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Wegmans Food Markets edged Publix Super Markets as the favorite grocery chain among consumers according to an online survey of nearly 13,000 people aged 18-65 conducted by Market Force Information. This is the third consecutive No. 1 finish for Wegmans, which tied for the top spot with Publix last year. Trader Joe’s, Aldi and H-E-B rounded out the top five.

“Wegmans, founded in 1916, is known for its fresh produce, reasonable prices and massive stores,” Market Force said in a statement. “The New York-based chain is expanding steadily and, with a focus on employee training to ensure a great customer experience, it’s created a legion of super-fans eager for a new location to open near their home.”

Grocery retailers were ranked using Market Force’s Composite Loyalty Index, which assigns a score based on how customers rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and likelihood to refer that chain to others.

Wegmans led with an index score of 77 percent, just ahead of Publix at 76 percent and Trader Joe’s at 75 percent. Aldi rose one spot this year to come in fourth at 70 percent, while H-E-B repeated its previous year’s score of 69 percent. Safeway and Walmart ranked at the bottom with respective scores of 42 percent and 34 percent.

Market Force identified key experience attributes that matter most to consumers, including store cleanliness, item availability, convenient location, good sales and promotions and value for the money.

The survey also revealed that more and more, consumers are interested in using click-and-collect as well as online home delivery options. Shoppers named Walmart, Kroger, H-E-B and Harris Teeter as the grocery retailers they most used in the past 90 days for click-and-collect purchases.

Of all respondents, 15 percent said they’ve used click-and-collect, up from 9 percent in 2017 and 4 percent in 2016. This year, 34 percent described themselves as frequent users of this service, making click-and-collect grocery transactions at least monthly.

Also climbing in popularity is online grocery home delivery. Twenty-two percent of shoppers polled said they’ve used the service, compared with 18 percent in 2017. Of the users, 35 percent reported they get home delivery via online grocery players such as Peapod and Shipt, compared with 34 percent through general online retailers such as Amazon and Jet, and 24 percent via online orders from brick-and-mortar grocery chains. However, about 20 percent of consumers said they’re less than satisfied with the experience, Market Force noted.

The Eastern Produce Council's inaugural leadership program team — along with EPC President Marianne Santo — received a warm welcome from John Grande, director at the Snyder Research & Extension Farm on Tuesday, June 12 in Pittstown, NJ. The group spent the day touring the farm, learning about the Rutgers Research & Extension program, and honing leadership and communication skills in an afternoon classroom session.EPC1

"The leadership program was designed with both classroom and field experience for the participants who are all rather young in their produce careers,” said EPC Executive Director Susan McAleavey Sarlund. "We wanted to give the group a chance to get real-life, hands-on experience as part of this exceptional program and touring Snyder Farm was the perfect choice for the third component of the program."

The group had previously toured Gloucester Port & Terminal in Gloucester City, NJ, and Greenyard Logistics in Swedesboro, NJ, on April 2, and also attended a Food Safety Modernization Act seminar on April 24.

Rutgers Snyder Farm is an extension of Rutgers University. The property, which consists of 394 acres, was donated to the University by Clifford and Melda Snyder in 1988 following a lifetime of dedication to research, education and civic service from the Snyders. The farm responds to the agricultural and environmental needs of local farmers by providing scientific research, public education and community outreach.

Curtis McKittrick, head soils and plants technician, and Geoff Slifer, soils and plants technician, led the walking tour of over 75 fields and orchards containing experiments and demonstrations addressing a wide variety of agricultural, home and commercial horticultural issues. The group started with an overview of the grounds, including the farm equipment and pest management systems. They then tasted the sweetness from a Stevia plant that is part of an experimental trial and continued through the greenhouses to learn about water and heat management on the farm.

The 15 participants in the leadership program were able to get their hands dirty too.  A few of them helped to plant tomato seedlings and all took advantage of a delicious pick-your-own strawberry field that the Research Center provides. Curtis explained they had donated over 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to the local area food banks last year and some even made its way to Rutgers University for the student body to enjoy.

