News Briefs

  • 1/6/2023

    Relationshop Acquires Digital Commerce Solutions Company Stor.ai

    stor-ai logo

    Stor.ai, which offers digital customer engagement in one platform for regional grocers, has been acquired by another platform, Relationshop. Going forward, the company will be known as Stor.ai, a Relationshop Co., and will create “icommerce,” billed as a disruptive enterprise platform that embeds intelligent commerce across all customer touchpoints.

    The newly-named entity combines data analytics and omnichannel engagement capabilities with operational excellence to help grocers increase their transactions, sales and loyalty. "This acquisition gives retailers the ability to advance beyond e-commerce to icommerce,” explained Galen Waters, Relationshop’s CEO who will also serve as CEO of Stor.ai. “The ‘i’ represents the tenets of our enterprise solution: intelligent data, individual engagement and integrated shopping. We believe that for regional retailers to compete with WIKA Walmart, Instacart, Kroger, Amazon  they need a technology solutions partner and unified technology platform that drives all commerce – that’s icommerce. By merging the Relationshop shopper engagement and personalization suite with the e-commerce and fulfillment platform of Stor.ai, our clients will be able to provide a transformational and frictionless digital shopping experience to their customers, that drives both online and in store activity.”

    Added Stor.ai’s most recent CEO Mendel Gniwisch: “By combining the two product offerings, we will be able to provide regional grocers with a one-stop commerce solution that includes deep engagement and customer insights. For regional chains, it is critical that we offer a cohesive shopping experience beyond what can be achieved thru bespoke third party integrations or external marketplaces.” Gniwisch will be the president of Stor.ai, a Relationshop Co., and also serve on the board.

    Stor.ai was founded in Israel in 2014 and has worked with more than 100 grocers in the U.S. and 200 retailers globally. Based in Magnolia, Texas, and founded by Waters in 2007, Relationshop provides grocers with omnichannel engagement and personalization tools for health and nutrition, loyalty and rewards programs, email and SMS marketing, digital circulars and data analysis of online, offline and hybrid customers. Relationshop has partnered with Albertsons, United Supermarkets and Big Y Foods, among other grocers.

  • 1/6/2023

    Impossible Foods Appoints 1st Chief Demand Officer

    Sherene Jagla

    Impossible Foods has created and filled the position of chief demand officer. The California-based producer of meat alternatives has hired Sherene Jagla to integrate sales, marketing, insights and product development into one function to drive growth.

    As the market for plant-based proteins continues to evolve and shake out, Impossible Foods posted a 50% increase in dollar sales in 2022. In her new role, Jagla will work to keep that momentum going. “One of the reasons I was drawn to Impossible is the company’s focus on leading the category and commitment to creating delicious, nutritious, and sustainable food,” she said. “Impossible has created a compelling brand with a strong product portfolio that’s primed for growth.”

    Jagla – a past winner of Progressive Grocer’s Top Women in Grocery awards – comes to Impossible Foods from Newell Brands, where she served as SVP and general manager and oversaw a $2 billion business across 50 brands. Her 25 years of industry experience also includes sales leadership positions at Kellogg Co., Kimberly-Clark, Crossmark and MillerCoors.

    Peter McGuiness, president and CEO of Impossible Foods, said that the new position comes at a crucial time for the company. “Our next phase of growth requires tight integration across teams and disciplines, and Sherene knows how to do that and build organizations that scale,” he remarked. “She’s transformed complex organizations into high-performing businesses, and she has a deep understanding of the food and CPG space. I’ve no doubt her leadership will help transform Impossible into a household name.”

    This is the latest high-profile executive hiring at the privately-held Impossible Foods, following the November announcement of Leslie Sims as the organization’s first chief marketing officer. In 2022, the company also onboarded Noel Clarke as its new SVP of international.

    Founded in 2011, Impossible Foods produces a variety of plant-based chicken, beef and pork products. New offerings launched in 2022 include Impossible Sausage Links, Impossible Wild Nuggies, Impossible Chicken Patties and Impossible Bowls.

  • 1/6/2023

    Medicare Part D Beneficiaries Can Access Low-Cost Insulin, Free Shingles Vaccine at Hy-Vee

    Singles Vaccine

    Medicare Part D beneficiaries are now able to access reduced-cost monthly insulin supplies and free Shingrix vaccines at all Hy-Vee Pharmacy locations, as outlined in the recent Inflation Reduction Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

    Under the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare Part D beneficiaries who take insulin will see their out-of-pocket costs capped at $35 for a month’s supply of each covered formulary insulin product, beginning this month at Hy-Vee pharmacies. A deductible will also not be applied to covered insulin products. 

    [Read more: "Hy-Vee Dietitians to Provide 1K Free Vitamin D Screenings in January"]

    Starting July 1, 2023, individuals covered under Medicare Part B who take insulin through a traditional pump covered under Medicare’s durable medical equipment benefit, will also not have a deductible applied, and cost-sharing will be capped at $35 for a month’s supply of that insulin.

    The Inflation Reduction Act also makes adult vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) — including the shingles vaccine — available with no deductible and no cost-sharing to individuals with Medicare prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D). This makes coverage of vaccines under Medicare Part D consistent with coverage of vaccines under Medicare Part B, such as the flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

    Individuals can schedule a Shingrix vaccination by contacting their local Hy-Vee Pharmacy. Shingrix is a two-dose vaccine recommended for individuals 50 years and older. Individuals should get their second Shingrix dose two to six months after their first dose.

    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.

  • 1/5/2023

    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.

  • 1/6/2023

    Hudsonville Ice Cream Names New CEO

    Tina Floyd

    A family-owned ice cream manufacturer in Michigan has tapped a 30-year executive from The J.M. Smucker Co. to lead its business. Starting Feb. 13, Tina Floyd will be the new CEO at Hudsonville Ice Cream, a 90-year-old company headquartered in Holland, Mich.

    Floyd takes over the executive position from Denny Ellens, co-owner and most recent CEO.  He will remain with Hudsonville as a member of the board of directors.

    [Read more: "Unilever Powers Up Ice Cream Restocking With Data-Driven App and Pilots"]

    Most recently, Floyd served as SVP and general manager of Smucker’s $1.7-billion consumer foods business. During her expansive career there, she oversaw consumer foods strategies and helped guide the iconic Smucker’s and Jif brands.

    “The addition of Tina represents a true moment of growth for our Hudsonville team,” remarked Ellens. “We have seen considerable expansion during the past three years in terms of capability, staff and sales, and we have grown to become a beloved ice cream brand regionally. Tina’s addition adds big-league brand experience and cache, yet she understands the family culture that has been so crucial to our success to-date. She represents everything we are about, and I have no doubt that the qualities that have contributed to her personal successes over the past thirty years will translate incredibly well here at Hudsonville.”

    Floyd said she’s looking forward to propelling more growth at Hudsonville, which has tripled its production capabilities and widened its workforce from 80 to 280 employees since 2019. “This is a family-owned organization that values its people, the community it calls home, and the proprietary process they have developed that produces some of the best-tasting ice cream on the market. I look forward to working collaboratively with this exceptional team to build towards an even brighter future,” she said.

  • 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.

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