Big Apple Forms Grocers Association
Attorneys Brad Gerstman and David Schwartz have announced the formation of NYAGS, the New York Association of Grocery Stores.
“We have formed NYAGS, New York Association of Grocery Stores, in order to stop the assault against grocery stores as well as the foodservice industry all over New York by the mayor and other government officials,” a news release says. “NYAGS will play a substantial role in being the lead advocacy group in redefining how the city treats our retail establishments throughout New York City. NYAGS will promote unity and financial stability to small business throughout the city.”
“The city continues in its quest of becoming a nanny state in regulating every aspect of the lives of the citizens of New York City and in the process, crushing small business,” said Schwartz.
“NYAGS will vigorously protect business throughout New York from over reaching and unnecessary regulatory measures. NYAGS will help unite the fight against the recently announced Big Soda Ban by the NYC Board of Health,” added Gerstman.
New York City business leader, philanthropist and owner of Gristedes supermarkets, John Catsimatidis, has pledged his support for NYAGS.
“We need NYAGS at this moment in time in our history because brick and mortar convenience stores, grocery stores and supermarkets are being destroyed because of anti-business government policies that have strangled the retail industry,” said Catsimatidis, who has always been an outspoken supporter of small business and the American dream. In a recent WFAN interview he discusses the American dream and how small businesses today struggle to remain afloat.
NYAGS has the support of the Bodega Association, the Latino Restaurant Association and the Korean American Small Business Center, the group that represents the city’s 2,500 green grocers. All of these groups understand that the super-sizing ban is only the opening salvo, one that will lead to further restrictions on the rights of business and all New Yorkers if left unchallenged, the news release says.
“The ban is not only counterproductive to the promotion of health, but it fails to consider other health initiatives from this administration such as the menu labeling requirements. The impact of these regulations on the health of the city’s food stores and restaurants has been extremely detrimental,” said Ramon Murphy of the Bodega Association.
NYAGS is led by a team of experienced government relations and media consultants who have been in the trenches for many years fighting on behalf of the city’s small businesses, according to the news release.
Gerstman and Schwartz are former prosecutors, private lawyers and advocates for businesses throughout the city and state of New York. NYAGS will educate the public as to the importance of brick and mortar grocery and convenience stores.
H-E-B Names $10K Employee Winner of Slim Down Showdown
Over the past three months, a dozen H-E-B employees have been working hard to adopt healthy habits and shed pounds and, on March 30, H-E-B named Chris Sonnier, a shelf edge process manager at H-E-B headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, as the champion of its second annual Slim Down Showdown competition.
Sonnier lost 53 pounds and nine inches, and gained a $10,000 grand prize. Over the 12-week challenge, the 12 contestants lost a total of 460 pounds and 58 inches and showed off their healthier frames to hundreds of supporters in a dramatic makeover reveal ceremony at Pearl Stable.
The journey toward a healthy lifestyle not only changed their lives, but had a ripple effect on friends, family members and co-workers.
Contestants were allowed to choose buddies—husbands, wives, friends and family members—to cheer them on and accompany them on the journey, and more than 25,000 co-workers followed along via blogs and videos. In addition, H-E-B distributed a “Lunch and Learn” Slim Down Showdown toolkit to all its employees to embark on their own eight-week challenge alongside the contestants. More than 4,500 participated, losing a total of 23,000 pounds.
Sonnier’s “buddy,” wife Donna Muth, received a $3,000 prize for helping her husband succeed, and each contestant received $1,000 for participating. Veronica Diaz, a customer service specialist in San Benito, won the $2,500 Follower Favorite prize, and Albert Moreno, a team leader at the Weslaco Retail Support Center, won the $2,500 Wellness Wonder award.
The contest started in January with a week-long wellness program at Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, where contestants learned what foods to eat, how to control portions and how much exercise their bodies need to stay healthy. Back home, H-E-B provided them with a therapist, nutritionist, life coach and gym membership to help them stay on the program.
“It is all mental,” said Jessica Flores, a contestant from Houston in last year’s Slim Down Showdown. “There is a reason why I got to where I was. If I felt bad, I went to sugar. Comfort was food.”
