2023 Impact Awards: Honorees strive to make things better for all GAME CHANGER How automation is affecting grocery retail SEAFOOD’S SURGE Retailers weigh in on maintaining sales momentum SALAD DAYS More options available to grow consumption 2 0 2 3 R E TA I L E R O F T H E Y E A R
A NEW ERA FOR ALDI
CEO Jason Hart explains how the grocer plans to keep accelerating growth
Volume 102, Number 11 www.progressivegrocer.com
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Volume 102 Issue 11
13 COVER STORY
A New Era for ALDI
CEO Jason Hart explains how the grocer plans to keep accelerating growth.
22 SPECIAL REPORT
Changing the Game
Seafood Success Strategies
Assuming More Responsibility
Automation is taking grocery operations to new levels — and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Food retailers weigh in on how to keep the category surging.
26 2023 IMPACT AWARDS
Better for All
This year’s Impact Awards honorees are doing their level best to improve the world.
Departments 6 EDITOR’S NOTE
Brick and Mortar’s Big Comeback
Retailers, CPGs and growers offer more options to make salads easier and more flavorful.
Thought leaders share various ways to build more lasting connections with customers.
10 NIELSEN’S SHELF STOPPERS
12 ALL’S WELLNESS
Culturally Relevant Food Marketing Promotes Health
11 MINTEL GLOBAL NEW PRODUCTS
International Flavors and Ingredients
8 IN-STORE EVENTS CALENDAR
Responsible sourcing is on its way to becoming a business requirement that affects all categories.
50 AHEAD OF WHAT’S NEXT
Creating a Health Care Destination
12 PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2023
STATEMENT OF OWERSHIP
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EDITOR’S NOTE By Gina Acosta
Brick and Mortar’s Big Comeback WALMART IS INVESTING $9 BILLION-PLUS IN STORE REMODELS.
nicate the range of products and services offered online through QR codes and digital screens. For example, in Walmart’s pets area, customers may scan the QR code to find additional dog bed options, learn about Walmart’s pet insurance service options or have a 20-pound bag of kibble delivered to their door.
ow that inflation has eased, supply disFor easier customer access, many pharruptions have moderated and (some) macies have been moved to the front of operational costs are starting to dethe store and have also been expandcrease, many food retailers are looking ed to allow for new private screening to things like robots, generative AI and rooms for pharmacist consultations retail media to boost margins. and services. But the nation’s largest grocer has some other ideas. A new Dollar Shop at store entrances, Walmart is betting that the Amerwith seasonally relevant products. ican grocery shopper’s preference for Walmart plans to continue modernizing its personal contact with products in-store stores across the country in 2024. will not only persist, but also persevere. Last month, the retailer celebrated the largest single-day rollout Earlier this year, while I of re-grand openings in company history. The re-grand opening was in Bentonville, Ark., projects represent more than half a billion dollars in capital invest- Walmart is betting for the Walmart Shareholdments in local communities across 30 states. Associates and custom- that the American ers Meeting, I stopped at a ers were welcomed into the improved Supercenters and Neighbor- grocery shopper’s local Walmart for a tour of hood Markets with ceremonies, ribbon cuttings and family-friendly preference for some of these new features. personal contact activities to commemorate the occasions. I was especially impressed “We’re investing more than $9 billion over a two-year period to up- with products with a new Express Lane grade and modernize more than 1,400 of our stores across the U.S.,” in-store will not for Walmart+ members. said John Furner, CEO of Walmart U.S. “With nearly 90% of the U.S. only persist, but Walmart today owns population living within 10 miles of a Walmart, we understand how also persevere. 25.2% of all grocery dolimportant our local stores are to customers and communities, and these lars in the United States, up construction investments allow us to create more local jobs and make it easier about 1.5 percentage points since 2021. for our associates to get customers what they want, when they want it.” That share is poised to keep growing, as Each store’s reopening is part of Walmart’s Signature Experience, which seeks the Walmart customer value prop has nevto inspire customers and provide them with a seamless, high-quality shopping er been stronger. experience. Upgraded features include improved layouts, expanded product selections, and innovative technology that allows Walmart associates to better Gina Acosta support customers and make shopping more convenient and enjoyable. Editor-In-Chief Customers shopping enhanced stores can expect to see: A refreshed interior and exterior: New paint, updated flooring throughout the store, modernized restrooms, and new fixtures and LED lighting for better and brighter line of sight throughout the store. New signage allowing for easier navigation while shopping in-store and using the Walmart App. More shopping carts in each store for customer convenience. Front end transformation: Increased checkout options, including staffed lanes and self-checkout areas. Larger online grocery pickup and delivery areas to accommodate growing demand and to serve more customers shopping online. New grab-and-go sections being added to grocery areas for quick meal and drink options. New digital touchpoints located throughout the store help commu6 progressivegrocer.com
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New Year’s Day. It’s also National Bloody Mary Day, for those who want a little hair of the dog after a night of enthusiastic partying.
World Introvert Day. Let your more reserved associates mark this occasion with some quiet time alone.
National Oatmeal Month National Soup Month National Slow Cooking Month National Sunday Supper Month
Apple and Apricot Month Dry January National Hot Tea Month National Meat Month
Drinking Straw Day. Make sure that your in-store eating areas provide eco-friendly versions of this ubiquitous beverage implement.
National CanDo Day. There’s nothing that a dedicated store team can’t accomplish.
National Whipped Cream Day
Epiphany National Bean Day
I Am a Mentor Day. Encourage veteran employees to offer guidance to colleagues just starting their grocery careers.
National Bubble Bath Day. Suggest that shoppers enjoy a long soak in the tub, aided by one of your foamy HBW products.
Organize Your Martin Luther Home Day. Those King Jr. Day improving their living spaces can certainly make use of cleaning products purchased at your store(s), as well as food storage containers and other items.
International Sweatpants Day
National Daisy Day. Give this humble flower a boost by including it in your floral department arrangements.
It’s Come in From the Cold Day, so usher people in to warm up with some hot coffee, tea or cocoa at your in-store café — and do a little shopping once they’ve had their drink.
Seeing-Eye Guide Dog Anniversary. Pay homage to all of the dedicated service animals that accompany shoppers at your stores with a feature for your store publication.
National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. Pay tribute to local cops on the beat with a special discount.
Prohibition Remembrance Day. Hold an in-store wine or beer tasting where attendees can raise a (legal) glass to commemorate the end of an infamous era that lasted from 1920 to 1933.
National Handwriting Day. Can people decipher your scribble? If not, it may be worth it to practice writing more legibly.
National Escape Day. Make a checklist of items from your store that shoppers should purchase before they make their getaway — preferably to someplace warm.
National Take the Stairs Day. Provide advice in your online newsletter on easy ways that associates and customers can become more active.
Benjamin Franklin Day. Along with his status as a Founding Father, Philly’s favorite (Boston-born) son should be known for his love of such all-American fare as succotash, popcorn and grits.
National Beer Can Appreciation Day. Many would recommend extending that appreciation to the contents within.
Inspire Your Heart With Art Day. Introduce a contest for kids to draw their favorite grocery store department, with the prize a special tour of that very section, complete with samples.
Cigarettes are Hazardous to Your Health Day. Ask employees and shoppers for their tried-and-true tips on how to kick the habit and remain smoke-free.
National Michigan Day. Turn the spotlight on the fine fare that comes from the Wolverine State.
Fluoride Day. Promote your top-selling oral care products containing this important chemical compound that helps prevent tooth decay.
Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution Day. This is a good time to recommit to whatever goals you set out to achieve.
World Quark Day. Tell your customers about this betterfor-you soft cheese that has a taste and texture closer to thick yogurt, and that can be used in a range of recipes.
National Spouses Day. Request that married couples shopping together snap a selfie and post it on your social media, along with a sentence on why they like buying groceries together.
National Sticker Day. Offer free foodthemed designs for young collectors to add to their albums.
National Use Your Gift Card Day. Direct customers to your offerings in this space that they can use as presents.
Thomas Crapper Day. On the anniversary of the death of this indoortoilet pioneer, do an inspection of your store restrooms.
E XQ U I S I T E M O M E N T S , W H E R E V E R YO U A R E
Contact your BlueTriton account representative for more information or contact us directly. BTBSaratogasales@bluetriton.com ©
Total Department Performance Laundry Care
Latest 52 Wks W/E 09/23/23
Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 09/24/22
Latest 52 Wks 2YA W/E 09/25/21
Top Laundry Care Categories by Dollar Sales Laundry Detergent
How much is the average American household spending per trip on various frozen products versus the year-ago period?
8,000,000,000 7,000,000,000 6,000,000,000
on all laundry care items, up 9.3% compared with a year ago
4,000,000,000 3,000,000,000 2,000,000,000 1,000,000,000 0
Latest 52 Wks 2YA W/E 09/25/21
Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 09/24/22
Latest 52 Wks - W/E 09/23/23
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. 23, 2023
on laundry detergent, up 8.8% compared with a year ago
Cross-Merch Candidates Toaster Pastries
Snack and Variety Packs
Coating Mixes and Crumbs
Fully Cooked Meat
on fabric softeners, up 12.0% compared with a year ago
Generational Snapshot Which cohort is spending, on average, the most per trip on complete meals?
on bleach, up 18.3% compared with a year ago Millennials
The Greatest Generation
Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Aug. 26, 2023
Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Aug. 26, 2023
MINTEL CATEGORY INSIGHTS
Global New Products Database
International Flavors and Ingredients Market Overview
International fl avor and ingredient trial can gain footing when grounded in something familiar, whether in format or paired with a more mainstream counterpart.
Foodservice is already a trusted influence for consumer flavor trial, and grocery retailers can be equally influential by capitalizing on an already engaged audience through the convenience of prepared foods.
While social media moves the furthest the fastest, consumers are still using a wide variety of media to make deeper connections with trusted sources when it comes to cuisine discovery. Global cuisine is filled with functional ingredients and flavors that can move across occasion, format and preparation method.
Toppers like sauces and seasonings are a gateway to global cuisine exploration for consumers, and brands can continue to look to these formats first for flavor inspiration.
There is a gap between the nearly half of consumers who look to international cuisine to make a cultural connection and the lower percentage (37%) that are interested in authentic dishes; this indicates that consumers are likely seeking both real and fusion experiences and may look to brands to bridge this gap by offering educational information that helps form connection.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT WWW.MINTEL.COM OR CALL 800-932-0400
What Consumers Want, and Why Creating fusion dishes or pairing lesser-known ingredients with familiar formats can help drive exploration for the more cautious consumer. Retailers and packaged brands can use shorter-term product releases to expedite innovation to match consumer trends. Whether online, on premise or, most strategically, through a combination of media, brands and operators can build consumer loyalty through inspiration that extends past the lifespan of a social media trend.
PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2023
By Barbara Ruhs, MS, RDN
Culturally Relevant Food Marketing Promotes Health AS THE U.S. POPUL ATION GROWS MORE DIVERSE, RE ACHING DIFFERENT E THNIC GROUPS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN E VER. s diet-related chronic diseases disproportionately affect African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and other minority groups in the United States, culturally relevant food marketing offers a powerful opportunity for retailers and food brands to improve customer health. Culturally relevant food marketing is the practice of tailoring marketing to specific cultural groups or communities. It’s informed marketing that acknowledges the diverse backgrounds, dietary preferences, traditions and values of different cultural demographics. A good example of culturally relevant food marketing of menu localization can be found at McDonald’s restaurants across the globe: In India, a chicken maharaja burger is offered as an option to beef burgers (cows are a sacred animal there), while poutine, a traditional dish of fries covered in gravy and cheese curds, is on the menu in Canada. As the U.S. population continues to grow and become more diverse, adopting culturally relevant food marketing is more important than ever. Over the past decade, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that population growth came exclusively from racial and ethnic minority groups. Out of 333 million Americans, 58% identify as white. Of the remaining 42% of Americans that identify as people of color, 19% are Hispanic or Latino, 13.5% are Black or African American, and 6% are Asian. Increasing awareness, knowledge and availability of culturally relevant foods can positively affect public health in the following ways.
Increase Fresh Produce Consumption
Dietitians are known to simplify nutrition recommendations to empower consumers to embrace healthy eating. Unfortunately, sometimes overly simplified nutrition recommendations may inadvertently have negative consequences. For example, many of us RDs have recommended “eating a rainbow,” to encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables. However, if your cultural food traditions rely heavily on white, beige or brown produce items such as potatoes, taro, white corn, onions, daikon, jicama, tamarind and mushrooms, it may not be obvious that these foods fit into a healthy diet. Culturally relevant food marketing goes beyond the rainbow, giving retailers an opportunity to highlight unique produce items by featuring them in ads, online, and in authentically prepared meal items that can attract and delight a diverse customer audience. Celebrating cultural diversity starts by understanding your audience, being authentic and customizing marketing so that it connects with your unique base of customers.
