News Briefs


Survey Affirms Importance of Loyalty Tools to Inflation-Weary Shoppers

Digital coupon

The struggle is real when it comes to inflation and grocery shopping, a new survey has found. According to research conducted by retail tech platform Swiftly, more than two-thirds of consumers say they are having a hard time paying their grocery bills and 74% have changed their grocery shopping habits in the past year.

Findings from Swiftly’s grocery-specific survey underscored the importance of loyalty programs and tools. An overwhelming 83% of respondents said they rely on coupons, rewards apps or other loyalty features while shopping. Nearly half (41%) are shopping based on discounts and promotions, and rewards apps are now used as often as paper coupons.

[Read more: "Supermarkets Accused of Digital Discrimination"]

As they capitalize on loyalty benefits and are adjusting their habits to save money, these shoppers are still out and about at their local retailer. Even in the omnichannel environment, 70% of survey participants reported that they prefer to shop in store at their local grocery store.

“The grocery sector is at a turning point. After massive e-commerce growth throughout the pandemic, we are beginning to see a transition as consumer spending is tested by inflation and a looming recession. Furthermore, the potential consolidation of giant supermarket chains could also lead to increased prices, which would be especially hard for consumers to absorb in today’s challenging economy,” observed Henry Kim, co-founder and CEO of Swiftly. “Findings from this survey amplify the need for today’s brick-and-mortar grocers to solidify and own digital customer relationships and modernize digital revenue streams, in order to be competitive and maintain a loyal customer base.”

While the overall pace of inflation slowed somewhat in October compared to previous months, the Consumer Price Index for food at home was 12.4% higher that month compared to October 2021. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release CPI data for November on Dec. 13.


Sprouts Farmers Market Brings on New Marketing Chief

Sprouts Farmers Market Surpasses Expectations in Q2

Alisa Gmelich has joined Sprouts Farmers Market as the grocer’s new SVP, chief marketing officer. Gmelich will be responsible for overseeing marketing, advertising and customer engagement, and will report directly to President and COO Nick Konat.

Gmelich most recently served as chief brand officer at Auntie Anne’s, and previously spent 15 years in the restaurant industry with companies including IHOP and Burger King.

[Read more: "It's Go Time at Sprouts Farmers Market"]

“I am extremely humbled to join Sprouts, a brand that I’ve long admired for innovation and purpose,” said Gmelich. “Providing communities access to healthy, affordable foods is more important today than ever before, and I look forward to helping the brand connect even further with customers nationwide in meaningful ways with the products they need and desire.”

“We’re thrilled to welcome Alisa to the Sprouts team,” said Konat. “Her experience in building brands and growing customer engagement will be instrumental in shaping Sprouts’ marketing strategy to support our expansion and deepen loyalty with our customers.”

Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market employs approximately 31,000 associates and operates approximately 380 stores in 23 states nationwide. The company is No. 53 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Shipt, PetSmart Form Nationwide Partnership

PetSmart Teaser

Shipt and PetSmart have rolled out a new same-day delivery partnership, expanding access to delivery of pet care products to consumers across the United States from 1,300-plus locations. The pet store chain is Shipt’s 200th retail partner.

“With each of our retail partners, our dedicated partner success managers work hand-in-hand to drive incremental sales for a retailer’s business,” said Rina Hurst, Chief Business Officer at Birmingham, Ala.-based Shipt. “We know, from PetSmart’s recent data, that this holiday season, over half of pet parents plan to spend more time shopping for pets than some of their own family members. We’re excited to partner with PetSmart to ensure pet parents get all the gifts they need in time for the holidays and beyond.”  

[Read more: "The Next Evolution of Shipt"]

“With nearly half of Shipt customers being pet parents, we knew this would be a great partnership to help bring PetSmart’s offerings to even more pet parents,” said Cherise Ordlock, SVP of digital at Phoenix-based PetSmart. “Same-day delivery is a key component of our omnichannel strategy, and it’s important to expand our e-commerce offerings as demand for convenient shopping options continues to grow. We’re excited to partner with Shipt to help deliver pet food, supplies, accessories and other necessities straight to pet parents’ doors – and even offer those who love pet parents an easy holiday gift delivery option.” 

This year, Shipt has partnered with 26 retailers and seen its delivery orders rise by 11%.

Shipt connects personal shopping and delivery to 80% of households in more than 5,000 U.S. cities. The company is an independently operated, wholly owned subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Target Corp., which is No. 6 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, with nearly 2,000 locations.


