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The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has said restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any chopped romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, from the Yuma, AZ, area as it could be contaminated with E. coli.

At this time nearly all of the romaine lettuce being harvested and shipped throughout the United States is from California growing areas and is not implicated in the outbreak.

The CDC is recommeding caution, saying consumers anywhere in the United States who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce at home, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. However, the advisory does not apply to romaine grown elsewhere.

"Before purchasing romaine lettuce at a grocery store or eating it at a restaurant, consumers should confirm with the store or restaurant that it is not chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing region," the CDC said.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to those who have been impacted by this outbreak," United Fresh Produce Association, Arizona and California LGMAs, the Produce Marketing Association and Western Growers said in a statement.

"We are cooperating fully with government and working closely to further identify the specific source of this outbreak," said the industry associations. "Specifically, government officials are advising consumers not to consume chopped, bagged romaine grown in Yuma. At this time, this advisory only applies to chopped, bagged romaine, not other forms of romaine such as whole heads or hearts. This advisory also does not apply to romaine grown elsewhere, including California. Consumers may check with their retailer and/or restaurant to assist them in identifying product origin."

"The leafy greens community takes the responsibility for producing fresh produce very seriously," the associations said in the statement. "Leafy greens food-safety programs in both California and Arizona are the most rigorous in today’s produce industry. Both programs include mandatory farm food-safety practices, and frequent government audits to ensure those practices are being followed."

Mann Packing Co. has launched its first complete line of fresh veggie noodles and veggie rice.por

Following the successful launch of its Spicy Thai Nourish Bowls featuring fresh kohlrabi noodles last year, the company is now offering a full line of standalone veggie noodle products, including Butternut Squash Rotini, Kohlrabi Linguine, and Sweet Potato Fettuccine.

Mann’s veggie noodles feature unique, chef-inspired cuts that work perfectly as a pasta-swap. The development of the new line speaks to increased consumer demand for vegetables that can easily be used in place of a traditional carb. Shoppers spent more than $30 million on veggie noodle products in 2017, showing 409 percent growth compared to the previous year, according to Nielsen.

Mann’s new fresh veggie rice products are made from a variety of colorful vegetables and are a convenient alternative to traditional rice, with fewer calories and carbs per serving. The new blends include Cauliflower Rice, Broccoli & Sweet Potato Rice Blend and Cauliflower Fried Rice Blend, which includes carrots, kohlrabi and sugar snap peas.

Consumers are continuing to look for ways to incorporate more vegetables in their diets, and in 2017, sales of veggie rice items grew 514 percent compared to 2016, according to Nielsen.

“The veggie noodles and rice categories are booming and we saw an opportunity to get in on the growth with these new product lines,” said Rick Russo, vice president of sales, marketing and product management at Mann’s. “These versatile products can be used in everything from Pad thai to risotto. As consumers become increasingly aware of the importance of eating fresh produce, we expect to see more products like this taking the place of traditional carbs.”

The new products will be on display at Booth No. 1219 at the CPMA Annual Convention, April 24-26 in Vancouver.

Jakov Dulcich, the founder of the well-known table grape shipper Dulcich & Sons Inc., was shot and killed April 11 in the southern section of Delano, CA, according to an April 12 report by BakersfieldNow.img16

The Kern County Sheriff's Office said Dulcich, 84, was killed in a car-to-car shooting, and he crashed with another vehicle after he was shot at Browning Road and Woollomes Avenue.

The Sheriff's Office said the shooter then got into a physical confrontation with the driver of the vehicle that was hit by Dulcich's SUV, firing at least one round at that point. No one was injured from that shot. The shooter, described as a Hispanic male in his 20s, was driving a compact car and is still at large.

Dulcich & Sons, which is best known for its Pretty Lady grapes, issued a statement requesting privacy.

"Pretty Lady Vineyards and Dulcich & Sons Inc. confirm, with heavy hearts, the passing of our founder, Jakov Dulcich. The Dulcich family asks for privacy during this difficult time. We have no further comment at this time."

Walmart and Postmates announced an agreement to help expand the retailer’s popular online grocery delivery option to more than 40 percent of U.S. households. Postmates will help power Walmart’s online grocery deliveries in Charlotte, NC, with further expansion planned in the coming months.wmeme

“Customers are busy, they are managing jobs, soccer practice, dance lessons and social schedules; so we are on a mission to do more than keep a little extra money in their pockets,” said Mark Ibbotson, executive vice president of central operations for Walmart U.S. “With the help of Postmates, we’re making grocery shopping even easier by bringing the everyday low prices of Walmart right to the front door of customers in Charlotte with more areas to be added soon.”

