How Independent Grocers Can Finish First in 2019

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By Jessica Dumont

If there is one thing that Kevin Davis has learned in his more than 20 years leading Bristol Farms, it’s that finding a niche has helped the independent grocery company out-execute major chains.

Davis, formerly President & CEO of Bristol Farms and now special advisor to the board, takes pride in carrying thousands of distinctive food and beverage items that big-name grocers can’t get their hands on.

“If you succeed in differentiating your store to your customers so that they understand why they’re shopping there, and they get a different quality or service – something that’s unique and different, you will be a survivor,” Davis says. “If you’re trying to beat the big guys at their game, you have a hard road. The more unique, different and special you are, the longer you can survive and the more you can do.”

With a product assortment that is local, fresh and specially curated, Bristol Farms stands out as one of the most popular stores in Southern California and one of the most successful independent grocers in the state. But even as it thrives, there are still a number of challenges in operating an independent grocery store in today’s evolving industry.

As most independent operators are all too aware, business has changed dramatically in recent years, especially with the rise of e-commerce and the continued growth of giants like Amazon and Walmart and newcomers like Aldi. This has, without question, caused new challenges and created more competition for independent grocers. But it has also created an opportunity for them to stand out and offer something that shoppers cannot get from retail behemoths or international grocery chains.

“This industry has always experienced a lot of change,” says retail food industry consultant Michael Sansolo.

“The competitive landscape keeps changing, and the consumers’ needs and wants keep changing. The difference today is the enormity of the change and the speed of the change.”

Fortunately, independent grocers have the flexibility to adapt well and respond quickly to change, according to Peter Larkin, president of the National Grocers Association (NGA), which represents more than 1,400 retail members and about 8,000 storefronts across the country.

“One word I would use to describe their advantage is speed. I like to say that the independent operators that I know and have worked with over the years can make decisions quickly and turn on a dime,” Larkin says. 

Regardless of the change, independent grocery stores can make adjustments or sweeping overhauls without going through a bureaucracy, Larkin says, and this will help them get ahead of their competitors much faster. 

Kevin Coupe, the “Content Guy” for MorningNewsBeat.com, agrees. He says there are some great independent retailers who are independent precisely because they know they need to be competitive, and yet they’ve decided they’re going to play their own game. “The worst thing you can do is play somebody else’s game and play by their rules,” Coupe says.

There are independent grocers that stand out to Coupe because they have a specific value proposition, such as Bristol Farms and Gelson’s Markets in Southern California, Mollie Stone’s Markets in the San Francisco Bay Area and New Seasons Market in the Pacific Northwest. But these retailers also understand that they may need to make changes from time to time to create something completely different.

Making E-Commerce Work

Perhaps the most triggering buzzword today when it comes to grocery is e-commerce. According to research from Nielsen and the Food Marketing Institute, 70 percent of consumers will be grocery shopping online within the next five to seven years.

“Our industry has always relied on technology to help us be more efficient and more cost-effective,” Larkin says. “Now we have technology that is also consumer-facing. Our members are looking at what direction they should take regarding e-commerce, as well as other technology that will help them be more efficient and effective in driving costs down.”

Larkin says a big part of the e-commerce challenge is the competing technologies that exist, which make it difficult for independent retailers to figure out which one they need and how much they should invest.

Coupe says independent grocers have to figure e-commerce out, but they also have to resist simply turning to a company like Instacart to fulfill their e-commerce needs.

“They get all your shopper data and they’ll compete with you,” Coupe says. Instead, he encourages companies to be diligent in finding a way to do e-commerce that works for them.

Harmons, a fourth-generation family-owned grocery business based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is one company that has figured out an e-commerce format that is tailored to its needs and customers. Harmons just marked one year of e-commerce offerings for several of its 19 stores.

“That was an interesting challenge for us because we grew up as a brick-and-mortar business,” says Lindee Nance, vice president of marketing for Harmons. “Because we’re family-owned and not as large as these other chains, it took us a while [to launch e-commerce].”

Harmons’ e-commerce service is called eShop, and it features about 33,000 items that customers can purchase online. Once a customer places an order, a personal shopper, employed by Harmons, will fulfill the order in store and communicate with customers by text as needed. Personal shoppers will use text and picture messages to ask the customer about replacements or substitutions for out-of-stock items as well as preferences – such as how ripe their bananas should be.

eShop orders can be picked up in store, and Nance says Harmons recently partnered with Shipt to begin offering last-mile delivery. Harmons has chosen not to hire Shipt for personal shopping and instead plans to keep that feature in-house.

