News Briefs


Inflation-Weary Consumers Relying More on Credit

credit teaser

As the cascade of reports about still-rising inflation rates continues, other data reveals the impact of higher prices on consumer sentiments and behaviors. According to a new survey commissioned by Lending Tree, 83% of credit cardholders said that inflation is having a negative impact on their monthly budgets and expenses.

A good chunk of those budgets go to groceries. The survey showed that following gas for their vehicles, groceries are the second most-affected area of expenses these days.

As a result of the pinch of inflation on their budgets for food and other necessities, more consumers are relying on credit this year compared to last year. More than half – 56% – of cardholders say that their dependence on cards has increased over the past year.

The Lending Tree survey also affirmed that concern about inflation spans demographics. Baby Boomers are the most worried about inflation, while younger consumers, including 68% of Gen Z buyers, 66% of Millennials and 64% of parents with kids under 18, are relying on credit cards more than others.

“Many Americans already had a razor-thin financial margin for error,” said Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at Charlotte, N.C.-based LendingTree. “But now, thanks to skyrocketing inflation, any wiggle room that those families had in their budget might just be gone.”

Other recent research uncovered inflation-era wariness and a willingness among consumers to change habits. Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve released a report showing that consumer credit rose by $41.8 billion in February, a major hike over the $8.9 billion increase in January. Another survey from Bankrate.comfound that 69% of adults expect to change their travel plans for this summer’s vacations, mostly traveling shorter distances and planning fewer trips.


Tops Markets Appoints Jeff Cady VP of Produce and Floral

Tops Jeff Cady Teaser

Tops Markets LLC has promoted Jeff Cady to the position of VP of produce and floral as part of Shared Services Center, which supports both Tops and Price Chopper/Market 32. The companies formally merged this past fall. 

In his new role, Cady is responsible for supporting the produce and floral business at the Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops operating companies. His duties include communicating and assisting in the execution of key business objectives, developing business strategies, and overseeing produce and floral operations projects.  

A 32-year Tops veteran, Cady most recently held the role of director of produce and floral. He and his family live in Cheektowaga, N.Y.

Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Markets operates 150 grocery stores in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, including five are run by franchisees, and employs more than 14,000 associates. The company is No. 66 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. 


Bumble Bee Hires VP of National Grocery Accounts

Bumble Bee Hires New VP of National Grocery Accounts

The Bumble Bee Seafood Co. has cast Sebastian Castro-Malaspina into the position of VP of national grocery accounts. In this role, he will use category, customer and consumer insights to help develop the company’s sales initiatives and will oversee a team of sales leaders to boost relationships with retailers including Kroger, Albertsons, Ahold Delhaize, Publix, HEB and HyVee, among others.

Castro-Malaspina comes to the San Diego, Calif.-based Bumble Bee from Danone North America, where he served in a variety of sales and category management leadership roles. His 20-year CPG background also includes stints at Coty, Church & Dwight and The Nielsen Co. A graduate of Brandeis University, Castro-Malaspina earned a B.A. degree in economics and master’s degree in international economics and finance.

“Sebastian brings a wealth of industry knowledge, diverse background, a thirst to drive positive and sustainable results, along with a genuine passion to support others,” said Laura Chamberlain, Bumble Bee’s SVP of sales  “He will be a great compliment in our efforts to drive impact for the Bumble Bee house of brands.” Castro-Malaspina will report to Chamberlin.


Bokksu Introduces Shop-in-Shop for Asian Brands on Site

Bokksu Products Teaser

To mark Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, Japanese snack subscription and e-grocer Bokksu has launched a shop-in-shop for Asian-founded brands on Bokksu Grocery.

Curated by Bokksu founder and CEO, Danny Taing, Bokksu Grocery’s Asian Heritage Shop features a handpicked assortment of food products from some of Taing’s favorite contemporary Asian-founded food startups, among them specialty coffees from Nguyen Coffee Supply; yuzu-based beverages from Moshi; authentic Thai sauces, curries and marinades from Yai’s Thai; traditional fish sauce from Red Boat; and Korean-style fermented foods from Mother In Law’s.

