News Briefs

  • 1/5/2023

    Save A Lot Completes Refinancing Deal

    Save A Lot teaser

    Save A Lot has crossed another threshold in its journey to become a successful pure-play wholesale operation. The discount grocery store chain, which spun off 300-plus company-owned stores to retail partners, announced it successfully closed its refinancing of debt facilities on Dec. 30, 2022 and is coming away with a new $200 million, five-year asset-based lending credit (ABL) facility.  

    That refinancing was put into place at the time of the reorganization in 2020. According to Save A Lot, the latest transaction includes a $180 million traditional ABL and a $20 million first-in, last-out ABL facility. The company also extended the maturity of about $377 million in existing term loans through 2026.

    The financing update comes as Save A Lot seeks to knock down more debt and build toward the future. “The financial stability brought on by our transformation into a branded wholesaler, focused on supporting our independent licensees, has allowed us to complete a refinancing of the business, putting in place a more traditional asset-based lending facility and extending the maturities of most of our existing term loans. The benefits of this include improved liquidity, increased operational flexibility, and lower borrowing costs,” explained CEO Leon Bergmann, who joined Save A Lot in early 2022. “We believe this will translate into a greater opportunity for us to both invest in growth, through our licensed retail store model, and, coupled with our on-going sale of excess real estate, provide a path to potential meaningful debt reduction that will further strengthen our balance sheet and accelerate growth.”

    In addition to selling its corporate-owned stores, Save A Lot added more than a dozen new ownership groups over the last couple of years, such as portfolio company Yellow Banana LLC and Ascend Grocery LLC, among others. Along with its relicensing changes, the company is making progress towards its goal of modernizing all stores by 2024.

    With 850-plus stores in 32 states, Earth City, Mo.-based Save A Lot is No. 60 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

  • 1/5/2023

    Minerva Dairy Taps New Food Safety and QA Pro

    Ken Ray

    Now in its 125th year, Minerva Dairy continues to build for the future by expanding its professional team. The company recently hired Kenneth “Ken” S. Ray as its new director of food safety, quality assurance and sanitation.

    Ray comes to the family-owned creamery from Ohio-based SmithFoods, Inc., where he was senior director of quality and regulatory. His background also includes a role as quality and sanitation manager for the Kraft Heinz Co., a position as VP of tech services for Mom’s Meals and a stint as director of food safety, QA and sanitation for 8th Avenue Food and Provisions. A Kentucky native, he grew up on a cattle and hog farm and earned a bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry from Western Kentucky University and a master’s in science management from Brescia College.

    [Read more: "Retail Opportunities in Dairy"]

    “Working in the family business afforded me an opportunity to learn and grow my business acumen early in life while gaining an understanding and appreciation of food safety and cleanliness,” said Ray. “Working with the team at Minerva Dairy provides me an opportunity to learn from and contribute to many generations of butter experts and cheese artisans, and I very much look forward to that.” 

    Venae Watts, a fifth-generation co-owner at Minerva Dairy, said the company will benefit from his experience and dedication to the industry. “We are delighted to welcome Ken to Minerva Dairy, where my family has been making cheese and butter for over a century. Ken joins us on that mission to make better butter and cheese, which we no doubt will thanks to his expertise and knowledge in all aspects of food safety and quality assurance,” Watts remarked.

    Based in Minerva, Ohio, Minerva Dairy works with retail and CPG companies across the U.S. Its product line includes cheddar, Italian-styles, and Kosher/Halal varieties, along with flavored infused butters.

  • 1/3/2023

    Hy-Vee Plans Next Local Vendor Summit

    Hy-Vee Sign Teaser

    In line with its quarterly initiative to find the best local products to put on its shelves, Hy-Vee Inc. is planning its next Best of Local Brands Summit for March 1.

    Manufacturers in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin can submit their products from Jan. 9-23 in the categories of grocery, produce, deli, general merchandise, frozen, dairy, and health and beauty care. Hy-Vee is putting an emphasis on suppliers with diverse backgrounds, including minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

    [Read more: "Hy-Vee Makes Multiple Executive Moves"]

    ECRM and online product discovery and sourcing platform RangeMe are helping Hy-Vee source, qualify and connect with suppliers, with all product submissions being made through RangeMe. The March 1 summit will consist of 15- to 30-minute virtual presentations from selected suppliers, each of which will be conducted through ECRM’s virtual meeting platform.

