Industry News

Supermarkets garner highest percentage of new online customers, Retail Feedback Group study finds [...]
Fri, Jul 10, 2020
Supermarket News
HempMeds topical items debut in three SoCal stores [...]
Fri, Jul 10, 2020
Supermarket News
Regional grocer adds 5,000 more items to price-hold program [...]
Fri, Jul 10, 2020
Supermarket News
PBFA-Kroger store pilot shows higher sales, more new shoppers [...]
Fri, Jul 10, 2020
Supermarket News
By: Tori Anderson Agee, Manager, Political Affairs, FMI A presidential election year is always a hustle – throw the COVID-19 pandemic into the mix and you'll find you have the making of a crazy primary season. This pass month turned out to be one of the busiest election months — a record 19 states held their congressional primaries in June. Between shifting voting requirements and altering deadlines, the results of June elections will have an impact on the food industry.  Surprises and Upsets  With one-third of the country holding their primaries in June, we were guaranteed to witness some surprising losses and upsets. Thus far, five incumbents have been ousted with four of those elections taking place in June.  1. Rep. Steve King (IA-04) lost GOP establishment backing after his controversial remarks over the years. Iowa Senator Randy Feenstra was finally able to end the Congressman's run, winning by 10 points. Feenstra strengthened the GOP's chances of maintaining its seat in the Hawkeye state.   2. Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16) serves as the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. After serving in Congress for 31 years, Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16), lost handedly to the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-backed, progressive candidate, Jamaal Bowman. Bowman ended up winning the primary with 60% of the vote and will likely be headed to Congress in November.   3. Rep. Denver Riggleman's (VA-05) victory was one of the biggest surprises out of this primary season. A party-run convention took place via a drive-through format in Lynchburg where ballots were cast by around 2,500 party delegates. VA-05 is now considered a “Lean Republican” instead of “Likely Republican,” according to the Cook Political Report. 4. Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03) was also a surprise upset. Until Tuesday night, Rep. Tipton was considered the front-runner. He lost to Lauren Boebert, who is a far-right QAnon supporter. The district has now gone from a “Solid Republican” seat to a “Likely Republican” seat as reported in the Cook Political Report.   Toss-Up Seats  Fourteen seats were considered “Toss Ups” this year. Ultimately, these seats will be crucial in deciding whether Democrats can keep the House. 1. In 2018, Rep. Steve Russell lost his seat unexpectantly to Kendra Horn, in the 5th district of Oklahoma (R+10). Last week, the primary resulted in a run-off between State Senator Stephanie Bice and local businesswoman Terry Neese. This seat is one of the GOP's best chances to flip from D to R. The run-off will take place on August 25. 2. In a similar R+10 district,  Rep. Joe Cunningham was able to flip South Carolina's 1st district from R to D. Rep. Cunningham is the only Democrat to hold it in the past three decades. Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, won the primary in the beginning of the month, and will face Rep. Cunningham in November. 3. Rep. Rob Woodall (GA-7) is stepping down. This has given Democrats a targeted seat to flip to blue. The primary has led to a run-off between Carolyn Bourdeaux and Brenda Lopez Romero. Bourdeaux ran in 2018 and narrowly lost by 0.2 percentage points against Rep. Tipton. Cook Political Report lists this as a Republican Toss Up. The run-off will take place on August 11th.   Voting Process  We have seen several changes in voting procedures due to the pandemic. While some states were able to adapt and saw very little issue, other states experienced some significant problems.   From the very start of Georgia's primary on June 9, there were several concerns. Voting machines experienced countless problems – some machines were missing, some didn't turn on, and others were delivered to the wrong places. There were long lines and a severe lack of staffing. Some folks claimed that they never received an absentee ballot, forcing them to come to the polls and others claimed that they [...]
Fri, Jul 10, 2020
FMI News
Wholesale club chain’s online sales jump by more than 85% [...]
Thu, Jul 09, 2020
Supermarket News
Retailer’s one-stop shopping platform extends reach in four states [...]
Thu, Jul 09, 2020
Supermarket News
Effort aims to prevent food waste, address food insecurity during pandemic [...]
Thu, Jul 09, 2020
Supermarket News
Retailer names integrated media agency of record, plans in-store audio network [...]
Thu, Jul 09, 2020
Supermarket News
Funding initiative for nonprofits targets racial disparities in health care, food insecurity [...]
Thu, Jul 09, 2020
Supermarket News
From snacks to beverages, trend continues to grow with new product launches [...]
