Kroger expresses financial confidence with stock split

For the first time since 1999 and just the fifth time in company history, Kroger announced a two-for-one stock split June 25 at its annual shareholders meeting in Cincinnati.

Shareholders of record on July 6 will receive an additional share of Kroger stock, bringing the total of outstanding shares to 962 million from 481 million.

Rodney McMullen, chief executive officer of Kroger Inc., said the move reflects the company’s confidence in its future financial performance, and that the split will make the stock more affordable to small investors, including the company’s own associates.

“The stock split will increase the accessibility of our shares and liquidity in the trading of our shares,” he told shareholders.

Following the announcement, shares rose $1.38 to $74.32, but closed up one cent at $72.95.

“By all measures, 2014 was a blockbuster year,” McMullen said.

Kroger, the largest U.S. supermarket chain, operates more than 2,600 stores in 34 states under two dozen banners and has annual sales of more than $108.5 billion.

Ambrosia and KIKU brand apples lead top 15 apples nationally in volume and growth

Ambrosia and KIKU brand apples continue to be bright spots in the apple category according to the latest retail scan data available from Nielsen Perishables Group.

Data released this week shows that for the four weeks ending May 23, 2015, total U.S. sales of Ambrosia had the strongest growth rate (up 157 percent) among the top 10 apple varieties. Ambrosia was one of only two apples — the other being Honeycrisp — in the top 10 to show an increase in dollar volume performance.

Ambrosia-and-KIKU-apple-sales-soar-Graph The larger Ambrosia crop has provided savvy retailers with an opportunity to continue to sell this great apple longer into the season, says Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing at CMI. “The story is, consumers continue to seek out and buy Ambrosia as long as retailers carry it,” said Lutz. “When you look at the entire apple category and see that only two apples in the top 10 are showing sales increases, it really shows the emerging following Ambrosia has with consumers. This is exactly the type of growth we saw with Honeycrisp a few years back.”

The May scan data also revealed a second consecutive record sales month for KIKU brand apples. Boosted by imports from New Zealand, KIKU jumped into the top 15 powered by a 305 percent increase in sales, with volume increasing by 420 percent.

“Imported KIKU are clearly generating fresh sales for the apple category,” said Robb Myers, Director of Sales at CMI. “Of the top 15 apples nationally, KIKU’s performance increase was far and away the strongest in the category,” said Myers. He added, “This is great news because it shows how branded apples like KIKU can generate incremental sales for retailers even during the heart of the summer fruit season.”

Myers added that supplies of New Zealand KIKU will be available through the summer months into August. “We anticipated that the strong sales success of KIKU would continue, and we’ve been regularly receiving fresh imports to supply our customers in the U.S. market.” Total apple category volume moved up slightly by 2.3 percent during the month of May. However, declining retail prices offset the volume increase leading to an overall decline in apple category dollars of 6 percent.  

Industry applauds passage of trade legislation

The produce industry is celebrating the passage of trade legislation that will support the growing globalization of fruits and vegetables.

By a vote of 60 to 38, the U.S. Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority, which will allow the president to send a completed trade agreement to Congress for an up-or-down vote and no amendments.

Since President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, every president has had authority from Congress to negotiate trade agreements that open up new market opportunities for the United States. Congress last enacted TPA legislation in 2002, and it lapsed in 2007.

“United Fresh applauds the Senate for renewing Trade Promotion Authorization,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh. “Trade deals that break down market access barriers and create new economic opportunities benefit the industry at home and abroad, expanding consumption of America’s abundant supply of fruits and vegetables in rapidly developing regions of the world. We look forward to the president signing this legislation and working with his administration to finalize the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.”

“We’re pleased that a bipartisan Congress has shown strong resolve to pass TPA and to see this transformative bill through to the desk of President Obama,” Richard Owen, vice president of global business development for the Produce Marketing Association, said in a statement. “The buying and selling of fresh produce occurs in a global environment, and that’s becoming more evident each day. Our ability as an industry to compete in the international market is tied to the ability of the United States to eliminate barriers to facilitate free and fair trade. TPA provides a framework that builds confidence with our international partners and foreign governments that a deal negotiated will make it through the political process for approval.”

With TPA being sent to the president, the administration can now focus on finalizing trade negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which the U.S. is looking to enter with 11 other Asia-Pacific countries. It would be the largest trade deal in history, opening markets and expanding access to U.S. agriculture exports to more than 800 million people.

“News of this Trade Promotion Authority passage is fantastic news for the port, for the region and for the state,” Paul Anderson, president and chief executive of the Port of Tampa, said in a statement. “Here in Florida, trade supports 2.4 million jobs, and TPA ensures that trade agreements will have the clearest opportunities to be successfully negotiated. The port firmly supports passage of this legislation, and we are extremely grateful to our leaders in Washington, the American Association of Port Authorities, and our fellow ports nationwide for their support. It’s important that we continue to recognize the value of our ports and the nexus of trade activity to our country, our economy and to our citizens. The positive impacts of TPA passage will be with us for generations.”

Former Albertson’s location reopens as Market Street, with an eye toward health and wellness

 A new Market Street supermarket in Midland, TX, held a grand opening ceremony June 24 to celebrate the store’s new look, features and offerings resulting from a complete transformation of the former Albertsons Market.

