January-February 2022 Michigan Food News

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At SpartanNash, our flagship exclusive brand, Our Family, was developed more than 115 years ago; the oldest and most well-established in the industry. The number one reason for this success and longevity is our commitment to keeping the customer first - listening, responding, performing. 2500 SKUs currently available throughout the entire store Product quality guarantee for consumers Exclusive marketing support, including industry leading social media solutions Multi-tiered community support program Comprehensive merchandising program Associate engagement plan

SCAN HERE  TO LEARN MORE Contact Jim Gohsman (1-616-878-8088) | jim.gohsman@spartannash.com or Roger Delemeester (1-989-245-0337) | roger.delemeester@spartannash.com for more information.


President’s Message

Ways to up your recruitment and retention game william j. hallan

MRA President and Chief Executive Officer

With many retailers and other businesses facing significant labor shortages, I want to share some key takeaways from a recent National Grocers Association webinar entitled “Attracting Young Talent to the Grocery Industry.”

The webinar focused on ways to appeal to current and future employees. Speaker Corry Lankford with Brookshire Brothers stressed the importance of taking the time to make employees feel seen and appreciated. Every CEO can tell you about someone who was willing to invest in them at the start of their career, he said. Be that person for your team.

As I’m sure you know all too well, the number of workers quitting their jobs recently reached a record high. And retailers are feeling it more than most. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports that 4.4 million people, or 3% of workers, quit their jobs last quarter — with retailers experiencing even higher employee loss at a rate of 4.4%.

The webinar also stressed that grocers must overcome the outdated perceptions young people have about grocery jobs. Explaining store operations to entry-level workers can help. Stocking shelves becomes more engaging when an employee’s had a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to get a product from a manufacturer to the shelf.

NGA noted that grocery workers cited job burnout (63%) as the biggest motivator for quitting, with compensation (50%) coming in second. Webinar moderator Nick Nikitas, CEO of the e-commerce solutions provider Rosie, put it in perspective when he said: “For grocery workers, the pandemic was like having the week of Thanksgiving or Christmas repeat over and over for 40-plus weeks in a row.”

With NGA reporting that e-commerce is expected to grow to 21.5% of all grocery sales by 2025, retailers should consider making e-commerce its own department and tap into the expertise of those who have never known a world without the Internet. In addition, retailers must enhance their brand using social media. That task is a perfect fit for Generation Z and millennial workers.

The good news is that retailers are uniquely positioned to offer what young people say they want in a career.

Additional tips:

What employees want

What grocers can provide

Authenticity

rocers have long histories of staying true G to what they do and who they serve.

To make an impact Grocers stand for more than making money. When it comes to helping their communities, retailers often lead the way. Positive company culture From building relationships between all levels of employees to showing employees how their work directly impacts others, grocery stores often have a strong workplace culture. Career path

E-commerce, digital marketing and automated back-of-house jobs require tech savvy workers.

n Work the front lines alongside your employees. n Leverage your existing younger talent to attract others. Consider the value of a referral program and harness the power of word of mouth. n Offer benefits that are important to younger employees: formal and informal recognition, tuition reimbursement, family leave and flexible hours. n Lankford noted that the pandemic has made it necessary to teach workers how to do several jobs. Cross-training can be a great opportunity to help workers find the best job fit or expand their store operation knowledge to help them advance. This can turn a temporary job into a career.

Michigan Grocers Division Advisory Board William J. Hallan, President Michigan Retailers Association

Rachel Hurst Kroger Company of Michigan

Bryan Neiman Neiman’s Family Market

Craig Diepenhorst H.T. Hackney

Nick Lenzi Lipari Foods

DJ Oleson Oleson’s Food Stores

Jim Gohsman SpartanNash

John Leppink Leppink’s Food Centers

Thom Welch Hollywood Markets

Michigan Grocers is a division of the Michigan Retailers Association

William J. Hallan Publisher Lisa J. Reibsome Editor, Design & Layout, Ad Sales (517) 449-2256; LReibsome@retailers.com Publisher does not assume responsibility for statements made by advertisers in business competition. © MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS 2022 MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS JAN/FEB 2022 3


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 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 any 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 Dave McKelvey 713-876-6240

Diane Guerrero 262-806-1203

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


Store-founder Don Hansen and his son Dave Hansen.

