News Briefs


Empire Co.'s Loyalty Program Rollout Continues Across Canada

Freshco Scene+ Teaser

Canadian conglomerate Empire Co. Ltd. is rolling out the Scene+ loyalty program to stores in the province of Ontario, following successful launches in Atlantic and Western Canada.

Empire became a co-owner of Scene+ in June 2022, along with Scotiabank and Cineplex. The three iconic brands are transforming Scene+ into the country’s pre-eminent loyalty program, enabling members to earn and redeem points on groceries and across a broad spectrum of partners.

“The Western Canada launch of Scene+ brought us some exciting firsts, including the introduction of a loyalty program in our discount banner FreshCo. We’re thrilled with how customers in the West and Atlantic Canada have embraced the new Scene+,” said Sandra Sanderson, SVP of marketing at Empire Co. “We want to build on this momentum and look forward to launching the program at our stores and Voilà delivery in Ontario next month.”

In Ontario, Scene+ will be introduced on Nov. 3 at Empire banners Sobeys, Foodland, Voilà by Sobeys, FreshCo and Chalo! FreshCo.

Empire first introduced Scene+ to its shoppers in Atlantic Canada on Aug. 11. The program’s regional rollout will continue across Canada through the remainder of 2022 and into early 2023 at Sobeys, Safeway, Foodland, IGA, FreshCo and Chalo! FreshCo, Voilà, Thrifty Foods, Les Marchés Tradition Rachelle Béry, and company liquor stores.

For every 1,000 Scene+ points earned, customers at participating locations can save $10 off their select purchases at Empire’s banner stores.

Stellarton, Nova Scotia-based Empire's key businesses are food retailing, through wholly owned subsidiary Sobeys Inc., and related real estate. With approximately CAD $30.2 billion in annual sales and CAD $16.6 billion in assets, Empire and its subsidiaries, franchisees and affiliates employ approximately 130,000 people. The company is No. 22 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America


Where Do the All the Foodies Live?


It’s no secret that consumers were exploring new foods even before the pandemic that spurred a renaissance in at-home cooking. Now, a new analysis confirms that there are a whole lot of foodies in the marketplace.

According to a report on "2022’s Best Foodie Cities in America" from financial website WalletHub, today’s foodies are balancing their love of food and drink with realistic budgets in the wake of high inflation – often getting creative in the process. “Americans today apply the term ‘foodie’ to anyone who loves gourmet dining. But foodie culture isn’t limited to restaurants. Foodies enjoy discovering new and unique flavors wherever they can find them, including in their own kitchens and less prominent establishments like street food stalls. For these people, the experience of eating is elevated to a hobby or even a lifestyle,” asserted WalletHub’s financial writer Adam McCann

The company’s researchers compared more than 180 of the largest cities in the U.S. across 29 key metrics that assessed affordability, accessibility, food-related events and local establishments. The top 10 foodie cities include the following, in descending order: Portland, Ore.; Orlando, Fla.; Miami; San Francisco; Austin, Texas; Sacramento, Calif.; Seattle; Tampa, Fla.; Las Vegas; and San Diego.

From a retail perspective, the data shows that Orlando, Fla., is home to the most specialty food stores per square root of population. Rounding out the top five cities for specialty grocers are St. Louis, Honolulu, Cincinnati and Tampa, Fla.

The report also took a look at food costs and revealed that the lowest cost of groceries are in Brownsville, Texas, followed by Corpus Christi, Texas, Fort Wayne, Ind., Raleigh, N.C. and Knoxville Tenn. The highest cost of groceries are in San Jose, Calif., New York, N.Y., Juneau, Ala., Honolulu and Pearl City, Hawaii.


Walmart Wellness Day to Feature Immunizations, Resources

Walmart Wellness Day_teaser

In an effort to bring affordable immunizations to communities across the U.S., Walmart is holding its annual Wellness Day on Oct. 8. Customers at more than 4,600 Walmart pharmacies will be able to receive flu, pneumonia, shingles, HPV and other immunizations, as well as COVID-19 bivalent boosters with no out-of-pocket costs.

The following health resources will be available:

• Affordable immunizations, including flu, pneumonia, shingles, HPV, measles, mumps, whooping cough (TDAP), Hep A & B and others.
• Wellness resources and the opportunity to talk with pharmacists.
• Demos, giveaways and product sampling (in select stores).

