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Trader Joe’s is the top U.S. grocery retailer according to a study that also showed price and quality are the most important preference drivers for consumers. The study suggested retailers focus on shoring up that weakness before turning attention to other drivers such as convenience, rewards or speed. The other retailers on the top-10 list are 2) Costco, 3) Amazon, 4) H-E-B, 5) Walmart, 6) Wegmans, 7) Aldi, 8) Sam’s Club, 9) Sprouts Farmers Market and 10) Whole Foods Market.tj

Top performing grocery retailers include relatively recent entries into the supermarket business and are more likely to be a national banner. All of the top 10 banners, except H-E-B, were either established or began to expand around the 1980s, which allowed many of them to carefully select store locations. As a result, many of these banners can focus and differentiate their prices, products, and store experience more effectively than older mainstream banners.

Leading customer data science company dunnhumby's inaugural Retailer Preference Index study that explores the evolving $700 billion U.S. grocery landscape. The RPI study surveyed 11,000 U.S. households and analyzed consumer emotional sentiment for 59 grocery retailers and then combined the survey data with the retailers’ financial performance which then created each retailer’s preference index.

“Does the grocery retail world really need another top 10 list?” asked Jose Gomes, managing director of North America for dunnhumby. “We believe there is a need because other studies either rank retailers on financial measures or survey responses, never both. Our model captures the complexity of customers’ preferences and their actual choices by quantifying the relationship between how they perceive a retailer with their emotional connection and the financial performance.”

The RPI found that the top quartile retailers share four effective strategies:

  • Price-focused. Aldi’s laser focus on price and certain high-volume staple categories like dairy and packaged foods secured the discount retailer with high rankings on price and overall RPI. Stores that index high enough on price, can often sacrifice on convenience, speed, digital and personalized discounts and information and still rank highly.
  • Quality-focused. Although Whole Foods Market performs below average on prices, it still achieves a high overall RPI because they index so high on quality.
  • Value-focused. Trader Joe’s, Costco, Sprouts Farmers Market and H-E-B all indexed high on quality and price. Stores that index high enough on price and quality can sacrifice on convenience, speed, digital and personalized discounts and information and still rank highly.
  • Price-focused and supported by digital execution. Walmart’s success in digital translates into a high RPI ranking and from indexing high on price and convenience. Target ranked second on digital execution but ranked only average on the other supporting factors, moving it out of the top quartile of the RPI.

“We firmly believe that retailers must differentiate themselves today to be competitive in face of the myriad of options shoppers have,” said Gomes. “Differentiation begins with the retailer identifying the shoppers that they can serve better than their competition. A solid customer-first strategy, backed by customer data science, will help the retailer focus its finite resources and attention on the customers that are the most important to their success. This study is intended as a first step on that path of understanding.”

The second best performing quartile of retailers include some of the higher performing, older grocery banners, including Meijer, Publix and Kroger. This quartile has the highest top of mind recall and the second highest financial performance. This group does not perform as well as the top quartile because their price and quality scores are not as strong, but this second group differentiates itself by excelling at secondary preference drivers, such as promotions, rewards and information.

Many undifferentiated mainstream banners are delivering minimal value to their shoppers. Even though many have been shopped at for a longer period, they have the weakest emotional connection. The study suggested they must focus on improving value perceptions and reconnect with their shoppers or profitability will be a challenge in an increasingly competitive market.

Albertsons Cos. announced that President and Chief Operating Officer Wayne Denningham plans to retire near the end of the company’s fiscal year. Denningham garnered over 40 years with the company, having started working as a clerk as a teenager. The company has named Susan Morris executive vice president and COO, overseeing the company’s supply chain, manufacturing and operations functions.

“Susan is a talented leader within our company, and she fully embraces our entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to running really good stores,” said Bob Miller, chairman and chief executive officer of Albertsons. “Susan raised her hand to come to Albertsons LLC in 2010 when she was a senior vice president of sales and marketing for a competitor, and she took the only job we had open — a grocery sales manager in our Southwest division. She has proven herself to be a valuable part of our leadership team in readily accepting new challenges, developing others and bringing teams together, and I know that her broad experience will be of significant value to Albertsons Cos. as we move forward.”

