Utz CEO says that Boulder Canyon potato chips are doing well with customers looking for healthier snacks

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  • Some buyers opt for healthier ingredients found in the Boulder Canyon chips, Utz Brands CEO Dylan Lissette told CNBC.
  • Utz Brands reworked the Boulder product since it acquired Inventure Foods in 2017, he said.
  • Utz plans to spend more on digital advertising to reach new customers, according to CNBC.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Some Utz Brands buyers are opting for snacks with healthier ingredients such as the avocado oil used to cook the Boulder Canyon potato chips, Utz Brands CEO Dylan Lissette told CNBC.

The snack company has been rebranding and developing the Boulder Canyon chips since it bought its manufacturer Inventure Foods in 2017, said Lissette on CNBC’s Mad Money.

“We’ve got a lot of excitement around those ‘better for you brands’,” Lissette said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, consumers had been buying healthier snacks. A summary report by Health Focus International found people are also willing to pay more for foods and beverages that are both healthy and indulgent.

Utz’s lineup of healthy snacks includes Veggie Chips, Half Naked Popcorn, and potato chips cooked in olive oil and avocado oil, according to the company’s website.

In the company’s earnings report on Thursday, Utz’s CFO Cary Devore said that the company saw a “significant” increase in new buyers and higher purchase repeat rates over the past year.

Food shopping habits changed during the pandemic as people resorted to comfort food and snacks more often, according to Consumer Reports.

This week, Sam’s Club CEO Kathryn McLay told The New York Times in an interview that the retailer’s customers went through phases when they were buying pizza, ice cream, and potato chips during COVID-19. Sam’s Club called those periods “carbs and calories,” she said.

Utz plans to grow sales and reach new customers in 2021 by increasing its digital advertising spend by 60% and potentially more, Lissette told CNBC.

Social media and digital ads do well compared to having one commercial that runs through the year “and realizing it didn’t really give you what you needed,” he added.

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Costco membership fees are expected to increase starting in 2021, the first time in four years

Costco pandemic coronavirus
  • For the first time since 2017, Costco is expected to raise the price of its membership.
  • Europeans are likely to see an increase first, starting this year, with the US following in 2022.
  • The company last raised the price by $5 for a basic membership, and $10 for a premium membership.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The annual cost of accessing Costco’s low prices on groceries is about to increase, according to a new analyst note from Wells Fargo.

The grocery chain’s Gold Star membership plan is expected to increase in price this year, for its basic “Everyday” and premium “Executive” memberships.

The prediction is based on the company’s history of increasing its membership pricing gradually over time, approximately every 5.5 years. “The membership fee looks poised to increase in the next 18 months,” the note viewed by Fox Business said, “and represents a potential catalyst for sales and earnings.”

The last time Costco raised the prices of its membership programs, in 2017, it added $5 to the lower tier and $10 to the higher tier. Those increases represented just shy of a 10% jump; it currently costs $60 for a basic membership, and $120 for a premium membership.

The price increase would have a much greater impact on Costco’s bottom line than it did back in 2017: There are over 108 million Costco members, as of February 14, according to the company.

Costco representatives were unable to be reached for comment as of publishing.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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Imperfect Foods sells ‘ugly produce’ that would otherwise go to waste – here’s how it works

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imperfect foods
  • Imperfect Foods is a service that delivers seasonal, cosmetically imperfect produce at affordable prices. 
  • It markets itself as a solution to food waste, but there are debates about whether this is disingenuous given the complexity of the nation’s food system. 
  • Still, it’s a convenient and affordable way to get your weekly produce but with one caveat – if you live in a city where it’s available
  • I used Imperfect Foods for six months while living in the Bay Area and loved receiving a box of “ugly” but fresh and seasonable vegetables and fruits every two weeks.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyGrocery Delivery Fee (small)

During my last year of college, I juggled multiple identities.

I was a senior looking to squeeze more time out of the dwindling weeks with my fellow soon-to-be graduates. I was a part-time marketing assistant stumbling through a winding job hunt. And most humorous to all my friends, I was an unofficial Imperfect Foods ambassador. 

What is Imperfect Foods?

I got the title because I excitedly worked the San Francisco-based grocery delivery service into every conversation possible. The concept – seasonal, cosmetically imperfect produce delivered to your house at affordable prices, as part of a larger mission of reducing food waste – intrigued me, so I tried my first box and became hooked right away. 

The quality of the produce was great and everything always tasted delicious. I didn’t have to wait on the very unreliable buses in Berkeley to take me to and from the grocery store, and the total bill was reasonable even on a student budget.

Plus, little ol’ me felt like I was saving these poor fruits and vegetables from being thrown away and wasted, helping the bottom lines of local farmers and producers. 

 

Since its inception, Imperfect Foods has expanded its offerings to include grains like rice and quinoa, dairy like eggs and milk, and canned goods. Amid current travel restrictions in spring 2020 due to the novel coronavirus, it also offered airline snacks like Biscoff cookies normally handed out on Delta flights and cheese and snack boxes usually available on JetBlue flights. 

