovative technologies that give our partners the tools they need to provide top-quality service to our customers, whether they shop online or in our stores.”
The grocer opened its second store in Leander late last year and added an H-E-B Wellness Primary Care center to its first Leander location in May. In June, H-E-B revealed that it would donate $10 million to help build a new elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where a shooter killed 19 children and two teachers this past May. Last month, the grocer said that it would invest $10 million to remodel its store in that town.
Meijer has a cult following in the Midwest for its su percenters that are open all hours and offer one-stop shopping. In September, however, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company made a surprising announcement:
The new H-E-B in New Braunfels, Texas, features nearly 30 staffed checkout lanes, plus self-checkout. The store is also the first location in the company to feature a Home by H-E-B department and a two-story True Texas BBQ restaurant.
It’s going in another — smaller and more grocery-focused — direction with a new format and banner called Meijer Grocery.
The first two Meijer Grocery stores are expected to open in the Detroit area in early 2023 and will aim to provide simple shopping experiences and greater community access to fresh food. The Meijer Grocery locations in Orion Township and Macomb Township will be between 75,000 and 90,000 square feet in size and feature an easy-to-navigate design, both inside and via a parking area that’s wrapped around a singular corner entrance.
In comparison, Meijer supercenters measure up to 220,000 square feet and carry items such as electronics and apparel. Each Meijer Grocery location will feature fresh produce, a fresh meat counter, a full-service deli and a bakery equipped with in-store cake decorators. A pharmacy and health and beauty care area will meet other con sumer needs in an easily shoppable site.
“Our customers know they can count on us for the freshest foods and best value, which has always been at the core of what we do at Meijer,” says Rick Keyes, Meijer’s president and CEO. “Meijer Grocery will now provide that same com bination of freshness and value in a foods-focused format in your local community.”
Don Sanderson, group VP of foods, echoes that sentiment, noting that the store is equipped to meet the needs of community residents. “We’re excited to provide our customers with yet another way to shop,” Sanderson says. “This new concept store will not only provide our customers with everything they need on their weekly shopping trip, but also a quick and easy solution for when they realize they left the key ingredient off their list while cooking dinner.”
Meijer’s value proposition of offering conve nience, assortment curation and a corporate-level commitment to the community is sure to resonate with a whole new set of shoppers who can now look forward to an easier shop in a smaller format.
s CEO of Washington, D.C.-based MilkPEP, Yin Woon Rani is responsible for helping milk suppliers and retailers sell more milk. Rani talked to Progressive Grocer about the impact of plant-based products on the dairy industry, how milk producers are innovating in the functional beverage age, and the (shrinking) carbon footprint of a glass of milk.
Progressive Grocer: Can you talk about your background and how you came to be CEO of MilkPEP?
Yin Woon Rani: My whole career has been in marketing communications. I have almost 18 years on the agency side. I have been lucky to work with clients like P&G, Smucker’s, GlaxoSmithKline, and Hasbro, and, before coming to MilkPEP, I was at Campbell Soup Co. as their chief consumer experience officer across a large portfolio of products.
PG: Why did you make the move to dairy?
YR: My role at MilkPEP feels like the job I’ve been preparing for my whole career, without knowing it. It’s wonderful to be attached to such a big, important industry and to be able to generate awareness for a category with such an impact.
PG: For people who aren’t familiar with MilkPEP, tell us about the organization’s goals and your role as CEO.
YR: PEP is an acronym for Processor Education Program. It is what is known as a “checkoff program,” which is funded by the largest dairy companies in the U.S. For every 100 pounds of milk they process, they are assessed an amount of money that the USDA gathers, which becomes the operating budget for MilkPEP. And so our mission is actually very simple: It is to encourage Ameri cans to drink more milk every day.
PG: Let’s define what milk is today, because there’s a lot of contro versy about what is milk and what is not milk.
YR: We are solely focused on dairy milk. Obviously, there’s a lot of plantbased drinks that use the “milk” moniker, though technically, under FDA standards of identity, they would not meet these standards. But in con sumer language, that’s what they’re called. We feel strongly that dairy milk is unique in its nutritional profile with what it brings naturally to the table. It’s one of the reasons I’m excited to work in the category every day. Dairy milk has few ingredients, while plant-based drinks are highly fortified, yet still fall short of milk’s nutritional profile.
PG: What is the state of dairy milk consumption in the U.S. right now?
YR: Consumption of dairy milk has been on a steady decline for decades for a lot of reasons. But plant-based alternatives are not the primary source of loss. In fact, we see more interaction between milk and bottled water. The plant-based category is still small in the larger picture. We sell more dairy milk in a week than is sold in an entire year for oat milk. One of the big structural reasons why milk is declining is not necessarily a loss of preference; it’s more because consumers want on-the-go beverages. To adapt, the dairy industry is increasingly investing in both extended shelf life and aseptic. Additionally, kids’ milk packs are still going well, as, again, this offers an on-the-go option.
PG: But dairy milk has seen a lot of innovation over the years, hasn’t it?
YR: Yes. Particularly with organic and lac tose-free, which is one of the fastest-grow ing segments of milk. Lactose-free on a volume basis is growing over 5% a year and in double digits, from a dollar standpoint. Our value-added segment, which includes health-enhanced milk, is $1 billion more than the plant-based. So dairy milk is really very big, and, interestingly, within what we call traditional milk, we continue to see whole-fat growth.
PG: Milk sales were up during the pandemic, right?
YR: Yes, during the surge period and during the balance of the year, because frankly, the more people are home, the more milk they drink. We have lots of con sumer data that demonstrates that milk is still considered extremely healthy — it is the healthiest beverage in consumer perception, besides water itself. People still appreciate real dairy’s nutrition profile. During the pandemic, we did a survey, and it was in the top three of most essen tial items in the pantry and refrigerator, up there with eggs and bread. Attitudes toward milk are more positive than one would think. Consumers not only still like real milk, but milk plays a significant role in consumers’ diets in comparison to oth er kinds of milk. Total dairy is also in really good shape. People will continue to eat more cheese, yogurt and ice cream than many categories could possibly match.
YR: Some retailers continue to use dairy as a loss leader to attract shoppers. Milk is one of the most planned things in the grocery cart, and if you have milk in your basket, it’s usu ally a big, valuable basket. But retailers need to understand what a valuable product it is, not just for consumers but for the retail channel itself. Milk has 4% of shelf space, but 10% of revenue and 20% of profit for an average store — milk is highly, highly productive. Given the pressure from other alternatives, that dairy case space is very valuable, but we do think that milk is under-spaced and under-allocated as all this alternative innovation has come.
Retailer customers are leaving money on the table by not having enough milk in stock, particularly in conventional versus value-added. This year, we’re seeing out-of-stocks at a record high in value-added milk, which is the fastest-growing, most premium-priced products. We have analysis that shows that when retailers don’t have enough holding power for milk, retailers lose $1,000 to $3,000 per store. We know that the plant-based market is over-spaced, but retailers are looking for something else that’s as interesting, as compelling, has the right graphics and has the right modern appeal, as plant-based. The milk companies are increasingly responding to that ask, and our industry innovation pipeline has only just begun.
value-added, but I do think that is going to continue to be a big growth area.
YR: Shoppers are increasingly interested in the dairy industry’s sustainability efforts. Our data says that sus tainability is critical, particularly among younger people. While sustainability is not a main driver as to why they buy milk or don’t buy milk, it is definitely a consideration that will continue to have more and more importance.
The good news is that the industry is very focused on their sustainable footprint and frankly has made a lot of progress, thanks to increasingly modern and innovative dairy farming practices. In a 10-year time period, the en vironmental impact of producing a gallon of milk shrank significantly, requiring 30% less water, 21% less land and a 19% smaller carbon footprint. So the industry is laser-focused and super-committed to sustainability.
YR: Organic is plateauing a little bit because it’s been grow ing for a long time and many consumers have already opted in. The lactose-free and health-enhanced segments are really the star pupils right now. It’ll be interesting to see during this inflationary period what happens, because traditional milk is still a really good deal — both in terms of cost and nutritional value. We’re watching closely to see how the inflationary part affects
“Attitudes toward milk are more positive than one would think. Consumers not only still like real milk, but milk plays a significant role in consumers’ diets in comparison to other kinds of milk. Total dairy is also in really good shape. People will continue to eat more cheese, yogurt and ice cream than many categories could possibly match.”
—Yin Woon Rani, MilkPEP
PG: What should grocers be doing differently when it comes to merchandising milk at the dairy case?
ompared with some of our other awards programs, which include Category Captains, Editors’ Picks and Top Women in Grocery, the Impact Awards program is a newbie, only in its second year. The reaction to it since its inception has been immense, however, with dozens of entries pouring in from a range of companies across the retail, supplier and solution provider realms. The main reason for this is that the grocery industry as a whole has plenty to share when it comes to helping to make the world a better place.
The Impact Awards honor exceptionalism in such key areas as Community Service/Local Im pact; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging; Educational Support/Learning Advancement; Ethical Sourcing/Supply Chain Transparency; Food Security/Nutritional Leadership; Sustain ability/Resource Conservation; and Workforce Development/Employee Support. While we PG editors were overwhelmed by the high number of outstanding submissions from companies doing amazing things in these areas, we can’t really say we were surprised, as we’ve seen and reported on many examples all year round of grocers, suppliers and solution providers improving lives, creating opportunity and pos itively affecting the communities that they call home — and sometimes even further afield.
This year, we recognize the incredible efforts of honorees with 33 awards presented to 26 companies that are leading the way in mak ing a tangible difference, whether that means reducing greenhouse-gas emissions across their operations, developing nutritional programs for underserved neighborhoods, or enabling hardworking associates and local customers to realize their educational dreams. We believe that such endeavors are just the beginning for these companies as they continue to seek innovative ways to remove obstacles, increase understanding and achieve ever-more-ambi tious goals. PG salutes all of the recipients of the 2022 Impact Awards, and invites readers to find out about each one in the following pages.
This year’s honorees have demonstrated the many ways that they have been able to effect positive change across their market areas — and there’s much more to come.
and product donations, aiming for at least one hour of volunteer service per associate per year.
To further boost volunteer and community involvement, the com pany introduced a paid volunteer program in 2021, which caused vol unteer hours to skyrocket from 8,000 in 2020 to more than 28,000 in 2021. The program enables full- and part-time associates to volunteer at company-sponsored events and have a portion of their service hours treat ed as paid, scheduled work hours.
