Philadelphia is launching a plant-based cream cheese

December 7, 2022

Philadelphia Cream Cheese is launching a non-dairy version of its signature spread.The plant-based cream cheese is available now at grocery stories in Atlanta, Houston, Miami and other locations in the Southeast, with a wider rollout planned for Summer 2023, reports CNN.

The new variety is made with coconut oil and faba bean protein, among other ingredients, and is designed to mimic the experience of eating traditional cream cheese.

Philadelphia’s non-dairy cream cheese has a suggested retail price of $6.49, compared to $4.57 for traditional.

The brand’s owner, Kraft Heinz, has been focusing on driving growth by innovating within its powerhouse brands like Philadelphia, including by launching plant-based alternatives where the company sees room for growth.

“Plant-based has been outpacing the overall categories within all of dairy for quite some time,” said John Crawford, VP of Client Insights for Dairy at IRI.

But with consumers trading down to more affordable options in the face of high food inflation and concerns of a looming recession, pricey cream cheese made without dairy could be a hard sell.

Robert Scott, president of R&D at Kraft Heinz, said it took the company about two years to come up with the recipe for the plant-based Philly. The team focused on two major factors: Getting the product to melt and spread easily on toasted bread or a warm waffle, and making sure that it tastes like a dairy product—even if it doesn’t totally pass for regular cream cheese.

“Getting dairy notes in a plant base is hard,” Scott said, but he hopes consumers will notice buttery hints in the spread. “To get to butter … that’s a huge success metric,” he said, acknowledging that the dairy-free cream cheese “is not a taste match of the existing product.”

Scott said that many customers aren’t getting what they want out of the current lineup of plant-based cream cheeses, and that Philadelphia is offering a better alternative. According to data from IRI, only about 41% of households who buy plant-based cream cheese make a second purchase within the year.

But Kraft is not the only company working to make a tastier cheese alternative.

“There’s a lot of work that’s being done to try and improve the performance of plant based cheese,” said Crawford, pointing to Babybel as another dairy brand that has launched plant-based options.

Like its cohorts in the alternative meat space, Kraft is trying to reach a flexitarian consumer: someone who doesn’t avoid animal protein entirely, but occasionally wants a plant-based alternative. “There’s a big opportunity” there for Kraft, said Scott.

Research contact: @CNN

Trader Joe’s workers are upset about new work schedule policy: ‘A veiled threat’

December 6, 2022

Trader Joe’s, a specialty grocery chain with about 500 locations in the United States and 50,000 employees, is rolling out new, unofficial policies at stores nationwide starting in January 2023, according to workers. The policies will mandate that part-time workers work a minimum of three days a week to maintain their employment with the company, reports The Guardian.

A Trader Joe’s worker in the Northeast who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation criticized the changes. The employee learned of the policy in August because he had planned to reduce his workdays to one or two days a week in order to have time to start a small business—but had already seen a co-worker affected by trying to return from a maternity leave to a reduced schedule.

“In October, our captain started having conversations with anyone who was working less than three days a week, to see how we would feel about increasing our hours and days to stay employed,” the worker said. “Most people I talked to were upset about it. They have kids and no one to look after them, have other jobs, [or] are older and happy just working a few hours a week.”

Word of mouth is that management explains the changes as part of an effort to ensure that workers are engaged and knowledgeable on the job—as well as a response to complaints that part-time and full-time workers received the same wage raises.

“It’s an ultimatum. It’s a vaguely veiled threat that they are now trying to spin another way. What are people supposed to say, ‘No I don’t want to work here more hours so fire me?” People with kids, multiple jobs, who are in school, who have debt and are just trying to get by in our current economic crisis?” the worker argued.

“Most people can’t afford to just give up a job when they are faced with a threat like that. I don’t care how nicely a boss asks you, when a ‘choice’ comes from higher up, it is mired in some fear. Most people who are increasing their hours are doing so out of fear of losing their job, not because they truly want to be there.”

