Simple Products Beget Simple Packages

The Wall Street Journal: “Instead of burying ingredient lists in the fine print on the back of the package, food manufacturers are trumpeting simpler formulas prominently on the label’s front … More people care deeply about what’s in their food and insist on recognizing the ingredients. The litmus test for many consumers is whether those ingredients might appear in their own kitchen cupboards.”

“Simply Tostitos Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips boast only three ingredients: blue corn, organic expeller-pressed sunflower oil and sea salt. This past June, General Mills Inc.’s Larabar snack bar line launched Larabar Bites. The bites—available in flavors such as double chocolate brownie and cherry chocolate chip—resemble truffles and contain few ingredients which are prominently displayed on the front of the package.”

“New ads for Haagen-Dazs ice cream in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles show a spoonful of vanilla ice cream. ‘5 ingredients, one incredible indulgence’ read ads, which also list the recipe of cream, milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla … This fall, ConAgra’s Bertolli Frozen Meals is rolling out a new, reformulated line of meals that feature a shorter ingredient list that reads more like a recipe.”


Grocery Outlet: The TJX of Supermarkets?

Business Insider: “Grocery Outlet wants to be the TJ Maxx of grocery stores … Grocery Outlet says it sells items at a 40% to 70% discount off regular stores’ prices by offering surplus items, seasonal closeouts, and discontinued items. While some of its items aren’t up to manufacturer standards, none of what it sells is past the sell-by date.”

“Like TJ Maxx, grocery outlet says it relies on a ‘treasure hunt’ experience to hook consumers. Because customers don’t know exactly what products they will find at Grocery Outlet, they keep coming back for the thrill. Still, Grocery Outlet executives tell Frozen & Dairy Buyer magazine that they strive to make stores a place where people can do most, if not all, of their food shopping.”

“While Grocery Outlet doesn’t offer amenities like a deli, it tries to excel in customer service. It also sells wine … workers will carry your bags to your car for you … Grocery Outlet is also making a big push into organic, healthy, and specialty food … It plans to open an additional 125 stores in the California and mid-Atlantic region by 2020.”


Meet the Spuglies: Walmart Attacks Food Waste

Quartz: “Shoppers tooling down Walmart grocery aisles now encounter brands that package and sell ugly produce. The ‘Spuglies’ brand markets misshapen potatoes and the ‘I’m Perfect’ brand offers apples that have gone askew. These companies pushing misfit fruits and veggies into the mainstream give consumers a way to fight food waste with their wallets.”

“Since it began tackling food waste within its own system in 2013, the retailer says it has diverted 82% of food that would have otherwise gone to landfills. That amounts to about 2 billion meals. According to ReFED, a food waste advocacy group, a 20% reduction in waste would reclaim the 1,250 calories per capita that goes into landfills each year. That’s enough to feed America’s food-insecure population three times over.”


Direct Disruption: The Tide Wash Club

The Wall Street Journal: “Blindsided by the success of the upstart Dollar Shave Club, an online subscription service that chipped away at the dominance of Gillette razors, P&G executives say they are focusing not only on what consumers buy but on how they buy … P&G is experimenting with … the Tide Wash Club, an online subscription service for the dissolvable Tide Pods capsules that are the company’s highest-priced laundry detergent. The company offers free shipping at regular intervals.”

“Another new offering: Tide Spin, an undertaking P&G is calling the ‘uberization of laundry,’ in which customers in parts of Chicago can use a smartphone app to order laundry pickup and delivery from Tide-branded couriers. With the ventures, P&G is delving deeper into the business of connecting consumers directly with the products it makes, especially a new generation less loyal to the company’s big brands.”

“Privately, P&G executives acknowledge the company was caught off guard by the success of Dollar Shave Club, which started in 2011 and says it now has 3.2 million subscribers. ‘It was probably on the radar but we weren’t necessarily having the right conversation around what might disrupt us,’ said a person familiar with the company’s thinking.”


