News Briefs


FMI Members Head to DC to Push Food Industry Priorities


Member company representatives of FMI – The Food Industry Association are making their way to the nation’s capital today to advocate for legislative solutions to address industry issues and create opportunities for economic growth. Dozens of executives representing food retailers, wholesalers and product suppliers who sit on FMI’s Government Relations Committee are meeting with lawmakers to discuss such key topics as Farm Bill reauthorization, food safety regulations, credit card competition and pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) reform. 

“We are excited to bring FMI members together once again to have important discussions with key elected officials on the industry’s top legislative priorities,” noted Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer at Arlington, Va.-based FMI. “The food industry plays a vital role in supplying more than 100 million American households with the foods and household goods they need every day.” 

Added Hatcher: “Food retailers, wholesalers and product suppliers of all sizes support reauthorization of SNAP, a vital program to so many Americans, and advocate for the continued safety and efficiency of the most abundant food system in the world. Our retailer members are also confronted with ever-increasing credit card swipe fees paid to the largest banks and credit card companies at the expense of communities across our nation. Additionally, our members operate 12,000 pharmacies in diverse communities throughout our country that are seriously threatened by the anticompetitive business practices of the largest PBMs.”

FMI’s 2020 Day in Washington was canceled, and the organization’s 2021 and 2022 D.C. events were held virtually, because of the pandemic, so this year marks the first in-person Day in Washington since 2019.


Unilever CEO Joins Accenture Board


The CEO of Unilever has taken a seat on the board of directors at professional services company Accenture. Alan Jope will serve on the committee devoted to nominating, governance and sustainability.

Jope brings a wealth of industry knowledge and experience to his latest role as one of 10 Accenture directors. As the leader of London-based Unilever, he steers the global CPG’s business across 190 countries.

He was promoted to that role in January 2019 after being president of Unilever’s beauty and personal care division and, before that, working on various leadership roles in North America and Asia. Recently bestowed a visiting fellowship at the University of Oxford, Jope earned a BA in commerce from Edinburgh University and graduated from Harvard Business School’s general management program.

“Alan is a dynamic leader with vast expertise in the consumer goods industry and deep experience driving change through sustainable business at a global scale,” said Julie Sweet, chair and CEO of Dublin, Ireland-based Accenture. “He will bring valuable perspective and insight to our board and our company as we continue to execute on our strategy and create 360° value for all our stakeholders.”  

Meanwhile, Jope continues to spearhead Unilever’s international growth through a still-murky economic climate. In February, the company reported full-year results for 2022 showing a 9% gain in underlying sales, and growth across each of its five business groups. Unilever still projects strong underlying sales growth for its fiscal 2023 as the company navigates high inflation and expected volume declines.


Plus Brand Industries Adds New Community Engagement Directors


Plus Brand Industries, which offers the Aqua Plus line of water,  revealed that Kristen and Gary Toma are joining the organization as directors of community engagement. In this role, they will oversee the company’s widening distribution network and work with DSD distribution partners in key markets.

Leveraging their respective backgrounds in sales, marketing and healthy living, the Tomas will also engage with consumers through social media platforms, highlighting Aqua Plus’s “All-Scratch!” technology that allows for on-package personalization.

“Bottle confusion is a problem we constantly experience daily in our own family and social lives, so when we came across Agua Plus through a friend, we immediately knew that it was something we needed to be a part of. The idea of scratching something onto a drink to differentiate it from others is brilliant,” explained Kristen Toma.

George Zrinyi, national sales director for Sheridan, Wyo.-based Plus Brand Industries, emphasized the importance of community engagement and the Tomas’ new positions. “One of our goals as a company is to help our DSD partners increase their revenues, grow their nonalcoholic market share, incentivize their sales staff and ultimately move large volumes of Agua Plus quickly.” said Zrinyi. “When our partners win, we win. It all comes down to equipping them with a unique offering and then helping build awareness with retailers and consumers alike in their markets. Gary and Kristen are quickly proving to play a huge role in that process, and we are already preparing to replicate their approach, strategies and successes in additional markets.”


