March/April Michigan Food News

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President’s Message

Celebrating milestones with our Centennial Retailer program william j. hallan

MRA President and Chief Executive Officer

For a moment, let’s put aside thoughts of the chaotic world we’ve lived in for the last year and think about how challenging it is to run a successful business during non-pandemic times. According to the Small Business Administration, roughly 80% of small businesses survive the first year. From there the numbers fall sharply: About half survive beyond the five-year mark, and only one in three get to celebrate their 10-year anniversary.

To reach the 100-year mark, businesses had to survive the Great Depression and numerous recessions, wars and conflicts, natural disasters, constantly evolving consumer habits and values, intense competition, increased regulations, technological changes, mergers and acquisitions, and much more.

Statistics like these are why we at MRA work every day to promote retail-friendly policies, protect the retail industry from harmful taxes and regulations, provide our members with timely information, and educate consumers on the importance of keeping their money in the Mitten.

For grocers, prohibition along with major shifts in food production and consumption trends provided an added challenge. And all this comes before we get to one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in the last 100 years — the COVID-19 pandemic. I think it’s fair to say this pandemic has shaken the world in ways we’ve never seen, and we’re not done yet. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, let alone what the long-term effects of the crisis will be.

Many of you are well beyond that 10-year mark, and I hope you recognize and celebrate this major achievement. Even more impressive are the businesses that have been around for not just 10 years, but 10 decades or more. There’s no clear source for current stats on how many companies make it to the 25, 50 or 100-year mark and beyond. But I know the retail industry has its fair share. For businesses to survive and thrive despite the dramatic changes of the past century is a remarkable achievement. At MRA, we’re pleased to help retailers mark this significant milestone as well as raise the profile of retailers in our state with our Centennial Retailer designation. To honor Michigan retailers with 100 or more years in business, the association launched its Centennial Retailer program in 2000. The program recognizes century-old retail businesses for their contributions to the state’s past, present and future. We provide recognition and a Michigan Centennial Retailer brass plaque to display at your business.

To quote Abraham Lincoln, “The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.” So I know we’ll get through this. Retailers are resilient. History shows us your incredible ability to adapt and continue. Here at MRA, we know a thing or two about longevity. We’ve been partnering with retailers for 81 years. And the Michigan Grocers Association, now as a division of MRA, has supported food industry businesses for 123 years. The challenges of the pandemic have been an opportunity for us to connect with you, our members, in new ways. We look forward to serving you every day — including celebrating your business milestones. Now more than ever it seems fitting to recognize the lasting contributions centennial retailers have made to their local communities and our entire state. continued on page 12

Michigan Grocers Division Advisory Board William J. Hallan, President Michigan Retailers Association Craig Diepenhorst H.T. Hackney Dave Duthler AMRA Energy Jim Gohsman SpartanNash

Rachel Hurst Kroger Company of Michigan John Leppink Leppink’s Food Centers Bryan Neiman Neiman’s Family Market

DJ Oleson Oleson’s Food Stores Don Symonds Lipari Foods Thom Welch Hollywood Markets

Michigan Grocers is a division of the Michigan Retailers Association

William J. Hallan Publisher Lisa J. Reibsome Editor/Layout & Design/Ad Sales (517) 449-2256; Publisher does not assume responsibility for statements made by advertisers in business competition. © MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS 2021 MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS


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New year, new growth for dairy, deli and bakery Thanks to the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) and market research firm 210 Analytics for putting together the following data about COVID-19’s impact on dairy, deli and bakery sales. Good news for dairy, deli and bakery sales: 2021 started off much better than 2020 ended. IDDBA’s January COVID-19 Impact report noted that December grocery spending was the most subdued it has been since the onset of the pandemic. Only the meat and frozen food departments experienced double-digit sales gains when compared to December 2019 sales. However, January brought accelerated sales across the store. IDDBA’s most recent COVID-19 Impact report noted positive news. While the meat and frozen food departments continued to experience the highest increases, dairy, deli and bakery also saw robust gains, with the deli showing the highest sales jump since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Dollar sales growth — Jan. 2021 vs. Jan. 2020: n Dairy Department, 10.1% increase n Deli Department, 12.7% increase n Bakery Department, 7.9% increase This was much improved from the prior month. Dollar sales growth/decline — Dec. 2020 vs. Dec. 2019: n Dairy Department, 5.8% increase n Deli Department, -2.1% decrease n Bakery Department, 1.2% increase “In January, the elevated level of new COVID-19 cases, the cold temperatures across much of the country and the continued high share of meals prepared at home brought additional dollars to retail,” says IDDBA Vice President of Education Jeremy Johnson. MILK LEADS DAIRY DEPARTMENT GROWTH In 2020, the dairy department grew from being a $54 billion business to generating more than $61 billion — a $7 billion increase. “January 2021 picked up where 2020 left off with great strength across dairy items, led by milk, cheese and eggs,” says IDDBA Research Coordinator Abrielle Backhaus. Specifically: n Milk added $83 million in sales in January compared to last year. n Natural cheese was the biggest growth engine for the department with a gain of $125 million — reaching $939 million in January sales. n While yogurt edged out eggs in January sales dollars, eggs punched above their weight in growth, adding $37 million in year-over-year January sales.

Dairy Growth/Loss — Jan. 2021 vs. Jan. 2020 $ gain/loss. unit sales gain/loss Total Dairy.....................+10.1%............................ +4.4% Milk.................................+7.2%............................ +3.2% Natural cheese.............+15.3%.......................... +10.7% Yogurt.............................+2.9%............................. -5.1% Eggs...............................+7.7%............................ +2.7% Cream/creamers...........+15.0%............................ +9.8% Butter/margarine...........+12.9%.............................13.0% Processed cheese..........+9.8%............................ +3.7% Cream cheese..............+21.8%.......................... +17.4% Sour cream................... +11.2%............................ +9.2% Whipped toppings.........+26.2%.......................... +26.2% Cottage cheese..............+1.7%............................. -0.2% Refrigerated desserts.....+6.3%............................ +0.3% Cheese snack kits...........-9.5%........................... -14.0% Source: IRI, Total U.S.

Keep in mind that growth percentages differ when looking at dollars, units or volume. For total dairy, dollars trended ahead of units.

MEAT AND CHEESE SALES LEAD THE DELI In 2020, deli cheese leaped forward with an additional $1 billion in sales — for total annual sales of $7.6 billion. Deli meat was only slightly behind with 2020 annual sales of $7.2 billion, up 9.3% from 2019. The start of 2021 saw continued growth. Deli Department

Dollar Sales Growth/Loss Jan. 2021 vs. Jan. 2020 $ gain/loss

Deli cheese..................+18.2% Deli meat.....................+13.0% Deli entertaining.............+6.3% Deli prepared..................-1.7% Source: IRI, Total U.S.

Deli Meat: Deli meat sales were very steady in dollars and volume, with January 2021 gains just slightly above year-ago levels. IDDBA’s February COVID-19 Impact report found that grab & go and pre-sliced options were driving sales. Grab-and-go is product already packaged by the manufacturer or the retailer when it gets to the deli department. Pre-sliced is sliced behind the deli service counter in advance and then packaged for sale. In addition, January saw the continued recovery of sliced-to-order deli meat sales from the service counter, now more than 1% ahead of 2020 levels — which took a hit when many stores closed their service counters. continued on page 6 MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS


Dairy Deli Bakery Sales continued from page 5

Deli Cheese: Deli cheese dollar sales increased 18.2% year-over-year — up significantly from the fourth quarter. A look at grab & go, pre-sliced and service counter deli cheese shows a similar picture to that of deli meat. Grab & go and pre-sliced sales have been very successful in growing sales. With some deli service counters still shut down, service counter deli cheese sales are still trailing 2019. Deli-Prepared: Deli prepared sales are now within 2 points of year-ago levels, which is remarkable given that, in April through June 2020, year-on-year sales were down double digits, according to the IDDBA report. In particular, deli-prepared side dishes saw notable growth — up 9.9% in January 2021 versus January 2020.

