PROFILE

Keith Anderson

SVP, Strategy & Insight, Profitero
Keith Anderson is senior vice president, strategy & insights, for Profitero, where he leads product strategy and the analyst team. Keith’s insights on technology and retail have been featured in Financial Times, re/code, Bloomberg, Forbes Magazine, and Shopper Marketing Magazine. He has been a featured speaker at RetailNet Group, Brand Activation Association, Food Marketing Institute, Retail Council of Canada, and other retail, technology, and media events.
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  • Posted on: 06/12/2020

    Is business too busy saving itself to save the environment?

    I see a lot of mainstream commentary, especially from financiers, that the twin public health and financial crises will lead shoppers to abandon their interest in sustainable products and practices, liberating retailers and brands to relax their commitments. Given the volatility, it can be tough to draw conclusions about how attitudes and behaviors will evolve from here. Here's one data point: according to Nielsen in the U.K. for the year to date, brands with sustainability claims have outgrown conventional brands by almost 18 percentage points. It is certainly reasonable to question whether shoppers will "pay a premium" for sustainable commerce. But as the public health crisis has shown us, the "cost" of a decision -- to individuals, communities, countries, and the world -- is not always reflected in an item's price. We've spent the better part of a century operating under the premise that shoppers should expect infinite selection, immediate gratification, ever-lower prices, and a pleasant and frictionless experience. Every time, all the time. And if you're not growing -- and ideally outpacing your peers' growth -- you're basically already dead. But it's getting harder to ignore the stark physical realities pressuring traditional business and operating models. Like the spread of the pandemic, climate change is on a non-linear trajectory. We can stick to the playbooks that got us here, but the impacts on public health and quality of life will only accelerate. I think the social license to operate with such a narrow lens is rapidly diminishing. We can't compartmentalize the world the way we have for decades. Economic and environmental sustainability are co-dependent, not opposed to each other, but our current incentive structures and operating models urgently need reinvention if we are to avoid the worst-case scenarios and adapt. I think we can find inspiration among some of the entrepreneurs building companies and brands with a more holistic view, some of which are already thriving. They're founding mission-driven companies that consider profit as a key (but not the singular) consideration for operating a business. They're innovating product form to reduce weight and cube and remove materials or ingredients that harm life or the environment. They're eliminating wasteful packaging and accelerating investments in packaging that can be economically reused or composted. They're powering their offices and production or storage facilities with renewable energy. They're favoring logistics models that account for climate impacts and acknowledge trade-offs in convenience. There are examples in nearly every category. A few standouts: Bite toothpaste bits and Georganics in oral care. Care/Of in vitamins and supplements. Leaf in shaving. Blueland in cleaning. My advice is to pivot from thinking of sustainability as a branding or communications tactic and get R&D, supply chain, and operations seats at the table and incentives and runway to reinvent. The companies building businesses optimized for the likeliest future scenarios certainly are.
  • Posted on: 06/09/2020

    Will COVID-19 quicken drone delivery’s flight to retail?

    I'm not sure if or how quickly air-based drones will emerge as a significant mode of package delivery, but there is no question that the pandemic has raised interest in automation throughout the supply chain. While most arguments in favor of automation highlight long-term labor savings, there is clearly also a plausible claim related to business continuity in situations where workers can't or won't perform tasks for health, safety, or other reasons. Given some of the projected impacts exponential e-commerce growth is anticipated to have on congestion, emissions, and costs, now seems like an apt time to accelerate investments in infrastructure and automation that could yield better outcomes.
  • Posted on: 04/21/2020

    Does anybody remember Earth Day?

    The last 24 months have provided a quick education on some natural, physical realities that can't be managed long-term through denial or deferral. Thirty years ago, when I first had any consciousness of ecological issues, the framing was largely about resource scarcity in a macro sense and the nuisance of litter on an individual level. Renewable energy versus dwindling supplies of extractive fuels; personal responsibility at the last touch of a product's lifecycle. Today, we have a much better understanding of the scale and magnitude of the negative impacts of packaging waste and pollution on health, wildlife, and ecosystems. Recycling standards, infrastructure, and incentives are necessary--but so are extended producer responsibility, circularity, and a focused effort to reduce single-use products and packaging that can't biodegrade or be composted. I see progress on all of these fronts, and I hope the industry aligns and executes quickly. Perhaps even more importantly, I see promising signs of the retail and consumer products industries rising to the greater challenges presented by the climate crisis through initiatives like reducing energy requirements and directly or indirectly sourcing clean, renewable energy and forming new alliances to electrify corporate vehicle fleets. This will be the climate decade, not a day each year. If we aren't involving supply chain and operations and including a climate lens for decisions about product form, packaging, fulfillment models, last-mile logistics, etc., we will lose relevance and social license.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2020

    Will the coronavirus change how we use plastic packaging?

    A pre-print research paper from the National Institutes of Health shows that viable coronavirus could be detected in aerosols up to three hours post aerosolization, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Public opinion is influencable in many ways, only one of which is with facts. I hope that policy makers, merchants, and manufacturers look carefully at the long-term public health, environmental, and economic considerations and act responsibly and in proportion to the realities we face, as the stakes are higher than is widely discussed.
  • Posted on: 04/01/2020

    Will socially distanced shopping launch robot delivery for the masses?

