It was another good year for Wakefern Food Corp., the Keasbey, NJ-based wholesale cooperative whose primary banner – ShopRite – dominates the Metro New York and Delaware Valley marketing areas.  The company posted retail sales of $16.6 billion, a gain of 0.7 percent for its 2019 fiscal year ended September 28.

Company chairman and CEO Joseph S. Colalillo, president and COO Joe Sheridan, and executive VP Chris Lane addressed Wakefern shareholders, store management and staff at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on October 24 in East Brunswick, NJ.

During the past 12 months, Wakefern opened five net new ShopRite stores in: Cromwell, CT; Shrewsbury, NJ; Wyckoff, NJ; Port Jefferson, NJ; and Riverhead, N.Y. Additionally, Village Super Markets, its second largest member, acquired a new banner, Manhattan-based upscale retailer Gourmet Garage during the same period.

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“It’s a time of great change and challenge in our industry, but we’re excited for the journey ahead. With every new program we roll out, we are committed to providing the best shopping experience for our customers and creating the supermarket of the future,” Colalillo told an audience of nearly 800 people at the Hilton in East Brunswick.

Joe Sheridan said technology plays a key role in the push forward, with the company incorporating capabilities that elevate the customer experience both in store and online.

In July, Wakefern opened the first stand-alone micro-fulfillment center in the U.S. The facility uses advanced robotics to quickly assemble ShopRite from Home grocery orders, enabling the retailer to expand the reach of its services. Wakefern said it is also making it easier for customers to design their own custom cakes and order catering and deli items online, and ShopRite dietitians are now available to answer customer questions through online chat.

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“We are embracing change because customers are embracing change – the way they shop, the way they work and the way they live,” Sheridan noted. “We are pairing high tech with a human touch to provide the very best shopping experience. Today’s customers want great online shopping options, but they also want a personalized experience. Our promise is that we will deliver all of that to our customers.”

Chris Lane reported on the recent launch of ShopRite’s new “Right Price Promise” and plan to introduce two new store brands “Bowl & Basket” and “Paperbird” this month.

“Right Price Promise” reflects a commitment to everyday low prices on the items customers purchase most frequently. By moving to everyday value pricing on key items, customers can count on ShopRite as their one-stop shopping destination, Wakefern noted.

The launch of “Bowl & Basket” and “Paperbird” food and household lines will kick off a transformation of the retailer’s own brands. The newly designed, carefully crafted store brands will offer the best assortment of high-quality foods and products at value pricing, the company said.

“With these pioneering launches we are truly elevating the ShopRite experience for each and every customer who walks through our doors,” said Lane. “We are ready to deliver to the next generation of shoppers the products and store experience that will make ShopRite their market of choice for their family meals, foods on-the-go and grocery needs.”

Wakefern shareholders re-elected to the board of directors at the meeting include: Colalillo, chairman and CEO; Larri Wolfson, Dominick J. Romano and Irv Glass, vice chairmen; Lawrence Inserra Jr., treasurer; Jeffrey Brown and Sean McMenamin, assistant treasurers; Richard Saker, secretary, and Ned Gladstein, Nicholas Sumas and Shawn Ravitz, assistant secretaries. Sheridan was also re-elected as president and COO, and Lane was re-elected as executive vice president.

Less than a week after the annual meeting, Wakefern announced that it has added its 51st member and first new member since Pat Burns’ Fresh Grocer joined the co-op in 2013.

Nicholas Markets, the four-store independent retailer owned by the Maniaci family, has agreed to join the retailer-owned organization. David Maniaci had served of chairman of Allegiance Retail Services (ARS) since 2011. Nicholas Markets, which traded as Foodtown, was founded in 1943 by Rocco and Nicholas Maniaci.

Based in Woodland Park, NJ, the retailer’s four Northern New Jersey stores are located in North Haledon, Cedar Grove, Colonia and the Township of Washington. Upon their conversion, the stores will be rebranded as The Fresh Grocer, a Wakefern trademark. Currently there are nine The Fresh Grocer stores, with eight stores located in the greater Philadelphia area and one in Wilmington, DE.

“The competitive landscape in New Jersey has grown fierce in recent years,” said Maniaci. “I believe Wakefern’s deep roots in the state will help me navigate this and other challenges facing the supermarket industry. “I leave the Foodtown (ARS) cooperative at a time when it is strong and thriving. It has seen significant growth to its membership base and store count over the past decade.”

“We are excited to welcome another member into our Wakefern family,” stated Joe Colalillo. “Nicholas Markets is a strong addition to our cooperative.  David and his associates are deeply committed to serving their communities and providing exceptional quality and fresh prepared foods to their customers.”

“Adding Nicholas Markets stores to The Fresh Grocer banner strengthens Wakefern’s competitive position in northern New Jersey,” said Sheridan. “Membership in our cooperative allows independent operators to maintain their entrepreneurial spirit while benefiting from the scale and services Wakefern offers.  We look forward to welcoming the Maniaci family to Wakefern.”

Wakefern Food Corp. currently is the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the United States. Founded in 1946, the cooperative comprises 51 members who today independently own and operate 353 supermarkets under the ShopRite, The Fresh Grocer, Price Rite Marketplace, Gourmet Garage and Dearborn Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Together with its member companies, Wakefern employs more than 70,000 people, and is one of the largest employers in New Jersey.