News Briefs


Kroger Expanding Use of PackIt Totes in E-Commerce

PackIt Totes Kroger Teaser

The Kroger Co. has expanded its collaboration with PackIt, a brand of New York-based Tenth Avenue Holdings LLC, to new storefronts and  regions of the United States. 

“After successful pilot programs at multiple storefronts in the Midwest and western United States, the PackIt Fresh Mobile Refrigeration Solution is now being implemented at Kroger stores across Atlanta and Nashville for the first time,” said Melissa Kieling, founder of Agoura Hills, Calif.-based PackIt. “We’re also seeing our solution entering additional stores in California and Arizona. Kroger clearly recognizes the improvement to product freshness and efficiencies gained by deploying our EcoFreeze totes into their retail operations.” 

Kroger’s Ralphs banner recently launched a program enabling customers to pick up orders in as little as an hour, with PackIt Fresh totes now used at its stores as a single staging vehicle to collect ambient, refrigerated and frozen items. Collapsible, freezable, reusable PackIt Fresh EcoFreeze totes feature PackIt’s patented EcoFreeze Technology: freezable gel built into the walls to keep perishables cold and food-safe for 15 hours.  

Progressive Grocer reported last year that Boone, Iowa-based Fareway Stores Inc. uses EcoFreeze totes for its curbside pickup service.

Serving 60 million households annually nationwide through a digital shopping experience, and almost 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names, Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 4 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Family-owned Fareway, which operates more than 120 stores in seven Midwestern states and employs more than 12,000 associates, is No. 77 on The PG 100.


Purina Dog Chow Announces Finalists in Visible Impact Awards

Purina Dog Chow Contest Teaser

Purina Dog Chow, a brand from Nestlé Purina PetCare, has named five finalists in its inaugural Visible Impact Awards recognizing the impact of PTSD service dogs on the daily lives of veterans. The brand has teamed up with actor and longtime military supporter Wilmer Valderrama on the awards, which are part of Dog Chow’s fifth annual Service Dog Salute program.

From now through Oct. 17, dog lovers can vote for their favorite finalist online at For every vote, Dog Chow will donate $5 to the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans, up to $75,000, to help train more PTSD service dogs at no cost to veterans.

The grand prize winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize and $25,000 for the organization that trained the service dog. This year’s finalists include:

• Trigger /Northwest Battle Buddies, which helps U.S. Navy Veteran Rebekah by sensing the beginning of a panic attack or when Rebekah is having difficulties "getting back to reality."
• Raphael/Hero's Puppy For Life, which helps U.S. Air Force Veteran Bernard by performing a "standing hug" – a unique version of compression therapy – to quell anxiety or panic attacks.
• Bjorn/Northwest Battle Buddies, which helps U.S. Army Veteran Derek by breaking him away from the spiral of negative thoughts through the art of interruption by demanding to be pet.
• Ivy/Operation Freedom Paws, which helps U.S. Army Veteran Todd by smelling a change in Todd's body chemistry when the veteran is in a crowded social situation and starts to be hypervigilant, angry or anxious.
• Liberty/Paws for Purple Hearts, which helps U.S. Army Veteran Carlos by applying a wide variety of skills to help mitigate Carlos's PTSD symptoms, such as performing deep pressure therapy by laying the dogs' front legs and head down on Carlos's lap when the veteran experiences anxiety.

Purina manufactures Dog Chow and other popular pet care products including Purina ONE, Pro Plan, Fancy Feast and Tidy Cats.


Mars Petcare Appoints New R&D Leader

Mars Alex Cedeno Teaser

Underscoring the priority of innovation, Mars Petcare has brought on a new executive to lead its R&D efforts. The division of Mars, Inc. recently announced the hiring of Alejandro (Alex) Cedeno as SVP of research and development.

In his new role, Cedeno will help create and drive global R&D strategies, take part in the development of the innovation pipeline for the company’s pet nutrition brands and oversee the deployment of breakthrough science and technology. The Mars Petcare portfolio includes the Pedigree, Sheba and Iams brands available at grocery stores and pet retailers around North America.

[Read more: "100 Iconic Brands That Changed Grocery"]

Cedeno brings nearly 30 years of R&D experience in the CPG space, most recently at The J.M. Smucker Co. where he served as VP of R&D for pet food and snacks. He also held R&D and innovation roles at Mead WestVaco (now WestRock) and Procter & Gamble in North America, Europe, and South America.  Cedeno earned a master of science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology 

"Alex is a people-first leader with a disruptive and innovative mindset," said Ikdeep Singh, global president of Mars Pet Nutrition. "'A better world for pets' is our purpose. It is core to everything we do and I'm confident that his global knowledge, passion for people and pets, and expertise in pet food innovation will make him an immeasurable asset to our Pet Nutrition R&D team."

Cedeno succeeds the retiring SVP of R&D Michel Oostwal.


