News Briefs


Gristedes & D’Agostino Supermarkets Gets New President/COO

Joe Parisi Teaser

Joe Parisi has been appointed president and COO of Gristedes & D’Agostino Supermarkets, Manhattan’s largest supermarket chain, with 30 stores. Parisi officially assumed the role on June 14.

Bringing to his latest position four decades of experience in the food and grocery industry, Parisi joined Gristedes & D’Agostino in 2021 after more than three decades with Kings Food Markets Inc./Balducci’s KB US Holdings Cos. Until last year, Parisi was COO and board member at Parsippany, N.J.-based Kings, overseeing 33 high-end supermarkets in four states.  

“His passion for the food industry is remarkable and will take the supermarket industry into the 21st century,” said John Catsmiatidis, chairman/CEO of New York-based Red Apple Group, parent company of Gristedes & D’Agostino, of Parisi. “He has a great vision for the 132-year-old Gristedes and 90-year-old D’Agostino, and we are confident that his leadership will bring our stores to new heights.” 

Parisi lives with his wife, Gina, and three children in Rockaway, N.J. 


CVS Health Names Chief Strategy Officer

CVS Health names Violetta Ostafin Chief Strategy Officer

CVS Health has hired Violetta Ostafin as EVP and chief strategy officer, effective July 11. She will lead strategy development across the core businesses and identify new market opportunities and product innovations that accelerate growth and further the company’s vision.

“Violetta’s deep health care experience has been focused on bold innovation and finding new sources of growth, two priorities for CVS Health,” said CVS Health President and CEO Karen S. Lynch. “Her accomplishments are driven by a passion for improving how consumers experience health care, which aligns with our goals and values.”

Ostafin will become a member of the company's executive leadership team and report to Lynch. Prior to joining CVS Health, she was global COO, health solutions, at Aon plc and CEO of Aon’s Latin America Health Solutions business. Ostafin was also a managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group, advising leading companies in the United States and globally on large-scale change, strategic growth and expansion. She has deep experience across the health care continuum, including a particular focus on business model evolution, introducing consumer-driven solutions and operational effectiveness.

“CVS Health has the assets and strategy to meaningfully change how care is delivered,” said Ostafin. “It’s such an exciting time to join a company that has redefined itself through a consumer-centric lens.”

With its CVS Pharmacy subsidiary operating almost 10,000 locations nationwide, Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health is No. 7 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Natural Grocers Provides Free Drinking Water to Flood-Ravaged Communities

car flood

As floodwaters have caused millions of dollars in damage in Montana, a grocery operation is stepping up to help. Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc. announced that it is providing residents free filtered water from its store in Billings.

The historic floods in the area near the Yellowstone National Park have hit many communities hard, resulting in a lack of fresh drinking water and boil orders. In response, Natural Grocers is offering free water from its reverse osmosis water filtration machines, which disinfects water with UV light.

Customers can bring their own containers to the store to fill up on free water. Due to capacity limitations of the water filtration system, each person is limited to two free gallons.

"We are here to support our community as we navigate this disaster together. Please spread the word to friends and neighbors. We are thankful for your business and hope this can help you and your family during these hard times," said Mat Topham, regional manager for Natural Grocers.

This week's flooding followed a late-season snow melt and a series of heavy rains that pounded the area and led to overflows of several rivers. In addition to extensive home and road damage, the floodwaters caused an evacuation of more than 10,000 Yellowstone visitors.

Lakewood, Colo.-based Natural Grocers is No. 95 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Weavers Way Receives Full Grant Funding Via 2021 HFFI Program

Weavers Way Co-op Ambler Store Teaser

Weavers Way Co-op has received $200,000 of financial assistance through the 2021 America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative’s (HFFI) Targeted Small Grants Program.

