2021 INFRA Spring Newsletter

Page 1

2021 Spring The Real Deal

Photo from INFRA’s Recipe Box. Find this month’s recipes on the Recipe Box page of the Members-Only-Area (MOA).


Last spring the pandemic had us in its grip. We talked about it, wrote about it, fretted about it. A year later and we have evolved. We’re working differently, socializing differently, shopping differently. Our Members have evolved and for that, our communities are grateful. Yet we all want to get back to the way things were. The ability to congregate, to see each other smile, and to just feel normal are primary in our desires. It feels like we’re on our way and I personally will be grateful to engage, laugh, hug, and learn in person again with all of you in this wonderful industry. It’s with this message that I share the upcoming opportunities to engage and have your voice heard. And although these opportunities remain virtual, they’re important to keep us connected until our next meeting in person.

BOARD ELEC TION S Board election time provides you the opportunity to select who represents you in envisioning INFRA’s strategic future and guiding the INFRA team. Member-Owners should have received their board election email detailing our amazing slate of candidates and directions for casting your vote. We’ve also brought live the 2021 Board of Directors Election page on the MOA, which provides you an opportunity to get to know the ten candidates running for four open seats. Elections opened on May 5 and will remain open through June 2 at 11:59pm Central. Our goal is to record the best election turnout in INFRA’s history— let’s make that happen! INFR A GENE R AL MEMBERS HIP ME E TING The INFRA General Membership meeting will be held on June 23 at 2pm Central.

Notifications will be coming to your inbox soon. Please join us for a review of 2020 and hear from board officers and me on the state of INFRA. 2 02 1 INFR A ANNUAL CONFERENCE The 2021 INFRA Annual Conference will be held the week of August 9 with more details

included in this newsletter. This will be our second virtual conference and will offer keynotes, sharing, and educational opportunities relevant to our Members and our valued industry partners. Please join us in this opportunity to learn, share, and celebrate our vision for the future. I look forward to seeing all of you at these virtual events and, with great hope and optimism, in person before the year is out.

The Board Corner

In spring a member’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of the board election. So, I hope you’ll let me share this pleasure with all of you who are eligible to vote. We have 10 candidates for four positions, and it really has been a joy to get to know these people who have stepped up to serve on your behalf. It’s also been a joy working with Thomas, Adam, and John in crafting questions and conducting interviews. And the answers! At the end of one interview, I sprung a question in Russian and got an answer in Bulgarian (not that you should worry about foreign meddling in these elections).

The Joy of Selection

We agree that all 10 candidates deserve a place on the ballot. Like you, they are accomplished, L AUGHING WATER committed, inspired, and inspiring people whose personal stories are INFRA’s story. They embody DIREC TOR & OWNER OF INFRA’s diversity in store size, region, business model, years (or generations) in business, work role, RE AL FOOD MARKE T + DELI gender, age, educational background, and more. They’re all willing to put their time and effort into INFRA’s success. So, knowing that there are only right choices, why should you bother to vote? Again, I think you’ll love getting to know the candidates. We created an online forum and video submission so candidates could have more exposure than the standard application statements. But beyond that, while none of us on the Board wants to unfairly bias your vote, you will elect three or four new members. That’s a lot, and we’re losing Kimberly, whose financial expertise really can’t be replaced. Otherwise, we welcome a diversity of views and fresh ideas from board members who will raise their voices—and lower them, as befits the situation. So, in the end, this is an election that INFRA—and you—have already won. But you’ll win more by voting. And then your fancy can lightly turn to other thoughts.

Meet Your Candidates • Exercise Your Voice TE RRI NEL SON BOARD ADMINI S TR ATOR

It is time to exercise your right as an INFRA Member—cast your vote in the INFRA Board of Directors election! To view the complete list of candidates vying for four open seats and to read their full candidate statements, please visit the MOA. We value all those who threw their hats in the ring and look forward to the creativity and innovation that await our cooperative. The voting platform is open from May 5 until June 2 with the election results being announced at the Annual General Membership Meeting on June 23 at 2pm Central. Please see voting details below. • Each member-owner received an email on May 5 from Terri Nelson with their Elector ID, auto-generated password, and a direct link to their ballot. Although there may be more than one member-owner per member, each member may only cast one vote. The first vote submitted by a member-owner on behalf of your store counts. • Once your vote is cast, you will receive a receipt of your vote, and your account will be unable to cast another vote. You can view your receipt at any time by following the link in the email invitation. • All votes are authenticated and completely anonymous. At the close of voting, we will provide the results to the INFRA Governance Committee for announcement at the Annual General Membership Meeting.

Sasha Galitzki

Emily Kanter

Brian Kvistad

Hannah Lyon

Kate Noonan

Director of Finance

Second Generation




New Moon Natural

Co-Owner + CEO

Blossom Grocery


Common Crow



Natural Health

Tahoe City &


Lopez Island, WA

Natural Market Galesburg, IL

Gloucester, MA

Truckee, CA

Boston & Cambridge, MA

Chris Rost

Charlotte Sophia

Bryan Tayara

Mylese Tucker

John Wood






Nature’s Wonders

Date & Thyme

Rosewood Market


The Green Grocer

Harrison, AR &

Key West, FL

Columbia, SC

Nature’s Cupboard

Portsmouth, RI

Branson, MO

Chesterton & Michigan City, IN

If you have additional questions, please reach out to Terri, Board Administrator, at tnelson@infretailers.com or (651) 888-4790.


Each spring, INFRA embarks on an information gathering adventure to determine the health of our association—collection of the annual census! Deep in the winter months, conversations start about what information will help us deliver for our members most effectively. We design the census and get ready to send it out into the world. From there, it lands in our members’ inboxes, waiting patiently for members to close their books, finish their tax filings, and return the census to INFRA with key information about their business. This year, as last, we sent the census out electronically so that INFRA team members across the country could help support members with the census process and review data coming in in real time. The transparency this provided, as well as the ability to verify data in near real time, came at a bit of a cost. Our new process required us to send out separate census forms for each member and each location, so each member received at least 2 census forms to complete, which was not immediately obvious to members, and many a second census form was missed. Thanks to the intrepid efforts of our Region Managers and the incredible commitment of our members, we still received census data back from 86.2% of our members—a new record high! Here’s a window into what that data told us: WHAT INFR A LOOK S LIKE :

• •

Roughly $1.87 billion in sales 284 members


• •

INFRA is in 45 states and Washington, D. C. The highest density of INFRA stores are in 7 states—CA, NY, PA, FL, MI, NJ, WI


Annual Sales • 131 number of stores gained more than 10% • 41 stores lost more than 10% Existing Members • Added 10 Locations • Closed 15 Locations WHAT WORK S FOR INFR A ME MBE RS :

POS Systems • 125 members use ECRS Catapult • 10 members use LOC, the next most popular POS system E-Commerce • 49 members use Webcart • 11 members use Shopify • 118 reported not currently having an e-commerce solution WHAT THE AVER AGE INFR A MEMBE R S TORE LOOK S LIKE :

Number of Members by Location Count

Average Member Location Stats


• •

Filling out the census prompted a lot of members to look closely at their numbers Collaboration between retailers and Region Managers to fill out the census opened up important conversations about industry benchmarks and financial literacy

To all those who contributed your numbers, a sincere thank you! The insight provided by the census helps us serve you in many ways, from direct conversations and support to shaping programs and services that will have the most impact for the membership at large. Our aggregated sales data provides INFRA with powerful leverage to negotiate better pricing and deals on your behalf. Together, we are strengthening our members through collaboration to forge a sustainable future.

