News Briefs


Alibaba Exploring IPO for Grocery Business

Alibaba HQ

Chinese e-comm giant Alibaba Group is looking to take its grocery unit public and divesting its cloud computing business in the wake of slower spending and lower-than-expected revenues during its latest quarter. Its core online business will remain private.

Chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang confirmed that the board of directors had approved plans to begin the initial public offering (IPO) process for Alibaba’s Freshippo grocery arm. The IPO should be completed in the next six to 12 months.

“In an increasingly complex world, we have proactively transformed our organization to strengthen the competitiveness of our businesses through greater independence to address the evolving needs of different customers and capture new opportunities,” Zhang said.

The move comes as global economic pressures continue to mount. Alibaba reported a 2% gain in revenue to top USD $29.6 billion during the period ending March 31, which was lower than analyst estimates. Revenue from its commerce business in China dipped 3% during Q1. That said, the company noted that Freshippo netted positive operating reports and continues to improve its operating efficiencies and merchandising capabilities.

As a testament to the resilience of the grocery unit, Freshippo also revealed this week that its planning to create eight procurement centers to bring more groceries into the Chinese market. The company signed agreements with 13 retail groups, global associations and brands, including the U.S.-based berry producer Driscoll's. There are more than 270 self-operated Freshippo stores in China.


Hannaford Acquires Community Pharmacy in Blue Hill, Maine

Hannaford Watertown Maine Teaser

Hannaford Supermarkets has reached an agreement to purchase Community Pharmacy, in Blue Hill, Maine. The pharmacy, located inside the new Hannaford store that formerly operated under the Tradewinds Marketplace banner, will begin operations as a Hannaford pharmacy on Monday, June 12.

The grocer is buying the business from Joe Bruno, owner of Augusta, Maine-based Community Pharmacies, which has served Blue Hill customers for 17 years. Bruno will retain ownership of Community Pharmacies’ eight other locations.

As a Hannaford pharmacy, the facility will be open the same hours as previously: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The pharmacy will employ seven associates, all of whom will make the transition from the Community Pharmacy team to Hannaford.

[Read more: "Hannaford’s Store Manager of the Year Focuses on Community, Friendly Work Environment"]

“We’ve received such a warm welcome from the Blue Hill community and are excited to extend the Hannaford experience to the pharmacy, where customers will continue to receive compassionate care and personalized service from the trusted health professionals who have helped them maintain good health over the years,” noted Blue Hill Hannaford Store Manager Patrick Doak. “Our skilled and knowledgeable pharmacy staff, many of whom customers will be familiar with from Community Pharmacy, are committed to ensuring a seamless and positive transition.”

The acquisition follows the formal opening of Hannaford’s store in Blue Hill on May 12.

Scarborough, Maine-based Hannaford operates 186 stores in Maine, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont and employs nearly 30,000 associates. Parent company Ahold Delhaize USA, a division of Zaandam, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, is No. 10 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America


Big Y Express to Open 2 Connecticut Locations


Big Y Foods Inc. will open its 16th and 17th Big Y Express Fuel and Convenience locations at 580 Main Street in Somers, Conn., and at 241 Hazard Avenue in Enfield Conn., respectively. Both stores are scheduled to reopen under the Big Y Express banner on July 15, bringing the total number of these locations in Connecticut to six.

The new Big Y Express locations will each offer eight pumping positions, each with 87, 89 and 93 octane fuel and diesel, as well as a free air machine for tire inflation. Fuel discounts are available every day for myBigY members. Additional amenities include Big Y’s Wide Awake bean-to-cup fresh coffee, along with such grab-and-go items as milk, cold drinks and snacks. The company is currently hiring for management and select part-time positions at the Somers and Enfield locations.

[Read more: “Big Y Getting Ready to Launch New-Concept Store in Massachusetts”]

“We are always looking to bring our customers even more, especially during these challenging times,” noted Big Y President and CEO Charles L. D’Amour. “We are excited to not only help our customers save on their fueling needs, but also make life easier by offering quick convenience items that our customers can grab on the run.”

The first Big Y Express store opened in 2013 in Lee, Mass.

