Soup To Nutz

A native of Philadelphia, Maria has been in the food business for most of her career as a manufacturer, distributor and restaurateur. Now with Food Trade News for over 10 years, she likes to say we inform, educate and entertain. She can be reached at

There’s never a dull moment in our industry and this past month has been no exception. We have so much to cover, so let’s get to it!

Thanksgiving traditionally begins the season of giving. Kicking it off a bit early, Giant/Martin’s made company history by donating 9,500 turkeys in one day (November 1) to its partner food banks to help feed those in need this Thanksgiving. An annual tradition for Giant/Martin’s, the 2018 turkey donation comes as the company continues its year-long 95th anniversary celebration, centered around giving back to its community partners. “Throughout our 95-year history, Giant has been a passionate supporter of the fight against hunger, and every day we are inspired by the dedication and compassion our food bank partners display in this ongoing fight,” said Nicholas Bertram, president. “We are honored to partner with them and do our part to help ensure all families are able to gather around the table to enjoy a warm holiday meal.” In addition to the turkey donation, more than 200 Giant and Martin’s associates spent the morning volunteering, organizing and restocking shelves, helping partner food banks in advance of the busy holiday season. Giant and Martin’s customers also had the opportunity to help their neighbors in need this holiday season by donating their free turkey certificate, earned by shopping with their Bonus Card, to a local regional food bank through Nov. 22 at any of the company’s 171 stores.

Speaking of Giant/Martin’s, more than 450 guests trekked to Atlantic City to take part in the Mid Atlantic Food Trade Association’s (MAFTO) 14th annual Gala Weekend honoring Nick Bertram and John Ruane of Giant/Martin’s during the first weekend of November. Margaritaville once again served as the welcome party venue with leis, margaritas and fun food as Hawaiian shirt clad guests began to wind down from a week that included both Halloween and a Nor’easter. Five out of six of John Ruane’s grown children joined their father and seemed to enjoy every minute, dancing and meeting their father’s friends. MAFTO president Scott Vicari, whose parent company Advantage Solutions was the presenting sponsor, and his committee pulled out all the stops for this beautiful affair. First time emcee and board member, Mark Phander of Borden Perlman, did a great job with the program during which Nick Bertram introduced the Heirloom store brand to the audience via a video presentation. By the way, the first, smaller format store is opening December 14 in Center City Philadelphia. Seven scholarships were awarded to college students during the program. Each year, sponsors donate items for a goody bag which is given to each attendee. This year, all the extra bags were donated to AVANZAR, a shelter in Atlantic County, NJ. Claudia Ratzlaff, CEO of AVANZAR describes it as: “A place for everyone who suffers from the victimization of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.” The weekend wrapped up with an early breakfast. Membership to MAFTO is free. For more information, please go to


It’s been a busy month for Giant/Martin’s, which officially cut the ribbon on its newest Lancaster area store November 16 at the former Darrenkamp’s in Willow Valley Square. At the opening, the company announced a $50,000 donation to The Extraordinary Give, Lancaster County’s largest day of giving. Nearly 500 local organizations supporting causes like education, health, children and families, the environment and more benefited from the gifts. Hosted by the Lancaster County Community Foundation, last year’s Extraordinary Give generated $8.6 million in only 24 hours. Giant/Martin’s joined leading event sponsors Rodgers & Associates, High Foundation, and Steinman Foundation/LNP Media Group, in creating the largest Stretch Pool to date of nearly $600,000 that will go directly to participating organizations. “We are excited to celebrate the opening of our new Willow Valley Square store by recognizing the good work of more than 500 local nonprofit organizations with a ‘Giant’ give today,” said Todd Kinter, manager of the Willow Valley Square store. “Giant understands the vital work being done by these organizations all year long, and we are proud to contribute to the Extraordinary Give while helping to make Lancaster County a better place to work and live.” As part of the grand opening celebrations, Giant also made $1,000 donations to many local community organizations and first responders.

