September-October 2021 Michigan Food News

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2 SEPT/OCT 2021


President’s Message

Study confirms buying nearby in Michigan has never been more important william j. hallan

MRA President and Chief Executive Officer

More than 14,000 jobs.

that would cumulatively pay $533 million in wages and benefits. It would also increase by $1.9 billion the state’s economic output, which measures the total value of all goods and services produced in Michigan.

Upwards of $530 million in wages and benefits. Nearly $2 billion of increased economic activity.

Economists use economic output as a tool to determine whether an economy is growing or contracting. With an almost $2 billion increase in economic output, we’d certainly be growing our economy if we redirected one purchase to a local store.

That’s what would be created if we redirected 10% of our e-commerce and remote purchases to a Michigan retailer. These are some of the findings from our new research to determine the economic impact of buying nearby in Michigan. We commissioned the study to update our original 2018 look at how shopping online with out-of-state retailers hurts Michigan’s businesses and economy.

And that’s the value of our research. While it’s always great to ask consumers to shop local, our study shows WHY it’s significant: $2 billion in increased economic activity would be a big boost for Michiganders. To put it in perspective, if you had $2 billion, you could buy a Tesla Model S for everyone in your hometown, as long as your hometown has a population of around 28,500.

And, wow, the data confirms that getting more consumers to shop local more often has never been more important. In the last three years, consumers have increased their e-commerce purchases. Our 2021 study found that e-commerce sales have grown from 8.8% of total retail sales in 2017 to nearly 11% by 2019 and then to almost 14% in 2020. When adding other remote sales, such as mail and phone orders, nearly 17% of all retail sales were completed outside a physical store last year.

That kind of impact is why we’re passionate about our Buy Nearby campaign, where we educate consumers about the force of their shopping dollars. Our goal is to prompt shoppers to support Michigan products and Michigan retailers. The campaign runs throughout the year, culminating the first weekend of October with a statewide event. This year’s Buy Nearby Weekend is Oct. 1-3, and we’ve been busy promoting the results of our new study to help make it a productive weekend.

Here’s the encouraging news: If Michigan consumers switched just one out of every 10 of these purchases to a local retailer, the change would create more than 14,000 jobs in Michigan Redirecting 1 out of every 10 purchases to a Michigan-based retailer would add the following:

Check out the insightful infographic on page 2 and find more information at We’re committed to helping every MRA member succeed, and that mission is at the heart of our Buy Nearby campaign. We’re optimistic that the results of our new study will encourage shoppers to keep their money in the Mitten, keep our retail businesses strong and keep our communities thriving as we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

Rachel Hurst Kroger Company of Michigan

DJ Oleson Oleson’s Food Stores

Craig Diepenhorst H.T. Hackney

John Leppink Leppink’s Food Centers

Don Symonds Lipari Foods

Jim Gohsman SpartanNash

Bryan Neiman Neiman’s Family Market

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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Tom’s President Nancy Deering Sands and Vice President Jane Deering Zimmerman at the 14 Street store in Traverse City. The entrance features a 1930 Chevrolet Huckster, which was owned by their dad, Dan Deering.

Tom’s Food Markets celebrates 75 years by lisa j. reibsome, editor

How is an abundant cherry crop responsible for

my dad served in the Army. When he returned in 1956, he started working full time to grow the business.”

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Tom’s Food Markets — a family-owned, independent grocery chain in the Grand Traverse region. In recognition of this impressive milestone, the Michigan Legislature issued a special tribute highlighting the “important role the business has played in shaping the Traverse City community and contributing to the lives of countless citizens.” Tom’s also received special congressional recognition from U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman and congratulatory messages from local businesses and residents.

Tom and Dan worked together to open two larger stores — one on the West Bay in 1961 and one on 14th street in 1968. “My granddad died just before they were about to open the 14th street store,” says Nancy. That same year, the family closed the original store, opting to serve the community with the two large shopping centers.

75 years of service to a community?