Morris began her career in Albertsons' Denver division while still in high school and worked her way up in the ranks proving her ability to lead, execute and cultivate great teams in one assignment after another in her 30-plus years in the retail grocery business. Her career has spanned roles from store director to corporate grocery sales director, vice president of bakery and operations and, upon the sale of Albertson’s Inc.’s assets to SuperValu, vice president of customer satisfaction. In 2013, Morris was named intermountain division president after a three-year stint in the company’s Southwest division, and subsequently was asked to lead the Denver division in 2015. Morris was named executive vice president of east operations in April 2016 and was moved to lead west region operations in March 2017.

Morris will continue to lead the Seattle, Portland, Northern California and Southern California divisions as part of her role. Jim Perkins, executive vice president of operations and special projects, will continue as president of the Acme and eastern divisions. Mike Withers, executive vice president of east region operations will lead the remaining six divisions, which include Denver, intermountain, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, southern, southwest and United.

Morris will be based at the company’s Boise, ID, corporate campus.

New, visible changes surrounding BelleHarvest Sales Inc. reflect and strongly reinforce a philosophy for the longstanding Michigan apple grower-shipper.

Christopher Sandwick, vice president of sales and marketing of the Belding, MI-based company, said a new logo and vision statement will reflect BelleHarvest’s philosophy that apples are first and foremost a healthy snack that compete on flavor with chips, candy and other unhealthy processed foods.blblkje

Since he was hired five years ago, Sandwick and other BelleHarvest leaders have traveled globally to find special and interesting varieties.

“We are a snack food company,” he said. “It’s important to know that, for our customers and ourselves.”

As for BelleHarvest’s logo, it had been unchanged since 1985. “We were overdue for a modernization of our look. So, we began there,” Sandwick said. “These aren’t drastic internal changes, but rather formalizing that everything we do is about feeding people healthy food. Everything we do centers around that concept.”

A critically important part of BelleHarvest’s identity is its varietal development. BelleHarvest is not the only apple grower to emphasize generating strong varieties to suit the market, but we recognize the importance of keeping our heads up to see what’s coming,” said Sandwick.

A BelleHarvest team travels the world to sample apples — from orchards to backyards. “We eat a lot of apples,” Sandwick said. “The important thing is to go after only what is truly unique rather than varieties with traits already present in the marketplace.”

Today’s apples are commodities with the shipper’s name printed on the carton, according to Sandwick, who added, “Tomorrow’s apples are intellectual property with both an identity and a brand. Our logo leaves room for new and now-unknown varieties.”

The new “powerful, simple and flexible” logo will not interfere with the identity of the special apple varieties, he said. “We want people to look to BelleHarvest for great-tasting food, but they will seek out our apples by their brand names.”

Within this, Sandwick indicated that BelleHarvest is primarily competing with manufacturers of unhealthy snack foods for share of stomach.

BelleHarvest tries to appeal to families by packing six premium, but small-sized apples in a pouch bag. The pouch bags have graphics showing paper bag artwork to remind parents and kids to carry apples as a healthy part of a school lunch.

BelleHarvest partners with retailers that want to promote eating in a healthy way. “We take seriously our responsibility to feed people,” said Sandwick, who noted that BelleHarvest is part of an industry with many wonderful people who are working toward the same thing.

Sandwick said BelleHarvest works with all of its employees to take their company role as more than “emptying the cooler.” The employees are encouraged to get involved with improving eating habits. The thought being if they are involved with making better food decisions at home and preparing better foods, they will better understand what is being asked of BelleHarvest customers. “The phrase ‘An Apple a Day’ served our industry well, but a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean simply taking your medicine. It means enjoying fresh food for its taste as well as its health benefits,” said Sandwick.

“Tasting good defines a BelleHarvest apple,” he added. “Our product has to taste great. We are a snack food company that competes with Frito Lay and M&M Mars and Pepsi. As such, being a snack food company means we need to taste good every time.”

BelleHarvest currently packs and ships many traditional varieties with an emphasis on Honeycrisp, Gala and Fuji. The company also has three new varieties — Smitten, EverCrisp and Topaz.

These new varieties offer the eating experience that consumers crave, but also differentiate themselves from current selections. Smitten is an early apple that opens the season with a superior crunch and sweet flavor. EverCrisp, Sandwick said, “is a late-season hybrid of HoneyCrisp and Fuji with a ton of sugar, juice and firm texture. Topaz lives on the other end of the spectrum, with an acidic flavor that confronts some, amazes many and challenges all.

