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

Hear ye, hear ye, Wawa arrived in Historic Philadelphia on December 14! Located across the street from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the largest store in the company’s history checks in at 11, 500 square feet and is part “fast casual” and part convenience. This one of a kind store features elements unique to this location that bring to life the Wawa brand in many new ways, while celebrating all of the Philly Firsts that make our city so special. For example, there is seating; table café seating and couches in the “fast casual” section with views of the historic surroundings. There is a huge living wall of plants celebrating Wawa’s freshness and quality. Two murals created in conjunction with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (did you know Philly has been named the mural capital of the world?) feature many “Philly Firsts.” The décor is industrial grey with a hint of deco – nothing colonial about it. For the tourists, local and not so local, this store sells Wawa gear! It’s the only store in the entire company to sell t-shirts, umbrellas, mugs and other memorabilia. As for the menu, Mike Sherlock, chief product marketing officer for Wawa, gave me the rundown of a new, fresh focused menu. The sweet baked goods and artisan breads are baked on premise and then moved to self-serve cases. Coffee in this store features Wawa Reserve (delicious) along with the flavors we have all come to enjoy. A full-service beverage area whips up tea lattes and other assorted specialty coffee drinks with kombucha, nitro cold brew and Vietnamese iced coffee on tap. Salads are freshly made and have grown in size. There is also a huge feature wall with glass Coca Cola bottles behind it that changes colors all day in the convenience side of the store that indicates where cold beverages can be found. Wawa is adding catering as well. They hope to supply school tours with pre-ordered fresh boxed lunches and cater for nearby offices. It’s worth the ride and the parking to visit the store. You might even catch a glimpse of Ben Franklin stopping by to get some Wawa, as he did during the pre-opening party!

Sometimes giving back comes in a different form – the form of self-empowerment. Uplift Workforce Solutions began a program back in May of 2017 to assist formerly-incarcerated citizens gain access to employment. Over the past 18 months, more than 300 participants have learned to rebuild their lives through this six-week program that focuses on both hard and soft skills to successfully re-enter into the workforce. On November 27, Uplift hosted its largest ever Celebration Graduation, welcoming 90 people into jobs at ShopRite stores operated by the Brown family, Burns’ Family Neighborhood Markets and other Uplift employment partners. In attendance were Jeff and Sandy Brown of Brown’s Super Stores, Inc., Keir Bradford-Grey of Defenders Assoc. of Philadelphia and Barry Johnson of Workforce Solutions. “We all know the barriers faced by folks who have a criminal record. The goal of the program is to not just offer job training, but to finish with a guaranteed job that can offer a career ladder. This aspect has been transformative. We believe someone’s mistakes in the past should not dictate their future,” said Johnson.

The graduation ceremony, held at Temple University’s Mitten Hall, featured keynote speaker Shon Robert Hopwood, best known for his meteoric rise from convicted bank robber to Georgetown University Law professor. He was the first inmate to successfully write a legal brief heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and win his case. Hopwood went on to write a second brief, which was also heard and won. He is currently an appellate lawyer and professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center. His story is an example of how helping a returning citizen get a second chance can inspire and help others as well. Annually, more than 36,000 people pass through Philadelphia city jails, 18,000 people are released from prison in Pennsylvania and more than 300,000 people living in Philly have criminal records. Current laws and perceptions have created barriers for these individuals to achieve permanent long-term employment. Due to a lack of opportunity, many of these individuals decide their only option for survival is to re-engage in past behavior. This cycle has led to an 80 percent recidivism rate and long-term structural poverty. UpLift: To Strengthen, Heal & Inspire is a national consultancy that supports food businesses, governments, nonprofits, healthcare systems and more to create access to food, access to healthcare and access to capital in underserved communities. For more information, please contact Sandy Brown at


On another happy note, Brown’s is celebrating 30 years in the supermarket business. With sons Josh and Scott, currently a food marketing major at Saint Joe’s, now on the team, Sandy and Jeff have secured the next generation of Brown family members in the supermarket business. Congratulations!

Thanksgiving through the end of December has become known as the season of giving, with November 27 being the National Day of Giving. Everyone (I hope) has found some way of giving back to those less fortunate; to those who are food insecure; and to those who have lost all because of a natural disaster. Whatever small part each and every one of us can do to make the holidays bright for someone less fortunate is a blessing. It’s all good.

In that spirit, Weis Markets joined with customers to support local nonprofits in its marketing areas. All customers were invited to donate to a local nonprofit, chosen by employees at each store location, by adding $1, $3 or $5 when they checked out at registers, or by rounding up their grocery bill. Each Weis location added a $500 check to the customer contributions. “We live and work in the communities we serve and believe in giving back, particularly during the holidays when charitable demand significantly increases. Weis CEO Jonathan Weis and his family have been long committed to the communities where we operate,” said 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.


