News Briefs


Instacart Enables Custom Digital Ordering on FoodStorm Platform

Instacart FoodStorm Teaser

FoodStorm, Instacart’s order management system (OMS), has introduced new capabilities to streamline the process of selling, managing and fulfilling personalized made-to-order items, according to a June 27 blog post by Rob Hill, who was CEO of FoodStorm until San Francisco-based Instacart acquired it in 2021, whereupon he joined the latter company as general manager, order ahead. With these new features, retailers can expand their online assortments, provide customers with a more engaging ordering experience and implement a seamless order management process for their teams.

Using the FoodStorm platform, customers can now easily communicate their requests and directly personalize their orders, both online and in-store. For instance, if a customer is placing a custom birthday cake order, they can select the flavor, frosting and even add personalized messages, reducing the need for associates to manually add separate notes to the order. 

“The ability to offer our customers fully customized sandwiches from our deli counter has revolutionized our business,” noted John Acierno, owner of Joseph’s Classic Market, an independent grocer operating four locations in Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens, Delray Beach and West Palm Beach, Fla. “Not only has it significantly boosted our sales, but it has also transformed our in-store operations, allowing us to fulfill the desires our customers have been longing for. We can now deliver an exceptional and personalized experience that keeps our customers coming back for more.”

FoodStorm’s OMS empowers grocers to seamlessly manage their foodservice business, enabling them to expand the number of products offered, improve the customer experience and ultimately optimize in-store operations.


Waste Prevention Effort Adds Up at Natural Grocers

Natural Grocers

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc. is marking a sustainability milestone. The organic and natural grocer revealed that it has prevented 500 million single-use plastic bags from having an impact on the environment.

According to Natural Grocers, its use of disposable bag-free checkouts and other practices began in 2009 with a Bring Your Own Bag program. In addition to diverting waste, the program has helped local communities, as the grocer donates 5 cents to a local food bank every time shoppers bring their own bags.

[Read more: "Natural Grocers Keeps Growing Its House Brand"]

"Natural Grocers is proud to achieve this milestone with the help of our conscientious customers. Eliminating the use of plastic bags at checkout was a system-level decision that was enthusiastically embraced by our company, customers and good4u Crew, knowing it was an important way to reduce the environmental impact of plastic bag waste,” said Raquel Isely, VP of marketing. “This practice has also enabled us to donate over $1.5 million to our local food banks, which perfectly aligns with one of our Five Founding Principles, 'A Commitment to Community.

As it attains one sustainability milestone, the retailer continues to work toward other goals to reduce waste and optimize resources. Three years ago, Natural Grocers switched to plant-based compostable produce bags and 100% recycled, recyclable and compostable paper bags, and recently halved the use of plastic stretch wrap in its bulk packaging facility and distribution center.

Family-operated Natural Grocers operates 166 stores in 21 states. The Lakewood, Colo.-based natural and organic grocer is No. 95 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named Natural Grocers one of its 10 Most Sustainable Grocers


Tops Adopts EBT SNAP Online on Flashfood App Via Forage

Flashfood Forage Tops Teaser

Tops Markets LLC is now accepting EBT SNAP online on the Flashfood app, thanks to payments company Forage. The grocer’s customers can use their smartphones to browse the Flashfood marketplace for heavily discounted groceries and save up to 50% on items nearing their best-by date, including meat, dairy, seafood, fresh produce, bakery items and center store foods. As of today, purchases can be paid for with an EBT card and then retrieved from the Flashfood Zone inside participating stores. 

“As a company committed to feeding more families, we’re thrilled to expand our partnership with Flashfood and launch EBT as an online payment method for Tops Friendly Markets,” said Ofek Lavian, co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Forage. “We are proud to help provide access to affordable, healthy groceries for low-income Americans that continue to struggle with the realities of food insecurity and inflation.”  

Forage, which received USDA approval to process EBT transactions in August 2022, is the primary processor of EBT payments for Shopify merchants, and works with independent grocers, marketplaces and platforms to power EBT SNAP online. 

To date, Toronto-based Flashfood has teamed with more than 1,700 stores across North America.

Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops has approximately 150 supermarkets, including five franchise stores, and employs more than 14,000 associates in New York, northern Pennsylvania and western Vermont. The banner’s parent company, Northeast Grocery Inc., is No. 45 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. 


