Retail; mobile apps are transforming the industry.

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One area of explosive growth in the retail supermarket industry is the number of mobile apps that have come on the market to assist shoppers.

Take a look at the Center for Advancing Retail and Technology (CART), and you’ll see what I mean. A year ago, there were only a handful of apps featured; today, more than a dozen are available, with more coming.

In the aggregate, many of these mobile apps hold the potential to transform, if not revolutionize, the way food consumers interact with retail grocery stores. Let’s take a look at some of the areas consumers are utilizing these applications:

Coupon and discount aggregators: These apps scour retail sites and collect the latest promotional offers, enabling shoppers to find in one place the best (or most current) deals. Jingit, Grocery Pal, KleverShop and Coupon Sherpa are some examples.

Informational: Increasingly, mobile apps help customers find out about new product introductions or the availability of locally produced items, organics and GMO-free labels. Farmstand, for example, assists consumers in finding locally raised produce and meats. Apps like these appeal to content-oriented consumers — people who want lots of information about the items they purchase.

Shopping lists: Probably the most traditional of the grocery apps, this category enables shoppers to create a digital shopping list in advance of a trip to the store. GroceryPal is a typical program, and a somewhat similar application, GroceryTrip, scans recipes and assembles a corresponding item list.

Front-end pay: Much of the recent action in app development comes in creating programs that accelerate checkout and ease of payment — clear benefits for consumers and the stores themselves. One such app is PowaTag, billed as a payment and engagement technology that allows consumers to perform instant personalized transactions using their smartphone through use of adapted QR codes, audio watermarking and in-store beacon technology. The most prominent app in this category is Apple Pay, which is rolling out nationally, and has already been launched by a number of independent supermarkets across the country.

Many of the apps in the marketplace are increasingly becoming multifaceted, offering a variety of features that enhance the shopping experience. For example, Bright Aisle, an app developed by Media Solutions Corp., allows consumers to search for coupons, create shopping lists, build recipes, and sign up for email offers.

Without a doubt, the lineup of grocery related apps will continue to expand. Already, the potential of application platforms to alter the store shopping experience (if not the future of the traditional store) is beginning to be felt throughout the industry.

What mobile apps are your customers using? Does your store have its own app, and if so, what functions does it have?

Valencia; GREFUSA crece un 4% y fortalece su área de exportación.

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La cifra de negocio crece un 4%, hasta 91 millones, y busca alianzas internacionales para exportar diez millones a medio plazo.

Las ventas de aperitivos y snacks de Grefusa mejoraron el año pasado y la empresa espera que sigan creciendo, en buena parte porque espera que vayan teniendo cada vez más acogida en los mercados internacionales, donde está iniciando su desarrollo.

El año pasado, la compañía con sede en Alzira (Valencia) tuvo una cifra de negocio de 91,05 millones de euros, lo que representa un incremento del cuatro por ciento respecto a las cifras de 2013, aunque todavía no se han alcanzado los máximos de los años anteriores.

Instacart moves to hire in-store pickers.

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Grocery delivery service Instacart on Monday said it has begun to give its store pickers the option to convert from contractor to employee status, saying trained and supervised employees would provide additional quality and efficiency.

The company said it made the decision following a successful pilot in Boston. Effective Monday, independent contractors embedded in stores in Chicago will have the option to become part-time employees of Instacart. Based on data from the Boston pilot, Instacart expects more than three-fourths of its current in-store contractors to opt to part-time employee status. Instacart plans to roll out this option to more of its independent contractors in some of the other cities it serves in the coming months and will make permanent the changes that were already in place in Boston.

“As Instacart grows, and we continue to learn what makes the best experience for our customers, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our service,” Apoorva Mehta, founder and CEO of Instacart, said in a statement. “When you look at the difficulty of shopping, picking and delivering items such as fruit or eggs that need to be carefully selected, you realize that grocery shopping can be complicated. For this reason, we want to provide supervision and training, which can only be done with employees.

“We began experimenting with part-time employee roles in Boston,” Mehta continued, “and the data from our pilot showed that this change improved the quality and efficiency of order picking and made for a better customer experience. We’re excited to be able to expand this option to other cities.”

