Metro Beat

Greetings to all and welcome to the Food Trade News Annual Market Study issue! For the third consecutive year we have retail data for the entire Metro New York/New Jersey marketing area, as well as the usual detailed analysis of the eastern and central Pennsylvania and Delaware markets. I’m sure you will agree after perusing the following pages, that this issue is the culmination of a truly monumental team effort. Our staff and my colleagues at Best-Met Publishing once again moved mountains to dig, assemble and construct what I believe is a “one-of-a-kind” resource guide to the food retailing business in the Northeast. It offers a wealth of information and can be beneficial for your business as you navigate through the food industry waters throughout the year. Kudos again to all of my associates at Food World and Food Trade News for all of their hard work and dedication in putting this together!…..

The Eastern Frosted and Refrigerated Foods (EFRA) combined two of its annual events into one recently when they held their golf outing and Blue Penguin awards dinner at White Beeches country club in Haworth, NJ. The group has struggled with attendance recently due to the difficulties an ever-consolidating industry presents. And while the golf outing could have used some more players, the ever popular Blue Penguin dinner once again brought out the crowd as they recognized the frozen industry’s best. Mike Ryan and the EFRA handed out Blue Penguin awards for distinguished efforts in support of “March is Frozen Food Month” to the evening’s big winners. For brokers, first place went to Douglas Sales and second to ASM. For manufacturers, Mrs. T’s Pierogies and Athens Food were first and second respectively. For retailers with fewer than 50 stores there was a first place tie between King Kullen and Met Foods. For retailers with more than 50 stores, first place went A&P/Pathmark and second place to Associated Supermarkets. And the final category of cooperatives was won by Wakefern Food Corp. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Speaking of winners, RDD Associates was recently appointed to represent several new lines. Bob Cignarella and his team will now be handling Schreiber Foods for its Heluva Good Cheese and Weight Watchers cheese lines. They will rep Arla Foods for some exciting new dairy initiatives. And, also new to the RDD portfolio is I Love Produce and their prepared garlic and ginger products. That Indian Drink Co., which produces small-batch drinkable yogurt, is also not on the RDD bandwagon. And finally, Baldor Specialty Foods will be represented by RDD for the business development in the supermarket deli, foodservice and produce categories. Congratulations!

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It is unfortunate that every so often I have to deliver the news of somebody’s death. Well, several notable industry leaders passed away over the last couple of weeks, and in no particular order, here are some brief summaries for those who may not have heard.

One of our industry’s leading retailers, Mel Weitz, died June 4 at his home in Boca Raton, FL at the age of 91. According to his daughter Lori Shabtai, “His mind was sharp and his spirit was loving and generous until his last breath.” Mel was truly an icon and was the consummate merchant . I can’t tell you how many times over the past decade people have asked me about Mel and if he was still alive. Mel was a Purple Heart recipient as a Navy man in World War II and returned to Long Island and worked as a manager for the old Big Apple Supermarket chain. He eventually rose to become president of that company and in 1972 at the age of 48, he decided to implement his own ideas as to how supermarkets should look and run. Mel’s stores were larger and better stocked than others in the area, as each Melmarkets’ Foodtown was more than 60,000 square feet when the industry median stood at about 42,000. Considered a businessman of great vision and a master merchandiser, Mr. Weitz built Melmarkets Inc. from a single store into a small 17 store empire across Nassau and Suffolk Counties. An article in Forbes Magazine dated November 18, 1992, said: “When it comes to sheer profitability, Melmarkets has few peers. That high average checkout number is the key.” Mr. Weitz’ customers were spending twice as much per transaction as the national average. His credo was to pile high and watch it fly. He understood his clientele and was admired for the superior quality of his produce and his commitment to customer service. To my recollection, Mel was the pioneer in creating the “store within a store” concept when, each spring for six weeks, he opened an entire 65,000 square foot Kosher for Passover supermarket. There were always tempting aromas wafting from the on-site bakeries and freshly roasted chickens in the deli sections of his Foodtowns, and, usually, plenty of free samples. These were startling innovations when they first appeared in Mr. Weitz’ markets. Club discount cards and low-priced bulk merchandise were also among his unique marketing strategies. Mel married three times, and is survived by his wife Ellen, his 93 year old brother Phil Weitz,  and, in addition to Lori Shabtai, three children from his previous marriages: Bruce (Lil) Weitz, Pamela (Alan) Gordon and Steven Weitz; and 14 grandchildren. As Mel was quoted in the aforementioned Forbes article, “When you read my name in the obituaries, that is when I will retire.” He actually retired when Bob Tobin and Bill Grize oversaw The Stop & Shop Companies’ purchase of Melmarkets in 1995, but his visionary impact on the supermarket industry remains in effect. The family requests that any donations in Mel’s name be made to the charity of the donor’s choice. Mel Weitz’ remarkable legacy will be long remembered. He was a hard driving man with great listening skills and great compassion and the memory of him will be cherished by many. May his soul rest in peace.

