Robert C. Cantwell, chief executive officer and president of B&G Foods, Inc., sees three issues that are driving changes in the market for food and beverages: the emergence of the e-commerce business model, the proliferation of smaller, more regional retailers, and the impact of the nation’s immigration policy.

Mr. Cantwell addressed the issues during a June 8 presentation at the Barclays High Yield Bond and Syndicated Loan Conference in Colorado Springs.

With regards to e-commerce, Mr. Cantwell said food and beverage manufacturers are relearning how to reach consumers and influence their purchasing decisions.

Robert Cantwell, B&G Foods
Robert C. Cantwell, c.e.o. and president of B&G Foods

“It’s a different way consumers buy today, and we’re all learning through that,” he said.

Mr. Cantwell said consumer packaged goods companies are very good at promoting products at brick and mortar retailers, getting products in front of consumers, adjusting price points and influencing decisions.

“As internet shopping expands, we have to learn how to do that,” he said.

Likening brick and mortar grocery shopping to a treasure hunt, Mr. Cantwell said the on-line experience is much different. While the consumer still builds a shopping list it becomes much more difficult for manufacturers to persuade them to try a different product.

“(You’ve) got to get them to think twice about every time they go to click that shopping list to reorder…,” he said.

Another issue is what Mr. Cantwell called “mom and pop” grocery stores gaining a foothold in suburbia. He said some consumers are forgoing large stock-up trips to major retailers and walking down the street to their local grocer to buy a few products.

“The way I grew up growing up in Brooklyn, I mean, that's how people did it,” he said. “It wasn’t the big, let’s go fill up the car with groceries. You went down the street to buy things. So, the world is changing that way.”

While other C.P.G. executives have cited warm weather and the late arrival of tax refunds for the slowdown in grocery sales during the first part of the year, Mr. Cantwell said the Trump administration’s focus on deporting anyone who may be in the country illegally as another reason.

“You might be here for 10 years, but you might be going back tomorrow,” he said. “You get concerned. So, there was definitely a lack of foot traffic in most major retailers, especially around areas where a lot of those populations exist.”