Kroger, Costco, and the Return of Expo West: CPG News, Week of Sep 28-Oct 2

by Veronica Drake

3 Minutes


investments- acquisitions

Investment, Acquisition & Financial News 💰

Utz Brands will acquire pretzel brand H.K. Anderson from Conagra Brands, the first acquisition it has made since going public last month.

Water brand Liquid Death closed a $23 million Series B, bringing the startup’s funding to around $34 million.

Revol Greens, a greenhouse grower based in Minnesota, is set to build a third lettuce greenhouse in Texas after raising $68 million in its latest funding round.

AppHarvest, an operator of greenhouse farms, will merge with Novus Capital and go public, it was announced Tuesday. 

Cell-based shrimp company Shiok Meats has closed a $12.6 million funding round. The funds will go towards building a production plant for the Singapore-based company, and is expected to be ready in 2022. 

Tech-enabled 3PL ShipBob announced a $68 millions Series D.

PepsiCo has reported a 5.3% year-over-year increase in its third quarter sales, with pandemic-related sales continuing to fuel its success. Several of its brands, including those under its Frito-Lay North America company, have seen an influx of sales during Covid-19, while its PepsiCo Beverages North America division saw a 6% increase this quarter after a disappointing second quarter.


Waste Not, Want Not 💚

Almost 200 companies in the food industry have committed to cutting their food waste in half by 2030 by joining the 10x20x30 initiative, including Nestlé, Kroger, and Mondelez. Consumers have become increasingly concerned about the sustainability of their favorite food brands, and the insistence for brands to step up and do their part to optimize their practices has led to a risk of millions of dollars in sales for companies who do not participate, losing out to competitors that do.

Mondelez has also announced plans to reduce certain packaging on select products by 15% in the UK, another effort from the company to decrease its waste while also saving on resources like transportation requirements. Kroger has also been vocal about the importance of finding ways to adopt more sustainable practices, reporting that 35% of consumers surveyed have said they began caring more about food sustainability since the pandemic hit. They have introduced recycling programs for certain components of packaging that would normally be thrown away, allowing consumers to recycle many single-use plastics in-store. It hopes to achieve zero food waste by 2025, and 16 of their food suppliers have also joined the 10x20x30 initiative, including Chobani, Driscoll’s, and Impossible Foods.


New Products 👅

Tic Tac’s parent company, Ferrero, is adding a Big Berry Adventure flavor. The company reported that 52% of consumers would like to see more fruit options in the gum and mint category, and is taking this opportunity to offer consumers more of the flavors they’re looking for. 

Supplement brand TNT Mercury will add two new products to its Prime Series line, it’s been reported. The company confirmed plans for a vegan, plant-based protein powder last week, and has now announced that a collagen supplement will also be joining the line. Both are expected to be released next month. 

Nestlé has released a plant-based version of their classic RTD chocolate drink in Europe, rolling it out in Spain, Hungary, and Portugal first with plans to expand further. The ingredients include sustainably-sourced cocoa and an oat- and pea-derived base, providing an alternative for consumers who are pivoting towards healthier, vegan options. 


Walmart Expands 🛒

Walmart is investing $600 million to build a fulfillment center in Indiana. The location will be 2.2 million square feet and will bring 1,000 jobs by 2025, with a goal to expand eCommerce operations for its own website and its third-party fulfillment service.

Walmart currently provides employment to more than 41,000 people in Indiana, and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has offered Walmart $6 million in tax credits, pending the hire of Indiana workers for the new jobs. The facility will begin partial operation in 2022, with full operation expected a couple years later. 


Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month 🎉

Southeastern Grocers Inc. is participating in company-wide celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15 here in the United States. The company’s Hispanic associate resource group, Pa’lante, has planned events that highlight Hispanic brands and leaders in the community, and will hold a live cooking class with MasterChef finalist John Pardo, among other events to observe the month.  


Natural Products Expo, Coming in 2021 👋🏽

Following the short-notice cancellation of the Natural Products Expo West trade show earlier this year in March due to Covid-related concerns, a new date has been set for next year’s gathering. Barring any obstacles, it will take place from May 24-27 in Anaheim, CA, a 12-week delay from when it’s usually scheduled.

Organizers hope the extra time will allow for a longer recovery period and a greater opportunity for attendees to make plans that allow for extra safety measures to be in practice. Show director Lacey Gautier also promised that should the show need to be cancelled, registered participants will be notified at least 12 weeks in advance and refunds will be given, which was not the case earlier this year as uncertainty made it difficult to anticipate a feasible backup plan for the cancelled event. 


Kroger Doubles Down on Online Fulfillment

Kroger and eCommerce firm Ocado Solutions will partner to build a 135,000 square foot fulfillment center near Detroit, it was announced Monday.

The facility will create 250 new jobs and aims to be ready in 18 months, with site preparation set to begin this week. The decision comes in part from the surge of popularity in online shopping, which has seen a spike since the pandemic kept everyone at home beginning in March. As stores continue to reopen for physical shopping, many consumers are still choosing to shop virtually, with chains that previously did not offer any online services adapting quickly to meet consumer demand. 


Oatmilk Dominates

Despite a relatively short amount of time since oatmilk hit stores years ago, it has become one of the most popular plant-based milks, second only to almond milk, in the country. Both refrigerated and shelf-stable variations of the product have seen triple digit growth year-over-year since 2019, and makes up 14% of the plant-based milk category, while almond holds 63% of the market. Dairy milk has seen a relatively flat growth rate, but is falling out of style as consumers worry more about sustainability and health aspects of the products they consume. 


Costco Rethinks Their Supply Chain

Costco CFO Richard Galanti is taking a closer look at the chain’s working capital and inventory levels to better understand shopping habits as the pandemic continues. Many stores were caught unprepared this year as a sudden influx in demand of certain products saw store shelves standing empty and consumers unable to find products like sanitizing wipes and paper towels for days- or weeks-long periods.

“The supply chain continues to improve, but it will still take six to nine months on some categories or products,” the CFO said of the outlook for the coming months as shoppers prepare for the holiday season as well as flu season. Galanti, along with many other CFOs in the US, saw their working capitals increase to 46.8% in 2020’s second quarter, according to a study by The Hackett Group.

Costco has expanded their streams of inventory, bringing the number of manufacturers they purchase paper towels from from two to four, and the quick rate of product sales has increased their payables and risen their accounts payable by 21%. The company provides their merchants with reports on sales and freight cost, among other things, to help anticipate the amount of product needed, but the pandemic has made it necessary for teams on both sides to think again about their predictions and reimagine their supply chain model.

About Unioncrate

Unioncrate is an AI-powered Supply Chain Planning Platform that gives CPG brands the technology they need to compete and win in a rapidly changing consumer landscape. Our automated demand and supply forecasts deliver unmatched accuracy, collaborative visibility, and actionable intelligence, simplifying a manual-heavy process and slashing hours from your week.

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