Does buying cosmetically imperfect produce help the food system?

imperfect produce review

There has been some pushback against the idea that services such as Imperfect Foods and its competitor Misfits Market actually solve a problem in the country’s complex and broken food system.

As crop scientist Sarah Taber explains, the problem of “ugly produce” contributing to food waste might not actually exist, because those items will be turned into other food products such as soups and jams. While ugly produce companies may improve access to fresh food and help the margins of growers, they may divert attention and resources away from community organizations in low-income areas

Knowing what I do now, I’m warier of how ugly produce companies frame and market themselves. However, the ongoing conversations among food system experts and scientists, farmers, and the companies themselves don’t change my positive experiences with using Imperfect Foods as an affordable way to get my groceries.

For what it’s worth, community-supported agriculture (CSA) efforts like co-ops are full of local produce if you’re able to carry heavy boxes home easily, but for city dwellers, this can be tough to do. Farmers’ markets might not be available in your area or operate during times you can shop. The major advantage of Imperfect Foods is that you can order online and produce is delivered directly to your home.

What makes an imperfect fruit or vegetable?

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Imperfect Foods defines “imperfect” in several ways: cosmetic damage, surplus or excess inventory, undervalued or lack of demand, or doesn’t meet a strict specification from the buyer, usually in the way it’s harvested or packaged.  

A significant portion of the country’s produce is grown in California, so the majority of Imperfect’s fruits and vegetables come from there. It says it tries to source locally when possible, but sourcing ultimately depends on seasonality and availability. In total, it works with over 200 growers nationwide and sources most of its produce (78%) from family farms or cooperatives. 

For produce with cosmetic damage, Imperfect checks quality to make sure it’s only the shape, size, or color that’s affected. It says, “To end up in your box, a piece of produce must be just as fresh, tasty, and nutritious (if not more so!) as its grocery store counterpart.” 

How to order from Imperfect Foods

imperfect produce review 4

Imperfect offers a variety of different “default” boxes, which you can then further customize the contents.

To start, choose from a box of all fruit, all veggie, mixed fruit and veggie, or organic. Then choose the box size and the shipping frequency. I usually ordered a medium-sized mixed fruit and veggie box, to be delivered every two weeks.

Below is an example of one of my orders. 

imperfect produce review

The fruits and veggies in your box are preset based on seasonal availability, but you can take out or add more of any item. 

Though some people might not like the limited selection when compared to a traditional grocery store, I liked this design more than I expected. I can get in the habit of buying the same, predictable produce every time I go grocery shopping, so to be faced with preset, limited options was actually a fun challenge that added more variety and creativity to my cooking.

It also helped me enjoy fruits and veggies at their peak seasonality, and thus, their peak taste. When I had dozens of options, seasonal and non-seasonal, at my disposal at the local grocery store, I sometimes found myself gravitating towards my favorite produce, regardless of whether it was the optimal time to purchase and eat it. 

The quality of the produce from Imperfect Foods

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The quality of the produce I received was consistently good. Many of the physical imperfections weren’t even that drastic, and they didn’t affect the ultimate taste of the fruit or vegetable.

Prior to using Imperfect Foods, I didn’t love the idea of not having control over the exact apple or carrot I’d be eating, but I eventually realized it was futile to be nitpicky about how beautiful my produce was. I learned firsthand from Imperfect Foods that it all tasted the same.  

The price of produce with Imperfect Foods

Depending on which size box you get, you’ll be paying $11 to $27 for seven to 25 pounds of produce. The price for everything in my medium boxes was usually around $15, which was about the same, if not less, than how much I was paying for the same amount of produce from my local grocery store at the time.

The plus, however, is that it was delivered safely to my door so I didn’t have to spend time and energy grocery shopping in person. This combination of convenience, price, and produce quality (despite the physical imperfections) was why I told anyone who would listen to try Imperfect Foods

Availability of the service

Imperfect Foods is currently available in the Midwest, Northeast, all along the West Coast, and in most of the West South Central region.  

The bottom line

If you’re in a region in which Imperfect Food delivers, I couldn’t recommend the service and produce more. It’s a convenient way to get fresh fruit and veggies that have the same nutritional value and taste like something you’d find in your local grocery store. 

Grocery Delivery Fee (small)

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I shopped at Walmart using the ‘Scan & Go’ feature on its mobile app, and I didn’t have to interact with a single person in the store

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walmart scan and go in person thumb

  • Walmart+ members can scan items in-store and pay for their entire cart from their phones.
  • Scan & Go is fast and easy to use, and it limits direct contact with store employees. 
  • It works best if the regular checkout line is busy and you don’t need to buy produce or alcohol.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyMonthly Subscription (small)

There are many ways to get your weekly groceries from Walmart, including shopping in person, picking up an online order at the store, or having your items shipped directly to your home.

Members of Walmart’s premium Walmart+ program have another option. Scan & Go is a Walmart app feature that promises to streamline the store shopping experience and reduce in-person contact, so you can get on your way quickly and safely. 