The biggest year-over-year sales jumps in the center store (not the perimeter bakery) came from sales of croissants (+33.8%), bagels (+26.5%), buns/rolls (+18.8%) and English muffins (+14.7%). For the perimeter bakery, sales results look similar to pre-pandemic numbers. Croissants were the clear winner in percentage gains in January 2021. Other categories highlighted for notable gains are brownies/bars, tortillas/wraps and pies. Perimeter Bakery — Dollar Sales Growth/Loss Jan. 2021 vs. Jan. 2020 $ gain/loss $ gain/loss Donuts.......................... -13.5% Bagels........................... -12.4% Breads........................... +9.0% Muffins........................... +4.1% Brownies/bars.............. +16.9% Pastry/coffee cakes....... +9.1% Buns/rolls....................... +0.5% Pies................................ +9.4% Cakes............................ +4.1% Specialty desserts........ -27.6% Cookies.......................... +1.9% Tortillas/wraps.............. +13.5% Source: IRI, Total U.S. Croissants.................... +22.3%

“Retailers are finding ways to connect with consumers’ to satisfy meal accompaniments and at-home snacks for homebound workers and students,” says Jonna Parker, head of IRI’s Fresh Center of Excellence. BREAD PRODUCTS DRIVE BAKERY GROWTH The total bakery department sales (both center store and perimeter) increased 7.9% to $2.5 billion in January. This is $186 million more than bakery generated in January 2020.

“Time will tell if these numbers continue to trend upward as some semblance of normalcy begins to spread through the country,” Parker concluded. —By Lisa J. Reibsome, Editor

For more information visit 6 MARCH/APRIL 2021


Grocery heroes recognized on first Supermarket Employee Day for recognizing the critical role these workers play to keep our communities fed and to minimize the spread of COVID-19.” According to an FMI study, there are approximately 140,941 food retail jobs in Michigan that generate $11.6 billion in economic activity for the state.

On Feb. 22, food retailers and suppliers across the country celebrated the firstever Supermarket Employee Day. FMI— The Food Industry Association proclaimed this new holiday to recognize employees for the work they do feeding families and enriching lives. Honoring Grocery Heroes Here in Michigan, the Michigan Retailers Association worked with state legislators to pass resolutions to declare Feb. 22, 2021, as Supermarket Employee Day. The Michigan Senate adopted Senate Resolution 18, sponsored by Agriculture Committee Chair Kevin Daley (R-Lum). The Michigan House adopted House Resolution 36, sponsored by Agriculture Committee Vice-Chair Bryan Posthumus (R-Cannon Township). Both recognized grocery workers for the critical role they’ve played throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are indebted to the unsung grocery heroes who’ve worked exceptionally hard from day one of the pandemic,” said MRA President and CEO Bill Hallan. “We appreciate Michigan’s lawmakers

“Grocery employees provide us with access to safe, healthy and affordable food,” said Senator Daley. “They have faced unprecedented challenges keeping grocery shelves stocked during the COVID-19 crisis. These frontline workers have put their communities first throughout this pandemic, and we owe them our sincere gratitude.” “Employees at grocery stores across the state continue to meet and exceed the challenges of COVID-19 while displaying courage, compassion, dedication and leadership,” said Rep. Posthumus. “I ask all Michiganders to join me in honoring our frontline grocery employees.” Celebrating Grocery Heroes To celebrate, many grocers across Michigan provided workers with free lunches, snacks, in-store discounts and other gifts. They also encouraged customers to thank their employees both in person and through social media. MRA member SpartanNash celebrated the entire week by featuring retail associates on the company’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages. The hardworking group from the Family Fare in St. Ignace is featured below. Celebrations included

