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Progressive Grocer


December 2020

FRESH FOOD Seafood category makes waves CENTER STORE Six post-pandemic growth strategies GROCERY TECH Top trends and innovations for 2021

Southeastern Grocers Category Captains Awards Grocery Tech 2021



Volume 99, Number 12

December 2020

Volume 99, Number 12

Thank You For Every M’m! M’m! Good! Moment.


To all our Campbell employees, partners, and their families—we are grateful for all your efforts in helping keep our holiday traditions on the table. Wishing you a season filled with warm moments and cherished memories.

© 2020 Campbell Soup Company

Happy Holidays!

Real food comes from real heroes.

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Contents 12. 20

Volume 99 Issue 12



22 What’s Cooking at Southeastern Grocers

30 Rising to the Occasion


Shipt’s CEO is Building a Retail Ecosystem Kelly Caruso explains how the e-commerce company will beat the big guys at their own game.

Inspired associates execute a renewed growth strategy.

This year’s Category Captains navigate unfamiliar terrain.




Health and Beauty

Wellness Outlook for the New Year


An Optimistic Outlook for 2021 8 SNEAK PEEK

What to Expect From Progressive Grocer in 2021 10 IN-STORE EVENTS CALENDAR

February 2021 12 MENU TRENDS

Fresh Take on Fruit 4



Feminine Hygiene and Sanitary Protection




Preparing for a New Age of Nutritional Guidance

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



Plenty of Fish


With pandemic sales on the rise, retailers and suppliers look to maintain seafood’s surge.

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


Demystifying the Potato Set consumers straight about America’s favorite vegetable.



SENIOR SALES MANAGER Theresa Kossack (MIDWEST, GA, FL) 214-226-6468

Using His Noodle


Nissin Foods USA CEO Mike Price reflects on the company’s quietly revolutionary products on the occasion of a milestone anniversary.

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

68 GROCERY Here are six ways that grocers can grow in 2021.

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Debby Garbato, Jamie Howe, Jenny McTaggart and Lynn Petrak SENIOR SALES MANAGER Bob Baker (NEW ENGLAND, SOUTHEAST) 732-429-2080


Center Store Solutions

SENIOR EDITOR Thad Rueter 773-418-8975



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


The Great Technology Transformation

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

The future is coming at food retailers faster than ever.




What Grocers Need to Know About Gift Card Fraud Awareness will enable food retailers to avoid falling for the various scams in play.


ART DIRECTOR Bill Antkowiak




What’s the Proper Path for Better Payments? How the pandemic and loyalty can help food retailers get a better handle on transactions. 96 GROCERY TECH 2021

Fulfillment Prophecy As retailers ring in the new year, they’re laser-focused on e-commerce logistics.



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


An Optimistic Outlook for 2021 t’s the season for making predictions, setting goals and resolving to change behaviors. So, in the spirit of tradition and the context of food and consumables retailing, there are some very interesting dynamics intertwined with COVID-19 that are worth reviewing as we head into the new year. For starters, roughly 10 months after the pandemic began, there is well-deserved optimism that despite recent challenges, we could soon have COVID-19 under control. When the pandemic does end, retailers need to have specific goals for how they plan to capitalize on new consumer behaviors. Lastly, there are behaviors that retailers learned during the pandemic that they should resolve to make permanent in 2021. Here’s how this combination comes to life in the new year:


As predictions go, it’s easy to call an end to the pandemic in 2021. Yes, there was an upturn in positive cases near the end of the year and somber warnings from health officials about avoiding holiday gatherings, but there have been many positive developments regarding the rapid development of highly effective vaccines, and surveys from Gallup show a growing number of Americans willing to take them. On top of that, health officials have worked closely with retail pharmacy operators to put in place an infrastructure to administer vaccines once sufficient quantities are available. Protocols developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) have four groups slated to receive the first vaccine allocations. They are health care personnel, other essential workers, adults with high-risk medical conditions, and those 65 and older — groups that CDC data shows have accounted for roughly 80% of all deaths. We are likely to see a lot of encouraging news regarding vaccinations and the end of the pandemic in the first quarter.


When the pandemic does end, retailers need to have specific goals for how they plan to capitalize on new consumer behaviors.

As for setting goals in a post-pandemic world, food retailers have a generational opportunity in front of them. It’s quite simply to hang on to as much of the market share gained in the past 10 months from displaced foodservice demand as was lost in the prior 20 years. It won’t be easy, though. Cooking fatigue is real, and Americans are going to want to go


back to restaurants, be waited on, feel special and not have to do dishes. The foodservice industry will be looking to come back with a vengeance, and in some ways already has. Food retailers need to up their prepared food offerings and fulfillment options, whether that’s in-store dining, carryout or delivery, to hold onto share-of-stomach gains brought about by the pandemic.


When it comes to resolutions, the word “faster” should be in every one that a retailer makes. It took a pandemic, but retailers discovered just how quickly they were able to take action when the health and safety of employees and customers were on the line. From the installation of hygiene barriers to the rollout of grocery pickup and enhanced store sanitation procedures, just to name a few key initiatives, retailers took bold and decisive action throughout 2020. Imagine if every day of 2021 were treated with the same urgency that retailers applied to decision-making at the onset of the pandemic. No one punted and put off making hard choices until the next meeting, or until more information was available. Taking longer to make a decision seldom results in a better decision — just a slower one, and the loss of valuable time. Don’t fall back into a pre-pandemic decision-making mindset. The new year will bring plenty of uncertainty, much of it related to COVID-19. However, one thing that’s certain, especially with the widespread availability of effective vaccines soon at hand, is that we’re closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning.

Mike Troy Editorial Director, Grocery Group



What to Expect From Progressive Grocer in 2021 BR AND DIRECTOR JOHN SCHREI SHARES WHAT’S NE X T FOR THE VENER ABLE PUBLICATION, WHICH WILL TURN 100 IN 2022. eteran publishing executive John Schrei joined Progressive Grocer as brand director two years ago, with a goal of enhancing PG’s leadership position and moving the industry forward amid a rapidly changing consumer and competitive landscape. Following a year of unprecedented turmoil in the food and consumables world, the PG editorial team caught up with Schrei for his take on lessons learned from the year that was, and what’s next for PG and the industry it serves. Progressive Grocer: You met with a lot of retailers, suppliers and solution providers, in person and digitally, throughout what proved to be a year of unprecedented challenges. What stood out for you about how the food retailing industry responded? John Schrei: If we go back to March and April, it was amazing to see

how the industry, from large companies to small, embraced its essential role in society. We saw tremendous ingenuity and selflessness from individuals and organizations who faced unprecedented and unknown challenges. And it went on all year. It wasn’t easy, and things didn’t always go smoothly, but what really stood out was the relentless effort to serve customers at a time when they needed the industry most. I feel blessed and proud to be part of such a special industry. PG: Good points. A lot of folks share those views. But now here we are at the beginning of a new year and “What’s next?” is on everyone’s mind. Since Progressive Grocer’s tagline is “Ahead of What’s Next,” any predictions you’d care to make? JS: Everyone recognizes the early part of the year is going to be

challenging from a sales comparison standpoint as retailers lap huge increases at the onset of the pandemic. What’s much harder to predict is what the post-pandemic retail world looks like. My crystal ball isn’t clearer than anyone else’s, but I do know the industry has developed some new muscles when it comes to speed and agility. 8

We aren’t here to write content and sell stuff. We are here to build successful and lasting connections that create value, and that’s what our team is passionate about.

So whatever comes next, we’ll see retailers and brands able to adapt and capitalize on opportunities faster and more effectively than ever before. PG: You’ve talked before about putting the “progressive” in Progressive Grocer. What would you like the market to better understand about that statement?

Over the next year, Progressive Grocer plans to take its already marketleading digital capabilities to a new level.

as we hosted a record number of events, and our social media metrics are off the charts. PG: You mentioned events, so let’s touch on that. Obviously, it’s been a challenging year, and we know folks are eager to get back to in-person gatherings, but that seems unlikely through at least the first quarter. Thoughts?

JS: It’s pretty simple, and it ties in with “Ahead of

JS: There is a tendency to get caught up in live versus

What’s Next.” The PG brand is nearly 100 years old, and that longevity isn’t by accident. It comes from a future-focused, progressive mindset that we embrace, especially now as the future comes at us faster than ever.

virtual events, and the reality is they are different, each with different advantages. We’ve done both successfully and will continue to do so, and are fortunate that our live events typically occur in the fall.

PG: What does PG have planned for 2021 that you regard as progressive?

PG: What will PG do differently and better in 2021 than it did in 2020? JS: A lot of things, because we’re believers in con-

JS: It’s hard to single one thing out, and we do

operate in a competitive marketplace, so I don’t want to reveal too much. However, I will say we plan to take our already market-leading digital capabilities to a new level, and we’ve learned a lot about how to properly execute digital events. Our print products, which may not have been seen as progressive, are filled with the industry best content produced by the best editors, so that platform continues to enjoy a high level of engagement with a high-value audience. PG: Care to substantiate your “market-leading digital” claim? JS: Gladly. Engagement with our products —

digital, print, events, research, experiential — has never been higher. Our website users increased 80% this year, and our flagship daily newsletter reaches more than 50,000 opt-in subscribers. Webinar registrations increased by nearly 1,000%

tinuous improvement. Three areas of focus will be our efforts to better serve independent retailers, build our GenNext leadership program and event, and continue to elevate the already market-leading Top Women In Grocery (TWIG) initiative that marks its 15th anniversary in November 2021. PG: You just observed your second anniversary leading the PG brand. How are you feeling about where the brand is today, with the 100th anniversary approaching? JS: Really good. We aren’t here to write content

and sell stuff. We are here to build successful and lasting connections that create value, and that’s what our team is passionate about. We are carrying on a legacy of leadership earned through the collective efforts and dedication of countless individuals. And we exist to help those in the food retailing industry move forward. PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020





Black History Month Canned Food Month Great American Pies Month National Bake for Family Fun Month

National Cherry Month National Grapefruit Month National Heart Month National Hot Breakfast Month



National Baked Alaska Day. Provide full instructions on how to construct this impressive dessert classic.


National Fettuccine Alfredo Day


National Boy Scouts Day


Groundhog Day. Spring has sprung, or six more weeks of winter? Be prepared either way.


National Bagel and Lox Day


National Carrot Cake Day. Feature it in the bakery, with the customary carrot motif decorating the top in icing.


National Cream Cheese Brownie Day


National Hemp Day National Homemade Soup Day


National Peppermint Patty Day





World Nutella Day. One of those occasions that many wish were year-round.

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday National Plum Pudding Day

National Send a Card to a Friend Day

National Football Hangover Day

National Pizza Day




Valentine’s Day

Presidents Day

Mardi Gras/ Fat Tuesday


Ash Wednesday. Spotlight Lenten fare for the 40-day Catholic observance.


National Drink Wine Day


National Chocolate Mint Day

National Frozen Yogurt Day. Make shoppers aware of the many innovative offerings in this dessert category.

National Galentine’s Day. Celebrate enduring female friendships among your associates and regular customers.


Cherry Pie Day Love Your Pet Day

National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day


National Grain-Free Day. Have your store or corporate dietitian offer pointers for those who wish to forgo gluten.


George Washington’s Birthday


National Floral Design Day. Steer customers to the creations on display in your floral section.



National Banana Bread Day. Enable shoppers to swap tips on how to make the moistest loaf.


National Tortilla Chip Day. Yes, but which flavors rule? Hold an online poll to find out.


National Clam Chowder Day. This hearty soup should star in your prepared food department in both its red and white versions.


National Pistachio Day. Best application of this popular nut? Ice cream, hands down.


National Strawberry Day. Remind customers to pick up a clamshell of this beloved fruit for baking or snacking, at a special price.


Research & Analysis

Fresh Take on Fruit Winter isn’t the end of fresh produce and community-supported agriculture programs. Concerns about the environment and climate change are prompting consumers to seek out produce that’s more sustainable and seasonally appropriate, including “ugly” produce, which is edible but visually imperfect, making it more affordable and reducing waste. In the book “Ugly Food: Overlooked & Undercooked,” the state of food waste in the United States is outlined as follows: “31% of the 430 billion pounds of the nation’s food supply goes uneaten.” According to Datassential’s TIPS publication, “40% of consumers are likely to purchase ugly produce.” Grocers are now giving shoppers more of such options. Mangosteen MAC stage: Inception — International markets, global independents, and fine dining. Trends start here and exemplify originality in flavor, preparation, and presentation. Mangosteen is an exotic fruit hailing from Southeast Asia with a deep-purple leathery exterior and an interior of six to eight snow-white wedges. Legend has it that Queen Victoria dubbed the mangosteen “the queen of fruit,” as it’s highly prized, similar to the so-called “king of fruit,” durian. Mangosteen has a distinct cooling property and is described as having a flavor mix of pineapple, strawberry, peach and lychee. It’s a very perishable fruit that can’t withstand any cold temperatures, making it hard to transport. The fruit is mostly used in sweet applications, from frozen desserts like popsicles, to baked goods like tarts, to cocktails. On fewer than 1% of U.S. restaurant menus Up 100% over the past four years 22% of consumers know it/10% have tried it/5% love or like it Menu Example Hawkers Asian Street Fare Royal Pairing Durian crème brulée, mangosteen compote


Lychee MAC stage: Adoption — Global foods aisle at supermarkets, casual independents, fast casual. Adoption-stage trends grow their base via lower price points and simpler prep methods. Still differentiated, these trends often feature premium and/or generally authentic ingredients. Lychee is a small fruit, about the size of a golf ball, that grows on trees in bunches. When ripe, the skin is a vibrant red that peels away to reveal a translucent, off-white fruit with a large brown seed in the center. Lychee offers a balance of sweet and tart, with notes of grape, rose and other tropical fruit flavors. It’s often showcased whole or juiced in craft cocktails as a flavoring for mules, Bellinis and martinis.

Watermelon MAC stage: Proliferation – Proliferation-stage trends are adjusted for mainstream appeal. Often combined with popular applications (on a burger, pasta, etc.) A summertime staple that’s also packed with flavor, watermelon has a water content of 92%, making it a hydrating snack, and like coconut water, watermelon is filled with natural electrolytes. In recent years, watermelon juice has been used as a recovery beverage to relieve sore muscles after a strenuous workout. The fruit has also experienced a slight lift on menus. On nearly 13.5% of U.S. restaurant menus

Grapefruit MAC stage: Ubiquity —­ Ubiquity-stage trends have reached maturity and can be found across all sectors of the food industry. Though often diluted by this point, their inception-stage roots are still recognizable. A pop of sunshine during the winter, this ubiquitous fruit comes several flavors, depending on the variety. The four most common varieties are white, pink, ruby red and oro blanco, each having a distinct flavor profile arising from cross breeding. In the realm of traditional grapefruit, most people think of ruby red, which has red flesh with a complex, sour and bitter profile. Grapefruit is adaptable to both savory and sweet applications.

Up 31% over the past four years On more than 5.2% of U.S. restaurant menus

98% of consumers know it/94% have tried it/80% love or like it

Up 8% over the past four years 44% of consumers know it/23% have tried it/15% love or like it Menu Example Bonifacio Kamayan Old Fashioned Pineapple-infused Plantation Barbados five-year rum, Old Forester bourbon, lychee-bitter melon syrup, tiki

On more than 30.3% of U.S. restaurant menus Up 21% over the past four years

Menu Example 121 Restaurant @ OXC Watermelon Salad Feta, olives, mixed greens, citrus vinaigrette

95% of consumers know it/75% have tried it/50% love or like it Menu Example Independent Beets and Bleu Cheese Salad Roasted chiogga beets, grapefruit, candied sunflower seeds, whipped gorgonzola, arugula



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Cheeses from Switzerland. Switzerland. Naturally.


Shelf Stoppers

Shelf Stoppers


ending April 2, 2016) Health and(52 weeks Beauty

Basket Facts

Total Department Performance Latest 52 Wks 2 YA W/E 09/26/20

Health and Beauty


Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 09/28/19

Latest 52 Wks W/E 09/29/18



Top Health and Beauty Categories by Dollar Sales Hair Care

Vitamins and Supplements

Upper-Respiratory Care

Oral Hygiene

Bath and Shower


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



because it tastes great


$15.50 9%


on health and beauty products, upit’s 4.6% because

Spotlight on Frozen Broccoli

healthy and nutritious



Broccoli as an ingredient is most commonly consumed at dinner, followed by lunch.

Frozen broccoli is most often used in a side dish, followed by as a main entrée.




because it’s low in calories, fat and sugar



0 Latest 52 Wks 2 YA Latest 52 Wks YA OCCASION W/E 09/28/19 W/E 09/26/20 29% TYPE 62%

on all antiperspirant and deodorant, up 5.5%

Latest 52 Wks MEAL ITEM W/E 09/29/18


35% 61% 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. 26, 2020







Health and beauty sales typically grow at a modest pace year to year, but we’re seeing 2020 experiencing a noticeable boost, likely linked with COVID-19 concerns about health and cleanliness. Specifically, vitamin and supplement categories as well as bath and shower purchases both saw a boost of at least 15% growth in sales this year, while they usually grow less than 5% year over year.”

$10.32 on cold/flu, up 7.5%

—Eric Brown, Manager - Global Content Workstreams, Nielsen

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

$11.21 on face cosmetics, down 1.2%


Gen Xers


The Greatest Generation





Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Aug. 22, 2020


Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Aug. 22, 2020

©2020 Goya Foods, Inc.

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Global New Products Database

Feminine Hygiene and Sanitary Protection Marketing Overview

U.S. retail sales of feminine hygiene and sanitary protection products are estimated to increase by 3.5% in 2020, outpacing year-over-year category growth since 2015. In the next two to five years, mainstream adoption of the vaginal wellness industry will bring new opportunities for the category, such as tailoring products to women’s health milestones, including the postpartum period and perimenopause.

Even natural/ organic feminine care shoppers are looking for familiar ingredients: 61% would pay more for feminine care products made with materials and ingredients that they’re familiar with.

Key Issues

COVID-19 amplified the income gap, and with it the consumer knowledge gap. For lower-income consumers, choosing period products and actively managing symptoms of menstruation may ultimately come down to price as opposed to preference or need, hindering category engagement. Products made with natural ingredients are an expectation for more than one-third of feminine care consumers. Young women in particular overindex for wanting to better manage hygiene-related needs, indicating an opportunity for vaginal health brands to market products as opportunities for self-care.


What Consumers Want, and Why The need for blending natural and familiar ingredients points to a larger theme within the feminine care industry. More and more category users expect feminine care products to uphold certain altruistic qualities while maintaining safety and effectiveness. Self-care brands must keep in mind that affordability is the top driver for young women when buying health-andwellness products. Products need to prove value to earn young women’s dollars, as well as to fit seamlessly into their busy/ independent lifestyles. Maintaining engagement through various health milestones, such as preparing for pregnancy or the postpartum period, could position feminine hygiene brands as partners in women’s health management.


ALL’S WELLNESS By Molly Hembree

Wellness Outlook for the New Year IT’S NOT JUST CONSUMERS WHO SHOULD RESOLVE TO DO MORE IN REGARD TO WELLNESS IN 2021. hat a year 2020 was: full of surprises, learnings, challenges and more time at home. As we embark on a fresh new year, we have some indications of what wellness will look like in 2021. Here are some wellness trends that are anticipated in the new year, and which retailers should resolve to leverage for the good of their customers.

Plant-Based Foods

wrapped options of their favorite products, and more packaging in places like the deli and produce departments, where there could be a greater chance of employee or customer handling. Tend to these needs by offering single-serve containers of spreads or cut fruit while being diligent in following food safety protocols and social-distancing measures in your stores.


The advancement of expanded telehealth services in 2020 aligns to the grocery store ideal of performing double duty as both a food and a wellness destination. Pharmacies are in myriad grocery store locations, and more urgent care, nutrition, biometric, mental health and even COVID-19 testing services are becoming available at retailers. Kroger Health offers access to one-to-one telenutrition appointments with registered dietitians throughout most of the country, while also operating The Little Clinic, which provides virtual care visits with a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant to address minor ailments or concerns. Meanwhile, H-E-B is providing Texans with free home delivery of prescription medicines in select areas. As we flip the calendar over to a new year, we can prepare to serve our customers better by recognizing their wellness needs over the next 12 months. Provide an increased focus on plant-based foods, as well as an emphasis on cooking, food safety and telehealth, to win over your customers.

As we flip the calendar over to a new year, we can prepare to serve our customers better by recognizing their wellness needs over the next 12 months.

Plants continue to take center stage more often on customers’ plates than in years past. Mock meats, dairy-free cheese, milk alternatives and even bean-based “eggs” have led the pack when it comes to plant-based options that rival traditional animal-based fare. At the core of plant-based eating is showcasing recognizable ingredients in familiar products, but with a twist. Take Birds Eye Buffalo Style Cauliflower Wings, Treeline Treenut Cheese, Savory Wild Portabella Jerky or Banza Chickpea Elbow Pasta, for example. Consider at your retailer if it makes more sense to integrate plant-based options near conventional products, or if a separate natural food area would see more foot traffic. Offer assortments that always include one or more plant-based alternatives, such as margarines made without milk, dairy-free creamy dressings, non-gelatin “jel” desserts or vegan frozen pizzas.

Emphasis on Cooking

Millions of households this year saw more working from home and more time spent in their own kitchens than ever. Help out eager home cooks who may want more easy meal ideas or recipes in their arsenal, or find ways to bridge the gap in food preparation via meal kits for those consumers used to ordering takeout only. Partner up with your dietitian and chef teams, communications department, digital staff, and internal media experts to create attractive virtual cooking demos on your website featuring top-selling items, or products up for promotion that week in the circular.

Food Safety

There was heightened awareness in 2020 about where food comes from and improved food safety practices. Transparency when it comes to growing, sourcing, packaging and transporting food will continue to be important to consumers in 2021. Many shoppers may favor individually


Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian coordinator for The Little Clinic and Kroger.


The Shecession for Women of Color

These numbers grow even bleaker when looking at the impact of the recession on women of color. In October, the unemployment rate for Black women older than 20 was 9.3%. Compared with the unemployment rate of white women that month (5.4%), which was actually lower than that of white men (6.2%), the Shecession is clearly hitting women of color hardest. According to a national Women’s Law Center report released in October, “More than half of Latinas (57.1%) and Black non-Hispanic women (53.6%) reported a loss of income since March, compared to 41% of white non-Hispanic men and 40.4% of white non-Hispanic women.”

What Can We Do?


t’s officially been christened: 2020 is the year of the “Shecession.” COVID-19 has upended lives around the world, but the evidence continues to show that the economic downturn has disproportionately affected women. As children are forced to stay home from school and loved ones are in need of care, women are leaving or considering leaving the workforce at an alarming rate. According to the study “Women in the Workplace,” one in four women is thinking about reducing her job responsibilities or quitting work altogether. What does that look like in numbers? In September, as the second wave of the pandemic intensified, 1.1 million workers left the workforce, and a shocking 865,000 of those were women. That’s 79%.


Some aspects of the current situation feel out of our control, but while we may not be able to speed up distribution of a vaccine, we can push for key changes that will better support women during this incredibly difficult time. We must do better for women in 2021 to help them stay in the workforce, and to help women who have left it to come back. Employers must support their employees with work policies that allow them to keep their careers while caring for their children. That doesn’t just mean more flexibility in setting work hours, or showing kindness and compassion when the kids crash business meetings on Zoom, although those changes are important. It means concrete policy change for the long haul. According to the Women in the Workplace study, “Less than a third of companies have adjusted their performance review criteria to account for the challenges created by the pandemic, and only about half have updated employees on their plans for performance reviews or their productivity expectations during COVID-19.” Expecting employees to achieve optimal productivity in this impossible year is a losing game for both employers and employees. Whether they’re caring for children, loved ones or simply themselves, an undue burden has shifted to women during the pandemic. More pressure and more stress force women out of the workforce, leaving businesses short on skilled workers — and working women out of a job.

