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Earth Fare is shutting all of its stores in 10 states

Kroger is piloting a program in which physicians can write “food prescriptions”

US: GrubMarket's latest expansion focuses on organic produce
Grocery delivery startup GrubMarket has acquired Berkeley, California-based produce provider Organic Harvest Network to grow its existing produce offerings. This acquisition is the company's fourth in two months. It acquired Eating with the Seasons Inc. and EJ Food Distributor Inc. last month, and Doorganics in December 2019. Organic Harvest Network represents a number of growers and is responsible for all crop planning, sales, marketing, logistics and accounting for them. According to GrubMarket, Organic Harvest Network's proprietary internet software platform, specifically designed to assist growers, makes it a valuable partner.

US: Kroger named Top Corporation for women-owned businesses
For the 6th consecutive year, The Kroger Co. has been named one of America's Top Corporations for Women's Business Enterprises by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). The annual list honors corporations that have established a sustained commitment to the inclusion of women-owned businesses in their supply chains. "Diversity is at the core of our people-first culture and an integral part of our business strategy at Kroger", said Angel Colón, Kroger's senior director of diversity and inclusion. "Women make up more than half of our workforce and 31% of our senior management, and we're deeply committed to increasing women's business enterprise representation across Kroger's supply chain. We're proud that this intentional approach to inclusion has once again earned us WBENC's prestigious 'Top Corporations' recognition".

US: Farmstead expands Refill & Save program
Online grocer Farmstead has expanded its Refill & Save program, which offers certain popular staples at significantly lower prices to all same-day customers, with the discount applied to products that have been bought at least once in the last two visits, and no additional charges. Previously, the program was available only to weekly customers. Discounted items under Refill & Save include milk, eggs, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and bread.

US: Earth Fare grocery chain closing all its stores in 10 states
Healthy foods supermarket chain Earth Fare is shutting all of its stores in 10 states, making it the third grocery moving to close its doors or seek a buyer in recent weeks. "Continued challenges in the retail industry impeded the company's progress as well as its ability to refinance its debt", the company, backed by private-equity firm Oak Hill Capital, said in a statement. "We have made the difficult, but necessary, decision to commence inventory liquidation sales while we continue to engage in a process to find potential suitors for our stores".

Canada: Organic Garage gets into delivery with Cornershop
Organic Garage is making its move into the online grocery space. The independent organic grocery chain has partnered with Cornershop - the on-demand grocery app that was acquired by Uber last fall - to offer delivery in as little as one hour across the Greater Toronto Area. “It is important for any retailer to review how to best serve its existing and future customer bases while also determining how to best grow those bases; partnering with Cornershop will allow us to do both”, Organic Garage CEO Matt Lurie said in a press release announcing the partnership.

Instacart employees in Chicago are the first to unionize in the US
Instacart employees in the Chicago suburb of Skokie have voted to unionize through their local branch of United Food and Commercial Workers, giving them more collective bargaining power than they had before. The move only covers 15 staffers who operate at the Mariano's grocery store, but it's the first time Instacart employees have unionized in the US and could affect issues like turnover rates, work pacing and mysterious employee rating algorithms. In a statement, Instacart said it "will honor" the unionization vote pending certification of the results, and that it intended to negotiate in "good faith" on a collective bargaining agreement. The company added that it "respect[s] our employees' rights to explore unionization".

US: Intercontinental Exchange says it explored deal with eBay
Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE), the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, said it had approached e-commerce company eBay Inc to explore “a range of potential opportunities”. The statement came after people familiar with the matter said ICE discussed a potential takeover of eBay. The acquisition would exceed $30bln and represent a substantial departure from ICE’s focus on financial markets. The move would call on ICE’s technological expertise in running markets to extract efficiencies from eBay’s marketplace platform, which connects buyers and sellers of goods around the world.

US: 4 Foodtown stores to convert to The Fresh Grocer banner
Four New Jersey Foodtown supermarkets owned by the Maniaci family’s Nicholas Markets company will convert to The Fresh Grocer banner beginning this month. The Fresh Grocer is a registered trademark of retailer-owned cooperative Wakefern Food Corp. The locations and dates of the store conversions are Colonia, February 14; Township of Washington, 315, February 21; North Haledon, February 28; and Cedar Grove, on March 6.

US: Lucky’s Market sells off more stores
Bankrupt natural food chain Lucky’s Market has entered into asset purchase agreements with Southeastern Grocers, Seabra Foods and Hitchcock’s Markets, for a total of seven Florida locations. Jacksonville, Florida-based Southeastern Grocers will buy stores in Naples, Fort Meyers, Gainesville, Lake Mary and Melbourne; Union, New Jersey-based Seabra Foods will buy the Hunters Creek location; and Alachua, Florida-based Hitchcock’s Markets will buy the St. Petersburg store.

Canada: Empire joins District Ventures to support food entrepreneurs
Empire Company Limited has partnered with District Ventures to help Canadian startups get their products on store shelves. As title sponsor of District Ventures’ Accelerator program and District Ventures Kitchen, the Stellarton, Nova Scotia-based grocery company and its banners -including Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Farm Boy and FreshCo - will provide support and coaching to companies in the food, beverage and health CPG sectors. Through the partnership, these local entrepreneurs will also be given the opportunity to get their products on the grocer’s shelves.

