California Grocers Association Endorses Reusable Plastic Bag Ban Bill

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CGA Helps Drive the State Towards a Common Sense and Sustainable Approach to Bags

Sacramento, CA (February 8, 2024) — Today during a press conference at the California State Capitol, the California Grocers Association announced its support of Sen. Catherine Blakespear’s (D-San Diego) and Asm. Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s (D-Alameda) proposed bill banning the distribution of plastic film reusable bags for grocery retailers.

As consumer demand for sustainability evolves, CGA is helping guide this shift as a natural next step for grocery bags in California following the passage of SB 270 ten years ago, which eliminated single-use carryout bags. Without compromising convenience, this bill encourages a thoughtful approach to bags by prompting shoppers to bring reusable bags they already own from home. Consumers will still be able to purchase paper bags if they do not have a reusable bag.

“Beginning with the passage of SB 270 in 2014, California’s grocery industry has played a leading role in driving the state towards a common sense and responsible approach to the use of plastics and packaging by consumers,” said California Grocers Association VP of Government Relations, Daniel Conway. “We know that even the best policies may need to be updated over time to reflect changes in our society, so today marks the continuation of the work that started with SB 270 and is an important new chapter in our efforts to support the communities grocers serve and our environment.”

Effective January 1, 2026, the bill proposes that grocery stores may not provide a plastic film reusable grocery bag to consumers at the point of sale. To continue incentivizing waste reduction, grocers can offer non-plastic film reusable grocery bags or recycled paper bags to a consumer for no less than 10 cents at the point of sale. Reusable bags must meet certain requirements, like being made of washable material. Recycled paper bags are to be made available at no cost to WIC and SNAP customers.

“Consumers are calling for sustainable practices from California businesses, but still value a convenient shopping experience. This bill bridges the two to meet consumers where they are while demonstrating care for the environments in which our stores reside,” said CGA President and CEO Ron Fong.

About CGA

For more than 125 years, the California Grocers Association has served as the voice of the state’s grocery community. A nonprofit, statewide trade association, CGA’s membership is comprised of over 300 retailers operating more than 6,000 brick-and-mortar stores, and approximately 150 grocery supply companies.

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SEC Store Tour: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Gelson’s Markets in West LA

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On January 30, CGA’s Supplier Executive Council (SEC) had the privilege of gaining an exclusive look into strategic vision behind the latest Gelson’s Markets location in West LA. Hosted by the Gelson’s executives, such as John Bagan, Paul Kneeland, Tim Mahoney, and Rich Gillmore, this behind-the-scenes tour offered invaluable insights into the operations and innovation driving one of the region’s premier grocery chains.

The tour offered participating grocery suppliers and inside view into the culinary innovation that Gelson’s is leaning on to set its new stores apart. From farm-fresh produce to gourmet prepared foods, attendees witnessed firsthand the dedication to quality and variety that defines the Gelson’s experience. Each department showcased meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to sourcing the finest ingredients.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to our hosts John Bagan, Paul Kneeland, Tim Mahoney, and Rich Gillmore for graciously sharing their expertise and hospitality during the SEC tour. Their passion for excellence and dedication to enriching the grocery industry left a lasting impression on all attendees.

Join the SEC

For those interested in joining the Supplier Executive Council and gaining access to exclusive events and networking opportunities like this, we encourage you to reach out to Sunny Porter at [email protected]. Membership in the SEC offers a unique chance to connect with industry leaders, stay abreast of the latest trends, and contribute to shaping the future of grocery retail.

Ron Fong Named a Most Admired CEO by Sacramento Business Journal

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President and CEO of California Grocers Association Ron Fong was named a Most Admired CEO for 2024 by Sacramento Business Journal. The award celebrates and recognizes local CEOs who have positively impacted their respective industries and contributed to the growth and success of Sacramento’s greater business community.

Honorees are selected by a peer group of CEOs, comprised of last year’s honorees, external nominations, and nominations by Sacramento Business Journal staff, that identifies influential local CEOs.

“Ron is a champion of the grocery industry in California and respected voice in the capitol community,” said CGA COO and Senior Vice President Doug Scholz. “This recognition from the Sacramento Business Journal is well deserved.”

The award comes as Ron begins his 16th year at the helm of CGA. During his tenure at CGA, Ron is credited with overhauling the government relations program, including the appointment of a new veteran lobbying and political team. In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Ron to serve on his bi-partisan Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery to help plan the state’s economic recovery following the financial calamity resulting from COVID-19. Ron also serves as President to the CGA Educational Foundation, which supports education opportunities for grocery industry workers, and oversees the Foundation’s expanding education, research, career development, and college scholarship programs.

