Wakefern supports communities its stores serve
Wakefern Food Corp., the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the United States, is The Griffin Report of the Northeast’s 2020 Wholesaler of the Year. In a recent question-and-answer session with The Shelby Report, Wakefern shared highlights of the past year. The company detailed its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the path forward, and praised its associates for their tireless efforts during these trying times.
How has Wakefern handled the COVID-19 pandemic? Discuss some of the challenges the company has faced and lessons learned. The New York City metro area was one of the initial epicenters of the virus. How have your retail members played a role in the response?
Our family-owned supermarkets are part of the communities where they operate – they understand and know what their customers need, and they’ve been there for their neighbors during this national emergency.
When the pandemic began earlier this year, we worked quickly to adapt and make changes during an unprecedented moment for retail. We hired more staff, expanded our warehouse capabilities, implemented safety measures across all our stores and worked closely with suppliers to keep our stores stocked.
Our members and associates rose to every challenge and supported their communities during the unprecedented COVID-19 public health emergency. We are grateful for the entire Wakefern family for this remarkable team effort.
Along those same lines, small and independent businesses have been among the most vulnerable to the shutdown and pandemic-related measures. How have Wakefern’s independent grocers managed? How have they addressed social distancing and the safety of their employees?
The collective strength of our cooperative helped our family-owned, independent grocer members during this time.
Wakefern immediately put together a cooperative-wide task force to work on COVID-19 matters and communicate key information to members to help them operate successfully and safely.
Our members, meanwhile, implemented all the latest safety protocols in their stores, including temperature monitoring for associates, social distancing markers and Plexiglass dividers at checkout.
There have been a lot of changes to how we operate and how people shop over the last seven months, but our goal is always to provide the best and safest possible shopping experience for our customers.
Are there any issues that Wakefern anticipates emerging in the remaining months of 2020 or early 2021?
We expect 2021 will be another challenging and transformative year – and we believe we are prepared for that challenge.
As we continue to navigate this unprecedented time, could you detail some of the shifts in the grocery shopping experience? Can you pinpoint some changes for the average consumer that perhaps appeared temporary at the time but instead will likely become the new normal?
We know lifestyle habits are changing due to the current health emergency, with our shoppers spending more time home schooling and home cooking than ever before. We also know people are purchasing more of everything online.
The events of 2020 accelerated the adoption of online grocery shopping and that is why we continue to focus on adding capacity and enhancing our popular online shopping offerings, including ShopRite from Home.
Are there any initiatives Wakefern would like to showcase at this time? Please discuss any innovative approaches in merchandising, buying, marketing or other aspects that you would like to talk about.
Wakefern continues its roll out of ShopRite’s award-winning flagship store brands, Bowl & Basket and Paperbird, and recently kicked off the expansion and rebranding of its other award-winning store brand, Wholesome Pantry and Wholesome Pantry Organic.
The popular Wholesome Pantry brand of accessible foods, free-from additives and artificial ingredients, was re-introduced in October with an updated look and feel, select new and innovative products and a fresh tagline, “Food Set Free.”
Wakefern also recently unveiled innovative plans to deliver wholesome and affordable fresh foods and meal solutions to customers.
Fresh to Table, unveiled this month at three ShopRite stores, features a convenient store-within-a-store format that gives customers a whole new way to access fresh meal solutions and on-trend foods.
The Fresh to Table experience provides a “One Stop Dinner Shop,” showcasing five ingredient chef and dietitian inspired meals that change weekly, as well as “Prep & Eat,” “Grab & Eat,” and “Heat & Eat” sections.
The Fresh to Table experience also offers a digital component with the newly redesigned ShopRite Order Express app and integrated recipe shopping lists available through in-store QR codes and online, at ShopRite’s Recipe Shop available at shoprite.com.