Year In Review 2017: Top Stories In The West

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Acquisitions, banner changes and executive moves have been the top newsmakers in the West over this year’s issues. Unfortunately, over the past year the industry also has lost some of its legends.

Here are the top 10 stories from our 2017 issues:


1. Unified Grocers Becomes a Subsidiary of Supervalu

Los Angeles-based Unified Grocers became a subsidiary of Supervalu on June 23 in a transaction valued at $390 million, comprising $114 million in cash to Unified’s shareholders for 100 percent of the company’s outstanding stock plus the assumption and payoff at closing of Unified Grocers’ net debt of approximately $276 million.

“The completion of this transaction is a significant step forward for Supervalu and the growth of our wholesale business,” said Mark Gross, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Supervalu. “Our teams are fully engaged in the important work of integrating these two great organizations with a continued focus on delivering for our customers and stockholders. We’re excited about working with the many talented associates to supply and serve our expanded and highly diverse customer base.”

The companies had combined sales in 2016 of approximately $16 billion. Together, Supervalu and Unified operate 24 distribution centers supplying customers in 46 states and serve a combined customer base of more than 3,000 stores.

On Aug. 11, Supervalu announced Leon Bergmann’s promotion to president of West Region Wholesale. Bergmann had joined Unified Grocers in December 2012 as VP of sales; prior to that, he was president of Independent Business at Supervalu.

“Leon’s experience at both Unified (Grocers) and Supervalu will allow him to hit the ground running as we incorporate customers from the western United States into the larger Supervalu family of retailers. I’m thrilled he has accepted this opportunity to be a part of our Wholesale organization,” Mike Stigers, EVP of Wholesale & Supply Chain Services for Supervalu, said in an internal memo.

“It’s exciting to see our new wholesale structure come together,” Stigers added. “I’m confident that Leon’s leadership in the West, along with Kevin Kemp in the East Region and Bill Chew in the Central Region, will guide the team on the path to Supervalu becoming the country’s leading wholesaler.”

Supervalu And Unified Grocers Marriage To Create $16B Business

2. Amazon Acquires Whole Foods Market

In one of the most talked-about deals in the history of the food retail industry, Amazon on Aug. 28 completed its $13.7 billion acquisition of organic/natural grocer Whole Foods Market. Immediately Whole Foods began offering lower prices on some of its best-selling grocery staples, “with more to come,” the companies said, as they “pursue the vision of making Whole Foods Market’s high-quality, natural and organic food affordable for everyone.”

John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market, said when the deal was first announced that it was “a way to maximize value for Whole Foods shareholders and help the markets serve customers with high-quality products and a high-quality experience as well as convenience and innovation.”

Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, said after the deal closed: “We’re determined to make healthy and organic food affordable for everyone. Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality—we will lower prices without compromising Whole Foods Market’s long-held commitment to the highest standards. There is significant work and opportunity ahead, and we’re thrilled to get started.”

In addition to lower prices at Whole Foods, another byproduct of the deal is that Amazon Lockers will be available in select Whole Foods Market stores. Customers can have products shipped from to their local Whole Foods for pickup or send returns back to Amazon during a trip to the store.

Whole Foods plans to continue to open new stores, keeping the Whole Foods Market brand intact, the companies say. Mackey remains CEO, and headquarters will stay in Austin, Texas.

Amazon To Acquire Whole Foods Market For $13.7B

3. Knopf Named President of Raley’s

Raley’s COO Keith Knopf added the role of president, the company’s owner and CEO Michael Teel announced Feb. 23.

Knopf had joined Raley’s nearly two years earlier, about the time Teel took majority ownership of the West Sacramento, California-based company. Teel continues to direct the development of Raley’s overall strategic plan; Knopf oversees all aspects of the Raley’s business.

“It is a historic time for Raley’s—and in my life. We took our time to find and hire Keith. He has exceeded my expectations in his less than two years here as chief operating officer and earned the opportunity to take on the role of president and COO,” Teel said.

A Fortune 200 leader with more than 25 years of retail experience and leadership roles at companies such as Kohl’s, Victoria’s Secret and May Co., Knopf brought a strong balance of strategy and execution to the Raley’s executive leadership team, according to Teel, adding that Knopf believes in delivering a personalized customer experience and engaging team members in the company’s purpose. Knopf also models servant leadership.

Raley’s operates 121 stores in Northern California and Nevada under four banners: Raley’s Supermarkets, Bel Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods and Food Source.

‘I’m Not Going Anywhere,’ Says Teel, As Knopf Takes On President’s Role At Raley’s

4. Andronico’s Stores Now Safeway Community Markets

In November 2016, it was announced that Safeway would purchase Andronico’s five stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. On March 1 this year, Safeway introduced shoppers in the Northern California towns of Berkeley (two stores), Los Altos and San Anselmo to its new Safeway Community Markets banner, which replaced Andronico’s. (Safeway purchased five stores; four are being reopened under the new banner.)

According to Pleasanton, California-based Safeway, a division of Albertsons Cos., the new banner “will keep alive the heritage of a local specialty market and provide customers with unique offerings.”

According to Safeway, the stores will carry thousands of local items, noting that it is “California’s largest local produce buyer.” Andronico’s “adult brownies” also are available at the rebranded stores.

Tom Schwilke, president of Safeway Northern California, said, “These stores will resonate well with the needs and wants of the community. Customers will find tons of local, fresh and organic options with everyday low prices.”

Safeway has operated stores in Northern California since 1926 and currently operates 282 stores in Northern California, Nevada and Hawaii.

Safeway Community Markets To Open In California March 1

5. Kroger Names Grieshaber to Lead Fred Meyer

This spring, The Kroger Co. named Joe Grieshaber president of its Fred Meyer Stores Division. He formerly served as president of Kroger’s Columbus Division in Ohio.

Grieshaber succeeded Jeff Burt, who resigned March 20 to become SVP of grocery, fresh food and beverage for Target Corp. in Minneapolis.

“Joe is known throughout the retail industry as an exceptional leader who always brings out the best in his people and teams,” said Fred Morganthall, Kroger’s EVP of retail operations. “His depth of experience will help the Fred Meyer team build on their successes and continue to innovate and deliver a unique shopping experience for our customers.”

Fred Meyer, based in Portland, Oregon, operates approximately 132 stores in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Grieshaber began his career with Kroger in 1983 as a store management trainee in Nashville, Tennessee.

Kroger Names New Presidents For Fred Meyer Stores, Columbus Division

6. Pesco Named CEO of The Save Mart Cos.

Nicole Piccinini Pesco was promoted to CEO of The Save Mart Cos. in Modesto, California, a move reported in the January 2017 Shelby Report. Before that, she was co-president and chief strategy and branding officer.

On June 1, Pesco’s Co-President and COO Steve Junqueiro retired after 43 years with the chain. He had started his career at Save Mart in 1974 as a produce clerk in Tracy, California. In June 2007, then-owner and CEO Bob Piccinini (Pesco’s father) elevated him to EVP. Since then, Junqueiro has remained in executive roles, including president and COO.

“I’m so grateful for the many years of dedication and service that Steve has given to The Save Mart Cos. He’s been an integral part of the company’s success. I wish him all the best during this exciting time in his life,” Pesco said.

With Junqueiro’s departure, Chris McGarry was named chief administrative officer, assuming responsibility for the strategy office and strategic execution, human resources, legal and labor relations.

Save Mart operates 207 traditional and price-impact stores under the Save Mart, Lucky, FoodMaxx, S-Mart Foods and MaxxValue Foods banners in California and northern Nevada.

Pesco Becomes CEO Of Save Mart

7. IGA’s Batenic Transitions to Retirement

IGA Chairman, President and CEO Mark Batenic announced Sept. 18 that he would step down from his roles as president and CEO in mid-October. He will remain chairman of the IGA board until his retirement on Dec. 31, 2018, and then transition to non-executive chairman in January 2019.

