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04/08/2022

Q&A: What's Trending at Kroger?

Juan De Paoli, VP of Kroger's Own Brands, sat down with Store Brands ahead of his Industry Forum on Consumer Trends appearance to discuss the trends that are impacting the retailer's assortment and future offerings of private label items.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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Since joining Kroger in late 2021 from Ahold Delhaize USA, De Paoli has been leading the company’s private label operations. He spoke with Store Brands about product development, and which flavors or categories are driving trends at the grocery store, citing Kroger’s 2022 Food Trends report.

De Paoli will be speaking at Store Brands' upcoming Industry Forum on Consumer Trends event on April 27. Click here to register.

Store Brands: Juan, since we last talked, congrats on your new role at Kroger. How have the first few months been going?

 

Juan De Paoli: Thank you. My first few months at Kroger have been exciting and full of learning opportunities. Our 2022 Food Trends Report created the perfect moment to jump right in with the Our Brands team and understand both tastes and trends that we foresee customers flocking to in the new year, and the products that we’re developing behind the scenes to meet those needs. I’ve been so impressed with the Kroger Our Brands team, they are truly an amazing group of well-versed, best-in-class innovators and merchants. The team does a tremendous job keeping its
pulse on what our customers want and how these trends will grow and adapt moving forward.

SB: Describe the process of how these trends predictions come about: the research involved, how the various Our Brands team members play a role, etc.?

 

JDP: It all starts with having a finger on the pulse of our customers’ wants. Our team brainstorms around the hottest sellers, and what our customers are sharing, talking and posting about. Add in a keen awareness of the food industry as a whole and our industry-leading customer insights, and you have a pretty good baseline for understanding consumer habits and predictions.

On top of that, our team digs through consumer polls, industry data, demographics, consumer behaviors, etc. to see how these habits are likely to evolve. It’s not just about seeing what is popular today, but also understanding your consumers and the industry well enough to see how that will transform tomorrow.

SB: Among all the trends listed, what are the biggest ones to impact the Our Brands program, in your opinion, in terms of types of products and the amount of products you’ll introduce?

 

JDP: We are especially excited about the PLANet-based foods trends. Consumers are not only being more conscious of what they are putting in their bodies and how it impacts the planet, but they are looking at plant-based foods for comfort, nostalgia and indulgence. That means we need to offer plant-based products that are just as good, if not better than their animal-based counterparts. Our partnership with Kipster is especially exciting. With this partnership, we’re bringing the world's first carbon-neutral, cage-free eggs to retail shelves in the U.S. They’ll
be a great addition to our already stellar lineup of planet-friendly products.

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Kroger beef jerky

On top of that, we are closely watching the flavors that our customers are favoring. Umami and other savory flavors - including tequila – will continue to gain popularity this year. Seeing this
shift towards savory allows us to look at every meal of the day, snack, drink and side dish to see how we can incorporate the savoriness people are craving.

It provides an opportunity to rethink and innovate on classics and bring brand new options into the fold. Items like our premium truffle butter, wild mushroom ravioli, tequila serrano beef jerky are favorites to satisfy the taste buds.

SB: Can you speak on how these trends might be marketed to shoppers in the coming months, any exciting campaigns, initiatives or programs in the works?

 

JDP: At Kroger, we’re focused on staying at the forefront of innovation and are continually releasing new products that follow our trend predictions as well as testing items even further out
from the mainstream.

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Kroger ravioli

In 2021 alone, the Our Brands team launched more than 630 new products. One thing we’re very proud of which speaks to our PLANet-Based trend is our partnership with TerraCycle, making 100% of our Our Brands packaging recyclable. We are also looking forward to bringing back our Go Fresh & Local event for 2022 and are working toward announcing those plans in the coming months.

We’re proud to offer premium quality products at a lower price than national brands under our family of brands and this has become increasingly important to customers as economics shift and more meals are being consumed at home.