a 20% associate appreciation discount, pizza, subs and other food for all store shifts. In addition, the senior leadership team stopped by a few West Michigan stores to surprise associates with a special thank-you message and treats. MRA member Leppink’s Food Centers put large cookie platters in the break rooms for team members to enjoy. And company President John Leppink wrote a thank-you letter to the team. Leppink’s Marketing Manager Adrianna Meinke reports that “our employees especially liked that upper management went around saying ‘Happy Supermarket Employee Day!’ to everyone and thanking them for their hard work.” MRA member Orchard Markets posted signs throughout the stores to thank employees. Owner Alex Rogalla says that they also personalized FMI marketing materials to create a message that played on their checkout lane TV screens all week (below). “It was nice for the employees to be recognized on a larger scale,” he says. “But my wife and I have always been very thankful and grateful for the incredible team we have at both of our stores. They’ve been heroes to us long before the pandemic.” Many MRA members said they were already thinking about bigger and better ways to celebrate next year. MRA also used the day to encourage the state to prioritize retail worker vaccines across Michigan to ensure their continued health and safety. “One way we can recognize and appreciate our essential grocery and retail workers is to follow the lead of Oakland County and the City of Detroit and make these workers eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine now,” Hallan said. By Lisa J. Reibsome MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS



Family-owned grocery store serves community for 100 years BY LISA J. REIBSOME, EDITOR

ON APRIL 11, 1921, Mike Wickenhiser opened a butcher shop and food store in downtown Lansing, a few blocks from the state Capitol, on Washington Avenue. During the 1920s, Washington Avenue was considered the commercial center of Lansing, and his store —Mike’s Quality Service Store — thrived. Just prior to World War II, the store expanded into the adjacent space, doubling in size and changing its name to Mike’s Finer Foods Market to better reflect the times. The store continued to prosper. In 1956, it joined the Lansing area ShopRite group and became known as Mike’s Shop-Rite. The following year, Mike and his sons —Mike Jr. and Robert — needed more room to expand. They decided to move the store about 2.5 miles to the suburbs. At the time, a newspaper headline declared: “Mike’s Market Foretells Shift from City’s Heart to Suburban Site,” noting it was the last of the downtown independent food stores to move to the suburbs. A new location on Grand River Avenue in the Groesbeck neighborhood allowed the Wickenhisers to triple the store size and provide a parking lot with room for 80 cars. This was a big change from shared street parking downtown. “We’re still a proud member of the Groesbeck area,” says current store owner Tim Westlund. “We’re a neighborhood staple. The location has served us well for 64 years, and I hope we’ve served the neighborhood equally well.” Tim’s dad, Jerry Westlund, started working for the Wickenhiser family three years after the store changed locations, in 1960. “My dad was from Traverse City where he worked for Prevo’s Family Markets,” Tim shares. “He and my mom were high school sweethearts. When my mom’s family moved to Lansing, he followed. They got married, and he used his grocery experience to get a job at Mike’s.” Thirty-six years later in 1986, Jerry and his wife, Diane, bought the store, which they continued to run as Mike’s Shop-Rite until 1998. At that time, the store was remodeled and renamed Westlund’s Apple Market. Their wholesaler, SpartanNash, introduced the Apple Market concept to “breathe life back into the traditional neighborhood store,” according to a Michigan Food News article. At the time, Tim’s dad spoke to the Food News, saying he planned to emphasize perishables and the deli, hoping to strengthen connections with local residents.

Top to bottom: Mike’s Quality Service Store: The original store in downtown Lansing in 1921. A large produce display in the window drew in customers. Mike’s storefront after expanding into the adjoining store. Mike and his wife, Minnie, along with two employees standing behind the counter ready to serve customers. 8 MARCH/APRIL 2021


In addition to Tim, his sister, Celia, and wife, Kelly, help run the store. “Our daughter also works here, and our son does the graphics for our weekly ad, so it’s very much a family affair,” he says. Tim and Celia grew up in the store. “My dad worked around the clock,” Tim says. “He brought us in all the time.” Tim recalls a time when he was about 11 years old, his dad gave him a pricing gun and sent him down the paper aisle to price items. When his dad returned about half an hour later, he was miffed to see that Tim had marked everything in the aisle the same price.