Hegedorns Market to Shutter in New York


A family-owned independent grocer in Webster, N.Y., dating back nearly 87 years is closing its doors. Hegedorns Market will serve its last customers this week in the town of nearly 5,400 east of Rochester.

Hegedorns began as a dairy market in 1936 during the Great Depression and moved into purveying groceries in 1953. The 45,000-square-foot store at 964 Ridge Road offered a variety of grocery essentials and featured full-service meat, bakery and produce departments. The store also served customers with a catering department and onsite flower shop.

[Read more: "Southernmost Illinois City Gets 1st Food Store in 7 Years"]

In one of its last circulars, Hegedorns owners thanked the community for its decades of support and praised the nearly 200 team members who staffed the location. The family noted that its loyal customers helped them provide first-time jobs for hundreds of young people and donate to various community organizations, schools, churches and scouting groups over the years. 

Shoppers posted their sentiments on social media, with one sharing, “I was there 2 hours ago… took lots of pictures, went down every aisle, lots of them empty. Just had to get their famous donuts one last time. Spent over $150 and got a Hegedorns grocery bag as a thank you. I sure am going to miss shopping here.”

Increased competition, including from Wegmans Food Markets based in nearby Rochester, factored into the family's decision to close the store. “We have two Wegmans within three miles of us, we have an ALDI’s, Target and Walmart. Years ago, we didn’t have that to compete with. Even though we offered certain things that we feel were better than the competition, it wasn’t enough financially,” owner Johnathon Gonzales told the WROC television news station in March.

The store’s last day will be Thursday, June 29.


Shipt Introduces Hosting Hub

Shipt Hosting Hub Teaser

To help customers host successful summer celebrations, Shipt has rolled out its first-ever Hosting Hub, which provides curated lists of trending products suitable for summer parties, as well as items for all occasions from such retailers as Target and Meijer.

Customers planning a party or event can go to the Shipt app or web browser, find the right occasion under the hub’s list and shop from there. Once their carts are full, customers can get their orders the same day via Shipt’s personalized shopping and delivery offering. 

[Read more: "Shipt Partners With Actress Issa Rae on New Advertisements"]

“The Hosting Hub was created to serve and delight Shipt customers,” explained Aspen Stough, Shipt’s director of digital merchandising. “We wanted to make a fun, dynamic place for party hosts to find everything they needed in one place while being inspired by new ideas and products they might not have tried yet. Our team has had fun putting together these lists and can’t wait to see how our customers use them to celebrate all their most important moments.” 

The hub will be updated seasonally to include moments like sports tailgates, Halloween, Thanksgiving and other occasions. Current features include lists for birthdays, baby showers, wedding showers and dinner parties. 

While any customer can access the Hosting Hub on Shipt’s platform, the company recently launched a number of membership perks. Shipt is also offering a $20 off membership June 22-25. 

With offices in Birmingham, Ala., and San Francisco, Shipt is an independently operated, wholly owned subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Target Corp., which is No. 6 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, with nearly 2,000 locations. Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer is No. 23 on PG’s list.


NGA Hires Business Development VP

NGA Anita Nunez Cepollaro Teaser

Anita Nuñez Cepollaro has joined the National Grocers Association (NGA), which represents the independent supermarket industry, as VP of business development. In her new role, Nuñez Cepollaro will help drive membership growth and NGA’s non-dues revenue programs such as event sponsorships and advertising initiatives. She joins the trade organization from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, where she was director of programs.

“Anita brings extensive experience in association management, including sales, fundraising and events, which will greatly enhance NGA’s level of service for its members,” noted Jonathan Downey, SVP of membership and industry relations at Washington, D.C.-based NGA.

[Read More: "NGA Announces Staff Changes, Updates"]

Nuñez Cepollaro earlier worked at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admissions Officers, Visit Baltimore, Hilton Worldwide, Discover Puerto Rico and the Association of Latino Professionals for America.

“I’m eager to meet and build relationships with NGA members, sponsors and partners who are the bloodline of the organization,” said Nuñez Cepollaro. “I look forward to leading the efforts in identifying, developing and executing growth opportunities that will help expand NGA’s capabilities and services.”

Nuñez Cepollaro holds a bachelor of science degree in early childhood development from West Virginia University. Born in Washington, D.C., she now lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two young children.