He added: “Timing wise, all of this seems to be piggybacking on recent calls to unionize in some north-eastern stores and the closing of the New York alcohol [wine] store.”

Trader Joe’s has been opposing unionization efforts of workers through Trader Joe’s United.

The first store won its union election in July in Hadley, Massachusetts; with a second store winning a union election in Minneapolis, in August. Workers at a third store in Brooklyn, New York, lost their union election in October and the company shut down a wine store in Manhattan shortly after a union campaign was launched there.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) also pulled a union election petition from a store in Boulder, Colorado, after companywide wage and benefit increases undermined support for the union right before an election was to be held.

According to The Guardian, Trader Joe’s United said the part-timer policy was rolling out unofficially, with the two unionized stores not experiencing the policy change because the company cannot implement it without bargaining with the union. The group has expressed concern over the new policy mandating three days a week from crew members across the country.

“It’s a concerning change because this policy will unfairly discriminate against parents, students, older crew for whom Trader Joe’s is a ‘retirement job’, crew with disabilities, veteran crew who have cut back their hours due to work injuries, and other crew members that need to work one or two days a week. Flexibility is one of the draws of the job, and a lot of folks have come to depend on this part-time option,” said Maeg Yosef, a longtime Trader Joe’s worker and union organizer in Hadley, Massachusetts.

She estimated that about 15% of crew members at the unionized stores work one or two days a week.

“As a crew member, it’s hard for me to see why the company would risk pushing out experienced, fully trained employees,” Yosef added.

Trader Joe’s did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Research contact: @guardian

New York City wants to hire a ‘rat czar’—and could pay him or her $170,000 annually

December 7, 2022

New York City is hiring a leader to fight against residents’ common enemy: rats.

This week, the New York City Mayor’s Office posted a job listing for a “citywide director of rodent mitigation,” or as a city hall spokesperson dubbed it, “a rat czar,” reports CNBC.

The director, who will receive an annual salary between $120,000 and $170,000, will be expected to develop strategies, manage projects and lead teams against the city’s rodents.

The role’s listed requirements include a “background in urban planning” and a “virulent vehemence for vermin.”

The job posting added, “The ideal candidate is highly motivated and somewhat bloodthirsty—determined to look at all solutions from various angles, including improving operational efficiency, data collection, technology innovation, trash management, and wholesale slaughter.”

It also said the chosen applicant will have a “swashbuckling attitude, crafty humor, and general aura of badassery.”

The role’s more serious qualifications include an ability to “self-manage and conduct rigorous research and outreach,” a “desire to be entrepreneurial with an interest in social impact” and either experience in local government or a background in a “relevant” field.

New York is the country’s “second-rattiest” city, according to pest control company Orkin’s most recent annual rankings. As of October, New York’s sanitation department has reported more than 21,600 rat complaints in 2022, a sharp increase over pre-pandemic times.

The city is topped by Chicago in Orkin’s rankings, which has held the “rattiest city” title for eight consecutive years now—but New York rodents have a special place in the cultural zeitgeist.

They frequently go viral on social media after dragging various item —most popularly, pizza—down streets and sidewalks.

That’s no reason to keep the rats around, according to the city’s new job posting.

“Despite their successful public engagement strategy and cheeky social media presence, rats are not our friends,” the listing reads. “They are enemies that must be vanquished by the combined forces of our city government. Rodents spread disease, damage homes and wiring, and even attempt to control the movements of kitchen staffers in an effort to take over human jobs.”

Mayor Eric Adams appears particularly motivated to find an effective rat czar. On Thursday, he tweeted an article about the position, writing: “If you have the drive, determination, and killer instinct needed to fight New York City’s relentless rat population—then your dream job awaits.”

This isn’t the city’s first rat extermination effort of 2022. In October, the New York Sanitation Department announced that New Yorkers will be fined for putting trash on the curb before 8 p.m. starting in April 2023. Currently, residents can be fined for putting their trash out before 4 p.m.

“I want to be clear: The rats are absolutely going to hate this announcement,” New York Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch said while announcing the new policy. “But the rats don’t run the city. We do.”

Applicants for the rat czar role must submit a resume, cover letter, and three references. They also must have a New York residency within 90 days of their appointment, and must be vaccinated against COVID-19—a policy for all city employees hired since August 2, 2021.

Research contact: @CNBC

NASA hires Icon to 3D-print U.S. base on the Moon

December 1, 2022

Mankind may not physically be back on the Moon just yet, but the Moon Economy is already booming. Case in point: Axios reports that an Austin-based three-dimensional printing firm called Icon just landed a $57.2 million cash infusion from NASA for its Project Olympus, an endeavor to create 3D-printed lunar shelters.

Icon plans to have its Moon huts ready for NASA use by 2026, assuming that the Artemis mission schedule remains intact. If the Moon is, indeed, to become a human outpost, durable and lightweight lunar housing will be essential — a reality that Icon CEO Jason Ballard doesn’t seem to be taking lightly.

“We feel real weight and responsibility — we’re not just doing this for ourselves,” Ballard said, according to a report by Futurism, adding that “we’re giving humanity the capability to build on other worlds.”

He added, “The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world,” he added, “and that is going to be a pretty special achievement.”

While Icon is best-known for its work building Earthly structures, it’s been hoping to build in space for some time now. Project Olympus was first launched in 2020, and the company also appears to have its eye on one day constructing a 3D-printed Mars colony.

Rather than bring a bunch of Earthly junk to the Moon’s relatively pristine surface, Icon’s goal is to build the lunar dwellings out of actual lunar materials — Moon dust, broken rocks, and the like, says Futurism.

According to Ballard, learning to build from the Moon’s natural regolith ensures the viability of long-term human tenure on the Moon. (After all, it would inconvenient if Moon miners had to receive a payload from Earth every time they needed to build a new road.)

“If you tried to plan a lunar settlement or a moon base and you had to bring everything with you, every time you wanted to build a new thing it’s like another $100M,” Ballard told Payload. “But once you’ve got a system that can build almost anything—landing pads, roadways, habitats—and it uses local material, you are probably two or three orders of magnitude cheaper to build a permanent lunar presence than you would be in any other way that we can think of.”

Research contact: @futurism

Customer disservice? Frontier Airlines ends customer service phone line support

November 30, 2022

Frontier Airlines has announced that it will no longer have a customer service phone line to help travelers book flights or fix travel issues, reports Fox Business.

Now, its customer care function has fully transitioned to digital communications to ensure “customers get the information they need as expeditiously and efficiently as possible,” a Frontier spokesperson told Fox Business.

The airline said it discovered that most of its customers “prefer communicating via digital channels.”

Customers first will interact with a chatbot, which can help answer common questions, the spokesperson said. Live chat is available 24/7 as well, the airline said. 

Travelers also can email the airline with questions or complaints, or they can file a formal written complaint. For emails or formal complaints, customers are sent to a page on Frontier’s website where they are given an 800-character limit to write a note to the airline.

Customers may also contact the company through social media channels and WhatsApp.

Frontier isn’t the only airline without a customer service phone line. At least one other carrier, Breeze Airways, touts its lack of a call center and points customers to its app and other “tech-first” approaches if they’re trying to book or manage a flight.

This change comes as the chief executives of major U.S. carriers warn of a very busy holiday travel season, which could mean more travel issues.

Research contact: @FoxBusiness

Yahoo takes minority stake in digital ad network Taboola

November 29, 2022

Yahoo is deepening its push into digital advertising, even as its competitors warn that the market is faltering, reports The New York Times.

The Internet pioneer, which was taken private in a $5 billion deal last year, is taking a roughly 25% stake in Taboola, the company known for serving up attention-grabbing links on websites, the chief executives of the companies said in an interview.

The deal is part of a 30-year exclusive advertising partnership that allows Yahoo to use Taboola’s technology to manage its sizable business in native advertising—ads that have the characteristics of traditional news and entertainment content.

