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Haggen Files Suit Against Albertsons

Haggen, the West Coast regional grocer, today announced that the company has filed a lawsuit against Albertsons LLC and Albertsons Holdings LLC (“Albertsons”) seeking more than $1 billion in damages.

The complaint, which was filed today in United States District Court for the District of Delaware, alleged that following Haggen’s December 2014 purchase of 146 Albertsons and Safeway stores, Albertsons engaged in “coordinated and systematic efforts to eliminate competition and Haggen as a viable competitor in over 130 local grocery markets in five states,” and made false representations to both Haggen and the Federal Trade Commission about Albertsons’ commitment to a seamless transformation of the stores into viable competitors under the Haggen banner.

Albertsons sought out Haggen in order to convince the FTC that Haggen would be a new competitor in local markets, which enabled Albertsons to gain the FTC’s approval of a merger between Albertsons and Safeway—a merger that created “one of the largest food retailers in the United States, with over 2,200 stores and $61 billion in combined sales,” according to the complaint. Despite the FTC’s orders and Albertsons’ agreement to abide by all conditions of the sale, the complaint alleges, Albertsons engaged in an illegal campaign against Haggen including “premeditated acts of unfair and anti-competitive conduct that were calculated to circumvent Albertsons obligations under federal antitrust laws, FTC orders, and contractual commitments to Haggen, all of which were intended to prevent and delay the successful entry of Haggen (or any other viable competitor) into local grocery markets that Albertsons now dominates.”

“During the transfer process, Albertsons launched its plan to gain market power and/or monopoly power, acting in a manner that was designed to (and did) hamstring Haggen’s ability to successfully operate the Stores after taking ownership,” according to the complaint.  As a result, despite Haggen’s plans to successfully operate and expand upon the acquired stores, Haggen was “forced to close 26 of the Stores that it newly acquired as a part of the Albertsons’ divestiture, and faces the potential closure of additional stores,” the complaint said. “Albertson’s anti-competitive actions critically damaged the operations, customer service, brand goodwill and profitability of the divested stores from the outset,” the complaint alleged, “[and] have caused significant harm to competition, local communities, employees and consumers,” throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona.  Instead of focusing on succeeding in the new markets, according to the complaint, “Haggen has had to focus on strategies to recover from Albertsons’ wrongful acts, which include, sadly, Haggen’s efforts to find new jobs for displaced employees who too are victims of Albertsons’ actions.”

In particular, Haggen alleged in its complaint that Albertsons, in violation of numerous laws, the FTC order and the purchase agreement, intentionally and deliberately undertook a number of “malicious and unfair actions” that “strained Haggen’s resources” and “created substantial distraction and diverted the attention of store-level and senior Haggen management” during the store conversion process, such as:

  • Using proprietary and confidential conversion scheduling information to plan and execute aggressive marketing campaigns intended to undermine Haggen grand openings;
  • Providing Haggen with false, misleading and incomplete retail pricing data, causing Haggen stores to unknowingly inflate prices;
  • Cutting off Haggen-acquired store advertising in order to decrease customer traffic;
  • Timing the remodeling and rebranding of its retained stores to impair Haggen’s entry into the relevant markets;
  • Diverting customers by illegally accessing Haggen’s confidential data to gain an unfair competitive advantage;
  • Deliberately understocking certain inventory at Haggen-acquired stores below levels consistent with the ordinary course of business just prior to conversion, resulting in out of stocks which negatively impacted the shopping experience upon Haggen grand openings;
  • Deliberately overstocking perishable inventory at Haggen-acquired stores beyond levels consistent with the ordinary course of business just prior to conversion such that Haggen had to throw away significant amounts of inventory it paid for;
  • Removing store fixtures and inventory from Haggen-acquired stores that Haggen paid for;
  • Diverting Haggen inventory to Albertsons stores; and
  • Failing to perform routine maintenance on stores and equipment.

“Albertson’s anti-competitive conduct caused significant damage to Haggen’s image, brand, and ability to build goodwill during its grand openings to the public,” according to the complaint. The complaint continued, “Albertson’s unlawful acts destroyed or substantially lessened the economic viability, marketability and competitiveness of the [Haggen] Stores, depriving consumers in each of the Relevant Markets the benefits of substantial competition from a new market entrant.”

United Supermarkets Reaffirms Commitment to Lubbock; Announces New Store


United Supermarkets has announced that the chain will open a new location in Lubbock, Texas. Construction on the new location is expected to start late this fall and is targeted for completion in late summer or early fall 2016, according to Robert Taylor, President of United Supermarkets, LLC.

“We are thrilled at the opportunity to bring a next generation United store to Lubbock. Lubbock and the surrounding communities have always been highly supportive of United,” said Taylor. “We are glad to continue expanding to serve guests in our home-base city, which continues to grow and thrive.”

At 56,000 square feet, the new United will anchor a larger development that will include additional retailers. The store will feature an adjacent 2,500 square foot United Express convenience store with a convenient drive-through.

According to Senior Director of Marketing Ron Bonacci, the company’s tenth Lubbock location will showcase a new look and feel for United shoppers. “This store will be the third United that reflects our new brand strategy and the first in Lubbock,” Bonacci said. “The Lubbock community is so important to our company, and we believe the welcoming floor plan, signage and department layouts will be a positive expression of the strong relationship we have with our Lubbock guests.”

The new United store will offer some features currently found in Market Street stores, including fresh sushi and expanded food service options. A large salad bar and restaurant-quality food will be accompanied by an expanded in-store dining room. A larger produce section with extensive organic options and a wide variety of beer and wine are planned for the new store.

In addition, a significant expansion project at the Lubbock’s Llano Logistics distribution center is underway, paving the way for future growth. Both the new store and distribution center project will create new jobs for Lubbock.


Specialty Food Producer Seeks Crowdfunding Support for Incubator Kitchen

The Discerning Palate, a New Hampshire specialty food producer, is set to launch Genuine Local, a small food business incubator project. The Discerning Palate produces all-natural specialty foods that include Swineheart’s Signature Sauces, Our Local Table and Old’s Cool Wild Game Sauces. For the last two years these New England favorites have been produced in the Neighbor Made business incubator facility in Keene, New Hampshire. On Friday, August 28, 2015, the new Neighbor Made owners announced that they would be closing their doors effective October 1, 2015. In addition to The Discerning Palate brands, this leaves many small producers without an approved production facility.

The Genuine Local concept has been in the works for over a year, and was initially intended to be a separate, but collaborative effort with Neighbor Made. The idea was to have a comparable facility located in the lakes region that would further leverage buying power for small businesses and coordinate regional distribution efforts of products coming out of both facilities.

While it is likely that The Discerning Palate would not exist without Neighbor Made, it is a certainty that it would not be as successful as it has become. In recognition of the benefits realized by the use of Neighbor Made and the services and training provided, The Discerning Palate will “pay it forward” by creating Genuine Local.

Genuine Local’s mission is to expand production capabilities and create a community of small food producers and local farmers in central New Hampshire that will collectively benefit from technical support, regulatory guidance, introduction to innovative sustainable business practices, and help in leveraging individual buying power through collective purchasing (hence reducing input costs). Genuine Local hopes to enable existing and future small food producers to enhance their financial viability, expand their market reach and create additional jobs. It is anticipated that Genuine Local will also be able to create a home for some of the businesses displaced by the closure of Neighbor Made, as well as provide co-pack services for former Neighbor Made customers.

Originally slated to be implemented over the next six months and be fully operational in spring 2016, the Genuine Local project is exploring all support options in order to fast-track the opening and be operational by December 1, 2015. With help from Members First Credit Union, every avenue is being explored to establish a facility that can provide the same type of support and a similar range of services to small foodpreneurs and local farmers seeking to create value added products. This includes creating a crowd funding campaign to assist with acquisition of additional equipment.

With the assistance of NH Made, a survey prepared by The Discerning Palate introducing Genuine Local was distributed to over 200 members with food-related companies. Responses to this blind distribution survey provided valuable insight for equipment, services and training needs. NH Made’s mission is to increase awareness and demand for NH made products and services and to provide support programs that local businesses need to grow.

Everyone can help preserve the small businesses impacted by these recent events – buy local and donate today!

Additional information on Genuine Local can be found on the website at; on their Facebook page, or the crowd funding site at

Kroger & Murray’s Cheese Associates Named Certified Cheese Professionals

Twenty Kroger associates and eight Murray’s Cheese associates have been named Certified Cheese Professionals™ by the American Cheese Society.

This breaks both company’s previous records of 13 Kroger associates and four Murray’s Cheese associates who achieved the ultimate in cheese recognition last year. There are now 52 Certified Cheese Professionals in the Kroger and Murray’s family.

This year, all 28 associates have joined the ranks of an elite group of individuals who have passed the Certified Cheese Professional Exam. The exam was created by the American Cheese Society to promote the large and comprehensive world of cheeses and encourage food industry professionals to master the knowledge.