Celebrating cultural diversity starts by understanding your audience, being authentic and customizing marketing so that it connects with your unique base of customers. Sell More Diverse Superfoods
“Superfood” is a marketing term that isn’t clearly defined or regulated; however, with more than 228 million search results online, it’s obvious that consumers are hungrier than ever for superfoods to fill their carts. Foods that qualify as “superfoods” are nutrient-dense and offer additional beneficial nutrients that generally include one of the following: antioxidants, omega-3 fats, prebiotics. probiotics, vitamins, minerals, fiber or plantbased protein. In addition to the typical list of foods that have reached superfood status, there’s a bountiful opportunity to connect with more diverse customers through the inclusion of more culturally relevant superfoods. These are just a few examples of superfoods found across the globe that are both affordable and super-nutritious: Okra, used in African and Caribbean cuisine, has anti-inflammatory benefits. Chickpeas, lentils and fava beans, found in Middle Eastern cuisine, are a fiber-rich plant-based protein source. Ginger and turmeric are spices with anti-inflammatory properties used in Indian cuisine.
Seize the Opportunity
Cultural relevance in food marketing not only helps to reach and improve the health of a wider, more diverse audience, it’s also an opportunity for retailers to increase sales, customer loyalty and community engagement. Barbara Ruhs, MS, RDN, is the owner of MarketRD.com, a marketing agency that provides nutrition and health strategy to food brands. A former retail dietitian (RD), she launched and directed an annual supermarket RD symposium for eight years. Connect @BarbRuhsRD on Instagram and LinkedIn.
RETAILER OF THE YEAR
A NEW ERA FOR ALDI
CEO Jason Hart explains how the grocer plans to keep accelerating growth. BY GINA ACOSTA
n mid-October, ALDI looked to make a big splash with inflation-battered consumers by introducing price cuts on everything the American shopper needs for the holiday table: potatoes, green beans, cranberries, butter and flour, among other items. Truthfully, though, ALDI has been making a big splash with U.S. consumers for a long, long time. Last year, Michael Hurd and Jessica Bojanowski proved their love for ALDI — and one another — by getting married in the produce section of the company’s flagship location in Batavia, Ill., after spending many months “dating” by shopping together at the store. This past summer, more than 70,000 ALDI super-fans took part in the retailer’s annual Fan Favorites survey, declaring their love for 13 favorite ALDI products. U.S. consumers seeking relief from high grocery prices — and seeking premium products not found anywhere else — have become obsessed with shopping the grocer, and in August, the company gave some love right back to its fans when it unveiled plans to acquire Jacksonville, Fla.-based Southeastern Grocers (SEG). The transaction, scheduled to close in the first half of 2024, includes approximately 400 Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket stores throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, which means the fastest-growing grocer in the
At the ALDI location in north Tampa, Florida, shoppers flock for value-priced eggs and deals on other fresh foods. According to CEO Jason Hart, the Southeast is a target region with strong customer demand for ALDI stores. “We see so much future upside with the [Southeastern Grocers] acquisition and look forward to bringing more value to the customers, employees and communities we’ll now have the privilege of serving.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2023
RETAILER OF THE YEAR
ALDI has been purposefully expanding its assortment of fresh produce over the past several years. Scott Patton, VP, national buying at ALDI, says that “probably our largest category in the store with the most growth, sales and loyalty from a customer standpoint is produce,” adding that it has the potential for even more growth.
country just added more fuel to the rocket ship. “Our acquisition of Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket is a unique opportunity to accelerate our growth plans and bring us closer to our customers in the Southeast, a key market for us,” says ALDI CEO Jason Hart, one of several key senior ALDI executives speaking to Progressive Grocer, which chose the company as its 2023 Retailer of the Year. The transaction adds to the retailer’s organic growth across the country, according to Hart. “We’ve opened hundreds of stores over the past several years, with plans to open 120 new stores nationwide by the end of this year, bringing our total store count to over 2,400,” he adds. “This acquisition gives us speed to market with quality retail locations, great people and a solid core business in a fast-growing region of the country. Not only has the Southeast market experienced tremendous population growth, but it’s a region where we’ve already experienced strong customer demand for our stores. We see so much future upside with this acquisition and look forward to bringing more value to the customers, employees and communities we’ll now have the privilege of serving.” Of course, value retailers perform well during times of economic pain and uncertainty. But ALDI is growing faster than any other grocer in the United States by expanding its assortment of fresh food, remodeling stores so that they’re easier to shop, curating assortments with premium — and frequently private-brand — products, infusing sustainability efforts across the business, and maximizing operational efficiencies in ways that allow it to keep winning the hearts and minds of the U.S. shopper. 14 progressivegrocer.com
In 2017, ALDI, with estimated annual sales of $19 billion, said that it would invest $3.4 billion to accelerate store openings, with a goal of growing from 1,700 locations to a 2,500-store footprint by 2022. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 put a kink in that plan, with many of those planned openings taking a backseat to getting product on shelves and expanding digital options for shoppers. In early 2022, the grocer revealed plans to open 150 new stores by the end of the year. While the retailer was able to open and remodel 139 locations last year, it will open more than 120 stores this year — more new openings than any other grocer in the country. ALDI is now the third-largest grocer in the United States by store count, with a current total of 2,400-plus stores. Aided by the SEG deal, ALDI has set its sights on establishing a dominant presence in the Sun Belt, a swath of the United States that has attracted scores of new residents since the pandemic. Hart notes that the company will convert “a significant amount” of Winn-Dixie and Harveys stores to the ALDI format over the course of several years, with a meaningful amount continuing to operate under their respective banners. Earlier this year ALDI, which has a direct-sourcing model, opened a regional headquarters and its 26th distribution center in Loxley, Ala., which will ultimately serve as many as 100 stores across the Gulf Coast. Historically, ALDI distribution centers have been designed to service 70 to 75 stores in a 150-to-200-mile radius. The
ALDI’s Fresh Finds
The explanation for why shoppers find ALDI’s value proposition to be irresistible doesn’t actually start with prices, but with its stores. Over the past few years, the company has remodeled more than 1,100 stores to be more modern and easier to shop, with curated, 90% private-brand assortments featuring expanded fresh food such as produce, seafood, dairy and plant-based items.
“Growth is so much more than the number of stores we operate. It’s about continuing to earn the business and trust of more and more customers in all the communities we serve.” —Jason Hart, CEO
2 0 2 3 RETAILER OF THE YEAR We applaud your commitment to delivering qu quality, value and innovation in every store. It’s a privilege to be your partner and contribute to your expansion journey with our self-service solutions. Here’s to continued collaboration and delivery of unique, award-winning shopping experiences!
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RETAILER OF THE YEAR
“Our new store design formula worked very well for us, and we don’t anticipate changing it dramatically,” observes Hart. “With that said, we’re always thinking about how we can make the shopping experience even better.” Shoppers seem to love ALDI’s typically 12,000-square-foot stores because they’re faster to navigate, and many have modern touches, such as self-checkout and electronic shelf labels, and offer a limited assortment (1,650-1,800 products on shelf, depending on the season, compared with 40,000 at a traditional grocer) that’s just right. Consumers can build a fancy charcuterie board or grill a Black Angus ribeye if they shop at ALDI, all while saving time and 40% off on a basket of groceries, compared with a traditional grocer. Shoppers feeling pained by the cost-of-living crisis are also making fewer trips to stores, shopping more private label products and turning their backs on supermarkets in favor of ALDI’s everyday low prices. According to Patton, fresh produce and fresh salmon are currently proving to be big sellers. “Probably our largest category in the store with the most growth, sales and loyalty from a customer standpoint is produce,” he says, adding that it has potential for even more growth. “We’ve also had tremendous success in fresh fish, which we weren’t even in six years ago. Our fresh Atlantic salmon is one of the highest-selling SKUs in the store. It’s fresh, never
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Shoppers seem to love ALDI’s typically 12,000-square-foot stores because they’re faster to navigate, and many have modern touches such as self-checkout and electronic shelf labels, as well as offering a limited assortment of 1,650-1,800 products.
frozen. It’s shipped in daily for us, and has been a really exciting and pleasing area for us to be in.” In the rest of the store, Patton is seeing growth in premium items. “Maybe that’s counter-intuitive to the economic times,” he notes, adding: “I think people still want premium products. They want to shop them at ALDI. They want to make their charcuterie board; they want to make their dinner they saw on TikTok at home.” Patton says that the company’s research shows that “people are responding to the simplicity of what we do, of great products at great prices, and how easy it is to shop. “You know, we’re proud to not have a membership program,” he continues. “We’re proud to not have coupons and sales and points systems and all of those things. For the ALDI shopper, I think our great products, great prices, simplicity, good quality and on-trend products make us a competitive grocer. That’s really what the brand is all about.” The discounter also offers rotating seasonal items and flavors, and its popular treasure-hunt program, ALDI Finds. These limited-time specialty items range from unique foods to home goods and other unexpected items like workout equipment, furniture or décor. “We’ve actually expanded our seasonal program,” says Patton. “What we’re recognizing is customers really respond to that in our stores. In the summer, more grilling meats; in the winter, more roasts or pies; in the summer, more novelty ice creams and frozen dessert. I think that expansion of the seasonal range has really been one of the keys over the last couple of years to customers coming to us more during the key holidays.”
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RETAILER OF THE YEAR
Lean and Green
Scott Patton, VP, national buying at ALDI, says that the retailer has had “tremendous success in fresh fish, which we weren’t even in six years ago. Our fresh Atlantic salmon is one of the highest-selling SKUs in the store. It’s fresh, never frozen. It’s shipped in daily for us, and has been a really exciting and pleasing area for us to be in.”
As ALDI continues its rapid expansion across the United States, the retailer remains committed to becoming a leaner and greener company. “Efficiency is what we do best,” asserts Hart. “Through improved ordering systems, enhanced forecasting and supply chain capabilities, and international sourcing, we’re able to operate in a nimble way without raising prices or compromising on quality.” Hart attributes ALDI’s operational excellence to its global supplier network. “We’ve partnered with many of these suppliers for more than 30 years, who, like us, work hard to provide quality items at the lowest possible prices and share our vision to do so responsibly,” he notes. “With our global scale, we can create efficiencies to source customer favorites like our exclusive chocolate brand, Moser Roth, directly from Europe, offering customers quality world-class chocolate for less. Through our global network, we can more easily track trends, sales and competitive moves so shoppers get the very best products at the low prices they love.” According to Hart, this network also allows the company to react faster to emerging trends and
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get to market more quickly than competitors. Of course, sustainability is a driving force at ALDI, and many of the decisions the retailer makes are good for the planet and for the bottom line. The company has installed rooftop solar panels on nearly 200 stores and 14 distribution centers and counting, to help offset energy costs. Last year, ALDI released its first-ever “Corporate Responsibility Progress Report,” which outlined progress toward its community, environmental and other ESG goals. ALDI is the first major U.S. retailer to ban plastic bags, and the company is also working to reduce its use of plastic and increase the recyclability of its packaging. The other part of ALDI’s corporate sustainability push is focused on community, starting first and foremost with taking care of its employees. “We keep our engaged, loyal employee base by creating a workplace rooted in kindness, recognition and work-life balance, and investing in the development of our people,” says Atty McGrath, president at ALDI. According to McGrath, ALDI gives its employees real decision-making authority and the ability to make a difference in the fast-growing organiza-
In September, ALDI launched a new, premium wine collection under its Specially Selected label. Most of the bottles are priced under $10 and pair perfectly with a variety of new Specially Selected cheeses found at ALDI.
tion. This year, ALDI rolled out new offerings for employees, including parental and caregiver leave, earned wage access, employee assistance programs for mental and physical well-being, and scheduling optimization solutions. According to Jason Hart, no matter how much the expectations of employees — and customers — change, ALDI is “committed to changing with them.” He says: “To me, growth is so much more than the number of stores we operate. It’s about continuing to earn the business and trust of more and more customers in all the communities we serve.”