When The Giant Co. opens a new store, it seeks to partner with local community organizations, especial ly those supporting its three pillars of corporate social responsibility (CSR): eliminating hunger, chang ing children’s lives and healing the planet. A signature element of its approach to CSR is associate involve ment: The retailer pairs active volun teer opportunities with its financial
Schnucks’ teammates always roll up their sleeves to volunteer for nonprofits throughout the markets/divisions they serve. In partnership with the American Red Cross and its Sound the Alarm initiative, the grocer’s associates vol unteered at two events at which they installed 10-year battery-free smoke detectors for local residents.
Benefiting Beyond Housing of St. Louis, a collection drive held by Schnucks stores raised $150 of inkind donations at each location. Employees delivered 63 donated boxes of household cleaning prod ucts to the Family Support Center, where they painted, changed light bulbs and replaced ceiling tiles. Further, to support the youngest members of the community, stores held a baby product collection drive to support Nurses for New borns. Each store again added $150 in product, which helped the
In 2022, during National Volun teer Month (April), the grocer ran a volunteer challenge to increase engagement and raise awareness of the volunteer program. The store with the highest number of volunteer hours in each region could donate $1,000 to a charity related to one of the com pany’s three CSR pillars. In just one month, associates logged a total of 6,350 volunteer hours, nearly match ing the 7,079 hours logged in January, February and March combined.
Understanding that diversity, equity, inclu sion and belonging span many business areas, Hy-Vee has focused on its work place, marketplace and workforce.
grocer collect 93 boxes.
Then there were associates from Evansville, Ind.-area stores who gave their time at the Tri-State Food Bank, assisting with product sorting. Addi tionally, a collection drive for household cleaning products and food items was held to benefit Ronald McDonald House and its mission to provide a home away from home for families of seriously ill children. Each store once more contrib uted $150 worth of in-kind donations. After delivering 73 boxes to a local Ron ald McDonald House, teammates helped organize and clean its warehouse.
To foster a more equitable work place and workforce, the Iowa-based grocer began a diversity and inclu sion training requirement for all employees and introduced a program called Cultural Conversations to spur discussions on timely topics. In the area of recruitment, the retail er rolled out the Perfect campaign featuring videos that represent the diversity of Hy-Vee employees.
To give back to the marketplace, Hy-Vee focused on several areas of community engagement. The retailer pledged 5,000 hours of volunteer service to nonprofit organizations to honor Black History Month, for instance. To protect people in its service areas, the company worked with partners to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in historically underserved neighborhoods.
To ensure that its products reflect a diverse marketplace, Hy-Vee works to create a pipeline of diverse suppliers by hosting quarterly brand summits where minority- and women-owned small businesses can pitch their prod ucts to sell at the grocer’s stores.
For these and other efforts, Hy-Vee won an inclusion award from the Greater Des Moines Partnership in 2021 and was recognized by the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce in that organization’s inaugural Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Work place Excellence Awards.
We celebrate everyone who supports their communities across our industry.
Miranda Osmack, Community Engagement Assistant
Stephen Rennels, Division Manager
Thaddus Nathaniel, Division Manager
Fancy, Division Manager and Schron Jackson, Director
Engagement and Customer Care
For Meijer, the notion of community is key to its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B) commitments.
Although the company has a demonstrated history of embracing diversity efforts, Meijer has recently amplified opportunities for team member resource groups (TMRGs). Those groups now include the Meijer Disability Awareness and Advocacy Group (mDAAG), Women at Meijer, YoPro (young profession als), mVets (veterans), Meijer Pride, MOSAIC (team members of color), and Meet@Meijer (new team mem bers). The company reports that membership in TMRGs has grown by 50% in the past year alone.
To bring its employee communities together, Meijer hosts company-wide programs such as a recent Stronger Together: Meijer Unity and Commu nity event. Locations were encour aged to demonstrate their dedication to unity and community in a way that was unique to each store. Mei jer also keeps all team members up to date on DEI&B through regularly published newsletters.
Beyond internal initiatives, Meijer partners with minority-owned business es to enhance its supplier diversity. The retailer has held several supplier diver sity summits that have resulted in the addition of 215 diverse vendors. Meijer extends its work into the community at large, too, investing nearly $12 million in organizations, structures and people addressing racial inequities throughout its multistate service area.
During the civil unrest of 2020, food broker Navigator looked at its portfolio and realized that it didn’t represent enough diverse-owned brands. So, it set out to increase supplier diver sity on grocery store shelves across America by finding brands that needed its support. As a result, Navigator increased its portfolio of women- and di verse-owned brands, which now account for 60% of its portfolio of CPG brands.
The company also started a 501(c)(3) foundation. Comprising 25 entrepreneurs and focused on education, Navigator’s foundation instructs brands on how to be successful at grocery. To help with the training, the company enlists partners such as NielsenIQ, ECRM/ RangeMe, KeHE, Costco, Albert sons Cos., Wakefern and Morgan Stanley. The Navigator Lighthouse
Target’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging covers not only its associates, departments and stores, but also its suppliers, customers and the communities that it serves. The retailer is working to leverage its size, scale and resources across its business to accel erate change and progress through several initiatives, including a pledge to spend $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by the end of 2025. So far, Target has doubled the number of Blackowned brands in its assortment — it now offers more than 100 across every major category. The retailer further supports diverse suppliers
Foundation creates a holistic suc cess system for women and minori ty CPG entrepreneurs to launch and succeed in the grocery industry. Combining the successful model of Navigator’s brokering process with unique areas of support and focus has paved a tailored path for minority and women business owners to get their products sold at grocery stores.
and underrepresented businesses by investing capital, opening access to new markets, sharing expertise and engaging in sponsorships.
The retailer has also been ac tive in building up BIPOC-owned businesses in the Twin Cities and beyond by pledging 10,000 hours of pro bono consulting ser vices. So far, more than 100 Target team members have delivered nearly 4,000 hours of ser vices and supported 25 projects span ning services from strategic planning and sourcing to web design and marketing. Target also unveiled its Forward Founders accelerator program in 2021 and has since mentored more than 40 early-stage food and beverage brands across three classes.
The Dollar General Literacy Foundation (DGLF) was founded in 1993 by thenCEO Cal Turner Jr. to honor his func tionally illiterate grandfather, company co-founder J.L. Turner, and to support others’ educational journeys. Espousing the belief that everyone deserves an equal opportunity to receive a basic education, the foundation has invested in and provided financial assistance to literacy programs to increase access, en hance the quality of instruction, and in spire and advance innovation. To date, DGLF has awarded more than $216 million to further literacy and learning, enabling more than 15.2 million people to achieve their educational goals.
The foundation’s programs include grants to help adults, families and youths in need of literacy assistance through such means as high school equivalency preparation; English-language acqui sition; adult education instruction; children’s education; the purchase of
Meijer has ramped up its educational support big time. In 2022, the Midwest retailer revealed that it’s bolstering its educational benefits to give every team member a chance to earn a free education.
Among other initiatives, Meijer is partnering with four online universities — Colorado State University Global, University of Maryland Global Campus, Walden University and Western Gover nor’s University — to provide bachelor’s degrees to team members. The free educational programs, which allow for flexible scheduling and self-paced cours es, include more than 40 eligible fields of study. The program also features aca demic advisors who can coach students during their educational journeys.
In addition to college programs, Mei jer provides support for team members to pursue a free high school diploma, GED or English-language learners’ program. The retailer has more than
new technology or equipment, books, materials or software at schools, public libraries and nonprofits; summer reading programs; and helping public school libraries rebuild after disasters.
In March 2022, DGLF revealed about $5 million in grants to five national or ganizations to further support students and educators: Save the Children, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, DonorsChoose, Discovery Education in Partnership with the Na tional Afterschool Association, and the
In a city facing high childhood poverty and low graduation rates disproportionately affecting people of color, building the next generation of leaders is among Rich Products Corp.’s core values and directly aligns to the work that the Say Yes organi zation does to address and overcome the financial, academic, social and health obstacles that Buffalo, N.Y., public-school students face. That’s why Rich’s recently pledged $1 mil lion to continue supporting the work of Say Yes Buffalo.
doubled its tuition reimbursement to the IRS maximum of $5,250 each year for all team members for traditional brickand-mortar educational institutions.
In the name of its founders, Mei jer awards the Fred and Lena Meijer Scholarship to help team members off set the cost of a traditional education. That scholarship can be used in con junction with tuition reimbursements. Now in its 46th year, the program recently bestowed $10,000 scholar ships on four Meijer team members and $5,000 on 106 recipients.
Since 2012, Say Yes Buffalo has partnered with the Buffalo public-school system to increase graduation rates by providing students with a comprehensive support system and post-secondary tuition scholarships. In the years since its launch, Say Yes Buffalo has supported more than 8,000 students, including more than 2,000 college-bound Say Yes scholars.
Rich’s support extends to creating meaningful connections with students through mentorship and on-thejob experiences at Rich’s Buffalo headquarters. Rich’s also engages in an active relationship with Say Yes through board service and by acting as a conduit for meaningful con nections between other educational partners within and around Buffalo. Additionally, the company creates ca reer exposure and awareness for Say Yes students. For example, this past summer, one of Rich’s culinarians delivered a multiweek culinary series for summer students.
Giant Food’s efforts to ensure greater product transparency fall into four key categories: empowering customers to shop based on environ mental and social impact, ensuring ethical and just supply chains, conserving and regenerating natural resources, and advancing circular and safe prod ucts/packaging.
The grocer’s easy-touse environmental social impact rating system, powered by HowGood, analyzes each product ingredient against envi ronmental and social cri teria, including farming
practices, treatment of animals, labor conditions and chemical use, making it easy for customers to make informed choices when they shop. Additionally, all of Giant Food’s store-brand products will feature clear on-pack bioengineered food disclosure well ahead of the federal bioengineered labeling.
Giant Food also maintains a robust animal welfare policy and upholds its human rights policy that all people in volved in the food supply chain should be treated fairly, justly and with respect, as well as conserving and regenerating natural resources by promoting regen erative agriculture and sourcing a wide array of certified-sus tainable products, including such key commodities as seafood, coffee, cocoa, tea, palm oil, soy and wood.
Further, Giant Food maintains a stringent sustainable chemistry policy, is moving toward 100% sustainable plastic packaging, and has insti tuted a leading sustain able seafood policy that covers a wide range of products.