Thu, Jul 09, 2020
Supermarket News
Category A: Jim Grochowalski  Martin's Super Markets, Stevensville, MI  It's tempting to say that Groucho earns high marks for his work.  Classic movie character puns aside, Jim "Groucho" Grochowalski boosted his store's customer count by 2.58% last year and turned steadily declining sales into a 1.3% increase.  He was tapped for just that kind of transformation, taking over a Martin's Super Markets location in Stevensville, Michigan, that was facing challenges in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Those who nominated him for this award cite his dedication to customers, strong mentoring skills and effective use of merchandising space as the keys to his success.  To say that he utilizes consumer feedback may be a bit of an understatement. This manager fosters customer loyalty and ensures optimal store conditions by reviewing shopper comment reports with all store employees. He also reaches out to customers personally who ask about certain products that are not available on the shelf.  If bad feedback happens, he takes action. After fielding customer complaints about rambunctious teens from the nearby high school gathering at the store café, he created an after-school program staffed by employees. Now, the students do homework in the upstairs eating area until they are picked up by their parents, who, incidentally, come into the store to grab some groceries.   His approach works, and it's one that he's perfected after more than 25 years at Martin's and, before that, at a small supermarket chain that Martin's acquired.  Industry longevity has also taught him the importance of innovation in delivering satisfying customer experiences. For instance, while there are no lobsters in nearby freshwater Lake Michigan, he leveraged shoppers' interests in trendy seafood dishes by creating a fun lobster roll event at his store, bringing in a corporate chef to prepare and sample the sandwiches for shoppers on the floor. Promoted on social media and via in-store posters, the event was quite the theatrical experience for shoppers, many of whom still talk about it when they are in the store. There was real star power about it, hauling in an additional sales in a four-hour span.   Other store events reflect his creativity and sense of fun, too, from an Easter Egg hunt to a haunted hayride he coordinates with other local businesses at Halloween. A big believer in the power of community outreach, he organized an event that brought families to the store for a cookout and a chance to interact with local law enforcement personnel.  He also recently raffled off a kayak at the store that netted a $1,000 donation for the local fire department.  As he has continually turned negatives into positives in his career, he also walks the walk. When not thinking up innovative ideas like lobster rolls and afterschool programs, Groucho can often be found working side by side with his team members.   “Groucho's lead-by-example philosophy and enthusiasm for providing an unmatched shopping experience ensures loyalty in not only his employees, but his customers as well.”  [...]
Thu, Jul 09, 2020
FMI News
Industry giant adapts and innovates in challenging marketplace [...]
Thu, Jul 09, 2020
Supermarket News
By Sue Wilkinson, Senior Director, Information Service & Research, FMI Over the past few months, a spotlight has shone brightly on the food supply chain because of the many challenges it experienced due to pantry loading by consumers that resulted in out of stocks for myriad categories. While it is not completely back to normal, product suppliers have worked hard to meet the expectations of their retail partners and shoppers by prioritizing core SKUs to simplify, drive efficiency and streamline operations for retail customers.  The food supply chain disruption has brought up, once again, the question of just how many products do we really need on grocery shelves? Variety or Duplication Throughout the decades, product suppliers and food retailers have struggled with this concept. In 1993, FMI released a report written by Willard Bishop Consulting and IRI in cooperation with Frito-Lay, Inc. called “Variety or Duplication: A Process to Know Where You Stand.” It explored a systematic approach to managing product variety in an effort to lower supermarket operating costs and increase sales. The study revealed that there was plenty of duplication on the shelf, reducing SKU count is possible without upsetting the shopper, and SKU reduction, if done correctly, does not have to have a negative impact on sales. SKU Rationalization Fast forward to the 2000s where the industry began to implement SKU rationalization, a decision-making process to determine whether a product should be kept or discontinued. A scan of supermarket trade journal headlines during this time period reveals the trend, and FMI's 2011 Food Retailing Industry Speaks report states that between the years 2008 and 2010 retailers around the country were increasingly focused on SKU rationalization but, “the trend appears to have flattened out, if not reversed. In fact, for 2011, fewer than one-third of retailers believe SKU reduction initiatives will persist.” Despite a possible reversal of SKU rationalization in 2011, FMI Speaks data over the last 10 years or so indicates that SKU numbers have decreased over time as retailers have adjusted assortments. In addition, the emergence of omnichannel strategies and a growing number of smaller format outlets is likely having an impact on the average number of SKUs offered in typical food retail formats. What Does The Future Look Like? During this pandemic, CPG companies have been forced to consider their product lines to meet the needs of food retailers dealing with unprecedented consumer pantry loading. While the concept of reducing SKUs is not novel, the current situation has introduced a new twist— the product supplier is making the adjustments this time. Moving forward, what will this episode in retailer/supplier relations do to product innovation? When will slower-moving products be introduced back into the normal product line-up? Will shoppers notice the decrease in offerings? Do we really need all this stuff?  It's too soon to tell how this story will end, but it does offer some food for thought.   [...]
Thu, Jul 09, 2020
FMI News
Hard discount grocer’s pricing pressure at ‘previously unseen levels,’ UNC Kenan-Flagler study finds [...]
Wed, Jul 08, 2020
Supermarket News
Same-day alcohol delivery also offered in selected markets [...]