Some aspects of the current situation feel out of our control, but while we may not be able to speed up distribution of a vaccine, we can push for key changes that will better support women during this incredibly difficult time. System-wide Change

The answer is systemic, too. We need to ensure that this kind of disproportionate disenfranchising of women never happens again. That means, at the most basic level, working toward a more equitable society where men and women share equal responsibilities and expectations for housework and child care. It also means creating more opportunities for women in fields where remote work isn’t an impossibility. The lower the pay for a job, the more overrepresented women are as employees. Closing

this gap is key to closing the wage gap for all women, and that work must continue against the setbacks that will surely come out of this tragic time. Investing in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) within organizations is one step in the right direction. Supporting women-led businesses, supporting the leadership development of women throughout their career journeys, and ensuring that your organization is following DE&I best practices will all help move the needle. If the Shecession is to be combated, and we are not to lose years of hard-fought, precious progress for women’s equality, we must be intentional. We must look very carefully at the decisions we make over the next year, and we must commit to supporting women — or risk losing them.

Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a learning and leadership community representing more than 13,000 members in 22 regional groups in the United States and Canada. Learn more at




Southeastern Grocers

By Mike Troy

Inspired associates execute a renewed growth strategy. outheastern Grocers President and CEO Anthony Hucker has been around the retail block a few times during his career. Nine years with Aldi in international leadership roles turned into seven years with Walmart in strategy and global format development roles. From there, he went on to serve two-year stints as president of Ahold Delhaize USA’s Giant Food banner, and then as president and COO of Schnuck Markets. Hucker has been there and done that during a more than 30year retail career. However, the thing that he grows most animated about when discussing his current situation at Southeastern Grocers and its ongoing financial transformation, is the company’s cultural transformation. Sitting in the employee breakroom of a newly remodeled store in the Mandarin neighborhood of Southeastern Grocers’ hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., Hucker becomes particularly enthused when describing one of the biggest changes at the company.

“If you go back to the beginning of 2017, we had the worst engagement scores in the history of the company. We measured engagement quarterly by asking all the associates if they trust their immediate supervisor,” Hucker says. “If your associates don’t trust you, but you have a vision statement that says our customers can trust quality, service and value, that doesn’t work.” Hucker joined Southeastern Grocers as COO in February 2016, and when he was named CEO in July 2017, the first order of business was to regain trust throughout the organization. “We set out on a journey in the second quarter of 2017 to really re-engage our associates. Fast-forward to the first half of 2020, and we reached the highest level of trust scores in the history of the company,” Hucker says. An improved fresh presentation at Winn-Dixie stores is a key aspect of parent company Southeastern Gorcers' renewal strategy.


To do so required clear and transparent communications about a new strategic transformation plan, along with an emphasis on letting employees know the company cares about them. “We are saying, ‘We want to take care of you first, because you are taking care of the customers and taking care of the communities we serve.’ Our associates are the people on the front line every single day, taking care of customers every day,” Hucker says. One thing that Hucker understood three and a half years ago, as the company embarked on its five-year transformation plan, was that it wouldn’t be successful if it didn’t change the collective mindset of the organization. Employees at Southeastern Grocers have been through many challenges and leadership changes over the years, so it was essential to establishing a culture of winning and a belief among the rank and file that the new CEO had a good strategy in place to compete against larger rivals.

So Far, So Good

With a more highly engaged workforce in place to execute strategic initiatives, Southeastern Grocers is beginning to see its strategy yield positive results, which then has a multiplier effect on the company’s culture.

Southeastern Grocers employees were in a celebratory mood in 2020, with employee engagement scores at an all-time high.

Hucker points to the company’s 16.4% first-quarter same-store sales increase and 21% second-quarter increase as evidence. Those results were obviously aided by the pandemic, but Hucker notes that the gains were better than those reported by rivals. “We know that we have grown in market share, and taken more than our fair share of market share, to the chagrin of some of the national players,” Hucker says. To gain share in the future, Southeastern Grocers is relying on a strategy that requires readjusting its portfolio of geographies and banners to focus on those it believes will give it the best chance of winning. The process was enabled by the fresh start the company gave itself in early 2018 by filing a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The prepackaged plan of reorganization saw the company re-emerge quickly PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020



One way grocers are stirring customer enthusiasm for coffee is through private label brands. Private label offerings are a great way to delight customers and capture greater loyalty to stores. According to a 2020 study by IRi, private brands greatly influence store-choice, particularly among younger buyers. According to the report, “Millennials demonstrate the highest adoption of privatelabel products, increasing 10% in 2019 from 2018. Demonstrating value, quality and innovation to millennials are key as they move into their higher-spending years.”

Innovate Your Coffee Category by Roasting In-store offee is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, totaling sales of more than $80 billion in the U.S. alone. While demand for coffee products has continued to grow, the grocery aisle has seen surprisingly little innovation, leaving stores with few options to capitalize on the booming trend. While in-store wine-tastings, cheese classes and cooking demos take off, customer engagement around coffee has been slow to develop, despite the boom in sales.


For the grocer looking to roast their own, however, traditional coffee roasters have required expensive industrial equipment, a highly trained workforce to operate, construction for venting and gas lines, complicated permitting, and a lot of valuable square footage. Not to mention, the high fossil fuel consumption of traditional roasters doesn’t resonate with the new cohort of ethical grocery customers who are seeking products that are as sustainable as they are boutique. Stores hoping to capitalize on private label coffees have been forced to buy and rebrand wholesale beans from distributors which not only lacks the transparency customers desire, but leaves grocers with little control over offerings, and eats into the profit margins that a housebrand is designed to boost. With sales of private-label offerings set to double this year, in-store coffee roasting gives grocers a fast track to capturing those higher margin sales, and securing valuable customer engagement.

The Bellwether Roaster is the answer to the challenges of traditional in-house coffee roasting. The automated roaster is small in size, sustainable and easy to use with minimal training. Customers will enjoy the added benefit of maximum freshness compared to brands that have been packed and shipped.,consumption%20was%20 US%2414%20billion* Upper Left Photo Credit: Luke Awtry

Making Better Coffee. Making Coffee Better. First, there’s the enticing aroma of roasting coffee wafting through the store. Then there’s the sight and sounds of coffee beans being poured into a roasting chamber, tumbled around and pulled out when perfect. Add to this multisensory experience a compact, easy-to-use roaster, simply sourced beans from trusted grower partners, an eco-friendly process and a point of differentiation for a store brand and in-store café and you’ll see why Bellwether Coffee is indeed a bellwether for a new kind of coffee program at retail. Progressive Grocer spoke to Nathan Gilliland, CEO of Bellwether Coffee, on this perfect blend. Question: How can the Bellwether commercial coffee roaster enhance a retailer’s offerings to its customers? Nathan Gilliland: Grocers are already destinations for coffee beans and grab-and-go coffees. The Bellwether commercial roaster elevates a supermarket as a coffee destination, by enabling retailers to easily and efficiently roast coffee beans on site to sell as a private label brand and to use in bulk for their in-store coffee bar or café. It is a compact roaster that provides an element of food theater for shopper entertainment and some seriously good coffee for shoppers who are craving a cup. And because it’s owned and managed in-house, the system gives retailers full control over their coffee program, helping them boost their profit margin. Q: How does this roaster essentially work? NG: It’s easy for operators, without the use of any vents, afterburners or special permits. The Bellwether Coffee roaster also has a small environmental footprint, since it is emission free and powered by electricity. This is a plug and go solution, and you can roast up to six pounds of coffee at a time. Q: In addition to next-level coffee roasting technology, what are other ways that you are helping retailers improve their coffee programs — and their margins? NG: Our expertise in both technology and sustainably-sourced, high quality coffee led us to create a Green Coffee Marketplace for our retail customers, so they don’t have to spend extra time and money sourcing beans from outside vendors. We carefully evaluate coffees from around the world and identify the best and most sustainable suppliers. By interacting with the Green Coffee Marketplace from an app, grocers can find the beans they want and discover the stories behind the beans, to help them shape and distinguish their store branded coffee. Q: What about variety and customization for grocers — how can they make it their own? NG: The Bellwether roaster and marketplace are just the starting point for many possibilities. Available coffees range from light to dark roasts with profiles for every palate. You can also tweak the profile for taste or customize it to meet your preferences. Beyond regularly-rotating roasts, we have found retailers also do well with seasonal blends, which can be promoted from the holidays through the lighter summer months.

To learn more about Bellwether Coffee and see the technology for yourself, visit


Southeastern Grocers and with greater financial flexibility to pursue a growth strategy centered on streamlining operations to focus on key growth markets and to undo some prior strategic decisions. For example, after Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie merged in 2012 and acquired the Sweetbay and Harveys banners the following year, there were plans to go public. However, efforts to integrate the stores, implement a new supply agreement and switch to an everyday low-price strategy in 2016 didn’t work out. That’s about when Hucker joined the company, which had adopted the Southeastern Grocers name in 2015. His diverse background was seen as the ideal combination to execute a plan that involved deleveraging the balance sheet and stabilizing the business through a series of retail best-practices and cost-savings initiatives, improving sourcing and labor productivity and returning to a high-low pricing strategy. The company also opted to increase investments in its store base, loyalty program and private brands. But getting the store base right was key. For example, in May of this year, the company agreed to sell 62 stores, comprising 46 Bi-Lo stores and 16 Harveys stores throughout the Carolinas and Georgia, to the Food Lion subsidiary of Ahold Delhaize USA. In September 2020, an agreement was reached to sell an additional 23 stores to Alex Lee, the parent company of Lowes Foods. In early December, the company was still exploring options for 39 Bi-Lo stores and one Harveys location. The moves are significant, because they give Southeastern Grocers a go-forward retail footprint comprising 420 stores

The New Southeastern Grocers (420 stores in five states)

in five states operating under three banners, with Florida accounting for roughly 76% of its locations, with combined annual sales of $6.7 billion.

A Growth Strategy Revealed

Southeastern Grocers’ focus for the past three and half years has been on right-sizing its footprint and improving the productivity of existing locations, which is a classic strategy for retailers looking to transform their operations. The company uses the term “renew” to describe remodeling and remerchandising efforts, which have been considerable. For example, in 2018, 96 locations were renewed, followed by 53 in 2019 and 33 this year. “By the end of the year, we will have renewed, remodeled, converted or opened 55% of the entire company. We are just past half-time of the five-year transformation,” Hucker says. The focus on renewals is working. Each store requires an average investment of about $1 million, which results in an approximately 10% increase in sales based on the performance of roughly 125 stores that went through the renewal process a year ago. Store renewals are great, but for Southeastern Grocers to grow and to foster a culture of winning, the opening of new locations is also important. That was one of the more notable developments at the company this year, when eight new stores were opened, including locations that had been acquired from failed retailers such as Earth Fare and Lucky’s Market. Going forward, Southeastern Grocers has indicated to investors in regulatory filings related to a planned initial public-stock offering (IPO) that it could open as many as 10 stores annually. “We will buy, build and convert,” Hucker says of the expansion strategy, with the composition of the 10-annual-openings target being a combination of the three existing banners.

Keeping the Momentum Going











Source: Company reports; store counts reflect planned divestitures and all format types


Hucker can boil down Southeastern Grocers’ merchandising strategy to two simple concepts: smart localization and connected personalization. “It’s about having a locally tailored assortment that marries with the neighborhood in which we trade. We don’t believe that one size fits all, and many retailers have that approach,” Hucker says. “Many of the neighborhoods in which we operate are so culturally diverse that we don’t agree that one size fits all.” The company applies that same philosophy to marketing and loyalty efforts. There are more than 7 million active members in Southeastern Grocers’ loyalty program, and they accounted for 85% of all sales and 75% of all transactions in 2019. Most of the company’s direct supermarket competitors in the Florida market don’t have loyalty programs,

according to Hucker. “What our competitors do is mass marketing. With a connected personalization program, we can avoid marketing waste, and it allows us to be very data-driven. We put the customer at the center of a decision-making process that is driven by data and analytics that allows us to have a one-on-one relationship,” Hucker says. The personalization capabilities are powered by dunnhumby, which Hucker describes as “the central nervous system,” supplemented with insights from News America Marketing and Eagle Eye. Despite embracing digital marketing efforts, Southeastern Grocers employs what Hucker calls a “straddle strategy” that still involves a weekly print ad. “A lot of retailers are coming off print and going completely digital, but we overindex with a slightly older population in Florida. We can’t get rid of the ad. We actually tried to reduce the number of pages a couple years ago, and it didn’t work,” Hucker says. “It is still an important part of our marketing communication to customers.” Another key element of the company’s value proposition with shoppers, as it is for many retailers, is to grow sales of a private-brand portfolio that consists of about 8,000 products and will see the addition of 400 new items this year. “We have a four-tier system: SE Essentials is our opening price point, SE Grocers is our mid-ti-

Gourmet cheeses and a full-service deli offering prepared foods provide busy families with meal solutions.

er, Prestige is our premium tier, and then we have Naturally Better, which is all organic,” Hucker says. Private-brand penetration of total sales stood at 26% during the first half of 2020, and Hucker sees that figure heading higher. “You have to find the right balance, because customers want choice, but the ambition is to get to a 30% penetration rate,” he adds. And why not? For every 1% increase in penetration rate, the company estimates that it gains an additional $7 million in gross profit annually.

It Won’t Be Easy

Nothing in the food retailing industry is a given. For Southeastern Grocers to be successful next year and beyond means going up against some of the best-known, most highly regarded retailers on the planet. The company understands this and knows pro“We know that spective investors in its planned IPO do, too, we have grown in which is why a high degree of transparency is market share and taken provided regarding competitive overlap. more than our fair share For example, Southeastern Grocers notes that its go-forward base of 420 stores will of market share, to the be within 5 miles of locations operated by chagrin of some of the Walmart (87%), Publix (77%), Target (56%) national players.” and Aldi and Save A Lot (50% each). Huck—Anthony Hucker, President and CEO er worked at Aldi and Walmart earlier in his career and knows how good those companies are, and everyone in the food retailing industry knows what a formidable competitor Publix is in Florida. Nevertheless, Southeastern Grocers’ growth prospects, especially its Winn-Dixie format and promising Fresco y Más concept, have never looked so good. Surely, the companies with whom Southeastern Grocers has considerable overlap have taken note of the company’s resurgence and well-defined strategy. “People can copy our products, prices and processes, but they cannot copy our people, which means they can’t copy our culture. The culture of an organization is the sum of people in an organization,” Hucker says. “Don’t take my word for it. Talk to our associates. We are driven by being a people business and people-first company. We just happen to sell groceries.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020



Southeastern Grocers

The Fresco y Más banner is riding a Latino wave of growth. By Gina Acosta

who may not even speak Spanish, and Cubans who moved here from Spain, like Fresco y Más Director of Operations Sergio Benitez. “We go far beyond just having a few Hispanic items,” says Benitez, who joined Southeastern Grocers in 1989 as a front end associate and went on to hold many roles with the company before becoming a store manager in 2001 and director at Fresco in 2018. “We want to have all of the quality products that our customers want most. The heart of Fresco y Más is Hispanic, and our base products at Fresco are similar in all stores, but we go the extra mile to localize each store, based on the community that we serve. We cater to Hispanic customers, but we also provide a great shopping experience to meet everyone’s needs.” Touring a Fresco store in Tampa, Fla., with Benitez is akin to taking a 30-minute journey around the world. When it comes to design and ambiance, Fresco differentiates with bold colors (mostly yellow and black), prominent displays of fresh produce, and fun music — all of which appeal to multicultural food shoppers. The center store assortment at Fresco is Hispanic-focused, but there are also Heinz Ketchup, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and Sunny Delight beverages. Benitez says that Fresco has dug deep into the data to carefully curate assortments tailored to the demographics in each individual neighborhood. The Hispanic This customized segmentation community is the merchandising strategy is a key

eople in the grocery industry have been talking about the opportunity in catering to Latino consumers forever — or at least since the 1990s. Since then, the Hispanic population in the United States has tripled, from 22 million in 1990 to more than 60 million in 2019. Yet most conventional food retailers in the United States haven’t moved aggressively to leverage the Latino opportunity — until now. Southeastern Grocers is talking the talk and fastest-growing ethnic walking the walk when it comes to Hispanic grocery. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company just group in the United opened its 27th Latino-themed grocery store in the States. We have to Sunshine State in four years: a banner founded in continue to evaluate our 2016 called Fresco y Más. While other large grocery chains, such as San product selection and Antonio-based H-E-B and Lakeland, Fla.-based experience to keep Publix Super Markets, have dabbled in Latino re- evolving. The Hispanic tail, Southeastern Grocers is the first major grocery grocery market chain to go all in on a format where malanga is the star of the produce department and tres leches cake is going to be strong is the star of the bakery. With the Hispanic popu- and continue to grow.” lation exploding not just in Florida but also across —Sergio Benitez, the United States, Fresco y Más has emerged as a se- Fresco y Más Director of Operations cret growth weapon for Southeastern Grocers. Over the past year, Fresco y Más stores have caught the attention of investors; Boston investment firm Longpoint bought a strip center in Miami anchored by a Fresco y Más this past August, citing “expected growth” in Hispanic grocery. Yet Fresco stores, which average about 44,000 square feet, aim to appeal not just to Latino customers, but also to the broad diversity of demographics that seek out Hispanic foods: non-Latinos who are adventurous foodies, recently arrived Millennials from Colombia, third-generation Mexican-Americans 28

Fresco y Más associates celebrate at the recent grand opening of a concept with promising growth potential. Adding to the format's appeal are a Hispanic-focused produce department and an assortment of single-price-point merchandise that lends a treasure-hunt aspect to the store experience.

component of the banner’s success; another major factor is Fresco’s partnerships with local vendors, according to Benitez. The Carnicería, or meat department, features specialty beef cuts such as palomilla, bola and falda. Customers can special-order a whole pig or buy freshly butchered rabbit. Bagged beans, jackfruit and root vegetables dominate the produce department. Meanwhile, in the Cocina, or kitchen, plumes of steam rise from hot mojo pork and fried plantains right next to the roast turkey and mashed potatoes. “Whether it’s the produce department, the meat department, the deli, the bakery at Fresco y Más, they are all going to be authentic, because that’s what Hispanic customers know and want,” Benitez asserts. “But we also focus on value to provide our customers the best-quality products possible at a great value.” Since, as Benitez observes, Hispanics eat 80% of their meals cooked at home, Southeastern Grocers is leveraging this knowledge by driving frequent trips and loyalty with targeted promotions, a Latino product-focused Dollar Zone and even cultural programming. The banner also offers grocery delivery via Birmingham, Ala.-based Shipt, including delivery of prepared foods. Benitez says that the banner is looking into adding grocery pickup and experimenting with self-checkout at one store. Over the decades, as the Hispanic population has grown, so has the demand for grocery stores that offer products for them. Southeastern Grocers is stepping in to fill that void. Of course, appealing to so many demographics without alienating one or another may be a challenge for Fresco y Más as well as other retailers. For now, though, Southeastern Grocers seems to have a winning formula. PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020



This year’s Category Captains navigate unfamiliar terrain. By Gina Acosta

hen market conditions are stable and the economy is good, it’s a relatively straightforward process to leverage shopper insights, forecast demand, develop strategies and execute sales-generating programs. That’s not to diminish the category management efforts of food and consumables suppliers, but a rising tide does lift all boats. It’s when the sky darkens and the sea become suddenly stormy that suppliers are tested in new ways and retailers discover which of their trading partners are most adept at category management. That was the situation in which the industry found itself this year when faced with the uncharted waters of a global pan-

demic that disrupted the best-laid category management plans of retailers and suppliers. The pandemic disrupted Progressive Grocer’s Category Captains award program, too. Now in its 24th year, this industry-leading supplier recognition program had to revise the criteria by which entries are judged, to be reflective of new marketplace dynamics. That’s because the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020 led to unprecedented challenges for retailers and their trading partners. Traditional approaches to category management were thwarted, and some plans had to be scuttled. Retailers adjusted their promotional efforts, and shopper insights-driven engagement strategies and basket-building tactics were revisited, as demand patterns shifted in never-before-seen ways. The realities of the pandemic meant that sales and profit-building strategies and total-store shopper solutions, representing months of hard work, had to be adjusted, readjusted and adjusted again. That’s why this year’s Category Captains award program continues to recognize overall excellence in innovative, profit-generating category management efforts, but entries were also evaluated by a new set of criteria that reflected the volatile market conditions of 2020. For example, speed, agility, resourcefulness and responsiveness, enduring qualities of Category Captains, factored much more heavily into this year’s evaluation process. More specifically, nominees were asked how their organizations pivoted at the onset of the pandemic, how quickly they were able to do so, and what results were achieved with specific initiatives. Another area explored was what sort of new operational challenges organizations overcame amid the COVID-19 outbreak to provide support to retailers and a nation in the midst of a national emergency. In retail, as in life, the full measure of a company’s or individual’s capabilities aren’t revealed until tested in challenging new ways. That was apparent in the submissions that PG received this year, and is reflected in the outstanding efforts of the 2020 class of Category Captains.



Daryl Wehmeyer Head of Category Management North America for dunnhumby

Retailer-Supplier Collaboration: Driving Category Transformation & Growth with Customer Data Science

Progressive Grocer: What makes dunnhumby’s approach to Category Management different? Daryl Wehmeyer: When retailers truly understand the needs of their customers and put their customers first, they earn preference and loyalty. Our partners put this ethos into action through our customer data science, informing all business decisions, from strategic to executional. And retailer-supplier collaboration is essential, so the strategy that’s agreed in the board room is reflected in what customers see at the shelf. PG: How does this play out in your engagements with retail partners and their suppliers? DW: Our engagements begin with a portfolio strategy project. This defines the role each category plays in the retailer’s portfolio, and where and how they should invest in each category to maximize the impact for their customers. Then, we can recommend how our retail partner should best invest in each category and deliver category-specific strategies.

Suppliers play a crucial role in delivering a great category management strategy, but both retailer and supplier category managers must understand what really matters to the customer. That’s where dunnhumby bridges the gap. Using customer data science, we can understand what matters most to their customers - the basis for a strong category investment plan. Through customer data analysis and insights, we identify the gaps in meeting customer needs. dunnhumby tools enable retailers and their suppliers to create actionable recommendations to drive category growth and improve customer satisfaction. PG: So, it’s the access to customer data that makes the difference? DW: Data alone doesn’t drive success. Many retailers have made customer data available to their suppliers but didn’t achieve sustainable growth; instead generating some incremental revenue from data monetization, but the data and solutions aren’t used or drive sales growth. Connecting the retailer’s category management process to customer data science technology and solutions creates a virtuous cycle of increased data usage, better strategies and category growth, and ultimately, a greater understanding of the customer. This process increases retailer-supplier collaboration, as they jointly plan and measure performance, resulting in a stronger, customer-centric category strategy that drives top-line sales and sustainable growth. PG: How do you see your approach changing over time? DW: Clearly, the industry is in the midst of rapid change. To get ahead of the change curve, you need to understand where the customer is going. A deep understanding of the customer is the only way to know which investments will deliver ROI. To be successful, we believe collaboration between retailers and suppliers is imperative. We are investing to innovate and re-imagine our solutions, and co-creating with partners to help them stay ahead of changing customer needs.

Customer Strategy. Collaborative Execution. Results.