2021 INFRA Annual Conference August 9 - 13, 2021 • Virtual Event

Clear your calendars, the 2021 INFRA Annual Conference is on the horizon! We’re hosting the conference virtually again this year, which allows for the freedom and flexibility for attendees to tailor the conference to fit their needs and interests. The 2021 INFRA Annual Conference is taking place Monday, August 9 through Friday, August 13. Refer to the schedule at-a-glance below for an overview of each day. Between live sessions, INFRA will be announcing the winners of member and vendor awards—you won’t want to miss it! And while we won’t be hosting a virtual tabletop this year, you can expect plenty of opportunities to connect with vendors and stay current with industry trends.

Schedule At-A-Glance M O N DAY, AUG UST 9


Conference Commences

Education: On-Demand Sessions Open

• •


• •

Keynote Session Education: Live and On-Demand Sessions


• Welcome from Pat Sheridan Education: Live Sessions Open, On-Demand Sessions •

Education: On-Demand Sessions Conference Closes


• •

Keynote Session Education: Live and On-Demand Sessions

The conference is open to all INFRA Members, Associate Retailers, and invited industry partners. Individuals must register for the conference to gain access to the conference. We will continue to keep you informed on the MOA about the latest speakers, registration information (coming in June!), and so much more—so you can plan accordingly! Questions? Contact Matt Ryan at mryan@infretailers.com.


This quarter can be summed up with one word: exciting! In the next few months, INFRA will be opening up our brand-new e-learning platform that will take the place of our previous Academy of Retail Training (ART) platform. We will also be providing a wide range of webinars and virtual share groups, intensives, marketing sharing series, and category reviews. In August, our Annual Conference will take place virtually and offer INFRA Members, Associate Retailers, and industry partners a generous itinerary of engaging on-demand and live sessions with a diverse range of topics. These virtual events are spaces for the INFRA community to come together, learn, and share their experiences while we are still physically apart. These moments of connection, networking, and growth are priceless. Take a moment to review our “exciting” new and upcoming opportunities and register today! Disclaimer: Events, apart from the INFRA Annual Conference, are open only to INFRA Members and Associate Retailers. AC ADEM Y OF RE TAIL TR AINING ( AR T) UPDATE

After months of configuration, careful testing, and final adjustments, INFRA’s new ART platform is ready for member use! ART provides members with a library of relevant courses, a collaborative space to create and house store-specific training materials, an efficient way to manage and monitor staff’s learning, and an extensive reporting feature that offers detailed progress reports. The new platform is now available to all ART Admins who previously had accounts in the system. Your ART Admin received an email with login instructions on Thursday, May 6. Thank you for your patience during this development process; we are confident that new ART platform will provide members with everything they need and more for training staff. We look forward to learning with you! If you are interested in joining ART, or if you would like to inquire about your store’s status in ART, please contact Matt at mryan@ infretailers.com. 2 02 1 INFR A /KEHE HOLIDAY PROGR AM

INFRA Retailers are invited to participate virtually in the 2021 KeHE/INFRA Holiday Program, May 17–21. Designed to be a “one-stop shop” for holiday pre-orders and to specifically meet our members’ buying needs, the order platform will include all items in the KeHE Seasonal Holiday Flyer, PLUS additional INFRA focus items (up to 500) with exclusive discounts for INFRA Members and Associate Retailers. This order platform will replace the KeHE Seasonal Holiday Flyer for INFRA Members and Associate Retailers. No registration needed as KeHE will be loading INFRA stores into the portal on their behalf. Registered users will receive more information regarding access and more later this month. Please note that all INFRA Associate Retailers must have a KeHE account in order to participate. Monday, May 17–Friday, May 21 UPCOMING C ATEGORY RE VIEWS AND WE BINARS IBI S & INFR A : INTRODUCING NEW RE POR TING TOOL S FOR INFR A ME MBE RS

Join Greg Leonard, VP of Business Development at IBIS, and Aaron Gottlieb, Owner of Native Sun Natural Foods and Founder of IBIS, for an introduction to special business reporting tools developed by Independent Business Intelligence Solutions (IBIS) that deliver a powerful, unique, and highly intuitive experience to the company’s independent retail clients. Designed and created by an independent retailer, IBIS products instantly organize the data generated by a retailer’s POS system into actionable information that facilitates realtime decision-making. IBIS Reporting Tools deliver the following benefits and much more: • • • •

Save hours of management time currently spent on printing/reviewing multiple POS reports Provide visibility to opportunities to increase AOV (average order value) Enhance the speed and effectiveness of category reviews Facilitate effective promotional planning and execution

Take advantage of this opportunity to explore these new business management tools and learn more about how IBIS can serve your store. Please note: This is a pilot program that is specially discounted for the first 50 INFRA Members that sign-up. Wednesday, May 12 from 1pm-2pm Central.


When it comes to differentiation, it’s hard to beat local. But how do you find the best local items that fit your product needs and guidelines? What’s the best way to merchandise local? Do you price local products the same as national brands? Can you do effective promotions around local? And how do you tell the story behind the products so your shoppers know why they are special? There’s a lot to talk about, so join us for a discussion! Bonus points if you come prepared to share how your store approaches local: what are your best practices when it comes to procuring products, how do you cultivate relationships with local vendors, what is your local success story? Tuesday, May 18 from 1pm-2pm Central & Thursday, May 20 from 3pm-4pm Central. MARKE TING S HARING S E RIE S : LOC AL LOVE — HOW TO HIGHLIGHT LOC AL IN -S TORE AND ONLINE

Are you telling the story of local products in your store? As independent retailers, our shoppers already support local businesses. Can you make it easy for them to do more? A clear definition of what local means in your store, a robust selection of local products, and engaging storytelling are key to success in this important product category. Local producers with strict sustainability and quality standards are a natural fit, but are you letting your shoppers know about these great products in cohesive and intentional ways? What are your local success stories? Join Sara Fulton-Koerbling, INFRA’s Content Marketing Lead, to explore how to elevate your support of local producers! Tuesday, June 8 from 1pm-2pm Central. CATEGORY REVIEW: REFRIGERATED GROCERY—ENTREES, CONDIMENTS, MEAT ALTS, AND TOFU

Certain refrigerated categories are growing in double digits, notably the condiments and items like salsa and dips, meat alternatives, and tofu. Is this a COVID-related spike or is this area just ripe for innovation and growth? June is the month in which we suggest category management in a lot of refrigerated categories, so let’s explore this side of the refrigerated case. Maybe you’ll be able to make room for that new local ferment line, or find the next big innovation in meat alternatives. This is a varied and exciting area, so let’s get ready to shake things up. Tuesday, June 15 from 1pm-2pm Central & Thursday, June 17 from 3pm-4pm Central. CATEGORY REVIEW: HAIR CARE

It’s a big part of your wellness set, and there is a lot to consider in this category: shampoos and conditioners for all kinds of hair types, products to straighten, for curls, for dry hair, scalp care, and styling. Hair dye brands, types, and colors... it’s dizzying! Let’s try to put it all into perspective during a dive into the hair care category while we look at some top items everyone should have in their sets, to new and trending items, ingredients, brands, and innovations. Tuesday, June 22 from 1pm-2pm Central & Thursday, June 24 from 3pm-4pm Central. MARKETING SHARING SERIES: HOW TO DEVELOP A CONTENT STRATEGY

