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Albertsons-Safeway merger complete

The Albertsons-Safeway merger, first announced in March 2014, was completed Jan. 30. Under the terms of the agreement Albertsons will acquire all outstanding shares of Safeway. In December, the companies announced the sale of 168 stores to four separate buyers, as divestitures required in order to secure U.S. Federal Trade Commission approval of the transaction.Untitled-2

Robert Edwards, Safeway's president and chief executive officer, is now president and CEO of the newly combined company. Current Albertsons CEO Bob Miller will become executive chairman.

"We plan to be the favorite local supermarket in every community we serve," Edwards said in a press release. "We will do this by knowing, listening to, and delighting our customers; providing the right products at a compelling value; and delivering a superior shopping experience. We will also continue to be active members of our local communities."

"This is a transformative day for both Albertsons and Safeway," Miller said in the press release. "This merger creates a unified, strong organization that is dedicated to bringing a better shopping experience to more customers across the country. Our combined geographic footprint, vast range of brands and products and service-oriented staff will enable us to meet evolving shopping preferences."

The merger will create a diversified network that includes 2,230 stores, 27 distribution facilities and 19 manufacturing plants with over 250,000 employees across 34 states and the District of Columbia.

The new company will be comprised of three regions and 14 retail divisions, supported by corporate offices in Boise, ID, Pleasanton, CA, and Phoenix. Banners will include Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Albertsons, ACME, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw's, Star Market, Super Saver, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Amigos.

United Fresh seeking nominations for chef awards

United Fresh has opened the nomination period for the 2015 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards Program, which honors the foodservice industry’s most innovative produce performers.

The program, sponsored by PRO*ACT LLC since its launch in 2008, has honored 37 different chefs and foodservice operators for their exceptional work in incorporating fresh produce in menu development, proper food safety and handling, engaging in community outreach and building an overall positive dining experience with fresh produce as a centerpiece. 

“Thousands of talented chefs work hard every day to find innovative ways to delight diners with menu items featuring fresh produce,” Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “With PRO*ACT’s continued generous support, we are proud to recognize chefs who are committed to making produce the centerpiece of the meal.”

Chefs will be honored in each of the following business categories: Business in Industry, Casual and Family Dining, Colleges and Universities, Fine Dining Restaurants, Hotels and Healthcare Industry, K-12 Foodservice and Quick Service Restaurants. Winners are selected by a panel of United Fresh member representatives. Nominations must be submitted by March 16, 2015, and nomination information is available at unitedfresh.org.

“Fresh produce continues to drive success for the foodservice sector, and chefs play a critical role in encouraging consumers to explore produce items,” Max Yeater, president of PRO*ACT, added in the press release. “We are proud to continue to support this exceptional program and honor leading chefs who are making fresh produce the highlight of their menus.”

The seven winning chefs and their corporate executives receive complimentary airfare, hotel accommodations and registrations to United Fresh 2015, to be held June 8-10 in Chicago. The winners will be honored at the Retail-Foodservice Celebration Dinner, and the chefs will also participate in the education program at United Fresh 2015 to share their views on produce trends in foodservice. PRO*ACT will also make a donation to a charitable organization of each winner’s choice.

Networking, education and community outreach top the priority list for SEPC president

MILLEN, GA — As Southern Exposure 2015 is expecting another record-breaking event, the Southeast Produce Council is also gearing up to welcome newly appointed board of directors President Mark Daniels. After seven years with Military Produce Group, Daniels in early January joined Global Organic Specialty Source Inc. in Sarasota, FL, as director of sales and procurement, bringing more than 30 years of experience in produce to his presidency.

Officially appointed as SEPC president at the council's 2014 Southern Innovations Symposium (formerly called the fall conference), Daniels will experience his new role as SEPC president in its full capacity at Southern Exposure 2015, set to take place Feb. 25-28 in Orlando, FL. He has his sights set high to exceed expectations of the board and council members.

"We are so happy to have a man of Mark's integrity as our president for the next two years, SEPC Executive Director David Sherrod said in late January. "I have known Mark for many years and consider him to be one of the most genuine people in our industry. Under his direction, I know that the SEPC will be on solid footing and will always be on the forefront of the industry's ever-changing environment."

Daniels' focus during his two-year term will continue to support and enhance the vision of the council by providing a platform for members to build professional relationships in the produce industry through education, networking and community outreach.  

"With events such as Southern Exposure, the Terry Vorhees Charity Golf Classic and the Southern Innovations Symposium, we are continuing to offer the most quality networking events the industry has to offer for both retail/foodservice and suppliers," said Daniels. "We are also proud to help our members grow and succeed in the industry with the best in education at our event workshops, and through programs such as STEP-UPP, Produce Training Inspections and our support of multiple scholarship programs, including the STARS."

Daniels is also very motivated to continue the council's community outreach work that was near and dear to the heart of past Executive Director Terry Vorhees. Daniels is looking to the membership to continue supporting the council's charitable causes with volunteer hours, product donations and financial support year-round to help make a difference. The council proudly supports the following charities: Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Paul Anderson Youth Home, Rockin' Appalachian Mom Project and the Society of St. Andrew.