The competition gave Flores the tools and emotional support she needed to change her life.
“It sounds like a cliché, but if I can do it, anybody can do it,” Flores said. “I had been carrying these bad habits for over 20 years and I have lost more than 100 pounds. Every time I say it I am amazed.”
H-E-B started the Slim Down Showdown as an internal competition, but is taking it public this year in its first-ever community Slim Down Showdown, a 16-week competition beginning in June.
Earlier this year, H-E-B invited Texans to apply online at Heb.com and it received more than 500 applications. On May 14, H-E-B will announce the 25 customers selected to compete for a $10,000 grand prize and a $5,000 “fan favorite” prize.
Contestants will be selected based on their willingness and ability to publicly share their journey through the wellness program and the resulting lifestyle changes through blogs and vlogs.
All contestants will come to San Antonio to participate in an intensive three and a half-day wellness program with experts from H-E-B, Methodist Healthcare and Cooper Aerobics Center. H-E-B will manage the contest, as well as nutritional and fitness education. Methodist Healthcare will provide medical oversight for the program, and Cooper will provide speakers for the program and manage health coaching.
Once they return home, contestants will receive weekly coaching and support in addition to the meal plans and fitness goals established during the wellness program. Overall winners will be announced in October at a Healthy at H-E-B Food & Fitness Festival in San Antonio.
H-E-B started the competition internally in 2011 with 15 employee contestants who participated in a 12-week transformation that inspired more than 15,000 other employees to follow them along on their journey.
Together, the “fantastic 15,” as they became known, lost more than 550 pounds and saw significant improvement on both their biometrics and their overall physical and emotional wellbeing.
Daniel Garza, an H-E-B store director in Brownsville, lost more than 60 pounds and won the $10,000 grand prize.
Married with four young children, Garza now cringes at the fast food he used to put on his table, and at the wing-eating contests he held with his daughter. His career had hit a plateau, his marriage was strained, and he blamed everyone but himself.
“In the morning when I woke up, I had five to 10 seconds of nothing, where my brain was still asleep and I couldn’t remember what happened yesterday. I used to live for those few seconds,” Garza said.
Changing his habits—and his family’s habits—transformed his life.
“Now I wake up with a sense of being,” Garza said. “If there is a problem from the previous day, I want to tackle it. It is like I’m drinking jet fuel for breakfast. Get up and go.”
The Showdown is part of “Healthy at H-E-B,” a comprehensive, long-term commitment to improve the health of Texans and provide them with fresh, healthy food that is affordable and easy to prepare.
H-E-B aims to inspire millions of Texans to adopt and stick to a healthy lifestyle through special offers on healthy food, fitness groups, events and competitions organized around the three critical pillars of health—food, body and life.
The initiative includes an estimated $20 million investment in lower prices on fresh produce as well as Healthy Savings meal solutions, a bundled offer with four items and recipes to show customers how to prepare a tasty, healthy meal. After a $4 coupon, the meals cost less than $8 to feed a family of four.
“We want to do everything we can to give customers the tools they need to adopt healthy habits such as cooking and eating healthy meals at home and getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week,” said Craig Boyan, president and COO of H-E-B.
The company launched “Healthy at H-E-B” in 2004 with its 76,000 employees with overwhelming success.
“Over the past year, we’ve focused our energy on developing a culture of health for our partners (employees,” said Kate Rogers, VP of partner communication and engagement. “It seems like every day we hear about another great success story from a partner who has decided to make a positive change. The next big step is engaging our customers in our health journey. Our goal is to be the health resource for all Texans who are looking for guidance and support.”
San Antonio-based H-E-B, with sales of more than $18 billion, operates more than 335 stores in Texas and Mexico.
Campaign Encourages FDA To Label GE Foods
The Just Label It (JLI) Campaign has announced that a record-breaking one million Americans of all political persuasions have called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to label genetically engineered (GE) foods, also referred to as genetically modified, or GMOs. The campaign also announced a new national survey revealing that Americans across the political spectrum stand united in support of labeling food that has been genetically engineered. This is a striking contrast to the partisan divisions plaguing our political system.
