Today its all about Thanksgiving – and what we can expect to find in our grocery stores and what we will be serving during this year’s very unconventional celebration of our foods.
With me to figure out the 2020 version of Thanksgiving is, Stephanie Schultz, MSM, RDN, CD, who is leading the charge among those changing what it means to be a dietitian in a grocery company. ... In her first five years with Festival Foods, Schultz built a traditional retail dietitian program and took on food safety and regulatory management. She was the first winner of the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance RD of the Year Award, and frankly just one of the smartest and nicest people I know.
Welcome to Lost in the supermarket. Today it's all about Thanksgiving, just a week away and what we can expect to find in our grocery stores and what we'll be serving during this year's very unconventional celebration of our foods. With me to help me figure this all out and what the 2020 version of Thanksgiving is is Stephanie Schultz, MSM, RDN, CD. Who's leading the charge among those changing what it means to be a dietitian in a grocery company. And her first five years with Festival Foods, Stephanie built a traditional retail diets petitioned program and took on food safety and regulatory management. She was the first winner of the retail dietitians business Alliance RD of the year award. She focuses now on not only nutrition, but marketing and frankly, just one of the smartest and nicest people that I know Stephanie, welcome to Lost in the supermarket.Stephanie:
Thanks Phil. Appreciate that kind introduction.Phil:
Well, it's true. Uh, so, so let me, let me start off by saying, how are you personally and your family going to be celebrating Thanksgiving?Stephanie:
It's a really good question. Um , and honestly it's still up in the air , um , debating whether or not we decide to go North and visit our family. It would be our immediate family only. Um, but my dad recently had a surgery, so he, we're just being that much more conscious of everything , uh , with everybody. But otherwise it will just be the three of us at my house.Phil:
So let's bring it down to what's going on in the supermarket. We're seeing in all the headlines that, you know, purveyors of turkeys are trying to get smaller turkeys , 12 to 14 pound turkeys in supermarkets versus the 22 pounders that are already there. And that's kind of difficult because turkeys take about five months to grow. So it had to be some really smart Turkey people five months ago that figured out that the pandemic would still be around. What are you seeing in festival foods and what are you as a grocery chain and as a marketer telling consumers ,Stephanie:
Uh , really a great question. And , uh , those were the Turkey people that existed five months ago. They are brilliant, but I guess I would say one of the key things from the last couple of years, we've seen a rise in the , um, just the popularity of Turkey breasts in general. So that is actually something that we have literally over the last two years continued to bring more of , um, and this year I think we're going to continue to see even more of that. Um, they're easier to put together, they serve a smaller crowd and they're, they're just, they don't take as long to prepare as should the traditional Turkey does.Phil:
So, you know, there's not going to be a call to the Butterball hotline that says, you know, fill up your bathtub with ice cubes and water and put your Turkey in there to the frost for two days. Um , those days are probably over for us.Stephanie:
You know, I'm sure there's somebody who is some poor soul who is going to remember like the day prior that they have to figure out how to thought Turkey and realize it's not, it's not going to happen at which point I would tell them to call our stores any store, because most are doing the prepared meal where you just have to heat and eat at home. So that's probably their best option at that point.Phil:
Yeah. I've already here in Southern California, started to get those emails from Gelson's , from Erewhon, you know, for Thanksgiving, just a water from us and , and, you know , tell us how many people it is and we're going to do that. So I'm assuming that in Wisconsin, you're going to see the same thing. Yeah,Stephanie:
Yeah. Um , we're anticipating that we'll see a rise in some of those numbers in the smaller dinners for people who don't traditionally traditionally prepare that meal, you know , on their own. It might be a younger person who always leaned on their mother or father to do the Turkey and they just went home and enjoyed it. Um, and they want to still have that traditional meal for the warm and cozy feel. But , um, in other cases, I think you're going to see a lot of people just trying, trying to do it on their own and it, it may or may not work out in their favor, but, you know, good luck to all.Phil:
Yeah . So, so before I get to , um, what we should be eating , uh , Thanksgiving, let's talk about the side dishes , um, a little bit , um, I got an email , uh, from Erewhon matter of fact yesterday , uh, talking to you about the , that they're going to have smaller sized pies. Uh, matter of fact, are you seeing that and , and what different kinds of side dishes do you anticipate for this Thanksgiving?Stephanie:
