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Walmart, one of the nation’s largest private employers with nearly 1.5 million associates in the United States, plans to create U.S. jobs and invest in local communities across the country. The investments in the coming year will support an estimated 34,000 jobs through continued expansion and improvement in the company’s store network, as well as e-commerce services, while providing specialty training for more than 225,000 of the company’s frontline associates.

Walmart is planning $6.8 billion of capital investments in the U.S. in the coming fiscal year, which includes construction and remodeling of stores, clubs and distribution centers, as well as the expansion of new services such as online grocery pickup. Walmart’s fiscal year begins Feb. 1

"Walmart is investing to better serve customers,” Dan Bartlett, Walmart executive vice president for corporate affairs, said in a press release. “With a presence in thousands of communities and a vast supplier network, we know we play an important role in supporting and creating American jobs.”

Approximately 10,000 retail jobs are expected to be created through the opening of 59 new, expanded and relocated Walmart and Sam’s Club facilities as well as e-commerce services. Additionally, an estimated 24,000 construction jobs supported through the opening of those facilities, plus the remodeling and improvement of existing U.S. facilities.

By July of this year, Walmart will open 160 new training academies around the country, bringing the total number of Academies to 200. More than 225,000 associates will receive up to six weeks of specialty training and graduate from the academies in 2017.

The Walmart Academies are a network of facilities where frontline hourly supervisors and assistant store managers receive hands-on training in retail fundamentals, leadership skills and the specifics of how to run individual store departments. The training is designed to help associates be successful in their careers and in meeting the changing needs of customers.

The company’s investment in American jobs includes a 2013 commitment to purchase an additional $250 billion in American-made, grown, assembled and sourced products through 2023, estimated to help create 1 million jobs, based on data from Boston Consulting Group.

Under the initiative, Walmart works with thousands of suppliers to help them gain access to the retailer’s shelves in stores and online. In the coming year, the program will continue to provide job-creating opportunities.




A new analysis of the apple category revealed that the late-winter and early-spring months represent the peak season for distribution and sales of the top branded apples.

According to the study, expanded distribution of premium branded apples and aggressive retail promotions during this period drive consumers' transaction size, increasing overall apple category performance for supermarkets.KIKU-at-Retail

CMI Orchards, the exclusive U.S. grower of Ambrosia and co-marketer of U.S.-grown KIKU, Kanzi, Jazz, Envy and Pacific Rose, initiated the study to evaluate key category trends and opportunities. The analysis shows that the period beginning in mid-January and extending to mid-April marks the peak months for maximizing most branded apples.

According to Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for CMI Orchards, based in Wenatchee, WA, the national supermarket scan data results show that in particular, February and March are key months for capturing incremental sales with branded apples.

"The data reveals that retailers with the strongest performance in the overall apple category focus on extracting incremental sales by highlighting branded apples for their customers," he said. "Mid-January to mid-April are the key months when leading retailers entice consumers to try these new apples. During this period, branded apples are perfectly positioned to replace category dollars that are lost as local and regional apples decline in availability."

Lutz said the strongest performing retailers develop distribution and promotion strategies to transition customers into branded apples, maintaining category momentum despite the fact that many regional apples disappear from supermarket shelves.

The national scan data shows that distribution and sales of branded apples like Ambrosia, KIKU, Kanzi, Jazz and Envy all jump in January with momentum that carries into April, according to Lutz, who said, "The scan data shows in the fall branded apples typically generate about 5 percent of total sales, but this number doubles after the first of the year. Retailers that miss this window to fully promote branded apple sales leave dollars on the table.

"It shouldn't surprise anyone that the retailers with the strongest performance in branded apples are also the retailers with the strongest overall apple category," Lutz added.

Lutz said that many retailers build a following for branded apples during the winter months and carry that momentum into future seasons. He noted that most of the new branded apples like KIKU, Kanzi and others carry retail prices over $2 per pound. "As supermarkets shift consumer purchases, they simultaneously drive the average category transaction because shoppers buy apples with a higher average price."

Robb Myers, vice president of sales for CMI, said the broader distribution of branded apples after the holidays historically reinvigorates the apple category.

"With Ambrosia, the three strongest weeks of the entire season occur in mid-January, mid-March and two weeks in April," said Myers. "With some of the local and regional competition wrapping up, we're entering one of the best periods of the year to expose customers to branded apples."

Myers said supplies of branded apples in larger sizes are in good shape to support late-winter retail promotions. "We're really excited about the quality and size of the Ambrosia, KIKU and Kanzi we have coming out of storage. We also see strong opportunities with larger sizes in Envy and Pacific Rose."

Myers added that retailers should also strongly consider two-pound pouch bags as an opportunity to introduce consumers to branded apples. He said the strength of the pouch bag is the colorful, high-graphic package that reinforces the quality of the product in the bag.

"Look at CMI's two-pound Ambrosia pouch bag," he said. "It's the No. 1 selling two-pound apple bag in the U.S. No other apple out-sells it, including Honeycrisp."

Myers said that supplies of branded apples for the balance of January through April are excellent. "We expect to see record sales of Ambrosia over the next 10 to 12 weeks. Supplies of KIKU, Kanzi and Jazz are also strong, so there is every reason retailers should expect to drive big sales with these apples."

