News Briefs


KeHE Reveals 15 2023 TRENDfinder Winners

Anaheim Convention Center Teaser

Natural and organic, specialty, and fresh product distributor KeHE has named the 15 winners of its 2023 TRENDfinder event, which took place live  last month during Natural Products Expo West at the Anaheim Convention Center (pictured), in California.

“A key focus at KeHE is to support small and emerging brands in getting their start and helping them flourish in the marketplace,” said Rachelle Radcliffe, senior director of supplier experience at Naperville, Ill.-based KeHE Distributors LLC. “One way we do that is through KeHE TRENDfinder events, providing brands with the opportunities to be in front of the right people at the right time and kickstarting connections with our extensive KeHE marketplace network.” 

[Read more: "KeHE Distributors, Rodale Institute Form Exclusive Partnership"]

The event gave 50 suppliers the chance to join one-on-one pitch meetings with KeHE’s category management team, with the winners selected to be added to the distributor’s robust assortment. Brands were chosen based on their ingredients, innovation, taste, scalability, packaging, purpose and passion.

The 15 “Golden Ticket” winners are Resist Nutrition, The Plug Drink, CorEats Mixes, Egmont Manuka Honey, Eve Wellness, Green Boy, Clean Juice, Naturli’, Almondy, VGAN Chocolate, Melati Drinks, Bear Bar, Wild Orchard, FITPPLand EVERBLUE.

By joining KeHE’s product portfolio, these brands will gain exposure to 30,000-plus retail locations and support the distributor’s retail partners in bringing innovation to their customers. Along with helping the selected brands navigate the distribution process, KeHE will provide supplier promotional programs free of charge to the 15 “Golden Ticket” recipients.

The next KeHE TRENDfinder event will take place virtually May 1-12. Brands not set up at KeHE can apply to participate in the upcoming event.


Why Walmart Wants to Democratize Pickleball

Walmart pickleball teaser

Through a partnership with up-and-coming racquet sports booking platform Break the Love, Walmart has created a program that will make it easier for communities to come together around one of the fastest growing sports in America: pickleball. The program will offer 125,000 comped reservations for Walmart customers and associates, and allow them to book playtime at pickleball venues across the country for free.

According to Walmart, the collaboration aims to break down barriers and make pickleball more approachable by creating new opportunities for customers to have fun, connect with friends and prioritize their wellness. The program will help the retailer expand its commitment to meet customers where they are by offering ways to add value to their lives.

[Read more: "Walmart Rolling Out Revamped ‘Store of the Future’ in Virginia"]

“We are always looking for ways to create meaningful experiences that encourage our customers to interact with Walmart in new ways,” said Casey Schlaybaugh, VP, brand marketing and strategy for Walmart U.S. “Walmart is dedicated to supporting its customers and their communities, helping them find and access everyday opportunities to create moments of joy and connection in their lives.”

The program will also include 25 community events in cities across the country; a seamless and curated online shopping experience with the top pickleball merchandise; short-form video content featuring demos, tips and tricks; and exclusive offerings for Walmart+ members.

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.


Grocery Strike Looming in Minnesota

Cub Teaser

Claiming a lack of protections since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as they "kept Minnesotans fed," more than 3,000 Cub grocery store workers declared their intent to hold a vote to strike on Tuesday, April 4.

As reported by Fox 9, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) workers who are United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 663 members made the announcement via a Zoom press conference on April 3, claiming that employee members have been working without a union contract since March 4.

According to UFCW 663 President Rena Wong, members are seeking a raise of $4 per hour throughout the next two years for full-time employees, and raises every six months for part-time employees.

Cub Foods workers have said they’ve been paid on a 2018 wage scale.

The contract negotiation covers 33 Cub stores, primarily in Minneapolis and the western Twin Cities suburbs. There are a total of 79 Cub stores across Minnesota.

According to a Cub media statement: "Cub cares greatly about its team members and has negotiated diligently and in good faith with UFCW local union #663 to finalize a new collective bargaining agreement. As part of its current offer, Cub has proposed historic wage increases and agreed to ongoing union health and pension plans on terms specifically requested by the union.

We’re deeply disappointed that the union elected to spend today taking a strike authorization vote instead of using that time to meet with us to reach agreement on terms for a new contract. It is our strong hope that the union will choose to continue negotiations rather than pursue a strike. In the event there is a strike, we are prepared to implement contingency plans to ensure the continued availability of the products and services our guests have come to count on from Cub."

Vote totals are expected to be revealed around 8 p.m. Tuesday via Facebook.

Providence, R.I.-based UNFI delivers a wide variety of products to 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.


Green Chef Introduces Earth Month Selects Menu

Green Chef Earth Month Teaser

To mark Earth Month in April, meal kit company Green Chef has introduced an Earth Month Selects menu category featuring 12 premium sustainable recipes. The new menu items offer bold flavors made with sustainably sourced seafood, organic proteins, produce and eggs, as well as upcycled ingredients. The recipes were also created to have a lower carbon footprint. 

Featuring such recipes as Shiitake Mushroom Bok Choy Udon Soup with Egg, Salmon Truffle Mushroom Florentine with Roasted Herb Potatoes, Chicken Broccoli Spaghetti Squash Scampi, and Peruvian Barramundi With Lime Honey Carrots and Savory Garlic Butter Paprika Potatoes, the earth-friendly series provides options for omnivore, keto, vegetarian and vegan diets. Three recipes will be available each week throughout the month of April for an additional cost of $2.99-$9.99 per serving.

[Read more: "HelloFresh Steps Up Donations to Alleviate Food Insecurity"]

The earth-friendly rollout comes in tandem with Green Chef’s partnership with One Tree Planted, a Shelburne, Vt.-based nonprofit organization focused on global reforestation. During the month of April, Green Chef will plant a tree in northern Thailand for every new and returning customer who signs up to receive a Green Chef box of meal kits. 

The first CCOF-certified organic meal kit company, Boulder, Colo-based Green Chef has also committed to reduce the environmental impact of its meal kits by offsetting 100% of its plastic packaging and direct carbon emissions generated from its operations, travel and shipping, and by producing less food waste than traditional grocery store meals. Green Chef is owned by Berlin-based HelloFresh, which operates in 18 international markets and is No. 50 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top retailers of food and consumables in North America. 


Ohio Nonprofit Breaks Ground on Innovative Grocery Concept

Homefull logo teaser

Dayton, Ohio, nonprofit Homefull has started work on a $50 million project that will bring a grocery store, primary care practice and pharmacy to an area food desert. Homefull Grocery and Market Place will be a 48,000-square-foot, two-story building with a full-scale supermarket that will have dairy, produce, meats, a deli, household products and more.

[Read more: "BJ's Returns to Central Ohio After 20-Year Hiatus"]

"We're excited about the Homefull Grocery and Market Place and what it's going to bring to the neighborhood,” said Tina Patterson, CEO of Homefull, during a groundbreaking ceremony on March 30. “First off, this is a food desert. Families in this community have no real grocery store that they can call their home grocery store. They travel for many miles to get it so we're super excited about being a hometown grocery store.”

Homefull Grocery and Market Place will additionally focus on housing, education, advocacy and job opportunities for community members. The grocery store, doctor’s office and pharmacy are expected to be completed next summer.


Save Mart to Close Lucky Store in SF Bay Area

Save Mart Expanding CBD Brand Availability cbdMD Paw CBD

A longtime Lucky location in Larkspur, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay area is closing its doors.  According to The Save Mart Cos., which owns the banner, the store at 570 Magnolia Avenue will serve its last shoppers on April 14.

The Larkspur site opened in 1982 and served the local community for decades, providing competitively-priced products. Upon news of its closing, many local residents took to social media to lament the loss of the store, especially during a time of high inflation.

[Read more: "Save Mart’s Micro-Warehouse Goes Robotic"]

Other business will fill the food retailing gap. Trader Joe’s operates a nearby store, as does Mollie Stone’s Markets, Safeway, and, a bit further north in the way of San Rafael, Grocer Outlet Bargain Market.  

In a statement to local media, Save Mart thanked the customer base for the support, declaring: “Lucky has been serving the community for decades and we will remain committed to serving the community at our full-service Novato Lucky store.”

Although this Lucky outpost is being shuttered, Save Mart is expanding services in other ways. Earlier in March, the company announced it is extending Save Mart operating hours at several locations until 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. Last fall, the retailer opened a new Lucky store in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco, an area that had been considered a food desert.  

Based in Modesto, Calif., The Save Mart Cos. operates more than 200 retail stores under the banners of Save Mart, Lucky California and FoodMaxx. The company also operates SMART Refrigerated Transport and is a partner in Super Store Industries. Save Mart is No. 55 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America