News Briefs


Walmart, Alibaba on Fortune’s Top 10 'Change the World' List

Walmart relief

At a time when companies have been working towards ambitious ESG goals, some food retailing businesses and suppliers are included on the 2022 Fortune "Change the World" list.

Fortune spotlighted more than 50 global companies that have made an important social or environmental impact through their business strategies. PayPay topped the publication’s list, followed by international e-commerce giant Alibaba and Walmart. Indoor farming operations Infarm and Aerofarms also made the list, as did drone delivery startup Zipline.

Walmart, for its part, has shared strides towards several of its corporate responsibilities goals in recent months. During its Sustainability Milestone Summit held in early October, the retail behemoth provided an updated on goals, such as its July commitment to purchase 4,500 all-electric delivery vehicles from Canoo and the rollout of its Circular Connector platform to match circular packaging solutions with manufacturers in need. Also in recent weeks, Walmart and Sam’s Club revealed they will host the first HBCU Student Summit to accelerate equity in education.

Meanwhile, in a July letter to shareholders, Alibaba Chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang affirmed that ESG serves as a strategic pillar in the organization. He noted the company is on track to achieve carbon neutrality in its own operations by 2030, has updated its poverty alleviation fund into a rural revitalization fund across China and worked to improve its corporate governance.

According to Matt Heimer, Fortune’s executive features editor, the companies on the 2022 list leveraged the tools of capitalism to tackle problems impacting people and the planet. He also looked back on the ways the list has evolved since it was first published: “On our inaugural list, six of the 51 companies we recognized had annual rev­enue of $1 billion or less. This year, in our eighth edition, 18 out of 54 have less than $1 billion in revenue, and nine of those are currently venture-backed startups."

Chosen by Fortune’s own reporting and analysis team, the Change the World list was based on the criteria of measurable social impact, business results and degree of innovation. The project is collaboration between Fortune and the Shared Value initiative. 

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while Sam’s Club is No. 8 on the list.


Kroger Opens Inaugural Our Brands Innovation Summit

Kroger Carrots Private Label Teaser

The Kroger Co. has launched its first Our Brands Innovation Summit, a program designed to enhance and accelerate the selection of private-brand items sold at the grocer’s various banners. The summit is open to store-brand suppliers in all categories except general merchandise, hard goods, textiles and apparel.

Through Oct. 31 at 11:59 PM PDT, suppliers can apply for the chance to take part in virtual meetings with Kroger buyers. The meetings will take place Jan. 24-26, 2023, on Solon, Ohio-based ECRM’s virtual meeting platform, ECRM Connect.  

“At Kroger, we’re constantly innovating, studying customer data and working to stay ahead of trends so we can provide customers with the highest-quality products they're looking for at affordable prices,” noted Juan De Paoli, Kroger’s VP of Our Brands. “By inviting private brand suppliers to apply for this opportunity, we’re confident we will find fresh ideas and innovative products to expand our portfolio of offerings and support the growth of new businesses we bring into our supplier network.”

During the company’s recent Q2 earnings call, CEO Rodney McMullen noted that the grocer is seeing record engagement with and private brands. 

Other supermarket operators actively seeking private-brand partners include Wakefern Food Corp. and Ahold Delhaize.

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. Ahold Delhaize USA is No. 10 and Keasbey, N.J.-based retailer cooperative Wakefern is No. 25 on PG’s list.


Walmart Hires New SVP, Investor Relations

Walmart Stephanie Wissink Teaser

Stephanie Wissink has been hired by Walmart as its new SVP, investor relations, effective Oct. 24, succeeding Dan Binder, who has transitioned into his new role as the company’s SVP, global treasurer. Wissink will report directly to John David Rainey, EVP and CFO at Walmart.

“With [her] more than two decades of equity research experience, we’re excited about the leadership and knowledge Steph will bring to our investor relations team as well as to our global finance team,” the company said in an email revealing the executive move.

[Read more: "Walmart Evolving Its Supply Chain With Latest Acquisition"]

Wissink is currently managing director and senior research analyst at New York-based investment banking firm Jefferies, where she has covered the broadline retail and consumer product sectors, including Walmart, for the past four years. Before joining Jefferies, she was a senior research analyst with investment bank and institutional securities firm Piper Jaffray, where she spent almost 16 years writing company and industry reports on beauty, retail, entertainment, toys and games, and health and wellness.

