Soup To Nutz

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The dictionary describes the word passion as “a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.” We don’t usually use that word to describe people in the food business today, retailers or otherwise. Fortunately, that can’t be said about Steve Ravitz of Ravitz Family Markets (t/a ShopRite). The Mid Atlantic Food Trades Association (MAFTO) invited Steve to address its members last month in Cherry Hill, NJ. The 100 or so guests who came eager to hear the third generation grocer’s take on the supermarket industry weren’t disappointed. Steve took us back many years to the simpler days when business was done with a handshake, not a contract. He recalled the days when his Russian immigrant grandfather David started Dave’s Grocery at 18th Street and Susquehanna Avenue in North Philadelphia; how his father Stanley (one of my favorite people) spent his entire life in the grocery business before passing on in 2001; and, ultimately, the journey that led the Ravitz family to the present, operating five ShopRite stores throughout south New Jersey. Steve, too, has spent his entire career in the grocery biz, and he spoke with passion and pride about his past and gave a glimpse into the future, knowing that all three of his sons have made the commitment to take their business into the fourth generation of family grocers. Shawn, Jason and Brett Ravitz are hands-on, day-to-day operators and have taken on social media, digitalization and everything necessary to keep them on the cutting edge of retail. Jason will be honored later this month as the New Jersey Food Council hosts its annual Night of Distinction (for more information go to www.njfoodcouncil.org). Thank you, Steve for reminding us that passion is still a part of this business we all love.

As Giant/Martin’s embarks on its 90th anniversary, officials recently announced that charitable donations made in 2012 as part of the company’s “Living Here, Giving Here” program totaled $25,330,000 in combined cash and product contributions, the largest ever to date. “Thank you to everyone who helped us to achieve this ‘Living Here, Giving Here’ milestone of $25 million. We are proud to work with our customers, associates and vendors in building healthier communities everywhere we operate,” said Rick Herring, president. “As we celebrate our 90th anniversary this year, you can count on Giant/Martin’s to remain part of the fabric of our local communities, and we will continue our strong commitment to local causes supporting hunger relief and improving the lives of children.” Some recipients of the Carlisle based division of Ahold USA’s community giving programs in 2012 included: approximately 100 local hunger relief organizations, eight Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, more than 2,500 schools, 40 United Way agencies, several local USO Chapters, the Wounded Warrior Project, and hundreds of local non-profit groups. In fact, nearly 100 regional food banks and local pantries across four states received $10 million in product, customer, vendor, and corporate donations. Food donation programs provided more $8 million in meat and bakery items, equating to hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to assist struggling families. One aspect of the program was “Meat the Needs,” where a company freezes meat that would otherwise go unsold and donates it to regional food banks. Food banks are always in need of fresh foods, including produce and meat. Generous customers contributed $1.25 million during two Bag Hunger in-store campaigns. Among other efforts, Giant/Martin’s continued its tradition of delivering turkeys to food banks during the holiday season. “I cannot emphasize enough how important the Giant/Martin’s frozen meat donation program is to enriching the array of nutritious food we provide to our community partners serving food-insecure Central Pennsylvanians,” said Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “Giant/Martin’s frozen meat program has been a game changer for people in need in our communities….and everyone involved is doubly thankful that this wonderful food is being shared at dinner tables rather than going to waste.” Awesome!

Worthy of special notice among the many groups aided was the annual “Support Our Troops” in-store campaign, benefiting regional USOs and the Wounded Warriors Project, an organization that helps severely injured service members aid and assist each other. The total amount raised in 2012 was $450,000. In addition, for the second year the grocer participated in the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, hosting toy collection bins at all stores. Lastly, understanding the importance of sports and exercise among kids, Giant/Martin’s was a proud sponsor of more than 100 Little League teams in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. In addition to financial support, the retailer’s associates at both the store and corporate level also volunteered their time with various community and nonprofit organizations. The company said it will continue its strong commitment to the communities it serves as it continues to celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2013 with special events, community donations, anniversary promotions, and in-store celebrations.

The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. recently announced that – effective immediately – it has a new name: the Specialty Food Association (SFA). The SFA, based in New York City, is a not-for-profit trade association for food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs that is known for its Fancy Food Shows, sofi Awards for the outstanding specialty foods of the year, Specialty Food Magazine and extensive education programs to help industry members succeed in the marketplace. The name change caps a year-long celebration of the association’s 60th anniversary and comes as membership has reached a record 3,040 companies. It is part of a larger effort to draw attention and focus to the $75 billion specialty food industry with new branding that will be officially launched at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City, June 30–July 2, 2013. The new branding is tagged “Specialty Food: Craft. Care. Joy.”