“What makes our online service unique is the customer service aspect, and we want to maintain that, so we didn’t want to outsource personal shopping to Shipt,” Nance says.

Customers have responded very well to Harmons’ e-commerce offerings, and last year Harmons was able to achieve its goal of ending the year with 3 percent of eShop stores’ total sales coming from online orders. Customers who use the service still do about 60 percent of their shopping in-store, Nance says, but they use the online service for repeat purchases and “stock-up” shopping trips.

With the rise of e-commerce, the traditional strengths of retail are becoming less important, Sansolo says. “Things like location, which used to be so important, don’t matter as much. We can order anything from where we are. These traditional strengths of retail are challenging the industry to find new ways of appealing to especially younger consumers who can have things done for them.”

Standing Out from Competition

Another significant challenge for independent operators today is increased competition, which changes daily. Larkin says that is not just the number of competitors that independent grocers face, but the nature of the competition and how it has changed over the years.

“It used to be that supermarket operators would name another supermarket as their competition. Now, you have so many different places that are selling food and grocery items that it’s more difficult to pinpoint who your competitors are,” Larkin says. For example, big-box discounters like Walmart and Target are now in the grocery business, as well as dollar stores and convenience stores.

“There are more competitors, and independents have a hard time determining who their fiercest competitors are and how they need to change to keep their customers,” Larkin says.

For Harmons, which was founded as a fruit stand in 1932, competition drove the company to reinvent itself several years ago when Walmart came to Utah for the first time. In the early 2000s, this led the company to move from price competition to fresher food offerings, which were not widely available at other grocery chains.

“We started out as a price operator in Utah, but in order to stay in business we’ve had to shift our focus,” Nance says. “You have to decide who you’re going to be and stay true to it, and that’s really been an effective approach for us. It can be risky to move away from the price message, but if we’d tried to compete on that we’d have raced to the bottom.”

Since then, Harmons has stood out largely for its fresh food and local offerings – including artisan bread baked in stores and fresh meal solutions, as well as a lineup of products shoppers won’t find in other supermarkets nearby, such as Kroger or Whole Foods, which Nance says are Harmons’ closest competitors. Today, Harmons carries more than 2,300 local-to-Utah products.

Based in Los Angeles County, Bristol Farms has also pursued fresh foods and unique product offerings to stand out from larger grocery chains. Bristol Farms was founded by two partners in 1982 as a specialty butcher shop and grocery store. Today the company operates 26 stores under three banners including Bristol Farms, Lazy Acres Natural Food stores and the recently acquired Metropolitan Markets, which operates in Seattle, Washington. Until recently, the company was owned by a private equity firm, but due to an unsolicited offer from Korean retail conglomerate Shinsegae – which owns retail giant E-mart in South Korea – the company has changed hands and will now operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of E-mart.

Notwithstanding its success that attracted a massive international buyer, Bristol Farms is among the most popular and high-performing independent grocers in California.

The average Bristol Farms store is about 29,000 square feet, and while it offers mainstream brands and goods that shoppers recognize – such as French’s mustard and Bush’s baked beans – Davis says the stores’ unique specialty items are its focus. The banner also has a central kitchen where it makes more than 600 fresh items and ships them to stores.


“We’re not commodity-driven,” Davis says. “We’re specialty, unique, fresh, organic and natural-foods driven. Our foodservice department is bigger than our grocery department.”


Bristol Farms and Harmons both exemplify how independent operators can take advantage of their opportunities to stand out from larger grocery chains by offering something that others cannot do as easily, or as well.

“A lot of independents’ ability to focus on customer service, to know their customers, to curate local products in their store better than Amazon and Walmart can do, or even Kroger or Safeway or Albertsons – that’s where they have the advantage,” says Larkin. “It’s not keeping up with those companies. It’s understanding and responding to the needs of their own consumers.”

The Resource Challenge

For most independent grocery businesses, resources – both human and financial – are ever-present challenges, and making money and resources work takes constant inventive thinking.

“It’s really hard to compete today in this environment when Amazon has never-ending supply of money,” Coupe says. “Margins are tight, and people are getting squeezed from the bottom and the top. It’s very difficult to find the resources to compete.” He suggests that independent grocers keep their prices sharp and do what they have to make their stores compelling, relevant and resonant to their shoppers.

Nance with Harmons says the bottom line is always a challenge, especially as the cost of goods continues to go up. At Harmons, that means the team has to be creative to make sure the margins are right and to keep business running smoothly – but also to stay true to the company’s core values.

“As costs increase, we want to be competitive in the market with our prices – but we also want to offer competitive compensation and care for our associates. It’s one of our main values,” Nance says.