What is true retailer-supplier collaboration? It’s using a single source of truth to deliver Customer First strategies - ensuring your customer is at the heart of every decision. By monetizing customer data insights and media, retailers can unlock their data and move toward true retailer-supplier collaboration. dunnhumby partners with 40% of retailers monetizing insights and media - the #1 choice worldwide

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impacting sales performance? GET MORE FROM YOUR DATA IN 2021 • Incremental revenues and profit, with average 1-2% sales uplift per category • Efficient and effective media and promotions • Improved customer loyalty and experience

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2020 Category Captains Awards ABBOTT NUTRITION Created in 1903, Abbott’s nutrition business is a division of Abbott, the global health care company. As a leader in nutrition science, research and development, the division’s goal is to deliver nutrition products and education that meet the changing needs of families across the world. Abbott is behind some of the world’s most trusted names in pediatric, adult and healthy-living nutritional product brands, including Similac, PediaSure, Pedialyte, Ensure, ZonePerfect and Glucerna. When the pandemic peaked, Abbott experienced a 25% increase in online household sales of its products. Abbott began to hear from retail customers that 50% of consumers were staying loyal to their retailer of choice, but that there would be significant risk of losing the consumer if the retailer was out of stock on key items. In response, Abbott implemented a strategy of using insights from a longitudinal study across sales, shopper marketing and category data. The company built a COVID Numerator dashboard and created a phased approach to long-term readiness, reacting to buyer feedback to inform future waves, including e-commerce WIC/SNAP impact and store readiness for the next COVID surge. Abbott also implemented a tiered approach to distribute inventory accordingly, based on consumer shifts in demand, and had secondary placement for pediatric brands, leveraging immunity claims. The company removed promotions during the first month of COVID to maximize inventory distribution. It drove awareness of Pedialyte in later months for stock-up trips during COVID-19 surges, supported retailers with paid search and incremental investment to ensure ease of on-site navigation, and continued to drive digital awareness through paid media. All of these efforts led to $10 million to $14 million in additional shipments for national mass retailers, improvements in site navigation for the SNAP shopper, and adjusted shopper marketing campaigns to leverage digital acquisition and tactics. Further, as for that new COVID dashboard, it’s now being used by leadership to forecast trends, and by retail buyers to take on additional inventory shipments.



Before the pandemic, Anheuser-Busch was widely recognized by customers as the best category supplier when it came to inventory planning. When the pandemic hit, the company leveraged global insights and learnings to ensure that it was ideally positioned to serve retailers. From raw materials procurement to advanced analytics to merchandising recommendations, Anheuser-Busch largely mitigated out-of-stock issues across major packs and brands. One trend that the company identified initially was that shoppers wanted larger pack sizes and trusted brands. Therefore, Anheuser-Busch worked with retailers on pallet programs on top core packages to meet shopper needs and provide convenience in pre-planned trips. The company also predicted growth in the two largest in-home drinking occasions, “Relax” and “Meals,” and recommended 360-degree retail toolkits to activate, building awareness pre-shop and in-store, and engaging post-shop. Additionally, Anheuser-Busch developed an e-commerce playbook that recommended solutions to make online shopping experiences seamless, focusing on both delivery and curbside pickup initiatives. Retailers saw the results of the Anheuser-Busch-provided category and shopper-centric insights, recommendations, and solutions. A major grocery retailer’s director of alcohol says: “Anheuser-Busch is best in class at providing insights on how COVID impacts retail, and in providing recommendations on future merchandising efforts. Anheuser-Busch is the best supplier at managing supply and communicating early and often.” This retailer’s beer category has grown 26% and gained share of market during the pandemic, due to its strategic response based on Anheuser-Busch’s recommendations. Beyond the retailer and shopper focus, Anheuser-Busch continues to place heavy emphasis on its Better World initiatives, supporting communities through the Red Cross, providing hand sanitizer to front-line workers and donating emergency drinking water. The company ensured the safety of its people while providing temporary pay increases to front-line operational staff, and taking great pride in reallocating resources from on-premise to off-premise, with zero layoffs or furloughs. Finally, Anheuser-Busch continues to invest in training and development to ensure that its team is prepared to best serve the needs of shoppers and retailers during the next “new normal.”






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2020 Category Captains Awards CACIQUE

Cacique, one of the country’s top Mexican food brands, rolled out various strategic pivots related to production, marketing and public relations to solve challenges posed by the pandemic. On the production front, Cacique saw 200% increases in orders from its retail customers in March. In response, the Cacique team made the strategic and nimble decision to double down on production of its core items, including queso fresco, cremas and chorizo, keeping products in stock when consumers were most in need of groceries. Cacique has since been able to increase production of the remaining items within its portfolio. The company also pivoted its marketing efforts due to the pandemic. The brand launched Season the Day, a new creative campaign kicking off with a social media series meant to add a pinch of excitement to the family dining table by helping food lovers connect virtually with others at a time when consumers were craving both new dining experiences and a sense of connection. Inspired by the increased popularity of Zoom gatherings with loved ones, Cacique launched the campaign by partnering with top chefs in Mexican cuisine, including long-term brand partner Chef Aarón Sánchez, to share recipe demos on Cacique social channels and contests for winners to join the chefs for exclusive virtual meal gatherings over Zoom throughout the summer. Finally, despite in-person earned media and travel opportunities being limited by the pandemic, Cacique was able to leverage its celebrity chef spokesman to drive strong earned-media features related to Cinco de Mayo. In place of an in-person New York City media day with Sánchez as originally planned, the brand pivoted to pursue a series of remote virtual-media appointments, and locked in both broadcast and one-on-one interviews with key media outlets by offering demonstrations of a recipe sure to resonate with consumers across the country: nachos made with “pantry staple” ingredients they were likely to have already stocked up on. Cacique generated 76.6 million earned-media impressions during this key time frame for the brand.



During the peak of the pandemic, Chiquita Brands knew what was coming. The company had been monitoring stockpiling grocery behavior in Europe and predicted the trend would likely affect North America as well. As a result, its supply chain was able to load additional fruit for the North American market in advance of the surges in panic buying, and avoid shorting customers on bananas. Chiquita’s supply-chain response also allowed the company to transport conventional fruit to new customers during the height of panic buying, and allowed for immense expansion of services to current Chiquita customers during those key weeks. Now, in the later days of the pandemic, Chiquita has established plans and protocols to adapt to shifting industry needs. Using a B2B portal developed in 2019, it has offered virtual training for store employees and educational white papers for retail partners, and will be hosting a webinar for customers this fall. The company has also grown the banana category during a difficult year by translating marketing methodologies into strategic executions. Among these, secondary displays and cross promotions have proved to be most effective. The secondary displays encourage consumers to purchase more Chiquita bananas while also increasing purchase frequency. An activation at a major Midwest retailer generated 4.8% volume sales lift, 1.5% increase in household penetration, and 1% increase in basket penetration. In summer 2020, Chiquita expanded this program to a retailer’s additional divisions, as well as implementing the program with new retailer customers. Subsequently, the expanded program resulted in a 2.2% lift for one customer within one week. Meanwhile, Chiquita has been upping its social media game. This year, the company deployed a sticker activation in partnership with Spotify. Through the campaign, consumers were encouraged to scan the code on their banana for a customized playlist to enjoy various stay-at-home activities such as cooking and working out in a playful way. The campaign garnered 102 million impressions. Further capitalizing on the digital momentum while promoting the health and safety of consumers, Chiquita leveraged the iconic blue sticker on social media by removing iconic brand mascot Miss Chiquita, noting that she was leading by example by staying safe at home. In her absence from the blue sticker, and while in-home consumption was trending up by 65%, Miss Chiquita used Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to promote innovative banana-centric recipes.

THE COCA-COLA CO. As the longest-standing sponsor of the Olympic Games, the Coca-Cola Co. had planned its category management initiative for summer 2020 around the Tokyo Games. When the games were postponed due to COVID-19, Coca-Cola worked quickly with retailers to pivot its program. Using a data-driven approach, Coca-Cola shifted to what it calls the Coke & Food program. At the end of March, Datassential reported that cooking and eating at home had increased by 42% since the onset of the pandemic. Leaning into these insights, the company anchored its program around the Coca-Cola brand and the action of sharing a summer meal at home. Coca-Cola worked with retailers to activate a cross category program bringing together everything shoppers need for meals at home. Imagery and promotions focused on trending at-home summer meals such as tacos, pizza and backyard grilling — paired with Coca-Cola and the campaign headline “Together Tastes Better.” The program was customizable for retailers, allowing them to choose the food pairings that best fit their regions and shopper demographics. The activation leveraged in-store product displays and signage while extending outside the store through TV, geo-targeted digital ads,

DOLE FOOD CO. At the height of the pandemic, Dole Food Co. launched a new sustainability framework, The Dole Promise, featuring three pillars: nutrition, sustainability and the creation of shared value. The company’s efforts to drive innovation in the fresh fruit and salad categories helped not just Dole, but also all retailers, fulfill that promise to shoppers this year. At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Dole worked with retailers in planning for the pandemic’s effects on shoppers, including fewer shopping trips and larger basket sizes, health and wellness as a priority, and new financial constraints. Dole rolled out a two-color banana program that met the needs of pandemic shoppers, allowing them to buy bananas that will serve their families’ consumption needs for a week. Retailers that executed the program outperformed competitive trends. Dole also leveraged healthy immune-building products and created a vitamin C awareness campaign centered on pineapples, increasing sales for retailers. As a result of learnings from the Great Recession more than a decade ago, Dole helped retailers execute more private label programs and pricing initiatives for retail at the expense of branded share. Dole worked with retailers to adjust pricing and promotional strategies using a custom revenue price optimization tool to adjust promotional plans to maximize margins, remaining competitive and avoiding out-of-stocks. Dole also helped retailers grow organic banana sales. One in three banana shoppers buys both organic and conventional

radio and out-of-home promotion. Retailers offered coupons for Coke & Food bundles that also featured unique recipes. Coca-Cola cans displayed Sip & Scan icons that shoppers could scan with their phones to unlock a digital experience, The Coca-Cola Kitchen, featuring exclusive videos of celebrities and influencers cooking and sharing recipes and memories. The campaign proved a success for all parties. From July 1 through Aug. 15, Coca-Cola grew 19% and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar grew 24% compared with the previous year. One prominent Southeast grocery store chain reported a 30% increase in sales of Coca-Cola and a 44% increase in sales of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar during the 13-week period ending Aug. 22. Another food retailer in the Northeast reported that retail dollar sales for participating brands and packages accelerated 23% versus the trend. As a result of the program’s success, Coca-Cola plans to launch Coke & Food 2.0 in 2021 to continue driving value in the grocery channel.

bananas; retailers with a larger percentage of organic banana sales saw greater overall increases, and Dole helped those stores with space allocations. Finally, Dole’s 2020 innovations focused on highgrowth segments. In salads, Dole expanded ready-to-eat bowls by adding varieties and size options, resulting in increased retailer performance and 93% branded growth. The pandemic affected in-stock rates on staple products, so Dole used social media to educate consumers on plantains. As a result, plantain volume increased 2%-5%. The company, with its focus on increasing collaboration with retail to reach new category heights, is truly fulfilling The Dole Promise of nutrition, sustainability and the creation of shared value.




2020 Category Captains Awards E. & J. GALLO WINERY

In a year that brought unprecedented consumer attention to the topics of diversity and inclusion, E. & J. Gallo Winery brought new meaning to innovative, profit-generating category management. The company continued to grow the wine category with its Women Behind the Wine (WBTW) program. This 360-degree campaign, comprising digital promotion, in-store merchandising, online education and scholarship opportunities, highlights women involved in Gallo’s brands, from vine to wine to bottling and labeling. The campaign also provides scholarship opportunities to women in the wine, spirits, hospitality, viticulture and food industries. Gallo made a significant investment to raise consumer awareness for the WBTW program at a time when diversity and inclusion has been foremost on consumers’ minds. Technology was heavily leveraged to drive sales via a digital campaign geo-targeting wine drinkers shopping in 6,300 stores in key markets, and the digital campaign yielded more than 28 million impressions. Custom study insights confirmed that the program resonated with consumers, since 60% of consumers look for brands with a sense of purpose, and 84% of consumers want companies to address women’s rights issues. The brands selected for the WBTW program fell within the fine wine price segments (ultra-premium-plus). The fine wine business represents a critical segment for category growth for retailers — 13% ultra-premium-plus versus 5% total — so participation in this program helped drive further growth and increase total store basket size. For example, when ultra-premium-plus wines are in the basket, the total store basket increases from an average of $54 to an average of $145, since shoppers purchase several other food items. The WBTW program helped drive not only sales in the wine category (sales ranged 30% growth on select program brands), but also total store sales. Gallo didn’t just win with its diversity efforts this year, however; the company also quickly executed supply-chain adjustments (preconfigured pallets door to floor) to ensure that retailers remained in stock on key brands during COVID-19 panic-buying surges. Gallo has always striven to be a catalyst for change and equality. The WBTW program proved to be a success in fueling both dreams and confidence for women in the industry while simultaneously supporting retailer customers and growing the wine category.



When the COVID-19 crisis began in March, Hershey was in the middle of restructuring its everyday chocolate assortment segment. The company had modified its brands and packaging to improve noticeability at shelf. In March, Hershey relaunched its assortments portfolio with 14 new national listings and a new display vehicle. Just as the new portfolio began to hit the market, the COVID-19 outbreak led to unpredictable consumer demands, temporary labor shortages and supplier challenges.

Fortunately, Hershey’s supply-chain team was able to rise to the challenge, working closely with internal demand, supply, transportation, sales and category management teams to meet the increasing demand at retail and deliver a high level of customer service, with a case-fill rate well ahead of the industry average. Additionally, the new portfolio was able to satisfy the dramatic shifts in shopper behavior during the crisis, which included an increase in chocolate consumption and “stock-up” buying. Hershey’s new assortment strategy paid off, as the category increased 28% in the food channel, with Hershey pacing growth at 67%, regaining share leadership within the chocolate assortment segment (51.8%). In 2021, Hershey will continue to innovate within the segment to capture emerging shopper demand within the new COVID environment.


2020 Category Captains Awards HORMEL FOODS As a category leader in both retail and foodservice, Hormel Foods understands how trends affect both channels and how consumers navigate each of those, even during a crisis. When the pandemic hit, though, all bets were off. Panic buying ensued at retail grocery, e-commerce skyrocketed, and consumers stopped going to restaurants. Hormel immediately went into action by prioritizing production of foodservice-inspired items to provide the restaurant experience to consumers who were staying home. In addition, the sudden acceleration of online grocery shopping led Hormel to build a strong relationship with its e-commerce retailers. With one national retailer, the company worked side by side to conduct a full evaluation of its online versus offline assortment. Hormel analyzed the incrementality of the items that were missing online to understand which items would be best suited to fit the needs of those consumers. These key assortment changes helped the retailer meet the needs of online consumers and increase sales. During the COVID peak, the company saw sales increase as high as six times normal weekly sales. These sales have maintained their growth at more than two times that of pre-COVID-19 sales. Given the growing trend of e-commerce in the CPG world,

IDAHOAN FOODS Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Idahoan Foods experienced double-digit growth nationally and a 92% share of flavored mashed potatoes, facilitated largely by partnering with retailers on assortment, promotion and shelf optimization. Early in the pandemic, the company teamed with IRI on a study to help mitigate out-of-stock risks while leveraging category growth opportunities brought on by COVID. Idahoan shared the study results with its retailer partners and was able to keep product flowing through its plants and to retailers’ shelves. Despite multiple consecutive weeks of “best-ever” sales, with some weeks reaching a more than 200% lift versus the prior year, the company retained a 98.5% service level in March. When sustained sales increases depleted safety stock, Idahoan moved to an allocation and suspension program in which about half of its SKUs were suspended and those remaining had volume allocated to retailers based on historical volume. This maximized the amount of product flowing through to retailers and, eventually, consumers. Each step of the way, Idahoan leveraged past work and present analytics to make fact-based decisions. Through past category management work with IRI, Idahoan had a deep understanding of item-level substi-


Hormel has been investing in the development of premier e-commerce activation. This includes developing best-in-class analytics and insights to help drive the e-commerce business forward. Hormel has now launched e-commerce-specific items for key e-comm accounts. In creating and developing these items, the company has partnered with key retailers to ensure that these new products would meet the needs of consumers. Hormel also prioritized production to maximize the supply of highest-impact items to best meet retailer and consumer needs. Additionally, trade reduction efforts were deployed to control demand, and funds were reinvested into the e-commerce space to align with key channel shifts. Investments have been made in out-ofstock insights to further understand retailer implications, stage product through supply-chain efforts, and improve demand planning and inventory build. As a result, Hormel has brought more than 22 million new buyers to key brands, with an average of 52% of them being new to the category.

tutability as well as which items served unique roles for key consumer groups. This allowed for a better understanding of which items Idahoan should keep active and which could be suspended temporarily. Idahoan also added several new key accounts, including a major national pharmacy retailer and a regional home-improvement chain. Past analytic work on household penetration, buyer profiles and associated marketing activities have informed how best to market to the 4 million new households that the company has added during the pandemic. Idahoan’s marketing team created Project PULL to engage and retain these new households, resulting in a 10% buy rate increase.


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2020 Category Captains Awards KELLOGG CO. In 2019, Kellogg Co. began investing in capabilities to provide a data-driven eating “occasion” framework. Challenging itself to rethink eating occasions, the company was studying the “snackification” of America and how to identify new opportunities to grow market share in certain categories. Then COVID-19 happened, and Kellogg had to reinvent its “perfect portfolio” for all-new eating occasions. The company first decided to focus on supply: It took a disciplined approach to ensure the best product supply on its highest-velocity SKUs. Its main assortment process, SLAM (Shopper Led Assortment Management), enabled it to proactively discontinue 79 SKUs with little to no impact on overall dollar/unit sales. This freed up much needed capacity for the supply chain to fo-

cus production on high-velocity SKUs to ensure better in-stock rates for retailers and consumers. As a result, sales were up in ready-to-eat cereal, portable wholesome snacks, crackers, salty snacks, frozen breakfast and frozen vegetables. Another category-building strategy that Kellogg refined this year focused on Pop-Tarts. Teens had been taking Pop-Tart selfies by replacing the phones in their hands with Pop-Tarts, and posting the photos to their social feeds. Kellogg tracked this trend and built on it for its Pop-Tarts social campaign. The company gathered a diverse group of teens and let them take tons of selfies in their authentic home environments. The COVID stayat-home reality was perfect for this effort, and Kellogg directed the teens via a remote shoot, communicating over video chat. The campaign was so successful that it grew from a carousel into a paid ad, slightly updating the concept to mimic a TikTok trend popular with consumers. Throughout, the food and the brand were the focus, with Pop-Tarts’ iconic shape and frosting highlighted. As it looks to 2021, Kellogg will continue to monitor its portfolio to ensure optimization for retailer partners’ categories and consumers, as well as track how teens are interacting with Pop-Tarts on social media.

LITEHOUSE FOODS When COVID-19 hit, Litehouse Foods quickly moved to address the rapidly evolving retailer and consumer landscape. The company immediately focused on e-commerce growth, strengthened the growth of product lines across categories and reimagined ways to virtually engage with customers. Litehouse continued operations while adjusting to better support retailers and employee-owners, and quickly implemented new facility processes, including a temporary pay increase for front-line workers and an increased overtime premium for employees. Meanwhile, shifting consumer behavior led to an influx of online grocery platform users. Within weeks of stay-at-home orders being implemented, Litehouse had launched several promotional campaigns on e-commerce platforms. In one partnership, Litehouse paid the delivery fees when consumers added its products to their carts and met minimum order requirements, resulting in thousands of redemptions and an average of 2.5 new products per redeemer; about 88% of redemptions came from new consumers. Litehouse shelf-stable and value-sized products continue to be a growing priority as consumers stock up on grocery staples. Value-sized Litehouse products experienced strong growth during the pandemic,

driven by increased purchase frequency. A produce category manager notes that Litehouse Homestyle Ranch and Blue Cheese dressings have been up year to date, adding that his retailer “can’t wait for the new flavors.” This growth inspired Litehouse’s continued focus on e-commerce opportunities for its products. The Sky Valley, Organicville and Green Garden pantry-friendly products were added to one retailer’s website and saw three to six times the sales growth of previous months. Litehouse also shifted planned marketing as the coronavirus shut down cities. A summer barbecuing influencer campaign promoting Litehouse Simply Artisan Cheese pivoted to at-home family celebrations. This shift resulted in 16% growth during the weeks of promotion, compared with the same period in 2019.




2020 Category Captains Awards

MARS WRIGLEY Encouraging impulse purchases has always been challenging. Then came the e-commerce era. After that came the COVID-19 era, and Mars Wrigley knew it was critical to help retailers capture missed in-store and online impulse sales by keeping confections top of mind for consumers shopping in-store or online. So what did Mars Wrigley do? It created a custom paid social campaign to remind consumers that they could still purchase its brands from the safety of their homes and drive traffic to online retailers. The company kicked off work in mid-March, and within a week, it had tapped into the agility of its in-house creative team to quickly create new shoppable digital commerce ads across Mars Wrigley brands. The campaign was unique in not only how the media buy was split

across retailers, but also in how it leveraged in-platform shoppable features. The campaign proved highly successful in boosting online confection sales. Online retailer traffic increased 4,000%, with more than 3.3 million clicks across the ads. The ad units themselves had a two-times higher click-through rate when compared with Mars Wrigley’s typical benchmarks. When the ads were running, retailer sales doubled. In addition to this impressive campaign, Mars Wrigley partnered with a regional grocer this year to conduct a neuroscience study that included electroencephalogram testing and eye tracking to better understand what the shopper was looking at online, and how the brain reacted to that content. Mars Wrigley then used the findings to implement optimized visual navigation and hero imagery with the retailer, driving conversion and engagement from search pages. Mars Wrigley continued to be a key partner for grocery retailers in 2020 by driving digital purchases amid one of the most challenging retail landscapes in decades. Mars Wrigley’s commitment to growing the grocery channel continues to be a top priority as it brings quick-turn solutions to ensure the success of its retailer partners and the category.

MILO’S TEA CO. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Milo’s Tea Co. has been accelerating several Big Data initiatives to streamline planning and manufacturing processes as well as to provide clearer visibility of finished products. The company is also using large data sets to inform forecasting, production scheduling and capacity calculations. Milo’s is in the process of upgrading its inventory realization and warehouse management systems. During the first half of 2020, it worked to have more visibility of finished products in its facilities, and during the last half of this year, it will be working to add full visibility to the movement of finished products from its facilities to customers’ facilities. This system will be fully operational early in 2021. The company has also been making progress with the addition of new electronic data interchange (EDI) carrier transaction types. With these new transactions, Milo’s will receive GPS information directly from the carrier so it can track outgoing shipments in real time. This will allow the company to better serve customers and provide product tracking from its dock to customers’ doors. Additional newly implemented EDI transactions have accelerated shipment scheduling, saving countless hours. Along with these advances in technology, Milo’s has launched a stage-gate process, which allows for corporate collaboration on new items, investing decisions and large projects. This


process gives Milo’s the ability to streamline planning and collaboration across the organization for repeatable positive results. By the end of 2020, this process will be systemically supported from end to end with software solutions.

best taste, best quality Chiquita is honored to be recognized for Category Management excellence for the 21st consecutive year. “It has been a challenging year for the retail industry as the pandemic required retailers and suppliers to adjust category management plans and find new ways to serve shoppers. We appreciate the time Chiquita invested to share a thoughtful submission that illustrated how its company was able to pivot and drive growth when faced with unexpected marketplace conditions.” — Progressive Grocer

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2020 Category Captains Awards MOLSON COORS When the coronavirus shut down bars and restaurants, at-home drinking occasions exploded as shopper anxiety about going to retail stores grew. Sensing a massive opportunity, Molson Coors ran the first-ever TV spot highlighting the ability to get beer delivered. As a result, beer e-commerce sales accelerated, and shoppers’ awareness of buying beer online doubled. Molson Coors’ e-commerce leadership extended to the digital shelf, where it’s critical that shoppers can find the items they want. Based on its research, Molson Coors recommended “alcohol” as a top navigation panel, followed by a sub-navigation panel for “beer,” “wine” and “spirits,” followed by beer page navigation for each segment. Its recommendations led to a 5% increase in ease of finding, a 6.3-second improvement in shoppers finding their preferred product, and an 8% spend increase. To help generate awareness,

Molson Coors created “Buy Beer Online” tabs on its brands’ websites, enabling shoppers to see, after entering their ZIP code, all retailers in their area that allow online order for delivery or pickup of beer. Shoppers are then driven directly to a retailer’s site to make their purchases. The work, resources and thought leadership that Molson Coors has driven in the wake of unprecedented beer e-commerce growth will pay dividends in the beer category in 2020 and well beyond.

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©2020 Rich Products Corporation. OREO and the OREO Wafer Design are registered trademarks of Intercontinental Great Brands LLC, used under license. REESE’S trademark and trade dress and the REESE’S Orange Color and Crown Design are used under license. Carvel® and Carvel logo are registered trademarks of Carvel Franchisor SPV LLC, used under license.