Wed, Jul 08, 2020
Supermarket News
Category A: Michael Siakpere Skogen's Festival Foods, Eau Claire, WI  Michael Siakpere won't let anything rain on his parade when it comes to serving shoppers. From an outdoor store event that he successfully brought indoors during a heavy downpour to emerging circumstances threatening to cut into profits, this store director at Skogen's Festival Foods in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, continually strives to meet his goals and engenders a similarly driven mindset among employees.  Always Reaching for Excellence One of his often-repeated mantras is “We do excellence here.” For Siakpere, who worked as a guest service representative and assistant store director before ascending to his current role, that means aiming for excellence instead of an unrealistic expectation of perfection.  He believes that knowing that you tried your absolute best allows you to hold your head up high.   He leads the pursuit of excellence at many levels throughout the store, starting with the fundamentals of cleanliness, accurate signage/pricing and stock levels. While his standards are high and he holds his team to them, the location Siakpere manages has had low turnover because of his collaborative approach that includes regular one-on-one meetings with staff leaders and willingness to give employees the tools they need to succeed. His buck-stops-with-me philosophy and keen sense of humor are also appreciated.  An Entrepreneurial Spirit Under his leadership, the Eau Claire location has grown steadily in recent years. Year-over-year sales increased 8.5% at a time when overall grocery sales have been flat, and this location's EBITDA as a percentage of sales rose 3.22% in 2019.  Overall satisfaction scores for the store increased across every category, and he oversaw the extension into a new category with the addition of an in-store Caribou Coffee.   There is no resting on any laurels for this grocery manager, who challenges himself and those around him to get creative on new initiatives and outdo themselves in their ongoing efforts.  These efforts include raising the visibility of the store in the area and giving back to the community: Siakpere is president of the local Boys and Girls Club and also volunteers his time for a student organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management careers.  He even puts a little festival into Festival Foods, getting his store involved in a major Wisconsin musical festival called Country Jam.   “The culture he has built in the store and what he has done throughout the company in terms of culture and community are second to none. Most who have worked with Michael know what a special opportunity it was and just how fortunate they were to work with him.”    Meet Michael [...]
Wed, Jul 08, 2020
FMI News
Stuart Aitken succeeds Joe Grieshaber, Yael Cosset to oversee 84.51˚ and alternative business units [...]
Wed, Jul 08, 2020
Supermarket News
Partner Deuce Drone to turn Alabama test store into customer fulfillment center [...]
Tue, Jul 07, 2020
Supermarket News
Category A: Kaitlyn Lester Lunds & Byerlys, Eagan, MN  As the saying goes, Kaitlyn Lester wears many hats. The general manager of a Lunds & Bylerlys store in Eagan, Minn., is a strong leader, fierce competitor, thoughtful mentor and compassionate community advocate.   Oh, and she's also known for wearing actual hats – usually extravagant  ones – during her store's annual Derby Days celebration.  Lester's adeptness at switching between roles and learning new ones has been honed over 22 years in the industry.   A Master Class in Operations More recently, her leadership role has been put to the test with the opening of a competing store right across the street. Lester responded swiftly and strongly, differentiating her store with effective merchandising programs, a broad produce selection, indispensable employees and expanded community outreach. She also created a “master class” for disciplined operators as a way to retain customers and profits.   Those efforts helped drive traffic to the Lunds & Byerlys store – literally, as many shoppers drove into that parking lot instead of the competitor's space.  While sales were a hair below plan (less than .30% off) Lester finished the year with a Gross After Payroll of 3.86% above plan, and her store was 7.74% over its performance target for the year.   A Brand Champion In another testament to the success of Lester's efforts, customers, who responded to surveys offered on the back of receipts, gave this store an Overall Satisfaction Score of 75%, one of the highest in the company. An overwhelming majority – 81% -- of her shoppers say they are likely to return to the store, more than the previous year.   She has received accolades on the organization side as well. Based on voting by her peers, she was named a Brand Champion by Lunds & Byerlys in 2019 for emulating the company's values.  Shining in Her Community Lester makes things fun for her staff and customers, like encouraging her team to sport avant garde hats during the aforementioned Kentucky Derby time and hosting a “Boo Blast” with Halloween trick or treating, face painting and staff dressed up in costumes.  Hospitality extends to the community, and here, too, Lester shines. She led her store's participation in a “Food Fight' between anchors from a local news station that raised food and cash for a local food bank. That event resulted in a 350,000-pound haul that was donated to community members in need.  Whether engaging in friendly competition with a nearby store, opening her door to the community or teaming closely with her staff, Lester is the type of manager who deserves – you guessed it – a tip of the hat.   “She has helped me grow as a leader by encouraging me to push boundaries I wouldn't normally push. Our predominately male-led industry can be intimidating, but I am learning through her how to get what I need to perform my job successfully. Kaitlyn might assist you the first time in a task, but she will never do it for you.” Jennie O'Konek, operations manager, Lunds & Byerlys     Meet Kaitlyn [...]