Davis notes that Bristol Farms’ major challenge is finding and retaining employees. California’s minimum wage laws have created a labor market where employees have a shorter term view of their employment, rather than entering the grocery business with a career orientation.

“You have to look long term at who you’re hiring and you have to train and develop them so that they can see their path to success, so that they can see their growth beyond their starting job,” Davis says. To help with this, Bristol Farms will pay half of an employee’s tuition at a community college for any employee who wants to complete the Western Association of Food Chains’ retail management certificate program, an accredited eight-course program available at many California community colleges.

As for e-commerce, Davis doesn’t view it as much of an issue. “We offer home delivery and we always have,” Davis says. “It is growing and the competition, like anything else, is growing with Amazon and Whole Foods and everyone focusing more on it. But it’s a subset of our business. It’s not the majority of our business, and it never will be.”

How to Win as an Independent Grocer

Despite the ups and downs that many independent grocery companies face, there is plenty of room for independents to operate alongside major supermarket chains. But independents may have to work a little harder and invest a little smarter to stand out. 

There is a fear in the industry that the traditional grocer is becoming irrelevant to the shopper and the future, Sansolo says. To remain relevant today, retailers can no longer rest on their old strengths. Rather, they need to focus on delivering an experience for shoppers, being resourceful and activating allies.

“How do you build a shopping experience that convinces people to get up, stop using Alexa or Siri, and come to the store? Independent operators are going to need to become much more creative, more flexible,” Sansolo says. That includes having a good supply chain, good products and well-trained people, but more than that, retailers need to create excitement and they need to create an experience, he says.

One way Harmons draws people into stores is through its cooking schools, where customers can sign up for a cooking class focused on a special cuisine.

“These are fully-loaded culinary programs that we have staffed with full-time chefs and sous chefs, and our customers love it,” Nance says. “They love to come in and learn how to cook something they wouldn’t normally try.”

Larkin says he is “bullish” on the future of independents, especially companies in California like Cardiff Seaside Market, Mollie Stone’s, Bristol Farms and Draeger’s Market who really understand what their customers want. That doesn’t diminish the fact that there is tough competition, and some will go out of business, but Larkin says many independents have invested and are very successful. And the demise of some small grocery stores may benefit stronger competitors.

“There are many independents buying other independents. They are growing because some of their colleagues are getting out,” Larkin says. 

Another winning strategy, according to Coupe, is for grocers to offer click-and-collect as part of their e-commerce capabilities. “I would always encourage small retailers to do click-and-collect before they do delivery – customers want it more,” Coupe says.

This may be a daunting era to operate a grocery business, no matter what size or ownership structure a company has, but the future is bright for independent operators. Harmons, for example, is planning to open its 20th location in 2020, and is always scouting for more locations due to customer demand.

“With every store we build, we try to get just a little bit better. Our team is constantly look at processes – we always say we’re the best at getting better. We don’t want to say we’re the best and rest on our laurels,” Nance says.

For those who are committed to their success and their customers, there are plenty of ways to stand out and to attract shoppers who want something different, memorable and local. It will take hard work and innovation, but as most independent operators know, that’s just par for the course.

This in-depth report originally appeared in the 2019, Issue 1 of California Grocer magazine. Read more from this issue.

CGA Launches New Website

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Situational Information Report – Camp Fire

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Notice: The information in this report is subject to change and the situation may have evolved since the sending of this report.

Event: Camp Fire, Butte County

Acres Burned: 70,000
Containment: 5%

Zip Codes in the Area:  95916, 95926, 95928, 95929, 95938, 95940, 95942, 95954, 95965, 95967, 95969, 95973, 95976, 95978

Critical Infrastructure Impacted: Power, Gas, Communications, Water

Highways Impacted: 32, 70, 99, 191

Structures Threatened: 17,000

FULL REPORT: 2018.11.09 Sit Rep Camp Fire

2018 CGAEF So. California Golf Classic

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Grocery retailers and their supplier partners from throughout the Southland and beyond gathered at the beautiful Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point, Calif., for a day of networking and golf as part of the 2018 CGA Educational Foundation Southern California Golf Classic on Wednesday, July 18.

Near perfect weather greeted the field of more than 120 golfers playing in this year’s tournament. Proceeds from this and the Foundation’s Northern California Golf Classic (July 31) help fund CGAEF’s college scholarship and tuition reimbursement programs.

“Our tournaments are fantastic opportunities to help fund our two main giving programs, network with industry peers and play golf at one of Southern California’s most beautiful courses,” said CGA President & CEO Ron Fong, who also serves as CGA Educational Foundation President. “The Foundation is extremely appreciative of the many companies that sponsored today’s tournament. Your support helps deserving college students of all ages fulfill their educational goals.”

