From eCommerce to AI and Sustainability


By Joe Lyons-Rising

The Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry in Canada is witnessing big changes. As we move ahead, let’s unravel the significant trends shaping the future of CPG in Canada.

AI and Machine Learning (ML): Unleashing Potential

Embracing AI and Machine Learning is the way forward. These technologies offer the ability to dissect large data sets and make insightful decisions.

Retailers are harnessing AI to reimagine flyer ad permutations, with Canadian firms like Daisy Intelligence leading the charge. Meanwhile, Category Management Planogramming is seeing transformative gains in efficiency and insight acceleration, thanks to AI-driven technologies from Shelfgram and Hivery.

Amidst the ubiquity of AI tools like ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Microsoft’s Copilot, CPG players are crafting bespoke, secure internal solutions to navigate data privacy concerns, enabling them to leverage AI’s power safely. This strategic integration heralds a new era of advanced data analysis, although the nuanced craft of Fact-Based Storytelling remains a human-driven domain, with AI serving as a powerful accelerant. Stay up-to-date on these trends and the latest technologies to gain a competitive edge in the market.

eCommerce: Beyond the Pandemic Surge

eCommerce has experienced unprecedented growth in the CPG sector. With the pandemic-triggered surge in online shopping since 2020, it has become critical for Canadian CPG companies to streamline their eCommerce platforms and enhance their online customer journey.

It wasn’t too long that eCommerce food sales in Canada only accounted for roughly 3 percent of all channel volume, followed by an unprecedented channel growth as we historically shifted our purchase online, finally trusting grocery chains to pick quality produce for us (which our household was already doing since 2013)

Now that eCommerce across has swept its brush across all categories, the fun and innovation can really start to take off.

Importance of an Omnichannel Approach:

Although the majority of Canadians still prefer to do the majority of their CPG shopping in-real-life (IRL for the cool kids) at Brick & Morter stores with other humans and the ability to touch, smell and view products, an Omnichannel approach is critical for the success of brands and retailers.

Recently I had the opportunity to do a post-webinar debrief with Brenda Gouin from Field Agent Canada. The Field Agent and Walmart Canada – Ratings & Reviews Webinar, took place on January 25th, 2024, and discussed the importance of Ratings & Reviews with Walmart’s Shariq Hasan in a town hall format, including a full range of Walmart vendors.

One of the key insights was that 93 percent of shoppers will read online product reviews on before making a purchase, with the sweet spot being at least 50 ore more authentic reviews on the site, to maximize sales conversion lifts.

Also, 60 percent of shoppers noted in this webinar are shopping with their smart phones, doing their own research when at the shelf. Me included! QR codes in on product packaging and in-store trade marketing that link to associated online content and landing pages can help brands and retailers take advantage of this trend.

Voice Shopping: Who else has a BFF in their homes named Alexa? Or maybe its “Hey Google”? Apart of being my personal DJ for kitchen dance parties, providing my daily news and weather updates, and the unexpected AI humour, voice-activated shopping is a growing trend. As smart speakers take on the role of virtual shopping assistants, they can help simplify the path to purchase, making it possible for shoppers/consumers to order items with little effort by speaking to their in-home devices. Certain CPG brands have been leading the way in this space for a few years, such as P&G to refill Tide products, etc., yet there remains an incredible amount of opportunity for more branded CPG connection to voice shopping to convert brand sales, especially with online CPG retailers beyond Amazon.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): Although Meta’s VR hasn’t taken off the way that Mark Zuckerberg had initially dreamed of for the “Metaverse”, it doesn’t meant that this technology is going away. There is a lot of exciting work and innovation happening in the Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) space for CPG Retailers. This would allow shoppers to visualize products in their own space (AR) or simulate an in-store shopping experience from their homes (VR). Geez, do I wish that VR shopping was available during the isolating times of the pandemic!

But just the general population’s scepticism of the Metaverse, AR and VR are challenged by slow adoption rates across the masses, especially in a time of increased costs every where we turn. As the costs become more scalable, and not just geared for early adopters, I do believe that we will see more AR and VR technology rolled out by retailers and CPG brands. As they wait for younger millennials and Gen Z to carry more purchase power and industry impact. Guess how our youngest daughter wants to celebrate turning 8? A VR video game party at the mall, as she will officially be old enough to play the games.

Health & Wellness: Evolving Consumer Preferences

Data-driven insights are enabling CPG brands to comprehend consumer attitudes towards a healthier lifestyle, empowering them to develop and promote health-conscious products.

Reflecting on my CHFA NOW East show experience in September 2023, the trend towards integrating health, wellness, and ethical consumption within the CPG industry is undeniable.

Brands like Purplesful Snacking Popcorn, Cafézia, and Deebee’s Organics are at the forefront, merging product quality with social responsibility. These brands embody a shift towards products that not only promote physical well-being but also contribute to societal good, showcasing a holistic approach to health.

Sustainability: A Commitment to the Planet

Sustainability is increasingly becoming a top priority, with brands taking significant strides to minimize waste and evolve environmentally sustainable products and packaging.

At the CHFA NOW East show, the commitment to sustainability was vividly on display. The Unscented Company, distinguished by its B Corp certification, highlighted the industry’s drive toward planet-friendly products. In a similar sustainable commitment, Humble Potato Chips debuted compostable chip bags, setting a new benchmark in packaging innovation. Beyond this we are now seeing larger-scale sustainability efforts, such as Loblaw and Walmart’s adoption of Tesla semis for more eco-friendly logistics.

These initiatives, led by enthusiastic social entrepreneurs, B Corps and purpose driven organizations, such as Deebee’s Organics’ dedication to social responsibility, underscore how consumer demand for sustainability is driving brands to adopt more holistic and innovative approaches to environmental stewardship.

Joe Lyons-Rising is the Founder and Chief Empathy Officer at Data Gives Back Inc., a B Corp Certified corporate training company dedicated to empowering professionals in the CPG and Food Service sectors. With over 20 years of experience in insights, analytics, and category management, Joe has trained more than 500 professionals, leveraging the power of data for community good.

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