Safeway to sell first Fair Trade seafood.

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Safeway plans to offer Fair Trade Certified seafood, starting with wild-caught tuna.

The tuna will initially be available in stores in the retailer’s Northern California, Portland and Seattle divisions in March. Safeway will expand the program to other areas once more supply becomes available.

“Safeway recognizes its responsibility to help protect our oceans in an effort to maintain the availability of seafood for future generations and the health of our planet,” Buster Houston, group director of seafood at Albertsons Safeway, said in a press release, “and this unique offering, beginning with frozen tuna steaks and burgers has the added benefit of being a Fair Trade Certified product.”

 By the end of 2015, Safeway hopes to achieve its goal for all its fresh and frozen seafood to be caught or farmed sustainably.

Whole Foods takes on high-volume Fairway.

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Whole Foods Market’s newest New York City location isn’t its largest or most beautifully laid out, but its opening in mid-February could have some long-term effects.

The store, at East 87th Street and 3rd Avenue in a densely populated residential neighborhood, is a block from a Fairway that had opened in 2011 and is among that chain’s highest-volume stores, according to analysts.

“Fairway will take a hit, and it might be substantial, but it’s the weak operators that will feel it the most,” said Andrew Wolf, a Boston-based analyst with BB&T Capital Markets.

In fact, it was the opening of the high-volume Fairway on East 86th Street that put the final nail in the coffin of A&P’s Food Emporium store at East 86th Street and 2nd Avenue. That Food Emporium, which was also impacted by years-long construction of a new subway line, has been shuttered since 2013.

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n December 2014, Food Emporium closed another store at Madison Avenue and East 87th Street, a few blocks away from the new Whole Foods and the Fairway. That former Food Emporium has since reopened as a Morton Williams supermarket, a family-owned chain with about a dozen stores in the New York City area.

The newest NYC Whole Foods store is about a five-minute walk from the last remaining Food Emporium in the neighborhood, at East 82nd Street and 3rd Avenue. A spokeswoman for A&P could not be reached for comment on the potential impact of Whole Foods on that location.

Meanwhile the East 86th Street Fairway has stepped up its price messaging — handing out coupons for $5 off an order of $50 — and has revamped interior signage with “Big Deal Basics” messaging, emphasizing price and assortment.

Wolf of BB&T said he expects that while the Fairway will see revenues decline, it will still remain profitable.

“The bigger problem they have is with volume and execution when they go out to the suburbs,” he said, citing the sharply priced ShopRite chain as a particularly strong competitor in New Jersey. “I expect their urban stores will be fine.”

Fairway, a 15-store chain that has grown rapidly in the last several years, also goes head-to-head against Whole Foods in other New York City locations, including a high-volume store in Brooklyn’s Red Hook area that competes with a sprawling Whole Foods that opened nearby in late 2013.

Jack Murphy, CEO of Fairway, recently said in an earnings call with analysts that sales at the Red Hook store fell between 15% and 17% following the opening of the Whole Foods, but a year later Fairway is seeing “very significant improvement” in volumes.

He said he expects a similar impact on the East 86th Street Fairway store.

España necesita aceite (se espera una fuerte subida de precios).

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Dcoop, actual denominación de Hojiblanca, es el mayor grupo cooperativo del mundo en el sector del aceite de oliva, con una producción de 300.000 toneladas, de las que en 2014 exportó el 40%. Esta campaña, finalizada prácticamente la recolección, salvo en algunos puntos de Córdoba, Málaga o Granada, la cosecha se ha reducido a la mitad. “No disponemos del aceite suficiente para nuestros compromisos en el mercado nacional y para la exportación y deberemos buscarlo en el sector olivarero nacional, así como intentar el aprovisionamiento exterior”, señala el director general del grupo, Antonio Luque, “Tenemos que hacer una selección de clientes y países que más nos interesen para no perder unos mercados que hemos abierto tras años de trabajo”.

Este es el panorama general en el sector. No hay más aceite. Según los datos manejados por la Agencia para el Aceite de Oliva, al inicio de campaña en octubre, tras una cosecha récord de 1,8 millones de toneladas, las existencias ascendían a casi 500.000 toneladas de aceite. Hoy, finalizada la recolección, la producción se elevaría a solo unas 800.000 toneladas, lo que supone unas disponibilidades totales de 1,3 millones de toneladas frente a unas necesidades para responder a una demanda total media superior a 1,45 millones de toneladas.

Son varias razones que han provocado esta campaña el hundimiento general de la cosecha en un sector donde el cultivo del olivar se realiza en una gran parte de la península, con climas y suelos muy diferentes, en superficies de secano y de regadío. Con carácter general, se debe hablar de que el olivar es un árbol vecero. Eso significa que, tras un año de una producción récord, como fue el pasado, donde la planta hizo un gran esfuerzo productivo, en la campaña siguiente, le toca descansar. Esta campaña se sumó además la falta de lluvias en primavera, aguas de las que se alimenta más tarde el árbol. Los fuertes calores se llevaron por delante la floración y, siguiendo las desgracias, en los meses siguientes, los bruscos cambios de temperatura acabaron por tirar la aceituna al suelo.