“The opportunity to feed the world is something we do not take for granted,” he added. “People crave variety, flavor and health. Our apples can provide all three.”

The president of one of the worlds most recognized consumer fresh brands and a thought-provoking best-selling author have been confirmed as keynote presenters at Organic Produce Summit 2018, this coming July in Monterey, CA.

Ed Carolan, president of Campbell Fresh, and Dan Buettner, noted journalist, author and discoverer of Blue Zones, will be featured speakers at the third annual OPS July 11-12 at the Monterey Conference Center. Carolan and Buettner will headline an informative and insightful series of educational sessions and networking opportunities at OPS, the only event dedicated exclusivity to bringing together organic fresh produce growers, shippers and processors and retailer and buying organizations.ed greentieEd Carolan

Carolan, oversees Campbell Fresh, which includes the Bolthouse Farms brand of beverages, dressing and carrots; Plum Organics; Garden Fresh Gourmet brand of soup, salsa, hummus and other dips; and its recent acquisition of Pacific Foods, a leading producer of organic broth and soup. Campbell has approximately $1 billion in annual net sales from fresh products and its portfolio provides nearly 15 billion servings of vegetables annually. The company’s organic portfolio is in the top 10 in the industry and growing at double digits.Dan Buettner 119V-1Dan Buettner

Buettner is an explorer, National Geographic Fellow, award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. He discovered the five places in the world — dubbed Blue Zones — where people live the longest, healthiest lives. Buettner now works in partnership with municipal governments, large employers and health insurance companies to implement Blue Zones Projects, well-being initiatives that apply lessons from the Blue Zones to entire communities by focusing on changes to the local environment, public policy, and social networks.

“We’re thrilled to have two dynamic and engaging leaders in their fields providing OPS attendees with thought provoking and inspiring content which highlights the growth and opportunities related to organic fresh produce,” said Susan Canales, president of OPS. “Both Ed and Dan are very excited about the chance to speak to the producers and sellers of organic fresh produce emphasizing the importance of products that are truly impacting consumer’s lifestyles and eating habits.”

In addition to the pair’s presentations, a retailer roundtable featuring three of North America’s largest and most prominent retailers will be included in the Keynote Presentation program of OPS 2018. Additionally, a series of six educational sessions featuring informative and engaging topics and leaders from the organic fresh produce industry are being finalized and will be announced in the coming weeks.  

The third annual OPS features a sold-out exhibition that will showcase 130 of North America’s organic fresh produce growers, shippers and processors exhibiting their products to over 200 retailers and buyers. Field tours at several of the nation’s leading organic producers are also available for qualified retailers and wholesalers at OPS.

Retailer and general registration for OPS 2018 is available at www.organicproducesummit.com. Additional information about the event, including schedule, sponsors and a complete list of exhibiting companies is also available on the website.

Naturipe Farms is leveraging the social media craze of the Braspberry by encouraging berry fans to try the new Braspberry and enter into the Naturipe Braspberry Sweepstakes for daily prizes and to support hurricane relief efforts.

naturipe-braspberry-sweepstakes “We are excited to promote Braspberries! It is a new delicious treat you get when pressing a plump, fresh blueberry into a fresh raspberry” said CarrieAnn Arias, vice president of marketing. “We cannot think of a better way to start the new year than by supporting our consumers’ desire to be creative with healthy snacking and supporting the communities still reeling from the effects of the recent hurricanes."

To enter the sweepstakes, consumers are invited to share photos or videos on Facebook and Instagram that depict how they enjoy Braspberries by using the hashtags #Braspberry and #Entry. Naturipe will donate $1 to the Hand in Hand Hurricane Relief fund for every entry received up to $10,000. Entrants are automatically entered for a chance to win Naturipe’s daily drawing for a $10 iTunes gift card. Entrants can also upload a photo or video entry at http://www.naturipefarms.com/braspberry/.

The sweepstakes was designed to help communities throughout Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Puerto Rico that were left devastated in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Naturipe is calling on followers to try the new berry treat in an effort to donate up to $10,000 to help provide vital services to the victims in these communities. The sweepstakes will be promoted Jan. 15 – Feb. 16 and will include a total of 33 prize winners, announced daily.