News Briefs


Natural Grocers Provides Free Drinking Water to Flood-Ravaged Communities

car flood

As floodwaters have caused millions of dollars in damage in Montana, a grocery operation is stepping up to help. Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc. announced that it is providing residents free filtered water from its store in Billings.

The historic floods in the area near the Yellowstone National Park have hit many communities hard, resulting in a lack of fresh drinking water and boil orders. In response, Natural Grocers is offering free water from its reverse osmosis water filtration machines, which disinfects water with UV light.

Customers can bring their own containers to the store to fill up on free water. Due to capacity limitations of the water filtration system, each person is limited to two free gallons.

"We are here to support our community as we navigate this disaster together. Please spread the word to friends and neighbors. We are thankful for your business and hope this can help you and your family during these hard times," said Mat Topham, regional manager for Natural Grocers.

This week's flooding followed a late-season snow melt and a series of heavy rains that pounded the area and led to overflows of several rivers. In addition to extensive home and road damage, the floodwaters caused an evacuation of more than 10,000 Yellowstone visitors.

Lakewood, Colo.-based Natural Grocers is No. 95 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Weavers Way Receives Full Grant Funding Via 2021 HFFI Program

Weavers Way Co-op Ambler Store Teaser

Weavers Way Co-op has received $200,000 of financial assistance through the 2021 America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative’s (HFFI) Targeted Small Grants Program.

The Philadelphia-based cooperative grocer was among 134 grantees. Awardees were selected through a competitive process and will receive full grant funding through Reinvestment Fund, which administers the HFFI program on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The 2021 HFFI program offered financial assistance in the form of one-time grants to food retailers and food enterprises aimed to strengthen, expand and innovate within the food retail supply chain. The public-private partnership aims to provide capacity-building and financing resources to stimulate food business development at scale and build a more equitable food system that supports the health and economic vibrancy of all Americans. 

“It takes a fair amount of logistics and financing to open a cooperative grocery store, with concern for, and involvement from, the communities we serve being a major cornerstone of our cooperative principles,” said Jon Roesser, general manager at Weavers Way.

The funding will be used to support the planning and building of Weavers Way Co-Op’s forthcoming location at 328 West Chelten Avenue at the corner of Chelten and Morris in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, which is slated to open in 2023. The Germantown store will be the co-op’s fourth grocery store in the City of Brotherly Love. 

One of the largest Philadelphia-based food cooperatives, Weavers Way operates two Philadelphia vegetable farms in addition to its stores. The co-op offers reasonably priced, high-quality products, geared to each community in which it operates, that are local, sustainable, organic, fair trade and healthful. It subscribes to International Co-op Principles and operates as a triple bottom-line business.


Group of Trader Joe’s Workers Seeks to Unionize

TJ worker teaser

In a first for that retailer, Trader’s Joe's is facing an organized labor push. Workers at a Trader Joe’s store in Hadley, Mass., recently filed a union petition, according to media reports.

CBS News shared that more than 30% of that store’s 88 non-management employees have signed cards required by the National Labor Relations Board for a union vote. Workers who have spoken to the media claim that the company has made changes to their benefits, including a downsizing of annual retirement contributions and a greater minimum number of hours for health insurance. They also cited concerns about health and safety measures currently in place.

This would be the first unionized store at Trader Joe’s, which has a worker roll of about 10,000 people across the U.S.

When asked to comment on the move to unionize at one of its stores, a spokesperson for the grocer told The New York Times that Trader Joe’s welcomes a fair vote and is ready to hold a vote if more than 30% of the team elects to make that move. "We are not interested in delaying the process in any way,” the spokesperson said.

In the wake of the pandemic that deemed them essential workers, staffers at other retail outposts have recently banded together to start unions, including some at Starbucks, Apple Stores and Amazon warehouses.

With more than 500 stores in 40-plus states, Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s is No. 27 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America


Walnut Groups Name New Leader

Robert Verloop.walnuts org

The California Walnut Board (CWB) and California Walnut Commission (CWC) have tapped Robert Verloop as the organizations’ new executive director and CEO. In this role, he will help build demand and share and support innovative growing and production practices.

