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.
As one of many people who venture to Trader Joe’s for an annual pumpkin spice pilgrimage, Grocery Dive reporter Catherine Douglas Moran was surprisingly overwhelmed this year by just how many fall-flavored items there are — and by the fact that pumpkin, while still reigning, has some strong flavor competitors.
A recent trip to a local Trader Joe’s store felt like pumpkin spice overload. As usual for this time of year, pumpkin flavors and scents dominated the end caps and the autumn-themed product tags for the grocer’s fall-themed product assortment. But this go-around felt like a pumpkin spice explosion.
It’s hard to track down data that could show if there are actually more seasonal products at Trader Joe’s this year compared with prior years, but looking at the grocer’s official fall items list unlocked a clue: Other flavors appear to be crowding the assortment. Just under half (67) of the 146 items on the list incorporate “pumpkin” in the product name. The line-up includes 11 maple items, 10 food and household products with apple flavors and scents, five butternut squash meal items and a sprinkling of caramel-flavored options.
Other grocers are also jumping on the fall-themed bandwagon. Kroger, which has its own online “fall shop” that includes pumpkin flavored items, recently launched Harvest Apple, its first-ever limited-edition seasonal line for Private Selection, with a focus on apple-flavored products like a spiced apple cocktail mixer and apple pie ice cream. Meanwhile, Target offers online customers the opportunity to browse pumpkin- and apple-flavored products separately. Team Apple or Team Pumpkin?
With other flavors gaining ground, grocers and other retailers will likely grapple with the question of how much of their assortment they want to devote to seasonal flavors. Has Trader Joe’s — a leader in seasonal grocery merchandising — taken its fall assortment, with pumpkin as the mascot, too far? Is there a risk of pumpkin spice fatigue, especially when other flavors are also increasingly vying for customers’ baskets?
Maybe. But then again, perhaps the grocer is onto something. Who’s to say there are too many seasonal flavors and products for autumn when consumers fall for them?
In case you missed it
California effort to require pay for laid-off grocery workers fizzles
Governor Gavin Newsom this week vetoed a state Senate bill that would have required companies that take over a grocer to provide workers with severance pay if they lose their job as a result of the transaction. Newsom said the legislation, which would have entitled workers laid off in connection with a merger or acquisition to a week of pay for each year of employment, is “unduly prescriptive and overly burdensome” because “existing law already provides protections for displaced workers.”
Amazon Fresh store achieves Zero Carbon Certification
A supermarket the company runs in Seattle has earned a Zero Carbon Certification from the International Living Future Institute, making the location the first grocery store globally to receive the designation, Amazon announced Thursday. The certification recognizes the store’s multiple sustainable features, including a natural-refrigerant-based refrigeration system, electric vehicle charging stations for shoppers and low-carbon concrete floors.
Whole Foods shows off its cheese prowess
Thirty-two of the retailer’s cheesemongers, representing 29 stores in 18 U.S. states and two countries, have become Certified Cheese Professionals after finishing an exam administered by the American Cheese Society, according to a Tuesday announcement from the chain.
More than 300 Whole Foods workers have achieved the designation — which means that “an individual has acquired thorough knowledge and the level of expertise that is demanded within the cheese industry,” per the American Cheese Society — making the grocer the largest employer of Certified Cheese Professionals in the world, Whole Foods said.
Number of the week: 2.4%
That’s the annual pace at which food-at-home prices rose in September, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday. The figure represents the slowest rate of grocery inflation since June 2021, when it was 0.9%
The grocery company is due to release its second-quarter earnings on Tuesday, offering a window into the grocers’ performance as it presses ahead with plans to merge with Kroger. Due to its pending merger with Kroger, Albertsons will not host a conference call for investors.
The U.S. Census Bureau will publish retail sales data for September on Tuesday.
Maple Leafs players look to fool Sobeys customers
Shoppers at a Sobeys supermarket in Toronto recently got more than they bargained for when they encountered a quartet of players for the city’s professional hockey team masquerading as store employees.
One of the Maple Leafs players, Auston Matthews, offered customers gift cards in return for doing things like push-ups. Teammate Mitchell Marner, meanwhile, pretended to be a bagger at a checkout lane.
Two other Maple Leafs players, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander, gave Matthews and Marner instructions through earpieces, and all four players ended the prank by taking off their disguises and helping shoppers pack groceries in their vehicles.