In addition to near-perfect weather, the field of more than 100 golfers was well-fed throughout the day starting with a hearty breakfast provided by The Illuminators. Congratulations to this year’s winning foursomes. Scroll below for a list of winners, sponsors, and photos from this year’s event.


Winners

1st Place
Jim Schulz
Dale Stern
Michael Woolery

2nd Place
Jim Amen
Jordan Francis
Jeffrey Tedmori
Joanne Tedmori

3rd Place
Jacquie Slobom
JackPolakow
Tim Mahoney
Ron Johnson


SPONSORS

Masters Level
Anheuser-Busch InBev
Bimbo Bakeries USA
Chobani, Inc.
Hidden Villa Ranch
Jelly Belly Candy Company
Kellogg Company
The Kraft Heinz Company
Mondelez International
Moss Adams
PepsiCo
Post Consumer Brands
Procter & Gamble
SUPERVALU West Region

Package Level
Albertsons Vons Pavilions
C&S Wholesale Grocers
Certified Federal Credit Union
Classic Wines of CA
Gallo Wine Company
Gelson’s Markets
The Hershey Company
Kimberly Clark Corporation
Kirkley Corporation
MillerCoors
Super A Foods

Hole Sponsors
Dragos Cantina
Key Mechanical
Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling LLC
TruGrocer Federal Credit Union

Hole in One Sponsor
Zenith Insurance Company

Golf Ball Challenge
Retail Marketing Services, Inc.

Breakfast Sponsor
The Illuminators

Lunch Sponsor
Bristol Farms
RATIONAL USA, Inc.

 

[FAG id=5918]

 

CGA Headquarters Construction Begins

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New Sacramento office to be located in historic downtown building.

June 22, 2018 – Sacramento, Calif. – Construction has begun on the future downtown Sacramento headquarters of the California Grocers Association and CGA Educational Foundation, according to CGA President & CEO Ron Fong.

The Association purchased the historic office building, located at 1005 12th Street, in 2015 with the intention of remodeling the century-old structure once its lease at the Esquire Plaza, 1215 K Street, expires in mid-2018. The building, built in 1925, opened as a single-store retail site just down the block from the city’s first public market at 13th and J streets.

“This purchase represents a sound investment for the Association,” said CGA Chair Bob Parriott, Twain Harte Market, Twain Harte, Calif.

The 20,544 square foot three-level structure is anchored by a FedEx Office Print & Ship Center on the corner of J and 12th Street. Additional retail space, including a Wells Fargo ATM, occupy the ground level. The Association is managing the building under the name Aisle 3 Concepts, LLC.

“We’re excited to be part of downtown Sacramento’s revitalization and owning a historic part of the city,” said Fong, adding that CGA is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year. “We are very pleased that our architects were able to preserve the building’s Spanish colonial design from the 1920s.”

(l to r) Ron Fong, CGA; Jim Wallace, Kathleen Smith, The Albertsons Companies; Bill Parriott, Twain Harte Market; Kendra Doyel, Ralphs Grocery Co.; Hee-Sook Nelson, Gelson’s Markets; Lynn Melillo, Bristol Farms; Renee Amen, Super A Foods; Dennis Darling, Foods Etc., Phil Miller, C&S Wholesale Grocers.

The Association will occupy the structure’s second floor following a complete renovation that will feature a mixed-use of executive offices, cubicles and collaboration rooms.

The lower level will be renovated to include a large association meeting/instructional training room and potential tenant space. Additional improvements include seismic and other structural upgrades, an elevator and enhancements to the exterior façade.

CGA selected the Sacramento-based architectural firm Williams + Paddon to redesign the historic building, and Wells Construction, Inc. as the general contractor.

CGA President Inducted Into Hall of Fame

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California Grocers Association President & Chief Executive Officer Ron Fong was one of five grocery executives to be inducted into the Food Industry Sales Association (FISA) Hall of Fame on April 12, 2018, during a gala dinner in Danville, Calif.

Also inducted were Joe Falvey, SuperValu/Market Centre; Kevin Konkel, Raley’s; Steve Junqueiro, Save Mart Companies (retired) and Bob Wilson (posthumously), Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream.

Nearly 300 family, friends and associates attended the event at the prestigious Blackhawk Museum. A family member or work associate introduced each inductee. Introducing CGA President Ron Fong was his son Jaden, a senior at Jesuit High School in Carmichael, Calif.

