News Briefs


Trader Joe’s Samples Make a Triumphant Return

TJ customer

Consumers on the path to discovery at Trader Joe’s can once again get a taste of products that pique their interest. According to the latest “Inside Trader Joe’s” podcast, the pandemic-related hiatus on sampling is over.

“Demo is back!” asserted company crew members during the podcast episode.  The podcast was recorded during the recent Captains Meeting of store leaders held in Los Angeles.

Going forward, sampling at Trader Joe’s stores will take a different tack.  “We want to focus a little more on new products. Things not necessarily on your shopping list, but things we’re excited to share,” noted Matt Sloan, VP of marketing at the grocer.

A store leader named Ken from the Trader Joe’s in Somerville, Mass. explained the approach in more detail: “I think one of the hardest things is we have all these new products that we can talk about with our customers, but we want our customers to try it … I think demo is kind of that next shared experience with food, and in our culture, food is everything.”

Also during the Captains Meeting, winners of the Trader Joe’s Golden Potsticker awards were revealed. The award recognizes locations and crews that exhibit strong connections with their customers and neighborhoods – in other words, stores that are especially nice. Winners include Store 5-5-9 in Staten Island, N.Y.; Store 5-7-1/Bridgemarket in New York City; and Store 5-5-2 in Oceanside, N.Y.

With more than 500 stores in 40-plus states, Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s is No. 27 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America


Pete and Gerry’s Organics Gets New CEO

Flocco headshot

Pete and Gerry's Organics LLC is bringing on a seasoned CPG executive as its new CEO. Tom Flocco, most recently the president and COO of Utz Brands, is taking the reins of the Monroe, N.H.-based organic, free-range and pasture-raised egg provider.

Flocco’s 35-year background in the CPG industry and other sectors also includes a stint as president and CEO of distilled spirits company Beam Suntory. In addition, he is chairman of Everglades Boats and was a partner at McKinsey & Co. in its consumer practice.

“We are thrilled to have Tom join Pete and Gerry's leadership team as CEO. Tom is an impressive executive with a wealth of experience across food and consumer businesses that will help us accelerate the company's growth and further its mission,” noted Adam Waglay, co-founder of Los Angeles-based Butterfly Equity, which holds a majority interest in Pete and Gerry’s.

Flocco, who started his career at Procter & Gamble, said that he is looking forward to guiding Pete & Gerry’s at a time increased consumer interest in such products. “Pete and Gerry’s is a pioneer in the premium egg category, with tremendous growth potential as consumers demand more nutritious, sustainable and humanely raised eggs. I look forward to working with our team members, our family farmers and our customers to continue on this incredible journey,” he observed.

Pete and Gerry’s portfolio includes Pete and Gerry’s Organic, Nellie’s Free Range and Consider Pastures eggs. The company became the first Certified Humane egg producer in the United States in 2003, and a decade later, it was the first egg producer in the world to achieve Certified B Corporation status.



Kowalski’s Markets Showcases Private Label Offerings

Kowalski's signature teaser

The waning of the pandemic means that many in-store tasting experiences are back. Kowalski’s Markets, in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, is celebrating A Taste of Kowalski’s on Oct. 15 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

At this in-store event, shoppers can check out the latest additions to the regional grocer’s private label line and sample an array of store-brand favorites. Kowalski’s will also share recipes using private label and other products.

The independent grocer continues to expand its private label offerings. In September, Kowalski’s introduced a new blueberry small-batch jam, organic Crunchy Munchy Mix, and additional Maple Oat and Triple Berry varieties of granola.  

Operating 11 stores across the Twin Cities, Woodbury, Minn.-based Kowalski’s was founded in 1983 by Mary Anne and the late Jim Kowalski, and is currently run by Mary Anne and her daughter, CEO Kris Kowalski Christiansen. It’s the only grocery store in the area with a department devoted to gifts.


Uber Freight, Procurant Offer Innovative Produce Shipping Solution

Uber Freight teaser

Produce shipping is about to be transformed thanks to a partnership between cloud-based software company Procurant and Uber Freight. The companies are rolling out an innovative shipping option for retailers and suppliers of fresh produce that promises to offer relief to the grocery industry.

