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Product of the Year Canada unveils 2021 winners

 This year, 4,000 Canadian shoppers voted to determine the 27 winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards. Among the winners, several convenience store favourites. 


The program, which operates in 40 countries, recognizes manufacturers for quality and innovation in their function, design, packaging or ingredients.

In Canada and around the world, consumer shopping behaviour has rapidly shifted in the past year; the annual Product of the Year Awards are designed to provide a trusted resource to easily guide consumers to the best new products on the market.  

For obvious reasons, shoppers are spending less time in stores, but still crave new and innovative products to light up these difficult times, Mike Nolan, Global CEO of Product of the Year Management, said in a release. “Because of this, we are more excited than ever to announce the 2021 Product of the Year winners and help shoppers find that ‘great new product’ when it matters most, however they do their shopping this year.

“What makes Product of the Year so trusted is our unique process, which gives shoppers the confidence that each product with our iconic red logo is backed by 4,000 Canadians. That’s a powerful advantage for our 2021 winners, as a Product of the Year Award positions them as THE innovative leader in their category.”

This year’s winning products reflect the trends and categories that everyday shoppers care about most as they spend more time at home. Selected through a nationally representative study powered by Kantar, a global consumer research company, the 27 winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Award include:

Beauty, Health & Wellness

Johnson & Johnson


BON MATIN La mie de l’artisan Avoine
Bimbo Canada

Breakfast Food

Cavendish Farms

Chocolate – Bars

Mondelēz Canada

Chocolate – Minis

Ferrero Canada

Coffee – Single-Serve Coffee Pods

Kraft Heinz Canada

Dairy – Cheese

Fromageries Bel Canada

Deli Meat

Longo Brothers Fruit Markets


Whirlpool Large Capacity Quiet Dishwasher with 3rd Rack
Whirlpool Canada

Dressings & Sauces


Face Moisturizer

Johnson & Johnson

Frozen Dessert

Longo Brothers Fruit Market


Longo Brothers Fruit Market

Household Product



KitchenAid 5 Cup Cordless Food Chopper
Whirlpool Canada


Fromageries Bel Canada

Large Appliance

Whirlpool 36″ 4-Door Counter Depth Refrigerator
Whirlpool Canada

Laundry Detergent

Henkel Consumer Goods Canada


L’Oreal Paris

Mattress & Bed

Tempur-Pro Series

Mattress in a box


Skin Care

Johnson & Johnson

Small Appliance

KitchenAid Cordless Hand Blender
Whirlpool Canada

Snack Bars

General Mills


Conagra Brands


Tata Consumer Products

Vitamins & Supplements



The 27 winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards will be celebrated in a virtual awards show, on March 4, 2021. The event will feature innovation insights from Kantar, as well as some of Canada’s most innovative retail and CPG 2021 award winners.

Click here for more information on this year’s winners.


Pandemic-era snacking 

A shift in consumption reflects evolving consumer behaviours, priorities



How Canadians eat and drink continues to change and evolve, particularly as we retreat into our homes with government regulations, restrictions and public health guidance continuing to limit our daily movement.

During the pandemic, many consumers re-connected to home life as a place of refuge, comfort and belonging. In tandem with this re-connection has been the re-prioritization of meals as pillars to define our days.  

But, the question remains: “Has the shift to meals impacted Canadians’ daily snacking habits?”

The answer is, yes. 

Although the ‘snackification’ of Canadians’ eating routines has been well-documented for nearly a decade, we often forget that the rise of snacking can be directly correlated to the de-prioritization of meals, as Canadians gravitated to less cumbersome, less work-intensive and more flexible approaches to eating and drinking.

As we find ourselves 10 months into the pandemic, our snacking behaviour, while still robust, has softened when compared to the early pandemic days in 2020 and the pre-pandemic period during 2019.

While snacking remains a huge behaviour, with more than two-thirds of consumption occasions in an average day continuing to occur outside or in-between meals (at snack), the retreat from snacking has impacted consumers’ choices and the performance of related categories.

Snacking defined

At Ipsos, the FIVE consumption tracking study (it has been in the field every day since 2013, tracking eating and drinking behaviour amongst 24,000 individuals aged 2 and over) defines the snacking universe according to consumers’ reporting of what they ate or drank by time of day and occasion. 

The food and beverage items consumed outside traditional meal occasions are grouped together and these ‘snacks’ are evaluated by three distinct segments: traditional snack goods (e.g. fresh fruit, potato chips or chocolate) vs. non-traditional snack foods (e.g. pizza, sandwiches, chili) vs. beverages.

Rise of daytime snacking 

Even today, snacking habits continue to shift as we settle into winter routines, with increasing snacking rates during morning and afternoon occasions. While ‘eat rate’ increases can be traced to kids’ being at school, there is also a considerably large cohort of adults that continue to work from home—wearing out the path from home office to pantry—to meet increasing daytime needs/demands for energy, mental well-being and grazing. 

Increased daytime snacking at home has resulted in more fresh produce snacking (though potato chips remain strong), particularly when compared to the pre-pandemic period. Fewer carried-from-home occasions and less requirement for portability is having an impact on cookies, crackers and granola bars.

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The increase in daytime snacking habits has put pressure on the evening occasion; with evening eat rates for snacks declining when compared to early pandemic days.

The snacking pantry

The pandemic era has certainly re-invigorated Canadians’ use of the pantry, particularly among families with kids. According to Ipsos findings, almost two-thirds of family shoppers report that they will continue to pantry-load even after lockdown restrictions have ended.

New stockpiling habits are also impacting how consumers define convenience, with a growing share of individuals reporting that having items on hand is a key factor in making the snacking event both easy and accessible.

It is also important to note that the third most reported item identified as a ‘grocery essential’ among a diverse cross-section of food and beverage options was snacks. Interestingly, their importance as an essential ranked ahead of several ‘hard to find’ options coveted in the early pandemic days, such as baking goods. 

The role of the pantry will likely remain ‘top of mind’ important as we head into the back half of 2021 and more of us venture outside. In our latest FIVE data release (October 2020), carried-from-home snack occasions increased considerably when compared to spring rates, although they remain lower than reported in 2019.

Evolving needs drive choices

Undoubtedly, our in-home cocooning and discovery of new routines, new schedules and new ways to entertain have exposed new consumer tensions. Even during ordinary times, many of us struggle to balance work, family and social responsibilities. These struggles have been amplified by both the health pandemic and our new homebound status.

Beyond ‘point of entry’ needshunger, thirst, gap fill and conveniencethat motivate snacking choices, there is a growing focus on meeting mood needs (e.g. comfort, stress relief and relaxation) and opting for healthier guilt-free choices, nurturing and nostalgia.

In their continuing quest for healthier snacking options, Canadians are moving beyond simply focusing on nourishment and nutrient intake. They are increasingly prioritizing emotional well-being and focusing on metabolic benefits, such as digestion, weight management, boosting immune systems and beauty health, to name just a few.  The rise of personal health spaces provides huge growth opportunity.

Post-pandemic snacking 

As we move through the balance of the pandemic era, there will be undoubtedly more shifts and changes as consumers respond to their environmental circumstances.  

Beyond evaluating current changes, it will also be critical to identify the legacy impacts of our cumulative confinement experience to determine what impact they will have on consumer snacking habits, as well as category and brand choices. Integrating these factors into future planning will be an important dynamic in shaping the snacking path ahead.



Pandemic shakes up beverage choices



The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its associated effects, such as stockpiling, home seclusion and channel shifts, have had a sizable impact on the trajectory of all non-alcoholic drinks categories in 2020. In addition to changing when and how Canadians shop, these factors are altering the product attributes consumers seek. While the duration of the pandemic remains uncertain, it is clear its impact on drinks will be felt for years to come.

Data from Euromonitor International shows a net decline in sales of non-alcoholic drinks in 2020. While public health guidelines that pushed consumers to stay home resulted in stockpiling, this growth in retail sales was easily offset by the on-trade sales decline in cafés, bars and restaurants. During the early months of the pandemic, many hoped that this fall in on-trade sales would quickly reverse, especially in 2021. However, spikes in COVID-19 cases during the early months of fall have cast the chances of a speedy recovery in a much different light.

Now, it seems likely that closures impeding on-trade sales will persist well into next year. But perhaps more consequential than temporary closures is the likelihood that many businesses will permanently shutter after going through a prolonged period of inactivity. Euromonitor estimates that away-from-home availability of soft drinks in 2020 is at only 63% compared to previous years. Whether that limited availability becomes permanent depends highly on the pandemic’s trajectory over the next few months.

