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Grocery Roundup: Ocado Sees First-Ever Sales Decline; Food Industry Celebrates SNAP EBT Increase

For the first time in its history, United Kingdom-based eGrocery company Ocado is seeing sales fall. Sales dropped 0.7 percent year over year for the 12 weeks ending Aug. 8, data analytics company Kantar reported Tuesday (Aug .17), the first downturn for the company.

Still, the company’s share of total grocery sales in the United Kingdom has held constant, suggesting that Ocado is not losing customers to brick-and-mortar or online grocery competitors but rather that increasing mobility has sent customers to restaurants and other away-from-home food businesses. The company’s sales remain up 44 percent on a two-year basis.

“Take up of online grocery shopping grew rapidly during the pandemic, but as lockdown restrictions have loosened a divide is beginning to emerge,” Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight for the U.K. for Kantar’s Worldpanel division, said in the report. He noted that, while those who have become accustomed to the convenience remain loyal to online grocery, those who were turning to digital channels as a necessary mid-lockdown measure have been returning to brick-and-mortar stores.

Overall, the portion of the population who purchased groceries online during the 12-week period fell to just over one out of five, the lowest since the start of the pandemic.

Grocers And Food Suppliers Voice Support For SNAP EBT Increase

After the Biden administration’s historic increase to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), the largest increase in the program’s history, grocers and food suppliers are voicing their support for the change.

Read more: Biden’s Food Stamps Boost Could Be Good News For Amazon And Walmart eGrocery

“The Thrifty Food Plan update announced this week is long overdue and is an important step in providing families with greater access to nutritious food,” National Grocers Association Senior Director of Government Relations Molly Pfaffenroth said in a statement.

Mollie Van Lieu, the United Fresh Produce Association’s senior director of nutrition policy, told The Packer that the increase “is a good thing in terms of getting folks to move towards fresh produce,” though as a representative of the produce segment would, Van Lieu wishes that the program had allocated a specific amount towards fruits and vegetable purchases.

International Dairy Foods Association President and CEO Michael Dykes also praised the increase, while asking lawmakers and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) “to look at creative ways to enhance the SNAP program so that it better incentivizes purchases of healthy foods,” including, of course, dairy products.

FMI-The Food Industry Association, a group representing businesses across the food supply chain, expressed support for the program. In a prepared comment, Jennifer Hatcher, the association’s chief public policy officer and SVP of government and public affairs, referred to the USDA’s partnership with the grocery industry as “perhaps the most successful public-private partnership of the last 50 years.”

Produce Protection Company Apeel Surpasses $2B Valuation In Latest Round

Apeel Sciences, a technology company creating solutions to reduce food waste, announced a $250 million Series E fundraise on Wednesday (Aug. 18), bringing the company’s valuation to over $2 billion. The company’s core product is a coating made from organic materials that extends produce’s shelf life.

“The pandemic has completely shaken up food retail: people are increasingly buying their fresh produce online, while simultaneously expecting the best in terms of quality and sustainability,” James Rogers, CEO of Apeel, said in a statement. “We’ll use our latest funding to help our supplier and retailer partners offer a differentiated experience to their shoppers: high-quality produce that’s less likely to go to waste at home.”

Investors included a range of VC firms as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as media mogul Oprah Winfrey and musical artist Katy Perry, among others, reports CNBC.

As the company’s CFO Bill Strong discussed with PYMNTS in 2020, part of the company’s goal is to bring the entire food supply chain into the 2020s with up-to-date technologies.

Learn more: Apeel CFO: How Globalization Sets Up The Enterprise For Faster Digitization

“We sit in the middle between growers and retailers; they’re both our customers,” Strong noted. “So we see an opportunity to standardize across retailers and suppliers, to provide tools and systems that could streamline processes for the entire fresh produce industry in the future.”

Private Label Manufacturers Turn Focus To Kitchenware

The Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) announced Monday (Aug. 16) that its 2021 Private Label Trade Show, which will occur in November, will showcase kitchenware. Through this focus, the association is seizing on the increase in home cooking occasioned by the pandemic.

The group’s research notes consumer desire for cookware from grocery retailers’ private label brands, citing lines such as Walmart’s Mainstays, Costco’s Kirkland Signature, Target’s Made by Design and Kroger’s Everyday Living as popular choices.

“Kitchenware and cookware store brands have built a strong following among consumers who are looking for performance and durability, as well as price and value,” PLMA Vice President Anthony Aloia said.

The association noted NPD research finding that demand for small appliances and home goods is expected to remain at the elevated levels seen in 2020 throughout 2021, with sales revenue for the category up 25 percent from 2019.

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