“Bokksu Grocery’s new Asian Heritage Shop is as much about introducing our customers to some truly delicious foods, as it is about inspiring the next generation of Asian business leaders,” noted Taing, who founded the company in 2015. “Coming up as a bootstrapped AAPI founder, I never saw a venture-backed entrepreneur that looked like me. Now, however, I have the opportunity to use the Bokksu platform to showcase some wonderful Asian-founded companies and, hopefully, help to motivate and validate the next wave of Asian entrepreneurs.”

As well as its current offerings, Bokksu Grocery’s Asian Heritage Shop will continue to add more food products from Asian-founded companies over the next few months, including Chinese-style oatmeals from Yishi Foods, naturally flavored sparkling waters from Sanzo, and sauces and seasonings from Fly by Jing.

Based in New York and Tokyo, Bokksu delivers authentic Japanese food and lifestyle products to customers around the world. The D2C company partners with traditional makers throughout Japan to share their products with more than 100 countries through its snack subscription service, curated market of premium lifestyle goods, and online Asian grocery store.


Rouses Brings Back Store Nutrition Tours

Rouses nutrition tour

Following a COVID-19 hiatus, Rouses Market is resuming its grocery store tours with a local medical center. The Louisiana grocer and Baton Rouge General (BRG) had offered the tours in past years to help consumers learn how to make healthy food choices.

During the free events at locations in Baton Rouge, Denham Springs and Zachary, La., the medical center’s dietitians will lead participants around the store – mostly traversing the fresh perimeter – to teach them how to read nutrition labels. Customers can also get advice on planning for meals, creating shopping lists and making nutritious recipes. 

“We put our in-person grocery store tours on hold during COVID, so we’re happy to be back engaging with the community as life gets more back to normal,” said Kristin West, a registered dietitian at BRG. “For some people this may come easily, but many are overwhelmed at all the options and ‘dos and don’ts’ of healthy eating, often making poor choices as a result.”

Other in-person wellness-related tours and classes are resuming at Rouses stores. The grocer is set to host an Eat Right Flavor Fest in late April, featuring nutrition information, samples and an appearance by the “Jambalaya Girl of New Orleans.” Virtual classes remain on the schedule as well, including recipe demos.

Thibodaux, La.-based Rouses Markets employs approximately 7,000 people and operates 65 full-service supermarkets in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The company was named among the "Super Regionals Worth Watching in 2021" by Progressive Grocer and is No. 84 on The PG 100, PG’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. 


Top Wegmans Exec Retires

Marty Gardner

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. announced the pending retirement of Marty Gardner, SVP of merchandising, distribution, manufacturing, food safety and pharmacy. He spent more than 40 years with the New York-based retailer, moving up from a night manager to a series of high-profile SVP roles.

Gardner joined the company in 1982, working at the Lyell Avenue store in Rochester. He went on to hold key positions in merchandising over the span of 19 years and was credited with simplifying processes, creating opportunities for employee development and helping launch the W-Retail program that brings new products to shelves faster, among other accomplishments.

For his part, Gardner explained that his merchandising philosophy has been based on a balance of factors. “It’s important to respect the discipline and the process,” he said. “But the best efforts, and the biggest results, come from following your heart and your instinct, especially in instances where you do not have all the data.”

Colleen Wegman, president and CEO of Wegmans, lauded Gardner's contributions to the grocer over the past decades. “Marty has made a significant impact through his passion for excellence across every area of our company. He cares deeply about helping all of us be our best and inspires a strong sense of responsibility, ensuring we’ve thought everything through and are doing the right thing,” she declared.

Gardner officially steps down in May.

Family-owned Wegmans operates over 100 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts and North Carolina. The Rochester, N.Y.-based company is No. 35 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top retailers of food and consumables in North America