And it all started with an abundant cherry crop — which is fitting for a business in the Cherry Capital of the World, a nickname earned because of the large number of tart cherries grown in the area. “My grandparents, Tom and Eva Deering, were farmers with 80 acres in Empire, about 25 miles west of Traverse City,” says Tom’s President Nancy Deering Sands. “My granddad’s dream was to own a grocery store. So in 1946, he took the profits from a bumper cherry crop and bought a tiny market in Traverse City.” At only 1,200 square feet, the corner store — initially called Deering’s Market — specialized in meats and local produce. Nancy’s great grandfather, Mark, was a butcher and he passed that craft on to Tom. In 1953, after several additions and remodels, the store became Tom’s Food Market. “My dad, Dan, grew up working in that original market along side my grandfather,” Nancy shares. “Then, after high school, 4 SEPT/OCT 2021


“Over the years, my dad expanded the business from two stores to seven, and my sisters and I all grew up working in the stores,” Nancy shares. “We eventually closed two locations to centralize our focus. Today, our remaining five stores are strategically placed to enable us to best serve the area.” Three markets are in Traverse City — on the West Bay, the East Bay and 14th Street — and one is in Interlochen. Those are all approximately 40,000 square feet. The fifth is in Northport. Coming in at approximately 10,000 square feet, that one is much smaller. But all are popular with residents as well as the large influx of vacationers who flock to the region each year. “Summer is the busiest, but every season brings visitors,” says Nancy’s sister Jane Deering Zimmerman, who is company vice president. “Locals and tourists alike love that we have a great selection of local items, from fresh produce to souvenirs.” All About Local The markets are dedicated to sourcing from area farms, producers and artisans. “My dad took great pride in seeing local entrepreneurs do well, and he supported them by showcasing

“The Local Choice” initiative is designed to draw attention to Northern Michigan products, which appeal to residents and vacationers alike. 75th anniversary collaborations included a unique ice cream flavor, a one-of-a-kind bourbon, and a special pale ale.

their products in our stores,” Nancy says. “We’re all about local and carrying on that tradition.” Each store has an area that highlights local products. In addition, local products are part of the product mix throughout the store. Beyond sourcing local, Tom’s has a history of collaborating with local businesses to bring unique products to market. In fact, getting the community involved was an important part of their 75th anniversary festivities. Three-quarters of a Century “Our 75th anniversary celebration has been all about coming together as a community,” says Nancy. “We partnered with great area businesses to create some one-of-a-kind products. We also had a lot of fun celebrating with our customers and our wonderful associates.” Associates were treated to food trucks and prize drawings. Customers enjoyed ribfests and other events, free product samples, in-store specials and drawings for items including bikes, paddle boards, a year’s worth of chicken dinners and a 2021 Jeep Cherokee. In addition, Tom’s collaborated with several local businesses to create memorable anniversary products including: n 75th Anniversary Community Spirit Bourbon created in partnership with Iron Fish Distillery and Short’s Brewing Company. n 75th Anniversary Pale Ale made by Right Brain Brewery. n 75th Anniversary Cherry Chip Ice Cream — with black cherries and chocolate chips — from Moomers Homemade Ice Cream.

What’s the secret to staying in business for 75 years? “My dad would say it’s having a very strong work ethic, and I think we have to agree with him,” Nancy says. “He was a proud veteran who loved the flag. He made sure it was raised and lowered everyday at his markets and at his home. Both he and my granddad were strong believers in the American dream of working hard to succeed. They had a never-give-up attitude. A lot of success came because they just kept working until it did.” Dan passed away in 2019 at age 84, and the family reports that he kept a hand in the business even in his 80s. “It was his passion,” Nancy says. “My dad had a heart for Traverse City, with a genuine desire to not only serve our customers but to also serve our community.” The Deering family honors that legacy by continually giving back. “We donate to so many causes that it would be almost impossible to name them all,” Nancy says. “One of the biggest ways we give back is by supporting the area’s mobile food rescue organization.” Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan collects soon-to-expire, fresh, healthy food and distributes it to more than 70 food pantries and community meal sites. Tom’s has given hundreds of thousands of pounds of food and millions of dollars to the community over the years, with most of it done quietly. “My father didn’t want any recognition for our philanthropic work,” Jane says. “But the community knows we are here for them.” “Tom’s is a great brand,” adds Nancy’s husband, Ed Sands. “The stores are true cornerstones of the community. I think that speaks to their longevity as well.” continued on page 7 MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS

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Powerball is getting even better with the addition of Monday draws and the Double Play feature, which gives players a 2nd set of winning numbers each night. Now retailers have the opportunity to earn more commissions with every Powerball ticket sold! Retailers will also receive $5,000 for every Double Play top-prize winning ticket purchased at their location and redeemed for payment. Ask your Lottery Sales Representative for more details about these great new additions to Powerball.