“Pink slime, deadly melons, tainted turkeys, and BPA in our soup have put us all on notice that what we eat and feed our families is critically important,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a JLI partner. “Americans overwhelmingly demand safety, transparency and labeling of genetically engineered foods. It’s time for the FDA to come clean and restore public confidence in our food system.”
Since October, JLI, the national campaign to require GE food labeling, and its more than 500 partner organizations have spearheaded a historic number of public comments for a GE foods labeling petition (Docket No. FDA 2011-P-0723-001/CP). Today, March 27, is when the FDA is required to respond to the petition. It took less than 180 days to accumulate the record number of comments.
“In recent years, Americans have shown a real interest in knowing more about our food and now there is a clear mandate for the labeling of genetically engineered foods. This petition asks the FDA to stand up for the rights of average Americans, and not just a handful of powerful chemical companies. It’s time for the FDA to give Americans the same rights held by citizens in 40 nations, including all of our major trade partners, to know whether our foods have been genetically modified. The FDA needs to restore confidence in our food and our right to know about the food we eat and feed our families,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield, a JLI partner.
New Survey Results: Motherhood, Apple Pie and GE Food Labeling
Consumer support for GE foods labeling in the U.S. is nearly unanimous, according to the political opinion survey on GE food labeling conducted by The Mellman Group on behalf of JLI. Explained pollster Mark Mellman, “Few topics other than motherhood and apple pie can muster over 90 percent support, but labeling GE foods is one of those few views held almost unanimously.”
The survey found nearly all Democrats (93 percent favor, 2 percent oppose), Independents (90 percent favor, 5 percent oppose) and Republicans (89 percent favor, 5 percent oppose) in favor of labeling. The study also revealed that support for labeling is robust and arguments against it have little sway.
Colorado mother and author Robyn O’Brien, who founded the AllergyKids Foundation, a JLI partner, after one of her children had an allergic reaction to breakfast, said: “Americans are responding to the call for GE foods labeling because they want more information for their families. Like allergen labeling, GE food labels would provide essential and possibly life-saving information for anyone with a food allergy. Being responsible for the health and safety of my children, I believe it’s my right to know about the food I feed my family…from allergens, to ‘pink slime’ to GE foods.”
“Genetically engineered foods,” “genetically modified organisms,” or GMOs, are organisms that have been created through application of transgenic, gene-splicing techniques that are part of biotechnology. This relatively new science allows DNA (genetic material) from one species to be transferred into another species, creating transgenic organisms with combinations of genes from plants, animals, bacteria, and even viral gene pools. The mixing of genes from different species that have never shared genes in the past is what makes GMOs and GE crops so unique. It is impossible to create such transgenic organisms through traditional crossbreeding methods, according to a JLI news release.
Johnsonville Sausage, French’s Mustard Sharing ‘Big Taste’
Johnsonville Sausage has teamed up with French’s Mustard to further elevate the flavor variety and choices on the company’s 2012 “Big Taste Grill” tour. The Johnsonville Big Taste Grill is a semi-truck-sized grill that tours the country attending various events and raising money for charitable organizations—offering a one-of-a-kind grilling experience for folks around the country.
“For more than 15 years, we’ve been proud to share the great taste of Johnsonville Brats fresh off the grill, while at the same time raising more than $3 million for great causes,” said Bruce Johnson, Johnsonville senior brand manager. “At Johnsonville, we are always looking to make these events even tastier. Mustard is a classic brat topping, but on our previous tours we were only using yellow mustard. With their commitment to quality and great taste, French’s Mustard was a natural choice to bring more variety to visitors at Big Taste Grill events. We’re excited to include French’s products in this year’s Big Taste Grill tour.”
“As America’s No. 1 mustard brand, we know there’s nothing better than a Johnsonville Brat fresh off the grill, topped with delicious mustard,” said Barbara Yaros, French’s marketing services director. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Johnsonville this year to offer brat lovers around the country the opportunity to try several different mustards on their brats at Big Taste Grill tour stops.”
