Groceryshop snapshot to the Barry Callebaut groundbreaking

Groceryshop snapshot to the Barry Callebaut groundbreaking

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The number one question from colleagues and clients is “What is the state of the food industry in Canada? Or more broadly – North America?” I started my business over two decades ago with the mission to develop client focused solutions from the pod to plate. Over time, the business has evolved, however today, I’m still focused on the entire food value chain with an emphasis on health and wellness. As a result, I consider the question from both a macro and micro approach. Let’s think about the Groceryshop snapshot to the Barry Callebaut groundbreaking to add perspective to the state of the food industry question.

As we continue in uncertain economic and global times, last month, I decided to jump in with both feet. Taking in two back-to-back international conferences, IBIE 2022 and Groceryshop 2022 in Las Vegas. Emerging from the pandemic restrictions, there was an element of sensory overload in Vegas, nevertheless, a fun and educational experience. The following week after Vegas, I traveled locally to Brantford for Barry Callebaut’s state-of-the-art factory groundbreaking. Here’s the Groceryshop snapshot to the Barry Callebaut groundbreaking outlook.


Groceryshop snapshot

Groceryshop is one of the best conferences I’ve attended. It’s geared toward senior executives with an incredible line up of discerning, insightful speakers – mainly CEOs. The program is well thought-out with a daily two-hour lunch (included for all) for eating, networking and walking the exhibit floor.

The conference covers the evolution of grocery retailers (supermarkets, mass merchants, convenience stores, drug stores, club/warehouse stores, discount stores and ecommerce players). As well as the rapid changes in the production and distribution of consumer products including fresh and packaged foods and beverages along with beauty, personal care, household and health products. Groceryshop addresses the evolution of how consumers discover, shop and buy these products in a digital age, including the latest technologies, trends and business models.

Groceryshop keynote sessions

The keynote sessions are well organized and valuable. One keynote session stood out for me. It covered customer service, digitizing experiences to maximize convenience and leadership in an era of constant change. As a writer, what I really enjoyed about the keynote 20 minute format was each speaker was interviewed by another senior level executive. This made the messages interesting, clear and concise. The speakers included: John Furner, President & CEO, Walmart US; Darren Rebelez, President & CEO, Casey’s and Nathalie Gerschtein, President, Consumer Products Division, North America, L’Oreal.


Darren Rebelez, Casey’s & Bonnie Herzog, Goldman Sachs (Interviewer). Photo courtesy Groceryshop

As a Canadian, I was not familiar with Casey’s Convenience Stores until Groceryshop 2022.

Casey’s is a chain of 2,400 convenience stores across 16 midwestern and southern states usually in non-urban locations of 5,000 people or less. Interesting fact – they are the 5th largest pizza chain in the entire USA. Darren Rebelez said their current mission is, “Through digital innovation to re-invent the guest experience. We are utilizing AI to accurately collect orders, so when our customers arrive to fill-up with fuel, their food order is ready for a frictionless, convenient checkout.” They offer a rewards program and give back in several ways to the community.

Casey’s cash for the classroom originated from their philosophy of education provides the foundation for strong, sustaining communities. Most importantly, this is acheived by preparing children for a bright future, creating a skilled workforce and connecting families and children. Based on their brand market success from the pizza segment, Rebelez said, “They continue to expand their private label and prepared order business to grow and meet customers’ needs.”

 Groceryshop exhibits

The exhibit floor had a good flow and an energetic vibe to it. Generally, the theme was tech, tech and more tech. To name a few…Instacart, OrderGrid, Walmart+, Amazon Go, interactive grocery carts, shoppable videos, and universal payment. And a few more…new and improved ways of moving inventory, AI – robots – automation, store digitalization, and high connectivity. And finally, optimizing efficiencies, bridging the online and instore experience, seamless delivery, drone delivery and make checkout frictionless! The companies’ booth staff were highly motivated and engaged with the attendees. There are numerous companies that stood out. Here are two I will highlight – OrderGrid and Diebold Nixdorf.


Founded in Toronto, OrderGrid is world-leading quick commerce software for grocers, retailers, dark stores and direct to consumer (DTC) brands. Their mission in quick commerce is to wave goodbye to slow picking speeds, missing or substituted items resulting in disappointed customers and say hello to orders ready in two minutes, delivery in 10 minutes and happy customers. With OrderGrid, companies can distribute, manage and fulfill inventory across multiple locations to spend more time growing their businesses.

Diebold Nixdorf

A global company with the mission to automate, digitize and transform the way people bank and shop, driving connected commerce for the future. Diebold Nixdorf believes retail will be one of the most disrupted industries over the next 10 years. This is why retail leaders are preparing for constant change while putting the consumer experience before anything else. But how can retailers plan for this new future? Diebold Nixdorf’s Storevolution™ program is an approach created to help retailers design, enable and operate frictionless consumer and staff journeys in a constantly changing world.

Side note: The caricature artist (or cartoonist) who created the Groceryshop speakers’ and planning committees’ portraits for the event was at the Diebold Nixdorf booth. He created this caricature of me in less than five minutes! It fit neatly in the reverse side of my name badge.


Barry Callebaut groundbreaking

Despite the challenges facing the food industry, it’s encouraging to see manufacturing investment in Canada. Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products plans to build its first North American plant since 2008 in Brantford, Ontario. The state-of-the-art factory will have an initial annual production capacity of over 50,000 tonnes with potential to increase capacity significantly over the next ten years. Total investment volume over that period is projected to amount to USD 104 million. I attended the groundbreaking on September 28, 2022, in Brantford.

Barry Callebaut Americas’ President Steve Woolley describes, “We are looking at Canada to expand our footprint. Initially, the plant will be focused on sugar-free, high protein, and other specialty chocolate products. The consumer shift toward health and wellness is behaviour we have monitored. There is a wider wellness market wanting better-for-you, not just people who have disease and diet concerns. As the industry leader in better-for-you, we continue to invest in innovation to deliver tastier solutions. Partnering with our customers has resulted in more appealing better-for-you products, producing taste profiles many people enjoy. We’re expected to be operational in spring of 2024, adding 200 jobs to the Brantford community.”


State of the food industry from Groceryshop snapshot to the Barry Callebaut groundbreaking

There are obvious advancements in tech, however, the Groceryshop takeaway is the ideal consumer centric experience is “connected retail”. Interconnecting online and instore through “frictionless” digitalization with a profound understanding of the consumer. With the uncertain economic times, the consumer cost of tech advancements such as 15-minute delivery will be for emergencies like healthcare needs. Consumers continue to require brands to be socially responsible and offer transparency as global uncertainties continue.

Companies like Barry Callebaut have smart growth solutions that offer resilience in these uncertain economic and global times. They focus on expanding their footprint in a location that supports their mission to deliver leading better-for-you innovations. This level of foreign investment in food manufacturing is a positive for the state of the industry in Canada.

Photo credits:
All Groceryshop photos supplied, final Barry Callebaut photo supplied, all other photos credited to Jane

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