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As June goes into full swing, most people in the industry think about the start of the summer season, with thoughts going to the sunny weather, BBQs and vacation. In the Mid-Atlantic grocery industry however, at least this year, it brings about the long awaited debut of Lidl. With its first 10 stores opening on June 15 in North Carolina and Virginia, debut this has been two years in the making.  Not only is this mass opening expected to be an industry disruptor because of Lidl’s reputation overseas for offering high quality food items and groceries at low prices, but the German retailer has also taken a page out of the Target and H&M playbook by collaborating with a modern day fashion icon on a capsule fashion collection. Lidl just announced a partnership to sell the Esmara Heidi Klum line (which will be sold in Europe and its U.S. store later this year) with hopes of attracting more affluent shoppers. Ryan McDonnell, Lidl UK’s commercial director, stated, “As both a global fashion icon and grounded individual, Heidi is an incredible source of inspiration, which we think will really resonate with our customers. We are extremely excited about offering our most premium fashion range to date, and look forward to the first collection going on sale later this year.” The collection is expected to launch just before London Fashion Week in September and is projected to sell out.

Meanwhile, major competitor Aldi is already preparing to take on its fellow German retail nemesis head-on. With plans to spend $1.6 billion remodeling 1,300 of its U.S. stores announced earlier this year, Aldi also just recently stated that it will spend $3.4 billion over the next five years to open 900 supermarkets. One way Aldi will be standing out from its arch rival is through its retail wine offerings.  Aldi can now it boast that it sells an award-winning wine, considered one of the best of its kind in the world. The discount supermarket’s Exquisite Collection Côtes de Provence Rosé earned a silver medal at the International Wine Challenge, considered by many to be the Oscars of winemaking. The kicker? It sells for only $8 a pop! And if rosés are not your thing, never fear! Their Broken Clouds Pinot also was recognized as the 2017 “Product of the Year” winner in the wine category. “Product of the Year” is the world’s largest consumer-voted award for product innovation. In partnership with Kantar TNS, a leading global research company, more than 40,000 consumers were surveyed to assess consumer opinions on several criteria including product appeal, satisfaction, advocacy, purchase interest, uniqueness, relevance and excitement. Winners are announced every February, selected from different categories within beauty, personal care, household essentials, and food and beverage. Move over, Trader Joe’s. Your (more than) Two Buck Chucks may have just become obsolete.

In honor of June being National Dairy Month, Safeway and The American Dairy Association Northeast have joined forces with Feeding America and local food banks to present The Great American Milk Drive initiative to deliver fresh, nutrient-rich milk to local kids and families in need. From June 1 through June 30, shoppers at 123 Safeway stores across Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Florida can donate at checkout to help support children and their families in local communities this summer. “Safeway is dedicated to fighting hunger in our communities,” said Dan Valenzuela, president of Safeway’s Eastern Division. “We know it’s important to deliver milk during the summertime, because when schools are out kids may be missing out on essential nutrients like protein that help fuel playing, learning and growing. Our shoppers’ donations will help deliver gallons of milk to local families in need to ensure that all children have nutrients they need to live up to their potential.” According to Feeding America, milk is one of the most requested but least donated items at food banks. On average, food banks are only able to provide the equivalent of less than one gallon of milk per person, per year.  During the summer months, food banks may be even busier, and it’s increasingly important to fill this need so that children who face hunger are not missing out on the essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, that milk supplies. Since 2014, Feeding America has partnered with The Great American Milk Drive to help supply its nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs with highly requested milk. Thanks to the generous contributions made by shoppers and donors across the country, The Great American Milk Drive has delivered more than 1 million gallons (which is more than 16 million servings) of milk to families in need throughout the country, including more than 965,000 servings in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Florida. Donations made in-store or online at milklife.com/give will deliver gallons of milk to local families in need, helping to ensure that all children have access to nutrients that fuel the joys of summer. By entering a zip code online, donors can ensure that the milk is delivered to a local Feeding America food bank in their very own community.

In other charitable news, Wegmans Food Markets delivered a truckload of 17,726 pounds of nonperishable food to the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB), the region’s largest hunger relief organization, late last month. The delivery, which went to the CAFB’s Northern Virginia location, included 20 pallets of canned soups, vegetables and fruit, peanut butter, canned tuna, cereal and juice – all of which helped feed thousands of residents struggling to get enough food to eat.  “We recognize that food banks have increased needs during the summer months when children aren’t in school, so we wanted to help ensure the food bank is prepared to meet those needs,” said Mike Anthony, Wegmans’ Alexandria service manager. “One of our values is to make a difference in every community we serve, and this partnership is one way we’re putting that value into action.” Helping feed the hungry is a community giving priority for the Rochester, NY based supermarket chain. “Since joining the Alexandria, VA community three year ago, Wegmans Food Market has been committed to partnering with Capital Area Food Bank’s efforts in the Northern Virginia Community to get food to children – especially in advance of the summer months,” stated Cecelia Vergaretti, director of CAFB, Northern Virginia region. “We need food during this time of the year more than ever and are so thankful that Wegmans, and their customers choose this time to support us.” Last year, Wegmans donated approximately 14.5 million pounds of food to local food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens across all its market areas.

Also being their usual philanthropic self last month was Giant/Landover, which presented a $5,000  donation to Rolling Thunder over Memorial Day weekend during their XXX Ride for Freedom in DC. The annual motorcycle gathering, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, is held to honor POW and MIA service members and attracts thousands of bikers and spectators alike. The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness about military members who are considered Missing in Action or Prisoners of War. The donation by the retailer was made in support of the non-profit organization’s mission to bring full accountability for POW/MIA of all wars.

And lastly, Seasons Kosher Supermarkets, a Flushing, NY-based kosher grocery retailer offering gourmet food and all the products expected in any supermarket, announced last month that it plans to open three new stores in Scarsdale, NY, Baltimore and Cleveland. This would expand the company’s established marketplace in New York and New Jersey. “It’s not hard to see why Seasons has become the first national kosher supermarket chain,” said Paul Ruitenberg, director of Ruitenberg Lind Design Group (RLDG), which plans, designs and fabricates Seasons stores. “They have an extremely successful blueprint that makes the shopping experience enjoyable and makes people want to come back. The key elements are food, customer service, store cleanliness and aesthetics and how they treat the community.” According to Seasons CEO Mayer Gold, the supermarket is growing into areas where the demographics indicate there is a need. The company operates two stores in Lawrence, NY (including a Seasons Express that Gold said is the only kosher grocery in the country that is open 24 hours a day except Saturday when all Seasons are closed) and it opened its newest location, a 35,000 square-foot Clifton, NJ store, on Allwood Road at the site of a former Acme. Good luck to Seasons on their planned expansion!

Until next month…