Aisle Chatter

Karen is the director of marketing/digital strategy and the specialty foods editor at Food World and Food Trade News. With many years under her belt in the hospitality, food & beverage, and retail food industries, she transitioned to the media side of the business in 2011. She can be reached at

Grocery apps are some of the fastest growing apps in the U.S. This year, 18.0 million US adults will use a grocery app at least once a month, up 49.6 percent over last year, and it is predicted that one in five adults will use one to order groceries by 2019. All of this is according to a recently released app usage forecast by eMarketer, the market research company that provides insights and trends related to digital marketing, media and commerce. “Shoppers are becoming more comfortable with ordering online in general, and grocery is a part of that,” eMarketer senior analyst Patricia Orsini said. “A key hurdle, traditionally, for ordering fresh produce and other perishable items online has been delivery time, and the desire to hand-select produce and meat.” Orsini added: “Retailers have been able to transcend these barriers with click-and-collect models of delivery—order online, pick up in-store. And if the shopper is ordering from their regular grocery store, familiarity helps with trust that the products will be the quality they expect. A bad experience, however, could turn consumers off for good, so retailers need to ensure they provide a good experience from day one.” This information should be a beacon to retailers to work out any bugs in their apps sooner rather than later so that they are as user friendly as possible, since that number will only continue to increase at a swift speed and with so many competitors out there, its best not to give them a reason to look elsewhere.

One thing that the Oreo brand has continued to do since the introduction of its iconic sandwich cookie (which consists of two chocolate wafers held together by a sweet crème filling) in 1912 is to eschew tradition by introducing other unique flavors. Some have been obvious hits (peanut butter and mint varieties seem like no brainers) and others have been questionable choices (Swedish fish and watermelon are two that come to mind). The company’s latest creations, however, show just how far outside of the box the brand is willing to go. While typically sticking to sweet flavor profiles (which makes sense since, well, it is a cookie), Oreo has recently released two savory flavors: hot chicken wing and wasabi. Now before you go running to the nearest supermarket to try these interesting new Oreos, I have to tell you that they are only available in China. According to Yue Fu, Mondelez International’s vice president of corporate and government affairs and biscuits category for Asia, Middle East and Africa, “During our market research, we learned that savory and spicy flavors in China’s snack industry are flavors with big potential.” Fu added, “These two flavors will get young people’s attention and be sought after for their novelty and unusualness. As such, there will be naturally formed social buzz and driven purchases.” This is an attempt by Mondelez to regain the large market share that the company lost between 2015 and 2016 due to the poor performance of Oreo cookies. Fu, who said that the company needs “to contemporize our portfolio to meet consumers’ changing needs,” also continued by stating, “This is also an important demonstration of Mondelez’s strategy to get closer to the Chinese market, to respect and to meet the unique needs of local consumers and cater to their preferences in product flavors.” Hopefully, it’s a gamble that will not only pay off but will continue to inspire more fun, distinct and buzzworthy flavor profiles.

While we are on the topic of cutting edge, the Four Seasons Family of Companies just activated a 1.3 megawatt solar array on their main refrigerated distribution center in Ephrata, PA. This project, which marks another milestone in the company’s sustainability strategy to reduce its energy and overall resources use, will produce power that is the equivalent to the annual electricity usage of 182 home. The array consists of 3,900 solar panels that will provide half of the energy used by the refrigerated warehouse and the entire office on a sunny day. The energy created by the solar array will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are equivalent of 2,971,031 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle, CO2 emissions from 1,326,237 pounds of coal burned and carbons sequestered by 1,428 acres of U.S. forests in one year. “For years, we’ve wanted to do rooftop solar. Our big black empty ware-house roof felt like a lost opportunity. But we chose to first focus on reducing power before producing power,” said Jason Hollinger, president of Four Seasons. “So, after many years of diligent work in en-ergy efficiency projects, and falling solar panel prices, we felt the time was right. Knowing that our previously big empty roof is now harvesting clean energy is such a satisfying feeling.” The completed project, which is the largest collection of solar panels in Lancaster County, is expected to pay for itself in approximately five years. You can watch the video about it here:


Also actively working towards reducing waste is retailer Kroger, which is phasing out single-use plastic bags by 2025. This is all part of its ongoing sustainability program, “Zero Hunger|Zero Waste,” which is an initiative at all of the stores under the Kroger umbrella, including Harris Teeter, Roundy’s, Ralph’s, Fred Myer and more. In a release put out by the supermarket chain, Mike Donnelly, Kroger’s executive vice president and COO stated, “The environmental consequences of single-use plastic bags are well known. Single-use plastic bags have zero place in our vision for a world with zero waste. As part of our Zero Hunger|Zero Waste commitment, we are phasing out use-once, throw-it-away plastic bags and transitioning to reusable bags in our stores by 2025. It’s a bold move that will better protect our planet for future generations.” As the largest supermarket chain in the country with 2,779 stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia, this move will have a huge impact on national efforts to reduce single-use plastic waste. The company will begin phasing out plastic bags starting with its Seattle-based Quality Food Centers, which it expects to be plastic bag free by the end of 2019. I applaud them on their proactivity and hope to see many more retailers follow suit!

Finally, I would like to give kudos to all the recipients of this year’s National Grocer’s Association (NGA) Foundation scholarship recipients! The NGA Foundation, which strives to empower NGA members to take their careers to the next level with leadership and workforce development programs, awarded up to $73,000 in scholarship funding to 17 students pursuing a career in the supermarket industry for the 2018-2019 academic year. “Positioning the independent supermarket industry as an employer of choice is essential for the development of the industry’s workforce,” said Matthew Ott, executive director of the NGA Foundation. “This new class of talented NGA Foundation scholarship recipients demonstrates drive, resilience, and a deep passion for the success of the supermarket industry. I look forward to seeing what they accomplish as they achieve their educational goals and strengthen the growing workforce.” This year’s scholarship recipients include (but are not limited to): Sarah Dedinsky, awarded The Mondelēz International Legacy Scholarship, who works at Bimbo Bakeries USA and is pursuing a degree in food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University; Celia Lynch, awarded the First Data Technology Legacy Scholarship, who works at Publix Supermarkets and Zentis North America and is pursuing a master’s of business administration degree at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign; and Maddie Brister, awarded one of the Women Grocers of America (WGA) Mary Macey Scholarships, who works at Consentino’s Price Chopper Store and is pursuing a degree in management, marketing and accounting from Neosho County Community College. Congratulations to all of the deserving recipients on such well-earned honors!

Until next month…