The Friday 5: Health & Wellness Front and Center, Grocery AI Proliferates

The past week spotlighted big tech trends, news from Albertsons Cos., Publix
Emily Crowe
Multimedia Editor
Kroger Albertsons Merger
Albertsons Cos. shared its Q3 earnings report in advance of an FTC decision on the grocer's pending merger with Kroger.

Welcome to The Friday 5, Progressive Grocer’s new weekly roundup of the top news and trends in the food retail industry. Each Friday, we’ll take a look at the stories that are most important to our readers and also keep tabs on the trends that are poised to impact grocers. 

The new year is coming in with a bang as food retailers across the country announce new programs and partnerships aimed at helping their customers live healthier lives, as well as technology-focused initiatives that will forever change the trajectory of the grocery industry.

Here’s the rundown on those topics, updates on the Kroger/Albertsons merger and more.

1. Albertsons Cos. Releases Q3 Earnings

Ahead of the anticipated Federal Trade Commission (FTC) decision on whether or not to allow The Kroger Co. and Albertsons Cos. to move forward with their pending merger, Albertsons Cos. delivered its third quarter financial results, which saw an identical-sales increase of 2.9%. The company also grew its net sales and other revenue to $18.6 billion in Q3, compared with $18.2 billion last year.

According to Bloomberg, Kroger and Albertsons are bracing for an FTC lawsuit over the proposed $24.6 billion agreement as opposition builds against the supermarket mega-deal. The agency has until Jan. 17 to decide to sue or settle the merger, though it’s also been reported that the Washington State Attorney General is expected to sue in state court in an attempt to block the merger. 

2. AI Takes Center Stage

Technology trade show CES, which was held Jan. 9-12 in Las Vegas, brought a bevy of future-forward announcements from grocers, especially related to AI. Walmart unveiled plans to deliver a new type of commerce that is customer-centric, interconnected and frictionless, and based on technologies like AI, generative AI and augmented reality. Sam’s Club also made a splash during the trade show as the warehouse retailer shared a first-of-its-kind application of AI and computer vision technology that will eliminate queuing at its exit areas. 

Progressive Grocer Editor-in-Chief Gina Acosta was on the ground at CES and shared that data, trust and cybersecurity should be top of mind for all food retailers looking to bring AI into their operations. 

Andy Cohen Walmart+
Walmart is among the retailers touting health-and-wellness for its customers as the new year gets underway.

3. Kicking Off 2024 With Health & Wellness

Food retailers are using the new year as an opportunity to connect with their customers on health and wellness, with Meijer launching a new virtual personalized nutrition coaching service to help individuals achieve their goals, and Earth Fare unveiling a unique partnership with GenoPalate, a provider of personalized nutrition science, to use biomarkers, proprietary algorithms and extensive databases to personalize nutrition for its shoppers.

Hy-Vee Inc. and health technology company Soda Health have rolled out a new Smart Benefits program that enables recipients to receive personalized health-and-wellness benefits at all Hy-Vee locations in the retailer’s eight-state market area. Not to be outdone, Walmart+ unveiled a new campaign with radio and television host Andy Cohen to “Save Your Resolutions” and help customers reach their goals in 2024.

4. New Stores, New States

It was a big week for Publix Super Markets as the Florida-based grocer cut the ribbon on its much-anticipated store in Louisville, Ky. The opening marks Publix’s entry into its eighth state of operation, and it shows no signs of slowing down its expansion plans. Meanwhile, Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. released a slew of new store opening dates for the beginning of this year, including two locations in Florida, one in Maryland, three in California and one in Texas. 

5. H-E-B Remains King of Grocers

Texas-based H-E-B had a banner week as it once again claimed the coveted top spot in dunnhumby’s seventh annual Retailer Preference Index (RPI) and became the first food retailer to be recognized three times as number one in the company’s ranking. Amazon took second place this year, while Costco Wholesale rounded out the top three.

According to dunnhumby, H-E-B topped the ranking because of its superior ability to deliver a combination of better savings and better experience/assortment, supported by time savings through best-in-class digital capabilities. 

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