TAKING SHOPPERS ON A CULINARY ADVENTURE

HANSEN FOODS BY LISA J. REIBSOME, EDITOR

“It’s not difficult to be successful. People are always telling me what they want to buy, so I sell it to them.”

cery store in Hart,” he says. “Ludington has other options, but they’re about 25 miles way.”

That is grocery store owner Dave Hansen sharing his business approach, which has served him well throughout his career of 55 years and counting. Today, he owns Hansen Foods in the small West Michigan city of Hart, approximately seven miles inland from Lake Michigan, half way between Muskegon and Ludington. He bought the store in 2009 from his dad — store-founder Don Hansen. Prior to that, he and his wife, Leslie, owned Hansen Foods in Sutton’s Bay for 15 years.

Strong community ties The Hansen family has deep roots in Hart. In 1966, Don and his wife, Bev, moved from Gaylord to buy a store in downtown Hart. “My dad had been a manager for A&P. They sent him around the state to fix stores that weren’t doing well,” Dave explains. “When my parents learned that his next transfer would be to Detroit, they decided to move back to their hometown of Hart instead, selling everything in order to buy their own grocery store.”

“My goal was to retire when I turned 55,” Dave says. “So we sold the store in Sutton’s Bay. I was just getting into retirement when my 80-year-old dad called to ask if I’d buy this store so he could step back a little. I couldn’t really say no to that.”

Back in 1985 for an article in the Michigan Food News, Don discussed starting the business: “I put $4,000 down to buy the store. It was all the money we had. We didn’t even have enough left to put cash in the registers. We borrowed $2,000 from the bank just to open the store, and my brother-in-law had to co-sign the loan,” he shared.

So Dave and Leslie packed up and moved back to Hart to take over the family business. This year marks the store’s 56th year of serving the community, which has 2,000 year-round residents and swells to 30,000 people every summer. “There are a lot of campgrounds and cottages nearby,” Dave says. “We’re less than 10 miles away from Silver Lake Sand Dunes, which is the third most popular summer attraction in Michigan after Mackinac Island and Traverse City.” Vacationers and residents alike rely on Hansen Foods. “We are the only gro-

That first store was tiny, at only 3,000 square feet. However, with the help of their four children — Dave, Brenda, Diane and Goeff —they were able to build a successful business. “It was a gamble that paid off,” Dave says. “We all grew up working in the store. There were only four employees, who were all like family. I was interested in the meat department, so I learned to cut meat from our butcher when I was 13.”

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Left: Along with their grocery experience, Dave and Leslie Hansen are both trained chefs with experience running restaurants and a catering company. At Hansen Foods, Leslie focuses on the deli, which accounts for about 13% of total store sales. The store’s tagline is, “Your culinary grocer.” According to Dave, “It sends a message. We want people to know that we have everything they need for their culinary adventure.” Hansen’s is known for their fantastic meat department — selling everything from Wagyu beef to homemade brats. A best seller is the asparagus, cheddar and Vidalia onion bratwurst, shown below.

It took six years to outgrow that building and another 11 years to outgrow their next building. In 1983, they custom-built a store approximately a mile from the heart of downtown. “People thought we were crazy,” Dave says. “Who is going to go that far for groceries?” However, the move enabled them to carry a lot more products and expand the meat, dairy and produce departments. They also added a deli and, a year later, a bakery. “We gained way more customers than we lost,” he shares. Working in the only grocery store in a close-knit community means “everyone knows everything about us,” Dave says. “So it’s a good thing we’re known for our friendliness. That’s one of the cornerstones on which my dad built the business.” The Hansen family has always worked hard to provide worldclass customer service for every shopper, every day. “My dad still comes to work most days,” Dave says, during a store tour where we came across Don working in the office. “How long will you be in today, dad?” Dave asks him. “Until this gets done,” Don replies, gesturing to a stack of papers. “There’s never enough to do sitting at home,” Don adds. At age 93, Don can either be found working in the office, talking with customers or stocking shelves. “He’s in charge of the cookie aisle,” Dave shares. “He gets on his hands and knees to move product, so it was important to put him on an aisle where the items aren’t too heavy. When he comes in, my mom usually comes in, too. She’s 90.” Don’s work ethic shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows him. While he was growing the business, he worked 80 to 90 hours a week while serving as a volunteer fire fighter. Don also served for many years on Michigan Grocers board of directors. In addition, he was on the board of his wholesale company, Viking Foods, and was Viking’s Retailer of the Year in 1985. 6 JAN/FEB 2022

