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

Paper is still king, at least as far as couponing goes. In March, Valassis, a leading cross channel media marketing firm in the retail industry, released its annual 2K19 Coupon Intelligence report, “Empowering Shoppers, Evolving Expectations” in March. It explores the current state and breakdown of coupon usage in its examination of responses from 1,000 U.S. consumers. One of the biggest takeaways from the report is that shoppers still prefer to use paper coupons over other types of discounts, with 91 percent of those surveyed using them versus 75 percent who go paperless.

Millennials in general like using both paper and digital, with 92 percent using print and 88 percent using those on a mobile device or on a loyalty card. Overall, 89 percent of the survey participants say that coupons save them a lot of money and, highlighting the lack of loyalty among modern day consumers, 85 percent of respondents stated that they are willing to shop at multiple stores to find the best deal and 82 percent will switch stores based on weekly specials. Also of note: 86 percent of consumers are swayed to try new products because of coupons.

“Coupons – print and paperless – remain an essential factor in the relationship between brands and consumers,” said  Curtis Tingle, chief marketing officer, Valassis.  “Our latest  Coupon Intelligence  report highlights that even as commerce evolves, both online and in-store, shoppers look for ways to save both time and money. With shifting expectations and life-stage needs, flexible and frictionless saving options are needed – no matter the channel – to accommodate consumers’ evolving demands. To activate consumers, marketers must take individual preferences and behaviors into consideration when shaping their strategies.”


Mondelez International may soon be giving new meaning to the term “baked” in some of its snack products. The maker of beloved treats such as Oreos, Chips Ahoy! and Ritz crackers recently expressed an interest in launching new products infused with CBD. While still in the early exploratory stages, the company is keeping a close eye on how the regulatory machinations unfold.

During an interview this month on the CNBC show “Squawk on the Street,” Mondelez International’s CEO Dirk Van de Put discussed the company’s interest in the hemp-derived extract: “In food products, I’m hoping that the FDA will bring some clarity in the coming months. So, we have been looking at it. We have also been looking at what are the claimed benefits from CBD and, yes, we are getting ready, but obviously we want to stay within what is legal and play it the right way. But I do think that CBD, which is the alternative of THC, which doesn’t provide you the high and so on, but which has a number of very interesting health benefits, I do think that that will be something that will enter the main food space in the not so far future.”

However, if you’re waiting with bated breath for the launch of the CBD Oreo line, you may turn blue. According to Van Put, “Our view on it is that we have a number of family brands, Oreo would be an example, so we feel a little bit hesitant about doing anything with CBD in family brands.” He added, “But we have other brands or new brands that we could do. So, we have been looking at it.” This is confirmed by a Mondelez spokesperson who stated, “Our current range of brands are family oriented and we don’t currently intend to bring any cannabis or CBD products under these brands.” As the demand for CBD continues to intensify and as it is quickly becoming part of the mainstream, I don’t think the big CPG company wants to miss the boat on this one. Expect to see some CBD products from them immediately after FDA regulations regarding CBD in food are firmly established.


If you’re a pet lover like me, Weis Markets is the place to shop in May if you want to show your support for our furry friends. The Sunbury, PA-based retailer launched its 11th  annual  Paws  for Pets program, a company-wide initiative that collects donations, pet food and supplies for local animal shelters and rescue organizations. Shoppers can give $1, $3 or $5 donations at the register or give online at during the month-long fundraiser with all contributions going to local animal shelters in the store’s community.

Customers can also contribute to  Paws  for Pets while they shop by purchasing the following items on shelters’ wish lists before placing them in a specially marked collection cart near checkout: dog, cat, puppy and kitten food; food and water bowls; kitty litter; collars, harnesses and leashes; toys and treats; pet shampoos, nail clippers, pet brushes, combs; and dishwashing liquid, bleach, mops and brooms, towels/washcloths and powder-free latex gloves. Some select stores will even be hosting animal adopt-a-thons throughout the month!

“Our  Paws  for Pets program is one of our most popular fundraising initiatives with customers and has generated more than $2 million in donations for local pet shelters in their local communities over the past 10 years,” said Ron Bonacci, Weis Markets’ vice president of advertising and marketing. “We are grateful for our associates who have helped to generate excitement for the campaign, and the generous customer donations that help to improve the lives of homeless pets at nearly 120 local animal shelters throughout the markets we serve.”

I would like to give kudos to Giant/Martin’s for its continued efforts to address the issue of sustainability. In celebration of Earth Week last month, the retailer  announced the completion of the first phase (a 625 kw rooftop solar array) of a 2.4MW solar project at its Carlisle, PA, support office. The rooftop solar project, which consists of1,812 panels that convert sunlight into a flow of clean electricity that feeds directly  to the electrical  system housed within the building, will provide an effective powering of a portion of the building’s energy needs from a renewable onsite source.

During months of high solar resource  and low building energy needs, the solar array can provide more energy than the building consumes.  The excess solar energy is metered, sent back into the surrounding utility grid and absorbed by other homes and business in the area, enabling Giant/Martin’s to receive energy credits that can be used in low solar production months.

The occasion was commemorated with a ribbon cutting ceremony which was attended by Pennsylvania Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection Patrick McDonnell and Pennsylvania state representative Barbara Gleim, as well as representatives from EnterSolar, the project’s developer, and PPL Electric.

“There’s no better time than Earth Week to celebrate this significant milestone in Giant/Martin’s sustainability program and it’s especially gratifying to do so at our home office,” said Manuel Haro, vice president of strategy, Giant/Martin’s. “At Giant, we strive to make every day Earth Day, and that’s why we continuously explore new and innovative ways to reduce our operational footprint. Our rooftop solar project is just one of many ways we are making good on the promise we made to the communities we serve – to be a good neighbor and do our part to protect and preserve the planet for future generations.”

Work on the second phase of the project, a 1.83 MW ground-mounted solar array, is already underway. The ground-mounted array will consist of an estimated 4,968 panels spanning  nearly five acres of land on the corporate campus. Once completed later this year, the entire solar system  will offset 100 percent of the electricity needs of the Carlisle facility.  The 2.4 MW system will produce more than 3 million kilowatt hours annually, providing both economic and environmental benefits to Giant/Martin’s and the Carlisle community at large.  The environmental benefits of the system will be equal to reducing 4,557,643 pounds of CO₂, or powering 476 homes, annually.

The company also plans to incorporate ‘pollinator habitats’ to support bees and other pollinators in an effort to address bee colony loss. Pennsylvania is one of the states being hit hardest, with a honeybee die-off rate of more than 60 percent. Giant/Martin’s will work with EnterSolar and local landscape and environmental teams to plant native plant species and flowers that are welcoming to these important insects and will help them thrive in the region.

It is so wonderful to see a big company like Giant/Martin’s working so diligently to tackle the subject of sustainability from not just one but all different angles within the organization. It’s no wonder that the retailer’s parent company Ahold Delhaize continues to be ranked among the business leaders for Food and Staples Retailing in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index – I just hope their example soon becomes the industry norm and not an exception.

And before I sign off, I just want to give a huge heartfelt thanks to all of you who helped me in my Memory Ball fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. I am humbled by the outpouring of support that many of you gave me, whether it was a donation, encouragement, personal stories shared, or just by helping me spread awareness about this debilitating disease. They say it takes a village and boy, what a village I have. Together (because I didn’t do this alone), Team Karen raised over $33,000! Plus, the entire fundraiser and event (including all of the other competing dancers) brought in over $700,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. Thank you truly and deeply from the bottom of my heart.

Until next month…