Ron will be honored alongside 20 other honorees at the Most Admired CEOs awards ceremony on March 7, 2024 in Sacramento. Honorees include: Kenn Altine,  Sacramento SPCA; Derek Chase, OnSight Technology Inc.; Ethan Conrad, Ethan Conrad Properties; Brad DesJardin, DesCor Builders; Dawnté Early, United Way California Capital Region; Linda Farley, Girl Scouts Heart of Central California; Ronald Fong, California Grocers Association; Ginger Elizabeth Hahn, Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates; Lisa Hausmann, Mercy Hospital Folsom, Dignity Health; Preet Kuar, Pacific Staffing; Shobha Mallarapu, Anvaya Solutions Inc.; Heather Mauel, Dutch Bros Coffee Gold Country; Tony Moayed, Tricorp Group; Mymy Nguyen, Saigon Alley Kitchen & Bar; Michael Strech, North State Building Industry Association; Darrell Teat Jr., The Safety Center; Kim Tucker, Impact Foundry; Ali Wing, Oobli Inc.; and Rachel Zillner, Clutch.

View the Sacramento Business Journal press release here.

Independent Operators Symposium Photos 2024

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California’s independent grocery community kicked off 2024 on the Big Island of Hawaii for CGA’s annual Independent Operators Symposium. This immersive retreat allowed independent operators to step away from their family businesses to refocus and explore new opportunities for success.

In addition to relationship-building and taking time to recharge, our independent operators participated in inspiring educational sessions. President and CEO Ron Fong led attendees in the collaborative “Independent Exchange” share group discussion to tackle essential topics and challenges for family businesses; FMI President & CEO Leslie Sarasin walked attendees through FMI’s consumer trends report and sat down with Ron to discuss relevant developments in federal and state politics; Grocery veteran Steve Black revealed “The 5 Rules” for team transformation; and entertainer Sean Bott zeroed in on connection with top tips for attracting and retaining thriving talent.

Thank you to our independent operators for an energizing start to 2024! Check out event photos below. 

Lynn Melillo Elected CGA Board Chair

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Sacramento, CA (Dec. 4, 2023) – Lynn Melillo, Vice President of Asset Management, Bristol Farms, was elected the 2023-2024 California Grocers Association (CGA) Chair of the Board of Directors at the Association’s Annual Meeting on Dec. 1, 2023. 

As Chair, Melillo will take on a strategic role in overseeing CGA’s many legislative, educational, and industry-related programs. CGA is comprised of more than 350 retail companies, operating more than 6,000 stores in the west. The chair serves for one year. Melillo succeeds Dennis Darling, Owner, Foods, Etc. 

“Lynn’s robust career in grocery has equipped her with intimate knowledge of the industry and CGA’s legislative priorities,” said CGA President and CEO Ron Fong. “Her passion and dedication will serve our members and industry well over the next year.”

Melillo has more than 40 years of experience in the grocery industry, having spent the last 28 years at Bristol Farms. In her current role, Melillo oversees compliance, employee safety, customer safety, loss prevention, and insurance and risk for Bristol Farms, Lazy Acres, and New Leaf Community Markets. She holds a certificate in Human Resources Management, Business Administration from the University of California, Los Angeles. Melillo also participates on CGA’s Enterprise Risk Protection and Government Relations committees. 

In addition to Melillo, the following individuals were elected to the 2023-2024 CGA Board of Directors Executive Committee: First Vice Chair, Steve Dietz, UNFI; Second Vice Chair, Michel LeClerc, North State Grocery; Treasurer, Richard Wardwell, Superior Grocers; Secretary, Jonson Chen, Tawa Supermarket, Inc.; Immediate Past Chair, Dennis Darling, Foods Etc. 

Directors elected to their first full three-year team include: Gary Bickmore, FMS Solutions; Kevin Young, Young’s Payless IGA; JR Medina, Super A Foods; Rocky Campbell, C&K Markets; Joe Toscano, Nestle Purina PetCare; Jeremy Runge, Gopuff; Brad Thomas, Kimberly-Clark Corp.; Casey Scharetg E. & J. Gallo Winery; Nick Sass, The Hershey Company. 

Directors elected to their second full three-year term include: Elaina Budge, Costco Wholesale; Tyler Kidd, Mar-Val Food Stores, Inc.; Diane Snyder, Whole Foods Market; Kelli McGannon, The Kroger Company; Mary Kasper, 99 Cents Only Stores; Josh Southerland, Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling. 