With the help of Walmart’s personal shoppers and Postmates’s delivery network, thousands of Charlotte customers will be able to shop for and have fresh groceries delivered to their doorsteps. Personal shoppers must complete a three-week training program learning how to select the freshest produce and the best cuts of meat for Online Grocery customers.

“Both Walmart and Postmates strive to make the lives of our customers easier,” said Dan Mosher, Postmates' senior vice president of merchant lead. “With our growing fleet of 160,000 couriers, we are confident that we’ll be providing Walmart customers with the ultimate convenience.”

Walmart grocery delivery brings customers the convenience of shopping when and where they want for quality, fresh produce, meat, seafood and bakery items, along with pantry staples, consumables and seasonal general merchandise. To use delivery, customers in Charlotte place their orders online at Walmart.com/grocery or on the existing Walmart Grocery App, switch to the Delivery tab, and select a delivery window at checkout. After orders have been picked by Walmart’s personal shoppers, a member of the Postmates Fleet retrieves the order from a Walmart store and delivers it right to the customer during their specified delivery window.

The retailer also offers an online grocery pickup service.

Keeping up with the pace of change in the retail industry can be a daunting task, but independent grocers have faced shifts in the marketplace for decades. While we are in a period of significant disruption, there are a number of areas where independents can differentiate themselves with great success.Nielsen-ECommerce

Findings from the third annual, National Grocery Shoppers Survey, which was presented at this year’s show, identified new winning strategies for independents, based on in-depth consumer research. The research, conducted by Nielsen on behalf of NGA, includes results from both The Harris Poll consumer panel from more than 3,000 self-identified shoppers who spend more than 50 percent of their grocery dollars at independent grocers and Nielsen’s panel-based Independent Grocer Shopping database, a new subset of the Nielsen Homescan panel. This combined dataset represents the largest and most developed view into today’s independent grocery shopper.

According to the latest survey, two-thirds (64 percent) of independent shoppers are very/extremely satisfied with their local supermarket. Additionally, independent grocers are strongly associated with friendly employees, quality meats and produce, and easy-to-navigate layout.

That’s good news for our sector, and because independent grocers are nimble enough to respond quickly to what customers need and want, in addition to providing great service and their strong communities ties, the independent supermarket industry has the advantage to stay ahead of the consumer trend curve.

Key findings of this year’s research include:

E-commerce insights
More than 80 percent of shoppers prefer their local store to an online alternative, and for those who do grocery shop online, do it in addition to shopping in store (68 percent), with the majority of their purchases (75 percent) done at the store. Convenience is the main reason for shopping online for groceries, while the need to see items and concerns about freshness are the biggest barriers to online shopping.

While a small group of shoppers (11 percent) shop online, food delivery is the preferred method of shopping. More than three quarters (76 percent) of shoppers who have purchased groceries online have used food delivery compared to 39 percent who have used the click-and-collect method. Nearly three in 10 (27 percent) shoppers indicated that they anticipate an uptick in their online grocery shopping over the next five years.

Driving Health and Wellness
The majority of independent shoppers (63 percent) expect their grocery stores to support them with a healthier lifestyle. The top recommendations included: Instructions on how to cook with certain foods (28 percent); help with label reading including ingredients (25 percent); and general guidance on food that gives good nutritional value for the dollar (23 percent). Shoppers were almost split on where healthy foods should be displayed, with 58 percent saying that healthy food alternatives should be shelved alongside other food items, compared to 42 percent who think healthy food should be in its own section, separate from main aisles.

Key areas that are valued most
When considering where to shop for groceries independents shoppers value low prices, quality meats and produce, friendly staff, cleanliness, and offering locally grown produce and other packaged goods. Almost seven in 10 shoppers (67 percent) have no plans to switch from their independent store.

Areas of needed improvement
Independent supermarket operators need to improve their website usability, with consistent pricing online and offline, the same products online and in-store, and an easy-to-use smartphone app.

The research offers an interesting glimpse into the attitudes and behaviors of shoppers, but it also provides a larger picture of the power of independent grocers, who I believe have much to build on for the future.

(Peter Larkin is the president and chief executive officer of National Grocers Association)