It's, you know, I , I see a kind of twofold , so we've always done a half pie option. Um , and we actually do some single serve slices as well. So that has always served us well for the people who either have a smaller crowd or simply are just purchasing for themselves. But from a side dish perspective , um, I feel like you'll have a lot of people who are really trying to either stay the warm, traditional, cozy, everything we've always known about Thanksgiving, or I feel like you're going to see people do a completely opposite approach because they have more time and try to do something a little more, either gourmet feeling or, you know, thinking a roasted vegetable sheet pan, you know, root veggies type of thing instead of a traditional mashed potatoes or the, you know , candied sweet potatoes type of thing. And just, I feel like you're going to have one or the other. There might even be somebody who takes that to a more extreme from a let's do away with the traditional Thanksgiving fair , because it's just two or three of us and we're going to instead do you know, salmon salads or, you know, some sort of seafood that is , um, you know, something that you wouldn't prepare for a group of 10 to 15, but you might for two or four,Phil:
So let's move into the health arena. Um, so I did an experiment and I went online and I typed in , uh, not, not at festival foods by the way, but in a supermarket here in Southern California. Um, in fact, I did it in three supermarkets. I typed in gluten-free Turkey stuffing. Um, I am as you know, not gluten-free , but I wanted to see how smart , um, the , the supermarket search engines were. And , um, in all three cases, what comes up , uh , as the number one selection was stove top stuffing, which is definitely not gluten-free since wheat is its first ingredient. Um, then I went to Amazon and I typed in gluten-free Turkey stuffing, and I had about , um, 30 items that came up and all of them were gluten free . So help me figure this out. Um, you know, if I want to be healthier for Thanksgiving, and I want to order online either for curbside pickup at festival foods or for delivery , um, you know, what are some tips and tricks that you can give me to make sure that I am going to be, you know, the healthiest that I can for this Thanksgiving.Stephanie:
So I'm really intrigued by a few different things that you mentioned, first of all, the search engines on grocery e-commerce websites, because I oversee e-commerce in our organization. I can tell you, it is one of the biggest hurdles that we have to get over with. E-commerce especially how fast it has ramped up, because the reality is, is the average consumer uses Google and Amazon as the search engines that they build there . This is what they expect off of. So when they come to the store, oftentimes the best bet is to either , um, denote , if the retailer has this functionality , uh , on their site and in their database to then search gluten-free items and search within that sub category. Um, but I know many grocers are out there working on getting that searchability , um , to a much better user experience than where it is now. However, if you are looking to be healthier over the holiday , um, it's important to keep in mind. So gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean healthy. It might be a requirement for somebody who needs to eat that way. Um, I am a huge fan. I have to eat gluten-free personally, and I actually have a sister with celiac disease as well. So we often number one, I always take control of the dessert cause I really want to eat it Thanksgiving. So I make sure that that's safe for me. Um, we have a few different types of stuffing and oftentimes it's whatever you can find in the gluten free section at your local supermarket or whatever you can find online. Um, but I'm also a huge fan of a wild rice and mushroom blend as a stuffing replacement personally.Phil:
Yeah, that sounds fabulous. Um, so you know, what, what we're seeing and there's conflicting reports , uh , because of COVID-19 , uh, people eating more at home , uh , people staying more at home , uh, we're hearing everything from the average person, gaining eight pounds to the average person, gaining 16 pounds , uh , since March. Um, what, what do you have to say for advice for those people who have put on some extra pounds as we're going into the whole holiday season , um, going through Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then new year's and then to super bowl , because presumably we're still going to be in the same situation , um , for Superbowl. And these are big food holidays where people frankly have eaten a lot. And then in January, you know, wake up and they say, Oh, I'm going to go on a diet to lose all those extra pounds. Well, now we already have those extra pounds. What can we do to prevent putting on more extra pounds?Stephanie:
Those are really great questions. And they're , it's with a lot of people having to completely change what their daily routine looks like. It's, it's not surprising, especially when there's been so much out of our control, that the one thing that they can control and enjoy is their food. Um, and in some cases that might make them feel very out of control because they have access to it so much throughout the day. So one of my favorite things is number one, if you're going to do something around the holidays, make it manageable, understand that Thanksgiving day is probably not the right day to start a new meal plan or a diet or whatever type of eating that you're choosing to do. Um, and if, you know, if it is Thanksgiving day, focus on, you know, this year, I'm going to fill my plate with color instead of just Turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy, I'm going to make sure I add a salad or a roasted vegetables or squash or something like that. Um, I'd like to focus on what you will eat. And one of