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Hansen’s current wholesaler is Associated Wholesale Grocers. “I like that they listen to us,” Dave shares. “Our store’s interests are also AWG’s interests because they are a cooperative food wholesaler. I think that’s great.” Hansen’s also sources from local farmers. “We work with 30 to 40 farms, depending on the season,” Dave says. Oceana County is known as the Asparagus Capital of the Nation. “We sell fresh asparagus, basically right out of field,” Dave says. “This past May we sold 8,000 pounds of it, which is about 4 tons. We sell between 6 and 10 tons a year.” Hansen’s makes about 30 kinds of bratwurst, but the asparagus brat is, by far, the most popular. “Farm fresh asparagus, cheddar cheese and Vidalia onions — we invented that brat,” Dave says. “And it’s become the vanilla ice cream of the bratwurst world.” Commitment to employees Hansen’s is a boutique-style store where each department manager has control over his or her area, and each area has a bit of its own look and feel. This creates the idea of small shops within one store. “I want each department of be a draw for shoppers, and this is a really effective way to do that,” Dave explains. Unlike many businesses right now, Hansen’s is not feeling the labor shortage pinch. They have about 75 employees, many of whom have been with the store for decades. “Our employees are the best,” Dave says. “It’s important to us that they are well compensated. Our grocery manager has been here for 50 years, since he was in high school, and many others are longtimers as well. We couldn’t do it without them.” Dave takes training and coaching seriously. “All our employees know they don’t start at the bottom, they start at the beginning,” he says. “They understand that they are Hansen Foods.


Left: Wine expert Fred Bowen helps choose Hansen’s extensive wine selection. “We sample about 3,000 wines a year and about 1,300 make the cut,” Dave says. “Fred is fantastic at sharing his wine knowledge and enthusiasm with our customers.” Hansen’s sells about $600,000 in wine a year, up from $50,000 about 10 years ago. Both the deli and bakery use family recipes to make crowd-pleasing items. Above is a Sicilian sandwich with homemade focaccia bread and top-quality Italian meats and cheeses. “Life’s too short to eat mediocre food,” Dave declares. Above right: Customers expressed an interest in premium cigars, so Dave installed a humidor. The store offers a wide selection of cigars for every occasion and budget.

If a customer has a bad experience, they don’t say, ‘I’m not going back to that clerk again.” They say, ‘I’m not going back to Hansen’s.’ So I work with everyone to make sure they enjoy what they do and that they know how to do it well.” The store is known for its friendly, helpful employees. “Vacationers often ask us how we get such nice people to work for us,” Dave says. “I tell them we make a choice to be nice. In a tight-knit community, you see the same people all the time, so it’s important to always be nice to everyone.” Hansen’s approach to people is reflected in how they give back as well. “Just about every day we get requests for food, money and other donations,” Dave shares. “And we always try to help out. At times it feels like we sponsor everything and everyone, but that builds and keeps a strong community.” Business success secrets According to Dave, there are three things you need to know to be successful in the grocery business: 1. Understand what drives a shopper to make a purchase. “Do you know what people say before they buy something?” Dave asks. “They say — ‘this looks good!’ A grocer’s job is to get shoppers to say that as much as possible as they move throughout the store.” 2. Never underestimate how much people value convenience. “When microwaves became popular, it was common for people to put popcorn in a bag and heat it up,” Dave recounts. “Before long, they started selling already filled popcorn bags; and I said, who would buy that? People can put their own popcorn in a bag. Boy, was I wrong. Bag popcorn became a huge seller.” From that Dave learned the importance of making everything as easy as possible for shoppers. “We clean and cut fruits and

