News Briefs


Stew Leonard’s Founder Dead at 93

Stew Leonard Sr. Headshot Teaser

Stew Leonard Sr., founder of the Stew Leonard’s grocery store chain has died at the age of 93, according to a notice on the Stew Leonard’s website. A resident of Westport, Conn., Leonard passed away on April 26 at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital following a brief illness.

Born in Norwalk, Conn., in 1929, Leonard started out working for his family’s dairy business, but by the late 1960s, he had decided to open a retail dairy store where kids could watch milk being bottled while parents shopped in a farmer’s market atmosphere. In December 1969, the first Stew Leonard’s location made its debut, a 17,000 square-foot-store carrying just eight items. 

[Read more: "Stew Leonard’s Names Jake Tavello COO"]

Today, Stew Leonard’s is a $600 million family-owned and -operated business with seven stores and more than 2,500 employees. The company is currently run by Stew’s son, Stew Leonard Jr., with help from his siblings. Five of Leonard’s grandchildren have also joined the business, including COO Jake Tavello. One of Leonard’s favorite pastimes throughout his life was to stand at a Stew Leonard’s store entrance to greet customers, often by name. He was also a noted philanthropist.

In 1993, Leonard was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison for tax evasion, an experience he later addressed in his 2009 memoir.

According to the family, the memorial service and burial will be private, with a celebration of life to take place at a later date. Donations in Leonard’s memory may be made to the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation, an organization founded after the drowning death of his grandson in 1989, which helps to fund swimming lessons for children. Cards to the family can be sent to 100 Westport Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06851.

In addition to his wife of 70 years, Marianne Guthman Leonard, and their four children, Leonard’s survivors include 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.


Datasembly Launches Product Matching Service

datasembly match

Datasembly, a provider of real-time product pricing, promotions, and assortment data for retailers and CPG brands, has added a new product matching service. This feature offers a large base of private label and national brand product matches to deliver more clarity into today’s competitive product landscape.

The new service uses a proprietary match maintenance engine to keep product matching collections fresh, according to Datasembly. Combining the company’s extensive data with machine learning, the service identifies matching products across the entirety of the market, including comparisons between private label brands and those from private label to national brands. The technology also allows for matching for variable weight and PLU products.

[Read more: "Store Brand Sales Maintain Double-Digit Growth Rates"]

With the unprecedented rise of grocery prices and the subsequent growth of private label products, real-time tracking of competitor products and assortment data has become a critical need for our partners,” said CEO Ben Reich. “Our new product matching platform arms CPGs and retailers with a fast and reliable tool that offers transparency into the marketplace, allowing them to glean insights that are more important now than ever as we battle with an unsettled economy.”  

One early user is Wisconsin-based Skogen’s Festival Foods. "We are leveraging Datasembly's high quality, detailed product matching for several thousand private label products,” reported Ben Plaza, business analytics manager for that grocery chain. “The accuracy, breadth, and consistency of the deliverables enable us to pursue new strategic retail opportunities." 


Front-Line Retail Workers Feel Unprepared to Address In-Store Theft, Violence

Supermarket Theft Teaser

A survey of 1,000 retail and grocery associates by front-line enablement solution provider Axonify has found that many front-line workers lack proper training to deal with theft and frustrated shoppers, leaving the employees without preparation or support to deal with these issues.

[Read more: "Organized Retail Crime Threat Rising: NRF"]

Additional findings from Waterloo, Ontario-based Axonify are as follows:

• Theft is rising: Amid an uncertain economy, consumers are under pressure to make ends meet, driving many to steal. In fact, half of retail/grocery front-line workers surveyed witnessed a customer stealing or attempting to steal from their store in the last six months. Further, more than a quarter of those workers did nothing in response, because some believed that they lacked the skills to handle the situation (28%). 

• Hostile customer situations place new pressure on retail employees: Two in five front-line retail workers feel scared going into work because of an increase in volatile customer situations (40%). These range from everyday customer conflicts all the way up to in-store violence. 