“We are not only proud of these distinguished individuals and their professional achievement, but also of the industry’s adoption of the ACS CCP designation as the standard for cheese professionals,” says Nora Weiser, Executive Director of the American Cheese Society. “The entire cheese industry – from cheesemaker to consumer – benefits from the understanding, education, and professionalism of ACS CCPs. They are a testament to the growth, quality, and passion of today’s American cheese scene.”

Passing the American Cheese Society’s CCP exam is no small feat. Before being allowed to sit for the exam, cheese people must have 4,000 hours of work and/or formal education in the cheese-field under their belt.

“When I started on the counter at Murray’s 25 years ago, the job of cheesemonger didn’t formally exist,” said Rob Kaufelt, Murray’s Owner and President. “And if it did, it was certainly not at the level of a chef or sommelier. That is, we were not a profession at all back then. Now I’m proud to say that Murray’s, with the help of the ACS and Kroger, is well on its way to establishing a proud, new, traditional line of work in the food industry. We are leading the country toward a new and respected profession with a formal certificate of recognition.”

Through an exclusive partnership with New York City’s Murray’s Cheese, the Kroger family of stores features 210 Murray’s counters in stores from coast-to-coast.  Featuring more than 175 cheeses and specialty goods from all over the world, the Murray’s counters are staffed by associates who have been trained by the Murray’s experts in New York.  For a list of Murray’s in Kroger locations, visit

The happy egg co. Achieves National Retail Distribution

The happy egg co.’s free range eggs have gained further distribution to more than 1100 Food Lion® stores down the East Coast from Delaware to Georgia including the retailers stronghold states of North CarolinaSouth Carolina and Virginia. Furthermore, the brand has also gained distribution in 150 Target® stores in WashingtonCaliforniaOregon and Idaho, bringing the number of states the eggs are now sold in to 30.

After recently announcing its nationwide distribution through Walmart®, the happy egg co. has rapidly grown since its launch in the United States in 2012 to more than 6,300 retail stores across the country.

“Our coast to coast expansion into Food Lion and Target stores is a true testament to the changing face of the egg industry. Consumers are demanding humanely produced animal products and retailers are responding, and this latest expansion has brought us even closer to our mission of providing humanely produced eggs to all consumers at an affordable price,” said Jenni Danby, Marketing Director at the happy egg co. “The happy egg co. leads the way in true free range egg production, and it is incredibly exciting to see how consumer purchasing habits are changing so quickly and to be at the forefront of such change.”

As the only free range egg to be certified by the American Humane Association, the happy egg co. hens roam freely on farms, equivalent in size to six football fields, with 21.8 square feet of space per hen to exhibit her natural behaviors. The happy egg co. is now available nationwide and operates out of 13 farms in Missouri and Arkansas.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Discuss National Child Nutrition Strategy

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will deliver remarks at a National Press Club Newsmakers news conference on Tuesday, September 8 outlining the Obama Administration’s strategy to improve national nutrition and address persistent poverty – and calling on Congress to reauthorize a strong suite of child nutrition programs, including the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a key component of that strategy that has helped to improve nutrition for millions of children. Joining Secretary Vilsack will be American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Sandra Hassink, MD, FAAP, and Jessica Donze Black, Director of Child Nutrition at the Pew Charitable Trusts, who will also provide brief remarks.

For the past three years, kids have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school thanks to the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which made the first meaningful improvements in 30 years to the national nutrition standards for foods and beverages served in cafeterias and sold in vending machines. A recent poll by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation shows that more than 80 percent of Americans believe the healthier school meals should stay the same or be strengthened.

As Congress turns its attention to reauthorizing the Act, our children are battling a national obesity epidemic that costs $190.2 billionper year to treat and, according to retired U.S. generals, threatens our national security by making almost one in three young adults unfit to serve in our nation’s military. If we don’t continue to invest in our children’s health, this generation will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents.

Fresh Express Launches New Chopped and Gourmet Cafe Kits

Fresh Express has updated its line of salad kits to meet continued growing demand for delicious healthier eating options. The brand’s newest products include two new Chopped Kits and two new Gourmet Café Kits:

New Chopped Kits

  • Bacon and Bleu with Greek Yogurt Dressing
  • Sweet Kale

New Gourmet Café Kits

  • Santa Fe Greek with Greek Yogurt Jalapeño Ranch Dressing
  • Mediterranean Greek with Greek Yogurt Kalamata Feta Dressing

“Today’s consumers demand great tasting and nutritious meals, often ones that can be made quickly on a busy weeknight. Capitalizing on the trend in which one in three people are eating Greek yogurt, three of the new Fresh Express products have dressings made with Greek yogurt.  By pairing a great-tasting lettuce base with Greek yogurt salad dressings, Fresh Express is able to provide consumers what they want – delicious and healthy eating options,” said Robert Stallman, Vice President, Marketing & Innovation at Fresh Express.