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On the the following day, June 5, the produce industry lost one of its “good ones” when John McAleavey, longtime executive director of the Eastern Produce Council (EPC) passed away at his home at the age of 80. John was instrumental in building the EPC into one of the more respected trade organizations in the U.S. His professionalism, work ethic, spirit and love of the industry was evident every time you spoke with him. John began his career as a buyer with A&P in the 1960’s and then held posts with several state commissions and associations before becoming the EPC’s longest running director. Paul Kneeland, the council’s immediate past president and vice president of fresh merchandising with Ahold USA Inc.’s Fresh Formats LLC, knew McAleavey for 20 years. “This is a big loss for the industry,” Kneeland said. “His energy level and his level of life was something I’d never seen before. Whatever he sold, he sold it with such a passion and you couldn’t help but say yes to him. He was a stand-up guy with his family who always surrounded him in his home office.” John is survived by his wife of 51 years Joann; daughter Susan Sarlund and her husband Chas; and son John McAleavey Jr. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to The John McAleavey Jr. Fund, PO Box 514, Short Hills, NJ, 07078, to help continue its 20 year tradition of providing services for individuals and families affected by spinal cord injuries.

We were also very saddened to hear that Tim Regan died May 29, at the age of 66. Tim was a category manager for White Rose Foods (now C&S) and well known in the bakery and perishable industry. For those that didn’t know, prior to his “cup of coffee” of 16 years with White Rose, he served in the U.S. Army for 37 years before retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. For those that knew him, he truly was an officer and a gentleman. Surviving is his loving wife of 18 years Mary Reinhardt Gibson; a daughter and son in law Jeannette and Jim Longo of Mays Landing; a step-son Ryan Gibson of Manchester; a brother Robert Regan of Naples, FL; and two grandsons, Michael and Kevin Longo. In lieu of flowers, the family asks to please make all donations to the Wounded Warrior Project, 370 7th Avenue, New York, NY10001.

And finally, Francis An, president and founder of Bogopa Service Corp., parent of Food Bazaar supermarkets passed away in early June. Francis was born in Korea and migrated to Argentina as a young man, where he embraced the culture and lived for many years. Upon arriving in New York City in the 1980s, he quickly discovered that the needs of the minorities and immigrants were largely being ignored by most mainstream businesses in New York, especially supermarkets. Having enjoyed Latin American cuisine during his time in Argentina, he found that New York supermarkets simply did not carry a wide enough selection of the various ingredients needed to make many of the dishes that he had enjoyed in Argentina. Seeing a need for these items, he opened his first supermarket in 1988 in Queens, NY. The name Bogopa was chosen as the corporate parent name because it means “Yearning for You” in Korean. May his soul rest in peace.

Kudos to George Gellert and the Gellert Global Group, (parent company of Atalanta Corp.) on the news that they have endowed a new food safety professorship at Cornell University. The position will focus on the prevention and control of bacterial food borne illnesses and diseases passed from animals to humans including public health threats. Cornell’s Department of Food Science integrates the disciplines of chemistry, biology, nutrition, physiology, biotech and engineering to ensure access to healthy, affordable food.

Well, that’s it for now all. I hope you utilize and enjoy this Market Study issue. Hope to see you out at the various outings, dinners and trade events this summer! As always you can reach me at 201.250.2217 or kgallagher@best-met.com.