News Briefs


eGrowcery Platform Now Includes Prepared Foods

La Bonita Curbside Delivery Teaser

To accommodate the rising importance of prepared foods at supermarkets and other food retailers, eGrowcery, developer of a leading white-label e-commerce platform, has expanded its technology to provide the specific capabilities necessary for digital foodservice operations. These include features that help shoppers and retailers manage order lead time requirements, order sizing, upselling, optional “made to order” preferences and other fulfillment efficiencies. Additionally, retailers can use the platform just for prepared foods or as a fully integrated extension of the retailer’s grocery e-commerce ecosystem.

[Read more: "eGrowcery Platform Helps Retailers Accept EBT SNAP"]

“Supermarket operators are responding to consumer demand for convenience and quality by escalating their meal solution offerings, and we have purpose-built our platform to meet the new market requirements,” noted Patrick Hughes, CEO of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based eGrowcery. “Our team worked with current retail customers and other industry experts to ensure that shoppers can easily and effectively order prepared foods all within a singular, integrated shopper login.” 

La Bonita Markets, a seven-store chain in Las Vegas, is among the food retailers highlighting its selection of prepared foods and superior service. The independent grocer is now offering Hispanic specialties such as tacos, burritos and menudo online using the eGrowcery prepared foods module to integrate these offerings into the overall digital experience. 

“The use of online ordering for our kitchen items, which is a bit different from groceries because of the timing, has been really well received,” said Armando Martinez, co-owner of La Bonita. “The volume for prepared foods is still smaller than the grocery business, but it’s growing at a faster rate and we expect that to continue.” Martinez added that the eGrowcery system is key to that future growth.


Brighter Bites Grows in D.C.

Brighter Bites Teaser

Brighter Bites, a national nonprofit organization delivering fresh fruits and vegetables directly to families, has expanded further within the Washington, D.C., area.

Present in Maryland’s Prince George’s County since 2017, the program is now expanding its reach to hundreds of families in the D.C. Public Schools District. This year, the organization is working with 16 schools in Prince George’s County and two in the District, including Browne Education Campus and Wheatley Education Campus, both located in Washington, D.C.’s underserved Ward 5.

[Read more: "DoorDash, Brighter Bites Team to Deliver Fresh Food to Families"]

Brighter Bites’ expansion in the region is made possible through such key partners as 4P Foods, a weekly grocery delivery service covering communities in Washington, D.C.; Virginia; and Maryland. 

“We believe that fresh, healthy, delicious food should be the norm, not the exception – a right, not a privilege,” said Tom McDougall, founder and CEO of 4P Foods. “Working together with Brighter Bites allows us to build towards that mission with every single delivery. This program not only provides wonderful food to families that might not otherwise have access to it, but it is showing what’s possible when we rethink what the future food system must look like. It is an opportunity to work with a large network of community leaders, families, farmers, educators, children and others to build towards a better food system, one that is regional, regenerative, equitable and delicious. We’re honored to be a part of it.”

Since its launch in 2012, Brighter Bites has distributed more than 50 million pounds of produce and hundreds of thousands of nutrition education materials to 500,000-plus individuals through schools, after-school programs and summer camps in the following areas: Houston; Austin; Dallas; New York; Washington, D.C.; southwest Florida; Salinas, Calif.; Los Angeles; and Bakersfield, Calif. 


Publix’s Lakeland VP to Retire

Sam Pero Teaser

A leader of Publix’s hometown area is stepping down. The Florida-based grocer announced that Sam Pero (pictured), VP of its Lakeland division, will retire at the end of this calendar year.

Pero, 60, is the definition of a longtime employee, starting at the company in 1977 as a part-time service clerk in Pembroke Pines, Fla. During the course of his 45-year career, he steadily ascended through the company ranks, promoted to store manager, district manager and regional director. He has served in his current role since 2016. In 1999, he received the President’s Award for fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

[Read more: "Publix Wraps Up Choppy Q3"]

“Sam has been an energetic leader having made significant contributions in three of our five divisions. He has been responsible for growing and serving our diverse market area. In his 45 years, he has trained and mentored countless associates and has been committed to serving his customers and communities in times of need. We are thankful for Sam’s leadership and wish him a happy retirement," remarked Publix President Kevin Murphy.

Marsha Singh will succeed Pero in the VP position for the Lakeland division. She, too, is a long-serving team member following her initial hiring in 1993 as a part-time cashier in Palm Bay, Fla. Singh moved up to store manager, district manager and regional director and continued Pero’s commitment by wining the President's Award for her diversity and inclusion efforts in 2017.