“As we move into the fall and winter seasons, we want to do our part in helping families remain protected through immunizations,” said Kevin Host, Walmart’s SVP of pharmacy. “Wellness Day is such an impactful event because it allows customers an opportunity to check in on health priorities, meet our incredible pharmacists and engage in conversations around wellness. Along with our pharmacies, we also deliver care through Walmart Health Virtual Care and Walmart Health Centers, which highlights our commitment to improving access to quality, affordable healthcare.”

Each week, approximately 230 million customers and members visit Walmart’s more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 46 banners in 24 countries. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company employs approximately 2.3 million associates worldwide. 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.


Albertsons Cos. Relaunches Private Seafood Brand

Albersons seafood

To mark National Seafood Month, Albersons Cos. is relaunching its Waterfront Bistro brand of seafood products. Each item in the line is responsibly sourced and traceable, and also features the Responsible Choice logo indicating that it meets Albertsons’ Responsible Seafood Policy.

Additionally, Albertsons’ Waterfront Bistro brand is third-party audited to ensure every fish, shrimp or shellfish has been raised or caught in ways that help safeguard future supplies and keep ecosystems thriving. The private brand was originally launched in 2009, and product options range from frozen fin fish and shrimp to heat-and-serve meals and jarred sauces.

“We’re excited to reintroduce Waterfront Bistro as an elevated and responsible option for our shoppers,” said Katie Ceclan, VP of own brands for Albertsons. “With Waterfront Bistro, we’re making it easier than ever to access affordable, high-quality and responsibly sourced seafood ingredients so our customers can create restaurant-worthy dishes in the comfort of their own kitchens and feel good about the ingredients they’re using.”

Many Waterfront Bistro products include recipe ideas on the packaging, and additional inspiration can be found on the Albertsons website and through its Meal Plans tool. Customers can also scan a QR code for meal solutions, as well as helpful seafood tips, tricks and serving ideas.

Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates more than 2,200 retail stores with 1,700-plus pharmacies, 402 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. It has stores across 34 states and the District of Columbia under 24 well-known banners, among them Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, Carrs, Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lovers Market. Albertsons is No. 9 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Kroger Health Intends to Terminate Contract With Express Scripts

How Food as Medicine Drives Value at Kroger

On Sept. 29, the health care division of The Kroger Co. provided Express Scripts, Inc. written notice of its intention to terminate their pharmacy provider agreement for commercial customers. According to Kroger Health, it has attempted on dozens of occasions since February to negotiate in good faith with Express Scripts – seeking a more equitable and fair contract that lowers cost, increases access, and delivers greater transparency – but there has been little to no progress to date.

"Kroger is doing everything possible to deliver greater value for our customers and navigate this ongoing period of record inflation. We do not believe Kroger customers should have to pay higher costs to increase Express Scripts' profits," said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health.

"We took the necessary step of announcing our intention to terminate our contract with Express Scripts because the current arrangement does not enable Kroger to improve health access, deliver greater pricing transparency, and keep prices affordable for our more than 17 million patients," continued Lindholz. "So far, our efforts to negotiate in good faith have not delivered an agreement in the best interest of our customers – especially members of the military and their families receiving benefits through Tricare – that protects them from rising costs amid record inflation. Kroger remains willing to negotiate any contract with Express Scripts that results in a fair, transparent agreement at a rate that benefits everyone – particularly our customers – and prevents any disruption of services."

If a new agreement is not reached by Dec. 31, most Express Scripts' commercial customers around the country will no longer be able to fill prescriptions at pharmacies within the Kroger family of companies.

Serving 60 million households annually nationwide through a digital shopping experience, and almost 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names, Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 4 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Blue Apron CFO Stepping Down


Blue Apron CFO Randy Greben has resigned from his position, which he was named to in January 2021, effective Oct. 17. The meal kit company has appointed Mitchell Cohen to serve as interim CFO while it identifies a permanent replacement.

“Randy has played an important role at Blue Apron as we developed our new strategy to pursue growth alongside a path to profitability,” said Linda Findley, Blue Apron president and CEO. “I’d like to thank him for his contributions on behalf of everybody at Blue Apron. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

[Read more: "Behind Blue Apron’s Strategic Path Forward"]

According to Blue Apron, Cohen has more than 30 years of financial, operations and general business experience and will immediately start working with the company and Greben to facilitate a smooth transition. Spencer Stuart will conduct a search for the company’s next CFO.

“Mitch will be an asset to Blue Apron during this transitional period given his extensive public company experience, and understanding of subscription and ecommerce models,” said Findley. “As we continue to balance growth, our planned path to profitability and managing through inflationary periods, Mitch’s decades of experience can help us continue to execute The Next Course strategy outlined earlier this year."