Taking Stock

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Local Notes

 Be prepared for the battle of web-based grocers as metro NY based FreshDirect enters Philadelphia where it will compete with Ahold USA’s Peapod unit. FreshDirect, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, will begin home delivery to eight Center City zip codes and plans on expanding that radius next year. British grocery retailer Wm. Morrison Supermarkets invested $50 million in 2010 to acquire a 10 percent stake in FreshDirect, where sales are estimated to be about $325 million annually. Peapod, which has been delivering groceries through its Internet portal in a bigger area of the Delaware Valley region since 2011, recently expanded its virtual grocery-store billboards at more than 100 commuter rail stations in the markets where it operates (Chicago and the Northeast). I’ve seen the billboards and they are really cool. If I were in the prediction business, I might prognosticate that FreshDirect should be prepared to spend lots of money promoting its Philly expansion…Kathy Persian has been named Supervalu’s senior VP-chief information officer, replacing Wayne Shurts, who is leaving the company. Persian joined SVU in 2010 and most recently has been group VP-corporate planning, analysis and business process. Prior jobs included stints at Accenture and Best Buy. There’ll be more personnel shuffling now that Supervalu is on the selling block, but you’ve got to wonder if many of its key employees should have started their job searches several years ago. Two of those former executives have landed in better spots. Blaine Bringhurst, who many of you remember as senior VP-merchandising/marketing at Acme Markets based in Malvern, PA until he was shipped to headquarters purgatory in 2009 is Price Chopper’s new senior VP of sales, merchandising and marketing and Shirl Stroeing has also fled from Eden Prairie to become chief information officer (CIO) at Weis Markets, We wish both of them success with their new gigs…earlier this month Bottom Dollar opened its fifth store in the City of Philadelphia on Castor Avenue (Juniata Park) and is also looking to build another city store at Chew Avenue and E. Washington Lane (Mt. Airy). That project is currently under review. Since it first entered the Del-Val market in October 2010, the discount unit of Delhaize America has opened 48 stores in the Delaware Valley and Lehigh Valley regions with an additional 15 units in the Pittsburgh-Youngstown markets…on the brokerage front, the industry’s two largest firms, Acosta and Advantage, have news to report. Acosta has been to appointed to represent Rich Products and Olde New England Seltzers for its east region. Additionally, the large sales organization has been named by Kemps LLC to sell its products in the Mid-Atlantic, Pittsburgh/Cleveland and New England regions and will be the broker for Butterball LLC in New England. On a national basis, Acosta will now represent Godiva Chocolates for the grocery, club and drug channels. At Advantage Sales & Marketing, Tanya Domier has been named chief executive of the Irvine, CA based brokerage company. She succeeds ASM founder and chairman Sonny King, who now becomes executive chairman. Domier joined ASM in 1990. She began her food industry career at the J.M. Smucker Co…there are several obits to report this month including the great Joe Saker, founder of Foodarama Supermarkets (now Saker ShopRites), Wakefern’s largest member. Saker, 83, passed away last month inShrewsbury,NJ. Saker first joined Wakefern in 1947, a year after the co-op was founded and  operated his first ShopRite store in Freehold in 1951. I had the great pleasure of meeting Joe Saker several times, especially when it involved the Academy of Food  Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University, one of his passions. Actually, Joe was one of the founders of the Academy in 1962. Saker was also instrumental in the creation of the New Jersey Food Council, which in my opinion is the strongest state food related trade group in the country. Saker was an old school merchant, gifted with passion, instinct and entrepreneurial skills rarely seen in the grocery business today. He will be missed by the many, many people he touched in a highly productive life. I’m very sad to report the death of B.J.Land, VP of Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid unit, and truly one of the nicest guys in the business. B.J. died of cardiac arrest following a long bike ride. He was just 53. Steve Briggs, who worked with the Baltimore native for many years summarized B.J.’s persona so well: “He was a terrific person to be around both inside and outside of work. B.J. had such great qualities and his impact and emotional support on people is nothing like I’ve ever seen, and that was because of his personality, He impacted so many.”…also passing on was one of my favorite personalities of the past 50 years – Alex Karras. Karras died earlier this month at the age of 77 from kidney failure. He had also suffered from dementia over the past several years, thought to be accelerated by head injuries/concussions sustained during his 12 seasons as a defensive tackle with the Detroit Lions (he was one of 3,500 former players suing the National Football League over the head injury issue). Karras was a terrific football player (he was drafted 10th overall by the Lions in 1958 from the University of Iowa) and sometimes bad boy (he was suspended for the entire 1963 season – along with fellow great Paul Hornung – for gambling) who would have been a star even in today’s game (he was named first team All-Pro three times). Karras was also one of the few athletes who made the successful transition into acting, starring in the TV sitcom “Webster” and appearing in such films as “Paper Lion” (1968) and “Porky’s” (1982). But his real comedic talent was brought to life in Mel Brooks’ great flick, “Blazing Saddles” (1974) in which he played dimwitted brute Mongo. Not only did Mongo punch out a horse in a famous classic scene, he also delivered the unforgettable line: “Mongo only pawn in game of life.”…and almost finally: if you have recently wondered about how dire the need is for Supervalu and its investment advisor Goldman Sachs to sell the company as quickly as possible put the meter on “Very Urgent.” On Friday October 12, Supervalu’s stock was trading at $1.85 per share. Ouch!…one last thing: the Special Section featured in this month’s issue devoted to the 50th anniversary of the Food Marketing Program at Saint Joseph’s University was truly a special treat to help develop. Not only do I strongly believe that the entire food marketing enterprise is the finest of its kind in the country, working with Bob Higgins, Christine Hartmann, George Latella, Dr. Rich George and others involved in educating and producing future industry talent, was a tremendously rewarding experience. And just before we went to press, I had the pleasure of hearing Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell’s, address a packed house of about 240 students at the annual Pat McCarthy Lecture Series. Denise’s speech was not only insightful, she connected with students on a real visceral level. A day earlier, at the Academy of Food Marketing’s (AFM) Board of Governors meeting, legendary food broker Dick McCready stepped down from the Board after 25 years of service, the longest tenure in the history of the AFM. Kudos to Dick, who after nearly 60 years in the biz, can still rock & roll with the best of them.