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Could it be that Spring has finally arrived to our area?? I certainly hope so, because it sure would be nice to feel a little sunshine and warmth again. The New Jersey Food Council’s annual Night of Distinction regularly brings out the crowds, and this year’s event at the Palace at Somerset Park was no exception for NJFC president Linda Doherty and the association. More than 600 guests were on hand to see the Food Council honor Nico Sumas of Village Supermarkets, John Derderian of Allegiance Retail Services, LLC and Frank Mastrangelo of Supervalu. The evening recognizes honorees for their contributions to advance the mission of the NJFC as well as their achievements in the food industry. Well deserved to all of the recipients.

Brian Todd, president of The Food Institute tells us that a free webinar will take place on May 17 at 12:00 p.m. The topic will be “Future of Food Retailing: Winning the Me Generation through Shopper Analytics.” The webinar, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank and The Food Institute and conducted with Willard Bishop, will focus on enhancing the analytic-to-activation cycle to measure, interpret, and predict outcomes which drive continuous KPI improvement and should be the top priority for CPG manufacturers and retailers in the years ahead. While many retailers still believe e-commerce is far from the tipping point, Amazon keeps innovating and winning shoppers – Millennial shoppers to be more specific. Putting this into context means Amazon continues to attract the largest consumer segment. These digitally savvy consumers are also starved for time, making them even more likely to shop online. This doesn’t mean traditional retailing is dead. It does mean the industry, as a collective, must do things differently. But this level of insight reaches beyond traditional t-log, panel, and syndicated data. This next generation of analytics, which includes predictive and prescriptive capabilities, will dig deep into customer behavior, social engagement and the shopper’s journey. To attend The Food Institute and Willard Bishop’s annual Future of Food Retailing webinar and learn more about the new rules and the new tools of shopper engagement contact The Food Institute at webinars@foodinstitute.com or call 201.791.5570.

Allegiance Retail Services recently held its annual membership meeting late last month in Carlstadt, NJ where it announced the election of its board of managers and the board of directors of its affiliate, Foodtown, Inc.

The company reported record sales and income for fiscal year 2016, and that four new members have joined the retailer-owned cooperative this year. New this past year was the acquisition and introduction of the Green Way Natural/Organic Private Label line. “We have been focused on delivering high quality food that customers will be proud to serve their families. The Green Way Line represents a point of entry for our customers who otherwise felt priced out of the natural/organic lines,” stated John Derderian, president of Allegiance.

At the meeting, the company also welcomed its newest members, companies owned by John Doyle, Gabriel Estevez and Albert Tirado, Abdel Jawad and Frank Widdi and Joe Rauh as new members of Allegiance.

Re-appointed to the Allegiance board of managers were: Nicholas D’Agostino III, John Estevez, Christopher Evans, Daniel Katz, David Maniaci, Esmail Mobarak, Louis Scaduto Jr. and John Shakoor. Derderian was re-appointed to the board of managers in his capacity of president and COO of the company. The board of managers elected, for another term, David Maniaci as chairman and CEO.   Additionally, Louis Scaduto Jr. was elected vice chairman; Christopher Evans, vice president; Daniel Katz, secretary; and Esmail Mobarak as treasurer.

Kudos to the Manischewitz Company, the largest producer of kosher food in North America, as they have pledged $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to support efforts to combat recent anti-Semitic and anti-minority acts across the country. Since the beginning of the year, dozens of institutions have been targets of hateful threats. “During these challenging times, it’s important for all of us to take a stand against intolerance,” said David Sugarman, president of Manischewitz. “We are proud to support the ADL and its advocacy for tolerance and inclusion. The ADL is a critical voice against hate and not just anti-Semitic rhetoric and acts of violence against the Jewish people. They are a voice for all people and their civil rights, regardless of race or religion.” ADL combats anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for hate crime laws at the state and federal level, engages in local incident response, sponsors anti-bias educational training for educators and students, trains law enforcement on extremist threats, and leads community-wide efforts against bigotry through its network of 26 regional offices across the country. In a show of solidarity, Manischewitz is also partnering with a variety of Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and other Jewish institutions nationwide. A program in celebration of Passover, called Afikomen Live, perpetuates the tradition of searching for a special matzo, the unleavened bread traditionally eaten during the holiday. “Launching a major Passover initiative with Jewish organizations in advance of the holiday reinforces a commitment to the heritage of Manischewitz and our unwillingness to back down against intimidation. It also sets an example for the next generation that we’ll continue to put into practice the traditions and observances of generations that have preceded us,” says Sugarman. The donation will be made in equal disbursements over a period of five years.

We were very sorry to learn that Salvatore Zacchia of RDD Associates passed away on March 26 at the age of 58. Sal was a lifelong member of the Eastern Produce Council and the Produce Marketing Association and was well known throughout the produce industry. “Sal was one of the hardest working members of our EPC board,” said EPC president Vic Savanello of Allegiance Retail Services. “He loved being associated with the EPC, and had incredible enthusiasm for our events and our programs. He was chairman of our annual golf outing, and a huge supporter of our many charities. But most of all he was a beloved friend to all of us, and we are brokenhearted that he will no longer be working at our side.” Sal’s other passion was his love of Seton Hall basketball and was the vice president of the Seton Hall Basketball Booster Club and was affectionately known as “Pirate Sal.” Sal had had a heart attack a couple of years ago and had not fully been the same, although he was still working according to his longtime business associate Jim Regan of RDD Associates. He is survived by his mother Maria, sister Madeline Brigantino, nephew, niece and many other family members. The family asks that any contributions made in his memory be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or to WSOU Radio Station Fund in support of the Seton Hall Basketball Booster Club in honor of Sal Zacchia, 26 Darby Road, East Brunswick, NJ 08816. May his soul rest in peace.

The Friends of the Food Industry (FOFI) will hold its fifth annual fundraising event on May 15 at the Hackensack Golf Club in Oradell, NJ. The benevolent group will be honoring John Derderian, president of Allegiance Retail Services. Also being recognized during the evening with Lifetime Achievement Awards will be Tom Halley of RDD Associates and Ed Casso, formerly of A&P. The night will include an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and dinner, as well as cigars that will be available for purchase. The FOFI was formed to provide aid to people employed in the Food Industry and/or their families that have fallen on difficult times. The mission of the group is to raise money and then distribute those funds collected to those less fortunate. For information on how to attend or participate call 845.721.3925 or email friendsofthefoodindustry@gmail.com.

We were surprised and saddened to learn that Patrick Shiels, former vice president at Associated Stores, passed away suddenly on April 12 at the age of 70. Pat was vacationing with most of his entire family on St. John USVI when he suffered a heart attack. Pat started his career at the old Bohack Company and then spent more than 26 years with Associated. He was the beloved husband of Mary Kay (Keane) Shiels, and loving father of Kelli-Anne Bonomi, Patrick Shiels, Colleen Duncan, Heather Rein, and Kevin Shiels. Pat lived and enjoyed life for his family and was a proud grandfather of 17. He will be laid to rest at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, Long Island. Our heartfelt condolences to the family.