News Briefs


KeHE Expands Connect Direct Program Network

KeHE Connect Direct Teaser

KeHE has expanded the network of its new KeHE Connect Direct program to distributor’s Chino, Calif., distribution center.

Introduced in June 2022, the program offers more assortment options for dry, refrigerated and frozen items, with no order minimums to its retail partners. KeHE Connect Direct offers retailers greater flexibility when ordering through KeHE, offering products not available at their home distribution center and items in smaller quantities, such as eaches, case or cut case. Additionally, the program features fast delivery times, with orders shipped in just one to three days in the contiguous U.S. 

The program’s expansion means that KeHE Connect Direct is now available to its West Coast retail partners for the first time. 

Naperville, Ill.-based KeHE is the largest pure-play distributor of natural and organic, specialty, and fresh products to more than 30,000 natural food stores, chain and independent grocery stores, e-commerce retailers, and other specialty product retailers throughout North America. A Certified B Corporation, the company has more than 6,800 employee-owners. 


Jobs Increased in July Amid Drop in Unemployment

What Walmart's Q2 Means for Grocery

An unexpectedly strong July jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is showing good news for the retail trade. Overall, the industry gained more than 22,000 jobs during the month, with job gains of more than 9,000 in food and beverage stores and more than 8,000 in general merchandise stores.

The economy added a total of 528,000 jobs in July, with the unemployment rate decreasing to 3.5%. The number of unemployed people was down to 5.7 million, putting both measures at pre-pandemic levels not seen since February 2020.

Job growth was led by gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and health care, with food services and drinking places adding more than 74,000 jobs. 

[Read more: "Essential Workers Still Impacted by COVID-19"]

The transportation and warehousing industries added 21,000 jobs in July, and support activities for transportation saw 6,000 additional jobs for the reporting period. Employment in the industries remains 745,000 above February 2020 pre-pandemic levels.

Some 5.9 million Americans are currently seeking employment, a number that has not changed much since last month, and remains above the February 2020 level of 5 million. For those employed, average hourly earnings went up by $0.15, or 0.5%, to $32.27. This marks a 5.2% increase in average hourly earnings over the past 12 months.


FreshDirect Teams With BAM Strategy on New Loyalty Program

FreshDirect Bag Teaser

Following a competitive review by its marketing team, e-grocer FreshDirect has formed a strategic partnership with digital agency BAM Strategy to create a new loyalty program.

Under the partnership, BAM Strategy will be responsible for creating and launching a best-in-class redesigned loyalty program for FreshDirect customers. This will include conducting dynamic customer research to aid content and analytics strategy, as well as branding for the program. BAM Strategy will also audit FreshDirect’s current programs to better understand where there may be opportunities to expand into loyalty for customers.

“We have been giving our customers a premium shopping experience for 20 years, and as we look to the future, I am excited to work with BAM Strategy to take our engagement with our shoppers to a new level,” said John MacDonald, chief marketing officer at Bronx, N.Y.-based FreshDirect. “BAM is a key partner in helping us develop a new robust value platform which will enable more insightful, rewarding and personal connections for the lives our customers lead.”

The agency is now revamping the program, which is expected to launch in early 2023.

“We all know that groceries are essential to our daily lives, but in the last two-plus years, we learned that access to and delivery of those deliveries are more important than ever,” noted Xavier Picquerey, managing director of Montreal-based BAM Strategy. “When FreshDirect first came to us with this opportunity, we knew it was the right fit because we are committed to serving communities, and loyalty programs ultimately do just that.”

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, FreshDirect delivers directly to customers across seven states, including the New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas. In January 2021, the company was acquired by Zaandam, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, whose other U.S brands include Stop & Shop, Peapod, Giant, Food Lion and Hannaford. Ahold Delhaize USA operates more than 2,000 stores in 23 states and is No. 10 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America


NGA Opens Annual Creative Choice Awards

NGA Creative Choice Awards Logo Teaser

The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, is currently accepting entries for its annual Creative Choice Awards, which recognize the top marketing and merchandising programs launched by indies in the past year.