Believing that customers should know exactly where their food comes from, Raley’s works with a small number of trusted, fully vetted meat, poultry and egg suppliers, includ ing many local farms, all of which share its deep commitment to ensuring safe, healthy and humane conditions throughout the supply chain.
Beyond that, Raley’s closely monitors its private label sourcing partners’ ad herence to its rigorous standards and to government regulations. Its quality assurance team manages and digitally scales out this complex process using the Collaborate+ system, a configured version of the CMX1 for Grocery
platform from CMX.
With Collaborate+, Raley’s has turned previously manual tasks into digitized, automated actions. During the supplier vetting, onboarding and review processes, the Collaborate+ por tal collects acknowledgments, signed
documents, audits and certifications to man age vendor compliance across multiple programs and regulations. All vendor-supplied infor mation is reviewed and verified against industry and regulatory standards through an automated review and approval workflow managed with in Collaborate+.
Raley’s will reject sup pliers during onboard ing for not meeting standards, or pause
onboarding until corrective actions are taken. For vendors without mature policies and procedures, the grocer will conduct on-site visits, observe the operation’s process, review programs, and provide feedback on meeting and maintaining Raley’s standards.
into Prince George’s County, Md., and revealed the first Ward 8 Healthy Living Microgrant recipients.
Ethical sourcing has been a goal for Whole Foods since it first opened its doors in 1980, and the company believes that its customers should know where their food comes from. As such, the grocer continuously works to promote supply chain transparency, fair trade and work ers’ rights in the products that it buys and sells. Through its Sourced for Good program, Whole Foods looks to build thoughtful, long-term partnerships with partners that it can trust, and collaborates with farms, producers and international third-party certifiers to ensure that participating suppliers generate positive impacts for workers, their communities and the environment.
Additionally, Whole Foods has transitioned all 365 by Whole Foods Market tea to be certified by either Fair Trade USA or Rain forest Alliance. All of that brand’s packaged coffee is responsibly sourced and certified according to an approved third party, and 365 chocolate bars, chocolate chips and baking chocolate are certified by Fair Trade USA. Additionally, Whole Foods is a member of Conservation Interna tional’s Sustainable Coffee Challenge, a collaborative effort of companies, gov ernments, NGOs, research institutions and others to create a more sustainable coffee sector.
Giant Food’s Healthy Living Team (HLT) is a forward-facing service that supports, encourages and connects the grocer’s local communities and associates to foods and services that improve their health and well-being. Consisting of 11 licensed nutrition pro fessionals, the HLT not only provides free nutrition services, but also works to increase knowledge of healthy food and its benefits, the affordability of food in underserved areas, and access to healthy food in the communities served by the retailer’s stores.
Since the 2018 launch of a neighbor hood health improvement program in Ward 8 of Washington, D.C., a com munity with the highest rates of pover ty and of chronic disease in the district, Giant Food has invested $2.4 million in improving health outcomes in the area through programs such as Produce Rx, which began in 2019 and has tripled in scope over the past three years.
In 2021, the HLT expanded Giant Food’s nutrition incentive programs
To combat the very real problem of food insecurity, Hy-Vee shored up its support of food banks in a number of ways over the past year. Indeed, the retailer has proved to be a pivotal link between consumers in need and healthy, nutri tious meals.
One of those efforts was the creation of Food Bank Fridays, a campaign through which customers could donate $1 or $5 at their local Hy-Vee or Dollar Fresh Market store, or online. As part of that campaign, Hy-Vee and its customers have raised $1 million for local food banks.
In another way of raising aware
Additionally, working with local organizations, the HLT and the Giant Food Business-to-Business Team have collaborated on the development of healthy, affordable meals that are deliv ered directly to participants, and educa tion outreach programs on nutrition.
ness of the need to assist local food banks, Hy-Vee started a social media campaign highlighting food banks that benefit from do nations and assistance. That program was managed by engaged Hy-Vee employees.
The grocer also donates products to improve access to food. Over the past year, Hy-Vee gave out nearly 7,500 hams to families in need and delivered more than 17 semi loads of food donations to food banks. Through its broader One Step philan thropic program, the grocery chain has provided 2.1 million water bottles. Beyond the local communities it serves, to assist on an international basis, the retailer packaged 300,000 meals for residents of war-torn Ukraine in 2022.
Meijer gives back at least 6% of its profits each year, including a substantial amount of funds for hunger relief. Helping needy fami lies, a longtime pillar of the retailer’s charitable efforts, is reflected in its impactful forms of assistance.
Case in point: Meijer’s yearround Simply Give program that provides foods to pantries across the Midwest. Customers can pur
Natural Grocers partners with local food banks, donating 5 cents per shopping trip each time a customer brings their own bags. The grocer also reduces prices as products approach their sell-by date, and then donates unsold products (of verified quality) to local food banks. Compa ny in-kind food and product dona tions totaled more than $3 million in fiscal year 2021.
Meanwhile, nutrition education is one of Natural Grocers’ five found ing principles. It’s the only national chain to support full-time nutritional health coaches (NHCs) in all stores, with the primary responsibility of providing free nutrition education to customers and the community. NHCs provide educational activities such as classes, lectures, seminars, health fairs, community events and store tours. In the past five years, more than 30,000 people optimized their health through free coaching sessions, about 8,000 free in-store nutrition classes were held, and
chase a $10 donation card at the instore or online checkout point to be converted to a food-only gift card for donation to area food banks; on select days, Meijer will match or double match customer donations.
Since 2008, the program has generated more than $69 million through contributions from shop pers, team members, the company and Meijer’s food bank partners.
The Meijer LPGA Classic golf tournament also supports that cause, raising $1.25 million in 2022 alone and more than $8.65 million over the past nine years.
In addition to its fundraising initiatives, Meijer runs a food rescue program that provides food that would otherwise go to waste to local food pantries. Further, to make it easier for pantries to serve their clients, Meijer has given more than 100 reconditioned tractors and trailers from its fleet to nonprofit groups transporting food.
Stop & Shop has a long-stand ing history of giving back to the neighborhoods that it serves, with a focus on fighting hunger. In 2021, the company undertook research and situation analysis on the extent of food insecurity in conjunction with community food banks and food pantries across New York, New Jersey, Connecti cut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to help prepare for one of its biggest annual fundraisers. The Turkey Express Program is a month-long initiative dedicated to donating meals to hunger relief organizations throughout the gro cer’s footprint each year ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
more than 115,000 attendees were educated and empowered.
Natural Grocers’ programs are supplemented by outside experts and print and online materials. Its Health Hotline, published 11 times in fiscal year 2021, includes in-depth articles on health and nutrition, recipes, and profiles of sale items. The free publication is available by mail, in stores and online. The company plans to continue its mission of knowledge, access and affordability.
Stop & Shop aimed to provide more than 22,000 turkeys to fami lies, food banks and food pantries in the Northeast to help meet the need for holiday assistance caused by the pandemic. During its donation events, Stop & Shop provided visuals of the loading, transporting and distribution of frozen turkeys, and the company also had a helping hand from local professional sports partners, in cluding the New York Giants, the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders. Stop & Shop was able to use these partnerships and the resulting media attention to successfully promote awareness of food insecurity, the need for food assistance, and the value in food donations by large organizations.
Fresh food technology company Afresh wants to eliminate food waste and make fresh food more accessible. Unifying previously separate processes, the compa ny’s artificial intelligence-powered Fresh Operating System empowers grocers to order the right amount of food at the right time by offering a simple, accurate way to manage store-level operations via tablet.
Since 2019, Afresh has prevented 7.9 million pounds of food waste and 3,818-plus metric tons of green house-gas emissions, while saving more than 140 million gallons of water. By the end of 2022, its system will be in nearly 3,300 stores. For its retail part ners, Afresh can help reduce food waste by 25% and boost produce operating margins by 40%. In fact, Albertsons Cos. saw such transformative results using Afresh that the Fresh Operating System is now rolling out to more than 2,200 Albertsons stores in 34 states.
Afresh also has plans to offer full fresh replenishment across meat and seafood, prepared foods, bakery, and dairy. Eventually aiming to effect change at the distribution center level as well, the company will drive critical decisions across every step of the supply chain to help companies reach sustainability goals while providing shoppers with fresher food.
Working with software com pany CarbonCloud, Future Farm mapped the carbon footprint of its plant-based Future Burger, which is worth 15% of all company sales. Future Farm is now offsetting the emissions in collaboration with Climate Partner, which helps com panies take climate action, to help prevent Amazon deforestation in its home country of Brazil. As a result, Future Burger is now 100% carbon neutral, with the rest of the compa ny’s portfolio to follow.
Additionally, Future Farm is reducing its packaging by 17% and transitioning packs to 100% recyclable materials, including 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, thereby avoiding the use of vir gin plastic. Future Farm has also joined the Global Compact Brazil network to work with other companies toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
So far, the company has saved/
In June 2021, The Giant Co. presented its partner Rodale Institute, a global leader in regenerative organic agriculture, with a check for $1.1 million to support organic farm consulting, farmer training and research. Through this program, farmers receive support with their transi tion to organic farming, and training in regenerative organic agriculture.
The funds were raised through the retailer’s first Healing Our Planet campaign, in 2021, during which customers could round up their checkout purchases to the nearest dollar. The campaign raised $2.3 million, which went to Planet Bee Foundation and Keep Penn sylvania Beautiful as well as to Rodale. Additionally, Giant Co. associates contributed 500-plus volunteer hours toward environ mental initiatives and the future of food throughout 2021.
This year, Rodale received a
compensated for 748 tons of carbon di oxide on H1’s multidimensional global platform through the carbon-neutral burger. With its packaging initiative, Future Farm will reduce about 100 tons of post-consumption waste.
For the future, the company is focused on building a medium-term sustainability plan based on such global standards as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and the Global Reporting Initiative, becoming more involved in global platforms like B Corp, and developing internal policies regarding sustainability and diversity and inclusion.
donation of $1,099,208 from the 2022 Healing Our Planet campaign, as well as help spreading its message for World Water Day on March 22. April 2022 was Earth Month at The Giant Co., which again partnered with Rodale, this time to teach students at the Henry Lawnton School in Philadelphia about the importance of gardening, with soil, tools and seeds donated by the grocer.
Through these efforts, The Giant Co. continues to seek new paths toward a sustainable future.