veggies, offer a large selection of grab and go items, and we carry out everyone’s groceries.” 3. Grocers need to know the one thing a shopper must say to become a repeat customer. “When people leave your store and say ‘that was cool,’ then you know you’ve got a loyal customer in the making,” Dave says. At Hansen’s, this happens a couple of ways. Dave reports that they hear, “I can’t believe you have this!” just about every day from someone. “We also do a ton of samples, so it’s not unusual to have a shopper try something and love it,” he says. “We work to make the entire shopping experience fun. We frequently hear people say ‘that was cool’ as they leave the store.” What’s next for Hansen Foods? Plans are underway to remodel the store entrance. “I don’t like that you enter into the checkout lanes,” Dave says. “We’re going to redesign the space so people enter into the produce department. That always puts people in a good mood.” Currently, produce accounts for about 12% of total store sales. Dave believes that number could be higher. “We need more room to have even more inviting displays,” he says. “I’d also like to add a root cellar for onions, potatoes etc. Those products need different lighting than other produce, and I think it will be a really cool feature. It’s how people used to keep their root vegetables, so why not do that in the store?” He continues, “I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas. That’s what drives change.” As long as those ideas keep coming, Dave, Leslie, Don, Bev and the rest of the Hansen’s team will keep working to make sure Hansen Foods remains a culinary destination for West Michigan and beyond. MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS JAN/FEB 2022 7


WIC update on recent program changes FIS stand-beside POS device The Michigan WIC program reports that, while the transition to the new EBT contractor Fidelity Information Services (FIS) is complete, there have been some challenges and obstacles — especially for vendors with FIS-issued standbeside point-of-sale (POS) devices. Procedures are now in place to resolve these issues and fixes can be emailed to vendors who are still having problems. If you have issues using your stand-beside POS device, please contact the FIS Merchant Help Desk at (888) 529-1693.

lowing strategies to deal with the shortages:

Vendors using an FIS stand-beside POS device can view monthly deposits and invoices in the FIS merchant web portal at www.ebtedge.com. For details, see the FAQ document on the Michigan WIC website at Michigan.gov/WICVendor, click “Point of Sale Equipment and Systems.”

New Formula: Due to shortages of Similac Sensitive 32 oz. RTF, Michigan WIC has temporarily added Similac Pro Sensitive 32 oz. RTF to the Approved Product List, effective immediately. Clients with Similac Sensitive 32 oz. RTF food packages can choose either of these products based on availability. At this time, Michigan WIC is not adding any other Similac Pro formulas.

Infant Formula Transition While the transition from Enfamil to Similac formulas is complete, some customers will still have an Enfamil special formula, such as Nutramigen or Enfamil NeuroPro EnfaCare, as part of their WIC benefits. Please continue to stock those special formulas. Shortages: The WIC team is aware of the current formula shortages. For this reason, the team is taking a temporary break from on-site monitoring visits. WIC offers the fol-

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n If feasible and necessary, consider holding WIC-authorized formula behind the customer service desk. Be sure to alert WIC customers of the change. n If feasible and necessary, consider enforcing quantity limits to ensure adequate stock of WIC-authorized infant formula and foods.

Training updates All WIC authorized vendors, including pharmacy vendors, must participate in one interactive training each contract cycle. The WIC team also suggests training when there is a new manager or staff turnover. The next webcast training sessions for grocers are Jan. 11 at 2 p.m. and April 12 at 2 p.m. For pharmacy vendors, the dates are Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. and April 26 at 2 p.m.


