BI-LO seeking products for 'BI-LOcal' program

BI-LO is giving local entrepreneurs across North Carolina and South Carolina the opportunity to have their products featured on store shelves, including fresh local produce.

On April 16, representatives from the grocery chain will host a local sourcing event in Greenville, SC, where chosen entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to present their products to a selection committee.

The “BI-LOcal” program aims to connect customers to the highly innovative suppliers within their own communities by making local products more accessible. The multistate campaign launched in January 2014 in Charleston, SC, where 13 entrepreneurs now have products located in BI-LO stores throughout the South Carolina's Low Country as a result. Most recently, the program was implemented in Chattanooga, TN, where 19 businesses were selected to market 92 products at 30 BI-LO stores in southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia.

“We wanted to bring the program back to the Carolinas because we know these communities have some of the best local offerings, as well as a passionate culture of food backed by traditional roots,” Nicole Hatfield, senior manager of local business at Bi-Lo Holdings, said in a press release.

The program also has a strong focus on supplier diversity, which aims to develop beneficial, long-term and successful partnerships with a diverse group of business owners. About half of the products selected in the program thus far have been from minority-, women- or veteran-owned businesses.

“We operate in one of the most diverse areas of the country,” Derek Lott, senior director of supplier diversity at Bi-Lo Holdings, said in the press release. “Our desire is to provide local products and services that reflect that diversity.”

In addition to local produce, the company is seeking sauces, salsas and marinades; packaged mixes, spices and rubs; packaged frozen foods; and bottled, canned or packaged beverages.

All products must be made in North or South Carolina, have a UPC code and be delivered Directed Store Delivery. Entrepreneurs looking for more information or to apply should contact

Fresh & Easy closing stores as it looks to become 'fresh food convenience store'

Fresh & Easy is reportedly closing at least 50 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada as it pursues a new business model. Remaining stores will see some changes, as Fresh & Easy is working with ADMI, the firm behind the design of the Apple Store, to design the Fresh & Easy store of the future -- a concept that the company believes represents the future of convenience retail and puts Fresh & Easy into a category of one: a fresh food convenience store.

"Fresh & Easy has spent much of the past year-and-a-half since transitioning to new ownership transforming into a new business focused on delivering a new vision of modern convenience," according to Brendan Wonnacott, company spokesman. In October of 2013 Fresh & Easy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and subsequently sold its stores to the Yucaipa Cos. "This transformation was always going to be a challenge but the company has accomplished several major initiatives, including a massive renovation project and re-launch in Las Vegas with an all-new fresh food concept," he said.

According to a company statement, Fresh & Easy is now in a better position to rationalize its store base and divest locations that do not meet the criteria of Fresh & Easy’s model of modern convenience. "This move allows the company to redeploy capital into development and growth, including a 3,000- to 5,000-square-foot store to provide a higher level of convenience and greater density," Wonnacott said.

In March the company rolled out a new e-commerce Click & Collect service in Las Vegas, which will serve as a test for a wider rollout.

The company said it has also put innovation at the forefront of the transformation of its food manufacturing business, building a successful third-party business model out of its Riverside commissary facilities.

Farmworker strike in Baja California causes minor disruptions

A strike by farmworkers the week of March 16-20 in southern Baja California did cause some disruption of shipments of produce, but a couple of sources said it did not cause major problems.

David Castanedo, who is on the sales desk for Baja Best Distributing Inc. in San Diego, said the strike did not affect his firm’s farms in that region, nor the farms of most of the other major shippers of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other vegetables.

A report in the Los Angeles Times and in some Spanish language videos on YouTube indicated to Castanedo that the issue concerned mostly strawberry and raspberry production. He said the YouTube video from workers demanded labor wages of $3 per tray for raspberry pickers.

“The market is only $5, so if you add in the containers and the clamshells, that is too high,” he said.

In any event, Castanedo said the striking workers were impeding transportation but not preventing harvesting at most Baja California farms. He said Baja Best had diverted its U.S.-bound trucks to a less-traveled route to make the trip into United States without disruption.

Speaking on Monday, March 23, Castanedo was not aware of further disruptions this week.

Mike Aiton, marketing manager of Prime Time International in Coachella, CA, also had heard of the labor unrest in Baja the previous week but did not know the extent of the problem. He said Prime Time’s Baja production would pick up next week (March 30-April 3), and the firm had very limited production last week. He had heard of a few trucks being delayed.

While the newspaper report in the Los Angeles Times spoke of supply gaps in organic strawberries, for the most part strawberry production has moved north to Southern and Coastal California, including farms in Orange County, Oxnard, Santa Maria and even in Watsonville. Currently Mexico provides relatively few strawberries to the U.S. market.

Listeria risk prompts Wegmans recall

Wegmans Food Markets Inc. is recalling approximately 12,540 packages of Wegmans Organic Food You Feel Good About Just Picked frozen spinach due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. The product was sold in the frozen food department of the company’s 85 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts between Jan. 27 and March 21.

No illnesses associated with this recall have been reported to date, but Wegmans will place automated phone calls to customers who purchased the product using their Shoppers Club card.

Only packages (UPC 77890-32932) with the following codes are affected: Best used by Jan. 26, 2017 50265; and Best used by Feb. 2, 2017 50335.

This product is supplied to Wegmans by Twin City Foods Inc., which is based in Stanwood, WA.

Listeria is a bacterium that can contaminate foods and cause a mild non-invasive illness or a severe, sometimes life-threatening, illness. Persons who have the greatest risk of experiencing listeriosis after consuming foods contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes are fetuses and neonates who are infected after the mother is exposed to it during pregnancy, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems. Customers who have experienced these symptoms and are concerned should contact their physician.


Village Farms inks distribution deal with Florida Organic Farms

vil1Village Farms International Inc., with U.S. headquarters in Heathrow, FL, and Florida Organic Farms International LLC, located in Okeechobee, FL, jointly announced an exclusive distribution agreement between the two companies.

Village Farms will offer USDA-certified organic fruits and vegetable to its customers beginning this fall. The agreement marks the first time Village has partnered with another grower to offer organic produce under one of the company’s labels.

vil2“We are happy to be able to offer our customers local U.S. organically grown produce,” Michael A. DeGiglio, president and chief executive officer of Village Farms, said in a press release.

“This is a great opportunity for Florida Organic Farms to offer its organically grown products to retailers to meet the ever-increasing demand for this consumer growth segment,” Joseph J. Rieger, founder and CEO of Florida Organic Farms, added in the press release.