The Philadelphia-based cooperative grocer was among 134 grantees. Awardees were selected through a competitive process and will receive full grant funding through Reinvestment Fund, which administers the HFFI program on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The 2021 HFFI program offered financial assistance in the form of one-time grants to food retailers and food enterprises aimed to strengthen, expand and innovate within the food retail supply chain. The public-private partnership aims to provide capacity-building and financing resources to stimulate food business development at scale and build a more equitable food system that supports the health and economic vibrancy of all Americans. 

“It takes a fair amount of logistics and financing to open a cooperative grocery store, with concern for, and involvement from, the communities we serve being a major cornerstone of our cooperative principles,” said Jon Roesser, general manager at Weavers Way.

The funding will be used to support the planning and building of Weavers Way Co-Op’s forthcoming location at 328 West Chelten Avenue at the corner of Chelten and Morris in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, which is slated to open in 2023. The Germantown store will be the co-op’s fourth grocery store in the City of Brotherly Love. 

One of the largest Philadelphia-based food cooperatives, Weavers Way operates two Philadelphia vegetable farms in addition to its stores. The co-op offers reasonably priced, high-quality products, geared to each community in which it operates, that are local, sustainable, organic, fair trade and healthful. It subscribes to International Co-op Principles and operates as a triple bottom-line business.


Group of Trader Joe’s Workers Seeks to Unionize

TJ worker teaser

In a first for that retailer, Trader’s Joe's is facing an organized labor push. Workers at a Trader Joe’s store in Hadley, Mass., recently filed a union petition, according to media reports.

CBS News shared that more than 30% of that store’s 88 non-management employees have signed cards required by the National Labor Relations Board for a union vote. Workers who have spoken to the media claim that the company has made changes to their benefits, including a downsizing of annual retirement contributions and a greater minimum number of hours for health insurance. They also cited concerns about health and safety measures currently in place.

This would be the first unionized store at Trader Joe’s, which has a worker roll of about 10,000 people across the U.S.

When asked to comment on the move to unionize at one of its stores, a spokesperson for the grocer told The New York Times that Trader Joe’s welcomes a fair vote and is ready to hold a vote if more than 30% of the team elects to make that move. "We are not interested in delaying the process in any way,” the spokesperson said.

In the wake of the pandemic that deemed them essential workers, staffers at other retail outposts have recently banded together to start unions, including some at Starbucks, Apple Stores and Amazon warehouses.

With more than 500 stores in 40-plus states, Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s is No. 27 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America


Walnut Groups Name New Leader

Robert Verloop.walnuts org

The California Walnut Board (CWB) and California Walnut Commission (CWC) have tapped Robert Verloop as the organizations’ new executive director and CEO. In this role, he will help build demand and share and support innovative growing and production practices.

Verloop previously served as COO at the family-owned vegetable grower Coastline Family Farms. He also held leadership roles with Naturipe Farms/Naturipe Brands, Sunkist Growers, Inc. and the California Avocado Commission, where he worked across several marketing, sales, and strategic planning functions and collaborated with state and federal agencies. Additionally, he had a seat on the board of directors at the Produce Marketing Association.

“He has the unique experience of leadership roles as a grower/shipper of highly perishable produce and in commodity organizations," said Bill Tos, chair of the California Walnut Board’s executive committee. "Robert understands the challenge to 'move the crop.' In addition, he has extensive knowledge and creativity as a marketer working in complex domestic and international markets.”

“In collaboration with the growers and handlers, we must respond to rapidly evolving market conditions with a sense of urgency and purpose and continue to build an ongoing dialogue with key customer segments in order to drive sales in all market segments,” Verloop remarked. “I am also keenly aware of the multi-generational nature of an industry dating back more than a century. The new generations are inheriting a dynamic industry that continues to evolve through innovation, starting with new advances in orchard management practices, post-harvest management, and developing exciting new consumer products that showcase the versatility and delicious taste of nutritious California walnuts.”

Together, the CWB and CWB represent over 4,500 California walnut growers and nearly 90 handlers producing over 1.4 billion pounds of walnuts in 2021 that shipped to more than 50 countries around the world.