Above: Westlund’s Apple Market Owner Tim Westlund. Inset: Tim’s dad, Jerry Westlund.

“How was I supposed to know the right way to do it?” Tim says now. “My dad thought it should be instinctive or something. I should have picked up on how to do things because I spent so much time here. I’m sure that’s the case now. The store is a big part of who I am.”

Below: The marketmade deli food is one reason the store is a neighborhood gathering spot. “The best comfort foods to go,” is how several shoppers explain its popularity. Both the deli and bakery carry homemade items from family and staff recipes.

At just under 10,000 square feet, Westlund’s Apple Market packs a lot into a little space. It sells fresh produce, meat, dairy and bakery goods alongside canned, frozen and prepared foods — plus a full range of household, health and personal care items. “Our primary shoppers come from a 5-mile radius, but we also have a following from all over mid-Michigan and beyond,” Tim says. “People come for potato salad and pickles and other specialty items and brands that they tell us they can’t find in other stores.” Westlund’s also carries a good selection of local and Michigan-made products from Koegel Meats, Cherry Capitol Foods, Lansing Popcorn Company, Grampa G’s Dressings, Uncle Peter’s Pasties, Country Fresh Dairy and more. Meat Matters: The store is known for its premier full-service meat department. “We owe so much to our Meat Manager, Al, and our retired butcher, Phil, who still works 30 hours a week. He’s been here since 1974,” Tim says. “They can handle any request, and they make great recommendations for our shoppers. We sell USDA Choice meats, which we’ll happily custom-cut, along with a big variety of marketmade sausages and bratwursts. We offer them fresh in our store, every day.” As big of a draw as the meat department is, Westlund’s deli —and, in particular, their fried chicken — is the star attraction. It has what could be described as a cult following. “We get a lot of love for our chicken,” Tim says. “We’re known on local foodie networks. People use terms like ‘best fried chicken in town,’ ‘best chicken I’ve ever had’, ‘insanely good,’ and ‘mouth-watering, gotta-have-it chicken’ to describe it.”

The Westlunds share more than family recipes with the community. They invest in equipment and upgrades to keep the store in good condition. Improvements from the last few years include new product cases and checkout lanes in addition to doubling the wine department and expanding the craft beer offerings. continued on page 11 MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS


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In 1957, the Wickenhiser family moved the store to the Lansing suburbs, which is where it stands today (above and right). Mike Sr., wearing a hat, and his team watch the new store go up (left). It has always been the place to go for topquality, custom-cut meat, whether butchered by Mike Sr. in the 1920s (below) or Al today (below right). continued from page 9

“We’ve now got an impressive selection,” Tim says. “Plus, we’re able to buy in larger quantities and, in many cases, pass those savings to our customers.” Westlund’s continually fights the perception that they have high prices. “We can’t buy in huge quantities, and we don’t have our own dairy, so some products, such as milk, are a bit more expensive here than at big box stores,” Tim explains. “But our prices are fair. At most, our average basket cost is no more than a few cents over that of grocery chains.” Another challenge is staffing. The store currently employs 34 people. “Usually there are 36 of us, but it’s difficult to find people to hire,” Tims shares. “I know other retailers also face this dilemma, and I’m grateful for our dedicated team.” Reflections on what it means to be a centennial company: “People ask us for the secret formula that’s kept us going for 100 years,” Tim says. “I wish I had a good answer. All I can say is that we know what we are: We’re a traditional neighborhood grocery store here to serve our community everyday.” He continues, “That means having a very clean, well-stocked store with a helpful, friendly staff who know most customers by name.” It does not mean trying to be something they’re not. The store does not offer online shopping, curbside pickup or delivery. “Throughout the pandemic, neighbors just come in and shop,” Tim says. “We’re small. We follow all the safety regulations. People can keep their distance, pick up what they need and be on their way quickly, if that’s their goal.”