DOUBLE PLAY - $1 MORE PER PLAY POWERBALL DRAW AT 10:59 PM, DOUBLE PLAY DRAW AT 11:40 PM Power Play increases non-jackpot prizes only and does not apply to Double Play prizes. Odds of winning Powerball/ Double Play: 0+1: 1 in 39; 1+1: 1 in 92; 2+1: 1 in 702; 3+0: 1 in 580; 3+1: 1 in 14,495; 4+0: 1 in 36,526; 4+1: 1 in 913,130; 5+0: 1 in 11,688,054; 5+1: 1 in 292,201,338. Overall odds of winning: 1 in 25. Knowing your limits is always the best bet. Call the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline for confidential help at 1-800-270-7117.

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Nancy and Ed moved back to the area a year and a half ago when Nancy’s oldest sister — company president Christy Kuhnke — passed away in 2020 at age 61. Christy had worked with her father in an executive role running the family business since 2005. “She worked so hard every day to continue our family’s strong commitment to the business and community,” says Jane. Nancy adds, “We come together as a family to get through difficult times and to keep going. The business remains a family affair. Our sister Carolyn and her family live in Indianapolis, but they work in the stores when they are in town. And our sister Michelle and her daughter work part time in the Northport store.” Future Success Another reason Tom’s has staying power is the Deering family’s approach to running a business. “We work along side our associates, doing whatever is needed,” Jane says. “We unload trucks, clean bathrooms, bag groceries — really anything we ask our associates to do, we do as well.” “That builds a family environment, where everyone is in it together to do whatever is necessary to serve the community,” Nancy says. Today, Tom’s is a women-owned business, employing over 200 people. “Some associates have been part of the Tom’s family for over 30 years,” Jane says. “And we are always making improvements so we can continue to provide a beautiful place to work and shop.” Tom’s markets are designed to be bright, welcoming environments. “An important feature is that our stores have huge, wide aisles,” Nancy says. “My dad wanted our customers to have plenty of room to shop.” “That became a big draw during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” adds Jane. “It’s easy for shoppers to keep six-feet apart. And our markets are also extremely clean. We’ve always had a big focus on cleaning and sanitizing, so the pandemic protocols were easy to incorporate into our business practices.” Jane says they continue to implement enhanced cleaning

Above left: Dan Deering (left) with his dad — company founder Tom Deering — in 1958. This is one of the many family photos hanging in the markets. Above: Taken in 2019, Dan’s daughters, from left to right, Carolyn Decker, Michelle Deering, Christy Kuhnke, Jane Deering Zimmerman and Nancy Deering Sands. and sanitizing measures. “I don’t really see that ever changing,” she shares. Recent improvements include a Northport remodel, new coolers and cases at East Bay and 14th Street, LED lighting upgrades and new landscaping. One significant addition is Tom’s new Xpress Service, which enables customers to shop online and pick up curbside. It was launched late last year, and a delivery option was added recently. “We are known for providing excellent service. It’s probably the most common accolade we hear — how our associates are above-and-beyond friendly and helpful,” says Jane. “We want our Xpress customers to receive that level of service, so we don’t use a third-party service.” Nancy adds, “We have our own Xpress shoppers to select groceries and fulfill online orders. And we recently partnered with DoorDash to deliver.” Tom’s wholesaler is SpartanNash, and Dan served on Spartan’s board of directors for 30 years. “At age 26, he was the youngest board member,” Nancy says. “He contributed a lot to the vision and growth of Spartan stores.” Next up? The Deering family plans to continue looking forward while honoring the past. “The barrel that was used to make the 75th Anniversary Community Spirit Bourbon has headed back to Shorts Brewing,” Nancy says. “They are making a very special ale in honor of my father. And we’ll have that limited-edition product for sale in our stores soon.” She continues, “The last 18 months have been fast and furious, and we’re so proud of and thankful for all our associates, our customers and our great community. We are taking time to enjoy that and are excited for the future.” MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS

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New USDA grants to benefit grocery workers

USDA launched a $700 million Farm and Food Workers Relief grant program to help farmworkers, meatpacking and front-line grocery workers with pandemic-related health and safety costs. Specifically, $20 million of the $700 million has been set aside to support grocery workers. This relief is intended to defray costs for personal, family or living expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as costs for personal protective equipment, dependent care and expenses associated with quarantines and testing. USDA will announce its application process through later this fall. Separately, USDA reports that the agency will soon announce an additional $700 million in grants for producers, processors and distributors impacted by COVID-19.