As marketers today, we have so many tools and resources at our disposal. Are you using your website, social media, and email lists to their full potential? Work smarter, not harder! By developing a content strategy and calendar, you can reach customers where they are with a cohesive message. When you are intentional about managing these different channels, you will no longer scramble to find content, and you can reinforce important messages with a coordinated approach. How do you decide what content to post, when, and where? Do you want to learn more about how you can use past performance to inform future campaigns? Join Sara Fulton-Koerbling, INFRA’s Content Marketing Lead, for this deep dive into content strategy! Wednesday, July 7 from 1pm-2pm Central. CATEGORY REVIEW: BREAD & BAKED GOODS

What’s the greatest thing since sliced bread? Keeping your sets fresh and relevant! This most basic of grocery needs has evolved so much in the last few years to appeal to all types of dietary needs. We can’t let this area of the store get stale! Do you have the top sellers, old favorites, and new emerging products? Don’t loaf around; join us for a discussion to find out! Tuesday, July 20 from 1pm-2pm Central & Thursday, July 22 from 3pm-4pm Central. CATEGORY REVIEW: PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS & MEAL REPLACEMENTS

The protein supplements and meal replacement category takes up so much shelf space. Are you using it to the best of your ability? Hemp, soy, vegetable, rice, or whey protein? What’s the best protein for your shoppers, and what’s coming up in meal replacements? How can you leverage this category into something bigger and more successful? We’ll talk about all that and more during this category review. Tuesday, July 27 from 1pm-2pm Central & Thursday, July 29 from 3pm-4pm Central.

A Deeper Look: 2020 Year-End Performance MAT T RYAN RETAIL SERVICES MANAGER

After what was a hectic, change-fueled year, the end of Q4 2020 provided us with a chance to take a moment to look at 2020 CoMetrics data and compare it to 2019. When we look at Year-Over-Year (YOY) Growth, most of the numbers fit the eye test with Total Store, Grocery, Meat, and Produce seeing sales that are growing three times what they were for years prior to 2020. Deli is struggling, particularly with stores that have a large self-service section. Are your departments meeting or bucking these trends? Can you identify where you have an advantage and how to boost this performance? Increased sales do not necessarily lead to margin percentage growth as we can see in the Large Store Grocery departments shown in the Gross Profit Growth chart. The good news is that gross profit growth did improve in many departments, especially in Produce and Meat/Seafood. This is likely due to the store’s ability to better manage inventory for advance orders and focus on efficiency at shelf. Were you able to more efficiently manage inventory when your staff was picking orders for your shoppers? Inventory Turns and Earns is an excellent metric that takes into account three factors: Turns, Margin, and Wages. These are important to consider because the store exercises the most control over them. In 2020 INFRA put up numbers that put us in the league of industry best practices, seen in their chain competition. Where do you land? How did you do in 2020? How is 2021 starting out? If you’re not sure and think CoMetrics might help you find these answers, please contact Matt Ryan at mryan@infretailers.com.


One of the best things about being an INFRA Member is the depth of experienced retail consultants at your disposal. From produce to grocery to deli to wellness, there is someone at INFRA with the skills and industry understanding to help you with the complex issues natural food retailers have today. One of our newest team members, Joe Sosebee, is no exception. Some of you may be familiar with Joe from his previous work at KeHE. Those that do know him will be happy to hear that he’s now available to consult with INFRA stores. Those who don’t know Joe are in for a treat. I was able to sit down with Joe to pick his brain on some of the experiences he has in store design, what skills he can offer INFRA Members, and some trends and best practices he is seeing to move our industry through 2021 and beyond. Joe, can you tell us about your background and what brought you to INFRA? I worked at KeHE for 33 years, 30 of those years as Retail Services Manager, helping over a thousand stores improve their sales with improved merchandising. KeHE went through a reorganization phase and, lo and behold, my position ended. I loved working with the natural independents and thankfully was able to hook up with INFRA doing similar type of work. What projects have you worked on with INFRA Member stores? Since partnering with INFRA’s Retail Consulting group in October 2020, I have worked on a number of expansions at three different Kimberton Whole Foods locations in Pennsylvania, the Good Foods Grocery in Richmond, VA, and at Debra’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, MA. These projects have involved providing CAD drawing designs, ordering and adding shelving, and moving gondola sections. I designed and am working on shelving orders for The Truck Patch. I have also been working with Peggy’s Natural Foods in Hobe Sound, FL, where they are moved their store to a location five miles down the street, into a bigger location with higher ceilings and new shelving units. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

Can you talk about some design trends you have seen lately as well as some innovations you think might stick around for a while? I’m seeing an upswing in more “healthy option” products, such as plant-based items ranging from refrigerated to frozen options and dry grocery items. Also, I’m seeing an upswing in “functional beverages”. Trends that we’re going to see for a while: e-commerce. Shopper pick-up areas in the store, often behind the checkout. In that same vein, what are some COVID-related changes you have seen and which of those do you think will stick around? Again, e-commerce, online ordering, and shopper pickup in store. This has proven to be successful in conventional stores, and non-grocery stores like Home Depot. I think COVID got the natural food retailer to start doing this sooner than they would have otherwise. I think this will be permanent. Scoop bins for bulk products have been removed in many stores because of COVID precaution. Much of the bulk business has gone to packaged, but there will always be the shopper that prefers bulk. I think when COVID goes away, scoops will come back. I think we’ll be easing up on spacing restrictions eventually, like the six-foot rule for social distancing. I also think COVID has caused the shopper to shop earlier and have their purchases better planned. I think when COVID goes away, shoppers will shop at times they used to, but I think they’re liking how they were forced to better plan, and that will continue. What do you consider to be important design aspects some retailers may not consider? Always consider shopper traffic flow. Most people are right-handed and have a tendency to turn right. Good location for produce department is usually the first area a shopper walks through. Two reasons: produce is perishable, and produce is colorful and signifies freshness. Often the bulk food department is near produce, both are similar in the fact they are both weighable and perishable. Then, I think refrigeration on the perimeter, then frozen. Supplements and HABA are often on the opposite side of the store. It’s a good rule to remember 90% of shoppers shop on the perimeter of the store. Middle categories, it generally works well to have the snack items for impulse purchases, and snacks draw shoppers to the center of the store. These are classic design elements. Many times, designs are created on the individual store. The most important aspects of design are the merchandising layouts and in-depth studies of category sales. Demographics, equipment sizes, category sizes, and relations are important as well. What is the best way for a store to prepare for big design changes? Begin by cutting back on inventory. Put together a budget and a schedule which will show all the activities that need to be done. Consider closing the store, or having it closed in zones. For example, maybe the supplement department is shut down during a reset, but grocery is open. It’s very important that customers are protected when product is boxed up, shelving is disassembled, things like that. It’s a nice gesture to have a dedicated person on staff who can get items for customers if an area is shut down. Also, customers like to know what is going on, so keep signage printed that keeps them informed. Are you interested in Retail Consulting at your store? Visit the Retail Consulting page of the MOA for our 2021 informational webinar, a retail consulting interest form, contact info, and more!