Delaware Gov.-elect John Carney announced Friday, Jan. 13, his selection of Michael Scuse as the state's next secretary of agriculture. Nominations to the governor's Cabinet must be confirmed by the Delaware Senate, and confirmation hearings are planned for Jan. 18 and Jan. 25, according to the announcement. Scuse, whose confirmation is expected, would succeed Ed Kee, who has served as the state's secretary of agriculture since 2009.ScuseMichael Scuse

The Delaware Department of Agriculture promotes and supports the state's agricultural industry, oversees food inspection services to protect Delaware consumers, ensures agricultural compliance statewide, and helps conserve forest resources.

Scuse has served as the acting deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture since March 2016, helping support the national agricultural industry, promote vibrant rural communities, and open new markets for America's farmers, according to the announcement.

Previously, Scuse was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, leading efforts to promote American agricultural products globally. From 2001 to 2008, Scuse served as Delaware's secretary of agriculture under then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

"Agriculture is crucially important to our economy and way of life, particularly in southern Delaware," Gov.-elect Carney said in the announcement. "Over the next four years, we'll take action to preserve Delaware's farmland, help farmers better protect our environment, and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens to help smaller farmers succeed. Michael is uniquely qualified to lead that work."

Stemilt Growers and its founding family, the Mathisons, were given one of three 2017 Civil Rights and Social Justice Awards Jan. 14. The award was given by the city of Wenatchee, WA, and its Diversity Advisory Council during its annual Multicultural and Martin Luther King Jr. Festival. This is the 13th year that the Civil Rights and Social Justice Awards have been given out.Tate-Mathison-and-Wenatchee-Mayor-Frank-KuntzTate Mathison and Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz.

Stemilt was selected as the winner in the business category for its impact in the lives of children and families, migrant workers, the homeless and other underserved or disadvantaged groups in the greater Wenatchee area. The company’s long-time program offering its employees free on-site English classes through the Wenatchee Literacy Council and its recent $150,000 donation to Lighthouse Christian Ministries to aid in the building of a new community soup kitchen were two examples of how Stemilt is making a difference in its community.

The company was also praised for the unique Stemilt Family Clinic, a medical clinic and pharmacy located at its Euclid Street facility that offers free, primary care services to all Stemilt employees and their dependents. Stemilt’s employees are well-known for their generosity and service in the local community. For the past four years, Stemilt’s employees have joined together to provide every child in foster care in central Washington with a gift from their holiday wish list.

Tate Mathison, director of sales at Stemilt, accepted the company’s nomination late last week, and his wife, Lauren Mathison, was on site to accept the award on Saturday.

“This is quite the honor for the Mathison family and the entire Stemilt team,” West Mathison, Stemilt president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “Our company mission focuses on cultivating people, and these programs that were recognized are a step towards doing that. We have the best team at Stemilt, and are grateful for their commitment and hard work in making our company, and our community better today than it was yesterday.”







A year-long healthy eating-focused Produce for Kids campaign with Associated Wholesale Grocers Springfield Division launched Jan. 16 and will raise funds for Feeding America programs that benefit families and children within the AWG Springfield, MO, footprint. The program offers shoppers healthy meal solutions, registered dietitian-approved recipes and tips.

The AWG Springfield Produce for Kids campaign, which will run through the end of 2017, is supported by 11 participating fresh fruit and vegetable suppliers. AWG Springfield shoppers are encouraged to support these brands by eating more nutritious fruits and vegetables.

“We are excited to embark on this year-long campaign with Produce for Kids in an effort that encourages our shoppers to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to their families while supporting local families in need,” Gary Townsley, produce operations and sales manager at AWG Springfield, said in a press release. “It is our mission to give our shoppers a fresh and healthy experience when they visit our produce departments and this campaign will help us build on that mission.” 

In-store displays and signage featuring the Produce for Kids and Feeding America logo will be displayed in all 272 AWG Springfield produce departments through the end of 2017. The signage will direct shoppers to, which features more than 300 registered dietitian-approved and family-tested recipes, meal planning tools, grocery store-specific campaign details, and healthy tips from real parents. Additionally, shoppers will be encouraged to share their own healthy recipes and ideas during the campaign using the hashtag #produceforkids.

Suppliers participating in the AWG Springfield Produce for Kids campaign include Borton Fruit, Cool Creations, Dole Salads, Growers Express, Melissa’s Produce, Naturipe, organicgirl, Sage Fruit, Schmieding Produce, RealSweet by Shuman Produce and Sunkist Growers Inc.

“We are excited to launch our first year-round campaign with AWG Springfield to educate families about the benefits of eating nutritious produce,” John Shuman, president of Produce for Kids, said in the release. “We are extremely proud of the $6 million we have raised thus far to support families nationwide and are looking forward to making an impact in the communities within the AWG Springfield footprint.”

In addition, Assoicated Wholesale Grocers of Oklahoma will launch a Produce for Kids campaign later this spring.

For more information about the AWG Springfield Produce for Kids campaign, visit