Weighing in at 53,000 pounds and measuring 65 feet long, the Big Taste Grill is the world’s largest touring grill. It is equipped with hot and cold running water, a prep station and a refrigeration unit. The Big Taste Grill has the capacity to cook more than 750 brats at a time, or 2,500 brats an hour. And, it can accommodate more than 12 “grillmasters” at any given time.
The 2012 Johnsonville Big Taste Grill tour is set to kick off at the end of this month. Details of the tour schedule will be released soon.
For more information and to follow the Big Taste Grill blog, visit www.bigtastegrill.com.
Kroger, Safeway Among Stores Cutting Pink Slime
Just announced: After recent customer concern, The Kroger Co. says it will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef.
A statement released today, March 22, says, “Kroger listens to our customers carefully to provide the high quality products they want at the great prices they deserve. Our customers have expressed their concerns that the use of lean finely textured beef—while fully approved by the USDA for safety and quality—is something they do not want in their ground beef. We highly value customer feedback, and the recent flood of news stories has diminished their confidence in the product.
“As a result, Kroger will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured beef,” the company adds.
Kroger is the nation’s largest traditional grocery retailer, employs more than 339,000 associates who serve customers in 2,435 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s.
On Wednesday, any meat at Safeway with “pink slime” was taken off the shelves.
Safeway’s statement says that “considerable consumer concern” led to its decision even though “the USDA and food industry experts agree that lean finely textured beef is safe and wholesome…Safeway will no longer purchase ground beef containing lean finely textured.”
Safeway Publix, H-E-B, Whole Foods and Costco promise their ground beef is additive free—no pink slime, ksfy.com reports.
Supervalu also has made the decision to no longer purchase fresh ground beef containing finely textured beef in any of our traditional retail stores. These stores include Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher’s, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw’s/Star Market, Shop ‘n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy.
TravelCenters, Trucking Solutions Sponsor Health Awareness Walk
The entire trucking industry is invited to join TravelCenters of America LLC and Trucking Solutions Group for the third annual MATS Health Awareness Walk. The walk, sponsored by TA and Petro Stopping Centers branded travel centers, together with Trucking Solutions Group, will be held at 9 a.m. Friday, March 23, during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.
The MATS Health Awareness Walk—the first of its kind—is a fitness event for the trucking industry. There is no cost, but registration is required. Registration is available online at www.truckingsolutionsgroup.org or at MATS at the TA/Petro booth No. 19156. Participants will receive T-shirts and goodie bags, while supplies last, with health information and giveaways. Walkers will meet in the west wing of the Kentucky Expo Center in room WH2 at 8 a.m. Refreshments will be served prior to the walk.
The MATS Health Awareness Walk is a fun, non-competitive 1.5-mile course for anyone in the trucking industry who is thinking about getting fit, wanting to stay healthy or looking for tips to enhance their workouts. Participants can choose to walk part or all of the 1.5-mile distance.
TA and Petro are working toward making personal health and fitness easier for all truckers. Westlake, Ohio-based TravelCenters rolled out its StayFit program in 2010, offering better-for-you restaurant menu options and travel store items, in addition to free fitness centers and mapped walking trails nationwide.
The Trucking Solutions Group began in 2008 for members to share best practices in the trucking industry and assist each other with improving their businesses. The Driver Health Council, a committee within the group, is dedicated to raising awareness of health issues in the industry. The council began health awareness walks in 2010 and holds them at various trucking industry conferences and events.
Packaging & The Environment: Shoppers Say, ‘Please Help Me!’
In the most recent research conducted by Perception Research Services, shoppers demonstrate that they are interested in choosing environmentally friendly packaging. Significantly more shoppers say they would like to choose environmentally friendly packaging compared to 2010 (36 percent vs. 28 percent), with fully half still willing to pay more (despite the economy). This is especially true of younger (under age 40) shoppers. More than half (59 percent) of the survey’s sample say that seeing environmental claims on packaging positively impacts their behavior (to either buy more of the brands they usually do, or switch to others).