Sprouts Farmers Markets Divert Food Waste for On-Farm Soil and Feed

Sprouts farm

Sprouts Farmers Market is literally laying the groundwork for a more sustainable future through one of its latest initiatives. The organic and natural grocer is contributing food waste diverted from its stores for composing and feed on regenerative farms in Tennessee and Missouri.

Through a partnership with Ancient Nutrition’s  R.A.N.C.H. (Regenerative - Agriculture - Nutrition - Climate - Health) Project, Sprouts has diverted more than 362,000 pounds of food waste to farms since May 2022. The R.A.N.C.H. farms take a holistic approach to grazing and livestock management, using compost to enhance the quality and nutrient value of soil and nourishing animals with nutritious foods.  

[Read more: "Sprouts Farmers Market Resurrects 2 Licensed Locations"]

"We’re excited to partner with Ancient Nutrition as we recognize the possibilities of regenerative organic farming and the variety of sustainable benefits it will bring to our planet,” said Nick Konat, president and COO of Sprouts. “Together, we can further the movement in regenerative agriculture, working diligently to create a lasting impact on our future, both environmentally and economically.”

Echoed Jordan Rubin, Ancient Nutrition’s founder and CEO: "We believe at Ancient Nutrition, in partnership with Sprouts, we can heal the planet, feed the world and transform health – one bite, one capsule and one millimeter of topsoil at a time.”

In other news, Sprouts is also focusing on growth from within its own organization. The retailer announced that it is opening a new location in Wistminster, Md., in 2024. This will be the sixth Sprouts store in Maryland.

Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market employs approximately 31,000 associates and operates approximately 380 stores in 23 states nationwide. The company is No. 53 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


Walmart Receives 2023 INFORMS Prize for Analytics Applications

Walmart 2023 INFORMS Prize Teaser

Walmart has received the 2023 INFORMS Prize from Catonsville, Md.-based INFORMS, the largest association for the decision and data sciences. The award is bestowed for consistent and innovative dedication to using operations research (O.R.) and analytics in organizational decision-making for demand forecasting, supply chain and merchandising operations. 

Use cases include tracking inventory positions, optimal truck routing, forecasting demand and inventory levels, cross-docking, and shelf space optimization.

“We have a long history of using O.R. across the enterprise,” said Srini Venkatesan, Walmart Global Tech’s U.S. omni tech EVP. “It all comes back to one core purpose: to make sure our customers can get the items they want, where they want them and when they want them. We are honored to accept the INFORMS Prize and will continue applying O.R. to drive innovation at scale.”

“Walmart is showcasing data science as a source of business success and a necessary element to achieve customer satisfaction with continuous and dedicated practice,” noted Nilay Noyan Bulbul, the 2023 INFORMS Prize committee chair. “Walmart is truly deserving of this prestigious prize, and the entire O.R. and analytics community joins INFORMS in thanking them for their priceless contributions to the field and the business world.”

Past recipients of the INFORMS Prize include Amazon and Procter & Gamble.

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. Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on PG’s list. 


Harvest Market Introduces Healthy-Food Incentives

Harvest Market SPUR Teaser

Northern California independent grocer Harvest Market has become the first grocery store in the country to deliver healthy-food incentives straight to a customer’s EBT card. The food retailer began participating in the program in March.

The incentives go to participants in CalFresh, California’s federally funded food assistance benefits program, also known as SNAP, who earn matching dollars when they buy California-grown fruits and vegetables. So if a shopper buys $5 worth of local produce, they receive $5 on their EBT card.

Customers can earn up to $60 in rebates per month at the Harvest Market locations in Fort Bragg and Mendocino, Calif. SPUR (the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association), a nonprofit public policy organization, spearheaded the project. 

These programs have been linked to increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, resulting in less food insecurity, improved public health, and increased business for the California agriculture industry.

“Right now, with inflation, a reduction in public assistance benefits, and pandemic benefits ending, people need help,” said Harvest Market VP Jennifer Bosma. “And they need help on eating fresher, healthier food. This program gets fresh produce into more homes and encourages people to eat healthier. They get more food for their EBT dollar, and it helps California farmers.”

The CalFresh pilot project will run through December 2023. 

Family-owned Harvest Market operates three stores providing a unique blend of conventional, specialty, organic, domestic, international and local products. The indie also focuses on community support and sustainability practices.