As home seclusion continues, on-trade closures have had the multi-pronged effect of driving stockpiling and channel shifts such as the replacement of on-trade consumption with drinks that can be enjoyed by consumers at home. Stockpiling has benefitted retail sales of soft drinks almost universally. Categories such as juice drinks (24% or lower juice products) have seen volume growth for the first time in more than a decade. This success holds true across bottled water as well, while many carbonated categories are seeing much slower declines than they have in previous years.

Exceptions to this growth do exist, however. Emerging categories just gaining traction have faced challenges in 2020 as many consumers opt for products with which they are more familiar. Carbonated ready-to-drink teas and kombuchas, for example—which are still new to many Canadians— have seen slower growth.

Lastly, soft drinks did benefit from channel shifts, but not to the same extent as hot beverages. As trips to cafes are replaced with options prepared at home, ground coffee, pods and whole beans have seen large increases in growth, and most tea categories have also improved their performance.

While stockpiling, home seclusion and channel shifts have had a large impact on 2020, we do not expect their reach to extend far beyond 2021. Instead, some of the most indelible results of the pandemic may be trends in product attributes and retail channel distribution. Concerns over contracting COVID-19 have ramped up existing interest in foods and drinks that benefit various types of immunity. As the pandemic subsides, interest in functional drinks that promote immune system health may remain, benefitting a wide swath of categories from juices and tonics with added probiotics to medicinal and herbal teas. The success e-commerce has experienced in 2020 will likely also endure over the next five years, as home seclusion has led to buying drinks online and improved distribution networks for internet retailing.

For now, the pandemic has had a dampening effect on overall drink sales in Canada, and the prospect of full recovery does seem more distant than initially expected. On-trade channels, especially, will take years to recover to levels experienced prior to 2020, and off-trade growth is not compensating for this loss. Nonetheless, opportunities exist as certain categories see growth through channel shifts and new trends in product attributes develop.

Alexander Esposito is a senior research analyst at Euromonitor International, an independent provider of strategic market research.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer. 


Consumers have a taste for dessert: Study

The holiday season is in the 2020-version of full swing and that means that sweet treats and desserts are having their moment.

Dessert is top of mind for many, according to new Technomic Ignite Consumer research.

  • Consumers say positive feelings are most likely to spur dessert consumption, suggesting that desserts associated with feel-good occasions or celebrations will be well-received.
  • While holiday celebrations may look different this year, fun holiday callouts, weekend-only promotions and seasonal flavour features can all be used to boost positioning around dessert as a reward.

    Highlight related products and consider stocking seasonal sweets to help consumers treat themselves or celebrate with dessert at home.

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Seasonal Confectionery Purchase Decisions Report: National Confectionery Association

Pandemic reshapes shopping for seasonal candy

Seasonal Confectionery Purchase Decisions Report: National Confectionery Association

Seasonal Confectionery Purchase Decisions Report: National Confectioners Association

The current global pandemic uprooted consumers’ shopping habits and patterns, but amid all the changes, confectionery’s role remained the same: consumers see confectionery treating as integral to a happy, balanced lifestyle during regular, holiday and COVID-19 times.

According to Seasonal Confectionery Purchase Decisions: 2020, published the the U.S.-based National Confectioners Association (NCA), 84% of consumers see seasonal confectionery as a fun part of special celebrations and 78% say sharing and gifting seasonal confectionery is a great tradition. Additionally, 82% of consumers agree that it is okay to enjoy seasonal confectionery during holidays and special occasions.

“Seasonal and holiday celebrations have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, reshaping shoppers’ engagement with seasonal confectionery,” NCA President and CEO John Downs told CSNC’s U.S. sister publication, Convenience Store News. “The insights unveiled in this report will help the confectionery industry address new holiday celebrations and traditions through merchandising and marketing that reflects these unusual times.”

Key highlights from the report include:

  • Supermarkets are the most commonly shopped channel for seasonal confectionery, followed by supercentres. However, amid the pandemic, e-commerce leaped years ahead in engagement, with online candy sales up 100.3% during the 26 weeks ending Sept. 6. Online ordering with the local grocery store for delivery or pickup overtook online retailers as the biggest online channel for confectionery.
  • Shoppers say the seasonal aisle is fun and inspiring (77%) and they like browsing for new items when buying seasonal confectionery (76%).
  • Shoppers like to celebrate the seasons in style: 87% prefer seasonal confectionery featuring packaging, shapes, colours, flavours or characters that reflect the season.
  • The pandemic has resulted in financial pressure for many and more are prioritizing promotions and price in their decisions. Seasonal confectionery already enjoyed very high promotional efficiencies pre-pandemic.
  • Purchases are influenced by shoppers’ own preferences (59 %), price (43%) and sales promotions (40%).
  • Parents see confectionery as integral to seasonal celebrations and 90%  discuss the importance of balance and treating with their children. At the same time, nine in 10 parents monitor their kids’ candy consumption, with limiting consumption to a few pieces a day until it runs out being the most popular system as it relates to the seasonal haul.