How Machine Learning Can Maximize Inventory Management SNEHA HONNAPPA, Senior Manager of Machine Learning and Analytics, Invafresh Machine Learning (ML) is a subset of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that uses experience and data-driven learning to improve the operating performance of grocery retailers. Here, Sneha Honnappa, Senior Manager of Machine Learning and Analytics at Invafresh, explains how ML can make inventory management more data-driven, efficient, and responsive to customer demands. Progressive Grocer: Inventory Management, which is critical for grocery retailers, presents several challenges. How can AI/ML technologies tackle those challenges? Sneha Honnappa: There are 5 main challenges they can address: 1. Demand Forecasting. ML techniques analyze factors such as historical sales data, weather, holidays, and changing customer buying behaviors. This aids retailers in stocking the right quantities and mitigating overstocking. 2. Inventory Optimization. AI/ML continuously monitors sales trends, analyzes real-time data, and adjusts inventory levels to minimize costs, reduce waste, and ensure products are available when needed. 3. Shelf Management. Ensuring that products are displayed correctly, and that the right assortment is available, is crucial for sales. AI-powered systems can monitor shelf conditions by predicting out-of-stock items. 4. Promotion and Pricing. AI can analyze customer behavior and sales data to recommend personalized pricing and promotions. This helps increase sales and manage inventory effectively during promotions. 5. Waste Reduction. This is especially important in perishable goods. AI can monitor expiration dates, forecast demand, and suggest markdowns. PG: How can retailers apply AI/ML models to data? SH: Data plays a fundamental role in the development and success of AI/ML-driven inventory management solutions in many ways. Data Collection. Master and transactional data, supplier information, inventory levels, pricing records, customer transactions, and external factors like weather are gathered from point-ofsale systems, sensors, online sales records, and other sources. Data Preprocessing. Raw data needs preprocessing for AI/ML analysis. This means cleaning errors, filling gaps, and ensuring
a uniform format. Feature engineering is also part of preprocessing, enhancing predictive capability by selecting relevant features. Data Analysis. Data is subjected to exploratory data analysis (EDA). For inventory management, EDA might reveal seasonal demand patterns, identify the impact of promotions, or highlight products with consistently high or low sales. Model Training. AI/ML models are trained on preprocessed data to learn patterns, relationships, and trends. For inventory management, models may include demand forecasting algorithms, dynamic pricing models, and inventory optimization techniques. Model and Feature Drift Monitoring. This is important for two reasons: One, the distribution of the data the model was trained on often changes over time, so if the model is not retrained regularly the forecast will be off; and two, macroeconomic conditions of unseen events like a global pandemic might completely change the feature distribution. PG: What should grocery retailers consider when selecting a technology partner or solution? SH: There are a few questions they should ask themselves: Does the partner have grocery retail experience? Partnering with a vendor well-versed in grocery retail is essential for success. Data reveals that 70% to 80% of model development involves feature engineering. It’s crucial to collaborate with a solution provider who not only possesses industry expertise but also understands its intricate nuances. Does the partner understand the problem you are looking to solve? Whether the challenge is increasing revenue, reducing waste, working more efficiently, or all of the above, the partner should be able to bring experience in solving that problem to help your organization. Can the partner help in analyzing, cleansing and augmenting your data? It is essential to ensure that all data is accurate, complete, and representative of the business’s operations. The partner should also have access to additional data related seasonality, weather, product master, and other data that can assist in the modeling. Does the solution fit your company workflows? Great insights are only powerful if used to drive change in a business.The solution should be user-friendly and intuitive for staff to navigate. Recommendations and outputs must be presented in a straightforward and easily understandable manner for the end user.
TO LEARN HOW INVAFRESH CAN HELP YOUR BUSINESS NAVIGATE THE WORLD OF AI/ML, VISIT invafresh.com/grocery-ai
Technology Automating processes within grocery operations not only helps associates do their jobs better, but can also help shoppers have a more seamless experience.
Fresh Retail Automation and Predictive Ordering
Changing the Game AUTOMATION IS TAKING GROCERY OPER ATIONS TO NE W LE VELS — AND IS SHOWING NO SIGNS OF SLOWING DOWN. By Emily Crowe he ever-present hum in today’s food retail ecosystem tends to revolve around solving problems and pain points with the latest technology. In fact, technology and automation solutions ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to programs like ChatGPT are taking hold at nearly every level of the food production and sales cycle, making it essential to success in grocery both today and in the future. While insights firm Incisiv and digital commerce and fulfillment provider Wynshop have found that grocers recognize that AI is coming, they’re scaling at different levels to deploy it in their operations. According to their research, 83% of grocers discussed the specific AI tool of ChatGPT at senior-level meetings in May, compared with the 67% of them who talked about it in February. A similar 82% said that AI is necessary to remain competitive for the future.
Earlier this year, Albertsons Cos. and San Francisco-based Afresh Technologies completed the enterprise rollout of Afresh’s predictive ordering and inventory management platform at nearly all of the grocer’s banner stores across the United States. The AI-driven system enables the stores to reduce food waste and achieve superior freshness through smarter forecasting, inventory management and store operations, giving department managers easy-to-use ordering tools that leverage real-time insights. Suzanne Long, chief sustainability and transformation officer at Boise, Ida-
Key Takeaways Among the technology solutions taking hold at grocery are ones involving fresh retail automation and predictive ordering. Generative AI and ChatGPT have made huge inroads across the business spectrum over the past year, and they’re poised to flow even deeper into the basic functions of grocery retail. Another important piece of the grocery operations puzzle that automation is now helping to solve is that of associate hiring and onboarding.
“The specific tools may change, but our commitment to leveraging AI to better serve customers and shoppers remains constant.”
ho-based Albertsons, explained to Progressive Grocer Francisco-based Instacart, for in a recent episode of the Top Women In Grocery example, counts itself among the Podcast that ordering had traditionally been based on first companies to build a plug-in the experience of those working in individual stores. for the AI chatbot developed by Using technology like Afresh, however, has enabled OpenAI and asserts that AI and the company to write orders based on location, sales, machine-learning innovation lies at inventory, seasonality, historical data, and more, savthe core of everything it does. ing both associate time and potential food waste. Instacart is currently using gener“We can choose to do really incredible things with ative AI internally to make it easier for food waste once it’s been created, but the first thing its employees to find information, run we want to do is minimize it to begin with,” Long analyses and parse insights, while explained. “Afresh has been a big part of that. And also using the technology to build —Anahita Tafvizi, Instacart it’s also a reminder that the same things that help new product experiences that better us reduce shrink and improve gross margin in our serve its customers, advertisers, business are also the very things that actually help us retailer partners and shoppers. improve our sustainability.” “We’ve long used machine learning to power our Predictive ordering is also something that Walmart-owned Sam’s service, and our vision is to bring this AI-first posture Club has been using to right-size its fresh operations. to everything we do, harnessing these technologies “In our clubs, we do a lot of fresh production. Traditionally, a very to further improve our products and operations,” difficult question to answer has been, at the club item level, how writes Anahita Tafvizi, VP and head of data science, much should I make of this today?” explains Tim Simmons, SVP and strategy and business operations, in a company blog chief product officer at Bentonville, Ark.-based Sam’s Club. “In the post. “The specific tools may change, but our compast, we relied on spreadsheets and binders and things that were mitment to leveraging AI to better serve customers highly inaccurate in their predictive capabilities.” and shoppers remains constant.” Continues Simmons: “Now we have AI and machine learning, Sam’s Club is also looking to harness the power of and we’ve built an app that guides an associate through a progenerative AI and computer vision in an effort to do duction plan all based on an algorithm. We’ve seen how that can business more effectively. transform our business in terms of accuracy, simplifying the work of “With generative AI and computer vision, we are our associates and even creating a better member experience.” testing that everywhere,” explains Simmons. “We’re learning a lot, we’re seeing the productivity it can bring, and I do think it’s going to continue to be The Promise of Generative AI Generative AI and ChatGPT have made huge inroads across disruptive in terms of how it changes jobs, how it the business spectrum over the past year, and they’re poised to changes the way we work, the efficiencies it’ll drive, flow even deeper into the basic functions of grocery retail. San but also making the experience better. It’s definitely changing the way we do business.” Fresh retail automation can help food retailers right-size their ordering to make sure that they don't have excess food waste.
Associate Onboarding and Training
Another important piece of the grocery operations puzzle that automation is now helping to solve is that of associate hiring and onboarding. Tokyo-based managed services provider Ricoh has introduced an automated solution that helps grocers intelligently move through the administrative tasks of finding and selecting job candidates, as well as training them once they’re hired. In fact, Ricoh found that document management and automation solutions like its own could reduce onboarding for employees by 400%, from two weeks to two days. Carl Rysdon, VP for the retail industry at Ricoh, believes that the ability to automate administrative and other processes is table stakes for today’s food retailers. “I think we all realize there’s less employees in stores today and customer service is at risk as a result,” notes Rysdon. “The retailers that are going to do really well are the ones that get all of the administrative tasks off the table so they can help their front-line employees do their best.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2023
Securing the Future of Sustainable Food Alphabet’s Mineral is developing tools for a more sustainable food production system. Here, Mineral’s chief executive officer Elliott Grant, tells Progressive Grocer what the company is developing and why it is so vital to grocery retailers.
PROGRESSIVE GROCER Q&A
Can you tell us about Mineral’s history and mission? Elliott Grant: Mineral, an Alphabet company, began in 2016 by asking: Can we measure how every individual plant responds to its environment and management practices? Can we adapt to the rapidly changing climate to improve crop resilience? To answer those questions, we set a series of imaginative experiments in motion, which led to our rover. Developed to inspect crops up close, the rover takes high-quality images of each plant and uses advanced cameras and AI-powered perception to analyze and understand how each plant is growing and interacting with its environment. Today, we use it for data collection, and have since extended its functionality to other form factors, including mobile phones and smart cameras. Our mission is to discover the intelligence of plantkind to better feed and protect humankind. In other words, let’s harness all the tools in our toolkit, while also being bold enough to apply breakthrough new tech like AI to achieve a better understanding of our natural world. This is the only way we’ll achieve the resilient food production system we need for the planet of our future.
The Mineral rover is used for data collection for various crops to better understand how they thrive in certain growing conditions.
Why are the stakes so high now? If we don’t produce food more efficiently and sustainably, ensuring food security will push the earth’s resources beyond its limits. Growing crops will become more difficult, biodiversity and soil health will degrade, and water supplies will become more and more limited. Our food systems urgently need to become more productive while impacting the planet less. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but we’re optimists. And we’re working relentlessly to help every farmer, researcher, crop breeder, and advisor overcome the challenges they face and build a more productive and resilient food system. Mineral’s perception technology is a key piece of the puzzle to help make the changes that the industry and our ecosystem demand.
What types of transformation can we expect to see with AI and perception technologies applied to agribusinesses? Grocery retailers and growers, should expect system-wide changes enabled by AI. For example, AI is well suited to making better forecasts of crop yield, thanks to its ability to integrate huge datasets. Higher conﬁdence in the future and better visibility to on-farm conditions with perception means less waste and volatility in the supply chain, and will unlock a burst of innovation in risk management products like insurance and ﬁnancing. We’re also seeing the early indication of AI empowering agronomists with more localized, context-aware advice. This could help smaller farms remain competitive and encourage more specialization in crops or practices, and the adoption of complex practices like regenerative agriculture. Third, many tedious tasks across agriculture can be augmented by AI, freeing up human experts to do higher-value work. For example, most crop breeders would prefer to run crop trials in locations that closely match the target environment for the variety. But that often isn’t possible as trained breeders are scarce and collecting data is labor-, time- and skill-intensive. With AI’s integration into phenotyping, running trials in 10x or 10,000x more locations becomes conceivable.
A DV E R TO R I A L
And ﬁnally, AI will add to the value provided by equipment and input companies, retailers, service providers, cooperatives and farmers. Farmers will be able to efficiently farm more acres; more sophisticated
What does perception technology for agriculture mean? AI’s ability to capture and understand precise information from plants through computer vision will become increasingly valuable for growers, and foundational to the future of sustainable agriculture. It’s also critical that this functionality is specially designed to operate within the complexities of the food production system. Together with our partners, Mineral is developing AI tailored speciﬁcally to agriculture to help: Improve proﬁtability by increasing the precision, efficiency and effectiveness of agriculture practices and robotics across geographies and crop types, like ﬁnding ways to more precisely target yield-limiting weeds; Accelerate crop trials by applying perception technology to ﬁeld phenotyping and AI to the implementation of knowledge that comes from modeling partner data sets, driving a new way of thinking; and Forecast and understand the drivers of yield more precisely, which will be foundational to planning and preparation for feeding the planet’s population under more extreme growing conditions, such as drought and high temperatures.
What beneﬁts will more AI-powered tech solutions bring to the grocery industry? Let’s take quality control as an example. Fresh produce inspections are primarily used to simply accept or reject an item that doesn’t meet a standard. And it’s been this way for 50 years or more. If AI were integrated into the process of checking produce for characteristics like bruising, disease and mold, human inspectors could collect larger volumes of data more consistently, helping “quality control” evolve into “quality management.” With new insights unlocked up and down the supply chain, each data point is an opportunity to close the feedback loop with growers to help them optimize their crop management and minimize food waste and operational inefficiencies, resulting in improved quality and shelf life in future production cycles.
How can suppliers to the grocery industry work with Mineral? Mineral develops foundational high-performance machinelearning models to help suppliers do everything from predicting crop yields and targeting pests and weeds, to minimizing chemical use. We offer software and hardware tools that make sense of diverse sources of information that were previously too complex or overwhelming to be useful.