I tested Scan & Go at my local Walmart to see whether it really made shopping easier and whether it’s a valuable benefit of the Walmart+ membership ($12.95/month). In my experience, the feature isn’t perfect, but it works well under the right circumstances. 

How Walmart’s mobile Scan & Go feature works

First, you need to download the Walmart shopping app. You can find Scan & Go in the Services menu at the bottom of the app. 

walmart scan and go opening menu
Find Scan & Go in the Services tab of the Walmart app.

You must be near or inside a store in order for the Scan & Go feature to activate. My app was a bit finicky in the beginning and kept saying I wasn’t near a store. After about six tries, I was finally able to activate Scan & Go. 

From there, the process was easy and intuitive. For any item I wanted to add to my cart, I just scanned its barcode with my phone camera. The barcode scanner worked quickly and perfectly every time, and I didn’t even need to stand that close to the item. 

walmart scan and go scanning an item
The barcode scanner uses your phones camera to quickly and accurately add items to your cart.

The app keeps a running list of all the items you’ve scanned so far and a cart subtotal. You can adjust the quantity or delete an item if you no longer need it. 

walmart scan and go full cart list
You can view and adjust the contents of your cart at any time.

You can also exit the Scan & Go feature at any time. Walmart will save your cart’s contents and won’t charge you. 

You can scan most items in the store. The two exceptions, however, are inconvenient: 

  1. Produce that needs to be weighed: Produce must be brought to the self-checkout station to be weighed. 
  2. Alcohol: Alcohol can only be purchased at a regular checkout station because a store associate needs to check your ID. 

walmart scan and go error messages
A couple of the error or warning messages you might see while using Scan & Go. The one on the right pops up when you try to scan alcohol.

Once you’re done shopping, you can’t just walk right out of the store – you must stop by the self-checkout area and scan a QR code on one of the station’s screens. 

walmart scan and go qr code finalize checkout
You’ll spot the QR code immediately on the screen.

walmart scan and go finalize checkout
Some of the final steps and questions in the checkout process.

Then, you’ll complete your payment on your phone with the card on file. Payment is quick and you’ll receive your receipt right away. 

walmart scan and go checkout and receipt
The final parts of the process went smoothly, and I left the store without directly interacting with any employees.

How Scan & Go compares to a regular shopping and checkout experience

For consistency, I bought the same six items (strawberries, prosciutto, jam, a personal blender, leggings, and sunscreen) twice, once with Scan & Go, and once with regular checkout. 

Scan & Go is well-designed and made it as easy as possible for me to buy the items on my list and get in and out of the store quickly. Perhaps because it was a new feature and system to learn, it still felt slightly clunky for me to pull out my phone every time to scan an item, then make sure it made it into the app’s cart. The inability to directly scan weighed produce and alcohol – while understandable – are big drawbacks to the feature, and so I’d only recommend Scan & Go if you’re buying everything except produce and alcohol. I had no problem shopping for clothing, appliances, and packaged foods, and you shouldn’t either. 

walmart scan and go in person checkout
My line moved quickly, but it did put me in proximity of several people.

Shopping without Scan & Go also went well, though in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, you might be wary to interact directly with store employees, and that’s where the contactless nature of Scan & Go excels. I visited my local Walmart on a Tuesday morning and it wasn’t too busy then: There were two manned checkout stations open, and three to four people in a line to each. The line moved quickly. 

  Scan & Go mobile app Regular shopping and checkout
Total time spent in the store  19 minutes 15 minutes
Pros
  • Lets you shop and check out independently and contact-free
  • Barcode scanner is quick and accurate 
  • The step-by-step process from adding an item to final checkout is organized and well-designed 
  • Digital receipt only
  • Adding items to your cart is less clunky 
  • Likely to be faster if your store isn’t busy 
  • No limits to product types 
Cons
  • You must buy weighed produce and alcohol separately 
  • App may glitch 
  • Stopping to scan each item can feel clunky if you’re a new user 
  • You must interact with a store employee at checkout
  • There may be long waits at checkout 
When you should use it
  • You want to shop in the store but don’t want to speak to store associates 
  • Your grocery list does not include produce or alcohol 
  • The regular checkout line is long and requires a long wait 
  • You prefer a digital receipt
  • Your store isn’t busy and there isn’t a long wait at checkout
  • Your grocery list includes produce and alcohol 
  • You prefer a paper receipt 

The bottom line 

With enough practice, using Walmart’s Scan & Go mobile feature could become second-nature. It’s a safer way to shop in a physical store since you do all the scanning and paying from your own phone, plus it’s convenient because your credit card information is already stored in the app. However, it’s not an end-all-be-all solution, and you’ll need to evaluate yourself the best time to use it. 

Scan & Go is one of four Walmart+ benefits. The others are free shipping with no order minimum, free same-day store delivery, and member prices on fuel. Learn more about Walmart+, Walmart’s answer to Amazon Prime, here.

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