The change continues evolution for San Francisco-based Instacart, which was established behind a so-called “sharing economy” model of independent contractors who shopped for and delivered groceries. More recently the company has shifted towards a business model that splits its shopper and driver roles, with some shoppers embedded in stores now being offered employee status while driver and shopper-drivers remain independent contractors. The change helped to improve order and delivery efficiency, the company said.

Originally launched in San Francisco and since expanded into many other cities, Instacart connects customers with shoppers and drivers who shop for and deliver grocery orders providing their own transportation in as little as one hour. This eliminates the retailer’s need for costly infrastructure such as inventory, warehouses and trucks.

España; Bimbo compra Panrico.

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El grupo mexicano Bimbo ha firmado un preacuerdo para comprar su principal rival en España, Panrico, al fondo de capital riesgo estadounidense Oaktree. La multinacional reforzará con la adquisición su liderazgo en el sector del pan de molde con una cuota de mercado cercana al 50% y dará un gran salto en el de la bollería dulce, el principal valor que le aportará la firma catalana.

La operación está supeditada al resultado de una auditoría a la que se someterá al fabricante de Donuts a partir de mañana. Según fuentes de la operación, de esta dependerá la oferta económica que acabe formulando el grupo mexicano.

La compra de las siete plantas españolas y las dos portuguesas deberá contar con la aprobación de la Comisión Nacional de Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC). Ese visto bueno constituye una de las condiciones a las que está sujeta la compra. Otra de ellas, según informó este sábado Expansión, es la resolución de todos los litigios laborales que tiene abiertos.

Fuentes de Panrico explicaron que la operación tardará meses en cerrarse, probablemente a finales de año. “La unión de ambos grupos permitirá crear un líder en panificación y bollería en España y Portugal, asegurando la viabilidad sostenible de Panrico”, afirmó la compañía en un comunicado dirigido a su plantilla de más de 2.000 empleados.

La multinacional mexicana lidera las ventas de pan de molde en España con una cuota de mercado del 40,8% en volumen. Con la integración de Panrico, esta se elevaría al 49,3%. La firma catalana, en cambio, es el principal fabricante de bollería industrial dulce, con una cuota del 16,4%, muy por encima del 4% de Bimbo.

La aventura de Oaktree en el sector del pan y la bollería español parece acercarse a su fin dos años después de que tomara las riendas de Panrico. La empresa, creada en 1963 por la familia Costafreda, se mantuvo en las manos de sus fundadores durante más de 40 años, hasta que el fondo de inversión británico Apax Partners la compró en 2005 por 900 millones de euros.

Apax tomó decisiones que debilitaron a la firma —como abandonar la línea exportadora— y que dificultaron aún más una salida airosa cuando llegó la crisis. La banca acreedora se puso al volante de Panrico tras cinco años de penurias y en 2011 lo cedió a Oaktree tras vender el 80% de las participaciones. El fondo norteamericano capitalizó sus préstamos dos años después y se hizo con el control total de la panificadora en verano de 2013.

La primera misión de Oaktree consistió en hacer que la empresa dejara atrás los números rojos, aunque ese propósito le costó uno de los mayores conflictos laborales de la industria catalana. La mecha prendió cuando la dirección decidió suspender el pago de las nóminas alegando que no había dinero en la caja y que debía cumplir primero con los proveedores si quería mantener la producción.

El fondo entregó las riendas de la compañía a Carlos Gila, experto en reestructuración de empresas. Poco después de ser nombrado consejero delegado, Gila anunció a la plantilla un plan que acabaría con 1.900 puestos de trabajo —incluyendo 600 autónomos— y que reduciría los salarios entre el 35% y el 45%.

La huelga que siguió a estos anuncios duró ocho meses en la planta de Santa Perpètua de Mogoda (Barcelona) y fue una de las más largas de la democracia. Fuentes sindicales hablan de decenas de denuncias cruzadas entre los empleados y la dirección que aún están pendientes de resolución. Como la acusación de agresión contra los trabajadores que se enfrentaron al personal de una contrata que intentó retirar producto de la fábrica o la que se interpuso contra Gila por haber dicho que temía que los huelguistas catalanes pudieran envenenar los Donuts.

