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Kroger's efforts to promote healthier lifestyles

During the sixth annual International Forum on Food & Nutrition, The Kroger Co.'s Lynn Marmer, group vice president for corporate affairs,  discussed the company's efforts — including health-focused incentive programs for employees and lower retail prices in its produce department for customers — to promote a healthy lifestyle and fight obesity.krog

The forum, held at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, Dec. 3-4, was sponsored by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation, a think tank focused on the links between food and nutrition and other social, environmental and economic issues.

Marmer outlined the obesity challenge in the United States — where one-third of children eat "Fast Food" every day and 34 percent of all citizens are obese — and Kroger's efforts to promote healthy living for associates, customers and communities.

Healthier Employees

Kroger, the sixth-largest employer in the United States, gives associates a variety of tools to improve their health, including an incentive program with measurable outcomes to improve workplace wellness.

Since 2010, employees participate in annual health screenings that measure blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, body mass index and blood glucose levels. The percentage of associates meeting targets in each of the four areas has increased from 2010 to 2013, demonstrating improvement in the health of Kroger's workforce.  

"We want our workforce to be the healthiest in America," Marmer said in a press release. "More of our associates meeting health targets each year shows real progress toward that goal. We know that becoming healthier, both individually and collectively, improves our personal and work lives — and that benefits our customers, too."

Earlier this year, Kroger's workplace well-being program received a 'Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles' award from the National Business Group on Health, and the company's commitment to employee health and wellness was recognized by the American Heart Association.

Healthier Customers and Communities

Kroger uses its economies of scale to increase access to healthy foods for more Americans, through both merchandising and food rescue efforts.

"For nine consecutive years, we have lowered our costs of doing business and reinvested those savings in lower food prices that save our customers more than $3 billion every year," Marmer said in the press release. "More recently, we have invested considerably in lower retail prices on fresh fruits and vegetables in our produce department, especially, which is expanding access to healthy foods for our customers. We are equally committed to caring for our neighbors in need. Our Perishable Donations Partnership contributes millions of pounds of fresh, nutritious items annually to food banks across the country."

Kroger's fresh food rescue program is responsible for 25,000 tons of fresh produce, meat, dairy and bakery items donated to food banks last year, which equates to more than 35 million meals of healthy, perishable food to help feed hungry families.

RonProCon expands with new eastern office

RonProCon, a produce consulting service headquartered in Reno, NV, announced that due to increased client demand, it will open a second operating office located in Portland, ME, effective January 2015.

"We have experienced remarkable growth over the years and especially during the past six months, which has greatly increased our customer base," Ron Pelger, president and chief executive officer of RonProCon, said in a press release.Ron-PelgerRon Pelger "To meet the growing demand for our services, we decided it was practical and timely to open a second operating office in Portland, Maine. This will now give us an eastern and western office."

The Portland office will be headed by Dick DelGizzi, a longtime business partner of Pelger at RonProCon, who will assume the position of senior vice president of operations for the company.

"[DelGizzi] has been my right-hand associate for many years and is well-skilled in produce merchandising and operations," Pelger added in the press release.Dick-DelGizziDick DelGizzi "He has a wealth of knowledge and is very well liked by store employees and management due to his energized motivation. DelGizzi will cover the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada and I will cover the western half. There may be times that we will both be working alongside each other in the same stores with our customers when necessary."

"It gives me a pleasure to oversee the new RonProCon operating office in Portland," DelGizzi said in the press release. "I worked alongside Ron Pelger for many years and am well aware of his business techniques, methods and high quality standards for positive results. This will be a great opportunity for us to move forward, which will allow an even larger selection of services for our customers."

RonProCon offers professional services to retailers, growers and shippers. Its specializes in produce merchandising at store level, teaching and training seminars, shrink recovery and control, product growth, sales and profit increase, and other branches of the industry.

"Even though we are primarily produce-oriented, our company has the capability to assist in other levels of the business," Pelger added in the press release. "We have an enormous outreach of professional experts ready to assist in even meat, deli, bakery and groceries if needed. We often spread our overall supermarket experiences with other departments while working in the stores with our client owners and management. Eating and shopping habits change overnight in this business. We stay on course with new ideas and trends that are in demand by today's consumers."

For further information, contact Pelger or DelGizzi at 775/853-7056 or by email at

J&J Family of Farms hires new western sales manager

Because J&J Family of Farms continues to expand into the western region of the United States, the company recently hired Mari Danielson, who will serve as its western sales manager.

Danielson, who was previously the senior sales executive for Sunfed, brings a wide range of produce experience to this new position.

“This is a great opportunity to be able to sell and market all varieties of high-quality produce from a well-established company with a diversified customer base," she said in a press release.Mari ColorMari Danielson "I am very excited to grow my career with the 'Family of Farms' that J&J represents."

Starting her career in the Phoenix wholesale market, Danielson developed hands-on product knowledge of all aspects of the wholesale segment. After moving to Colorado, she was hired as a retail specialist for CH Robinson, working in procurement, sales, merchandising, representation and transportation.

Building on her produce expertise, Danielson opened a logistics and produce company based in Colorado, which provided her with the additional skills and experience in management and administration. In 2006 she re-located to the Nogales area where she was offered the opportunity to expand sales for SunFed.

“With our continued growth in the western region, J&J has now become a national supplier and this has created new opportunities for us to enlarge our sales force and operations,” Brian Rayfield, vice president of business development for J&J, said in the release.  “Mari's produce knowledge combined with her retail and foodservice experience will be an asset to our team.”

Wholesum Harvest earns 'Best' ratings from Whole Foods

Organic grower Wholesum Harvest announced that Whole Foods Market has awarded a “Best” rating to each of the company’s three farms as part of the grocer’s new Responsibly Grown program. The program is designed to help customers make more informed purchases by offering transparency about how their food is grown; it also rewards the growers who are taking steps to protect consumer health and the environment.

A “Best” rating indicates that Wholesum Harvest has demonstrated exceptional efforts to grow responsibly by preserving worker rights and promoting green growing practices — avoiding unhealthy agrochemicals and aggressively pursuing sustainability. Wholesum Harvest met the requirements for a “Best” rating, and even went above the standard by supplying produce that is also certified organic.

“We are honored that Whole Foods Market has recognized our commitment to the environment, our workers and our customers by awarding our farms with 'Best' ratings,” Ricardo Crisantes, Wholesum Harvest general manager, said in a press release. “At Wholesum Harvest, our goal is to leave the Earth better than we found it. We’ve taken steps to conserve and reuse water in our greenhouses; we utilize solar energy as much as possible to supply the energy needs for our facilities; and we use natural methods of pest control rather than dangerous chemical pesticides. Additionally, we are Fair Trade Certified because of our work to protect the health, safety and economic interests of our employees and their families, and also to ensure their access to education and affordable housing. We operate our business this way because we know it to be right, but it is always rewarding and encouraging to be recognized for our hard work.”

Whole Foods Market’s Responsibly Grown program can award growers ratings of “Good,” “Better,” or “Best” if they meet certain criteria. The rating system evaluates growers in the following areas: soil health; air, energy and climate; waste minimization; farm worker welfare; water conservation and protection; ecosystems and biodiversity; and advanced pest management. Growers must offer transparency related to the use of GMOs and may not utilize irradiation treatments or biosolids.

In addition, growers earning a “Best” rating must show that they protect pollinator health and demonstrate industry leadership in the areas of pest control and sustainability.

“Wholesum Harvest is proud to provide our customers with produce that is organic, delicious and responsibly grown," Crisantes said in the release. "We applaud Whole Foods for its efforts to help consumers make informed choices in the produce aisle, while also encouraging growers to make better, healthier choices in their fields and greenhouses.”

Associated Wholesale Grocers names EVP of division operations

Associated Wholesale Grocers announced that David Smith will be promoted to executive vice president of division operations effective Jan. 4. Smith will report to Jerry Garland, president and chief executive officer. In this new role he will have responsibility for AWG operations, corporate distribution, corporate services and IT.

Smith has been in the grocery industry for many years, starting as a teen in a family-owned business and working in various retail roles, including store owner and operator. Prior to joining AWG, David spent 17 years in various wholesale positions with Malone & Hyde and later Fleming, ranging from retail development manager to general manager of the Nashville, TN, division.

Having joined AWG in 2003 as director of real estate, Smith was promoted to director of member services for the Nashville division in 2007. In 2009 he was promoted to vice president of merchandising for the Memphis, TN, division. In conjunction with his contributions in Memphis, Smith was soon promoted to senior vice president and division manager and led the team in the successful start-up of the new Gulf Coast division.