New year brings renewed focus on fresh BY LISA J. REIBSOME, EDITOR

After the November and December holidays, people are often looking to eat healthier in the new year. Just-published research seeks to quantify how important the fresh food category is to grocers during this critical time. Deloitte and FMI-The Food Industry Association (FMI) polled 29 food Fresh industry companies and Defined facilitated a roundFresh includes fresh table discussion of senior fruits and vegetables, meat, seafood, bakery, floral and deli executives who are leadpurchases. Fresh is food that has ing the fresh strategy at their companies. The not been preserved and has not respondents repreyet spoiled. Fresh food does not sented more than 20% include shelf-stable products of all U.S. grocery store or products that do not locations and included have cold chain reproduct suppliers from a quirements. variety of fresh categories. Top view The report, “A Fresh Take for Fresh Food,” found that sales of fresh food at retail stores continued to stay elevated throughout all of 2021 compared with pre-pandemic levels, despite the continuing recovery of the restaurant food service sector. Most companies surveyed rated the fresh category as having the highest strategic importance to their overall revenue growth plans during the next one to three years. More than 80% of respondents said that, to support the fresh food category, they are adding floor space, product offerings and/or staff. The report looks at three strategies for improving the fresh category. 1. Re-energizing the in-store fresh experience The study found that in-store continues to be the preferred channel for fresh food: 70% of consumers shop for fresh food in stores. To beat the competition, retailers will likely need to focus on creating an energized shopping experience. In fact, six in 10 retailers report that they are investing to make that happen. Top measures for improving the in-store experience include:

n enhancing the responsiveness of store associates, n remodeling the physical space, and n creating strong in-store themes and displays. FMI’s research discovered that retailers believe these efforts will drive revenue growth, not just in fresh, but also across categories. However, the report notes that “recruiting and retaining skilled labor is a major challenge to successfully using these tactics for eight in 10 retailers.” 2. Building fresh in e-commerce While growing in-store sales continues to be a high priority, fresh executives acknowledge the critical role e-commerce plays in improving a store’s fresh category sales. As a reflection of its strategic importance and the need to overcome the profitability barrier, more companies report that they are bringing e-commerce in-house. Over the next one to three years, six in 10 retailers said they plan to rely more on their own e-commerce channels over those offered by third parties. They are investing in a variety of fulfillment options including home delivery, inside store pickup and curbside pickup. 3. Offering fresh meal solutions Nine out of 10 retailers said that fresh meal solutions are an important growth segment because consumers are looking for faster meal solutions and more variety in what they prepare at home. A similar number said they are investing in offering: n fresh meals — especially grab-and-go meals, n build-your-own meals, and n self-service salad bars. Role of suppliers The research found that, given the labor shortage, suppliers are being asked to take on more preprocessing and value-added work prior to products entering the store. They are also being leaned on to provide richer digital content to fuel e-commerce shopping, as well as to provide taste and packaging innovation. MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS JAN/FEB 2022 9


Michigan Apple Committee selects ambassador Scholarship competition opens The Michigan Retailers Association Foundation scholarship competition kicked off Jan. 1. As an official division of the Michigan Retailers Association, Michigan Grocer members are eligible to apply for any of the MRA scholarships including the two Paul M. Felice Memorial Scholarships and two Albert (Al) Kessel, Jr. Memorial Scholarships. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $1,500. Applications are accepted through April 1. Those eligible to apply are high school seniors and college freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are dependent children of owners or full-time employees of MRA member businesses, which includes Michigan Grocers members. Part-time employees who are full-time students are also eligible. A third-party administrator selects recipients on behalf of the Foundation based on outstanding academic performance and extracurricular activities, regardless of financial need. Please make the program known to all of your employees. For details or to apply online, see retailers.com, under the Member Benefits tab. Questions? Contact MRA’s Rachel Schrauben at (800) 366-3699 ext. 346 or rschrauben@retailers.com.

The Michigan Apple Committee crowned Aubrey Rasch of Lowell (right) as the 2022 Michigan Apple Queen and Reaghan Dolphin of Gowen as first runner-up. “The Michigan Apple Queen has the great responsibility of serving as an ambassador for the Michigan Apple industry,” says Michigan Apple Committee Executive Director Diane Smith. “Before the competition, the candidates undergo a rigorous interview and essay writing process. Aubrey will be very busy in 2022 representing the industry at various parades, festivals, grocery store events and more.” As the face of the Michigan apple industry, Rasch will also travel to schools to teach students about apples. Both winners receive scholarships from the Michigan Apple Committee, the Michigan State Horticultural Society and ChoiceOne Bank.

