United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) is taking steps to unite communities by funding programs to improve food systems. The charitable arm of the natural foods wholesaler, the UNFI Foundation, is granting more than $1 million in grants to organizations in more than 40 areas across North America.
The monies will be used to boost equitable food access in vulnerable communities. In 2022, the UNFI Foundation has awarded grants to groups such as the African Alliance of Rhode Island in Providence, R.I., Berkeley Food Network in Berkeley, Calif., Chef Ann Foundation in Boulder, Colo., Cooking with Kids in Santa Fe, N.M., Daily Table in Dorchester, Mass., Pilot Light in Chicago, Second Chance Foods in Carmel, N.Y., and the Sustainable Food Center, Inc. in Austin, Texas, along with nearly three dozen other organizations.
“At UNFI, we know our work isn’t done once a product leaves our distribution center. That’s why we are thrilled to support this year’s grantees, which are pursuing a wide range of innovative and impactful ideas to support food equity and access in their local communities across more than 20 U.S. states and into Canada,” said Alisa Real, the Foundation’s executive director.
According to the UNFI Foundation, its nonprofit beneficiaries have tended to more than 6,000 acres of organic farmland and delivered $7 million worth of fresh food to at-risk community members. In addition. affiliated programs have helped launch 31 school gardens and taught more than 200,000 children around the country about healthy eating.
Providence, R.I.-based UNFI delivers a wide variety of products to customer locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice customers. The largest publicly traded grocery distributor in America, the company is No. 49 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.
Giving new meaning to “service area,” SpartanNash brought back its traditional Helping Hands Day this summer after a pandemic-era hiatus. The turnout was robust, as the retailer’s associates fulfilled and committed to more than 3,300 hours of service to nonprofit partners in three states.
Volunteers took part in projects for several charitable groups in West Michigan, Minneapolis and Norfolk, Va. Among other activities, associates worked at local food pantries, did yard work and minor construction work for community members in need and helped organize and clean sites.
In West Michigan, SpartanNash team members partnered with 16 non-profit organizations, including Access of West Michigan, Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and Paws with a Cause. In Minneapolis, the volunteer crews supported organizations including The Bridge for Youth, Esperanza United and Solid Ground, among others. On Sept. 15, associates will give of their time in Norfolk to help out groups like the Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia, Portsmouth Humane Society and Goodwill.
“Our SpartanNash associates have always been generous with their time and talents, and as part of our People First culture, we were excited to get back out into our communities and volunteer,” remarked Tony Sarsam, SpartanNash president and CEO. “We have seen through the pandemic just how resilient our communities can be, and that inspires us to give our best every day and to provide support when we can.”
SpartanNash’s core businesses include distributing grocery products to independent and chain retailers, its corporate-owned retail stores, and U.S. military commissaries and exchanges, as well as fresh produce distribution and fresh food processing. No. 41 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company also operates 145 supermarkets and employs 17,500 associates.
Meijer Promotes Diversity With Supplier Recruitment Event
As part of its ongoing mission to stock its shelves with products from diverse and locally owned brands, Meijer is kicking off its latest supplier diversity event focused on general merchandise and apparel. Chosen applicants will be given the opportunity to pitch their products to Meijer merchants at a live virtual event this fall.
The retailer is asking certified minority-, LGBTQ+-, woman-, veteran- and disability-owned businesses based anywhere in the country, as well as local Midwest vendors based within Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin to submit their items for consideration by Sept. 18.
"While we've made great strides to ensure our vendors represent our customers in terms of both diversity and geography across our stores, we're excited to hold this event that specifically focuses on general merchandise and apparel," said Peter Whitsett, Meijer EVP of merchandising and marketing.
All applicants must submit retail-ready products, along with a 3-minute video sharing an introduction of themselves and their business, detailed descriptions of the products they offer, background on their production and supply chain, and also recommended retail price. A team from Meijer will choose a group of finalists, who will then be asked to provide additional information via RangeMe.
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.
In advance of the holidays, Tops Markets LLC has launched a new online gift card mall. Powered by global branded payments provider Blackhawk Network, Tops’ program offers shoppers a seamless e-commerce experience when they purchase customized gift cards. The gift card mall features 250-plus options in various categories, among them dining, entertainment, retail and a proprietary Tops gift card.