Chopped Kits and Gourmet Café bowls are great for a quick and smart lunch or dinner: Choose from the new Sweet Kale or Southwest Chopped with Greek Yogurt Kits paired with baked chicken for an effortless weeknight meal. Everything you need for a flavorful and crunchy salad is in the bag. Just add your favorite lean protein for a well-rounded dish. Or, choose the new Mediterranean or Santa Fe Gourmet Café single serving kits with the all essentials for a workday lunch.

Cup-for-Cup Gluten-Free Replacement Flour from Kooky Sues

KookySuesKooky Sues has introduced the first cup-for-cup gluten-free replacement flour using a proprietary non-fat powdered milk blend for superior taste and consistent baking performance for gluten-free cookies, brownies, cakes and pie crusts.

Kooky Sues Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour improves gluten-free baking in several key performance areas. It increases aeration of batters to improve the elasticity of the protein network and more leavening gases for superior lift. Controlled water binding enhances dough handling, increases the rate of dough development and improves mixing tolerance. And, its unique blend of rice flours, powdered milk and starches improves browning and provides an aftertaste-free, rich dairy flavor and aroma.

“The changes we’ve made in our gluten-free flour deliver results that are much closer to traditional wheat flour,” says Kooky Sues Founder Adam Latham. “With this one product on your shelf, the gluten-free baker no longer needs to search the Internet and experiment with unproven recipes or go on what we call ‘scavenger-hunt shopping adventures.’ This is where you go from store-to-store looking for exotic and expensive ingredients just to make a simple cookie. Now, you can use the same chocolate chip cookie recipe you’ve used your entire life and just use Kooky Sues instead of traditional flour. It’s really that simple.”

Kooky Sues is all natural and uses only non-GMO ingredients. It supplies important nutrients from dairy ingredients including high-quality protein and calcium. The natural dairy calcium in its powdered milk ingredient promotes bone growth. Its high Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) and digestibility can significantly improve the nutritional value of flour-based baked goods.

Kooky Sues, based in Melbourne, Florida, was founded in 2012 and began selling baked goods and gluten-free treats at local farmer’s markets. The gluten-free flour can be purchased online or at a growing network of independent grocers and health food stores. Go to for more information about where to find Kooky Sues, recipe library and gluten-free resources.

Hain Celestial Named to Fortune’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies List 2015

For the third year in a row, Hain Celestial Group has been named to “Fortune’s” 100 Fastest-Growing Companies in America list for 2015.  “Fortune” cited Hain Celestial as a “Packaged-food company—brands include Almond Dream, Terra, and Celestial Seasonings—keeps riding the trend toward products with a ‘natural’ aura.”  In conjunction with this year’s list, Irwin D. Simon, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer, was recently interviewed by Leigh Gallagher, Assistant Managing Editor and Host of Fortune Live, available at

“Fortune’s” methodology includes companies that have posted an annualized growth in revenue and earnings per share of at least 15 percent annually over the three years ended on or before April 30, 2015.  Companies that meet these criteria are ranked by revenue growth rate; EPS growth rate; and three-year annualized total return for the period ended June 30, 2015.  Hain Celestial’s three-year annual growth rate for EPS was 23 percent and revenue was 26 percent, with a total return of 34 percent.

“Once again Hain Celestial’s growth has merited ranking as one of “Fortune’s” 100 Fastest Growing Companies, now for the third year in a row.  This is a tremendous accomplishment for the Company and well-deserved recognition as a “Fortune” 1000 company,” said Irwin D. Simon, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial.  “I am grateful to have the opportunity to share this with our supportive employees and shareholders.”

Natural Grocers to Open Rochester, Minnesota Store

Natural Grocers will open its first store in Minnesota on Tuesday, September 15. The store, which opens at 8 a.m., is located at 1507 Greenview Drive SW, in Rochester. Natural Grocers will provide the Rochester community with fresh produce that is exclusively USDA Certified Organic, as well as other healthy, affordable, organic and natural products. The store will feature a mix of national brands and locally-grown, raised and manufactured products from Minnesota in a small, neighborhood market environment. The Rochester store will also feature a Nutritional Health Coach and offer free nutrition education classes to the public. Natural Grocers Rochester will be open seven days a week.

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