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Albertsons Companies Appoints Susan Morris Executive Vice President, East Region

Albertsons Companies has appointed current Denver Division President Susan Morris to the position of Executive Vice President of Retail Operations over its East region. Morris is filling the vacancy created when Kelly Griffith announced earlier this month that he would be leaving the company.

Since March of 2015, Morris has led the company’s Denver division team, overseeing over 130 stores in five states. She joined Albertsons when she was 16 as a customer service clerk in Colorado, and worked at store level until she graduated from Colorado State University when she accepted a job at the division office. Her career has spanned roles from Store Director to Corporate Grocery Sales Director, Vice President of Bakery and Operations and, upon the sale of Albertson’s Inc.’s assets to SUPERVALU, Vice President of Customer Satisfaction. In 2010, she was Senior Vice President of Sales and Merchandising when she left SUPERVALU to join Albertsons LLC. In March 2013, Morris moved from her role as Vice President of Marketing & Merchandising for the Southwest Division to Intermountain Division President.

“Starting at an entry level position and working your way up to a leadership role is very much alive and well at Albertsons Companies, and Susan is the latest example of that,” said Wayne Denningham, Chief Operating Officer. “In the span of our company’s history, we have helped to develop some of the greatest retail leaders in the industry today, and Susan is certainly an excellent addition to that list. Her experience in grocery is invaluable both as an operator and a merchant. We look forward to her taking on this key role as we look to continue to grow and strengthen our operation while furthering our goal of becoming the favorite local supermarket across the nearly 2,300 neighborhoods we serve.”

Action for Healthy Kids and ALDI Team up in Southern California

Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) and ALDI have partnered to invest in Southern California communities through AFHK’s School Grants for Healthy Kids initiative. The ALDI investment of $175,000 will help 15 Southern California area schools to improve their overall wellness environments through grants and technical assistance during the 2015-2016 school year.

Funding supports the establishment or expansion of school health teams; implementation of school wellness programs to drive effective health initiatives utilizing AFHK’s Game On program to identify and target areas of need; and engagement of parents, community members and ALDI employees to promote wellness at school and at home. The ALDI-funded program will benefit more than 11,000 students at the selected schools where, on average, 71 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced meals.

Grocery Survey Finds Wegmans Now America’s Favorite

Wegmans is now America’s favorite grocery retail, according to a new large-scale consumer study of more than 10,000 consumers conducted by Market Force Information® (Market Force). Publix Super Markets came in as Americans’ second-favorite grocer, followed by Trader Joe’s in third place. This is the first time in four years that Trader Joe’s did not rank first.

Wegmans Rises to the Top
For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and their likelihood to refer that grocer to others. The results were averaged to rank each brand on a Composite Loyalty Index.

After not earning enough votes to make the list in 2015, Wegmans garnered double the votes in 2016, resulting in a score of 76 percent, enough to secure the top spot. Publix ranked second for the fourth year in a row with an earned a score of 75 percent, followed by Trader Joe’s, which slipped 5 percentage points from 2015 for a score of 73 percent. Hy-Vee and ALDI rounded out the top five.

Wegmans, founded in 1916, is known for its fresh produce, reasonable prices and massive stores. The Rochester, New York-based chain is expanding modestly, but steadily and winning over more devoted customers along the way. Its focus on employee training to ensure customers have the best experience has been a winning strategy that creates superfans eager for a new location to open near their home.

Publix Has Best items, ALDI Best Prices
Market Force sought to uncover which brands excel in specific operational and service categories that set leading grocers apart.  It found that Publix and Wegmans led in most areas, including the ability to find desired items, cleanliness and specialty department service. ALDI was the price leader, followed by WinCo and Costco. Trader Joe’s, known for its friendly service, ranked first for cashier courtesy. ShopRite, Meijer and Kroger offer the best sales and promotions. Hy-Vee also performed well across the board, ranking in the top five in many categories.