An executive summary of the report is available here.


Understanding the new food consumer

People’s relationships with food changed this year. The good news? Customers are up for grabs—and our proprietary consumer research backs it up. Businesses that want to win need to start by understanding customer motivations.



For many of us, the global pandemic has reset our relationship with food. We’ve shifted the way we shop for, purchase, prepare—and even think about—food. Much of this evolved out of necessity: grocery delivery services grew (and got maxed out) because many felt unsafe going into stores; online meat and fish sites flourished; and local butcher shops resurfaced as supermarket chains had trouble keeping meat on the shelves. People who had not been cooking at home learned to cook with YouTube videos and online tutorials, and meal kits surged as restaurants remained closed (even for takeout).

Things have settled down over the last few months: supply chain issues have been solved, in most places restaurants have reopened with new safety precautions (although in some regions they are closing again), and grocery delivery services are operating at a normal pace. But the food landscape has changed and it is not going back to where it had been. The Jackman Human Insights Study, our ongoing, proprietary consumer research study, found that not only are we cooking more (51% of respondents say they’re making more meals from scratch), but most of us (91%) plan to keep up this increased level of home cooking for the foreseeable future.
The old model of competition for foodservices businesses was based on price, place, product, and promotion. But this is not enough to win anymore. To succeed today, businesses need to understand their customers on a deeper level and remember that while some see food merely as nourishment or fuel, for many it is so much more. Historically, in addition to nourishment, food has been considered a form of self-care, indulgence, and a way to connect with others. While that is still the case, during this pandemic food also became a way to experiment, discover, and embrace self-sufficiency for many who had not thought this way before.
Those in the food industry need to identify who their consumer is and what drives them.
Below, we focus on two different groupings of prevalent consumer segments identified in our research — The Planner and The Budget Conscious, and The Adventurer and The Trend Seeker. Here’s how to engage them:
The Planner and The Budget Conscious
Motivated by fuel and convenience.
The Planner seeks routine, structure, and familiarity, especially now as the world seems to be changing at a rapid pace. These shoppers stick to the rules and make thoughtful and controlled decisions. While they prefer to watch and learn from others, they would rather not pay for services if they can do it themselves. As their name suggests, The Budget Conscious tend to prioritize price. They prefer to do things they are familiar with and much like The Planner, they watch and learn from others. Budget conscious consumers also prefer to get their shopping done in one stop.
Three keys to engaging these consumers: 
1. Keep it Simple
These shoppers prefer to stick with simple, quick, and even pre-measured meals and are not paying all that much attention to the details of where or how a product is made. They are not looking for organic vegetables or ingredients they can’t pronounce, they just want a grocery store with conventional produce and good premade meals. Going back to the basics can work with this crowd.
2. Focus on Brick and Mortar
The Planner and The Budget Conscious are highly unlikely to subscribe to a meal-kit service or order groceries online. Businesses looking to engage these consumers should put effort into the in-store experience to help create loyal repeat customers.
3. Emphasize Convenience
Shoppers in these segments tend not to see food as a way to bring people together and are not particularly invested in the food journey. For them, food is simply nourishment. Before the pandemic forced the city into lockdown, Amazon Go worked to engage these consumers in San Francisco with a stand-alone store filled with ready-to-eat foods (like burritos, salads, and sushi).
The Adventurer and The Trend Seeker
Motivated by connection, creativity, and discovery.
Shoppers in both of these segments enjoy discovering and trying new things. The Trend Seeker shops at speciality retailers. They are most likely to accomplish something as part of a big group but are also very willing to pay someone to do tasks for them. In contrast, The Adventurer is likely to be a risk taker who would rather try doing something themselves than learn it from others. They, too, prefer specialty stores and when shopping, and they prioritize quality over price and convenience.
Three keys to engaging these consumers: 
1. Take a Multi-faceted Approach
These customers are engaged with all aspects of the food journey, which means they are interested in cooking and open to new ways of accessing food. Businesses need to engage these consumers in all possible ways—like Panera Bread did in the early days of the pandemic. When physical cafes started to close, Panera launched curbside ordering and pickup in just two weeks. And, when it became clear that customers were having trouble finding ingredients to cook at home, the company rapidly launched a grocery delivery service.
2. Focus on Innovation
These are the consumers that have been most excited to experiment with new food during the pandemic and continue to get creative with their meals. Find ways to engage them such as meal kits that rotate by cuisine or a section of the grocery store dedicated to a different cuisine each week offering prepared meals, as well as ingredients and recipes, to make it at home.
3. Enhance Complexity and Creativity
The Adventurer and The Trend Seeker like experimentation and are willing to prepare complex meals. They would appreciate learning to make craft cocktails online or picking up a kit with all needed ingredients and then hopping on Zoom for a virtual cooking session with local or international chefs. They also want to engage with local businesses—like small butcher shops or restaurants—so partnerships are important.
While it is true that consumers’ relationships with food have changed rapidly this year, we at Jackman view this as an opportunity. In our study, 41% of consumers said they are still experimenting with new brands or types of food. That’s great news—and means that new customers are up for grabs. Businesses that want to win these new customers and develop long-term loyalty need to start by understanding these consumers’ motivations for engagement with food and then finding innovative, ongoing ways to fulfill those needs.
Stefan Read is VP of engagements at Jackman Reinvents. An advisor to consumer brands, retailers, B2B companies, and private equity partners for more than thirty years, Jackman has proven invaluable to leaders intent on sharpening strategy and orchestrating insight-led reinventions of their businesses.