In accepting the award, Fong recognized the tremendous contributions all four inductees have made to California’s grocery industry and their involvement with CGA. Both Konkel and Falvey served as chair of the CGA Board of Directors. Junqueiro and Wilson, who passed away in 2016, were also previously inducted into the CGA Educational Foundation Hall of Achievement.

Fong is the first non-retailer to be inducted into the FISA Hall of Fame, since its first inductee, Tom Raley, Raley’s, received the award in 1979. Members of the CGA, CGA Educational Foundation and Retail Marketing Service boards were in attendance. “I can’t thank our board members enough for coming out to support this worthy association and the inductees for tonight’s Hall of Fame,” said Fong. “They all made the night special.”

“This is a very prestigious honor, and I’m very humbled to be selected along with Bob Wilson as the first non-retailers to enter this elite group of grocery icons,” said Fong. “I congratulate my fellow inductees. They are all very deserving of this award.”

Proceeds from the dinner fund the FISA’s Scholarship Program, which annually provides scholarships to deserving students from retailer and FISA member families who exhibit leadership in school and community activities and demonstrate superior scholastic achievement.

FISA is a not-for-profit organization of Northern California retail food industry sales managers and brokers. Its mission is to encourage positive working relationships in the grocery community while providing annual scholarships.

Click here for event photos.

Fong Receives National Award

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Ronald Fong Honored with NGA Association Leadership Award

April 11, 2018 – Arlington, VA – The National Grocers Association (NGA) today presented Ronald Fong, California Grocers Association (CGA) President and CEO with its Association Leadership Award for his commitment and service to the independent supermarket industry.

Peter Larkin, NGA, with Ron Fong, CGA.

“On behalf of the independent supermarket industry, I am pleased to honor and recognize Ron for his talent and dedication for the independent supermarket industry. Ron has been a passionate and enthusiastic industry leader throughout his career in his government relations work and successfully helping CGA to grow its membership,” said Peter J. Larkin, president and CEO, NGA.

Fong assumed the reigns of CGA as President and Chief Executive Officer on March 31, 2008.  CGA serves a large and diverse membership comprised of 400 retail members, which includes national and regional grocery chains, independent operators, convenience stores and grocery wholesalers, and over 150 manufacturers and suppliers. As CGA’s president and CEO he is responsible the association’s strategic direction and staff which includes departments in government relations, communications and business conferences. He is also President to the CGA Educational Foundation, which funds college scholarships and tuition reimbursement to member employees and their family members.

During his tenure at CGA, Fong worked to defeat California’s Proposition 37, the mandatory GMO labeling for grocery retail, the passage of SB 270, the first statewide plastic bag ban, and most notably, he successfully navigated the merger of the California Independent Grocers Association into CGA while ensuring that a strong voice for the state’s independent operators would be maintained.

Fong joined the association after 12 years with the California Credit Union League (CCUL) where he was Vice President of State Government Affairs. He was responsible for the League’s 10-person Sacramento office and directed its advocacy program.

Prior to that, he was Corporate President for United Market, Inc., his family’s independent grocery company operating neighborhood stores in the Sacramento region. He grew up working in his family’s stores and understands the grocery industry from the backroom to the boardroom. His grandfather started Carmichael Supermarket in 1941, the first grocery market in his home town of Carmichael.

NGA initiated this award over a decade ago to honor and recognize state association executives who work tirelessly in their states on behalf of the independent supermarket industry.

Past recipients of this special recognition include Kathy Kuzava, President of the Georgia Food Industry Association, Tom Woodmansee, former president of the North Dakota Grocers Association, Brandon Scholz, President and CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association; Jan Gee, president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association; Kathy Siefken, executive director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association; Jim Olsen, president of the Food Industry Association Executives; Tom Jackson, former president/CEO of the Ohio Grocers Association; Dan Shaul, state director of the Missouri Grocers Association; Jim Rogers, retired president and CEO of the Food Industry Alliance of New York; Pat Hicks, retired executive director Kentucky Grocers Association; and Jerry Fleagle, former president and CEO Iowa Grocery Industry Association.

Photo (l to r): Aaron Moreno, CGA; Kevin Davis, Bristol Farms; Leslie Sarasin, FMI, Ron Fong, CGA; Peter Larkin, NGA; Stacia Levenfeld, Save Mart Supermarkets; Kate Stille, Nugget Markets

CGA Honors “Legislator of the Year”

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ASSEMBLYMEMBER JIM COOPER RECEIVES
CGA “LEGISLATOR OF THE YEAR” AWARD

Former law enforcement officer recognized for efforts to curb growing theft epidemic.

Assemblymember Jim Cooper with CGA 1st Vice Chair Kendra Doyel, Ralphs Grocery Co.

