News Briefs


Illinois Brings Back 1% Grocery Tax

grocery bill teaser

Illinois is rolling back a grocery tax suspension set in place in mid-2022 at a time of high gas and food prices and during an election year. On July 1, the state will resume its 1% grocery tax on items meant to be consumed offsite. The tax did not apply to liquor, foods with cannabis, candy or soda.

Illinois is one of 13 states and the only one out of the top 10 most populous states to levy a grocery tax. According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, the grocery tax hiatus saved consumers about $185 million between July 2022 and March 2023.

[Read more: "For Consumers, Value Means More Than Price"]

Elsewhere in the U.S., state legislators in Alabama passed a bill to eventually halve the state’s grocery tax from 4% to 2%. Currently on the governor’s desk, the tax rate would be cut to 3% in September and reduced another percentage point within a year if certain conditions are met. 

In addition to Illinois and Alabama, other states that currently impose a grocery tax include Mississippi, South Dakota, Missouri, Virginia, Utah, Arkansas, Hawaii, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Idaho and Kansas.

As states continue to weigh grocery taxes, the next report on food inflation will be released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on June 13. Earlier this month, the Biden Administration published a blog on the White House website on how food inflation, while still elevated over pre-pandemic, seems to be easing. 


The Wonderful Company Welcomes New SVP of Marketing

Benal Serin

The Wonderful Company, which encompasses brands including FIJI Water, POM Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios, Wonderful Halos, Wonderful Seedless Lemons, Teleflora and JUSTIN and Landmark wines, has appointed Benal Serin as SVP of marketing. She will lead marketing efforts across the company’s portfolio to expand its $2.1 billion in annual retail sales.

As The Wonderful Company broadens its brand offerings, Serin will also oversee flavor innovations, packaging changes, retail marketing and brand partnerships She reports to Michael Perdigao, president of advertising and corporate communications.

[Read more: "Jones Soda Names New President and CEO"]

Serin comes to Wonderful from her most recent position as chief marketing officer for Profectus Beauty LLC. She has also served as VP of marketing, global and North America, at Revlon and worked in various capacities at British CPG company Reckitt. She is a graduate of Koc University in Istanbul, Turkey, and Georgetown University's School of Business.

“Benal is an exceptional leader with a strong track record of success, and I am confident that with her leadership and passion for our vision, she will take our consumer-centricity, innovation, brand and marketing strategies, and capabilities to a new level,” said Perdigao.

Serin said she is ready to contribute to the company’s growth. “I am humbled to join this iconic company at such a pivotal time and look forward to learning and growing the business with my future colleagues as we collectively build on this work to lead Wonderful into its next chapter,” she declared.


Consumers Say This Grocery Aisle Is Essential to Every Shopping Trip

Dairy Aisle

Most U.S. adults (70%) say the dairy aisle is essential on every grocery trip, according to an Atomik study for the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA).

U.S. adults frequently shop in the dairy aisle for a variety of reasons. Some are looking for  cooking and baking essentials such as eggs, butter and milk. For families with children, almost two-thirds of parents (63%) find their favorite snacks in the dairy aisle. The dairy aisle is also home to plant-based alternatives. The research found that well over a third of Millennials consistently buy plant-based milk from the dairy aisle.

[Read more: "What Grocery Foot Traffic Tells Us About 2023 So Far"]

NFRA’s study revealed that 88% of U.S. consumers believe they are likely to find options that fit their lifestyle in the dairy aisle.

Consumers are also stopping in this space to buy nondairy products such as orange juice, coffee creamer, iced coffee and tea, and rolls and croissants.

"As consumer trends and preferences shift over time, the dairy aisle continues to innovate and remains a constant in U.S. consumers' shopping trips," said Tricia Greyshock, EVP/COO at NFRA. "Nearly three in five U.S. consumers (56%) report that products from the dairy aisle take up half or more than half of the space in their refrigerator."

Harrisburg, Pa.-based NFRA is a nonprofit trade association representing all segments of the frozen and refrigerated food industry. NFRA sponsors national promotions like June Dairy Month.


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.”