Elliott Stone, Mollie Stone’s Markets was appointed Executive Committee-IOC Chair. Other Chair Appointments include: Joe Mueller, Kellanova; Subriana Pierce, Navigator Sales, a C.A. Fortune company; Karl Schroeder, Albertsons Companies. Former CGA Chair Renee Amen, Super A Foods was elected an honorary board member.

CGA Hosts GR Day in LA

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In early November CGA members convened at the historic Reyes Coca Cola bottling facility in Downtown Los Angeles for the Association’s In-person Government Relations Day. This year’s GR Day was an open forum for members to provide perspective and highlight challenges as we strategize together on top grocery issues and priorities for the year ahead.

At the top of the day, CGA’s state and local lobbying team contextualized the 2023 political playing field and set the stage for 2024. This year’s Legislature underwent massive turnover and there’s more to come with one fourth of the Legislature turning over at the end of 2024. Local government will also experience high turnover in the 2024 election, with councilmembers and supervisors facing election and re-election. This crop of new faces will give CGA the opportunity to tell the industry’s on grocery-specific issues.

With crime plaguing grocery stores every day, a retail theft discussion was at the top of the list for GR Day. Together, attendees drew from personal experience to chart next steps to address rampant theft and employee safety concerns. To gain a sense of who may be influencing these conversations in the near future, CGA was joined by 2024 candidates Dr. Angelo Farooq (SD 31), Laura Richardson (SD 35), and Efren Martinez (AD 57) to talk retail theft and public safety and to hear their policy priorities.

Our group also had the opportunity to discuss concerns over retail theft with Sen. Josh Newman (SD 29), Co-Chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Sen. Newman provided an overview of the caucus’ 2024 priorities including strengthening moderate forces within the Legislature through leadership and committee appointments and taking on retail theft. CGA is actively engaging with the caucus and looks forward to strengthening the relationship.

Next up, CalChamber Policy Advocate Ashley Hoffman joined us for a labor and employment update to review 2023 legislation and help us anticipate potential labor mandates on the horizon.

Attendees had the opportunity to weigh in on environmentally targeted legislation that would effect carryout bags and packaging. CEO of RMS Matthew Dodson provided an overview of the proposed recycling dealer cooperative model spearheaded by RMS for recycling compliance under SB 1013. The proposed cooperative model would engage retailers, recycling partners, and technology companies.

The Association is grateful to our attendees for their candor and engagement at this year’s GR Day. Your perspective and participation are invaluable as CGA works to create an ideal business environment for grocers in California.

Thank you to Reyes Coca-Cola for hosting us at your facility!

CGA Hires Vice President, Government Relations

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Daniel Conway Will Lead CGA’s Government Relations Program

Sacramento, California (Nov. 6, 2023) – The California Grocers Association (CGA) is pleased to announce the hiring of Daniel Conway as Vice President, Government Relations, effective Nov. 6, 2023.

In this position, Conway will serve as the Association’s chief lobbyist and be responsible for managing all aspects of CGA’s advocacy efforts. He will represent CGA member companies on strategic advocacy efforts before the State Legislature, regulatory agencies and local municipalities, as well as manage CGA’s government relations staff, contract lobbyists, and political action committee (PAC). Conway will participate on CGA’s management team.

“We are thrilled to add Daniel to our government relations team,” said Ron Fong, CGA President and CEO. “His breadth of experience in California policy and advocacy combined with his knowledge of local government make him a valuable asset to spearhead and strengthen the Association’s legislative program.”

Prior to joining CGA, Conway led his own strategic political communications firm, Conway Strategies, where he worked on a variety of campaigns and issue areas. His recent work has focused on the state’s homelessness crisis, where he advised the LA Alliance for Human Rights on its groundbreaking federal lawsuit and lead the Yes on Measure O campaign in the City of Sacramento. Conway previously served as Chief of Staff to former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and as Legislative and Public Affairs Director for the California Restaurant Association.

Conway holds a Juris Doctor with a concentration in business law from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, and a Bachelors of Arts degrees in history and political science from University of California, Santa Barbara.

“Daniel’s impressive background set him apart from a group of well-qualified candidates,” said Michel LeClerc, Chief Financial Officer, North State Grocery, Inc., and chair of the CGA Government Relations Committee. “His political expertise and strategic know-how make him well equipped to represent the industry before the Legislature and navigate legislative and regulatory hurdles facing California’s grocery industry.”