Westlund’s Apple Market is rooted in community. “We donate whenever local schools or groups ask,” Tim says. But the relationship goes beyond that. “Every customer is important to us,” he says, “and we’re important to them as well. Our friends and neighbors know this is their market, and in that way, they’re invested in it.” Over 60 years ago, when the store moved from downtown to a suburban neighborhood, that newspaper article announcing the move said the new store would have many features including “magic eye doors, a kiddie corral and air conditioning.” But perhaps it missed the most important feature: The store fills a social as well as grocery niche. Much like a classic corner market, Westlund’s is, in many ways, the heart of their community. Maybe that’s the secret of their success. “The plan going forward,” Tim says, “is to do our best to continue to serve our community.” That could certainly mean another 100 years for Westlund’s Apple Market. MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS


MDARD changes retail sushi program classification As of January 2021, sushi kiosks operating within licensed retail food establishments including grocery stores are considered Retail Food Establishments (FRF license type) by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The department identifies these businesses as those that produce a finished, ready-to-eat sushi or seafood product that the consumer purchases onsite. As a Retail Food Establishment, sushi kiosks must comply with the Michigan Modified Food Code, including adhering to temperature variance requirements. Resources to assist with compliance are available at, under “Food & Dairy.”

Previously, MDARD had determined that facilities that make sushi within a retail food establishment but hold a separate license and do not sell directly to consumers would be considered a processing facility. These facilities were determined to be operating as wholesalers as product is not directly sold to the final consumer; instead, it is sold on consignment to the retailer who houses the operation. However, upon further evaluation, MDARD determined that this model is not consistent with the overall operation



of these facilities. Therefore, the sushi kiosk license type has changed from Wholesale Food Processor (FFP) to retailer. Please note: Facilities that wholesale sushi, fish or other fishery products to another location — a kiosk under separate ownership, other food establishments or for distribution — will continue to be licensed as a Wholesale Food Processor. Questions? Check out the website or contact the Food and Dairy Division at 800.292.3939 or

President’s Message, continued from page 3

To date, we’ve honored 93 retailers as Michigan Centennial Retailers — and this month we’re recognizing one more. Westlund’s Apple Market in Lansing will celebrate 100 years in business this April. Under the ownership of two families, the store has managed to ride out a century of ups and downs and remain standing to serve the community. Check out the article starting on page 8. For a list of all Michigan Centennial Retailers or to tell us about an eligible retailer, see, click the “Member Benefits” tab and select “Member Recognition.” Don’t forget, we stand ready to serve you. Take advantage of our Ask Us First program. Email or call 800.366.3699 with your questions. What else can we do to help you reach your next milestone? I welcome your thoughts at

MRA’s 2021 legislative goals aim to protect retailers MRA published its “2020 Year-End Legislative Report,” which recaps last year’s legislative wins for retailers and previews 2021 legislative priorities, plus provides a timeline of COVID-19 regulations in Michigan, an extensive Public Acts and Veto bill table, an overview of Michigan’s current political landscape and more. See to view the report. In 2021, MRA will focus on the following legislative issues.

Monitor COVID-19 vaccine policies As Michigan rolls out its vaccine distribution strategy, MRA will continue to work with the state to ensure all Michigan pharmacies are able to provide vaccinations. Pharmacies already have expertise in this area, key relationships with customers who trust them and greater accessibility in hours and locations than physician offices. In addition, since retail stores remain open to the public, all retail workers should be eligible to receive the vaccine in one of the earlier phases. MRA formally requested that the state include all retail workers in Phase 1B and will continue advocating to protect frontline retail workers. Make regulation flexibilities permanent COVID-19 provided an opportunity to reevaluate certain restrictive laws and rules that needed to be suspended to allow retailers and others to focus on providing critical services. Pharmacies requested greater flexibility for their operations, grocery stores needed relief from bottle deposit takeback and fewer restrictions on delivery times to restock shelves, curbside pickup spots needed to be approved more quickly, and youth employees were given more flexibility to work more hours while schools were temporarily closed. All of these items and other loosened regulations should be reviewed to see if they should be made permanent.

