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Bossa Nova just raised another $29 million for its grocery store robots used by Walmart

Bossa Nova robots are becoming a familiar sight in grocery stores across the U.S.

Walmart uses them in dozens of its stores, from Florida to California, for example. The robots roam the aisles, scanning the shelves to figure out what’s in stock or needs to be replenished, and which items may not be selling very well.

The robots work three times faster and can be up to twice as accurate as humans, according to Bossa Nova co-founder and chief business officer Martin Hitch. They also free up employees to do other more pressing work, like helping shoppers find what they need, or keeping inventory fresh.

The San Francisco start-up, which spun out from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, is gearing up to bring its technology even further and wider. The company recently struck a manufacturing partnership with Flex. They’re also adapting their systems to work for a range of retailers.

Hitch says Bossa Nova focuses on helping retailers that deal with a high, daily turnover of inventory, such as: groceries, pet supply stores and big box retailers.

The start-up just raised $29 million in fresh venture funding, bringing its total raised to $70 million. Hitch says Bossa Nova will use the capital for software research and development, hiring and international expansion.

He added, “Mobile robotics can be a great tool, but may not be the right device to capture information at a smaller format store.” The same “deep learning” software Bossa Nova developed for use in its robots could be adapted to work with devices like static cameras, which could work in a pharmacy, or any other store with narrow aisles.

Investors in the new round included LG Electronics, Cota Capital and China Walden Ventures.

Source: CNBC

Kroger’s online sales up 66%. Amazon and Walmart have a real competitor

People are increasingly buying groceries online. And many retail experts believe the digital supermarket battle will come down to Amazon versus Walmart.

But Kroger has something to say about that: Not so fast.

Kroger, the grocery giant that also owns supermarket chains Ralphs, Fry’s and Harris Teeter, reported solid sales and earnings Thursday that topped forecasts. Shares surged nearly 10% on the news.

What’s even more impressive is that Kroger said digital sales soared by 66% compared to a year ago.

That’s a clear sign that moves Kroger is making to court younger tech-savvy shoppers are working.

It also shows that Kroger is now a legitimate rival to Amazon and Walmart. Amazon now owns Whole Foods and Walmart has made several acquisitions to boost its online shopping presence.

Kroger launched a program last year called Restock Kroger that focuses on lower prices, more private label brands and an increase in its digital shopping initiatives.

The company’s ClickList service, which lets customers shop online for home delivery or curbside pickup at the store, also helped the company report surprisingly strong sales last November.

Kroger has increased its organic offerings through its Simple Truth brand. Sales hit $2 billion in 2017.

The company has also rolled out Prep+Pared Meal Kits, a move to compete with Blue Apron, HelloFresh and Plated, which was bought by the supermarket chain Albertsons last year.

Kroger has stepped up its online efforts even further this year. It recently bought meal-kit company Home Chef in a deal that could eventually be worth up to $700 million.

And Kroger invested $250 million for a stake in the red hot British online supermarket delivery company Ocado to help manage automated warehouses.

It’s no wonder that Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen is excited about the future.

“Everything we are doing today will enhance our ability to provide everyone in America with the convenience of shopping for anything, anytime and anywhere,” he said during a conference call with analysts.

McMullen added that customers who are shopping online at Kroger and its other chains are spending more per week than those who just buy groceries at the physical stores.

Analysts are impressed with the online growth too.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said in a report that the Ocado and Home Chef deals “both speak to the fact that Kroger is looking to stay one step ahead of the competition by gaining a toehold in rapidly-growing segments of the market.”

And Ed Kennedy, senior director of commerce at marketing software company Episerver, said in an email to CNNMoney that Kroger’s latest results show it “has adapted to growing customer needs for more seamless and convenient shopping options as part of the everyday grocery shopping.”

“Kroger is evolving with its consumer instead of falling behind, and it has paid off,” Kennedy added.

In other words, Kroger is not waving the white flag in the online grocery wars. Quite the contrary. It’s playing offense, taking it right to Amazon and Walmart to try and beat them at their own game.

Source: MyFox8.com

These are the best grocery stores in America, according to shoppers

Wegmans has once again been voted America’s favorite grocery chain.

The New-York based chain, which has fewer than 100 stores, beat out national rivals such as Target, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart to be crowned the best grocery store in the United States for the third consecutive year. In 2017, it was tied for first place with Publix, which is based in the Southeast.

