News Briefs


Hepatitis A Infections Spark Frozen Fruit Recall

frozen strawberries

This time it’s frozen fruit in the food safety spotlight. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is conducting an epidemiological investigation into recent cases of hepatitis A infections tied to frozen organic strawberries. So far, there have been five illnesses and two hospitalizations attributed to the contaminated products.

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In response, several brands and retailers have issued a recall of the berries that were sourced from a common supplier in Mexico. The vendor California Splendor voluntarily recalled certain 4-pounds bags of Kirkland Signature frozen organic whole strawberries sold at Costco stores in Los Angeles and Hawaii. Another vendor, Scenic Fruit, provided now-recalled products to retailers including Costco, ALDI, KeHE and PCC Community Markets in specific states. The recall also includes Organic Tropical Fruit Blend SKUs sold at Trader Joe’s stores nationwide.

The FDA advised consumers to discard the products and, if those berries were eaten in the past two weeks, to contact their health care provider if they have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A.

For more information on the outbreak investigation, go to FDA's website.


Women Grocers of America Creates Share Group

Women Talking Teaser

Women Grocers of America is rolling out the Emerging Female Leaders Network, a share group for female leaders in the independent grocery industry who want to grow their professional network and ramp up their leadership development.

The new share group will debut in tandem with the spring gathering of the Executive Female Leaders Network (EXFL), meeting at the first half of the event on May 1-2 in Chicago. 

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Among the objectives of the share group will be establishing and growing connections and relationships with women in the grocery industry, learning new skills to support professional development, increasing confidence and acquiring tools to advance professionally, and learning more about the overall grocery industry, including consumer and market trends. 

“WGA continues to enjoy great success and growth in interest and membership after the inaugural EXFL meeting in Washington, D.C., last October, when more than 40 women met for two days of professional and personal development,” noted Kristin Popp, president of Women Grocers of America, which is part of the Washington, D.C.-based National Grocers Association, and EVP of Janesville, Wis.-based Woodman’s Markets. “This new share group will boost mentoring opportunities and allow women executives to nurture the next generation of leadership for our industry.” 

With a targeted attendance of 12-15 women, the share group will meet in spring and fall with the executive network, in addition to various virtual touchpoints, creating a mentor “buddy” system among its members and members of EXFL. Participants must attend virtual and in-person events.


Walgreens' U.S. Locations Transitioning to Phenol-Free Paper Receipts

receipt teaser

Walgreens Boots Alliance is continuing with its company-wide changeover to phenol-free paper receipts. The transition consists of a phased approach, which began with all of its Boots locations in the United Kingdom, and the retailer is now working to complete the phenol-free changeover at all of its nearly 9,000 Walgreens and Duane Reade stores in the United States by the end of 2023. 

Phenol-based chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) or bisphenol S (BPS) were used to coat thermal papers. These chemicals protected the paper and printer against overheating.

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However, studies have found that long-term handling of these chemicals – even in small amounts – can have a negative impact on health, affecting hormones, metabolism and other bodily functions.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Walgreens also began offering a completely “no contact” checkout option for customers, including the ability to receive digital- only receipts. Currently, according to the company, this step alone is saving 87 miles of receipt paper every day.

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens, which operates nearly 9,000 retail locations across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, is No. 5 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Naturipe Farms Focuses on Premium With New Position

John Johnston

Naturipe Farms, a century-old, farmer-owned producer of berries and avocados, has created and filled a new position of director of premium products. John Johnston is taking on that role, bringing more than 15 years of food and agribusiness experience to Naturipe.

Among other suppliers, Johnston has worked for Driscoll’s, Chiquita, Fresh Express and H.J. Heinz. He is also an active volunteer member and leader at the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

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In the new premium product position, Johnston will work to leverage Naturipe’s grower/owner investments in proprietary genetics. He will oversee current premium products like Mighty Blues, Mighty Reds and Greenhouse Strawberries and guide the development of new offerings.

“I am extremely excited to bring John on board as he is going to be an outstanding addition to the best berry team in the world,” said Jim Roberts, president of sales. “His focus on premium products will help further differentiate Naturipe Farms from our competitors and provide a return on the investments our owners have made on new genetics focused on flavor and quality.” Johnston will report directly to Roberts. 

In addition to premium products, Naturipe Farms markets a variety of fresh, frozen and value-added items produced by a diverse grower base. Founded in 1917, the company is based in Salinas, Calif.


Erewhon Opens 9th Store in SoCal


Independent organic grocer Erewhon is readying its latest store in California. The new location at 9300 Culver Boulevard in downtown Culver City known for its film studios and growing tech hub will open on March 22.

Erewhon, which holds Certified B Corp and Certified Organic Retailer accreditations, has long staked a claim in the region for its organic offerings and commitment to supporting local growers and sustainable agricultural practices. This is the indie retailer’s ninth store in area and the second largest in terms of its footprint.

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In addition to a wide assortment of fresh products, including produce, meat, dairy and eggs, the Culver City Erewhon carries several grab-and-go and foodservice-at-retail options. The location includes a juice and coffee bar, sushi selection and fresh soup bar, along with Erewhon’s signature Organic Tonic Bar and The Organic Café.

“We are excited and glad to be part of Culver City,” said CEO Tony Antoci. “We are proud to serve this community and to extend our ethos as a company to a city that is innovative, environmentally conscious and growing.”

Erewhon Market was founded more than 50 years ago and is making plans beyond this Culver City outpost. The family-owned grocer shared that it is working on its 10th location in Pasadena, with a planned opening later this year. In addition to operating stores in the Southern California region, the retailer offers national shipping.


Dollar Tree Pauses Egg Sales

Dollar Tree

As food price inflation persists across the U.S., Dollar Tree Inc. has discontinued egg sales at its Dollar Tree banner stores, according to a Reuters report. Though Dollar Tree-owned Family Dollar stores will continue selling eggs, Dollar Tree’s move is expected to last until the fall. 

Eggs, which have been in the spotlight for price surges, saw prices as high as $7.37 per dozen in California in January. Prices did dip 6.7% in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) data. The general meat, poultry, fish and eggs category declined 0.1% over the month, which was the first decrease in that index since December 2021.

During its fourth-quarter and full fiscal year 2022 earnings report earlier this month, Dollar Tree announced that it will continue expanding on its investment in food. The company plans to add 16,000 cooler doors in 2023 to accommodate more frozen and refrigerated items, with a goal of having 30 doors per store.

Dollar Tree, which had better-than-expected financial results for fourth quarter and FY22, is also expected to introduce more store-branded products in the back half of this year.

Chesapeake, Va.-based Dollar Tree operated 16,293 stores under the Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree Canada banners across 48 states and five Canadian provinces as of Oct. 29. The company is No. 29 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.