Soup To Nutz

The dog days of summer are certainly upon us, but you wouldn’t know that if you went shopping at the mass merchers and department stores. You might think school was about to start any day now. Gone are the outdoor furniture seat cushions I was in search of and replacing them are markers, binders and backpacks, rows of backpacks. I’m keeping out of those stores until the leaves begin to change. Meanwhile, the 2018 Market Study was awesome (please let us know if you haven’t received one) and the Grocery Industry Directory (GID) will be ready for distribution mid-Fall. The retail chessboard keeps moving, so you can be sure we will get our readers information about the moves as soon as it hits. In the meantime, I hope everyone has some sand between their toes or a golfer’s tan!

The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) annual State of the Specialty Food industry report, issued a short time ago, reveals that specialty food remains one of the fastest-growing segments of the food business. Fueled by increasing interest from both consumers and retailers, total sales jumped 11 percent between 2015 and 2017, hitting $140.3 billion last year. Specialty food sales outpaced the growth of all food at retail – up 12.9 percent vs. 1.4 percent. Product innovation and the wider availability of specialty foods through mass-market outlets is also playing a part in the industry’s success. Sales through foodservice increased 12.8 percent and online by 21 percent as U.S. consumers make specialty food a regular part of their diets both at home and when dining out. “The specialty food industry is a business that is constantly evolving,” said Phil Kafarakis, president of SFA. “Consumers of all ages are embracing specialty foods and making purchases everywhere they happen to be – from convenience stores to big box retailers to online, as well as in traditional gourmet shops and groceries. Foodservice and retailers are relying more and more upon our products. The industry’s growth has been building and will continue to maintain momentum for years to come. Our research provides a comprehensive picture of where we are today and can be used to help businesses prepare for future success.” Beginning this year, SFA has refocused its annual research into a single, comprehensive State of the Specialty Food Industry report. Working with Mintel, the report explores where the current market stands, the opportunities and challenges it faces, where it is going based on sales forecasts in key categories, and how the specialty food consumer is evolving. From 2015 to 2017 water, rice cakes, refrigerated Ready to Drink (RTD) coffee and tea, Jerky and Meat snacks, and shelf stable creams and creamers led the way with the highest percent of dollar growth change. The share of consumers buying specialty foods by generation (2018) ranges from 79 downward to 60 percent with iGens (age 18-23) leading and Baby Boomers rounding out the pack. Millennials and Gen Xers fall in the middle but much closer to the Boomers than the up and coming iGens.

That evolution that Kafarakis was talking about most evident at the 64th annual Summer Fancy Food Show, held in the Big Apple at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. As always, there were many me-too items but something else was cooking above the show floor. An Incubator Village was in place offering some of the smallest specialty food producers the opportunity to get their products off the ground. In attendance were 11 incubators and almost 80 startups. “Food incubators give new and passionate entrepreneurs a solid chance to enter the marketplace by providing them with opportunities to test concepts and create successful product launches,” said Kafarakis. It gave the exhibitors a chance to interact with retailers in all channels of distribution. Many of the incubators were affiliated with universities or local economic development programs. Each entrepreneur truly believed in their product as I wound my way to each incubator. My top favorites were very diverse. Puffworks, organic, plant based peanut butter puffs were beyond good. Non-GMO, gluten free, and organic – they actually tasted great. I promise to never get that artificial orange gunk on my hands again after crunching on these light and flavorful snacks. Fresh Bellies food for toddlers tout themselves as “palates in training” with the focus on development of children’s palates, thereby teaching them to enjoy a variety of flavors and eliminating the picky eater. They call it “adventurous eating.” Indeed. Being a cheese lover, I had to taste all the cheese, and there was one in particular that I had never seen before: the iconic Guinness Brand of beer has been blended with, you guessed it, cheddar cheese! Labeled as “perfectly balanced cheddar infused with the distinctive flavor of Guinness,” the cheese comes in chunks, blocks for slicing and rounds for cut and wrap (and let’s not forget adding it to your favorite mac and cheese recipe). It was creamy with a nice bite, but not too strong. Guinness cheddar will be a great addition to any football gameday menu. And that’s a wrap for the SFA fancy food show Summer 2018. See ya next time!


As we go to press, Weis Markets had just opened a new store in Randolph, NJ. The 54,000 square foot supermarket, which anchors a vacant store front location in the Center Grove shopping plaza, is the company’s sixth location in New Jersey and second in Morris County. The store employs more than 140 full- and part-time associates and features a large produce department with an expansive organic selection, a full-service seafood department with sustainably-caught seafood, a full-service meat department with on-premise, custom-cut Certified Angus Beef, a deli offering a wide selection of meals to go including a hot foods bar, conventional and organic salad bars and Mediterranean bar, eight self-checkout scan lanes, a full-service pharmacy and Weis 2 Go Online ordering. “We are very pleased to further expand our services to our second Morris County location, and to anchor and revitalize the Center Grove shopping plaza,” said Jonathan Weis, CEO. “We are proud to be able to hire more than 140 full-and part-time associates and we look forward to serving the dynamic Randolph community.” The Randolph store was built with multiple sustainability measures. This is the company’s first store with a CO2 refrigeration system, which significantly reduces its carbon footprint and reduces overall energy usage. The store’s eco-friendly features also include LED lighting to reduce electrical needs; low-flow devices to support water conservation efforts; energy control through demand response programs to reduce power usage during peak days and to reduce the store’s load on the power grid; and enclosed refrigeration cases to reduce energy use as well as advanced refrigeration technologies to reduce refrigerant use by 60 percent when compared to conventional systems. This store features an in-store dietitian, as the Weis Markets’ growing team of registered dietitian nutritionists grows to eight. The on-site Weis dietitian will provide an array of free health and wellness services including: Cart Smart tours that help customers navigate the aisles to identify the foods that meet their health and lifestyle needs; tasting and cooking events to expose shoppers to new healthy foods and basic cooking techniques; and personalized nutrition consultations. To commemorate the opening and thank the community for its warm welcome, Weis donated $10,000 to local organizations including: Randolph High School, Randolph Recreation Committee, Randolph Fire, Randolph EMS, Randolph Library, Randolph YMCA and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.