Each week, approximately 230 million customers and members visit Walmart’s more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 46 banners in 24 countries. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company employs approximately 2.3 million associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Younger, Mindful Consumers Driving Specialty Food Interest

Specialty Food Association Report

Consumers continue to cook a lot at home – especially younger people – and are buying more fresh and specialty foods. Those are the key takeaways from a new report “Today’s Specialty Food Consumer” released by Specialty Food Association (SFA).

In a report described as a complement to "The State of the Specialty Food Industry" report released earlier this year, SFA noted that inflation is playing a part in greater consumer spending, but found people’s purchase decisions also reflect their discerning taste. Purchases in eight of the top 10 specialty food categories have increased over the last two years as people have prepared and eaten more food at home.

According to this latest research, 76% of consumers now buy specialty foods, a record number according to SFA’s findings. Young people are driving a lot of the interest, as Millennials bought 6% more specialty foods over the past year and as Gen Z, now coming into their own as young adults, has pulled equal to Gen X in specialty food buying.

Issues that are particularly important to young people are influencing purchase habits in the specialty food space. Sustainability attributes are growing as purchase drivers, with specialty food shoppers expressing interest in organic, sustainable and upcycled offerings. A quarter of specialty food consumers say they like to shop at stores that feature products from diverse suppliers. Technology is also a catalyst for sales, as consumers of specialty foods are buying products online across more categories offered on digital platforms.

"People continue to care more about what they eat, how it is made, where it comes from, who is making it, and how it impacts local and global communities and the environment," remarked Denise Purcell, VP, resource development at SFA.

SFA's latest report was based on an online survey of 1,630 adults who said they share in or take primary responsibility for grocery shopping in their house. Research was conducted with SliceMR during July.


Kroger’s Winter Wine Box Coming to Stores

Wine and cheese teaser

Kroger is bringing wines from around the world to its shoppers in the U.S. with its annual Winter Wine Box Celebration Pack. The collection will include 24 6.3-ounce bottles of wine and will be available at select Kroger banner stores beginning Oct. 9.

The wines, exclusive to Kroger, hail from Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, the Republic of North Macedonia, South Africa and Spain. The Winter Wine Box is priced at $69.99 and will be available to purchase in-store and online. 

"We have specially curated 24 exquisite wines for our customers this season, and we can't wait for them to be enjoyed," said Barry Craft, Kroger's VP of arocery. "There's something for everyone – reds, whites, rosé and sparkling varieties from around the world – and as customers try the curation, they can learn more about a prized varietal or world-renowned growing region each day."

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.


UNFI Reveals Natural Winter Show Pitch Slam Winner

UNFI Winter Natural Show 2022 Pitch Slam Winner Viv Teaser

United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) has named the winner of the Pitch Slam competition, presented by UNFI UpNext, at the distributor’s Natural Winter show, which took place Oct. 4-5 in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay. Viv is an earth-friendly, toxin-free period care brand based in Boston.

“Viv is newer to retail, as we started off as a direct-to-consumer brand,” said Viv CEO and founder Katie Diasti. “Through the UpNext program, UNFI has helped give us the extra support and knowledge we needed to bring a facelift to the period care aisle. Our goal at Pitch Slam was to be bold, vibrant and exciting, and it was fun to see all the retailers and those in the audience react to our story.” 

The UNFI UpNext team discovers and mentors emerging brands, guiding their path to growth while helping deliver UNFI customers a regionally sourced, differentiated product mix. The Pitch Slam has UpNext suppliers compete against each other in a friendly, fun elevator pitch-style contest.

Throughout the two-day Natural Winter Show, more than 2,000 UNFI customer attendees connected with the company’s extensive network of suppliers offering a wide-ranging assortment across grocery, fresh, organic and specialty departments. The event also featured UNFI’s Professional Services offerings, which aim to drive traffic, save time and money, and enhance the shopping experience.

Throughout the year, UNFI hosts 10,000-plus registered customer attendees at its four major events.

Providence, R.I.-based UNFI delivers a wide variety of products to more than 30,000 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.