Tue, Jul 07, 2020
FMI News
By: Ashley Eisenbeiser, Senior Director, Food and Product Safety Programs, FMI   There are several commodities that are plagued by recurrent outbreaks. These outbreaks are similar in nature and they happen repeatedly, year after year, often affecting an entire commodity– romaine, papaya, pig ears, melons, flour-- rather than a specific producer.  An example of this can be seen in the recent Salmonella Uganda outbreak linked to the consumption of whole, fresh papayas. Since 2011, there have been 8 outbreaks caused by Salmonella serotypes that have been linked to the consumption of imported papayas from Mexico. These outbreaks have accounted for almost 500 illnesses, including more than 100 hospitalizations and two deaths. Because of this, FDA has an active Import Alert for papaya imported from Mexico (Import Alert 21-17). Despite the Import Alert, outbreaks continue to impact the papaya industry as evidence by last year's outbreak of Salmonella Uganda in whole, fresh papaya imported from Mexico.   In August 2019, FDA sent a letter to all sectors of the papaya industry, including papaya growers, harvesters, packers, distributors, exporters, importers and retailers, in an effort to address the pattern of recurrent outbreaks linked to the consumption of papayas imported from Mexico. In the 2019 letter, FDA emphasized the shared responsibility of industry stakeholders to ensure that the foods they bring to market are safe and meet all food safety regulatory requirements. Furthermore, FDA urges stakeholders, from all segments of the papaya industry, to review their operations and make all necessary changes to strengthen public health safeguards.  There is an old adage, “If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.” In order to prevent these outbreaks from recurring, something must change, and the change has to occur industry-wide. If it doesn't, we will continue to get what we have been getting… What's going to change? In a June 2020, FDA sent a second letter to all sectors of the papaya industry outlining a series of steps that the industry can take to prevent recurring outbreaks of Salmonella linked to papayas.  Furthermore, FDA reiterates their commitment to strengthening produce safety and stresses the importance of following the latest best practices and proactively working to keep papayas free of contamination To help combat recurrent outbreaks, FMI recommends: Have a supplier approval program in-place. Specifications for approving a supplier should be established prior to purchasing from a supplier and should always address food safety expectations. Purchase products from reputable vendors that have strong food safety management programs in-place meet all food safety regulatory requirements—such as the Produce Safety and Foreign Supplier Verification rules established by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act — and are certified and have annual audits from a GFSI program, such as SQF.  The following tools are available to help with evaluating suppliers (including the evaluation of papaya vendors). Food Safety Best Practices Guide for the Growing and Handling of Mexican Papaya – The Texas International Produce Association and United Fresh Produce Association recommended food safety practices intended to minimize the microbiological hazards associated with fresh papaya from Mexico. FDA Firm/Supplier Evaluation Resources for FSMA Rules - The FDA firm and supplier resources [...]
Tue, Jul 07, 2020
FMI News
By: Rebecca Daniels, Manager, Education, FMI  The entrepreneurial mindset is flexible, adaptable, sees change before it happens, and seizes new opportunities. In my opinion, what really makes an entrepreneurial spirit shine is the ability to remain focused on growing, developing and improving. Our industry has a long history that has ebbed and flowed around an entrepreneurial ethos.   From meeting the needs of today's shopper, whether in-store or in the interweb to inventing shopping experiences that evolve with the times, on the front lines of the ever-changing food industry landscape is the store manager. While ensuring operations run smoothly day-in and day-out, they balance the needs of their customers and employees, and combine strategy and creative thinking to design unique food experiences and manage the complexities of a multi-generational workforce.    You better believe an entrepreneurial spirit flows through the DNA of a store manager. As we continue to navigate an uncertain future, store managers will be critical more than ever to the recovery and resiliency of the food industry.  Please join us as we recognize each finalist this month and celebrate the winners of the Store Manager Awards in August.    I'm honored to introduce the 2020 Store Manager Awards Finalists:  Jim Grochowalski, Martin's Super Markets, Stevensville, MI   To say that Jim Grochowalski utilizes consumer feedback may be a bit of an understatement. This manager fosters customer loyalty and ensures optimal store conditions by reviewing shopper comment reports with all store employees. He also reaches out to customers personally who ask about certain products that are not available on the shelf. If bad feedback happens, he takes action. After fielding customer complaints about rambunctious teens from the nearby high school gathering at the store café, he created an after-school program staffed by employees. Now, the students do homework in the upstairs eating area until they are picked up by their parents, who, incidentally, come into the store to grab some groceries.   Read Jim's Story   Kaitlyn Lester, Lunds & Byerlys, Eagan, MN      Kaitlyn Lester's adeptness at switching between roles and learning new ones has been honed over 22 years in the industry. More recently, her leadership role has been put to the test with the opening of a competing store right across the street. Lester responded swiftly and strongly, differentiating her store with effective merchandising programs, a broad produce selection, indispensable employees and expanded community outreach. She also created a “master class” for disciplined operators as a way to retain customers and profits. Those efforts helped drive traffic to the Lunds & Byerlys store – literally, as many shoppers drove into that parking lot instead of the competitor's space.  