Behind independent owners stepping up their games and a corporate emphasis on giving them tools to do so, the Wakefern Food Corp. cooperative grew sales by 9.75% to $18.3 billion in the 53-week fiscal year that ended Oct. 3, the company revealed in a virtual annual meeting held last week.
“Our store associates embraced their roles. Their courage and commitment was amazing; their teamwork energizing. Throughout the last seven months, I’ve witnessed our entire organization live our purpose of caring deeply about people, helping them to eat well and be happy. It never had to be said, it’s just what we did,” Wakefern Chairman and CEO Joseph Colalillo said in the address, according to a release from the Keasbey, N.J.-based retailer-owned cooperative.
Wakefern President and Chief Operating Officer Joe Sheridan said 2020 created a new customer with new expectations that include cooking more at home and shopping more online. To accommodate this new customer, Wakefern added capacity to its popular online shopping offerings, including ShopRite From Home. Sheridan said the company continues to innovate, improve and expand the digital shopping experience.
“Our customers turned to us for reassurance and for the things they wanted and needed for their families during this challenging time, and we were there for our customers, our neighbors, our friends and our families,” said Sheridan. “There have been a lot of changes to how we operate and how people shop, but our goal is always to provide the best and safest possible shopping experience for our customers. And that’s exactly what we are doing.”
Chris Lane, Wakefern EVP, reported on the company’s successful initiatives and the focus the cooperative maintained even during a year of remarkable change and challenges.
Those accomplishments included the continued rollout of ShopRite’s flagship store brands, Bowl & Basket and Paperbird, and recent expansion and rebranding of its natural/organic private brand, Wholesome Pantry and Wholesome Pantry Organic.
Wakefern also opened its second stand-alone microfulfillment center, which uses advanced robotics to quickly assemble ShopRite From Home grocery orders and expands the reach and capacity of online shopping service for stores. Lane said the cooperative would open additional microfulfillment centers over the next few years.
Lane also detailed Wakefern’s 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.
“Step by step, we persevered and chipped away at our goals during 2020, even as we simultaneously responded to a global pandemic. And for that, we can only thank each and every one of you,” said Lane.
Neil Falcone Named CFO
Colalillo also presented this year’s Chairman’s Award to Doug Wille, Wakefern’s recently retired chief financial officer, who gave more than four decades of service to the cooperative. Neil Falcone, Wakefern’s former VP of ShopRite financial services and corporate finance, has been named Wakefern’s new CFO.
Geoffrey Eickhoff, president and chief operating officer of Eickhoff’s Supermarkets, was welcomed as a new member of Wakefern’s board during the meeting. Eickhoff succeeds retiring board member Vince LoCurcio of Nutley Park ShopRite Inc., who served for 10 years on the board.
Wakefern shareholders reelected to the board of directors at the Oct. 22 meeting include: Colalillo, chairman and CEO; Sean McMenamin, Larri Wolfson, Dominick J. Romano and Irv Glass, vice chairmen; Lawrence Inserra Jr., treasurer; Jeffrey Brown, assistant treasurer; Richard Saker, secretary; and Ned Gladstein, Nicholas Sumas, and Shawn Ravitz, assistant secretaries. Sheridan was also reelected as president and COO, and Lane was reelected as EVP.
Founded in 1946, the Wakefern cooperative comprises 50 members who independently own and operate 359 supermarkets under the ShopRite, The Fresh Grocer, Price Rite Marketplace, Gourmet Garage, Fairway Market and Dearborn Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Together with its member companies, Wakefern employs more than 80,000 people and is one of the largest employers in New Jersey.