MONTEREY MUSHROOMS Amid the ongoing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in communities across the country, Monterey Mushrooms has taken its special responsibility as a food supplier seriously, when it comes to satisfying consumers and retailers alike. Specifically, the company has been helping retailers large and small maximize sales and profits in the category while the industry has been dealing with supply challenges. In one example, Monterey helped a smaller retailer in the Midwest grow its organic segment to industry average or better while ensuring that overall category sales and profits didn’t fund the organic growth. Monterey helped the retailer set everyday goals, relocating organics in the base set and fine-tuning promotions. As a result, organic share grew from 10.5% to 15.5%, while the total United States averaged 13.5%. The retailer’s total category posted 21.3% sales growth, 21% unit growth, shrink reduction of 21.7% and net profit growth of 29.5% over the same time last year. Monterey’s efforts helped prove that even in a pandemic, a category can achieve desired goals. In another example, this time with a national retailer, Monterey worked with the retailer to put in place a promotional plan focusing on larger-size packages that provided the following 26-week results over the same time last year: Overall category sales grew 26.3%, while the total U.S. market averaged 20.7%

growth; overall category units grew 16.4%, while the total U.S. market averaged 15.6% growth; and overall category pounds grew 17.5%, while the retailer’s market was at 17.1% growth. The retailer showed a shrink improvement of 34.1% and net profit results of 45.2% over the same period last year. The COVID environment has challenged almost every supply chain. What most retailers ask for first is supply to support their past category trends. One of the best strategies today is larger packages that are priced correctly. Monterey is proving that even though this strategy is a big win for consumers, it’s an even bigger win for retailers.


2020 Category Captains Awards NESTLÉ PURINA

The world changed in March, and Nestlé Purina had to change with it. The company, which operates a highly renowned retail innovation center (RIC) in St. Louis, normally offers retailers an immersive and exploratory category management experience in person. When the pandemic forced everyone to stay put, Nestlé Purina had to digitize its RIC content over a period of 10 weeks. That turned out to be a soaring success. The virtual RIC not only allowed Nestlé Purina to continue influencing retailer engagements, but it also helped the company expand its reach and category influence with both new customer accounts and cross functional audiences within existing retailer partners. The new virtual RIC has also become a tool for internal teams at Nestlé Purina to help cultivate retailer needs upstream in the product development process. The virtual RIC is additionally influencing category strategy at some of the company’s top customers, driving actionable solutions and incremental business opportunities each time. For example, Nestlé Purina leveraged the experience with its No. 1 customer to inspire and co-create new ways to drive dog treat category growth. These ideas are now being developed for market implementation and wouldn’t have happened without the virtual RIC. Meanwhile, Nestlé Purina’s category experience design (CXD) team tackled the notoriously challenging wet cat food shopping experience this year. The ultimate goal was to build a

PHARMAVITE The COVID-19 pandemic was tailor-made for Pharmavite, the parent company of Nature Made, which had already been working on developing and introducing new immunity products featuring vitamin C, vitamin D and elderberry earlier in the year. When consumers and retailers started seeing surging demand for immunity supplements, Nature Made’s immunity products were already available on store shelves. Still, the Pharmavite operations team adapted quickly to ensure a healthy supply chain, including identifying co-packers, ordering raw materials, instituting 24/7 line operations and heightening already stringent safety protocols in manufacturing facilities. Operations also shifted production to focus on the unprecedented consumer demand for products that support immune health. Pharmavite also began collaborating more closely with retailer partners to improve the shopping experience both in-store and online. The company’s assortment optimization process uses many sources of data. Employing space management software, Pharmavite identified gaps in item placement and white space where vitamins could help improve sales.


shopper-centric solution, but to consider the needs of the retail stocker and picker as well. The company immediately got to work trying to fully understand the frustrations or pain points for each of the core audiences. The Nestlé Purina team ended up devising an elegantly simple solution that solves the needs of the stocker, picker and shopper. Highlights of the final design include: A color-coded system with key search elements highlighted for ease of picking Shelf dividers with UPCs attached to make stocking more efficient Clear product labels enhanced under each SKU, with distinct forms and proteins called out for easier shopping The solution has proved to be a success, with shoppers purchasing more items, stockers having an easier time keeping the shelf clean, and pickers becoming more efficient when searching for items. Sales have been strong for both Nestlé Purina and the total wet cat food category, and the plan is to expand beyond testing into a scaled rollout in the future.

In addition, as many shoppers turned to e-commerce for their supplement needs during the pandemic, Pharmavite helped retailers manage their online assortment and image libraries to address the surge in online shopping in response to the public-health crisis. As a result, online sales at many top retailers have tripled in the category. Internally, Pharmavite’s leadership team responded quickly to protect the health of its employees and shifted its office-based workforce to remote work. With many employees adjusting to remote work for the first time, Pharmavite has provided ongoing support ranging from upgrades in collaboration/technical tools to offering remote safety training, ergonomic assistance, and employee assistance to manage such challenges as burnout, stress and other related issues resulting from the present situation.


2020 Category Captains Awards POMPEIAN INC.

How do you grow a flat category in the middle of a pandemic? Pompeian Inc. was certainly up to that task this year. After all, even before COVID-19 hit, the company was already working on proprietary research to help resolve consumer confusion in the olive oil category. As Pompeian was designing an education campaign to eliminate confusion and unlock category growth, COVID-19 drastically changed shopping behaviors of olive oil buyers. All of a sudden, sales in the olive oil aisle were booming, and the company had to pivot to keeping shelves stocked and fulfilling orders faster than ever. Pompeian revisited operations to speed up orders, ensure stable prices and eliminate shortages. As Pompeian accelerated its distribution network, many olive oil brands bottled outside the United States were slowed by recent tariffs. As pandemic demand moderated, however, Pompeian returned to the education campaign, and the company went a step further, also zeroing in on COVID-19 shopping trends, shifting its pre-shop communication to focus on health and usage, taking the guesswork


out of shopping, and getting consumers in and out of the store quickly. Pompeian evolved its search/paid social targeting from regional to national, had organic/ paid social media spotlighting healthy pantry-staple recipes, and teamed up with WebMD to promote extra-virgin olive oil’s health benefits. Additionally, as retailers weren’t accepting in-store promotions, Pompeian offered purchase/ sales-driving tactics to boost online volume, including paid search and a Walmart/Amazon direct-to-cart influencer program. As a result of Pompeian’s pivots, a major e-commerce giant selected the company to be its majority olive oil partner for its first 2020 retail grocery launch, and another big retailer gave Pompeian a supply-chain award. As of July, while overall CPG category sales had trended back to normal, olive oil still showed double-digit gains, up 25.7% (31% year to date), with Pompeian bolstering the category, growing 32.1% in July.


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The Reynolds Consumer Products (RCP) category management department’s mission is to be among the very best in class when it comes to category management. A clear example of that mission was the company’s collaborations with retailers as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Many retailers lost shoppers during the early COVID days of pantry loading and panic buying as consumers made fewer trips, shopped closer to home, and preferred smaller, less crowded retailers. RCP decided to collaborate with IRI to study pandemic shopper behavior. The data spotlighted an opportunity to convert retained buyers to new categories. As a result of the IRI work, RCP was able to help retailers post unprecedented growth in the cooking and meal prep category, up 29% versus a year ago, as consumers began to cook at home more often. The collaboration with IRI and retailers has resulted in a stronger partnership and the ability to extend that collaboration to adjacent categories to increase penetration of household categories and improve overall store performance.

In addition, RCP unveiled another innovative partnership this year: Reynolds, a retailer and consumer insights firm Numerator all teamed up to design research to understand the role of private and national brands in the waste bag category. The study included both panel analysis and a consumer survey. The data showed that national brands attract more middle- and high-income households. If price were equal, shoppers would prefer to buy national brands, but many consumers switch between private brands and national brands throughout the month due to price and budget. Therefore, it’s imperative for retailers to offer both national-brand and private-brand bags to enable shoppers to trade up and trade down throughout the month. This information has become the foundation for item-level assortment reviews and promotion optimization that will improve the shopper experience, drive loyalty at the retailer and maximize waste bag category sales.


CATEGORY MANAGEMENT A consumer centric model, focused on growing retailer reach with shoppers. Business analysis & solutions geared toward growing our retailers’ category sales. Data visualization and consumer behavior models.



2020 Category Captains Awards RICH PRODUCTS CORP.

While it’s important to offer careful planning based on shopper insights, followed by flawless execution, an equally important skill set is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and adjust strategies in real time, based on quickly evolving information. That’s the situation in which Rich Products Corp. found itself this year. The family-owned company partnered with Disney and Focus Brands to launch a Carvel brand “Frozen II” Ice Cream Cake to capitalize on the November 2019 debut of the highly anticipated “Frozen II” movie, working closely with the Disney team on in-store marketing support and social posts from the Rich’s-owned I Love Ice Cream Cakes website and media platforms to drive demand. However, as markets began implementing COVID restrictions, Rich’s quickly adjusted its social media content and email and influencer campaigns to focus on the theme of making celebrations at home special, and tweaked assortments to emphasize more family-friendly sizes rather than products geared toward larger gatherings. Rich’s pivoted further to eliminate its fourth-quarter holiday free-standing inserts to reallocate dollars to digital promotions

THAI UNION NORTH AMERICAN (CHICKEN OF THE SEA) Shelf-stable tuna popularity reached new heights during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers began loading their pantries, and Chicken of the Sea was uniquely poised to meet this unprecedented demand due to the company’s supply-chain optimizations. Whereas other companies were unable to surmount challenges ranging from fishing-port closures to border restrictions interrupting their ability to buy from their suppliers, Chicken of the Sea was able to keep up with demand and, in turn, its parent company Thai Union reported a 50% jump in shelf-stable seafood sales in March alone. During this period of record sales, the company recognized both an opportunity and a challenge. A significantly higher percentage of the population purchased canned tuna in March compared with its average consumer penetration, offering an opportunity for these incremental households to reconsider tuna from a taste, health


such as paid searches on retailers’ e-commerce platforms to attract new customers. The efforts paid off, as ice cream cake sales increased 35% during the early months of the pandemic. The company’s nimbleness helped it drive substantial growth in a category where it has a 77% market share, with sales growing by solid double digits in a category where growth typically averages 1%-3%. The results that Rich’s achieved were the culmination of a successful new product and of quickly shifting marketing activities after the onset of COVID-19 to a digital approach, both of which brought new shoppers and improved the Carvel brand buy rate by 25% from March through June, with an 84% increase in buyers who were new to the brand. The company’s efforts also benefited the overall category, too, with shoppers buying ice cream cakes more frequently, eating more frozen desserts, and creating new “just for fun” usage occasions, as opposed to purchasing the cakes only for celebrations.

and sustainability perspective, and to remain category purchasers moving forward. At the same time, Chicken of the Sea recognized that consumers would be less likely to return for future category purchases if they didn’t use their stockpiled products. It became critical that the company increase tuna usage in Q2 to maintain category purchase frequency, so Chicken of the Sea quickly pivoted toward a consumption-driving plan with an emphasis on states with the highest brand penetration, and therefore the biggest purchase rates. This consumption-driving plan featured a paid search campaign, brand website optimizations, strategic paid and organic social media content, influencer partnerships, and a PR push driving coverage of the brand’s pantry-friendly recipes and featuring a partnership with celebrity chef and registered dietitian Ellie Krieger. This PR generated more than 156 million impressions to date, including results from distributing an advertorial, “Ways to Make Healthy Meals at Home with Pantry Staples,” which ran verbatim in newspapers and on news websites across the country, and drove more than 10 million impressions. Chicken of the Sea also refused to compromise on its category-leading sustainability efforts despite challenges presented by the pandemic. Thai Union was quick to adopt e-observers, e-reporting, e-logbooks and e-audits on fishing vessels, boasting impressive technology leaps that allow for transparency and traceability even when people are unable to be there physically to observe the processes.

White Castle¨ proudly accepts the 2020 Category Captain award. We’re committed to our customers and we’re thrilled that it shows. After nearly 35 years of filling up freezer aisles with what consumers crave, we’re still happy to say, “Long Live Sliders!”


PACKAGING. ©2020 White Castle Management Co.


2020 Category Captains Awards WHITE CASTLE FOOD PRODUCTS

After COVID-19 hit, the company pivoted to caring for workers at its eight food-manufacturing plants, while also supporting front-line first responders, retail workers and educators with special offers. The company’s final and third strategy was “Be Brand Smart and Street Smart.” White Castle hired a shopper marketing agency with big plans for the second quarter of fiscal 2020. When the pandemic turned the world upside-down, the team came together to focus on ways that the company could support consumers through the new realities they faced. By understanding shoppers’ needs and purchase journeys, the team built a multilayered digital and in-store campaign to showcase fun and unexpected slider-based recipes that added variety to weekly meals. Consumers found creative eating solutions that also encouraged filling their shopping baskets with easy-to-find ingredients from other aisles in the store. Looking at 2021, White Castle will continue to prioritize “feeding the souls of craver generations everywhere” and driving growth in the frozen burger category.


that warranted recognition as a Category Captain. The robots, Cart Wash and other disinfecting products can currently be purchased or leased directly through its website or by reaching out to its sales team. SmartGuard UV, in partnership with Fetch Robotics, manufactures what amounts to a Roomba for retail, an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) that roams store aisles to sanitize the environment with UV light approved by the Food and Drug Administration. A single SmartGuard AMR can cover 50,000 square feet, roughly the size of a typical food store, in an eight-hour period before returning to its charging station. Once there, it uploads reports to the cloud so retailers have the assurance that every square foot of the store was covered, which can be more difficult to verify when humans are involved in the process. The unit kills 99.9% of all bacteria and viruses, promoting health and wellness while freeing employees for other tasks and minimizing the potential for human error and the inconsistent application of sanitization protocols.

If there’s one thing that wasn’t surprising about 2020, it’s that consumers started craving comfort foods to deal with all of the challenges being thrown their way, from a deadly virus to racial unrest to an extremely contentious election. That’s why what White Castle Food Products did this year to make the most of these challenges was nothing short of amazing. The company leveraged a three-pronged strategy to lead its category management through a tumultuous year. Strategy No. 1 was to focus on growing and supporting its “Craveable Core Six” — the SKUs most capable of building sales and profits for the company’s partners. White Castle launched its first creative campaign for restaurants and CPG, Long Live Sliders! The campaign connected with consumers and partners through an invitation to quell cravings that resonated. The second strategy was to evolve the brand from transactional to transformational by capitalizing on an ability to create memorable moments. White Castle hosted a one-of-a-kind Valentine’s Day “reservations only” soirée with sliders in the parking lot of a major Southwest U.S. partner. The steam-grilled sliders even inspired an impromptu wedding proposal — not to mention a strengthened partnership by creating a traffic-driving event.

The pandemic forces that caused consumer goods suppliers to demonstrate tremendous agility the past 10 months also created a new type of category related to helping keep shoppers and store employees safe. SmartGuard UV has demonstrated a new type of leadership and innovation for disinfection



Selling Item in the Refrigerated Tea Category* (Sweet Tea Gallon) Brand in Category in Southeast*

Fastest Growing National Brand in Refrigerated Tea Category* for the Past 2 Years • Better For You Beverage: No Preservatives or Added Colors • Marketing Support: Ensures New Shoppers and Incremental Sales

*Refrigerated Tea Category, Nielsen, 52 weeks

• Platinum-Certified Zero Waste Manufacturer

Our Sweet Story Milo’s was founded as a restaurant in 1946 by Milo and Bea Carlton after Milo returned from serving our country in World War II. Milo’s philosophy was simple: use high quality, natural ingredients, listen to your customers and never sacrifice taste. This vision still guides us today as we fresh brew daily with real tea leaves, source natural ingredients, and never use added colors or preservatives.

Learn more at




embership-based delivery service and marketplace Shipt launched in 2015, and just two years later, it was acquired by Target. In March 2019, 23-year Target veteran Kelly Caruso was named CEO of Shipt, which now operates in 5,000 markets and covers roughly 80% of the United States. Caruso spoke with Progressive Grocer about the future of digital grocery and how Birmingham, Ala.-based Shipt is creating a third retail ecosystem to rival Walmart and Amazon.

Progressive Grocer: Let’s go back to the start of the pandemic and talk about onboarding a large number of shoppers onto the platform, and what the workforce looks like now. Kelly Caruso: We intentionally grew our business in a different way than others in the same industry. We started in the South and grew into midsized cities throughout the Midwest. And then, after the Target acquisition, we doubled down into the major metros. In addition to starting in different-size cities, what was also unique and different about Shipt was early on, we placed a bet on the power of a personal shopper, and our shoppers are really our secret sauce. We believe that technology without a human element simply is not relevant. So, in the first year in the role, I spent my time really focused on three things: No. 1, crafting a long-term strategy that would position Shipt for outsize top-line growth and market share gains over the next five years, but also contemplating a pathway to profitability; secondly, it was about ensuring that we codified our purpose, that we were a company that was guided by our purpose and our vision, and for us, our purpose is to spark the connections that show how every person counts; and the last thing was about ensuring that we had diversity across the c-suite.

PG: How did those things manifest when the pandemic hit?


KC: I’ll never forget it. It was a random Thursday in March, and we shattered any previous one-day record for orders, and I knew: It’s here. And the next day, that Friday, we shattered another record. So immediately, we started to work very quickly and to get ready for the pandemic. It started by scaling our platform from 100,000 shoppers to 200,000 shoppers in about 30 days to ensure that we could meet the demand. We quickly created new product features to ensure that we’re keeping our customer and our shopper safe, things like contactless delivery and expanding our delivery windows to make sure that more people had access to same-day delivery. But we knew we needed to go beyond that to really protect our shoppers. And so it was probably three key things: No. 1, ensuring that they had access on every single day to masks and gloves, and ensuring those that were our most active shoppers got monthly care packages of hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, whatever they needed, personalized to what mattered most to them; secondly, we offered financial assistance to those that either have contracted COVID or were quarantined — we offered 14 days of past pay, including tips, so that they could feel safe and not shop when they didn’t feel safe; and lastly, for those that had been some of our most active shoppers during the pandemic, we offered spot bonuses of anywhere from $50 to $200.

PG: How do you flip the switch and add 100,000 shoppers? KC: We used advertising to get the word out that joining the Shipt platform was a great opportunity to earn flexible income, and we do video chats to carefully select the shoppers that we allow on our platform. We are looking for really three attributes. Their ability to shop — they have to understand the difference of why a customer might want a yellow banana versus a green banana versus a brown banana. They have to be strong communicators, because there’s a lot of communication that is important to go back and forth to get the shop exactly right. And they have to have an attention to detail and be willing to kind of go above and beyond. We had to look hard at our process of how long it took from when we accepted the shopper to when we could get them out doing shops, without sacrificing the quality of the shopper or the onboarding.

PG: Initially, Shipt was all about food shopping, right? KC: For the most part, we were mostly known for food, but one of the things we started to really focus on when I joined is, what’s going to make a metro area successful? We know a metro is good when it is anchored by a strong general merchandiser — think Meijer, Costco, Target. On top of that, we layer the most regionally relevant grocery retailer — think Publix, H-E-B, to name a couple. And then on top of that are where we put verticals — Petco, CVS, Bed Bath

& Beyond, to name a few. We’re able to have that diversity in our product catalog because of our shoppers, because of how good our shoppers are at shopping and really being connected to the customers they’re shopping for.

PG: What does the pathway to profitability look like? When might that be? Any sort of metrics around the gross merchandise value that is facilitated in the ecosystem?

PG: Talk more about what the Shipt model is and how it’s different.

KC: Like many companies in this space, we find ourselves three to five years ahead of where we thought we would be on top-line growth. You also know from this space that the unit economics of point-to-point delivery are tough. And while we do have a pathway to profitability laid out, it is still a few years down the line. For us, it is not about top-line growth or profitability, it is about top-line growth and profitability. I believe that there is a way to achieve both of those things.

KC: It is a curated marketplace based on the most relevant retailers for our customers. We want to ensure that we can be a one-stop shop, built to be the most trusted brand in delivery, and a retailer’s secret weapon to fulfill that last-mile capability. So, while we want to enhance the in-store experience, we want to be a strong brand ambassador and partner to the retailers. We don’t want to be a retailer. We are working on how to better serve retailers. We don’t have to worry about series funding, raising cash or what our exit plan will be. We’re focused on the business, and we share insights with our retailers. If we’ve got a piece of data, or we know an insight about their customer, we share it with them. We want to make sure that they know everything about their customers that we know. We believe that Shipt is uniquely positioned to really be a third ecosystem in the U.S. by inviting many retailers to come and work with us on our marketplace. We can help them more effectively compete against big, amazing retailers such as Amazon and Walmart, because those are two retailers we won’t work with.

PG: Shipt changed its membership approach recently. KC: We wanted to ensure Shipt was accessible to all. We did not want to position ourselves as a luxury, but rather a convenience. So, earlier this year, we launched a new pay-per-order model in addition to membership. We want to ensure that we have both opportunities for consumers so that they can access Shipt in whatever way makes the most sense for them.

PG: Talk about the long-term strategy and how you’re thinking about the diversification of retailers on your marketplace platform. KC: We will continue to add retailers that make sense for our customers, and you’ll hear more about some of those new partners joining in 2021. As I think about the long-term strategy at Shipt, one of the things we have been heavily focused on is elevating brand awareness. And to that end, we have pivoted from a tech-facing brand to one that is consumer-facing. And you saw it in the redesign of our logo and how we are showing up in advertising and marketing these days. We are also focused on lowering the costs to serve. How do we leverage technology and operational process to drive productivity and efficiency while keeping the experience really high and very strong? And the last part of it is continuing to build out this third-generation ecosystem and ensuring that, as we look at our 2021 product offering and different capabilities, we create the strong ecosystem throughout the U.S.

PG: One of the ways is adding more retailers, and then enhancing the ability of shoppers to shop with technological innovations. KC: Certainly, the network effects help any company scale, and that scale helps lower the cost to serve, along with technological innovations.




s with so many other categories across the store, seafood — whether fresh, frozen or shelf-stable — saw sales swell as consumers turned to home cooking in greater numbers during the pandemic. “The coronavirus has had a positive impact on seafood sales and units sold,” affirms Lisa Guinther, seafood category manager at Landover, Md.based Giant Food, an Ahold Delhaize USA banner. “Recent surveys have indicated that less customers are going to restaurants for their seafood, causing them to buy and prepare more at home. While we have seen an uptick in all seafood categories, snow crab, shrimp and fresh salmon are among the items with the largest growth. Another area that has seen sufficient growth is frozen value-added seafood: fish sticks, breaded fish and fried shrimp. This is mainly due to kids being home, and parents are looking for a fast, convenient item for lunch and dinner.”


Key Takeaways Having seen greatly increased seafood sales during the pandemic, retailers and suppliers are aiming to keep grocery shoppers buying. In-store and digital communication, use of data and analytics, cooking classes and recipe suggestions, offering restaurant-quality options, and accommodating online shopping trends are among the ways that grocers are working to make sure that seafood consumers remain engaged and eating at home. One emerging segment in particular is farm-raised seafood, which is expected to meet everrising consumer demand for seafood.