MRA aims to make pharmacy flexibilities permanent At the end of last year, MRA worked with lawmakers and the administration to pass legislation that codified previous executive orders granting pharmacies flexibility to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include being able to issue emergency refills of maintenance medication and operate in an area not normally designated as a pharmacy. While MRA succeeded in getting the legislation passed, the laws were enacted with sunset dates. As the Legislature’s fall session gets underway, MRA will work to make these pharmacy flexibilities permanent.

8 SEPT/OCT 2021


WMU launches category management certification

The Food Industry Research and Education Center at Western Michigan University is offering a new professional category manager certification. Certification sessions will be offered on an ongoing basis and can begin anytime; the certification will help organizations ensure that they achieve alignment and expertise around category management. Contact Dr. Russell Zwanka for information at


Mixed Drinks: The Michigan Liquor Control Commission issued an overview of changes to the Liquor Control Code that took effect Aug. 23. These changes stem from the mixed spirit drinks and shipments bill package that was signed into law in March as Public Acts 16-19 of 2021. The laws allow distilleries to directly ship mixed drinks to retailers by treating canned cocktails like wine. MLCC’s overview includes information specific for off-premise retailers. See for details. Mystery Shoppers: The MLCC launched a “Mystery Shoppers” program on Sept. 1 to help curtail the sale of alcohol to minors. Starting in Ann Arbor and East Lansing, the program is sending young, legal-age “mystery shoppers” to retail establishments to purchase alcohol to see if cashiers are properly checking IDs. The “Michigan Alcohol Responsibility Program” will serve to enhance the MLCC’s “Controlled Buy Operation Program.”

Dick’s Market is now a Leppink’s Food Center Leppink’s Food Centers will open a 7th location this month. Steve Dutkiewicz, owner and operator of Dick’s Market in Dorr, has sold the store to Leppink’s. Both are independent retailers supplied by SpartanNash. Leppink’s will take over operations on Sept. 13. For Steve, the change is both “sad and glad,” he says. His father, Richard Dutkiewicz, started Dick’s Market in 1955. Steve grew up working in the store as a bagger, stocker and cashier, among other roles. When he was 16, his dad taught him the meat business, and he’s been a butcher ever since. In fact, Dick and Steve built a statewide reputation for Dick’s Market with their signature meats and in-store Sausage Shop. “Everyone’s first question about the buyout is, ‘What about the bratwurst?’” Steve says. “I assure them that, even though the name will change, Leppink’s Food Centers will be keeping ‘Dick’s Sausage Shop’ as a brand. In fact, they may even bring my sausage program to their other stores. Makes me proud!” Like Dick’s Market, Leppink’s is a family-owned and operated company with six (soon to be seven) locations. Michigan Retailer Services Board Member John Leppink is purchasing Dick’s Market, and he owns three of the current Leppink’s stores. His brother-in-law, Rich Cole, owns one store and his cousin, Ransom Leppink, owns the other two. The family’s foray into food started in the 1920s when, after immigrating from the Netherlands, John and Ransom’s grandfather, John Leppink, opened a meat market and soon added dry goods.

Above: John Leppink and Steve Dutkiewicz seal the deal with a handshake. Below: A community favorite, Dick’s Sausage Shop will continue.

