The U.S. vaccination effort is well underway, with 37 percent of the population having received at least one dose, and businesses are starting to see consumer behaviors shift. When it comes to food spending, many consumers are beginning to return to restaurants for on-premises dining, forcing grocery stores to adjust accordingly to win back consumers, reports Winsight Grocery Business.
Specifically, inflation dipped in the month of March, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI). Inflation in the “food at home” (i.e. grocery) category was down to 3.3 percent year over year, continuing the gradual decrease in inflation from February’s 3.5 percent, January’s 3.7 percent and December’s 3.9 percent. Meanwhile, “food away from home” (i.e. restaurant) prices were up 3.7 percent in March, outpacing grocery prices.
Grocery’s inflation dip comes amid many restaurants noting an increase in on-premises sales amid the vaccine rollout and in the wake of the most recent round of stimulus checks. Now that indoor dining is once again becoming an option for many consumers, grocers will need to earn their share of food spending, which could mean keeping prices low. It could also mean building loyalty with rewards programs, adopting easy and convenient technologies and engaging consumers across channels to thrive in today’s on-demand economy.
M&S Takes Legal Action Against Aldi Over Caterpillar-Shaped Cake
British retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has filed an intellectual property claim with England’s High Court of Justice, claiming that grocery giant Aldi’s Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake is too similar to M&S’s copyrighted Colin the Caterpillar cake. The filing accuses Aldi of “rid[ing] on the coat-tails” of its cake’s success, reports Metro.
“Because we know the M&S brand is special to our customers and they expect only the very best from us, love and care goes into every M&S product on our shelves,” a spokesperson told the publication. “So we want to protect Colin, Connie and our reputation for freshness, quality, innovation and value.”
“Marks and Spencer’s claim is unlikely to be strong in respect of any assertions around consumer confusion between the two products, but it might succeed if it relies on the market reputation that its Colin the Caterpillar range has established over many years,” Emmy Hunt, trademark attorney at patent and trademark law firm Potter Clarkson, told the Daily Mail in an interview. “While we don’t know the background to this claim, it is indicative of the fierce competition between U.K. supermarkets. Indeed, other supermarkets also offer caterpillar character cakes, but it appears that Aldi may have sailed too close to the wind from Marks & Spencer’s perspective.”
CVS’ New Product Additions to Compete With Grocery Stores
While the line between grocery store and pharmacy is hardly cut-and-dried, with the former regularly carrying basic over-the-counter medications and the latter frequently selling grocery staples, CVS’ recent announcement may rub some grocers the wrong way. The chain announced an expanded grocery lineup that significantly grows its selection of meal and snack foods, reports Grocery Dive.
Per the company’s news release announcing the new additions, the pharmacy is looking to “mak[e] it easier for millions of customers to access healthier choices and meal solutions without having to make extra trips to specialty and grocery stores.” That is, CVS explicitly wants its offerings to replace some of consumers’ usual grocery shopping behaviors.
The release, which cites Harris Poll data, states that two-thirds of American adults are snacking at home more often, and that more than half are opting for healthier foods. Accordingly, CVS’ new products include plant-based meat substitutes, health-centric snack foods and a range of frozen meals. The release states that these products are part of CVS’ broader effort to become a “health and wellness destination,” expanding its role to encompass a broader array of products.
Amazon Launches Private-Label Grocery Brand ‘Aplenty’
Amazon has debuted a new own-brand line of packaged foods called Aplenty, which is geared toward the trend of consumers seeking out natural foods made without artificial ingredients, reported Supermarket News. Amazon said the products are “developed to the highest standards, with recipes rooted in quality ingredients.”
Aplenty’s current lineup includes products such as flatbread crackers, pita chips, Dijon mustards and mini cookies. Notably, the Amazon name appears only in the fine print on Aplenty’s labels, and it may not be immediately obvious to consumers that this is an Amazon brand. The Cincinnati Business Courier points out that Amazon’s expansion of its private-label grocery offerings could encroach on Kroger, which has differentiated itself with its popular private-label offerings.
“Private-label products are a common retail practice and provide a variety of options for customers,” an Amazon spokesperson told Adweek. “Like countless other retailers, we make private brands available to give customers more choices, quality products and low prices.”
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