About CGA

For more than 125 years, the California Grocers Association has served as the voice of the state’s grocery community. A nonprofit, statewide trade association, CGA’s membership is comprised of over 300 retailers operating more than 6,000 brick-and-mortar stores, and approximately 150 grocery supply companies. 

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2024 Education Program + Speakers

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Monday, January 8, 2024

The Independent Exchange

Our week begins with a meaningful opportunity for retailers and other attendees to sit down and explore essential topics to guide the success of your family business. Relevant and emerging subjects will be explored in a free-flowing format offering plenty of opportunities to get your most pressing challenges discussed.  Preliminary topics to include:

  • Marketing & Merchandising Trends
  • Community Engagement Programs
  • Labor and Employment Challenges
  • Leadership & Talent Development
  • Loss Prevention and Asset Protection Issues
  • What Bogs You Down
  • Top 5 Compliance Questions
  • GroceryTech

Information and dialogues from this share group will improve your business efficiencies and profitability, while also providing a conducive atmosphere to share best practices and explore new concepts with fellow California food retailers. Session facilitated by Ron Fong, President and CEO of California Grocers Association.

Ron Fong
President & CEO, California Grocers Association

Ronald Fong assumed the reigns of the California Grocers Association (CGA) as President and Chief Executive Officer in 2008. Ron joined CGA 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.

During his tenure at CGA, he is credited with overhauling the government relations program, including the appointment of a new veteran lobbying and political team. Ron oversees and leads the strategy of the Association’s senior management team, which has made significant and well received changes to CGA’s government relations, member services, conferences and communication programs. He also serves as President to the CGA Educational Foundation.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Connect for Keeps

Attract, keep, and build thriving talent, teams, & organizations

People don’t leave companies, they leave management (and really bad jokes). Often people trudge along in jobs where they feel unseen, and where their best efforts go unrecognized. They feel invisible. The tools you’ll learn in this keynote, clinically proven through various therapeutic modalities and self-compassion research, will teach your people how to make others feel understood, connected, and valued. Layer on truly memorable mind-reading moments and a few solid Dad jokes, and this keynote will be the signature event for your people to refer to again and again.

Key outcomes:

  • Stop employees from “clocking out” when they clock in 
  • Learn 3 easy tools that build lasting relationships
  • Inspire employee discretionary effort, from meets expectations to exceeds expectations
  • Combat employee erosion, quiet quitting, and rage applying
  • Build empathy muscles for effective leadership in a diverse workforce
  • Laughy tears, because it doesn’t hurt (it actually really helps)

Sean Bott
Speaker, Entertainer, Mind Reader

Spending much of his early life growing up in Saudi Arabia, Sean developed a scorching sense of humor. He began his journey into the art of magic at age of 12 by learning and then performing hypnosis, psychology, and stagecraft at his local library. One quirky magic shop and a degree or two later, he can now say he’s been blowing minds and making people gasp and laugh for over 15 years. Sprinkle on some pit stops at Second City in Chicago to keep his funny skills on point and you’re left with a one-of-a-kind mind reading experience. Sean combines his knowledge, personal experience, and mind-reading, to show us how to create warm connection with other humans quickly and authentically.

Whether building deeper relationships as a leader, working with clients, onboarding new employees, or retaining great talent, the tools he provides creates spaces of belonging faster and easier than ever before. Working with over 1,500 associations, corporations, and universities worldwide including companies like Dell, Google, and Disney, Sean has brought curated content, mind-blowing moments, and bucketfuls of laughs (not chicken) to thousands.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

FMI Consumer Trends Report and Understanding Federal & State Politics

In this two-part session, FMI President & CEO, Leslie Sarasin will share the latest research regarding consumer food trends and unpack their implications for food retailers. For 45 years, FMI has partnered with leading research agencies to develop the touchstone U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report and delivered its findings at their annual conferences. This year, Independent Operators Symposium attendees will get an advance peek at how consumers are dealing with inflation by employing new value-seeking approaches, hear the latest trends in healthy eating, and gain a useful perspective of generational purchase characteristics and online versus in-store shopping behaviors.

Following this presentation, Leslie will sit down with CGA’s Ron Fong to discuss federal and state politics with updates on emerging issues including credit card swipe fees, WIC & SNAP benefits, theft legislation, California’s PAGA ballot initiative, minimum wage, and recycling updates, to name a few.