Supermarket Bars: Drinking & Shopping

The Wall Street Journal: “Some high-end supermarkets are serving alcohol. Many have set aside space for wine bars and beer gardens where they host tasting events, with drinks and appetizers. Some stores encourage shoppers to ‘sip ’n’ shop,’ drinking while pushing a shopping cart for a more relaxed shopping experience.”

“At nearly 350 Whole Foods locations nationwide, shoppers can carry open beverages out of the bar area and around the store as they shop around. Some stores have added cup holders to their shopping carts or placed racks around the store where shoppers can place empty stemless wine glasses. In some Texas locations, the $1 cans of beer rest in ice-filled buckets labeled ‘walkin’ around beer’.”

“Shoppers perceive drinks at supermarkets to be a better value than drinks in a traditional bar or club … Bars stretch out the time shoppers, especially 20-somethings, spend in the store. That helps new shoppers get to know the store, even if they had planned to make just a quick stop.”


When Labels Say … They Really Mean …

The Wall Street Journal: “Government regulators forbid ouright dishonesty, but labels with narrowly defined, cleverly deployed or unregulated buzzwords can confound shoppers trying to figure out what’s what.” For example: “‘Made with’ often means ‘made with very little,’” said Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Many consumers assume it means made only of whole grain. That’s simply not true.”

“Cage-free: Most egg-laying hens in the U.S. are confined in small, wire cages that measure 67 to 86 square inches per hen … Cage-free birds, on the other hand, are allowed to roam in a room or open area—but they are not guaranteed access to the outdoors. Free range: These chickens … do have outdoor access, although producers may provide minimal outdoor space or use screened-in porches with floors made of concrete, dirt or grass to provide the access.”

“Hormones aren’t allowed in poultry or hogs … Nonetheless, some producers label those products ‘no hormones added’ … Natural: This refers to the preparation of a product, not how a plant or animal was raised, and the label is supposed to include a statement explaining what it means … ‘Free’ means there is less than 0.5 gram per serving of a nutrient that has a daily value … ‘Low’ means there are 3 grams or less per serving … And ‘reduced’ means there is at least 25% less of the nutrient compared with another food.”


Walmart Imagines a ‘Shopping Cart Robot’

Geek: Walmart is collaborating with Five Elements Robotics to create a shopping cart robot … The company’s main focus is on Budgee–a personal robot that follows its owner around and has a large storage area for your shopping, or just to carry items from place-to-place. That same tech can be integrated into shopping carts, meaning rather than pushing them around they’ll instead follow you, leaving your hands free to browse the shelves.”

“It’s also thought the robotic carts will help customers shop. Simply let the cart see your shopping list and it can help locate everything listed … The robo-cart will respond by navigating to the correct aisle, saving the customer both time and the effort of finding an employee to help them.”


The Future of Grocery: Yoga & Bike Repair

The Wall Street Journal: Shoppers looking to pick up milk and eggs may have other reasons to spend time at their local supermarket: yoga classes or a spa treatment, perhaps. Under growing pressure from discounters and online rivals, supermarkets are trying to transform themselves into places where customers might want to hang out rather than just grabbing groceries and heading home.”

“In Phoenix, a Fry’s Food Stores, part of a chain owned by Kroger Co., features a culinary school and a lounge with leather couches perched next to a wine bar. A Kroger store in Hilton Head Island, S.C., offers a cigar section to complement its wine cellar that stocks $600 bottles. Whole Foods Market Inc. has a putting green outside its Augusta, Ga., location and a spa offering peppermint foot scrubs and facial waxing in a Boston store. Elsewhere, it has bike-repair stations. A ShopRite store here in Hanover Township, near New York, runs a fitness studio with yoga, barre and Zumba classes and has a cosmetologist on weekends.”

“Most of these enhanced stores appear to be located in affluent suburbs and city neighborhoods—places where shoppers are more inclined to order groceries from e-commerce sites or meals from services such as Blue Apron … Some concepts have fizzled. The Fry’s in Phoenix made its debut in 2010 with a car wash but discontinued that after it didn’t catch on, a Kroger’s spokesman said. The cooking classes, by contrast, have doubled in size since the school opened, and the store offers at least a dozen sessions a week, he said.”