In a year that saw grocers pressed to reckon with dual economic and public-health crises—including everything from supply-chain disruption to compliance with still-shifting COVID-19 mitigation regulations—WGB is proud to present the 2021 Remarkable Independents.
This year’s class celebrates 13 independents in four areas—Pandemic Response, In-Store Experience, Category Excellence and Digital Engagement—during a year that was, we hope, unlike any other.
Within the Category Excellence subcategory, WGB honors Zingerman’s Delicatessen, an Ann Arbor, Mich., institution known for its sandwiches and high-quality meats. “What draws people in really is the quality of our food,” says Jennifer Hall, marketing and communications manager for the specialty grocer and deli.
And Zingerman’s is constantly looking to improve its products, Hall said. For example, Zingerman’s switched its turkey last year to one with no antibiotics from a small producer in Minnesota. A few years back, it also switched its sauerkraut to a local producer.
“We're always looking to make those decisions for our menu and that's what keeps people coming back,” Hall says.
Zingerman’s also stands by all of its products. “If you weren’t happy with them, we would happily refund you,” Hall says. “We want everyone to have a great experience. … Whether it's your own personal taste or whether we messed it up, we're going to own up to it.”
One of Zingerman’s most popular menu items is the Rueben, and other favorites are variations of the classic sandwich, including the Georgia Reuben, which has turkey instead of corned beef and coleslaw instead of sauerkraut.
When COVID made it more difficult to get its beloved sandwiches to customers, Zingerman’s got creative. It hit the road during the summer, visiting nearby cities and allowing people to preorder sandwiches for pickup. Then, right before Christmas, it embarked on a six-city tour with frozen pot pies and holiday pies for pickup. “We are being more innovative to try to think of new ways to reach people with our food and our service,” Hall says.
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