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 maria@foodtradenews.com.

Welcome to the 2019 Food Trade News Market Study! It seems that we always say there’s so much change in our market. Well, this past year has brought lots of that to the seventy counties we cover. New banners Sprouts, Heirloom Market and Lidl entered an already crowded market; the former with more success than the latter two. Each has staked their ground and has found something new to offer increasingly discerning consumers. Independents in business for three or more generations are calling it quits and selling out to the chains, and legacy banners are doing their best to find a point of difference in order to keep up with the rapidly changing retail food industry. One thing is certain, you, our valued readers and advertisers, will always be able to find the information you need right here from us…and on our newly launched website, www.foodtradenews.com. A humble thank you for your continued support. We couldn’t do what we do without you!

Sprouts Farmers Market opened its first store in New Jersey on June 5. The new 33,000 square foot-plus store is located in Marlton, smack in the middle of Routes 70 and 73, and home to ShopRite, Trader Joe’s, Rastelli’s, Whole Foods and Target. An overstored area, you might ask? Not according to SVP-operations east, Dan Croce, whose explanation had me nodding in agreement. Sprouts offers “healthy living for less” and they mean it. They have been a driving force for making healthy food affordable and accessible since day one and have paved the way for numerous natural brands. You won’t find Lay’s potato chips, but you will find Sprouts’ veggie straws (delicious) at a reasonable price. Their goal is to help meet the growing local demand for fresh, natural and organic foods at great prices. First weekend visitors were treated to a Taste of Sprouts with guest favorites and trending items, including a selection of exclusive Sprouts brand products, were sampled throughout the store. The Marlton store offers locally made products from brands such as Hoboken Farms, Joe Tea, Naturi Yogurt and Love Beets. Dan and his team – store manager Frank Pickel, district manager Ricky Pratt and numerous specialists were on hand to make sure the opening ran smoothly. As part of Sprouts’ commitment to zero waste, the new store will donate unsold and edible groceries to Food Bank of South Jersey through the grocer’s Food Rescue program. In 2018, Sprouts stores and distribution centers donated 27 million pounds of product, equivalent to 23 million meals. Food that is not fit for donation is provided to local cattle farms and composting facilities. Sprouts’ evolving zero waste initiatives help minimize food waste while reducing the impact of hunger and the company’s environmental footprint.

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Once again, the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) had a good, albeit a little smaller, show with the glitterati of the perishable food industry gathering to connect and learn at IDDBA 19 held in Orlando June 2-4. The show offered many educational experiences from fresh merchandising ideas and new products to presentations from influencers and experts, with more opportunities to grow the deli and bakery business than ever before. Notice that the dairy category is missing here, although dairy was and should continue to be a major category of the show. This year it wasn’t. Much more attention is being directed to grab ‘n go and home meal replacement, thereby giving room for the foodservice in retail category to sneak in, not to mention services and equipment. The speaker lineup wasn’t as hot as it has been in past years, but lifestyle brand creator Laila Ali and actor Michael J. Fox (who was charming, funny and self-deprecating) provided attendees with powerful life lessons and offered some key business takeaways. From what I can tell, IDDBA is trying to move more events to the show floor. The New Product Showcase was a destination for attendees looking for unique and innovative trends all in one place. Exhibitors had the opportunity to personally merchandise in this special display and attendees got an all-encompassing look at the newest cutting-edge products, packaging, and equipment. The Expert Neighborhood, where attendees had one-on-one consultations with experts from various industries was also on the show floor. They included CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors, and specialists who have the experience and knowledge of navigating through business challenges. What’s in Store Live presented fresh examples of how businesses can engage and appeal to customers through merchandising ideas, concepts, and demonstrations. Trends and research were depicted through displays using products from event sponsors. From pairing ideas to customized meal kit options, these concepts helped attendees experience out-of-the-box approaches and learn new ways to engage shoppers. In 2018, IDDBA began its Fresh Careers program, which offers students with an interest in the food industry a chance to experience professional networking. With a Career Ambassador guiding them, the students had the opportunity to explore the trade show floor, see new product innovations, network, and learn. At IDDBA19 five universities participated in the program, including Saint Joseph’s University. IDDBA sees it as a way to help facilitate networking, growth, and opportunity for the IDDBA community. See you next year in Indianapolis, IN, May 31-June 2, for IDDBA 20. Vroom!

One thing we love about retailers in the Food Trade News coverage area is their commitment to local communities they serve and to giving back in so many forms. To that point, in addition to the community donations Giant/Martin’s made at the grand openings of the Walnutport and State College stores, last month it made a donation of $3 million to more than 2,200 public and private schools through its A+ School Rewards program. The annual customer-driven school fundraising program helps local schools raise money for educational programs, field trips, scholarships, playgrounds, and more just by grocery shopping. Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, PA, was the overall top earning school for the 2018-2019 school year receiving $16,851. The other top 10 schools each received $9,000-$15,000. Matt Simon, VP-merchandising, said, “Participation from schools and customers alike continue to grow our A+ School Rewards program. Since its launch in 2005, more than $33 million has been awarded to local schools to fund a variety of educational needs and activities.”