Chef’Store Names New President

Chef’Store Exec

At a time of expansion, Chef'Store is getting a new leader. Parent company US Foods announced the hiring of Irfan Badibanga as president of the warehouse retailer that serves foodservice professionals and members of the public.

In his new role, Badibanga will spearhead the retailer’s growth strategy and lead efforts to add more locations. He reports to Jay Kvasnicka, EVP of field operations for US Foods.

Prior to joining Chef’Store, Badibanga was SVP of operations at Giant Food. His industry leadership also includes roles as SVP of operations at Family Dollar Stores and VP of operations at Walmart. He began his industry career as a bagger at a Gooding’s Supermarket location in Orlando, Fla.

[Read more: "US Foods Completes Expansion of Louisiana Distribution Center"]

“Chef’Store is poised for tremendous growth, and I am excited to help advance an omnichannel experience that enables purchasing synergies for our US Foods broadline customers,” the new president remarked. “Our Chef’Store locations have an unparalleled culture that enables associates to cultivate lasting partnerships with our customers, and a customer value proposition that is centered around an incomparable customer experience that emphasizes clean, easy-to-navigate stores and a consistently stocked assortment of products aligned with the communities we operate in.” 

Kvasnicka welcomed Badibanga to the organization. “His extensive retail leadership experience and proven track record of helping advance retail excellence will be critical as we continue to invest in the growth and expansion of our Chef’Store business,” he said.

US Foods acquired Smart Foodservice Warehouse stores in April 2020 and rebranded all Smart Foodservice Warehouse stores as US Foods Chef’Stores in February 2021. With 80 locations across 13 states, the chain offers fresh meat, produce, dairy, and deli items, along with an assortment of grocery products, beverages, catering essentials, janitorial supplies and other goods.  


Square Roots Grows Distribution With Meijer

Square Roots SKUs Teaser

Indoor-farming company Square Roots will now sell its produce in Meijer stores in four Midwestern states, meeting consumer demand for nutritious, responsibly farmed local foods.

Grown and harvested locally at Square Roots’ Kenosha, Wis., farm, the company’s largest facility to date, the leafy greens will be available at Meijer locations in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. To manage the farm, Square Roots uses proprietary cloud-connected software to constantly monitor and control various climates, enabling it to grow a wide range of crops to meet local market needs. 

“Our new farm in Kenosha delivers delicious, pesticide-free, fresh produce to Meijer and other local retailers in the Midwest, all year round, and often within hours of being harvested,” noted Chad Hague, VP of sales at Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Square Roots. “We’re thrilled that Meijer shoppers will get to enjoy our locally harvested greens that stay fresh for weeks.” 

All Square Roots produce has extended 14-day shelf life, is always pesticide-free and non-GMO, and is 100% traceable. The company grows a wide variety of fresh greens, including herbs such as basil, dill, parsley and cilantro; microgreens; and salad mixes.

Besides Meijer, Square Roots produce can be found at Whole Foods Market, SpartanNash corporate stores, Fresh Thyme Market, Busch’s Fresh Food Market, Fresh Direct, Getir and Gordon Food Service Stores. Square Roots has formed a strategic partnership with Gordon Food Service to build commercial-scale, climate-controlled indoor farms across the continent.

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


Tops Rolls Out Annual March of Dimes Campaign

75+ Tops Stores to Get Solar Power Convergent New York State

Tops Friendly Markets is kicking off its annual campaign benefiting the March of Dimes. From now through Oct. 1, shoppers at participating locations can buy a March of Dimes icon for $1 or round up their purchase at the register to support the nonprofit organization’s mission of helping mothers and their babies.

This is the 10th year that Tops has partnered with the March of Dimes. Through its promotions over the years, the grocer has donated more than $135,000 to the cause.

“Tops Markets strongly believes in giving back to the community and improving the quality of life of children. With the help and compassion of our associates and customers, we know we can make a difference supporting the March of Dimes Campaign,” said John Persons, president of Tops Friendly Markets.

The following Tops stores are participating in the campaign:

• 100 Main Street, Corinth, N.Y.
• 4976 Lakeshore Dr., Bolton Landing, N.Y.
• 7544 Court St., Elizabethtown, N.Y.
• 6308 State Rd. Rt. 9, Chestertown, N.Y.
• 273 Main St., North Creek, N.Y.
• 14228 NYS Rt. 9N, Ausable Forks, N.Y.
• 1103 Main St., Schroon Lake, N.Y.
• 11573 State Rt. 32, Greenville, N.Y.
• 201 N. Main St., Northville, N.Y.
• 127 Main St., Stamford, N.Y.
• 21501 NY State Rt. 22, Hoosick Falls, N.Y.
• 44 Hope Plaza, Rt. 9W, West Coxsackie, N.Y.
• 6350 Main St., Rt. 23A, Tannersville, N.Y.
• 16 W Main St., Hancock, N.Y.
• 63 Plaza Dr.. Unit 3, Northfield, Vt.
• 82 Vermont Route, 15W, Hardwick, Vt.

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.