To meet current demand, Giant Food is “partnering with our vendors to secure product and promotions to pass onto our customers,” notes Guinther. “We are utilizing data and analytics to make sure we have the items our customers are looking for, while working closely with our marketing and e-commerce teams to keep our online platforms current with selection at a great value.” In the future, she says, “with more customers making seafood at home and [it] becoming part of their meal-planning routine, we are hopeful to maintain some of these new customers after the pandemic is over.” Over at Seattle-based PCC Community Markets, a 15-store cooperative, Meat and Seafood Merchandiser David Sanz observes, “We have seen an increase in seafood year over year, with a double-digit increase in sales,” due to the same factors mentioned by Guinther. In fact, having witnessed the devastating impact of restaurant closures on local fishermen, PCC worked to purchase some inventory that used to go to foodservice, according to Sanz, who goes on to note that the co-op grocer continues “to see wild Alaska and local salmon as top drivers across our stores. They remain as popular now — if not more — as they did pre-COVID. We are also seeing the popularity of ready-to-eat items increase, like our wild smoked salmon, wild smoked scallops, wild local cooked shrimp meat, wild cooked shrimp and wild cooked crab.” Once the pandemic has passed, “[i]t will be key that we can

have a strong assortment to meet online demands, in addition to in-store shopping,” asserts Sanz. “Providing our members and shoppers with unique recipes online is also something that PCC will continue to do as customers continue to cook more. We think it will also be important to try new things and offer promotions like Surf and Turf that our shoppers see on the restaurant side. Lastly, we will continue the cross merchandising of items like seasonings and sauces with our fresh seafood, in addition to our pre-seasoned ready-to-cook Chef Inspired options.” PCC has also sought to address consumer uncertainty about cooking such items, he adds: “With the increased demand for seafood, we ensured our online cooking classes included a range of classes to help new cooks and provide new options to those more proficient. Earlier this year, we offered multiple salmon-cooking classes, as well as a course on cooking local mussels.” “For years, the industry was of the mindset that consumption stayed flat because customers did not know how to cook seafood,” says Maria Brous, director of communications at Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets, which has similarly experienced a “significant” rise in seafood sales during the pandemic. “With COVID, and maybe additional time available, consumers have taken the time to try new recipes. All seafood items have seen significant growth during these times.





Frozen seafood has been indexing higher than others, with customers shopping less, so they are freezer loading. Snow crab has seen the biggest increase,” perhaps due to pandemic-stressed consumers wishing to treat themselves with a luxury item. Noting that normally, “[j]ust over half of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is consumed in restaurants,” Brous points out that during the pandemic, “[f]or those [shoppers] that wanted seafood, retail may have been the sole option. Secondarily, I believe customers have become a bit more adventurous since they are eating at home more; they are stepping out of their traditional meals to add some variety, and seafood was able to step in.”

Swim Buddies

So far, so good. But how can grocers and seafood suppliers keep consumer interest in preparing seafood at home at its current level — or even expand it — once the pandemic has passed and restaurants reopen? James Griffin, director of the Boston-based Chilean Salmon Marketing Council, observes that “grocery sales [of seafood] continue to surge, and we expect this to continue. As the consumer shift away from foodservice and toward grocery continues, this persistence is expected to have a long-term impact on behavior. We expect increased spend at grocery to last beyond the end of the pandemic.” He notes that grocers have been responding to this trend by “focusing their efforts on the seafood products consumers demand most while also periodically offering specialty items and alternatives. Shrimp and salmon are the category leaders. … At times like this, broadening assortment isn’t always a good idea, but optimizing marketing and merchandising is a necessity.” The way to maintain higher sales going forward, according to Griffin, is teamwork. “Now that seafood is a rising part of ring, suppliers — in all their complexity — and retailers must continue to work together and collaborate,” he advises. “The rapid increase in online ordering surprised many grocers, and now they are catching up with their user interface, data and analytics, and optimization. Keep an eye on this — in a short time, grocers are going to be digital powerhouses with tremendous real-time data on consumer preference and purchasing patterns. These data will drive breadth and depth of SKUs and overall customer engagement. Suppliers must remain aligned with this shift, support it and be part of the optimization discussion. When the pandemic ends, grocery will be in a position of strength and be more digital than ever. So, too, will suppliers.”

It’s All Good

It’s also important for retailers to bear in mind that there’s been double-digit growth across all seafood categories — fresh, frozen and shelf-stable — and to factor that into their sales strategies. “Millions of new and lapsed buyers turned to the shelf-stable seafood category to ensure they had nutritious and delicious food on hand in a period of uncertainty,” observes Dan Hofmeister, SVP of brand marketing at San Diego-based Bumble Bee, perhaps best known for its canned tuna. “In addi-


tion to growth across our shelf-stable offerings, we have been pleasantly surprised by how much we are seeing our Anova line of frozen ahi products grow. Prior to COVID-19, the majority of our Anova sales came from foodservice. We have seen that shift, and now more than 60% of our Anova sales are in grocery. We attribute that to a shift in how consumers are satisfying their desire for restaurant-quality, sustainably sourced ahi.” Rather than changing up its product assortment in response to the pandemic, Bumble Bee took another route. “The consumer shifts we have made have been predominantly to our consumer communication,” says Hofmeister. “We are committed to making it easier for consumers to find and share recipes via social, other digital platforms, and influencers who share the same passion and creativity for cooking with seafood. It clearly is filling a consumer need, as we are seeing close to triple-digit increases in engagement and following on our channels.” Hofmeister also offers some recommendations for retailers to highlight seafood products. “As consumers increase purchase size per trip to limit shopping trip frequency, retailers can help their shoppers by prominently displaying relevant shelf-stable seafood products — particularly multipacks — where they are easy to find,” he suggests. “We also recognize that consumer engagement in the category is growing as athome cooking increases. We would encourage and support finding ways to balance that need for convenience with shoppers’ natural desire to explore new items and new ways to prepare foods. AI online — and even instore — can support these needs. For seafood, because there is so much cooking and preparation being done, we would suggest continuing to lean into sharing of recipes and cross merchandising with complementary products like clams and pasta.”

Now They’re Cooking

Indeed, as Hofmeister mentions, a key component of continued engagement with consumers on seafood is to make sure they have the knowledge they need when they venture into the kitchen to cook their purchases. Megan Rider, domestic marketing director at the Juneau-based Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) notes that “the Alaska seafood industry works with retailers to help educate shoppers on the best and easiest ways to prepare seafood. ASMI’s Cook it Frozen! campaign provides retailers with recipes, how-to videos and other materials to educate the masses of consumers now cooking more often at home on how to prepare seafood directly from frozen, for delicious meals in a matter of minutes.” According to Rider: “We expect that at-



Reel in sales this winter with Frozen, Wild Alaska Seafood FROZEN IS TRENDING


Now more than ever is an an opportune time to highlight frozen fresh seafood from Alaska: • 82% of consumers are likely to purchase frozen fish. • As people stick close to home and cook for themselves over the next few months, including during the holiday season, they are stocking up their freezers. • Losing weight and eating healthy are priorities for many shoppers as the new year begins. • Buying sustainably-sourced products is a resolution for many consumers. • Convenience and ease of preparation remain a priority for home cooks, even as they try making new dishes.

Zero-thaw cooking makes it easy for your shoppers to eat delicious seafood from Alaska that’s good for the body, mind, and soul. Alaska’s frozen fresh seafood catch includes five species of salmon, numerous varieties of whitefish and several shellfish species. From Roasted Alaska Pollock with Chimichurri to Air-Fried Alaska Salmon with Israeli Salad Couscous, give your consumers access to a haul of ideas at

FROM OCEAN TO FREEZER IN A FLASH With 53% of consumers believing it is important that the fish they purchase be wild-caught, Alaska seafood understands the importance of providing retailers with superior quality frozen food. Thanks to advanced technologies that freeze and naturally protect fish within a matter of hours after being caught, Alaska seafood offers fresh-caught flavor, delicate texture and nutrient-packed content. All-natural frozen fresh seafood harvested from Alaska allows retailers to meet growing demand for frozen seafood with no waste and no loss of product inventory.

CAST OUT TO US: Did you know that seeing the Alaska seafood logo in-store increases 79% of consumers’ willingness to purchase? Attract shoppers to the frozen seafood case with free in-store merchandising and training support materials featuring cooking tips, recipes and mouthwatering plated images.

Contact Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute at (800) 478-2903 • Research statistics from Datassential 2020


of consumers say preparation tips and recipes for cooking fish while still frozen would increase their likelihood of trying this method.



home seafood consumption will remain steady even after the pandemic is over, as consumers have gotten more familiar with home cooking techniques. Alaska producers are continuing to adapt to changes in the supply chain in order to meet increased demand at retail for the growing number of consumers eating wild Alaska seafood at home.”

Ready to Grow

However, since not everyone is going to blossom into a confident preparer of seafood meals, whether using fresh or frozen ingredients, ready-to-eat and -cook (RTE/RTC) meals will remain important. “In terms of assortment, items that are either pre-cooked or can go directly from package to oven will help expand to customers who are not usual seafood purchasers,” asserts Bill Hueffner, VP of marketing and development for Clackamas, Ore.-based Pacific Seafood, which offers value-added products with easy preparation instructions. “Beyond RTE/RTC products, programs that educate consumers on preparation methods help drive sales.

The Plant-Based Proposition While traditional seafood has seen massive spikes in consumption amid the pandemic, how are plant-based alternatives faring? “Plant-based seafood delivers the full package for nutrition and environmentally conscious consumers who love the taste of seafood,” enthuses Dan Hofmeister, SVP of brand marketing at San Diego-based Bumble Bee, which recently entered into a sales, distribution and logistics partnership with New York-based Gathered Foods, maker of shelf-stable and frozen plant-based seafood items under the Good Catch brand. “Whether they think of themselves as a seafood connoisseur, vegan or flexitarian, plant-based seafood has a role to play in their diet. Retailers across the country are rapidly taking steps to meet the needs of these consumers by expanding their frozen and shelf-stable seafood assortment.” Megan Rider, domestic marketing director at the Juneau-based Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, is quick to warn, however, that “many health benefits and key nutrients of wild sustainable Alaska seafood, for example, omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, can’t be easily replaced by plant-based options. For that reason, retailers should ensure that plant-based is clearly marked as such and/or merchandised in locations clearly marked as plant-based, so that those consumers actually seeking wild sustainable seafood are


To support our retail partners, we have several POS options, including window clings, recipe books, videos and more. We also provide product training to retail associates and recently created a proprietary education program for retail partners to become Certified Seafood Professionals, allowing them to better assist customers who are unfamiliar preparing and purchasing seafood.” Hueffner predicts: “We expect a continued demand for approachable and easy seafood preparations. Post-pandemic, we see continued growth for RTE/RTC products in particular, along with a reimagined fresh case with more grab-and-go items. As consumers become more comfortable with seafood options, we anticipate they will branch out beyond their normal salmon and shrimp dishes by sampling less familiar, but just as delicious and sustainable, species such as black cod, Dover sole and rockfish.”

able to identify it easily and clearly.” Among retailers, the jury is still out as to whether plant-based seafood will catch on in a big way, but early indications at some grocers are promising. “Plant-based is relatively new in the seafood industry,” notes Lisa Guinther, seafood category manager at Landover, Md.-based Giant Food, an Ahold Delhaize USA banner. “We have recently introduced three new plantbased items from Good Catch: Crab Cakes, Fish Burgers and Fish Cakes. Since introducing these items back in July, we have seen our sales and consumer base grow on these items. We are continuing to look for additional plant-based items to offer our customers.” “While we do carry a few options, we are not seeing a big demand for plant-based seafood options at this time in terms of sales or member/shopper request, certainly not in the way we are seeing some people make the shift from beef to products like Beyond Meat,” admits David Sanz, meat and seafood merchandiser at Seattle-based PCC Community Markets, a cooperative with 15 locations. “At this time, these offerings are only offered at our GreenWise Market locations,” which carry a range of organic, natural and specialty groceries, says Maria Brous, director of communications at Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets. “The product is performing well; however, the existing products are out in front of the consumer demand. Brands will need to invest more capital to market to consumers in the way that plant-based meat brands have.”

Farm Fresh

One segment to pay particular attention to is that of farmraised seafood, which, according to Guy Pizzuti, business development director — seafood at Publix, people are buying more of since the pandemic. Bluehouse brand farm-raised salmon from Miami-based Atlantic Sapphire is sold at more than 200 area Publix stores. “During the pandemic, for those that are still uncomfortable with imported seafood, the local aspect can play a major role in the customer’s comfort level,” says Pizzuti. “Long-term benefits would come from the improved availability of seafood, job creation in the local market and reduced carbon footprint due to it being a local product. Atlantic Sapphire’s Bluehouse salmon is local to Miami and leverages the region’s saltwater aquifers.” Even after the current crisis is over, however, farm-raised seafood is poised for growth. “The demand for seafood is anticipated to increase by 70% by 2050, [and] aquaculture will play a critical role in filling that demand,” he explains. “As you look at existing aquaculture operations around the world, production growth must come from increased efficiency. The growth that is available from farm expansion is limited. We believe that growth from the aquaculture segment will come from land-based operations.”

Expanding the Pie

Whatever the future brings, retailers and suppliers are committed to ensuring that consumers continue to see grocery stores as primary seafood destinations. “Our hope is that we will have expanded the seafood pie and not just taken a bigger piece for a period in time,” observes Publix’s Brous. “Depending on the timing of a return to ‘normal,’ we could see some consolidation on the supply side, especially in the smaller distributor/wholesaler segment that was focused solely on foodservice. I would also see those that were foodservice focused seeking to expand and get a foothold in retail to provide some stability and diversification to their portfolio.” Looking ahead, Hofmeister describes Bumble Bee’s mission in the following terms: “Our job as a branded supplier is to make sure we watch and deeply understand what the needs of the consumers are going to be for the next ‘new normal,’ and from there, develop products and packaging to best serve our consumers.” He adds: “Our belief is that consumers are rediscovering the delicious benefits of seafood. We don’t see that changing.”

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Demystifying the Potato SE T CONSUMERS STR AIGHT ABOUT AMERICA’S FAVORITE VEGE TABLE. By Jamie Howe s coconut oil still OK for cooking? Is the Impossible Whopper better for me than its all-beef predecessor? Are colorful foods healthier than, well, uncolorful foods? It’s dizzying to keep up, much less separate fact from fiction for many consumers. It’s more important than ever for brands and organizations to play a role in demystifying the sometimes contradictory information that consumers face daily. A perfect example is the humble potato. Beloved by Americans, the potato is the most-loved vegetable, according to Chicago-based market research firm Datassential, and consistently ranks No. 1 with consumers among all veggies on key metrics like frequency and appeal. It’s also quite possibly one of the most misunderstood vegetables around. What steps can retailers take to clear the air and make educating customers easy?

Bring in the Experts

Like most things, the answer isn’t black and white or, in this case, orange and white. “Nutritionally speaking, potatoes are an excellent source of nutrition, regardless of color, and while there are slight differences, overall it’s a wash: Virtually all potatoes are a healthy choice,” says Marie Molde, a registered dietitian at Datassential. Sweet potatoes get their orange color from vitamin A, while white potatoes have more vitamin C, potassium and folate. Many consumers would probably be surprised to learn that medium-sized skin-on white potatoes actually have less sugar and more protein than their sweet potato cousins.

Connect to Benefits

Potatoes check the box on a number of top-of-mind consumer claims such as fiber, protein and iron. Most consumers likely don’t know that potatoes have 2 grams of fiber or 3 grams of protein per serving; and they probably also don’t realize that white potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse providing fuel and replenishment for athletic performance. When retailers highlight these nutritional benefits, it helps consumers think beyond the “label” and connect to their personal goals such as digestive health, fitness or satiety.

Dig Into the Data

There’s a reason that potatoes are trending on restaurant menus. In the past four years, white potato varieties like fingerling and red skin have been growing on menus, increasing 15% and 14%, respectively. For their part, fingerling potatoes bring a new riff on a ubiquitous pairing with center-of-plate proteins. The nutty, buttery flavor of a fingerling potato can be roasted, crisped or served confit-style with steaks, chops and seafood. Meanwhile, colorful purple potatoes have a vibrant color and earthy flavor, perfect for potato hash that works across dayparts, including breakfast, where potatoes are a hero menu item. Whether served in a hand-held or as a side, a


Spuds are the star in such recipes as Grilled Potatoes with Thai Chicken Salad.

skillet or a bowl, potatoes are a key component. What’s more, breakfast tends to be the healthiest meal of the day for most consumers. As more and more restaurant chains look to drive traffic in the breakfast daypart, they also look to potatoes in items like First Watch’s Hacienda Hash, featuring fresh seasoned potatoes, or Dunkin’s Egg White Bowl, made with a base of roasted potatoes. Potatoes are the unsung heroes fueling performance of not only athletes, but also every consumer from all walks of life. Whether it’s the home cook looking for a healthy and easy ingredient that pairs well with everything or a commuter grabbing breakfast on the go, odds are that potatoes are in the mix, and rightfully so — potatoes have endured for ages because of their delicious versatility and amazing nutritional value. So remember, when helping your customers demystify the sometimes contradictory information that they face daily, to remind them to look at the whole picture, and they may be surprised by what they find out.

As Datassential’s Trends and Insights practice area lead, Jamie Howe brings together her extensive data, research and trends background to give voice to the trends shaping the food and beverage industry.




Learn how to merchandise fresh potatoes to increase sales on America’s favorite vegetable!



Consumers spend more on average when potatoes are in their baskets.

Basket size with potatoes: $86 Basket size without potatoes: $43

Fresh potatoes can be found in 88% of households, making them a staple item at retail.

FOUR STEPS TO MERCHANDISING OPTIMIZATION Optimizing these categories can lead to growth in the potato category. SHELVING PLACEMENT



To find out how to implement merchandising optimizations to boost your sales, contact us at 1. Kantar Insights Consulting. Merchandising and Shelving Study and Best Practices, July 2018. 2. RichMix Methodology, August 2018. 3. IRI Freshlook WE 12/31/19. © 2020 Potatoes USA. All rights reserved.





Progressive Grocer: Nissin’s Top Ramen brand marks its 50th anniversary this year, an occasion that often gives rise to reflection. What has the company learned along the way? Mike Price: With 50 years of experience in the U.S. ramen industry, Nissin continues to focus on innovation, leading the way with new flavor profiles and products inspired by our consumers. One of our most recent advancements was the introduction of [microwaveable] Top Ramen bowls, making instant ramen more accessible in ready-to-go containers, [with the addition of] hot water.

PG: Describe the company’s origins. MP: Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles, was the Henry Ford of his time — a true innovator. As a result of the food shortages in Japan post-WWII, Mr. Ando was inspired to create a product that was delicious and affordable, saying, “Peace will come to the world when there is enough food.” In 1958, Mr. Ando released Chikin Ramen instant noodles in Japan. And on a trip to the U.S. in 1966, Mr. Ando noticed Americans curiously eating forkfuls of noodles out of cups, instead of using bowls and chopsticks. With that simple observation, the idea for Cup Noodles was born. Shortly after that trip in 1970, Nissin officially put down its roots in California at our Gardena plant, creating Top Ramen, the first instant ramen manufactured and sold in the States. Ever since, Nissin Foods has launched a continuous stream of new and innovative products for hungry, noodle-loving Americans.

PG: How did ramen come to be considered an all-American meal or snack, from being an imported curiosity? MP: When Nissin Foods first introduced instant ramen to Americans, we changed the way people think about affordable meals, offering something quick, tasty and comforting. At first, “ramen” was an unfamiliar term for Americans, and as such, Top Ramen was once named Oodles of Noodles on the East Coast. Now Top Ramen is a household staple, beloved by Americans across the country.

PG: How did you come to Nissin Foods? MP: I’ve worked in several leadership positions in the consumer packaged goods industry, including Mars. I was really stuck by Nissin’s heritage, and the value they bring consumers each day with affordable, high-quality meals. And I’m really proud to be a part of such a great team.

PG: What has been the impact of the pandemic on your company’s business and bottom-line financials, and why? MP: Staples continue to fly off the store shelves, with people looking for things they can stock up on, and our products fit this profile well. With that, our sales have increased, and we’ve been growing double digits. Even as the category grows, we’ve been outpacing the market. To help meet this demand, we’ve had teams working overtime, and have ramped up production to

From an imported curiosity, Top Ramen has become a beloved American brand enjoyed by millions.


MP: We recently launched Top Ramen’s most convenient and customizable product to date, Top Ramen Bowls, making it even easier to enjoy ramen on the go. Our innovation pipeline is driven by listening to our consumers and is responsible for the expansion of Cup Noodles Stir Fry and our new Hot & Spicy Fire Wok bowls.

PG: What is your strategy moving forward into a post-pandemic future? How do you intend to build on the gains of this year? MP: We’re proud of the progress we’ve made, and we look forward to the future with optimism. We’re hoping we can continue to keep pace with the demand, and also produce some new innovative offerings that will delight our consumers. For consumers, Top Ramen's products serve as the springboard for many a creative meal.

ensure we reduce supply disruptions. This experience has made us stronger as a company and forced us to improve processes, which will certainly benefit us in the long term.

“In celebration of our 50th anniversary, we asked our fans to show us how they TOP ramen, and they’ve been busy sharing their most imaginative Top Ramen recipes with us, ranging from bacon parmesan ramen to ramen grilled cheese.” —Mike Price, Nissin Foods USA CEO PG: How have consumers been making use of instant noodles this year, as opposed to years past? MP: Top Ramen continues to be a steadfast pantry staple that our fans have loved for generations, and they continue to add their own modern spin, creating delicious meals with what they have in their pantries. In celebration of our 50th anniversary, we asked our fans to show us how they TOP ramen, and they’ve been busy sharing their most imaginative Top Ramen recipes with us, ranging from bacon parmesan ramen to ramen grilled cheese.

PG: What new products, if any, are in the pipeline?


Center Store Report

Center Store Solutions HERE ARE SIX WAYS THAT GROCERS CAN GROW IN 2021. By Lynn Petrak he center store experienced a dramatic revival in 2020 as a result of pandemic-driven buying behavior. However, 2021 promises to look very different, and will bring with it new challenges and opportunities to grow sales in what is expected to be a more normalized demand environment, thanks in large measure to the pharmaceutical industry’s development of COVID-19 vaccines. Exactly when the pandemic ends may be unclear, but grocers have plenty of visibility into trends that will influence


Key Takeaways In the center store, trends toward customization, transparency, and a balance of indulgence, wellness and responsibility will remain in play and even intensify, while new and increasingly digital shopping behaviors accelerated by the pandemic are expected to persist. Prioritizing product placement and reconfiguring store layouts are also important components in shaking up the section. Further, grocers can make creative use of end caps, reinvent their personal care and pet sections, and heat up the frozen aisle.

center store categories. For example, trends toward customization, transparency, and a balance of indulgence, wellness and responsibility will remain in play and even intensify. Meanwhile, new and increasingly digital shopping behaviors accelerated by the pandemic are expected to persist. Against this backdrop, the center store promises to be more dynamic than ever, and a place where grocers have an opportunity to reimagine solutions to shoppers’ needs and position themselves as multipurpose, multioccasion destinations. In an omnichannel environment, making the store an ecosystem of interconnected elements can propel grocers ahead at a time of increased competition in both the e-commerce and brick-and-mortar arenas. Those interconnected elements can vary and depend on unfolding trends and world and national circumstances, but here are six ways that grocers can drive center store sales in the new year.


Focus on the Center Screen

One of the most dramatic impacts of the 2020 pandemic was the sudden and massive shift to e-commerce, including click-and-collect and home delivery. E-commerce will continue to comprise a growing portion of grocers’ sales in 2021, according to research conducted by Toronto-based Mercatus. The digital grocery solutions provider forecasts that online grocery sales will top $250 billion by 2025, for more than a fifth of all grocery sales, based on results of a consumer survey fielded last June. That’s a big 60% leap over pre-pandemic predictions. “The growth of online grocery in 2020 and its predicted long-term impact, coupled with customers’ continued loyalty to brick and mortar, makes it clear that these avenues must complement each other in creating a great customer experience across a grocer’s entire brand,” says Mercatus President and CEO Sylvain Perrier. That means retailers need to employ a shopper-centric “center screen” mindset in the center store, as that is increasingly where sales occur. As consumers buy online for store pickup or delivery, they’re straying from their previous and traditional habits of browsing the supermarkets and navigating carts from the perimeter to the center store aisle. Now they’re clicking tabs for categories like breakfast foods or grains and pastas, not in any particular order, to find groceries on their

lists, and perhaps find and try new items. Given this different mindset, grocers can grow categories typically found in the center store on their digital sites in creative ways, free from physical-store infrastructure constraints. Already, most stores with an e-commerce presence have set up their pages with featured deals and seasonal suggestions, and many use the screen to spotlight certain hot categories like organic, free-from or vegan. As new models, e-commerce specialty stores have the flexibility to be inventive. New York-based e-grocer Hive sells more than 800 shelf-stable products online from a carefully chosen assortment of items based on sustainability and social responsibility factors. Another e-retailer, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Pop Up Grocer, is a virtual pop-up that carries curated prescription boxes; each box includes a surprise limited-edition selection of up to 10 grocery items. Hunter Williams, partner, retail consumer goods, for the New York-based consulting firm Oliver Wyman, poses another idea in a blog post on the topic of optimizing the trend of buying by scrolling. “Supermarkets can try to capture some of the growing online sales by setting up their own dark stores — distribution centers that cater exclusively to online shopping,” writes Williams. “Or they can set up virtual center stores, where customers select items using images and barcodes and the products are held for them at the warehouse exit. Shoppers can then either collect their One key to purchases on the spot or making center have them delivered. This apstore more helpful for proach is particularly suited to urban and suburban areas shoppers centers on with dense populations.” leveraging product The screen is virtually a adjacency.” blank slate for grocers to —Douglas Madenberg, come up with new ways Retail Feedback Group to position categories and merchandise that makes them unique or relevant to their customers. Making the center screen a fresh, engaging experience where shoppers can easily find and order staples, and also enjoy the discovery of new items, involves teams of forward thinkers in technology, assortment, merchandising and marketing.