In March, we launched the Leek Challenge, a display contest designed to highlight how effective merchandising can drive sales, highlight a key category, create investment and involvement amongst staff, and foster an environment of fun. I am excited to announce that Natural Health Center located in Kalamazoo, Michigan is the winner of the Leek Challenge. Natural Health Center stepped up to the plate with excellent merchandising, great use of informational signage, and as a result saw a sizable increase in leek sales as well as a bump in overall produce sales. Natural Health Center seized the opportunity to try something new and have fun while doing it. This is an excellent example of how trying something different can lead to success in a variety of ways and inspire new and innovative ways to foster engagement and excitement in the produce department going forward. As Meagan at Natural Health Center said, “Overall, this was fun, gave us more ideas and the realization that we could easily do more features like this to drive excitement and sales in our produce department.” Congratulations to Natural Health Center and thanks to all stores who participated!


At INFRA, the purpose of our marketing program is to provide you, INFRA Retailers, with clear, consistent, and effective consumer messaging. In doing so we collaborate with various stakeholders to provide you the opportunity to tell your story. You might be asking yourself, “How does that relate to telling my story?” You are taking your customer on a journey by communicating the brands and organizations that you partner with, highlight, and promote. To further your mission (and support your bottom line), our team works to curate opportunities to support your storytelling endeavors. Our current campaigns are comprised of consumer-facing marketing opportunities, toolkits, resources, etc., and are designed for you to use on your social media, websites, and/or in-store and aimed at helping you share a story with your customers. This past February, we partnered with Natural Factors on a Shop Local—Keeping Love in the Community campaign centered around the importance of shopping local. As part of this campaign, they offered a line drive and endcap contest for the month of February. There were some incredible entries exemplifying the shop local theme, making it very hard for the folks at Natural Factors to choose just one winner from each store size! And the winners are…






The time is now to take your customers on a journey. To learn more, check out the MOA Marketing Page or contact me, Meggie Smith, at msmith@infretailers.com.


With more states implementing bans on plastic bags and COVID creating a strain on grocery and takeout business, we’ve seen a national shortage on the paper shopping bag supply. Paper bag production capacity in the U.S. is not sufficient to address anticipated demand growth and we’ve seen this with Duro manufacturing our Buy Fresh Buy Local handle bags. In January, Network was able to negotiate a print run of the Buy Fresh Buy Local bags with Duro. The bags are now stocked in Duro’s west and east coast warehouses and are available to distributors who have been carrying the bags. If you have any questions regarding the Buy Fresh Buy Local handle bag, please reach out directly to me at rcomeaux@infretailers.com or (651) 888-4727. GENIUS CENTR AL

INFRA partners with Genius Central to bring members exclusive pricing on critical ordering services. For over 20 years, Genius Central has provided quality ordering solutions that save customers time and money. They serve 700+ independent retailers and more than 2,200 suppliers, supporting the largest natural and specialty wholesale ordering database of over 250,000 active items. Members are being offered

discounted access to ordering software solutions that can help improve efficiency and reduce costs. Additional information is available on the MOA. For questions, please contact Michael Albano, Sales Manager at Genius Central, malbano@geniuscentral.com or (727) 209-2341. ATL ANTIC FOOD BARS INVE NTORY CLE AR ANCE S PECIAL S

Atlantic Food Bars is clearing out inventory and offering INFRA Members a one-off discount opportunity on several hot and cold food bars. For more detailed information, visit the MOA. These are being offered on a first come, first served basis. Contact Drew Feldman, Executive Vice President of Atlantic Food Bars at drew.feldman@atlanticfoodbars.com or 1-888-MEAL SOLUTIONS (888-632-5765 with questions. ROLLY RECEIP T S NOW MADE IN AME RIC A !

Rolly Receipts, INFRA’s partner for eco-friendly receipt paper has recently launched a manufacturing plant in Dayton, OH. All EcoThermal receipt paper is now made in the USA! All of Rolly Receipts’ product line are sourced, manufactured ,and shipped within the USA. They are excited to be reducing their eco-footprint by consolidating their supply chain while providing jobs to Americans. More information on the 15% discount and free shipping for members on their EcoThermal receipt paper can be found on t he MOA. You can reach out directly to Marcus Brisco, CEO at Rolly Recipts, with any product or ordering questions, (937) 344-3242 or rollyreceiptseco@ gmail.com.


The tagline reads “A Small Market of Epic Proportions” and the scrappy, irreverent crew behind their social media certainly delivers on that promise. The informal and at times side-splitting videos of youthful individuals poking fun at themselves down tight aisles evokes the atmosphere of everyone’s favorite local shop. Rocket Market stands at about 4,000 square feet, but their focus on small things that have a big impact is crucial to their success—both financially and as a thriving and important part of Spokane, Washington’s community and culture. Many natural food retailers carry a few locally produced products here and there while spending the bulk of their time and effort on national brands, but Rocket Market has taken a small road-less-traveled and turned it into their super highway to success. While still ordering a substantial amount of products from larger distributors, they purchase a wide swath of local and regional products from 200 individual vendors. That means a visit to Rocket Market will give you a plethora of options for locally grown produce, bread baked down the block, coffee roasted across town, and beer brewed around the corner. One of the coolest parts of this network is that those breads and those beers are being made from grains grown just south of Spokane—an area traditionally known for excellent wheat, hops, and also grapes. Those grapes have fed a large wine industry and Rocket Market sells its share of locally produced wines, as well. Cultivating a close relationship with these wineries has led to one of Rocket Market’s more attractive selling points for locals. After experimenting with a deal on “Four Buck Duck” wines from the local Duck Pond Vineyard, Rocket Market found an exciting and lucrative avenue by working with local wineries to run case stack deals on the overstock of solid vintages. They buy aggressively, trim margin to a minimum, and delight their patrons with $10 and less bottles of locally and sustainably produced wines—that taste great, too! All of these efforts have paid off tremendously as Rocket Market has been very successful over the years and has engrained themselves in the local community so well that they are the first stop for any new vendor. It’s a point of pride for them that they can help launch new food and beverage endeavors in their town and foster a stronger and stronger community through local food. Their focus on small businesses delivers on the promise of epic proportions with a winning formula for the store, their vendor-partners, and their customers, who are treated to a gourmet, artisanal, culinary experience made with local ingredients. Read more about Rocket Market’s offerings on their website and follow along on Facebook and Instagram!


When thinking about members with a local focus Rosemont Market & Bakery in Maine immediately comes to mind. Rosemont has six store fronts operating in Portland, Falmouth, Yarmouth, and Cape Elizabeth. They also have a location fondly referred to as the Mothership that serves as a warehouse, office, and production facility also in Portland. Their stores operate as small footprint of community markets that feature local meat and seafood, produce from nearby farms, local cheese, Maine craft beer, a mindfully curated wine selection from small-scale producers, and freshly made bakery and prepared food items from their in-house scratch kitchen in Portland, Maine. At present, over 60% of their products sold are grown or produced in Maine. Rosemont Market & Bakery was born in 2005 to parents with long and varied food backgrounds. It started as one cozy market with a staff of five. Today, they employ more than 100 people with six locations in the Greater Portland region. Rosemont works diligently to uphold their core values in all aspects of their business. Simply put, they believe people should eat and celebrate good food, in season, from where they live. These values are described in more detail on their website: “We Support our Local Food System. At Rosemont, we believe that what we eat should ebb and flow with the seasons, the way nature intended. Eating seasonally and locally means more flavorful and nutrient-rich meals. We have chosen to live and operate our business in an area that is rich with small-scale agriculture and aquaculture. . . Supporting our regional food system is essential to the future of our business. We Help Protect our Planet. Sustainability guides our operations. By relying on the local food system Rosemont keeps its footprint small, producing less fossil fuels through shorter transportation journeys. We strive to package in reusable or compostable containers whenever possible. . . We don’t waste food. Instead, we redistribute items back to our kitchen for integration into a recipe, or to one of our local charitable giving partners who support people experiencing food insecurity in our community.” It is clear the folks at Rosemont Market & Bakery are true to their mission and passion! To read more of their story, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.