Organic and Local Foods Taking Root
Shoppers are increasing seeking local and organic foods while grocery shopping. The study showed that 49 percent of consumers prefer to purchase organic items when given a choice. Produce, meat and dairy were the most frequently purchased organic products, followed by packaged canned foods, packaged dry foods and frozen foods. Less popular were organic baby products, paper products and personal hygiene products. Purchases of organic options for all but two categories increased one to three percentage points from 2015, indicating a growing importance on the availability of organic selections. A majority (58 percent) of shoppers also indicated that locally sourced meat, produce and dairy products are important.

Prepared Foods Warming Up
As more shoppers are crunched for time, prepared foods continue to be a popular choice, with two thirds indicating they purchased some form of prepared food from their grocer in the previous 30 days. Forty-three percent did so once a month, 19 percent once a week, and 8 percent twice a week or more. Convenience was overwhelming the most popular reason for purchasing prepared foods, but many also turn to pre-made foods as an alternative to dining out or because of the quality of food offered.

The most common types of prepared meals purchased were ready-to-eat main courses and ready-to-eat side dishes/appetizers/desserts. Ready-to-cook main courses and ready-to-cook side dishes/appetizers/desserts ranked third and fourth, respectively.

Home Delivery and Click & Collect Not Yet Widely Used
Despite the rise in alternative shopping and delivery methods, 99 percent still do their grocery shopping traditionally – a trip to the store to buy and bring home products. In the past 90 days, just 5 percent ordered online for home delivery, 2 percent ordered online and picked up groceries in-store, and 2 percent used “Click and Collect” – ordering online and collecting through the grocer’s drive-up. Of the 4 percent who have ever tried Click and Collect, 73 percent were satisfied with the experience and nearly half are repeat users.

Apps and Circulars Holding Steady
Market Force’s study found approximately half of consumers used a grocery app in the previous 90 days. The most prevalently used apps are those offered by specific grocers, while a nominal amount of consumers opt for third-party apps such as Checkout 51, SavingStar and Yummly. Consumers are primarily using apps to obtain coupons, followed by scanning barcodes, comparing prices and availability, and creating grocery lists.

On the more low-tech end, printed circulars have not diminished in popularity. About half of consumers are reviewing them once a week, and 14 percent are reviewing them three to four times a week. They’re also influencing where and how consumers shop. Seventy-nine percent said they plan their shopping trips based on what is in the circulars, 65 percent clip coupons from them and 61 percent use them to compare prices between grocers. Of particular interest to grocers is that nearly two thirds shop at a specific grocer because of the promotions offered in a weekly circular.

Survey Demographics
The survey was conducted online in February 2016 across the United States. The pool of 10,025 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions, and reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 54 percent reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 67 percent were women and 33 percent were men.

Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil Earns Stringent USDA QMP Seal

Capatriti® Extra Virgin Olive Oil, manufactured by Gourmet Factory™, has qualified for the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) seal. The USDA Quality Monitoring Program verifies the purity and quality of a brand’s extra virgin olive oil. Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil was required to meet meticulous program criteria in order to qualify for the seal. Upon entering the Quality Monitoring Program for its extra virgin olive oil, Gourmet Factory agreed to allow the USDA to conduct unannounced visits to review and inspect quality assurance records, randomly sample product for chemical analysis and sensory evaluation, and verify labels on an ongoing basis.

“It’s important that we, as a manufacturer and industry partner, provide consumers with the correct information about what is pure extra virgin olive oil – the taste, the aroma and the color,” stated Themis Kangadis, Gourmet Factory CEO. “As a family-owned company, we know that trust is the most important part of any relationship, and by earning this stringent USDA QMP designation, we are looking at our consumers as family by increasing their knowledge and making their choice easier.”

Confusion about EVOO is nothing new in the marketplace and is still an ongoing issue. According to a 2010 UC Davis report, “69 percent of imported olive oils labeled as ‘extra virgin’ failed to meet the international standard for extra virgin olive oil.” More recently, a 2015 report from National Consumer League found that six out of 11 (about 55 percent) of EVOO from four major retailers failed to meet the EVOO requirements.

