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.

Kroger’s recently debuted a new food hall concept in its newest store in downtown Cincinnati. While it isn’t uncommon for retailers to feature restaurants within their stores, typically the eateries are run and managed by the banner itself. This new layout takes the trend that has been popping up in urban industrial spaces all over the country and essentially puts a food court of four local restaurants and a Kitchen 1883 Café and Bar (Kroger’s American food restaurant) on the second floor of the 52,000 square foot layout complete with indoor and outdoor seating that can accommodate up to 200 customers. The 7,000 square foot upstairs space, which is dubbed On The Rhine Eatery, hopes to attract consumers who will be drawn to the food hall for the combination of good food, community, and cocktails it offers and who will also do their grocery shopping in the downstairs area before or after socializing or sharing a meal or drink. During the week, there are plans to host game nights and functions centered around sports events. The space will even be available to rent for parties and special events.

“Kroger is thrilled to introduce our first food hall and offer a one-of-its-kind shopping experience in our hometown of Cincinnati, providing a convenient location to experience delicious, quality meals and foods. This innovative destination highlights Kroger’s food-first culture,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “Kroger’s new store offers something for everyone.” Only time will tell if this will be a successful venture, but I like that Kroger is trying to differentiate itself, because the retailer definitely needs a refresh, particularly amongst the younger shopping demographic and especially as it struggles to hit its profit targets amongst all of the competition in the overstored supermarket landscape. And, I think if they’ve curated the restaurant options wisely and have created a fun and welcoming community space, this could definitely be a much needed feather in Kroger’s cap.

As you already know, I love hearing about companies that are taking proactive steps towards conservation and sustainability. This month I want to put the spotlight on Turkey Hill Dairy. The central PA manufacturer of ice cream, iced tea, and other beverages and frozen desserts has joined forces with the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to form the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership (THCWP). The THCWP is asking local dairy farmers to implement a conservation plan and enact best management practices for the health of Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams. Because the Lancaster County area is highly populated by small dairy operations that often feel monetary pressure to use all available land for production, the result can be overgrazing and/or cropland production too close to streams, contributing to nutrient and sediment pollution and reduced stream health. Thanks to funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, this initiative will provide a 75 percent cost share assistance to farmers implementing conservation practices – a huge boost to those farms that need additional resources to meet their conservation goals. After farmers implement all practices prescribed in their conservation plans, they will receive a premium from Turkey Hill for their milk – a measure that is considered critical to the partnership’s success. The economic incentive for conservation is essential to achieving conservation goals in today’s struggling dairy economy. The decision to assist, made by Turkey Hill Dairy’s former CEO and current chairman, John Cox, has resulted in 150 farmers beginning the process of achieving new conservation standards. This market-driven approach is applicable to many other agricultural sectors and has proven to be a technique that yields dramatic acceleration in the rate of conservation practice adoption. Cox said, “We don’t accept it when others say that green projects, products or sustainability has to cost the company. Instead, we seek out initiatives that will be both good for the environment and good for our company.” The partnership has been designed to be replicated with hopes of demonstrating that leadership within the private sector can accelerate conservation action. The Conestoga, PA- based manufacturer hopes that its initiative will motivate additional businesses to take a similar approach in improving their operations’ impact on local rivers and streams.

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Safeway Eastern will be once again be hosting its annual Feast of Sharing, and this year will be the event’s 20th anniversary. The event, which will take place the day before Thanksgiving on Wednesday, November 27 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington DC, serves a free holiday meal including all the trimmings for nearly 5,000 residents from all eight district wards. Additionally, there will be a community services and health expo where free flu shots and health checks will be offered, safe exercise with Senior Sit and Be Fit, and a clothing distribution. It takes a lot of hands to bring this philanthropic event together, so not only are around 1,000 volunteers needed between the dates of November 22 and 27 to make this happen, but sponsors are also welcome. If you are interested in sponsoring part of the Safeway Feast of Sharing, please contact Beth Goldberg at beth.goldberg@albertsons.com or 301.918.6787. This is such a worthwhile event that gives people who otherwise don’t have the resources a chance to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal and company during the holiday season as well as providing warm clothing and important health screenings, so if you have the opportunity to help out, whether it be with your time or your resources, please do.

And finally, I would like give a big shout out to Michael Hughes and his team at Hughes Sales Inc. for being honored as the 2018 National Broker of the Year for Retail Merchandising by Quaker Maid Meats for their zealous attention to ensuring that the authorized items are not only placed and tagged on retailers’ shelves, but also properly rotated. The Columbia, MD based brokerage, which has repped the frozen meats company for 20 years in the greater Mid-Atlantic, has won the award three times during the course of their representation and additionally has been recognized as Quaker Maid’s National Broker of the Year twice thus far. Hughes credits the award to the company’s constant investment into adding to their team of full-time merchandisers in order to properly manage the lines they represent at the different retailers. Congrats on such a well-deserved recognition!

Until next month…

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Karen can be contacted via email at karen@foodtradenews.com.