The tour continued with a wagon ride through the peach, apple and plum orchards, fields of trials such as catnip, hops and hazelnuts and a whole lot of education from Farm Supervisor Ed Dager.  Following a lunch provided by the team at the farm, the EPC group participated in an afternoon session in a classroom environment.  “Our presenter, Stan Elson, had a tough act to follow after our dynamic tour of the farm, but he delivered with an engaging presentation on leadership and communication skills,” Sarlund said.

The leadership program will meet again in September to tour Rutgers Cream Ridge location and conclude their yearlong program at the New York Produce Show & Conference in December.

Tops Friendly Markets has made a major expansion into nine new communities in New York with Instacart services. This expansion brings the overall number of Tops stores with the Instacart program to 125. tops

“This is Tops’ fifth and largest expansion of Instacart services since the beginning of 2018,” said Edward Rick, director of consumer marketing and digital for Tops Friendly Markets. “We are so excited each and every time we expand the outreach of Instacart to reach more and more of our customers as we know this added convenience helps give them back time in their already busy schedules.”

Tops announced the same-day home delivery service was available across the chain’s footprint in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, NY, as well as Erie, PA during the last quarter of 2017. Earlier this year Tops announced several additions. As one of the region’s larger supermarket chains, Tops customers throughout the geographic footprint, whether residing in a larger city or a rural community, now have access to same-day home delivery from Instacart.

Thousands of items including fresh produce are right at shoppers fingertips and delivered to their doors in as little as one hour.

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc. announced a voluntary recall of a limited quantity of six-, 12- and 28-ounce vegetable trays containing fresh broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, carrots and dill dip sold to select retailers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. del

The Centers for Disease Control has reported 78 laboratory-confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis in persons who reportedly consumed vegetable trays.

Del Monte was notified by state agencies of a Cyclospora outbreak and the company's potential involvement. It has recalled the products because they may be linked to the recent cluster of illnesses and have the potential to be contaminated with Cyclospora, a parasite that can cause the intestinal illness Cyclosporiasis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the infection usually is not life threatening. Symptoms of Cyclosporiasis may include the following: watery diarrhea (most common), loss of appetite, weight loss, cramping, bloating, increased gas, nausea and fatigue. Other symptoms that may occur but are less common include vomiting and low-grade fever.

The recalled products were distributed to Kwik Trip, Kwik Star, Demond's, Sentry, Potash, Meehan's, Country Market, Food Max Supermarket and Peapod in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin and have "Best If Enjoyed By" date of June 17 or earlier.

The recalled products were distributed for sale in clear plastic containers with these labels and markings.

 

Black Gold Farms will be harvesting fresh red potatoes in the boot heel of Missouri starting the middle of June. With ideal planting and growing conditions and plenty of moisture, this year’s crop looks to be one of the best yet. Reds LocalBeauty MsMissouri FB-1200x1200

“We’ve been growing red potatoes nestled in the bootheel of Missouri in the Mississippi River Delta for over 10 years, and every year we see the quality get better. This year is no different,” said John Halverson, chief operating officer of Black Gold Farms, based in Grand Forks, ND. “We’ve been able to learn a lot about growing potatoes in the summertime heat from over 30 years of chip potato experience in warmer climates. We’ve been able to transfer those leanings to the fresh market. While there are many differences, the principles are the same: use the right variety, get the timing correct, push them through the wash line and into the cooler as quickly as possible, and then, ship to our customers while they are still at their freshest.”

“Our customers really find value pulling fresh reds out of Arbyrd, Missouri, as the quality is consistent and we are geographically central to many of the major cities which provides locally grown opportunities that only we can offer,” added Keith Groven, fresh sales manager for Black Gold Farms. “Customers recognize that Black Gold Farms is the red potato expert, especially this time of year, in this particular geography.”

Black Gold Farms will be harvesting, packing and shipping its own red potatoes out of Arbyrd, MO, farm and packing facility until the middle of July. Yellow potatoes are also available to ensure a full product offering. 

Black Gold Farms’ Indiana red potato crop will be ready at the end of July for a smooth transition and keeping customers supplied with the freshest red potatoes available. This allows for Black Gold Farms-grown product to be supplied to customers year-round.

“Each of our farms has its own unique characteristics, but what’s really valuable is that our customers know that the red potatoes they’re getting and the service they’ve come to expect is all Black Gold Farms,” Groven said.