More than 12,700 consumers were asked to rate their favorite US grocery chains on attributes like best value, fastest service, and cleanliness in an annual survey done by Market Force Information, a consumer insights firm.

Both Wegmans and Publix scored highest on store cleanliness and item availability, but Wegmans won the top spot for its specialty department service – these include a deli, coffee shop, and bakery. Trader Joe’s came in at third place and was credited for its fast checkouts and courteous cashiers.

Wegmans has landed at the top of the list for several years in a row thanks in large part to its loyal fans who praise it for its ready-to-eat section. It is best known for offering a ton of variety in its product selection. The company has said that each location stocks up to 70,000 products, while the average supermarket stocks slightly more than 40,000 products, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

Market Force’s scoring system is based on customers’ satisfaction and likelihood to recommend the store to others. Take a look at the rankings below and see how your favorite store fared in the survey:

22. Walmart

22. WalmartRic Francis / AP Images

Score: 34%

21. Safeway

21. SafewayFacebook/Safeway

Score: 42%

20. Giant Food Stores

20. Giant Food StoresFacebook/Giant Food Stores

Score: 45%

19. Stop & Shop

19. Stop & ShopFacebook/Stop & Shop

Score: 46%

18. Target

18. TargetDavid Tran Photo / Shutterstock

Score: 49%

17. Winn-Dixie Stores

17. Winn-Dixie StoresFacebook/Winn-Dixie

Score: 51%

16. Meijer

16. MeijerAP

Score: 53%

15. Shop Rite

15. Shop RiteAP

Score: 55%

14. Food Lion

14. Food LionAP

Score: 55%

13. Kroger

13. KrogerHollis Johnson

Score: 58%

12. Hy-Vee Food Stores

12. Hy-Vee Food StoresAP/Nati Harnik

Score: 58%

11. Whole Foods Market

11. Whole Foods MarketAP/Mark Lennihan

Score: 60%

10. Sam’s Club

10. Sam's ClubShutterstock

Score: 60%

9. Harris Teeter

Score: 64%

8. Costco

8. CostcoAP Images

Score: 65%

7. WinCO Foods

Score: 65%

6. Fry’s

6. Fry'sFacebook/FrysFoodStores

Score: 66%

5. H-E-B

Score: 69%

4. Aldi

4. AldiSarah Schmalbruch/INSIDER

Score: 70%

3. Trader Joe’s

3. Trader Joe'sJessica Tyler/Business Insider

Score: 75%

2. Publix

2. PublixFacebook/Publix

Score: 76%

1. Wegmans

1. WegmansHollis Johnson

Score: 77%

Source: Business Insider

Pay-what-you-can grocery opens in Toronto, but experts say model can be hit-or-miss

There’s a reason you don’t often see a pay-what-you-can grocery store, say marketing experts intrigued by a Toronto venture billed as the first of its kind.

But chef Jagger Gordon says it’s an experiment he’s eager to try with his Pay It Forward Grocery Store, which opened Saturday with many of the typical staples you might find in a conventional supermarket.

The difference is that visitors are encouraged to take just what they need, and only pay what they can, even if that’s no money at all.

Gordon doesn’t expect to make a profit from this project, which includes a bakery and cafe and is the latest endeavour from his zero-waste and food security campaign, dubbed Feed It Forward.

He says the goal is to feed the hungry with food that he’s “rescued” from food terminals, supermarkets and bakeries that would otherwise go to waste.

“It’s a simple procedure of taking those trucks that are destined for landfills and hijacking them and giving them to people in need,” says Gordon, who last year helmed a pay-what-you-can restaurant that made soup and sandwiches from discarded produce that might have a bruise or blemish.

“There’s more of a demand for food that is needed by Canadians than people know.”

You’d be hard pressed to find critics of such a worthy mission.

The sliding scale concept, however, is more often applied to arts events like theatre, dance or museums, notes marketing professor Claire Tsai of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business.

And generally speaking, it’s not something she expects would translate well to shopping for fruits and vegetables.

“When people think about groceries, people want to save money,” Tsai says.

“It’s not the same as going out to eat. Going out to eat is a time for us to enjoy ourselves — people are more generous in buying alcohol, buying drinks. When you are in this mindset of shopping for groceries, people look for savings.”

The charitable aspect in this case could affect that, she allows, as would peer pressure to do your part if the neighbourhood is tight-knit.