CAS E ST U DY
Mineral Teams Up with Driscoll’s for Greater Efficiencies Mineral’s agriculture-speciﬁc AI was put to work in a partnership with Driscoll’s. “We were really able to see our technology working in action through our partnership with Driscoll’s,” said Mineral’s chief executive officer Elliott Grant. Initially, Mineral worked with Driscoll’s to use robotics and AI to measure traits — such as the length of strawberry stems or the size of individual raspberries — on thousands of plants in trial plots. Driscoll’s breeders were able to collect data at scale continuously through the season, freeing them up to focus on other tasks. “We also worked with the Driscoll’s team to improve yield forecasts. Integrating hundreds of different data types, including time-series data, is well-suited to the power of AI,” Grant said. By working hand-in-hand with Mineral’s engineers and data scientists, Driscoll’s signiﬁcantly improved its forecast accuracy and increased the frequency of forecasting, and can extend its forecasting horizon. “One of the more exciting discoveries to me is that the AI models can create a deeper understanding of the drivers of berry yield, helping develop new insights for Driscolls’ experts.”
Read more about our technology at mineral.ai/solutions, or scan the QR code to explore our blog, solutions, and research.
2023 Impact Awards
A BETTER FOR ALL This year’s Impact Awards honorees are doing their level best to improve the world. By PG Staff
s environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts take on ever-greater importance in the business world, the grocery industry has diligently kept pace with this trend. Retailers, suppliers and solution providers alike are striving not only to implement programs that will further their goals in these areas, but also to ensure that conscientious customers know about it, so they can make their purchases accordingly. The companies that we’re honoring with this year’s Impact Awards have done outstanding work to address such varied issues as food waste, hunger, employee health and wellness, greenhouse-gas emissions, responsible sourcing, and regenerative agriculture, to name just a few. Such far-reaching actions are becoming the norm among grocery industry businesses as the public increasingly demands to know the stories behind the food it buys, as well as how companies treat their employees and neighbors.
More to Read
Regrettably, due to space constraints, most of our multiple Impact Award recipients will have only one of their award categories mentioned in print, with the rest featured in full online. Readers can find out more by using our included QR code. Following is the full list of the multiple award recipients and all of the categories in which they were honored: Big Island Coffee Roasters: Ethical Sourcing/Supply Chain Transparency, Sustainability/Resource Conservation Food Lion: Community Service/Local Impact, Food Security/Nutritional Leadership, Sustainability/Resource Conservation Frontier Co-op: Ethical Sourcing/Supply Chain Transparency, Workforce Development/Employee Support The Giant Co.: Educational Support/Learning Advancement, Food Security/Nutritional Leadership Giant Food: Ethical Sourcing/Supply Chain Transparency, Philanthropic Innovation/Corporate Giving, Sustainability/ Resource Conservation Hy-Vee Inc.: Food Security/Nutritional Leadership, Philanthropic Innovation/Corporate Giving The Kroger Co.: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging; Sustainability/Resource Conservation
Scan the QR code to view the full version of the IMPACT AWARDS.
Meijer: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging; Sustainability/Resource Conservation; Educational Support/Learning Advancement; Food Security/ Nutritional Leadership PCC Community Markets: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging; Sustainability/Resource Conservation Southeastern Grocers: Food Security/Nutritional Leadership, Sustainability/Resource Conservation United Natural Foods Inc.: Entrepreneurial Support/ Free Enterprise Enablement, Sustainability/Resource Conservation, Workforce Development/Employee Support
Whenever you shop Meijer, you help support the people, places, and values that make your community great.
Meijer congratulates all of the 2023 Impact Award winners
2023 Impact Awards
COMMUNITY SERVICE/ LOCAL IMPACT
COMMUNITY SERVICE/ LOCAL IMPACT
DECICCO & SONS
COMMUNITY SERVICE/ LOCAL IMPACT
For the past five years, ALDI and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), an organization dedicated to finding cures for childhood cancers, have conducted an in-store and online campaign in June. This year, for the first time ever, ALDI donated 50 cents for each ALSF-branded bag of lemons purchased throughout the month of June, up to $1 million. Meanwhile, associates raised funds for the ALDI Heroes Fund to pay the expenses of ALSF families traveling for treatment, with the retailer matching all donations, up to $500 per employee. ALDI is on track to donate $10 million to the ALSF by 2027.
In addition to supporting organizations such as local PTAs, breast cancer initiatives and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, DeCicco & Sons seeks out innovative opportunities to aid communities in need. When Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, the grocer offered its stores’ freezers to help local residents without power avoid losing their perishable foods. Since then, this action has been repeated by the grocer’s locations when winter storms caused long-lasting power outages. DeCicco & Sons also puts its sourcing capabilities, kitchens and bakeries at the disposal of local causes, and has donated tons of food to local food pantries and other organizations.
In 2022, Food Lion associates volunteered more than 17,000 hours, the equivalent of more than 5 million meals. During several Sort-A-Rama events, for instance, associates packed thousands of food boxes. During Hunger Action Month in September and beyond, Food Lion employees supported their local communities by remodeling and stocking the shelves of 26 food pantries as part of The Great Pantry Makeover, and gleaned 100,000 pounds of food by harvesting potatoes, corn or sweet potatoes that were still good for consumption. Associates also supported the AidNow Jump Start event in Virginia Beach, Va., by providing school supplies to 500 homeless students.
COMMUNITY SERVICE/ LOCAL IMPACT
COMMUNITY SERVICE/ LOCAL IMPACT
Working only with regenerative farmers in a direct trade model, healthy snack food company GoodSAM is building a global coalition of partners, suppliers and vendors with shared core values. It has continually increased its volume and diversity of commercially viable crops that give farmers a voice – and an income stream. In addition to paying premiums, GoodSAM uses 1% of all topline sales to reinvest in farmers, cooperatives and communities through projects like infrastructure improvements, updates to sanitary systems and enhancements to local schools. The organization also aims to inspire other food industry members to create their own circular and direct models.
As part of its commitment to its hometown of Baltimore, Pompeian has taken on various local impact efforts, including cleaning the harbor, community beautification programs, educational programs for children, and collaborations with local nonprofits. The company is also passionate about inviting community members to its facility to learn more about the health-and-wellness benefits of its products. Launched in 2015, the Olive Branch Project has been expanded to enable local schools and children’s organizations to visit Pompeian’s headquarters for immersive exploration and education. The manufacturer additionally offers tours to schools and youth groups to learn more about olive oil and olive oil production.
COMMUNITY SERVICE/ LOCAL IMPACT
SUPERIOR FOODS INTERNATIONAL Superior Foods International’s Watsonville, Calif., corporate office is surrounded by agriculture, yet the town is classified as a food desert. To help, the company created an internal voluntary committee to organize event sponsorships and food and fund drives, as well as to approve employee-submitted donation proposals to nonprofits. One initiative last year was a $10,000 donation and many volunteer hours to help the Starlight School Garden & Kitchen reach its funding goal. In response to flooding in Pajaro Valley, the company helped out affected employees by digging mud out of yards and holding a food and clothing drive for schoolkids.
COMMUNITY SERVICE/ LOCAL IMPACT
Throughout December 2022, Freson Bros.’ Peace River, Alberta, team launched various community activities to surpass its previous donations to the local food bank. The store incorporated register campaigns and partnered with Peace Region Search and Rescue to encourage community members to donate nonperishable foods. Associates even visited local seniors’ homes, bringing gifts and Christmas cards. These efforts, which were promoted through social media channels and in-store pointof-sale materials, resulted in the store exceeding its previous year’s donation record by 44.5%. The success of the initiative inspired other Freson Bros. stores to increase their donations to local food banks as well.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, INCLUSION AND BELONGING
THE KROGER CO.
To advance its long-term DEI commitment, Kroger has established an advisory council that reports to senior leadership and partners with senior leaders and associate resource groups. In the shorter term, Kroger’s Framework for Action includes key DEI focus areas and actionable goals. Newer commitments include racial awareness and advocacy training and new micro diversity and inclusion training modules for associates. Additionally, Kroger is expanding its regional leadership development and mentorship programs to cultivate diverse talent and boost investment in diverse suppliers and partners. Beyond action, Kroger makes use of associate listening sessions and pulse surveys to gauge progress and impact.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, INCLUSION AND BELONGING
In the past year, Meijer has grown its team member resource group (TMRG) program membership by 300% as it works to bring associates together in support of one another and the business. TMRGs have been formed for disability awareness and advocacy, young professionals, women in the industry, veterans, LGBTQIA+ associates, and those from varied backgrounds and experiences. Further, supplier diversity is an important focus for Meijer. The company partners with minority-owned businesses when it enters new communities, and since 2020, it has hosted several virtual supplier diversity summits. Over the past two years, Meijer has grown its diverse-owned partnerships by 30%.
EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT/ LEARNING ADVANCEMENT
Hormel Foods is one of the first companies in the United States to offer free community college education to the dependent children of its team members. The company made that commitment during the pandemic, calling it the Inspired Pathways program. Today, the program supports students in 67 community colleges across 18 states and has provided two-year scholarships to nearly 300 students. An additional 1,200 students and family members have benefited from free one-on-one college advising, financial-aid support and career development opportunities. A quarter of this year’s graduates plan to further their education, and many others are entering the workforce loan-free.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, INCLUSION AND BELONGING
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, INCLUSION AND BELONGING
PCC COMMUNITY MARKETS
RETAIL BUSINESS SERVICES
PCC Community Markets recently debuted its Inclusive Trade Program, a new product standard to increase awareness and support for businesses owned by members of historically and currently excluded communities. PCC is the largest food co-op in the nation to adopt and expand this standard, under which participating brands are identified and celebrated through in-store and online shopping. The launch of the program comes on the heels of PCC’s first-ever statement of equity and inclusion — a core building block in support of its Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) work. The statement acknowledges PCC’s recognition of, and commitment to, justice-centered change.
In 2022, Retail Business Services (RBS), the services arm for Ahold Delhaize USA, continued its efforts to recruit diverse candidate pools while also revising policies to reflect more inclusive language and updating several health benefits to become more inclusive for samesex couples, including parental leave for all genders. The company additionally offered 100-plus DEI learning opportunities. Further, RBS developed a curriculum to support business resource group chairs as leaders in building a culture of belonging in their respective groups and throughout the business. Those chairs could attend affinity-based leadership events to learn and share best practices for cultivating inclusive workplaces.
EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT/ LEARNING ADVANCEMENT
THE GIANT CO.
ENTREPRENEURIAL SUPPORT/ FREE ENTERPRISE ENABLEMENT
UNITED NATURAL FOODS INC.
ETHICAL SOURCING/SUPPLY CHAIN TRANSPARENCY
Through its relaunched UpNext program, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) identifies potential partners from underrepresented groups and helps them develop a successful partnership with the company. The program offers in-person boot camp events and leverages UNFI’s trade shows to enable suppliers to showcase their products, culminating in a Pitch Slam competition held in front of an audience comprising UNFI’s sales team, retailers and leadership, with recognition of the winning brand on the show floor. UNFI also provides end caps celebrating diversity and heritage brands, including LGBTQ suppliers in June and Hispanic-owned suppliers in September.
Frontier Co-op has refined its impact sourcing program, Well Earth, by improving transparency and traceability and doubling down on project investments with its sourcing partners around the world. Along with joining Sedex (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) last year to track suppliers’ responsible business practices, Frontier Co-op set a goal to invest $5 million in supply chain development by FY26. One way the co-op is delivering on this goal is by partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP) to implement projects with key suppliers in India, Guatemala and Sri Lanka to drive economic and social benefits.
In October 2022, The Giant Co. partnered with the Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture to unveil the PA Farms to Families Mobile Immersion Lab. The mobile immersion lab unites families with four Pennsylvania farms and the farm-to-table process, facilitating hands-on learning experiences that connect people to the sources of their food. Visitors can “drive” a tractor through a virtual-reality cornfield, test their knowledge of fruits and vegetables, build a balanced meal with Pennsylvania-grown foods, and explore food and agriculture career opportunities. The lab is on the road and booking events throughout 2023 and 2024 to schools and community events across the state.
ETHICAL SOURCING/SUPPLY CHAIN TRANSPARENCY
Giant Food ensures ethical supply chains by confirming social compliance, maintaining a robust animal welfare policy and upholding its human rights policy. An easy-to-use rating system analyzes each ingredient against environmental and social criteria, including farming practices, treatment of animals, labor conditions and chemical use. Giant also conserves and regenerates natural resources by promoting regenerative agriculture and sourcing a range of certified sustainable products. Moreover, the grocer participates in the Ocean Disclosure Project, which shares fishery information on wild-caught seafood, and partners with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to help maintain the credibility and transparency of its sustainable seafood policy.
PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2023 29
2023 Impact Awards
ETHICAL SOURCING/SUPPLY CHAIN TRANSPARENCY
ETHICAL SOURCING/SUPPLY CHAIN TRANSPARENCY
TOPCO ASSOCIATES LLC
Through its network of 600-plus farmers and ranchers, humanely raised meat company Niman Ranch is laser focused on supporting young farmers, advocating for humane animal care and bringing opportunity to rural America, among many other initiatives. The company offers cost-share support for regenerative farming practices, including cover crops, no-till and pollinator habitats, and its Niman Ranch Foundation awards scholarships and grants to young farmers and ranchers to help pay for college and invest in their farms. The company also arms retail customers with the information, transparency and tools they need to share the Niman story and help sell its products.
Topco’s Full Circle Market is dedicated to working with partners that follow responsible practices, as with its wild-caught yellowfin tuna. It’s also the first grocery brand to adopt Wholechain, a traceability system that links suppliers, processors, food brands and grocers, across every product in its seafood line. Wholechain allows the supplier to track tuna, salmon and other products by accumulating data as products change hands along the supply chain. A digital record enables planning and analysis, leading to less food waste and better quality. Additionally, product information and stories can be communicated through a scannable QR code at the point of sale.
ETHICAL SOURCING/SUPPLY CHAIN TRANSPARENCY AND SUSTAINABILITY/SUPPLY CHAIN TRANSPARENCY
BIG ISLAND COFFEE ROASTERS
Big Island Coffee Roasters, which offers direct-to-consumer single-serve Kona coffees in fully compostable, nitro-sealed packets, wants to protect the integrity of authentic Hawaiian coffee and safeguard the state’s wild places. Among the ways that it does so is by offering living wages and creating an equitable, sustainable supply chain for the family farmers that supply its product; basing prices on quality, relationships and costs; and using 100% renewable electrical energy, which has prevented more than 29 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
RBS takes pride in cultivating a culture of care and belonging. We are proud to receive the
Progressive Grocer Impact Award in the category of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. www.retailbusinessservices.com @retailbusinessservices_
FOOD SECURITY/ NUTRITIONAL LEADERSHIP
DOLLAR GENERAL CORP. Dollar General (DG) wants to help eliminate food deserts, since around 75% of Americans live near a DG store, including in areas lacking other retail options. The retailer carries produce in 3,900-plus locations, giving it more individual points of produce distribution than any other U.S. mass retailer or grocer. It plans to add produce to about 10,000 stores — many in food deserts — over the next few years. Since 2021, DG has donated $2 million to Feeding America, as well as in-kind food donations to community food banks, while DG’s Better For You program offers access to affordable healthier foods.
FOOD SECURITY/ NUTRITIONAL LEADERSHIP
HelloFresh’s Green Chef meal kit portfolio recently launched the Community Fresh Markets program, which distributes fresh ingredients at a specific meeting place to food-insecure people. The free markets began in central Colorado and southern New Jersey, where Green Chef employees work and live. The location of the market changes every month to provide equitable distribution. Green Chef associates are engaged in the program, too, regularly volunteering at market distributions. As the company builds on these programs, it’s also involving its customers, who can skip their weekly subscription meal kit and contribute the value of their box, or contribute incrementally via checkout.
FOOD SECURITY/ NUTRITIONAL LEADERSHIP
At the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, Hy-Vee committed to delivering 30 million meals to vulnerable communities by 2025. The Midwestern grocer is well on track to meet that goal: Its Scan Out Hunger campaign raised enough funds to donate 9.3 million meals to those in need, while its Food Bank Fridays campaign is another success story, providing 27 million-plus meals to Feeding America-affiliated food banks in 2022. In 2023, Hy-Vee launched the 100 Million Meal Challenge with Feeding America, with the goal of giving 100 million meals to partner food banks by the end of the year.
FOOD SECURITY/ NUTRITIONAL LEADERSHIP
SUSTAINABILITY/ RESOURCE CONSERVATION
Last year, Southeastern Grocers (SEG) donated more than $700,000 and hosted 20 mobile food pantry events. As part of its summer hunger initiative, it donated $140,000 to seven Feeding America network food banks to help food-insecure children. Additionally, SEG’s Break from Hunger program allowed customers and associates age 17 and younger to buy a Student Summer Lunch Pack at any of its banners’ deli department for $2. For the holidays, the retailer partnered with food banks and military organizations to provide 7,000-plus Thanksgiving turkeys and meal essentials, among other efforts.
To date, Afresh has enabled 29 retail banners to prevent more than 43.5 million pounds of food waste — a 444% increase from last year — reduce 24 million-plus kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent and save more than 886 million gallons of water. In 2022, Afresh rolled out its technology across 2,200-plus Albertsons stores in just seven months and also completed a chain-wide deployment at the produce departments at Cub. Now Afresh is expanding its solutions to support other core fresh departments, including meat, seafood, deli and foodservice, with the goal of reducing 49 million pounds of food waste annually.
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BRIARPATCH FOOD CO-OP
Hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants are the largest single source of greenhouse-gas emissions at BriarPatch, accounting for more than 50% of its total emissions annually. Therefore, the co-op has installed a natural refrigeration system at its new Auburn, Calif., store to reduce emissions and help reverse climate change, placing BriarPatch among the only 2% of U.S. grocery stores to switch to natural refrigeration. BriarPatch also became a partner in the Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership, enabling it to better track its usage, set goals to help it compare it leak rates with other grocers and supply it with tools for greater success.
To reduce its on-farm greenhouse-gas footprint, Clover Sonoma was the first commercial dairy to trial Blue Ocean Barns’ Brominata, a red seaweed feed additive designed to lower enteric (cow burp) methane emissions. The dairy measured a 50%-plus reduction in such emissions among cows fed Brominata over 60 days. The company also introduced the first post-consumer recycled (PCR) gallon milk jug (made with 30% PCR material) in the United States for its organic milk gallons. Doing so reduces Clover Sonoma’s carbon footprint, lessening the impact on landfills. The company will extend PCR content use for all of its gallon milk jugs by 2025.
Finding that a large portion of its overall greenhouse-gas emissions stemmed from farm residue management, Harmless Harvest encouraged its coconut farmer partners to turn farm residue into compost and introduce cover crops to protect soil and improve carbon sequestration. The company works toward a goal of zero waste through creative use of excess materials; for example, rather than discarding the coconut after harvesting the water, the company turns the remaining fruit into nondairy coconut products like yogurt and smoothies. Meanwhile, for non-consumable material like coconut husks and shells, it works with partners to create compost, biochar, fiber and other useful materials.
HiBAR, a maker of salon-quality solid shampoos and conditioners, wants to remove single-use plastic from everyday lives. It started by reformulating personal care products to be plastic-free, putting them in fully compostable packaging made from recycled paper stock printed with vegetable-based ink. The company also launched a line of water- and fragrance-free facial cleansers and natural deodorants in an innovative push-up applicator. As a result of such efforts, the company, its retail partners and consumers have prevented nearly 5 million plastic bottles from landing in waterways and landfills, and it has saved 1 million-plus gallons of water from the manufacturing process.
MegaFood works with farmers who share its commitment to soil health and nutrient-dense food. The company, which crafts nutrient-rich, planet-first vitamins and supplements made with real food, has held workshops in Indonesia to help farmers manage their land, improve soil fertility and support sustainable livelihoods, and also participates in working groups prioritzing regenerative agriculture knowledge and policy. MegaFood also sponsored a delegation of farmers who flew to Washington, D.C., for the Climate Action: Rally for Resilience, and it engaged customers on the importance of regeneration by teaming with a key farm partner to host a retailer education day on the farm.
Since 2018, app-based marketplace Flashfood has diverted more than 80 million pounds of waste from landfills. It has also saved its customers $180 million on grocery bills at a time of high inflation. Flashfood is currently available in more than 2,000 grocery stores across North America and expanding quickly: In 2022 alone, the company added 325 new stores and six new states to its network and collaborated closely with retail partners to roll out such innovations as SNAP EBT payment capabilities and fresh-to-frozen, an initiative that extends the life of high-value perishable products by freezing them ahead of their expiration date.
Fleet Advantage’s recently released electric vehicle life cycle cost analysis tool, EVAN (Electric Vehicle Analytic Navigator) not only helps further identify and optimize the total cost of ownership (TCO) for grocers’ fleets, to determine the efficacy of using electric vehicles, but also lets retailers pay closer attention to their trucks’ life cycles so they can figure out where sustainability measures can be implemented. By comparing diesel versus electric class-8 vehicle TCO, EVAN plays a crucial role in helping grocers build custom ESG roadmaps. Overall, Fleet Advantage has reduced customers’ carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1 million metric tons since its inception.
RJW LOGISTICS GROUP Through an asset-based model, a centralized inventory strategy and a full-scale retail logistics program, RJW provides long-term sustainability benefits for customers, stakeholders and the industry at large. Its LEED-certified facilities feature motion sensor lighting, skylights and battery-operated equipment, while its recycling program for corrugate, wood, paper and plastic averages 1,800 tons yearly across its network. Centralizing customers’ inventory means that shipments don’t travel to regional warehouses, thereby reducing carbon emissions, diesel fuel consumption and general supply chain redundancies. Additionally, RJW continually monitors diesel fuel consumption on its vehicles and ensures that trucks purchased use clean diesel emissions technology.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT/ EMPLOYEE SUPPORT
The Upshop Total Store Operations Platform unifies operations across the supermarket. Leveraging AI-driven forecast and ordering functionality, Upshop’s Fresh Operations solution suite has reduced waste by 35% across all fresh departments. Customers using production-planning functionality have seen a 26% reduction in waste, with an impressive 36% decrease in perishable bakery and deli department waste. Real-time inventory intelligence and computer-generated ordering have led to an average waste reduction of 25% for customers. Meanwhile, Expiration Date Management users have diverted 56% to 71% of expiring products via sales channels.
Staffed by bilingual physicians and licensed vocational nurses, Amy’s Kitchen’s free primary care clinics focus on preventive care, illness treatment, chronic conditions, health-and-wellness coaching, and coordination with specialty health services. Amy’s holistic approach to health and wellness also includes mental health services, telehealth appointments, and exercise and fitness services. Such measures are having a positive effect on worker loyalty: The average tenure of employees is seven years, with the length of time that more than half of the company’s Santa Rosa, Calif., employees have been with Amy’s an impressive 20 years.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT/ EMPLOYEE SUPPORT
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT/ EMPLOYEE SUPPORT
SCHNUCK MARKETS INC.
Schnucks’ new Flexforce platform allows the grocer to tap into a pool of teammates looking for flexible shift times and locations as well as the opportunity to earn extra income. Using the platform, workers can select shifts and store locations that best fit their personal schedules. Now offered at 90% of Schnucks stores, Flexforce has been expanded from the center store to the produce department and checking and courtesy shifts. The platform attracts new workers to the food retailer’s stores by letting them optimize their work schedules and learn and grow at their own pace while helping Schnucks address labor shortages.
To help young people with disabilities gain valuable real-life work experience, Stemilt partnered with Project SEARCH and Eastmont High School in Wenatchee, Wash., to bring seven interns to Stemilt. They participated in classroom learning, on-the-job training and community activities, while Stemilt supervisors acted as mentors. Interns showed significant gains in their ability to complete difficult and lower-level tasks and in their communication skills, among other key program results. After completing their internships and graduating, two Project SEARCH interns were hired by Stemilt.
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Daisy Berg, of New Seasons Market, is a proponent of maximizing "every part of the fish, not just the favorite cuts," with the aims of contributing to a more sustainable seafood industry and reducing waste.
Seafood Success Strategies FOOD RE TAILERS WEIGH IN ON HOW TO KEEP THE CATEGORY SURGING. By Bridget Goldschmidt e may be (mostly) over the pandemic at this point, but seafood still has a role to play in generating sales in various parts of the store. Acknowledging that seafood sales have slowed since the height of the pandemic as consumers have returned to eating in restaurants, Daisy Berg, seafood program and category manager at Portland, Ore.-based New Seasons Market, nevertheless points out that “[f]rozen seafood has … maintained its popularity, as consumers have come to understand that it can often be just as good, if not better, than fresh seafood. Moreover, cost deflation has played a role in shaping our current seafood sales. Notably, the prices of wild salmon, crab and local fish have decreased, making these options more accessible to consumers. As people continue to prioritize their spending, we’ve employed promotions and value-focused initiatives to cater to customers seeking affordable options.” One such recent program “is a reimagined lineup of easier-to-prepare or ready-tocook meals,” adds Berg. “We understand that simplicity and convenience are crucial factors for our customers, so we have focused on providing new options, such
as prepackaged filets, which reduce meal preparation hassle. Additionally, in response to the growing awareness of responsible and sustainable sourcing, we have placed a strong emphasis on offering seafood options that not only benefit our customers’ health, but also prioritize the health of the environment.” “Customers are continuing to seek value to stretch dollars during their shop,” notes Nate Jewell, seafood category manager at Scarborough, Maine-based Hannaford Supermarkets. “Although we’ve seen seafood costs stabilize from inflationary impacts, we are still competing with other more budget-friendly proteins such as chicken and pork. Where we are seeing growth is in driving customer convenience and ease of access by offering ready-to-cook, prepackaged seafood options. And because today’s customers are shopping with value in mind, we’re also introducing and supporting new promotions to drive engagement and sales.” To that end, Hannaford “is continuing to focus on developing variety around our grab-and-go seafood meal kits, which are a convenient option for customers who don’t want to wait to be served out of the case,” continues Jewell. “We provide a variety of options, including shrimp, salmon, and breaded haddock and cod.” “I think our guests have appreciated the fact that we’ve been able to offer several items at lower retails than last year, with some of the seafood commodity markets returning to conditions more like prior to 2020,” says Jeff Earl, director of meat and
Key Takeaways Retailers are countering slowing seafood sales with a focus on grab-and-go and value-added products. Sustainable options, knowledgeable associates, compelling in-store and digital marketing, and consumer education help lure shoppers to seafood items and encourage them to try unfamiliar species. Convenience is an emerging trend with sea legs in the category, along with increased adoption of HPP packaging and greater demand for frozen products.
