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EXCLUSIVE RESEARCH: WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE WAY AMERICA EATS

PROTEIN INNOVATION Value-added meats SNACKABLE GROWTH Fruits and veggies PERIMETER TRENDS Pies, pastries & desserts

2021 RETAILER OF THE YEAR Exclusive: CEO Todd Vasos and CMO Emily Taylor on serving others, growing with grocery and expanding beyond 18,000 locations

November 2021

Volume 100, Number 11 www.progressivegrocer.com


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Contents 11. 21

Volume 100 Issue 11

24 Features

34 RETAILER DEEP DIVE

40 RETAIL FOODSERVICE

2021 RETAILER OF THE YEAR

A Force in Food and CPG Why Costco can keep growing, and the implications for grocers.

What’s Next for the Way America Eats

24 Serving Others & Growing with Grocery Dollar General doesn’t describe itself as a grocer, but moves that the company has made in merchandising, operations and supply chain tell a different story. Here’s why the operator of a growing base of 18,000 stores was named Progressive Grocer’s Retailer of the Year.

Departments

16 NIELSEN’S SHELF STOPPERS

20 ALL’S WELLNESS

Baking Supplies

Snacking With Health in Mind

8 EDITOR’S NOTE

Developing a Digital Grocery Addiction

18 MINTEL GLOBAL NEW PRODUCTS

Plant-Based Proteins

76 EDITORS’ PICKS FOR INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS

12 IN-STORE EVENTS CALENDAR

14

78 AHEAD OF WHAT’S NEXT

January 2022 14 MENU TRENDS

Snacking Innovation 4

The nation isn’t back to normal yet, but new insights revealed in the second installment of Progressive Grocer’s retail foodservice research offer indications of coming trends.

progressivegrocer.com

One Way to Close the Gap



Contents 11. 21

Volume 100 Issue 11

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

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

44 FRESH FOOD

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

Value-Added Mentality

Retailers and suppliers are serving up more ready-to-cook meats for pandemic-weary consumers.

EDITORIAL EXECUTIVE EDITOR Gina Acosta 813-417-4149 gacosta@ensembleiq.com MANAGING EDITOR Bridget Goldschmidt 347-962-9395 bgoldschmidt@ensembleiq.com SENIOR DIGITAL & TECHNOLOGY EDITOR Marian Zboraj 773-992-4405 mzboraj@ensembleiq.com

50 SOLUTIONS

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

Wants and Kneads

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Marie Griffin, Jenny McTaggart and Barbara Sax

Pies, pastries and desserts reflect conflicting demands for indulgence, health, and novel flavors and formats.

ADVERTISING SALES & BUSINESS

44

54 SOLUTIONS

JUNIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER-GROCERY GROUP Natalie Meehan p 773-992-4410 m 619 823-4926 nmeehan@ensembleiq.com

When it comes to fruit and veggie snacks, retailers and consumers don’t have to confine themselves to the produce section.

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE/CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING Terry Kanganis 201-855-7615 • Fax: 201-855-7373 tkanganis@ensembleiq.com CLASSIFIED PRODUCTION MANAGER Mary Beth Medley 856-809-0050 marybeth@marybethmedley.com

58 GROCERY

Grain-Free Gains

EVENTS VICE PRESIDENT, EVENTS Michael Cronin mcronin@ensembleiq.com

A robust center store selection of such snacks will meet the needs of a growing customer base.

EVENTS DIRECTOR Karen Mahoney 952-467-8592 kmahoney@ensembleiq.com

50

62 GROCERY

Making Spirits Bright

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com ADVERTISING/PRODUCTION MANAGER Jackie Batson 224-632-8183 jbatson@ensembleiq.com

Millennials Move the Market in New Ways

ART DIRECTOR Bill Antkowiak bantkowiak@ensembleiq.com

68

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

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

72 CPG INNOVATION

‘Making Taste, Not Waste’ How Unilever is transforming food and the consumer goods industry.

74 TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION

Former Facebook Execs Advance Instacart’s Innovation Agenda

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AUDIENCE LIST RENTAL MeritDirect Marie Briganti 914-309-3378

PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART VICE PRESIDENT OF PRODUCTION Derek Estey destey@ensembleiq.com

68 NONFOODS

6

MARKETING BRAND MARKETING MANAGER Rebecca Martin 773-992-4407 rmartin@ensembleiq.com

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

With holiday entertaining season here, grocers can make their adult beverage departments a destination with the variety of products that shoppers seek.

New CEO Fidji Simo explains what that means and discusses the company’s recent deals.

SENIOR SALES MANAGER Theresa Kossack (MIDWEST, GA, FL) 214-226-6468 tkossack@ensembleiq.com SENIOR SALES MANAGER Tammy Rokowski (INTERNATIONAL, SOUTHWEST, MI) 248-514-9500 trokowski@ensembleiq.com

Healthier Bites

The three big trends behind surging sales of wellness products are immunity boosting, plant-based and focus on mental health/sleep.

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

74

PROGRESSIVE GROCER (ISSN 0033-0787, USPS 920-600) is published monthly by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Single copy price $14, except selected special issues. Foreign single copy price $16, except selected special issues. Subscription: $125 a year; $230 for a two year supscription; Canada/Mexico $150 for a one year supscription; $270 for a two year supscription (Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement No. 40031729. Foreign $170 a one year supscrption; $325 for a two year supscription (call for air mail rates). Digital Subscription: $87 one year supscription; $161 two year supscription. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631 and additional mailing offices. Printed in USA. POSTMASTER: Send all address changes to brand, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200. Copyright ©2021 EnsembleIQ All rights reserved, including the rights to reproduce in whole or in part. All letters to the editors of this magazine will be treated as having been submitted for publication. The magazine reserves the right to edit and abridge them. The publication is available in microform from University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for product claims and representations.


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EDITOR’S NOTE By Mike Troy

Developing a Digital Grocery Addiction IT’S TIME FOR GROCERS TO GE T SERIOUS ABOUT THE NE X T WAVE OF THEIR DIGITAL TR ANSFORMATION. top priority of the grocery world for nearly two years has been the rapid expansion and refinement of digital grocery capabilities. Whether it was rolling out pickup and delivery, launching an app, or improving site functionality on a mobile device, huge shifts in shopper behavior caused by the pandemic required retailers to move faster than they previously thought possible. The catalyst of a public health crisis saw the grocery industry narrow the gap with other retail sectors that adopted e-commerce earlier and have higher rates of digitally enabled sales. In their haste to roll out e-commerce, however, grocers relied on third parties and costly fulfillment methods, and focused on mastery of digital basics. What they overlooked was providing an experience that inspires and delights shoppers in ways beyond order accuracy and on-time delivery. Think about it: When have you visited a grocer’s website that was so rich with content, compelling imagery, videos of preparation methods, nutritional information, and opportunities to connect and share with like-minded foodies that you were drawn in deeper and deeper, clicking, discovering, sharing? Instead, the navigation and functionality of grocers’ websites have a utilitarian feel, and content is basically product pages with listings of attributes and ingredients. The experience isn’t inspiring, which means that no one visits a grocer’s website unless they have been incentivized to do so with a trial-generating offer or they’re planning to execute a transaction. Transactions are good, of course, because shoppers who use online and in-store methods are the best kind of shoppers. However, the market has a race-to-the-bottom feel to it right now. Websites serve as replenishment portals, and retailers are focused on eliminating friction and reducing delivery times. That’s an expensive proposition to execute, and not every retailer can invest in the innovation and automation needed to win long-term while also maintaining elevated operating costs to deliver a superior experience and win today. But what if there were another way? It feels like there’s a huge opportunity for grocers to choose a different path and make their digital experience more engaging and as addictive as social media. That’s where shoppers turn now for food inspiration. Search “cooking videos” on YouTube, and the results are overwhelm8

progressivegrocer.com

ing. There are shows about every imaginable ingredient, preparation method and cookware type. There are branded sites such as Tasty, Epicurious, Mashed and Allrecipes, but YouTube is really the place where user-generated content is king. Further, because there are essentially no barriers to entry, anyone with a frying pan and a personality can attract a following and become a celebrity chef. Videos on cooking are so abundant on YouTube that there’s a genre of shows about cooking shows. YouTube and other social media platforms are where shoppers turn for inspiration now, but grocers have an opportunity to get in the game and leverage their unique assets. Grocers are food authorities, buyers and sourcing professionals are trend experts, and retailers with foodservice operations are experts in preparation methods. In short, grocers are well positioned to serve shoppers in new ways and gain greater relevance beyond being proficient in logistics and website functionality. Doing so will be critical to success in 2022 and beyond. This is especially true as balance is restored between food at home and food away from home, and as grocers look to hold onto share gains achieved during the pandemic. An increased emphasis on content should be on every retailer’s digital roadmap, with a goal of making their algorithms so good and websites so intoxicating that shoppers compulsively reach for mobile devices for reasons other than to execute a transaction.

YouTube and other social media platforms are where shoppers turn for inspiration now, but grocers have an opportunity to get in the game and leverage their unique assets.

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


TIME FOR A LITTLE

shelf care?

GLOW U P YOU R CH E E SE C A SE W I T H E M M I ROT H Shelf improvement starts from the inside out. That’s why Emmi Roth begins with data-driven consumer behavior and category trends that help you select the right cheeses based on your unique situation. We even provide marketing support to make certain your customers seek out your new and improved cheese case.

To get started on your shelf care journey, visit us at emmiroth.com/shelfcare.


MODERNIZE YOUR MERCHANDISING

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n Cuts over 1 hour/day labor for restocking. n Allows rear restocking and proper date rotation. n Dramatically increases sales in the same space. n Adjusts to accommodate various package widths.

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* Based upon average 8’ run by 5’ high peg candy gondola installations. Your results may vary. ©2020 Trion Industries, Inc.


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IN-STORE EVENTS

Calendar

01.22

National CBD Month National Hot Tea Month National Menudo Month National Oatmeal Month

National Slow Cooking Month National Soup Month National Sunday Supper Month

S M T W T F S

1

New Year’s Day National Hangover Day

2

National Buffet Day. Encourage shoppers to do their own for at-home entertaining or a fun family dinner option.

9

National Apricot Day. Fresh or dried, this stone fruit can be used in a range of tasty treats.

3

National Fruitcake Toss Day. Now you know what to do with it once the holidays are over.

10

National Bittersweet Chocolate Day

4

National Spaghetti Day. Offer at the point of sale a variety of easy recipes including this popular pasta.

11

National Arkansas Day. Promote all products that hail from the Natural State.

5

National Keto Day. Place products supporting this trendy eating regime on display at special prices.

12

National Marzipan Day National Curried Chicken Day

6

7

8

National Shortbread Day

National Tempura Day. Post a short video showing consumers how to make dishes incorporating this light and crispy Japanese batter.

13

14

National Dress Up Your Pet Day. Shoppers can get Fido and Fluffy ready for their photo shoots with grooming items from the pet care section.

15

National Strawberry Ice Cream Day. Really, any month is the right time to enjoy a scoop.

National Bean Day

Korean American Day. Celebrate the food and culture brought to the United States by Korean immigrants.

National Winter Skin Relief Day. Put up signage directing shoppers to the hand and body lotion aisle.

16

17

18

19

20

Get to Know Your Customers Day. Post associates at the entrance to greet shoppers on their way into the store.

21

National Hugging Day. Suggest that customers and associates send virtual embraces to friends and family members to mark the occasion.

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

National Nothing Day. How about a trip to the grocery store?

National Pie Day. Apple, blueberry, key lime, lemon chiffon, strawberry rhubarb, Boston cream — we could go on and on.

National Croissant Day. Invite customers to stop by the in-store dining area for this French pastry and coffee.

12

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Beer Can Appreciation Day. Why stop at the contents?

Eat Brussels Sprouts Day. They’re particularly yummy when prepared with bacon, so don’t hold back.

progressivegrocer.com

National Winnie the Pooh Day. What does the silly old bear eat? Anything with “hunny,” for a start.

Burns Night. To pay tribute to the poet, consumers can hold a dinner featuring traditional Scottish fare.

National Popcorn Day. When it comes to making this snack excellent, it’s all in the toppings.

National Spouses Day. Those who shop with their other half are eligible for a discount.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Birthday (1756). In honor of this great classical composer, play some of his most beloved works over the PA system.

National Fun at Work Day. Turn the break room into a game room so associates can kick back with a little hacky sack.

National Hot Sauce Day. Pour it on!

National Carnation Day. Urge shoppers to spruce up their look by picking up a boutonniere in the floral department.


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MENU TRENDS

Research & Analysis

Snacking Innovation The snack occasion was already trending upward before the global pandemic, and has grown even more during it, since many consumers have settled into home offices, and many companies have made remote work an option for the long term. Major supermarkets have introduced new snack items in recent years, hoping that it would lure consumers into making more pit stops. Also, now that so many consumers find themselves at home for the long haul and noshing on comforting treats more often, there’s a focus on healthier options to account for consumers’ decline in activity, and a robust and growing focus on consuming fewer animal products. Following are some highlights in the world of snacking.

Salmon Jerky MAC stage: Inception – International markets, global independents and fine dining. Trends start here and exemplify originality in flavor, preparation and presentation. Jerky is the most well-known retail snacking item, and has long been a staple snack in many households. The flexibility it provides is now seeing new growth, however, specifically among consumers who want to eat less meat or poultry without losing that tempting chew and convenient portability. Enter new forms of jerky with proteins like seafood, or meatless options made with veggies and fruit, like mushrooms or pineapple. Look for more innovation in this category, too, like options made with meat substitutes that have already exploded in the burger category. On <1% of U.S. restaurant menus 45% of consumers know it/15% have tried it/10% love or like it Retail Example Fishpeople Lemon & Herb Salmon Jerky Tender, wild salmon meets its match with zesty lemon and herb. 24 grams of protein per bag. Gluten-free. Non-GMO

14

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Plant-Based (Nondairy) Yogurt MAC stage: Adoption – Global-food aisles at supermarkets, casual independents, fast casual. Adoption-stage trends grow their base via lower price points and simpler prep methods. Still differentiated, these trends often feature premium and/or generally authentic ingredients. Consumers are demanding healthier foods and fewer animal products, and nondairy yogurt is a great alternative to a favorite snack. Known for its versatility in various cuisines and sweet and savory applications, plant-based yogurt, made from almonds, coconut, soy, etc., can be an easy switch that will make consumers feel better about an already healthy choice. On <1% of U.S. restaurant menus 73% of consumers know it/39% have tried it/25% love or like it Menu Example Sushi Samba Açai Bowl Açai and blueberry, seasonal fruit, almond milk yogurt, coconut granola

Salmon Jerky

Craft Chips MAC stage: Proliferation – Proliferation-stage trends are adjusted for mainstream appeal. Often combined with popular applications (on a burger, pasta, etc.)

Fruit Snacks MAC stage: Ubiquity – Ubiquity-stage trends have reached maturity and can be found across all sectors of the food industry. Though often diluted by this point, their Inception-stage roots are still recognizable.

Chips are one of the most popular snacks for a reason, but consumers are now increasingly craving their potato and other chips from small craft makers. It’s a natural progression of a focus on local goods, and it also offers more variety from one small purveyor to another, allowing for an even more diverse selection of a must-have snack.

Fruit snacks are popular for both their versatility and their consistency — that chewy texture, burst of fruit flavor and satisfying sweetness make them a favorite of many consumers. There are various ways to bring fruit snacks some added attention, though, such as by focusing on natural flavors, lower sugar or organic options.

On 57% of U.S. restaurant menus

On <1% of U.S. restaurant menus

98% of consumers know it/97% have tried it/84% love or like it

96% of consumers know it/86% have tried it/62% love or like it

Retail Example Parisian Chips, The Gourmet Chip Co., Asheville, N.C.

Menu Example Mixed Fruit Snack Pot Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf A mixture of berries, grapes and pineapple



FRONT END

Shelf Stoppers

Baking Supplies

Basket Facts

Total Department Performance Baking Supplies

Latest 52 Wks W/E 9/28/21

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 9/26/20

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 9/28/19

$6,417,233,436

$6,750,070,788

$5,669,636,985

Top Baking Supply Categories by Dollar Sales Nuts

Flour Meal

Baking Chips

Cake Decoration

Pie Filling

$1,200,000,000

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

1,000,000,000

800,000,000

$5.18

600,000,000

on all baking supply items, up 3.7% compared with a year ago

400,000,000

200,000,000

0

Latest 52 Wks W/E 9/28/21

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 9/26/20

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 9/28/19

Source: Nielsen, Total U.S. (All outlets combined) – includes grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, select dollar stores, select warehouse clubs and military commissaries (DeCA) for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 25, 2021

Like many other CPG categories, sales growth rates for baking products across the board are reverting to pre-pandemic levels. This was to be expected as living and working restrictions began to lift across the country, causing consumers to stray from their homebody routines and hobbies, and seek more experiences and social gatherings. As the holiday season approaches, baking products will spike once again as shoppers look to connect with their loved ones by creating memories in the kitchen. Reaching the omni-shopper this holiday season will require both an online and offline strategy to maximize your sales potential.”

—Carman Allison, VP, Consumer Intelligence, NielsenIQ

Generational Snapshot

$3.26

on condensed milk, up 2.8% compared with a year ago

$2.37

on frosting, up 2.3% compared with a year ago

$3.71

Which cohort is spending, on average, the most per trip on yeast?

on measuring cups and baking utensils, up 4.3% compared with a year ago Millennials

Gen Xers

Boomers

The Greatest Generation

$3.12

$2.96

$3.12

$2.89

Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Aug. 28, 2021

16

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Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Aug. 28, 2021


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MINTEL CATEGORY INSIGHTS

Global New Products Database

Plant-Based Proteins Marketing Overview

When it comes to the meat substitute market specifically, sales have been driven by consumers seeking “meaty” alternatives to assist in efforts to eat less actual meat and/or add protein. The success of these products has driven market growth since they began entering the market in 2016, and supported a surge of use in 2020 as consumers cooked at home more often.

Key Issues

Strong health connotations are the leading motivation for eating plant-based proteins overall and for eating them more often. Still, variety is an important factor, and offering more prepared ingredients and meals can help busy consumers, especially parents, keep these foods in their weekly menu lineups moving forward. The majority of consumers who eat plantbased proteins (51%) are eating them in meals made from scratch. However, plant-based protein consumers are even more likely to opt for convenient short cuts: 55% of consumers who eat plant-based proteins are eating them in prepared meals.

Of adults have eaten some type of plantbased protein in the past year, and onethird of this group are eating plant-based proteins more often than they were a year ago.

39% of adults currently eat some type of meat alternative product, and among those that do, the majority are interested in a wide variety of format types. While burgers are the most popular choice for meat substitutes, this may be due in part to their availability and the fact that brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have “perfected” this format.