Advocating for sustainable programs and initiatives that support the envi ronment is a key community pillar at Giant Food. The grocer is committed to increasing fresh food donations and healthier choices in-store and online, reducing food and plastic waste, and taking bold climate ac tion in its operations.
Like The Giant Co., its sister Ahold Delhaize USA banner, the grocer works with HowGood, an easy-to-use environmental and social impact rating system that analyzes each product ingredient against vari ous environmental and social criteria, enabling customers to make informed choices when they shop.
Giant Food’s sustainability partners include GreenPrint, a PDI company, with which it collaborated to offset up to 30% of consumers’ vehicle emissions generated from gas sold at its gas pumps and to make the 30 th Annual Giant National Capital BBQ Battle 100% carbon neutral for the first time through investments in certified carbon reduction projects; Volta, which offers electric vehi cle-charging stations near the front doors of Giant Food stores; and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Maryland & Virginia Milk Pro ducers Cooperative Association, both of which the grocer has teamed with on the Giant Clean Water Partner ship, helping local dairy farmers im prove their land and water to create a more sustainable supply chain.
HelloFresh has been saying goodbye to much of its carbon footprint as it becomes the first carbon-neutral meal kit company. The business has achieved key en vironmental milestones by, among other things, sourcing 100% of its electricity from zero-emission wind energy and working with local suppliers to reduce emissions related to transportation. To cover emissions from its internal opera tions, business travel and box deliver ies, HelloFresh has purchased carbon offsets for the past two years.
Reducing waste is also a priori ty. HelloFresh continually works to improve its predictions of customer demand, thereby lowering the amount of unsold and unused food.
While the business treads more lightly on the earth from an energy and pro duction perspective, HelloFresh has also focused on ways to lessen the environ mental impact of its products used by
consumers. For example, the company plans to help customers make betterfor-the-planet meal choices through the increased use of carbon labeling and other sustainability communications.
Recognizing that sustainability efforts require both action and benchmarks, HelloFresh finalized a life cycle assess ment (LCA) in April 2022. Conducted by a verified third party, the LCA found that the carbon emissions of HelloFresh meals are 4% fewer compared with restaurant delivery and 31% fewer compared with grocery.
While a lot of people talk about the impact of e-commerce from shopper need and grocery business standpoints, the rise of the digital marketplace has had a ripple effect on the environment. Heeding the fact that the e-comm return rate is three to five times greater than items purchased in store — and can result in up to 5 billion pounds of items going to landfills each year — Inmar Intelligence is helping to reduce the level of accompanying waste.
One of Inmar’s solutions is an end-to-end returns platform shown to achieve a 99% landfill diversion rate while reducing the con sumption of greenhouse-gas emissions, fossil fuels and the release of methane. The platform hinges on a network of processing facil ities that combine a human assessment of a returned product’s condition with machine learning to deter mine the best course of action. Many products can be returned to shelf or inventory through convenient consumer drop-off locations, and later sold at full or a discounted price.
Inmar also teams up with liquida tors to sell items through secondary markets and donates goods to char ities, to the tune of 51 million items a year. If merchandise can’t be sold, recycled or donated, it can be sent to an energy-from-waste facility to generate electricity.
Depending as it does on cooperation, PCC Markets’ approach to sustainability is a team effort.
From a design standpoint, the cooperative grocery store chain strives to create surroundings that are both in viting and inspiring. Architec tural design firm MG2, based, like PCC, in Seattle, worked with the grocer to create a store layout that re sembles an open-air market, with local touches that reflect each neighborhood.
For PCC’s location in Ballard, Wash., the co-op and MG2 used building materials that didn’t contain chemicals included on a “red list” of toxic substances. Further optimiz ing materials, the flooring is made from exposed, polished and sealed concrete, while 100% of the wood is FSC-certified. Heat-, energy- and water-saving features are an intrinsic part of the store design.
Inside, displays are geared toward transparency, spotlighting alliances with local producers. The space is also designed for interaction between customers and staff.
Through their collaboration, PCC and MG2 pursued the goal of achieving Living Building Challenge (LBC) Petal Certifi cation, a high standard for sustainability. They achieved that objective in December 2020, with the store in Ballard, Wash., becoming the first LBC Petal Certified grocery store in the world, paving the way for PCC locations in West Seattle and Bel levue, Wash., to achieve such certification.
Phononic’s Intelligent Actively Cooled Tote, built with a solid-state core and designed with thermoelectric cooling technology, is an innovative way to reduce greenhouse-gas emis sions and support climate goals while meeting the demanding performance needs of the market. Available as both a refrigerator and a freezer, the tote protects chilled and frozen food at precise temperatures. It makes quality, safety and freshness possible for grocers while also providing a way to meet critical sustainability mandates.
Using just water mixed with natu rally available carbon dioxide as its re frigerant, the tote’s cooling system has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1 or less and is nontoxic and nonflam mable. Phononic’s totes work within many different fulfillment systems, including micro-fulfillment centers, grocery curbside, and transport and delivery operations.
As part of its ongoing commitment to mitigate the impacts of climate change from single-use packaging and waste, New Seasons Market recently transitioned its private label Partner Brand Fresh Pasta packaging from plastic clamshell-style containers to an environmentally prefera ble alternative, PaperSeal MAP trays. This innovative packaging from Graphic Pack
aging International uses 91% less plastic than traditional plastic packaging and has eliminated more than 120,000 plastic clamshells from the company’s waste stream annually. The new packaging is made from FSC Certified fibers that are fully recyclable once the food-safe liner has been removed. Package labeling tells consumers how to recycle and dispose of all materials properly. In addition to reducing material impact, the trays extend product shelf life from 12 to 20 days, preventing food waste.
Further, last year, the grocer dis continued the sale of single-use water bottles in stores, including 1-liter or smaller bottles of still water in sin gle-use plastic, fiber, aluminum or glass containers. To help customers transi tion their habits to reusable bottles, New Seasons installed longer water faucet spigots in deli seating areas to ensure that customers could safely refill their own containers. The grocer also expanded its selection of reusable bot tles and offered bonus loyalty points to customers shopping with reusables.
Since the tote cools or freezes only the number of customer orders need ed, based on demand, it also allows for demand-based energy savings. By leveraging the tote in their fulfillment operations, grocers can achieve an estimated 2.6% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per store by elimi nating the need for dry ice in delivery and transport operations (72% of the savings impact), eliminating highGWP refrigerant leakage (15% of the savings impact), and reducing energy consumption (13% of overall impact).
Through its mission to reduce food waste through automation, Shelf Engine is working to help preserve the planet by generating the most accurate food orders for supermarkets so they can stock what will sell instead of what will spoil on the shelf. Its predictive artificial-intelligence and ma chine-learning technology forecast and automate orders of highly per ishable products by pairing sales data with real-world and real-time factors and solutions, thereby eliminating human error in the ordering process.
Shelf Engine works with four of the top supermarket chains in the United States, as well as re gional and local grocers in more than 3,000 locations, helping them achieve a 32% average food waste reduction, a 7% sales lift and 15% gross-margin expansion. In 2021 alone, the company’s technology helped prevent 4.5 million pounds of food from reaching landfills, which translates to a decrease of more than 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide. In the process, nearly 450 million gallons of water were saved. This year, Shelf Engine aims to expand its location count by more than 200% and triple the size of its footprint in each store through entry into dynamic and challenging new categories of highly perishable products.
Simple Mills follows a basic commitment to revolutionary food design that advances regenera tive-agriculture principles, elevates farmers, empow ers eaters and inspires peers so its food system can nourish people and our planet, now and for generations to come. The recent addition of planetary health to that commitment has driven the cracker and snack producer to ensure that 100% of its new product launches will advance regenerative ag riculture through at least one key path way. Simple Mills is further dedicated to diverse ingredient design, building direct contracts with farmers who prioritize regenerative principles and investing directly in sourcing regions.
As such, the company has formed a partnership with PUR Project, allowing
Specialty cured-meat producer Volpi Foods is working toward a more sustainable future for its industry through its Raised Responsibly pro gram and its paper-based Eco-Pack packaging. The company’s sustain ability-focused standards program ensures animal welfare that allows for natural, free movement; no gesta tion crates; and no added hormones. Volpi is committed to solely sourc ing from nearby farms employing environmentally friendly practices,
it to source organic coconut sugar from farmers in Java, Indonesia, who imple ment regenerative agroforestry, intercrop ping and composting. Simple Mills is also engaged in the Almond Project, which is a five-year study focused on driving proof points for ecosystem benefits in almonds to promote restorative orchard manage ment practices throughout California. For customers, the company provides straightforward, accessible resources on its website to encourage them to learn more and get involved in its mission to create a healthier ecosystem.
including working with suppliers to enact additional restrictions that yield a better environment for the animals and a better-quality product.
As demand for pre-sliced meats skyrocketed, Volpi sought out sustain able alternatives to single-use plastic packages, and in 2021, the company converted its entire pre-sliced lineup to Eco-Pack, which marked a first for the pre-sliced meat industry. The packaging has a renewable structure that is distinc tive, functional and Forest Stewardship Council Certified, ensuring that the pa per material is derived from responsibly managed forests. The packaging also achieves 70%-75% plastic re duction compared with standard deli packs, and the paper material is curbside recyclable once separated from the thin liner. During the 2021 calendar
year, Volpi’s switch to Eco-Pack helped divert more than 45 tons of single-use plastic.
Milo’s believes that by providing associates with the means to learn and grow, it creates a culture of “home” for all associates. In 2021, Milo’s imple mented two training systems to give associates the training they want and need: High Performance Work Systems (HPWS) and Milo’s University.
Specifically created for manufac turing associates, HPWS gives partic ipants a clear path for advancement from day one. Through hands-on and written assessments, HPWS creates high-functioning and agile operations facilities where associates are well trained in multiple work ar eas. In just the past year, Milo’s has seen 509 associates advance through the HPWS process.
Milo’s University is the company’s learning management system that gives all associates access to courses in both
soft skills, such as communicating and email writing, and hard skills, such as mastering spreadsheets. In 2021, Milo’s had an internal promotion rate of 71.23%, and so far in 2022, it has promoted 30.19% of associates.
The company is currently in the pro cess of augmenting its new Leaders as Coaches initiative that gives managers the tools to succeed. Milo’s also encour ages associates to further their learning outside of the organization by funding conference attendance, certifications and more, as well as providing tuition.