    I don't think it will see anywhere near the level of trial or adoption that curbside pick-up already has during the crisis, but this situation does strike me as a ripe opportunity to continue to test and learn about applications for automation in retail. In some dense urban areas, demand for delivery has pushed delivery windows out more than a week. There will be labor shortages due to sick employees, and some workers are striking as we speak due to concerns about hazardous work environments and inequitable compensation. Of course there is investment required, but technology can often be rented as a service, and would typically offset some labor expense.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2020

    Kimberly-Clark solves some mysteries around click-and-collecting

    As traditional grocers and other retailers are getting more serious about digital commerce, they're selectively turning to leading suppliers for partnership. As with traditional disciplines like category management, there is opportunity for suppliers that bring capabilities, programs, and insight that transcend their own products and create value for shoppers and retailers.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2019

    Is e-grocery less convenient than shopping in stores?

    I think it's instructive to distinguish between convenience and habit. Getting over the hurdle of placing a first order is key; learning to browse and search an online grocer's selection takes a little getting used to. Once these and a few other speed bumps have been overcome and a shopper is habituated to a new behavior pattern, it is tough to beat the convenience of re-ordering a household's most commonly purchased items and having them delivered to the doorstep within a few hours.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2019

    Are legacy CPG brands just naturally digitally-challenged?

    There are definitely headwinds; not all digital commerce is incremental, and leading CPG companies early in their journey perceive they have more to lose on a quarterly basis than to gain. Unit economics can be challenging. Retraining or hiring en masse is a headache. None of these challenges make it optional. New, digital native brands are on offense -- they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. They build brands and routes to market that are purpose-built for the next decade. They're meeting shoppers where they are. It's encouraging to see leading brands continuing to adapt and evolve. If they become more responsive to demand, infuse digital in their R&D and supply chains, and go on offense, I think large CPGs can move beyond outsourcing innovation to start-ups, too.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2019

    Will multistory warehouses mean faster deliveries from Amazon, Home Depot and others?

    Some of the challenges with multi-story facilities and the related history shared by other commenters are well noted. That said, I'd argue that the present context is quite different, and that decades of building out instead of up has created a multitude of other issues that transcend "costs" as they appear on financial statements. Using less land and traveling fewer miles should lead to lower costs, and there are other benefits to an approach like this, though it may not be appropriate for all types of retail or all contexts.
  • Posted on: 08/28/2019

    Is composting key to sustainable e-grocery?

    Glad to see models like this emerging that account for externalities we've long overlooked as an industry. My hope is that Rise Mrkt and all retailers and manufacturers put significant focus on rethinking the entire supply chain. Compostable packaging is an important but small part of it -- what we produce, how we produce it, how we store it, how we transport it, and and what happens at the end of that lifecycle are on us.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2019

    Can Loop make packaging reusability a reality at scale?

    I'm very intrigued by Loop (and TerraCycle broadly) and have been trying to learn more about their operation. Providing more durable containers and packaging and a system for returning containers and having them refilled may not be a silver bullet, but it does seem to have potential. That said, I have questions:
    • Will a critical mass of shoppers get habituated to returning and reusing these products?
    • Will the program be viable outside of large metros like Paris and New York?
    • Will advances in product form and configuration (e.g. the emerging dehydrated cleaning and personal care lines like those from Blue Land, Truman's, and P&G's DS3) prove to have a bigger impact on CPGs' environmental footprint by incorporating factors like weight and cube in addition to packaging?
    Ultimately, I applaud any serious effort to take more responsibility for the lifecycle impacts of the products our industry makes and sells.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2019

    Gen Z survey: Brands get drowned out in all the cause marketing noise

    The most resonant "cause marketing" campaigns I've seen are backed by structural and substantive commitments to ways of operating. Patagonia being selective and turning down business that doesn't align with its values. Truman and Blueland minimizing single-use plastic in their cleaning products. Companies becoming certified Benefit Corporations (B corps) to align their operations with their values. Brands that want to benefit from cause marketing should align with their R&D, supply chain, operations, and finance teams to put real substance behind their messaging.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2019

    Can grocers digest their way to zero waste?

    It's good to see a few grocers taking responsibility for minimizing waste and carbon footprint. The upfront capital investment may seem intimidating, but I'm very curious to better understand the impact this will have on the behavior of shoppers (who are increasingly voting with their wallets in favor of more sustainable options) as well as on long-term cost structure.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    What are retailers and suppliers to do when caught between Amazon and Walmart?

    Despite concerns from Amazon's competitors, this dynamic is rarely a function of suppliers providing Amazon lower wholesale costs. It's sometimes a function of weak links in the supply chain being exposed by Amazon's third-party marketplace, as when limited supply from a closeout or liquidation channel is opportunistically snapped up and listed on Amazon. It's sometimes a function of Amazon's asymmetrical economics (enabling short-term, Amazon-funded discounting subsidized by its cloud and media arms). Suppliers should have visibility into the scope and magnitude of this dynamic for their own portfolio, strengthen supply chains with well-enforced authorized distribution policies, improve unit economics with more efficient product forms, packaging, and logistics;, and support for non-price mechanisms for delivering value to shoppers.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2019

    Retailers still haven’t solved last mile challenges for fresh foods

    Maintaining a cold chain along with the labor and fuel costs are the largest barriers to sustainable economics. Automation and improvements in packaging (including reusable packaging) are making progress on each of these fronts.

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