Shares of Taboola have fallen nearly 80% over the past year, amid broader doldrums in the public and advertising markets—giving it a market capitalization of $455 million. Last January, when Taboola struck a deal to merge with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, it was valued at $2.6 billion.

Executives at companies like Meta and TikTok have warned that advertisers skittish about the economy have pulled back on their spending. But Jim Lanzone, the chief executive of Yahoo, said in an interview that the deal with Taboola puts both companies in a good position for when the ad market revives.

“I’m thinking, you know, five, ten, 30 years,” Lanzone said. “Digital advertising has huge wind at its back over the long term.” He added that while the company will continue to try to bring in money in other ways, such as expanding its subscription business or investing in e-commerce, “we have hundreds of millions of people consuming news and sports and finance on market-leading properties that are heavily monetized through advertising — and will continue to be.”

Yahoo, a giant of the early internet, was eclipsed over the years by tech rivals like Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook. The company endured a messy power struggle and shaky leadership as it matured, leading to layoffs and shifts in strategy.

The company was taken private by the investment firm Apollo Global Management in the hopes that new leadership and a respite from the public markets would give it a chance to grow. Yahoo says it has about 900 million monthly users of its properties, which include AOL, TechCrunch, and Yahoo Sports, making it one of the largest destinations on the web.

oola, founded in 2007, specializes in native advertising, operating a sprawling advertising network over thousands of well-known websites, including CNBC, NBC News, and Insider.

The deal with Yahoo gives Taboola the exclusive license to sell native ads across Yahoo’s sites, and the companies will share revenue from those ad sales. The companies did not disclose the terms of the revenue split.

Yahoo, which will become Taboola’s largest shareholder, also will get a seat on the company’s board.

Research contact: @nytimes

Why own a diamond ring when you can rent one?

November 28, 2022

“Diamonds are forever,” if you were to ask James Bond–or just for a couple of weeks if you question Millennials and Gen-Zers.

Indeed, when it comes to younger consumers’ views about owning and purchasing jewelry, they are increasingly likely to treat precious sapphire rings and diamond pavé earrings the size of an almond like the latest “It” bags and decide to rent rather than invest in a purchase, reports WWD .

Jewelry rental services have been popping up here and there over the past few years—think Beekman NYCHurrRocksboxVivrelle, Switch, HauteVault, and more. They service an audience of women—and some men—seeking statement pieces to wear one night or day only, be it for charity galas or their bestie’s wedding ceremony.

Yet compared to their fashion counterparts, which have become somewhat mainstream, the jewelry sector—especially in the higher end of the product spectrum—has remained more niche.

The occasion-based model, emotional connection to jewelry, insurance nightmares, higher logistics costs, and lower margins are among the hurdles the category faces. But consumers’ appetite for more responsible business models and mindful spending is unlikely to wane.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of reinventing ownership and the sharing economy—why can’t we access amazing things for shorter periods of time?” questioned Victoria Prew, founder and chief executive officer of Hurr, a U.K.-based rental platform focused on fashion and jewelry.

“As a Millennial myself I’ve witnessed the monumental rise of sharing platforms such as Uber and Airbnb. As consumers, we rent our cars, we rent our houses; so my “lightbulb” moment came when I considered our wardrobes. Why can’t we rent those, too? There is no doubt in my mind that circular fashion is the opportunity that digital was 10 years ago,” she said.

Yet the scalability of jewelry rental services and subscriptions remains a mixed bag.

“The jewelry rental market continues to find its most success around events and occasions, where meaningful moments are elevated by pieces typically outside of consumers’ price range,” said Brielle Saggese, an insight strategist at consultancy WGSN.

“I would suggest that clients that are looking for occasion-driven pieces would be more inclined to embrace jewelry rental. That client might not invest in a particular piece, but if it is for an occasion, it might be worth the splurge, again for this brief indulgence, a moment of excess, which is a wide-spanning cultural sentiment, heavily infiltrating into the fashion and jewelry industries,” echoed Anush Mirbegian, director of accessories at trend forecasting firm Fashion Snoops.

