The Friday Checkout is a weekly column providing more insight on the news, rounding up the announcements you may have missed and sharing what’s to come.
According to Whole Foods Market, a lot more people are going to be snacking on dates next year. And if you choose to believe The Fresh Market’s predictions for 2023, then prepare for more consumers to be cooking Mexican comfort fare at home.
Both of these companies as well as others, see concerns over climate change impacting the foods people buy and how they prepare their meals. Natural Grocers is seeing more people practice “zero-waste” cooking by focusing on reducing packaging waste and using all of the ingredients they buy.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen numerous “top trends for 2023” lists cross our inboxes from specialty grocers. It’s become a standard practice for retailers that want to be seen as places that don’t just sell food, but that know food and food consumers, as well.
Being viewed as food experts has become the latest service level-up for specialty grocers that have seen conventional players steadily encroach on their turf in recent years. Now that Kroger has its own thriving natural and organic brand and Amazon Go sells kombucha on tap, it’s become difficult to convince shoppers to make an extra trip for specialty products. Soaring inflation hasn’t helped, either.
As specialty products become more mainstream, it's worth sifting through these trend lists from grocers like Whole Foods and FreshDirect. What’s just emerging in their aisles could be the next big thing in major supermarkets a few years down the road.
Specialty grocers are showing they can still live on the cutting edge of food trends. But even that may not last. Kroger, which has been doing more local and niche product sourcing, has also been putting out its own top food trends list for the past few years. It’s latest list should hit sometime in January.
In case you missed it
Walmart is worried about theft
Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” earlier this week that theft is becoming more concerning across its U.S. stores. If the current level of theft persists, the retailer may close some of its stores and increase prices, McMillon said.
"We've got safety measures, security measures that we've put in place by store location. I think local law enforcement being staffed and being a good partner is part of that equation, and that's normally how we approach it," McMillon said on the show.
Walmart is not alone in grappling with increased theft. In September, the National Retail Federation noted that shrink, when taken as a percentage of total retail sales, accounted for $94.5 billion in losses in 2021, up from $90.8 billion in 2020. “While retail shrink encompasses many types of loss, it is primarily driven by external theft, including theft attributed to [organized retail crime],” the report said.
Use it or lose it
With the end of the year approaching, Instacart has rolled out a digital pop-up shop to help shoppers find and buy products that are eligible to purchase through consumers’ Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA). The company also added roughly 40,000 in-app product tags to qualifying FSA and HSA items. People can also find qualifying items by looking up “FSA” or “HSA” in the search bar.
Instacart does not accept HSA or FSA cards as payments. Instead, customers can submit their receipts, which indicate if they purchased eligible items, to their benefit providers for reimbursement.
The new tools aim to help people spend the pre-tax dollars they set aside for health-related expenses before they expire, Instacart said.
Rudolph who? Delivery firms focus on festive essentials
Rapid delivery service Food Rocket said it’s turning its bicycle couriers into “elves” with delivery of holiday trees and thousands of festive food items, promising “holiday cheer faster than Santa's reindeer.”
Meanwhile, Instacart recently added the ability for customers to get fake and real holiday trees for same-day delivery, powered by the company’s Big & Bulky service. Shipt recently released its own holiday shopping guides to help procrastinators’ hosting and gifting needs.
The North Pole better watch out — it looks like these delivery firms are aiming to take on the reindeer and elves’ responsibilities.
Number of the week: 63%
This is the percentage of surveyed consumers who say they eat items purchased at their grocery store’s bakery on a weekly basis, according to a new report from the Food Industry Association.
After the pandemic significantly disrupted bakery departments, they’ve now rebounded, with unit and dollar sales up by 7.4% and 14.4%, respectively, over the past year, according to FMI. With impulse purchases being a driving factor in why bakery sales have risen, FMI’s analysis suggests grocers emphasize freshness with their in-store baked goods.
November inflation report due
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to publish its latest round of Consumer Price Index statistics on Tuesday, and a central question for the grocery industry will be whether the annual rate of food inflation — which has been sharply elevated throughout 2022 — declined in November, as it did in September and October.