• Retail workers need more training to feel prepared and safe: Although theft is common, 20% of retail/grocery front-line workers feel unprepared to deal with it. This may be because another 21% said that their employers haven’t given them the right tools and training to manage and defuse tense customer situations.

By providing retail and grocery workers with the right training and support to manage these challenging conversations, front-line organizations can help improve worker safety and well-being,” wrote Alex Kinsella in an Axonify blog post. “This level of training and enablement not only impacts how associates show up to work, but it also ripples across productivity, retention and recruitment, all critical factors in today’s labor market.”


SpartanNash Introduces Scholarship Program

student teaser

SpartanNash is opening up a new scholarship program to support outstanding students who are leaders in their communities. The Our Family 2023 Scholarship program is named after the company’s signature private label brand.

Students who live in a state served by SpartanNash can apply to receive a $2,000 scholarship that helps them in their undergraduate, graduate or vocational studies. Applications are open between May 1 and Aug. 31, and winners will be announced on Nov. 1.

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According to information from the Michigan-based food solutions company, scholarship recipients will be chosen based on multiple short essays that showcase their community involvement through extracurricular activities, charity work or other good works. "Rooted in the neighborhoods we serve, we are proud to recognize student leaders who are inspiring community engagement through volunteering or other acts of kindness," said Amy McClellan, SVP and chief marketing officer. "Supporting students in their academic journey while recognizing community contributions is perfectly aligned with our mission to deliver the ingredients for a better life."

SpartanNash’s core businesses include distributing grocery products to independent and chain retailers, its corporate-owned retail stores, and U.S. military commissaries and exchanges, as well as fresh produce distribution and fresh food processing. No. 41 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company serves customer locations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Europe, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Djibouti, Korea and Japan. SpartanNash also operates 147 supermarkets and employs 17,500-plus associates.


Trader Joe’s Set to Open Another Orange County Store


Just a bit due south of its headquarters, Trader Joe’s is readying a new location. The Monrovia, Calif.-based retailer announced that its latest store in Cypress, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles in Orange County, will welcome customers on Friday, May 5.

Shoppers can visit the store that day for a grand opening celebration spotlighting an array of products and amenities. Located at 5245 Katella Avenue, the Cypress store will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Golden State is home to the majority of Trader Joe’s locations, with 193 stores.

There was some other Trader Joe’s news coming out of its home state this week. Further north, employees at a Trader Joe’s store in Oakland voted to unionize, by a 73-53 margin.

As it opened its third store in 2023, Trader Joe’s is also shoring up its infrastructure for the future. In February, the retailer began work on a new food assembly and distribution center in Franklin, Ky. The facility in the Central U.S. is expected to open this fall.

With more than 500 stores in 40-plus states, Trader Joe’s is No. 27 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America


Kroger Invests in More Cloud Technologies

access point

Cloud networking provider Extreme Networks, Inc. is teaming up with The Kroger Co. to deploy scan-as-you-go technology and other services to the retailer’s stores. The Morrisville, N.C.-based Extreme Networks revealed that Kroger will use its cloud management and Wi-Fi 6E access points across its locations.

In addition to scanning capabilities, the platform offers inventory location and temperature sensing applications. Extreme Networks also claims to boost network capacity and infrastructure and provide grocers with a single view into their entire network.

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“Extreme’s differentiator is helping customers establish the network as a profit center, not a cost center. We take a collaborative approach to solving complex business problems through innovative technology,” explained Norman Rice, Extreme Networks' COO. “In retail and grocery specifically, we help customers unlock significant value from their network investment by leveraging network intelligence and leaning into automation to improve the in-store experience, streamline operations and drive associate productivity.”

Kroger continues to invest in technologies to enhance the customer experiences and boost its operational efficiencies. At the Shoptalk 2023 event in March, Kroger SVP Yael Cosset said that the retailer’s longtime investment in data and innovation saved customers $1.4 billion last year alone.

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