But the pay-what-you-can-model is a tricky one to get right, she says, noting it often fails to offset costs. Tsai points to the pay-what-you-can days at New York museums, which she describes as free-for-alls for many tourists.

“You need a relationship with the buyer and seller. You cannot have everyone who just wants to come and get a freebie … and at least a group of high-income people who are willing to support this cost.”

There will undoubtedly be some who take advantage of the system, adds marketing expert Brent McKenzie at the University of Guelph. But he suggests this venture is buffered by a uniquely altruistic spirit. Public perceptions certainly play a role, too.

“They’ve had studies, too, like in an office setting, where people pay for coffee or snacks and things,” McKenzie notes.

“When it was a specific price and you had to put your money in, they actually found they made more money when they just said, ‘Put in what you think you can today.’”

Gordon certainly has faith in people with means to cover those who don’t. He says his eight-month run with a pay-what-you-can restaurant “balanced out” in the end.

There are limitations to Feed It Forward, however.

He notes visitors can only take one day’s worth of food for a family, or choose a bi-weekly box of pre-packaged food and recipes. And checking out involves providing your name, contact information and details on what was taken.

Gordon adds that costs are relatively low since food is donated and labour is volunteered.

He expects to cover overhead through fundraisers, online donations and revenue from his catering business, Jagger Gordon Catering. He says he’s also in the process of registering the project as a charity, and pursuing corporate backers and sponsorships.

Still, suggesting pay-what-you-can risks turning some potential benefactors off, says food industry expert Robert Carter, noting the fear of paying too much, or too little, can lead some uncertain shoppers to go elsewhere.

“I could see that being a bit of a challenge,” says the NPD Group executive. “It’s such a different mindset for consumers.”

Nevertheless, he pointed to millennials as a socially conscious generation that is changing the way consumers assess value and spend money.

“If you look at the younger cohort today, rather, the millennial cohort, we know that they’re very much motivated by cause-based situations,” says Carter.

“If they know this is going to help the community, (they’re more likely to say), ‘Then I should be spending my money here instead of going to a corporate store.”

Source: The Globe and Mail

Kroger to pull out of Raleigh-Durham market

Citing an intense competitive environment, The Kroger Co. plans to leave the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., market, a move that will lead to the closing of 14 stores.

The Cincinnati-based supermarket giant said Wednesday that the Kroger Mid-Atlantic division is selling all 14 stores, which are slated to close Aug. 14.

“After a thorough evaluation of the market for a significant time period, we have decided to close our stores in the highly competitive Raleigh-Durham market. While we have had some success, we have not been able to grow our business the way we would like in this market,” Kroger Mid-Atlantic President Jerry Clontz said in a statement.

“The retail environment is challenging and changing in Raleigh-Durham,” Clontz noted.  “Many retail analysts say the Raleigh-Durham market is overstored.”

Nine stores are under contract to be sold: one store to Food Lion (in Raleigh), eight stores to Harris Teeter (in Apex, Cary, Durham, Fuquay-Varina and Raleigh) and one store to Crunch Fitness (in Raleigh). Matthews, N.C.-based Harris Teeter is a subsidiary of Kroger, which acquired the chain in 2014.

“We are continuing discussions and exploring potential options for the remaining stores,” Clontz said. Kroger Mid-Atlantic worked with The Food Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based investment banking firm, as a strategic adviser for the divestiture of these stores.

Overall, Roanoke, Va.-based Kroger Mid-Atlantic has 122 stores — including 119 pharmacies and 95 fuel centers — in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio.

The closings in the Raleigh-Durham area will affect about 1,500 employees, more than half of whom are part-time, according to Kroger. The company has operated in the Raleigh-Durham market since 1989.

“We’re making every effort to assist our associates in finding employment,” Clontz stated. “We will offer job fairs and job placement services to associates. Our associates also have access to our employee assistance programs to help them manage through this process.”

Food Lion said Wednesday it plans an extensive remodel of the Kroger store it’s acquiring in Raleigh, which will offer an expanded variety and assortment of products, including more local, natural, organic and gluten-free items. The Ahold Delhaize USA supermarket chain expects to reopen the store under its banner early next year.

“We are so excited to add this new location to our network of more than 160 stores serving the Raleigh area,” Food Lion President Meg Ham said, adding that the chain has operated in the market for over 40 years. “With the addition of this new store, we have an even greater opportunity to serve more customers with fresh, quality products at affordable prices every day.”