“Marsha is a dynamic leader who focuses on coaching, training and developing associates,” Murphy asserted. “She has made a positive impact on the lives of those around her by helping them achieve their personal best. She is also focused on operational excellence and continuous quality improvement. Marsha is a great merchant who is passionate about service. I am proud of what she has been able to accomplish so far and excited to see the contributions she will continue to make at Publix.”

Employee-owned and -operated Publix Super Markets has close to 1,300 supermarkets in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Publix is No. 12 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


New Plant-Based Certification Program Launches

Plant-Based Meat Teaser

SCS Global Services, a leading provider of third-party certification, has launched its Plant-Based Certification Program. The program, incorporating a new standard from SCS Standards, a nonprofit American National Standards Institute-accredited body, distinguishes plant-based brands based on strict auditing, testing and labeling requirements. 

Products eligible to receive certification under the SCS-109 Standard include food, beverages, CBD and body care products. Certification confirms that products don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients. Additionally, products for human and animal consumption must contain a minimum of 95% plant-based ingredients, while other products, such as body care products, must be derived at least 50% from plants. 

[Read more: "It's Taste That Keeps Plant-Based Shoppers Coming Back"]

“We are excited to support companies who are offering plant-based alternatives,” said Lucy Anderson, director of project claims certification for Emeryville, Calif.-based SCS Global Services’ food and agriculture services division. “Our aim is to provide independent confirmation of claims in this sector, based on the most robust standard available, with stringent auditing and testing protocols.” 

The Plant-Based Certification’s audit mechanisms, procedures and quality systems are aligned with other SCS certification programs, such as the SCS Gluten-Free, enabling companies to reduce audit fatigue and combine plant-based certification with other product label claims. SCS-109 is the latest addition to the company’s food consumer labeling standards, which also include USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified.


Ollie’s Expands Board of Directors

Ollie's Teaser

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Holdings, Inc. has appointed AriZona Beverages CEO Abid Rizvi as a member of its board of directors.

Rizvi has held the CEO position at AriZona Beverages since 2020. He joined the company behind the iconic 99c Big Can in 2016. Rizvi also brings over 20 years of experience in consumer investment banking, working for such companies as RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Jefferies, LLC, and Merrill Lynch & Co. Rizvi has extensive experience in business operations, mergers and acquisitions, and financings. He earned an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a bachelor of science degree from MIT.

[Read more: “Ollie’s Hires CFO”]

John Swygert, Ollie’s president and CEO, stated, “We are delighted to welcome Abid to our board and believe that we will benefit from his extensive financial and operations experience as well as his overall business acumen. He is an accomplished and seasoned leader and will be a tremendous resource as we continue to execute our growth strategies and build the Ollie’s brand. We look forward to his insights and contributions as our newest board member.”

Rizvi’s appointment to the board of directors expands the number of board members to eight. The appointment is effective immediately, and he will stand for election to the board of directors at the company’s 2023 annual meeting of stockholders. Rizvi will also serve on the company’s audit committee.

Harrisburg, Pa.-based Ollie’s offer extreme value on brand-name products in a variety of departments, including housewares, food, books and stationery, bed and bath, floor coverings, toys, health and beauty aids, and more. It currently operates more than 460 stores in 29 states.


Tops Supermarket Shooter Pleads Guilty to Murder, Terrorism

Buffalo Tops Memorial Teaser

The teenage gunman who last May opened fire at a Buffalo, N.Y., Tops Markets store in a predominantly African American neighborhood, killing 10 and wounding three, has pleaded guilty on Nov. 29 to first-degree murder and other state charges related to the racially motivated attack, including domestic terrorism. The hearing took place Nov. 28 at Erie County Court. 

Payton Gendron, who was 18 at the time of the mass shooting, earlier pleaded not guilty after a grand jury returned an indictment in June, Reuters reported. Gendron now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole just on the domestic terrorism charge. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 15, according to published reports. 

Reuters noted that Gendron was the first defendant in New York state ever to be indicted for a domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree. Police said that he left a racist manifesto online before the attack and livestreamed the massacre on social media.

A separate indictment returned in U.S. District Court in July charged Gendron with 27 federal hate crimes and firearms offenses, for which he could receive the death penalty if he’s convicted.

Since the shooting, Tops has reopened the store where the attack took place and teamed with the nonprofit National Compassion Fundto establish the Buffalo 5/14 Survivors Fund, with the aim of providing direct financial assistance to the survivors of those killed and people directly affected by the tragedy.The grocer contributed $500,000 to get the fund started.