Retailer cooperative Wakefern Food Corp. celebrated 75 years in business during its Oct. 21 annual meeting, at which Chairman and CEO Joseph S. Colalillo, President and COO Joe Sheridan, and EVP Chris Lane addressed an audience comprising Wakefern members, shareholders, staff and store management who attended in person and virtually
“As we reflect upon the rich legacy of our cooperative – and the history of our family businesses – we also focus on the future, mindful that we are here today because working together, our founding families had the foresight, determination and grit to always look forward,” said Colalillo, who also runs ShopRite of Hunterdon County, which was founded by his father in 1954 and today consists of five ShopRite stores. “Seventy-five years later, we are still made up of family-owned businesses with deep roots in the communities where our stores operate.”
As part of the meeting, Wakefern reported retail sales of $17.8 billion for the fiscal year ending Oct. 2, a 2.7% decline from the prior year’s $18.3 billion.
“The prior year was up nearly 10%, but benefited from pandemic spending and a 53-week fiscal year,” noted Mike Troy, editorial director of Progressive Grocer. “Given that challenging comparison, a 2.7% decline seems like a win.”
Also during the fiscal year ending Oct. 2, Wakefern opened four ShopRite stores, four Price Rite Marketplace supermarkets, and welcomed a new member, the Slawsby family. The Slawsbys’ company, Massachusetts-based Madison Food Corp., is a third-generation grocery business currently operating four Price Rite Marketplace supermarkets in the Boston area.
The 75th anniversary celebration and meeting additionally featured recorded video thank-you and congratulatory messages from local celebrities, athletes, community and industry leaders, and representatives of Special Olympics New Jersey and several food banks supported by Wakefern.
“Seventy-five years is a big deal – pretty remarkable given that family-owned businesses rarely survive past the third generation,” noted Sheridan. “It’s important that we pause and recognize this milestone and use it as a moment to reflect on what made us great in the past and what will keep us great to ensure that we keep moving forward for generations to come.”
Meanwhile, Lane discussed the retail innovations adopted by the co-op, including the expansion of Wakefern’s successful private brands, Bowl & Basket, Paperbird, and Wholesome Pantry and Wholesome Pantry Organic, as well as the growth of the Fresh to Table meal solution concept in ShopRite stores.
“We are all invested together in this partnership, our cooperative,” he said. “Teamwork was the key to Wakefern’s founding and early successes, and I’m confident it’s the key to Wakefern’s future.”
Further, Colalillo presented this year’s Chairman’s Award to Dewey Cannella, Wakefern’s recently retired VP of labor relations, thanking the executive for his 30-plus years of service to the cooperative.
Wakefern was founded in 1946, when eight independent New Jersey grocers, faced with mounting pressure from big supermarket chains, united to maximize their purchasing power by forming a buying cooperative.
The largest retailer-owned grocery cooperative in the United States. Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corp. comprises nearly 50 members that independently own and operate 361 supermarkets under the ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Together with its member companies, Wakefern employs nearly 80,000 people. The company is No. 23 on The PG100, Progressive Grocer’s2021 listing of North America’s top food and consumables retailers in North America.