The pandemic was a shock to the system for almost everyone in our industry. In the darkest days, some of us had to close our doors, many more reduced hours and occupancy. We struggled to keep ourselves, our employees, and our customers safe. We struggled with uncertainty and the unknown. It is hard to say how our businesses will exist “after COVID”, but many of the systematic challenges and new customer preferences that emerged will persist and our continued adaptation to our customers’ needs will be essential. SAFE T Y/SANITATION Most stores went to heroic lengths to provide sanitary conditions. Gone, mostly, are the days of customers

wearing latex gloves in the store, the one-way aisles, and strict occupancy limits. However, the customer’s focus on safety in the form of sanitation will never totally recede. Spotless stores with sensible traffic flows and minimal obstructions will thrive long into the future. Fresh departments with minimal opportunity for contamination will be favored. Your focus on safety and sanitation will be appreciated. INVENTORY S TR AIN S Another almost universal pain point was product shortage. Fill rates were low and our shelves were

sometimes bare. Conditions have improved dramatically since the darkest days, but our need to operate strategically inside a strained natural food supply chain remains. Amongst the chaos, our retailers demonstrated agility and adaptability. One of our members purchased bulk flour from a local wholesale bakery that was suffering from reduced business, packaged it for retail, and sold it to their customers: win, win, win. The struggling bakery offloaded overstock and got some cash, customers had a place to buy flour, and our member was the only store in town that had it on the shelves. Nowadays, customers can again reliably find flour (and toilet paper!), but our need to remain agile will continue. We will need to favor the brands that prioritize us and keep us in stock. We will need to leverage our combined buying power to continue feeding our communities. OMNICHANNE L As a customer, shopping during the darkest days of the pandemic was frightening. Many customers went to

extreme lengths to either avoid in-person shopping or to get in and out as quickly as possible. My local farmer’s market posted a sign at the entrance that said, “Please shop quickly and with purpose. Only stop at the booths you will purchase from. No visiting. THIS IS NO LONGER A SOCIAL OCCASION!” This sign was necessary, perhaps, but certainly sad. Customer usage of e-commerce spiked, has since corrected, but is most definitely not going away. Customers are going to want to shop in the manner that suits them best at any given time: online with curbside fulfillment, online via delivery, and in person. Today I am in the office and want to place an order online and pick it up after work. Later in the week, I want it delivered because I will be working from home. On Saturday, I want to shop in person. The cat is out of the bag; sometimes shopping online is convenient. Getting your groceries delivered is costly but sometimes worth it. We will want our e-commerce platform to be accessible and for it to evoke our in-store experience. And vice versa. Customer service will be key in all channels. COMMUNIT Y Most of our members reported that interactions with— and between— customers dropped off during the pandemic.

Even as conditions improve, time spent engaging directly with customers has lagged. But… they are still coming! Almost every customer has the option to shop big-box or to get a lot of their food online. But they are still with us. Why? Because they want to be. If purchasing food was a dispassionate activity undertaken solely for the purpose of fending off starvation, our industry and our society would look dramatically different. Box stores feature self-checkout lanes, linoleum tiles, florescent lighting, and often lackluster customer service. This stands in stark contrast to our service-oriented, warm, comfortable environments which are staffed by knowledgeable and friendly staff. Our stores are reflections of our communities. We don’t just serve our marketplaces; we form the foundation of our communities. People gather around food for fellowship, connection, courtship, solace, and celebration. Our stores reflect these elemental societal ideals— people crave nourishment, not just nutrition; and they want more than a transaction, they want a human connection. My advice: Focus on safety, stability, efficiency, and convenience. Leverage the resources available to you as INFRA Members. And double-down on your greatest differentiator—yourself and your team!


Here at INFRA, our day-to-day work supports the mission to strengthen our members through collaboration to forge a sustainable future. Depending on the role, that support can take many forms: negotiating with vendors for great promotions, creating efficient processes to simplify your operations, direct support from Region Managers, or sharing recipe content for your digital marketing. Not only do we spend our workdays supporting independent natural food retailers, many INFRA employees are deeply committed to our food systems outside of their 9-to-5. When surveyed, more than one-third of staff are involved in the food system outside of their role here at INFRA. That doesn’t include the many backyard gardens and volunteer hours logged at food shelves and community gardens to strengthen food security with our neighbors. As our roles at work differ to highlight our strengths and skills, so too does our work beyond the INFRA world. We have dairy farms, folks working with nonprofit bakeries and grocery co-ops, and land conservationists within our INFRA family. We’re on the boards of advocacy organizations, industry partners, and trade associations. Today, we’ll take a deeper look at three endeavors that follow the food system from raw products to the consumer purchasing experience. Kelly Miles is Region Manager for members in the west. He also serves on the board for Maple Valley Co-op (MVC), a farmer-owned maple syrup cooperative. Kelly joined the board as an advisory/non-voting member after working with the organization during an annual retailer conference. In the fall of 2020, he was officially elected to the board. When asked why he was motivated to serve on the board, Kelly touched on two important topics: “One, I believe strongly in organic agriculture as well as the cooperative model of ownership, and two, I have never served on a board and wanted to learn more about board service and governance.” It’s important to not only think about how food is grown but to also think about the structures in place that serve growers, retailers, and consumers. The cooperative model is one way to empower people along the supply chain. Kelly explains, “I think cooperatives provide producers with the power and resources to accomplish together what they could not achieve alone. Despite the fact that there are more co-op owners than shareholders (this includes all co-op owners, producers, consumer co-ops, credit unions, utilities, etc.) in the United States, cooperatives are an under-the-radar phenomenon. Cooperatives, along with other ‘generative’ ownership models like employeeowned companies, foundation-owned companies, and the newly launched ‘perpetual purpose trust’ provide real, inspiring and, most importantly, successful examples of alternative ownership. There’s a great book on this topic called Owning Our Future by Marjorie Kelly.” Kelly brings the retailer’s perspective to MVC’s plans. He is able to provide guidance on topics from business development insights and promotions programs to an understanding of distributor relationships. Kelly’s work helping INFRA Members compete against “Big Grocery” is similar to his experience guiding MVC to thrive against much larger corporate competition. Kelly has been adding maple syrup to his morning oat yogurt and granola. Yum! Kelly’s board position directly supports farmers who are producing an agricultural product. For a different perspective of the food system, here’s a look into the experience of starting a small food business from another Region Manager, Drew Alexander. As an avid cyclist, Drew embarked on a cross-country bike trip. He knew it would be difficult to find healthy, organic, vegan food on parts of his route and that it would be difficult to complete his trip without adequate nutrition. His solution? He made huge bags of trail mix loaded with superfoods (goji berries, mulberries, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc.) and mailed them to various stops along this route to supplement his rations. Drew recalls, “It turns out, this was sometimes the ONLY thing I had to eat along the way.” When he got back to his apartment in New York City, his brother was floored with Drew’s recipe compared to the cheap trail mixes he would buy in bodegas as a quick snack during his busy days. The two went into business together and started Coast to Coast Foods, an organic, vegan, sprouted trail mix company . Before joining the INFRA team, Drew worked for INFRA Member Cornucopia Natural Foods in New York. He has a leg up on other up-and-coming food businesses with his in-store experience. “My involvement in purchasing at Cornucopia informed me about what a store really wants and needs from a vendor. It has made sales calls an easy process for me—just give the store exactly what I always wanted from a vendor: samples, key product attributes, a good intro deal, and brand support at the store level. Being the Owner/CEO

of Coast to Coast—and main driving force behind every aspect of the company—has given me great perspective on what are typical roadblocks for smaller companies. There is always a balance between wanting to do everything perfectly in line with our values system (cleanest ingredients, most eco-friendly packaging, lowest cost for independents) and needing to make the company financially solvent, because the best ethical choice is oftentimes the most expensive. The cost of ‘doing things right’ when it comes to raw ingredients and our eco-friendly packaging (100% home-compostable and made from 100% non-GMO sources that are grown and processed in the USA) has been really eye-opening. Cost difference between conventional packaging and ours is astronomical, which really made me realize that the industry has the capacity to make everything 100% eco-friendly, it’s just not financially viable.” When asked about his thoughts or philosophies about how small independent brands contribute to local and regional food systems, Drew discussed the idea that small independent brands can serve as bellwethers and lead the way in sustainability as nimble, responsive businesses. Serving customers who are looking for sustainable, ethically responsible choices is a proof-of-concept that larger brands can make these shifts in their own operations. For example, many companies now offer compostable packaging, but it is only compostable in a commercial facility which isn’t widely available and is made from GMO corn. The actual environmental benefit of that version of compostable packaging is questionable. I asked Drew to share some of his trail mix expertise with some trail mix ingredients that folks might overlook. I tend toward your basic GORP, so I was impressed with his recommendations: “Mulberries are probably my favorite—they have this perfect level of taste and texture that subtly compliments almost anything else— which is why it is in 2 out of 3 of our trail mixes! They’re overlooked because they don’t have a big explosion of flavor and they aren’t as flashy as something like goji berries, but they are loaded with nutrition (very high in resveratrol and a high protein content for a fruit) and really round out a lot of combinations very well. One of the crazier ideas we have going on is putting pine nuts in a trail mix—very few people think to do this, but it works so well. I only discovered it because they were the only nut/seed I could find when I was in a random town in South Dakota. I owe a big thanks to that random shop and the odd category management of their baking section!” With those recommendations, I’m set for road trip and camping snacks! Order your own bag of tasty trail mix on Coast to Coast’s website. Once the raw product has been grown by a farmer or rancher, and often those ingredients have been combined or cooked to create your favorite products, most consumers head to the grocery store to make a purchase—the last step in a potentially long journey along the supply chain. One of INFRA’s newest employees, Colleen Valko, has been involved with her local food co-op for years. Here, she tells the story of how she joined the co-op board of directors, and how her board service aligns with her values. I have been an owner of Oryana Natural Market since I moved to Traverse City, MI in 2014 and have served on the co-op’s Board since 2017. I came from East Lansing, MI where I had spent time working at the East Lansing Food Co-op (now closed) and as an owner/resident in the Michigan State University Student Housing Cooperative (MSUSHC) where I served one year on the Executive Committee as Treasurer. At the time, my roots were growing deep into cooperative business models and the food system, as I was also taking coursework in food industry management. Once permanently in Traverse City, I was very motivated to join the co-op (Oryana Natural Market) as an owner, but my decision to run for the board was rather impulsive. I knew I had the knowledge and commitment to serve as a board member, but I thought the election was a long shot, especially once I found out there were five open seats that year with 11 candidates—four of which were incumbents. Traverse City is a small, tight knit town, and I was coming in as the youngest candidate and a newbie to the politics of the city without any connections. But the ownership spoke, and I was elected at that year’s General Ownership Meeting. After officially joining the board, I volunteered to be Chair of the Recruitment & Nominations Committee and continue to oversee that committee. I was nominated to serve on the Executive Committee as Treasurer in 2018 and have held that seat ever since. Our board uses Policy Governance which means we aren’t focused on electing for a specific skill set but instead look for candidates who will show a commitment to the organization, come prepared to meetings, and engage with the rest of the board and ownership to serve the co-op’s best interest, and that criteria rings true for me. I’m by no means a financial savant, nor had any prior experience recruiting, but I’m not afraid to show up and dig my teeth in. I am an owner, board member, and regular shopper at the co-op because I support the mission and ends of the individual business, but I also believe in the bigger idea that we must support small retailers in our area whose values align with our own. This is especially important when it comes to food because the small retailers support the small farmers and manufacturers which strengthens our local economies. When I shop the co-op, I’m using my dollars to reflect my values. I know my spend alone isn’t going to move the needle but when it’s combined with every shopper’s, suddenly our voices are amplified to over $20 million a year and much more when independent retailers and co-ops across the nation work together to impact the global food system. As these three spotlights echo, the power of our individual choices is magnified when we support companies and organizations that are moving towards the changes we want to see in the industry. Whether this support comes in the form of time, expertise, or even our everyday grocery dollars, we are driving the industry. Supporting sustainable choices throughout the supply chain and championing social responsibility at every step is changing the food system for the better. I’m inspired by the INFRA team as I get to know this group of passionate collaborators that I now call co-workers.


One of the main reasons we support The Cornucopia Institute is that they do tangible work and celebrate those who do it right. Yes, it’s vital to shine a light on the byzantine workings of government, because those who want to undermine organic standards have the resources to put the devil into the details. But, as a retailer, we also want to focus on the positive and support those companies, small and large, who endeavor to improve the food chain for all. Cornucopia does a good job spotlighting both. —Billy Griffin, President, INFRA Member New Moon Natural Foods, North Tahoe-Truckee, California Vital Farms has long respected The Cornucopia Institute for advancing the principles of sustainable and organic agriculture and ensuring integrity across the food system. By holding brands accountable to a higher standard and educating the broader public on ethical food production, The Cornucopia Institute has had a significant impact in building a more resilient food system that prioritizes animals, the environment, and family farms. We share their passion for these ideals and are deeply grateful to The Cornucopia Institute for their meaningful work. —Matthew O’Hayer, Owner of Vital Farms The Cornucopia Institute is one of the most outspoken national farm and food policy groups safeguarding organic integrity today—working to protect the USDA organic seal as one solution for many of the economic, environmental, and human health challenges of our time. Organic, local agriculture offers an economic lifeline for family-scale farms; affords consumers food choices that align with their values; and provides an ethical supply chain for retailers and entrepreneurs committed to building and sustaining a viable alternative to the harmful and extractive practices of conventional agriculture. Our nonprofit was born out of a desire to champion authentic organic farmers getting pushed out of the marketplace as industrialized practices allowed by the USDA enabled corporations to outcompete farmers who steward the land. Starting with our roots in organic dairy, we now work to safeguard the full spectrum of organic producers. Transitioning from a founder-led organization in 2019, Cornucopia had the opportunity to reflect on its role in the movement. We emerged from this process with a refined focus and confident resolve in our mission to protect the USDA organic seal as a sustainable option for ethical farmers, eaters, and brands. Cornucopia 2.0, led by new Executive Director Melody Morrell, brings a depth of skill and collaboration and a desire to comprehend a complex, fast-moving industry from multiple lenses. (It’s the very reason we were invited to write this newsletter introduction!) We are as committed as ever to our underlying principles: highlighting the most ethical organic farmers and brands across every industry, staying abreast of regulatory issues, investigating and reporting on fraud and dubious practices within organic agriculture, and engaging people to take a more active role in the food system. Organic stakeholders have joined us on every step of our journey, strengthening the supply chain for ethical organic food and supporting philanthropic efforts that build a more just and equitable food system. Here are some of the ways organic stakeholders partner with Cornucopia to strengthen the supply chain for ethical organic food: IDENTIF Y THE BE S T BR ANDS . Our popular organic scorecards showcase ethical farms and brands, while exposing factory farm

