Grocery Roundup: Supermarkets Aid In Vaccine Distribution, Sustainability Becomes Commercially Viable

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As the vaccine rollout continues across the country and the world, a wide range of businesses, from Amazon to Starbucks have offered to assist with distribution.

Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is turning toward supermarkets to help administer these vaccines on a larger scale. Dozens of grocery stores have already joined the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program Partners. Through this program, participating stores will receive their vials during the week of February 8, and those who are eligible can be inoculated at their local supermarket the next day.

Twenty-one partners are participating in the program, and many of these companies own a wide array of subsidiaries. So far, grocery chains enrolled include Kroger, Publix, Albertsons, Hy-Vee, Meijer, H-E-B, Retail Business Services-owned chains such as Stop & Shop and Giant, Southeastern Grocers-owned chains such as Harveys and Winn-Dixie, and Topco Associates-owned chains such as ShopRite and Price Chopper. Participation varies from state to state.

“Through our preparation efforts, we have the ability to start vaccinating eligible populations less than 24 hours after receiving allocations,” said Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker in a statement. “The issue to date has been demand far exceeding supply, and we believe this partnership helps strengthen our advocacy efforts to receive more of the vaccine.”

By participating in this program, supermarkets are to a certain extent taking their future into their own hands. Accelerating the vaccine distribution could help bring shoppers who may have been relying on remote digital deliveries back into grocery store aisles. However, even after the pandemic subsides, many consumers’ shopping behaviors will likely be forever changed. Groceries will have to adapt to the digital future of commerce, whether or not consumers are basing their decisions on contagion concerns.

Raley’s Incubator Fosters Food Innovation

A new “Food Innovation Lab,” sponsored by West Coast supermarket chain Raley’s, will soon offer facilities for entrepreneurs to develop new food products, flavors and technologies, Supermarket News reported. Raley’s Food Lab will be located in the [email protected] incubator in the city of Woodland in Northern California.

The Food Lab will feature a convection oven and a gas range, utensils and kitchen equipment, and fridge and freezer storage. AgStart described the lab as a “certified food facility suitable for new food products and ingredients and new food recipes,” calling it “the perfect location for new food product innovators.”

“The Raley’s Food Lab will support food entrepreneurs, who will lead the way to a better food system,” Raley’s owner Michael Teel told Supermarket News. “We look forward to discovering new products and helping to bring them to our store shelves.”

The [email protected] will open April 1, and it will focus on bridging commerce and sustainability. Part of the goal of the incubator will be to help startups find ways to make earth-conscious innovations commercially viable. Entrepreneurs at Raley’s Food Lab will have access to all of [email protected]’s facilities, including work space, mentoring programs, and the Wet Lab’s agtech instruments.

Small CPG Companies Gain on Industry Giants

An analysis by market research company IRI has found that consumers have been turning increasingly toward small consumer packaged goods CPG brands, according to a press release. In fact, large CPG manufacturers lost sales totaling $12.1 billion (1.3 share points) to these smaller companies in 2020.

The industry as a whole grew by about 10 percent during the year, and smaller companies, which included any manufacturer with “annual measured channel sales of less than $1 billion,” drove about a third of that growth the release stated. Private label products accounted for about a sixth of that growth.

“The consumer shift toward smaller manufacturers and private label products is something that IRI has been documenting for several years, and we saw the trend accelerate during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said IRI’s president of strategic analytics, Krishnakumar (KK) S. Davey, in the release. “Many large manufacturers were not able to meet the surge in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the second quarter when they lost most share to smaller players who seized on this opportunity.”

Smaller manufacturers gained shares in almost all CPG categories, including alcohol, frozen foods, and shelf-stable foods. The only department in which large manufacturers retained their lead completely was the home care department. Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, Davey predicted, “We expect smaller and mid-sized players to continue to gain share from large manufacturers.”

Impossible Foods Cuts Its Grocery Store Prices by 20 Percent

Plant-based meat company Impossible Foods has had quite a year, raising money and growing rapidly, appearing on menus at Starbucks and on shelves at Walmart and Kroger. Now, thanks to the operational efficiency made possible by this growth, the company is recommending a 20 percent decrease in grocery and supermarket prices for its products, according to a blog post from Impossible Foods president Dennis Woodside.

“Our stated goal since the founding of the company has always been to drive down prices through economies of scale, reach price parity and then undercut the price of conventional ground beef from cows, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Woodside said in the post.

At scale, producing plant-based meat is more cost-efficient than raising and slaughtering cows, the company pointed out, saying in the post, “We don’t need pastureland, feed crops, slaughterhouses or nearly any of the other enormous costs associated with livestock.”

The company also reduced the price for restaurant distributors by 15 percent last month, following a previous reduction in 2020. Woodside stated in the post his intention to reduce the price further in the future as sales continue to grow.

“The more Impossible Burger you buy, the less it costs us to produce per pound, and we choose to pass those savings on to our network of distributors and retailers, with the goal of ultimately lowering prices for consumers,” he said in the post. “This in turn accelerates our rapid retail growth — a virtuous cycle.”

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