Aisle Chatter

Karen is the director of marketing/digital strategy and the specialty foods editor at Food World and Food Trade News. With many years under her belt in the hospitality, food & beverage, and retail food industries, she transitioned to the media side of the business in 2011. She can be reached at

The holiday season can give many companies not only the opportunity to showcase their creative side, but to also have some fun while doing it. KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken, for those of you who have been stuck in a dark hole your entire life), a company that has become know for their outside-of-the-box marketing stunts, has taken the ball and is not only running but sprinting forward with this year’s endeavor. Introducing the KFC 11 Herbs & Spices Firelog from Enviro-Log: a five-pound fried chicken scented firelog that is made from 100 percent recycled materials and can burn for two and a half to three hours. It sounds like a sureFIRE (see what I did there?) way to get people craving the chain’s signature “finger-lickin’ good” namesake product. But if you’re hoping to get a few for your holiday fireside chats, think again. The item, which was priced to sell at $18.99 (including taxes, shipping and handling), sold out in the first day it was made available. I should know since I was one of the intrigued consumers who went online to buy it.

On the flip side in what may be a lesson in what-not-to-do in marketing is the Pittsburgh-based manufacturer Primal Palate. The paleo spice company is being taken to Maryland federal court by industry titan McCormick & Co. for trademark infringement of its Old Bay seasoning by Primal Palate’s “New Bae” seasoning blend (which went on the market in October 2017). McCormick, producer of the iconic Old Bay, sent the startup a cease-and-desist letter in April and is arguing (according to a story in Bloomberg about the lawsuit) that “the New Bae name confuses consumers into thinking the two spices are related and diminishes the good reputation and value of its Old Bay trademark.” While in this day where infamy over integrity can sometimes give you a leg up, the smaller company may have shot themselves in the foot by not only stating in their launch announcement last fall that the product name was “a terrible pun” meant to promote a “bay seasoning” but also by utilizing such slogans as “Out with the Old, and in with the NEW.” The husband and wife founders Bill and Hayley Staley have also acknowledged openly, “It was a nod to Old Bay.” I don’t envy the couple in their legal battle because not only does McCormick have much deeper pockets than they do, but the die-hard Old Bay supporters are a very loyal, vocal and possessive group.

Congratulations to Giant/Martin’s on receiving a 2018 Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) regional award this month from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The FRC is a voluntary program in which participants pledge to provide a food waste baseline along with annual goals to prevent food waste, donate wasted food and or recycle food scraps in a state-permitted non-landfill destination. EPA regional offices across the country provided recognition to FRC participants and endorsers for outstanding accomplishments in preventing and diverting wasted food and the Carlisle-based retailer was one of the EPA’s three region 3 (Delaware, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia) winners of the award (the other two being UEmpower of Maryland and the University of Pittsburgh). According to Nicholas Bertram, president of Giant/Martin’s, the company’s “Meat the Needs” program, which was started in 2008 after the revelation that protein meat was most needed by hungry families but often in short supply, can largely be credited for the recognition bestowed on them from the prestigious government agency. Through this program, stores safely freeze and donate meat that is pulled from sale a day before its sell-by date. This product is safe, consumable food that rather than going into landfills is being sent to regional food banks to feed those most in need.


“As a food retailer we are committed to reducing waste and minimizing our environmental impact, while at the same time maximizing food donations to our regional food banks,” said Bertram. “Our ‘Meat the Needs’ program has been a game changer for our company and our food bank partners, diverting food from landfills and onto the plates of those in need. We are honored to have these ongoing efforts recognized by the EPA.”

All 172 Giant/Martin stores participate in the “Meat the Needs” program with the meat donations delivered to regional food bank partners by company trucks. All of this is part of a company-wide sustainability initiative which includes plans to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2025.

Also in the spirit of giving, Weis Markets joined customers on the National Day of Giving (November 27) in supporting local non-profits by pledging to match customer donations collected that with a corporate check. Customers were invited to donate to a local nonprofit, chosen by employees at each store location, by adding $1, $3 or $5 when they check out at registers, or by rounding up their grocery bill. Each Weis location will add a $500 check to the customer contributions in addition to the match.


“We live and work in the communities we serve and believe in giving back, particularly during the holidays when charitable demand significantly increases. Our CEO Jonathan Weis and his family have been long committed to the communities where we operate,” stated Ron Bonacci, Weis Markets vice president of advertising and marketing. “We’re delighted to partner with our customers to provide this support, and we’re proud of the many associates who support and volunteer for charitable organizations in their communities.”

The local organizations chosen by Weis locations are primarily food pantries, emergency shelter services and animal rescue organizations. In addition to the local store donations, Weis is distributing larger donations, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, to several non-profit partners throughout the company’s footprint.

And finally, I would like to give kudos to Safeway Eastern for hosting its 19th annual Feast of Sharing at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center late last month. The annual holiday event, which serviced more than 5,000 city residents and brought together around 1,000 volunteers and a host of community partners, not only provided a traditional turkey meal but also featured a community services expo which included free flu shots, health screenings and complimentary haircuts and manicures. There was also a clothing distribution during the day featuring generous donations from partners such as Macy’s (which provided gift cards for the purchase of winter coats) and fashion designer Lara Akinsaya and her organization Runway for a Cause Foundation, which donated several hundred winter clothing items. Elected officials and special guests included: councilmembers Jack Evans, Brandon Todd and Vincent Gray; Washington Redskins alumni Gary Clark and Santana Moss; the Washington Redskins cheerleaders; Safeway former associate and D.C. hometown boxing champion Swift Jarrett Hurd; ABC7 anchors Michelle Marsh and Jonathan Elias; Darik Kristofer from Fresh FM Radio; TV personality Chef Huda; NBA mom Wanda Durant; and an array of local pageant winners. The Joint Armed Forces Color Guard Military District of Washington presented the colors, and Betty Entzminger sang the National Anthem. They even had musical entertainment, provided by R&B band LA Young featuring the Unusual Suspects.

“Every year, Safeway looks forward to presenting a delicious meal and a joyous celebration to the thousands of neighbors who join us for the Safeway Feast of Sharing,” said Tom Lofland, president of Safeway Eastern. “We are grateful to our community partners and volunteers for helping us to produce this cherished holiday tradition. It is a pleasure and a privilege to give back to our community, not only during the holiday season but all year long.” It takes a village and Safeway certainly had one that day.


May each and every one of you enjoy all the merriment and joys the holidays bring and wishing you and your families peace and prosperity for the New Year!

Until next month AND year…