“The ability to offer a superior online gift card experience for our customers is a key part of Tops’ growth strategy in online retail,” noted Diane Colgan, SVP of Tops. “Blackhawk Network has been a longtime trusted partner in our efforts to offer a dynamic, comprehensive gift card strategy.”
Recent Blackhawk Network sales data found that merchant online gift card programs have experienced high double-digit growth over the past two years. As consumers gradually resume some pre-pandemic behaviors, interest in digital gifting options has remained high, according to the provider.
“With online retail on the rise, especially with grocers, the addition of Tops’ new e-commerce gift card mall will continue to be an important expansion of their online retail offerings,” said Steve Dekker, managing director, Americas at Pleasanton, Calif.-based Blackhawk.
The move represents an expansion of Tops’ partnership with Blackhawk, which also includes management of the grocer’s own gift cards both in-store and online. Tops and Blackhawk have teamed up to roll out Tops’ first- and third-party gift card programs to grow the brand’s gift card offerings and reach.
Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Markets LLC operates 150 supermarkets, including five franchise stores, and employs more than 14,000 associates in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. The banner’s parent company, Northeast Grocery Inc., is No. 44 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.
Ahead of its 70th anniversary this autumn, locally owned and family-operated Roche Bros. Supermarkets is offering a helping hand to the local communities that have kept it in business over the years. The independent grocer has rolled out a price lock on more than 500 of its most frequently purchased items from now until Nov. 17.
“Roche Bros. has evolved through the years by listening to our customers and doing our best to meet the needs of the communities we share,” said second-generation owner Rick Roche. “We continue to do that 70 years later. We realize that as a family-owned business, we have an opportunity to respond to the current challenges families are facing with the rising costs hitting our industry especially hard. Through our Price Lock Promise, we hope to help families maintain some control over rising costs while still accessing the highest-quality products.”
The Roche Bros. Price Lock Promise covers more than 500 popular items, from bread, milk and laundry detergent to chips and ice cream. This will enable customers to budget confidently in preparation for Thanksgiving. A full list of products in the program is available online.
In similar efforts to help shoppers save, Weis Markets instituted price cuts on many of its best-selling frozen items in May, while natural food retailer Earth Fare cut prices on hundreds of Field Day pantry essentials earlier this month.
Along with the price lock, Roche Bros. will revive its New England Cheese and Food events at many locations in October to celebrate its 70th anniversary and continue its tradition of partnering with local food producers and helping consumers discover new local flavors. A complete list of events can also be found online.
Established in 1952 by brothers Pat and Bud Roche as a meat and produce business, Roche Bros. now employs more than 4,000 associates at 20 Roche Bros., Sudbury Farms and Brothers Marketplace grocery stores. The Mansfield, Mass.-based company is currently operated by second-generation owners Rick and Ed Roche.
Egg roll manufacturer Van’s Kitchen has named an interim leader following the exit of longtime CEO Theresa Motter. Apollo Nguyen, Motter’s sibling, will take the helm of the Dallas-based organization as interim CEO, effective immediately.
Motter, who also called herself “Chief Egg Roll Officer” for Van’s Kitchen on her LinkedIn profile, served as the company’s CEO for more than nine years. She held the CFO position at Van Oriental Food from 1986 to 2013. She was recognized by Progressive Grocer as a 2022 winner of the Top Women in Grocery awards, in the senior-executive category.
Nguyen was an instrumental part of the organization for more than 20 years and is returning on a temporary basis to guide Van’s through the transition. "Theresa took over the family business as CEO nearly a decade ago. Without her leadership, Van’s Kitchen would not be one of the country’s most successful egg roll manufacturers," he declared. "Theresa successfully navigated the company through the pandemic while increasing sales and maintaining employee retention. We are grateful for the exceptional leadership Theresa brought to Van’s Kitchen.”
Added Motter: “Van’s Kitchen began and will continue to be a family-owned and operated business. My brother Apollo will now steer the company and work with the board to hire the next CEO to lead Van’s Kitchen into the future. Our company’s success demonstrates what hard-working families and dedicated employees can accomplish together. I am incredibly proud of our legacy.”