Southeastern Grocers (SEG) consid ers itself a people-first organization, and provides associates with a large assortment of benefits, including 401(k) matching, associate discounts, quarterly bonuses and health benefits. The company’s focus on education and advancement is also on display through training programs, scholarships and GED completion programs.
Natural Grocers has designed its initiatives to attract, engage, develop and retain its workforce. It positions its employees — known collectively as “Crew” — for success by providing significant virtual and in-person training annually. All Crew receive training in customer service skills, product attributes and nutrition education. New store managers and assistant store manag ers receive four weeks of in-person operational and managerial training. The Store Manager Accelerated Readiness Training Program is geared toward high-potential candidates who wish to rise to a store manager position. During 2021, Natural Grocers promoted internal candidates to fill 100% of regional manager positions, 87% of vacant store manager and assistant store manager positions, and 78% of vacant department manager positions.
The company’s pay is above
federal and state minimum-wage levels for all Crew and includes regularly scheduled pay increases, no pay caps for store Crew who wish to stay in current positions, and birthday pay — given whether the Crew member chooses to work or takes time off. The retailer also offers Crew access to free immune-boost ing and stress-busting supplements. Additionally, Natural Grocers created its Heroes in Aprons Fund in 2021 to provide short-term financial assistance to qualifying Crew or their immediate fami ly members who experience hardships.
Beyond standard benefits, SEG offers eight diverse resource groups for its associates: African Americans F.O.C.U.S., Asians & Pacific Island ers for Resource and Education, Emerging Leaders, Military Families, Pa’lante (Hispanic Associates and Allies), SEG Pride, the Women’s De velopment Network, and the Work ing Parents Network. Additionally, the company’s corporate leadership development platform, dubbed SEG University, provides personal and professional development resourc es to help associates advance their careers through leadership courses, lunch-and-learn sessions, and other engaging workshops.
The SEG Cares Foundation is an associate-funded nonprofit that has supported thousands of associates facing unexpected hardships since its inception in 2013. The company has been certified as a Great Place to Work for two consecutive years and was the only grocer featured in Newsweek’s Most Loved Workplaces list for 2021, earning high marks for employee hap piness and satisfaction at work.
Vital Farms is a Certified B Corp that prides itself on providing a people-first culture. Through engagement surveys, quarterly feedback, development con versations and culture-build ing events, the company enables its crew members to grow professionally and personally through a full understanding of their unique needs. Further, the egg, butter and ghee purveyor undertook an employee survey in 2021 that allowed its leadership team to learn more about its crew members’ needs, thoughts and areas for oppor tunity. The survey found that
96% of crew members believe that Vital Farms found ways to collaborate as a team while working remotely, and 90% of crew members felt supported if they needed flexible working arrangements. Through further employee en
gagement and feedback, Vital Farms adopted a permanent remote workforce and also launched Cluck University, an online learning platform that provides extensive training options for both its production facility and remote crew members to improve their functional and interpersonal skills
The company is especially invested in crew safety and well-being, and has taken measures to ensure that its production crew feels valued and engaged by working with local sports medicine trainers to help employees with ergonomics and slip-resistant safe ty-toe shoes.
From serving our customers and creating opportunities for our associates to excel, to championing causes we hold dear, our mission to care for our community drives everything we do.
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SAUSAGE AND HAM BRANDS FIND NEW WAYS FOR SHOPPERS TO ENJOY CLASSIC MEATS.By Lynn Petrak
f steaks and chops are the flashier cuts, and plant-based pro teins are the attention-seeking upstarts, sausage and ham are the stalwarts of the meat case. Staples of diets dating back centuries, these proteins are familiar, versatile across dayparts and, at least compared with more premium meats, affordable at a time of skyrocketing food prices.
While these products are mature and considered core items by grocers, manufacturers have been working on innovations in recent years, driven by consumer interest in a greater range of flavors and formats. There has even been a bit of borrowing from both the flashier and upstart kind of meats, with more premium sausage and ham offerings, and even some plant-based alternatives.
In the sausage segment, many innovations have taken the form of, well, new forms. Standard links and patties may still reign, but various processors have come out with their own takes on sausages.
Category leader Johnsonville Foods, of Sheboygan Falls, Wis., now offers strips that resemble and cook like bacon but are made from sausage. That item won a best new product award from Toronto-based BrandSpark International in 2021, based on a national survey of nearly 15,000 U.S. shoppers.
In that same mashup vein, Westminster, Colo.-based Niman Ranch recently unveiled a breakfast sausage made with applewood smoked bacon. That variety is part of Niman Ranch’s newer line of fresh sausage links.
Some processors are downshifting into smaller sizes, which are appealing to consumers for reasons ranging from portion control to smaller households to a desire to trim costs. North Country Smokehouse recently added a new organic ham steak and a “petit ham” that weighs just over a pound and serves four.
“Consumers want convenient, modestly portioned pack sizes, and that’s hard to find in the ham category,” explains Mike Kelly, VP of business development and national sales for the Claremont, N.H.-based com pany. “Couple that with the limited options available in the non-GMO, organic and Certified Humane protein category, and it was clear to us, we had a winner.”
When venerable beef processor Schweid & Sons, of East Rutherford, N.J., recently decided to get into the pork cat egory, the company opted for a smaller patty size for its fresh breakfast sausage. The premium patties are 1.5 ounces each and sold in a 12-pack.
Meanwhile, given the continued popu larity of high-protein diets over the past few years, snacks made with sausage and ham represent different ways for people to enjoy cured or processed meats.
Earlier this year, Johnsonville revealed that it was testing a line of summer sausage sticks, available in original, beef and garlic varieties. Johnsonville’s sausage sticks, piloted in Circle K convenience stores and select Walmart locations, sell for $1.49-$1.79 each and are also available in eight-stick pouches with a suggested retail price range of $7.99-$8.99.
“Making delicious sausage has given us a way to deliver against consumers’ growing demand for portable, protein-forward snacks that taste good,” says Brand Manager Jackie Hendricks. “Through consumer and product
Manufacturers have been working on sausage and ham innovations in recent years, driven by consumer interest in a greater range of flavors and formats.
Some processors are transitioning to smaller sizes, which are appealing to consumers for reasons ranging from portion control to smaller households to a desire to trim costs.
Given the continued popularity of high-protein diets, snacks made with sausage and ham represent different ways for people to enjoy cured or processed meats.
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research, we’ve seen excitement for a more snackable version of Johnsonville summer sausage, which has been preferred over other mainstream meat snack competitors.”
Sausage and ham are also common ingredients in co-packaged products, including high-protein snack kits and still-trendy charcuterie kits. For example, Oceanside, Calif.-based salami company Olli Salumeria has added a new pepperoni sausage and mozzarella snack kit, complementing its line of other salami and cheese pairings. Also in the snacking arena, the venerable Smithfield brand, of Smithfield, Va., came out with a Meat Lovers Power Bites prod uct, made with sausage, bacon, ham, eggs and cheddar cheese, which can be heated in the microwave in under a minute.
Flavor is another differentiator in ham and sausage, especially since consumers have higher expectations for quality and the overall eat ing experience. To deliver on those expectations, some processors are focusing on their unique cuts and processes.
Niman Ranch, for example, offers an Uncured Jambon Royale ham, described as denser than traditional hams and with a robust flavor. To appeal to those looking for a different kind of taste, North Country Smokehouse sells a Spicy Pork Cajun Tasso ham that’s rich on smoke and seasoning. The club store retailer Costco has gained some cachet among lovers of Iberico ham leg, because the Issaquah, Wash.-based retailer offers a version sourced from southern Spain.
Although sausage and ham have an intrinsic and often-signature taste on their own, added flavors are elevating these kinds of proteins to appeal to consumers’ more adventurous palates. Flavor additions in clude bold seasonings like North Country Smokehouse’s Cajun Tasso, as well as culinary-inspired ingredients.
Schweid & Sons’ new breakfast patties, for example, include an Italian variety made with fennel, rosemary and sage, and an apple flavor that includes real apple pieces and cinnamon for a sweet and
savory kick. Italian cuisine was also the inspiration for a new sweet Italian sausage variety introduced by the Carando brand of Smithfield Foods; the pork sausage is blended with Italian herbs and spices.
As a base for sausage, chicken tends to be paired with ingredients that ramp up its flavor. To that end, the Chelsea, Mass.-based Al Fresco All Natural brand recently added new varieties to its chicken sausage portfolio, including Chicken Burrito, Nashville Hot Chicken, Chicken Parm and Fried Rice.
Beyond flavor, many of today’s sausage and ham products are made from natural or organic ingredients, including the meat itself. Schweid & Sons touts the fact that its breakfast patties are sourced from hu manely raised U.S. pork that contains no antibiotics or growth-promoting hormones, and are made without fillers, nitrates, nitrites or artificial flavors or colors
Meanwhile, natural meat company Applegate Farms, of Bridgewater, N.J., has upped the ante on its offerings with a new premium brand called The New Food Collective that uses pasture-raised meats and small-batch production methods. Meats are procured from small farms in Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri that abide by regenerative agricultural practices.
The New Food Collective line includes fresh sau sages that have been touted as the first pork prod ucts to be certified by the Denver-based American Grassfed Association (AGA). Asserts Gina Asoude gan, VP of mission and innovation for Applegate: “The American Grassfed Association standard is a leap ahead of anything else out there. The organi zation’s name focuses on pasture, and these new sausages deliver on that. But AGA also stands for no antibiotics, no genetically modified feed and the highest animal welfare standards.”
The better-for-you movement that spurred a plethora of natural and organic products has also led to options like sugar-free hams. Hamilton, Texas-based Peder son’s Natural Farms is one example; the company offers a no-sugar spiral sliced ham that’s also raised without antibiotics or growth stimulants, and is free of artificial ingredients.
As manufacturers carve out their own niches with certain types of pork and, to a lesser extent, beef and chicken, there are more plant-based alternatives coming to market. Several alt-meat companies carry plantbased sausages, among them Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Field Roast and Pure Farmland. At least in deli meats, there are some plant-based and vegan sausage products available from brands such as Plantcraft and Lightlife. While these offerings are a considerably smaller part of the overall ham and sausage market, they repre sent the burgeoning general plant-based market.
ver the past few years, store managers have weathered a lot of change, and it’s not over yet. Supply chain disruptions, shocks to the labor market and the rise of e-commerce continue to resonate through the food retail industry, accord ing to New York-based global consult ing group McKinsey & Co.
