AISLE CHATTER

The spring equinox almost upon us and for many people that also means baseball season is here. And what better way to ring in the advent of what was once considered America’s favorite pastime than with some new condiments for those ballpark franks? After the viral success of their Mayochup last year that made it easier for fry sauce lovers everywhere by combining the ketchup and mayonnaise for them, Heinz is introducing two new mashups to add to the line: Mayocue and Mayomust. The plus is that it is easy to figure out what each of the condiments are based on their hybrid names: Mayonnaise + Barbecue Sauce and Mayonnaise + Mustard. It also makes for an even and less messy application than consumers having to combine the two ingredients themselves. “Sauce lovers nationwide have been mixing different condiments to create flavor combinations that will take their favorite foods to the next level for years,” said Nicole Kulwicki, director of marketing for the Heinz brand. “First with Mayochup sauce and now with Mayocue and Mayomust sauces, we’re taking out the guesswork to give our fans the perfect condiment blends from the start!” While I can’t attest to the taste of either product, I think the company could have done a better job naming them. I understand they were trying to do an across-the-line brand association, but Mayomust sounds more like something that you would find in a locker room than a kitchen and not what I would put on something I eat. A name like Mustardaise (which is what I’ve always called the combination) sounds more appetizing, but hopefully an unfortunate name will not deter its success. And after the recent $15.4 billion writedown of parent company Kraft Heinz’s flagship brands of Kraft and Oscar Mayer (which is definitely more than some pocket change) the iconic CPG manufacturer needs another win to help revitalize itself and bring the entire company out of the hole.

Another company trying to ride the wave of success on popular food mashups is Post. The cereal company, known for its Honey Bunches of Oats breakfast staple, will be releasing a limited edition line called “Honey BRUNCHES of Oats” and will feature two new cereals: Chicken & Waffles and Maple Bacon Donuts. While there is no meat featured in either cereal, the chicken variety does feature drumstick shaped crunchy pieces along waffle shaped bites. The sweet and savory duos, which launched just in time for National Cereal Day (March 7) will only be available at Walmart while supplies last. Post, which has produced timeless morning food classics such as Raisin Bran and Shredded Wheat, has been known to think outside of the box sometimes with its offerings, even if some of those ideas have been far from good (Sour Patch Kids cereal? No thank you!) I have a feeling though, based on the early online reaction, that the Chicken & Waffles edition will be a big hit. Heck, even I’m tempted to test it out based on its novelty.

Switching topics over to the technology side of the industry, Sam’s Club has filed a patent for its “next level” Scan & Go technology, which it will begin testing this spring. The new innovation will allow shoppers to be able to identify a product from any angle without having to scan the barcode which they sometimes have problems finding on a package, especially in the large bulk items sold at the warehouse retailers that can be hard to manipulate due to packaging size. According to Eddie Garcia, vice president of product and member experience for the club store chain, “Since launching our Scan & Go two years ago, we’ve seen its popularity continue to increase. With the upcoming test, we’ll enhance the experience with the launch of a technology using computer vision and machine learning. Rather than having to locate the barcode and scan it just right, the camera in the app will identify the product with a simple hover and add it to the member’s shopping list.” Garcia continued, “We also anticipate incorporating this same technology into the tools our associates use. By making their jobs easier, they’re able to spend more time serving members. It’s a win-win for everyone! Following these tests, we’ll experiment with the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to help manage member shopping lists.” In the AI race among the retail segment, parent company Walmart has taken a very proactive role in seeking and developing new technologies so its no surprise to see Sam’s Club taking the same initiative. The ease that the new Scan & Go will offer to San’s club store members is a much needed plus for the retailer that is constantly chasing the coattails of competitor and fan favorite Costco.

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Speaking of fan favorites and Costco, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released its annual Retail Report for retailers late last month and Costco knocked Amazon out of the top spot for online shopping, which it had held since 2010. According to the report, “Costco is the value leader among online retailers and its Kirkland brand may be part of the reason why, offering quality products at a lower price.” The number one club store in the country made its debut in the online category with a score of 83, beating out 24 other retailers that were included in the survey. It also took top honors for the department and discount store category, beating out the aforementioned Sam’s Club by three points. As for the supermarket category, Trader Joe’s knocked out Publix to graduate to the head of the class, followed closely by Wegmans. Publix and Aldi tied in third place and Costco came in fifth, making it the all-around winner with its accolades across many different categories of the survey. Once again at the bottom of the list in last place was Walmart, a striking juxtaposition next to its sister entity Sam’s Club, which comparatively did well by coming in seventh. Whole Foods, which climbed 11 points in last year’s results to surpass Hy-Vee, Kroger and Shoprite, disappointed this year and tied with the three alongside BJ’s Wholesale Club.

And while we are on the topic of fans, Giant Food of Landover, in partnership with the Washington Capitals, debuted its Giant Fan Mobile on March 7 in a game against the New Jersey Devils. The Olympia ice resurfacer provides intermission rides around the ice to groups of hockey enthusiasts at Capital One Arena during every home game of the regular season for a total of 41 games. While all seats are reserved for the 2018-2019 season, spots for the 2019-2020 ae available and can be secured by filling out a form at WashCaps.com/GiantFanMobile.

Also partnering up with local sports team favorites is Safeway Eastern, which launched its Kick Hunger campaign early this month to benefit both the Maryland Food Bank and Capital Area Food Bank by joining forces with the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins, who will help spread the word, increasing awareness and participation through promotional spots, social media, e-blasts, and other communications. “Supporting our food bank partners as they work towards alleviating hunger in our communities is a Safeway priority,” said Tom Lofland, president of Safeway Eastern. “As a grocer, hunger relief is of great importance to us, and we are proud to support organizations that are leading the fight. Our “Kick Hunger” campaign further underscores this commitment.” Throughout the month of March, Safeway stores in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia will collect customer donations at checkout. A fun, food-filled scavenger hunt kicks off the annual campaign featuring Ravens mascot Poe and local media personalities at the Baltimore Canton Safeway and Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis at the Georgetown location.

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Finally, I would like to give a shout out to Giant/Martin’s for its recent donation of $100,000 to the Miller Center of Recreation and Wellness, a non-profit, community-based resource based in Lewisburg, PA that fosters a multi-disciplinary approach to health and fitness and enhancing community health and wellness through programs, activities, events, and partnerships. “Giant has a long history of both helping kids and building healthier communities, so we are excited to partner with The Miller Center in supporting the youngest residents of the Lewisburg community,” said Kathy Sweigert, district director of Giant/ Martin’s. “The Miller Center has promoted health and fitness for local families and we look forward to partnering with the Center to grow its youth programming in 2019 and beyond.” The organization will use the contribution, paid out over three years, to support its children’s programming including after-school care, introductory sports classes and equipment for youth activities. Funding will also be used to provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships to local families.

Until next month…

You can get in touch with Karen at karen@foodtradenews.com