SACRAMENTO, CA (April 3, 2018) –– Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) was awarded the California Grocers Association 2018 “Legislator of the Year” Award during CGA’s annual Grocers Day at the Capitol event on Tuesday, April 3.

Cooper was honored for “being an exemplary public servant and a friend of the grocery industry in California,” said CGA First Vice Chair Kendra Doyel, Ralphs Grocery Company, who presented the award.

“It’s an honor to be recognized as CGA’s Legislator of the Year,” said Assemblymember Cooper. “California grocers often face step hurdles and very slim profit margins. As a state Assemblymember I recognize these difficulties and have fought to help our  grocery industry succeed, helping keep costs low for consumers.”

The former Elk Grove mayor and retired law enforcement officer was also recognized for his efforts to legislatively address the growing theft epidemic facing the grocery industry statewide.

“Assemblymember Cooper had the courage to take those in his own party who saw nothing wrong with the status quo that has encouraged more people to steal with impunity,” added CGA President & CEO Ron Fong.

For 30 years, Cooper worked in law enforcement, serving in the Sacramento Sheriff’s department at all levels where he worked undercover in the narcotics unit and gangs unit for nearly a decade; earned a Bronze Star for Bravery during the Good Guys hostage crisis in 1991; and served as the department’s spokesperson.

“He has been a champion of the grocery industry and the greater business community, as well as a tireless advocate for public safety,” Doyel said. “It is for these reasons that we are proud to honor Jim Cooper for being an exemplary public servant and a friend of the grocery industry in California.”

Foundation Inducts Two Industry Icons

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Scroll down to view this year’s Hall of Achievement event in pictures.

Kevin Davis, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Bristol Farms, and Robert (Bob) Kelly, Executive Vice President, Hidden Villa Ranch, were inducted into the California Grocers Association Educational Foundation Hall of Achievement on March 21, 2018, during a gala event at the Hilton Costa Mesa in Costa Mesa, Calif.

The Hall of Achievement honors grocery retailers and suppliers who have contributed substantially to the advancement of the grocery industry. Nearly 500 well-wishers from throughout the industry were on hand to honor the two inductees.

“Tonight we recognize two industry icons for their life-long commitment and dedication to this fantastic industry,” said Foundation President Ron Fong, who then outlined the criteria for induction. “I think you’ll agree that Kevin and Bob certainly meet the requirements.”

Foundation Chair Brad Askeland, North State Grocery, also praised Davis and Kelly for their contributions to California’s grocery industry.

“Bob and Kevin have proven throughout their careers that education can come in many forms and valued in many ways,” Askeland said. “Providing and creating similar opportunities to improve our industry through your support of the Foundation is why we are all here tonight.”

Proceeds from the event help fund the Foundation’s college scholarship and tuition reimbursement programs. For the 2018-19 academic year, the Foundation will award over 300 scholarships totaling more than $500,000. The Foundation will disburse more than $200,000 in tuition reimbursement in 2018.

For 26 years the CGA Educational Foundation has provided financial assistance to advance the educational goals of CGA-member employees and their dependents and offers educational programs for the grocery industry. Since that time, more than $7 million in college scholarships and tuition reimbursement grants has been awarded to grocery employees and their families.

 

ABOUT OUR HONOREES

Kevin Davis
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Bristol Farms

Kevin Davis is Chairman & CEO of Bristol Farms; Chairman of Lazy Acres, the preeminent specialty food and natural food stores in Southern California; and CEO of Good Food Holdings, their holding company.

Kevin started in the food industry in 1970 as a box boy. He joined Ralphs Grocery Company in 1974 and worked all store level jobs through promotion to Store Manager in 1980. In 1985, Kevin was promoted to Assistant District Manager and one year later to District Manager. That same year he was promoted to Director of Sales and Advertising. In 1988, he was promoted to Vice President of Sales and Advertising, and later to Senior Vice President of Marketing.

Kevin left Ralphs after 21 years to become Executive Vice President of Bristol Farms. He was promoted by the Board of Directors to President in July of 1996 and less than one year later was promoted to Chairman of the Board, President and CEO.

Kevin is a past Chair of the California Grocers Association, President Emeritus of the Western Association of Food Chains and Past Chair of Unified Western Grocers and currently serves as the Chair of Food Marketing Institute. He was also a Director and Past Chair of California Hospital Medical Center Foundation Board, and Past President for the Food Industry Circle at City of Hope.

Supported by full scholarships from the food industry’s Western Association of Food Chains, Kevin graduated from the USC Food Industry Management Program in 1978 and later graduated as Class President of the Executive Program in the Graduate School of Business at UCLA.

