News Briefs


McCormick Names New Chief HR Officer

Sara Piper Teaser

Legacy flavor company McCormick & Co., Inc. has promoted Sarah Piper to chief human resources officer. Piper was appointed to the top HR job from her most recent position as SVP, global human relations business partners.

She joined the Hunt Valley, Md.-based McCormick in 2008 as a human relations manager and moved up to roles of increasing responsibility and leadership, including director of human relations, VP of human relations for the consumer products division, VP of total rewards and VP of human relations for the Americas. Between 2014 and 2017, she worked outside of McCormick at H&R Block and Honeywell; during her career, she also held HR positions at Pfizer, Inc. and KPMG in the U.S and Canada.

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

As chief HR officer, Piper will develop and execute McCormick’s global people strategies. In addition to overseeing talent management, learning, total rewards, diversity, equity and inclusion, employee engagement and well-being and employee relations, she will serve on McCormick’s management committee and is a member of McCormick's global human relations senior leadership council.

Piper earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from York University and a master of professional studies in human resource management from Cornell University.


Afresh Honored for Achievements in Perishables

Rabobank awards

A tech-based system that helps grocers optimize perishables management while reducing waste has been recognized for its inventiveness. Global food and agribusiness financial institution Rabobank bestowed its Award for Emerging Leadership in Innovation to Afresh of San Francisco, Calif.

Afresh’s platform uses AI and machine learning to help grocers make informed inventory and demand decisions. By having the right mix of perishables at the right time based on demand, food retailers can also minimize waste and enhance freshness. According to Afresh, stores that use the solution can reduce shrink by more than 25% and have bolstered their topline revenue by 2%-4%. From a sustainability perspective, the company estimates that its technology has prevented 7.9 million pounds of food waste and saved 140 million gallons of water while cutting 3,800 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

"On behalf of the entire Afresh team, we're honored to be recognized by Rabobank for the Leadership in Innovation Award," said Afresh CEO Matt Schwartz. "We're on a mission to eliminate food waste and make fresh food accessible to all, and are excited to partner with grocery retailers like Albertsons Companies and Cub Foods that are embracing innovation in the fresh food supply chain."

At its recent North America Food & Agribusiness Summit in New York City, Rabobank announced other winners of its annual North America Leadership Awards, including global foodservice provider Aramark and Pivot Bio, a pioneer in microbial nitrogen fertilizer. "We're living through a challenging time that has shone a real spotlight on the food and agribusiness industry and its importance in creating a vibrant and safe food system for people around the world," said Paul Beiboer, CEO of Rabobank North America. 

In October, Progressive Grocer named Afresh a winner of one of its 2022 Impact Awards, which spotlight companies making a tangible difference. Afresh was recognized for its success in the areas of sustainability and resource conservation.


Instacart Branches Out Into Fresh-Cut Tree Delivery

Instacart tree teaser

It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays in shoppers’ digital carts. Instacart is introducing deliveries of live Christmas trees up to 5 feet tall from grocery, wholesale, home improvement and specialty stores around the country.

Powered by Instacart’s recently-launched “Big & Bulky” fulfillment solution, the fresh-cut tree option comes during the peak of the holiday season. Instacart is also helping consumers deck their halls with the delivery of other large products like artificial trees and a wide range of decorative items.

“We’re excited to offer Instacart customers same-day, nationwide tree delivery this holiday season,” said Daniel Danker, Instacart’s chief product officer. "Trimming a holiday tree is a beloved annual tradition for many families and we’re delighted to offer a convenient and time-saving way for customers to get their trees and seasonal decor with just a few taps, so they can spend more time holidaying and less time hauling.” 

Instacart shoppers will literally trim the tree for customers. Shoppers can request that tannenbaums be trimmed and leveled per delivery instructions.

There’s a healthy demand for live Christmas trees in the U.S. According to the Real Christmas Tree Board, 67% of wholesale growers expect to sell all of the trees they will harvest this season. Instacart cited a Harris Poll showing that among those who celebrate Christmas, 59% plan to purchase a fresh Christmas tree this year.


Equitable Food Initiative Names New Board Member

Misionero Pete Donlon Teaser

The board of directors of Equitable Foods Initiative (EFI), a multi-stakeholder nonprofit workforce development and certification organization that partners with growers, farm workers, retailers and consumer groups, has added Pete Donlon as a new board member. Donlon, VP of Gonzales, Calif.-based produce company Misionero, will fill the seat recently vacated by Vic Smith, of Yuma, Ariz.-based JV Smith Cos. The EFI board includes balanced representation from each part of the fresh produce supply chain.