Canadians divided over whether to let pandemic disrupt Halloween, holidays: Poll



Canadians are divided about whether to let the COVID-19 pandemic disrupt their plans for upcoming holidays and seasonal events, a new poll suggests.

The poll, conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, comes as COVID-19 cases are surging and public health authorities are pleading with Canadians in places with rising case counts to avoid contact with anyone outside their immediate families or at least to stick to small social circles.

The results suggest that message is only partially getting through.

Respondents with children who went door to door for Halloween last year were closely divided on whether to let them go trick-or-treating again this year, with 52% saying they won’t and 48% saying they will.

The poll found sharp regional variations, however. About two-thirds of respondents in Atlantic Canada, which has been relatively untouched by COVID-19’s resurgence, said they will let their kids go out. In harder-hit Ontario and Quebec, two-thirds said they won’t.

Those kids who do go trick-or-treating will find slimmer pickings, with 49% of respondents nationwide saying they won’t open their doors this year to hand out candy.

Again, Atlantic Canadians were more likely to say they’d give out treats; in Ontario and Quebec, trick-or-treaters seem set for sparse pickings. In Ontario, 24% of respondents said they’ll give out treats. In Quebec, just 13%.

Respondents were also divided about celebrating Thanksgiving this coming weekend, with 40% of respondents saying the pandemic is causing them to change their plans _ and an equal percentage saying it is not. Another 20% said they don’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving in any event.

As for the Christmas holiday season, 49% said they’ll change their plans, 44% said they won’t. Another 8% said they don’t usually celebrate that holiday.

Those who intend to change their plans were asked to describe how. They were allowed to give multiple answers: 74% said they’ll celebrate with close or immediate family members to keep their social interactions to a minimum, 54% said they’ll limit celebrations to a smaller number of visitors, 40% plan to issue strict instructions against kissing, hugging or handshaking, and 37% plan to avoid air travel.

Meanwhile, 30% said they’ll hold virtual celebrations and 25% said they won’t attend religious services or celebrations they would otherwise have gone to. Nineteen% said they plan to cancel celebrations altogether.

The online poll of 1,523 adult Canadians was conducted Oct. 2 to 4. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Almost three-quarters of respondents – 72% – said Canada has already entered the second wave of the pandemic, up 10 points since just last week.

There was less division over how governments should respond to the second wave of the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

In fact, 53% said high-risk businesses and activities should be shut down while others should remain open for the time being. Another 28% said as many businesses as possible should be kept open while we see how the second wave progresses, while 14% favoured a near-total lockdown similar to that imposed last spring.

Fully 85% said they’d support shutting down bars, nightclubs and casinos, while 74% would support shutting down movie theatres and all amateur sports, including school sports.

And, 67% would back shutting down places of worship, 61% interprovincial travel, 52% schools and universities, 52% visits to long-term or personal care homes, 47% parks and playgrounds, 46% restaurants and offices, 44% shopping malls and 33% retail stores.


Bobby Sandhi

Who are the people in your neighbourhood? 