The new lineup of 2023 award categories is as follows:


• Connections Through Omnichannel
• Traditional Media: TV Radio and Print
• Community Engagement
• Grand Opening or Remodel


• Local, Specialty or Emerging Products
• Seasonal Event or Campaign
• Center Store/Frozen/GM/HBC
• Fresh Departments

Along with the main categories, two special-recognition categories highlight prominent industry initiatives, with each holding significance for its respective sponsor:

• Kellogg’s Excellence in ESG Award, which recognizes those campaigns that focus on well-being, people, community and sustainability.
• Unilever’s People Positive Award, which honors efforts that promote workplace diversity and inclusion.

“We all witnessed independent community grocers emerge from the pandemic having demonstrated their ability to pivot, innovate and think outside the box,” said Laura Strange, SVP, communications and external affairs at Washington, D.C.-based NGA. “Now it is time to recognize the outstanding innovation, creativity and persistence we’ve seen across our industry through the Creative Choice Awards.” 

Retailers, wholesalers, suppliers, manufacturers and advertising agencies that create marketing and merchandising programs for independent grocery stores may submit entries, but the Creative Choice Awards contest is a retailer competition, so the retailer that implements the campaign will receive the award. Events, campaigns or promotions held between Dec. 1, 2021, and Dec. 1, 2022, are eligible.

All completed entries are due Friday, Dec. 9. Entries will be judged based on creativity, clarity and effectiveness. From the category winners, one Outstanding Marketer and one Outstanding Merchandiser will be chosen by the public via online voting. These will be revealed during the 2023 NGA Show and recognized all year long.


Meijer Donates $25K to Fight Childhood Hunger Following Golf Tournament

Meijer LPGA_teaser

After a record-setting LPGA Classic golf tournament, Meijer is donating $25,000 to Kids' Food Basket in Grand Rapids, Mich. The donation is being made on behalf of tournament champion Jennifer Kupcho, who was able to give the money to the hunger relief program of her choice.

In 2021, tournament winner Nelly Korda also chose to give the $25,000 donation to Kids' Food Basket. Overall this year, the tournament made a record $1.25 million donation to Meijer’s Simply Give program, and the Classic set attendance records with more than 60,000 spectators.

"It speaks volumes to the spectacular community support these players feel during tournament week that two consecutive champions would choose to keep their donation in Grand Rapids," Meijer President and CEO Rick Keyes said. "Our spectators, volunteers and business partners make the tournament experience one of the best on the tour – not just for our community but clearly for the players, as well."

Privately owned Meijer operates more than 260 supercenters and grocery stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company is No. 20 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food retailers in North America.


AWG, DoorDash Offer On-Demand Grocery Delivery to Indies

DoorDash Dasher Bag Teaser

Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. (AWG) has entered into a channel partnership agreement with DoorDash to provide on-demand grocery delivery solutions to independent grocers through the DoorDash marketplace app and website. These grocers can leverage the DoorDash platform to create a comprehensive local e-commerce program. 

The agreement will permit indies to grow their businesses, attract new customers and offer greater convenience to existing local customers. Shoppers can order their groceries and essentials on DoorDash’s marketplace app and website with no time slot, queues or minimum order size required. 

“Our relationship with DoorDash is another way that we fulfill our mission to our member-retailers by providing all the tools, products and services they need to compete favorably in all markets served,” noted AWG VP of Sales, Support and Solutions Stacy Bowen. “It will make it easier for independent retailers to offer online grocery ordering and delivery. We know demand for this functionality continues to be very strong, and to remain competitive, retailers need solutions that offer simple setup and increased convenience for customers.”

[Read more: "AWG President and CEO Receives NGA’s Highest Award"]

“We are excited to work with AWG to empower independent grocers to grow their businesses with e-commerce solutions that meet consumers’ growing desire for convenience,” said Fuad Hannon, VP of new verticals at San Francisco-based DoorDash. “Local grocers will now have the opportunity to leverage the tools and resources they need to expand their delivery areas and offer consumers access to on-demand delivery of the groceries and essentials they need.”

Kansas City, Kan.-based AWG is the nation’s largest cooperative food wholesaler to independently owned supermarkets, serving more than 1,100 member companies and 3,400 locations in 31 states from nine wholesale divisions