Don’t miss vital info

Information changes quickly and news happens fast. That’s why we added the Michigan Food eNews — a bi-weekly email newsletter — as a member benefit. It provides the latest news including regulatory updates, deadlines and other must-know information.

©2021 The Coca-Cola Company.

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The email bulletin is an important extension of the Michigan Food News. To receive it, contact Lisa Reibsome at LReibsome@retailers.com or (517) 449-2256.


Meijer uses recycled plastic bags to pave parking lot BY LISA J. REIBSOME, EDITOR

MRA member Meijer partnered with Midland’s Dow, Inc. to put recycled plastic bags to good use. In 2014, Meijer launched an in-store plastic film recycling program. Each store placed a collection bin inside the front entrance where customers deposited clean, dry plastic bags and films including single use, bread, dry cleaning, produce and water softener bags. This year the company expects to recycle about 6 million pounds of plastics through this program. Typically, the majority of the recycled plastic is sent to a plastic products manufacturer that uses the recycled items as feedstock to make new products. However, last year close to one million bags were used in a pilot program to help the environment and create a more durable parking lot. Working with several partners, Dow used the plastic bags in a new paving technique that increases the asphalt’s durability to create a parking lot at the Meijer Supercenter in Holland. “[We] are pleased to partner with our customers,” says Meijer President and CEO Rick Keyes, “and Dow in the largest in-state project of this kind to better demon-

strate our commitment to a circular economy through recycling and reusing plastic to better ensure a more sustainable future.” The project brings plastic grocery bags full circle — from use in-store to a recycled polymer modified asphalt parking lot, which Dow reports is more durable than a parking lot paved with unmodified asphalt. “Lessening our impact on the environment through increased recycling efforts is an issue that’s important to us,” says Meijer Senior VP of Properties and Real Estate Vik Srinivasan, “which is why we believe this pilot project is just one of the ways we can bring our current recycling efforts full circle while improving our customer shopping experience.” Meijer is also part of the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, an initiative that aims to identify, test and implement bags that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag. When asked where the pilot program will lead, Meijer reports that it will review both the performance of the parking lot over an extended period of time and the results from other Dow projects to better determine the next steps.

New parking lot in Holland, Michigan. MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS JAN/FEB 2022 11


Lipari Foods announces key leadership changes Ellen Wood was named Chief Human Resources Officer. She will lead all aspects of human resources and human capital initiatives, reporting directly to Lipari Foods CEO Thom Lipari. Wood spent almost 20 years with General Motors working in roles of increased responsibility culminating as the Global Director of Human Resources, Global Propulsion Systems and GM Defense. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Human Resources for ThyssenKrupp Materials North America and Supply Chain Services. She holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Oakland University and a master’s in industrial organization psychology from the University of Detroit Mercy. Joyce Saranathan is now Executive Vice President of Strategy and Growth, where she will mentor and coach senior leaders and lead business teams in acquisition-based activities, among other duties. Saranathan joined Lipari in 1985 and “has been an integral part of leading the company’s exceptional growth in a variety of functions,” the company says. Prior to her promotion, she was Senior VP of Category Management, Marketing and Procurement and has also led the company’s overall sales efforts, been a critical part of acquisitions and mentored company leaders. Saranathan now reports to Lipari President and COO John Pawlowski. Nick Lenzi was promoted to Senior Vice President of Marketing from Vice President of Marketing. Lenzi joined Lipari Foods at the end of 2020 and has already “been instrumental in building a best-inclass marketing department that

supports all of our categories, sales and manufacturing functions,” the company says. As Lipari continues to grow, Nick’s newly created position will focus on building best-in-class marketing campaigns and driving food show success. Jimmy Lipari was promoted to Senior Vice President of Category Management from Vice President — Specialty Grocery Division. He started working part time at Lipari in operations in 1996, doing everything from stocking inventory to painting. After graduating from Bowling Green State University and learning sales outside of Lipari for two years, Jimmy rejoined Lipari full time in 2007. Since then, he has been a sales representative, part of the procurement team and has worked his way up within the category management team in Retail Meat & Seafood, Deli, and Specialty Grocery. In his new role, “the entire organization and category management team will benefit from his ability to drive category success, collaborate across categories, innovate and support change to enable a successful organization,” the company says. Julie Nelson was promoted to Senior Vice President of Procurement from Vice President of Procurement. Nelson originally joined Lipari Foods in 1987 in the billing department. She left in 1994 after the birth of her twins but returned in 1997 as an office manager to oversee various billing and customer service departments. She was promoted to Director of Procurement in 2012 and Vice President in 2019. “Nelson has been an important part of the growth of Lipari Foods and will continue to drive excellence within her team,” the company says. As Lipari continues to focus on growth, her new role will play an integral part of supply chain management to ensure first-class customer service.