What Consumers Want, and Why The relative lack of interest in new products suggests that at best, consumers are content with the offerings available, and at worst, they are complacent with the category and don’t expect novel innovation to pique their interest. Plant-based protein brands can find their way into more baskets by working with other brands across categories and channels. Meat alternatives in particular have been catching the attention of consumers new to the space via their increased presence on foodservice menus, as well as by collaborating on prepared meals with major brands more familiar to the average shopper. Brands that extend to additional subcategories on their own, in addition to collaborating with other companie,s will have the potential to reach the broadest range of consumers. Among adults that don’t eat plant-based proteins and are eating them less often than a year ago, general preference for real meat is the No. 1 obstacle, followed by price concerns.

18

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The Plant-Based retail market reached over

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ALL’S WELLNESS By Karen Buch

Snacking With Health in Mind

Shared-Experience Snacks

HELP SHOPPERS FIND BE T TER-FOR-YOU ALTERNATIVES THAT SATISF Y SWEE T AND SAVORY CR AVINGS. long-standing relationship exists between food and mood, and snack foods are no exception. The NPD Group’s 2021 “Future of Snacking” report shows that the average U.S. consumer sought solace in snacks, eating 37% more snack foods and treats while feeling sad or depressed during the global pandemic than they did in pre-pandemic 2019. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, consumers turned to familiar comfort foods to help soothe feelings of sadness, boredom, stress or anxiety, or aid feelings of relaxation and calmness. Mood-boosting snacks can be found in various categories. Recent NPD data indicates that consumers triggered by boredom choose savory snacks more often, while consumers feeling sad or depressed tend to reach for confections and Retailers can help other sweets. Retailers can help consumers feel consumers feel good and navigate the new normal by offering ways to snack smarter while keeping personal good and navigate health and fitness in mind. the new normal by

Functional Snacks

offering ways to snack smarter while keeping personal health and fitness in mind.

Today’s snack category is peppered with familiar attribute claims such as organic, gluten-free, local, keto, vegan, high-protein and plant-based, to name just a few. Right now, however, shoppers are acutely focused on keeping themselves and their families safe and healthy. In turn, they want to support immunity and improve digestive health, largely because 70% to 80% of the body’s immune system is housed in the gastrointestinal tract. Retail dietitians can point consumers toward snacks high in fiber, such as fresh and dried fruit, oat-based bars, nuts, seeds, and bean-based chips and dips, along with fermented foods and yogurt-based products that tout live and active cultures. As pandemic-related concerns subside, expect functional snacks to broaden their focus to boosting memory and mental acuity; easing stress, anxiety and tension; and enhancing beauty, energy and sleep quality. The portability of a snack can ease the return to in-person work and school. Bear in mind that consumers are concurrently placing renewed emphasis on the importance of sustainability, favoring both portable and sustainable choices that minimize excess packaging. Edible utensils and straws are emerging in the retail market as tasty and novel parts of the solution. As consumers recommit to personal fitness routines, retail dietitians can suggest snack ideas and wholesome smoothie recipes geared to aid athletic pursuits before, during and after exercise. Retailers can provide consumers with a list of snack options that help build and repair lean muscle, combat inflammation, and aid post-workout energy repletion, electrolyte balance and recovery.

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While consumers have cut back on travel, dining and other shared experiences, snack manufacturers have responded with bold, adventurous restaurant-inspired flavors for snacktime favorites. Chip and cracker seasonings evoke flavors of well-known sandwiches, grilled or roasted meats, and specific international cuisines. Innovations in ready-to-eat popcorn, a category poised for continued growth, feature vegan-friendly no-cheese versions of “cheese-flavored” popcorn, and kettle corn mixes featuring familiar sweet flavor profiles like cinnamon, caramel and vanilla, contrasted with savory sriracha, jalapeño, tajin, molè and spicy buffalo. After the long-standing physical separation of people during the pandemic, pent-up demand will drive a return to social gatherings. Retail dietitians can conduct virtual how-to classes to instruct consumers on how to create grazing boards that combine bite-sized fresh fruits and vegetables, accompanied by flavorful cheeses, nuts, whole grain crackers, hummus, yogurt-based dips and spicy sauces. In addition, grocers can offer an innovative menu of made-to-order grazing boards for purchase in the prepared food department.

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


THE OF 2021: Moving Ahead After a Year of Unprecedented Growth

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Take a deeper dive into the world of Alaska Seafood! 800-478-2903 info@alaskaseafood.org www.alaskaseafood.org/retail 1. Seafood Success Powered by Alaska Retail Consumer Research, Datassential/ASMI, ©2021 ASMI, 2. 2021 FMI Power of Seafood Report/Nielsen IQ 3. “US fresh, frozen seafood sales hold gains through first half of 2021,” SeafoodSource, July 28,2021 (seafoodsource.com)

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THE BENEFITS OF CASH RECYCLERS FOR GROCERY STORES

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, grocers are likely to see an uptick in transactions which often means an increase in cash in the store. In addition, in-store pick-ups will increase due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19 thus making grocery staff busier than ever. Cash handling can include time-intensive tasks such as creating register tills or preparing bank deposits. However, cash automation through recyclers helps create labor and time savings by giving employees back the time they need to focus on tasks that add more value to the business. In addition to time savings, there are significant cost savings. For example, grocers who have a cash recycling solution in place may only need armored car service once a week, where those who have no cash recycling solution might need armored car service every day of the week. Another consideration is the cost associated

Sponsored Content | © 2021 Loomis Armored US, LLC. All rights reserved.

with change orders and making deposits at the bank for smaller store locations. Loomis’s cash recycling technology also provides detailed visibility into overall cash operations through Loomis Direct, an advanced reporting and analytics portal that can be accessed remotely. Also, Loomis’s cash recyclers have individual user credentials so managers can see exactly when the recycler was used, who accessed it, and how much cash was deposited or withdrawn. With this type of visibility, there are fewer mistakes made and less investigation around cash activities because a machine is handling the task. Each grocery store’s cash needs are unique, and there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all cash recycling solution. Loomis has invested in the technology to ensure we offer a solution to fit your store’s specific needs. Below you can see which of Loomis’s cash recyclers, the Titan R or RX, is the best fit for your business.


» Ideal for grocery stores... › With cash-intensive retail operations including large cash deposit volume and maintaining a significant amount of cash-on-hand › That have multiple points of sales i.e. pharmacy, customer service desk including lottery and check cashing services, in-store restaurant, bakery, etc. › That have a dedicated cash office manager › That have 5+ days per week of armor car service › Includes multiple configurations to accommodate the ever-changing cash needs of your store including recycling for notes and coins, a notesonly option, and high-capacity cassettes

» Ideal for grocery stores... › With 3-7 registers › Whose cash deposit volume necessitates 3+ days per week of armor car service › Where space and productivity are essential commodities with a design to fit comfortably under countertops and in back offices › Where the responsibility of cash room manager rests across multiple roles or has no dedicated cash room manager › With a smaller footprint › Who make frequent trips to the bank for deposit and change needs

A cash recycler is a game-changer for grocery stores, which are by nature a labor and cashintensive industry. The automation process of cash recycling can help grocery store owners realize significant labor, time, and cost savings all while increasing visibility into their cash operations and minimizing errors. Learn more about Loomis’ line of Titan R cash recyclers at loomis.us/cashrecycling

© 2021 Loomis Armored US, LLC. All rights reserved.


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2021 RETAILER OF THE YEAR

Dollar General

F

ood and consumables accounted for 77% of Dollar General’s annual sales last year of $33.7 billion. The expansion of cooler and freezer capacity at new and remodeled stores has for several years been described as the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based company’s most impactful merchandising initiative. Dollar General began selling fresh produce at select stores last year, expanded the program to 2,000 locations this year, and its current plan is to add produce to 10,000 more stores. Dollar General now self-distributes frozen and refrigerated products from a network of 12 facilities after completing a multiyear rollout of its DG Fresh supply chain initiative ahead of schedule during a pandemic. Dollar General now sells more food in more places than ever before, thanks to its massive base of 18,000 stores, and will increasingly do so in the future as the company projects that its store base could nearly double. Dollar General’s sales mix and strategic actions are the hallmarks of a grocer, and a successful one at that, but “grocer” isn’t a term that CEO Todd Vasos uses to describe the business. “We don’t consider ourselves a grocer. We have for many years considered ourselves to be more of a general store,” Vasos tells Progressive Grocer in an exclusive interview. “If you think about our stores and where they’re located, about 75% are in rural or smalltown America. From that standpoint, we’re much more than just a grocer Dollar General doesn’t describe itself as a by a long shot, because we carry a full array of consumables and nonconsumgrocer, but moves that the company has made able-type items.” in merchandising, operations and supply chain The distinction between a grocer and a general store can be subtle, but it’s a tell a different story. Here’s why the operator of view also held by Emily Taylor, Dollar a growing base of 18,000 stores was named General’s EVP and chief merchandisProgressive Grocer’s Retailer of the Year. ing officer. She views the general-store moniker as a way to describe “the magBy Mike Troy ic of the box,” where customers are able to meet a broad range of needs: “everything from everyday basics, whether it be in household, family needs, all the way over to more discretionary-type purchases, including all health and beauty care. “But at the same time, we also meet [the shopper’s] needs when it comes to food and feeding her family,” Taylor continues. “That really is the magic of the box, and to do that in such a small footprint, so that it’s convenient for the customer, is really what we work to be.”

SERVING OTHERS & GROWING WITH GROCERY

Charting the Course

When Vasos arrived at the company in 2008, a decade after Taylor joined in an investor relations role, he brought a background from Longs Drugs, Phar-Mor and Eckerd. He initially served a head merchant and brought the perspective of what was possible with food and consumables, because Longs and Phar-Mor were nontraditional chain drug operators with expanded food and consumable sets that would later become the norm in the channel. PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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2021 RETAILER OF THE YEAR

Dollar General

“What we set our sights on in 2008, as we went through and transformed the company to what you see today, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t turn [Dollar General] into a 7,500-square-foot grocery store,” Vasos says. However, retail is about listening to customers, and over the years, Dollar General’s customers wanted more perishable products. “One of our biggest initiatives, and it has been for many years, has been the cooler initiative, both on the frozen as well as the deli and dairy side of the business, because the consumer is looking for more and more of those type of goods from Dollar General,” he notes. The same is true of fresh produce. Just a few years ago, the notion of Dollar General selling produce seemed a stretch, given the operational complexities of the category and Dollar General’s lean operating model. However, the company decided to leverage its experience with its roughly 120 larger-format Dollar General Market stores and add a limited assortment of produce to select stores. The focus is on the 20% of the produce SKUs that generate 80% of the volume, while steering clear of items prone to rapid spoilage. “Over the next few years, we’ll have probably upwards of 10,000 or more stores with produce,” Vasos says. “It will be a combination of ambient as well as refrigerated produce, and depending on the size of the store and the competitive set around it, it could be anywhere from 12 feet up to 28 feet.” The expansion focus early on is on food desert-type locations in smaller towns or rural areas, where the closest conventional grocers may be 20 miles away, he explains. “It is not our intent right away to go into all of our stores, but I would tell you that if the consumer continues to ask us for [fresh produce], even in our more metro-type settings, we’ll take a look at it, obviously,” Vasos says. 26

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Fresh produce (top) will roll out to 10,000 stores in coming years and follows a major expansion of freezer/ cooler doors that proved to be the company's most impactful merchandising initiative for several years.

Getting to 35,000 Stores

Think a company with more than 18,000 stores must be close to exhausting its expansion opportunities? Guess again. Dollar General has been defying skeptics for a long time, whether the milestone was the opening of its 5,000th store in 2001, the 10,000th store in 2010 or the 15,000th store in 2018. The company recently crossed the threshold of 18,000 locations, but it keeps finding new expansion opportunities, thanks to a flexible format strategy and a willingness to introduce new concepts. “Within the last year, we updated what we believe our total number of opportunities to be, and it’s another 17,000 locations,” Vasos notes. Embedded in



“One of our biggest initiatives, and it has been for many years, has been the cooler initiative, both on the frozen as well as the deli and dairy side of the business, because the consumer is looking for more and more of those type of goods from Dollar General.” —Todd Vasos, CEO, Dollar General

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that figure are 3,000 locations of pOpshelf, a new concept focused on nonconsumable products. The first locations opened last fall, and by the end of this year, there could be as many as 50 pOpShelf stores selling a variety of attractively priced beauty, seasonal, home décor, and arts and crafts products. The pOpShelf concept, along with format experimentation of the flagship Dollar General banner, is why the company continues to defy gravity when it comes to store count. The retailer has DGX stores as small as 6,000 square feet that are designed for urban areas, and its conventional Dollar General stores range in size from the classic 7,300-square-foot units, to the newer 8,500- and 9,500-square-foot locations. Dollar General Market locations can range from 15,000 to 18,000 square feet, with that space allowing for the creation of a combination format featuring pOpshelf departments, which were recently added at two locations. The company doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. “It opened a tremendous amount of white space for us across America to be able to put a different-size box in, depending on the location and demographics of the areas, and what the consumer needs,” Vasos says. “We will continue to innovate, and that 17,000 [location number] will continue to morph. I think it could get even bigger than that, but we’re not prepared yet to put the stake in the ground.” A focus on nonconsumables led Dollar General to develop its new pOpshelf concept with the potential for 3,000 locations.


2021 RETAILER OF THE YEAR

Dollar General Putting the ‘General’ in Dollar General

Dollar General has been crushing it with food and consumables for several years, and recent initiatives regarding the supply chain, increased capacity in stores and growing fresh assortments indicate that will continue to be the case. But general merchandise is a key aspect of the overall appeal of the Dollar General experience, which is why Taylor and her merchant team have for several years been focused on the uniquely Dollar General acronym of NCI. “We were very proud of the growth rate that we had achieved in the consumable categories over years, but had not attacked the nonconsumable area and tried to grow that in the same way,” Taylor notes. “We had an opportunity to launch our nonconsumable initiative (NCI) and really, for the first time, reconsider the space in our store dedicated to nonconsumable product and reposition it in the mind of the customer.” The changes involved basic retail techniques like adjusting assortments, fixturing, adjacencies and signing, and the changes worked in ways that also benefited food and consumables. “We were able to reverse the trend of the negative mix shift that we had been seeing, and are pleased with the growth of nonconsumable categories,” Taylor says. “When we put the NCI initiative in stores, we grow the whole store, and that reiterates the fact that this broader shopping experience is what customers are looking for out of our stores. The entire box becomes more appealing.”

Expanded assortments of health and beauty products fit with Dollar General's long-term vision of playing a greater role in health care.

Reimagining the Box and Beyond

“Serving others” is a phrase used often at Dollar General. It guides the company’s philosophy of delivering convenience and value to lower-income shoppers. It’s also a mindset that causes Vasos and other leaders to look around and question where else the “serving others” philosophy can be put into action. That led Dollar General to the world of health care, and the intriguing possibilities of how the company can leverage its footprint and technology to help customers live healthier and gain easier access to such services when needed. “More and more, our consumer is telling us they want some basic health care opportunities in rural America especially, and small-town America, where, again, I use the word ‘desert’ a lot, but there’s a lot of health

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PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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2021 RETAILER OF THE YEAR

Dollar General

care deserts out there,” Vasos observes. He points to new technologies that could make vision checkups and other optometry services possible in a small footprint inside Dollar General’s larger prototype. The same could be possible with basic doctor visits conducted over the internet. “Telehealth is here to stay, but in rural America, having a wifi connection can be as hard as finding a grocery store,” Vasos says. “We have that ability in our stores so we can deliver that to the consumer where they can feel comfortable to come to us. Think of prescription drugs. Not that we’re going to have a pharmacist on staff, but what if in certain states, we’re able to have a central fill delivered into our stores once a day for the consumer to pick up? In rural America, I think it will be a big advantage and could cut off as much as two to three days on a prescription.” Dollar General plans to move fast with health care, which is a core component of many grocers’ value proposition, but Vasos cautions that it will take time to find the right approach. “This is a real long-term initiative, but one I believe will benefit not only our core consumer, but also the shareholders and our employees,” he asserts. The company has already taken steps from a product standpoint, bolstering assortments of health and beauty care items in advance of introducing more service-oriented offerings. “We know health care is an opportunity for our customer to be better served, with better access and more affordable solutions,” explained Taylor, “and because of our extensive footprint in a lot of areas that are underserved today, it puts us in a great position to help our customers. That’s very exciting as it relates to merchandising within the store.”

Don’t Doubt Dollar General

For much of its history, at every turn, Dollar General has proved skeptics wrong and delivered results. Last year was the company’s 31st consecutive year of same-store sales growth as it reported a pandemic-fueled comp increase of 16.3%. The company’s record of consistency is in jeopardy this year as it laps record gains, but that doesn’t change Dollar General’s long-term trajectory, which is poised to benefit from multiple

“We know health care is an opportunity for our customer to be better served, with better access and more affordable solutions, and because of our extensive footprint in a lot of areas that are underserved today, it puts us in a great position to help our customers.” —Emily Taylor, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer, Dollar General

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The major DG Fresh supply chain initiative, completed ahead of schedule this year, gave the company selfdistribution capabilities from 12 facilities.

drivers such as the growing relevance of its stores due to food and consumables and nonconsumables, forays into health care, supply chain efficiencies, and digital capabilities, which are surprisingly sophisticated but often overlooked. “We’re a company that’s going to deliver on the promise of serving others every day, and across our core consumer, as well as the consumer base in general,” Vasos says. “We get told all the time from not only our core consumer who makes less than $40,000 annually, but consumers who make $50,000 to $75,000 and are adjacent to our core consumers, that our box is becoming more and more relevant to them. We are becoming more and more relevant to a larger subset of Americans than ever before.” That is especially true as inflation eats into the purchasing power of Americans, and rising fuel costs erode discretionary spending for lower-income consumers. That combination of economic forces has proved beneficial to Dollar General in the past, enabling the company to grow during good times and bad, and overcome doubters along the way who would question the company’s growth prospects. Taylor recalls having many of those conversations back in 1998, when she joined the company’s investors relations department and there were 3,169 stores. “We spent a lot of time explaining why people needed a store like Dollar General, because it wasn’t well understood by those who might not live in some of the communities we traditionally serve,” she recounts. “We also answered questions about ‘Have you reached the point of saturation?’ We absolutely didn’t believe that at the time, and it turns out we were right.”