Yet many things remain the same. While online shopping grows in impor tance, it will never replace the in-store experience. In fact, a whopping 95% of consumers purchased grocery items from a traditional brick-and-mortar store, according to a report from Chicago-based PowerReviews.
In food prep areas, a more complete daily cleaning process controls grease before it gets out of control. These processes and compact, easy-to-use tools remove grease particles before they have a chance to harden into a stubborn, tacky mess.
This means that, despite all of the dis ruption, consumers still crave the in-per son experience. They want to spend time in a visibly clean store, complete with a spotless entry, gleaming floors, fresh restrooms, and no slippery or sticky spills to navigate. They also demand this high level of sanitation no matter what time of day they shop.
Delivering a consistent level of clean throughout the day can be difficult. Labor is expensive and hard to find, and the workers you have are already stretched thin. Asking them to take on unpleasant, time-consuming cleaning jobs with inefficient tools won’t deliver the results that today’s consumer de mands. Even worse, it may damage your store’s valuable brand.
Grocery store cleaning presents unique challenges. Keeping a clean, safe and inviting store is incredibly demanding, but absolutely necessary. From customer impressions to food safety, cleanliness in the grocery business is a key component in customer loyalty, reputation and profitability.
At Kaivac, we create and test science-based, worker-friendly solutions that measurably deliver maximum results with minimum effort while remaining cost-effective all while protecting the worker.
There are better processes and tools to make cleaning easier and more effective. Here’s how to optimize labor, deliver consistent and repeatable results, and protect your store’s brand.
Entryways make that important first impression, so they must be spotless. Yet entries take a constant beating from heavy foot traffic and weather-related messes like pools of rainwater or tracked-in ice melt. Some, but not all, of this dirt, grit and chemical residue will be trapped by walk-off mats. The rest will move through the store, marring floor finish, creating dangerous wet spots, and, in the case of ice melt, leaving a sticky, hard-to-remove residue.
Your overnight cleaning team will typically service the entryway floor with an autoscrubber, but that tool isn’t available or practical for day cleaning. A low-tech bucket and mop offer a quick fix, but mopping comes with its own issues. It’s physically demanding and time-consuming, and doesn’t actually remove dirt, grit and chemical residue as much as spread it around. Mopping also leaves floors wet, creating a dangerous slip-and-fall risk.
The cleanliness of restrooms can make or break a retailer's reputation. Studies show that customers won’t return to a store with littered, smelly, soiled or unsanitary restrooms. A good solution for cleaning restrooms is a spray-and-vac machine.
There are smaller-footprint floor machines that clean entryways quickly and effectively. These easy-to-use tools employ extractive technology to fully remove and contain messes. After one pass, floors are clean, dry and safe to walk on in a fraction of the cleaning time. This lets employees focus on higher-value customer service tasks.
The state of your store restrooms can make or break reputations. Food retailers invest in building out large, bright, inviting restrooms. It doesn’t take much, however, to turn the most appealing interior into an unpleasant, brand-damaging experience. Studies show that custom ers won’t return to a store with littered, smelly, soiled or unsanitary restrooms, and really, who can blame them?
In this case, waiting for the nightly cleaning team isn’t an option, but asking employees to tackle this unpleasant job with a bucket, mop and rags isn’t ideal, either. With these tools, workers must kneel, bend, twist and get really close to an offensive and potentially dangerous mess.
A better, more empowering solution is a spray-andvac machine. This technology works quickly to produce
Cleanliness has never been more vital to a grocery’s reputation and bottom line.
reliable, repeatable results. Employees dispense specifically designed cleaning chemicals onto restroom surfaces, and then power-spray the soil and chem ical slurry to the floor. Finally, workers suck up the slurry with a powerful vacuum, eliminating spread and focusing on removal.
This method is superior to buckets and mops in many ways. The process is faster, more com plete, and leaves restroom floors dry. The machine reaches all sur faces while allowing employees to remain in a standing position. This means they can clean with out twisting, bending, or having to touch dirty, disgusting surfaces.
In-store food prep areas are busy, hard-working and potentially greasy spaces. This hard, tacky grease can be so difficult to remove that many grocers buy expensive deep-cleaning services a few times a year on top of their regular nightly cleaning routine.
A more complete daily cleaning process, however, controls grease so well that those expensive add-on services may no longer be necessary. These processes and compact, easy-touse tools remove grease particles before they have a chance to harden into a stubborn, tacky mess.
Workers flood the floor with a grease-removing cleaning chem ical, agitate the solution with a deck brush and suck up the slurry using vacuum extraction.
This fast, effective process leaves floors and even stubborn grout lines clean, dry and grease-free. It’s so quick and effective that employees can clock out early or shift their attention to other tasks.
Spills happen, but accidents become dangerous slip-and-fall haz ards if not addressed immediately. Mops and buckets may seem like a quick, easy fix for unexpected messes, but these tools are cum bersome, time-consuming and unpleasant to use. Mops also leave floors wet, creating another slip-and-fall hazard to worry about.
Instead, choose a better spill response process, driven by vacuum extraction, to completely remove the spill and the risks of a wet floor. Vacuum extraction sucks the mess away, prevents stains from penetrating the finish and leaves floors dry. Switching to an easy, satisfying process like this empowers your employees to finish the task quickly, lessening your slip-and-fall liability through reduced time to dry (TTD).
Refrigerated display cases are a challenge to clean, but running them with clogged drains, dirty fans and dusty condenser coils
An EPA study reported that as little as 0.042 inches of dirt on condensing coils will cause a 21% drop in efficiency and can increase refrigeration energy use by 35%. Continuing to run dirty equipment leads to expensive service calls and decreased refrigerated display case life.
costs money. An EPA study reported that as little as 0.042 inches of dirt on condensing coils will cause a 21% drop in efficiency and can increase refrigeration energy use by 35%. Continuing to run dirty equipment leads to expensive service calls and decreased refrig erated display case life.
Unfortunately, manually cleaning these display cases is slow and laborious, and comes with the risk of injury from sharp sheet metal and coil surfaces.
Having dedicated display case cleaning machines makes servicing this equipment in-house easy and fast. These tools use advanced processes to spray, clean and vacuum away dirt, germs, liquids and food residue. Cases look clean, smell fresh, work more efficiently and last much longer.
Cleanliness has never been more vital to a gro cery’s reputation and bottom line. Investing in better day-cleaning processes will engage employees by empowering them to drive store cleanliness, no matter what hap pens throughout the day.
he cold chain is an evolving presence in the grocery business, one that has been driven by increasing demand and technological innovation to address conditions in the mar ketplace today across a range of concerns, including food safety, sustainability and labor.
Woodstock, Ga.-based Primus Builders has a broad view of cold-chain development, as it is, at the core, a refrigerated facility con struction company, although it has developed additional related operations over the years.
According to Erik Gunderson, founding partner and COO, the course of the business is following broader food-sector trends that have affected supply from field to store shelf. One of them is labor.
Ensuring that refrigeration is as green as possible can earn a grocer recognition, as in the case of Meijer, which, for the second year in a row, earned a U.S. EPA GreenChill program citation for having the lowest corporate-wide refrigerant emissions rate of all of the GreenChill Partners.
The evolution of building for the cold chain has been affected by the increased understanding of food safety and appropriate product handling.
Automation is playing a larger role in cold-storage facility development, in part to address labor issues.
The market has prompted equipment manufacturers to innovate with clean energy and sustainable materials.
“There is certainly a demand on human resources, so we have been seeing a tremendous demand for more automation, and it hasn’t slowed down,” affirms Gunderson. “It’s only accelerated. So we’re continuing to see more automated facilities that are justify ing their capital costs. We’ve seen a higher level of interest and higher level of investment, and that’s across the board: That’s with foodservice, that’s with grocery, that’s with … public refrigerated warehouses and third-party logistics, all deploying automation to streamline and mitigate labor shortages.”
He adds that interest in sustainability is rising again as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, and even if not everyone wants a LEED-certified building, consumer concern and the cost of energy are twin influences pushing companies to enhance efficiencies.
“We’re seeing an investment in energy efficiency in 2022 more than what we saw a couple of years prior,” notes Gunderson.
Another key trend having a substantive effect on investment in the cold-storage sector is the advent of developers that are building more Class A refrigerated facilities, but speculatively.
Gunderson observes that demand for cold storage is such that those facilities are still filling up with customers. Of course, all things are never equal, and some companies, particularly those with prior experience in cold storage, seem to be in a better position to thrive.
“Class A cold-spec buildings are in high demand,” he says. “Those that we’re seeing that are most successful are bringing in cold-storage industry experts. Those that are doing it properly and building a high-quality building are getting their buildings bought out or leased out.”
One reason that food retailing and foodservice operations are working with developers of Class A buildings is energy efficiency. “In these new-generation facilities, the energy efficiency is so much greater than in a lot of the older facilities,” says Gunderson. “There are tremendous energy gains that are being experienced by the people who move into the new boxes.”
The demand is coming across the board — everyone from small foodservice operators to food manufacturers to third-party logistics operators. Even if major supermarket operators aren’t yet using the new spec facilities, Gunderson observes, they have contemplated doing so.
“It’s only a matter of time” before they dive in, he adds.
The evolution of building for the cold chain has been affected by the increased understanding of food safety and appropriate product handling. The companies building new facilities are using
technology both as they work with builders in raising facilities and in managing them afterwards. The ability to connect with technology via cell phone is an element that may not seem exactly like a breakthrough, but it has substantive benefits.
“There is a higher level of owner involvement,” explains Gunderson. “There is technology in terms of surveillance with just our cell phones that provides 24/7 access. There are a lot of project management and cost management platforms that are shared between us and our clients. That didn’t happen 10 years ago.”
In operation, systems are so sophisticated, he says, that “there is now the ability to run diagnostics preevent, pre-problem,” and thereby pre-empt trouble.
At the same time, automation is playing a larger role in cold-storage facility development, in part to address labor issues in a sector where chilly working conditions can limit the pool of potential employees.
“The use of machines in construction and in buildings will continue,” asserts Gunderson. “Automation in the cold supply chain will continue to develop. It’s really hard to work in environments like this. There are regulations that limit time of exposure. That goes away with robots.”
Primus has developed an operation within the busi ness to help clients install the right automation.