New research from Ethnicity Matters shows how important it is to understand diverse, multicultural Canadians to strengthen the post-COVID-19 economic recovery. Convenience Store News Canada editor Michelle Warren spoke with Ethnicity Matters partner and co-founder Bobby Sahni about untapped opportunities and how the convenience industry is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of diverse shoppers. 

Bobby Sanhi

Bobby Sanhi

Tell me a little bit about your research and the takeaways for convenience. 

BS: The research uncovered several findings that are important to c-stores in particular. We saw a shift in e-commerce across the board. Many of our ethnic consumers are familiar with online shopping, but we found a lot of newbies as well. When you’ve got newbies that means there’s a lot of opportunity. A good number of the respondents said they would permanently change the way they shop, which really begs a question for c-stores: What’s your e-commerce strategy? And, also, how are you considering the specific needs of ethnic consumers?

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What is the untapped opportunity?

BS: Ethnic consumers typically make two shopping trips—one to the mainstream grocery store and the second to ethnic grocery stores for very specific products. Amid COVID though, we found that consumers were instead going out once. So for c-stores, if a consumer is looking to make one shopping trip, do you have the products that are going to be relevant in order for them to choose you? 

How are c-stores positioned to meet the needs of multicultural Canadians?

BS: If consumers are looking to make one trip, where c-stores are uniquely positioned is their proximity or their position within the community. In a lot of cases new immigrants may not have access to a vehicle—being in the community means c-stores are accessible. Again, amid COVID, c-stores definitely had smaller crowds and few line-ups. The hours are generally more accommodating—they might be open later, or even 24 hours, and on holidays, as well. But none of that matters unless you have the products these ethnic consumers are looking for.

Obviously c-stores can’t be everything to everyone, how should operators decide where to focus?

BS: When meeting the needs of diverse shoppers, it starts with data and really understanding your customer and their unique needs. The customer base in Surrey might be very different than customers in Winnipeg or Edmonton, or Mississauga and so on. Who are the customers within your trading area? What are their unique needs? After you have gleaned insights from the data, it is about having a strategy or game plan. It doesn’t stop at just having the appropriate products on the shelf; it’s also customer experience and communication. 

Any advice in terms of how operators can connect with target consumers in an authentic way?

BS: The communication piece could be as simple as having exterior signage letting customers know that they’re welcome in your store, and they’re being recognized as important customers. If we want to get into specifics of communication and letting customers know you’ve got the right products on your shelves, the ethnic communities have really made it easy for us: They have strong online communities—digital media, social media, blogs, forums and influencers—and this extends offline, to community groups, clubs and organizations, as well as ethnic media. It’s really up to c-stores and the operators to examine, within their specific trading areas, how they become part of that community, or how do they welcome those diverse consumers.

Have you seen this in action? 

BS: I’ve seen some convenience stores that have really changed what’s on their shelf to be reflective of the local market. Now this may be driven from head office, or it could be just a very smart entrepreneur that understands that they need to reflect a local audience. This includes everything from makeshift exterior signage in different languages to let consumers know about what products might be on sale, to callouts within the store, as well as sections for ethnic grocery. I think a little bit more of an organized effort would involve certain c-stores actually working with ethnic media, as an example, to distribute free ethnic newspapers at their stores, which again becomes a driver for consumers to come to those stores on a regular basis to pick up the media. Operators definitely became a little more creative during COVID, I think they became a little more attentive to customer needs, and this is definitely a great time for any c-store operator to rethink the way they’re servicing not only ethnic consumers, but also all consumers. 

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This can sound daunting for an independent operator: How do they fit in?

BS: The real opportunity for independents is they can be a little more nimble, a little more entrepreneurial, so I would encourage, as a first step, they absolutely need to understand their local community and local trading area. Lots of data is available, whether its syndicated studies, as we’ve done in the past for c-stores, or even municipal and government census data that at least speaks to the makeup of a given community. But really, get out there, meet your customers—speak to the people that live and work and play within your community and you’ll find out a lot. It’ll definitely shape the way you run your business. 

Being able to source the right products is key—how are manufacturers and vendors stepping up?