The USDA QMP seal indicates that USDA samples of Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil have passed USDA quality and purity analysis. Additionally, the USDA also reviewed the performance of the company’s production processes, quality assurance measures and record-keeping system. Under the program, the USDA will continue to monitor Capatriti’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, conducting unannounced plant visits to verify quality assurance measures and test the extra virgin olive oil.

Victoria Fine Foods Sauces at Sur La Table

Victoria Fine Foods and Sur La Table are launching a new line of artisanal pasta sauces created exclusively for the Sur La Table customer.The line consists of the following five varieties:

  • Organic Pomodoro Sauce
  • Fra Diavolo Sauce
  • Roasted Garlic Sauce
  • Vodka Sauce
  • Chianti Marinara Sauce

All sauces come in 24-ounce jars and are available in Sur La Table stories nationwide, as well as on the Sur La Table website and catalog. The suggested retail price is $12-$13. All sauces, except the Vodka variety, are Non-GMO Project verified.

Just like Victoria’s premium and Organic sauce lines, the Sur La Table artisanal sauces are made with just a handful of ingredients which are featured prominently on the front of the label: ripe plum tomatoes, fresh onions, fresh garlic, fresh basil, olive oil and salt. No artificial flavors or colors are ever added.

The Sur La Table artisanal pasta sauces owe their rich flavor to the superb quality of the tomatoes and a slow kettle-cooking process. The San Marzano-style plum whole tomatoes are grown in the volcanic soil of coastal Italy, long considered the source of the world’s finest tomatoes, and slow cooked them in small batches with fresh, hand picked basil, fresh garlic, and fresh onions.

“This is Victoria Fine Foods’ first co-branded partnership, and we are thrilled to be launching this venture with Sur La Table,” says Tim Shanley, CEO, Victoria Fine Foods.  “Our brands and mission are very similar, with a focus on the highest quality, best-tasting ingredients and the desire to help consumers achieve kitchen victories every day.”

NASDA Urges Passage of Trans-Pacific Partnership

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) has called on Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the end of the year.  NASDA co-signed a letter to House and Senate leadership with over 220 organizations that represent the broad spectrum of American agriculture, all of whom stand to benefit from the passage of the 12-country free trade agreement.

Greg Ibach, Nebraska Director of Agriculture and NASDA President, has been NASDA’s chief advocate of the benefits of international trade during his decade of service to the organization. NASDA voted in February in favor of an Ibach-sponsored Action Item to support TPP.

“America’s farmers and ranchers depend on the global marketplace. TPP will open markets and eliminate trade barriers that currently prevent us from competitively providing our high-quality food and fiber to consumers in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Ibach. “TPP will open the door to increased farm income for farmers, ranchers, and value-added food producers of all sizes and production methods. This is an opportunity which Congress cannot ignore.”

NASDA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association which represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the departments of agriculture in all fifty states and four U.S. territories.  NASDA grows and enhances agriculture by forging partnerships and creating consensus to achieve sound policy outcomes between state departments of agriculture, the federal government, and stakeholders.

Harmless Harvest Process Achieves Highest Levels of Product Safety and Quality

Harmless Harvest, which produces Fair-for-Life-certified Organic coconut water, is announcing a proprietary new multi-step micro-filtration process that achieves the highest levels of product safety and quality, while preserving optimal flavor, fragrance and nutrients of its critically acclaimed coconut water, which complies with federal Food and Drug Administration standards and requirements.

This new process enables the company to introduce a new, more environmentally conscious bottle with an average of a quarter less plastic than previous bottles. Currently, the primary industry method of ensuring the safety of low-acid juice beverages is thermal (heat) pasteurization. Thermal pasteurization is known to heavily heat (“cook or boil”) the product as a way to regulate safety, but it can leave a modified, burnt-like taste when used on coconut water.

According to the CEO of Harmless Harvest, Giannella Alvarez, the introduction of the multi-step micro-filtration process is a significant advancement for the industry. “With our move to our proprietary FDA-compliant multi-step micro-filtration linked to an aseptic filling and packaging system – as with every step we take as a company – it is our goal to drive the industry forward towards better products, better practices and more environmentally sustainable business models. We have an amazing team that is committed to bringing delicious organic food and beverages to consumers with a fair and sustainable business model that will change the industry as whole,” Alvarez said. Harmless Harvest developed and tested the multi-Step micro-filtration process to ensure that it complies with FDA standards and requirements.