Read Kaitlyn's Story   Michael Siakpere, Skogen's Festival Foods, Eau Claire, WI    One of Michael Siakpere's often-repeated mantras is “We do excellence here.” For Siakpere, who worked as a guest service representative and assistant store director before ascending to his current role, that means aiming for excellence instead of an unrealistic expectation of perfection.  He believes that knowing that you tried your absolute best allows you to hold your head up high. He leads the pursuit of excellence at many levels throughout the store, starting with the fundamentals of cleanliness, accurate signage/pricing and stock levels. While his standards are high and he holds his team to them, the location Siakpere manages has had low turnover because of his collaborative approach that includes regular one-on-one meetings with staff leaders and willingness to give employees the tools they need to succeed.    Read Michael's Story Gary Cottingham, Giant Food Stores, Chambersburg, PA  Gary Cottingham has led the company in customer count, total sales and percentage of store sales for the new GIANT DIRECT service that allows customers to shop online for pickup or delivery. He is one of those store managers who loads groceries into your car, gives your kids an apple or banana while they wait with you and tucks in a note from the store team into a small token gift. Connecting with others through communication is a hallmark of Cottingham's managerial style. His nominators cite his authentic communications that combine the big picture, effective storytelling and encouragement of feedback. In customer interactions, Cottingham turns any negative feedback that his store receives – and such complaints are infrequent – into an opportunity to talk with shoppers and resolve their issues, preferably in person.  Read Gary's Story Joseph Stephens, Brookshire Grocery Co., Kilgore, TX    In his role managing a Brookshire Grocery Co. store in Kilgore, Texas, Stephens regularly presents honor ribbons to team members with particularly strong performances. And that's not the only effective morale booster: he's known for hosting a mean cookout for [...]
Mon, Jul 06, 2020
FMI News
By: Carol Abel, Vice President of Education Program Development, FMI On July 7th, FMI will kick off our first virtual event, the 2020 Midsummer Strategic Executive Exchange. While this virtual trading partner exchange was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we feel the top industry executives engaging in this event will find value in discussing the latest insights and developing strong business collaborations for the future. Here are some numbers that offer a sneak peek into who's attending and what the program entails: 494     Registered attendees 66        Registered companies  130      Retailer and Wholesaler attendees 364     Supplier attendees 530     B2B business meetings during the 8-day event 8         Insight Sessions covering an array of topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic 1         In-depth conversation between FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin and            Chairman, President, and CEO, Hy-Vee, Inc., Chairman, FMI Board Randy            Edeker 2020 Midsummer Strategic Executive Exchange [...]
Thu, Jul 02, 2020
FMI News
By: Steve Markenson, Director, Research, FMI “With great power comes great responsibility.” I know my three boys will immediately recognize this phrase as a central theme from the Spiderman comic book franchise. The line is also meaningful in today's grocery shopping world. Online food shopping has gained more clout as consumers embrace ecommerce in the wake of the pandemic. The growing power of ecommerce is underscored in FMI's U.S. Grocery Shopping Trends 2020 (Trends) report. Weekly online grocery spend reported by shoppers soared to 27.9% of all grocery spending in the March/April period of this year, from 14.5% in February of 2020 and 10.5% last year. However, along with this great power comes responsibility. Shoppers have higher expectations for transparency when shopping online compared to in-store, according to a new study from FMI and Label Insight. Report Points to Omnishopper Needs The report, Transparency Trends: Omnichannel Grocery Shopping from the Consumer Perspective, is a follow-up to a 2018 report from FMI and Label Insight that emphasized the connection between transparency, trust and loyalty. The 2020 research, conducted in mid-March, is based on a national consumer survey in which transparency was defined as providing detailed information, such as what is in food and how it is made. The report found that 69% of omnichannel shoppers — those who buy both online and in-store — want more information about a product when shopping online compared to in physical stores. As an example of transparency expectations, some shoppers are seeking information about allergens, and use online filters for this purpose. Comparing Transparency Online Versus In-Store Omnichannel grocery shoppers find certain transparency-related activities easier online than in-store. This is especially true for discovering new products and learning more about a product's story, including information on sourcing and manufacturing processes. However, transparency is not necessarily easier online in all cases. Shoppers are mixed as to whether online or in-store provides a better transparency experience for access to detailed product information and opportunities for exploration and learning about food and cooking. How Shoppers Judge Transparency Shoppers were asked how they determine whether a brand or manufacturer is being transparent. Their answers covered a lot of angles, from ingredients to sourcing. Here are the top responses: Complete list of ingredients. Plain English description of ingredients. Certifications (such as USDA organic). In-depth nutritional information. Information about how products are produced and ingredients are sourced. Key Industry Steps to Make Progress The report delivers some key recommendations to retailers and suppliers on ways to enhance transparency efforts. One of these is to advance transparency related to health and wellness, at a time when shoppers are more focused on diets and health, including allergies and intolerances. Some recommendations address online shopping in particular. These include enabling item comparisons, providing more and better product information and making possible more accurate search functionality. A New Period for Ecommerce and Transparency The report emphasizes that many industry opportunities center on ecommerce in light of the pandemic. “It's an especially good time to advance transparency in [...]