Then in 1928, he opened John Leppink’s Quality Cash Market in Belding. From there the business grew thanks to the efforts of John and his sons Gordon, Robert and Kenneth. Grandsons John and Ransom grew up working in the stores, and Rich married into the business over 40 years ago. Today, a fourth generation is also very involved in running the stores, which are located in Belding, Ferrysburg, Howard City, Lakeview, Newaygo, Stanton and now — with the purchase of Dick’s — Dorr, which is south of Grand Rapids and the other Leppink’s locations. Rather than create a cookie-cutter approach to business, each store is different by design so it can be a true neighborhood market. John says Dick’s customers will continue to see the same wide variety of products, the same great service, and yes, the same great sausage. “We will be keeping the store’s Sausage Shop program, and the bratwurst recipes will remain the same,” says John. “The brand will be ‘Dick’s Sausage Shop,’ and we will continue the legacy that the Dutkiewicz family built.”

Below: Steve and his father Dick, who founded the store. They won many awards for their signature meats. Dick passed away in December 2006.

Leppink’s also plans to keep the store’s current employees in their respective positions. A new feature: Shoppers can look forward to Leppink’s’ Groceries to Go curbside pick-up service, which will be available to the Dorr community later this fall. To help serve and support the Dorr community, Leppink’s will offer the Direct Your Labels program for school fundraising and partner with ShopWithScrip to offer gift card fundraising for organizations. “Leppink’s Food Centers are run by a great family that knows how to run a small town grocery store,” Steve says. “It will be exciting to see how they further develop the business.” MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS

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From family farm to family table TM

At Miller Poultry, we’ve been raising chickens with the help of local farmers in Michigan and Indiana since 1974. Our barns are certified by the Global Animal Partnership to ensure strict animal welfare standards are in place, and we do our best to source our feed ingredients from local farmers to minimize our carbon footprint and ensure our chickens are fed a corn and soy-based diet with no antibiotics, hormones, steroids or artificial ingredients.

Interested in adding Miller Poultry to your shelves? Contact us today: 260-829-6550

Miller Poultry invests in the future while maintaining its mission

Second and third generations: Galen Miller, son of the company founder, is pictured here with his son, Clayton Miller.

MRA member Miller Poultry is a family-owned company that has been raising chickens with the help of local farmers in Michigan and Indiana since 1974. That’s when the Miller family shifted from raising turkeys to chickens. Company founders Annas and Ursula Miller started the business in 1942 when they moved to an Indiana dairy farm. In 1947, they began raising free-range turkeys; in 1974, they switched to broiler chickens. Wanting to oversee the entire process from hen house to harvesting, the Millers soon began hatching chicks and; in 1992, they purchased a poultry processing plant and a feed mill. “Over the last 47 years, Miller Poultry has grown but still maintains a hands-on approach to business along with a passion for raising all-natural, high-quality, great-tasting chicken,” says Marketing Manager Rachel Sanborn. The company’s mission is to produce naturally grown poultry in an ethical and efficient manner for consumers who appreciate wholesome, great-tasting food. “And it all starts with animal welfare, which Miller Poultry takes very seriously,” Sanborn explains. “Our chickens are fed a corn and soy-based diet produced at our own mill — without antibiotics, hormones, artificial ingredients or coloring. And, our farms are only a few miles from our processing plant, minimizing our carbon footprint.” Miller Poultry currently works with 189 farm families. They all adhere to standards set by the Global Animal Partnership, a farm animal welfare certification program. Farmers must meet certain standards to provide humane living conditions. For instance, the chickens must live in an environment with natural light and receive enrichments. “We believe in taking animal welfare a step further and allowing our birds to have more natural light than required, more space per bird in barns and outdoor access in organic barns,” Sanborn says. “We also plan to add new barns to keep up with the high consumer demand for organic products.” Miller uses controlled atmosphere stunning with carbon dioxide to harvest the birds because it is more humane than traditional harvesting methods.

