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Loblaw veteran health and beauty executive shares her insights on an evolving category
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With a career in grocery that goes back about 25 years and spans three national banners, Kelly Jessop has seen consumer and retail trends come, go, endure and evolve.

In her new role as senior vice president, health and beauty and home and entertainment at Loblaw Companies Limited – which she stepped up to at the start of 2024 after almost 14 years at Shoppers Drug Mart – Jessop oversees categories that touch the day-to-day lives of Canadians. She sat down with Grocery Business recently to talk about the logical intersections between health, wellness, beauty and food retail, and how Loblaws and Shoppers continue to expand and adapt to meet a constantly changing market.

Are you also seeing a greater intersection between health and wellness and beauty? And if yes, how would you say shoppers and Loblaws has curated its products and services to reflect this.

We’re seeing a trend in the overall health, wellness and beauty connections, whether it’s consumers thinking more about their inner and outer beauty and really being conscious of it or as it relates to digestion and vitamins and our health. We’re also seeing these connections more in the skincare space.

We are definitely seeing that a lot through the social media space as well, where a lot of the younger consumers are creating TikTok videos and different elements around showcasing their glow, which really is about taking care of their skin and getting started at a much younger age. A lot of those younger Gen Z / millennial brands are performing with very strong sales within our business.

What are customers looking for in health, wellness and beauty?

When they come into our stores, they’re going to look for innovation and newness around products and brands, particularly in the health and beauty space. So, we continue to add new brands and we create merchandising vehicles that really help showcase the brand’s best attributes. As well, particularly at Shoppers, we really continue to expand on clean products which continues to be another emerging trend that we’ve seen in our health and beauty care business.

Consumers these days are better informed about the products they buy, and some are peering more closely to ensure a product hasn’t just been greenwashed. How is Loblaw determining if a product meets your criteria for clean?

We did quite a bit of research going into the definition of clean and it’s evolved because it does continue to evolve in that space. we have a platform at Shoppers Drug Mart, called Thoughtful Choices, whichhas two main criteria: One being products that are cruelty-free and vegan and formulated without a number of ingredients that customers told us were important within that clean space. And then there are products that have either recyclable or reusable packaging. So we allow brands to have an ingredients space for clean and/or a packaging space. We launched this platform back in 2020 and it continues to evolve as we continue to see customers adapting and responding to certain criteria within the clean space. We have now over 6,000 products that meet our criteria of clean, which is an important space for a number of consumers in the health and beauty space.

How has the delivery of health and wellness products in grocery evolved in the last five years?

I think that on the grocery side, health and wellness products are a natural extension from food – whether it be in the vitamins and supplements or probiotics and nutritional  space. Consumers have become more conscious in the last few years about the benefits of these products and the fact that we’re able to provide them in a grocery as a part of a regular shop – I think we’re helping customers make these health and wellness choices.

The country’s population continues to expand and become even more diverse, with older Canadians among the fastest growing group and a record number of immigrants in 2023. How is Loblaw addressing the needs of this increasingly diverse market?

During my first tour of our grocery stores, I was very impressed with the fact that the current range is diverse in nature’.

There’s lots of different ways over the course of the year that we support the diverse nature of the population base, through events in our stores, product offerings, the diversity among our employees and the causes we support. Shoppers Drug Mart, for example, advances health equity for women in Canada through the Shoppers Foundation for Women’s Health, which focuses on issues such as violence against women, women’s mental health and menstrual inequity.

We also have huge celebrations for pride and product offerings in support of the LGBT2+ community. We’re incredibly proud of that as well.

You were with Shoppers Drug Mart for almost 14 years, in increasingly senior roles that culminated in your last position there as senior vice president of merchandising. Can you highlight some of the latest developments under your leadership that you’re especially proud of?

I’ve really enjoyed the last the last year in this particular role. I’ve been fortunate to have some expanded learning across areas of the business, that I wouldn’t have had direct experience in prior roles within the local enterprise. And I’m particularly proud of the team that’s supporting the new leadership and embracing change through ways of working and executing for our customers.

We’ve had a lot of innovation come through the business. In the past year, especially in the beauty space, whether it be brands like R.E.M Beauty – which was founded by Arianna Grande – which we launched in 200 stores as a Shoppers exclusive line. We also have extended a unique partnership with The Body Shop to bring some beautiful Body Shop products across 50 in Shoppers Drug Mart and also through our online business. We also introduced Coco & Eves and Nudestix last year to offer more choice to our customers.  So really being able to expand through innovation within our stores on the beauty side and continue to expand with brands that are performing very well, such as Elf Cosmetics, which is another brand that’s very Gen Z-focused and certainly performing very well in our in our Shoppers Drug Mart stores.

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