Endless Adjacencies

If floor plans in homes and offices are being opened up for new ways of living, aisles in physical stores can take a cue from architectural trends. Beyond trying to loop in shoppers with point-of-sale materials like floor decals and cooler clings, grocers can change up the actual center store space. Making changes a bit at a time, instead of a costly whole-store remodel, can be a way to test a different format. PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020



Center Store Report

displays of just-arrived or locally sourced products. “There is considerable opportunity for grocers to bring in locally sourced products that resonate with their customers, even as national-brand SKUs are generally being reduced,” points out Brian Numainville, principal at Retail Feedback Group. “In center store, this might mean local craft beers, syrups or jarred sauces.”


Inspiring End Caps

The use of lighting and artful displays, like this one from Madix, creates a boutique-like atmosphere in the beauty section.

Changes might be as simple as flipping packaged bakery items from interior aisles to shelves facing the in-store bakery, or canned and jarred fruits and vegetables near the produce section. Douglas Madenberg, principal at Retail Feedback Group, based in Lake Success, N.Y., underscores the effectiveness of placement. “One key to making center store more helpful for shoppers centers on leveraging product adjacency,” notes Madenberg. “Not a new idea, but by locating solutions for specific occasions or recipes together, it makes center store items much more accessible to shoppers when they are thinking about meal planning.” He adds that this can tie together brick-and-mortar and e-commerce sites. “In fact, in the online environment, this becomes even easier, since there isn’t a need to physically locate products together, so the possibilities for product adjacencies are endless,” says Madenberg. On another level, layouts can be configured in new ways. “The space can be restructured,” suggests Williams. “Products can be organized around eye-catching themes, and private-brand products can be added that are not widely available online. At the same time, grocers can repurpose some of their center store space to boost the supermarket as a venue for socializing and discovery, thus increasing perimeter sales.” Socializing may include “interior” floral departments or mini spaces used to demo fudge making or coffee roasting. Or aisles may be opened up from the traditional gondola-run layout for multidimensional


End caps have historically worked for sales and seasonal movement, but is it time to rethink this high-visibility piece of in-store real estate? Perhaps an end cap mirrors the e-commerce screen experience, with signs reminding shoppers of digital ordering and, on the website, language reminding visitors of in-store specials. An end cap could also be a space for a pop-up store, with limited-time products that create a “get it before it’s gone” sense of treasure-hunt urgency. With shoppers still seeking meal solutions, a grocer can use this prime space to showcase ideas for prepare-athome meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner — as more people continue to work from home. Beyond stacking meal kits or grouping together condiments and buns, think out of the box with vignettes for inspiring meal solutions that make shoppers stop and look, and also make it easy for them to grab what they need right there. End caps are a good place to plug in technology, something that might appeal to younger shoppers. A TV monitor with a looping video can include information on products for storytelling appeal, or a recipe demo from a store chef. If gas stations can put up such screens at the pump, retailers can leverage visuals in a new location, too. Beyond TV monitors, end caps can have touchscreens that link back to the e-commerce site, or to CPG websites that include more information on particular brands, or even to the granular product level.


Take-Home Advantage

With tough competition coming from the omnichannel and e-commerce arenas, grocers need to promote the convenience of getting household goods in the same shopping trip as foods and beverages, whether that’s online or in-store. Make customers feel at home — their home, anyway — by creating a household destination that combines necessities like paper goods, cleaning supplies and other staples, from batteries to tape to notebooks. Use signage to create a home store within the store, and rethink merchandising, signage, lighting and even assortments to offer soft-home impulse items. Personal care and beauty can be rolled into this focus on home, and grocers can take cues from beauty and personal care specialists such as Sephora and Ulta, and consider this category more like a boutique, with a salon-like feel that could have trip-generating appeal.


Grab Potential by the Tail

Similar to household goods, there’s an opportunity to turn the traditional pet aisle into a dedicated space to better capitalize on favorable pet trends. The trend of the humanization of pets was strong even before the pandemic sparked a flurry of pet adoptions and fosters. A recent survey from McLean, Va.-based Mars Petcare shows that 30% of pet owners welcomed another new pet this year, and 50% report that they’re spending more time with pets as a benefit of working and studying at home. Another survey, from Charlotte, N.C.based Lending Tree, reveals that a third of pet owners say they’ve increased their pet-related spending this year. Retailers that want to bolster their center store aisles that have been devoted to pet food can add to their assortment products that reflect the humanization of pets among pet parents. That can mean free-standing refrigerators of chilled pet food, an expansion into organic and natural brands, or the addition of toys and fancier leashes and collars. A pet rewards program and a pet-centric section of a store circular and website/e-commerce page can make this pet destination more visible. Grocers can welcome pet food and treat suppliers for outdoor demos in the warmer months, and encourage pet parents to bring their dogs, cats or other pets to the store for special samples.


new flash-frozen line of skillet meals that includes dishes inspired by both home cooking and global cuisines. National brands are also rolling out new frozen items, like Eggland’s Best's frozen omelets or Good Catch’s line of chef-made frozen plant-based seafood products, to name just a couple of examples. Finally, even as the emergence of effective COVID-19 vaccines bodes well for the end of the pandemic in 2021, grocers have an opportunity to remind shoppers of the importance of maintaining a well-stocked pantry. Whether shoppers are buying online or in-store, grocers can emphasize the shelf stability of center store products and perhaps even create a dedicated area for items with a long shelf life. “We know from our recent research that shoppers are increasing the time they keep boxed and canned items on hand, for example, from 43% indicating ‘a few months or more’ pre-pandemic, to 59%, as of October 2020,” says Retail Feedback Group’s Numainville. “So, clearly, shoppers are using center store as part of their strategy for ensuring they have an adequate supply of food items available over a longer time. Not wanting to be caught unprepared again — this may be a lingering habit.”

Fulfill Frozen Possibilities

The frozen department, which has had a resurgence due to innovative products and pandemic-driven demand, can also propel the center store forward into the future. Recent findings from Cleveland, Ohio-based Freedonia Focus Reports peg frozen foods to grow 2.4% annually through 2024, fueled by population dynamics and the appeal of premium and healthy frozen products. In the brick-and-mortar store, infrastructure elements like displays and lighting can draw consumers to the frozen section and provide a nice backdrop for products to visually pop through the glass. Reliable cold-chain capabilities ensure that frozen products that are part of home delivery or click-and-collect programs meet consumer expectations, especially during a sweltering summer. Grocers can Here, too, products repurpose that solve problems will some of their center store help fulfill the potential of frozen foods. space to boost the Many categories and supermarket as a venue brands are tapping into for socializing and the ongoing demand discovery, thus increasing for convenience and taste with foods and perimeter sales.” beverages that can —Hunter Williams, Oliver Wyman be easily reheated or thawed, from cook-itfrozen seafood to single-serve smoothies that are a better value than foodservice-purchased smoothies. Many of these offerings also align with consumer interest in premium, organic/natural, healthy, and sustainably sourced and packaged items. For example, Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Co. recently added a

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A Starship Technologies robot makes a delivery from a Save Mart store in California.

The Great Technology Transformation THE FUTURE IS COMING AT FOOD RE TAILERS FASTER THAN E VER. By Mike Troy veryone knew that the food retailing industry was headed to a place of increased digital convergence at the beginning of 2020. There were extensive studies of consumers, reports were written and projections were made about the impact of technology and how food retailing was going to catch up to other retail sectors with much higher rates of digital adoption. Then the pandemic hit, and as 2020 draws to a close, food retailers find themselves in a place where most didn’t expect to be for at least another five years, if not more. Changes in shopper behavior and retail operations happened at blinding speed, with the


pandemic serving as an accelerant for digital innovation and technology transformation. Now, as 2021 begins, retailers are challenged on two fronts: They must continue to digest the vast amount of change and new shopper behaviors heaped on their organizations in 2020 while embracing new technology developments that continue to present themselves at an accelerating pace. One of the ways that the transformative effects of technology manifested themselves in 2020 was that the differences between the technology haves and have-nots were amplified. That wasn’t an entirely surprising development, though, as during prior periods of technological advancement, early adopters gained the upper hand. Decades ago, when point-of-sale scanning technology emerged, those with the budgets and foresight were rewarded with greater visibility into product sales and category trends. The big difference between then and now as the retail industry hurtles into 2021 is that the technology playing field has, in many respects, been leveled. Technologies once available only to tier-one retailers with big budgets, large IT teams and in-house development capabilities are now accessible to independent retailers and single-store operators, thanks to a wide array of solution providers.

Key Takeaways The pandemic has served as an accelerant for digital innovation and technology transformation at grocery. Technologies once available only to tier-one retailers with big budgets, large IT teams and in-house development capabilities are now accessible to independents and single-store operators, thanks to a wide array of solution providers. Consumers’ demand for digital grocery, along with the profitability challenges it presents for retailers and their third-party providers that pick orders, has led to a focus on autonomy.

The Grocery Tech Revolution

between big and small is no longer the advantage that it Every aspect of food retail is poised to undergo some degree of once was, relates to retailers functioning as media platoptimization, enhancement and transformation in 2021. Enterprisforms. While companies such as Walmart, Kroger, Target ing solution providers continue to find new ways to take data, often and Albertsons offer sophisticated digital targeting capabilfrom disparate sources; unify the information; and then leverage ities to suppliers, those same capabilities are also available artificial intelligence to extract insights that guide actions. This to smaller retailers. End-to-end e-commerce solution proprocess plays out in myriad ways. viders such as Toronto-based Mercatus offer grocers that For example, a Silicon Valley startup called Afresh Technologies is use its platform the ability to win with e-commerce, but also attracting a lot of interest from retailers for a value proposition that inthe opportunity to effectively target shoppers with ads and volves improving fresh-item order accuracy to grow sales and reduce monetize their site traffic. Mercatus recently partnered with waste. One of the company’s early investors is James McCann, a vetChicago-based e-commerce advertising solutions provider eran food industry executive who was previously CEO of Ahold USA, CitrusAd, a company founded in 2017, to bring new ad but now leads a Boston-based investment fund, Food Retail Ventures. display unit capabilities to the Mercatus platform. McCann met the principals of Afresh, who are former college room“Display media in e-commerce needs to be more mates at Stanford, while attending an industry event several years ago. targeted and relevant to shoppers; with the average “They told me what they were going to do, and I said, ‘That is 18-minute online shopping experience, it can no longer really hard’; then they told me they were going to do it in fresh, and look out of place on any browsing or search term page,” I said, ‘That is stupidly hard,’” McCann recalls of his first encounter says Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO of Mercatus. with Afresh co-founder Matt Schwartz. What Afresh does is leverage artificial intelligence to dramatically What’s Next? improve order accuracy in the fresh department. It sounds simple, Consumers’ demand for digital grocery, along with the but as McCann notes, it’s very hard to do because of the dynamics profitability challenges it presents for retailers and their of perishable and fresh categories, which make third-party providers that pick orders, has products susceptible to waste, and where manual led to a focus on autonomy. Whether that’s processes are still often used. picking orders in large robotic fulfillment Our vision of “What the Afresh team has built is one of the centers, the model on which Kroger has the future of most transformative technologies that we’ve seen placed a multibillion-dollar bet, or smaller in fresh foods in the last 25 years,” McCann says. “I micro-fulfillment centers adjacent to stores, grocery is to recognize can’t endorse it any more highly.” 2021 will bring greater clarity to whatever the that digital has McCann grew so keen on the solution that his VC optimal approach turns out to be. advantages, and it is no firm recently increased its investment to the point The first of Kroger’s automated fulfilllonger about physical where Afresh is now Food Retail Ventures’ largest ment centers, developed in partnership holding, and he has joined Afresh’s board. with U.K. digital grocer Ocado, are set or digital, because it This scenario plays out in other areas of food rereally doesn’t matter to to open in central Florida and near Krotail, most notably in the e-commerce space, where ger’s Cincinnati headquarters in 2021. shoppers anymore.” expectations are high that the rapid adoption of Meanwhile, numerous other retailers are —Matthew Walker, online food shopping will remain a permanent way experimenting with micro-fulfillment cenof life for millions of Americans who either became ters adjacent to stores, where high-vedigital grocery converts or increased their usage of locity items, or those products that e-commerce shopping options throughout the pandemic. lend themselves to rapidly advancing robotic picking “Our vision of the future of grocery is to recognize that digital has systems, can be accommodated. advantages, and it is no longer about physical or digital, because While 2020 was a pivotal year for e-grocery automait really doesn’t matter to shoppers anymore,” says Matthew tion, Derek Sorensen, a senior consultant with Swisslog Walker, director of global sales with Tel Aviv, Israel- and Brooklyn, Logistics Automation, Americas, is keeping a close eye N.Y.-based, a provider of technology solutions that enables on robotic picking. retailers to fully integrate their digital and physical operations. “With many grocers still in the process of impleWith its origins serving the grocery and consumer goods industry in menting their first automation projects, it may seem a Israel, a nation known to rival Silicon Valley as an innovation hub, little premature to be thinking about emerging technolis set to make inroads in the U.S. market in 2021, and recently rebrandogies such as robotic item picking, but this technology ed after previously operating under the name Self Point. is already being piloted in other industries,” Sorensen “We wanted a brand that represents where we are going as observes. “As it gains traction in 2021, grocers may a company leading the drive to a true omnichannel experience,” rightly wonder whether it should be considered as a notes Chairman Mayer Gniwisch, an e-commerce veteran second phase of their automation plans.” who founded the jewelry websites and at The good news, according to Sorensen, is that robotic the dawn of the digital age. vision and gripping technologies have advanced considOther elements of the omnichannel experience, where the distinction erably in recent years, with today’s systems capable of PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020


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picking a high percentage of the products in a typical e-grocery order. It’s important for retailers to develop pilot programs designed to identify exceptions that robots may encounter when picking orders and to define business rules for handling them.

The Last Mile Delivered

Product delivery remains a thorny challenge for food retailers, and one where autonomy is often seen as the solution, with many intriguing pilots underway and more expected in 2021. In September, Save Mart launched an on-demand grocery delivery service from the flagship store in its hometown of Modesto, Calif., using a fleet of tiny vehicles, provided by San Francisco-based Starship Technologies, that can operate on sidewalks. The vehicles can transport up to 20 pounds of goods and travel 4 miles round-trip, so the range isn’t great, but the concept is proven, with Starship boasting more than 500,000 deliveries throughout its network. Once an order is submitted, Save Mart team members gather delivery items to place in the vehicle, which then travels at pedestrian speed. Shoppers can watch, via an interactive map, as the robot makes its journey from the store to them. Once the robot arrives, shoppers receive an alert, and then meet and unlock the vehicle through the app. Other retailers are experimenting with larger vehicles. Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart will soon begin a test in the Scottsdale, Ariz., market with Cruise to deliver products with the San Francisco-based company’s electric vehicles. “What’s unique about Cruise is they’re the only self-driving car company to operate an entire fleet of all-electric vehicles powered with 100% renewable energy, which supports our road to zero emissions by 2040,” notes Tom Ward, SVP of customer product, Walmart U.S. As if ongoing pilots from Walmart and Kroger weren’t enough validation of autonomous deliveries, investors are also pouring large sums into the space. Self-driving vehicle maker Nuro, based in Mountain View, Calif., recently raised $500 million in a Series C funding round to support further development of its second-generation lightweight delivery vehicle, which has received the first and only federal exemption for an autonomous vehicle from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “We now know that our industry, self-driving local delivery, will not only make it easier to buy groceries, hot food, prescription drugs and other products, but will also positively impact local economies and serve low-income communities living in food deserts,” company co-founder Jiajun Zhu said when the funding was secured in November. Meanwhile, others want to bring the store to the community. Toronto-based Grocery Neighbour plans to operate mobile grocery stores in purpose-built trailers containing a curated assortment of essentials.

CVS and UPS are working together on drone deliveries involving small packages.

The Skies Beckon Food Retailers

The pandemic, and food retailers’ response to it, tended to overshadow the fact that when it comes to autonomy, there continues to be a lot of buzz about drone technologies. Of particular note, in October, the DOT program known as the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP) came to an end after three years. However, to continue work on integrating drones into national airspace, the DOT created a new program called BEYOND, a key element of which involves resolving line-of-sight operational challenges, with an emphasis on small-package delivery. The long-term potential for drones is real enough that it warranted mention among the risk factors cited by delivery services provider DoorDash when the San Francisco-based company filed for an initial public-stock offering in November. As DoorDash noted in its initial filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission: “We have invested, and we expect to continue to invest, in research and development related to autonomous and drone delivery technologies, either directly or in partnership with companies that develop such technologies. While we believe that autonomous and drone delivery could present substantial opportunities, the development of such technologies is expensive and time-consuming and may not be successful.” The same could be said of many things when it comes to technology, as the outcomes of new developments are never guaranteed. However, what is guaranteed is that technology, in all of its various forms, will have an even greater impact on food retailing in 2021.

In five years, Grocery Neighbour founder Frank Sinopoli aims to have 1,000 mobile grocery stores operating on set routes.



Digital Gift Cards

What Grocers Need to Know About Gift Card Fraud AWARENESS WILL ENABLE FOOD RE TAILERS TO AVOID FALLING FOR THE VARIOUS SCAMS IN PL AY. By Debby Garbato s COVID-19 prompted shoppers to shift to online methods, digital gift card sales soared and increased the prevalence of fraud. While the heightened fraud activities affected all types of retailers, there are several factors that make it particularly concerning for food retailers, namely shopping frequency and innovation in the gift card category. “Grocery stores do a significant portion of gift card sales and were one of the first channels to become heavily involved,” says Nathan Ehrlich, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Retail Gift Card Association. “They prominently displayed them, and they’ve become a big draw, with people attuned to seeing them.” Indeed, gift card malls are a common site on end caps in food stores, and retailers make them increasingly available as part of online assortments, with recent data from digital gift card provider revealing the pandemic-driven popularity of gift cards. For example, third-quarter gift card purchasing increased 114% and revenue grew 65% versus the same period last year, according to Tel Aviv, Israel-based “Lack of product availability and physical shopping aversion are likely to increase gift card sales,” observes Randy Burt, a managing director with New York-based Alix Partners’ consumer products practice, “but gift cards don’t have the protection credit cards do. They’re hard to trace and require ongoing vigilance.” Unfortunately, the popularity of e-commerce has brought with it a surge in fraud that was especially evident over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. TransUnion reports a 14% increase in suspect holiday weekend e-commerce fraud compared with last year, with a pronounced spike on Cyber Monday, when suspected fraud behavior spiked 26%. “With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the move from offline to online transactions, detecting digital fraud attempts has become paramount for e-commerce providers,” notes Shai Cohen, SVP of global fraud solutions at Chicago-based TransUnion. Not all of the suspected fraud identified by TransUnion involved gift cards, but the popularity of stored-value cards as a payment and gifting option creates new challenges for grocers. “Increased e-commerce sales mean increased fraud risk,” asserts Rafael Lourenco, EVP and partner with ClearSale, a Miami-based supplier of fraud detection

Key Takeaways The popularity of stored-value cards as a payment and gifting option creates new challenges for grocers, chiefly increased fraud risk. Online and in stores, retailers such as Northgate Gonzalez Market are implementing a number of tactics to deter gift card fraud; the grocer’s measures include placing displays in locations where they can be monitored, and employee training. On the law enforcement side, government agencies are investigating gift card fraud and educating consumers and retailers. PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020



Digital Gift Cards

solutions. “Card-not-present transactions appeal to villains looking to quickly monetize stolen gift card data. Digital gift cards can be spent or resold easily, making crimes hard for fraud detection systems to catch.” ClearSale saw a 30% increase in attempts to purchase fraudulent gift cards online, and its sales doubled from March to October. The company estimates that 10%-20% of online retail fraud attempts involve gift card purchasing. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), fraud reports involving gift/reload cards climbed from $39.7 million in 2017 to $78 million in 2018, reaching $102.9 million in 2019. But the recent spike in digital gift card sales has made the problem much worse.

Bot-fighting technologies let retailers view IP addresses, says the Retail Gift Card Association’s Ehrlich, who is also senior manager, gift card operations, for The Home Depot, in Atlanta. When repeated balance checks emanate from one address, retailers can block that address. Some fraudsters use stolen credit cards to buy digital gift cards, incurring monetary losses for retailers. Transactions are hard to trace. “How do retailers determine this?” muses Marc Schultz, head of data privacy and security at Newton, Mass.-based gift card supplier Paytronix. “Larger retailers and service providers are working on technologies to trace this. Big Data and analytics are helping to some degree.” Then there are privacy issues. “We can track lots of information,” notes Schultz, “but we can’t be overlords asking why somebody used gift cards to buy an airline ticket, since that can be legitimate.”

Why Grocers Should be Wary

There are many types of digital gift card fraud. A popular one involves scammers telling consumers that they must purchase gift cards to pay debts or help a troubled loved one. One of these types of scams ran for five years, bilking Georgia consumers out of more than $20 million. Based in India, fraudsters used voiceover internet protocol (VoIP) to place robocalls involving fictitious loan officers who demanded payment with retail gift cards, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report. The FTC says that the percentage of consumers who paid scammers with gift cards has increased 270% since 2015. Criminals also employ gift card fraud bots, which abuse gift card balance-checking facilities by testing myriad possible card numbers. When a match is found, the balance is used to make fraudulent purchases. A U.K. company called Netacea uses technology to address the problem. “We’ve observed widespread growth in size and frequency of bot attacks year over year and throughout the pandemic, due to inexpensive, readily available tools for carrying out attacks,” affirms Thomas Platt, head of e-commerce at Manchester-based Netacea.

Obstacles for Grocers to Overcome

Technologies that protect credit cards can be ineffective or cost-prohibitive for gift cards, because of the different economic models. For example, gift cards become a person’s property for a short time and aren’t supported by fees charged on unpaid balances. “Credit cards with the most fraud protection have higher associated costs,” says Alyson Fischer, manager at Chicago-based retail consultancy McMillanDoolittle LLP. “They’ve already done a credit check on you and can track spending patterns. But you don’t register gift cards.”