2021 RETAILER OF THE YEAR

Dollar General

What Labor Shortage? HOW DOLL AR GENERAL WINS WITH WORKERS. By Gina Acosta Food retailers have offered higher wages, flexible schedules, signing bonuses and other perks to lure workers, but only Dollar General has the unique challenge of having to staff a store base of 18,000 locations that’s growing daily amid a historic labor crunch. “Because of our culture, our footprint and our development programs, we’ve weathered the labor challenges very well,” says Kathy Reardon, EVP and chief people officer at Dollar General. “Over Labor Day, we said we were hiring 50,000 people, and I’m proud to say we not only met but exceeded that goal.” According to Reardon, attracting workers in this labor environment isn’t just about increasing wages, it’s about giving people the chance to develop a meaningful career. “It goes beyond paying competitive market-based wages,” she says. “The opportunity that Dollar General has for people to develop their careers, I think, is what sets us apart. So people come to us, maybe, for a job, but they stay because of the career.” As for what that looks like at Dollar General, Reardon says that workers who start as part-time sales associates can become “key carriers” in six months, with responsibility for opening and closing stores, as well as making bank deposits. “Six to eight months after that, you might be an assistant store manager,” she notes, “and on average, if you stay with us and continue to go through our development, in three years of joining us, you can run a store, and that’s life-changing.” The sheer size of Dollar General and its rate of growth ensure constant opportunities for upward mobility. Numerous members of leadership and approximately 75% of recent job placements and current store managers were promoted from within Dollar General. “When you have 18,000 store locations, if you want to be a store manager, we have a lot of opportunities for you to do that,” Reardon says. “We have 900 district manager

opportunities. The growth is endless. There’s 1,000 new opportunities, on average, a year to run a store for us. It’s hard to beat that out there right now.” In addition to keeping so many positions filled at stores, distribution centers and its store support center, the company has been dangling $5,000 sign-on bonuses to candidates interested in driving for the DG Private Fleet, which has grown to more than 700 tractors and more than 550 drivers, due in part to the company’s DG Fresh initiative. The company recently announced a new initiative allowing DG Fleet drivers to bring one “co-pilot” — a vaccinated dog or cat of eligible breeds — along with them on the road. Other innovative talent initiatives include a partnership with Axonify to improve training at the company. “Axonify has provided us with a new training platform that we’ve internally branded ‘Elevate,’ because it’s a way for people to elevate their learning, elevate their careers, elevate their professional development,” Reardon explains. Dollar General has had to elevate training when it comes to the expansion of fresh food at so many of its stores, she observes, although it’s not a new skill set for employees, because of the company’s Dollar General Market formats, which feature expansive fresh food assortments. “It’s a competency that we’ve had on one side of the business, and it was really about transferring it to the larger part of the chain,” Reardon says. “Then, on the development side, it’s also teaching the customer service that comes with selling that fresh food and how to make sure that when customers come in, our managers and our associates are able to talk with them professionally about the offerings and what it means for them from a health perspective.” Part of that service-focused strategy also includes making sure that every store feels like it’s part of the community, and a company-wide multimillion-dollar investment in inclusivity programs. “Our COO, Jeff Owen, often says we don’t want to just be in the community, we want to be of the community,” Reardon says. “I’m pleased with our efforts, and I think that all of our employees, our investors and the communities we call home can really see the dividends of those efforts, too.”

Dollar General’s rate of growth ensures a career development path for new hires and existing employees.

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SPONSORED CONTENT PET SPECIALTY

SUPPLIER PERSPECTIVES

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, Treat Season! By Joe Toscano, Vice President, Trade & Industry Development at Purina As temperatures cool and the leaves change, we enter the time of the year when consumers are looking for more ways to create special moments with those they love. For pet owners, this typically leads to an increase of treat purchases with December holidays prompting the highest sales volume treat weeks of the year. But it’s not just winter holidays that drive treat sales—Halloween and Valentine’s Day are also timely sales drivers for the category. Studies have also shown that consumers are more willing to indulge and spend more on themselves and their pets during key seasons and around the holidays. Grocers can capitalize on the timely bumps with limited holiday items, seasonal flavors, themed packaging and displays. Purina has many seasonal treat items for pets including Beggin’® holiday variety packs, Friskies® Party Mix® seasonal flavors and the 12 Days of Treats and 24 Days of Treats Holiday Advent Calendars. Treats is a category that has always held great potential for retailers as a basket builder and profit driver. The bright spot for retailers is that treats are an incremental purchase for consumers, and our data indicates that the more treats consumers have, the more they’ll treat. For year-round coverage, ensure you have a variety of treats including crunchy, meaty, long lasting and functional so that consumers can select multiple treats for the various occasions. Purina has developed several innovative treats for each category including Prime® Bones...(which are safe, long-lasting natural chews dogs will love without the potential hazards of treating with animal bones, antlers or rawhides), and Fancy Feast® Savory Cravings, which provide the savory flavors your cat will love in a special breakapart form. There are multiple ways to capitalize on the growth of treats. Below are some strategies retailers can leverage to capture the valuable dog treat buyer.

• Cross-promotion. Retailers can start by bringing in new households with dry pet food cross-promotions focusing on their health benefits and ingredient story. • Disruption. Treats are more likely to be an unplanned purchase than dog and cat food, which means it is beneficial to disrupt consumers on their shopper journey. Try signage and secondary displays to disrupt the shopper in-store. For online shoppers, banner ads, popups on food pages and add to basket at checkout are beneficial tactics. • Timing. Now, more than ever, consumers want to create those special moments treats provide year-round. Pet retailers should ensure treats are part of their monthly merchandising programs in order to stimulate incremental sales and profits. • Multiples pricing. Because treat consumers are not as price sensitive,

stimulate additional purchases by using multiples pricing. Instead of suggesting a $3.49 retail price either in ad or everyday, change to 2/$7.00 and see the incremental purchases and profits soar. • Variety. For treat buyers, variety is key. Dog treat buyers, on average, feed treats eight times a week. Half of buyers reported having two or more varieties (crunchy, meaty, dental, long lasting or niche) on hand, and 60% of buyers reported having two to five packages on hand. Cat treat consumption has grown and is driven primarily by crunchy form and larger sizes. But variety remains important as half of cat treat consumers report looking for something new. Are you capitalizing on this prime time to sell more treats and drive profitable sales in your stores? Please contact your Purina sales rep for a customized annual plan to take advantage starting today. Purina trademarks are owned by Société des Produits Nestlé S.A.


RETAILER DEEP DIVE

Costco Wholesale The company’s approach continues to resonate with members. For example, in its fiscal year ended Aug. 29, Costco reported the following: A total sales increase of 18% to $192 billion,

driven by the addition of 22 new warehouses globally, and a 13% same-store sales increase, excluding the impact of fuel and currency exchange. Sales in the categories of fresh food and food

and sundries that surpassed $100 billion. The addition of 12 U.S. locations as part

Why Costco can keep growing, and the implications for grocers. By Mike Troy hen thinking about Costco, it’s best to not overthink things. The company’s senior leaders certainly don’t, which helps explain how the Issaquah, Wash.-based operator of membership warehouses continues to pile on sales, the majority of which come from food and consumables, earning the trust and loyalty of members, an ever-growing number of whom pay a premium to shop with Costco. The beauty of Costco’s strategy and effectiveness is that it’s rooted in simplicity, which is then executed by a veteran leadership team with the discipline to adhere to it, while others in retail are focused on grand digital transformations or three-year plans to restore growth. Frankly, the Costco story gets a little boring, which can sometimes be evident from the probing questions of financial analysts who hear a familiar message year after year about delivering member value, deliberate expansion, taking care of employees and delivering shareholder value. Costco does what Costco does, which is operate membership warehouses that offer low prices on a limited assortment of fewer than 4,000 branded and ownbrand products in a wide range of categories to generate high sales and rapid inventory turnover.

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of a $3.6 billion capital expenditure program that saw it end the year with 564 warehouses. An e-commerce sales increase of 44%,

representing 7% of total sales in 2021. The company offers roughly 10,000 SKUs online, and its app has been downloaded 10 million times. A membership fee income increase of 9% to

nearly $3.9 billion, with renewal rates of 91% in the United States and Canada, and 89% worldwide. Net income and earnings-per-share increases of

25% to $5 billion and $11.27, respectively A special cash dividend paid by Costco of

$10 a share in December 2020, and an April 2021 increase of its quarterly dividend to 79 cents.

Costco could be looking at 900 U.S. locations if it can achieve penetration rates comparable to what it enjoys in California and Canada.



RETAILER DEEP DIVE

Costco Wholesale To keep the momentum going this year, Costco plans to open more warehouses than at any point during the past decade. Capital expenditures this year are forecast to range from $3.8 billion to $4.2 billion to open 35 new warehouses, of which five will be relocations, compared with last year’s 22 new warehouses, of which two were relocations, according to the company’s annual report. The continued expansion from Costco means that traditional grocers face more competition and margin pressure from a retailer known for shaping consumers’ value expectations and price perceptions. A key reason for this is that Costco tends to be the last to raise prices and the first to lower them, even during an

Costco at a Glance Annual sales $192 billion U.S. sales $141.4 billion Membership fees $3.9 billion Total employees 288,000 Total U.S. employees 192,000

Costco’s Physical Footprint Number of Country Locations

United States

564

Canada 105 Mexico 39 Japan 30 United Kingdom

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Korea 16 Taiwan 14 Australia 12 Spain 3 Iceland 1 France 1 China 1 Total 815

Costco’s Sales Mix Category Annual Sales

Food & Sundries*

% Change

$77.3 billion

+12.6%

$56 billion

+24.9%

Fresh Foods

$27.2 billion

+17%

Warehouse Ancillary/ Other Businesses*

$31.6 billion

+19.1%

Nonfoods

Total sales

$192 billion

Source: Company reports, fiscal year ended Aug. 29, 2021 *Food and sundries includes categories of dry grocery, candy, cooler, freezer, deli, liquor, tobacco and sundries. *Warehouse ancillary includes gasoline, pharmacy, optical, food court, hearing aids and tire installation. Other businesses includes e-commerce, business centers, travel and other.

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Online sales now represent 7% of Costco's total sales and could soon top 10%, thanks to key digital initiatives.

inflationary environment during which retailers and suppliers ar looking to pass through price increases. “We hate raising prices. We want to be the last to raise it and the first to lower it,” CFO Richard Galanti said during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call in response to a question about inflation. “It’s really all about the value proposition. People would look at us relative to other retailers and say we’ve been more aggressive on holding prices than others — at least that’s how we feel. But we have to be pragmatic. As [inflationary forces] are permanent and consistent, you’ve got to raise the price.”

Costco’s Secret Sauce

A lot of retailers talk about how employees are their greatest asset, and in Costco’s case, it’s true. The company’s business model of operating highly productive warehouses is attributed to the commitment and efficiency of employees. “We seek to provide them not merely with employment, but careers,” is how Costco describes in its annual report a philosophy of ensuring that at least 50% of its employees are full-time. Expansion and growth create advancement opportunities, but Costco has long been regarded among retailers as one of the more desirable employers, due to its above-market wages. The company lived up to that reputation throughout the pandemic. For example, it paid $515 million in incremental wages during 2021 related to COVID-19. When combined with the prior year, the incremental wages paid totaled $825 million. Back in March, the company made some of those increases permanent, resulting in an estimated annual cost of $400 million. The combination of these factors, which speaks to the career potential of working at Costco, is also evident in the fact that the company reported a 90% retention rate in 2021 among employees who worked for the company for at least a year.



RETAILER DEEP DIVE

Costco Wholesale an opportunity to question the company’s strategy during earnings calls. That said, leadership changes are inevitable, given that the average age of the company’s senior executive team is 63.5 years, with the youngest member being Ron Vachris, 56, who is EVP, COO, merchandising.

Why Costco Can Keep Growing in the United States

Costco's warehouses are designed for supply chain efficiency and volume, with the average location generating sales of $250 million.

The Second Ingredient

Combine quality employees with a value proposition that’s hard to beat and a commitment to satisfaction evident in the company’s liberal return policy, and Costco has a winning formula. It’s little wonder then that members pay a premium to shop at warehouses — and increasingly online — and renew at consistently high rates. Costco ended its most recent year with 61.7 million total paid members, including 25.6 million executive members who pay an annual fee of $120, versus the standard membership fee of $60. Executive members earn 2% back on qualified purchases, accounted for 55% of members in the United States and Canada last year, and spend more and renew at higher rates than basic members, who are referred to as Gold Star. Members renewed at a rate of 91% in the United States and Canada, and a slightly lesser 89% internationally.

Consistent Execution, Succession Concerns

One of Costco’s greatest strengths is the consistent execution of a highly effective strategy enabled by an experienced team of senior leaders. Each of the company’s 10 top senior executive officers identified in its annual report have spent more than 25 years with Costco. The stability of senior leadership has translated to rigid application of a member-first strategy of delivering value that has earned the company tremendous loyalty, especially among those who purchase the premier membership level. However, this strength is also a potential weakness as the seasoned senior leadership team eventually gives way to the next generation of senior leadership. CEO Craig Jelinek is 69, and CFO Richard Galanti is 65. If either has lost a step, it isn’t evident in the company’s performance, and the issue of succession never comes up — at least not publicly — when analysts have 38

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Depending on how Costco resolves its future leadership situation, it’s conceivable that the company could surpass 900 U.S. locations and gain an even larger share of the food and consumables market. Such a feat might seem improbable, considering that it already operates 564 highly productive U.S. locations, and given its stellar performance of late, it’s natural to question how much runway remains for growth. Insight into the company’s potential in the United States can be gained through a simple analysis of the company’s penetration in Canada and California, which shows that more than 900 U.S. locations are possible. To arrive at that figure, consider that Costco operates 105 locations in Canada that encompass 14.9 million square feet and generated sales of $27.3 billion last year in a country of roughly 38 million residents. Conversely, the company’s 564 U.S warehouses encompassing 83.2 million square feet generated sales of $141.4 billion last year in a country of roughly 335 million residents that’s roughly 10 times the size of Canada. By extension, some simple math shows that if Costco were to achieve a penetration rate in the United States comparable to that of Canada, where it operates one warehouse for every 362,000 residents, its U.S. footprint could someday surpass 900 locations. Further evidence of even higher U.S. potential can be found by using California as a proxy for the nation. California is the nation’s most populous state, with roughly 40 million residents, and is home to 131 Costco warehouses, which account for 28% of the company’s U.S. sales. To apply the math used in the Canadian exercise, that means that there’s one Costco location for every 305,000 residents of California. If a similar population-to-warehouse ratio is applied to the remainder of the U.S. population, Costco’s U.S. count could reach 967 locations. Another example of this growth potential can be seen by looking at its penetration rate in its home state of Washington. Costco has 32 locations in Washington, the nation’s 13th most populous state, which is the same number that it has in Texas, the second most populous state. Florida and New York, the second and third most populous states, have 28 and 19 Costco locations, respectively.


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RETAIL FOODSERVICE

Exclusive Research

What’s Next for the Way America Eats THE NATION ISN’T BACK TO NORMAL YE T, BUT NE W INSIGHTS RE VE ALED IN THE SECOND INSTALLMENT OF PROGRESSIVE GROCER’S RE TAIL FOODSERVICE RESE ARCH OFFER INDICATIONS OF COMING TRENDS. By Mike Troy

f there’s been one lesson to take away from the pandemic, it’s that grocers need to expect the unexpected. Shoppers’ behavior regarding the purchase, preparation and consumption of food changed at every turn during the past 18 months, and today behaviors remain heavily influenced by pandemic forces. Now all indications are that 2022 will also be filled with ample uncertainty as well as shifting opportunities. These expectations are rooted in fresh insights from exclusive research conducted this past July by Progressive Grocer as a follow-up to last year’s report, “What’s Next for the Way America Eats.” As with the first study, part two of the research included survey respondents with full

or shared responsibility for meals and for shopping for their household. Key findings from the second installment of the research were shared during PG’s Retail Foodservice Innovation Summit, held Oct. 27. The survey findings document shifts in behavior as well as evolving expectations and preferences of shoppers in relation to what, how and where meals are consumed. For example, when the first installment of the research was conducted in late summer 2020, it was a time when it seemed like the pandemic might be close to an end. PG wanted to understand, as did everyone in the food retailing industry, which behaviors that consumers had adopted during the first seven or eight months of the pandemic were going to stick around into 2021. Subsequently, however, the pandemic didn’t end and shopper behaviors remained disrupted, especially in relation to cooking at home, purchasing from restaurants and buying prepared foods from grocers. That’s why in July 2021, PG, in conjunction with parent company EnsembleIQ’s research division, fielded a new survey, the findings of which are contained in “What’s Next for the Way America Eats, Part II.” While some of the questions were repeated to compare with the baseline established in the prior year — an exercise that revealed notable shifts — new areas were explored to offer retailers a glimpse into how 2022 shopper behaviors will be different. “Despite a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant that was happening during the survey period, we saw a shift away from the pandemic mindset, as evidenced by some of the metrics,” says Laura Nicklin,

More Than 4 out of 10 Meals, on Average, are Made at Home

4.3 2.1

Made at home with at least one component from scratch

40

Purchased prepared foods

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1.1

Picked up from restaurant drive-thru

1.0 0.9 0.7

Ordered takeout from a restaurant

Ate inside a restaurant

Ordered from a restaurant for delivery


Behaviors That Changed During the Pandemic & Those That Stuck Did it during the pandemic Still doing today (among those who did during the pandemic)

lead researcher on the project and VP of research, insights and innovation with EnsembleIQ. “Fewer people are sheltering in place, and more are living normally than they were during the first year of the pandemic, but they are living more carefully.”

73% 38%

I or someone else in my household got better at cooking I/We got tired of cooking at home I or someone else in my household became more confident cooking

Convenience, taste, quality and cost-effectiveness were top reasons that consumers chose foodservice at retail. Nearly 60% said that it’s more affordable than restaurant food.

80%

34%

I/We experimented with new ways to cook food

Home cooking is better than restaurant food, according to 45% of respondents, while perceptions of restaurant quality and service have slipped as prices have increased.

These preference changes are happening against a backdrop of shifting concerns about the pandemic and fluctuating traffic patterns at stores. Publicly held retailers commented over the summer on a resumption of traffic to stores and slightly smaller transaction sizes, while the opposite was true during 2020. “Shoppers are a little less likely to be ordering online and picking up or getting their groceries delivered. They’re a little bit more likely to be shopping in store and shifting away from that pandemic mindset,” Nicklin says, noting the root cause of safety concerns. “Compared to 2020, consumers are less concerned with safety measures

42%

I or someone else in my household enjoyed cooking

Consumers continued to cook at home more, because they enjoyed most of the meals they made (55%), they saved money (43%), and they tried new recipes and/or flavors (42%).

Those who have shied away from foodservice at retail cited concerns about safe handling and preparation methods, as well as fatigue regarding the choices offered.

75%

I/We tried new recipes and/or flavors

Home cooking has gained ground. Slightly more than 40% of meals were made at home with at least one component from scratch, an uptick from the prior year. Prepared foods accounted for another 20% of meals.

88%

43%

I/We saved money on food/meals

This reality was reflected in key highlights of the research, which included the following:

Restaurants still trumped retail, with 42% of those surveyed of the opinion that restaurants are “far better” than prepared foods from a retail store. However, 27% did say that retailers’ food is as good as or better than restaurants’.

55%

I/We enjoyed most of the homemade meals we ate

67% 21% 71% 19% 69% 18% 83%

Source: Progressive Grocer research

A Big Shift Ahead for Travel and Entertaining A pandemic can keep people down for only so long. The nation isn’t out of the woods yet when it comes to COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped people from gathering at major sporting events, eating out at restaurants and resuming air travel. These indicators suggest a return to a more normal holiday season, with a few wrinkles, as confirmed by findings in “What’s Next for the Way America Eats, Part II.” “We’re seeing a lot more consumers planning on having small group gatherings, which is 54% this year versus 37% last year,” said Laura Nicklin, lead researcher on the study and VP of research, insights and innovation with EnsembleIQ, parent company of Progressive Grocer. “We’re seeing more people planning to celebrate in a small group than ever before in previous years. People are so excited to be able to start celebrating with others that more are planning to do so than even in the past.”

