Vertical farm operation AeroFarms is expanding its business, set to roll out offerings in Amazon Fresh stores around the U.S. The Certified B corporation began selling products in Amazon-owned Whole Foods stores last year as the first indoor leafy greens grower to be part of that grocer’s global planogram.
Amazon Fresh stores will carry an assortment of AeroFarms items, including its Micro Spicy Mix, Micro Arugula and Micro Rainbow Mix. “AeroFarms is excited to continue to scale our national availability with Amazon Fresh to meet the growing consumer demand for our fresh, flavorful and delicious microgreens,” said David Rosenberg, AeroFarms co-founder and CEO.
The collaboration with Amazon Fresh builds on AeroFarms’ current market penetration, which includes distribution in stores owned by Ahold Delhaize, Harris Teeter and The Fresh Market. In April, AeroFarms shared that it was widening its availability at H-E-B stores in Texas.
AeroFarms specialty greens are grown in commercial indoor farms using 95% less water and 99% less land than traditional field farming with no pesticides. Each package color is linked to a specific tasting note, with cool blue representing sweet and mellow flavors and intense reds identifying bold and zesty flavors, for example.
Amazon, for its part, is currently homing in on the best strategy to proceed with its physical stores. CEO Andy Jassy reiterated the company’s commitment to the brick-and-mortar grocery during the company’s latest financial results call in April, reporting that Amazon is working on various concepts and experiments across its stores while scaling back previous expansion plans. Currently, Amazon operates 44 Amazon Fresh stores around the U.S.
There are some waves of change at Lakeside Foods, a Manitowoc, Wis.-based manufacturer of frozen and canned foods. The company announced a series of executive-level appointments and promotions at a time of growth and the integration of its subsidiaries, Riverside Foods and Cher-Make Sausages.
Kevin Lien (pictured at bottom left) has been elevated to COO from VP of business development. As COO, he will oversee operations, quality assurance, supply chain, continuous improvement and sales/marketing functions. Prior to joining Lakeside Foods, he worked in various leadership roles at Welbilt/Manitowoc Foodservice.
The company’s c-suite is getting another new addition as longtime CFO Denise Kitzerow retires in July. New CFO Mark Smith (pictured at top) will leverage his nearly 20 years of experience in corporate finance and business leadership as he spearheads accounting, legal and information technology functions. He comes to Lakeside Foods from Littelfuse, Inc. in Chicago.
Lakeside Foods also shared that it promoted Nick Brisch (pictured at bottom right) to VP of supply chain. With nearly 17 years of experience at the company, Brisch steadily moved up from sales associate to positions in corporate operations, business analysis and supply chain.
Exemplifying the opportunity to move up through the ranks through hard work and innovation, a onetime factory tour guide is the new CEO at Ben & Jerry's. The South Burlington, Vt.-based ice cream manufacturer tapped Dave Stever to lead the organization that he joined in 1988. It is the first time since co-founder Ben Cohen stepped down in 1994 that an employee was appointed to the top job.
After starting as a tour guide at a site in Waterbury, Vt., Stever was steadily promoted to roles in marking and management functions, before and after Unilever acquired the company. He served as chief marketing officer for the past 12 years.
"Ben and I have known Dave for over three decades and we are absolutely thrilled that he will be leading Ben & Jerry's into the next chapter of our company's history,” said co-founder Jerry Greenfield.
Added Cohen: “He knows Ben & Jerry's inside and out. He lives it and breathes it. We are psyched to have someone with Dave's talent, passion and demonstrated ability as our CEO.”
Stever assumed the CEO role on May 8.
Ben & Jerry’s continues to innovate in the ice cream and frozen dessert category. The company recently introduced a new Ice Cream Sammie flavor and is marking its 45th year with a new marketing campaign that includes giveaways like a tote bag and zipper pouch made from upcycled Ben & Jerry’s event banners and signs and coupons for free pints of ice cream.
Jimbo’s Naturally Adding Another Location in San Diego
A new Jimbo's Naturally store is coming to San Diego. Developer Sudberry Properties announced that the grocer will be part of the new mixed-use community called Civita built on a former sand and gravel quarry. The 25,000-squre-foot store is expected to open in mid-2026.
Although the store opening is a couple of years away, plans are proceeding and the groundbreaking is slated for early 2025, the developer reported.
Jim “Jimbo” Someck, founder and owner of Jimbo’s Naturally told local media that the location was appealing. “For a number of years, we have looked for a location in Mission Valley for a new Jimbo’s store. And we’re certain we have found the perfect place at Civita,” he said. "Not only will we be able to serve the Civita community but also the surrounding area since this site is conveniently located in the heart of Mission Valley. Our customers expect great things from us, and we will not disappoint them.
Jimbo’s currently operates four locations in San Diego county, including the first store in North Park. The grocer touts its healthy offerings and carries organic, non-GMO and other products geared around health and wellness.
NGA Enthusiastically Backs Save Local Business Act
The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent grocery industry, has thrown its strong support behind the Save Local Business Act. Introduced by Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kans., and Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the legislation would codify into law the traditional joint-employer standard, which conditions employment liability on “direct, actual and immediate control over workers’ terms and conditions of employment.”
In 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) revealed proposed regulation on the joint-employer standard that would expand the current standard of what constitutes a joint employer, which NGA contends would place independent grocers at higher risk of legal uncertainty and litigation.
“This new definition of a ‘joint employer’ is a textbook definition of government-supported labor overreach, putting small businesses like independent grocers in potential scenarios where they are held liable for contractors that do business in their stores, like DSD shelf-stockers or cleaning service workers,” noted Chris Jones, SVP of government relations and counsel at Washington, D.C.-based NGA. “We also fear this rule could complicate the legal relationship that retailers enjoy with wholesalers, cooperatives and marketing alliances. NGA supports the Save Local Business Act, which would institute a stable joint-employer standard going forward.”
The Save Local Business Act would amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act to clarify that two or more employers must have “actual, direct and immediate” control over employees to be considered joint employers. According to NGA, the proposed joint-employer scheme’s expanded employment liability framework could destabilize common business relationships for grocers, including vendors and wholesaler partnerships.
NGA filed comments on the NLRB’s proposed expansion of the joint-employer standard last December and expects a final determination in August.
The Specialty Food Association (SFA) has unveiled the winners of its 51st Annual sofi Awards. Standing for “specialty outstanding food innovation,” the awards recognize creativity and culinary excellence. They are available only to product-qualified SFA members.
The submissions were judged at the Food Innovation Center at Rutgers University (FIC), SFA’s partner in the award program. FIC experts evaluated products in anonymous tastings in 53 categories using such criteria as flavor, appearance, texture, aroma, ingredient quality and innovation. Ninety-seven specialty food products received Gold and New Product trophies.
“The breadth of creativity and quality showcased by this year’s winners represents what the sofi Awards have been recognizing for over 50 years – the best of the best in specialty food,” noted Denise Purcell, VP, resource development at New York-based SFA. “The innovation and care SFA’s members put into their products are the foundation of our industry and are what makes specialty foods special.”
Round two of judging for the sofi Product of the Year Award and New Product of the Year Awards will take place at the 2023 Summer Fancy Food Show, with retail and foodservice buyers weighing in. The winners will be revealed Tuesday, June 27 at the show, the largest B2B-only specialty food and beverage show in the United States.