Innovation and education dominate Grocery Showcase West

4/11/2011

Canada’s food industry turned its attention West Sunday and Monday as the annual Grocery Showcase West show took place in Vancouver.

The trade show aisles were busy and a bevy of new products were showcased by exhibitors. Meanwhile, key industry and consumer trends were explored during several excellent presentations at the conference portion of the show, which is put on by the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.

On Monday, technology journalist Amber MacArthur spoke about how grocers can effectively use social media to market their stores. She advised retailers to be authentic in their online communication with shoppers and to be a little brave by “doing something creative to stand out from the crowd.”

As an example she cited videos posted by a high-end blender manufacturer called Blendtec. The company saw a 500% rise in sales six months after it started posting videos on Youtube that showed its blenders chopping up products that probably aren’t meant to be blended, such as an iPad.

She also encouraged retailers to devote more of their communication efforts to Facebook and Twitter. One retailer doing a good job in this area is the Foodist Market in Toronto, which uses Twitter to promote new products and offer deals such as $1 off on raspberries if customers walk into the store and say they found out about the deal via Twitter.

On Sunday, Carman Allison, director of industry insights for The Nielsen Company, gave an overview of how changing consumers are reshaping grocery shopping. “Today’s consumer is cautious. It’s all about value, value, value,” he said.

But Allison said that lower prices aren’t driving enough incremental sales to make the lower prices pay off for retailers. He reminded retailers that consumers have accepted higher food prices in that past. For instance, in 2009, in the middle of the recession, prices went up.

On the show floor, meanwhile, companies showcased new products. Among them:

Brandbridge Enterprises of Richmond, B.C., unveiled a line of organic iced teas under the name China Mist. Available in six flavours, including Lotus Pear and Wild Blueberry, the teas come in sleek glass bottles for on-the-go consumption as well as a brew-at-home formulation.

Granny’s Poultry Farm Co-operative of Winnipeg introduced ginseng-fed whole chicken. The chicken, which is sold frozen, is said have less fat and be juicier and more tender than regular chicken.

Connoisseur’s Kitchen of Surrey, B.C., showcased its Spice Mantra line of fully cooked, frozen chunks of chicken. The chicken, available in flavours such as Chicken Tikka and Chicken Malai Tikka, are marinated and easy for customers to heat up and use in wraps and kebabs or as meat in an exotic dish.

Healthier foods were also on display at Grocery Showcase West. Tree of Life featured a naturally brewed Kikkoman soy sauce that’s gluten free.

And Campbell displayed its new Nourish meal in a can, which is designed to help the hungry get a nutritious meal. Unilever, meanwhile, displayed its new Magnum ice cream bars.

Meanwhile, Nestle showcased a “Double-Double" version of Coffee Mate.

The show’s top 10 most innovative products were: Maggie's Gluten Free Products, Solo Cup Bare Bowls, Nestle Canada Mini Ice Cream, Nong Shim No MSG Noodle Bowl, Tropical Link GF red rice, Unilever Dove Men, Unilever Magnum Ice Cream Bars, Ishida Tabletop wrapping machine, A Bosa Foods-Monkey Toast and ID Foods-Sugaresque.

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