The company recently invested $50 million to add 100,000 square feet to their processing plant (see below). The entire right wing is the expansion, which will enable them to use an advanced air chilling technique to cool chicken during processing. It will also allow them to expand their organic product offerings. Transitioning to 100% air chilling eliminates the need for chlorinated ice water, so the chicken’s natural juices never get watered down. “Many foodies say air-chilling chicken enhances the flavor and makes the skin crisp up better prior to cooking,” says Sanborn. “By purchasing air-chilled chicken, consumers can rest assured that they are paying for chicken, not added water.” The expansion incorporates cutting-edge technology for breast and thigh deboning, packaging and weighing along with a new employee entrance complete with infrared temperature scanners for increased safety. “Each time the company grows, family and staff have focused on technology that allows the highest level of animal and employee welfare, along with state-of-the-art processing equipment to provide retailers and food service customers with the highest quality chicken products available,” says COO Kevin Diehl, who is on the team responsible for overseeing the expansion. Diehl joined the company in 1998. “In just under 30 years since purchasing the processing plant, Miller’s volume has increased from 20,000 birds per week to nearly 900,000 birds per week today.” The company employs over 1,000 people, including new President Matt Craig. Galen Miller stepped down as president last month after successfully leading the company for over 40 years. He remains CEO and will continue to work with the board of directors. His son, Clayton Miller, represents the family’s third generation as Director of Live Production. Craig joins Miller Poultry with 23 years of retail grocery experience having worked for Walmart, Lotus Supercenters and Meijer — most recently as Group Vice President of Retail Operations. MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS

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MRA’s Legislative Reception Oct. 26 MRA’s legislative reception is back. Don’t miss this great opportunity to connect with legislative leaders and regulatory officials. The reception is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 26. While the event is always an ideal setting to build rapport with public officials and catch up with peers, this year we recognize, ever more so, the importance of meeting face to face. Networking is more effective and more fun in person. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase the top of the line food and beverages you — our members — create and sell every day. Contact MRA’s Nora Jones at (800) 366-3699 or for more information.





Contact your supplier today to order fresh 2021 crop Michigan Apples.

WIC gradually replacing EBT cards

The Michigan WIC program is transitioning from its current EBT contractor, Conduent, to the newly awarded EBT contractor, Fidelity Information Services (FIS). FIS has begun to print new WIC EBT cards for participants. The new cards entered circulation on Aug. 29 and are issued only when: n New participants become eligible for WIC. n A current WIC participant loses a WIC EBT card. n Participants visit a WIC clinic for a recertification appointment. WIC’s goal is to make it easier for clients to differentiate between their WIC EBT card and their Bridge Card. Please note that new cards will NOT be sent to all currently enrolled WIC clients and that the old cards will continue to work.

WIC to change infant formula brand

Effective Nov. 1, Michigan WIC will begin providing Abbott Nutrition’s Similac formula as the standard brand. The current contract with Mead Johnson to provide Enfamil formula ends Oct. 31. Minimum Stock Requirements will transition to 12 cans of Similac Advance and/or Similac Total Comfort, replacing 12 cans of Enfamil Infant and/or Enfamil Gentlease. Because benefit payment dates vary, vendors are advised to plan accordingly to ensure that WIC clients have access to infant formula throughout the transition period. WIC has created a table to provide stocking guidance during the transition. That, along with other important details, can be found at, click “WIC Vendors/Grocers,” then the “July 30, 2021” communications link. WIC advises that vendors begin planning for the transition now.

SNAP benefits to increase

12 SEPT/OCT 2021


USDA announced plans to permanently increase monthly SNAP benefits beginning Oct. 1, 2021. The increase is based on a re-evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, which is used to calculate SNAP benefits. According to USDA, almost 90% of current recipients report running out of benefits by the end of each month. Last year Congress authorized a 15% increase in SNAP benefits as part of a pandemic relief plan. That increase will expire on Sept. 30, a day prior to the onset of the new permanent increase. USDA reports that the average SNAP benefit will increase by approximately 27% or $36.24 per person, per month.

SpartanNash grows business with launch of micro-fulfillment center

MRA President and CEO Bill Hallan and MRA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Amy Drumm (pictured above with Sarsam), along with Michigan Food News Editor Lisa Reibsome, toured the 55,000-square-foot facility. SpartanNash hosted a grand opening celebration for its new micro-fulfillment center in Caledonia Township on July 26. Above, from left: SpartanNash Marketing VP Brian Holt, Caledonia Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lori Gaier, SpartanNash EVP Tom Swanson, SpartanNash President & CEO Tony Sarsam and SpartanNash E-commerce Director Matt Van Gilder. The micro-fulfillment center holds about 16,000 products that shoppers can buy online through Fast Lane — the company’s online grocery service. Since the service launched in 2017, approximately one million orders have been placed. And, since January 2020, transactions have increased 32%, with the number of unique customers up by 45%.

