National U.S. specialty grocery chain Trader Joe's, which is headquartered in Southern California and has numerous stores in California, Nevada and Arizona, has published a list of the 34 top-selling items in its stores. Among the items in the list include Mandarin orange chicken, Greek yogurt and triple ginger snaps. You can read the Full Story.
Leave it to quirky 312-store TJ's to do a top 34 list rather than a top 25, top 50, ect. as is the norm. It's a sign of a confident retailer when it publishes its top selling items for all its competition to view.
Southern CA, Nevada, Arizona: Green holidays at Fresh & Easy
Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is launching its second annual holiday card recycling program in its 104 combination grocery and fresh foods markets in Southern California, Southern Nevada and in the Phoenix Metropolitan region in Arizona. Read about the program here: Fresh & Easy Makes the Holidays a Little Greener.
Southern CA, Nevada, Arizona: The Whole Deal
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) legal case against Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market, Inc., which operates numerous natural/organic and premium foods markets in the Western USA, continues to heat up.
The FTC is trying to overturn Whole Foods' friendly acquisition of Wild Oats Market, Inc, which happened in the summer of 2007. Whole Foods has nearly completed merging all of the Wild Oats stores into its operations and culture.
Last week Whole Foods filed a lawsuit against the FTC saying it has violated the companies due process. Whole Foods also has launched a massive lobbying and public relations campaign targeting the FTC.
Next up: The FTC has set a hearing in February, 2009 in which an administrative law judge will decide if the merger should stay or be overturned. Whole Foods is asking in its lawsuit that that hearing be cancelled, and that the case be moved to a U.S. federal court. Whole Foods has beat the FTC twice in federal court. However the law allows the FTC to reopen its case -- which is what it has done.
The Blog Natural~Specialty Foods Memo has extensive coverage and analysis on the FTC-Whole Foods legal case and issue. You can read that coverage and analysis at: http://www.naturalspecialtyfoodsmemo.blogspot.com/.
The case has implications for how future mergers and acquisitions are handled in the supermarket industry as well as across all industries in the U.S.
Southern CA: Major holiday gift from a grocer
Kroger Co.'s Southern California-based Ralphs/Food 4 Less chain is making a holiday season gift of $125,000 to four Southern California children's hospitals. Each children;s hospital will receive a $25,000 holiday donation from Ralphs. The Southern California hospitals are:
>Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA)
> Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC)
> Loma Linda University Children's Hospital
> Miller Children's Hospital at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center
> Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego
Based in Los Angeles, California, Ralphs and Food 4 Less currently operate more than 400 conventional and warehouse-style supermarkets in California, Southern Nevada, Illinois and Indiana. The majority of the stores are in Southern California and Southern Nevada.
Last year the Kroger Co. division provided more than $12 million in cash and in-kind donations to organizations focused on women's and children's health, K-12 education, the fight against hunger, celebrating multiculturalism and disaster relief, according to Ralphs' president Mike Donnelly. Read more here.
Southern CA: Discounter Winco Foods opens new store in Indio
Employee-owned discount supermarket chain Winco Foods, which has been opening numerous new stores throughout California over the last couple years, opened a brand new mega-store in the Southern California desert region city of Indio on December 10.
Winco's focus is no frills, deep-discount food and grocery retailing. The chain is headquartered in Idaho. California is one of Winco's top growth markets for the next couple years.
Read more about the new Indio Winco here.
Indio and the Inland Empire region of Southern California is a key market for Tesco's Fresh & Easy. The grocery chain has a number of its small-format, convenience-oriented grocery and fresh foods markets in the desert region, including two in Indio. Plans call for more Fresh & Easy stores in the region. Tesco's Fresh & Easy distribution center is located in Riverside County in the Inland Empire regions as well.
Southern CA: Organic prepared foods not 'going'as well
Publicly-held Southern California-based fresh, prepared foods chain Organic to Go is struggling with sales of its higher priced organic ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat prepared foods offerings in its cafe/stores. As a result, the retailer is looking to close some of what it says are underperforming locations in the Southern California market. Read here: Organic To Go Reports Third Quarter Results.