“We started our automations or solutions group going on half a decade now, and it took some years to get traction with it, but what we’re able to provide is a third-party view with a construction background on how to get things done and find best-of-class for our client,” says Gunderson. “We’re not trying to sell a particular piece of equipment; we’re trying to find bestof-class [solutions] for our client.”
Refrigerants used in cold-chain systems are under scrutiny. The present generation of synthetic refriger ants, which reduced the use of chlorofluorocarbons, has a problem: The replacement of one with the other reversed the decline in Earth’s ozone layer, but the synthetic refrigerants commonly used today, hydroflu orocarbons (HFCs), are potent greenhouse gases. As such, effecterra, a consultancy that works with com panies using refrigeration to effectively reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact, promotes both the use of natural refrigerants and the develop ment and deployment of equipment that uses them.
Although progress has been made by increasing the energy efficiency of systems that continue to use synthetic refrigerants, natural refrigerants have a much lower carbon footprint. This is true despite the fact that one common natural refrigerant is carbon dioxide, according to Chris Vallis founding partner and chief strategy officer at effecterra, which has offices in Reno, Nev., and London.
In fact, the three commonly used natural refrigerants are carbon dioxide, propane and ammonia, and they
“The cold chain is certainly evolving to encompass more innovative equipment designs and technology, with an emphasis on reducing energy consumption. Consumers drive demand, and they want sustainably produced products, which means following food and beverages throughout the supply chain is part of the narrative.”
—Mark Inkrott, Cooler Management
actually were in use as far back as the 19 th century. Chlorofluoro carbons emerged as alternative gases because each of the natural refrigerants had a drawback, Vallis points out. Of the three major natural refrigerants, carbon dioxide requires high-pressure pro cessing in operation, propane is explosive and ammonia is toxic.
“The reason those synthetic chemicals exist is because they were designed to remove risks,” notes Vallis. “Today, with other technology — modern quality systems, standards and codes of practice — we’ve got around to making these technologies safer. We can measure leaks. We can have sensors that can tell you when there’s a leak instantly.”
are much safer today in the quantities used and the systems that employ them, and their prospects are better than those of synthetics, because international agreements, government regulations and, especially, companies at the end of the cold chain, including gro cers, are starting to demand them as an alternative to HFCs, which have a much larger carbon footprint.
“Natural refrigerants are future-proof,” Vallis says. “They’re regulation-proof. They are more complicated and potentially more expensive and maybe less energy efficient. But to me, that’s the right place to go. The problem is, there’s no specific champion of those tech nologies, because nobody has [intellectual property] on a chemical compound that is natural.”
According to Charles Betts, national sales manager at Interstate Cold Storage, in Fort Wayne, Ind., a lack of sufficient cold storage in the market at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth made things tough for vulnerable companies.
“Smaller customers are feeling the squeeze of labor issues, as cold storages are performing less case picking, less repacking, and rather focusing on streamlining the business to operate full with efficient door turn times,” says Betts.
Automation is expanding to meet the labor issue, both in terms of finding and developing workers, he notes, but even as cold-chain operations deal with that, they have to cope with rising electrical rates.
Interstate Cold Storage is investing to improve effi ciencies, upgrading the company’s ammonia system, evaporators and exterior siding to create the best possible seal at consistent temperatures.
Monitoring continues to be a critical function that Interstate Cold Storage has kept abreast of, notes Betts. “Both in-house and third-party monitoring were robust prior to the pandemic, including hi-def cameras, temp monitoring and engine room compression,” he observes.
At the same time, the marketplace, as it develops, has new needs it wants help addressing. “There has been a steady uptick in [business-to-consumer] fulfillment, but there are few facilities designed to efficiently pack and ship,” says Betts.
Meanwhile, Shannon Welch, managing partner at Jurupa Valley, Calif.-based West Coast Cold Storage, notes that the company assumes a specific place in the market.
“Our perspective is a little unique,” explains Welch. “There are several major cold-storage corporations that own most of the cold storage in the U.S. But like all major companies to work with them, you have to fit into their business model. We see cold chain evolving to help the mid-market companies that need higher levels of customer service, and maybe won’t meet the minimum financial requirements of those bigger corporations: the compa nies that are too big to do everything in house, but not so large that they have the financial and logistic resources required to work with the major cold-chain companies.”
The inland California location of West Coast Cold Storage means that it has a particular acquaintance with the produce industry, and Welch says that the influence of trends in that sector is affecting the cold chain and operators within it.
“The desire from the market to not move produce so far from where it has grown requires the ability to store that produce close to where it was grown,” she observes. “This requires more special ty cold-storage solutions, but smaller, for those resources.”
Power is of particular concern to West Coast Cold Storage. “This is always a challenge, especially in California with a struggling power grid,” says Welch. “One of the big investments we made was in thicker insulation panels.”
On the consumer-facing side, Cooler Management works with cli ents to install and oversee storage equipment, including branded cold fixtures. Cold-storage functionality in store settings requires consideration of energy efficiency, sustainability and aesthetics, according to Mark Inkrott, managing partner at Columbus, Ohio-based Cooler Management.
“The cold chain is certainly evolving to encom pass more innovative equipment designs and technology, with an emphasis on reducing energy consumption,” says Inkrott. “Consum ers drive demand, and they want sustainably produced products, which means following food and beverages throughout the supply chain is part of the narrative. Equipment today is more efficient than ever, and that is import ant to consumers. We are seeing cold-stor age solutions that not only look beautiful aesthetically, but they also efficiently maintain temperatures, and engage shoppers at the point of sale with digital and branded
creative. Additionally, retail real estate is more of a premium than ever; thus, we have seen an evolution with smaller footprints. Equipment that can easily be moved around a store has become popular with many new brands we are working with.”
Cooler Management has to face issues that correspond with those in the larger marketplace, including supply chain disruptions and finding qualified labor, especially from tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians.
“The biggest challenge we have seen in the past few years has been a lack of skilled labor in the field, coupled with long lead times on equipment,” notes Inkrott. “We are fortunate to work with great vendors; however, many times when a specialty skill is needed, we are scouring the entire country for installers, electricians, plumbers and other trades for things like walk-in coolers. To address these challenges, retailers and brands are looking to Cooler Management to manage these processes for them. We’ve worked hard over the years to streamline these processes and develop the necessary relationships for our cus tomers, while putting an operations team in place to complete these tasks on our customers’ behalf.”
At the same time, he says, the market has prompted equipment manufacturers to innovate with clean energy and sustainable materials.
“As the ag and food industries implement car bon-reducing initiatives, the rest of the supply chain will need to evolve and develop equipment standards that match those initiatives,” observes Inkrott. “We are not only working with vendors who are creating tech nological advances in store equipment, but the indus try is continuing to advance our knowledge centered around creating environments that ensure equipment runs with the lowest possible energy footprint.”
“The reason those synthetic chemicals exist is because they were designed to remove risks. Today, with other technology — modern quality systems, standards and codes of practice — we’ve got around to making these technologies safer. We can measure leaks. We can have sensors that can tell you when there’s a leak instantly.”
—Chris Vallis, effecterra
FROM UNIQUE CONTENT TO TECHNICAL UPGRADES, RETAILERS ARE FINDING NEW WAYS TO EARN MORE E-COMMERCE DOLLARS.By Emily Crowe
-commerce is a booming segment for food retail ers, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that digital shoppers are in it for the long haul. Online grocery sales are expected to surpass 20% of the overall U.S. grocery retail market by 2026, according to a study from Mercatus/Incisiv. What’s more, the Adobe Digital Price Index has found that grocery shoppers even remain rela tively undeterred by high e-commerce grocery prices, spending $64.6 billion in August alone.
Whether through ads, influencers or short-form videos on social media, back-end upgrades that make the buying process more seamless, or myriad other tactics, investing in ways to engage the digital shopper has never been more paramount for retailers.
While some of today’s digital shoppers are simply looking for an easy way to place an order and be on their way, many others use social media platforms, food blogs or recipe sites to find inspiration for meals. A recent survey from New York-based digital shopper marketing platform Chicory found that nearly half of respondents said they’re likely or very likely to make a grocery purchase directly from a food site
The Kroger Co. is among the grocers investing in infrastructure and loyalty to create a better experience for online shoppers.
that gives them meal-planning inspiration, which underscores the significance of off-site content and other such resources.
Minneapolis-based Target Corp., for example, became the first mass retailer to make its products available through Insta gram Checkout in 2020, and the platform’s e-commerce solutions and influencer capabilities have grown exponentially since then. Embracing the often youth-oriented world of TikTok, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market used a trending audio clip to promote its popular Berry Chantilly Cake, and Sprouts Farmers Market went viral on the social platform when a user praised the Phoenix-based grocer’s $5 deli sandwiches.
“If brands and retailers aren’t yet leveraging off-site content to acquire new customers, they need to start,” says Yuni Sameshima, Chicory’s founder and CEO. “Today, winning at the shelf requires meeting consumers in moments of inspiration, well before they hit the retailer’s store or site.”
Other media channels, both third-party and owned, are being used by grocers to bring unique, often shoppable content to online consumers. The Fresh Market is seeing success with its San Mateo, Calif.-based partner Firework, which has brought its full suite of live-commerce and short-form shop
With many shoppers using social media platforms, food blogs or recipe sites to find inspiration for meals, retailers are beginning to employ off-site content and other such resources to increase e-commerce profitability.
Media channels, both third-party and owned, are being used by grocers to bring unique, often shoppable content to online consumers.
While forward-facing tactics are important, focusing on the back end can be just as critical.
pable video capabilities to The Fresh Market’s owned media channels.
According to Kevin Miller, chief marketing officer at the Greensboro, N.C.-based grocer: “With Firework, we’ve finally been able to replicate those premium customer experiences in the digital sphere — and based on the response from our customers, it has been a resounding success. What we’ve been able to accomplish with Firework in such a short period of time has been nothing short of transformative.”
While Walmart does engage with third-party platforms, the company is also focusing on its own real estate by bringing a bevy of upgrades to its website and app to help enhance the customer experience. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer is aiming to make e-commerce shopping easier, more engaging and more personal ized while also setting itself up for future online success.
Walmart has refreshed its registry site experience to make the gift registry process simpler, and is also working with New York-based visual outfitting and styling solution Stylitics to show clothing custom ers how to style outfits or what accessories to add. Additonally, new online filters will let shoppers view only EBT- or SNAP-eligible items, with EBT-eligible products easily identifiable through clear badging.
