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 karen@foodtradenews.com.

Although the month of June ushers in a lot of national celebrations, one of the most outstanding is LGBTQIA Pride, which commemorates what is largely considered the start of the gay rights movement in 1969 when 200 patrons at the Stonewall Inn (a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village) stood up against the harassment of police officers by first resisting and then rioting. Fast forward to the present time and not only do many major cities have robust commemorations in honor of Pride, a lot of commercial brands have demonstrated their support of the community throughout this month of celebration and awareness.

Big CPG companies such as Coca-Cola and General Mills raised rainbow flags at their company headquarters to show support of their LGBTQIA associates, consumers, customers, friends and family. Many brands have adopted temporary rainbow-themed packaging as a salute to Pride and some take it even a step further by donating portions of the limited-time products’ proceeds to charitable organizations that support the LGBTQIA communities. Some notable examples include: Listerine’s rainbow-striped cool-mint mouthwash, in which sales of this product supports Johnson & Johnson’s Care with Pride, a program that has raised more than $1 million for LGBTQIA nonprofits since 2011; Bubly, Pepsi’s sparkling water brand, which released a special-edition All for Love Pride Pack, featuring 18 cans in the colors of the rainbow, with part of the proceeds supporting the Stonewall Community Foundation, a non-profit that helps LGBTQIA community with grant-making, trainings and scholarship programs; and KIND Bar, which released a rainbow colored wrapped snack made of dark chocolate, nuts and sea salt with 100 percent of its proceeds benefiting New York’s Ali Forney Center (AFC), an organization that provides essential services and shelter for LGBTQIA homeless youth.

Even area retailers Safeway Eastern and Giant Food participated in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD pride celebrations. Safeway had booths at each event where employee volunteers passed out refreshments, conducted games, and showed the company’s support for Pride Month and the community. Giant created a special Pride Month logo for June prominently featuring the rainbow colors synonymous with the movement and also had a parade truck staffed by some of its employees who handed out waters and flags. The special logo and pride month activities have been a focus for the Landover-based grocer’s Pride Business Resource Group, which works towards facilitating LGBTQIA inclusion for the retailer. It’s just great to see the industry coming together to show support not only for its LGBTQIA employees and communities, but equality in general.

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While we’re on the topic of driving equality, a bill passed the New York state assembly earlier this month that is aimed at addressing price disparities between men’s and women’s products that are considered essentially the same, such as shampoo, soap, shaving cream, and razors. On average, women’s products, when compared to equivalent products for male counterparts, cost 7 percent more according to a study conducted by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. The bill now moves on to the state Senate for consideration. I wonder if they could expand this bill to include dry cleaners, too?

Food Lion received top honors at this year’s Loyalty Expo in Charlotte in the “Social Impact” category for its loyalty program engagement with its “Food Lion Feeds Hunger” initiative. The awards, which are given out by the association for customer loyalty, Loyalty 360, recognize brands that are building stronger and deeper allegiances with their customers in a proactive, meaningful, and measurable way. The Salisbury, NC-based retailer also was recognized as a first-runner up for its Loyalty Program Design and second-runner up in the 360 Degree Brand Category.

“At Food Lion, we take our commitment to nourishing our neighbors to set them up for success in life very seriously,” said Deborah Sabo, senior vice president of marketing at Food Lion. “That’s equally true whether we’re helping families with limited means in the towns and cities we serve put three meals on the table instead of two through our everyday affordable prices and weekly sales or whether we’re donating meals to our local food banks to help families in need. This award recognizes the unique and innovative ways we engage with our customers through our loyalty program to help eliminate the difficult choices our neighbors are forced to make when they are hungry.”

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The grocery chain launched Food Lion Feeds in 2014 with a commitment to donating 500 million meals by the end of 2020 and announced last month that it had donated its 500 millionth meal nearly 18 months ahead of schedule. Congratulations to Food Lion on such a successful hunger campaign and for the well-deserved recognition!

Another retailer that deserves kudos is Weis Markets, which achieved its 10-year 20 percent emission milestone in 2018 despite a 2.6 emission increase as a result of increased store count, expanded refrigerated items and the rollout of self-checkouts to additional stores. This and other key achievements in the company’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact in the communities it serves are detailed in the retailer’s 2018 Sustainability Report: Rooted in Success, Growing Our Future.

“Our sustainability program continues to make steady progress, focusing on five key areas: reducing our climate impact; the green design and improvement of our stores, facilities, and logistics; protecting our resources; working with local farmers and food processors; and being socially responsible,” said Weis Markets chairman and CEO Jonathan Weis. “We achieved these results thanks to the hard work of our sustainability team and the many associates who help implement our program throughout our store base, distribution center and support facilities.”

Other key achievements mentioned in the report include: diverting 39,341 tons of waste from landfills; recycling 28,180 tons of cardboard; increasing food donations to more than 860 tons through the company partnership with Feeding America; converting 34 stores from fluorescent to LED lighting thus reducing electricity consumption by 300,000 kWh annually per store; and being recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill program for expanded efforts to reduce refrigerant usage to address environmental impacts to the ozone layer and climate. The full report is available at weismarkets.com/sustainability.

Finally, I would like to congratulate my dear friend, Elda Devarie, founder and president of EMD Sales, for being honored by El Tiempo Latino with the organization’s Entrepreneur Award of Distinction presented by Macy’s. It was one of five special awards given at the Spanish language newspaper’s Powermeter 100 2019 event, where it honored 100 individuals found to be most influential for Hispanic communities in Washington DC, northern Virginia and suburban Maryland. Elda’s tireless work ethic and philanthropic nature are renowned in the industry, so it’s wonderful to see her receiving the widespread recognition she so truly deserves. Felicidades, mi querida amiga dulce!

Until next month