If you came to Acme Smoked Fish, we’d put a hairnet on you and show you around. We’d see David, one of the fourth-generation family owners, answering questions about the ﬁsh going in the smoker. We’d watch our expert cutters hand ﬁlleting gigantic salmon. And we’d haul wood chips with our master smoker, Shadir, who obsesses about getting just the right temperature and smoke levels. All a part of a process built over 100 years of being in the smoked ﬁsh business. Contact us at AcmeSmokedFish.com and see why everyone wants what we’re smoking.
Seafood seafood at The Fresh Market, based in Greensboro, N.C. “We’ve recently updated several offerings in both our appetizer category and our value-added category. Our new proprietary mini-crab cakes have seen early success in their recent launch.”
Asked what grocers can do to engage shoppers in regard to seafood, Berg replies: “It is crucial to recognize that customers are increasingly knowledgeable about sustainability and are prioritizing climate-friendly options. To cater to this demand, retailers should seek out third-party verified sustainable seafood options that undergo auditing, ensuring responsible sourcing.” For its part, New Seasons recently introduced the Sustainable Choice program, featuring a new logo that identifies all of the seafood products in its stores that meet the company’s sustainability standard, backed by its longtime partner in this endeavor, Santa Cruz, Calif.-based nonprofit FishWise. New Seasons has also added a new local sourcing policy that will allow is to support smaller producers along the U.S. Pacific Coast, as well as updating its seafood signag. Additionally, having the right associates on hand is pivotal. “Investing in knowledgeable staff is also crucial to guide and inspire customers,” affirms Berg. “Retailers should ensure that their staff members are well informed about different fish species, their characteristics and proper preparation techniques. We hold monthly Seafood Product Knowledge classes, where we invite a single producer to talk us through their work/fishery. This expertise builds trust between staff and customers, enabling shoppers to make confident decisions when purchasing seafood.” The Fresh Market, meanwhile, has embraced digital outreach as a way to connect with seafood consumers. “We receive a lot of engagement through our livestream videos, where we can share recipes, preparation tips and more about our products with our guests,” notes Earl.
Overcoming the Shock of the New
One particular challenge is introducing salmon- and shrimp-loving shoppers to other, unfamiliar species. To do this, New Seasons Market “relies on a collaborative, multidimensional approach,” explains Berg. “Our seafood team works closely with our marketing experts to create targeted campaigns and materials. Through engaging and informative marketing materials, such as advertising, social media and online content, we can provide customers with key information about the unique characteristics and cooking methods associated with these lesser-known species.” She continues: “Effective point-of-sale placement is another crucial aspect. By prominently displaying information about unfamiliar species at the seafood section in our stores, we capture the attention of customers and pique their curiosity. Eye-catching signage and shelf talkers can help highlight the availability and benefits of these new options.”
Hannaford Supermarkets offers ready-to-cook seafood items for greater customer convenience.
Earl takes a similar view of the matter. “Information and sampling – helping our guests to understand the value in a potentially new species for them is just as important as teaching preparation methods and letting them taste the product,” he observes. “Sometimes there’s a fear [of] the unknown, and making our guests comfortable and confident in their purchase is key.” “As an industry, we need to do a better job educating customers on how simple cooking seafood really is,” asserts Jewell. “We find that customers are often intimidated by trying a new seafood item, because they don’t want to mess it up or serve it incorrectly. We’re focused on making sure our customers have the right information to inform their purchase, such as recipe ideas, preparation tips and details on the item’s flavor profile, texture and health attributes.”
What does the near future hold in the seafood space? “We expect the demand for frozen seafood to rise, driven by its convenience, extended shelf life and lower carbon footprint compared to some fresh seafood,” predicts Berg, who also anticipates that high-pressure processing (HPP) packaging will gain traction in the next few years, as it “can significantly prolong the freshness of seafood … for up to a month." Jewell foresees “convenience to continue to drive the conversation around seafood, with increased customer demand for ready-to-cook options.” Another ongoing issue is price sensivitity born of inflation. As Jewell notes, “Customers are ... shifting their shopping habits to incorporate more sale items instead of routinely purchasing the same products each week.”
The Fresh Market's new proprietary mini crab cakes are a hit with customers.
A self-service "smart" salad bar powered by Picadeli is in place at more than 50 stores run by Schnuck Markets.
Mixed Greens RE TAILERS, CPGS AND GROWERS OFFER MORE OPTIONS TO MAKE SAL ADS E ASIER AND MORE FL AVORFUL. By Lynn Petrak ust like a tossed salad, there are a lot of things going into salad segments at grocery retail. For one thing, shoppers can find salad ingredients and salad solutions at many different touchpoints throughout the store, as grocers and suppliers strive to meet interest in fresh, good-tasting and convenient foods. Consumers’ quest to eat better and their increasingly splintered shopping journeys are playing a role in the greater variety and positioning of salad offerings. It’s also helping to lift these items: Research from Chicago-based Circana shows that the combination of prepackaged salads and salad bars is generating $4.3 billion in annual sales. While shoppers are looking for more options, they remain conscious of price; new insights from Circana, for example, affirm that price sensitivity in the fresh produce department has increased. The latest “Power of Produce” report from FMI — The Food Industry Association shows that while fresh produce consumption is flat as many shoppers rein in spending, new meal occasions and consumers’ penchant for complementing restaurant meals with grocery-bought side dishes can keep salads and salad fixings in people’s carts.
Raising the Bar — Again
The pandemic-era hiatus in salad bars — and with it, the predictions that salad bars would be a thing of the past — is decidedly over. “Although salad bars closed during COVID and retailers were fairly successful with prepacked salads, now that we are in a post-COVID environment, we
are seeing many of our members reopen salad bars. Consumers are flocking to them,” notes Rick Stein, VP of fresh and frozen at Arlington, Va.-based FMI. Stein underscores the DIY appeal of these destinations. “[Consumers] love the ability to customize and personalize their salad,” he asserts. “Their fears from the early days of the pandemic have vanished, and the salad bars are busier than ever.” Some grocers took the opportunity to reinvent their salad bars at a time of industry disruption and simultaneous technological innovation. St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets Inc. teamed up with Swedish tech solution provider Picadeli to add tech-enabled salad bars; the self-service salad bars are linked to a cloud-based system that controls temperature and, ultimately, freshness. Picadeli’s salad bars can be found in more than 50 Schnucks and Eatwell Market locations. “Our initial plan was an expanded pilot of 22 locations,” says Geoff Wexler, president of deli and prepared foods at Schnucks. “However, based on the positive feedback from both teammates and our customers, we accelerated our expansion into more than 50 locations. More growth is certainly possible in the future.” While consumers enjoy the ease and convenience of preparing their own salads, retailers can optimize labor through features like artificial intelligence (AI)-based ordering and use data on shoppers’ preferences and consumption habits. “As a grocer, we are faced with the unique challenge of both a tight labor market and the demand from our customers for a memorable in-store experience that will keep them shopping with us,” explains Wexler. “The Picadeli
Key Takeaways While shoppers seek more salad options, they remain conscious of price. Some grocers are reinventing their salad bars at a time of industry disruption and technological innovation while continuing to merchandise graband-go salads in the deli and prepared food areas. In the produce section, salad kits are another solution for convenience-oriented shoppers. PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2023
“When salad bars made a comeback, sales didn’t shift back from packaged to self-service, but rather added to it.”
AI platform and logistic solution provides a reduced labor commitment that delivers a healthy, affordable and fresh salad bar to our customers while enabling more time —Anne-Marie Roerink, for our teammates to 210 Analytics focus on customer engagement.” Albertsons Cos. is likewise testing Picadeli’s smart salad bar at several stores on the East Coast. The Boise, Idaho-based company installed the equipment at six Safeway, Acme and Kings locations in Washington, D.C.; Maryland; and New Jersey over the past year. As they restart and revamp salad bars, food retailers continue to merchandise grab-and-go salads in the deli and prepared food areas. Many, if not most, grocers offer prepackaged salads in their respective meal solution displays. These salads include traditional varieties like garden, Caesar and Cobb salads, as well as more inventive recipes that may or may not include proteins. Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at San Antonio-based 210 Analytics LLC, noted that such offerings meet core shopper needs. “Retailers truly set themselves up for success in prepackaged,” says Roerink. “Many carried a variety of sizes, from a big family dinner salad to a lunchtime one-person portion. Varieties include the big winners, but also take advantage of introducing people to new flavors through limited-time offers.” She believes that consumers are more amenable to these products, given the changing landscape over the past few years. “While salad bars closed, retailers very quickly moved to prepackaged salads and that helped offset the revenue that was generated by the salad bar,” notes Roerink. “In fact, many retailers found that it more than offset those losses. When salad bars made a comeback, sales didn’t shift back from packaged to self-service, but rather added to it.” Prepackaged salads can spur overall higher baskets, she adds: “Salads can also be the ideal platform to introduce people to some of the other assortment in the deli, in particular prepared meats, with salads including rotisserie chicken, pulled pork or barbecue pork, which can lead to all sorts of other purchases down the road.” Salad kit sales continue to climb as makers like Fresh Express keep adding new varieties and ingredient combinations.
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Meanwhile, in the produce section, salad kits represent another solution for shoppers who don’t have the inclination, time or on-hand ingredients to make their own salad. According to FMI’s 2023 “Power of Produce,” sales of salad kits grew 2.5% last year to top $3.8 billion. Salad blends, while posting a 2.5% decrease in sales, still rang up $1.1 billion in sales, the report found. Noah Robbins, founder and CEO of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Ark Foods, agrees that salad kits are in demand, noting that they’ve “seen double-digit growth over the past year.” Ark Foods currently offers four varieties of chopped salad kits: Caesar-ish Kale, Crunchy Sesame Ramen, Southern BBQ Ranch and Sweet Kale Lemon Poppyseed. The plant-based salads are all non-GMO verified, pre-washed, and ready to eat. Other salad makers are developing new products to diversify this subcategory. Fresh Express Inc., for example, recently added three new offerings to its chopped salad line: French Bistro, Smokehouse and Twisted Caesar Enchilada. The Salinas, Calif.-based brand also launched a new French blue cheese salad kit. For its part, the Mann Packing subsidiary of Coral Gables, Fla.-based Fresh Del Monte launched salad kits co-branded with Asian restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s. While many salad kit brands mix up dressings and add-ins like
Ark Foods notes that its salad kits, including flavorful new offerings, have doubled in sales over the past few years.
proteins, cheeses, eggs and nuts, others are offering a fresh take on greens. The Conscious Foods brand from Durham, N.C.-based food tech company Pairwise, using Crispr gene-editing technology, has introduced salad kits featuring leafy greens from the same family of Brussels sprouts and kale, but with a buttery flavor that eats more like a traditional salad green. Another hotbed of R&D activity comes from hydroponic growers. As they expand their businesses and distribution nationwide, some are also moving beyond greens into salad kits. New York-based vertical-farming company Bowery recently augmented its ready-to-eat salad line with a new sesame ginger salad kit, made with crispy leaf lettuce, roasted edamame, crispy wontons and sesame ginger dressing.
PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2023
Corrugated boxes make the world go ‘round in a truly circular motion. The industry’s long-standing commitment to sustainability adds up to an incredible 50% per unit reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions for an average corrugated box from 2006 – 2020, and we’re still improving. Boxes transport everything with the right combination of new, fresh fibers and recycled fibers to maximize reuse and enable circularity. New fibers come from renewable, sustainably managed trees that take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere – tackling a major threat to our climate. And, more than 90% of corrugated boxes are successfully recycled. If you’re thinking circular, you’re thinking corrugated. Learn more about the renewability, recyclability and responsibility of boxes at: https://www.fibrebox.org/life-cycle-assessments.
