Morning Brew - ☕ Pack to the future

Mars and Unilever’s new packaging partnerships.
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March 25, 2024

Retail Brew

T-Mobile for Business

Welcome to the week, and as you’re ordering lunch this week, ponder whether you’d like to try a pizza that Chick-fil-A is serving at a test kitchen in College Park, Maryland—and which, if it catches on, could be as polarizing as Hawaiian pizza. The pies are topped with chicken nuggets and this even more non-standard pizza topping: pickles.

In today’s edition:

—Erin Cabrey, Katishi Maake

MARKETING

Ahead of the pack

Formlabs 3D Printing for soap bottle Formlabs

The process of tearing through a snack wrapper or cracking open a plastic bottle takes, well, seconds to do, but the process of making that CPG packaging isn’t so quick.

Depending on the types of packaging, there’s lot of steps to create mock-ups or different molds to produce the packaging in, and rounds of testing to determine if it meets all of a company’s specifications and ensure it holds up through shipment to store, merchandising, and eventually, of course, consumer use. And if it doesn’t, it’s back to the drawing board.

Therefore, CPG giants Mars and Unilever are seeking new methods for package prototyping to speed things up, while also saving $$ and materials along the way, through new partnerships they announced earlier this month.

Reach for the Mars: Mars’s new partnership with software giant Ansys uses simulation tech within its Snacking unit, which houses brands like M&Ms, Snickers, and Skittles, to do virtual testing and prototyping for packaging innovation.

Darren Logan, VP of research at Mars’s Advanced Research Institute and Global Food Safety Center, told Retail Brew that typically to test out new product packaging, the company would have to purchase large amounts of plastic or whatever material it planned to use, then create a mock-up of the packaging, and put it through several tests, like a drop test (you can probably guess what that is).

Keep reading here.—EC

     

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STORES

Bunny well spent

Peeps Easter candy in retail grocery store Anadolu/Getty Images

If the popularity of TikTok Easter candy salads—jars filled with pastel-colored Nerd Gummy Clusters and bunny-shaped Sour Patch Kids, among other things—are any indication, people are shelling out $$ to celebrate Easter this year.

Consumer spending is anticipated to hit $22.4 billion for Easter, per a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. It’s the second-highest amount since the survey began in 2007, following last year’s $24 billion. This year, consumers plan to spend an average of $177 per person.

NRF found that 81% of Americans intend to celebrate the holiday this year, the same as in 2023. Of those who don’t celebrate Easter, 55% plan to shop sales related to the holiday and spend a little over $20 per person. Most Easter shoppers plan to visit grocery stores, followed by large retailers like Walmart or Target, and online retailers such as Amazon, per a Numerator survey released last week.

Keep reading here.—EC

     

OPERATIONS

Undeliverable

UPS truck Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Today marks the last day of Amazon’s first Big Spring Sale, which kicked off last Wednesday. It was an opportunity for shoppers to grab their spring essentials on the cheap, and in the face of increased e-commerce competition from upstarts such as Temu, a chance for Amazon to reaffirm its position as the top dog.

Grab what you can at the last minute—but first, take a look at what else is happening in retail this week.

In layoffs: At the start of the year, UPS announced 12,000 layoffs, along with decreased package volume in Q4 2023. On Tuesday, a closure of daytime sortation shifts at a facility in Halethorpe, Maryland, will affect 118 employees, according to Supply Chain Dive.

  • A company spokesperson said a facility in Portland, Oregon, will end its day shifts on Thursday, but didn’t clarify how many employees it would affect.
  • The 12,000 layoffs are expected to save UPS roughly $1 billion.
  • The company’s Q4 revenue declined 7.8% YoY.

Keep reading here.—KM

     

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SWAPPING SKUS

Today’s top retail reads.

Shop & stop: Why supermarkets have closed stores in many low-income neighborhoods while opening more in the suburbs. (Salon)

Shoots…and scores: Bamboo, which is used for everything from furniture to toothpicks, is being boosted by the Ugandan government for the crop’s environmental benefits. (Associated Press)

Big smack: McDonald’s closed all 12 of its restaurants in Sri Lanka over what it called “standard issues” with its only franchisee there. (Reuters)

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HOT TOPIC

At the mall, it’s where band tees are the only tees. In Retail Brew, it’s where we invite readers to weigh in on a trending retail topic.

Two Californians sued Hermès, alleging that they were not allowed to purchase sought-after Birkin bags because they did not purchase other “ancillary products” as well. Hermès has denied the practice, which is prohibited by antitrust law.

You tell us: When it comes to a highly sought-after product like a Birkin bag, do you agree with the law that prohibits retailers from requiring consumers to buy additional products along with the product they want? Cast your vote here.

Circling back: Last week, we asked whether you agreed with Dell's new return-to-office policy that employees who choose to work fully remotely won’t be considered for promotions or lateral reassignments. Nearly three out of four of you (74.2%) disagreed, saying that the policy was not reasonable, while 24.6% thought the policy was reasonable, and 1.2 % did not know or weren’t sure.

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