BS: The manufacturers are really interesting in terms of reflecting diversity in their product offering. On the one end, it’s new product development based on particular data or insights, but it’s also been multinationals importing products from other parts of the globe to serve local customers. There’s also the opportunity to innovate around packaging and size and formats. Many immigrant communities have larger families, for instance, so larger pack sizes work, or in some cases, it makes sense to reskin the exterior packaging to be more relevant to a diverse audience. That could be different languages or festive packaging relevant to ethnic holidays, like Chinese New Year or Diwali. Also, a lot of innovation and opportunity can come from global benchmarking: What are the trends that are vibrant in other parts of the world? How can we execute those locally, but not only to service what I’ll call the low hanging fruit (the ethnic consumers), but also how do we bridge to the mainstream—from a manufacturer and c-store perspective that’s where the magic really happens. 

Is the industry doing enough to meet the needs of diverse shoppers?

BS: For some organizations, both in manufacturing and retail, they’re making good strides, but others haven’t even joined the race. Immigration is a growth strategy for the country, so it’s got to be a strategy for every company, as well. If you haven’t joined the race you might be very quickly left behind and be irrelevant to these consumers. 


Is your c-store doing something innovative or interesting to target diverse multicultural Canadians? We want to hear about it! Email editor Michelle Warren.  


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C-store IQ: Marketing Report

Sign of the times: On-site communications speak volumes when it comes to enticing customers in store

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 1.15.22 PMAs Canadian consumers become more selective about where and when they shop, it pays to know which marketing strategies resonate with shoppers at the gas and c-store level.

Technology and on-site promotional efforts play a key role in driving consumers in store and boosting pump-to-store conversion rates, according to proprietary data from Convenience Store News Canada’s C-store IQ: A National Shopper Study

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 1.15.05 PMC-store IQ is the first convenience and gas specific study that delves into the wants, needs, perspectives and habits of Canadian convenience consumers. 

Research shows that 43% of shoppers visit chain convenience stores and 38% visit independently owned convenience stores at least once a week. More than half of the convenience store shoppers (54%) visit preferred stores mainly due to proximity, followed by 46% who are motivated by needing to purchase gas.

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During trips where shoppers purchase gasoline and shop in-store, 3% purchase merchandise and/or foodservice ‘every time’ and 17% purchase ‘almost every time’.

According to C-store IQ data, more than one-in-four shoppers who buy both gasoline and in-store items at least once a month are influenced by frequent buyer/loyalty programs (28%) to shop for that in-store merchandise. About one-in-five (20%) shoppers are influenced by promotional signage, while 10% are influenced by promotions on their mobile app.

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More than 1,000 Canadians 18+ participated in the C-store IQ study, which revealed notable differences in how demographics responded to marketing tactics. 

For instance, millennial shoppers demonstrate a higher likelihood of being influenced by digital promotional efforts (mobile app, social media promotions, mobile ordering and email). Overall, younger shoppers are more likely to be influenced by promotional signage or car wash promotions during a shopping trip. 


  •     Millennials (14%) and Gen X (11%) are more likely than boomers (3%) to say they were influenced by video displays on pump. 
  •     Millennials (18%) and Gen X (13%) are more likely than boomers (3%) to say they were influenced by gasoline nozzle display ads.  
  •     Males (15%) are more likely than females (9%) to say they were influenced by gasoline nozzle display ads. 
  •     Millennials (17%) and Gen X (21%) are more likely than boomers (10%) to say they were influenced by car wash promotions.  
  •     Millennials (17%) and Gen X (20%) are more likely than boomers (10%) to say banners/window signs influenced them.
  •     Millennials (23%) and Gen X (25%) are more likely than boomers (13%) to say promotional signage influenced them.   
  •     Millennials (14%), and Gen X (12%) are more likely than boomers (4%) to say mobile app promotions and deals influenced them. 

The data shows that hunger is often what drives consumers in-store and messaging is key, especially when it comes to reaching those looking for a healthy snack. 

  •    Self-defined health-conscious shoppers (12%) are more likely than non-health-conscious shoppers (10%) to say they were influenced by gasoline nozzle display ads.
  •    Health-conscious shoppers (16%) are more likely than non-health-conscious shoppers (14%) to say banners/window signs influenced them to go in store. 

In today’s world, consumers are even more selective about where and when they shop. In turn, c-store operators large and small are working harder than ever to drive shoppers in store, which makes a strong on-site communications strategy that incorporates a variety of marketing tools, from signage to on-site promotions, essential.  