Source: Supermarket News

Grocery Stores Have A Lidl Problem

Over the past year, we’ve heard countless stores about how the Whole Foods/Amazon.com merger was set to disrupt the grocery industry. Big grocers such as Kroger saw their shares slump in the wake of the news. However, grocery stocks have largely bounced back – so far, reviews of the new Amazon-run Whole Foods have been pretty mixed. And this week, some interesting comments came out from Whole Foods co-Founder/CEO John Mackey:

I’m sure that Amazon has probably gotten more disagreement from me than any other single person, and possibly more than everyone else combined.

While Amazon’s purchase doesn’t look like a failure by any means, it’s hardly been the grocery store industry destroyer that we were hearing about this time last year.

And yet, while the Amazon threat hasn’t severely dimmed the grocery store industry’s prospects, at least not yet, a new danger looms. Coming from Germany, Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG, or Lidl for short, entered the US grocery store market last year. Lidl has long been a big competitor of Aldi in other markets, and now they’re bringing that fight to the US.

Lidl is a hyper-discounter, so supporters of more upmarket brands assumed they’d be relatively safe from the Lidl threat. On top of that, the company got off to a slow start in the US; they’ve only opened roughly half of the 100 stores that were planned to have launched by now, and early reports said customer traffic has been underwhelming.

Lidl Is Poised To Succeed

Grocery store chains, and their investors, who thought Lidl wasn’t a threat need to reconsider, however. A comprehensive survey from consulting shop Oliver Wyman shows that while Lidl got off to a slow start, they’re about to surprise the industry (the survey was run entirely independently of Lidl). The survey results, reported in this article in Food Dive are noteworthy for investors in grocery stores and the REITs that own the properties. Let’s dive in.

“Incumbent grocers should be quite worried that Lidl is viewed by consumers as being on par [with them],” – George Faigen, Oliver Wyman consultant.

Discussing the company’s slow start in the US, Faigen noted that the company operates in more than 20 other countries and went on to add that:

We expect that they’re going through a similar process in the U.S., tuning to the American consumer with the expectation of a long-term success …I see them as an agile company that finds a way to continually match the needs of each local market they serve.

The 20 countries comment might even understate Lidl’s reach. Their corporate parent, the privately-held Schwarz Gruppe, is the world’s fourth largest retailer by revenue. So unless Lidl was a total flop, its growing presence in the US should be a concern. And they appear to be increasingly successful in the states.

The survey found that fully 61% of under-45 year old customers that ever go to Lidl shop there at least twice a month – millenials are the most loyal shoppers at Lidl by age group. It turns out millenials are attracted to low prices as much as older shoppers. In addition to making inroads with a key demographic, Lidl is doing increasingly well overall; last year, only 58% of Lidl shopping trips resulted in $20+ purchase baskets. That figure is up to 84% this year.

Lidl is taking customer dollars away from a broad cross-section of other retailers. This is a surprise to the industry. The Food Dive article notes that:

Lidl’s repeat customers are those who used to shop more often at other stores. The study found repeat Lidl shoppers coming from all store categories — 40% also shop at regular groceries, 49% shop at other discounters, 52% also shop at hypermarkets, and 66% do some shopping at warehouse clubs. [Oliver Wyman consultant] Ebner said they were surprised to see these numbers were so high.

“In our conversations with supermarket executives, they are surprised to learn the number is this high, and it’s clear that customers are moving more quickly in the direction of Lidl than the industry commonly has viewed,” Ebner said.

Impact To Grocery Stores

Since Lidl is taking share faster than expected, that means we should be asking who is losing as Lidl wins. Since Lidl is privately-held, unfortunately, the simple way to play this – buying their stock – is not an option. However, there are potential losers here to think about with caution as Lidl continues its expansion.

We can see from the quote above that warehouse clubs are taking the most brunt of customer defections. This is a problem for the likes of Costco and Walmart’s Sam’s Club line of operations. Also, notably, BJ’s Wholesale Club is planning an IPO soon. BJ’s has a large number of stores on the East Coast, where Lidl has based its US operations, potentially putting BJ stock in harm’s way in coming years.

While Lidl is drawing fewer customers from traditional grocery stores, the 40% figure reported is still a meaningful impact. Particularly for less upscale grocery chains, there is a significant risk of Lidl hitting margins. As the Food Dive article put it:

Lidl [is] going to continue to eat away at the customer base for other stores. Two-thirds of shoppers surveyed reported a “Lidl effect” at other stores — prices fell to offer similar deals to what a shopper would find at the discounter.

This is a huge problem for said other grocery stores, since Lidl only spends 4-5% of their revenues on employee wages, compared to 9-12% of sales at traditional grocery operations. Given existing paper-thin grocery store margins, widespread price matching could be a disaster.

Bad News For Consumer Staples, REITs As Well

Lidl has the potential to significantly harm two other classes of stock. The first of these are the consumer staples companies.

Lidl sells a ton of private label products. Other stores had hoped that Lidl’s lack of big-name brands would keep shoppers away. But judging by how well Lidl is faring in customer satisfaction, this may be less of a problem than anticipated for consumer acceptance. And that’s bad new for packaged foods companies.

Take cereal for example. Lidl’s website lists 44 different cereal offerings, many with names quite close to classic branded products such as Fruit Rings in place of Froot Loops. All told, of their 44 branded cereal offerings, just three have a trademark, with the rest being generic offerings. For example:

Lidl website

A future where a substantial of frosted flakes that sell are of this variety, rather than from Kellogg and their famous tiger is bad news for packaged foods companies indeed. For those curious, the term frosted flakes by itself can’t be trademarked since it is a product description not a specific product name. Multiply across the wide variety of product types that Lidl sells, and these sorts of private label products could be a serious issue for packaged foods players.

The other class of stock at risk are retail REITs. Diversified REITs such as Realty Income have a surprisingly high amount of money at stake in the Lidl battle, as they count Kroger, BJ’s, Walmart/Sam’s Club, and multiple dollar store chains all as top tenants. And the grocery-store anchored shopping center plays, such as Kimco, Brixmor, and Urstadt Biddle are all at risk as well. Of course, Lidl could rent from these REITs if and when they drive other chains out of business. Lidl previously built all their stores from the ground up – bad news for REITs with existing empty boxes to fill – but Lidl is reevaluating that strategy now.

Now, of course, one new grocery store chain – particularly one that is still regional at this point – is hardly going to plunge the industry into crisis. Lidl plans to eventually grow to 600 US stores, a chunky number, but again, not enough to kill off other players outright.

But it’s worth watching these sorts of disruptions closely. There’s a lot more going on out there than just Amazon-eating-retail. Behind the scenes, competitive disruption can come from more mundane sources. The hyperdiscounters such as Lidl and Aldi could cause investors headaches in coming years, and you should build that possibility into your investing outlook now, before other investors become more aware of the potential risk.

Source: Seeking Alpha

Grocery chains are being squeezed from all sides

The next top players in the grocery business may feel more like survivors than winners.

The industry is trying to keep up with rapidly changing consumer tastes. But new competition, ranging from European discounters like Aldi to Amazon’s Whole Foods, will leave even the best-positioned supermarkets struggling for growth.

The big losers will be regional chains, which account for the bulk of sales in the U.S.’s highly fractured supermarket industry. Already this year chains like Tops Markets and Southeastern Grocers, the owner of Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo, have filed for bankruptcy.

Aldi and fellow German discounter Lidl have wreaked havoc across Europe. In the U.K., where Tesco used to be so dominant locals called it “Tescopoly,” the discounters defeated both Warren Buffett and Walmart. Mr. Buffett famously called his $2.3 billion investment in Tesco a “huge mistake” and Walmart sold its struggling U.K. chain earlier this year.

The same discounters, which cut prices by focusing on a limited range of mainly private-label products, now have their sights on the U.S. Aldi has committed roughly $5 billion to upgrading and expanding its stores. It wants 2,500 locations by 2022, up from roughly 1,700 now, excluding the almost 500 Trader Joe’s stores owned by an Aldi sister company. Lidl is much further behind, having opened its first U.S. stores last June.

The most likely victims of their expansion aren’t Walmart and Kroger , the Nos. 1 and 2 chains in the U.S., but the smaller chains that still dominate U.S. food retail. In the U.K., the top four chains account for almost two-thirds of grocery sales; in the U.S. the figure is 42%.

Walmart and Kroger have the resources to fight back. But they had grown by taking market share from smaller players, which will be harder with Aldi and Lidl trying to expand.

In an interview, Kroger Chief Financial Officer Michael Schlotman said the chain can compete on more than price, citing its prepared foods and in-store restaurants, online ordering and in-store pickup system, and customer loyalty programs. “We started competing against Walmart in 1992,” he said. “There’s always been people out there competing mainly on price, offsetting selection and experience.”

A key growth opportunity for U.S. chains is private-label brands, which account for only around 15% of packaged food and household products, compared with over 40% in the U.K, according to Nielsen. Margins on these private-label goods are several percentage points higher than on other goods, Mr. Schlotman said. Kroger’s private-label sales are up 40% over six years, and now account for almost 30% of unit sales.

Among the most promising private labels is Whole Foods’ 365 brand, which Amazon has tried to grow online. If Amazon can grow Whole Foods’ private label broadly, the impact will be felt in high-margin products such as organic groceries and prepared foods.

The losers in the grocery business will be consumer brands like Kraft Heinz, which are hurt by private-label goods, and smaller chains, hurt by the discounters. Big supermarket groups should do better, but it will be hard to match the growth rates of the past.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Grocery Stores Handling Amazonpocalypse OK So Far

Where were you the day brick-and-mortar grocery stores died? That’s when Amazon.com Inc. bought Whole Foods.

It’s a trick question: One year after that $13.7 billion deal, the grocery industry is still quite alive. Just this weekend, many of you reading this newsletter probably bought food at Kroger, Publix, or the unquestionably best-named grocery store of all time, Piggly Wiggly.

The deal did temporarily crush grocery-chain stocks. It made everybody worry Amazon would gut Whole Foods’ infamously high prices and squash industry profits. It triggered a frenzy of survivalist deal-making and business-model-rethinking. And yet, at Ground Zero – Whole Foods – not much has changed, writes Sarah Halzack. Prices are still pretty high. Amazon’s presence is barely noticeable. Meanwhile, Piggly Wiggly just turned 102 years old.

And most grocery stocks have bounced back:

Amazon is still huge in the online grocery sector. But that only represents somewhere between one and four percent of total grocery spending in the U.S., depending on who’s measuring. And the Whole Foods deal has only made Amazon’s complex food-selling and -shipping tangle even messier, Sarah, Shira Ovide and Tara Lachapelle note in a Facebook Live discussion. It’s hard to avoid the feeling that Amazon might have – CLUMSY FOOD METAPHOR WARNING – bitten off more than it can chew.

This is Amazon we’re talking about, of course – an $821 billion behemoth that, Sarah, Shira and Tara noted, can afford to fail in ways Kroger can’t. Still, as Sarah suggests, Amazon has given its wiggly prey time to evolve into more-durable forms.

Source: Bloomberg

SmartLabel reaches critical mass in stores

Consumers’ desire to know more about the groceries they buy has driven a sevenfold increase in products using the SmartLabel since early last year, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

In a survey of 1,002 U.S. adults who are the primary grocery shoppers for their household, more than 70% said they want more product information than what’s on traditional package labels. The study, conducted for GMA and FMI by Atomik Research, found that shoppers want to know not just the product’s ingredients but also what they do and why they’re used in the product.

Providing more detailed product information can make a difference at the shelf and in the aisle. Eighty percent of grocery shoppers polled said they’re more likely to buy an item if it’s ingredient list is easy to understand. What’s more, 75% indicated they would alter their grocery buying habits if they had more information on a product, such as its environmental impact, safety and usage.

Announced in December 2015 by the Trading Partner Alliance, a group formed by GMA and FMI, SmartLabel is now used by more than 40 major companies for almost 28,000 food, beverage, personal care, household and other products, spanning hundreds of brands in food retail stores. By the middle of this year, it’s expected that over 40,000 products will be using the SmartLabel.

“SmartLabel participation has increased significantly, from 4,000 products in early 2017 to nearly 28,000 food, beverage, personal care and household products today,” Jim Flannery, senior executive vice president at the GMA, said in a statement. “More products are using SmartLabel every week, and that’s why manufacturers and retailers are kicking off a campaign to make sure consumers know about SmartLabel and how it helps them get the additional information they want about the products they use and consume.”

A digital tool, SmartLabel gives consumers ready access to product information beyond what’s printed on the package label. Shoppers get the extra information by scanning a product’s QR code using the SmartLabel app or by using their smartphone camera, going to www.smartlabel.org and visiting the product’s online landing page. They also can call a product’s 800 number to get SmartLabel information over the phone.

Besides listing ingredients, SmartLabel provides information on why those ingredients are in a product, what they do, and where and how they were made, as well as allergen descriptions, usage instructions, sustainability and the treatment of animals during the development process.