How Americans Plan to Travel and Celebrate the Holidays GATHERINGS THIS YE AR WILL BE SLIGHTLY L ARGER … Alone/with those in household Small group gathering Large group gathering

2021

2020

38% 54% 8%

57% 37% 6%

60% 27% 13%

73% 18% 10%

Travel will be more common: Plan to stay home Travel locally Travel out of town Source: Progressive Grocer research

PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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RETAIL FOODSERVICE

Exclusive Research Almost Half of Consumers Prefer Home Cooked Food Over Restaurant Food

I prefer restaurant food, but only sometimes Restaurant food is far better than home-cooked meals in my household

2020

45%

I prefer my houshold's home cooking to restaurant food Restaurant food is about the same as what I/someone else can cook at home

2021

42% 19%

The Post-Pandemic Mindset

16% 22% 28% 14% 13%

in the prepared foods area. We asked, ‘Should employees and shoppers be wearing a mask, gloves and using hand sanitizer in that prepared foods area?’ Last year, we had higher percentages of consumers thinking that employees and shoppers should be doing so.”

36% 41%

Perception of restaurant food has slipped since 2020.

The pandemic isn’t gone entirely, but as vaccination rates increase along with booster shots, many aspects of life are returning to normal. For many Americans, that could mean dining out, even if data shows solid satisfaction rates with home cooking and foodservice-at-retail offerings. “We are closer to a post-pandemic mindset than we have been in the last 18 months. Those who follow college football,

Source: Progressive Grocer research

Why COVID-19 Is Controversial DISSENTING AMERICANS POSE A DILEMMA FOR GROCERS. Grocers are going to be disappointed in 2022 if they’re counting on a reprieve from the divisiveness that has arisen regarding COVID-19. There’s plenty that Americans disagree about when it comes to vaccine mandates, rules for businesses, and the balance between public health and personal freedom. Fascinating insights into each of these areas were revealed in Progressive Grocer’s study, “What’s Next for the Way America Eats, Part II,” reflecting the marketplace realities in which grocers are running stores and foodservice operations. For example, shoppers displayed a wide range of views when asked their opinions about food retailers and restaurants requiring proof of vaccination to enter their buildings. Half said that they agree private businesses have a right to turn people away for safety reasons, but 27% said that unvaccinated people should be allowed inside businesses as long as they’re wearing a facial covering. Things start to get interesting when views of personal freedom and health enter the picture. One-fifth of those surveyed said that businesses shouldn’t be allowed to turn customers away based on personal health care decisions. Another fifth said that if establishments require proof, they will take their business elsewhere. “Of the consumers that we surveyed, 74% told us they’ve been vaccinated or have plans to get vaccinated, but 21% said they have no plans to get vaccinated, and a small percentage did not want to share,” says Laura Nicklin, lead researcher on the study and VP of research, insights and innovation with EnsembleIQ, parent company of Progressive Grocer. On the issue of masks, more divisiveness was evident. Nicklin notes that a majority of Americans believe that facial coverings are helpful, but 18% said that they don’t believe facial coverings help at all. The other notable finding relates to pandemic fatigue and a dour view of when the nation will get back to normal.

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Most consumers believe face coverings help prevent the spread of COVID-19 I believe face coverings are helpful, even if not everyone wears them

49%

I believe face coverings are helpful, but only if eveyone wears them

28% 18%

I don't believe face coverings help at all

While most consumers are not optimistic about an end to COVID in the near future, one in four believe it will never go away Within the next 6 months

9%

More than 6 months from now, but within the next 12 months

18% 31%

More than a year from now

28%

We will never stop fighting COVID-19 I don't believe we are in a pandemic at all

7%

Source: Progressive Grocer research

“Most U.S. consumers are not optimistic about the end to COVID-19 in the near future, and 28% believe that it’s never going to go away.” Nicklin observes. “Interestingly, 7% of the consumers we surveyed said that they don’t believe we’re in a pandemic at all.”


What Consumers Like About Prepared Foods 2021

2020

63%

Convenient option

the NFL or baseball see evidence of this post-pandemic mindset on their televisions every week,” Nicklin says, referencing stadiums filled with fans seated shoulder to shoulder. While crowds may be back at stadiums, however, restaurant traffic remains challenged. In fact, at the time when the study was conducted in July, those surveyed said that they were eating in restaurants less often than compared with earlier in the year. Some of that has to do with the twin forces of consumers realizing that they’re pretty good cooks while also discovering grocers’ foodservice offerings. “Generally speaking, all of the behaviors that were picked up during the pandemic were largely maintained,” Nicklin says. “The pandemic has really taken a toll on restaurants. Not only did they have to close for a period of time, but then when they reopened and there was a slow movement back, there was also an issue with staffing and service levels.”

Looking Ahead to 2022

The common theme between the fall of 2021 and the fall of 2020 is the perception that an end to the pandemic is around the corner. Last year, it was the looming availability of vaccines that offered hope. Then the Delta variant of COVID-19 surged and that optimism faded. Now Delta has faded and the adult vaccination rate is at approximately 70%, offering hope that next year will be more normal. But what is normal anymore? New habits tend to be formed quickly, and data from “What’s Next for the Way America Eats, Part II,” shows that behaviors that should have faded this year, like cooking at home, have actually increased or strengthened. Then there’s the issue of the initial boost that prepared foods got from restaurant closures, followed by lapses in service, quality and prices. Those factors have persisted, creating future opportunities for grocers. “If grocers felt the impact of decreased restaurant use in their prepared foods business in 2021, that’s not likely to go away in the near future,” Nicklin affirms. “The data showed 2.1 out of 10 meals were prepared foods, and the drivers of preference are a combination of grocers’ reliable strengths. Sixty-three percent said [foodservice-as-retail] is a convenient option. We also saw things like taste of food,

Taste of food

41%

Quality of food meets my/our needs

40%

Cost-effective option Quality of food is similar to or better than restaurant food Quality of food is similar to or better than a home-cooked meal

38% 23% 21%

Reasons for Purchasing Prepared Foods More Often Since COVID-19 Resurgence 2021

2020

59%

It's more affordable than restaurant food

50% 43%

It gives a feeling of homemade without having to make it I/We can't get our preferred restaurant food as often as we want (or ever) I/We can't find the foods we need to cook in the grocery store I and/or others in my household aren't good cooks

I and/or others in my household hate to cook

39% 25% 23% 24% 20% 19% 15% 17% 17%

Source: Progressive Grocer research

quality of food, and the cost-effectiveness or affordability of prepared foods as commonly mentioned reasons why consumers like prepared foods.” Restaurant food may still hold the edge over foodservice-at-retail when it comes to quality perceptions, but grocers have gained ground. The big advantage that grocers will have in 2022 relates to the affordability issue. Already an area where grocers fare well, rampant food price inflation will have consumers seeking value more than ever. “We asked consumers who said they are buying prepared foods more why they are doing so, and the top reason was affordability, with 59% saying it’s more affordable than restaurant food,” Nicklin notes. “Most consumers still generally prefer the quality of restaurant food to prepared foods, but we do see that 27% feel prepared foods are at least as good as or better than restaurant food. That’s a healthy percentage, and that makes me optimistic about prepared foods.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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FRESH FOOD

Protein Innovation

Value-Added Mentality RE TAILERS AND SUPPLIERS ARE SERVING UP MORE RE ADY-TO-COOK ME ATS FOR PANDEMIC-WE ARY CONSUMERS. By Jenny McTaggart

ne of the hottest segments of the fresh meat case is poised for even further growth in the years ahead, thanks to pandemic-induced cooking fatigue and consumers’ desire for more convenience and new flavors. Value-added meats — which include marinated cuts, pre-cubed proteins and other items that have at least one step of cooking preparation already completed — are getting renewed attention in the store and online as both retailers and suppliers ramp up their efforts in product innovation and merchandising. “For the last seven years, value-added meats have been growing and have been one of

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Key Takeaways Value-added meats are getting renewed attention in the store and online as both retailers and suppliers ramp up their efforts in product innovation and merchandising. For grocers facing labor issues, more manufacturers are offering centralized value-added meat programs. Value-added meats can provide prime opportunities for online promotions and crossmerchandising.

the superstars of the meat case overall,” confirms Chris DuBois, SVP of the protein practice at market research firm IRI. “Beef in particular has had a tremendous run, but all across the board, we’re seeing yearover-year growth at about double the rate of the total meat case.”


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M


FRESH FOOD

Protein Innovation For the grocers who have done value-added meat well — including Wegmans Food Markets, Publix Super Markets, Raley’s and many others — the payoffs have been undeniable, he says. “Our studies have shown that the retailers that get behind this and have strong value-added meat cases — meaning enough space, enough variety and a focus at the store level — grow faster than retailers that don’t have this, in their total meat case.” Retailers that were already mastering their techniques are now doubling down on their efforts, with the latest evolution being cook-in-bag meals offered by grocers like Wegmans and Giant Food. Publix, which also offers such meals, is now showcasing value-added meats to account for nearly half of all the refrigerated meat at its new prototype store in Tampa, Fla.

In 2020, 68% of meat shoppers purchased value-added meat and poultry (including seasoned and marinated) “sometimes or frequently,” according to FMI’s “2021 Power of Meat” report. That’s up 31% since 2016.

In addition, a growing number of retailers that recognize this segment as part of a larger trend are choosing to feature value-added meats in meal solution sections located in different parts of the store. ShopRite, for one, is highlighting prepped, ready-to-cook proteins in its Fresh to Table store-within-a-store concept, which has now been rolled out in at least five of its locations. The meats are merchandised alongside ready-to-heat and -serve items and ready-to-eat meals. Inspired by a new class of global-minded flavors, the grocers with the most innovative value-added meat selections are typically those that do it on their own, according to DuBois. “In other words, they’re out there partnering with restaurants, trying new recipes, creating new smells inside their stores and finding new ways to make it a showpiece,” he explains, “and that’s what’s driving sales.” DuBois adds that plenty of smaller, independently owned grocers have excelled in this area, as they’ve gotten to know the local culture of their neighborhoods intimately and have sought out independently owned restaurants to come up with inspiration. At the same time, meat suppliers are seeking out new partnerships to help grocers capitalize on the trend. Major players such as Tyson, Cargill and Smithfield are expanding their production capacity for value-added


The retailers that ... have strong value-added meat cases — meaning enough space, enough variety and a focus at the store level — grow faster than retailers that don’t have this, in their total meat case.” —Chris DuBois, IRI products, and smaller suppliers are getting in on the action, too, introducing new restaurant-inspired flavor profiles. Indeed, for grocers that may be struggling with labor pains — meaning fewer workers and fewer hours — more manufacturers are coming in to save the day. “A lot of manufacturers now are working to figure out how to put central programs together for retailers,” says DuBois.

What’s Cooking at FreshDirect

In addition to their efforts in the store, many retailers are experimenting with how to best promote value-added fresh items online. DuBois notes that it can be “tricky” to promote these products in the digital realm, mainly because it’s so much easier for customers to shop a varied meat case in person. However, the online channel presents a valuable demographic, he notes, because value-added meat tends to skew toward older couples without children —

East Coast organic poultry provider Farmer Focus just launched a marinated line featuring its award-winning Rich Red Curry Chicken Thighs and Toasted Lager Half Chicken.

people who want to try something new or are looking for smaller portions — as well as younger couples who have a lot of disposable income. Both of those groups tend to gravitate toward shopping online. Bronx, N.Y.-based FreshDirect, a pure-play online retailer owned by Ahold Delhaize, is promoting more value-added meats, including those it has developed in its own kitchens and new items from its vendor partners, according to Scott Crawford, FreshDirect’s chief merchandising officer. Crawford explains that while the company’s mer-


FRESH FOOD

Protein Innovation Valuable advice Chris DuBois, SVP of the protein practice at market research firm IRI, has helped multiple retailers develop successful value-added meat offerings. He offers these three pieces of advice for grocers looking to build their in-store programs:

Give value-added enough space: “Thirty feet is typically the rule of thumb,” DuBois notes. “You want to give it enough space so that shoppers can see alternatives and become interested in coming and trying it.”

Create your own flavor town: “There’s a set of flavors that works well all across the country, with lemon pepper chicken being a great example,” observes DuBois. “If you can mix up the basics like that with some of the newer flavor varieties, that’s how you’ll bring people back. As long as you’re driving the innovation and creating some excitement, there’s always a reason for people to come back to the meat case.”

Keep it local:

Retailers that have excelled with value-added meats take strong command of their individual stores, paying close attention to local neighborhoods and what their shoppers like, according to DuBois, who says, “They’re partnering with restaurants and local chefs, weaving in cultural themes from their own locality.” While larger chains tend to have corporate initiatives or corporate-mandated items and displays in their fresh meat departments, it’s key that each store has the freedom to add flavors curated for the particular demographic that it serves, especially when it comes to value-added, he suggests.

Superstars of the Meat Case VALUE-ADDED ME AT SALES HAVE CONTINUED TO GROW AT DOUBLE THE R ATE OF THE TOTAL ME AT CASE, ACCORDING TO THE L ATEST DATA FROM IRI. Product Type

Dollar Sales % Change vs. Year Ago

Volume Sales % Change vs. Year Ago

Fresh meat total

2.3%

-1.9%

Fresh meat value-added

5.8%

0.2%

Beef total

3.4%

-0.3%

Beef value-added

8.1%

4.1%

Pork total

-1.1%

-3.9%

Pork value-added

1.4%

-3.7%

Chicken total

1.2%

-2.8%

Chicken value-added

4.1%

Turkey total Turkey value-added

-5.1%

-0.8%

-2.7%

3.5%

4.5%

Seafood total

13.5%

9.5%

Seafood value-added

14.8%

10.5%

Source: Data from IRI, from the latest 52 weeks ending Sept. 5, 2021

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chandising team has always seen great traction on value-added items throughout its fresh departments, “we’ve seen a growing trend in the meat category specifically over the past couple of years, with an even deeper customer demand and merchandising focus.” He adds that he expects the trend to continue, and that FreshDirect plans to grow its share of value-added meats in the future. According to Crawford, with unprecedented shifts to home cooking during the pandemic, value-added proteins “really solve a few pain points for our core customers — whether it be cooking fatigue, easy weeknight prep or protein angst, which is the intimidation factor of cooking at home.” FreshDirect’s latest product offering includes such tantalizing recipes as Mediterranean Stuffed Branzino and Bourbon Marinated Flank Steak, all the way to a fully marinated half chicken. The online grocer also recently featured a section on its website touting “New Ready-to-Cook Proteins,” noting, “We’ve added lots of tasty prepped and pre-marinated meats — consider them your secret weapon for easy weeknight meals.” The section featured new pre-seasoned products from Farmer Focus, one of FreshDirect’s vendor partners that aligns with its values by offering high-quality organic and humane-certified chicken. Harrisonburg, Va.-based Farmer Focus just launched its pre-seasoned uncooked line in October, featuring Rich Red Curry Chicken Thighs, Toasted Lager Half Chicken, Savory Chophouse Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs, Peruvian Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts and Lemon Pepper Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts. Two of the items were recognized as NEXTY Award finalists. Mark Saylor, senior brand manager at Farmer Focus, says that the line was crafted for health-minded shoppers, but also offers “adventurous and seasonal flavor profiles to help home cooks recreate restaurant experiences.”

We’ve seen a growing trend in the meat category specifically over the past couple of years, with an even deeper customer demand and merchandising focus.” —Scott Crawford, FreshDirect


Online grocer FreshDirect is stepping up its value-added meat game: Offerings pictured from left to right are Southwestern Boneless Chicken Thighs, Bourbon Marinated Flank Steak and Beef Carne Asada.

While the company won’t comment on sales data, Ed Hinson, chief sales officer, says that Farmer Focus is seeing “solid early adoption across grocery, online retail and natural stores.” In preparation for more growth, the company is getting ready to open a new packaging facility.

Cross-Merchandising Opportunities

According to Hinson, Farmer Focus’ grocery partners have boosted their in-store sales by offering secondary displays and conducting promotions, in-store activation and digital campaigns.

masonways.com

Over 80 Base Sizes

Value-added meats can present an ideal opportunity for cross-merchandising, he advises. “This can be executed through simple meal kit sections, or more extravagant ways such as wine pairing.” Meanwhile, Farmer Focus has been able to help at least one retailer work around labor challenges. “We recently worked with a large natural chain to move from bulk supply behind a butcher case to pre-packaged, mid-store display, and the results have been very encouraging for both us and the retailer,” Hinson says. As long as retailers and their meat suppliers continue to work together in such fashion, it seems likely that value-added meats will expand even more in years to come.

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Retail Display Solutions PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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SOLUTIONS

Pies, Pastries and Desserts

Wants and Kneads PIES, PASTRIES AND DESSERTS REFLECT CONFLICTING DEMANDS FOR INDULGENCE, HE ALTH, AND NOVEL FL AVORS AND FORMATS. By Lynn Petrak ou don’t need a pie chart to know that the market for baked goods, including pies, pastries and desserts, comprises more and narrower slices, thanks to consumers’ splintering preferences and tastes. On one hand, the perennial craving for satisfaction and nostalgia for tradition keep category stalwarts on the shelf. On the other hand, the equally reliable quest for something different fuels the development of products that align with current trends and circumstances. Baked goods as a slice of modern life? Just maybe.

Having Dessert, and Eating it, Too

“Permissible indulgence” has been a buzzed-about term over the past few years, and it isn’t an oxymoron: Consumers are seeking to balance their desire to stay in bounds with diet and health while also being able to enjoy sweets. Health is definitely on the minds of many consumers as they survey the sweet baked goods landscape in grocery stores. A recent survey from Euromonitor International showed that just about half — 50.8% — of consumers describe their diets as “healthy” or “extremely healthy,” up 7.2% from pre-pandemic 2019. Other research, from Mintel, shows that 69% of consumers want snacks that balance health and taste, including items in the dessert category. As the holidays approach, shoppers are returning to the in-store bakery to purchase such baked goods as pies.

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Key Takeaways Consumers are seeking to balance their desire to stay in bounds with diet and health while also being able to enjoy sweets. Other shoppers are going for pure comfort and taste in their choice of pies, pastries and desserts. This year’s holiday season should be somewhere between last year’s subdued occasions and the blowout-level festivities that some had predicted in a post-pandemic era, with consumers opting for a mix of traditional favorites and innovative items.