Harmless Harvest is an ecosystem-based business that believes in bringing consumers the best organic ingredients through a business model that centers on the welfare of all people in the supply chain – from plant to shelf – and makes the sourcing environment a core beneficiary of its commercial success. Each year the company strives to make a measurable impact on the sourcing communities and beyond, as verified by third-party boards that ensure adherence to Fair-for-Life principles.

Kenny Kimball to Become President of Smith’s

The Kroger Co. has announced the promotion of Kenny Kimball, currently Vice President of Operations in the company’s Smith’s division, to serve as President of Smith’s, effective April 30. Kimball succeeds Jay Cummins, whose retirement was announced in February.

“Kenny’s passion for developing associates and his commitment to putting our customers first will further accelerate growth in our important Smith’s division markets,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO. “Kenny brings to this role leadership experience at all levels of our business and a record of success as both an operator and a merchandiser. We look forward to his leadership as president of Smith’s.”

Kimball joined the company in 1984 as a courtesy clerk in the Smith’s division. He served in several leadership roles with Smith’s, including store manager, district manager and bakery director. In 2009, he was named Smith’s senior vice president of sales and merchandising. In 2012, he was named vice president of merchandising for the Ralphs division, and in 2013 was named vice president of operations for Ralphs. Kimball most recently served on special assignment at Kroger’s general office in 2015, before taking on his current role in February.

Wynn’s Market Re-creates Itself in Naples

Naples, Florida is considered one of the wealthiest cities in America; known for its architecture and local flora that gives a European feel to the affluent beach-side community. Famous for its palm tree flecked, white sand beaches, the city is home to a historical landmark that’s almost as old as the city itself: Wynn’s Market.

“[We’ve] been here since the beginning,” says Tim Wynn, Owner of Wynn’s Market. “Even our employees have been here for a long time. We have a saying: ‘If you haven’t worked here for over 20 years, you’re a newbie!’”

Wynn’s Market started in Naples way back in 1938 by Wynn’s grandfather as a small inn for Depression-era travelers who took the train from New York to Miami. After the end of the second World War, the building was taken over by Wynn’s father, who transformed the inn into the first modern grocery store for the community of less than 600. Much has changed in the community over the years, such as the metamorphosis from a small fishing village to wealthy tourist destination, but what has remained the same, according to Wynn, is his family’s dedication to offering the best product and service at a fair price. “We give them the service, give them the quality and give them a unique selection,” says Wynn. “We are also one of the first ones to start online sales in Naples region, which gives us a competitive advantage over our competition.”

An extensive remodeling of the store 11 years ago elevated Wynn’s Market to an upscale, specialty grocery that would match the lifestyle of the residents in the area. “We work with a very affluent segment of the community,” says Wynn. “We carry household things and unique gifts…. We have a complete shopping experience where [customers] can find something that nobody else has.”

The 21,000 square-foot grocery’s center floor offers a limited variety of traditional staples, with the rest of the store dedicated to its renovated wine department, deli and cheese counter, specialty sea food counter and bakery. A sidewalk cafe outside the store offers a dozen tables.

The store has been certified as a Blue Zone grocery, providing organic juices, gluten-free snacks and low-sodium snacks to help customers practice healthy nutrition. Wynn says, “Our checkout area doesn’t have any candy!”

Wynn says that the deli is the grocery’s strongest department, specializing in antibiotic-free cuts of grass-fed beef and chickens as well as fresh-made salads, pastas and prime rib.The deli carries over 60 different items, from meatloaf and pot roast to freshly-made chicken quesadillas and fried chicken. Offerings are rotated so customers will find something new as well as their usual favorites. “You have to keep changing out there, or [the competition] will eat you alive,” says Wynn.