Defend against tax increases MRA’s battle against efforts to increase property taxes or make the appeals process more difficult will continue in 2021. With anticipated budget challenges, we expect the administration and others may look to tax increases to make up lost revenue. Other states have started looking for additional tax revenue from “essential businesses” who they believe profited during the pandemic.

That narrative is problematic because retailers who experienced sales increases also incurred tremendous additional costs. Retailers had to purchase PPE and cleaning supplies, hire professional cleaning/sanitizing companies, install physical barriers and social distancing markers, provide paid time off, and schedule additional employees to comply with COVID-19 safeguards such as capacity restrictions, social distancing requirements and additional sanitizing. MRA will fight any attempts to increase taxes on “essential retailers” and on attempts to raise taxes in general. This is one of the worst times to place additional cost burdens on retailers given the already fragile economic environment. Prevent the sale of fraudulent/stolen items online Last year saw a major shift in consumer shopping habits with online sales increasing at record rates. Accordingly, adding safeguards to prevent the sale of fraudulent or stolen items online assumes even more importance. MRA seeks to amend Michigan’s Organized Retail Crime Act to include some verification tools for on online marketplace vendors and to include more reliable ways to report/remove suspicious listings. These changes should be reasonable and not overly burdensome but will provide law enforcement an opportunity to follow up using reliable information.

Bills would reimburse businesses for taxes paid when buying PPE The House approved two MRA-supported bills that would exempt personal protective equipment (PPE) from Michigan’s 6% Sales and Use Tax for employers with COVID-19 safety protocol plans. Currently, PPE typically used in manufacturing operations is exempt from Sales and Use Tax. House Bill 4224, introduced by Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, and HB 4225, introduced by Rep. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, would extend the exemption to PPE and supplies related to COVID-19. The exemption would create a rebate for sales/use tax paid by businesses on PPE including plexiglass and disinfecting products

purchased between March 10, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021. During a committee hearing earlier in the month, the Department of Treasury stated that an internal review showed the bills would reduce state sales tax revenue by $18.5 million. Legislators argued the sales tax revenue would not have existed without the pandemic; so it should be a “no brainer” to provide this rebate to businesses who have complied with the state’s mandated safety protocols. The bills are now before the Senate Finance Committee.

MRA Scholarships

MRA is accepting scholarship applications for the 2021-22 academic year. As an official division of the Michigan Retailers Association, Michigan Grocer members are eligible to apply for the MRA scholarships including the Paul M. Felice Memorial Scholarship and the Albert (Al) Kessel, Jr. Memorial Scholarship. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $1,500. Please make the program known to all of your employees. For more information and to apply, see, under the “Member Benefits” tab. Applications are accepted through April 1. Additional questions? Contact MRA’s Rachel Schrauben at or (800) 366-3699, ext. 346.