Springfield, Mass.-based Big Y is one of the largest independently owned supermarket chains in New England. Big Y operates locations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut, including supermarkets, Table & Vine Fine Wines and Liquors, and Big Y Express gas and convenience locations, with more than 10,000 employees. The company is No. 72 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America


Driscoll’s Hires Product Leadership Exec

Aaron Brookes

Driscoll's has appointed Aaron Brookes to fill the role of senior director of product leadership new products. He will coordinate the development, testing, deployment and scaling of new berry segments and work closely with the business team to develop strategies that meet both consumer and company needs.

Brookes is an industry veteran who brings more than two decades of CPG and ag experience to his new role. Before joining Driscoll’s, he was director of sales, marketing and product development for organic farming operation Jacobs Farm del Cabo. During his career, he has also served in marketing and sales positions at Nike and Giro.

[Read more: "Lakeside Foods Shores Up Leadership Team"]

 “I look forward to Aaron’s contributions to help our company adapt our product portfolio to meet the changing needs of the marketplace,” said Brie Reiter Smith, VP of product leadership at Driscoll’s.

Based in Watsonville, Calif., Driscoll’s is a leading producer of fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. The supplier works with more than 900 independent growers around the world and has developed several exclusive patented berry varieties using natural breeding methods.


Wakefern Expands In-Store Retail Media With Freeosk

freeosk teaser

Wakefern Food Corp. is expanding usage of Freeosk’s interactive multimedia sampling kiosks for turnkey, multisensory, in-store retail media activation.

Following a successful pilot, Wakefern is placing Freeosk units in 95 ShopRite and The Fresh Grocer stores to transform ordinary in-store spaces into discovery destinations for new products and categories.

[Read more:  “Wakefern Exec Headlines GroceryTech Panel]

According to the company, Freeosk campaigns historically generate an average sales lift of over 50%, with 70% of buyers being new to brands and over 20% of the converted shoppers repeating purchases post-campaign. The Freeosk platform inspires shopper engagement and trial by combining in-store sampling, merchandising and digital media.

“Trial lowers barriers to entry for products and expands the shopper base for brands by attracting incremental users to the category while in-store. By capturing the shopper activity, brands are provided transparent measurement and retail media opportunities to engage with emerging and renewed brand users,” said Natalie Menza-Crowe, MS RD, director of marketing and wellness strategy for Wakefern.

"Brand adoption is a key milestone on the path-to-purchase. From that moment on, you build loyalty and customer lifetime value. Freeosk is honored to help facilitate seamless in-store retail media programs with Wakefern that provide clear ROI,” said Matt Eichorn, president, co-founder and CEO at Chicago-based Freeosk.

Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern comprises nearly 50 members that independently own and operate 360-plus supermarkets under the ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Together with its member companies, Wakefern employs nearly 80,000 people. The retailer-owned co-op is No. 29 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 listing of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Rouses Invests in Digital Media Enhancements


Rouses Markets is upping its advertising and marketing game by expanding one of its digital partnerships. The independent grocer is teaming up with The Moran Group to better leverage insights, audience segmentation and digital solutions.

The businesses have worked together before, when Rouses tapped the agency to work on a campaign with its National Football League partner, the New Orleans Saints. Through this new and broader strategic partnership, Rouses will leverage The Moran Group’s Amplifi system that identifies potential buyers, tracks them online and delivers targeted advertising to them. Other services will be enhanced, too, such as Google Advertising, paid social media, newsletter signups, location advertising and email marketing.

“We’re always looking for new ways to make connections with the consumer, and we are already seeing great results from the strategies and tactics they’ve brought to the table,” said Donny Rouse, CEO of Rouses Markets. "The success of our partnership has helped us be even more responsive to customer behavior and market trends, and our teams make the most informed decisions for our business.”

Added Jim Moran Jr, CEO of The Moran Group: “We’re thrilled to join forces with such a well-respected brand and look forward to a long and successful partnership that will drive results for both of our organizations.”

Founded in 1960, Thibodaux, La.-based Rouses currently operates 63 stores across three states and employs more than 7,000 associates. Donny Rouse is the third generation to run the business started by his grandfather, Anthony J. Rouse Sr.