If you visit a ShopRite or Fresh Grocer supermarket operated by the Brown family during the month of July, you may just run into a giant, pink piggy bank around the deli department. It’s part of a program to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research that is sponsored by Dietz & Watson, Susan G. Komen Philadelphia and Brown’s. The fundraising pink piggy banks are in place in eight stores operated by the Brown family and the store which collects the most donations will have a grill-fest in the parking lot on August 16th. All customers and associates will be welcome to attend, compliments of Dietz & Watson. Dietz & Watson of Philadelphia is a proud sponsor of Susan G. Komen, Philadelphia as well as a national Susan G. Komen partner. They have helped raise more than $1 million over the last 8 years for this tremendous cause. The program featuring five giant piggy banks was developed seven years ago and they have been featured at Susan G. Komen for the Cure events each and every year; including their impactful appearance at the annual Mother’s Day Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on the Ben Franklin Parkway. Cindy Eni Yingling, daughter of Dietz & Watson matriarch Ruth “Momma Dietz” Eni, is a breast cancer survivor, so Komen has always held a special place in her heart. “We wanted to do something different that would make people take notice of our partnership with Komen, as well as help raise funds to someday eliminate breast cancer,” said Yingling. “These pretty piggies really do stand out. People do a double take when they see them and that creates a conversation and many times, a donation.”

Sandy Brown, wife of Jeff Brown and director of Brown’s Super Stores, was excited to get involved in this fundraiser. Brown’s has been a supporter of the cause for many years. They host the Survivors Breakfast at every Mother’s Day Race for the Cure which hosts more than 5,000 people. “We are always looking for new ways to support Komen in their fight for the cure, so when Dietz & Watson came to us with this idea we were all in,” said Brown. “What a fun way to raise awareness and funds during the heat of the summer. Everyone loves to interact with the pink pigs and take pictures with them, often resulting in a donation. The Grill-fest contest will really add excitement to it all!”


Giant/Martin’s recently announced record-breaking results for the grocers’ annual in-store Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals balloon campaign raising $758,610. The 2018 fundraising campaign was conducted from June 24 through July 7 with the announcement being made at the retailer’s signature CMN Celebrity Putting Contest that paired Penn State Children’s Hospital’s “Miracle” children with locally renowned media personalities. “We humbly thank our loyal customers who joined with us in bringing hope to our communities and our local children’s hospitals,” said Matt Simon, Giant/Martin’s vice president of marketing. “We are once again amazed at the generosity of our customers, and this record-breaking donation will help fund special equipment to treat young patients, build new treatment facilities, and conduct groundbreaking, life-saving research.” The previous highest total for the balloon campaign was $658,565 in 2017. Giant/Martin’s is one of the top 10 fundraisers in the country for CMN Hospitals, having donated more than $42 million over the past 22 years. Local CMN Hospital projects that have benefited from this ongoing support include Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn State Children’s Hospital, and The Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger. In addition to the annual in-store campaigns during the summer and at the holidays, Giant/Martin’s associates also regularly volunteer at CMN Hospital events, including radio and television telethons.

“We are incredibly grateful Giant/Martin’s for their support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the commitment to improve the lives of children in their communities,” said Clark Sweat, chief revenue officer of Children Miracle Network Hospitals. “The efforts and passion demonstrated by Giant/Martin’s leadership and associates is evident in their fundraising growth year over year. We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful partnership for the past 22 years.”

CMN Hospitals, the alliance of premier hospitals for children, is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children’s hospitals across North America.

Each year after IDDBA’s tradeshow, exhibiting companies are encouraged to reduce food waste by donating their products to help those in need. As IDDBA ‘18 was hosted in New Orleans, the association collaborated with the city’s Second Harvest Food Bank to give back to the community.

IDDBA proudly thanked all the volunteers and hundreds of exhibitors that made the donation of the amazing amount of 154,455 pounds of food, or 128,712 meals. The food bank distributes these donations to more than 240 organizations from the Mississippi border to the Texas state line, feeding the hungry. Good job in the fight to end hunger in America!

Birthday shout-outs for the independent month of July go to: Mike Rothwell, Pennington Market;

Joe Fantozzi, Allegiance Retail Services; Jim McCaffrey III, McCaffrey’s Markets; Maurice Christino, Cento Foods; Wayne Couts, Burris Retail Logistics; Tim Summy, retired from Bimbo; Dr. Joe D’Angelo, SJU; and special birthday wishes to my son Gino Marfuggi. Buon compleanno a tutti!


Quote of the month: “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” William Shakespeare