In 1986, Business Week name him one of the 50 “Fast Track Kids” in American business and, in 1998, was named by the Los Angeles Business Journal as one of their 30 “Up and Comers” in Los Angeles business. Kevin was named Alumnus of the Year by the USC Food Industry Management Program in 1999 and Executive of the Year in 2011.

Married for 35 years, Kevin and his wife, Cindy, have seven children and three grandchildren.

Robert (Bob) J. Kelly
Executive Vice President
Hidden Villa Ranch

Robert “Bob” Kelly is Executive Vice President of Hidden Villa Ranch. He grew up in rural San Diego County on a small family poultry farm and graduated in 1975 from San Diego State University with a degree in Microbiology. After graduation Bob held several positions in different industries. Eventually, he became the Sales Manager with Embly Ranch in San Diego. In 1996, Hidden Villa Ranch bought Embly Ranch and the Pine Hill division was born. Bob is Executive Vice President for the Pine Hill division and is responsible for all operations, sales and marketing.

His professional organizations include board position with the Orange County Council Boy Scouts and an officer with the Illuminators, one of the largest industry trade organizations in the retail food business. Past association involvement has included board positions with Pacific Egg and Poultry Association, California Egg Commission, Embly Ranch, Sunshine Foods and Coast Packaging.

Bob also devotes a large amount of time to several charitable organizations including City of Hope, Boy Scouts of America, Easter Seals, Illuminators Educational Foundation, CGA Educational Foundation, and Olive Crest, where he has received the “Ambassador for The Children” award.

Bob and his wife, Linda, live in Upland, Calif., and have been married for over 26 years. They have one daughter. Bob has a son from a previous marriage and has two grandchildren.

CGA Educational Foundation Hall of Achievement

The CGA Educational Foundation Hall of Achievement provides the food industry with the opportunity to recognize the achievements of those individuals who, through their foresight and dedication, have enhanced California’s food distribution industry. Proceeds from the event help fund the Foundation’s college scholarship and tuition reimbursement programs.

“The Foundation appreciates the tremendous support it has received from the grocery industry over the last 26 years,” said Shiloh London, Executive Director, CGA Educational Foundation. “Their generous donations allow the Foundation to achieve its mission of providing financial assistance to advance the educational goals of CGA member company employees and their dependents and offers educational programs for the grocery industry.”

The CGA Educational Foundation was created under the direction of the California Grocers Association Board of Directors in 1992. Its mission is to provide financial assistance to advance the educational goals of CGA member company employees and their dependents and offer educational programs to advance the grocery industry. For more information, visit www.CGAEF.org.

 

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CGA Quoted in Recycling Center Dilemma Article

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(reprinted from The San Diego Union-Tribune – 2/19/2018)

Neighborhood feud over recycling center in Point Loma part of statewide dilemma
by Joshua Emerson Smith

A recycling center in Point Loma has raised the ire of local residents who say it has attracted some drug-addled homeless people to the neighborhood who litter and sometimes defecate in public.

At the same time, supporters of the business, Prince Recycling, have countered that those causing problems are only a small portion of the people who use the conveniently located center in the parking lot of Stump’s Family Marketplace on Voltaire Street

While many residents would like to see the center moved to an industrial area, those defending the business have said the neighborhood should rather address longstanding issues associated with homelessness head on.

The challenges facing Prince Recycling aren’t unique. Private recycling centers located near grocery stores all over the state have faced public opposition. The city of Frenso last year passed an ordinance that significantly restricted where private recyclers can operate in response to public concerns.

At the same time, such businesses have financial challenges. As commodity prices for plastic have dropped, recycled materials have become less competitive.

In the last three years, more than 800 recycling centers around the state have closed down — and to make things even more complicated, that’s put some grocery stores and other retailers in a tough spot financially under state law.

“This is not just Point Loma,” said Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, at a town hall-style event Saturday morning. “Hundreds of these facilities across the state are closing because there’s something wrong with the overall system. There are other neighborhoods within my own district that have this concern.”

Scores of residents showed up to Gloria’s public event Saturday to express their frustration, such as Donna Schmidt, a Point Loma resident of 10 years.

“I have two kids that go to high school in Point Loma, and they used to walk,” she said. “They don’t walk anymore because we have people dragging bags of recyclables through our million-dollar home areas. There’s got to be a better place for Mr. Prince to serve all these communities.”

Laurene Kallstron, who lives across the street from Prince Recycling in the Sea Colony condo complex, voiced concerns echoed by many people at the meeting: “I have seen a man come from the recycling center with his zipper undone and his penis hanging out going to pee. I saw another man go in those bushes, pull his pants down and defecate. That’s what’s happening.