Above: The first Fast Lane order following the grand opening is loaded for delivery. Once a Fast Lane order is picked and packed at the micro-fulfillment center, it is delivered either directly to a store for curbside pickup or to the shopper’s home.

The facility has the ability to support more than 1,000 Fast Lane orders daily — more than doubling previous capabilities. “Plus there’s room to grow,” said Van Gilder during a tour of the facility. “We haven’t maxed out every inch of the fulfillment center. There’s room to adjust to keep up with customer demand.” Fast Lane is currently offered at 24 SpartanNash stores throughout West Michigan.

Below: Self-stable products are organized so high-volume items are easy to reach. In addition to those products, the fulfillment center houses fresh, refrigerated and frozen items. The facility also has meat-cutting and deli-slicing machines so SpartanNash associates can customize orders to meet customer’s specific product requests.

So far, the company is pleased with the results from its $5.3 million investment. “Since the micro-fulfillment center opened five weeks ago, customers have already seen the benefits of the adjusted Fast Lane model,” Van Gilder says in an update for the Michigan Food News. “Early metrics indicate we have reduced both substitutions and shorted items by 64%, delivering on our promise of an even higher level of convenience and quality.” MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS

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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


Top food safety violations can be prevented By Tim Slawinski

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

September is National Food Safety Education Month. At the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), we traditionally focus on consumer food safety education during the month while continuing to raise awareness of the industry’s commitment to food safety. While we promote consumer food safety each September, food safety training and education is a year-round priority for food-related businesses. MDARD takes seriously its role in ensuring a safe, wholesome and abundant food supply through partnership with and oversight of local health departments and the state’s food and agriculture sector. One way for food establishments to promote food safety is by recognizing the most common food safety violations and reminding staff of how to properly address them. These are things that tend to get neglected as operators try to keep up with their daily work. Often, the key is finding ways to keep these items as top priorities while managing the rest of your workload. n Improper temperature control of foods requiring refrigeration or hot holding is by far the most common issue our inspectors find during store visits. Keeping foods at the right temperature prevents or slows the growth of bacteria that can make people sick. That’s why it is important for operators to routinely monitor temperatures to ensure their store is not increasing the food safety risk to customers. n Cross contamination is another common problem. One example is storing raw meat where it can contaminate fresh produce or other ready-to-eat food. Most people understand raw must be cooked properly to be safe. However, operators aren’t always as aware of the risk related to raw meat storage in relation to other foods. Storing raw meat above or near readyto-eat food can contaminate other ingredients. Since those ingredients may not get cooked before they are eaten, the risk of getting people sick increases. Training staff on proper storage and organizing coolers so raw meat is stored below other food is an important way to address this problem. n Another top violation found during inspections is the lack of proper cleaning and sanitizing of utensils, equipment and food contact surfaces. For example, utensils or a cutting board may be used for raw food and then reused on ready-to-eat food without cleaning and sanitizing in between use. This can lead to contaminated food and potential illness. Staff training along with scheduled cleaning and sanitation can address this concern. In many cases, it’s a matter of identifying the equipment

and utensils that could pose a risk. Then developing procedures to prevent contamination and a schedule to keep the equipment clean and sanitized. n Finally, improper handwashing is one of the most commonly found violations. Most people understand handwashing is important, but ensuring your staff properly wash their hands at the right times requires a proactive effort. Training along with frequent reminders will encourage staff to wash their hands. Here to help: MDARD has made it a priority to improve access to information on our website at Please use any resources you find valuable. We also welcome comments on how to continue to improve the site and suggestions for additional resources that we could make available. As always, you are encouraged to contact your inspector or the Food and Dairy Division regional supervisor in your area directly if you have a question related to your business. If you do not have contact information for your inspector, our toll-free number, (800) 292-3939, is answered by an actual person weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MDARD’s after-hours number for emergencies only is (517) 373-0440. You can also submit questions via email anytime to We recognize that the last year and a half has not been easy — placing physical, emotional and financial burdens on those who have shown up for work, day in and day out, to do the critical jobs we all depend on. Your resilience throughout has been amazing, and we are forever grateful. You have not let us down. To the front-line heroes at Michigan retailers and food distributors, on behalf of consumers across our state and the employees of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, we say, THANK YOU! MICHIGAN FOOD NEWS

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