Food In Canada

Nielsen Insights from Thought Leadership CEO Conference

Birgit Blain   

Business Operations Nielsen

Canadian Grocer thought leadership conference
Canadian Grocer thought leadership conference

Copyright © 2019 The Nielsen Company (US), LLC.

Competition is fierce among Canada’s packaged food brands. Arming yourself with knowledge about the challenges your customers face enables you to devise solutions that will resonate and increase listing opportunities.

Brick and mortar food stores are changing, fast. Food retailers and big brands flock to Canadian Grocer’s annual Thought Leadership CEO Conference to learn new tricks of the trade.

Once again Carman Allison, VP of Consumer Insights at Nielsen, presented some eye-opening stats that impact grocers and food brands alike.

Out with the old, in with the new…
  • 19,776 new national brand grocery products were launched in Canada in 2018, although the number is down 20 per cent from the prior year.*
  • 51 per cent of new items cannibalize (steal) sales from existing items.**
  • FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) have a 27 per cent churn (attrition) rate.*
Shelf space is limited and shrinking… 
  • There are four per cent fewer grocery items on store shelves versus last year.***
  • Retailers are pressured to make room for emerging segments: new lifestyle diets, multicultural, local, niche, alcohol, to name a few.
Impact of Consumer Reaction
  • Food prices in the grocery channel are up four per cent.****
  • 70 per cent of consumers are looking for ways to save money on FMCG.***** Strategies include switching stores and buying more retail brands.
  • Discount retailers continue to gain share and now have 41.1 per cent, growing at five per cent.******
  • Private label has risen to 18.6 per cent share, a growth rate of three per cent. This compares to national brands growing at just one per cent.******

Carman advises grocers to “focus on increasing efficiencies to maximize retail space to drive profitable sales”.

What solutions can your brand offer?

Brands should think about how to grow their category, suggests Carman. New products must generate incremental sales for the category, not cannibalize sales from other products.

One example is the explosion of the yogurt category to its dominant position in the dairy aisle. In spite of new product launches, overall category sales are not growing; companies are simply taking share from each other.

Breakthrough innovation, although challenging to achieve, increases consumer demand. “Me too” items don’t.

Brand owners are at the mercy of retailers to list their products and would be wise to get inside grocers’ heads to understand how they think and what they want. At the end of the day profitable sales are shared goals.


*        Nielsen MarketTrack, National All Channels – 52 weeks to January 5, 2019 – National Brand Items excluding Random Weight Fresh and General Merchandise.

**       Nielsen MarketTrack, National All Channels – 52 weeks to January 5, 2019 – National Brand Items.

***     Nielsen MarketTrack, 52 weeks ending November 2, 2019; National Grocery Banners + Mass Merchandisers + Drug

****    Nielsen MarketTrack, Canada National All Channels – Total Tracked Sales (including Fresh) Q3 12 weeks to September 14, 2019.

*****   Nielsen PanelViews, Economic Impact Survey

******Nielsen MarketTrack, Canada National All Channels – Total Tracked Sales (including Fresh) 52 weeks to September 14, 2019.

As a packaged foods consultant and coach, Birgit Blain helps clients think strategically to build a sustainable brand. Her experience includes 17 years with Loblaw Brands and President’s Choice®. Contact her at or learn more at

© Birgit Blain

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