Albertsons Cos. will hold its inaugural Innovation Launchpad competition during Natural Products Expo West in California on March 8. The retailer is looking for innovative small and independent brands in the food, beverage and pet categories, with a focus on areas including low sugar or low carb, all-natural, plant-based products, functional beverages, global flavors, healthy prepared meals and premium pet items.
Applications for the competition are being accepted now through Jan. 31 via RangeMe, with 60 chosen businesses being given the opportunity to compete live at Expo West. The top three winners will receive prizes valued at $170,000 including cash, services and industry recognition, and will also be considered for distribution in Albertsons banner stores.
“We envision the Albertsons Innovation Launchpad competition to be a fun and engaging way to connect with up-and-coming entrepreneurs and brands,” said Jen Saenz, EVP and chief merchandising officer at Albertsons. “We’re always looking to provide our customers fresh, innovative products and new meal ideas. Through this process, we are hoping to discover unique items that can be considered for distribution in any one of our banner stores.”
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates more than 2,200 retail stores with 1,700-plus pharmacies, 402 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. It operates stores across 34 states and the District of Columbia under 24 well-known banners, among them Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, Carrs, Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lovers Market. Albertsons is No. 9 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.
Weis Markets has promoted Tonya Woytowich to the position of director of general merchandise (GM) and health and beauty care (HBC), reporting to Mike Gross, VP of center store sales and merchandising. In this position, Woytowich will oversee the Weis’ HBC, GM, seasonal GM, and grocery nonedible (pet and greeting cards) categories.
Before her promotion, Woytowich was general merchandising category manager, in which role she oversaw the development and launch of various projects, including the GM seasonal program, expanded private-brand nonfood assortments and the enhancement of Weis’ pet accessories program. Prior to joining the company in 2016, she worked at Worcester, Mass.-based Imperial Distributors.
Weis also recently promoted Andrea Bauman to the position of director of marketing and Maria Rizzo to the role of VP of advertising and marketing.
Organic Valley has a new CEO. The Midwest dairy farming cooperative revealed that seasoned CPG leader Jeff Frank has been tapped to lead that organization following the retirement of Bob Kirchoff.
Frank joins Organic Valley from Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods, where he held a variety of roles during a 25-year career with the company. Most recently, he was Hormel’s group VP of grocery products. He also was also president and CEO of the company’s MegaMex Foods business, credited with helping bolster its supply chain and bringing several products to market.
Frank earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and Spanish from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, an MBA from the University of St. Thomas, and an executive certificate from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. He has also completed the executive education program at Harvard Business School.
“We are happy to welcome Jeff as our next CEO to guide organic food and farming into the future,” said Steve Pierson, president of the Organic Valley board of directors and a dairy farmer from Oregon. “He shares our values and vision of nourishing people, animals and the earth through ethically sourced organic food from small family farms. He has the skills and experience to navigate the complex challenges facing small organic family farms.”
Added Kirchoff: “I am confident that Jeff will continue to uphold and enhance the reputation and values of Organic Valley. I think it’s the perfect time for new leadership to guide the co-op’s next phase of growth. I’m so proud of the hard work farmers and employees have put in to keep this cooperative moving forward. I am so grateful for having the opportunity the cooperative gave me and the support along the way.”
For his part, Frank said that he admires Organic Valley’s mission and is eager to collaborate to drive future success. “I look forward to working with the board, the farmer-members and teams across the cooperative and the industry to expand the impact of this revolutionary and independent food lighthouse, while staying true to its values and mission of producing ethically sourced food from organic family farms,” he noted.
Based in La Farge, Wis., Organic Valley was founded in 1988 to save, serve and safeguard small organic farms.
Whole Foods Market Partners With Zappos on ‘Hassle-Free’ Returns
Customers can now return shoes and apparel bought on Zappos.com at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide. Zappos.com has launched its newest WOW service – Label Free Box Free Returns – to match parent company Amazon’s goal of making buying online and returning as easy and hassle-free as possible.
By removing the need for on-hand items, including tape, labels and shipping boxes, and making it possible to combine errands like grocery shopping, Zappos is helping its customers reduce not only packaging time, but travel time as well. The new service comes on top of the company’s unique return policy, which allows for return shipping from anywhere in the United States within 365 days of purchase. Returns are always free for Zappos customers.
"With Label Free Box Free Returns, we’re excited to not only be better serving our customers, but also to have found a natural partner in Whole Foods Market — you might say, it’s a whole new kind of relationship for us," said Scott Schaefer, CEO of Las Vegas-based Zappos.com.
To find out whether a return qualifies to be taken to any Whole Foods store, Zappos customers can log into their account here. If available, the Label Free Box Free option will appear.
The first certified-organic national grocer, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods has more than 500 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Seattle-based Amazon, which is No. 2 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.
Sprouts Farmers Market Readies Latest Store in Nashville
Another Sprouts Farmers Market has sprouted up in the Nashville area of Tennessee. The healthy and natural foods retailer is gearing up for a Jan. 20-22 grand opening weekend at its latest location, 5821 Nolensville Pike.
In a building spanning about 23,000 square feet, the new store is the fourth Sprouts in the area following the previous openings of markets in the nearby communities of Bellevue, Brentwood and Murfreesboro.
Sprouts has planned several activities and promotions for its grand opening celebration. The ribbon cutting kicks off the festivities on Friday, Jan. 20 at 6:45 a.m. CST, ahead of the 7:00 a.m. opening. The first 200 shoppers on both Friday and Saturday will receive a reusable bag filled with product samples.
The grocer is setting up a “vendor village” in the store during the inaugural weekend, offering customers a chance to connect with suppliers and their goods. Shoppers can also enjoy live music performances, a live remote radio broadcast and kids activities through Jan. 22. Those who sign up for a Sprouts account can get a chance to win a $500 Sprouts gift card and score 20% off purchases during the grand opening weekend. Pickup and delivery services, powered by Instacart, are available at this Nashville location.
The store on Nolensville Pike will only be the latest Sprouts for a short period of time. The grocer has set a Feb. 3 opening date for its next outpost in Lathrop, Calif.
Following a successful third quarter, the fast-growing Sprouts recently raised its full fiscal year guidance. The retailer projects net sales growth between 4.5% and 5% for the year and a 2% bump in store comps.
Publix Pharmacy has opened its fourth telehealth site with Beaufort Memorial Hospital, in Beaufort, S.C.. The telehealth kiosk is located at store #1716, at 33 Robert Smalls Parkway.
“Publix Pharmacy looks forward to extending new, convenient services to even more communities with the help of Beaufort Memorial Hospital,” noted VP of Publix Pharmacy Dain Rusk. “Convenience in the world of health care is something that patients value and expect. Offering telehealth services provides the comfort of a clinic, with the convenience of being in your local Publix.”
The grocer’s telehealth centers offer a private room with teleconferencing and medical diagnostic equipment such as stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, high-definition cameras and other tools needed to make common diagnoses.
Patients speak directly with a licensed health care provider via videoconferencing technology to receive care for common nonemergency medical conditions, including coughs, fevers, flu and rashes. The licensed health care provider can direct the patient to use the available diagnostic tools, and then makes a diagnosis and writes any necessary prescriptions. Publix Pharmacy associates sanitize the room and equipment after each use and can assist patients. The fee to use the telehealth center is $67 per visit, with no appointments needed.