El ERE acabó en 2014 con 468 despidos después de haber sido enmendado por la Audiencia Nacional, que retiró las previsiones de despidos para 2015 y 2016. Sin embargo, Panrico ha logrado este año sortear el veto con rescisiones individuales de contrato a sus empleados de logística, un área que ha externalizado en sus siete plantas españolas. El número de afectados aún no se ha determinado, ya que del “excedente de 87 contratos”, como reza el acuerdo alcanzado con UGT, se prevé recolocar a 51 en el área de producción —de menor categoría laboral— “siempre que cumplan los requisitos”.

Fuentes de Panrico aseguraron este sábado que “las cosas marchan tan bien” que la compañía prevé más contrataciones, entre ellas, unas 40 en Santa Perpètua. El grupo todavía registra pérdidas, pero la facturación de 345 millones de euros en 2014 y el recorte de gastos le permitió cerrar el ejercicio con un resultado operativo positivo de 13,03 millones.

Los representantes de los trabajadores aún no saben cómo valorar el anuncio, más allá de recordar que siempre sospecharon de que la única intención de Oaktree era adelgazar la plantilla y reducir los costes laborales para luego venderla.

LIDL confirms U.S. expansion

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German retailer Lidl on Friday formally announced it has established a U.S. headquarters and distribution facility, pledging to create “a unique experience for American consumers that will be unlike anything else in the market.”

The announcement comes almost exactly two years after reports first surfaced of Lidl’s plans to expand in the U.S. The release also confirmed that former Lidl Ireland president Brendan Proctor will lead the effort as president and CEO of Lidl US.

Lidl, based in Neckarsulm, Germany, is one of Europe’s leading retailers, operating nearly 10,000 stores in 26 countries. Sources told SN it was seeking to expand in the U.S. because it was nearing saturation in many European markets. Privately held by the family-owned Schwarz Group, Lidl (along with German based sister banner Kaufland) generated around $98.3 billion (U.S.) in annual sales in 2014.

On Friday, Lidl confirmed it was establishing its U.S. corporate headquarters in Arlington, Va., and also, a regional office and distribution center in Spotsylvania County, Va. The expansion represents a $202 million investment, including $77 million for its headquarters and $125 million in Spotsylvania, according to an announcement from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Lidl will employ 500 in Arlington and 200 in Spotsylvania.

Lidl US said the move is part of “early preparations to launch its expansion into the U.S. market,” but did not confirm a date for store openings or the number of stores it intends to build. Schwarz Group’s chairman said previously that stores would open no later than 2018. Sources told SN Lidl would look to build around 100 stores initially.

In Europe, Lidl runs stores that are similar to German rival Aldi, featuring private brands, limited service departments and everyday low prices. Sources told SN that Lidl was looking at U.S. sites that are larger than Aldi’s 10,000-square-foot footprint, but a spokesman would not confirm that Friday, saying the store prototype was still in development.

“We are excited to take this important step to launch Lidl’s expansion into the United States and look forward to introducing American consumers to a different type of shopping experience,” Proctor said in a statement. “Our philosophy is simple: we are focused on offering customers top quality products at the most competitive pricing in convenient locations. We plan to build on the foundation that has made Lidl so successful in Europe, while creating a unique experience for American consumers that will be unlike anything else in the market.”

Proctor made the announcement Friday alongside Gov. McAuliffe in Germany. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Arlington County and Spotsylvania County to secure the project. McAuliffe approved a total of $5 million in grants from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund as well as $2 million in funds from the Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant. Additional funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the state said.

“We want to thank Governor Terry McAuliffe, as well as the teams in Arlington and Spotsylvania, who recognized Lidl’s potential and worked with us to bring Lidl to the area. We are honored to work with this incredible team of professionals who have laid the groundwork for Lidl’s success in the United States,” Proctor said.

Said McAuliffe: “I was thrilled to meet with Lidl’s company leaders in Germany today to close this tremendous deal. This is a significant win for Arlington County and Spotsylvania County, and the jobs and economic activity it will generate will contribute directly to my administration’s work building a new Virginia economy. Lidl’s investment demonstrates Virginia’s ability to attract companies from all over the globe.”