The market has a close relationship with local fishermen. All of the grocery’s seafood is fresh off the boat. Stone crab claws, salmon, yellow snapper, sword fish and trout, not to mention scallops, clams and oysters are all available at the counter. Recently, the store’s sushi department started offering customers the choice to have a dozen oysters shucked, packed on ice and taken home for some ready-to-go oysters on the half shell. He says, “Our sales have gone through the roof… through our strong relationship with local fishers and boaters.”

Wynn’s Market’s large wine department houses a temperature-controlled, walk-in wine cellar that contains nearly 800 different wines from Chile, Australia, Argentina, Germany, France, Spain, New Zealand and South Africa. Wynn says that they carry every type of wine from extremely high-end selections such as Opus 1 and Cristal to more affordable $6.99 bottles.

Italian Delicacies from Cibo California

by Lorrie Baumann

Start-up company Cibo California, founded last year, has reached exclusive distribution agreements for artisanal products previously unknown in the United States and is ready to launch them into the American market. Cibo California CEO Massimo Cannas says he spent months and even years persuading families that make artisanal Italian food products in traditional ways to share these products with the American market and to trust his company with that mission.

One of those product lines is Campofilone egg pasta from the Pastificio Decarlonis Srl, a family company run by brothers Paolo, Pietro and their father Enzo Decarlonis, who agreed to hold a “serious family meeting” after a long conversation with Cannas that ended with the decision that they were ready to enter the American market. “I spent several years convincing this family to start selling their products to the United States,” Cannas says. “We are the only company that is able to import their products to the U.S.”

The company is located in the Marche region on the eastern coast of Italy, directly across the Adriatic Sea from Croatia and separated from Florence by the Appenine Mountains. It’s a beautiful part of the country with an uncontaminated environment, and the pasta made in the tiny village of Campofilone is protected by the Italian government with an IGP designation, “Maccheroncini di Campofilone I.G.P.,” which means that the pasta can be traced back to this geographic area. “It’s only there that they can use this name, the Campofilone pasta,” Cannas says. “Only there, by the law, are people authorized to produce this kind of pasta and authorized to call it Campofilone pasta.”

Made with just egg and flour, with no added water, the Campofilone pastas cook in just two minutes. “They make this pasta using just flour and hand-cracked local, fresh eggs. This is what makes the difference,” Cannas says. “One by one, the eggs are cracked by a team of ladies. They must be quick.” Federico Pavoncelli, Vice President of Cibo California, says that one of his favorite recipes for the Decarlonis Maccheroncini di Campofilone IGP is Maccheroncini with lobster. “Very simple, quick to cook and delicious,” he says. He makes it with some chopped onion, chili pepper, a whole lobster and some white wine. He cooks the Maccheroncini separately for just one minute and then tosses it with the lobster sauce. “All this in no more than a minute. Serve it and enjoy!” he says.

Americans are familiar with the name Giuseppe Verdi as the composer of “La Traviata” and “Aida,” among other operas, but today’s Giuseppe Verdi is making vinegars at the Acefificio Aretino in Tuscany in the beautiful medieval city of Arezzo. Cibo California is offering the Verdi brand vinegars in a wide range of products for which it is the exclusive importer into the U.S. These include balsamic vinegar, red and white wine vinegars, organic red and white wine vinegar, red and white wine vinegar made with IGP Chianti wine in Tuscany, apple vinegar, and, very specially, blood orange wine vinegar made with blood oranges cultivated in Sicily. “This is something different, something unique,” Cannas says. “I tried it with a smoked salmon carpaccio and very thinly sliced sweet onions, a little radicchio, and a little lemon juice. It’s delicious.”

Cibo California is also importing a range of innovative high-quality products made with white and black truffles from Tartuflanghe, which is recognized as one of the world’s leading producers of truffles from Italy, according to Cannas. “Tartuflaghe is the master. We are talking about a very high-end product, the Louis Vuitton of the truffle industry,” he says.