Wedding-related rentals are an established category—from the venue to dresses and tuxedos—and the same increasingly applies to other formal or special events and even to vacation dressing, with pieces rented and packed just for the duration of getaways, as Hurr’s Prew explained.

But those aren’t enough to rely on for a significant business. Scalability comes with bigger audiences, more frequent rentals, and higher margins. It’s especially important as these platforms are being backed by investors—who are closely watching and crunching sales numbers.

For example, Rocksbox was acquired by Signet Jewelers last year; Vivrelle secured a $35 million Series B funding round earlier this month that included the likes of Lily Collins, Nina Dobrev, and entrepreneur Morgan Stewart McGraw.

So how can the sector engage customers monthly and make them return, beyond just parties and ceremonies? A strong offering in the right price range and speedy, high-end service all contribute to turning the experience from once-in-a-while rental to a monthly treat to oneself.

“When we first launched Switch, we expected that it would mainly be event-driven, but we quickly learned that wasn’t the case,” said Adriel Darvish, cofounder and CEO of U.S.-based Switch.

“Most members use Switch to borrow pieces for weeks or months at a time as a supplement to their everyday wardrobe. In response, we’ve invested in more timeless, wearable and versatile pieces. That’s not to say that there aren’t members that use Switch for events — for a number of members, that’s the primary purpose. Those members tend to gravitate toward funkier statement pieces and switch them out far more often,” he noted.

A data-driven approach to curation has helped Switch to assemble the right selection of pieces—often based on social media, and magazine and runway insights, to deliver high-end brands and elevated styles that could easily be part of daily outfits.

Platforms offering subscription models, such as Rocksbox, benefit from that model, engaging clients tempted to making a big impression for as little as $21 a month. Its edit of fashion and costume jewelry, which was enhanced last year with the addition of a demi-fine selection, caters to younger demographics. These represent the age group most likely to embrace rental versus ownership.

“Most of our members are jewelry lovers who wear jewelry daily and want to keep their jewelry wardrobes fresh every day. They also turn to Rocksbox as an option for their special occasions,” said Rocksbox President Allison Vigil.

When it comes to more expensive pieces, the average demographic also skews young—especially as global economic headwinds and the recession are shifting consumers’ purchasing behavior.

“With the impending recession, consumers’ mindsets are already shifting in terms of value, luxury, ownership, and access; where many will find true worth in both owning and renting for different purposes … they will more likely have both rented and owned pieces sitting in the same jewelry box,” Saggese said.

“We believe that macroeconomic factors are also in our favor,” noted Switch’s Darvish. “While we would never root for a recession, current economic conditions are leading to people becoming more thoughtful about how they spend their money. Rather than splurging on a single item, Switch provides a better bang for the buck, unlocking an infinite trove of accessories at a fraction of the price.”

He said the platform’s core clientele is aged 22 to 40, lives in metropolitan cities and appreciates the “convenience, efficiency and attentiveness” of the service.

Switch now has  a core membership subscription priced at $45 a month and will introduce a premium tier, called Switch Select, which will allow customers to rent jewels and handbags with an average value of $4,000. The waitlist for it, Darvish said, is already in the thousands.

But while convenience and the ability to experiment with different types of jewelry are attractions for potential customers, there’s a sentimental aspect to wearing—and owning—jewelry that could represent a challenge for rentals and subscription boxes.

“Consumers often attach more personal meaning to their jewelry than other items .… Rental services can’t replicate that kind of backstory. For younger consumers especially, jewelry trends are often about celebrating their individuality .… The nature of rental doesn’t allow for that kind of relationship, so services will need to reconsider how rented pieces can still act as a token of identity,” Saggese said.

Research contact: @WWD

One in four hiring managers says he or she is less likely to hire Jewish applicants

November 25, 2022

Kanye West (who now goes by Ye) and his latest headline-making commentary may be the most public example of the insidious nature of antisemitism—which could be more widespread in recruiting than assumed, data released on November 22 by ResumeBuilder shows.