Wed, Jul 01, 2020
FMI News
By: Doug Baker, Vice President, Industry Relations, FMI Since early this year, this country, industry, and the public have modified our professional and personal lives to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. Although this industry is no stranger to disasters, this crisis has stretched even the most prepared within our industry and others. Early in the outbreak, I found myself comparing lessons learned from natural disasters like a hurricane to inform various stakeholders on the impact and resilience of the food supply chain and our industry.   Unfortunately, both COVID-19 and hurricane season are incredibly devastating to a business, communities, and personal health. But, one key differentiator is that for days, we can see the hurricane heading toward us, allowing for some preparation and, in many cases, evacuation from the imminent danger. In the worst disasters involving populations, this industry and its ability to rally around retailers and communities in impacted areas, has been a bright light and needed insurance that the supply chain in the impacted area remains resilient. Once competitors under blue skies, the industry is all for one and one for all when those same skies turn black. The hurricane known as SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 didn't reveal its course as it slowly moved across the blue waters of Atlantic or Pacific, rather it silently made landfall with no announcement or projected destination. Still today, it remains somewhat a mystery and not easily knocked off its path as our country braces for what is expected to be another active hurricane season, according to experts. During this time when the weather is still somewhat calm, we encourage retailers, wholesalers and their trading partners to start having those discussions about what happens when nature drops a hurricane on top of a pandemic. What can we do today, to ensure the public and the supply chain remain resilient if and when that time comes? To assist the industry, FMI has activated our hurricane resources page on FMI.org, as well as aNatural Disaster Guide that retailers can use as an additional resource to their individual plans. Additionally, our new partnership with SABER Space will allow retailers to share operation status with local, state, and federal agencies ensuring they're focused on their communities in most need. To learn more about SABER Space or any natural disaster related resources, you can reach out directly to me at dbaker@fmi.org or Chad Ross at cross@fmi.org FMI Crisis Management Resources [...]
Fri, Jun 26, 2020
FMI News
The following article originally appear in the June, 2020 Produce Business edition. By Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, FMI This year has certainly brought a lot of new understandings. One lesson we've learned – often painfully – is the power of connections. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, connections were stretched and sometimes broken in the food supply chain. While some producers and growers were faced with excess product due to closings in the foodservice industry, there were shortages in various retail segments. Those who transport and distribute goods also had their routines upended. As things have been out of whack for those who provide, ship and sell produce, consumers also have changed their connections. From where they buy products to how they are eating, most people are doing things differently. Add to the pandemic other global and national upheavals, and you have a marketplace in which connecting with one another and with consumers is more important than ever. I think it's safe to say that we'll look back at this year as a pivotal point of change. Gaining new insights and leveraging resources can help you better navigate such changes while strengthening and making connections. From our vantage point at FMI, we can share some key learnings and next steps to bringing better produce business to fruition for the rest of 2020 and beyond. Supply Side: A Good Match Early on in the COVID-19 outbreak, it became apparent that the stressed supply chain required a new and nimble way of providing and receiving goods, including produce items. On one hand, photos of rotting potatoes went viral. On the other hand, images of people lining up for food pantry lines as jobless rates skyrocketed were just as alarming. To respond to a supply and demand situation in great flux, FMI mobilized with software company The Seam to create a new Food Industry Exchange, a subscription-based digital platform that matches members around the country with suppliers and wholesalers in a secure, real-time and verified way. This new platform connects those in the supply chain who want to sell and buy products, including a wide variety of produce items. We facilitate the process through the platform, but once companies make the connection, we bow out and let them conduct independent transactions. As a result of the Food Industry Exchange, new relationships have been formed between previously unlinked members in the supply chain, like producers selling to retailers for the first time while their usual restaurant clients were shuttered. Whether or not the pandemic winds down or flares up again in the fall and winter, this platform is designed for the produce business of the future, as parties often seek new buyers and sellers for all kinds of reasons. Consumer Side: New Habits This year of challenge and change is also evident in consumers' behavior. According to a U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends: COVID-19 Tracker report conducted by The Hartman Group and released by FMI, an overwhelming majority of U.S. consumers expect some of their pandemic shopping habits to continue even [...]
