News Briefs


Hy-Vee to Hold Quarterly Best of Local Brands Summit in August

Hy-Vee Sign Teaser

Hy-Vee Inc. will host its next quarterly Best of Local Brands Summit in August to expand and enhance the product offerings at its stores in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Since these summits began in early 2021, 125-plus new brands have been made available to Hy-Vee customers.

The upcoming summit will consist of 15- to 30-minute virtual presentations from selected suppliers on Wednesday, Aug. 2.

[Read More: “Hy-Vee Doubles Down on Expansion in Tennessee”]

The grocer is accepting submissions for its Best of Local Brands Summit online starting Monday, June 12 in the categories of retail-ready products: grocery, produce, deli, general merchandise, frozen, dairy, and health and beauty care. The submission deadline is Monday, June 26.

ECRM and RangeMe are helping Hy-Vee source, qualify and connect with suppliers. All product submissions will be made through RangeMe, an online product discovery and sourcing platform, and all meetings will be held on ECRM’s virtual meeting platform, ECRM Connect. Suppliers not selected for participation in this upcoming summit will still be accessible through RangeMe and may be reviewed by Hy-Vee again in the future.

Employee-owned Hy-Vee operates more than 285 retail stores across eight Midwestern states, with sales of more than $13 billion annually. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company has a team of more than 80,000 employees and is No. 36 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named Hy-Vee as a 2023 Top Regional.


FMI’s Dagmar Farr to Become Strategic Program Consultant

FMI Dagmar Farr Teaser

Dagmar Farr, SVP, member services at FMI – The Food Industry Association, will transition to a consulting role on June 30 after 40-plus years at the Arlington, Va.-based trade organization in roles ranging from consumer affairs and government relations to her current position related to member value and education.

[Read More: "FMI Promotes Dana Graber to Associate General Counsel"]

Noted FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin: “The matriarch of consumer affairs in the food industry, Esther Peterson, concluded in her memoir, ‘Restless,’ ‘Look around you, at your companions on this journey, and choose to lift them up.’ It’s difficult to identify one who has implemented Peterson’s directive more than FMI’s Dagmar Farr. Now it is our turn to lift her up for all she has done for FMI and for the food industry. After giving us more than 40 years of immeasurable service, Dagmar is yet again transitioning her talents at FMI, this time from full-time employment to a consulting role. I am grateful for her willingness to remain attached so that we can continue to draw upon her wealth of knowledge, experience and industry insight.” 

In her next role, Farr will mainly focus on an FMI program that she created and nurtured, the FMI Share Group model, which now consists of more than 10 share groups and 15-plus sub-share groups that enable independent operators and regional chains to assemble and share strategies and tactics with similar companies in a noncompetitive format.

Also effective June 30, Jennifer Hatcher will add to her government relations playbook and take on membership services duties, while Heather Garlich will assume education and events under her responsibilities for communications, marketing and research and insights. 


IFPA Advocates for Farm Bill in D.C.

Farming teaser

For the second week, International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) members testified at key hearings in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the produce industry. The June 7 hearing, “How the Farm Bill Works for Specialty Crop Producers,” was held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics and Research, 

“Our members, with their first-hand experience of both policies that work and those that do not, make the best advocates before members of Congress as they head into Farm Bill negotiations,” said IFPA VP of U.S. Government Relations Rebeckah Adcock.

Charles Wingard, VP of field operations at Pelion, S.C.-based Walter P. Rawl & Co., testified on priorities critical to the growth of the specialty-crop sector, including insurance, conservation and the climate, nutrition, research, organics, and trade.  

“The current implementation of AGI [adjusted gross income] limitations disproportionately prohibits specialty-crop producers from participating in certain USDA programs in a meaningful way and potentially inhibits specialty-crop producers from participating in disaster programs,” said Wingard. “USDA programs that require a means test for participation should be based on income derived from farming and be flexible enough to account for the variety of structures, accounting methods and other special considerations for specialty-crop producers, not just their AGI.” 

This has been a topic of concern for the industry, especially following atmospheric river events in California earlier this year 

Wingard also prioritized support for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), noting that “SCRI addresses the critical needs of our industry by awarding grants that support research and extension that address key challenges of national, regional and multistate importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture, including conventional, contained-environment and organic production systems.” 

