By Micah Cheek
In any business, markets shift and tastes change. Navigating these ebbs and flows is what makes a business stand the test of time. Nancy Herring, Co-Owner of Now We’re Cooking in Albuquerque, New Mexico is in the process of shifting the kitchenware store’s stock and style of business to suit customers’ new needs.
The biggest change Herring has seen is a shift away from cooking classes. “Our cooking class response has really dropped off. I think they’ve decided to spend their money somewhere else,” says Herring. Recently, she has had more success with education groups and weight loss communities that will set aside time to come in and watch a suite of demonstrations. Working with outside organizations also takes some of the administrative work off Herring’s shoulders. “They handle all the advertising and signup,” she adds.
Another changing factor is purchasing habits. Large single-item investments have given way to smaller purchases. “You’ll hear people look at a big piece of cookware and say, ‘That’s too expensive,’ but then they’ll buy that same amount in smaller stuff. I think people have been exercising caution for a while,” says Herring. Now, a large part of Now We’re Cooking’s sales are smaller accessory items. “We have always maintained our integrity as a kitchen store, not a gift and kitchen store. We have some pretty things, ceramics and things, but we don’t go heavy into that,” Herring adds. Lots of entertaining kitchen accessories now are now on display at checkout, and some of Now We’re Cooking’s specific sections, like the baking area, have leaned more in that direction. “We sell a tremendous amount of cookie cutters.”
Because customers are feeling more cautious about higher cost options, Herring keeps cookware for regular use in the break room, and shows customers the wear and tear the pans sustain from regular use. “We’ll show them what their cookware looks like after it’s been used for a while. We’ve been using this for the last five years or whatever, and this is what it looks like,” says Herring. “It’s bigger sizes than I would use at home, but we have an example of every brand we sell. And I think people like to see what they’re thinking about.”
As Herring has been reshaping her business model, she has moved to a new space to suit the new needs of her store. “About two and a half years ago, we moved to this location,” says Herring. “Better layout, better light, it was definitely time for a move. The new store is much prettier than the old store was.” When the store updated its location, the space allowed her to make changes to her previous layout that made everything easier to navigate. “We have rows and rows of Metro shelving,” says Herring. “None of them match. I’ve got old Metro, new Metro, black and white. You don’t notice, you just see what’s on it.”
There are corners dedicated to knives, linens sections and a full gadget wall as well. The only part of the store that regularly changes is three-wheeled shelving units to be moved to make space for classes, and the first row of shelves, which are altered for seasonal items. “We don’t move everything around. I know you’re supposed to keep it fresh for people, but customers know where everything is. Christmas time, we move a lot of things around the front, and bring in a few more things.”
Herring is always on the lookout for what is next for the industry. From her perspective, focusing on color and adaptations of the classics are the way forward. “Everybody’s talking about what’s new. There’s new colors, new adaptations, but we haven’t seen a brand new product,” says Herring. “I remember when bread makers came out! In terms of a new category, we’re not seeing it. It’s back to basics and color. Hot pink mixers and bright Microplanes.”
Central Grocers, Inc. has announced that the company and all of its subsidiaries have voluntarily elected to file for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The company intends to use this court-supervised process to conduct an orderly sale of its Strack & Van Til stores as going concerns and anticipates entering into a sale agreement with a stalking horse bidder in the near future. Central Grocers is also seeking to sell its distribution center in Joliet as it winds down its wholesale distribution operations. The company has been cooperating with its lenders and expects to have access to sufficient liquidity to continue operating its stores and winding down the distribution center in an orderly fashion.
Strack & Van Til Stores Are Open for Business
All 22 Strack & Van Til, Town & Country Market and Ultra Foods stores in Indiana and Illinois are open and serving customers. Employees are receiving their pay in the ordinary course. Strack & Van Til intends to pay vendors in full for goods and services provided on or after the filing date, May 4, 2017.
Jeff Strack, President and Chief Executive Officer of Strack & Van Til, said, “Our stores are open, and we are as focused as ever on supporting our customers and providing the legendary service that we are known for. As we move through this process, our priorities, values and commitments to our customers and our communities will not change. We thank our loyal customers for their continued support, and we thank our employees for their hard work and dedication.”
Central Grocers Working Toward Sale of Stores and Distribution Facility
Central Grocers is continuing to work toward implementing a sale of the Strack & Van Til stores and a sale of its distribution center in Joliet and certain other assets. It is anticipated that any such sale transactions will be conducted pursuant to a court-supervised auction process under Section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
Ken Nemeth, President and Chief Executive Officer of Central Grocers, said, “In light of the increasingly difficult environment for independent supermarkets and retailers, we have been working tirelessly to achieve an outcome that is in the best interests of our stakeholders. We are using this court-supervised sale process to provide us the time and flexibility to conduct an orderly sale of the Strack & Van Til stores, while we work to sell the warehouse in Joliet and wind down our wholesale distribution operations.”
The company has filed a number of customary motions seeking court authorization to continue to support its operations during the court-supervised process, including payment of employee wages and benefits. In addition, the company intends to file a motion shortly in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking to dismiss the involuntary bankruptcy case commenced against Central Grocers in view of its voluntary Chapter 11 filing.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is extending the compliance date for menu labeling requirements from May 5, 2017 to May 7, 2018. This extension allows for further consideration of what opportunities there may be to reduce costs and enhance the flexibility of these requirements beyond those reflected in the interim final rule.
The FDA is inviting comments for 60 days on the implementation of the menu labeling requirements, such as approaches to reduce regulatory burden or increase flexibility related to (a) calorie disclosure signage for self-service foods, including buffets and grab-and-go foods; (b) methods for providing calorie disclosure information other than on the menu itself; and (c) criteria for distinguishing between menus and other information presented to the consumer.
The extension will be effective on May 4, 2017 when the Federal Register publishes the extension in advance of the May 5 compliance date. The 60-day comment period will begin on May 4, 2017.
Submit electronic comments to http://www.regulations.gov. Submit written comments to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. All comments should be identified with Docket No. FDA-2011-F-0172 for “Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments; Extension of Compliance Date and Request for Comments.”
Natural Grocers will open its third Arkansas store on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The new store will open at 8:30 a.m. and is located at 1315 South Caraway Road. The store will anchor the Caraway Plaza shopping center at the corner of Caraway Road and Nettleton Avenue.
Natural Grocers provides the community with fresh produce that is 100 percent USDA Certified Organic, as well as other healthy, Always Affordable organic and natural products. The stores feature a mix of national brands and a selection of locally produced products in a small, neighborhood market environment. The stores will also feature a Nutritional Health Coach and offer free nutrition education classes to the public. The store will be open seven days a week.
Murray’s Cheese has introduced a brand new cheese to its exclusive Cave Master line. Ezra, a Clothbound Cheddar, is the first cheese created by Murray’s from initial concept all the way through research and development, cheesemaking and aging and then into the market. Ezra will be exclusively available at Murray’s New York flagship stores in Greenwich Village and Grand Central Terminal and online at www.murrayscheese.com.
“This cheddar is the culmination of many factors coming together over many years,” said Steve Millard, Senior Vice President of Merchandising and Operations for Murray’s Cheese. “From our unique relationships with cheese makers, to more than a decade’s worth of experience aging cheese in our New York City caves, there’s a lot of things we do well. But we hadn’t ventured into making cheese ourselves.”
Ezra was developed in partnership with Cornell University and Old Chatham (New York) Creamery and is named after the university’s founder, Ezra Cornell. Millard, along with Murray’s Cave Master Peter Jenkelunas, worked closely with Matt Ranieri, Ph.D., a Cornell alumnus and expert on food science and dairy technology, to develop the cheese. Aged 12 months in Murray’s cheese cave, Ezra is modeled after classic British clothbound cheddars. It’s crumbly and boasts bright flavors of lemon curd and brown butter.
“The Old Chatham Creamery team is pleased to be able to collaborate with the Murray’s team in creating and producing the new Murray’s Clothbound Cheddar,” said David Malcolm Galton of Cornell. “We are committed to producing high quality cheeses for Murray’s customers across the country and believe that Ezra is a fantastic place to start.”
With the rapid growth of multicultural households in America and their unparalleled influence on the marketplace, market researchers suggest that there is a strong need for retailers to revise their in-store strategies to include a wider range of fresh food products and flavor profiles that cater to the multicultural consumer set. With this in mind, Nielsen has released a comprehensive report to help retailers understand the influence multicultural consumers wield across the meat, produce, seafood, deli and bakery categories. The report entitled, “A Fresh Look at Multicultural Consumers,” reveals strategic insights for retailers looking to leverage new growth opportunities across the perimeter over the next several decades.
Multicultural consumers are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population and the growth engine for fresh food categories within the grocery space. According to this Nielsen report, multicultural households spend a higher share on fresh food as a percentage of their total food spend compared to non-Hispanic white households. In fact, multicultural consumer shoppers make 3 percent more trips to the store containing fresh items and spend 4 percent more per year on fresh items. This results in a $2.2 billion opportunity for retailers.
For many multicultural families, fresh food is a dietary staple. The multicultural preference for fresh comes from cooking and eating norms that centrally reflect the unique cultures of African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics. That said, the allure of multicultural flavors and desire for fresh food are influencing a wider range of shoppers and becoming a key driving force for fresh growth.
“In order to tap this critical market, retailers need to rethink their delivery and assortment strategies of fresh products being offered to today’s increasingly multicultural shoppers,” said Courtney Jones, Vice President of Multicultural Growth and Strategy at Nielsen. “To be successful, retailers must understand the importance that culturally relevant, fresh offerings play in the multicultural shopper landscape. Retailers must also embrace the many layers of multicultural consumers and the undeniable ‘halo effect’ that those consumers are having on mainstream non-Hispanic white shoppers. The multicultural consumer covers a broad spectrum, from multi-generational families to Millennials, to Asian American, African American and Hispanic subgroups that have been influenced by distinct global culinary traditions. Retailers must consider the multi-ethnic tastes of their current and desired customers and recognize that the palates that favor multicultural flavors are influencing the taste preferences of non-Hispanic whites and society at large.”
The report’s key findings include the notion that multicultural flavors have moved into the mainstream for the deli department and continue to grow, also attracting non-Hispanic white shoppers who are inspired by the ethnic flavors found in the deli. Multicultural consumers are taking advantage of the quick and easy meal solutions and meals for large families within the deli department.
In the produce department, all kinds of shoppers are being inspired by the produce used in culinary traditions other than their own, and social media influences, television cooking programs and popular restaurant flavor trends are infiltrating the produce aisle. For example, the growth of habañero, with items popping like habañero grilled vegetable and even habañero margaritas.
Neilson’s research found that multicultural consumers spend more in meat and seafood departments than any other fresh department. Within the seafood department, multicultural households spend $62 a year, compared to non-Hispanic white households at just $43. Multicultural consumers are less willing to purchase branded fresh meat and seafood items; instead there is preference towards made-to-order, unbranded meat products, typically prepared behind the counter.
The bakery offers the biggest opportunity for multicultural consumers, who spend only 9.8 percent of their fresh dollars on bakery items, according to Neilsen. The report suggests that the bakery’s proximity to the deli should be leveraged to create strong cross-department connections for multicultural shoppers across multiple entertaining categories.
The Specialty Food Association is reporting that dollar sales for the specialty food industry grew by 15 percent between 2014 and 2016 and reached $127 billion in annual sales in 2016, now accounting for 14.8 percent of all food sales at retail. Snack food sales reached $16.3 billion in 2016, and snacks now account for about 28 percent of the entire specialty food market. Jerky and meat snacks led the growth for the snack food segment, leaping ahead by more than 86 percent between 2014 and 2016, while sales of chips, pretzels and similar snacks grew by 13.6 percent between 2014 and 2016 and now account for more than $3.5 billion in annual sales.
Cheese, including plant-based cheese alternatives, still continues to be the leading category in the specialty food market, with $4.422 billion in sales during 2016, for a 12.4 percent increase between 2014 and 2016.
The information comes from the Specialty Food Association’s annual report on the state of the specialty food industry. “The State of the Specialty Food Industry 2017” is a collaboration between the Specialty Food Association and market research firm Mintel. The report indicates that while specialty food sales continued to climb in 2016, growth in retail and foodservice channels slowed over the previous year, partly due to an increase in online purchasing for these products.
Some of the growth in the retail channel is coming in mainstream retail channels, with growth in sales in chain grocery stores and mass merchants outpacing that in natural and specialty chains for the first time. Growth is also happening in the foodservice channel, as more fine dining restaurants adopt specialty food products into their menus. Foodservice represents more than one fifth of specialty food sales and grew by 13.7 percent between 2014 and 2016.
Grocery store takeout and in-store dining is the fastest growing segment in the foodservice industry. Lockton, the world’s largest privately held insurance broker, offers grocery stores with dining services insights on business risks.