Ironically, while shoppers continue to notice environmental claims at a high level (roughly half say seeing more of them in the past six months, just as in 2010), they are increasingly frustrated by the information provided. Significantly more report there isn’t enough environmental information (26 percent vs. 20 percent), that they are confused by all the different environmental claims (20 percent vs. 12 percent), and that they don’t know which packages are best for the environment (22 percent vs. 17 percent).
Importantly, fewer shoppers feel that manufacturers’ motives are primarily honorable (57 percent vs. 61 percent). Shoppers are becoming more skeptical of manufacturers behaviors and motives in this area, as more say that companies are increasingly self-serving (enhance reputation; realize profit gains) and show less concern for the environment.
Of the various claims seen, those having to do with recycling (recyclable, made from recycled material) are both noticed most and have the most impact on buying behavior. Conversely, made with less material is less influential.
In 2011, a significant increase in shoppers checked to see if a package could be recycled prior to buying it. Since seeing environmental claims positively impacts purchase behavior, it is incumbent upon manufactures to clearly convey this feature.
Fully two-thirds of shoppers indicate that they recycle on a regular basis. Those who do not recycle claim that the single biggest reason they don’t is that they forget to do so (44 percent)—suggesting that messaging could serve as a useful reminder. This also could help bridge the gap between shoppers’ stated concern for the environment (66 percent very/somewhat concerned) and their level of activity regarding the environment (46 percent very/somewhat active).
“We’re seeing a great opportunity for manufacturers to provide truly value-added packaging to their target shoppers by making it more environmentally friendly—primarily in the form of recyclability and recycled content—and clearly communicating these aspects. We have seen that it is vital to get both the message right (what is said) as well as the delivery (how it is executed on pack)—because one without the other will create a missed opportunity,” says Jonathan Asher, EVP of Perception Research Services. “In addition, it is becoming apparent that the days of disguising cost reductions (e.g., smaller, thinner packages) as being driven by environmental concerns may be coming to an end, and continuing to do so may test shoppers’ good will.”
The four waves of this research were conducted in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 across the U.S., among over 1,000 primary household grocery shoppers age 18-64 per wave.
AMI Foundation: Red, Processed Meats Safe Components Of Balanced Diet
A new study in today’s Archives of Internal Medicine tries to predict the future risk of death from cancer or cardiovascular disease by relying on notoriously unreliable self-reporting about what was eaten and obtuse methods to apply statistical analysis to the data. That’s according to the American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation.
“This imprecise approach is like relying on consumers’ personal characterization of their driving habits in prior years in determining their likelihood of having an accident that kills them in the future,” a news release from the AMI Foundation says. “It has a high likelihood of giving erroneous conclusions.”
“Red and processed meat continues to be a healthy part of a balanced diet and nutrition decisions should be based on the total body of evidence, not on single studies that include weak and inconsistent evidence and stand in contrast to other research and to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010,” says Betsy Booren, AMI Foundation director of scientific affairs.
The news release adds: “Beyond the major weakness of this being an epidemiological study that uses survey data—not test tubes, microscopes or lab measurements—the researchers method of collecting and analyzing their data is highly inaccurate. The information in the report indicates that estimates of red and processed meat intake were only 27 to 35 percent accurate vs. actual measurements. The researchers also inserted estimated data where an actual survey measurement was missing and also stopped updating the dietary information once participants reported a diagnosis. All of these factors could have significant impacts on the results.”
“Too often, epidemiological findings are reported as ‘case closed’ findings, as if a researcher has discovered the definitive cause of a disease or illness. But epidemiological studies look at a multitude of diet and lifestyle factors in specific volunteer human populations and use sophisticated statistical methods to try and tease out relationships or associations between these factors and certain forms of disease. This method of comparing relationships has many limitations, which are widely recognized by researchers in this field. More often than not, epidemiological studies, over time, provide more contradictions than conclusions,” Booren says.
She concludes, “All of these studies struggle to disentangle other lifestyle and dietary habits from meat and processed meat and admit that they can’t do it well enough to use their conclusions to accurately recommend people change their dietary habits. What the total evidence has shown, and what common sense suggests, is that a balanced diet and a healthy body weight are the keys to good health.”