As you may or may not know, November is National Diabetes Month, with November 14th marked as National Diabetes Day, which includes both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Weis Markets has partnered with sponsor OneTouch in recognizing American Diabetes Month with free, diabetes-focused events, led by the team of Weis dietitians, throughout the month of November. To help customers impacted by diabetes and to raise awareness for the largely preventable disease, Weis dietitians are holding more than 60 free events in select stores this month. Events include nutrition education store tours where participants will learn how to plan meals and snacks, read labels and select nutrient-rich foods and workshops in partnership with local diabetes experts and Weis pharmacists. All sessions are designed to provide guidance for individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, those at risk for diabetes, or those that want to learn key preventative measures. The World Health Organization now estimates the direct costs of diabetes at more than $827 billion per year, globally. The health crisis is growing: the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, growing from 4.7 percent to 8.5 percent prevalence among adults. Weis Markets Lifestyle Initiatives manager Beth Stark said, “During National Diabetes Month, our dietitian team is here to educate and support our customers and associates living with diabetes, so they are better able to manage the disease and feel their best. We hope our efforts bring awareness throughout the month and beyond for those in our community who face the daily challenges of living with diabetes.” In addition to the team’s free in-store events, Weis dietitians will be unveiling a new chain-wide initiative, Weis Dietitian Pick: Eat Well with Diabetes. Through the month of November, shoppers are able to more easily identify foods that can help manage blood sugar for individuals with, or who are at risk for diabetes. The special tag appears on nutrient-rich foods throughout the store that contain no or minimal added sugar, whole grains, fiber and sensible amounts of carbohydrates. For more information, go to or the Weis Markets Facebook page.

More than 150 members of the food industry flocked to the 13th annual Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) Department of Food Marketing Food Industry Summit (FIS) held on campus in mid-October. Titled “The Future of the Food Industry,” the outing gave attendees an opportunity to hear from seasoned veterans about where we’re headed as an industry. While this summit has had a couple of rough spots over the years, this year’s event was both informative and interesting. The format was a mixed bag with program director, Dr. John Stanton shaking things up a little. He even hosted a fireside chat with BJ’s CEO Chris Baldwin, who indicated that convenient stores aren’t so convenient. “If it’s not on your phone, it’s not convenient,” he said. Other participants included Jeff B. Smith, J&J; Donna Banks-Ficcio, Weis Markets; and John Bennett, McCormick. If you missed it, put it in your calendar for 2019. It’s worth the time spent.


SJU also hosted its fifth annual Food Marketing Hall of Honor on November 13 in the Campbell Collection of the university’s Drexel Library. The Hall of Honor recognizes extraordinary alumni who have demonstrated achievement and contributions to the food industry. This year’s class of deserving inductees were Mike Sherlock, senior VP and chief product marketing officer of Wawa and, posthumously, Bruno Garisto, who was VP of center store merchandising and sales for Weis Markets until his untimely death in 2012. Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens introduced Mike Sherlock and Kurt Schertle, COO of Weis, introduced Carolyn Garisto, Bruno’s wife, who spoke on behalf of the family. For those of us who knew Bruno, knowing his love for SJU and the retail food business, this was a welcomed recognition. SJU also inaugurated its Rising Star Award to younger alumni, who represent emerging leaders whose records reflect exceptional growth and increased levels of leadership and responsibility in our industry. Joe O’Connor of Hormel and Claire Tedesco of Hello Fresh were given the recognition this year. It was a special evening, with not a dry eye in the place. The Hawk will never die.

Helping the food insecure in the neighborhoods they serve, Brown’s Super Stores and the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC), partnered with Salem Baptist Church of Roslyn, UBER, community groups, corporations and elected officials to coordinate Thanksgiving basket distribution one of the largest distributions ever in the region. In its 35th year, this program is supported by generous sponsors including Pepsi, Glory Foods, Table Talk Pie Co., Bimbo Bakeries, Pepperidge Farm, Flowers Foods, Schmidt Baking, Verchio’s & Guarino’s Produce, which supplied many of the items in this year’s baskets. The newest partner, UBER, provided community partners and their families complimentary rides to pick up their Thanksgiving baskets. More than 100 community partners from across the city of Philadelphia distributed 2,000 Thanksgiving baskets each with a full dinner that together fed more than 12,000 individuals citywide and gave them a Thanksgiving meal to remember. A team of more than 75 volunteers from the partner organizations assembled at the ShopRite of Oregon Avenue the Saturday before Thanksgiving to prepare the baskets for distribution. The baskets were distributed on November 19 at the ShopRite of Island Avenue where representatives from Brown’s, both the City of Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania, and partner sponsors were on hand to kick off the distribution. Great job!

A tip of the hat to Jason Ravitz of Ravitz Family Markets on his re-election as deputy mayor of Voorhees Township, NJ. Jason was first elected to serve the residents of Voorhees Township in 2016. Congrats!

Birthday shout-outs for the grateful month of November go to: Gary Michael Redner, Redner’s Markets; Jim Mullen, Giant/Martin’s; Mike Mackin, Schmidt Baking; Curt Gruber, retired from Acosta; Mike Marano, Force One; Anthony Maglio Jr., Maglio Sausage; Bernie Ellis, retired from AWI; and me, celebrating 39 again! Buon compleanno a tutti!

As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables, please take a minute to remember and say a prayer for the food insecure in our communities and our troops at home and abroad who continue to sacrifice every day for our way of life. We have much for which we should be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!


Quote of the month: “I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” Henry David Thoreau


Maria can be reached at or 443.631.0172.