Permissible indulgence means different things to different consumers, of course. For some, being able to enjoy things like pies, pastries and desserts means having smaller portions. Downsizing desserts can involve eating smaller slices and pieces, but it also includes the consumption of diminutive products that provide built-in portion control and also offer a bit of the “cute factor” in merchandising. There are a lot of these littler items in


the pie, pastry and dessert categories. Products like two-bite brownies or one-bite cream puffs have been available for years, for example. In keeping with trends in foodservice and on social media sites like Pinterest, small desserts served in jars have made their way to grocery stores. Jar Joy Desserts now offers a line of multilayered desserts packaged in 4-ounce jars described as stackable and transportable, with a longer shelf life than traditional baked foods. Varieties include Key Lime Pie, Peanut Butter Fudge Pie, Coco Loco Caramel and Mississippi Mud, among other cheesecake flavors. Another example comes from the U.K.-based Pots & Co., which is planning to expand its reach in the United States with indulgent desserts baked in ceramic pots. The Thomas brand, from Bimbo Bakeries USA, has its own fresh take on itty-bitty indulgences. The brand, known for its English muffins, recently added new chocolatey mini croissants billed as a snack or a permissibly indulgent morning meal. In addition to branded products, in-store bakeries also offer tinier portions of indulgent desserts for shoppers who want “just a taste.” Products like mini muffins, mini cupcakes, individual pies and bite-sized brownies have long been perimeter staples. Not content with the status quo, however, in-store bakeries are upping their game in this area. Publix Super Markets, for example, offers a line of petite decadent desserts that are hand-decorated in-store daily; shoppers can choose from mini fresh fruit tarts, petit fours and chocolate-covered strawberries. For other consumers, having permission to enjoy sweets means buying products made with better-for-you ingredients or those that fit their particular dietary needs. One case in point: Although baked goods are known (and loved) for their inherent sweetness, a swath of the population is seeking to cut down on sugar, for medical or wellness reasons. According to Euromonitor’s health survey, 37.4% of consumers said that they look for products with limited sugar or no added sugar, a modest 2% increase from the previous year. Lower-sugar pies, pastries and desserts aren’t new, but consumers can now choose from among more varieties at their local store. Grocers that want to offer choices to shoppers following keto or other low-carb eating plans can add some of those kinds of baked goods and desserts to their assortments as well. The Diamond of California brand, for example, offers a line of low-carb ready-to-use pie crusts made with nuts, including a newer chocolate nut pie crust. There’s also been a bump in free-from baked goods in these categories. Shoppers following gluten-free or -restricted diets can opt for products like Raised Gluten Free’s line of savory pies or Ethel’s Baking Co.’s gluten-free dessert bars, among several other items. Vegan products are encroaching in these segments as well. Raised Gluten Free, for its part, also offers a Vegan Quiche made with organic tofu and spinach. On the sweet side, the Just Desserts brand includes a vegan chocolate-dipped vanilla Bundt cake, and natural food grocer Fresh Thyme Market sells its own brand of vegan pumpkin pie.

All-Out Indulgence

Even as many shoppers seek to satisfy a hankering for something sweet with options that they believe fit into a healthier diet, others are going for pure comfort and taste. Decadence doesn’t have to mean gluttony, however, and several

In keeping with consumers' quest for permissibly indulgent smaller portions, the Thomas brand has introduced mini chocolate croissants.

pies, pastries and desserts proudly tout that all-out indulgent appeal. In the refrigerated dessert segment, The Cheesecake Factory at Home Decadent Dessert line, from Lakeview Farms LLC, now includes a series of mix-in desserts in Crème Brûlèe, Café Mocha and Red Velvet varieties. The reward factor is also evident in the rise of premium and artisan desserts, including items from smaller or niche bakers, expanded product lines from major dessert manufacturers, and goods made in-house. Whole Foods Market, for example, has The holidays found success with artisan will be pies from Michigan-based Achatz Handmade Pie Co. different this year in varieties like Everyday than last year. People Michigan Four-Berry Pie, missed out on a year’s Bumble Berry and Caramel worth of celebrations.” Nut Apple. In addition to its —Eric Richard, IDDBA traditional best-sellers, Wegmans Food Markets’ in-store bakery sells a host of artisan and premium-style desserts prepared by the grocer’s own bakers. An example is a rustic cherry crostata, a fruit tart made with cherries set atop an almond paste smear and garnished with toasted slivered almonds and a coating of snow sugar. Grocers that have found success by touting locally made products are also differentiating their baked goods by carrying artisan-style offerings from nearby bakers. Dom’s Kitchen & Market in Chicago, for example, has teamed up with a local bakery known for its over-the-top cookies. “Big Fat Cookie has been a phenomenon here,” PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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Pies, Pastries and Desserts notes Dom’s Co-CEO Don Fitzgerald, adding that collaborations with local vendors align with the neighborhood-store vibe that the owners wanted to create. “We talked about wanting to be a part of the community, and it’s also about supporting local — in some cases, those who haven’t made the foray into retail yet.”

Authentic, Interesting Flavors

Tradition with a twist: That’s a consumer demand common in many food categories, including sweet baked goods. Chocolate cake is good, but at Walmart, it gets an even more luscious spin via Marketside Mexican-Style Hot Chocolate Decadent Cake. Even as Marie Callender’s sells perennially popular cream pies in such flavors as coconut cream, key lime and banana cream, it has also added a new Confetti Birthday Cake variety. Meantime, artisanship and authenticity collide in Raymundo’s Small Batch line of ethnically inspired desserts. Made in small-batch kettles, the Latin-inspired line consists of premium caramel flan and cinnamon rice pudding.

Entertaining in the Late-Pandemic Era

As the holidays approach, traffic picks up in the in-store bakery and baking aisle. In the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation, the level of traffic for the upcoming season is still anyone’s guess. Eric Richard, industry relations coordinator for the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association thinks that holiday entertaining in 2021 will be somewhere between last year’s subdued season and the blowout-level festivities that some had predicted in a post-pandemic era. “Earlier in the summer, we thought, ‘We’re doing great now — we’ll have 200 people in our house!’ It won’t be to that extent, but the holidays will be different this year than last year. People missed out on a year’s worth of celebrations,” Richard observes, noting that this trend bodes well for pies, pastries and desserts, which are central to most holiday celebrations. What about shoppers’ preferences for this holiday season — will they want traditional favorites or something different in flavor and variety in their desserts? “I think it will actually be both,” Richard predicts. “There’s a certain degree of nostalgia around pumpkin pie, and people want that, but they also may pick up something a little different to try.”

The Marie Callender's brand from Conagra has added a new Birthday Cake variety to its lineup, reflecting trends toward nostalgia and comfort.

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Pies, Pastries and Desserts by the Numbers The see-saw effect of the times in which we live shows up in market data for pies, pastries and desserts. Although the COVID-19 pinnacle of fromscratch baking at home has waned, there are a number of consumers who are still picking up ready-to-make or -serve bakery items from the center store. The Dairy Deli Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) latest research has found that baked goods from the center store area rose 2.9% in September 2021 compared with September 2020, with the biggest gains in desserts and morning bakery, and the largest declines in doughnuts and pies.

Sales of perimeter pies, a 5.3% increase from the previous year. Source: IRI

As in-store bakeries have rebounded — and as the big occasions like the holidays draw closer — the perimeter is picking up. According to IDDBA’s latest research, fresh bakery is driving growth in 2021, with fresh bakery sales recovering above 2019 levels by more than 9%. Here, too, desserts and morning bakery posted gains in September 2021. “It’s painting an interesting picture,” says Eric Richard, IDDBA’s industry relations coordinator. “It’s not just playing catch-up to 2020 compared to September 2019 — the in-store bakery is doing really well.” Data from IRI also shows some upticks in the perimeter. For the last 52 weeks ending Aug. 8, sales of perimeter pies topped $1.09 billion, a 5.3% increase from the previous year, according to the market research firm. Perimeter sales of morning bakery items like pastries, danishes and coffee cake also rose, up 5.6% in that time frame to reach more than $3.4 billion. Bars and squares in this part of the store jumped 32.1% to $15.9 million, while perimeter brownies notched a 12.6% increase to hit $323.8 million. Overall, grocers that sell pies, pastries and desserts in the center store and perimeter can take heart from shoppers’ appetite for the plethora of products that fall within those categories. As Richard notes, “Looking at the bakery category as a whole, both in the aisle and the in-store bakery, it’s up 3.6% year over year.”


COURT-APPROVED LEGAL NOTICE

If you purchased BROILER CHICKEN directly from a Broiler chicken producer for use or delivery in the United States from at least as early as January 1, 2008, through December 20, 2019, class action settlements may affect your rights. Para una notificacion in español, llame gratis al 1-866-552-1178 o visite nuestro website www.BroilerChickenAntitrustLitigation.com. Two more settlements have been reached in a class action antitrust lawsuit filed on behalf of Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs with i) Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc. and other related or affiliated entities (“Mar-Jac”); and ii) Harrison Poultry, Inc. (“Harrison Poultry”) (collectively, “New Settlements” with the “New Settling Defendants”). This Court-ordered notice may affect your rights. Please review and follow the instructions carefully. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois authorized this notice. Before any money is paid, the Court will hold a hearing to decide whether to approve the New Settlements.

WHO IS INCLUDED? For settlement purposes, members of the Settlement Class are defined as all persons who purchased Broilers directly from any of the Defendants or any co-conspirator identified in this action, or their respective subsidiaries or affiliates for use or delivery in the United States from at least as early as January 1, 2008, until December 20, 2019. Specifically excluded from the Settlement Class are the Defendants; the officers, directors, or employees of any Defendant; any entity in which any Defendant has a controlling interest; and any affiliate, legal representative, heir, or assign of any Defendant. Also excluded from this Settlement Class are any federal, state, or local governmental entities, any judicial officer presiding over this action and the members of his/her immediate family and judicial staff, and any juror assigned to this action. If you are not sure you are included, you can get more information, including a detailed notice, at www.BroilerChickenAntitrustLitigation.com or by calling toll-free 1-866-552-1178.

WHAT IS THIS LAWSUIT ABOUT? Plaintiffs allege that Defendants and their Co-Conspirators conspired to fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize the price of Broilers, beginning at least as early as January 1, 2008. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants implemented their conspiracy in various ways, including via coordinated supply restrictions, sharing competitively sensitive price and production information, and otherwise manipulating Broiler prices, with the intent and expected result of increasing prices of Broilers in the United States, in violation of federal antitrust laws. Mar-Jac and Harrison Poultry have not admitted any liability concerning, and continue to deny, the legal claims alleged. The Court did not decide which side was right, but both sides agreed to the New Settlement to resolve the case. The case is still proceeding on behalf of the Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs against all other Defendants who have not settled with the Plaintiffs. A list of all Defendants is in the detailed notice available at www.BroilerChickenAntitrustLitigation.com. You may have already received notices or correspondence related to previous settlements in this case that were reached with Defendants Tyson Foods, Inc., Tyson Chicken, Inc., Tyson Breeders, Inc., and Tyson Poultry, Inc. (collectively, “Tyson”); Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation (“Pilgrim’s Pride”); Peco Foods, Inc. (“Peco”); George’s, Inc. and George’s Farms, Inc. (collectively, “George’s”); Amick Farms, LLC (“Amick”); and Fieldale Farms Corporation (“Fieldale Farms”), collectively the “Previous Settling Defendants.” This notice concerns the New Settlements with Mar-Jac and Harrison Poultry only. For more information on the Previous Settlements, please visit www.BroilerChickenAntitrustLitigation.com.

WHAT DOES THE SETTLEMENT PROVIDE? The New Settlements require Mar-Jac to pay $7,975,000 and Harrison Poultry to pay $3,300,000. Together, with the amounts paid by the Previous Settling Defendants (Tyson $79,340,000; Pilgrim’s $75,000,000; Peco $4,964,600; George’s $4,097,000; Amick $3,950,000; and Fieldale Farms $2,250,000), total settlements in the Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs’ case are $180,876,600. A portion of the proceeds from the New Settlements has been and will be used for notice and administration costs. The remainder of proceeds from the New Settlements will remain available for any future notice, pro rata distribution to members of the Settlement Class, and attorneys’ fees, litigation expenses, and incentive awards to Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs and their counsel. At this time, Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs and their counsel are not seeking any attorneys’ fees, non-administration expenses, or incentive awards from the proceeds from the New Settlements. However, they will do so in the future, subject to additional notice to you and approval by the Court. Co-Lead Counsel do not intend to distribute any proceeds from the New Settlements with Mar-Jac and Harrison Poultry to qualifying members of the Settlement Class at this time, but instead intend to combine any distribution with proceeds from future settlements or other recoveries in the litigation. You will be provided further notice of any such future settlements or recoveries. For information related to the distribution of proceeds from the Previous Settling Defendants, please visit www.BroilerChickenAntitrustLitigation.com.

WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS AND OPTIONS? You do not need to take any action to remain a member of the Settlement Class and be bound by the New Settlements with Mar-Jac and Harrison Poultry. As a Settlement Class member, you may be able to participate in (or exclude yourself from) any future settlement or judgment obtained by Direct Purchaser Plaintiffs against other Defendants in the case. If you don’t want to be legally bound by the New Settlements with Mar-Jac and Harrison Poultry, you must exclude yourself by December 21, 2021, or you won’t be able to sue or continue to sue Mar-Jac and/or Harrison Poultry for the Released Claims (as defined in the Settlement Agreements). If you exclude yourself, you can’t get money from the New Settlements with Mar-Jac and/or Harrison Poultry. If you don’t exclude yourself from the Settlement Class, you may still object to the New Settlements by December 21, 2021. The detailed notice, available on www.BroilerChickenAntitrustLitigation.com, explains how to exclude yourself or object. The Court will hold a hearing in this case (In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation, Case No. 16-cv-08637) on January 25, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. Central, to consider whether to approve the New Settlements. You may ask to speak at the hearing, but you don’t have to.

This notice is only a summary. You can find more details about the Settlement at www.BroilerChickenAntitrustLitigation.com or by calling toll-free 1-866-552-1178. Please do not contact the Court.


SOLUTIONS

Snackable Fruits and Vegetables

Healthier Bites WHEN IT COMES TO FRUIT AND VEGGIE SNACKS, RE TAILERS AND CONSUMERS DON’T HAVE TO CONFINE THEMSELVES TO THE PRODUCE SECTION. By Barbara Sax

hile the world isn’t completely back to pre-pandemic normal, people are easing back into everyday life. Lunchboxes are once again being packed for school, and people are snacking on the go. Consumers are more likely to opt for fresher, healthier snacks than ever before. “With the movement back toward the normalcy of kids in school and adults back in the office, we’re seeing an increased need for convenient on-the-go snacks,” says Carrie Ann Arias, VP of marketing at Naturipe, a Salinas, Calif.-based producer of berries. “Consumers are snacking more than ever and want to have easy and healthy options as they are returning to busy schedules.” According to Matt Novosel, category manager of produce, value-added at The Giant Co., the Carlisle, Pa.-based chain is seeing 30% increases in kid-friendly snackable fruits and veggies, including pre-sliced apples, freeze-dried apple chips and individual squeezable fruit pouches that help parents save time and give children healthy options. “During the pandemic, consumers seem to have experimented with new flavors/brands and plant-based products, and they are ready to take their convenient, healthy, plant-based portable snacks

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Key Takeaways As life slowly returns to normal, consumers are more likely to opt for fresher, healthier snacks than ever before, making fruit and vegetable snacks a must. Retailers can expect to see more innovation in packaging for ready-to-eat fruits and veggies. The fresh produce section remains the go-to set for snackable fruits and vegetables, although innovative shelf-stable fruit and veggie options are also available.


wherever they go,” notes Simon Sacal, founder and CEO of San Diego-based Solely Clean Foods, maker of Solely Whole Fruit Gummies. Andrew Moberly, director of category solutions at Stamford, Conn.based Daymon, says that increased innovation is driving growth in snackable fruits and veggies. “Consumers continue to search for healthy and immune-boosting options, and convenience remains a top-priority snacking trend, with consumers looking for quick and healthy options to snack on during the day, whether they are on the go or at home,” Moberly observes. “We’re seeing an increase of marketing around younger consumers, with kid-friendly colors and illustrations, as well as pre-portioned options that are easy for children to open. These products help parents create convenient and balanced snacking options throughout the day.”

Meijer recently ran a promotion on dried fruits and nuts on an end cap adjacent to the produce section.

Healthy Convenience

NatureSweet recently launched a line of ready-to-eat snacking tomatoes in single-use crush-resistant breathable packaging that extends shelf life. The new line, which includes NatureSweet’s Cherubs and Constellation brands, is available in single or triple packs. The on-the-go item debuted at Kroger, which partnered with the brand on promotions and displays across all divisions. Retailers can expect to see more innovation in packaging for ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables. Fredonia Group, a Cleveland, Ohio-based business research firm, expects demand for fresh fruit sold in pouches, bags and rigid plastic containers to grow. The company predicts that the market will see an increased use of higher-value packaging that offers convenience and ease-of-use features, superior performance and shelf life, and an improved environmental footprint. “We’re seeing more snack pack options like sliced apples in individual packs and in bigger clamshell packaging,” says Novosel, of The Giant Co. “Many vendors are doing snack packs with apples, caramel and pretzels, for example.” “We continue to see on-the-go packaging with separate compartments offering proteins with healthy carbs and a fruit or vegetable,” notes Robert Morales, principal and produce vertical team lead for Chicago-based IRI. According to Arias, Naturipe’s value-added team is constantly developing new ways to bring the company’s fresh berries to consumers. To that end, the brand recently launched Naturipe Snacks Berry Parfaits, featuring Chobani Greek yogurt and granola. “We designed them with grab-and-go snacking in mind,” explains Arias. “The custom packaging provides plenty of room to mix each component and doesn’t compromise the freshness of the berries and the crunch of the granola.” New packaging options are a focus for Bard Valley Natural Delights, which recently debuted Mini Medjools, a snacking line of

six varieties of Medjool dates blended with a range of other natural ingredients. The products were developed as a direct response to shopper feedback suggesting that consumers wanted smaller, more bite-sized snacks with additional flavor profiles, according to David Baxter, director of marketing for the Bard, Calif.-based company. “We are working on different formats, such as snack boxes and pouches, that will be merchandised in grocery store snacking sections,” Baxter says. “Our goal is to make the product available wherever consumers are looking for delicious healthy snacking options.”

Fresh Ideas in Produce and Beyond

Despite the availability of such snacks elsewhere in the store, the fresh produce section remains the go-to set for snackable fruit and vegetables. Daymon’s Moberly points out that private label still leads in integration in this area. As an example, De Pere, Wis.-based Skogen’s Festival Foods includes NatureSweet’s Cherubs to-go packs along with private label veggie and ranch

We merchandise our kid-friendly fruit and veggie options in the produce department within their commodity. We have a few stores where we have grab-and-go options for a quick purchase.” —Matt Novosel, The Giant Co. PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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SOLUTIONS

Snackable Fruits and Vegetables dressing snack packs in an open case in the produce department. Chiquita snack pack apple bites are also featured in the case. “We merchandise our kid-friendly fruit and veggie options in the produce department within their commodity,” says Novosel. “We have a few stores where we have grab-and-go options for a quick purchase.” “We are starting to see retailers merchandising grab-and-go fresh snack options in refrigerated cases in the checkout aisle,” notes Daymon’s Moberly. “As more consumers are turning to online platforms for a convenient shopping experience, retailers need to be thinking about how they can differentiate themselves in this category to continue capturing consumer loyalty.” Innovative shelf-stable fruit and vegetable snacks are also rolling out. “We see an opportunity to expand growth with shelf-sta-

ble vegetable options, such as further integration of applesauce pouches with veggie inclusions, and snack packs that emphasize convenience without requiring refrigeration,” says Moberly. He observes that shelf-stable vegetable salty snacks, which have been popular for a decade, are now taking on many different forms, from root vegetable chips to freeze-dried vegetable varieties such as carrots, beets, kale and cauliflower. “These new options are also incorporating diverse flavors to provide differentiation and incite trial,” he adds. “Veggie options have expanded to portable snacks in the form of pouches,” says IRI’s Morales. “Clearly, veggies are marking their territory outside of produce and across a number of temperature states and meal occasions.”