“Pete is the perfect person to represent grower-shippers on the board of directors,” said Peter O’Driscoll, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based EFI. “He has helped shape the EFI program as a member of the standards committee and an early adopter of our certification. We are thrilled to welcome Pete and know he will be a great asset, ensuring the EFI program remains relevant and adds value for growers.” 

[Read more: "Full Harvest Buys FarmersWeb, Allows Grocers to Swiftly Buy Surplus Produce"]

Before joining Misionero in 2015, Donlon spent 26 years at Salinas, Calif.-based Earthbound Farm, where his relationship with EFI began. He has been on the EFI Standards Committee since 2018 and helped Misionero achieve EFI certifications at two of its packing facilities. 

“I’m a longtime champion of the ideals set forth by EFI and believe that it sets new levels of assurance for the industry,” noted Donlon, adding that “like Misionero, EFI sees social responsibility and transparency as true value propositions, and I’m honored to serve on its board.”

EFI works with 25 grower-shipper companies on 72 farms, with 51 certifications completed and 21 more in progress. Through the EFI certification program, 4,000 farm workers and managers have been trained in problem-solving and communications practices to improve labor, food safety and pest management standards for operations employing 58,000-plus workers.


Costco's Monthly Sales Soften

Costco Names New COO

The tough retail road that many retailers have been riding includes a new speed bump for Costco Wholesale Corp. In its latest financial report released this week, the company indicated a gain in monthly and year-over-year (YoY) sales, but the growth pace has slowed compared to the rest of 2022 and the numbers fell a bit short of analysts’ expectations.

For the four retail weeks ending Nov. 27, net sales increased 5.7% on a YoY basis to reach $19.17 billion but the pace was slower than the 15.7% YoY rate reported in 2021. Comps also slowed, as sales at Costco clubs in November grew 6% in the U.S. and 4.3% globally in November, compared to 9.2% and 6% in October and 11.2% and 8.5% in September. E-commerce sales were in negative territory, down 10.1% for the month that included Black Friday.

[Read more: "How Costco Leverages Loyalty to Drive Growth"]

In a financial call, assistant VP of finance and investor relations Josh Dahmen reported that that the U.S. regions with the strongest comp sales were the Midwest, Northwest and San Diego. Gains in food and sundries were in the low double digits, while fresh foods were up in the mid-single digits. Bakery and produce did well in November, while electronics and jewelry were underperforming departments, according to Dahmen.

Dahmen also shared that inflation in food and sundries last month was consistent with October’s pace of higher prices. Inflation in fresh was slightly higher when compared to November 2021, he added.

Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco has more than 550 locations and is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North AmericaPG also named the company to its Retailers of the Century list.


Aldi Spreads Holiday Cheer

Aldi board

Aldi is making spirits bright at its stores through price cuts and giveaways. During the biggest shopping season of the year, the discount retailer announced more deals for its customers as they balance inflation with gift giving and holiday celebrations.

Aldi is cutting prices on several top-selling items through the end of December, including bagels, bacon, biscuits, cheese, cured meats, pretzels and other popular products.  “We realize that expenses add up quickly during the holidays, especially when you’re hosting overnight guests or multiple gatherings,” said Scott Patton, Aldi’s VP of national buying. “With entertaining needs right around the corner, we reduced prices on foods that are great for pulling together an easy breakfast or charcuterie board to hold friends and family over before the big meal. We want our shoppers to know we are focused on giving them the best possible prices so they can worry less about their grocery bills and focus more on spending time with their loved ones.”

[Read more: "Why Aldi Is at the Sweet Spot of Food Retailing"]

Aldi is also spreading holiday cheer by giving away nearly 1,200 free gift cards in some of its curbside orders on a random basis. Lucky shoppers will receive a gift card that’s tucked into a holiday gnome.

The retailer is going big on this year’s season in other ways, unveiling nearly 1,200 limited-time holiday-themed items earlier this fall. The retailer is also introducing new Aldi Finds products regularly in the run-up to Christmas and other winter occasions.

Additionally, inspired by the Spotify Wrapped playlists that sum up listeners’ favorite music, Aldi shared its product-based 2022 Wrapped list. Coming in first on the list of Aldi Finds: Aldi’s signature gnomes, followed by the food market, pet hats, three-piece patio set and a sparkle dress. Another list on fan favorites included Atlantic salmon, fresh strawberries and organic extra-virgin olive oil, among other goods.

Aldi is one of America’s fastest-growing retailers, serving millions of customers across the country each month. With 2,200 stores across 38 states, the company is on track to become the third-largest grocery retailer by store count by the end of 2022. Batavia, Ill.-based Aldi U.S. employs 45,000-plus associates and is No. 24 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.