Herbruck’s sets egg donation record, staff vet wins award

MRA member Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch donated more eggs in 2021 than in any other time in the company’s 64-year history. Herbruck’s donated 1.8 million eggs, up from its average yearly donation of 1 million eggs. “The (last) couple of years have been difficult for all of us,” says Herbruck’s President Greg Herbruck. “Because being a good neighbor is one of our core values, we want to help as many people as we can by supplying delicious, nutritious eggs to those in need.” The company also announced that staff veterinarian Dr. Alex Strauch was recognized by Michigan State University for his contributions to animal medicine. He received the Early-Career Food Animal Veterinarian Award, which is one of the highest honors MSU’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Services bestows. 12 JAN/FEB 2022

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SpartanNash raises $325K for food pantries

MRA member SpartanNash donated $325,000 through in-store fundraising efforts and a pledge from the SpartanNash Foundation to provide hunger relief for those who are food insecure. During the campaign, store guests were invited to donate at checkout. Approximately one in 10 shoppers, as well as SpartanNash associates, donated. Since starting this specific fundraiser in 2016, SpartanNash has raised over $2 million dedicated to food pantry support, which translates to more than eight million meals. This campaign complements SpartanNash’s year-round food donations to local pantries, totaling more than four million pounds of food annually and eliminating food waste from landfills.


MRA Government Affairs News

Year-end legislation impacts grocery industry Here is a rundown of issues impacting food retailers and suppliers that the Michigan Legislature addressed as 2021 came to a close. All the 2021 legislative action will be recapped in MRA’s annual year-end Legislative Report published in February. SIGNED INTO LAW The Legislature passed the following bills, which now have been signed into law: n Bottle deposit fraud bills (House Bills 4780-4783, now Public Acts 139-142 of 2021) The new laws, which took effect Dec. 27, 2021, amended the beverage container deposit law to create a Bottle Bill Enforcement Fund. The Bottle Bill Enforcement Fund will enable the Michigan State Police (MSP) to provide grants for local law enforcement to prevent, investigate and prosecute bottle fraud. In approximately three years, the MSP must report to the Legislature the number of containers seized and the deposit value of those containers. Funding will come from the first $1 million per year of unredeemed bottle deposits. For the remaining unredeemed bottle deposit money: 75% will go to environmental cleanup and 25% will go to retailers. The new laws also crack down on distributors/retailers selling returnable containers without first originating the deposit on the container. Bottle return fraud is classified as a felony punishable with prison sentences up to 20 years and fines up to $35,000, as well as triple-damage judgments in lawsuits for a beverage distributor who defrauds the state by selling non-deposit bottles from another state or by other means. n PPT location for 2021 (Senate Bill 698, now Public Act 164 of 2021) The new law, which took effect Dec. 27, 2021, simplifies personal property taxes (PPT) for 2021 by assuming that all items subject to PPT are in the same location as they were in 2020. This means, if employees are working remotely, businesses will not have to account for the location of business property that is being used in employee homes and file personal property taxes in those additional jurisdictions.