Thu, Jun 25, 2020
FMI News
By Sue Wilkinson, Senior Director, Information Service & Research, FMI Cooking brings me joy! At least that was the case until the pandemic struck. One would think that the absence of an hour-long commute at the end of the workday would make me even more excited to cook dinner. Nope. At the end of the day, I am exhausted with no appetite for food or the time it takes to cook dinner. Cooking on a weeknight looks different than cooking on a weekend or for a special occasion, and perhaps because every day seems like the same day these days, I have lost my mojo. My circumstance is not entirely unusual. According to the 2020 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report, in mid-May, 23% of shoppers said their priority when cooking is to spend as little time as possible doing it (up from 16% in late March). And in mid-May, 33% say they seek “something interesting” to eat when they cook at home indicating a fatigue with the cooking process. Cooking Pre-COVID-19 In normal, non-pandemic times, the largest portion of consumers liked (24%) or loved (18%) cooking, while a quarter (24%) would prefer to avoid it and a third (34%) were ambivalent to the task. Nonetheless, home cooking is an important goal, and in February 2020, 58% found it very or extremely important to eat at home together with their family or household. Cook at Home or Outsource? Consumers see cooking at home healthier than eating out. When deciding between the two options (in times when both are available), considerations of cost (47%), time and effort (35%) and taste and cravings (43%) tend to have more influence over the decision. Over half (57%) of households outsource cooking to foodservice and dine out at least once a week, with 21% doing so three or more times. However, 39% of consumers said in mid-May they expect to eat out less often once the pandemic is over, compared to before it began. Challenge for Retailers The COVID-19 environment presents retailers with the opportunity to help consumers plan for more at home eating occasions ranging from those driven by convenience to those driven by exploration beyond the level of the household's cooking skills. The challenge for retailers is identifying the right balance of strategies targeting occasions when food is outsourced versus opportunities to help consumers plan and shop for home cooking. I'm with that 39% of consumers who expect to eat out less often once the pandemic is over, which will require me to put some serious effort into finding that joy of cooking that disappeared as quickly as the pandemic struck. At least there is a place to start! The Family Meals Movement is compiling creative cooking resources during COVID-19 to help families share more meals together. Download 2020 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report [...]
Wed, Jun 24, 2020
FMI News
By Steve Markenson, Director, Research, FMI The pandemic has accelerated ecommerce demand, pressuring capabilities and providing invaluable lessons for the future. I am not usually one to make dramatic statements about industry developments, but I have mostly put that aside during this pandemic, when everything seems to be unprecedented. But here is a sweeping statement I am comfortable making: online grocery shopping is undergoing its biggest test. Two timely reports from FMI take a deep dive into online shopping. U.S. Grocery Shopping Trends 2020 (Trends), from FMI and The Hartman Group, looks at how significantly the pandemic has impacted ecommerce. Meanwhile, Transparency Trends: Omnichannel Grocery Shopping from the Consumer Perspective, a new study from FMI and Label Insight, offers insights on how to improve the ecommerce user experiences among omnichannel shoppers. Let's first examine the huge advance for online shopping as a result of the crisis. Consider that last year shoppers reported online grocery spend represented 10.5% of all grocery spending, according to Trends. That figure rose to 14.5% in February of 2020 and surged to 27.9% in the March/April period. Ecommerce Crosses New Boundaries In the wake of this unprecedented spike, online shopping also crossed new boundaries on the demographics front. “Previously skewing toward working urban Millennial families, the ranks of online shoppers have grown in particular among older generations and households without children,” according to Trends. Moreover, there was somewhat of a reversal in shopper hesitation about buying perishables online. Back in February Trends data showed, for example, fresh produce ranked 15th and fresh meats 19th in a list of 26 categories often bought online. “However, by mid-April, the situation had changed dramatically,” the report said. “Fresh produce moved into the top 10, with 12% saying they had just purchased fresh produce online for the very first time. Similar proportions said the same about fresh meat, refrigerated dairy and frozen foods, each seeing many first-time online buyers.” Online Shoppers Reveal Likes and Dislikes Now that online food shopping has accelerated dramatically, retailers will have the opportunity to keep and grow their online shopper base. The new omnichannel shopper report relays important clues about how this can be accomplished. The report found the biggest reasons shoppers like online shopping include saving time, fast and easy checkout, and delivery. Some of the biggest dislikes about online shopping are the inability to choose one's own perishable items (despite the growth during the pandemic), high delivery fees, difficult returns processes, inability to find products based on preferences, and slow delivery. How to Improve Ecommerce Experiences What would make online shopping more user-friendly? Here are the top factors cited by respondents: Better product selection Faster delivery Easier-to-use websites More and better product information More accurate search functionality “Focus on online user experience as an opportunity to cement consumer loyalty and gain new shoppers,” the report said. Enhancing Experiences Across Channels Meanwhile, even though the pandemic raised the profile of ecommerce, physical stores retain their crucial roles, according to the omnichannel shopper [...]