Retailers’ Profits on Digital Gift Cards Soared Compared With 2019 Year-over-year percent change in income generated through digital gift card sales among U.S. retailers

Year-over-year percent change in gift card income

300 248

250 200 128



124 148

100 50

39 25 0.5



-50 01/20 02/20 03/20 04/20 05/20 06/20 07/20 08/20 09/20 Source: survey of 1,182 U.S. stores


Gift card fraud detection technologies don’t use a centralized and consecutively appear on gift card resale sites like Cardclearing house or database like credit cards do. Consequently, if and, according to Fischer. a card is purchased in Vermont and redeemed in California — a However, there are exceptions. Northgate, for instance, potential red flag — there’s no record. “Merchants are islands unto sells many proprietary gift cards to corporations and charthemselves in redeeming gift cards,” observes Paytronix’s Schultz. ities, and orders can exceed $1,000. Purchasers must “Once the card is activated, the merchant must take it. With credit provide tax ID numbers, and cards aren’t sold through cards, the credit card company provides authorization.” other retailers. “We keep logs and monitor the back end, Retailers generally create their own gift card protection systems tracking purchasers and pulling reports,” says Patty Roor use outside providers like Blackhawk Network or Incomm. “They driguez, an enterprise risk manager at Northgate. can see the last time the card was used and deactivate it if there’s In stores, third-party gift card sales can’t exceed $1,000, fraudulent activity,” explains Diana Cabrera, director of front end cards being purchased must be swiped, and cashiers retail operations at Northgate Gonzalez Market, a leading Hispanic can’t manually enter numbers. This deters number theft grocery chain based in Anaheim, Calif. from unredeemed cards, and the retailer’s front end closing Staffed by tech experts 24/7, Atlanta-based Incomm’s Transaction checklist includes nightly gift card audits. Most gift card Monitoring System sends fraud alerts and recomnumbers are hidden at the point of purmendations directly to retail locations. Activities can chase by secure packaging and scratchbe observed and monitored down to the individual off codes. It’s hard to access cards without With the store terminal level. destroying the packaging, and some COVID-19 Meanwhile, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Blackhawk’s scratch-off materials have printing on them, Cash Star Platform bypasses traditional rules-onlywhich adds a layer of protection. pandemic accelerating based systems, as these are easy for fraudsters to Other deterrence measures in place at the move from offline to penetrate and can generate false declines. Cash Star Northgate include placing displays in locaonline transactions, starts with predictive models based on good behavior, tions where they can be monitored. Emdetecting digital fraud and then layers on rules, alleviating both problems. Its ployees are also trained to question con57 multifactor predictors contain more than 800 distinct sumers purchasing cards in large amounts attempts has become attributes. A growing data bank comprises information and not to sell cards with exposed PIN paramount for from 400-plus brands and 6 million transactions. Hownumbers or damaged packaging. e-commerce providers.” ever, to be effective, fraud detection systems must also On the law enforcement side, govern—Shai Cohen, TransUnion operate quickly and in real time. ment agencies are investigating fraud “Consumers expect to buy a digital gift card and and educating consumers and retailers. have it delivered to the recipient’s email instantly,” In 2018, the FTC launched a “Data says Eyal Raab, VP of sales and business development with Tel Spotlight” report, which analyzes information on gift Aviv- and New York-based Riskified. “In that period, merchants card scams. That year, for example, it found that iTunes must decide whether to approve an order — and risk fraud — or and Google gift cards were involved in the most scams, decline it and risk losing revenue and upsetting legitimate customers. notes Lois Greisman, associate director, division of Solutions must examine as much information as possible and make marketing practices at the FTC. real-time, accurate decisions.” The FBI is breaking up crime rings, identifying best Riskified uses machine-learning algorithms to compare data practices and furthering educational efforts. “They points of submitted orders with billions of previous transactions, share intelligence confidentially,” says Schultz. “If approving or declining purchases in seconds. there’s a ring hitting area retailers, they inform other Other technologies use algorithms to ensure that issued gift card retailers. They look for ‘hot spots’ so people can take numbers are nonsequential, making it hard for fraudsters to guess protective actions and educate store employees.” them, according to Schultz. To deliver information in real time, technologies must interface An Eye Toward the Future with modern customer relationship management and POS More than 20 years ago, Blockbuster and Starbucks systems, or gift cards could be redeemed twice via different were the first retailers to aggressively promote modern devices. “Sometimes, a gift card is redeemed online and again gift cards. It was only a decade ago, though, that PIN on a mobile app,” notes McMillanDoolittle’s Fischer. “There’s a codes were added and later covered. These moves delay, and the retailer doesn’t realize there’s no balance.” were followed by multiple technologies and enhancements, including fraud protection. But efforts are still not standardized, centralized or comprehensive. What’s Next for Food Retailers Online and in stores, retailers are implementing a number of tactics to “It’s not just a fraud issue, it’s an enablement issue,” deter fraud. While most don’t conduct international transactions or sell points out Schultz. “We need many controls. When large-denomination cards, some do, and there are special considerwe detect a problem, we need a way to react. It won’t ations in play when that’s the case. Large denominations are flagged by happen in one step. And penalties for crimes are still fraud-monitoring systems, as are small denominations that continually small enough that people keep trying.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020


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Payment Solutions


Key Takeaways Fueled by the pandemic and the associated spike in grocery e-commerce, food retailers are embracing new forms of payment. One way to eliminate food retail friction is to integrate a retailer’s loyalty program and other discounts with, for example, the digital wallet on a shopper’s mobile phone. Major food retailers like Walgreens are beefing up their loyalty programs as payment methods grow more numerous and digital.


ust as the holiday season was getting in gear, CVS Pharmacy offered a glimpse at the future of payments in the food retail world and beyond. The drug store chain launched a service enabling customers to check out touch-free using PayPal and Venmo QR codes at 8,200 stores. These codes allow customers to securely pay for their items without needing to touch a keypad or sign a receipt, while also being able to access multiple payment methods available in PayPal and Venmo wallets. According to CVS, this made it the first national retailer to integrate PayPal and Venmo QR code technology in its point-of-sale experience at all stand-alone locations across the country. The touch-free experience will be available to existing PayPal and Venmo customers, while new customers can sign up and link their preferred payment method, usually within minutes.

“Putting our customers’ safety at the forefront of our innovations, we’ve focused resources on finding new ways to make customers’ lives easier and more convenient,” said Jon Roberts, EVP and COO at Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health, at the time of the launch. “Introducing more digital options, including touch-free payments at the register, is in step with changing consumer preferences.” Fueled by the pandemic and the associated spike in grocery e-commerce, food retailers are embracing new forms of payment. While the main thread linking these innovations is contactless technology, that doesn’t mean that one size will fit all — or that the acceptance of PayPal, Venmo or the myriad other cutting-edge payment forms will guarantee success as transactions become an ever more important part of the overall consumer experience.

Payments Race

“Amazon Go has proven that people want to shop a cashier-less shopping experience,” says Joe Lampertius, president of ChaseDesign, a Skaneateles, N.Y.-based company that helps retailers build better commerce experiences, including through payments. Now, Lampertius adds, other food retailers — along with banks, credit card companies and other players in the payment space — will have to figure out how to keep up, or come up with other transaction innovations to satisfy consumers, including relatively young digital natives. “It’s going to be an interesting race to who will help expand that technology,” he notes. Make no mistake, though: Cash isn’t disappearing, especially in the food retail space, even as merchants work to eliminate friction. While the number of U.S. consumers without traditional bank accounts continues to decline — it reached a record low of 5.4% in 2019, according to the FDIC — many consumers still like cash, especially when it comes to some of the smaller purchases made inside grocery stores. Food retailers have no reason to make life more difficult for such shoppers. Within the larger food and beverage world, those operations

To win, businesses must invest now in their digital experience. The cost of doing nothing is greater than investing in the customer journey.” —Steve Wagner, Experian

— such as quick-service restaurants — that tried to implement no-cash policies have often failed. Consumer backlash has been severe, even in large urban cores, and as John Helmle, EVP and president, financial technology for Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Inmar Intelligence, points out, at least 21 local governments and states now require businesses to accept cash. Even so, the move toward more digital payments in retail continues to gain speed during the pandemic, a trend that will keep affecting grocery commerce. According to Inmar, the most preferred forms of contactless checkout options among shoppers include curbside pickup (57%) and buy online and pick up in store (57%), followed by contactless in-store self-checkout (56%). All of that matters because if a retailer doesn’t have contactless payment options, Helmle observes, 28% of shoppers will avoid that retailer and choose an alternative one that does offer such options. Also, 33% say that loyalty to regular, everyday stores has changed since the beginning of the pandemic — further highlighting the opportunity for food retailers to gain ground via payments and the experiences that they foster.

Higher Expectations

Recent data from Dublin-based global information services company Experian underscores that point. It found that 60% of consumers have higher expectations of their digital experience than before COVID-19. More specifically, 61% of people surveyed now regularly order groceries or food delivery online, a seven-point increase in this type of online payment since July. Further, most shoppers (55%) have also been avoiding using cash in general since the beginning of the pandemic. Not only that, but the Experian study discovered that one in three consumers are only willing to wait 30 seconds or less before abandoning an online transaction, specifically when accessing their financial accounts. You can bet that what happens in that area will help set consumer expectations for food and other types of retail: Consumers, over time, tend not to differentiate among discrete digital and mobile experiences. Yet it’s unclear whether all food retailers have heeded that message, even as the new year looms. While half of the businesses surveyed have either mostly or completely resumed operations since COVID-19 began, only 24% PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020



Payment Solutions

are deliberately making changes to the digital customer journey. Such hesitation may not only risk consumer loyalty, but also cost retailers. That’s because interchange is a significant expense for food retailers, and failing to embrace and promote cheaper forms of digital payments — often, transactions made via apps, or certain types of debit — can eat into margins while also failing to hook shoppers. “Not only have more consumers embraced digital transactions out of necessity during the pandemic, they’re having a positive experience, and their needs and expectations are rapidly growing,” says Steve Wagner, global managing director of decision analytics for Experian, whose North American headquarters is in Costa Mesa, Calif. “To win, businesses must invest now in their digital experience. The cost of doing nothing is greater than investing in the customer journey.”

Role of Loyalty

Back at CVS, the payment trends that it has experienced help round out what’s happening with consumer payment habits. Since January 2020, CVS has experienced a 43% increase in touch-free transactions, and according to research conducted by New York-based Forrester, 11% of the U.S. population reports using a digital payment method for the first time as a result of the pandemic. New research from San Jose, Calif.-based PayPal also shows that 57% of consumers surveyed say that merchants’ digital payment offerings influence their willingness to shop in those merchants’ stores. Beyond that, more than a third (34%) say that they wouldn’t buy from merchants at all if QR code-enabled payments were unavail-

able, reinforcing the need The phone is a for a touch-free payment experience, especially in great device, essential retail environments but shopping is a like pharmacies. hands-on experience.” Figuring out consumer —Joe Lampertius, payment preferences is one ChaseDesign thing; deploying a system that shoppers will actually use enough to justify the investment is another. And that’s where loyalty promises to play a big role. One way to eliminate food retail friction, after all, is by enabling consumers to access coupons, promotions and loyalty rewards without having to pull out their wallets — that is, finding ways to store those discounts and programs on payment cards or via mobile phones. As Lampertius, from ChaseDesign, puts it, loyalty rewards are table stakes when it comes to promoting more use of digital payment methods. The idea is to integrate the loyalty program and other discounts with, say, the digital wallet on a shopper’s mobile phone. “You have to make a good interface,” he says. “Otherwise, you are just subsidizing the buy and not driving the purchase.”

Store Value Model?

That can be easier said than done, especially when one considers one potential setback for mobile phones in a food retail setting:


With cash recycling, grocers leave 2020 on a positive note How adopting cash recycling solutions will improve operations for grocers in 2021

was helping to sanitize the store or providing customer service. With cash recycling, there are also fewer mistakes made and less investigation around cash activities, because a machine is handling the task.” Getting back the hours lost when employees are responsible for cash handling tasks allows grocers to operate more efficiently and effectively, something that will benefit them long after the pandemic. “In addition, there’s a cost savings with cash recycling,” says Adair. “For example, grocers who have a solution in place may only need armored car service once a week, where those who have no cash recycling solution might need armored car service every day of the week. That can add up quickly.”


According to Tim Adair, VP of the SafePoint Recycler Program for Loomis, “In those initial months, some grocers experienced a 250% increase in sales year-over-year.” For grocers, the early increase in business was a blessing, but the sudden change also created chaos for many trying to operate with staff and resources stretched thin. “It happened in a very short period of time,” says Adair, “and with the same amount of staff working who were suddenly responsible for managing twice the volume, and having to add duties like sanitizing surfaces and controlling crowds.”

This year, grocers have realized more than ever the value of their employees’ time. And it doesn’t appear cash recycling will be going away any time soon. “This year, grocers have realized more than ever the value of their employees’ time,” says Adair. “Anything that can be done to give them back the time they need for tasks that add more value to the business, like customer service or safety, is a huge benefit for everyone.”

Taking cash recycling into 2021 Fortunately, the simple addition of a cash recycling solution brought relief to many by freeing up hours of time for activities such as restocking shelves, disinfecting, and providing customer service. Beyond 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, this will continue to be a must-have for grocer operations.

The benefits of cash recycling For grocers who have implemented cash recycling into their businesses, the benefits have been plenty. “For a historically antiquated and labor-intensive industry, the automation process of cash recycling brings significant labor savings,” says Adair. “And that’s been especially relevant this year when that person in the back office who was normally in charge of cash activities like creating register tills or preparing a bank deposit

For grocers who made the switch to using a cash recycling solution in 2020, they’re well prepared for a sudden shift in business volume. That’s a great place to be going into a new year and far into the future. “Grocers tend to operate on very thin margins,” says Adair. “This year, they had a huge increase in profit with the same level of expenses, leaving many with excess cash. We’ve seen a shift in Loomis customers choosing to purchase equipment rather than lease. The value of that labor and the value of capital allocation in these stores toward more automation is what we’ll be seeing in 2021 and beyond.” Learn more about Loomis’ line of Titan R cash recyclers at

When others manage, Loomis solves. Loomis is changing business-as-usual with solutions that do more than manage—they transform the industry. Today, the Titan R® is doing the same for retail. Powered by the latest technology and industry-leading support, the Titan R reduces cost, improves fund availability, and enables precise cash reconciliation.

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Payment Solutions

They’re not always more convenient than traditional paper when it for health-and-wellness products, and then pick them up comes to grocery lists, and there’s a still a lot of work to be done in at a store, curbside or at a drive-thru in as short a time as integrating grocery lists digitally with mobile wallets and 30 minutes. Walgreens has the largest similar payment methods. health-and-well-being-centered customer “The phone is a great device,” Lampertius notes, loyalty program in the United States, with The retail “but shopping is a hands-on experience. There is no more than 100 million members. payment place to dock the the phone, and [it becomes even Online or on the app, myWalgreens harder] if you are balancing kids.” members are able to do the followstrategy will be the The potential rewards, though, are appealing, as ing: Shop more than 27,000 items, new customer Inmar’s Helmle explains — especially when it comes to including everyday health-and-wellexperience strategy.” those interchange fees. “I really like the store value model,” ness, grocery and over-the-counter —John Helmle, he says, citing the Starbucks rewards program, an items, as well as photos; add a Inmar Intelligence industry leader for loyalty. “It’s a seamless experience that payment method to their digital wallet generates repeat business, and it reduces interchange.” for quicker contactless checkout; That’s because of the way transactions are processed via the loyalty redeem Walgreens Cash rewards instantly at checkprogram — as Helmle points out, you can load, say, $25 onto the out; and choose digital receipts for fast contactless program, and that amount incurs a one-time interchange fee instead of checkout and to monitor purchases. separate ones that could drive up the overall cost to the retailer. Not only that, but the revamped loyalty program “It can work in the grocery space — 100%,” he asserts. — with its payments foundation — enables daily personalized recommendations for health and wellness, along with real-time local environment and health forePayments, Loyalty and Customer Experience Major food retailers are beefing up their loyalty programs as casts. That stands as an example of how payments payment methods grow more numerous and digital. Walgreens and loyalty can combine to help deepen the overall provides a good recent example. consumer experience — a trend that’s all but certain Right before Thanksgiving, the Deerfield, Ill.-based drug store chain to gain even more steam in 2021. launched what it touted as a reinvention of its loyalty program. In short, As Helmle predicts, “The retail payment strategy will customers can now shop online or on a fully redesigned mobile app be the new customer experience strategy.”

COVID-19 and Cash As many food retailers embrace contactless and digital payments, cash has lost ground as a percentage of total payments, but don’t believe the hype that a cashless society will soon arrive. Cash is used for an estimated 28% of transactions in the United States, down from 51% in 2010, according to the “McKinsey 2020 Global Payments Report,” released in October. A downturn in cash use in 2020 was caused by the rise of e-commerce and no-contact delivery services during the pandemic, according to McKinsey, a New York-based business management consultant. Even so, cash plays a vital role in many types of transactions. According to a pre-pandemic report from the U.S. Federal Reserve, cash is used heavily for small-value payments — about 47% of payments under $10 involve cash. During the pandemic, some merchants discouraged the use of cash because of sanitary concerns. (Additionally, there was a shortage of coins in the United States.) But not all consumers like digital payment methods — concern about fraud stands as a main reason — and not all food retailers install the latest contactless or cashier-less technology. Also, while a country such as China offers examples of how to create a consumer society centered on mobile payments, such progress has been significantly slower in the United


States, leaving another opening for cash. The old-fashioned payment method is also winning support from local and state governments. As some quick-service restaurants and other businesses banned cash — federal law doesn’t require merchants to accept it — politicians and consumer advocates pushed back, worried about unbanked and other people without ready access to alternative payment methods. A new law in New York City, for instance, could lead to $1,000 fines for businesses that refuse to accept cash. San Francisco, New Jersey and Massachusetts are among the places with similar laws. Cash may have suffered some erosion this year, but if McKinsey’s research is accurate, cash continues to represent nearly one-third of transaction volume, ensuring that a wide range of cash-related operational considerations will remain in place for retailers.

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E-Commerce Logistics

Fulfillment Prophecy AS RE TAILERS RING IN THE NE W YE AR, THE Y’RE L ASER-FOCUSED ON E-COMMERCE LOGISTICS. By Jenny McTaggart s the world ushers in 2021, hoping for brighter days ahead, many grocery retailers will be testing and rolling out new supply-chain strategies and technologies to enhance their e-commerce fulfillment and logistics. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented use of online ordering in the United States, and the trend is expected to continue into the new year — especially as the virus continues spreading throughout the country, making online ordering preferable to many shoppers. The e-commerce adoption numbers are astounding: The percentage of online sales skyrocketed from a humble 2%-3% of total grocery sales pre-pandemic to an eye-opening 10%-15% in the past year. A number of publicly traded companies have wowed investors with the double-digit growth in online sales that they’ve reported recently in quarterly earnings. Not surprisingly, many leading grocery operators are ramping up e-commerce fulfillment strategies that were already underway but now seem more urgent than


Key Takeaways Amid a global pandemic that led many shoppers to order groceries online, many leading grocery operators are ramping up e-commerce fulfillment strategies that were already underway but now seem more urgent than ever. Expect to see more grocers tapping into the intelligence of technology companies, specifically regarding automation and artificial intelligence, while also rolling out more micro-fulfillment centers to get products to shoppers more quickly and efficiently. Technologies such as robots and autonomous delivery via car or even drone are still being tweaked as e-commerce solutions, but should eventually be adopted more broadly by the grocery industry.

In November, Kroger and Ocado revealed plans to construct an additional 200,000-square-foot customer fulfillment center (CFC), like this one in the grocer's South region. The CFCs incorporate automation and artificial intelligence technology.

Further, Ahold Delhaize revealed plans last month to acquire FreshDirect, the Bronx, N.Y.-based e-commerce operator that recently called micro fulfillment “central to its expansion strategy.” The deal supplements Ahold Delhaize’s Peapod e-commerce business, which now serves as an operational arm for the Zaandam, Netherlands-based multinational grocer. In 2021 and beyond, expect to see more grocers tapping into the intelligence of technology companies, specifically regarding automation and artificial intelligence, while also rolling out more micro-fulfillment centers in an effort to get products to shoppers more quickly and efficiently — whether those shoppers want their groceries delivered at home or can pick them up at their local store. According to Jordan K. Speer, research manager, global supply chain at IDC, a global market intelligence firm based in Framingham, Mass., new research from her firm suggests that increases in curbside pickup and BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) will persist, and that on-site or nearby micro-fulfillment centers will proliferate to alleviate pressure from stores and to make sure that inventory is available. “In our 2021 FutureScape, we predict that by 2023, 75% of grocery e-commerce orders — which will represent 15% of sales — will be picked curbside or in-store, driving a 35% increase in investment in on-site or micro-fulfillment centers,” notes Speer.

ever. Automated micro-fulfillment centers are one of the hottest trends, Contactless Pickup Gaining Ground In September, IDC conducted consumer research showbut a few grocers are also experimenting with robotics and drones in ing that shoppers are warming up to in-store or curbside their warehouses, as well as automated delivery methods. pickup, observes Speer. “Almost 45% The Kroger Co., based in Cincinnati, may have of shoppers say they have started gotten a head start in 2018, when it inked an exordering groceries online since the panclusive partnership with U.K.-based online grocery We predict that demic, and more than 26% are picking powerhouse Ocado to enhance its e-commerce by 2023, 75% of up in the store,” she says. “Furtherprogram, including online ordering, automated grocery e-commerce orders more, almost 32% expect to continue fulfillment and home delivery. Kroger plans to build — which will represent 15% their new COVID-induced habits even up to 20 automated fulfillment centers over the after the pandemic is long gone.” next several years, and just last month, the retailer of sales — will be picked The findings indicate that these said that it will use Ocado’s software and other curbside or in-store, low- or no-contact offerings make tech to boost in-store fulfillment of pickup orders, driving a 35% increase in some consumers feel safer during starting in 2021. investment in on-site or the pandemic, she notes, adding, Meanwhile, Ocado is expanding its automation prowess with the recent acquisition of two robotics micro-fulfillment centers.” “This research really says a lot about customer expectations and fulfillment companies, Kindred Systems and Haddington —Jordan K. Speer, IDC demands, and what retailers are going Dynamics, which will enable Ocado to accelerate to need to do to respond to that.” its picking and packing of groceries, since these Peter Leech, partner, digital commerce at The Partfuturistic robots can handle more fragile items. nering Group, is tracking a similar trend. “We’ve seen the Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, for its part, is moving along rise of click-and-collect as a response to COVID,” he says. with its test of Alphabot, a technology exclusively designed by “This has created an immediate need for ramping up opstartup Alert Innovation, in North Billerica, Mass., to enable quicker, erations in the store to pick from store shelves for e-commore efficient picking at store level for the retailer. Walmart said that merce orders. There’s just tremendous pressure on the it will assess a broader rollout as it learns more from testing at its retailers, because the aisles are getting more and more Salem, N.H., Supercenter. full of pickers, and there’s a greater need for efficiency in Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons and Wakefern, as well as several picking, in both speed and accuracy. Out-of-stocks and independent retailers, are working with Takeoff Technologies, based substitutions have been pretty big — we’ve seen numbers in Waltham, Mass., to automate e-commerce fulfillment. PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020







AMAZINGLY AGILE LABELING SOLUTIONS FOR YOUR CHANGING RETAIL WORLD. You need to scale, pivot, and innovate to survive and succeed in today’s retail environment. No matter what you sell or where you serve customers, we’ve got the printing and labeling technology you need to seamlessly turn the point of service into the point of sale.






© 2020 Brother Mobile Solutions, Inc., 11030 Circle Point Rd, Westminster, CO 80020



Go where the shoppers are. That used to be simpler, when people tended to shop at the same store and buy many of the same things. Even before the pandemic, habits were notably shifting, and the events of the past year have fueled more changes in buying behavior, underscoring retailers’ need to scale and innovate. Progressive Grocer spoke with Ravi Panjwani, Vice President of Brother Mobile Solutions, about how mobile printers and strategically located stationary printers can save valuable time and ensure accurate labeling at every point.

Question: What were some of more significant pivots in the past year, and how did mobile pricing and labeling solutions help grocers successfully navigate those often-abrupt shifts? Ravi Panjwani: The entire supply chain has learned that the ability to scale is vital. For example, demand for contactless curbside and in-store pickup skyrocketed as consumers looked for a safe and easy way to grocery shop. To help solve this growing demand, grocery stores turned to click & collect and on-demand labeling solutions. The ability to quickly print barcoded labels with date/promise time, in-store shopper ID, customer name, storage area and other identifiers is critical to an effective click & collect or in-

How Next-Gen Labeling Helps Grocers Navigate the New Retail Ecosystem store pickup system. Brother Mobile Printers support these solutions because they have the power, connectivity, speed and rugged features needed. As a result, stores have been able to receive, prioritize and process orders from an online eCommerce storefront — and fulfill either in the physical store or curbside.