Pump talkScreen Shot 2020-09-01 at 1.14.51 PM

For convenience and gas sites, the holy grail is driving fuel-only customers in store to increase overall revenue. However, 74% of shoppers say they don’t enter the store because they don’t need anything, according to From Pump to Purchase: Converting the Gas Shopper, a report from The Coca-Cola Company. Data shows time spent at the pump is a valuable opportunity to change consumers’ minds, with  31% of shoppers deciding whether to enter a store when standing at the pump. Here are five ways to make the most of the moment.

  1. Media terminals and video displays can inform, entertain and entice customers in store—they can also be easily updated with time-of-day specials
  2. Use pump toppers to promote special offers on food and drink
  3. Offer discounted fuel with in-store purchases
  4. Highlight ancillary services and products, such as ATMs and gift cards
  5. Invite customers to use your restroom 

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 A window into your storeScreen Shot 2020-09-01 at 1.24.19 PM

If the medium is the message then your store’s window is a valuable marketing tool that speaks volumes about your business. A cluttered window with out-of-date promotions, faded posters and general grit is a definite turn off and sends the wrong message to customers.

  1.   Keep windows clean.
  2.   Remove old posters etc. 
  3.   Update promotional signage from vendor partners.
  4.   Consider an LCD digital window sign that can be updated regularly and is eye-catching after dark.
  5.   Reduce window clutter by using sandwich boards to keep messaging fresh and engage consumers.

 Don’t miss

5 topline insights from C-store IQ: National Shopper Study

C-store IQ: Fuel Report

C-store IQ: Payment Solutions Report


The ‘homebody economy’ and changing consumer habits



The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry experienced significant and prolonged lifts in sales across most categories as COVID-19 spread and drove people into weeks of lockdown. Their lives quickly became centered on the home (whether they liked it or not), and the so-called “homebody economy” was born. In Canada, year-to-date we have seen an explosion in sales with FMCG dollars seeing growth of 12.6%. To put it in perspective, that is 2.7 times higher than total FMCG growth in 2019 in Canada. Sales across many categories that fed this trend remain stronger than in pre-COVID conditions; after all, we’re eating more meals at home, and spending more time in our homes, resulting in everything from paper towels to garbage bags and cleaning products being in high demand.

While value and volume growth was inevitable for many FMCG categories during lockdown conditions, that growth may not be sustainable as economic challenges overtake health concerns. The global economy and the behaviours of consumers within it face escalating levels of change.

Unemployment will be a significant driver of this change. For some consumers, furloughs will turn into unemployment; for others, reliable employment may remain out of reach for years. Canada started the year with record low unemployment at 5.2%; however, by May it had more than doubled, spiking at 13.7%. June saw minor recovery to 12.4% with phased re-opening approaches across Canada. Even more telling across Canada is that 24% of households have had at least one person who has been impacted by job loss and/or furlough, and another 11% of Canadians are expecting impacts in the future.

Projections like these clearly highlight that consumers will need to recalibrate their spending habits. In other words, we may still be eating more meals in our homes, but what we eat and how much we’re able to afford will change, and that change may possibly last years. And it won’t just be food that changes. Consumers will completely reassess what goes in their shopping baskets.

And that means brands and retailers will need to serve consumers differently, and these are consumers with low confidence levels for economic recovery. Consider the likely shift to demand for more value-for-money products. For Canadians, buying on sale and in bulk are key saving strategies, with 79% using this saving strategy and 54% of shoppers buying larger sizes. However, these strategies will not work for everyone. Large multi-packs may offer the best value, but they may be out of reach for people short on cash. Cash-strapped consumers may be forced to buy smaller pack sizes, and brand loyalty across categories may fade.

Consequently, FMCG manufacturers are reassessing their portfolios to adjust. Similarly, retailers are looking at how to stay relevant to consumers who will have rapidly changing consideration sets. In the past, retailers could have performed these kinds of assessments with relatively ample time for testing. That is no longer the case. Changing retail channels are a case in point. Online adoption has taken just weeks to get to a tipping point that would have otherwise taken years. In Canada, online shopping was the fastest-growing FMCG retail channel, increasing 44% in the first quarter. Put in perspective, this is growing 3.5 times the rate of the total market.

Whatever the channel, it’s clear that getting assortment and pricing right will be key. So, too, will be packaging and brand claims. Consumers are looking for clear claims that highlight the benefit of the product. Not surprisingly, there is strong demand at all price points for products offering various health benefits such as immunity-boosting capabilities or germ-killing powers.

Wherever brands sit along the price spectrum, it will be critical that they shift as consumers reconcile their wallets with their shopping baskets. Keeping pace with those reconciliations will, of course, also be essential.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer.