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Introducing the Dash Robotic Shopping Cart

dash-robotic-shopping-cartDash Robotic Shopping Cart was designed with the frustrated shopper in mind. The consumer simply walks up to Dash and transfers a shopping list from a phone or creates a new list using the store search feature. Then the robot leads the way, mapping out the most effective route to the listed items.

Dash is equipped with a scanner and payment system so the customer can scan and pay for their items at the cart. After paying for items, the cart follows the customer to their car for unloading. Once empty, the cart returns itself to the store and its docking station.

If that isn’t cool enough, Dash features a Virtual Reality interface which shows the store to the customer as she walks down the aisles. Looking up, the customer sees the store. Looking down, the customer sees the VR representation of the store and aisle they are in with their next item highlighted on the screen.

“The Dash Robotic Shopping cart will absolutely transform the way we do shopping. Once these robots are in the stores, we will not be able to imagine how we ever shopped without them,” says CEO Wendy Roberts.

Five Elements Robotics is expecting these to be in stores in 2017. For more information, visit www.5erobotics.com.

Albertsons Companies Holiday Giving Campaign Provides Millions of Meals

As 2016 drew to a close, Albertsons Companies thanked its employees and customers across the many communities it serves for helping donate millions of nutritious meals and thousands of toys through the company’s 2016 Holiday Giving Campaign.

In all, Albertsons Companies’ 2,300+ stores and 275,000 team members are responsible for helping orchestrate major food drives and giving campaigns, donating more than 12,000 turkeys and hams, and collecting tens of thousands of toys to make the holidays memorable. In addition, the Albertsons Companies Foundation contributed $240,000 to fund charities at the forefront of hunger relief, juvenile diabetes research, veteran’s services and grassroots community outreach.

“Helping individuals and families during the holidays and throughout the year is not only the foundation of our community outreach, it’s a key part of our business,” said Chairman and CEO Bob Miller. “We are in the unique position to touch the lives of countless people throughout America each day. We’re proud of how our stores, customers and employees have come together to have a positive impact on people in need, both during the holidays and every day of the year. ”

Albertsons Companies operates supermarkets in 35 states and Washington D.C. under 19 banners, including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, ACME Markets, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, and Carrs. Each regional operating division chooses and manages its own giving programs, tailoring the outreach to the needs of the neighborhoods it serves.

Parmareggio Signs with Norseland

Parmareggio®, the maker of the Parmissimo® brand of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and a co-operative of manufacturers and dairies, together with Norseland, Inc., the exclusive importer of Jarlsberg® cheese, have announced that the two companies have entered a partnership, effective January 2017.

This new alliance is expected to accelerate sales growth of Parmissimo and strengthen both companies’ brand positions in the U.S. market.

“This partnership complements our premium brand portfolio,” says John J. Sullivan, CEO & President of Norseland, Inc. “Parmissimo represents a company with strong values, deep routed in tradition and quality.”

 

“Norseland has a dominant position in America in the specialty cheese market,” says Ivano Chezzi, President of Parmareggio. “Parmareggio, the main producer of Parmigiano Reggiano in the world, is proud to be alongside Norseland who, just like us, believes in the values of cooperation to enhance the Parmissimo brand of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in the US market.”

KeHE Marks Year of Growth & Expansion in 2016

KeHE Distributors, LLC (KeHE) celebrates a year of growth and achievements in 2016. In addition to a rewarding first year as a Certified B Corp, the company advanced on its strategic growth plan with the acquisition of Monterrey Provision Company, the addition of a new distribution center in Colorado, and through various leadership initiatives.

“Our achievements in 2016 are a testament to our motto: Where KeHE Goes, Goodness Follows™,” said Brandon Barnholt, President and CEO, KeHE. “This has been a memorable year for KeHE, and we look forward to building on this momentum in the exciting year ahead.”

Certified B Corp Status
KeHE formally announced its B Corp certification at Natural Products Expo West 2016. Barnholt led a signing of The B Corp Declaration of Interdependence with representatives of the B Corp community. In October, the nonprofit B Lab named KeHE a B Corp “2016 Rookie of the Year” for its outstanding commitment to the movement: using business as a force for good.

Acquisition
In February, KeHE acquired Monterrey Provision Company, a San Diego-based distributor of fresh perimeter products. The Monterrey acquisition aligned two companies with complementary assets and skills, advancing on KeHE’s vision to expand its footprint in this cool growth category.

Expansion
KeHE broadened its reach with the arrival of its 17th distribution center. Located in Aurora, Colorado, near Denver, this state-of-the-art 270,000-square-foot facility was built from the ground up to meet LEED Gold certification for energy-efficient practices. KeHE celebrated the opening of the site in August with a philanthropic activity that provided 1,000 boxes of food to area families in need.

Show Growth
KeHE experienced double-digit growth across its award-winning trade shows. The Natural Spring Show saw a 27 percent increase in attendance from 2015, and the Natural Fall Show saw 35 percent attendance growth since 2014. KeHE looks forward to welcoming suppliers and retailers to the Summer Selling Show in New Orleans on February 7-8, 2017.

New CFO
KeHE also expanded its leadership team with the appointment of Timothy J. Wiggins as Chief Financial Officer in July. In his role, Wiggins leads all aspects of KeHE’s finance function and strategic planning, as well as business unit and subsidiary performance.

Organic Valley Ends Year Standing Strong with 2,000 Farm Families

Organic Valley, America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation’s leading organic brands, will reach a meaningful milestone in the new year: The co-op will grow to 2,000 farmer-owners by the first week of January, representing 12 percent of the organic farmers in the United States. In 2016, Organic Valley welcomed more than 300 family farms to the cooperative for 16 percent growth, and added more than 40,000 acres of organic agricultural land.

“Now, more than ever, it’s time to come together and cooperate,” said George Siemon, a founding farmer and CEO of Organic Valley. “Our strength has always been in our unity and belief in the collective good. In a world of divisiveness, cooperation continues to be the key to success.”

Founded in 1988 by seven struggling farm families in southwest Wisconsin, Organic Valley’s mission today is still to save family farming through an organic, cooperative business model that ensures a fair pay price to farmers. That mission continues to be an urgent one; in 2015, conventional American farmers faced some of the toughest conditions they’ve seen since the 80s.

In the cooperative’s democratic business model, each farmer-member has a voice in pay price, growth, profit sharing, best practices, and other cooperative fundamentals. Because the co-op is not beholden to shareholders or outside investors, the business can prioritize paying farmers a stable price each month, as well as providing other valuable shared services, such as world-class veterinary care, and soil and pasture improvement programs.

Organic Valley is made up of farmers such as Amy Raboine of Reedsburg, Wisconsin. Raboine took over her family’s dairy after her father died following a long journey with stomach cancer. she finished school and chose to become a dairy farmer. Today, Raboine raises her family and her herd inspired by nature and her dad’s legacy.

When Chandler and Aziza Benson of Lansing, New York, decided to start a family, Chandler left his high-powered financial services job in bustling Chicago, and Aziza left the National Guard for a slower paced quality of life. There, the Bensons took over Chandler’s parents’ organic dairy, which was too big for the older Bensons but just right for the next generation and their three sets of twins.

The cooperative’s growth is apparent at its headquarters in La Farge, Wisconsin, as well. In 2016, Organic Valley hired 110 new employees for a total of 903 staff, maintaining Organic Valley’s role as the largest employer in Vernon County, Wisconsin. In 2015, Organic Valley was named one of Outside magazine’s “100 Best Places to Work in the USA.”

“Our cooperative success means we can provide a lifeline to more than 2,000 family farms and meaningful employment to over 900 staff members,” concluded Siemon. “We are past and present leaders in the organic and cooperative movements and will continue to lead into the future, no matter what short-term challenges we face—because we face them together.”

Grocery Pundit Announces Top Trends for 2017

More digital connections and a speedier checkout process rank among the top trends for grocery shopping in 2017, says John Karolefski, veteran supermarket analyst and writer at GroceryStories.com. Karolefski also predicts a more diverse produce department, increased availability of meal kits, and better access to product information.

“The top trends for 2017 will result in improved loyalty to stores and more informed shoppers,” says Karolefski. “Expect a more enjoyable shopping experience.”

Karolefski’s top trends for 2017 are:

More Digital Engagement: Millennials are starting families and becoming major buyers of groceries. To maintain the loyalty of these shoppers, supermarket chains will ramp up their digital tactics. For example, grocers will outfit their stores with beacons, which are sensors embedded throughout a store’s shelves, signs and product displays. Beacons interact with smartphones using low-energy Bluetooth signals to provide coupons and other discounts. More grocers will promote their own mobile apps for shoppers to get discounts and specials. Meanwhile, online grocery ordering and delivery will grow as shoppers opt for this convenience.

More Ways to Check Out: Shoppers want to pay for their groceries and leave the store as quickly as possible. Amazon’s current test of a No-Checkout store in Seattle, relying on a special mobile app for checking in and out of a store, will increase interest in speedy checkout. Retailers like Sam’s Club and Kroger are testing new checkout options such as using a smartphone or a special handheld scanner that enable shoppers to scan and bag products while they shop. Other grocers will follow their lead.

More Diverse Produce Departments: Shoppers will find more organic fruits and vegetables, as well as local produce. Meanwhile, the growing number of Hispanic-American shoppers will prompt grocers to stock such products as tomatillos and jicama. These trends will result in more diverse produce departments in 2017.

More Meal Kits: Grocery shoppers will be able to choose from a variety of “meal kits” that burst onto the scene with such startups as Plated, Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. Giant Eagle began selling its own meal kits this year, and more grocers will do the same in 2017. Meanwhile, manufacturers such as ConAgra and Campbell Soup have launched their own meal kits, and other food makers will follow.

More Access to Product Information: Nearly 30,000 grocery products will bear a new SmartLabel on packages by the end of 2017 to give consumers easy access to detailed information about what they are buying. Shoppers will be able to scan this sophisticated bar code in the store or do an online search to reach a landing page for information on ingredients and other attributes of a wide range of consumer packaged goods.

Michele Buck Appointed President and CEO of The Hershey Company

The Hershey Company’s board of directors has appointed Michele Buck, currently the company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, as Hershey’s next President and Chief Executive Officer effective March 1, 2017. She will succeed John P. Bilbrey, who previously announced his intention to retire from the company. Bilbrey will continue as Non-Executive Chairman of Hershey’s Board of Directors following his retirement as President and CEO.

“Michele is a proven leader who, during 11 years at Hershey and more than 25 years as an executive in the consumer packaged goods industry, has a demonstrated track record of building brands consumers love while bringing out the best in employees amid a rapidly changing business environment,” said Bilbrey. “She has consistently displayed a keen sense for how to grow our iconic brands. The unanimous vote by the board is a testament to the confidence we have in Michele as the next leader of this great company,” he said.

“As the board contemplated the right strategic leader for the next great chapter in Hershey’s history, it quickly became apparent that Michele offered the right mix of outstanding vision and proven execution to continue taking our company forward,” said Pamela Arway, Chair of the Governance Committee of Hershey’s Board of Directors and chair of the board’s special committee overseeing the CEO succession process.

Since joining the company in 2005, Buck has spearheaded the development and execution of many successful growth initiatives and strategic shifts at the company, most notably Hershey’s substantial growth in its core confection portfolio as it moved from a supply- to demand-driven business model. She was the architect of the company’s strategy to expand into broader snacking categories and oversaw the acquisitions of KRAVE and barkThins brands. She is a proven people leader and a champion of the Hershey culture through her ability to inspire, develop and connect with employees and customers.

“Hershey is an incredibly special company with a rich 120-year history of bringing goodness to the world,” Buck said. “I am honored to be chosen as the next leader of this innovative and pioneering business. The opportunity ahead for Hershey is tremendous, and to take advantage of it will require a clear focus on meeting the evolving needs of consumers while moving quickly to stay ahead of the trends shaping our business,” she said.

“I look forward to working closely with our board and the entire Hershey team to further our vision for 2017 and beyond,” continued Buck. “I also would like to thank JP for his leadership, mentorship and friendship over the last several years. It is an honor to be succeeding him as CEO and I look forward to his continued guidance as chairman of our board.”

Zingerman’s Creamery Cheese Now Available on East Coast  

Zingerman’s Creamery has entered into a new partnership with World’s Best Cheeses. The specialty food distributor directly delivers some of the best cheeses, crackers, oils, chocolates and meats from around the world to gourmet retail markets, and now those offerings include Zingerman’s small-batch artisan cheeses made in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This will be the first time the Creamery has had major distribution on the East Coast.

“We’re honored to be represented on the East Coast by World’s Best Cheeses,” says Zingerman’s co-Founder Ari Weinzweig. “Their distribution network will allow us to get our cheeses to specialty shops, restaurants, caterers and cafes without having to have them incur shipping costs from the Midwest.”

Since 2001, Zingerman’s Creamery has specialized in soft-ripened cheeses, employing a combination of Old World techniques and creative innovation to draw out full, complex flavor. The cow and goat milk used is sourced from a select group of small, regional farmers to secure the highest quality product. The collaboration with World’s Best Cheeses, a leader in the specialty food industry that has been family owned and operated for over 30 years and currently has offices in New York, Massachusetts, and California, is a natural and welcomed fit for both companies.

“We have always admired and respected Zingerman’s business and philosophy, and these delicious cheeses have been on our radar for some time,” says Stephen Gellert, ACS-CCP, Vice President of Business Development for World’s Best Cheeses. “We are very excited to finally be working together!”

World’s Best Cheeses is currently distributing Zingerman’s Creamery Detroit Street Brick, Chestnut Little Napoleon, Manchester, Liptauer, and Aged Chelsea. Full descriptions of each cheese can be found in the Cheese section at www.zingermanscreamery.com.

Prairie Farms Dairy and Swiss Valley Farms Announce Merger Agreement

Prairie Farms Dairy and Swiss Valley Farms have entered into a merger agreement. Both companies are farmer-owned dairy cooperatives and recognized leaders within the dairy industry. The combined entity will bring together two well-known brands and will expand sales opportunities for both cooperatives.

Under the terms of the agreement, Prairie Farms will merge the assets of Swiss Valley Farms into Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc. Assets include five manufacturing plants that produce cheese and whey powder located in: Luana, Iowa; Shullsburg and Mindoro in Wisconsin; Rochester and Faribault in Minnesota. Swiss Valley Farms CEO Chris Hoeger will continue to oversee the operation of the plants. The combined company will operate under the name Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc. The terms of the merger agreement must be approved by cooperative members from both companies.

“The merger with Swiss Valley was driven by our commitment to build value for our cooperative members and is consistent with our growth strategy. Swiss Valley’s contributions will allow us to diversify our product portfolio and expand into new markets,” said Ed Mullins, Executive Vice President and CEO of Prairie Farms.

Chris Hoeger, Swiss Valley’s CEO, stated, “We are very excited to be joining forces with Prairie Farms. This merger offers numerous benefits for our cooperative members and is an ideal opportunity to bring together two industry leaders. We will leverage the strengths of both companies to offer a broader range of products and to enhance and expand relationships with customers.”

As Prairie Farms and Swiss Valley collaborate on pre-merger integration activities, their employees and customers can expect a business-as-usual environment. If approved, the deal is expected to close mid-2017.

Davidson’s Organics Refreshes the Cup that Cheers

By Lorrie Baumann

Davidson’s Organics celebrates its 40th anniversary with rebranded packaging, a new line of tea jellies and a new line of specialty tea chocolates.

“Consumers today live very busy lifestyles. They’re looking for simplicity, value and health benefits – all in a simple format,” said Kunall Patel, Davidson’s Organics Owner and Director. “Our new package design meets all those needs while providing a very visual, trendy and high-profile look.”

While Davidson’s Organics has been in business since 1976, Patel and his family bought the brand in 2007 after the company, which had been growing organic teas in India since the 1920s, decided to vertically integrate by acquiring a business active in the North American market. Today, the same farmer cooperative of third-generation tea growers grows the tea leaves in India, and Davidson’s Organics imports them to its plant in Sparks, Nevada, where the teas are blended, manufactured, packaged and shipped to retailers.

“We’re the only tea company today that’s 100 percent vertically integrated from farm to cup,” Patel said. “This is different from the majority of other operations who outsource sourcing, blending, manufacturing and distribution. We do everything under one roof.”

dsc_3219The company currently offers about 300 flavors of USDA-certified organic and kosher-certified tea – the largest product range of organic teas on the market. They include 11 distinct product categories: black, green and white teas; dessert teas that mimic the flavor profiles of classic desserts without the calories; honey teas that contain real organic honey inside the teabag that dissolves out into the cup as it’s infused; tulsi “holy basil” teas; rooibos-based red teas; holiday teas inspired by the season but available year-round; decaffeinated teas, chai; and traditional favorites – the Darjeeling, Ceylon and Irish Breakfast teas. They’re available in tea bags, as loose leaf tea and as brew bags designed for iced tea.

“The brand’s new packaging is designed to stand out on the shelf and portray the products’ clean-label health benefits, company story, key certifications and simple ingredients that are easily and quickly assimilated to influence buying decisions,” Patel said. “The consumer has very little time to analyze a product,” he said. “To engender loyalty you need something more than just price.”

davidsons-earl-grey-jellyThe celebration continues with a new line of tea jellies, the first of their kind on the market. The tea jellies are made by infusing real tea leaves, grown by the farmer cooperative of third-generation tea farmers in the Darjeeling region of India who grow the company’s other tea products. Pectin and cane sugar are then added to make the jelly. The jellies come in four flavors that reflect the four best-selling Davidson’s Organics teas: Earl Grey, White Pomegranate, Classic Chai and Coconut Vanilla.
“The jellies reflect the true flavors of the tea blend,” Patel said. “There are a lot of jellies out there. There’s no other real tea jelly that’s made out of infused organic tea.”

The Earl Grey Tea Jelly pairs very well with meat or cheeses, according to Patel. “It’s a wonderful addition to any backyard barbecue or dinner,” he said. “It makes a perfect combination of salty and sweet at the same time.” Consumers would use the Chai Tea Jelly as they might use a pumpkin butter in a holiday feast – as a complement to bread or cheeses. White Pomegranate Tea Jelly is a tart and fruity spread that pairs well in spring-time treats, and the Coconut Vanilla Tea Jelly is perfect as an addition to scones or croissants.

Following along with the thought that tea need not be just for drinking, Davidson’s Organics is also introducing a new line of specialty tea chocolates made with certified organic dark cacao chocolate sprinkled with loose leaf tea, molded into bars, and then sprinkled with more tea. The chocolate comes from a cooperative of 400 third-generation cacao farmers from the Esmeraldas region of Ecuador.

“It’s a perfect marriage and celebration of three generations of organic agriculture,” Patel said. He noted that although there are cultural differences between the two groups of farmers – the tea growers in India and the cacao growers in Ecuador —the partnership has benefited from a shared respect for each other’s agricultural tradition.

The 70g bars are 65 percent dark chocolate in three flavors: Earl Grey Lavender, Classic Chai and Coconut Vanilla. They retail for about $6.99.

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