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Wisconsin Cheese Named Official State Dairy Product

Wisconsin has long been synonymous with cheese, but the state legislature has made it official – Wisconsin cheese is now the state dairy product. Wisconsin cheese joins a list of prominent state symbols including the dairy cow, designated the state’s domestic animal in 1971, and milk, Wisconsin’s official state beverage since 1987.

For more than a century, Wisconsin has led the nation in cheese production, producing over three billion pounds of cheese annually. Wisconsin cheesemakers combine generations of tradition with cutting edge innovation to craft the finest cheese, and Wisconsin is the only place outside of Europe to offer a prestigious Master Cheesemaker certification for veteran cheesemakers who have been making cheese for 10 years or more. The state regularly takes home top honors for its world class cheeses including a recent historic sweep of the cheese industry’s three major competitions – the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, the American Cheese Society Competition and the World Championship Cheese Contest.

The designation was proposed by a group of fourth grade students at Mineral Point Elementary in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. It was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker at a special signing event at Mineral Point Elementary on June 1. WMMB also participated in the historic signing event and provided fresh squeaky Wisconsin cheese curds for the students to enjoy.

“We are so pleased to give Wisconsin cheese the recognition it deserves by declaring it the official state dairy product,” said Governor Scott Walker. “Today we celebrate the efforts of Wisconsin’s hard-working dairy farmers and cheesemakers who make us all proud to live in America’s Dairyland.”

“This is a victory for everyone in the Wisconsin dairy community to celebrate–from the dairy farmers who produce the highest quality milk to the third and fourth generation cheesemakers who have dedicated their lives to making the best cheese in the world,” said Suzanne Fanning, Vice President, National Product Communications, of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB). “We’d like to thank Mrs. Livia Doyle and the efforts of her fourth grade class at Mineral Point Elementary for proposing the idea and seeing it all the way to the governor’s desk! This is a wonderful way for kids to learn about the state government and see that they can make a difference.”

“The students are absolutely thrilled that their voices have been heard,” said Livia Doyle, fourth grade Teacher at Mineral Point Elementary School. “Being a part of this legislative process has been more meaningful and educational than ever imagined! The students have experienced firsthand what it means to have an idea and to share it with our representatives.”

To learn more about Wisconsin cheese visit EatWisconsinCheese.com.

Peapod Expands Nutrition Filters

Imagine walking into a grocery store where all of the products displayed are based on a shopper’s personal tastes, dietary preferences and budget. Peapod, the country’s leading online grocer, aims to do just that by enabling shoppers to curate their own personalized digital aisle. An early innovator of smart shopping technology, Peapod has expanded its filtering capabilities to include four new nutrition filters: “Non-GMO,” “Sugar Free,” “Vegan” and “Vegetarian.” Adding to Peapod’s already robust sort feature, shoppers can now customize their searches with 16 features specific to nutrition preferences, in addition to a variety of filters including brand preference, price and sale specials.

“Our customers have told us that one of the pain points of traditional in-store grocery shopping is the overwhelming selection and the time it takes to read labels in order to find what they need,” said Carrie Bienkowski, Peapod’s Chief Marketing Officer. “While we all want options, we also want to find what we’re looking for and to do so quickly. As a digital player, we can create personalized, curated shopping experiences to help consumers find what they’re looking for with just a few clicks. These tools also help our shoppers discover new products that meet their specific needs.

The new filters are based on growing consumer food and nutritional trends, as well as Peapod’s own consumer insights. Forty-two percent of consumers read nutrition labels before purchasing and non-GMO labeling is becoming increasingly important to consumers as sales of non-GMO products are predicted to hit $330 billion by 2019. Moreover, vegan and vegetarian filters were added as plant-based diets continue to gain popularity. Almost a third of Millennials indicate they eat a meat alternative product every day, and 70 percent consume them at least a few times a week.

“Our customers are often early adopters of emerging trends, “says Bienkowski. “As such, we’re able to utilize our keyword search data to stay ahead of the market. Since adding the “Organic” filter in 2014, it has become our most frequently used filter, and all Peapod carts now have at least one organic item.”

Enhanced smart shopping tools represent Peapod’s commitment to revolutionizing how consumers shop for groceries. With more than 12,000 products, including fresh produce; meat and seafood; deli items; natural and organic foods; and a wide range of prepared foods and easy-to-prep meal kits, Peapod is a one-stop shop for convenient meal solutions and weekly stock-ups of pantry staples.

Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board Names Rich Mende Director of Channel Programs

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) has named Rich Mende its new Director of Channel Programs.

Mende joins WMMB with nearly 20 years of experience in retail sales management. Most recently, his experience included sales management roles at Dietz & Watson in Philadelphia, InnovAsian Cuisine in Tukwila, Washington, and Willow Brook Foods in Springfield, Missouri.

“WMMB is thrilled to add Rich Mende to our organization,” said Chad Vincent, CEO of WMMB. “Not only does he bring a wealth of industry knowledge and experience to the position, he is also a skilled leader and manager. I’m confident our retail team will continue to grow and succeed under his guidance.”

As the Director of Channel Programs, Mende will manage the development of WMMB’s consumer and retail cheese and dairy promotional programs and coordinate their implementation. Mende will also provide leadership and supervision to WMMB’s team of regional marketing managers.

Mende has a Bachelor of Science in Food Distribution from Western Michigan University. He and his family currently reside in Springfield, Missouri, with plans to relocate to Madison in the coming year.

For more information about WMMB, visit www.wmmb.com or connect with the company on Facebook.

Albertsons Companies Hires to Ramp up eCommerce Platform

Albertsons Companies has hired two key digital leaders who will collectively add 30 years of digital leadership experience in product and digital technology. They are Karl Varsanyi, who helped develop macys.com into one of the largest eCommerce sites in the United States, and Ramiya Iyer, who was instrumental in building and scaling Levi Strauss & Co.’s platforms and analytic capabilities worldwide.

“After being relatively unaffected by digital for many years, the grocery industry is starting to see several parts of the customer journey being transformed by digital. In this context, we need to continue to enhance our digital capabilities, and Karl and Ramiya will play a key role in this journey,” said Narayan Iyengar, Senior Vice President of Digital Marketing and eCommerce.

Iyengar himself joined the company in January with more than 20 years of eCommerce experience, most recently with the Walt Disney Company where he built, enhanced and optimized eCommerce capabilities across an ecosystem spanning 20 websites and apps.

“The addition of these leaders with diverse and rich retail experiences will position us to accelerate our efforts to having a differentiated digital experience for our customers,” said Anuj Dhanda, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer.

Together, these additions underscore Albertsons Companies’ commitment to eCommerce leadership in the grocery industry with proven experience building winning digital strategies around well-known brands. The company already operates its highly popular just for U® digital loyalty program, a rapidly growing eCommerce home delivery program, and wide range of digital and data capabilities.

Karl Varsanyi joined Albertsons Companies as the General Vice President of Digital Product Management with responsibility for the digital experience (web, app, and in-store) for all brands and locations. Varsanyi is a customer experience leader with 16 years of practice in the digital retail and technology industries. He has a strong track record of building new innovative products, platforms, teams and cultures across digital and physical retail, having most recently turned Macy’s into an omnichannel retailing leader as its GVP of Product Management, Strategy and Experience.

Ramiya Iyer joined Albertsons Companies as the GVP of Information Technology Digital and Marketing/Merchandising. She has a deep understanding of how digital technology is changing consumers’ shopping behavior, and she brings a unique combination of retail, technology and global leadership experience. Prior to her tenure as the Vice President of eCommerce at Levi’s, she held various IT leadership roles at Walmart.com and SamsClub.com.

Jewel-Osco to Purchase 19 Strack & Van Til Stores from Central Grocers, Inc.

Jewel Foods Stores has entered into an asset purchase agreement with Central Grocers, Inc. to acquire 19 Strack & Van Til stores and other certain assets. Jewel-Osco will serve as the “stalking horse bidder” in a court-supervised sale process, which means Jewel-Osco was the initial bidder with which Central Grocers chose to negotiate prior to the auction of assets. The auction is expected to commence on June 2, 2017, assuming court approval of the bidding procedures.

Jewel-Osco, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Albertsons Companies, operates 186 stores across Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, and has been a fixture among Midwest grocers since 1899 when Frank Ross and Frank Skiff launched the Jewel Tea Company, selling tea and coffee door-to-door from horse-drawn wagons. The transaction, if completed, would expand the Jewel-Osco footprint further into Indiana where the chain currently operates four stores, and build upon Strack & Van Til’s rich history of delivering quality, local products and an innovative shopping experience for their customers in the neighborhoods they serve. Jewel-Osco intends to extend offers of employment to substantially all of the current store employees as part of the transaction.

Jewel-Osco does not expect to close any store locations as a result of the transaction, pending the outcome of the court-supervised sale process and customary regulatory approvals.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval from the Federal Trade Commission.

Lidl to Open First U.S. Stores on Thursday, June 15

Lidl will open its first stores in the United States on Thursday, June 15. Lidl also unveiled the location of 20 stores that will open during the summer of 2017. By next summer, the retailer plans to open up to 100 stores across the East Coast, creating a total of 5,000 U.S. jobs.

“We are excited to open our first stores in the United States in a few short weeks,” said Brendan Proctor, President and CEO of Lidl US. “Lidl is grocery shopping refreshed, retooled and rethought to make life better for all our customers. From our selection of sustainable products like our certified fresh and frozen seafood to top-quality wines from around the world available at market-beating prices, our team puts extra effort and attention into each product we put on our shelves. When customers shop at Lidl, they will experience less complexity, lower prices, better choices, and greater confidence.”

Lidl will offer a simple and efficient approach to grocery shopping, resulting in lower prices.  When entering a store this summer, shoppers can expect to get top quality goods and groceries at up to 50 percent less than other supermarkets in the United States. They can also expect to see the following:

  • Newly-Built, Beautiful Stores and Easy-to-Shop Layouts: All of the stores opening this summer will be newly constructed facilities, featuring a manageable, easy-to-shop layout of 20,000 square feet with only six aisles.
  • Fresh Baked Goods: Customers will be greeted each day with the smell of top-quality breads and pastries, which are baked fresh throughout the day. A bakery will be located at the entrance of each store.
  • Healthy, Sustainable Choices: Lidl is committed to offering a wide range of healthy and sustainable options. All fresh and frozen seafood in the stores’ everyday assortment will be certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). High quality private label products will not have certified synthetic colors, trans fats or added MSG.
  • Organic and Gluten Free Options: The stores will carry a variety of organic and gluten-free items including organic fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, and packaged food items, which will all be available at the lowest possible prices.
  • Lidl’s Top Quality Products: About 90 percent of the groceries available at the stores will be exclusive brand products. Each product on the shelves will be rigorously tested to ensure that it meets the company’s quality standards. Several items have already won acclaim in the United States, including award-winning cheeses recognized in the 2017 Los Angeles International Dairy Competition.
  • Lidl Surprises: Lidl offers an ever-changing selection of non-food products each week that will be in stores for a limited time. The selection will include fitness gear, small kitchen appliances, toys, and outdoor furniture, among other non-food items.
  • Store Hours: Stores will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Sunday.

Healthy Growth: C.A. Fortune Goes National

C.A. Fortune, based in Chicago, is capitalizing on the growing consciousness of today’s better-for-you consumer food products market. After four years of strategic and planned growth, C.A. Fortune, a privately-held natural, specialty and bakery/deli sales and marketing agency, announces the company has joined forces with Portland, Oregon, based Bridge Sales & Marketing, completing the agency’s goal of providing coast to coast coverage for its client brands and retail customers.

The transaction with Bridge Sales & Marketing expands C.A. Fortune’s coverage to include Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. “We feel this is the right time and the right fit for us,” said Doug Brynelson, who founded Bridge Sales & Marketing along with his wife Marcia. “Working as part of the C.A. Fortune team will not only bring a myriad of additional resources, but allow us the opportunity to focus on what we do best, being in the stores, and developing relationships with buyers at both headquarter and store level.”

“The Bridge team has been able to construct an incredible, reputable business across the Pacific Northwest. From the strong culture in which they operate, to the level of service they provide their client and customer partners, it was truly a perfect match for both firms,” said Tyler Lowell, Managing Partner of C.A. Fortune. “We could not be happier with bringing the Bridge group into our organization.”

Marking its eighth transaction in just under four years, C.A. Fortune has vastly expanded beyond its initial upper-Midwest roots in 2013, to today employing more than 300 associates, and with seven offices across the U.S. – solely focused on the natural/organic, specialty/conventional and bakery/deli space.

Nurture Ranch Launches with Grass-fed Beef Offerings

Nurture Ranch, purveyors of traceable, grass-fed beef, launched at the National Restaurant Association’s NRA Show at McCormick Place in Chicago with product now available for restaurants, retailers and meal kit providers who serve better quality products.

Nurture Ranch nurtures higher quality grass-fed beef in the tall lush dells of East Texas with superior taste and nutritional benefits, that is Better In 12 Ways™  than traditional feedlot grain-fed cattle:

1. Traceable Origin, From Birth to Harvest: Nurture Ranch can quickly trace where its beef came from and how it was raised. Feedlot cattle often change hands many times before harvest, limiting traceability.

2. No Antibiotics: Nurture Ranch grass-fed beef is never given antibiotics. Feedlot cattle are typically given significant doses of antibiotics because of the conditions they are raised in.

3. No Hormones: Nurture Ranch never uses hormones of any kind. Research shows hormones often used to increase cattle productivity can be passed on to humans and change how the human body functions.

4. Lower Fat and Calories: Grass-fed beef is naturally lower in fat and calories than traditional beef, fulfilling USA trends to consume fewer calories per meal.

5. Richer in Vitamin A: Grass-fed beef contains higher levels of Vitamin A, supporting good vision, bone health, immunity, skin, hair, nails and more.

6. More Vitamin B1 and B2: Thiamine (Vitamin B1) is a co-enzyme that digests and metabolizes food for energy. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) maintains healthy blood cells and boosts energy.

7. Higher in Vitamin E: Vitamin E balances cholesterol; slows free radical cells and inflammation; improves skin, hair, hormonal balance, vision, physical endurance, strength and more.

8. Richer in Minerals: Calcium, magnesium and potassium support better cardiovascular health.

9. Greater CLA: CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) reduces inflammation, is used to treat cancer and in animal tests reduces tumors by 50 percent.

10. More Omega-3: Omega-3 reduces hypertension and heart attack risk.

11. Healthier Environment: Nurture Ranch raises free-range cattle naturally, in pastures without feedlots, grain or animal proteins of any kind, which has been proven to be better for animals, humans and the environment.

12. Independent Ranchers: Nurture Ranch works with local ranchers using their land and expertise to nurture its cattle in the traditions of yesteryear, which keeps better ranching practices alive for future generations.

Forager Secures Funding from Coastal Enterprises, Inc. in Maine

Forager™, a company focused on making locally sourced food widely available to all, announced that it has secured a new round of funding from Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) in Maine.

“Our goal is to grow good jobs, environmentally-sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in Maine and across the country,” said Gray Harris, Senior Program Director, Natural Resource Sectors, CEI. “We are thrilled to invest in Forager whose mission and focus on accelerating our local food system aligns so well with our goals.”

Forager’s new online and mobile procurement-to-payment platform radically simplifies the sourcing process for local food, saving time and significant costs, and enabling grocers, food co-ops, farmers and producers to offer more local products to consumers. Forager launched its platform after completing a successful regional pilot involving 100 farmers and 10 grocers, food co-ops and wholesalers from Maine. The company is rolling it out throughout New England and New York state, and additional grocers and farmers are now participating.

Kroger Announces Retirement of Paul Bowen, President of Jay C and Ruler

The Kroger Company has announced that Jay C and Ruler division President Paul Bowen is retiring after 46 years of dedicated service, effective June 21. His successor will be named at a later date.

Bowen began his career with Jay C in 1971 as a produce department manager before taking a military leave of absence to serve in the U.S. Army from 1972 to 1976. He returned to Jay C in 1976 and advanced to hold a number of leadership positions. In 1988, he was promoted to director of training and development for the division. He was instrumental in leading Jay C’s merger with Kroger in 1999, spending two years as the transition project leader. In 2001, Bowen was named vice president of operations before being promoted to senior vice president in 2002. Bowen has held his current role since 2003, where he oversees 71 Jay C and Ruler stores operating in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee.

“For more than four decades, Paul’s leadership, vision and passion has helped Jay C and Ruler create customer-first shopping environments that have shaped the way we do business across our business,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO. “I salute Paul for his years of service to our associates and customers as both a leader and veteran. The entire Kroger family wishes Paul and his family all the best in retirement.”

Bowen and his wife, Margaret, look forward to traveling to new places and spending time with their two grandchildren.

 

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