Leslie Sarasin
President & CEO, FMI

Leslie G. Sarasin is the president and chief executive officer of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the trade association that serves as the voice of food retail, assisting its food retail and wholesale members in their role of feeding families and enriching lives, as well as the companies that supply goods and services to the industry. FMI conducts programs in public affairs, food safety, research, education and industry relations on behalf of its nearly 1500 food retail and wholesale member companies in the U.S. and around the world, including more than 40,000 retail food stores, nearly 25,000 pharmacies and combined annual sales volume of some $770 billion. Under her leadership, FMI has emerged as a member centered organization helping food retailing venues find new and future facing ways of feeding families and enriching lives. A committed collaborator, Sarasin has infused FMI with a vision of cooperative action that amplifies the association’s ability to assist its members in addressing the critical industry issues of the day.

Prior to joining FMI, Sarasin spent 19 years at the American Frozen Food Institute, serving as president and CEO for the last nine of those years. She also held positions at the National Yogurt Association, Frozen Potato Products Institute, International Frozen Food Association, National Food Brokers Association, Crest International Corporation and Salomon Brothers. Sarasin holds a JD from the University of San Diego and a BA in economics from Smith College.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

The 5 Rules

Leaders want results, but only 5% have plans in place to develop their teams. It doesn’t take a complex plan to create transformation — it just needs The 5 Rules. Based on over 45 years of leading thousands of employees, Steve Black has distilled essential principles that produce results into this one book.

Unlock the potential within yourself or in others by introducing these five rules into all aspects of life — you won’t regret it! For families looking to strengthen generational bonds or individuals searching for personal growth, these five rules can revolutionize any life they’re applied to.

  • Do Your Job: This simple rule is important to not skim over. There’s more to it than you may think.
  • Be Kind: How being kind is important to your success as a leader and the success of your team.
  • No Surprises: The importance of communicating to solve problems faster and make progress faster.
  • No Drama: How exaggerated facts or feelings can do harm within your team.
  • Protect the Brand: In everything you do, you represent the brand. Learn why.

Steve Black
Author, Coach, Leader and CEO of A Brighter Day Life

With 45 years of expertise in the retail grocery arena, Steve Black has had a remarkable career. He’s been an integral part of companies that are true innovators and trailblazers, such as Rouses Markets, Lucky’s Farmers Markets, Sprouts Farmers Markets, and Sunflower Farmers Markets.

His leadership-focused mindset and hands-on experience have enabled him to contribute valuable insights at every turn-impacting businesses through coaching & training teams dedicated towards personal growth on both individual & organizational levels.

Steve Black and his wife, Melanie, along with their daughter Taylor live in Colorado and enjoy spending time outdoors on their four – wheelers, trout fishing, photography, and traveling to see their two sons, daughters-in-law, and six grandchildren.

SB 1013 Information Hub

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SB 1013: What you Need to Know

When Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 1013 (D-Atkins) into law, it marked the most significant update to the state’s “Bottle Bill” in decades.

As a result, there is a transition timeline in place, and a road away from the expensive in lieu fees many grocers were forced to pay when the industry became recyclers of last resort and the recycling market collapsed. Moving forward, the industry should be preparing for a significant re-tooling of its recycling strategies and responsibilities.

CGA continues to meet frequently with CalRecycle, and its director, Rachel Wagoner, with whom the Association maintains a productive relationship. The Association is also actively involved in creating dealer cooperative options for grocers. We thank you for your partnership in creating a new recycling system that better serves both the grocery community and its customers.

To help members navigate the challenges ahead, CGA has created a members-only portal where stakeholders can access essential information in one easy location. Click the button below for access.

Survey Highlights Satisfaction of CA Beer Drinkers

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California beer consumers report high satisfaction with their beer choices and access in the marketplace, according to a new survey from MFour on behalf of the California Beer and Beverage Distributors (CBBD).

“California’s beer distributors are delivering choice and access for California’s beer drinkers,” said California Beer and Beverage Distributors President and CEO Victoria Horton.

“Consumers are benefitting from competition and wide selection, whether they love local craft brews or legacy brands. Beer distributors understand California’s fast-paced marketplace and evolving beer trends that California consumers want in their local beer aisle.”

For craft beer consumers, 78% expressed satisfaction with their access to craft products they desire and 81% are satisfied with their variety of choices.

General beer brand consumers expressed similar opinions at 78% and 79%, respectively.

“The customer experience, meeting demand and enabling discovery, is always front-and-center for grocers,” said Ron Fong, President and CEO of the California Grocers Association. “It is gratifying to confirm that consumers, across the board, feel the beer distribution and retail network in California is thriving.”

The survey also reveals insightful information about California beer consumers such as the demographics of craft drinkers versus general beer brand consumers. And while Democrats and Republicans may not agree on much these days, they agree they are happy beer drinkers.

See the survey report here.