Market Street, known as the place “where everyday meets gourmet,” is designed to provide a unique shopping experience for guests who care about food. The store has extensive options for guests to maintain a healthy lifestyle, as well as everyday items shoppers are accustomed to finding.

MarketStreetLogo2 “We are thrilled to officially introduce our Midland guests to the Market Street experience and are confident it will change the way they think about an everyday grocery store,” Robert Taylor, president of The United Family, a Texas-based grocery chain that operates Market Street and Albertsons Market in Midland-Odessa, said in a press release. “This is the first store we’ve converted to a Market Street, so this grand opening is a testament to our dedicated team members and guests, who have demonstrated tremendous patience throughout this process.”

Market Street features a large selection of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, including more than 100 organic options. The store also has an “Ask for a Taste” program in the produce department, which allows guests to sample any product before making a purchase.

“Guests will enjoy the comprehensive offerings at Market Street, as well as some of the unique features not available in traditional grocery stores, such as in-store dining,” Wes Jackson, chief merchandising officer for The United Family, added in the press release. “We have teams in every department committed to ensuring we can meet our guests’ every need.”

Market Street’s commitment to service includes a concierge service, which is available to assist guests with party planning, catering and custom gift baskets. Other notable store changes are evident in the expanded full-service bakery, in-store dining space, Starbucks coffee, expanded wine and beer section, bulk foods section and an extensive selection of gluten-free items both in the Living Well section and throughout the store.

Guests will continue to see shelf tags featuring “healthy attributes” that identify products in 10 different categories, such as low-sodium, heart-healthy, organic, and gluten-free, as well as the company’s “Dietitian’s Top Pick” program.

Shelf tags also include the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System, which rates the nutritional value of foods throughout the store on a scale of one to 100. The United Family was the first supermarket chain in Texas to adopt this system. Unique to Market Street stores, guests also have the option to join a free store tour hosted by a registered dietitian.

“Market Street is one of the few grocery stores in the state that has registered dietitians, who are helping guests try to balance busy schedules while still raising healthy families,” Robin Hawkins, director of health and wellness for The United Family, said in the press release. “Guests can take advantage of our in-store tours that focus on different diet and health needs in addition to other resources to help guests make healthy choices at checkout.”


Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers expanding its reach

Jacquie Trombley joined the Leamington, ON-based Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers in the capacity of marketer liaison officer, a newly established position. Trombley will be the primary liaison between licensed marketers and the OGVG board and management, the OVGV announced in a May press release.

The release stated that through this new position, the OGVG’s objective is to positively work with the marketer community with the intent of optimizing the market value for Ontario greenhouse vegetables and maximize returns for producers, while enhancing the overall consumer image of Ontario greenhouse vegetables and adhering to trade requirements.

Trombley graduated from St. Clair College’s advertising, marketing and communications management program in 1997. She has a diverse 18-year background in advertising, marketing, corporate communications and project management. She has worked with a large advertising agency, and has experience in financial and corporate marketing at one of Canada’s largest financial institutions in Toronto. She has also overseen a variety of marketing and advertising campaigns at a local marketing company.

Most recently, Trombley taught marketing at St. Clair College in Windsor, ON.

The OGVG is also celebrating its new website,, which was launched Jan. 14. The new site targets consumers and other potential users of Ontario greenhouse vegetables. Key features include a cleaner and more attractive design and enhanced search and navigation capabilities that provide a more engaging user experience.

The organization’s objective was to design a site that would be a definitive resource and guide for people seeking information about Ontario greenhouse vegetables. It provides a fresh and simple look with easy navigation to social media pages. And it features how to select produce, nutrition tips, storage of produce, consumer tips, print or download recipes, videos, contact information and optimization for mobile devices.

“We’re excited about our new website which targets consumers of our members’ best in class produce,” said George Gilvesy, general manager of the OGVG. “It is providing the public the information they are looking for to make Ontario greenhouse vegetable products top of mind when making their produce selections.”

Gilvesy added that support for the development of the new site came from the Province of Ontario through the Local Food Fund.

On Dec. 19, the Ontario government announced the new Greenhouse Nutrient Feedwater Regulation under the Nutrient Management Act. The development of the regulation is an example of the positive outcome that results when sector representatives and government ministries collaborate.

The process was facilitated through the Ontario Greenhouse Environmental Strategy task force. Its representatives are drawn from the greenhouse sector, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change.

The common goal was to develop and implement a streamlined solution that is protective of the environment and cost effective for the sector.

“On behalf of Ontario’s greenhouse sector, we thank Premier Wynne, Minister Leal and Minister Murray for their continued commitment to this kind of open, consultative process” said Jan VanderHout, chair of the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance, in a press release. “This process is an excellent example of what can be achieved by working together to improve and streamline regulations. The result will enable increased productivity and growth across the entire agri-food value chain.”

 The new regulation will help greenhouse growers better comply with environmental standards by reducing costs and uncertainty of approvals. It will promote reuse and facilitate the recycling of greenhouse nutrient feedwater while providing farmers with a new source of irrigation water and nutrients for their field crops.