Tue, Jun 23, 2020
FMI News
By Steve Markenson, Director, Research, FMI My freezer, refrigerator and kitchen cabinets have never been this full. And, as I look at the results of our most recent U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker survey of consumers, it appears that my household is not unique. This food anxiety driven by the events around the pandemic is shaping our food shopping behaviors.   More, More, More The most noticeable difference that I have experienced is how full my cart is on each visit to the store and what the cash register tells me when I am done. As we have reported, Americans' weekly grocery spend increased by 33% in the first weeks of the pandemic and that weekly spend has remained higher than pre-pandemic levels in subsequent weeks. Many Americans agree (41%) that they are spending more each week on groceries than before the pandemic. And, a comparable proportion (41%) acknowledge that they are also buying more food each week than before the pandemic. In fact, 10% say their household is buying much more food now. My Cupboard Overfloweth During this pandemic, many Americans have passed the time doing jigsaw puzzles. In our house, the most challenging jigsaw puzzle comes after grocery shopping with solving the puzzle of how to fit all the groceries in the freezer, refrigerator and kitchen cabinets. In the past, we would shop for the coming week, but our food anxieties now have us shopping for the longer term. Most Americans (65%) now say that they have enough food on hand to last for more than one week. More than one-third of households (34%) claim to have enough food to last for more than two weeks. But, do we feel secure with what we have? Even with our cupboards overflowing, food anxieties during this pandemic have us divided, as 27% say they think they should have more and 23% would be content with less food on hand. What Are We Buying? This week's report goes deeper into what consumers say they are buying and why. Here are some areas we explore: Private brands have experienced growth over the past three months and we explore the who and why of this growth. We explore the who and why of fresh and frozen meats, seafood and vegetables. Prepared and ready-to eat foods have had mixed experiences during the pandemic and we look at the level of concern around them in the current environment. To learn more, visit our U.S. Grocery Shoppers Trends COVID-19 Tracker survey web page and download the report. FMI will be continuing to track consumer attitudes and perceptions over the summer. Stay tuned for more insights from the shoppers' perspective.  [...]
Mon, Jun 22, 2020
FMI News
By Rick Stein, Vice President of Fresh, FMI The pandemic has squeezed the supplies of many things—from toilet paper to hand sanitizer. However, some things have been plentiful. One of these is webinars. The food retail community has been fortunate to have so many opportunities to watch and listen to insightful presentations. These have kept us informed during an incredibly challenging time. Nevertheless, I'm ready for something more. In the fresh industry, my area of focus at FMI, we need an opportunity not only to listen and learn, but also to converse, collaborate and plan action steps together. The need is great because the pandemic has scrambled so many of the traditional fresh industry story lines. This year's FMI FreshForward, set for August 18 to 20, is an interactive event. Developed in concert with Deloitte, FreshForward is built around senior leadership discussions on crucial fresh food topics. We have made the decision to proceed virtually this year, in light of company travel restrictions due to the pandemic. However, the conference format will resemble that of prior years, with an emphasis on thought leadership, interactivity and collaboration. This will be made possible by the unique virtual platform we have chosen. For each subject addressed, attendees will hear expert thought leadership, discuss and debate implications, and then offer their own opinions on next steps for the industry, enabled by the collaborative, virtual platform. All of this will lead to a post-conference wrap-up report on key insights and action steps, produced by Deloitte.   The third annual installment of FreshForward will spotlight three top-of-mind subjects for fresh industry leaders: The Consumer Transformed Lessons for the Fresh Supply Chain New Era for Packaging and Sustainability The Consumer Transformed will take the pulse of fresh shoppers and address their quickly changing needs. We'll explore many important questions. For example, how can retailers boost confidence in fresh departments—including foodservice, hot foods and salad bars—in the wake of the pandemic? How can the industry ensure that fresh solutions will be relevant for the shifting health and wellness needs of shoppers? Lessons for the Fresh Supply Chain will assess which supply chain aspects worked well during the global crisis, and which need enhancements. What are key takeaways for categories from produce to meat? How can collaboration and technology improve fresh supply chain outcomes? What is the role for predictive analytics? New Era for Packaging and Sustainability will spotlight the changing roles for packaging during this crisis. Consumers concerned about contagions prioritized safety over sustainability. They embraced packaged products, despite a long-running sustainability debate over plastic packaging. Are we now expecting a tug of war between safety and sustainability? How can retail leaders address seemingly conflicting imperatives? What will be the future role of packaging in food waste reduction? You'll notice I included a lot of question marks in my topic descriptions. That was intentional, because unless we know the most important questions, we can't collaborate on finding the answers. FreshForward is the place to debate these questions and come up with [...]
Fri, Jun 19, 2020
FMI News