Corrugated Packaging Industry Makes Strides Toward Sustainability Goals SPEAKING WITH...RACHEL KENYON, Senior Vice President, Fibre Box Association (FBA) What impact are corrugated boxes having on the environment? A new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) 1 reveals the environmental performance of a U.S. industry-average corrugated box — from raw material extraction through end of life. Here, Rachel Kenyon, Senior Vice President of Fibre Box Association, shares results from the recently released LCA with Progressive Grocer readers. Progressive Grocer: The corrugated packaging industry has substantially reduced its environmental impact since its first Life Cycle Assessment in 2006. Can you share data that quantifies the industry’s progress ? Rachel Kenyon: According to the newest Life Cycle Assessment, the U.S. corrugated packaging industry reduced the per unit greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50% between 2006 and 2020. Other indicators also have been substantially reduced: ozone depletion by 13%, smog by 44%, acid rain by 41%, eutrophication by 30%, respiratory effects by 54%, energy usage by 13%, and water usage by 18%. Those numbers show how significant — and consequential — the industry’s efforts have been. PG: What are some key steps the industry took to make such tremendous strides in that 14-year period? RK: Several continuous improvements have reduced the industry’s GHG emissions. They include a shift to cleanerburning fuels, increased participation in a greener U.S. electricity grid, the greening of the U.S. electricity grid for purchased power, and improved energy efficiencies at mills and converting facilities. Steady growth in recycling of old corrugated containers (OCC) also has helped reduce GHG and methane emissions. The recovery rate has increased from 72% in 2006, to a three-year average of 90+% in 2019-2021. Keeping these used boxes out of landfills reduces both carbon dioxide and methane emissions. PG: Trees also play a key role in removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Can you explain how trees contribute to the corrugated industry’s environmental performance and help fulfill its commitment to sustainability and a circular supply chain?
RK: Trees grown in sustainably managed forests in the United States are used to supply wood fiber to the containerboard mills that make paper for corrugated boxes. As those trees grow, they do what trees do best: capture carbon out of the atmosphere, cleaning the air and helping mitigate climate change.2 Trees removed an equivalent 83.5% of the industry’s CO2 and other GHG emissions in 2020, according to the most recent assessment which underlines the importance of managed forests and renewable resources in a circular packaging solution. The industry plants more trees than it harvests to maintain healthy forests and a perpetual source of fiber. So, how does all that relate to corrugated packaging in general, and to the grocery industry specifically? The U.S. corrugated packaging industry relies on a balanced system that combines both new and recycled fibers to produce a consistent and sustainable supply of corrugated containers used to carry products through supply chains to grocers and other destinations. When you and your customers recycle, you become part of that circular supply chain. Corrugated packaging comes full circle every day. From efficient use of managed forest lands to sustainable manufacturing practices and high recycling rates that return fiber into the system, corrugated packaging is truly circular by nature. 1
2020 Life Cycle Assessment of U.S. Average Corrugated Product, July 2023; prepared for the Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA) by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. and Anthesis 2
American Forest & Paper Association
➤ TO LEARN MORE, VISIT boxesareextraordinary.com.
Environmental, Social and Governance Matters
Whole Foods Market's Sourced for Good program collaborates with farms, suppliers and international third-party certifiers.
Assuming More Responsibility RESPONSIBLE SOURCING IS ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING A BUSINESS REQUIREMENT THAT AFFECTS ALL CATEGORIES. By Jenny McTaggart rom a new scorecard ranking grocers on their animal welfare policies published by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to allegations of underage migrants working in U.S. food-processing plants, the stakes have never been higher for the supermarket industry to source more responsibly. To be sure, a number of retailers ranging from the largest (think Walmart and Kroger) to the smallest have taken notable steps in recent years to improve their sourcing practices — Kroger even exceeded several of its 2023 sourcing-related sustainability milestones, according to its just released 2023 environmental, social and governance (ESG) report. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement and a range of additional categories to be considered. Until now, sustainably minded grocers have been mostly paying attention to the conditions around animal products they sell, such as poultry, eggs and beef, as well as fresh produce. This will certainly continue, but expect to see more action in all categories (and ingredients) going forward, thanks to the boom in retailers’ private label programs, increasing consumer interest and regulatory pressure. Industry watchers tell Progressive Grocer that there’s really no area of the business that won’t be affected. In fact, one expert asserts that the industry is
nearing a “tipping point” when the implementation of sustainability protocols such as responsible sourcing will pivot from being “good to have” to being a requirement of doing business in North America and Europe. “Retailer demand for assurance around social compliance and environmental responsibility has never been higher,” maintains Jorge Ramirez, VP of responsible sourcing strategies at SCS Global Services, a global provider of third-party environmental and sustainability verification, certification, auditing, testing and standards development, based in Emeryville, Calif. “We see acceleration in the adoption of more stringent requirements for upstream grocery suppliers.” Ramirez explains that the drivers for this shift are multifaceted and reflect both an “increasingly rigorous regulatory and public reporting environment,” as well as a shift in consumer sentiment. “Younger generations in particular are demanding that retailers take responsibility for the impact of products and issues like biodiversity, climate change, and worker protection and empowerment, among a whole host of other issues where costs have historically been externalized,” he points out. Andy Harig, VP of tax, sustainability and policy development at Arlington, Va.-based FMI — The Food Industry Association, echoes this sentiment, noting that he’s already seen changes in the way retailers and suppliers are conducting business as a result. Whereas sustainability topics used to be more siloed, they are increasingly making it into everyday business conversations, he says. This is a collaborative process that
Key Takeaways Despite enhanced sourcing practices of late, there’s still plenty of room for improvement and a range of additional categories to be considered beyond animal products and produce. This is a collaborative process that will require a higher level of partnerships among retailers and their suppliers if the industry is to succeed. Grocery companies are increasingly viewing responsible sourcing as a competitive advantage.
will require a higher level of partnerships among retailers and their suppliers if the industry is to succeed. A lot of collaborative work is already taking place. For instance, Solon, Ohio-based Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing (ECRM) and its subsidiary product discovery tool, San Francisco-based RangeMe, have been working with food retailers since 2021 to conduct virtual “Sustainability Summits,” for which they connect larger retailers with suppliers that are focused on responsible sourcing and other sustainable practices. Participating grocery companies have included Amazon, KeHE, Kroger, Meijer, Sprouts and Wakefern.
Advice From the Pros
Perhaps the gold star holder in responsible sourcing is Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market, which has long held this as a key pillar of its sustainability strategy, even rolling out its own Sourced for Good program two years ago. “At Whole Foods, we want customers to feel good about what they’re putting in their baskets, so we prioritize supply chain transparency and responsible sourcing,” says Karen Christensen, SVP of perishables and quality standards. “That includes supporting the rights, well-being and dignity of workers in our supply chain.” Through the Sourced for Good program, which supports workers, communities and environmental stewardship where products are sourced, Whole Foods collaborates with farms, suppliers and international third-party certifiers, including Fair Trade USA, Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade America, Fair Food Program, Equitable Food Initiative and Regenerative Organic Certified. The program has raised millions of dollars annually for hundreds of communities across 12 countries, including the United States. Looking ahead, Christensen says that she expects more retailers to require traceability to a farm or fishery so that they can provide their customers with better transparency. Another retailer that has prioritized responsible sourcing is rapidly growing German-owned discount chain ALDI, whose U.S. headquarters is in Batavia, Ill. With a strong emphasis on private label (its stores are stocked with more than 90% of its own brands), its work can inspire other grocers to be more discerning in their sourcing. “Because
Sprouts Farmers Market aims to balance sustainable sourcing with competitive pricing for its private-brand items.
Walmart demonstrates its concern for the environment by offering compostable cutlery under its Great Value brand.
we’re focused on offering a better selection — not a bigger one — we can curate the best products in terms of both quality and sourcing,” explains Joan Kavanaugh, VP of national buying. ALDI also aims to make sustainability “affordable” and “accessible to all” through the lower prices of its own brands, she adds. Kavanaugh notes that ALDI has led the industry as the second-largest private label purchaser of Fair Trade USA coffee. Meanwhile, the chain sources 100% of its fresh and frozen beef from areas free from deforestation, and uses palm oil that’s certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Its goals moving ahead are just as ambitious: The retailer plans to continue focusing on human rights while increasing its supply chain transparency and promoting socially and environmentally responsible sourcing practices. Like ALDI, Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market aims to balance sustainable sourcing with competitive pricing. “Being different has always been at the core of who we are at Sprouts,” says Tanya Carlson, division VP of fresh buying. “Our customers care deeply about where the products they are purchasing come from. They also care that what they’re buying is better for their bodies, sustainable for the environment and responsibly sourced.” Carlson has also found that partnering with the right suppliers is paramount, and that retailers must be committed for the long term.
Setting the Right Strategy
In Harig’s view, grocery companies are increasingly viewing responsible sourcing as a competitive advantage. As proof, he points to FMI’s latest “Speaks” report, which finds that 55% of retailers view sustainable or social/environmental issues as a potential differentiator in a competitive environment. Harig advises companies to think how their sourcing strategies align with their mission statement, customer base and size. “For instance, if you’re a one-store operator who doesn’t self-distribute but uses a wholesaler, you may not have much of a hook to do a complicated supply chain map, but you can certainly ask for that information,” he notes. “Then it will be different if you source locally.” Meanwhile, retailers that don’t sell much seafood probably don’t need to consider an elaborate seafood program, but they can still look at other ways to be more sustainable. Also, grocers that serve more budget-conscious shoppers will need to think about what their customers are willing to pay for. PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2023
Loyalty Programs Open the Door to OMNICHANNEL SUCCESS SPEAKING WITH…Michael Snyder, Senior Solutions Consultant CX & Loyalty Progressive Grocer: Why is having a comprehensive ecommerce program so important for grocery retailers today? Can they successfully compete without a uniﬁed, omnichannel experience for customers? Michael Snyder: I’d say that giants like Whole Foods and Walmart have really accelerated the technology threshold of the grocery market. We also see subscription-based solutions from Costco or BJ’s impacting the market as well. If grocery retailers want to compete, they’ll need to oﬀer the same level of advancement. They’ll need a uniﬁed omnichannel experience for customers. Customers are now shopping in more ways than one. They’re ordering groceries online for in-store pickup or delivery — and having an easy-to-use ecommerce environment is critical to success in that ecosystem. In-store shoppers want a mobile app or portal that oﬀers an easy path to their coupons and savings. No one wants to cut coupons anymore, it’s all about simplicity. Customers can manage their rewards, spend points for discounts, scan items in their cart, utilize in-store maps to ﬁnd their items, and avoid pharmacy pickup and deli lines. Retailers need to oﬀer these features and make sure they work seamlessly in order to elevate the shopping experience beyond what their competitors oﬀer and keep customers coming back to their stores. PG: Discuss the role a personalized loyalty program plays in the overall omnichannel journey — before, during, and after purchase. MS: Grocery customers make way more purchases in comparison to customers in other industries. This means that grocers have access to a massive amount of data that can be used to understand purchasing behaviors and map out the entire customer lifecycle. Through this information, retailers can send more personalized messaging, ads, and even discounts to their customers, which can help inform their purchasing behavior before the buying process even begins. Retailers can even use non-member data to see which product groups are best to discount in their loyalty program, which can encourage customers to enroll in and use the program.
While they’re in the store, customers can use their app/ portal to apply coupons and discounts, keep track of their shopping list, and more. After the purchase is completed, customers receive bonus incentives based on their purchase behavior along with personalized messaging and gamiﬁcation elements like tiers, contests, and referrals to keep them invested in the program. PG: Creating an ecommerce program that includes a robust loyalty program is one thing; measuring its performance is another. Are there ways retailers can see their return on investment? If so, how can they calculate and interpret the loyalty program ROI? MS: Increasing the amount of data collection is the best way to measure and improve a program’s performance. As I said earlier, grocery customers are interacting so frequently that retailers have a handful of ways to gauge their investment. Comparing coupon usage by non-members to that of loyalty members is one way. Looking at the recency, frequency, and monetary spend of members versus non-members is another. And of course, retailers can always analyze customer churn scores throughout the lifecycle of their program interactions to calculate and interpret ROI. Interpreting this data should come from campaign and promotions reporting. This can be used to adjust and improve future iterations — whether that’s adjusting cross and upselling products or introducing new elements like gamiﬁcation/challenges into the mix. PG: How can Comarch help grocery retailers build a loyalty program that will enhance their overall omnichannel strategy? MS: Comarch’s platform gives customers more ways to interact and connect with grocery retailers. It empowers an omnichannel loyalty strategy through custom mobile apps and web portals. Customers can experience campaigns through email, SMS, and push, with the ability to reward customers for speciﬁc products purchased. Plus, pre-ordering functions, gamiﬁcation challenges, and tier systems keep customers emotionally invested beyond the purchase. We also oﬀer built-in coupon creators, rewards catalogs, product promotions/discounts, and more. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT https://bit.ly/46I3kFL
Key Takeaways Supermarkets are looking for new ways to attract and retain shoppers who have been shifting their spending to a multitude of channels. Methods of engagement include store design, more intuitive e-commerce experiences, AIpowered loyalty programs and retail media networks. Central to engagement is creating a more personalized shopping experience.