España; Carrefour facilitará a los proveedores de frutas y vegetales la exportación a través de SOCOMO.

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La cadena de supermercados Carrefour quiere ser “una ayuda” en la exportación de productos hortofrutícolas y ofrece su filial Socomo a los proveedores “para contactar y ver la viabilidad” de vender sus productos en el exterior.

El director nacional de productos frescos de Carrefour España, Ángel Monreal, ha expuesto hoy ante más de 300 asistentes al XVII Congreso de la Asociación de Empresas de Gran Consumo (AECOC) que Socomo puede ser “una palanca y un trampolín” para que los proveedores “tengan el arranque para la exportación”.

Monreal ha argumentado que la mayor parte de las exportaciones de España de Socomo corresponde a tiendas de Carrefour pero también existen, aunque en una pequeña proporción de alrededor del 5 %, acuerdos con distribuidores para la venta de productos frescos españoles.

Esos acuerdos ya se dan en países árabes y africanos, pero pueden producirse en cualquier lugar donde los productos españoles “tengan aceptación”.

En cuanto al futuro de los comercios en España, el director de productos frescos de Carrefour ha afirmado que la expansión tiene que venir por la proximidad, que es “donde van quedando huecos” por la saturación de las grandes superficies.

Según Monreal, hay “momentos de compra” para todos los formatos y Carrefour “quiere llegar a todos los clientes y a todos los momentos de compra”, de ahí que las tiendas de proximidad y la ubicación en espacios como las estaciones de servicio son “un eje de futuro” y “un nicho de mercado” en el que la cadena de distribución ocupará “la mayor parte” que pueda.

En la segunda jornada del Congreso AECOC, el director general de la consultora Market Intelligence, Chris White, ha destacado que la innovación en el sector de frutas y hortalizas está basada en la venta por internet y en recuperar la atención personalizada y profesional con el consumidor.

Además, las empresas españolas, que concentran su venta en el mercado local o los países de Europa, tienen que buscar otras oportunidades en otros continentes como Asia.

White ha indicado que una parte de los comercios se ha olvidado de lo fundamental, que es, según ha dicho, ayudar a comprar a un consumidor que tiene un mayor interés por la alimentación que en el pasado.

Para ello, se debe recuperar la relación personal entre el tendero y el consumidor, y disponer de profesionales que conozcan el producto y puedan aconsejar al cliente y no sean solo reponedores de mercancía.

CVS to buy Target pharmacies for $1.9B

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Target Corp. said Monday it has agreed to sell its pharmacy business to CVS Health, which would rebrand and operate Target’s 1,660 in-store pharmacies under the CVS/pharmacy banner.

CVS, Woonsocket, R.I., will pay Target approximately $1.9 billion for the pharmacies and 80 in-store clinics to be rebranded under CVS’s MinuteClinic banner. CVS said it expected to offer comparable positions to the 14,000 current Target health care workers.

The companies in a joint release described the deal as a “strategic relationship” including intentions to jointly “evaluate and select locations best-suited for new small format Target stores with a CVS/pharmacy inside.”

Minneapolis-based Target said it expected to realize $1.2 billion in proceeds which it would “deploy in support of its long-standing capital priorities,” including share repurchase.

“At Target, we’ve talked a lot about the evolving preferences of our guests and this partnership demonstrates that we’re committed to putting them at the forefront of everything we do,” Brian Cornell, Target’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “By partnering with CVS Health, we will offer our guests industry leading health care services, and at the same time, sharpen our focus on elevating the way we deliver wellness products and experiences to our guests.”

The companies said they were uncertain when the deal would close but assumed late this year. In-store changes will be rolled out over a period of several months thereafter, as CVS Health and Target work to ensure the smoothest possible transition for all pharmacy and clinic patients. Target said it would “further evaluate the business impact and related support needs at its headquarters locations,” following the closing.