“The brand is designed to express who our members are, honors our history and sets us on an exciting path for the future,” says Ann Daw, president of SFA. “It makes sense that we now call ourselves the SFA.” Despite the association name change, the names Fancy Food Show and sofi Awards will remain the same based on research that showed each has considerable equity and recognition among key constituents. However all association branding will feature new logos and updated graphics.

A heads up to IDDBA (International Dairy Deli Bakery Association) members: the next application deadline for the IDDBA scholarship program is April 1. The IDDBA offers scholarships to employees of IDDBA-member companies in amounts ranging from $100 to $1,000 for college or vocational/technical school students in business, marketing, or food-related fields of study. College costs are going up every year and every penny helps. For more information, please go to www.iddba.com.

The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association (PFMA), the state’s advocate for food retailers, continues its efforts toward modern and convenient alcohol sales by urging all members and their customers to take action. “Visit FreeMyBeer.com today and send a message to your legislators,” said Alex Baloga, PFMA’s director of government relations. “Showing your support for the governor’s privatization plan is vital to reforming Pennsylvania’s alcohol sales system and gaining convenience and choice for your customers.” FreeMyBeer.com is very user-friendly, allowing anyone over the age of 21 to type in their address, locate their legislator and send them a message. Visitors can also join the conversation about alcohol sales reform on the Free My Beer Facebook page at www.facebook.com/freemybeer, and they can ask their friends to get involved by sending them an email from the site. The association has point-of-sale materials available to engage customers and encourage them to contact their lawmakers about alcohol sales reform. The materials include postcards that they can mail directly to their legislators, tear off sheets with the FreeMyBeer.com website address, buttons, table tents, pump toppers and other marketing material. Contact PFMA at 800-543-8207, ext. 5516 or pfma@pfma.net for more information. “We’re asking all PFMA members to support the Corbett plan for Pennsylvania to bring convenience to consumers,” said PFMA president and CEO David McCorkle. “This plan is also an important economic development initiative that will return wine, spirit and beer sales that are now going to Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Washington DC, Ohio and other surrounding states.” Visit FreeMyBeer.com to support convenient beer and wine sales in supermarket and convenience stores. For more information, visit www.pfma.org.

As many of you may remember, last summer I told you about the ground breaking for the BrightFarms greenhouse in Yardley, PA. Well, on March 7, New York-based BrightFarms officially opened its first-in-the-nation greenhouse on a five acre corner of the Patterson Farm just a hop, skip and a jump from McCaffrey’s Yardley store and visible from Interstate 95 on the northbound side. The 56,000 square foot greenhouse will supply local grocery stores year-round with freshly grown produce, including tomato plants, lettuces and herbs. “People today want to know where their food is coming from. When you drive down this street to McCaffrey’s Market and buy BrightFarms’ lettuces, tomatoes and herbs, you’re not going to wonder where your food came from. It’s grown right here in this building,” said BrightFarms’ CEO Paul Lightfoot. Chris Williams, head grower at the farm, is delivering fresh, local produce to all McCaffrey’s Market locations and two Super Fresh stores in Philadelphia. John Vena Produce, the venerable specialty produce distributor, is delivering these homegrown products to many fine restaurants in the Delaware Valley as well.

Baseball season is upon us, thank goodness, and MAFTO has announced an addition to its schedule of events for 2013…a Phillies game at home on July 8 vs. the Washington Nationals. There will be a tailgate party beforehand in the parking lot. Tickets are limited, so sign up early! For more information, please visit www.mafto.org

Continuing the circle of life, we are sad to report the passing of Debbie Liss on March 11. Debbie leaves behind her son Daniel, her parents and many family members and friends. Debbie worked for McCaffrey’s Markets for 18 years as the pricing coordinator. The family has requested that contributions to aid the education of Daniel J. Liss would be greatly appreciated. Please contact the McCaffrey’s Market offices for more information.

Birthday wishes for the windy month of March go out to: Jeff Brown and his wife Sandy Brown, Brown’s Family Markets; Bill Sumas, Village Supermarkets; Bill Carter, Knauss Foods; Dave Andrews, Kreider Farms; and Bob Unanue, Goya Foods. Buon Compleanno a tutti!

Celebrating wedded bliss are Dorothy Hamilton, Acme Markets and her husband Mike. Happy Anniversary!

Quote of the month: “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Maria can be reached at mmaggio@best-met.com