Product recall expert at Lockton, Ian Harrison, explains what grocerants should look for to protect their business and their customers in Grocerants Are on the Rise, and So Are the Risks. The report points out that foodborne illnesses outbreaks linked to U.S. grocers more than doubled from 2014 to 2015, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While Millennial habits have led to the popularity of in-store meal preparation, consumer confidence that food in grocery stores is safe is decreasing. Food safety and sanitization methods are vital to this industry, and so are protocols for handling food poisoning claims. Serious damage can be done to an entire chain of stores from a food contamination claim or Food and Drug Administration violations.
Although the risks are broadening with this trend, so is insurance. Traditionally, economic loss protection insurance has been two separate policies; food manufacturing and food service. The rise of hybrid processing and service creates a new vertical integrated risk.
The new insurance policy combines exposures like foodborne illness, supplier contamination, and public health shutdown of retail locations in addition to processing exposures of accidental contamination.
Sunset Foods is remodeling its Lake Forest, Illinois, location. The remodel demonstrates Sunset’s dedication to providing the Lake Forest community with an extraordinary shopping experience.
“We’re always seeking to innovate and improve,” says John Cortesi, Sunset Foods’ President and CEO. “Coupled with Sunset’s tradition of exemplary customer service, this remodel will allow Sunset to create a shopping environment that truly stands out… we’re thrilled to continue to invest in this location and the larger Lake Forest community.”
‘Clean, fun-to-shop stores’ are a key part of Sunset’s mission statement. Each element of the remodel was carefully conceived to enhance the entire shopping experience. Not only will the remodel broaden Sunset’s selection of fresh, local products, it will also expand in-store dining options and emphasize one-of-a-kind offerings. These include:
As a convenience to customers, the store will remain open during the remodel, which is slated to begin in early April of 2017. Sunset recognizes that remodels can be challenging. The Sunset team promises to do everything possible to make this a seamless transition.
About Sunset Foods
Sunset Foods is a privately owned neighborhood supermarket dedicated to making grocery shopping a pleasurable experience by providing the finest customer service possible and by offering an outstanding selection (of food, liquor, floral arrangements, and more) at competitive prices. From its modest beginnings in 1937, Sunset has expanded considerably and now employs approximately 900 employees at its stores in Highland Park, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Long Grove and Northbrook. Sunset is committed to giving back to the communities it serves. In addition to exceptional service and a wide variety of foods—including gourmet, ethnic, specialty, and organic items—Sunset also offers its customers a selection of cooking classes and demonstrations, free nutrition store tours, and many other great events.
Novak Construction Company representatives stood proudly next to its Whole Foods partners on March 22 for the unveiling of a new Whole Foods Market at the historic intersection of Ashland-Belmont-Lincoln (3201 N. Ashland Avenue), signaling the return to a bustling corner punctuated by commerce, commuters and community.
The highly anticipated opening featured 44th Ward Alderman, Tom Tunney and Department of Building & Planning Commissioner, David L. Reifman, and Whole Foods Market Regional President, Michael Bashaw. 47th Ward Alderman, Ameya Pawar, also attended alongside Novak leadership, John G. Novak and Michael W. Kanzler.
Noted Novak’s Founder/President, John Novak, “By activating this vacant site with such a long-term tenant commitment, Whole Foods Market enhances the community and accommodates the needs of its residents, in addition to ushering in an era of new activity and new jobs at this location. I am sure this store will inspire a new vitality in this neighborhood – from morning until night. We are very honored to be a part of that.”
A large portion of the three primary building facades is covered with an innovative LiveWall greenspace that softens the building’s sleek architecture, while providing greenery along the busy pedestrian corridors. The Lobby includes a full-service roastery for Allegro coffee, which is sold at many Chicagoland Whole Foods stores. To enhance customers’ enjoyment, the second-story retail level includes a wine bar, pub, juice bar, arcade, a Wrigley Field nook and a “porch.” Finally, the construction incorporated “SMART Park” for its 300 indoor parking spaces to facilitate the flow and reduce traffic congestion.
The multiple phases of the actual construction presented the chief challenge for the team. With zero lot line with which to work, Project Director Steve Bykowski cited incredible coordination as his team worked on the basement, ground floor and second floor simultaneously. “However, everything transitioned seamlessly and we hit the target opening date.”
An extensive collaboration across a swath of city officials and community members went into this project as well. Key team members of Novak Construction worked with several key constituencies over a one-year period that included Ald. Tunney, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), St. Luke’s Pastor David Abrahamson, the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce and the West Lakeview Neighbors Association.