producers to avoid or scrutinize. For example, our Organic Egg Scorecard (our most popular scorecard, viewed 384,636 times last year) identifies emerging organic brands that advertise their eggs as “pastured,” yet house their birds in fixed buildings. Ethical brands get a marketing boost from our rankings: our webpage rating Vital Farms was viewed 3,500 times in 2020. This level of discernment appeals to savvy consumers who count on independent retailers to supply the highest quality organic food, whether it’s sourced from small farms that are foundational to local, regional food systems or mid-scale brands that market food they can trust. Using Cornucopia’s scorecards, consumers can impact the market, both by imploring companies with low ratings to improve their practices and by moving more of their food dollars toward brands with the highest ratings. By reviewing our research-based findings, then turning that knowledge into action, our supporters hold enormous purchasing power! LE ARN WHAT MAT TE RS TO CON SUME RS . We speak directly to consumers through robust communications that includes a

bimonthly eNews, social media, and print newsletter mailed to approximately 5,000 households. Our supporters are vocal, sharing constant feedback through an active inbox, handwritten notes, phone calls, and social media posts. This ongoing dialogue refines our tools, informs our communications, and enhances our marketplace research. It also underscores the value of our work.

WE ELE VATE THE ME S SAGING AROUND ORGANIC . Think of Cornucopia as a massive consumer-education resource library

(more than 6,000 web pages!). We demystify the marketplace, deepening consumer awareness of how food choices impact regional communities and the broader environment. Our articles and research elevate messaging around the value of authentic organic farmers, who work to support the interdependence of diverse and abundant organisms; the link between human and environmental health; and the hidden costs of the industrial food system, from the impact of pesticides in our ecosystems to the profound loss of fertile soil. S TAY ON TOP OF POLIC Y. The organic rules and regulations have critical implications for how our food is produced. Cornucopia

offers valued reporting and analysis from bi-annual National Organic Standards Board meetings, providing a real-time synopsis of the most salient remarks, keeping stakeholders and policymakers informed. We call out industrialized food producers that exploit loopholes in the organic regulations and engage in marketing subterfuge to cash in on an increasingly lucrative market. And we engage the wider public in our regulatory efforts. Last year, for example, we mobilized voters to advocate on behalf of farmers negatively impacted by the USDA’s decision to partially defund the Organic Certification Cost Share Program. And our widely distributed Milk Plant Code Action Alert uncovered the meaning behind these mysterious codes found on all milk cartons. More than 28,000 people used this critical information meant to help them avoid factory-farmed “organic” milk. Your customers, and their collective purchasing power, turn our research into meaningful marketplace change. In an era when the USDA has been unable and/or unwilling to bring aggressive enforcement actions, the powerful consumer dollar is the ultimate protector of the true values and meaning behind the organic label. The problem of industrial agriculture requires an all-hands-on-deck solution; together, we are a powerful, and necessary, force for a more hopeful food future. Follow our work at cornucopia.org and on social media (find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). Send an email to cultivate@ cornucopia.org to learn how to participate in our scorecards or to let us know what’s important to you and your consumers. We welcome your thoughts and feedback. Each time we gather at the table and give thanks to our farmers, we are reminded of what’s at stake.


In mid-April INFRA announced a new partnership opportunity with IBIS, Independent Business Intelligence Solutions. IBIS delivers reporting tools that provide powerful, unique, and highly intuitive experiences for the independent retailer. IBIS was designed by an independent retailer for the independent retailer. IBIS and INFRA saw an opportunity to help INFRA Members gain insight into their data to make sound and timely decisions for their business. The IBIS team has created flexible reporting tools that are valuable for any size member and compatible with many POS systems. IBIS Reporting Tools: • • • • • • • • •

Convert a retailer’s POS data into real time insights Save hours of management time currently spent on printing/reviewing multiple POS reports Monitor department sales and sales drivers in a timely manner Direct resources to the areas of greatest opportunity Provide visibility to opportunities to increase AOV (average order value) Enhance the speed and effectiveness of Category Reviews Facilitate effective promotional planning and execution Contribute to productive Vendor/Broker Meetings Provide visibility to the effects of strategic/business plan execution on all areas of the store

INFRA is hosting a webinar introducing the IBIS platform on Wednesday, May 12 from 1pm-2pm Central. Registration is located here. In the meantime, please reach out to the IBIS team to sign up, get a preview of the platform and how it can help you, or to ask any follow up questions. There are more details on the IBIS page of the MOA. Please note: This is a pilot program that is specially discounted for the first 50 INFRA Members that sign-up (Associate Retailers are currently not eligible for this program).

Why Retailers Must Embrace Automation to Win Market Share & Deliver Outstanding Customer Service SUBMIT TED BY S TE FAN K ALB , CEO OF S HE LF E NGINE

Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to always worry about ordering and instead get back to what matters most, delighting your customers? It’s an understatement to say the coronavirus pandemic completely upended the retail industry. Instead of finding new, innovative ways to create value for customers, retailers are walking a never-ending tightrope that requires balancing massive shifts in demand and operating conditions while trying to maintain already razor-thin margins. While this pressure is nothing new to the industry, the pandemic did shine a spotlight on deep-seated operational problems that continuously prevent healthy margins but have never been resolved. If retailers want to navigate out of this reactionary cycle and get back to a state of proactive customer-centric service, they must double down on solving their supply chain woes. One solution that has grown in popularity is supply chain automation. A significant part of the challenge of stretching retail margins is coordinating the many moving parts that affect product mix and availability. In an ecosystem where a retailer might operate tens of thousands of unique SKUs, coordinating the merchandising, shelf optimization, planograms, and proper stocking practices — such as first-in, first-out—even with computer-assisted ordering (CAO), can be overwhelming. Supply chain solutions that use AI and predictive technology allow grocers to save time on ordering and inventory management and invest that time in perfecting and streamlining the in-store experience. This is critical for independent grocers because the extra time and attention spent on delighting customers at every touchpoint is the highest form of leverage and differentiation they have over national chains. Imagine, instead of wasting countless hours in the stockroom on ordering and inventory management, retailers can deploy intelligent demand forecasting to expedite decision-making, shifting employees back on the floor to ensure a positive customer experience and a perfectly optimized planogram. With more time to pay attention to what the data is telling them, retailers can unearth more opportunities to boost topline sales and lean into high margin offerings, such as unique specialty products, perishable prepared foods, and hot-bar-type options. For Kimberton Whole Foods — an independent, family-owned community market in the Greater Philadelphia Area — this is their reality. After deploying Shelf Engine’s predictive technology and automated ordering solution, the team at Kimberton now have more time for fostering a customer-centric store experience. “With less time spent on forecasting and inventory planning, we’re able to spend more time focused on what matters most: our customers,” Robin Brett, Director of Purchasing, Kimberton Whole Foods, explained. Due to this partnership, Kimberton Whole Foods has also increased sales by an average of 42 percent and up to 70 percent at its best-performing store — while reducing its shrink — on the products Shelf Engine manages. The pandemic may have caused major disruption within the retail industry, but it did provide an opportunity to find new ways to do business better and help retailers get back to what has always been at the core of their success: happy customers. The end result for retailers that embrace supply chain innovation is a store experience that’s completely customer-centric and more profitable than ever before. Learn more about Shelf Engine on their website!

