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Walmart Celebrates, Target Vaccinates: CPG News, Week of Feb 8-12

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February 12, 2021
by Veronica Drake
7 Minutes

Financial News

CPG giant Unilever will focus more heavily on eCommerce sales after 61% growth for the sector in 2020, bringing it to 9% of its total sales. The company will lean into home and healthcare markets in its portfolio, and plans to strategize its investments to align with consumer signals.

Sachem Head Capital Management has reportedly taken a $1 billion stake in International Flavors and Fragrances, a move that will encourage IFF to improve its financial performance and integrate its mergers smoothly.

Jana Partners has taken a 7.5% stake in TreeHouse Foods, and has plans to encourage a sale for the private label food maker, which has spent the last few years making strides in improving its business after its newest CEO called attention to inefficiencies that were costing it customers and profit.

Post Holdings has created a special purpose acquisition company, planning to raise up to $400 million to partner with brands in the CPG space.

New Products & Partnerships

PepsiCo has launched Frutly, a line of fruit juice and water drinks that have added electrolytes and are aimed at teens that want a flavorful, better-for-you beverage.

Cosmetics retailer Ulta Beauty has announced plans to dedicate $4 million to the marketing of Black-owned brands and double the number of Black-owned brands it offers in 2021 as part of its yearly diversity and inclusion commitments.

junzi will create a trio of chili oils inspired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Asian Art collection in celebration of the Year of the Ox, with a portion of profits going towards supporting the Met’s programs.

Aleph Farms and researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have announced their creation of the world’s first cell-based ribeye, a slaughter-free steak that is designed to be a match to conventional meat.

Good Reads

Who Spent Their Last Stimulus Checks? by Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, and Michael Stepner, The New York Times

Danone’s ‘big runway’ for growth is built on brand relevance, N. America CEO says by Christopher Doering, Food Dive

Instacart Survived Covid Chaos—But Can It Keep Delivering After The Pandemic? by Chloe Sorvino, Forbes

Sugarcoating Lockdown

After reporting a 41% boost in profits in Q4 of 2020, Hershey’s CFO Steve Voskuil is attributing its success to the patterns that emerged in consumer behavior during lockdown. Many families took the extended time at home together to create new family rituals and partake in nostalgic activities like movie nights and at-home camping, which has led to a greater demand for the household treats in Hershey’s portfolio. "One of the things that was interesting this past year, I think, is just how precious family rituals and routines were around the seasons, and that played to our strength," said Voskuil. "We have a fantastic manufacturing team, great agility on the supply chain side, and a really strong in-store retail execution team." 

The company’s ability to rise to this demand is due in great part to considerable insight from thorough demand planning and the control it has in its supply chain, which allowed it to quickly adjust to have the inventory consumers wanted. Additionally, Voskuil says there are plans to cater to rising demand for better-for-you and organic options, and two major holidays (Valentine’s Day and Easter) will provide an extra burst in revenue in the first half of the year. "We have the appetite, and we have a great balance sheet," Voskuil said. "We generate a lot of cash; we've got flexibility; we like where we're at; we're poised for the environment we're in."

Vaccinating the Frontline

In an effort to encourage frontline employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine when it first becomes available, Target is offering to pay workers for the time spent receiving the vaccine (two hours for each dose). The retailer will also offer Lyft rides to help employees get to their appointments, and is planning to use their 1,700+ in-store CVS locations to assist in coordinating efforts to vaccinate their workers. Target is not the only chain to offer incentives for receiving the shots, as Aldi, Lidl, and Kroger are among the stores that have also taken stances that encourage workers to vaccinate themselves and protect co-workers and shoppers alike. “As more vaccines become available, especially for frontline and essential workers, we’ll help our team members across the country get the information and access they need,” said Melissa Kremer, Target’s chief HR officer. “As we have for the past year, we’ll continue to invest in our team’s pay and benefits so they can take care of themselves, each other and our guests.”

Walmart vs. Amazon

Months after Walmart launched Walmart+, it’s answer to Amazon Prime, the numbers are showing a promising start for the eCommerce platform. The service was able to pull in up to 8.2 million members, or around 14% of Walmart’s website shoppers, by the end of January, giving it a quick start to reaching the 10 million members that UBS analyst Michael Lasser predicted it would collect in its first year. Walmart’s grocery sector has particularly helped grow their users, with 26% of the website’s grocery shoppers belonging to Walmart+. A report found that grocery shoppers spend an average of $1,900 annually at the chain, nearly twice as much as shoppers who don’t buy groceries spend. These numbers have positioned the group to be a key target for the platform, although there’s still a significant gap between Walmart’s users and Amazon Prime’s 142 million. 

Regardless, execs are excited about the progress it’s made and say that the platform can also help inform non-member website and in-store purchases. “Walmart+ can be helpful in a lot of ways over time,” Walmart’s president and CEO Doug McMillon says. “The way that we make money today and the way we'll make money in the future will be more multifaceted.”

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