España; arranca con éxito la cadena “Gran Bio Supermercados”

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Gran Bio Supermercados Ecológicos, que comenzó su andadura hace casi un mes, ha tenido unos primeros pasos muy exitosos con una gran aceptación por parte de los consumidores murcianos, que están muy identificados con la vida saludable que proporciona los alimentos ecológicos. Según ha explicado el Gerente de Gran Bio Supermercados Ecológicos, Juan Antonio Martínez Rubio, “estamos muy satisfechos desde nuestra apertura por la gran receptividad de los consumidores que están muy identificados con la vida saludable y con la alimentación ecológica. Esto es muy positivo y beneficioso para la sociedad”.

     Además, el responsable de Gran Bio ha subrayado también que “nuestro supermercado tiene una amplia gama de referencias alimenticias, y esto es muy valorado por los consumidores, que son conscientes de que pueden encontrar todo tipo de artículos tanto alimenticios como bebidas, cosméticos, alimentación infantil, carnicería, etcétera”.

    El supermercado tiene una superficie de 250 metros cuadrados, se han invertido 500.000 euros en su puesta en funcionamiento y cuenta con una plantilla de 12 personas.

    Está abierto de 9:00 de la mañana a 21:30 en horario ininterrumpido de lunes a sábado. Tiene una relación calidad – precio que se adapta perfectamente a la economía de los consumidores de la Región de Murcia.

Ahold set to launch ‘game-changing’ magazine

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Ahold USA said Tuesday it is launching a free magazine and digital content platform called Savory — Fast, Fresh and Easy, designed to help customers prepare more fresh and healthy meals.

During a presentation to vendors in Chicago Tuesday night, Jan van Dam, Ahold USA’s EVP, marketing, format, own brands, supply chain and ecommerce, said Savory offers “a 360-degree meals platform that will deliver something the channel has not seen before. It’s virtual meets physical, and we think it will be game-changing for Ahold, our customers and our vendors. We believe we can make this as big as we want to make it.”

The format of the magazine is based on Allehande, a magazine Ahold-owned Albert Heijn stores in the Netherlands has been publishing for more than 30 years, Shirley Axe, one of the magazine’s editors, told SN Tuesday evening.

Allehande means “a little bit of everything” in Dutch, Axe pointed out, while Savory “refers to the idea that the recipes and meals offered in the publication “will make readers’ mouths water,” she explained.

The first edition will be available in all formats beginning June 14.

The first edition will be available in all formats beginning June 14.

The first edition will be available in stores, online and via smartphone and tablet devices, beginning June 14, the company said.

Axe said the company plans to issue the magazine four times this year — in August, October and November after next week’s first edition — but six times a year beginning in 2016.

In a press release, Amy Hahn, SVP, marketing, said, “Savory was designed to help make every day a little fresher, a little easier and a little more delicious for our busy customers. It is a go-to guide with recipes and meal solutions that will help customers save time, save money, and eat well.”

The first issue is a 120-page, full-color publication highlighting grilling favorites and recipes for summer meals. The company said regular features will include budget-friendly meals; recipes to cook once and eat twice; meals that can be made in 15 minutes; recipes for meals that cost $10 per meal; new twists on old favorites; questions and answers with a nutritionist, and a “Take 5” feature that offers five ingredients for a fast meal.

Items used in recipes will be tied to store promotions, with products tagged to make it easier to find, the company said.

The magazine will be displayed in shippers at the entrance to the chain’s stores and also in the magazine aisle, Axe said. Customers will also be able to access it through the websites of each of the chain’s banners or by downloading a free app that will be available upon launch for Apple, Android, Kindle and Windows devices.

Axe said the company intends to add a cooking app in the near future that will allow consumers to watch up to 48 videos per issue demonstrating step-by-step how to make the meal, with the ability to stop the video whenever they want during the preparation process. Recipes in the print edition will indicate if they have a video attached, she pointed out.

Future issues, like the first one, will also feature 120 pages, Axe said — “part of the value equation for customers,” she explained — with 80 pages of content and 40 pages of ads, “and if we don’t sell enough ads, we’ll fill those pages with content,” she added.

Ahold is selling ads to CPG companies, and a third party is selling external ads to local businesses surrounding each of the company’s four divisions, including medical facilities, insurance companies and car dealerships, Axe said.