ChaseDesign recently worked on a redo of Walmart's front end/self-checkout, facilitated by Coca-Cola, to make the self-checkout process more convenient for shoppers while bringing back impusle sales for Walmart.
Getting Engaged THOUGHT LE ADERS SHARE VARIOUS WAYS TO BUILD MORE L ASTING CONNECTIONS WITH CUSTOMERS. By Jenny McTaggart ustomer engagement is a hot topic in retail circles these days, and for good reason — supermarkets are looking for new ways to attract and retain shoppers who have been shifting their spending to a multitude of channels. To help provide some inspiration, Progressive Grocer spoke with several thought leaders who are in the trenches of customer engagement both in-store and online. Their work ranges from industrial design to artifi cial intelligence, as well as the emerging medium of retail media networks. Read on to discover ways that you can provide stronger customer engagement.
Rethink your design, in-store and online
Syracuse, N.Y.-based ChaseDesign has been behind some innovative redesigns in the aisles of various supermarket and supercenter chains, and now its work is broadening into the world of e-commerce. The company uses its background in industrial design to rethink the way aisles are arranged, and to explore how categories could be better laid out to more effectively serve shoppers and boost basket size. Among its more recent work is a coffee aisle reinvention at Giant Eagle (led by a collaboration with Smuck-
ers) and a redo of Walmart’s front end/ self-checkout, facilitated by Coca-Cola. The front end project made the self-checkout process more convenient for shoppers while bringing back impulse sales for Walmart, explains ChaseDesign’s CEO, Joe Lampertius. “Even though retailers like Walmart were saving on labor costs, they were experiencing a huge drop in impulse sales because the shopper had to stay focused on the checkout process,” notes Lampertius. “We created this whole grab-and-go section that’s kind of like a mini convenience store at the front of the store.” Now that the design fi rm has mastered in-store redesigns, it’s also working with several center store brands and key grocers to improve the experience of their e-commerce operations, he says. “A lot of our reinvention work is actually easier to do in the store than online, and that’s mainly because of limitations with wireframes and advertising dollars tied to those wireframes,” adds Lampertius. Still, the company is making inroads in helping retailers rethink how to make their
“It will become increasingly important in retail and food marketing to emphasize adding value to the consumer’s life.” —Shekhar Raman, Birdzi
“Our network is primarily about personalization for each customer.”
online shopping experience more intuitive — and thus lucrative. For instance, shoppers who search for a particular brand of pasta sauce on a retailer’s website now see various sizes and flavors laid out on the same page as the product they searched for. “We’re trying to replicate the in-store experience and give shoppers an incentive to buy more,” says Lampertius.
—Jason Farver, Hy-Vee RedMedia
Get personal with AI
Iselin, N.J.-based Birdzi is a customer intelligence firm that helps smaller, regional grocers provide more personalized experiences through their loyalty programs, with the help of artificial-intelligence (AI) technology. In doing so, it claims to be driving loyalty, more frequent visits and larger basket sizes at such retailers as Weis Markets, Brookshire Grocery Co., Berkot’s, and Strack & Van Til. Shekar Raman, Birdzi’s CEO, explains that the company’s platform uses the “mountain of data” that grocers have access to and turns it into insights that improve customer engagement. Using data from loyalty programs, combined with information about a customer’s frequency of visits, typical price points and more, Birdzi’s AI system can drill down to provide personalized e-mails with promotions that are uniquely tailored to individual shoppers. “This is what makes the technology so personal, and it makes the customer feel like the retailer is fully engaged with them,” says Raman. In addition, Birdzi’s AI engine incorporates a retailer’s entire store catalog — not just the brands that have existing promotional deals — and can track a shopper’s preferred brands and openness to private label brands, so retailers can tailor their offers around brand preference. Behind the bells and whistles, Raman maintains that the latest technology has a role to play both online and in the store for grocers that want to improve customer engagement. “Physical stores are an incredibly valuable tool for the omnichannel experience,” he says. “For example, customers can receive location-based push notifi cations with relevant promotions and incentives while they’re shopping in store, and retailers can create easy-to-use mobile apps that provide shoppers with product location and label information right at their fi ngertips. The goal is to ease the shopping experience for consumers.” Looking ahead to the future, Raman stresses that “it will become increasingly important in retail and food marketing to emphasize adding value to the consumer’s life.” But to do so, retailers need to understand what truly adds value to each shopper’s life, whether it be specific diet limitations and health preferences or just saving more money on their weekly groceries, he points out. Similar to Birdzi, Raleigh, N.C.-based GK is helping retailers boost and maintain customer engagement through AI-powered loyalty programs. The company’s latest innovation, GK Engage, helps retailers elevate their loyalty programs, delivering real-time rewards while efficiently managing loyalty tiers for ongoing data-driven engagement. GK Engage is currently being deployed in Europe by a large supermarket chain. Michael Jaszczyk, CEO of GK Americas and chief digital transformation officer at GK, says that AI should enhance, not replace, the personal connection between grocers and shoppers. “By automating and tailoring recommendations and promotions on loyalty apps
with AI, retailers create a positive digital experience that is equally as customized and special as when shoppers interact with in-store associates,” says Jaszczyk.
Consider a retail media network
While retail media networks are still relatively new, a growing number of grocers are investing in the medium to make more meaningful connections with their most loyal customers. Hy-Vee’s RedMedia was designed to better connect brands to the retailer’s diverse consumer base across a wide range of channels, encompassing traditional, in-store and digital properties, according to Jason Farver, EVP at West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee and president of Hy-Vee RedMedia. “Our network is primarily about personalization for each customer,” he says. “If we ensure that our customers will only see offers for products that they will most likely purchase, then we are providing a great experience for them, which is paramount for building brand loyalty.” Hy-Vee’s CPG partners also appreciate the higher ROI on their marketing spend, he adds. Farver estimates that 80% of Hy-Vee’s customers consistently engage with the retailer digitally, but he notes that even some younger shoppers prefer to shop in the physical store. In that case, the retailer has digital screens to engage them. Further east, Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle began developing its retail media network, Leap Media Group, as an internal marketing agency to create a more seamless experience for the regional chain, explains Joell Robinson, Giant Eagle senior director, Leap Media & Sales. Today, Giant Eagle’s loyalty program “lives at the foundation” of Leap, infl uencing the company’s decision-making and personalization efforts, says Robinson. “Having such a high percentage of loyal customers enhances their experience through personalization,” she says. “When customers continue to see what matters most to them, customer engagement naturally rises.” Meanwhile, the CPG companies that work with Leap have been attracted to the closed-loop measurement offered by the retailer. “We can provide transparent measurement to our partners, but it also allows our media team more insights to make smart, data-driven decisions,” explains Robinson. PROGRESSIVE GROCER November 2023
Engaging Your Customers Through Innovation: A How-To Guide In today’s fast-paced business world, customer engagement is a top priority. The ever-changing landscape of consumer preferences and the pervasive influence of digital technologies make adapting and staying connected with your customer base crucial. Here’s a more detailed look at key strategies:
1. Meet Them at Self-Checkout Remember, the self-checkout is not just a transaction point; it’s a place to connect with your customers and create a lasting impression. Incorporate interactive displays or screens at the self-checkout stations. These displays can provide helpful information, promotions, and entertainment to enhance the shopping experience. Shoppers don’t want a long and frustrating checkout process. Fast and reliable technology can be a key factor in customer satisfaction.
Enhance Physical with Digital Features Integrating digital features into your physical store is an effective way to engage customers. Consider implementing A.I.-powered item recognition, interactive kiosks, or QR codebased promotions. These digital elements add an extra layer of excitement to the shopping experience, making it more interactive and memorable. Plus, they enable you to collect valuable data on customer behavior and preferences.
2. Offer Payment Flexibility Customer engagement extends to the payment process. Provide your customers with a range of payment options. Beyond cash and card payments, consider accepting digital wallets, mobile payments, biometric payments, and even “buy now, pay later” services. The more flexibility you offer, the more likely your customers are to complete a purchase. This not only enhances their experience but also caters to their diverse preferences.
3. Incentivize Loyal Shoppers Your most valuable customers are the ones who return again and again. Reward their loyalty by creating a customer loyalty program. Offer discounts, exclusive access, or other incentives to keep them coming back. It’s not just about the discounts; it’s about making your customers feel appreciated and valued. By doing so, you build lasting relationships that extend beyond individual transactions.
5. Improve Store Operations Efficient store operations are fundamental to enhancing customer engagement. Ensure your supply chain is optimized to keep your shelves stocked with popular items. Streamline checkout processes to minimize wait times. Regularly train your staff to provide excellent customer service. Invest in technology that can help with inventory management and customer data analysis. When your store runs smoothly, your customers will notice the difference and appreciate the effort you put into creating a seamless shopping experience.
By focusing on these strategies, you can actively engage your customers and create a memorable shopping experience that keeps them coming back. In today’s competitive market, engaged customers are more likely to become your brand champions.
At Toshiba, we focus on Younifying retail experiences by offering retailers of all segments innovative total solutions such as: • POS and Self-Service Solutions • A.I. and Computer Vision • Loyalty and Promotions
• Biometric Checkout • Wall-to-Wall Services and Augmented Training • And, Much More!
Start Younifying Your Retal Experience with Toshiba: www.younifyingexperiences.com
AHEAD OF WHAT’S NEXT By Bridget Goldschmidt
Creating a Health Care Destination KROGER WANTS TO BE CONSUMERS’ GO-TO PL ACE FOR A R ANGE OF SERVICES IN THIS ARE A. ill it one day be as common to visit your local supermarket when you’re feeling sick as it is now to go to an area doctor’s office, urgent care Kroger wants its shoppers to know that they center or emergency room? can get many of their health needs met at the The Kroger Co. certainly supermarket chain. hopes so, which is why the Cincinnati-based grocer has come up with its A World of Care is In-Store initiative. The Holistic Approach According to Doug CorWhat Cornelius wants consumers to nelius, director, pharmacy at Kroger Health, the campaign, which rolled know is just how all-inclusive — and out nationwide last year, is “all about raising awareness. We’re highlighteasy to obtain — Kroger’s health care ing and educating customers about the array services are. “Our customers can fi ll their of health care services accessible at Kroger prescriptions at Kroger Health pharmaHealth and associated Kroger Family of Comcies, and they can also visit The Little “People don’t want panies stores, including pharmacy services, Clinic for diagnostic treatment, ongoing to have to go to vaccinations, nutrition guidance, and more. We health management, wellness visits and four or five different provide all of these services in order to make preventive care services,” he observes. places to access health more accessible to all, including those “They can access nutrition guidance virin underserved communities.” tually, at their convenience. This holistic pharmacy, clinic Cornelius notes that the exact lineup of services approach empowers people to proacand laboratory available at each location is based on community tively manage their health journeys where offerings. They want needs and what’s permitted by state regulations. they already visit and shop every week.” health care where Asked what he thinks is the next frontier they are, and we are of health care at retail, Cornelius replies: Be Like Joe meeting that need Of course, getting the word out to shoppers “We’re really excited that Kroger Health is for them.” is key. “Kroger Health is promoting A World of expanding into clinical trials, with select —Doug Cornelius, Kroger Health Care is In-Store to shoppers through streamKroger pharmacies and The Little Clinic ing video and radio commercials, social media locations serving as clinical trial sites. This posts, and also via in-store signage,” says Cormove aims to make participating in health nelius. “We wanted to ensure that our customers were informed about the care research more convenient and imvariety of accessible health care services available at their local retail health prove access and equity in clinical location. This past summer, we were excited to elevate the campaign by trials. It all ladders up to our including our Kroger Health brand ambassador, [Cincinnati Bengals quarprimary objective: Personalterback] Joe Burrow, who anchors a commercial speaking to his own izing health care to make it health journey and how his personal values for health align with Kroger as convenient as possible Health’s commitment to having the right team of health care experts in for today’s consumers.” your corner, meeting you where you are.” So far, Cornelius notes, the company has “received a very positive response from customers, primarily because we make accessing health Bridget Goldschmidt care services much more convenient for busy and distracted people. People Managing Editor don’t want to have to go to four or five different places to access pharmacy, email@example.com clinic and laboratory offerings. They want health care where they are, and we are meeting that need for them. I think they also really get a kick out of the involvement of Joe Burrow as Kroger Health’s brand ambassador — he’s been a great champion for our efforts.”
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