The Procurant Ship feature allows produce suppliers with a Procurant account to view a competitive transportation rate and secure shipment of a specific load while responding to an active purchase order. This will provide immediate access to available quality carrier capacity to help streamline carrier selection and provide real-time, in-transit visibility.

[Read more: "New Software Improves Connectivity Between Fresh Produce Suppliers and Buyers"]

“This partnership is a game-changer for grocery retailers and their produce suppliers, and it will bring much-needed relief to an industry struggling with rising transportation costs and truck availability,” said Eric Peters, CEO of Watsonville, Calif.-based Procurant. “With this partnership, we move one step closer to a more cost-effective and streamlined fresh food supply chain.”

According to Matt Menner from San Francisco-based Uber Freight: “It’s imperative that produce suppliers are able to reliably source cost-effective, safe and reliable transportation services. And as freight rates [remain] volatile, new technologies can help suppliers ensure food stays fresh and arrives on time. Through this exciting partnership with Procurant, we enhance the resilience of produce supply chains by reducing waste, keeping costs down, moving produce more efficiently, and ultimately better supporting the communities we serve."


Which Candy Will Americans be Reaching for This Halloween?

Reese's Cups teaser

The Kroger Co. has revealed America’s top 10 favorite candies, with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups coming in at No. 1 and Snickers bars at No. 2. The ranking is based on 2022 sales projections that are based on sales from the previous year during the same period.

The top 10 candy sellers are as follows:

1. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Kit Kat
Hershey Bar
5. Tootsie Roll
Milky Way
3 Musketeers

"This Halloween, we expect our shoppers will purchase more than 11.5 million bags of fun sized candy — 7.6 million pounds of chocolate — to celebrate the season and make it a memorable experience," said Carlo Baldan, group VP of center store merchandising. "Trick-or-Treaters can look forward to their candy haul having lots of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers and Kit Kat bars."

The grocer also shared that monster-sized variety bags account for 40% of all Halloween candy sales at Kroger, and that the top-selling Halloween bag is made by Hershey's and contains Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kat bars, Heath bars, Whoppers, Milk Duds and Rolos.

Serving 60 million households annually nationwide through a digital shopping experience, and almost 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names, Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 4 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Badger Technologies Teams With BRdata Software to Transform Grocery Ops

Badger Technologies Teams with BRdata Software Solutions

Robotics pioneer Badger Technologies, a product division of Jabil, has teamed with BRdata Software Solutions to assist grocers in attaining actionable data and aggregated analytics to improve store profitability, operational efficiencies and shopping experiences. Real-time inventory, pricing and trend data collected by Badger multipurpose autonomous robots can be ingested by Melville, N.Y.-based BRdata’s cloud-based retail software to quickly identify discrepancies and resolve on-shelf product and pricing problems across order fulfillment, warehouse, inventory, point of sale, and e-commerce systems.

“We are excited to collaborate with BRdata to provide grocers with a comprehensive view into what’s really happening on their store shelves every day,” said William “BJ” Santiago, CEO of Nicholasville, Ky.-based Badger Technologies. “Independent grocers, in particular, will benefit from the integration of our robot-collected data and dashboards with BRdata’s enterprise retail software to maximize sales and profits.”

[Read more: "Vallarta Supermarkets Adds Robots to 6 Stores"]

At the BRdata World user conference, taking place Oct. 2-6 in Hauppauge, N.Y., Woodman’s Markets is highlighting its use of Badger Technologies’ autonomous robots, as well as the opportunity to combine in-store data with BRdata’s enterprise software suite. An employee-owned grocery chain with 19 stores throughout Wisconsin and Illinois, Woodman’s is known for its product selection, which typically spans 100,000 items at each location.

“Our automated shelf scans have not only improved Woodman’s inventory strategies, but we also gain critical trending insights to better forecast and manage third-party suppliers,” said Kristin Popp, EVP at Janesville, Wis.-based Woodman’s. “Combining the data gathered by the Badger robots with the capabilities across the BRdata cloud ecosystem will enhance our mission to provide the widest variety of grocery items at the best prices.”