News Briefs


Rite Aid Expands Relationship With Afterpay

Rite Aid Chooses Within as Digital Media Agency of Record

Drug store chain Rite Aid and “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) solution provider Afterpay have expanded their relationship to offer a nationwide flexible payment option allowing consumers to make four interest-free payments at more than 2,000 Rite Aid locations for all household necessities, including health and beauty, baby care, and grocery items. The companies’ partnership was first revealed last May. 

“Expanding our partnership with Afterpay allows more customers to obtain offerings that support their whole-health needs while providing financial flexibility,” said Justin Mennen, Rite Aid’s EVP, chief digital and technology officer. “We’re consistently leveraging technology to complement the busy lives of our customers and improve the health-and-wellness needs of our communities.” 

In the United States, Amazon, CVS, Kroger, Target and Walgreens also accept payments via Afterpay. 

Consumers can shop for popular brands and deals by downloading the Afterpay app on iOS and Android. Melbourne, Australia-based Afterpay, which has a U.S. office in San Francisco, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Block Inc.

Philadelphia-based Rite Aid operates 2,300-plus retail pharmacy locations across 17 states. The company is No. 21 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Amazon, Kroger, Walgreens, Target and CVS are Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7, respectively, on PG’s list.


Weee! Bolsters Board With Addition of Finance Exec

Weee board member

Ethnic online grocer Weee! has seated finance pro Mark Lawrence on its board of directors. Lawrence currently serves as CFO for Nu Skin Enterprises and previously worked as head of finance for Amazon’s Lab126, where he helped launch several Amazon devices. Over the course of his career, he has also held leadership positions at 3Com, Brocade, Polycom and Vivint Smart Home. Lawrence earned an MBA from the University of California, Davis, and a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University.

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Weee! CEO Larry Liu said the move will strengthen the e-grocer’s operation as it offers experiences and products spanning a range of cultures. "Weee! is on a growth trajectory, as the demand for ethnic food increases, driven by ethnic communities as well as Americans' growing interest in Asian and Latino cuisines. I am thrilled to welcome Mark to the Weee! board as his combination of critical financial skills and broader expertise will help accelerate Weee!'s growth and commitment to operational excellence,” Liu remarked.

Added Lawrence: "I am pleased to join Weee! at an important time in the history of the company. I look forward to helping propel the Weee! brand in its next phase of growth and market penetration." 


Facilio Debuts Connected Refrigeration Solution

Facilio Teaser

Proptech company Facilio, which offers a suite of smart-buildings software, has now rolled out a cloud-based supervisory control platform that enables remote monitoring and optimization of refrigeration systems. According to the New York-based company, its Connected Refrigeration Solution delivers up to 20% in energy cost savings for multi-site food retailers, including grocery, convenience store and supermarket operators.

“Our Connected Refrigeration solution helps retailers take control of their refrigeration systems, providing real-time visibility into the performance of their assets across all sites, enabling them to make informed decisions and reduce costs,” said Facilio co-founder and CPO Raj Subramanian. 

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The retail, foodservice and grocery sectors spend more than $41 billion on energy annually, representing 14 billion square feet of floor space in the U.S. alone. Food cooling and refrigeration account for more than 50% of a store’s energy costs. 

Among the early adopters of the Connected Refrigeration Solution is one of the “big four” supermarket chains in the U.K., for which Facilio has delivered 16% in energy cost savings and eliminated the cost of undetected refrigerant leaks within weeks of deploying the software.

Facilio has also teamed up with IoT solutions provider Tutenlabs to drive value for more than 10,000 retail sites across the U.S.

“Our customers deserve the best,” said Roi Amszynowski, CEO of Santiago, Chile-based Tutenlabs. “By joining forces with Facilio, we are confident that we will keep generating more value and savings for all of our stakeholders.”


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.” 

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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.

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“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.