Musings on where we’ve been and preparing for what’s to come By Tim Slawinski

Food and Dairy Division Director, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Hope Springs Eternal The last 12 months have been challenging for our state’s food sector, from the people who grow and process food products to those who transport and sell food to keep our families fed. Throughout the pandemic, Michigan’s retail food community has risen to meet the unique challenges of keeping their employees and customers safe, adjusting to unexpected disruptions in the supply chain, and continuing to provide safe, wholesome foods. Spring always feels like a chance to start with a clean slate. With the season right around the corner and the roll out of vaccinations gaining ground, hope for a return to a semblance of normalcy is in the air. As we move past the changes necessitated by the pandemic, I want to remind you that your MDARD food inspector is a valuable resource and should be your first point of contact for questions or concerns. If needed, contact MDARD’s Customer Call Center at (800) 292-3939 during business hours to be connected to your inspector. Please be prepared to provide the county and zip code where your firm is located. If you have an after-hours emergency that has or may affect store operations including loss or damage to products, call MDARD’s after-hours emergency number at (517) 373-0440. FDD Annual Report MDARD’s “2020 Food and Dairy Division Annual Report” reflects the challenges faced by MDARD staff in FY 2020 (September 2019 to October 2020). Food inspection staff activities were re-prioritized away from routine field work for several months, but they were still able to conduct over 14,000 inspections; collect over 700 food samples; collect 700 environmental swabs for pathogens; participate in trainings and outreach, and take enforcement actions when needed. In addition, in FY 2020, the Food Safety and Inspection Program conducted over 18,500 inspections and collected 1,800 samples. The program also saw a reduction in administrative fines for 2020, which is a positive reflection on, you, our industry partners. To read the report, see, click “About MDARD” and then “Annual Reports.” Emergency Action Plans March is Severe Weather Preparedness Month — a great time to revisit your firm’s emergency action plan. Tornadoes, late winter storms, floods and other severe weather can lead to 14 MARCH/APRIL 2021


fires, power outages, boil water advisories and many other conditions that can adversely affect your business. Preparing for unwanted and unexpected events can help you respond faster and mitigate some of the negative consequences. MDARD developed a sample Emergency Action Plan (EAP) to help firms plan for and respond to these types of adverse events. Just type MDARD and EAP into your favorite search engine and click on the “MDARD – Emergency Action Plans for Retail Food” link. This will take you to MDARD’s EAP booklet, which can be downloaded in PDF format in English and other languages. A limited number of printed copies are also available from your food inspector by request. The booklet provides guidance for what to do in the event of fire, flood, power outages, loss of water pressure or boil water advisories, and the need for vomit or stool cleanup. Every manager’s office should have one. Take a minute this month to make sure you know where yours is or to get a copy. Food Recalls Does your firm have a recall response plan? In November 2020, the USDA published guidance and announced that, under certain conditions, they have authority to publish lists of retail consignees for recalled products. Do not be caught unaware! Ensure your suppliers have solid plans to inform you of recalls in a timely fashion. Firms are expected to be proactive about addressing recalled products. Food License Renewals Michigan food licenses expire on April 30 each year. In 2020, this date was extended due to the pandemic. MDARD does not anticipate that this will happen again this year. License renewal letters were mailed to firms by early March and are also sent electronically to firms who have provided email addresses. Renewals must be postmarked or submitted online by midnight on April 30, 2021. MDARD Resources for Retailers MDARD has many resources available to retailers on its website at Frequently sought-after resources include the Michigan Food Law, Michigan Modified Food Code and other regulations, certified manager training and resources, food labeling and allergen labeling requirements. Thank you for all you do every day to keep our food supply safe and wholesome. Here’s to a happy, healthy spring and a greatly improved 2021.

During good times, it’s easy to keep a steady hand. But when life throws curve balls like the world has never seen, those steady hands can become shaky rather quickly. At Associated Wholesale Grocers, we have thousands of examples of strong, steady hands keeping grocery stores running, true purveyors of hope for our communities. And there are thousands of steady hands at AWG supporting those ESSENTIAL pillars of communities in the 28 states we serve. We’ve been constantly tracking how our industry is changing long before the current crisis and we’re focusing even closer on how the current situation will change things even more. We have long prided ourselves on the lowest cost of goods. But now, and in the future, our retailers need far more than that. Everything from e-commerce to merchandising, digital marketing to support as we navigate through this crisis together. We have helping, steady hands for every area of your store and have prided ourselves on being that steady hand for almost 100 years. Make the call sooner rather than later to learn how Associated Wholesale Grocers can provide you a lower cost of goods and a real chance to compete in the marketplace today and in the future!

For a lower cost of goods PLEASE CONTACT: Keith Knight 615-290-6093 Wayne Hall 608-347-7318

Dave McKelvey 713-876-6240 Diane Guerrero 262-806-1203

Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc., 5000 Kansas Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66106

603 S. Washington Avenue, Lansing, MI 48933 (800) 366-3699

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