Veggie options have expanded to portable snacks in the form of pouches. Clearly, veggies are marking their territory outside of produce and across a number of temperature states and meal occasions.”

Ripe for Disruption

—Robert Morales, IRI

Meanwhile, Nature’s Garden, a brand of Totowa, N.J.-based Cibo Vita Inc., recently expanded its line of probiotic-enhanced dried fruits with six new products. The company is focused on creating new on-the-go packaging formats for healthy snacks. Rind Snacks, a maker of functional and sustainable fruit snacks, has expanded outside of the traditional chewy dried fruit category by crossing over into the

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

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

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Bard Valley Natural Delights has launched Mini Medjools, a snacking line of natural dates.

fast-growing chip aisle with the launch of thin-cut Fruit Chips in three flavors. Matt Weiss, founder and CEO of New York-based Rind Snacks, notes that the dried fruit category was ripe for disruption. “Dried fruit snacks are a convenient, clean-energy and high-nutrition option in a lightweight, shelf-stable format,” Weiss says. “Rind is highly versatile as a solo snack as well as an accompaniment to charcuterie, baked goods, cheese boards and even cocktails. The ability to pair so well across a variety of snack occasions, from grab-and-go to

elevated entertaining, makes our product line unique.” Weiss believes that the product is suited to the fresh perimeter, and the company is currently piloting a number of produce placements with several of its key accounts. Rind snacks can currently be found at Wegmans, The Fresh Market, Giant Eagle, Meijer, Raley’s and Fresh Thyme Market. Solely Whole Fruit Gummies have only two to three ingredients and are made with more than 99% real fruit, giving the product a point of differentiation in the segment. “Our products are being merchandised in the fruit snack set, in the lunch box set, and as we develop new form factors, they will find their way to impulse areas of the store, including checkstands,” asserts Sacal. “We’ve also received strong interest from produce buyers, as it makes sense to include all-natural, organic real-fruit snacks in the produce set.”

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GROCERY

Salty Snacks

Key Takeaways Snack options made with cassava, nuts, legumes, pulses, root vegetables or other grain substitutes can be a vibrant component of a retailer’s snack set. In the grain-free segment, creativity is a given as snack makers strive to create items that satisfy with regard to taste and texture. Better-for-you grain-free snacks are poised for further growth.

Grain-Free Gains A ROBUST CENTER STORE SELECTION OF SUCH SNACKS WILL MEE T THE NEEDS OF A GROWING CUSTOMER BASE. By Bridget Goldschmidt nacks have been around forever, but one rising betterfor-you snack attribute delivers favorite forms and flavors with a twist — the items are grain-free. Whether consumers choose these products due to allergies or intolerances; as part of a keto, Paleo or other lowcarb diet regime; out of a desire to improve their gut health; to support regenerative agriculture practices; or just because they’re seeking something new and different, options made with cassava, nuts, legumes, pulses, root vegetables or other grain substitutes can be a vibrant component of a retailer’s snack set. “‘Grain-free’ as a claim within salty snacks is more widespread than many people may know, with items that leverage the claim accounting for over $27 million in sales,” says James Hedges, senior manager of category solutions at Stamford, Conn.-based Daymon. “However, most of the sales come from areas that may be inherently grain-free — like vegetable snacks, which account for over $15 million. The real innovation has been in typically grain-reliant segments like tortilla chips that are growing at over 76% versus year ago — total sales are $1.5 million — and pretzels.” “Grain-free is definitely the new trend in snacks,” affirms Rachel Shemirani, SVP of Poway, Calif.-based independent grocer Barons Market, which operates nine locations. “It started with the Siete [tortilla chip] brand. I think that made the grain-free trend quite popular. We quickly saw other brands trying to enter the grain-free market, and brought on new brands like Barnana, Plant Snacks, Made With and Mary’s Gone Crackers. Taste is still the No. 1 thing that drives these sales, and everything tastes delicious, so even customers that don’t follow a grain-free diet will still pick up these snacks because they are attracted to the unique labeling and ingredients.” According to Shemirani, Barons places grain-free options “in line in our snacks aisle, but will also merchandise them with plant-based dips, since they

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are both pretty big trends right now.” “One of the biggest benefits of going grainfree is that it could lead the consumer down a path of consuming more nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and lean proteins,” notes James Renn, senior category manager at Los Angeles-based e-grocer Thrive Market. “It’s easy to find processed foods and sweets that are derived from grains, and those options tend to provide little nutritional value while being high in fat, sugar and sodium. While choosing to go fully grain-free isn’t for everyone, it certainly can be a delicious option for everyone on their own personal journey.” Renn suggests that “[t]he best way to merchandise and promote grain-free snacks is to have them front and center with all snacks. Tucking away the grain-free options in a corner of the aisle on its own island would be doing a disservice to the category, the brand and consumers. Ultimately, consumers are looking for delicious options that meet their unique individual needs. Presenting them as such, where they just happen to be grain-free, promotes greater discovery

Taste is still the No. 1 thing that drives these sales, and everything tastes delicious, so even customers that don’t follow a grain-free diet will still pick up these snacks because they are attracted to the unique labeling and ingredients.” —Rachel Shemirani, Barons Market


Biena Snacks has added a popular flavor profile, Lil' Bit of Everything, to its grain-free Roasted Chickpea Snacks portfolio.

and success in the category.” As for the performance of Thrive Market’s grain-free snack offerings, which include items from Simple Mills, LesserEvil, The Good Crisp Co. and the aforementioned Siete, he asserts: “Sales have been strong and steady. There is always a ton of innovation, whether it’s forms, flavors or something else. This breeds excitement in the category that leads to solid business performance.”

Innovation Rules

In the grain-free segment, creativity is a given as snack makers strive to create items that satisfy with regard to taste and texture. “Biena Roasted Chickpea Snacks and Puffs contain naturally grainfree chickpeas as the foundational ingredient,” notes Poorvi Patodia, founder and CEO of Boston-based Biena Snacks. “Chickpeas provide naturally occurring fiber and protein, which lowers overall carbs and net carbs for those also looking for low-carb options.” In October 2020, Biena added a popular flavor profile to its Roasted Chickpea Snacks family: Lil’ Bit of Everything. “The Everything flavor has been everywhere, from breads to dips to even a seasoning,” explains Patodia. “We are dialed in to what snackers crave, and knew this flavor profile would taste amazing as a crunchy chickpea snack. Our entire roasted line is grain-free and perfect for both snacking and using as a topping to elevate foods like salads, soups and avocado toast.” According to Patodia, Lil’ Bit of Everything “has seen a ton of popularity among consumers in the past 12-18 months, and adding it to a quality, allergen-friendly product has helped the snack take off.” “To make our San Joaquin Almond Nut Chips ... we harness the power of almonds to create a tasty, crunchy and on-trend alternative to corn-based tortilla chips,” says Sandra Payer, director of marketing at Fairfield, Calif.-based Calbee America Inc. “Straight from the San Joaquin Valley in California, where the climate is ideal for growing, the high-quality almonds used in these one-of-a-kind grain-free nut chips are sourced from Naraghi Family Farms.” While the chips just launched this past September, “we see

promising results so far,” adds Payer. “Products made with an alternative base, like San Joaquin Almond Nut Chips, are outgrowing the traditional tortilla chips category, so there is definitely a trend and increased demand for such products.” “Crunchmaster likes to use cassava root and coconut in its grain-free products, because it enables us to deliver a delicious product while meeting our consumers’ trifecta of diet preferences: grain-free, Paleo and vegan,” explains Braden Bennie, senior marketing manager at the brand of Loves Park, Ill.-based TH Foods Inc., whose latest grain-free product, Crunchmaster Bistro Chips, rolled out in October. “Cassava root and coconut also meet consumers’ need for gluten-free and non-GMO ingredients, which has become table stakes for this consumer — they will choose another option if products are not compliant on these two claims.” Additionally, Crunchmaster’s Grain Free Crackers line will debut a new recipe during the fourth quarter, using olive oil and an optimized formula to ensure that the products comply with Paleo and vegan claims. “When merchandising and promoting grain-free snacks, it’s important to focus on two key customer groups — those who are already aware and seeking grain-free options, and those who aren’t yet familiar with the benefits of grain-free snacks,” advises Bennie. “First, prominently labeling products with nutritional value and claims ... on the front of the package lets customers know right away they’ve found a grain-free snack. These claims also are prominent in our sales materials. “For those who aren’t familiar or proactively looking for grain-free snacks, education is essential to help customers understand the benefits and why they might choose a grain-free product over a competitive option,” he continues. “Crunchmaster promotes the benefits of its products through its website and social media to help educate consumers before they even reach the grocery store aisle.” “At LesserEvil, we like to experiment with ingredients that are sustainable and can create something truly innovative and delicious,” says Charles Coristine, president and CEO of Danbury, Conn.-based LesserEvil Healthy Brands Co., which recently introduced two new grain-free snacks at Natural Products Expo East in September, PeaNOTS and Sun Poppers. “We use cassava flour as a base in many of our products. Additionally, our new Sun Poppers are crafted with upcycled watermelon and pumpkin seeds. Our new PeaNOTS use peas, a water-efficient crop.” LesserEvil’s grain-free products feature a prominent callout on the front of their packaging. “We work with the Paleo Foundation to certify our products as both Certified Paleo and Certified Grain-Free/Gluten-Free,” notes Coristine. Calbee's San Joaquin Almond Nut Chips are made with almonds sourced from Naraghi Family Farms in California's San Joaquin Valley. PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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Salty Snacks LesserEvil's grain-free products, like the newly introduced PeaNOTS and Sun Poppers lines, feature a prominent callout on the front of their packaging.

“Almond flour has been a major player in this space for years, and we use it in several of our products,” says Andrea Horowitz, senior manager, content and communications at Chicago-based Simple Mills, “However, we have been introducing new products made with a variety of nut and seed flours, including pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, flax seed, cashew and watermelon seed. These ingredients add key nutrients to our products while supporting our mission to encourage a diversified diet that will benefit both our physical health and the health of the planet.” Case in point: Simple Mills’ new Sweet Thins snack line is made from a blend of watermelon seed, cashew, sunflower seed and flax seed flours. “Sales have steadily increased and will continue to rise as new innovations hit store shelves,” notes Horowitz of the brand’s products as a whole. “Consumers are intrigued by alternative ingredients and interested in experimenting with never-before-used ingredients — especially those that pack a nutritious punch.” “Our products contain potato starch and sweet potato flour, which are used to replace what would be grains,” says Ashley Rogers, founder and CEO of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Spudsy, maker of the grain-free Sweet Potato Fry snack line in Hot, Vegan Ranch, Sea Salt and Cheese varieties — a departure from the usual corn-based offerings in this space. “Sweet potatoes are a great source of nu4505 Meats has recently introduced 100% grain-free Butcher's Snacks sausage links, which are packed with up to 24 grams of protein per link.

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trients, and we only use upcycled sweet potatoes to make our delicious snacks. We do this because we are on a mission to help reduce food waste with our Save the Spud campaign. By utilizing ‘imperfect’ spuds, we’re able to not only offer a grain-free option, but also upcycle; this year we’re on track to save over 1 million imperfect sweet potatoes.” Spudsy has drawn attention to its grain-free products via ads and influencer content. Of course, for those eschewing grain, meatbased snacks have always been a logical choice. “At 4505, we benefit because our products are — and have always been — naturally grain free,” observes Greg O’Neal, chief marketing officer of San Francisco-based 4505 Meats, which recently launched 100% grain-free Butcher’s Snacks sausage links packed with up 24 grams of protein per link. “4505 Meats pork rinds have had great success being merchandised in mainline salty snacks, right next to chips, popcorn, and other grain-based salty snacks,” notes O’Neal. “The brand has also seen success being merchandised in healthier alternative snack sets. In terms of off-shelf and feature merchandising, we love to participate in dietary — e.g., keto — and seasonal — e.g., New Year, New You — thematics that cater to grain- and carb-conscious shoppers.”

Healthy Variety

Snacks are just the tip of the grain-free iceberg, with Barons Market’s Shemirani pointing to grain-free options in such other categories as frozen pizza, pasta, cereal and desserts. In the better-for-you snack segment particularly, however, grain-free items are poised for further growth. “Thanks to consumer acceptance and understanding of the healthy benefits of grain-free, the trend is likely to continue to play out within salty snacks, crackers, breads, cookies and more in new formats,” predicts Daymon’s Hedges. “Similar to the rise of gluten-free food, manufacturers will experiment with formulations of different ingredients to develop the best-tasting products that mimic traditional items made with grains. New and trending flavors will mimic popular flavors in traditional items, as consumers want the same variety and choice.” “We’ll continue to see more variety in the types of alternative flours being used in grain-free snacks,” says Simple Mills’ Horowitz. “We’ll also see sustainability play a larger role in ingredient sourcing. These days, consumers aren’t only interested in their own health, they’re concerned about planetary health as well, and want their food choices to reflect those values.”


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GROCERY

Beverage Alcohol

Making Spirits Bright WITH HOLIDAY ENTERTAINING SE ASON HERE, GROCERS CAN MAKE THEIR ADULT BE VER AGE DEPARTMENTS A DESTINATION WITH THE VARIE T Y OF PRODUCTS THAT SHOPPERS SEEK. By Lynn Petrak

s the glass half empty or half full for adult beverages as the year winds down? Supply chain disruptions and inflation may be causing consternation about potential shortages in wines and liquor, and higher price points during a pivotal high-volume time. If grocers look at market data for the past several months and take into account consumer mindsets and preferences, however, they can mine opportunities to lift adult beverage sales and tap into new avenues for growth for years to come. The overall category is holding its own. Although it’s tough to match the spikes in alcoholic beverages that happened in 2020, research from alcoholic beverage trend forecaster IWSR shows that year-to-date performance in 2021 is still higher than in pre-pandemic 2019. The firm estimates that the category is poised

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Key Takeaways As people gather in groups and seek to make up for lost time, grocers that sell adult beverages are well positioned to merchandise a variety of wine, beer and spirits products. RTD adult beverages appeal to holiday revelers for their novelty and to holiday hosts for their convenience. The adult beverage category now includes an array of betterfor-you drinks that can be a part of holiday gatherings, including nonalcoholic options for the “sober curious.”

for 3.8% additional growth in volume and a 5.5% rise in value. As retailers pursue such growth, they can keep in mind what shoppers are looking for in adult drinks, especially when they’re entertaining.


2021

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GROCERY

Beverage Alcohol A Cup of Cheer

The last quarter of the year has traditionally been a strong one for adult beverages. According to a pre-pandemic study from Morning Recovery, average Americans boost their alcohol habits by 100% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The winter holidays are a perennial catalyst for those strong sales. With ongoing restrictions and a pandemic wave across much of the country, last year’s holidays were muted, with fewer in-person celebrations. While the current situation isn’t quite one of pre-pandemic normalcy, a more festive season is ahead: the National Retail Federation reports that 90% of U.S. adults plan to celebrate the upcoming holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, up from 87% last year. Christmas and Thanksgiving are the most commonly shared holidays: Findings from market research firm Mintel show that 93% of consumers celebrate either occasion. As an overwhelming majority of people mark some winter festival, they have a different attitude in 2021. The data arm of delivery service (and recent Uber acquisition) Drizly has found that fewer than half (42%) of consumers expect to celebrate the holidays the same way that they did last year. In a new report on U.S. holidays and traditions, Mintel notes that most adults are “optimistic” that their fall and winter holidays will be more normal this year. As people gather in groups and seek to make up for lost time, grocers that sell adult beverages are well positioned to merchandise a variety of wine, beer and spirits products, including larger bottles and multipacks used for parties and purchased as gifts for hosts and friends or family members. In addition to pumping up the volume for entertaining, grocery shoppers can embark on an in-store or digital discovery of interesting new adult beverage products for their winter holiday celebrations and as potential gifts for those on their list.

Get Ready

The ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktail segment, for example, shows no sign of slowing down. RTD adult beverages appeal to holiday revelers for the novelty factor and to holiday hosts because such items cut down on preparation time at parties. Several RTD beverages for the over-21 crowd have hit the market lately and show promise for the holidays, such as the Luxardo Gin & Tonic canned drink, and a line of canned Colony Cocktails in varieties like the Charleston, the Tangier and the Biarritz. Also in the RTD arena, canned seltzers aren’t just for summertime. Despite the warm-weather appeal of fruit-flavored seltzers, some varieties go well with winter occasions, too, like White Claw’s new Surge cranberry hard seltzer that contains 8% alcohol by volume. Also in canned seltzers, Bud Light Seltzer is out with its Ugly

As a brand founded on inclusivity, we see Mingle being sold and served everywhere that alcohol is sold and served, so everyone feels part of the party.” —Laura Taylor, Mingle Mocktails

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Bud Light Seltzer's limited-edition Ugly Sweater Pack is coming to town for the holiday season, with three new festive flavors.

Sweater Pack for 2021, following last year’s debut of that line. The brand has brought back Cranberry, but added three new flavors this year: Cherry Cordial, Seltzer Nog and Sugar Plum. Seasonal varieties have also become a hallmark of the craft beer market, as people get ready to crack open cold ones at gatherings. Coming out of an autumn season ripe with apple and pumpkin flavors, beer companies are rolling out holiday collections spotlighting spiced flavors like gingerbread and nutmeg, and using heartier stouts, porters and ales. Shiner, the Texas-based maker of Shiner Bock, has even teamed up with Collin Street Bakery to brew up a Fruitcake Pastry Porter inspired by the baker’s famous fruitcake. Brewers’ knack for creativity is evident in some of this year’s offerings for entertaining and gift exchanges. The Almanac Beer Co. in California has introduced a Holiday Advent Beer Box, with a dozen 6-ounce cans, available in three configurations: an “all fresh beer” box with IPAs, lagers and stouts; a “sour” box with barrel-aged sour beers; and a combo pack with both fresh and barrel-aged beers. Advent calendars are becoming a thing in the wine category as well. Discount grocer Aldi has an enthusiastic fan base for its annual wine advent calendar, available starting the third Wednesday in November. The 2021 Wine Advent Calendar from Aldi sells for $59.99 and contains 24 “doors” with a small bottle of red, white or bubbly behind one. The item typically sells out fast.

What’s the Buzz?

