In & Around Food World

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The National Retail Federation reported that, despite an increase in payroll taxes and higher gasoline taxes, retail sales (excluding sales of autos, gas station sales and restaurants) increased 7 percent from January.

The Washington Post reports that a coalition of “environmental, religious and business groups” is endeavoring to persuade Maryland state lawmakers to impose a five-cent charge for each disposable plastic bag handed out by businesses to customers, which the groups say “would help the environment and not burden low-income residents.”

According to the story, Maryland might actually be the first state to impose such a statewide charge, though “at least five other states – Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington” – are contemplating similar legislation.

The story reports: “…under the Maryland proposal … shoppers would be charged a nickel for each disposable bag. Merchants would be able to keep a penny per bag, and stores that offer a rebate to customers who bring their own bags would keep two cents for each disposable bag sold.”

Everyone wants to be a supermarket operator. In a recent article in the Morning News Beat column of The Los Angeles Times, the writer reports on how drug stores are changing their approach as a way of attracting more customers to shop more often.

“Walgreens, for example, is opening glossy stores that feature sushi chefs and enormous alcohol selections. CVS stores have added fresh sandwiches and produce. Rite Aid has been revamping its locations and bringing in packaged organic and gluten-free food.”

“Drug stores perceive themselves as not just competing with each other, but also with mass merchants that sell many of the same items they do, as well as with online merchants that can beat them on cost and that appeals to tech savvy younger shoppers.”

In an article by Brady Dennis, published last month in The Washington Post, he writes that “Whole Foods became the first retailer in the country to announce that it would require its more than 300 stores to label all food containing genetically modified ingredients.”

The move, to be phased in over five years, marked the latest salvo in a decades-long global fight over the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as corn, cotton and soybeans in food. As the use of GMOs in a wide range of products has proliferated, so has the argument over whether they are safe for humans and the environment, whether they deserve more scrutiny from regulators and how they should be labeled.”
Stay tuned to this one, we’re sure to hear more about this in months to come.

We were saddened to learn of the death of Eddie Basha, chairman and CEO of the Basha’s family-owned grocery store chain in Arizona. Basha’s grandfather and father opened the first unit of what would become the family owned chain in 1932. Eddie took over the business at age 31 when his father died in 1968. The chain grew to what it is today, 130 stores around Arizona and they also own the AJ’s Fine Foods and Food City Stores. Basha served on the Arizona Board of Regents and unsuccessfully ran for Arizona governor in 1994. He was 75.

Birthday wishes go out this month to: Lee Chadwick, mother of Lancaster Foods’ Jerry Chadwick; my son Rick Bestany, Allegian Systems, and son-in-law, Bill Ireland, Clyde’s Restaurant Group. Celebrating an anniversary are Jeremy and Helen Diamond, Food-A-Rama, their 10th.