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

Spring brings us flowers, warmer weather, rain and my personal favorite, baseball. As the official grocer of the Philadelphia Phillies, Giant/Martin’s celebrated opening day by announcing its own starting lineup of new promotions to celebrate Philadelphia’s hometown team in the 2019 season.

“Like all baseball fans, Giant has been waiting for opening day since the end of last season. It’s finally here and to mark the occasion, we’re offering our customers many ways to celebrate their beloved Phillies, show their team spirit and save at Giant, all season long,” stated Matt Simon, vice president of marketingGiant/Martin’s. “We’re excited to be growing our Giant Heirloom Market brand in the city of Philadelphia this year and look forward to a great second season as the official grocer of the Philadelphia Phillies.”

So, what can we expect from the official grocer of the Phillies? Healthy snack options from Nature’s Promise, the company’s private label line will be located at concession stands throughout the ballpark, and whenever the Phillies score a home run in the 7th inning, customers can text a code for an exclusive limited-time offer. In store, Giant will reward its customers for showing their team spirit. For every Sunday home game, customers who wear their Phillies gear while doing their grocery shopping will receive a 5 percent discount on qualifying purchases that total $20 or more, and officially licensed MLB Phillies merchandise will be available at all Giant Food Stores in our region. Later this month, Giant’s bakery specialists will go head-to-head to see who can decorate the best Phanatic birthday cake (a very important birthday in Philly) and for the first time, Giant’s social media fans will choose the winner.


Giant is also returning as the sponsor of the Phanatic MVP Club. Young people ages 14 and under are invited to join the legions of young fans who enjoy access to great prizes, exclusive events, ticket discounts and other benefits as members of the clubincluding a discount coupon for a custom cake at Giant in their birthday card from the Phanatic. In addition, as the sponsor of Pride Night at the ballpark, on Wednesday, June 26, Giant will join the Phillies by inviting fans to celebrate Philadelphia’s rich LGBTQ culture. Beyond the ballpark and the grocery aisles, Giant’s sponsorship of the Phillies extends into the neighborhoods of Philadelphia to address hunger and promote healthy kids, two of Giants ongoing philanthropic priorities. Giant and the Phillies will team up in support of Phans Feeding Families Day on Saturday, June 8, which will benefit Philabundance.

“This partnership is a Giant win for Philabundance and those we serve,” said Glenn Bergman, executive director, Philabundance. “And as a new supporter of Phans Feeding Families, Giant joins a great group of supporters, including Citizens Bank, the Phillies and the phans, who help us to feed kids in need.”  

Earlier this month, Weis Markets presented a $102,500 donation to the American Heart Association (AHA) in support of their in-store “Life is Why We Give” program, which raised funds in the fight against heart disease and stroke. This donation was generated through customer contributions during a two-week, in-store fundraising program during American Heart Month in February. Weis stores raised nearly $92,000, and a corporate contribution rounded up the donation to $102,500. “We are extremely grateful to our customers for their generosity in support of our inaugural “Life is Why We Give” in-store campaign in support of the American Heart Association,” said David Gose, senior vice president of operations for Weis Markets. “AHA’s mission is to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. At Weis, we are proud to play a part in the fight against heart disease and stroke, and to give back in the communities we serve.” The funds raised will be used to support heart disease and stroke prevention, including nutrition education, in Weis seven-state market area.  


Just before we went to press last month, the Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) Academy of Food Marketing together with the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce, held one heck of an inaugural International Specialty Food Summit. The theme: Buy Local, Think Global. More than 125 attendees had the rare opportunity to hear from the specialty food industry’s leading experts and feast on delicacies from New York City’s finest Italian chefs.

The day began with a report from Ron Tanner of the Specialty Food Association on trends in specialty food. Chock full of statistics collected by Scan Data, Ron reminded the group that there is huge disruption despite the growth in the food industry. He questioned what sets specialty foods apart, with the expected answer being innovation, style, better ingredients and most importantly a person behind the brand. He asked that entrepreneurs refrain from using the word, “artisanal” as big brands like McDonalds are now using them.

After all the stats and categories were reviewed, the key takeaways were that specialty food is present in every channel, growing by 6 percent annually; with the food service sector growing fastest, and online growth still under 10 percentDino Borri, VP of global partnerships at Eataly, had a fireside chat with SJU professor John Stanton, which wasn’t really a chat, as Borri, in true Italian fashion, didn’t really give Dr. Stanton a chance to get a word in. Education was key, he said, to continue to make Eataly fabulous. And all training is in house at Eataly. Their thought process is that they need to have products at different price points so every person can afford to come to Eataly, hence stocking pasta at $2 per bag and $5 per bag. Eataly has more than 30 locations worldwide. If you haven’t visited one, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to this unique experience.