Other new or unique offerings can lend a fresh, festive dynamic to retailers’ adult beverage sections during a period of peak entertaining. In a marketplace awash with health-and-wellness products in the wake of a global health crisis, the adult beverage category now includes an array of betterfor-you drinks that can be a part of holiday blasts and repasts. For instance, agave spirits are performing well, up 15.9% in volume last year, according to IWSR. Some startup and niche brands are getting noticed


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KEEP IT COLORFUL


GROCERY

Beverage Alcohol for their products that have a certain health halo. The mixer brand Avec, for instance, offers products made with all-natural real juices and botanicals, canned and ready to be blended with spirits. Another trend largely centered on holistic wellness is influencing the adult beverage category as well: the rise of mocktails and nonalcoholic beverages for teetotalers or the “sober curious.” A new analysis of Nielsen data conducted by Goldman Sachs Equity Research has found that sales of nonalcoholic drinks rose 12.9% for the two-week period ending Oct. 9, and dollar sales climbed 22.6% on a twoyear stacked basis. Because mocktails and alcohol-free products are typically sold in the same department as adult beverages, grocers can keep an eye on trends and new product offerings that appeal to those exploring a sober lifestyle. Many inventive products have entered this space, like a line of RTD Mingle Mocktails, available in Cranberry Cosmo, Blackberry Hibiscus Bellini, Cucumber Melon Mojito, Moscow Mule and Blood Orange Elderflower Mimosa varieties. Recently, KeHE Distributors picked up Mingle Mocktails for distribution in California, Illinois, Indiana and Texas, bringing the number of stores that carry the items close to 2,000. “As a brand founded on inclusivity, we see Mingle being sold and served everywhere that alcohol is sold and served, so everyone feels part of the party,” explains founder and CEO Laura Taylor. A product called Jeng is another nonalcoholic beverage that can be an option for shoppers. A hemp-infused RTD cocktail that contains 11 milligrams of CBD, Jeng is available in flavors that replicate traditional cocktails, including a Moscow mule, gin and tonic, and paloma. Also mixing it up in the adult beverage category is the introduction of home bartending appliances that make entertaining easier and fun. Available at Target, Macy’s and the culinary specialty store Williams-Sonoma, Bartesian is an at-home on-demand cocktail machine that makes “lounge-quality”

The Bartesian cocktail machine mixes up adult beverage favorites with the touch of a button.

drinks, using cocktail capsules filled with mixers, extracts and juices that can be paired with any vodka, whiskey, gin, rum or tequila. “Bartesian delivers all the benefits of a fully stocked bar in one sleek and compact machine,” says Ryan Close, founder and CEO. “Retailers should absolutely consider adding Bartesian to their adult beverage/ spirits section as a unique and exciting offering for their customers. We’ve seen enormous growth via both our brick-and-mortar retailer partners as well as via our e-commerce channels.”

Merry Merchandising

If new products help grocers widen their appeal to a diverse shopper base, retailers are also broadening their efforts to connect with customers who are ready to entertain with alcoholic beverages. Curbside pickup and home delivery are one way to meet the needs of shoppers who have become accustomed to such conveniences. Grocers competing with delivery services like DoorDash and Drizly can offer pickup and delivery options to adult beverage shoppers, especially during the holiday season, when celebrations are peaking and time is at a premium. Some grocers are going especially big with adult beverages. Midwestern grocer Hy-Vee, for instance, has opened a new Wall to Wall Wine and Spirits store that’s pretty much turnkey for entertaining. The store sells wine, spirits and craft beer, along with grocery items that pair well with adult drinks, and a selection of barware. As the ranks of the "sober curious" and occasional teetotalers rise, products like the nonalcoholic Mingle Mocktails can be served up at inclusive holiday celebrations.

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NONFOODS

Nutrition & Wellness

Millennials Move the Market in New Ways THE THREE BIG TRENDS BEHIND SURGING SALES OF WELLNESS PRODUCTS ARE IMMUNIT Y BOOSTING, PL ANT-BASED AND FOCUS ON MENTAL HE ALTH/SLEEP. By Marie Griffin

OVID-19 has spurred a relatively sizable and sudden change in the way that Millennials are thinking about their health. This new mindset will affect their food, beverage, and vitamin/ supplement choices, and understanding it will help grocers deepen their relationships with the 72 million Millennials — born between 1981 and 1996 — who make up the largest living generation. Millennials overtook the Baby Boomer generation in size in 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. Recent surveys show that Millennials place a higher priority on health and wellness than any other generation, including the oldest Americans, and the importance that Millennials give to a healthy lifestyle has increased more dramatically than other generations over the past decade. In addition, their concerns about health and the prevention of disease have strengthened during the pandemic. In its consumer surveys on health-and-wellness trends, the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) found that 77% of Millennials saw a healthy, balanced life-

Millennials' concerns about health and the prevention of disease have strengthened during the pandemic, according to research.

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Key Takeaways Millennials are driving three of the biggest trends in health and wellness. This demographic has learned that a wide variety of foods can boost the immune system, and many of this generational cohort have adopted a flexitarian diet. The trend toward eating certain foods and taking supplements to improve sleep is intertwined with Millennials’ commitment to their mental health.

style as “very” or “extremely important” in 2020. Only 65% of Millennials considered that type of lifestyle to be “very/extremely important” in 2010. Among all generations, the perceived importance of a healthy/balanced lifestyle increased only two percentage points over the decade, from 69% to 71%. In 2010, the “matures”— those born in 1945 or earlier — put the highest value on a healthy lifestyle, with 76% saying that it was very/extremely important, but that share slipped slightly to 75% in 2020. Another study showed that the worldwide pandemic spurred Millennials to make health care and disease prevention their highest personal priority. The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey, which took the pulse of more than 14,600 Millennials in 45 countries, asked respondents to identify their top three personal concerns. Twenty-eight percent of Millennials cited health care and disease prevention as a top concern in 2021, as compared with 21% in 2020. Worries about their own health edged out Millennials’ concern about climate change/protecting the environment, which topped the list in 2020 at 28% and declined to 26% in 2021. It should come as no surprise that Millennials are driving three of the biggest trends in health and wellness — immunity-boosting foods and supplements, flexitarian diets and plant-based products, and solutions for better sleep and mental health. Let’s take a closer look at how the Millennial generation and these trends are interconnected.


ADVERTORIAL

JENNIFER DAVIS, President, Global Feminine Care, Procter & Gamble, spoke with Progressive Grocer at the 2021 Top Women in Grocery event about serving consumers from puberty through menopause and beyond. Jennifer is especially passionate about the role social impact programs can have on society and girls by helping provide puberty and confidence education, tackle societal taboos and increasing access to period products around the world.

1

P&G is well known for leveraging its voice in advertising to promote messages of equality and inclusion – and perhaps one of the best examples of this is the Like A Girl campaign from Always, which is a brand in your portfolio. Tell us about that campaign, and how it has evolved since it launched in 2014. We are really pleased with the impact of our “Like A Girl” campaign, and it has opened our minds to the power of how brands can drive real change. Over 50% of girls experience a sharp drop in confidence at puberty, with their period often marking the lowest point. While this drop can be attributed to the natural changes experienced at puberty, societal pressures around gender norms are also driving this drop in confidence. Our Always “Like A Girl” campaign aimed to challenge these harmful gender norms and stereotypes head‑on and make the phrase “like a girl” mean amazing things. The campaign was an absolute success in transforming the negative association with the phrase “like a girl” into a positive one and helping young girls feel more confident in themselves. The campaign has continued to grow and has been seen in over 150 countries. We are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished with #LikeAGirl, but there is more to be done to ensure that no one loses confidence at puberty because of their gender or their period. To expand our impact, we introduced

our Always #EndPeriodPoverty campaign to help address the problem of young people missing school and other activities due to lack of access to period products Through this campaign, we have donated over 150 million period products to people in need around the world. Our work in promoting messages of equality and inclusion continues as we strive to find systemic solutions to address the lack of period product access and education.

2

Under your leadership, P&G’s product line up has significantly expanded – with products from puberty to menopause. What does it mean to serve women at such pivotal life stages?

Since the beginning of time, women have dealt with their periods and sensitive bladders. However, it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that managing these natural biological functions became easier with the emergence of modern period and incontinence products. We strive to open doors to more protection, comfort, and confidence for millions of girls and women, with the goal of empowering them to do amazing things at all stages of their lives – from puberty to menopause. We empower women with a broad portfolio of products and education on how to select the right regimen for them. We use our brand voice to overcome period stigma and normalize conversations around bladder leaks.

3

P&G is also focused on gender equality inside the company, right?

Absolutely—gender equality is very important to P&G. In 2016, P&G set an aspiration to be gender equal at every level of the company globally. At the time, 45% of our managers globally were women. Today, that has increased to nearly 49%. At more junior levels, we are already at 50%, and we making progress to reach this in our executive roles as well. We have made great progress, as more than 40% of our global leadership team, 50% of our Board Members, and 60% of our Feminine Care leadership are women. We are continuously working to further our commitment to gender equality through our strategy that is focused in three areas. The first is leveraging our corporate voice and the voice of our brands in advertising and media to tackle bias and promote gender and intersectional equality. The second is removing barriers to education for girls and economic opportunities for women through social impact programs, partnerships, and advocacy efforts in communities around the world. The third is creating an inclusive, gender-equal environment inside P&G where everyone can contribute to their full potential and advocating for gender-equal workplaces p beyond P&G. G.


NONFOODS

Nutrition & Wellness Foods and Supplements Get Immunity Boost

Building immunity has become a greater passion for Millennials since COVID-19, affecting their purchases of vitamins and supplements, as well as foods and beverages — a cross-merchandising opportunity that grocers can leverage better than any other retailer. In Innova’s 2020 Consumer Survey, Millennials and younger Gen Xers, collectively 26 to 45 years old, showed the most significant increases in concern about their immune health since the pandemic, indicating “potential for longer-term consumer interest,” according to the CPG market intelligence firm. More than half (52%) of Millennial respondents to the NMI study said that their interest in immunity-boosting foods had increased since the COVID-19 outbreak, and this trend is strong across generations, with 46% of all respondents having a greater interest in foods that can fortify the body against sickness and disease. Millennials, who are the most likely generation to use the web and social media for health information, have learned that many foods can boost the immune system: beets, cider vinegar, citrus fruits, fermented vegetables, garlic, ginger, leafy green vegetables, manuka honey, mushrooms, probiotics, and more. Food and beverage companies have embraced the immunity-boosting trend. According to Innova Market Insights, 383 food and beverage products with immune-health claims were launched in the first half of 2021 alone, according to The Wall Street Journal. While “overall health-and-wellness benefits” is the most popular reason that consumers cite for taking nutritional supplements, immune health has replaced energy as the second most popular reason in the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN) consumer surveys. In 2020, almost one-third (32%) of consumers said that they were taking supplements for immune health, up from 27% in 2019. Among supplement users age 18 to 34, 38% said that immune support is their primary reason for taking supplements. Vitamin C (61%), multivitamins (57%) and vitamin D (47%) are the top three ingredients that supplement users are taking to support their

Of Millennials saw a healthy, balanced lifestyle as "very" or "extremely important" in 2020. Only 65% thought that type of lifestyle was "very/extremely important" in 2010.

immune health, followed by zinc (32%), B complex (28%), probiotics (27%), turmeric (19%) and elderberry (13%), according to CRN.

Plant-Forward Diets Meet Health and Sustainability Needs

While some Millennials see vegetarian, vegan or plant-forward diets as better for their health, others choose those diets because of their concern about the environmental impact of eating meat. More than one in five Millennials (22%) have adopted a vegetarian diet at some point in their lives, and 16% have tried a vegan diet, according to YouGov research, but a much larger share, 45%, are adopting a flexitarian lifestyle, in which they’re reducing meat consumption but not cutting it out entirely. A slightly smaller share of Millennials, 18%, are turning to dairy-free eating. Sprouts Farmers Market commissioned One Poll to conduct consumer research around New Year’s 2021 to find out how shoppers were thinking about plant-based foods, finding that 54% of Millennial respondents were consuming more plant-based meals than meat, in contrast to the 47% of consumers of all age groups who described themselves as flexitarians. While 58% of survey respondents reported feeling that all of their nutritional needs could be met with plant-based foods, 63% of Millennials said that a plant-based diet could fulfill their nutritional needs. Only 30% of consumers in the Boomer generation and older felt the same way. This shift toward more plant-based foods and meat alternatives will only grow, the retailer predicts. “The interMelatonin, magnesium and CBD have been found to be among the most popular supplements taken for mental and sleep health among Millennials and other generations.

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Recent surveys show that Millennials place a higher value on health and wellness than any other generation.

est in plant-based foods and a flexitarian diet is evident,” says Sprouts CEO Jack Sinclair. “Plant-based product sales grew exponentially last year, indicating consumers are craving innovative items to try at home.” According to SPINS, the retail market for plant-based foods and beverages is worth $5.6 billion and growing at a pace of 29% annually, almost twice the 15% growth rate of the overall food and beverage market In its “State of Natural 2021” report, market researcher SPINS notes that plant-based ready-to-drink shelf-stable tea and coffee have been recent stars, growing 76%, as compared with 12% growth for the category overall. Other high performers were shelf-stable jerky and meat snacks, up 53% in a category with 15% growth; refrigerated creams and creamers, up 38% in a category with 16% growth; and refrigerated plant-based cheese, up 37% in the refrigerated cheese/plant-based cheese category, which has 17% growth.

Young People Say, ‘It’s OK to Not Be OK’

During the delayed pandemic Olympics in 2021, top-ranked gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the all-around team competition and three of the four individual events for which she qualified, saying that she needed to focus on her well-being and mental health. Epitomizing younger Americans’ acceptance of mental health issues and of speaking openly

The interest in plant-based foods and a flexitarian diet is evident. Plant-based product sales grew exponentially last year, indicating consumers are craving innovative items to try at home.”

about them, Biles received an outpouring of support from her Millennial and Gen Z peers — she was born on the cusp between generations — as well as all-time Olympic gold medal winner Michael Phelps, a Millennial who has been spreading his mantra “It’s OK to not be OK” while speaking openly about his own struggle with depression. Healthscape’s “2020 Healthcare Trends Executive Brief” identified mental health openness as one of the top trends in Millennials’ interactions with health care. “Millennials have overcome the stigma associated with seeking professional help for mental health that previous generations held,” the report observes. “They are not only more likely to identify behavioral health issues, but also seek treatment.” In a YPulse survey of Millennials and Gen Zers, i.e., people age 13 to 39 in 2020, 77% said that maintaining their mental health had become more important to them during the pandemic, with 59% reporting that they were “going the extra mile” to take care of their mental health. In January 2020, even before COVID-19 hit, 30% of Millennials in a YouGov survey said that they had changed their diet to improve their mental health. Millennials understand that better sleep is tied to good mental health, so the trend toward eating certain foods and taking supplements to improve sleep is intertwined with Millennials’ commitment to their mental health. A CRN survey taken in the midst of the pandemic found that melatonin, magnesium and CBD were among the most popular supplements taken for mental and sleep health, regardless of the consumer’s age. Among the lesser-known ingredients for brain health, three in the nootropics category have seen double-digit growth in usage by manufacturers, according to SPINS. Use of Bacopa monnieri, an herb used by Ayurvedic medical practitioners that is said to enhance brain function, grew 148%; use of phosphatidylserine, an amino acid derivative purported to support memory, mental alertness and cognitive function, rose 109%; and use of DMAE, which is said to support neurotransmitter production, grew 104%.

—Jack Sinclair, Sprout Farmers Market PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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Sustainability

‘Making Taste, Not Waste’ HOW UNILE VER IS TR ANSFORMING FOOD AND THE CONSUMER GOODS INDUSTRY. By Gina Acosta Hanneke Faber was named president of foods and refreshment at Unilever in 2019.

ince Hanneke Faber joined multinational consumer goods giant Unilever as president of foods and refreshments in 2019, the company has experienced a deadly pandemic, a collapse in its foodservice business and a revolution in how consumers want to eat. Despite all of this, Faber has grown the $22.6 billion foods and refreshments division: In the first half of 2021, the unit reported $10.2 billion in sales, an 8.1% increase from 2020. Progressive Grocer talked to Faber about her company’s plan to keep growing revenue while halving its environmental impact, and why algae is the next alternative protein trend.

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on the front lines were the people in the supply chain, so we had to protect them while still making sure they could come to work. We have factories in more than 100 countries, and if we don’t make food, there is no food, so it really is critical front-line work, and I’m so proud of those teams. PG: How did you pivot when the restaurant and foodservice business crashed? HF: Forty percent of our food business is with restaurants. That went to almost zero, and the grocery stores went crazy. Over time, that has corrected and now in most places, the service channel is at least partly back, but we’ve had to be agile over time. The people that were selling to restaurants all of a sudden had to help and chip in in the grocery business, and vice versa when restaurants came back online. The flexibility of our people has just been amazing, and I’m super proud that our results have been really strong throughout the pandemic. PG: Are things back to normal? HF: Most places with really high vaccination rates have been able to open back up almost normally, so China has been normal for quite a while, and I’m hopeful that many other places, as vaccination rates rise, will also be able to return to normal relatively soon.

Progressive Grocer: You spent most of your earlier career at Procter & Gamble working in the beauty business. How did you fall in love with food? Hanneke Faber: After about 20 years with Procter & Gamble, I switched to grocery retail. I headed up the e-commerce business for Ahold Delhaize, and that’s where my love of the food and the grocery business ignited. And then, when I had the chance to join Unilever, I was just delighted to continue in the business of food. People want to eat healthier. We all know that the food system has a big impact on climate and on the health of the planet.

PG: Can you talk about Unilever’s vision for the future of food? HF: Our ambition is to be a world-class force for good in food, and as part of that, we’ve made a number of bold commitments. We’ve set a global sales target of 1 billion euros in plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. We’ve committed that we’re going to halve the food waste in our direct operations. We’ve committed that we’ll double the number of products that deliver positive nutrition, and that we’ll continue to reduce salts, sugar and calories in our products. And we have committed to more regenerative agriculture, which is critically important for the planet. And then across our foods, beauty and homecare businesses, we also have a set of commitments that include net zero by 2039, deforestation-free by 2023, and also less plastic with a set of commitments.

PG: You became president of foods and refreshments at Unilever in 2019, just a few months before the pandemic. HF: I don’t think any of us will forget March 2020 any time soon. At Unilever, we’re very much about “people first,” so we had to make sure we protected our people. The office people immediately went to work from home, but the people

PG: I know that nature-positive production is a big part of Unilever’s regenerative-agriculture plan. Can you explain what it is and how Unilever is going to leverage that?

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“Our ambition is to be a world-class force for good in food, and as part of that, we’ve made a number of bold commitments.”