n 9-1-1 prepaid surcharge (HB 5026, now PA 126 of 2021) The law increases and extends the 9-1-1 fees required to be collected on prepaid cell phones and cell phone plans, extends that fee to online transactions, adds audits and extends the sunset for 5 years. The current system is funded by a 25-cent monthly surcharge on cell phones and landlines, with prepaid phones being subjected to a 5% fee upon purchase. The new law increases the prepaid fee to 6% starting March 1, 2022. n Motor fuel tax increase repeal (SB 674, now PA 124 of 2021) The law repeals a section of the Motor Fuel Tax Act that prescribes requirements and procedures concerning motor fuel in excess of 3,000 gallons held in storage when the motor fuel tax is increased. In essence, the new law keeps the current tax status rather than implement a scheduled change connected to inflationary measures. 2022 ISSUES The Michigan Legislature resumes Jan. 12. Here are a few issues MRA will be following: n Alcohol sales age The House passed HB 4232, which would reduce the age of a person who can sell or serve alcohol from 18 to 17. The Senate Regulatory Reform Committee will now consider the MRA-supported bill. n Penalties for minors in possession of tobacco The House passed HB 4427 to eliminate all criminal penalties relating to minors in possession of tobacco or attempting to purchase tobacco products and instead make a violation a civil infraction with a civil fine. A first offense would be a civil offense with a $50 fine (the same fine in current law) as well as community service and participation in a government approved “health promotion and risk reduction” program. Subsequent offenses would also be civil offenses subject to a $100 fine on a second offense and $150 on subsequent offenses. The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Dec. 14.

n Commercial PPT threshold (HB 5351, now Public Act 150 of 2021) The new law modifies the small business personal property tax exemption to increase the threshold from $80,000 to $180,000 beginning Dec. 31, 2022.

n Sales tax exemption for diapers HBs 5611-5612 were introduced on Dec. 8 to exempt both infant and adult diapers from sales and use tax. The bills were referred to the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee.

n Military CDLs (HB 4787, now PA 148 of 2021) This new law, which took effect Dec. 27, waives the knowledge test required for a commercial driver’s license for an individual with military motor vehicle experience, honoring the skills developed during military service and helping to address the truck driver shortage.

n Modernize Tobacco Products Tax Act A package of three bills (SBs 720-722) was introduced to modernize the Tobacco Products Tax Act by allowing delivery of tobacco products by retailers or third party carriers. It would also increase all licensing fees for wholesalers, importers and vending machine operators to $200. The bills were referred to the Senate Finance Committee. MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS JAN/FEB 2022 13


Vine Line Produce Distribution is acquired by FreshEdge MRA member Vine Line Produce Distribution was purchased last quarter by Indianapolis-based FreshEdge — a group of produce and specialty food companies.

Vine Line joins a growing family that includes Piazza Produce & Specialty Foods, Indianapolis Fruit, Get Fresh Produce, McCartney Produce, Leonardo’s Produce, Valley Produce, Garden Cut, CIBUS Fresh, Papania’s and newly acquired Monteverde’s Produce. Formed in 2019, FreshEdge now operates with 1,775 employees, approximately 731,500 square feet of warehouse space and a fleet of more than 670 trucks. The company is backed by Rotunda Capital Partners, a private equity firm. What the change means for Vine Line Operations will carry on from Vine Line’s current facility in Comstock Park. That 67,147 square-foot state-of-the-art facility was built in 2013. Vine Line’s former human resources director, Liza Alvarez, will now lead the company as president. Vine Line President Liza Alvarez

14 JAN/FEB 2022

“Vine Line customers can rest assured knowing the company will continue to be locally man-

MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS

aged,” Alvarez told the Michigan Food News. “At the same time, the change brings multi-regional distribution advantages and national procurement opportunities.”

Vine Line was formed in 2019 when MRA member Heeren Brothers merged with Walsma & Lyons and Vine Line Logistics to rebrand as Vine Line Produce Distribution. Heeren was founded in 1933 when brothers John and Elmer Heeren wanted to bring fresh produce to Michigan when the state’s growing season ended. To get started, John drove a truck from Grand Rapids south to purchase all the fresh produce he could carry. He then headed north to connect with Elmer, who met him half way driving an empty truck. Elmer drove the produce back to Grand Rapids while John drove the empty truck south to get more produce. The process repeated, and soon the business began to expand. Over the years, Heeren continued to grow and innovate, joining the Michigan Grocers Association in 2003. Today, Rotunda and FreshEdge report that they will continue to expand their family of companies — all focused on high quality produce, specialty food products and exceptional service — to create a unique team of complementary entities.



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