Q: How has Brother Mobile Solutions also innovated and adapted to this new market? RP: As the retail ecosystem changed, Brother continued to innovate with fast, new, easy-to-deploy labeling solutions to support retailers. In the store aisle, back of store and even the warehouse, retailers wanted printers and labelers to help smaller staffs work productively, and provide fast, accurate, professional real-time price labeling. To help solve their challenges, we introduced QuickDeploy Labeling Kits, a quick, easy, affordable way to create customized price

and markdown labels on demand. These stand-alone solutions allowed store associates to quickly print shelf-edge tags, markdown labels, fresh food labels and receipts for items, in the aisle, at the register, or virtually anywhere across the store. We also continued to support POS needs with pocket-sized, easy-to pair mobile receipt printers designed to be comfortably carried around for a complete shift. That means they get their work done faster with a single printer. We’ve made it easier to serve the consumer when, where, and how they demand to be served.

Q: In addition to POS solutions, what are some other benefits to printing and labeling capabilities? RP: Accurate labeling with barcodes is crucial to real-time tracking of pallets, packages and products from manufacturer to warehouse to customer, allowing for greater visibility. In addition,

mobile printing and labeling streamlines warehouse operations by generating labels at the speed and volume today’s supply chain demands. Ultimately, as customer needs evolve, flexible labeling options will help grocers better serve them. At Brother, we’ve developed stand-alone and quick deploy solutions to support rapid markdowns, fresh and prepared food labeling, curbside and in-store pickup — and much more.

To learn more about mobile and industrial barcode printing and labeling products, highly mobile POS printers, and strong custom solutions capabilities from Brother Mobile Solutions, visit 800-543-6144


E-Commerce Logistics

reaching into the low double digits in some cases.” Because of these pressures, Leech notes that his Cincinnati-based firm is “spending time as a consultancy working with retailers to find quick wins to improve units per hour, or how many units can be picked for an order per hour,” he explains. To do that, The Partnering Group is borrowing some best practices from the United Kingdom, where retailers are about five to 10 years ahead of U.S. companies in this area. Leech’s colleague Marc de Speville, partner, e-commerce, estimates that the current range of average units per hour at U.S. grocers is in the high 40s, while U.K. retailers average

Blockchain in 2021 and Beyond Will blockchain technology gain more traction in 2021? At least one expert thinks it will, based on what he sees as “good ROI” and a growing demand from the legislative and regulatory perspective. Sergei Beliaev is chief strategy officer and EVP at Toronto-based blockchain provider DLT Labs, but he also happens to be a former CIO for Walmart Canada. At Mississauga, Ontario-based Walmart Canada, DLT Labs used distributive ledger technology to help the retailer achieve a 97% reduction in discrepancies/disputes with its network of trucking carriers. Its full production solution pilot with Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Bison Transport was deployed in two months, and since then, more carriers have been signing on to the platform. “It was good to have Bison as a success story right away,” says Beliaev. “Based on that success, we were able to demonstrate immediately to other carriers the value, and the value is very simple: If you sign up for the platform, you get paid faster. For transportation companies, sometimes an invoice could be hanging in dispute for up to eight months. So with this, trade finance is facilitated as well.” Traceability is another important area where blockchain can help, he adds, pointing to the FDA’s Blueprint for Smarter Food Safety and its specific mention of blockchain as a tool. “The FDA is looking to build collaboration throughout the supply chain, from the field to the consumers, to provide traceability so that if there is any kind of outbreak anywhere, it’s easy to identify where the breakup is, and it’s easy to correct it,” he notes. As the world becomes increasingly digitized with scanning technology, Internet of Things (IoT) technology, sensors and other smart solutions, Beliaev sees blockchain as an “underpinning” that can allow data to be managed effectively, securely and safely. “You can use blockchain as a fabric that captures all those business events in an immutable, tamper-proof manner,” he explains, “and now it’s in real time and sharable. So companies can use it to collaborate.” Eventually, as blockchain becomes a more widely used technology, Beliaev envisions an internet-like structure of interoperable blockchain systems that are “equally immutable and equally secure.”


about 130-140 units per hour. To help U.S. retailers match the efficiencies of their counterparts across the pond, automation is emerging as a key strategy, explains de Speville. “The trend now is micro-fulfillment centers,” he asserts. “That’s the idea of combining the benefits of picking automation, which can potentially double or triple your picking efficiency, with being as close to possible to your customers so your delivery costs are kept under control. You’re also leveraging your fixed costs if you’re a store-based retailer. So far, we’re seeing a lot of tests going on. I’d say at this point, they’re in the advanced testing phase, and next year [2021] is when we’re going to see this big rollout of micro-fulfillment trials, once they’ve really got the model nailed down.” Lisa Chai, senior research analyst at ROBO Global, an index, advisory and research company based in Dallas, says that ROI is actually much more measurable on the logistics side of e-commerce, which is “a very big deal” for the Walmarts and Krogers of the world. “They love the technology, but it can be very expensive,” adds Chai. “On the logistics side, with e-commerce especially, you’re seeing what grocery is getting back.” She continues: “There’s a big scramble right now over how to balance the in-store experience as well as e-commerce sales. Micro-fulfillment centers are very expensive to build, and that’s the downside. But once you have them and you go with a very innovative technology partner, you can solve many, many issues with these fulfillment centers.” Automated micro-fulfillment centers also address the shortage in workers that so many industries are facing across the board — not just at grocery retail, but also in transportation and manufacturing, she notes. The technology behind autonomous robots is improving significantly and is well suited to the type of flexibility needed for e-commerce fulfillment, says IDC’s Speer. “The idea of being able to have robots that can maneuver around the warehouses like humans can, and see things in their way, is very useful,” she notes. “They don’t have to be attached like the AGVs [automatic guided vehicles], which follow magnetic tape on the floor. The AMRs [autonomous mobile robots] can navigate. They have sensors and camera vision, and can move around like humans can, and they can be programmed to move around independently and go get stuff.” Adds Speer, “I think we’ll increasingly see that level of automation in warehouses and DCs and micro-fulfillment centers, especially when you consider the need for social distancing, and labor being expensive and often scarce.”

Autonomous Delivery

As for creating more efficient, faster grocery delivery, the jury is still out on which technologies will best help. For now, de Speville, with The Partnering Group, expects to see a continuation in artificial intelligence-based route optimization software.

High-Tech Tour

Walmart has launched a pilot with Flytrex, an end-to-end drone delivery company, in the Fayetteville, N.C., market. The test includes select groceries and essential household items.

Self-driving cars and small autonomous vehicles like the R2, introduced by Mountain View, Calif.-based Nuro, are in test mode and may be limited to certain areas and certain occasions, he predicts. “I don’t think it’s for every city or state,” notes Chai. “People in Houston and Dallas [where autonomous delivery is being tested] seem to love it. It’s definitely something that would really help the elderly, and obviously the current pandemic will accelerate the adoption of these last-mile delivery robots. There’s a market for it, but in terms of wide deployment, it’s not ready for prime time.” In another example, she observes that autonomous-delivery robots from San Francisco-based Starship Technologies move at a slow pace and are limited in what they can hold. “But keep in mind that these are just the first to second generation of robots that have been operating in select cities,” she adds. “I think by the time we have the third or fourth generation, we are going to see tremendous progress in mapping data, radar sensors and artificial-intelligence capabilities. We will need advancement in technology and significant reduction in the price of the robots to see wider deployment.” Walmart is experimenting with automated delivery, too. Starting in early 2021, the retailer will be piloting contactless deliveries with a San Francisco-based self-driving electric car company, Cruise, in the Scottsdale, Ariz., market. As for delivery drones, another automated-delivery option being tried by Seattle-based Amazon and by Walmart, companies must get FAA approval to fly them, which is certainly a deterrent, admits Chai. Still, Thibodaux, La.-based Rouses Markets was planning to test drone delivery this fall, noting that the technology offers “the fastest, safest delivery, store to door.” Where drones do have a lot of potential, however, is indoors, observes Chai — specifically in warehouses. “I have seen some amazing drone technologies that top retailers are currently piloting in their fulfillment centers,” she says. “For example, a company named Verity, out of Switzerland, developed these drones that can be programmed to fly around all day long and automate inventory management, providing retailers actionable insights into their daily operations, using artificial intelligence.” Chai predicts that this type of technology will be rolled out commercially in the next few years. “I think this is exactly what retailers need. … technology that will help the retailers as well as the workers,” she explains, “because I’ve seen that many of the warehouses have terrible safety records. They’re also not desirable places to work at, and employee turnover rates remain very high. Autonomous drones can work in different conditions that may be difficult for humans, including cold temperatures and low lighting. These drones can fly around shelves, scanning barcodes and managing inventory, providing tremendous value to the clients that is measurable from the first months of installation.”

Walmart is experimenting with how new technology can create a best-in-class shopping experience in its Intelligent Retail Lab store, on New York’s Long Island. Powered by artificial intelligence, the store features weighted-shelf technology, more than 1,000 cameras with machine vision technology, and even an in-house mini data center located in the back. Lisa Chai, senior research analyst at Dallas-based index, advisory and research company ROBO Global, was quite impressed when she toured the 50,000-square-foot facility last year. “What’s unique about the data center is that, while it was presumably expensive to build, it enables Walmart to gather intelligent data in real time,” she notes. “Many of the shelves are weighted — they have sensing technologies,” she goes on to observe. “So when you take a can of soup off the shelf, it’s sending real-time data that you removed the item. Then Walmart actually complements that technology with a barcode scanner that has a machine vision camera, made by Zebra Technologies, installed on top of the ceiling, which captures and scans barcodes and sends that data to their software. It can detect what’s happening out of view from the other technologies.” Through trial and error, Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart has realized that it makes the most sense to use world-class technology above higher-margin items, notes Chai. High-theft items are also good candidates for machine vision cameras, she points out. Meanwhile, sensors placed in the meat aisle help workers know when they need to restock. Walmart was able to measure a 30% sales increase tied to the technology. The retailer even had to hire more workers to restock the section more regularly, proving that robots can work in tandem with humans without taking over their jobs, as Chai sees it. She also got to see Bossa Nova robots in action during her tour. Since then, Walmart has revealed that it will no longer use the robots, which scanned shelves and helped manage inventory in the store. “Feedback from some of the shoppers was that it was rather bulky, making it difficult to maneuver around the aisles,” observes Chai. “I’m guessing Walmart found other solutions that met their needs.” Chai advises Walmart and other leading retailers to “innovate as quickly as possible” and have a long-term strategic vision in place if they want to stay competitive with Seattle-based Amazon. “Walmart’s intelligent retail lab is one way to do pilot trials without getting a ton of attention,” she notes. “I expect Walmart to continue its partnership with other startups as technologies evolve and as the company refines its strategy.” PROGRESSIVE GROCER December 2020



Speaking with… Rory McCarthy, Chief Sales Officer, DUMAC

A Complete Technology Solution for GROCERY RETAILERS How can your store improve the customer experience, integrate e-commerce, loyalty, and mobile scanning—and do all of that and more with easy-to-implement technology that is affordable, too? Progressive Grocer put that question to Rory McCarthy, chief sales officer of DUMAC, a family-owned company that has been providing innovative commerce solutions for retailers for 69 years. His answer? RORC—DUMAC’s next-generation, industry-leading Supermarket POS, Grocerant POS, Back-Office, and DSD software. Here, McCarthy discusses the features and benefits that have made RORC the system of choice for more than 1,500 independently owned supermarkets nationwide and live in over 7,000 lanes from single lane to 25+ lane operations.

Progressive Grocer: What makes the RORC system such a great choice for independent grocery retailers? Rory McCarthy: RORC is a complete, flexible, cloud-based POS solution that seamlessly integrates with third-party software packages and can help grocers manage, market, and grow their business. We call it “future-proof technology” because it is designed in a way that it scales and is responsive to industry needs today and will be tomorrow, too.

DUMAC’s RORC Cloud Reporting and Customer Engagement platform is designed to increase productivity, basket size, and customer retention. The fact that the RORC platform can push and report live data gives grocers an important, competitive edge when it comes to business analysis and decision-making.

PG: Time-starved consumers want to get in and out of stores quickly—and they’re relying more and more on self-checkout, especially since the pandemic hit. How can DUMAC help grocers optimize the checkout experience? RM: According to industry data, 87 percent of shoppers prefer stores with robust self-checkout options, and more than two-thirds of consumers now use self-checkout to pay for groceries. As an NCR platinum solution provider, we offer NCR’s self-checkout solutions to meet these emerging customer demands. The NCR FastLane SelfCheckout R6L+ features a responsive, multi-touch display, advanced cash/coin handling, and new imaging technologies that give shoppers an easier way to scan, bag, and pay for their items— aspects that ultimately boost a store’s bottom line. Another great differentiator

is our fully integrated RORC with BRdata Mobile SCO solution. This puts the power to shop, scan, pay, and go right in the customers’ hands. It speeds up the checkout process, frees staff to perform other tasks, and can help save on labor costs, too.

PG: Technology changes so rapidly. How can grocers be sure the system won’t become obsolete before they’ve realized a return on their investment? RM: With us, that simply won’t happen! Our RORC as a Service (RAAS) approach allows retailers to replace complete platforms with a minimum disruption of service at the store level. We also offer simplified pricing, plus guaranteed maintenance pricing for three years. We are also leveraging our CFR and QSR vertical expertise to identify evolving trends and how these impact our retailer partners. This includes kiosks, mobile apps, ecommerce, delivery, in lane loyalty, and HR Management, such as payroll, scheduling, time keeping.

PG: Do you have an example of an independent grocery store that has transformed its technology successfully using the RORC system? RM: Just this past month, we worked with our partner, Adams Hometown Markets,

located throughout New England, to upgrade their ISS45 legacy system to our RORC POS solution, including new servers and workstations at 12 of their locations (out of 16 total). Configuration, setup, and data conversion were completed by DUMAC remotely. We had trainers on-site at each location for two days for optimal go-live support and training on the system. As anyone can imagine, replacing or upgrading software and systems can be an anxious time—especially in the current environment, across multiple store locations—AND during the busy holiday season. The Adams team was great to work with, and they’re thrilled with how smooth the transition has been!

PG: What about your service and support capabilities? RM: We offer multiple plans— on-site and advanced—to suit the specific needs of each customer. Our support team can keep your system running 24/7, minimizing down time. And local service is always available—no matter the store’s location.

To learn more about how DUMAC can transform your store’s technology, visit, email, or call 315-463-1010.


Food, Beverage & Nonfood Products

Fresh From the Oven

From Bimbo Bakeries USA, The Rustik Oven signature artisan bread line comes in three varieties made with simple, real ingredients: Sourdough, Artisan White, and Hearty Grains & Seeds. The bread is also Non-GMO Project Verified and contains no artificial colors or flavors. To mark the launch, the brand teamed up with celebrity chef Laura Vitale to offer an exclusive virtual private cooking experience for one consumer and their friends and family. “For so long, we heard our consumers’ feedback over the struggle of choosing between the superior quality of bread from their favorite local bakery and the longer shelf life and convenience of bread from a grocery store,” says Jessica Grane, marketing director, premium and artisan breads at Bimbo Bakeries USA. “Thanks to our signature baking process, we’re proud to bring this unique offering to the artisan bread category and offer our fans the taste that they love in a more convenient way. The Rustik Oven is all about making simple gatherings an occasion to savor, and during these times when so many are eating more meals at home, we look forward to our three distinct varieties unleashing culinary imagination and inspiring a slower, more delicious pace of life.” a 1-pound loaf of any variety of The Rustik Oven retails for a suggested $4.69.;

The Lighter Side of Dessert

Frozen dessert maker Enlightened has debuted two low-carb desserts: keto-friendly Cheesecakes and Dough Bites. Containing only 2 grams of net carbs and no added sugar, the mini cheesecake collection features five flavors: Classic, an Original New York-style cheesecake with a vanilla almond crust, topped with whipped cream; Chocolate, with a chocolate almond crust and topped with whipped cream; Strawberry, an Original New York-Style cheesecake with a vanilla almond crust and a strawberry jam filling, topped with strawberry cream; Pumpkin, with a vanilla almond crust and topped with whipped cream; and Caramel Chocolate, a caramel cheesecake with a chocolate almond crust, topped with chocolate chips and caramel cream. The no-bake, no-sugar-added cookie dough and brownie dough bites are gluten-free, contain 90-110 calories per serving, and have just 2 grams of net carbs per serving. The varieties are Chocolate Chip Cookie; Birthday Cake Cookie, with rainbow sprinkles; Fudge Brownie; Peanut Butter Cookie, with chocolate chips; and Snickerdoodle Cookie, consisting of sugar cookie dough with cinnamon spice. A 5.6-ounce 2-pack of the cheesecakes retails for a suggested $5.99, while the dough bites go for a suggested $4.49 per 2.75-ounce package.

Single-Serve Charcuterie

A fourth-generation family-owned and -operated producer of specialty cured meats since 1902, Volpi Foods has now launched a single-serve line, Small Bites. “While we saw the need for smaller-portion options of our products before the pandemic, the demand is even more prevalent now,” explains Volpi Foods Marketing Manager Deanna Depke. “Consumers are spending more time with their immediate families. They are experimenting more in the kitchen. They are looking for affordable indulgences that can be enjoyed at home. The Small Bites line allows for convenience, flexibility and ultimately discovery. It’s a cost-effective way to mix and match charcuterie items, makes for the perfect snack, and encourages consumers to incorporate our products into new at-home recipes.” The smaller size also drives trial of the products without the intimidation and cost of purchasing a larger quantity. This not only reduces potential waste, but also enables consumers to make their own charcuterie boards for one. Available in Volpi’s most popular dry-cured meat varieties — Prosciutto, Coppa, Sopressata and Spicy Sopressata — Small Bites can also be used to top salads, upgrade pizzas, enhance omelets and enliven picnic fare, among many other applications. A 1.5-ounce pack of any variety retails for a suggested $2.99.


Clear Advantage

The Fresh Creations brand from Lakeview Farms LLC, a manufacturer of refrigerated desserts, dips, spreads and specialty products, now offers the Party Spreads line. The ready-to-serve collection offers savory flavors topping a cream cheese spread: Thai Sweet Chili and Pineapple Habanero. Suitable for serving at holiday parties, tailgates, graduations or any other special occasion, the spreads are also packaged differently from any other product in the category: 11-ounce “label-free” clear PET containers incorporate vibrant packaging and graphics to bring attention to the product within. Each tub retails for a suggested price range of $3.99-$4.99.

Nuts About Nutrition

Known for its coffee creamers, hydration products, beverage-enhancing supplements, and roasted and instant coffees, teas and hot chocolate, Laird Superfood has now entered the snack food category with Pili Nuts. The nourishing snack line comes in three varieties: Matcha, with a coating of organic Kyoto matcha and organic coconut flower sugar; Cacao, with a dusting of organic Ecuadorian cacao and organic coconut flower sugar; and Himalayan Pink Salt, with a sprinkling of its namesake seasoning. Grown on trees in the nutrient-rich volcanic soil of The Philippines, Laird Superfood Pili Nuts are wild harvested, sprouted in purified mountain water, and slow dried to preserve their delicate, buttery flavor. They’re not only a good source of magnesium and vitamin E, but with approximately 18 grams of fat per serving, they also provide long-lasting fuel and energy. A variety 3-pack of 1.06-ounce pouches retails for a suggested $11.95.

French Twist on Dairy-Free

Born in France’s Normandy region and currently available on five continents, Boursin has now introduced Boursin Dairy-Free Cheese Spread Alternative in the well-known dairy cheese brand’s popular Garlic & Herbs flavor. Made with organic coconut oil and organic expeller-pressed canola oil, the Non-GMO Project Verified plant-based product was developed using the knowledge and expertise of international plant-based food brand Follow Your Heart, with the aim of meeting the entertaining and snacking needs of even more consumers. The suggested retail price is $6.99 per 6-ounce recyclable cup with a recyclable easy-open and -close lid. Although the item is currently available only on Amazon in the United States, Boursin plans to launch it at U.S. retail stores in 2021.;

Pizza Innovation

Chickpea pasta and rice maker Banza has now expanded into the frozen section with the introduction of what the brand says is the first-ever frozen pizza line made with a chickpea crust. According to the company, its pizzas have more protein and fiber, and fewer net carbs and sodium, than the leading traditional wheat-based and better-for-you cauliflower-based frozen pizzas currently on the market. From a high-quality and minimal ingredient list, Banza uses such items as chickpeas, olive oil, yeast and oregano to create a crispy crust with a doughy center that doesn’t flop over when you lift a slice to your mouth. The line comes in three ready-toeat varieties, Four Cheese, Roasted Veggie and Margherita, as well as a 2-pack build-your-own Plain Crust option. The pies cook in the oven in under 15 minutes and provide eight servings for Plain Crust, which contains two crusts per 13.4-ounce package, or two servings each for the other varieties. The suggested retail price per 10.9-ounce box or 2-pack is $8.99.





Preparing for a New Age of Nutritional Guidance

Previous dietary guidance has allowed for up to one alcoholic drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Due to increasing research linking alcohol to chronic disease, this allowance is expected to decrease to one alcoholic drink per day for men and women.

SNAP AND WIC PROGRAMS ARE POISED FOR DISRUPTION. very five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). These evidence-based recommendations are reviewed by a diverse group of researchers, medical experts and scientists who make revisions based on the most current body of research. The DGA are intended to help Americans follow a nutrient-rich diet that supports wellness and Our collective protects against chron- health — and ic disease. Our collective health — and bottom bottom line line at retail — will be better off when Amerat retail — icans begin preventing illness with a fork and a knife instead of treating illness with prescrip- will be better off when tions and medical procedures. The grocery industry is affected by the DGA Americans in many ways. The DGA serve as the founda- begin tion for federally funded nutrition and pub- preventing lic health programs such as the Supplemental illness with Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for a fork and a Women, Infants & Children (WIC). Changes in knife instead dietary guidance will affect the qualifying foods of treating available to SNAP and WIC recipients. In addi- illness with tion, the DGA cause subtle shifts in consumer prescriptions preference and pave the way for new trends in wellness, marketing and product development. and medical Lastly, in-store wellness programs, which have procedures. greatly expanded in recent years, should also align with current dietary guidance. So what changes should retailers be prepared for once the official guidelines are released?


Emphasis on Prenatal, Infant and Early-Childhood Nutrition

Research suggests that the foods that a woman eats while pregnant and nursing, as well as the foods consumed during a child’s first two years of life, set the stage for lifelong health. The 2020 DGA will be the first to include dietary guidance for infants and toddlers under 2. TREND/OPPORTUNITY: A focus on eating habits in the first two years of life presents an opportunity for baby and toddler food brands that support palate development by introducing a variety of flavors and textures.


Less Alcohol

TREND/OPPORTUNITY: Sober-curious living is an ongoing trend that’s likely to continue, presenting an opportunity for lower-alcohol drinks, mocktails/ mixers and alcohol alternatives.


Focus on Healthy Fats and Seafood

Research connecting polyunsaturated fats with a variety of health benefits keeps growing. The DGA will likely recommend swapping saturated fats (meat, lard, etc.) for polyunsaturated fats (salmon, walnuts, avocado and olive oil.) Seafood’s healthfulness, combined with a uniquely high level of omega-3 fats, will make it a focal point. TREND/OPPORTUNITY: Omega-3 fats are hard to find. Fatty fish, like farmed salmon from Chile, will present an opportunity, since it’s also low in mercury, making it safe for everyone, including pregnant women.


Lower Sugar

Current recommendations are to limit added-sugar intake to less than 10% of total calories. The new guidelines will likely tighten this limit to 6% of total calories, or 120 calories in the average 2,000-calorie diet. Choosing lower-sugar options by steering away from baked goods and sugary drinks is a core message. TREND/OPPORTUNITY: Brands that offer lower-sugar products or use natural non-nutritive sweeteners will have an opportunity to thrive. There may also be increased brand messaging that differentiates between naturally occurring sugar (found in fruit, vegetables and dairy) and added sugar.

In addition, it’s important to note that the 2020-25 DGA are going to emphasize lifespan nutrition — that is, the importance of a healthy diet throughout each stage of life. Retailers can support overall health by understanding consumer needs, providing current dietary guidance, and offering value-added services, such as access to registered dietitians and nutrition programming, to help shoppers live well.

Sheri Kasper, RDN, LDN, is CEO of FRESH Communications, a Boston-based public relations agency serving better-for-you food, beverage and lifestyle brands.





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