The GMA-FMI survey revealed that such information is important to many consumers. Fifty-nine percent of grocery shoppers said a product should have detailed information on allergens, including if the equipment used to manufacture the product may process allergens. About the same percentage express interest in the environmental practices connected with a product’s manufacture, such as whether it was made with solar or wind power. And almost two-thirds of respondents want to know about ethical or sustainable sourcing, such as fair-trade coffee or free-range eggs.

“Consumers see retailers as a trusted source of information about the products they buy,” said Mark Baum, chief collaboration officer and senior vice president of industry relations at FMI. “This education campaign aims to show consumers how they can use QR codes and other digital disclosure methods to seek a closer connection to the foods they eat and the products they apply.”

The multi-pronged SmartLabel education campaign includes video, social media and press coverage on television and radio and in print.

“Companies and brands that are participating in SmartLabel are also promoting it on social media and in interviews. P&G has been active on this with a story in the Wall Street Journal on SmartLabel and transparency and on social,” GMA spokesman Roger Lowe said.

Last month, Procter & Gamble said more than 3,500 of its products — including such brands as Febreze, Herbal Essences, Olay, Pampers, Tide, Always and Tampax — were using SmartLabel.

“We expect many brands to be active in the next three months as part of this coordinated effort to make sure consumers know about SmartLabel,” Lowe added.

The cornerstone of the campaign is a video showing how Millennial mom Natalia Johnson of Orange County, Calif., uses SmartLabel when making out her grocery list and shopping for her family, who are YouTube influencers. “What’s super-cool about SmartLabel is that I can learn more information about everything in my cart while I’m shopping,” Johnson said in the video.

According to FMI spokeswoman Heather Garlich, the campaign comes as SmartLabel has boosted its presence in stores.

“We have been planning a consumer education campaign once we reached market penetration in retail with SmartLabel,” she said. “With nearly 28,000 products participating —national and private-label brands — we felt confident we could activate the consumer campaign.”

Source: Supermarket News

Pharmacies give grocers a competitive advantage

The benefits of a supermarket pharmacy extend well beyond the department itself. As a health destination, it can boost customer loyalty and attract valuable customers into stores. According to industry consultant Gary Ellis, every new prescription filled translates to $43 in additional sales across other departments.

As consumers look to eat healthier and grocers amp up their selection of fresh produce, better-for-you meals and other selections, the pharmacy becomes a natural extension of a grocer’s core mission — and not just an outpost for filling prescriptions. This is why retailers are working hard to make their pharmacies even more visible, and to tie them together with their other food and health offerings. As Drug Store News points out, Hy-Vee positions its pharmacy, store clinic and store dietitian in close proximity to one another, and employs health concierges to guide customers to the appropriate service.

Further strengthening supermarket pharmacies’ positioning is the growing connection both consumers and the medical community are making between food and medicine. Medical schools like Loma Linda University in California offer training in “lifestyle medicine,” which emphasizes food choices in disease prevention. Doctors these days are likely to recommend fresh produce, lean meats and grains in addition to prescribing medication. NPR recently highlighted a “Shop with a Doc” program where physicians offer to walk the grocery aisles with consumers, pointing out healthful selections.

Albertsons’ Rite Aid purchase, which is expected to finalize this summer, is a testament to the growing importance of pharmacy to grocers. With that deal, Albertsons gains valuable pharmacy systems and expertise that it can bring into its stores.

Other grocers are hiring away pharmacists and focusing on additional services and technology. Schnucks has installed cardiovascular health kiosks in 95 of its pharmacies, while Publix recently partnered with a Florida healthcare system to provide in-store “telehealth” rooms where customers can connect with off-site doctors and other treatment providers. Wegmans, a leading northeast grocer, just added health kiosks that gather information like body-mass index and blood pressure, and send data to store pharmacists.

To fully leverage a pharmacy’s capabilities, retailers have to manage costs and effectively promote the department. They also need to make their pharmacists visible to customers. Supervalu, for one, recently offered 90-minute store tours with pharmacists and store dietitians.

The Food Marketing Institute found that pharmacy sales account for around 3% of grocery store sales, or about 6% to 9% of store revenues for chains with a heavier pharmacy presence such as Kroger, Albertsons and Publix. Grocers will look to increase those percentages, but clearly the true value of pharmacy lies in its ability to establish retailers as health destinations.

Source: Food Dive