HF: Nature-positive production is basically doing companies to look at algae. There’s a agriculture in ways that use less water, that have company called Algenuity that does less CO2 outputs, and that create healthier soil algae, and we’re starting to formulate and more biodiversity. How you do that depends with that as an alternative protein. on the crop, what you’re growing, the place that And we’ve also partnered with a small you’re doing it and who you’re working with. For company called ENOUGH that does a —Hanneke Faber, President of Foods example, soybeans are a really important ingredimushroom-based alternative protein. I and Refreshments, Unilever ent for Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, but soybean think you’ll see more alternative protein farming traditionally is very automated. It uses a sources in products that you know and lot of heavy machines, heavy tractors that compact the soil and love, to give you the protein that you need, but in ways that are therefore very bad for soil health, because there’s erosion, don’t necessarily need cows. and water just rolls away. And the more you do that, the worse the soil and the harvests become. PG: What are your other sustainability priorities? So, in Iowa, we started working with around 30 farmers in 2017 HF: In addition to plant-based, another is food waste, to protect the soil and regenerate it; the way you do that is through reducing it in our own operations, but also inspiring concover crops in the off-season. When you’re not growing soybeans, sumers. We call that “Making Taste, Not Waste.” That’s you plant another crop to keep the soil healthy, rather than just the Hellmann’s global brand campaign that’s helping conletting it sit there. Farmers know that works, but it costs money to sumers to rethink when they look at the fridge and think, plant another crop, so we co-invested with them and our soybean “Oh, my God, I have nothing to eat.” With mayonnaise, supplier. Today, we have 361 farmers in Iowa in this program. That every leftover is better, so hopefully we can make change represents 10% of all of Iowa’s cover crop acres. We get better-qualthat way. And the other trend is, of course, digital, the ity soybeans, they get better yields, they protect their soil, and all in “Give it to me now” consumer. Three years ago, we didn’t all, I feel better about eating a lot of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. have any business of half-hour or 10-minute ice cream delivery, and now we have a business that’s several hundred PG: I know that Unilever is doing a lot to leverage millions of euros, because at 9 p.m. on your couch, it’s consumer health-and-wellness trends. How are you always summer, and it’s really great that consumers can helping people adopt healthier diets? just go to Gopuff or Uber Eats and get Ben & Jerry’s. HF: Plant-based is a big focus for us, and we’re really excited about the progress in plant-based ice cream. We’re growing Ben & Jerry’s PG: Speaking of digital, what are your key dairy-free segment really fast, and Magnum Vegan, Cornetto Vegan. initiatives related to digital or technology in We’re also excited about the progress of The Vegetarian Butcher, foods and refreshments? which is a brand we bought in Holland in 2019 and we’ve since HF: Certainly, working with all of our instant-delivery expanded into 40 countries. partners, a program we call Ice Cream Now, on allowing people to get ice cream now. So that’s at the very end PG: Is the plant-based focus also related to a of the chain, but at the very beginning of the chain, we’re consumer desire to heal the planet? increasingly automating our factories, and that’s important HF: The general trend is certainly health, and I think that’s one of the as well. I think we’ve placed 4,000 robots over the last effects of the pandemic, for sure. But within that, plant-based is a three years in our factories. As we automate our plants, big subtrend, and that’s partly because people think it’s healthier for we get more precise and we actually waste less food. themselves to eat less meat, but also because they realize it’s better The same is true for artificial intelligence in our planning for the planet. Today, most plant-based options leverage peas or soysystems, so that we don’t produce food that we never beans. In the future, we’ve made some partnerships with some smaller sell, but we produce all the food that our customers need. We’re also trying to make it easier for our retail and foodUnilever started working with around 30 Iowa farmers in 2017 to protect the service customers to have 24/7 digital service from us. soil and regenerate it via cover crops. Today, the company has 361 farmers in Iowa in this program, because it makes the soil better, Faber says. That represents 10% of all of Iowa’s cover crop acres.

PG: A lot of your customers are hurting right now due to supply chain bottlenecks. How is Unilever managing those challenges? HF: In many countries right now, we’re focused on just delivering our products to retailers on time and in full as much as possible. In the United States, the difficulty with trucking and with transport has been tricky, but we’re working as hard as we can. Longer-term, we want to work with retailers to reduce food waste, to drive plant-based and healthier eating, to digitize our collaboration so that we can serve them better. So, despite the short-term logistics challenges, these longterm opportunities are critically important. PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION

Digital Grocery

The Deal With Caper

Caper is developing AIpowered shopping carts and automated checkout counters that merge online and offline shopping.

Former Facebook Execs Advance Instacart’s Innovation Agenda NE W CEO FIDJI SIMO E XPL AINS WHAT THAT ME ANS AND DISCUSSES THE COMPANY’S RECENT DE ALS. By Gina Acosta

he future of grocery e-commerce is beginning to look very different, and Instacart has positioned itself as a major catalyst of further transformation. The San Francisco-based company may have risen to prominence as a provider of grocery delivery services, but in recent months, it has executed a series of deals marking a transition to what top executives refer to as a “retailer enablement platform.” This past Oct. 19, Instacart acquired Caper, an artificial intelligence-powered shopping cart and checkout technology platform; on Oct. 7, Instacart acquired FoodStorm, an order management system that enables grocers to integrate foodservice ordering into their e-commerce offering; and back in July, Instacart turned heads when it revealed a partnership with robotics company Fabric as part of a next-generation fulfillment initiative. These moves come amid a major leadership transition that puts the future of the company — and grocery e-commerce — in the hands of two former Facebook executives. On Aug. 2, Fidji Simo, less than a year into her tenure as an Instacart board member, joined the company as CEO. Two days later, her former co-worker at Facebook, Carolyn Everson, was named to the newly created role of president. Now, the pair is intent on establishing Instacart as an entity that hasn’t previously existed in the grocery world.

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“When we say we are a retailer enablement platform, it means that we offer grocers the technologies that they need to compete, whether it’s online or even in-store, like with Caper,” Simo says. “We see ourselves as providing grocers with the best technology to sell to their consumers in the best possible way, no matter how their consumers shop. So that started obviously with online grocery delivery, but also powering the websites of a lot of our grocers, powering pickup, and powering fulfillment on their own and operated properties.” According to Simo, the Caper deal is particularly helpful for grocery retailers that are worried about competing with Amazon. “Caper AI fits in with the strategic priority for us to be the technology partner that grocers turn to,” she explains, “and we think that’s particularly important in a world where Amazon is obviously making a lot of strides in grocery, and they obviously have the capabilities and financial strengths to create a lot of these new technologies, and we want our grocers to have the same advantage. We see Caper as a way to give them that advantage.” Caper is reimagining the in-store shopping journey by developing AI-powered shopping carts and automated checkout counters that bring together online and offline shopping to create a new in-store shopping experience for customers. Caper’s object recognition system lets customers place fruits, vegetables and other items in their carts without having to scan or weigh the products, and check out right at the cart. The company also develops smart checkout counters that use cameras and a weight sensor to auto-detect items placed on a counter. For retailers, Caper’s smart cart technology provides a plug-and-play solution requiring little capital expenditure, according to Instacart. Caper’s technology enables brick-and-mortar retailers of all sizes to deploy this technology in their stores, creating compelling experiences for customers and driving meaningful growth for businesses by increasing average basket sizes relative to traditional shopping carts. Over time, Instacart expects to integrate Caper’s technology into the Instacart app and the e-commerce websites and apps of its retail partners, allowing customers to build online shopping lists and browse recipes ahead of time, and check off their lists as they go.


FoodStorm’s software-as-a-service covers multichannel ordering (e-commerce, phone or in-store kiosk), order management, and payment and fulfillment. The tech integrates with third-party systems.

“We’re hearing from retailers that they are seeing consumer habits changing, and that post-pandemic, there’s a new resting heart rate, both on the Instacart marketplace and on retailers’ websites, where consumers are expecting a variety of options across online delivery, pickup, etc.,” Simo says. “What retailers are asking us is to really make sure that we continue to help them compete and help them serve a new range of consumer needs. When you see the rise of quick commerce, for example, and the fact that there’s a lot of growth in the convenience sector, a lot of retailers were asking, ‘What can we do together so that we can approach these consumer needs?’ That’s why we have the Kroger partnership, which is a new offering for retailers to be able to capture that consumer trend.”

Taking the World by FoodStorm

Meanwhile, Instacart’s acquisition of FoodStorm provides retailers with another solution, this time for digital foodservice orders. FoodStorm’s software-as-a-service covers multichannel ordering (e-commerce, phone or in-store kiosk), order management, and payment and fulfillment. Its technology also integrates with a large variety of third-party systems, including point-of-service systems, and offers customer relationship management capabilities that help grocers collect feedback, market their offerings and leverage promotional features. With this acquisition, Instacart says that it’s expanding its enterprise technology portfolio to further support its retail partners’ digital foodservice operations, investing in more technology solutions

We see ourselves as providing grocers with the best technology to sell to their consumers in the best possible way, no matter how their consumers shop.” —Fidji Simo, CEO, Instacart

that aim to help retailers grow, compete and better meet the evolving needs of their customers. “People eat 21 meals a week, give or take, and we want to help our retail partners create more opportunities for their customers to get more and more of those meals from the grocery store,” notes Instacart Chief Technology Officer Mark Schaaf. “We think for customers, this helps unlock a healthier, more affordable alternative than restaurant delivery, and creates an easier way for people to order prepared foods online, directly from their favorite retailers that they shop from already today. That’s another really exciting aspect of this acquisition.”

Fabric by Design

Instacart first began offering enterprise technology to grocery partners in 2017. Since then, the company has continued to make significant investments in its enterprise business, scaling its engineering team and developing new technologies for grocers. Instacart’s multiyear deal with Fabric earlier this year will aim to marry the speed of robotics with the human touch and attention to detail of Instacart Shoppers, enabling faster fulfillment of customers’ full grocery shop, from packaged goods, household essentials and produce, to deli items, frozen foods and alcohol. Once orders are carefully packed, Shoppers will deliver orders to customers’ doors or place them in staging areas for curbside pickup. Instacart plans to kick off early-stage concept pilots in partnership with Fabric and grocery retail partners over the coming year and beyond. The new partnership appears to offer grocers some intriguing possibilities; however, Instacart and Fabric have stopped short of providing key details about the launch of their next-gen fulfillment collaboration. For example, the companies haven’t indicated how many dedicated facilities they plan to open, over what time frame, their approximate size or when a pilot location might become operational. Instacart, which is valued at more than $50 billion, is rumored to be planning an initial public offering during the fourth quarter, but the company isn’t confirming or denying such a move. “We’re very focused on building a company for the long run,” asserts Simo. “Of course, we want to be a public company someday, but we are really focused right now on building the business. Our strategy is very different from the other companies joining this space, because we are never going to compete with our retailers. We really see Instacart as being in the business of growing grocery retailers’ business, and that’s very different from others in online delivery.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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EDITORS’ PICKS

Food, Beverage & Nonfood Products

More Impossible Than Ever

Impossible Foods describes its Impossible Chicken Nuggets Made From Plants as “a major milestone in consumers’ preference for plantbased products.” In a blind taste test of Impossible Chicken Nuggets for restaurants, seven out of 10 consumers preferred the Impossible Chicken Nuggets to animal-based chicken nuggets from a leading brand, with the product scoring higher in every category, including flavor, texture and overall appearance. The nuggets feature a golden, crispy breadcrumb coating, a juicy and springy white-meat texture, and a savory chicken flavor while containing 40% less saturated fat (2 grams versus 3.5 grams per serving) and 25% less sodium (400 milligrams versus 540 milligrams per serving) than animal chicken nuggets. Additionally, in a preliminary Life Cycle Assessment of the product, Impossible Chicken Nuggets use 48%-49% less land, 43%-44% less water and generate 36% less greenhouse-gas emissions than animal protein nuggets. At grocery, a 13.5-ounce resealable bag of about 20 fully cooked Impossible Chicken Nuggets will retail for a suggested $7.99 per approximately 20 pieces, and can be reheated in an oven, a microwave or an air fryer. Impossible Chicken Nuggets for restaurants vary slightly from those for home chefs to best accommodate commercial deep fryers. https://impossiblefoods.com/products/chicken

Not Just for Hummus

Franklin Farms, a division of Keystone Natural Holdings, has introduced a line of chickpea tofu offering consumers soy-free plant-based options that are low in fat and contain no allergens, as well as being non-GMO, kosher, and cholesterol- and gluten-free. The line consists of Original Chickpea Tofu, which is medium-firm in texture, with a creamy, melt-in-the-mouth consistency, and flavor-forward Peppadew Pepper Chickpea Tofu, offering a kick of zesty spice. A 12.5-ounce package of either variety retails for a suggested $3.49. Franklin Farms also makes such items as veggie patties, meatless meatballs, tofu, seitan, tempeh, edamame vegan jerky, Planty Good Patties and Ground, and Vegan Wraps. https://www.franklinfarms.com/; https://www.keystonenatural.com/

Cover Story

Century-old specialty nut and nut product provider Diamond of California has now brought out Nut Coatings, a keto-friendly, low-carb breading alternative made with a base of walnuts and pecans, and simply seasoned with herbs, spices and other real ingredients. The line comes in Original, Italian and Ranch varieties and can replace conventional breading in such recipes as meatballs, chicken, macaroni and cheese, and eggplant parmesan. To create a nut-based breading alternative that can crust, top and coat, Diamond of California partnered with its product development team and specialty spice experts to develop the right texture and flavors to complement meats, fish, vegetables, pastas and plant-based proteins. The coatings were also exhaustively tested to ensure that they could stand up to everyday cooking techniques. Further, because of the natural oils in nuts, the product line adheres without binders like eggs or flour, and even performs best when baked or air-fried without the addition of extra fats, allowing for less fat overall and delivering an appealing texture. The suggested retail price is $3.99 per 5-ounce bag of any variety of Nut Coatings. https://www.diamondnuts.com/

A Taste of Mexico

Dessert-inspired yogurt smoothies and cremas are the latest additions to the Lala brand of fresh authentic Mexican dairy products. The product line offers three flavors of dessert yogurt smoothies — Fresas con Crema (strawberries and cream), Tres Leches Cake and Arroz con Leche (rice pudding) — and fruit-and-crema desserts in Fresas con Crema (strawberries and crema) and Duraznos con Crema (peaches and crema) flavors. Intended to be enjoyed after a meal or as a late-night snack, the smoothies are made with real whole milk for a rich, creamy taste, and each 6.7-ounce bottle contains 5 grams of protein. The cremas, which come in single-serve 4-ounce cups, are made with a base of Lala’s crema Mexicana, flavored with real fruit and sugar, and unique to other Hispanic desserts on the market. The dessert yogurt smoothies retail for a suggested $4.44 each, while the fruit-and-crema desserts have a suggested retail price of $1.49 each. For retailers, the products feature bilingual labeling and in-store creative to support sales. https://www.lalafoods.com/english/

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STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP

Honey Don’t

A completely natural plant-based replacement to bee honey, Organic Vegan Un-Honey isn’t just for vegans or plant-based eaters, but also for anyone who’s concerned about the ecological crisis that disappearing honey bee populations would cause. The Single Origin Food Co. (SOFCO) worked with carefully selected farms to grow and craft single-ingredient nectars without any artificial additives or preservatives. Packaged in the USA in glass bottles to encourage upcycling and ensure purity, health and safety, the product line comes in blonde (delicate and floral), amber (warm and fruity), and copper (chocolatey and caramelly) varieties. An 8-ounce bottle retails for a suggested price range of $6.49-$6.99. https://thesofco.com/

Fresh Protection

Natural oral care leader Desert Essence has added three Moisturizing Botanical Oral Care products to its growing portfolio: Arctic Berry Mouth Spray, Mouth Rinse and Gel Toothpaste. All three are formulated to boost moisture while providing complete care for teeth and gums. Plant-based oils in the products help neutralize bacteria and cultivate a healthy mouth microbiome. Nurturing aloe soothes gums, while xylitol and glycerin help increase saliva and lock in moisture. Saliva moisturizes and lubricates to help prevent dehydration, aiding in speaking and swallowing, and keeping bacteria under control, while the Arctic Berry flavor helps freshen breath. Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients, the products are Certified Vegan and cruelty- and gluten-free, and contain no sugar, alcohol, fluoride or sodium lauryl sulfate. A 0.9-fluid-ounce bottle of the mouth spray and a 4.5-ounce tube of the toothpaste retail for a suggested $6.99 each, while a 15.8-fluid-ounce bottle of the mouth rinse goes for a suggested $9.99. https://www.desertessence.com/

PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2021

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AHEAD OF WHAT’S NEXT By Gina Acosta

One Way to Close the Gap GROCERS NEED TO GE T MORE CRE ATIVE TO FIND WORKERS. y first language is not English. As the U.S.-born daughter of Cuban-born immigrants, I spoke only Spanish until I entered Kindergarten. So I was happy to see Walmart announce that it would make English-language learning a part of its new $1 billion strategy to hire and retain more workers amid an acute labor shortage. It’s no secret that food retailers are in a crazy fight for workers right now. The labor participation rate is down 3% since before the pandemic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In August, a record 4.3 million people quit their jobs. Retail employees in particular are quitting in droves; almost two in five workers (38%) who quit in August worked in retail or in restaurants and hotels, according to BLS. The reasons for the Great Resignation in Retail are diverse, complicated and even controversial. Last month, Axonify’s annual “Global State of Frontline Work Experience Study” reported that retail workers say that burnout (63%) is a more important motivating factor for resigning than compensation (50%), with grocery workers citing 56% burnout. In response, food retailers such as Natural Grocers; Schnuck Markets; PCC Community Markets; Amazon; our To overcome the Retailer of the Year, Dollar General; Great American and many others have been dangling Labor Shortage, food higher wages, time off and extra ben- retailers must get a lot efits at job candidates and employees. But none of this may be enough to more creative than an extra dollar an hour close the labor gap.

Growing the Talent Pool

or an extra 5% on the employee discount. They must invest in nontraditional ways.

It’s time for food retailers to follow Walmart’s lead and look at nontraditional labor pools. One of those pools is people with limited or no Englishlanguage skills, like so many of my family members. One out of every 10 working-age adults in the United States has limited English-language proficiency, according to the National Immigration Forum. The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that 15.7% of grocery workers are foreign-born, many with limited English proficiency. “We have this ‘talent shortage,’ and I really think we’re just thinking about talent the wrong way,” says Dr. Katie Nielson, founder and chief education officer of Voxy Engen, which has partnered with Walmart and Tyson to teach workers foundational English skills. “If retailers think about hiring non-English speakers for jobs and training them to get the English skills they 78

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need for those jobs, we’ll have a much larger talent pool to choose from.” According to Nielson, there are more than 2 million immigrants in the United States who are underemployed or unemployed. “We’re working with Tyson Foods, and we are creating content specifically for the needs of their workers,” she says. “So, for example, if a food retailer needs people to be able to follow a shopping list for an online order and understand the English to read the list and pick the items, we can teach that English.” To attract workers from nontraditional pools such as those with limited English skills, Nielson says that food retailers need to look at the accuracy of job descriptions. They also need to look at their “internal talent pool to see if there are barriers to promotion and advancement that could be removed, because often an internal education program is more effective than trying to do the recruitment process to look for new workers.” To overcome the Great American Labor Shortage, food retailers must get a lot more creative than an extra dollar an hour or an extra 5% on the employee discount. They must invest in nontraditional ways. Offering workplace English education can open career paths for current workers and attract new workers to join the diverse workforce that has become America’s lifeblood. Gina Acosta Executive Editor gacosta@ensemleiq.com


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