In the era of tech-enabled personalization, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Inc. is debuting a personalized shopping experience led by its team members. The organic retailer is offering the services of its nutritional health coaches, who can guide customers while they shop to make choices that support their personal health and wellness goals.
The free shopping sessions can be helpful to customers who have special dietary needs or who just want to learn more about the assortments at Natural Grocers. On their 30-minute one-on-one journey, shoppers can get tailored recommendations for products such as foods, supplements and body care, as well as household products with cleaner ingredients. The health coaches can also share suggestions for food and supplements for pets.
On top of the tour and coaching, shoppers who opt for the personalized service will receive a coupon for $5 off purchases of $25 or more.
“We are very excited to roll out this new service. We want to help take the confusion out of reading labels, shopping for supplements, and meal planning. We want to make it easier and quicker to shop so that achieving personal nutritional health goals can be done with ease,” said Karen Falbo, director of nutrition education.
The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, has created a TV commercial spotlighting what the organization characterizes as “the unfair and discriminatory tactics” of larger competitors. Currently, just four big chains control 69% of the market share, the ad notes, citing Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization Food and Water Watch.
“For decades, dominant firms in the grocery marketplace have leveraged their buying power to demand special treatment through access to products, promotions and better prices from suppliers that are not offered to independent community grocers,” said Greg Ferrara, CEO and president of Washington, D.C.-based NGA. “This unchecked anticompetitive behavior leaves independent store owners and their customers with less choice, fewer options, and paying more for goods and products. Independents aren’t looking for a free handout. They’re just looking for a level playing field to compete.”
The commercial, paid for by NGA, will run Wednesday, March 29 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.”
“Independent grocers have been feeling the financial squeeze from these anti-competitive tactics for far too long,” said NGA SVP and Counsel Chris Jones. “As families continue to feel the negative impacts of high inflation, dominant food retailers are squeezing suppliers and as a result, forcing higher prices and fewer products on independent grocers and their customers. Lawmakers must stand up for Main Street businesses to demand an end to these discriminatory tactics and restore a competitive marketplace that benefits the local economy and grocery shoppers alike.”
The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association (PFMA) has promoted Michael Howells to the position of VP of association services. Having joined PFMA in 2020 as association service manager, Howell was promoted to director of research and association services a year later.
In the latter role, Howells helped PFMA members with questions on legislative and regulatory issues, acted as a liaison to communicate emergency-planning issues, managed the association’s committees, and provided government relations coverage in monthly newsletters and weekly e-newsletters. In his new position, he will continue to expand his responsibilities and take part in more legislative, political and advocacy activities for the association, as well as helping with association strategic planning and organizational development.
“PFMA is fortunate to have a strong leader in Michael Howells, and this promotion reflects the responsibilities and work he has been contributing to the association and our members,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of Camp Hill, Pa.-based PFMA. “Since joining PFMA, Howells has played a key role in driving forward our mission to improve the public image, effectiveness and profitability of companies providing products and services in agriculture production, consumer packaged goods, food retailing, wholesale food distribution and associated industry partners. We are excited for him to continue his good work in this role.”
PFMA, a statewide trade association, advocates the views of almost 800 convenience stores, supermarkets, independent grocers, wholesalers and consumer product vendors. The trade group’s members operate more than 4,000 stores and employ 250,000-plus Pennsylvanians.
The Original Farmers Market in L.A. Kicks Off Incubator Contest
It’s already known as a hub featuring a diverse roster of merchants, including grocers, and now, The Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles is seeking additional unique vendors. The nearly century-old market announced a new “pop-up” contest with a $50,000 prize package that includes a 1,500-square-foot spot in the market, three months of free rent and marketing and merchandising support.
This is the first time that The Original Farmers Market, which hosts almost 100 grocers, retailers and restaurants at the corner of 3rd and Fairfax in L.A., has hosted a competition for would-be merchants. Applications will be open through the end of April and can be accessed via the New Originals website.
According to the market, a group of finalists will be announced on May 8 and will go on to be interviewed in person by the organization’s executive team. A social media voting process and Finalist Showcase Day on May 20 are also part of the final round of judging before the grand prize winner is named in June.
"Since the Market's beginnings in 1934, we have been an important incubator for entrepreneurs and family-owned small businesses in Los Angeles – a place where customers can delight in finding new favorites and innovative businesspeople can succeed," said Stan Savage, president and CEO of the A.F. Gilmore Co., longtime owners and operators of The Original Farmers Market. "This competition gives us the unique opportunity to nurture the next wave of business owners and introduce Market customers to new and innovative fares and concepts."
Sprouts Farmers Market to Phase Out Single-Use Plastic Bags by End of Year
Sprouts Farmers Market has revealed that it will eliminate single-use plastic bags at checkout by the end of 2023. Doing this will remove 200 million-plus single-use plastic bags from circulation annually, according to the grocer.
The company, which has already eliminated single-use plastic bags at 132 California stores, will introduce this initiative in phases next month, starting with its Nevada, Utah, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia stores.
“Our customers tell us how much they appreciate Sprouts’ care for the planet and our commitment to doing what’s right for our collective future,” said Nick Konat, Sprouts’ president and COO. “The decision to shift to reusable bags is one of many ways Sprouts will have an even bigger impact on the environment. We understand this will be an adjustment for our customers, and we will be here to help them with the transition.”
Sprouts will offer stronger, reusable plastic bags made from 40% post-consumer recycled material that can be reused at least 125 times, and shoppers will have various other reusable-bag purchase options. The grocer will encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags by charging 10 cents per reusable plastic bag.
The company also stopped offering paper bags at checkout, as they’re generally not reusable, aren’t recycled often and have a high environmental cost in terms of the water, energy and raw materials used to manufacture them. Additionally, customers can keep bringing single-use plastic bags to Sprouts stores for recycling after use. Last year, shoppers recycled nearly 1 million pounds of soft plastics at the grocer’s locations.
According to local news reports, Harvest Market is heading over the border from Illinois into Indiana. The independent, which runs stores in Champaign, Ill. and Springfield, Ill., has applied for a permit to operate a new business in Carmel, Ind.
The new store in the suburb of Indianapolis, spanning a 75,000-square-foot space, would take the place of a former Marsh Supermarkets location. That store closed more than five years ago.
Operated by Niemann Foods, Inc., Harvest Market focuses on providing fare from farmers and food makers and sharing the stories of its suppliers. Among other things, the store is known for its fresh perimeter, which includes an expansive deli area complete with a butter churn room and a bakery featuring down-home favorites like cobblers, buckles, bread pudding and buttermilk biscuits. The stores in Illinois regularly host cooking demonstrations and include an in-store restaurant with foods made with farm-fresh ingredients for breakfast, brunch and lunch.
Niemann Foods runs more than 100 retail businesses, including several County Market grocery stores, across Illinois, Missouri and Indiana. The company was founded in 1917.