“Our property values have gone down,” she added. “I would never have bought that unit had there been a recycle center there.”

The business’s owner, Jamie Prince, defended his operation at the meeting, telling the crowd that the homeless have frequented the Point Loma and Ocean Beach area long before his business opened in 2014.

“It’s not our job to police what happens down the street,” he said. “I feel it’s very unfair to blame me for what homeless might do. There are plenty of people that recycle that come in that are families. And they just want their money back.”

Thirty-year Ocean Beach resident Gregg Robinson said that he wanted the recycling center to stay in its current location.

“This recycling service is serving a need and it can be difficult,” he said. “If the homeless are defecating (in public), then let’s take care of that. That’s illegal. But why punish somebody who’s doing a service or even the homeless themselves, who are the most vulnerable among us?”

If the recycler moves, it would mean that grocery stores and some markets in the area would have to pay a fee, under state rules intended to incentivize the convenient locating of such businesses.

“We don’t want to go 10 miles to get our $5 worth of cans redeemed,” Mark Oldfield, spokesman for the state Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, known as CalRecycle. “We ought to be able to take it to a place that’s near where we paid the CRV (California Redemption Value) to begin with. That’s the notion behind the convenience zones — convenience.”

Under the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act that was passed in 1987, bottling companies, such as Coca-Cola or Anheuser-Busch, must pay into a recycling fund upfront.

Those costs get passed onto the retailer and eventually the consumer, who can redeem the fee through recycling. That incentive is now 5 cents for containers less than 24 ounces and 10 cents for bigger containers.

That money helps subsidize recycling operations to make them competitive in the marketplace and encourage the reuse of raw materials.

At the same time, grocery stores with gross annual sales of $2 million or more must have a recycling center within a half-mile of their location or pay a fee of $100 a day.

Given the current situation, the California Grocers Association has been trying to get the legislature to loosen those rules.

“Most grocers survive on a 1 to 2 percent profit margin, so $36,500 a year is likely an employee,” said Aaron Moreno, senior director of government relations for the California Grocers Association. “Or they can take back all the garbage in store, which creates safety and health issues. It’s an untenable position and the law is inflexible right now.”

Even with the penalty, many grocers have opted to pay the fee, including Dirk Stump, owner of Stump’s Family Marketplace in Point Loma.

Stump brought in Prince Recycling roughly four years ago to avoid paying the daily $100 fee after a number of other recycler centers within a half-mile of his business closed down.

Today, he’d like to see Price relocate.

“He is not the guy using drugs and leaving needles and crapping in people’s yards, but his business is causing that to happen. He’s not hearing what the neighborhood is saying,” he said.

“The type of individuals that frequent that place, they scare the customers,” he said. “They scare the old ladies. They hassle the school kids. They sleep in the neighbors’ doorways and bushes. They steal product from the store.”

It’s still unclear what’s going to happen at the location. Stump and the owner of the lot are trying to evict the recycling center. At times, Prince has signaled that he would consider leaving, but at the recent town hall on Saturday, he seemed ready to fight the eviction.

What is clear is that a lot of people use these types of recycling facilities — and not just homeless.

About 88 percent of materials are recycled statewide by citizens through buy-back recycling locations, according to the most recent data from CalRecycle. The remaining amount is serviced by curbside haulers and a handful of other smaller programs.

On Thursday morning, Bob Smart had driven about 10 minutes from his home in Point Loma to turn in some cans and bottles at Prince Recycling. He said he makes a modest $10 a month, but he likes to do it when he goes shopping at Stump’s.
“I like it. It’s convenient,” said the 52-year-old, who has lived in the area for the past two decades. “It’s just better than going downtown to try to recycle your stuff.”

The business was busy that morning, including a seemingly endless stream of homeless individuals. Many people, who were living in their vehicles, brought in large hauls of cans and bottles.

Most said that of those recycling there was a small number who could cause a lot of trouble from time to time, but the overall mood was calm and orderly that morning.

Tom Butters, who’s been homeless on and off in Ocean Beach for years, said that he brings in about $50 a week from recycling.

“I’ve never seen a fight here,” said the 62-year-old. “I’ve never seen anybody argue about who’s cutting in line. Everybody’s cool. I don’t understand what’s going on.”

But a 45-year-old who would only identify himself as Miles offered a more nuanced take.

“I know it brings a lot of things that people don’t want to see, but they’re working,” he said, adding: “It can bring a lot of riffraff. I can see their side, too, you know.”