According to a report by HR Dive, fully one in four, or 25% of,  hiring managers said in a survey that they are less likely to move forward with Jewish applicants, due in part to a belief that Jews have too much “power and control” — the same antisemitic views recently espoused by West.

Additionally, one in six, or 16% of, hiring managers said leadership told them not to hire Jewish applicants, while one-third (33%) said antisemitism is common in their workplace. Just under one-third (29%) said antisemitism is “acceptable” at their company.

Notably, some industries had higher instances of reported antisemitic views. While 23% of hiring managers overall said that their industry should have fewer Jews, 38% of managers in finance and 34% in technology said the same.

ResumeBuilder polled 1,131 hiring managers and recruiters for its report. Respondents were found via employment status demographic criteria and a screening question, the firms said; to take the survey respondents had to be employed and work as a hiring manager or recruiter.

“Antisemitism in the workplace starts at the hiring process with individuals who do not want to higher Jews because of bigoted stereotypes, but that is not where it ends,” Stacie Haller, executive recruiter and career counselor, said in ResumeBuilder’s blog post announcing the findings. “In this era of fighting for equality in hiring, Jewish individuals have largely been left out of the conversation, and the issue of antisemitism has for the most part gone unaddressed.”

Antisemitism has been noticeably on the rise since COVID-19 hit, experts said during a SHRM Inclusion event in 202 —an event that took place not long after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Emboldened by conspiracy theories about vaccines, some people fall deeper into content with more and more antisemetic themes, one expert said.

To combat this issue, HR needs to publicly and broadly emphasize a zero-tolerance policy for racism, bias, and injustice at work. Imbuing the workplace with kindness and inclusiveness is also key, Jonathan Segal, partner and managing principal at Duane Morris Institute, said during the event, which can look like recognizing Jewish and other religious holidays, especially during the winter season.

Research contact: @hrdive

Robert Iger returns as Disney CEO, as Bob Chapek is ousted

November 22, 2022

On Sunday night,  November 20, Walt Disney’s board of directors CEO Bob Chapek with Robert Iger, the company’s former chairman and CEO who left the company at the end of last year, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“The board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the company through this pivotal period,” said Susan Arnold, chairman of Disney’s board, in a statement.

“We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” she added.

The surprise change comes at a tumultuous time for Disney.

This month, the company reported weaker-than-expected fourth quarter financial results—killing the momentum built up over a strong year that saw record revenue and profits in multiple divisions, especially the one that includes theme parks.

Disney’s theme-park business has recovered strongly since the coronavirus pandemic shut down its venues across the world, but the division continues to subsidize widening losses in the streaming video business.

Chapek has said repeatedly that he expects the streaming business to be profitable by September 2024. In the most recent quarter, however, it lost $1.47 billion, more than twice the year-earlier loss.

The company also cautioned that its profitability target would only be met if there weren’t a significant economic downturn—the first time it has added such a caveat. Disney’s stock price shot up 9% to more than $100 a share in premarket trading early Monday. Some observers said the management change might benefit the company’s stock.

In anemail to employees Sunday night, Iger said he was returning to the company.

“It is with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility—and, I must admit, a bit of amazement—that I write to you this evening with the news that I am returning to the Walt Disney Company as chief executive officer,” he wrote in the email, which was viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Several top Disney executives first learned the news that Iger was returning after they read his Sunday email, while some of them were together attending an Elton John concert at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles that was streamed live on Disney’s flagship streaming service Disney+, according to people familiar with the matter.

Chapek also was expected to attend the event and the company had planned for him to introduce Elton John from the stage before the concert, according to two people with knowledge of the plans, although it isn’t clear if Chapek actually was there, they said. Other Disney employees said they were baffled by Iger’s Sunday email and immediately began asking if the message to employees was real or if it came from a hacked email account.