Shoppers are turning away from ready-to-eat and heat foods, especially higher priced premium and organic meals and side dishes, in the current recession as they cook more at home and therefore buy more ingredient-oriented food and grocery products. It's all about value right now, including in the fresh, prepared foods category.
Las Vegas: Ethnic grocers battle each other - and for broader share of customer base
There's a battle of the ethnic supermarkets going on in Las Vegas -- and they aren't just after Hispanic or Asian consumers. They want as many dollars as they can get, regardless of the shoppers ethnic background. If a grocer can't gamble in Vegas, where can they, after all.
The battle includes a new player from Southern California entering the Vegas market. Cardenas Markets, a family-owned chain based in Ontario, Calif., is taking over the former Albertsons store that closed at Bonanza Road and Lamb Boulevard. It's the first of several Cardenas markets coming to Las Vegas, said Otto Merida, executive director of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, according to a story in the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper.
Cardenas, which we are familiar with as a very good ethnic grocer, will join Las Vegas multi-store operators like King Ranch and Mariana's supermarkets.
These supermarkets are increasingly drawing non-Hispanic shoppers as well as their core Latino customer base. Read the piece from the Las Vegas Review Journal here. After all, it is really about share of consumer stomach when it comes to competitive food retailing.
Arizona: Bashas testing new prepared foods format in Goodyear
Arizona-based Bashas supermarkets, a family-owned chain with about 160 supermarkets under various formats in the state, is testing a brand new format and concept -- a food court featuring a huge assortment of fresh, prepared foods -- in a brand new 50,000 square foot Bashas banner supermarket in Goodyear, Arizona.
The store, on Pebble Creek Parkway, north of McDowell Road in Goodyear, opened a little over a week ago. Unlike other Bashas' in the state, it includes an in-store food court, featuring a Mongolian grill, Italian and Mexican cuisine and other food selections. Indoor and patio seating allows customers to eat at the store, and special parking spaces make picking up takeout move faster.
The Arizona Republic newspaper profiled the store in a recent article. Click here to read it: Food court at new Bashas' in Goodyear whets appetites.
Bashas told Fresh & Easy Buzz the new fresh, prepared foods' food court concept is a test in the store. If it does well the supermarket chain says it plans to roll it out wherever it thinks it will do well.
The new format is Bashas response in part to new retailer's like Fresh & Easy and Wal-Mart's Marketside that are focusing on fresh, prepared foods retailing in the Arizona market, as well as to all the other players putting increased emphasis on prepared foods merchandising.
The difference in the new Bashas' format though is that at 50,000 square feet, the supermarket concept incorporating the fresh foods court is about five times as big as a Fresh & Easy store and about three to four times bigger than a Wal-Mart Marketside store, but offers as much or more in the fresh, prepared foods category than both of those formats do.
The food court is like a prepared foods store-within-a-store concept, in other words. The features like outdoor ordering and dining and convenient pickup add a convenience element to the concept, allowing customers to bypass the rest of the store and just use the food court, for example.
Arizona: Look mom, clean hands
The handles of supermarket shopping carts are "scummier" than port-a-potties, so said a recent study done by the University of Arizona. As a result of this practical research, a number of Phoenix, Arizona region supermarkets are solving the problem for shoppers and store employees. Read about the solution here: Phoenix area supermarkets using cart washers.
Across the pond: United Kingdom
The UK Telegraph.com newspaper Web site is reporting American-produced wines (read California in the main) are overtaking French wines in British consumers hearts, minds and pallets. Click the link to read the article: American wine overtakes France in British drinkers' affection.
We suspect if U.S.-produced wine continues this consumer preference trend over French wine in the UK, it's likely U.S.-French diplomatic relations could be seriously harmed. After all, the French will pretty much forgive anything the U.S. does -- waging war in the Middle East, the CIA's unlawful (to the EU) rendition program, avoiding global warming, laughing at French-made automobiles (and the U.S. did forgive all that France against the Iraq war stuff on its end) -- but when it comes to wine...well, we think you get the picture. God save the Queen - and pass the Napa Valley Merlot.