Verloop previously served as COO at the family-owned vegetable grower Coastline Family Farms. He also held leadership roles with Naturipe Farms/Naturipe Brands, Sunkist Growers, Inc. and the California Avocado Commission, where he worked across several marketing, sales, and strategic planning functions and collaborated with state and federal agencies. Additionally, he had a seat on the board of directors at the Produce Marketing Association.

“He has the unique experience of leadership roles as a grower/shipper of highly perishable produce and in commodity organizations," said Bill Tos, chair of the California Walnut Board’s executive committee. "Robert understands the challenge to 'move the crop.' In addition, he has extensive knowledge and creativity as a marketer working in complex domestic and international markets.”

“In collaboration with the growers and handlers, we must respond to rapidly evolving market conditions with a sense of urgency and purpose and continue to build an ongoing dialogue with key customer segments in order to drive sales in all market segments,” Verloop remarked. “I am also keenly aware of the multi-generational nature of an industry dating back more than a century. The new generations are inheriting a dynamic industry that continues to evolve through innovation, starting with new advances in orchard management practices, post-harvest management, and developing exciting new consumer products that showcase the versatility and delicious taste of nutritious California walnuts.”

Together, the CWB and CWB represent over 4,500 California walnut growers and nearly 90 handlers producing over 1.4 billion pounds of walnuts in 2021 that shipped to more than 50 countries around the world.


SpartanNash Among Nation’s Best and Brightest Companies for 10th Straight Year

SpartanNash Best & Brightest 2022 Teaser

Food solutions company SpartanNash is once more among the 2022 Best and Brightest companies to Work For in the Nation, according to the National Association for Business Resources. This is the 10th consecutive year SpartanNash has been honored for its associate engagement and human resources practices. There were no other grocery companies on this year’s list.

“We are incredibly proud to have been recognized on a national level as a top employer for the past decade,” noted SpartanNash President and CEO Tony Sarsam. “Even through a pandemic, supply chain challenges and inflation shifts, we continue to prioritize People First initiatives and strive to cultivate an environment in which our associates can thrive, not only for themselves, but for their families and our larger communities.”

The Best and Brightest Companies to Work For competition is based on such categories as communication, work-life balance, employee education, diversity, recognition and retention.

Based in Warren, Mich., the National Association for Business Resources specializes in benchmarking employment standards and has held Best and Brightest competitions for more than two decades.

The 2022 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For list has 139 national winners chosen from 1,100 nominations. SpartanNash has also been recognized as one of West Michigan’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For since 2013, as well as one of Michigan’s Best and Brightest in Wellness since 2016. 

The company plans to host a National Day of Hiring for various retail and distribution center positions later this summer.

SpartanNash’s core businesses include distributing grocery products to independent and chain retailers, its corporate-owned retail stores, and U.S. military commissaries and exchanges, as well as fresh produce distribution and fresh food processing. No. 41 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company also operates 145 supermarkets and employs 17,500 associates. 


Walmart Regularly Raising Wages for Pharmacy Techs

Walmart Pharmacy Tech Teaser

For the second time in the past year, Walmart is making significant investments in higher wages and career progression for its pharmacy technicians, with the aim of creating additional avenues of growth and opportunity for them.

According to a blog post by Kevin Host, SVP, Walmart Health & Wellness, pharmacy, and Sean Jackson, SVP, Sam’s Club GMM, health and wellness/consumables, the retailer is doing the following: 

• Giving raises to current associates: As of this week, the company raised wages for its more than 36,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacy technicians, who will now earn an average hourly wage of more than $20 an hour. Pharmacy techs’ last pay increase was in August 2021.

• Offering more frequent raises: Pharmacy technicians will get more frequent, automatic pay raises as Walmart rolls out a progressive wage model designed to differentiate it from the competition. Pharmacy techs will receive raises every six months in their first two years with the company.

“We believe we are among the first large retailers to incorporate this kind of model – an approach that’s commonly seen in health care systems,” Host and Jackson wrote in the blog post. “This will help associates increase their pay more quickly as they build their careers and continue working at Walmart.”

Additionally, through its Live Better U and related programs, the company covers the costs of becoming certified to be a pharmacy technician, from career diplomas, on-the-job training and test prep, to paying the certification exam fee. Walmart certified technicians can make $3 more per hour than their non-certified peers. 

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while Sams Club, a division of Walmart, ranks eighth on the list.