the approaches that I have talked to several people about is utilize thing , um , a mindful like journal approach, where you plan out what you will eat the coming day and working on , um, your, your brain's way of processing and planning for food. So anytime you have a plan, you're going to be better off, but the way we re we think through a different things like urges and stuff like that, oftentimes , um, it sort of becomes back to a self control mechanism and telling yourself that, you know, I don't have to follow a specific diet. I can just talk to myself about what I plan to do tomorrow. Maybe it's getting up on Thanksgiving morning and I'm going to eat a healthy breakfast, and that might be a smoothie bowl, or maybe it's eggs or whatever. I decide that day. And instead of indulging on the appetizers, I'm instead going to really enjoy my one serving of my Turkey and my stuffing and my mashed potatoes, because that's what makes Thanksgiving feel whole to me. So I think if you can take that approach, not just on Thanksgiving day, but if you gave yourself a goal between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you won't feel so much anxiety about all of the little things that kind of come up in between and you can plan for I'm going to have a drink instead of accidentally having a whole bottle.Phil:
So, so what my plan was for , for the holidays, cause I happen to be a , a person who absolutely loves pumpkin pie. Um, and , and I won't buy a frozen pumpkin pie in the off season. I just want the fresh ones. So I guess my plan is just not to put, you know , the whipped cream on, on top of the pumpkin pie, and then I'll be fine, right?Stephanie:
Hey, if that's what works for you on that day, that's savings of those calories, then you should definitely enjoy the pumpkin pie at that one time of the year that you really like it.Phil:
So, Stephanie, last question, we're , we're starting to see headlines already. Um, as the pandemic , uh , continues that supermarkets , um , around the country have started to limit , uh, the , uh , certain foods that you can buy. For example, I had whole foods, you can only buy up to two frozen pizzas. I know that has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. Uh , but also whether it's Kroger, HEB , um, some other retail publics have already started to limit, you know, paper towels that you can buy , uh , the quantity of toilet paper and hydrogen peroxide and bleach and things like that. Um, as a retailer, what do you see happening over the next two to three months during holiday time, which typically has been all about indulgence and now, you know, shoppers are faced with limits on whatever it is.Stephanie:
It's kind of twofold . Um, from a merchandising perspective, I actually just, before we sat down to chat, got an email from our senior director on the merchandising side, and he keeps me up to date on different things that we have on either allocation or are no longer able to run ads , um, through the holiday season. Like we might normally, in some cases it's because of the product shortage in what I'm really finding interesting is in many cases it's because , because of the packaging, so like spices, for example , um, the not only this plastic containers, but the lids are in short supply, I saw a pickle company was lids are in short supply. Um, and one other thing that really, Oh , um , in Wisconsin, this is really important, but the window washer fluid for when it gets below 20 degrees outside , um, that is in short supply because that particular ingredient is used in sanitizers and disinfectants. So just some of those types of things , um, we , uh, experienced an ad for, you know, stove top . So it's one of those things where it's like, this is the week to get out. If there's anything shelf stable that you're thinking about getting in your cupboards for Thanksgiving, obviously keeping in mind that other people might enjoy that as well. So there's no need to hoard . And every retailer is working their hardest to get things on the shelf for people. Um, but it's, we are seeing that increase in business just like we do. I mean, it's from this time of the year, the sixth busiest weeks for retail grocery, and that's certainly going to be no difference. It's just going to be even more heightened. And I think you'll see that a rise in demand for things like your curbside pickup and delivery as well.Phil:
Uh, it's , it's real interesting, Stephanie, that you bring up the whole packaging thing because you know, we've, we've seen dribs and drabs of, of shortages. For example, there's also a shortage of aluminum cans. Um, there's also a shortage of CO2 to carbonate whether it's soda or beer, because we're driving less than CO2 is a by-product of , um, ethanol. Um, so, you know, you can only put up to 10% ethanol in gasoline , uh , for fuel. And as a result, the , those ethanol producers can't make enough CO2 for the beer and the soda companies. So this time around, it looks like it's not the food itself that, that really, you know, we're going to see empty shelves and people are gonna freak out again, but it's really because of things that you point out like the packaging and everything else and, you know, great advice. Um, you know, Thanksgiving is next Thursday, this is this Thursday. So you've got a week to go shopping, but go shopping today or tomorrow, don't wait till the last minute. Um, and then be, you know, the faced with what you can't get. So Stephanie is always , uh, thanks so much for joining us on lost in the supermarket. Great advice and happy Thanksgiving.Stephanie:
Thanks. Same to you.