PA Preferred is the official brand of food and agricultural products grown, produced or processed in Pennsylvania. Giant/Martin’s has introduced PA Preferred shelf tags at all of its 156 stores located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to make it easier for customers to find products that have been grown or produced in Pennsylvania. The retailer has been a strong supporter of this innovative program since its inception in 2004, which helps the state’s farmers and food suppliers grow their businesses. Through this first of its kind program by a retailer in Pennsylvania, more than 900 items including meat, poultry, dairy, snacks, condiments, sauces, craft beer and wine, and even pet food, are now identified by tags with the PA Preferred logo prominently displayed at the shelf level. The PA Preferred shelf tags will be displayed in stores year-round.

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Over the past 10 years, Weis Markets has continued to decrease its carbon emissions by more than 20 percent, and its sustainability program has helped reduce the company’s overall environmental impact in the communities it serves. This progress is highlighted in the company’s 2018 Sustainability Report: Rooted in Success, Growing Our Future. The report details the company’s sustainability progress in 2018 when it continued to implement innovative measures to reduce truck fleet fuel consumption, increase facility energy efficiencies, reduce refrigerant emissions and divert waste from landfills. Despite a 2.6 percent emission increase due to an increased store count, expanded variety of refrigerated items and the rollout of self-checkouts to additional stores.

Weis achieved its 10-year 20 percent emission reduction milestone in 2018.  “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.”

Fourth generation retailer Jeff Brown and his wife Sandy Brown (Brown’s Super Stores) founded UpLift Solutions in 2009 as 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. A division of the foundation, Uplift Workforce Solutions, began a program back in June of 2017 to assist those who are “returning citizens” challenged with adapting into the workplace and their individual communities. Over the past 18 months, more than 375 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. Uplift graduated an additional 60 formerly incarcerated individuals on June 4 at Mitten Hall on Temple University’s campus. They have guaranteed jobs with ShopRite and Fresh Grocer Supermarkets operated by the Brown’s Super Stores and Burns’ Family Neighborhood Markets. “We all know the barriers faced by folks who have a criminal record. The goal of the program to not just offer job training but to finish with a guaranteed job that can offer a career ladder, has been transformative. We believe someone’s mistakes in the past should not dictate their future,” said Barry Johnson, director of Workforce Solutions. Annually, more than 36,000 people pass through Philadelphia city jails, 18,000 people are released from prison in Pennsylvania and over 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. This program and the others offered by Uplift Solutions, including financial, health and sustainable food solutions has proven itself over and over again to improve the lives of those in underserved communities. For more information, please contact Sandy Brown at sandyb3666@gmail.com.

Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) has appointed veteran professor Dr. John Stanton as chair of the department of food marketing. One of only four universities in the country with a department devoted to food marketing, SJU has grown the department to be the largest major in the university. Dr. Stanton has been teaching at SJU since the mid 1980s. During that time, he has also written books, consulted for major CPG companies and is known for his expertise and many contributions to the industry. Glad to hear you’re back at the helm, John!

A tip of the hat to Eva Kohn, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of CBA Industries, who was honored with the New Jersey Food Council’s Max Stone Trade Relations Award at the Trade Relations Conference hosted by the New Jersey Food Council (NJFC) in May. Well deserved, Eva!

Taking a walk into the sunset is Jeff Geiges, who retired from Acme Markets on June 14 after a lifetime with Acme Markets, most recently as the meat and seafood sales manager. Happy trails, Jeff! Enjoy your retirement. Moving into his role is Charlie Bell, who has also spent his entire career at Acme Markets in various positions from meatcutter to store manager to assistant sales manager. Congrats, Charlie!

The circle of life continues as Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA, and his wife Anne welcomed their third son, Benjamin, to the family on May 23. Big brothers Jake and Sam are already showing him the ropes and reading him bedtime stories. Congratulations on your new blessing.

Birthday shout-outs for the summer solstice month of June go to: Jeff Geiges, retired from Acme Markets; Mark Tarzwell, Mrs. T’s; Jim Burke Sr., Seafood America; Bill Derbyshire, Liberty Coca Cola; Doug Clemens, Clemens Food Group; Tom Morrison, Integrity/ESM; Nancy Rodgers-Fluharty, Pace Target Brokers; Ralph Nagle, industry veteran; Terri Maloney and Jeff Metzger, Food World/ Food Trade News. Lastly, a birthday shout out to the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market as they celebrate eight years in the world’s largest fully-enclosed, fully-refrigerated wholesale produce terminal. Buon compleanno a tutti!

Quote of the month:  “Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” Walt Disney

Maria can be reached at her new email address – maria@foodtradenews.com.