The company based in Alba, Piemonte, is recognized as a leader, not just for the quality of its truffles but also for the elegance of its packaging, both for its retail and foodservice products. “This is a company that does a lot of research. They are not following the market. They are anticipating the trends in the food industry worldwide,” Cannas says. “It’s more expensive than the average imported truffle products, but in two or three bites, you see the stars, the best expression of an extensive line of truffle specialty products.” Tray the Parmiggiano Reggiano Cream with Truffle, or the Truffle Butter or the Acacia Honey with White Truffle!

Delizie di Sardegna and Sarda Affumicati are Cibo California’s source for bottarga, both from tuna and mullet. Bottarga is salted, cured fish roe, with mullet bottarga traditionally being produced in Sardinia, while tuna is used in Sicily. Most people prefer mullet bottarga for its flavor, which is less fishy than the tuna bottarga, Cannas says. “Bottarga is extracted from the fish and cleaned and covered with salt and put in a special drying cellar for a very slow drying process. In the last century, this process was done just under the sun,” he adds. “Today, bottarga is made in a drying system that produces an even better quality, flavor and consistency. Then it’s vacuum-packed and shipped all over the world.”

The bottarga is offered as the baffa, the egg sacs which have been extracted and processed whole, as well as grated or powdered in 40-gram jars. The baffa is vacuum-packed and sold at weights between 70 and 200 grams, with the best seller at around 100 grams.

“Add it to pasta to add a special flavor to any kind of meal. Over pasta, rice or soup, on top of a cioppino, drop a few drops of olive oil infused with grated bottarga,” Cannas says. “Or the bottarga is fantastic grated, a little spoon on top of grilled pork chops. This is the Sardinian way. Just use a little sprinkling of the bottarga to finish the meat after grilling.”

“With the baffa, you just slice the bottarga very thin, slice fresh artichoke heart, mix those together, add extra virgin olive oil, little bit of salt and two-three drops of lemon. This is all. You are in paradise,” he says. “That is a delicious appetizer that is offered in every restaurant in Sardinia. Instead of artichokes, you can use celery and add some cherry tomatoes.”

For dessert, Cibo California is importing biscotti and cookies from Grondona Pasticceria Genovese, a very traditional baker-biscottificio in Genoa since 1820. The pastries are made with simple ingredients of the highest quality, including, Cannas says, a lot of butter. Grondona products are made with La Madre Bianca, the company’s mother yeast, in which baker’s yeast and beneficial bacteria have been nurtured for almost two centuries. The process for feeding, tending and dividing the yeast has been kept a secret through four generations of the Grondona family – the art is rare today even in Italy, according to Cannas. “They are starting right now to enter the U.S. market, and we have been able to become exclusive importer for western U.S.,” he says.

Likewise, Grondona recipes are based on almost 200 years of tradition. Today, the company is operated by Orlando Grondona and his family. His son, Andrea Grondona, is in charge of the export division. “I took the airplane, I go to Genoa and I spent two days with Orlando and Andrea, the son. They are two wonderful human beings. Orlando is a lovely person, a genius, a master in the biscotti and cookie industry, not just in Italy but in the world. He is also a master wine expert and collector,” Cannas says. He is importing four Grondona products: the Baci di Dama in 100-gram packages, super-delicate and rich with real butter, honey, 14 percent chocolate and 17 percent hazelnuts; Canestrelli Antica Genova in 100-gram packages, in the shape of stars, 25 percent butter, lemon juice, Madagascar vanilla pods and packaged with a small packet of icing sugar intended to be sprinkled onto the cookie just before eating; Cuori Mori, heart-shaped and rich with butter, 9 percent chocolate and 3.5 percent cocoa; and Pandolcini Antica Genova, a miniature version of a cake that’s traditionally bought on the way home from church on Sunday to be served with Sunday’s lunch. It’s made from wheat flour, butter, 30 percent sultana raisins, orange peel, apples, pears, pineapples, 2.3 percent pine nuts, fresh eggs and lemon juice.

Cibo California is currently seeking account executives and distributors for southern California and other areas in the western U.S. Anyone interested in evaluating local distribution agreements for both foodservice and retail products is invited to contact Cannas at 949.230.6866 or email m.cannas@cibocalifornia.com.

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