"One area at the top of my list is to help the board of directors and committee heads expand our committee teams," said Daniels. "These committees are a big part of who we are and how we invest back into the cities and towns we live in. It is my hope that at the end of my term, we have some kind of presence in every state throughout the Southeast."

Daniels is excited about what lies ahead for the Southeast Produce Council and plans to have a great influence on the council and its members. He invites everyone to make a 2015 resolution to get involved, execute a plan and make an impact.

Titan Farms brings sales in-house under new vice president

SAVANNAH, GA — Daryl Johnston made his first appearance here Jan. 9 at the Southeast Regional Fruit & Vegetable Conference as the first vice president for sales at Titan Farms.

Johnston had worked in sales at Southern Specialties in Pompano Beach, FL; B&W Quality Products; and Dole Food Co. He also served as a consultant on reorganization and business development to Pure Fresh in Doral, FL.

Chalmers R. Carr III, who announced the appointment Jan. 6, said the newly created position is part of a move to bring all major functions in-house at the Titan firm.TITAN12615-JOHNSTON--CARRDaryl Johnston, new vice president for sales at Titan Farms, with Chalmers R. Carr III, president.

“We are working to become a fully vertically integrated company, and bringing sales in-house is a big move in that direction,” he told The Produce News. “This change will bring us closer to our retail customers.”

Johnston said he was excited about building a sales division from the ground up. “We will be hiring five or six people for our sales team,” he said. “My portfolio includes marketing and new business development, along with serving our existing customers. My first priority is to get on the road and go see our customers.”

Titan, in Ridge Spring, SC, is a grower-packer-shipper of 2.4 million boxes a year of peaches, broccoli and Bell peppers.

“Representing our own products is a logical step to becoming a national player,” said Carr.

Bringing sales in-house was a three-year project, he explained, with processing the last major move.

“We are looking at getting into frozen, sliced peaches and peach puree,” he said, adding that the final move to processing is in its third and final year.

In addition to adding a sales division, Titan is hard at work building a $6 million packingline, which it plans to open by May 1, as well as making final arrangements for bringing processing operations in-house. And all this is taking place during what the outside observer might characterize as “down time.”

A bit like building an airplane while you are trying to fly it? “It’s not just a way of life,” Carr observed. “It is our life.”

Meijer expanding into Wisconsin with four stores, more planned

Meijer is preparing to expand into Wisconsin with four stores that will open in the greater Milwaukee area this summer. The retailer has plans to open two to three new Wisconsin stores in each of the next four years.

“Foundations are set, floors are poured and the walls are up at our four new Wisconsin stores,” Frank Guglielmi, Meijer senior director of communications, said in a press release.meijer “All of us at Meijer are looking forward to bringing the Meijer experience to new customers in Wisconsin this summer.”

The Grand Rapids, MI-based retailer has confirmed that its stores in Grafton and Kenosha will open this June, and its stores in Oak Creek and Wauwatosa will follow in August. The Kenosha and Oak Creek Meijer stores will also feature a convenience store and gas station.

“By the time we open these great new Wisconsin stores, we will have used 500 miles of wire, 4,000 tons of steel and 16,000 cubic yards of cement to build the four new supercenters,” Guglielmi said. “This will result in state-of-the-art stores that are the best our company has to offer.”

The retailer now has 213 stores throughout the Midwest and has grown steadily by focusing on fresh grocery options, value to customers and community partnership. The new supercenters will feature fresh produce, meat and dairy delivered seven days a week, and a bakery that offers fresh bread baked four times daily. As Meijer stores are open 24 hours a day, customers will have access to these offerings around the clock.

The retailer has a strong family and corporate tradition of caring by giving more than 6 percent of its net profit to charitable organizations each year, including significant support of hunger relief initiatives in the communities it serves. The retailer offers a food rescue program at each of its 213 stores, and has a signature program called Simply Give that has generated more than $12 million for its food pantry partners throughout the Midwest.

Meijer began establishing relationships with Milwaukee area food banks before the retailer broke ground on its new stores. For example, Meijer donated two semi-trucks and trailers to both Hunger Task Force and Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, along with a total of more than 216,000 pounds of food.

“We are very pleased to continue our growth into Wisconsin,” Milwaukee Market Director Chris Hoffmann said in the press release. “We are working diligently to put together a great team to help bring the Meijer difference to customers in Milwaukee and the surrounding communities.

Hoffmann said store directors have already been identified. Longtime Meijer team members Polly Emelander and Tom Livernois, who’ve both held numerous leadership positions, have been named as the Oak Creek and Wauwatosa store directors, respectively. Wisconsin native Steve Talbert has been selected as the Grafton store director, and longtime Meijer Store Director Don Mettler has been selected as the Kenosha store director.

The retailer plans to begin the hiring of more than 1,000 new team members in March.