John Karolefski

Editor-in-Chief, CPGmatters

John Karolefski is the publisher and editor-in-chief of, a twice-monthly ezine that focuses on building brands through retail. He is also the executive director of the Shopper Technology Institute (STI), the only trade organization for providers of technologies and solutions that engage shoppers and analyze their behavior. STI produces and hosts the annual LEAD Marketing Conference which focuses on Loyalty, Engagement, Analytics and Digital applications.

Karolefski, the former senior editor of Supermarket News, is the co-author of three books: “Consumer-Centric Category Management,” “All About Sampling and Demonstrations,” and “TARGET 2000: The Rising Ride of TechnoMarketing.”

  • Posted on: 08/02/2019

    Amazon kills its Dash button – what comes next?

    The era of push-button grocery shopping comes to an end. Dash, we hardly knew ye. It is being replaced by voice-ordering via Alexa, which will also end food shopping in stores until it doesn't. The relentless march of crazy ideas continues.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2019

    Are store robots cute, creepy – or nearly useless?

    The reported benefit of robots in supermarkets initially is to alert store associates to breakages and spills in the aisles. I've always considered that to be a joke of some sort, or something for unsuspecting folks to believe. Are grocery stores awash in a sea of broken glass and spaghetti sauce? Do grocers need a $35,000 robot to tell a store associate to clean up the mess? Can't the store associate spot the mess himself/herself and clean it up? So the end game is for robots to check for voids on the shelf and mispriced goods. Can't a store clerk be paid $35,000 to do the same? Oh, wait a minute. The human may call in sick one day, take a coffee break, or ask for a pay raise. So the real issue is saving money. Invest in sophisticated tin cans instead of people. Yeah, that's a good policy. I might add that the supermarkets around the country that make customer service a top priority would never install self-checkout terminals or robots. They value people. One more thing before I conclude my rant. My sister-in-law posted a photo on Facebook of Marty in a Stop & Shop supermarket in Connecticut. The comments were revealing. Here is a sampling: Too creepy, give the job to a human, sooo creepy, too weird, what a waste, not the future I want, etc. Those are the shoppers speaking. Clear-thinking grocers who value their customers and human employees should pay attention.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2019

    How do brands maintain their cool?

    Food and drink brands can be cool at first if they herald breakthrough categories. Examples include Red Bull and Monster (energy drinks), Mike's Original Hard Lemonade (hard lemonade), and Impossible Burger (plant-based meat alternatives). They will lose their coolness over time unless they come up with new flavors, sizes and packaging, backed by cool marketing campaigns.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2019

    Staples creates content to reposition and differentiate its brand

    Kudos to Staples for being aggressive with a well-rounded campaign. I doubt that a quarterly print magazine will be successful, but the digital parts may get traction.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2019

    Will parachutes provide drones with a soft landing for home deliveries?

    News of on-drone parachutes has moved the discussion of grocery home-delivery into the Twilight Zone.
  • Posted on: 07/03/2019

    Are ‘veggie burgers’ and ‘oat milk’ confusing to consumers?

    Milk comes from cows. Almond milk does not come from cows, but critics of almond "milk" have a point. It's technically not milk. Are burgers meat? If so, veggie burgers and turkey burgers are mis-named. They should be called veggie patties and turkey patties. Technically yes, according to some critics. All of the critics are in the food business and are crying foul. Consumers understand the difference between plant-based food and traditional food. They are not confused.
  • Posted on: 07/02/2019

    Will meatless meat, CBD and cold brew coffee help food retailers differentiate?

    Plant-based food alternatives have staying power and the potential to grow in sales. My local store, Heinen's in a Cleveland suburb, has installed two "plant-based" sections in the refrigerated and frozen cases. I suspect other grocers around the country will be doing the same, if they have not done so already.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2019

    How do consumers define cleanliness in grocery stores?

    Produce is typically the first department shoppers see upon entering the supermarket. The floor in this section needs to shine. As such, it will be memorable and will influence how shoppers see the rest of the supermarket.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2019

    Does self-checkout make sense for Costco?

    Obviously time will tell if Costco's latest venture into self-checkout is successful. I just wonder if shoppers were asking for self-checkout terminals, or if management figured they were needed. That makes a difference, especially if there are glitches with the scanning process.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2019

    Kroger is high on the CBD sales opportunity

    This will not be a fad if the products are effective. Most major retailers will soon begin stocking personal care products with CBD as an ingredient, but grocers will wait until they see consumer reaction and sales before committing to private label versions. Sales of CBD-infused food and beverage -- when legal -- will be a bridge too far for most grocers.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2019

    Walmart debuts store-to-fridge fresh food delivery service

    So, grocery delivery to your fridge is the next step for in the ever-ending drive for the most convenience with online ordering and delivery. What's next? The delivery person prepares a meal and washes the dishes? Can sleep-overs be far behind with pancakes for breakfast and taking out the trash?
  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

    Stores have cut out-of-stocks. Why don’t consumers know that?

    The out-of-stock rate in supermarkets 20 years ago was 8 percent. Today, it's still 8 percent, according to the latest research I've read. Maybe robots are the answer to full assortments.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Are Wegmans, Giant Eagle and Tops wise to drop in-store childcare?

    I suppose it makes economic sense to discontinue the service if not enough shoppers are taking advantage of it. But it's ironic that these grocers are eliminating child-care services at a time when QFC supermarkets and Stop & Shop are installing special doghouses outside their stores so customers can park their pets safely while shopping inside. I wonder if that will make economic sense.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2019

    Do the benefits of using facial recognition in retail outweigh the risks?

    Let's say grocers polled their shoppers and asked if they would mind if facial recognition was used to improve customer service. My hunch is that 90 percent or more of them would say NO WAY. The customer is always right. Or am I wrong?
  • Posted on: 04/12/2019

    Why consumers are breaking bonds with their favorite brands

    Young adult consumers are not developing loyalty to the brands they grew up with. As adults, they don't want their mother's or father's brand anymore. New brands that challenge established heavyweights are cool and offer something truly innovative for the digital generation. Some big brands react by just purchasing these upstarts rather than developing cool new brands for a new generation of consumers. That is not long-term strategy for success.

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