US: Kroger puts ‘food as medicine’ to the test
The Kroger Co. is piloting a program in which physicians can write “food prescriptions” that patients fill at a local store under the guidance of a Kroger Health professional. Under the test, launched in the spring and now in its next phase, a Cincinnati doctor makes dietary recommendations to diabetes patients and directs them to a nutrition expert at a Kroger supermarket in Forest Park, Ohio, said Kroger Health registered dietitian Bridget Wojciak, RDN/LD. At the store, a dietitian provides personal nutrition counseling and food suggestions to help the patient better manage the disease, in line with the doctor’s orders.

UK: Dave Lewis to stay on at Tesco until September
Tesco has announced that CEO Dave Lewis is to stay in post until the end of September so that incoming CEO Ken Murphy can honour his contractual non-compete obligations. Tesco had suggested the handover was likely to take place in the summer but Lewis has now agreed to extend his tenure until September 30th to ensure a smooth transition. Ken Murphy, the former chief commercial officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance will join Tesco on October 1st.

Belgium: Jumbo has reached Brussels periphery
Jumbo is going one step further in its conquest of Belgium: the Dutch supermarket chain now eyes Vilvoorde or Zaventem, in the Brussels Periphery. Hasselt and Lommel, in the province of Limburg, are numbers fifteen and sixteen on Jumbo's list of Belgian locations. According to its own jobs website, Jumbo is now looking for employees for a store in the region of Vilvoorde-Zaventem. The area is of strategic importance, as arch rival Albert Heijn is already present there - they too used Zaventem as a gateway to the big Brussels market, as of 2 years ago.

UK: Aldi opens new distribution centre in East Midlands
The German discounter Aldi has opened a new £64mln distribution centre in Sawley, Derbyshire. According to Aldi, the new site, which is located close to where the borders of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire meet, is due to serve 80 stores across the East Midlands. It is expected also that the new distribution centre, Aldi’s 11th in the UK, will create 400 new jobs. The move forms part of Aldi’s plan to invest £1bln in new stores, store upgrades and improving distribution capabilities.

UK grocers going package-free: The future of grocery shopping?
Last year, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer became the first major retailers to introduce new refill or bring-your-own-container initiatives in response to growing concerns from consumers around excessive plastic waste from packaging. Big 4 grocer Asda followed suit by kicking of 2020 with plans to launch a refill scheme at its Leeds store this May. Loose fruit and veg and a ban on plastic bags are increasingly becoming common in grocers nationwide, but refill schemes are an emerging trend. Research from GlobalData found that 71.3% of Brits were willing to use food refill services in order to cut down on waste and improve food sustainability for the environment. While it’s seen as a practical way to shop for the future, some may argue the initiative drastically reduces shelf life. A major reason supermarkets use packaging is to protect food and prevent waste - particularly with fresh food.

Thai Central Group says it's buying Globus jointly with Austria's Signa for $1bln
Thailand’s largest retailer Central Group said it is buying Swiss luxury department store Globus and other real estate assets in a joint venture with Austria’s Signa for more than 1bln Swiss francs ($1.03bln). The purchase of Globus and the real estate from Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund (MGB) is the latest expansion for Central Group, owned by the billionaire Chirathivat family, in European luxury malls.

Spain: Eroski sees sales boost from remodelled stores on Balearic Islands
Eroski has said that its remodelled stores on the Balearic Islands have posted sales growth of 13% in their first year of trading, as the Spanish retailer seeks to 'transform' its commercial network. Eroski converted 27 stores to the 'Contigo' concept last year, meaning that it has now converted 70% of the stores it operates on the islands. The Contigo concept puts emphasis on improved customer service, a commitment to local and fresh products, healthy eating and promotions that are more tailored to the needs of its customers, according to the retailer.

A month of moderation for the UK grocery sector
The latest figures from Kantar show the grocery market achieved modest 0.3% growth during the past 12 weeks. The retailers welcomed the return of Veganuary by launching a number of new product lines including ‘Gro’ from Co-op, ‘Plant based’ from Asda and Waitrose & Partners’ vegan range. It’s clear the Veganuary campaign is having an impact. Ocado’s market share increased by 0.2 percentage points to 1.4%. Ocado was once again the UK’s fastest growing grocer with sales 11.2% higher than this time last year. Lidl also achieved double digit growth, up by 11.1% year on year. Aldi increased sales by 5.7%, growing chilled ready meals and spirits both by 12%. Sainsbury’s was again the best performing of the big 4 retailers as its sales fell by 0.6% and its market share was marginally lower as result. Sainsbury’s now accounts for 15.8% of the market, down from 15.9% at the same point last year. Morrisons continued to lose market share, down from 10.6% last year to 10.3% in the past 12 weeks. Asda’s sales declined by 2.2% and its market share fell back to 14.9%. Co-op continued its run of growth, which stretches back to May 2018, with sales now up by 2.7%. Tesco’s market share dropped by 0.4 percentage points to 27.3% and sales were 0.9% lower than a year ago. Iceland’s sales grew ahead of the overall market at 1.4% and its share held steady as a result. Waitrose’s sales were 1.5% lower than that same period last year and its market share slipped from 5.1% to 5.0%.

Egypt: Otlob expands in two governorates, hires 2000 delivery pilots
With the aim of reducing the unemployment rate in other governorates, the leading Egyptian delivery company, Otlob, announced widening its services in Tanta and Mansoura, offering 2000 vacancies for delivery pilots in both governorates. The announcement came as part of the company’s plan to combat unemployment, which targets expanding to all the governorates by the end of 2020. The company managed to hire 200 delivery pilots so far, with the recruitment process still ongoing. “We are applying the expansion plan for 2020, which includes serving areas outside of the 26 cities we are already serving”, said Karem Al-Olaby, Otlob’s marketing manager in a statement.

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