Batenic was succeeded by John Ross, president of Inmar Promotion Network. As president and CEO of IGA Inc., Ross will assume responsibility for domestic and global operations for IGA, an independent supermarket network with nearly 5,000 IGA supermarkets in more than 30 countries worldwide, representing $36 billion per year in sales.

“I am an independent retailer by DNA,” says Ross. “My grandfather owned an independent grocery store in West Virginia, and I worked retail from the age of 16 on. From lot boy to store manager, from merchant to CMO, I’ve been fortunate to experience operations, merchandising and marketing for independent, regional, national and international chains. I even was a fill-in route salesman for Holsum bakery as a teenager. My five years at Inmar have allowed me to be around the industry’s finest professionals in analytics and retail tech-enabled services and have prepared me wonderfully for this role. I couldn’t be more excited to join the IGA family—it feels like a job I’ve been preparing for all my life.”

Batenic Stepping Down As IGA President & CEO, Successor Named

8. Third Generation Takes Helm of Uwajimaya

Denise Moriguchi, whose grandfather founded Uwajimaya nearly 90 years ago, selling fish cakes from the back of a truck in Tacoma, Washington, became CEO of the company on Feb. 24.

Today, Uwajimaya has four Pacific Northwest retail locations in Seattle, Bellevue and Renton, Washington, and Beaverton, Oregon. Moriguchi, 40, the first in her family to earn an MBA, took on the CEO role as her aunt—72-year-old Tomoko Moriguchi-Matsuno—stepped down as chief executive.

On May 3, the first Kai Market, a new concept for Uwajimaya, opened on the ground floor of 400 Fairview, a mixed-use building in Seattle’s South Lake Union area. The urban, 5,500-s.f. space features dine-in and grab-and-go foodservice options with an emphasis on fresh seafood, along with a limited selection of grocery items.

Third Generation Taking Helm Of Asian Grocery Chain Uwajimaya As Company Eyes Expansion

10. Cardenas Markets and Mi Pueblo Merge

The two Hispanic grocery chains in which global investment firm KKR made significant investments last year alongside Victory Park Capital, merged this summer. The combined business operates as Cardenas Markets LLC and is one of the largest Hispanic supermarket chains in the country. The chains will continue to operate separately but will be managed under one executive team led by CEO John Gomez, the companies said.

Cardenas Markets is headquartered in Ontario, California, and has been in operation since 1981. It has 31 stores throughout Southern California and Nevada. Mi Pueblo, established in 1991, operates 15 stores in Northern California’s Bay Area, Monterey Peninsula and Central Valley.

“Regardless of acculturation level or language preference, Hispanic people use food as a vehicle to connect with their culture and heritage. This is a growing demographic, not only in size, but also in influence as well, and I am proud to be working with two leading retailers to offer the best shopping experience to our communities in Northern and Southern California, as well as Las Vegas,” said Gomez.

At press time, Cardenas was in the process of purchasing seven Los Altos Ranch Markets in Arizona from CNG Ranch LLC, a group that includes managing partner Northgate Gonzalez Markets.

Hispanic Grocers Cardenas Markets And Mi Pueblo Merge

11. Legends Pass Away

Jack Brown, longtime beloved leader of Stater Bros. Markets, was our cover story in both January and February this year. In January, we reported on his passing on Nov. 13, 2016, following a battle with cancer; in February, we reported on the public celebration of life service for Mr. Brown that drew hundreds to the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. The service featured U.S. servicemen, flags and kind words from business associates and friends.

Also in the January issue, we reported on the passing of former Ralphs chairman and CEO Byron Allumbaugh, who died in late October 2016. Former Certified Grocers CEO Everett Dingwell passed away in April at the age of 85.

Final Thoughts At Jack Brown’s Memorial Service Come From The Late Leader Himself

Special Report: Remembering Stater Bros.’ Jack H. Brown

Stater Bros.’ Jack H. Brown Passes Away

‘King’ Of The Supermarket Industry Dies

Former Certified Grocers CEO Dies At 85

Shelby’s Longtime Retail Manager Joye Jones Passes Away

About The Author

A word nerd, grocery geek and three-year member of The Shelby Report. She is a proud new homeowner and a great lover of avocado toast.