SCS Global Services Authorized as Bee Better Certifier

Bee Better Certification Teaser

Third-party certification provider SCS Global Services has been approved as an authorized certification body to the Bee Better Certification Standard. Bee Better Certifiedis the only third-party certification program focused on pollinator health on farms.

The program was originally launched in 2017 by the Portland, Ore.-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, with support from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, to protect bees and other pollinators. Bee Better program certification ensures that a grower has dedicated a part of its farm to pollinator habitat and incorporated Integrated Pest Management practices to protect crop pollinators. 

“As a trusted leader in third-party environmental, sustainability and social audits, SCS is proud to partner with Xerces to bring the Bee Better Certification program to farms that adopt pollinator-friendly agricultural practices,” said Josh Edge, senior technical manager of the food and agriculture division at Emeryville, Calif.-based SCS. “We provide the added benefit of being an approved certification body in many related programs, including the Equitable Food Initiative, Sustainably Grown, Regenerative Organic Certification, SMETA and GLOBALG.A.P.– services that can be bundled with Bee Better Certification.”

Walmart revealed last year that by 2025, 100% of its fresh produce and floral purchases for its in-store produce departments will be from farms that have achieved certifications such as Bee Better Certified. Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

In November, SCS Global Services rolled out its Plant-Based Certification Program, which incorporates a new standard from nonprofit body SCS Standards to distinguish plant-based brands based on strict auditing, testing and labeling requirements. 


Blue Apron to Debut Limited-Time Seasonal Meal Kit

Blue Apron Fireside Feast Box Teaser

Meal kit company Blue Apron has launched the Fireside Feast Box as a limited-time seasonal offering. Available to order now, the meal kit is part of Blue Apron’s occasion-based offerings designed to make at-home entertaining easier.

Blue Apron’s Fireside Feast Box offers an upscale dinner party solution for cozy winter nights spent indoors. The French-inspired fare features a cassoulet of duck confit and slow-cooked pork belly, accompanied by a range of sides, including a romaine lettuce salad with orange and pistachio to balance out the richness of the main dish. The full menu serves four and consists of:

• Duck Confit Cassoulet with Pork Belly, Beans & Thyme Breadcrumbs
• Parmesan & Garlic-Herb Bread
• Orange & Pistachio Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
• Chocolate Chip & Almond Biscotti with Peppermint-Chocolate Dipping Sauce

“Our culinary team created an express lane to a show-stopping cassoulet,” noted John Adler, VP of culinary at New York-based Blue Apron. “In a typical restaurant setting, this menu would require 50 plus hours of preparation time and advanced culinary skills. We’ve created an impressive menu with only one hour of estimated active cooking time that’s designed to be easy for customers of all skill levels to prepare.” 

Shipping Jan. 2 through February, the Fireside Feast Box can be ordered as part of a subscription via Blue Apron’s website and mobile app, and without a subscription on the Blue Apron Market, and

Blue Apron’s seasonal meal kits provide recipes incorporating “best of the season” proteins, produce and ingredients for a premium experience.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Frozen Food Hall of Fame Gets 3 New Members

Zerocrat logo

Three industry professionals are being honored honored for their solid commitment to the frozen food sector. The Harrisburg, Pa,-based National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) and the Arlington, Va.-based American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) have revealed the trio of new members to be inducted into the Frozen Food Hall of Fame.

The 2023 class consists of the following individuals:

  • Ed Flanagan, the former president and CEO of frozen wild blueberry and fruit processor Jasper Wyman & Son, who led that organization for 24 years before his retirement in 2017. He worked at the Maine-based company for 42 years in all and played a key role in managing exports to international markets. Flanagan also chaired AFFI’s board of directors from 2010 to 2011 and was named its Advocate of the Year in 2017, among many other accomplishments.
  • Leslie Sarasin, who has been president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based FMI – The Food Industry Association since 2008. Before that, she spent 19 years at AFFI, where she held the role of president and CEO for nine years. In addition to her work championing the industry at FMI, she is credited with strengthening AFFI’s advocacy and supporting the global growth of the frozen ingredient trade show.
  • Dave Yanda retired in 2016 from a 40-year career at frozen fruit and vegetable company Lakeside Foods, in Manitowoc, Wis.  He was Lakeside’s president and CEO for more than eight years and spearheaded the growth of the business into a leading international private label food processor. Yanda served several terms on AFFI’s board and on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fruit and Vegetable Advisory Committee, in addition to other industry leadership roles.

Flanagan, Sarasin and Yanda will be inducted into the Frozen Food Hall of Fame on Feb. 27, during the AFFI-CON 2023 event in San Diego. The Hall of Fame began in 1990 by the Distinguished Order of Zerocrats, an industry group promoting the image and advancement of the frozen food industry.