WELCOME TO THE TEAM! Hello INFRA Members! I joined the INFRA team in March as Promotions Marketing Lead. I will be working closely with vendors and the purchasing department to assist in creating impactful promotions to drive sales. My goal is to stay on the pulse of the market and provide fresh ideas for in-store displays and consumer marketing campaigns.

AUSTIN HINKLE Promotions Marketing Lead

Before arriving at INFRA, I was a founder of a granola bar business that I built with my friends. I’ve done it all, from late nights in the kitchen baking bars, to long road trips across America selling product and listening to customers, employees, and store managers. It’s given me an incredible insight into the amount of work and passion required for each and every product to make it to shelf, and what it takes to stay nimble in a market that is constantly in flux. I hope to take this insight and provide INFRA members with promotional opportunities that create real results while staying true to the values that make us stand out from the pack.

When I’m not at my desk you’ll find me on the trails! I am an avid mountain biker and love to explore all of the great cross-country trails that Minnesota has to offer. I am also a total photography nerd. Over the last few years, I have built up my own little darkroom and develop everything from 35mm film all the way up to 4x5. Shooting and developing film is a very meditative process for me and it has taught me how to slow down, enjoy the moment, and take in all the details. I am looking forward to joining in INFRA’s vision for a vibrant, healthy, and sustainable future and honored to be able to serve our members to meet their goals. I am thrilled to have joined the INFRA team as Business Analyst in March 2021. This position was added to work with stakeholders to deliver change initiatives in line with INFRA’s strategic goals and roadmap. I will be responsible for driving requirements gathering and supporting project management to address stakeholder needs and bring clarity to outcomes. I am excited for the opportunity to dive in and support the organization, team members, and membership in the momentous task of strengthening independent natural retailers, especially in the current climate where consumer needs and technology change quickly and acutely. My interest in the food truly spans from farm to fork with a systematic and business-minded edge on how all players work together. I have spent my career working with mission driven businesses focusing on local, natural, and organic food and, in addition to a degree in Food Industry Management, I have experience in project management, continuous improvement, strategy, consulting, and of course business analysis. Though each role comes with a different set of expectations, I always approach work with an eye for partnership and process improvement.

COLLEEN VALKO Business Analyst

A strong personal passion for the food system drives my career choices, so outside of the office, you’re still bound to find me working with food in the garden and kitchen or deepening my knowledge through books and classes. When I am not thinking about food, you might find me on the water in a rowing shell, canoe, or sailboat. This is an exciting time to join INFRA as it grows, evolves, and continues to build strategic alignment among its members and partners. I’m grateful to be a part of the team and look forward the ways my role will support INFRA in achieving its ambitious growth goals. Hello! I am very excited to join the INFRA team as your Membership Growth Lead! I have very large shoes to fill, as John Fieldstrom completes his move to his new role as Region Manager. As a member of the INFRA Member Relations team, my role is to build and expand the INFRA membership base through strategic member prospecting/recruiting, providing Associate Retailer (AR) development support, and improving the AR to membership experience. My primary focus will be engaging independent natural food retailers: understanding their needs, presenting the many benefits INFRA has to offer, and helping to identify additional services going forward. This will be a collaborative effort, working with all departments within INFRA, our current members and our distributor/vendor partners as well as utilizing outside sources.

KIM JAZWIERSKI Membership Growth Lead

Working 25+ years for a member-owned, ever-evolving distribution organization developed to service corporate accounts, I bring to INFRA a wide variety of skills, expertise, and experiences (i.e. learnings)—from administrative duties to key account management, primarily within the foodservice retail/foodservice and grocery market segments. I am very familiar with INFRA as an organization; INFRA was “my” account to develop and grow for my previous employer and it was a pleasure to do so. Outside my home office space, I enjoy trying new recipes, volunteering at church, and traveling. My goal this summer is to fix up the backyard and build a raised garden bed (supervised by my 2 happy hounds). INFRA has some very aggressive strategic growth plans and initiatives. I was happy to work with INFRA in its early growth stages. And now, I have the honor of being a contributor to INFRA’s future success. Exciting times!

Calendar of Events May 9: Mother’s Day May 12 at 1pm Central: IBIS & INFRA: Introducing New Reporting Tools for INFRA Members

June 15 at 1pm Central: Refrigerated Grocery Category Review June 17 at 3pm Central: Refrigerated Grocery Category Review

May 17–21: 2021 INFRA/KeHE Holiday Program

June 20: Father’s Day

May 18 at 1pm Central: Merchandising Local Grocery Category Review

June 22 at 1pm Central: Hair Care Category Review June 24 at 3pm Central: Hair Care Category Review

May 20 at 3pm Central: Merchandising Local Grocery Category Review

July 4: Independence Day

May 24–27: EXPO West

July 7 at 1pm Central: How to Develop a Content Strategy Marketing Sharing Series

May 31: Memorial Day June 1–3: UNFI Natural Holiday Show June 8 at 1pm Central: Local Love – How to Highlight Local In-Store and Online Marketing Sharing Series

July 13–15: UNFI Conventional Expo Show July 20 at 1pm Central: Bread & Baked Goods Category Review July 22 at 3pm Central: Bread & Baked Goods Category Review

June 10–18: KeHE Holiday Show

INFRA Team Q2 Anniversaries Dave Messer • 6 years Software Engineer & Facilities Manager

Ruthanne Atkinson • 4 years Operations Manager

Rachel Comeaux • 5 years Fresh Team Manager

Charlie Zweber • 1 year Technology Support Specialist

Mike Ohman • 5 years Senior Region Manager

Board of Directors John Pittari, Board Chair New Morning Market

Kimberly Hallinan Independent Director

Cheryl Hughes, Vice Chair The Whole Wheatery

Laughing Water Real Food Market + Deli

Terry Brett, Secretary Kimberton Whole Foods

Adam Stark Debra’s Natural Gourmet

Paku Misra, Treasurer Sunflower Natural Foods Market

Mylese Tucker Nature’s Cupboard

Summer Auerbach Rainbow Blossom Natural Markets

Pat Sheridan President & CEO

Thomas Barstow Guido’s Fresh Marketplace Independent Natural Food Retailers Association 2356 University Ave W, Ste 200 St. Paul, MN 55114 (651) 888-4700 naturalfoodretailers.net @infretailers