    Employee-owned Hy-Vee operates more than 285 retail stores across eight Midwestern states and has a team of more than 93,000 employees. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company is No. 30 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

  • 1/3/2023

    Washington Supreme Court Grants Albertsons Cos. Expedited Review

    merger deal

    Following several weeks of legal challenges, Albertsons Cos. has been granted a Jan. 17 review of the temporary restraining order against its previously announced $6.85-per-common-share special dividend. At that time, the Washington Supreme Court, sitting en banc, will review the appeal of the attorney general of the State of Washington, which was originally scheduled for Feb. 9. 

    The temporary restraining order will remain in effect until there is a further order issued by the Washington Supreme Court. 

    On Dec. 20, the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia denied the motion filed by the California, Illinois and District of Columbia attorneys general for an injunction pending appeal and an administrative stay of the payment of the special dividend. On Nov. 8, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the request by the California, Illinois and District of Columbia attorneys general for a temporary restraining order against the payment of the special dividend.

    Albertsons maintains that the claim brought by the attorney general of the State of Washington, as well as the similar lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of California, Illinois and the District of Columbia, is meritless and provides no legal basis for preventing the payment of the special dividend. Albertsons’ position has been supported by favorable rulings in both circuit and district courts in the District of Columbia, and a Washington state court.

    Albertsons Cos.’ proposed merger with The Kroger Co. is continuing through required regulatory review, which includes obtaining clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.

    Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons  is No. 9 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 4 on the list.

  • 1/3/2023

    AppHarvest Names New COO

    Tony Martin

    Sustainable food company AppHarvest, which operates high-tech indoor farms, has a new COO. The Morehead, Ky.-based company announced that board member Tony Martin is taking on that role to optimize production and revenue across its four-farm network.

    Martin brings with him nearly 12 years of experience at Windset Farms, a large controlled environment atmosphere (CEA) producer with operations in the U.S. and Canada. He has also served as an industry consultant and was a board member of the nonprofit Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp. in Canada. He began his career as a professional accountant.

    “I expect Tony’s extensive background in CEA and his track record for optimizing the efficiency of core operations and consistently achieving revenue growth will help us accelerate our path to profitability,” said Jonathan Webb, AppHarvest’s founder and CEO.

    Martin said he is looking forward to helping lead the company at a key point in its young history. “AppHarvest is at an exciting inflection point transitioning from a construction and development mode to an organization focused on core operational excellence,” he remarked. “I believe AppHarvest has a tremendous opportunity to leverage its world-class CEA network at a time when both changing climate and major grocery retailers are demanding it. We’re working to ramp up production and revenue by ensuring efficient, cost-effective delivery of high-quality produce to major grocers and restaurants.”

    AppHarvest’s farms include a 60-acre flagship tomato farm in the Appalachian area of Morehead, Ky. In addition, the company runs a 15-acre indoor farm for salad greens in Berea, Ky., a 30-acre farm for strawberries and cucumbers in Somerset, Ky., and a 60-acre farm in Richmond, Ky., for tomatoes.

  • 1/3/2023

    Ahold Delhaize Begins 2023 Share Buyback Program

    Ahold Delhaize Aims for Net-Zero Carbon Emissions in Shorter Time

    Ahold Delhaize has begun the €1 billion (USD $1.1 billion) share buyback program revealed on Nov. 9, 2022, with the goal of completing the program before the end of 2023.

    A balanced approach between funding growth in key channels and returning excess liquidity to shareholders is part of the retail conglomerate’s financial framework in support of its Leading Together strategy. The program aims to reduce Ahold Delhaize’s capital by canceling all or part of the common shares acquired through the program.

    [Read more: "Ahold Delhaize Updates CO2 Emissions Reduction Target"]

    The program will take place within the limits of relevant laws and regulations, the existing authority granted at Ahold Delhaize’s 2022 annual general meeting of shareholders this past April, and the authority (if granted) by the annual general meeting slated for April 12, 2023.

    The share buyback program will roll out in one or several tranches. For each of them, an intermediary will be mandated to execute the purchase of the shares at his or her own discretion during open and closed periods, in compliance with the Market Abuse Regulation and within predefined execution parameters. Shares are bought in the market and accumulated on the treasury share account until cancellation. According to the relevant statutory provisions, cancellation may not occur earlier than two months after a resolution to cancel shares is adopted and publicly revealed. The program is subject to changes in corporate activities, such as, but not limited to, material M&A activity.

    Ahold Delhaize will issue regular updates on the progress of the program.

    Ahold Delhaize USA, a division of Zaandam, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize that operates more than 2,000 stores across 23 states under the Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Co., Hannaford, and Stop & Shop brands, as well as e-grocer FreshDirect, is No. 10 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in the United States.

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