“Our goal is to create a seamless site and app experience that makes it easier for customers to find value and savings, whether they’re shopping for familiar weekly essentials or something new and different,” wrote Tom Ward, EVP and chief e-commerce officer for Walmart U.S., in a recent company blog post. “More robust content on item pages – videos, images and more – ensures when a customer lands on a product they’re interested in, they have all the information they need to feel confident purchasing it.”
Continued Ward: “Not only are these enhancements making the e-commerce experience even easier and more convenient for our customers right now, but also, they are creating a strong foundation for us to build upon as we accelerate the site experience in the future.”
While these forward-facing tactics are important as a means of directly capturing a shopper’s attention, focusing on the back end to help beef up the overall online shopping experience can be just as critical. A new initiative from Walmart Luminate, the retailer’s suite of data products, is using qualitative research and data to explain “the why behind the buy,” and turning it into actionable e-commerce insights that can help the retailer and its merchants make the shopping experience even better for customers.
Research, customer surveys and testing are important parts of the process, according to Linda Lomelino, senior director of product management at Walmart Data Ventures, and the com
pany is making sure that its merchants and suppliers deeply understand the drivers behind customer perceptions, opinions and attitudes.
“I could run a video survey or a quantitative survey to try to understand the life of a young mother with kids un der the age of 5,” Lomelino explains. “As a result of that, I may learn a lot about their experiences and be able to identify opportunities to build out new products and services that meet some of the needs of that customer.”
Getting a better handle on what customers want to see on its e-commerce website can give Walmart and its suppliers a leg up on creating a unique and personalized experience. “A lot of the data that we’re presenting is giving them a really deep and broad perspective not only on the customer, but also the operational aspects, and that is allowing them to think very differently about retail going forward and really anchoring it in the customer,” Lomelino says.
For The Kroger Co., part of engaging the digital shopper has meant investing in its membership program and the very infrastructure that makes online grocery shopping possible. While the Cincinnati-based grocer experienced a 6% drop in digital sales earlier this year, it was able to recapture its e-commerce crowd in the second quarter, thanks to its solid omnichannel strategy. Kroger’s digital sales grew 8% over that period and delivery solutions were up 34%, attributable in part to its national rollout of the Boost membership program.
“Early in the second quarter, we introduced our Boost membership nationwide, and it’s already showing promising results, including an increase in overall household spend among members,” ex plained CEO Rodney McMullen during a September investor’s call discussing the company’s Q2 results. “We remain focused on adding new members and are encouraged that enrollment is in line with our internal expectations and projections.”
The grocer is also making continued investments in its Ocado-powered customer fulfillment centers (CFCs), and now has 18 total CFCs and spoke facilities across the country. According to McMullen, demand also remains strong in Kroger’s pickup business, and the company was able to increase capacity and shorten wait times to help improve customer experi ence while also investing in technology and process efficiencies to help improve the bottom line.
“If brands and retailers aren’t yet leveraging off-site content to acquire new customers, they need to start. Today, winning at the shelf requires meeting consumers in moments of inspiration, well before they hit the retailer’s store or site.”
—Yuni Sameshima, ChicoryWalmart's latest research is helping the retailer and its suppliers better understand what today's e-commerce consumers want.
After discovering through a survey that 80% of consumers make mashed potatoes from scratch at least once a year and 40% of these shoppers use chicken broth as an ingredient, Idaho an Foods was inspired to expand its broad range of convenient Fresh-Dried potato products with Idahoan Chicken Broth Flavored Mashed Potatoes. The first product launch for the iconic brand since 2019, Chicken Broth Flavored Mashed Potatoes feature the same creamy texture and quick prep time that fans are accustomed to, with an extra layer of flavor from the infusion of real chicken broth and select herbs. The offering joins a long lineup of Flavored Mashed Potatoes, giving home cooks options for many meal occasions. A 4-ounce pouch of Chicken Broth Flavored Mashed Potatoes retails for a suggested price range of $1.25-$1.50. Idahoan has also refreshed its portfolio of Mashed Potato Cups with a simplified, shopper-friendly look that brings brand imagery to the forefront and includes updated instructions for both microwave and boiling-water preparations, based on consumer feedback.
Launched by siblings Stephanie and Hayley Painter, of Painterland Farms, a fourth-generation family-run regenerative dairy farm in Pennsylvania, Paint erland Sisters Organic Skyr Yogurt offers a thicker, creamier Icelandic-style organic yogurt that’s lactose-free, rich in probiotics, and high in protein and calcium. Made from organic whole milk and sweetened naturally using fruits and cane sugar, the kosher product is available in five flavors: Plain, Blue berry Lemon, Strawberry, Vanilla Bean and Meadow Berry. The sisters are committed to transparency in their skyr’s clean, recognizable ingredients, even going so far as to source all of their organic milk from fellow Pennsyl vania family farms. Painterland Farms, a certified woman-owned business, also puts the land first while going above and beyond USDA Certified Organic requirements and touting such practices as chemical-free fertilizers and weed removal, and freely grazing animals on open pas tures. A 5.3-ounce single-serving cup of any skyr flavor retails for a suggested $2.99. https://painterlandsisters.com/
Old El Paso has come up with a way to make Taco Tuesday less messy with Tortilla Pockets. The easy-to-hold, portable soft flour tortillas feature a sealed bot
tom for easy filling and less mess, making customized tacos easy and fun, with no rolling necessary. To mark the launch, the General Mills brand teamed up with Season Six “Bachelorette” and mother of two Ali Fedotowsky-Manno to share her family’s favorite taco fixings, as well as their tips for (mostly) mess-free mealtime fun. An 8-pack of tortilla pockets retails for a sug gested $3.68; they also come as part of a 12.4-ounce Tortilla Pockets Kit, retailing for a suggested $4.66 and including Old El Paso’s Taco Seasoning and Original Taco Sauce, for even greater convenience. https://www.oldelpaso.com/; https://www.generalmills.com/
Created by husband-and-wife wellness celebrities Jay Shetty and Radhi Devlukia-Shetty, along with Kim Perell, CEO and founder of 100.co, an AI-powered consumer brand group, Joyo is a line of adaptogenic sparkling teas. Powered by botanicals to enhance mind and body, the ready-to-drink functional beverages come in five blends: Unsweetened Black Tea, Raspberry Black Tea, Black Tea with Lemon, Peach Black Tea and Tropical Green Tea. Each tea is made with ayurvedic ingredients and a proprietary blend of five expertly sourced adaptogens: L-theanine to in crease serotonin and dopamine, helping to balance the mind; lion’s mane mush room to help increase cognitive function and combat mild stress and temporary anxiety; reishi mushroom to help banish daily fatigue and boost antioxidant support in the body; panax ginseng, an herb used to improve cognitive function, specifically short-term memory, and increase athletic endurance; and acerola cherry extract, a superfood known for its powerful vitamin C and antioxidant properties. A 12-fluid-ounce can of any variety retails for a suggested $3.49. https://joyotea.com/
t was great to be back at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York for this year’s Plant Based World Expo North America, but this time, it would even be more special for me: While last year, I had taken part in a panel at the event, this time, I would be moderating a panel on the apt topic of “Finding a Healthy Balance in Retail.”
Before my panel took place at 2 p.m. on Sept. 9, the second and last day of the expo, I was able to take a look at and sample the wide assortment of plant-based foods on display. Although ground patties and strips meant to mimic the flavor of beef were still in evidence — Innohas brand Meat Free-Dom’s Korean-style galbi (a dish traditionally made with beef ribs) was basically indistinguishable from the real deal — there were more items approximating such other meat products as chicken (mostly nuggets, but also fries, strips and patties); hot dogs; breakfast sausages; pork ribs; and seafood, with many offering improved tex ture and taste from items featured at earlier shows. The Cutting Vedge showed originality by crafting tasty meatballs from artichokes; while not tasting exactly like any existing animal protein, they still managed to be undeniably meaty.
A particular standout was the deli meat selection, including authen tic-tasting cold cuts from Mighty Yum, which makes a meat-free Lunch ables-inspired line; bologna slices from Plantcraft and Better Meat; and Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli, which exhibited its recently released Steak Slices, along with its Corn’d Beef and Roasted Turk’y varieties. I also got to speak to the missus herself — CEO Jenny Goldfarb — who, along with her dad and CFO, Steve Gross, told an inspiring story about how they overcame COVID, which landed Gross in the hospital on a ventilator, a severe setback from which he has made a miraculous recov ery, to expand their business at foodservice and in retail.
Beyond meat analogues, the many dairy-free cheese options at Plant Based World provided just the right gooiness and texture, with special props going to Pleese, along with Violife (featured on Blackbird’s veg an pizza) and Good Planet. Other highly impressive offerings includ ed Popadelics’ delightfully crunchy Red Rosemary + Salt shiitake mushroom caps, and Crepini’s eggless wraps, created in collabo ration with Just Foods and perfectly replicating the mouthfeel and flavor notes of chicken eggs.
At a presentation on FMI — The Food Industry Association’s recently released “Power of Plant-based Foods and Beverages” report, held in the Learning Garden right on the expo floor, FMI Director of Research and Insights Steve Markenson and Sherry Frey, VP total wellness at NielsenIQ, which sponsored the report and provided sales data and analysis for it, delivered highlights from the research. The organizations found that al
This year, according to event organizers, there were 3,722 attendees at Plant Based World Expo North America, up roughly 20% from 2021, and 232 exhibitors.
though consumers often identified plantbased foods as being healthy, there was still a lack of knowledge, and even out right confusion, when it came to these emerging items. Other key takeaways were that taste is a key driver of trying out and continuing to eat plant-based foods, animal welfare is an important consideration across the store, and flexi tarianism is a crucial element of alterna tive-protein consumption.
A little later, my panel looked at how re tailers could best leverage consumers’ per ception of the healthfulness of plant-based products to drive trial and sales of such foods. Panelists Molly Hembree, a regis tered dietitian at The Kroger Co. (and All’s Wellness columnist for Progressive Gro cer); Scott Stoll, M.D., co-founder of The Plantrician Project; and Julie Mann, chief innovation officer at PURIS Holdings LLC, notably stressed the importance of education for consumers and store asso ciates alike in raising awareness of plantbased foods’ role in a healthy diet. It was a pleasure to meet these distinguished panelists and hear their insights on this timely topic, as well as to witness firsthand the ongoing development of an ever-more-important sector of the grocery industry.Bridget Goldschmidt Managing Editor email@example.com