IFPA members also testified at May 31 Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing “From farm to table: Immigrant workers get the job done.”


Kroger Expanding E-Commerce SNAP EBT Payments Across Several Banners

Fred Meyer to Have OnPoint Community Credit Union Locations

The Kroger Co. is making it easier for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to order groceries online as it brings e-commerce electronic benefit transfer (EBT) payments to its Fred Meyer, Smith’s and QFC banners.

The expansion includes Fred Meyer and QFC stores throughout Oregon, Idaho and Washington, as well as all Smith’s locations. Customers can create an account through the respective grocer’s app or through their websites, then add an EBT account number as a new card under the “My Account” and “Wallet” options. Online EBT payment can only be used for SNAP-eligible products.

[Read more: "Kroger to Open Distribution Center in Northern Kentucky"]

“Thousands of Fred Meyer and QFC shoppers place digital orders every week. Now, we are opening our digital grocery shopping experience to more people, with fresh, affordable food conveniently available through pickup or delivery,” said Tiffany Sanders, corporate affairs manager. “Fred Meyer and QFC believe in being Fresh for Everyone, and this is another important way we are connecting our neighbors to the foods that will help them live healthier, thriving lives.”

Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic region, which covers stores in Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, began accepting online SNAP payments in April.

Cincinnati-based Kroger has almost 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 4 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named Kroger one of the Retailers of the Century.


eGrowcery Forms Partnership With Auto-Star

Auto-Star eGrowcery Teaser

eGrowcery, developer of a white-label e-commerce platform, and Auto-Star Compusystems Inc., a provider of point-of-sale and retail management solutions, are now offering retailers a fully integrated solution incorporating the capabilities of both companies. The partnership aims to improve the way that grocery merchants and other retailers connect with shoppers, as well as to increase store operations performance and to enhance the digital supply chain.

“Retailers understand the importance of controlling the relationship with the consumer, and our partnership with Auto-Star helps them do just that,” said Patrick Hughes, CEO of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based eGrowcery. “Together, our solutions create a complete platform for both connecting with shoppers and operating a very efficient digital retail ecosystem.” 

[Read more: "eGrowcery’s BOLT Option Gives Retailers Greater Control of Online Ops"]

Auto-Star’s Star-Plus software provides grocery, pharmacy and natural health retailers with such customized features as customer loyalty, inventory control, payments, reporting, e-commerce and mobile delivery.

“The combination of eGrowcery and Auto-Star solutions create great synergies for retail users, from the integration of transaction log data to the back-end payment activity,” said Robert Symmonds, president and CEO of Medicine Hat, Alberta-based Auto-Star. “The integration streamlines operations, enhances customer experiences, and drives growth, creating a dynamic synergy where all stakeholders see benefits through more effective management of the whole customer journey.” 

eGrowcery recently joined forces with Freshmart, a natural food retailer with seven stores in Puerto Rico, on a customized system focusing on prepared and fresh food, along with fulfillment options that include store pickup and integrated delivery to start. 


Independent Grocer RF Buche Receives NGA Spirit of America Award

RF Buche Spirit of America NGA Teaser

The National Grocers Association (NGA) has presented its Spirit of America Award to fourth-generation South Dakota independent grocer RF Buche, in recognition of his commitment to the independent grocery industry and his work in his community. Buche, president of Wagner, S.D.-based GF Buche Co., received the award during NGA’s Fly-In for Fair Competition, held June 6-7 in Washington, D.C. 

“RF Buche has demonstrated that independent grocers play a central role in expanding food access in rural, remote and underserved communities,” noted Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based NGA. “His extensive efforts toward fighting food insecurity, as well as his advocacy for antitrust reform, exemplify his commitment to our industry and the essential role it plays in feeding our nation.” 

Buche testified before the House Rules Committee on his company’s efforts to tackle food insecurity. These include stocking a trailer with healthy foods and essential products for communities on tribal lands and other remote places, and offering temperature-controlled food lockers in areas with limited access to grocery products, allowing residents to order groceries online or with a smart device using SNAP, debit or credit. 

Buche has also been a passionate advocate for antitrust reform, including enforcement of the Robinson-Patman Act

Established in 1982, the Spirit of America Award honors industry and community leaders in the areas of community service and government relations on behalf of the independent supermarket industry. NGA has given the award to such luminaries as Presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford.