News Briefs


New AI Solution Optimizes Shelf Facings

Retail shelf

Retail shelf intelligence firm Pensa Systems has introduced a new AI solution for CPGs designed to improve their retail shelf facings. The solution provides a continuous view of actual products on retail shelves across several stores.

Pensa developed the capability to help CPGs optimize their shelf facings to ultimately improve visibility and revenue growth. Traditionally, the allocation for facings has been based on estimates of sales volume and velocity gleaned from previous point-of-sale data and simulations.

[Read more: "Why Grocers Can't Afford to Ignore Shelf-Edge Technology"]

After its AI distinguishes between products on a shelf, the Pensa solution analyzes the video stream of images to provide a highly accurate view of inventory. According to Pensa, this new approach correlates real on-shelf product availability with the number of facings per product.  

“Optimizing the shelf is now possible in a new way leveraging the practical power of computer vision and AI,” explained Richard Schwartz, Pensa’s president and CEO. “Basing facings analysis on a highly-accurate and granular view of what’s on the shelf and available for sale heralds a new era of brands and retailers working closely together to optimize facings for mutual benefit.”

Based in Austin, Texas, Pensa works with a variety of CPG brands and retailers, such as General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Anheuser-Busch, InBev, Unilever and Circle K, among others.


Earth Fare Debuting Free Monthly Webinars


In January, when most people are still keen to stick to their New Year’s resolutions, natural and organic grocery store chain Earth Fare will roll out a free monthly webinar series featuring educational content to help consumers live healthier lives.

The series will kick off on Jan. 12, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. EST with Amber Lynn Vitale, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based vitamin and supplement maker Garden of Life, instructing attendees on health benefits of safe detoxes. Vitale, a certified nutritionist, ayurvedic clinical consultant, advanced bodyworker and yoga therapist who collaborates with functional-medicine doctors and other integrative practitioners, has been a part of the Garden of Life education team since 2014. 

[Read more: "Earth Fare Lowers Prices on Pantry Essentials"]

“When executed safely, cleanses and detoxes can be extremely effective at helping various systems in the body function at peak levels,” noted Vitale. “The start of a brand-new year offers us the opportunity to hit our body’s reset button and establish healthier habits that will reap benefits the whole year.”

During January, all Garden of Life products sold at Earth Fare will be 25% off, with webinar participants receiving a $10-off coupon on a $50 purchase of any items in the store. 

“Garden of Life shares Earth Fare’s promise to provide our customers not only with the foods and products to lead a healthier lifestyle, but also the education and resources to confidently incorporate healthier habits into their lives,” said Laurie Aker, director of marketing at Asheville, N.C.-based Earth Fare. “We are thrilled to partner with them on what we hope will be the first of many impactful educational opportunities.”

Earth Fare operates under Hulsing Enterprises and its president and CEO, Dennis Hulsing, and Earth Fare’s COO, Henry Kugler. The grocer operates more than 20 locations in eight Southeast and Midwest states. 


Albertsons Cos. Releases Update on Special Dividend

court money teaser

Albertsons Cos. has revealed that on Dec. 19, the State of Washington Supreme Court set a date for the review of the temporary restraining order against the company’s previously announced $6.85-per-common-share special dividend. The Washington Supreme Court, sitting en banc, will review the appeal of the attorney general of the State of Washington on Feb. 9, 2023. The temporary restraining order will remain in effect until there is a further order issued by the Washington Supreme Court. Albertsons has filed a motion to further expedite the Washington Supreme Court’s en banc review.

The company also noted that on Dec. 20, the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia denied the motion filed by the California, Illinois and District of Columbia attorneys general for an injunction pending appeal and an administrative stay of the payment of the special dividend. On Nov. 8, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the request by the California, Illinois and District of Columbia attorneys general for a temporary restraining order against the payment of the special dividend.

Albertsons Cos. continues to maintain that the claim brought by the attorney general of the State of Washington, as well as the similar lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of California, Illinois and the District of Columbia, is meritless and provides no legal basis for preventing the payment of the special dividend. Albertsons’ position has been supported by favorable rulings in both circuit and district courts in the District of Columbia, and a Washington state court.

Albertsons Cos.’ proposed merger with The Kroger Co. is continuing through required regulatory review, which includes obtaining clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.

Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons  is No. 9 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 4 on the list.


Good Karma Foods Appoints New CEO

 Good Karma Foods CEO

Plant-based milk and dairy company Good Karma Foods has a new leader. The Boulder, Colo.-based producer announced the hiring of Mike Murray as its new CEO.

Murray brings more than 25 years of CPG experience to his latest role. He joins Good Karma from Teton Waters Ranch, where he helped that regeneratively-raised beef solutions become the fastest-growing natural dinner sausage brand. His background includes leadership positions at Free2b Foods, So Delicious Dairy Free, WhiteWave Foods Co. and Larabar.

[Read more: "Outpost Natural Foods General Manager to Depart"]

“I am looking forward to leveraging my experience and passion for galvanizing food system change to help the team bring Good Karma’s portfolio of delicious and sustainable plant-based solutions to more households,” said Murray. “Our team has a compelling opportunity to build upon the strong equity of Good Karma to deliver a variety of solutions that help people do good every single day with their consumption choices.” 

In addition to onboarding a new CEO, Good Karma announced that it is set to complete a fresh round of funding to accelerate growth. The company is backed by investors such as Valor Siren Ventures and Loft Growth Partners.

“Even in light of inflationary pressures, families continue to flock to plant-based categories and segments, and Good Karma’s unique value proposition combining the best of plants to provide unparalleled nourishment like no other continues to show exciting promise,” remarked Brian King, Good Karma’s chairman of the board. “As our investors renew their partnership with Good Karma, and Mike joins the team, we are all looking forward to the brand realizing its leadership position in a variety of growing plant-based categories.”


New Jersey’s Grant Program Helps Food Retailers Offer Pickup Services in Food Deserts

New Jersey Takes Steps to Eradicate Food Deserts

In an effort to improve food access, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has unveiled a $2.5 million pilot program that provides funding for food retailers in New Jersey to purchase self-contained, temperature-controlled lockers and install them for food deliveries in the state’s food desert communities.

Through the use of refrigerated lockers, the Food Retail Innovation in Delivery Grant (FRIDG) program will help to increase the availability of nutritious food in food desert communities while assisting food retailers to adapt to new business models that can help sustain their businesses.

[Read more: “Chicago Indie Grocer Wins $50K to Fight Food Deserts”]

According to the NJEDA website, refrigerated locker units must be placed within a designated food desert community, and may be installed near local organizations, such as food banks and community centers that are convenient for residents of the community and a place where residents facing food insecurity may already access services. This model will also give these residents the ability to order online and have groceries delivered to a convenient central location without having to travel long distances to reach food retailers, as many residents without a nearby grocer are currently forced to do.

Grants will cover between 30% and 50% of the total project cost (inclusive of locker purchase, delivery and installation), up to $250,000.

The program is open to food retailers authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for online ordering.


Specialty Food Association to Recognize Indie as Outstanding Buyer

Dwight Richmond Town & Country Markets Teaser SFA

Six leaders in the specialty food world, including Dwight Richmond, director of center store at independent grocer Town & Country Markets, will be recognized by the Specialty Food Association (SFA) at the trade organization’s upcoming 2023 Winter Fancy Food Show. In recognition of their contributions to the specialty food industry, the honorees will receive their 2023 Leadership Awards during the show on Monday, Jan. 16, at 4 p.m.

[Read more: "What Are the Top Specialty Food Trends for 2023?"]

Richmond will be recognized in the Outstanding Buyer category, which was added this year, along with Emerging Leader. Before coming to Town & Country, which operates six stores in Washington state, he worked at such retailers as Whole Foods Market, The Fresh Market, Earth Fare, and Dean & Deluca. Richmond also worked in distribution at KeHE and Cavallero Specialty Foods, and as a broker at CA Fortune. 

The other Leadership Award honorees are as follows:
• Sustainability: Mike Noonan, Bitchin’ Sauce
• Citizenship: Luke Schneider, Fire Department Coffee
• Vision: David Kemp, Village Gourmet/Les Trois Petits Cochons
• Emerging Leader (tie): Dani Zuchovicki, The Hatchery; David Schmunk, African Dream Foods

“The specialty food industry is full of inspiring individuals advancing their businesses and making a difference in the world,” said Denise Purcell, VP, resource development for the New York-based SFA, which represents manufacturers, importers, retailers, distributors, brokers and others in the specialty food industry. “We expanded the scope of our Leadership Awards to recognize even more of these remarkable business leaders.”

Slated to take place Jan. 15-17, 2023, in Las Vegas, the 2023 Winter Fancy Food Show is the largest B2B-only specialty food and beverage show in the U.S.