In fact, the entire food industry is known for its charitable endeavors throughout the year, but that philanthropy really shines during the holidays. The Mid Atlantic Food Trade Organization (MAFTO), now a 501c3 charitable organization, held its annual Christmas for All Kids (CFAK) Monte Carlo night on November 30 at the Springfield Country Club in Delaware County. This event is always the perfect kickoff to the holiday season with great food, open bar, music, funny money gambling and the 2018 addition of a photo booth. This year’s party also had an ugly sweater contest which was won by Burris’ Kevin Langley. The prize: a Wawa cooler with swag and a $50 gift card. Thank you, Wawa! Each guest brought a new unwrapped toy to give to two children’s charities: Delaware County Children’s Charity, in West Chester, PA and Kind to Kids in Wilmington, DE. In addition, the CFAK committee put together a mountain of gifts for four children in the foster care system for Delaware County Children’s Charity and event chairperson Ron Benjamin of the Star Companies filled Nike backpacks with winter necessities for 20 kids from Kind to Kids. Separately, Santa’s elves, Scott Vicari and yours truly, went shopping for toys that were then donated to the Christmas Shop at Sacred Heart Church in Camden, NJ. The topper was a sizeable donation from Pace Target Brokers which Santa’s elf Nancy Rodgers- Fluharty used to buy toys for children living at the Silver Springs – Martin Luther School in Plymouth Meeting, PA. A festive time was had by all and many children in our area will have toys under the tree come Christmas morning because of this generosity.


Preston & Steve’s Camp Out for Hunger 2018, the largest single-location food drive in the country, raised a record 1.8 million pounds of food and almost $200,000 for Philabundance, which as their website says will provide more than 913 tons of food for “our hungry neighbors.” WMMR radio hosts Preston Elliot and Steve Morrison camped out in the parking lot of Xfinity Live at the stadium complex in South Philadelphia beginning the Monday morning after Thanksgiving and broadcasted live all week from the site until mid-day Friday. This is the 21st year for Camp Out and sponsors like Acme Markets run Thanksgiving food campaigns and then deliver “the goods” to Camp Out. During the Gobble Bucks campaign (which concluded the day before Thanksgiving) donations equated to 520,112 pounds of food. More than 3,000 turkey dinners were donated in Acme communities, and the rest were “pantry staples,” case goods donated to regional Feeding America food bank partners. In addition, during the week of Camp Out for Hunger, Acme had an on-site market set up where visitors donated case goods to the drive ($10 for kidney beans or corn; $15 for pasta, etc.). Acme is currently running its holiday food drive campaign, which ends on January 3 and is held in conjunction with Philadelphia’s 6abc TV hunger campaign. Acme president Jim Perkins is in some of the commercials airing periodically in rotation. The actual “check” presentation for this food drive will be sometime later this winter. Congrats all around.

Redner’s Markets, Inc. has announced plans for its 44th location. Already operating four grocery stores and one Quick Shoppe in Montgomery County, PA company president and CEO Ryan Redner has signed an agreement to open a new market in Audubon with a tentative summer/fall 2019 opening. Renovations to the existing building, formerly occupied by a Keller’s grocery store, are slated to begin immediately upon obtaining all needed building permits and will include improvements to the existing building. The store will be approximately 45,000 square feet upon completion. Keep it here for updates in 2019.

Mark your calendars – March 12-13, 2019. Saint Joseph’s University Food Marketing program and the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce will host their inaugural International Specialty Food Summit at Saint Joseph’s University’s Philadelphia campus. Attendees will delve into the day’s “Buy Local, Think Global” theme with this year’s focus on Italian and gain up-to-date insights about emerging trends, merchandising techniques, innovation, and customer engagement from an incredibly diverse slate of international food experts. For information and to register go to

A tip of the hat to Michelle Dorin of Weis Markets who was recently promoted to director of sales and merchandising communications. Michelle has been with Weis for 31 years, as director of pricing for 10 of those years and as a category manager. Congrats!

Also making moves is Josue (Josh) Padilla, who joined Gerrity’s Supermarkets earlier this month as coordinator of produce and floral operations. Prior to joining Gerrity’s, Josh spent five years at Alpha 1 Marketing in the same role. Welcome to Pennsylvania, Josh!

The circle of life continues as industry veteran and food marketing professor at Saint Joseph’s University George Latella and his wife Cheryl have become grandparents. Baby Joseph Gabriel Collins entered the world on December 5 and parents Joe and Nicole are over the moon with their new addition. Auguri!

Birthday shout-outs for the very merry month of December go to: Paul McGurkin, Integrity ESM; Jay Gordon, Sales Management Partners; Dorothy Hamilton, Acme Markets;

Sue Rorke-Lawler, Acme Markets; Linda Naddeo, HP Hood; and Lane Gordon, Dietz & Watson. Buon compleanno a tutti!

Merry Christmahanakwanzika from all of us at Food Trade News. With warm wishes for a peaceful, happy and healthy 2019, Buone feste!


Quote of the month: “No definition of a successful life can do anything but include serving others.” President George H.W. Bush