After a break where vendors with Italian products served up some tasty snacks, Kevin Ryan of the International Corporate Chefs Association shared his thoughts on emerging trends in specialty food retail. He reported growth in Italian cuisine in restaurants especially in the demand for charcuterie and regional Italian selections like arancini (Sicilian rice balls). He also shared comparisons of Italian cuisine menu favorites by American geographic regions. What sells in Philly, most certainly doesn’t in San Francisco; for me there’s no contest between an Italian hoagie vs. chicken pestoThe three top restaurant cuisines in the USA are predictably Italian, Mexican and Chinese.

After the most outrageously fabulous lunch prepared by members of the Italian Chef Association – including pasta in a cream sauce tossed in wheels of Reggiano Parmigiano with shaved truffles on top – a retailer panel on in-store customer experience was held. The panel,  moderated by SJU professor George Latellafeatured Bill Mignucci of Di Bruno Bros., Arthur Goncalves of  Balducci’s, Will Magistrelli of Wakefern and Mike Cadoux of Kabaq 3D TechnologiesMignucci offered some wise words to the group: “We’re here to serve, not to be served.” When taking care of the Di Bruno’s customer, he added that it’s all about “people, product and presentation.” Goncalves said working with their customers is all about trust and giving the customer something they didn’t previously know, providing an expertise.

The day concluded with Dr. Carlo Pratesi from the Universita di Roma and Dr. Stanton discussing what’s on the horizon: trends coming from Europe. Of course, the subject of Millennials crept into the conversation; they’re changing everything not only with what they eat but also in how we hire them. Overall, this event was a home run! SJU Academy of Food Marketing is already planning next year’s event. Noticeably absent were the students who were on spring break, but who would have benefitted tremendously from this summit. Hopefully they will participate in 2020. Bravo, St. Joe’s! 

Fresh off its launch of Dietz Nuts, Dietz & Watson, the iconic Philadelphia deli products manufacturer, is celebrating its 80th anniversary with a new, limited time only pop-up shop experience called Delishop Scheduled to run from May 1 to July 28 at 5th and South Streets, one of Philly’s liveliest areas, the branded popup is poised to become this summer’s go-to spot for not only meat and cheese, but also deli-inspired fashion and fun. The store will feature several Instagram-worthy photo ops and custom interactive experiences including a bodega, an urban backyard and art installations created by local Philadelphia artists Gloss Black and Kyle EarlDelishop’s official grand opening is May 3 with an invite-only ribbon cutting.

To keep the festivities going, on May 4 the brand will host America’s favorite mascot, Gritty, who will be giving away his custom “Gritty Sauce” (Dietz & Watson sriracha aioli) to all customers who come out to Delishop during his appearance. “For our 80th anniversary, we wanted to do something special for our neighbors,” said Lauren Eni, VP of brand strategy at Dietz & Watson. “Philly plays such a key role in who we are as a brand. We’ve been a part of this community for four generations, since 1939, and this pop-up seemed like the perfect opportunity to celebrate with the people of the city we consider part of our family.” 

For Delishop, the brand has created a collection of deli-inspired fashion and gear, marking the brand’s first foray into fashion. From a “Hot Dog Life” t-shirt and vintage lunch boxes to custom hot dog bathing suits and Dietz Nuts boxers, most of the items will be available in the store and online. This custom shopping experience will mark Dietz & Watson’s inaugural step in its evolution toward becoming a lifestyle brand. The brand will also be hosting various events throughout its three-month run. From biweekly tasting and family nights to unique holiday celebrations, Hump Day Hoagie Flights and Have a Pair (on select Thursdays, Dietz & Watson is partnering with local brewing companies to offer beverage pairings with its meat and cheese offering). Keep it here for further specifics on this unique celebration. 

The International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) has announced the lineup of speakers for this year’s at IDDBA 19 being held in Orlando June 2-4, including: Christina Tosi of Milk Bar; author Seth Godinretired from YahooKevin RyanMalachite Strategy & Research; IDDBA chair Rick Findlay; actor Michael J. Fox; Laila Ali, boxing icon, chef and lifestyle brand expertIDDBA president and CEO Mike EardleyBarb StuckeyMattson; and actor Rob Lowe. The Expert Neighborhood, What’s in Store, Live and the New Product Showcase will once again bring together innovative ideas and aspirational merchandising to retail dairy, deli and bakery departments. See you at the show! 

Birthday shout outs for the showery month of April go to: Lou Eni Jr., Dietz & WatsonEd Herr, Herr FoodsTheresa Lowden, JOH ProduceDominic BottoBotto’s Sausage; Charlie Poletti, retired from AcostaJack Foti, Rosa FoodsRon BenjaminThe Star CompaniesMike Sherlock, Wawa; and Scott VicariPromoPoint Marketing. Buon compleanno a tutti! 

As in many past years, Passover and Easter fall in the same week this year. To our readers celebrating during that time, enjoy the holidays with family and friends. 

Quote of the month: In a hyperactive world, stillness is the deepest rebellion.” – Donna D’Cruz