Negotiations between Iger and the board to return as CEO were initiated only in recent days, according to a person familiar with the talks. Iger has said publicly on at least two occasions over the past year that he isn’t interested in returning to Disney. In recent months, he has focused on investing in and advising startups, particularly in the technology industry.

Adding to the surprise, Chapek, who has served as CEO since February 2020, over the summer saw his contract renewed through the end of 2024. At the time,. Arnold, the board chair, said that while the company was “dealt a tough hand by the pandemic,” Chapek “not only weathered the storm but emerged in a position of strength.”

Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall wrote in a note to clients: “Iger will be viewed as a catalyst to improve the content aspects of Disney, and we expect bigger potential strategic changes around the long-term shape of” the streaming business.

Chapek couldn’t be reached for comment.

Research contact: @WSJ

Self-checkout now comprises nearly 40% of grocery checkout options

November 21, 2022

Despite the frequent complaints from consumers and media reports about self-checkout lanes, grocers are continuing to push forward with the technology as labor challenges persist and consumer shopping habits evolve. Catalina, a company that transforms data into consumer insights, notes that more retailers are pivoting from manual to self-checkout lanes, reports Retail Dive.

The number of self-checkout lanes in America has increased by 10% in the last five years, and Catalina estimates that they now make up 38% of the checkout lanes in U.S. grocery chains. 

Self-checkout lanes are becoming more popular, due to social distancing measures sparked by the pandemic and the availability of automation technology, the firm said. A few retailers, such as Walmart, Kroger and Dollar General, have even started testing self-checkout-only stores, per CNN reporting cited by the firm.

Offering a mix of both manual and self-checkout lanes can appeal to a wider variety of shoppers and serve different types of shopping trips, Catalina says, based on a new study. The findings are based on an analysis of 4.5 billion transactions made by 245 million consumers in the United States in 2021.

In fact, consumers who use both self-checkout stations and staffed checkout lanes consistently have the highest retention rates and best customer value, bolstering the case for retailers to take a hybrid approach to their front ends, according to Catalina.

Catalina found that the group of shoppers who used both methods includes a mix of demographics, with consumers tending to have a higher annual household income compared to shoppers who used one checkout type exclusively.

In 2021, 39% of shoppers identified as using both checkout types depending on what they were buying, with usage evenly divided between self-checkout and manned lanes. People who used a mix of both methods had the highest customer value ($1,720) and completed the most shopping trips (36) per year in 2021, compared to people who used only one of the methods. 

“In our view, retailers should evolve to create a balance of self-checkout and manned lanes to accommodate more multi-dimensional shopper profiles, improve customer experience, enable cost efficiencies and maximize sales for the long term,” Wesley Bean, U.S. chief retail officer for Catalina, said in a statement.

The firm also found through a pilot with an unidentified regional grocer that self-checkout users who received coupons drove four times more sales growth than the self-checkout lanes with suppressed incentives.

Of the 12% of surveyed shoppers who said they only use self-checkout, Catalina found they tended to fill smaller baskets, which the firm said suggests they are likely buying household and pantry items in other channels, like at mass retailers or online. Catalina also pointed out that some retailers cap the number of items shoppers can buy using self-checkout.

Self-checkout-only tends to draw 19- to 24-year-olds and also people born between 1928 and 1945, known as the Silent Generation, the firm said.

Meanwhile, 49% of consumers still prefer only using manned lanes. That group mainly consists of Baby Boomers and Silent Generation consumers with household incomes under $100,000 and a high school education, Catalina’s research found.

“Until recently, shopper profiles generally grouped consumers by demographics and where they are on the purchase funnel,” Bean said. “Now, retailers can layer in check-out preferences and shopper affinities to create a more personalized shopping experience and reach individual shoppers with messages that matter.”

While manual checkout remains popular, the study’s findings underscore that grocers can reach more consumers and meet more shopping needs by mixing in self-checkout. Grocers who only offer one method over another may discourage certain customer demographics or purchasing behaviors, such as consumers using self-checkout for quick trips or Baby Boomers preferring traditional lanes.

Research contact: @RetailDive