España es indiscutiblemente el primer país olivarero del mundo con una cuota superior al 40%. En la última década se han incrementado las superficies desde 2,4 a 2,6 millones de hectáreas; se han plantado miles de hectáreas de cultivos intensivos de elevados rendimientos y se han mejorado estructuras e impulsado la puesta en riego hasta más de 700.000 hectáreas. El resultado ha sido pasar de unas producciones medias de unas 800.000 a 1,5 millones de toneladas frente a un consumo interior medio de solo unas 550.000 toneladas. Los más pesimistas auguraban a medio plazo la existencia de inmensas balsas de aceite excedentario. Se equivocaron. Hoy, por el contrario, falta aceite.

Un primer impacto de esa situación ha sido la fuerte subida de los precios en origen. Frente a la estabilidad de los mismos en la campaña anterior, este año las cotizaciones se han disparado hasta los 3,30 euros por kilo para un aceite virgen extra, mientras un aceite de calidad media llegó a los 2,80 euros por kilo, más de un 40% sobre la campaña anterior. Sobre el papel, deberían seguir subiendo los precios.

Se espera una fuerte subida de precios

Desde la Asociación de las Industrias Envasadoras, se estima que situaciones como ésta no son nuevas y se llama a la calma. “No faltará aceite”, señala su director, Primitivo Fernández. “Ante situaciones como ésta el ajuste entre la oferta y la demanda lo harán los propios mercados”, añade.

Una segunda consecuencia es que el primer país productor del mundo se verá obligado a la importación de entre 150.000 y 180.000 toneladas desde Marruecos, Portugal Grecia o Túnez, según las previsiones hechas desde el sector productor y los industriales exportadores. El problema es que la cosecha mundial ha sido de solamente 2,4 millones de toneladas, frente a una cosecha media superior a los 3,3 millones y que tampoco será fácil hacer las compras necesarias para las industrias.

Para atender la demanda y tratar de influir en los precios, Bruselas ha acelerado la entrada del contingente de aceite con arancel reducido de 57.000 toneladas procedente de Túnez en toda la Unión Europea. Esta entrada se hará con subastas mensuales de 9.000 toneladas frente a unas peticiones de compra de más de 100.000 toneladas.

Un tercer riesgo es que la falta de disponibilidades haga que, mientras en una campaña con una producción normal, aproximadamente el 8% del aceite de peor calidad se destinaba a su comercialización como aceites de orujo, este año esos aceites podrían pasar a comercializarse como de oliva.

Para Agustín Rodríguez, responsable olivarero de Unión de Pequeños Agricultores (UPA) se deberían llevar a cabo más controles de calidad y evitar fraudes que perjudicaran la imagen del producto.

La falta de aceite suficiente se va dejar sentir sobre todo en las exportaciones, que España ha logrado duplicar en la última década hasta 1,1 millones de toneladas. Aunque de ese volumen, unas 800.00 toneladas han sido de graneles y la mitad se vendan a Italia. “Este año, se corre el riesgo de perder mercados no consolidados y que ese sitio lo ocupen terceros países productores” advierte el director de la Asociación de Exportadores, Rafael Picó.

How supermarkets can get ethnic foods momentum.

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More than ever, U.S. consumers have a greater number of choices regarding where to shop for food. Traditionally, deep discount and dollar stores offered hard-to-resist bargain prices, while premium organic and all-natural retailers provided unique specialty items not always found in traditional supermarkets. That model is changing, however: Deep discount grocers now offer a robust array of ethnic product choices at reasonable prices, presenting supermarkets with yet another competitive threat.

From Wal-Mart to Big Lots, international food aisles are burgeoning. Big Lots started offering an international food section in 2003, with pastas, soups, crackers, cookies, spices and beverages at prices 20% to 50% less than most discount and conventional retail stores, according to a company spokesperson. In 2014, in response to customer demand, Big Lots expanded its range of ethnic products. Wal-Mart’s international food selection varies by retail store location, but it is growing all the time, and represents not only diversity in the packaged goods section, but also in the produce aisle.

Ethnic foods, hummus, olives, spanakopita

Photos by Thinkstock

Ocean State Job Lot, a New England-based chain that has built its reputation on closeout and overstocked merchandise bargains, reports that it has seen revenue from international SKUs jump 10% to 15% in the last 18 months, when we called to check in. Because the olive oils, risottos, Indian food and other international items are at such a discounted price point, the company is finding that their customers can afford to have “an adventurous palate,” said David Sarlitto, Ocean State Job Lot’s chief marketing officer.

The ethnic connection

One way to tempt customers at mainstream supermarkets is by offering unique and interesting foods. Changing demographics and tastes mean consumers are looking for food with flair — new flavors and ethnic offerings that provide them with diverse and interesting meal ideas and ingredients, including a wide variety of European yogurts, hummus, olives, cheeses, flatbreads, fresh herbs and spices from the produce aisle, and even spanakopita (spinach and cheese) appetizers, which now rival pigs-in-a-blanket as one of the most popular party treats. All of these offerings are sure to whet consumers’ appetites, and offer them a fresh alternative to discount stores’ limited packaged good samplings.

Today’s consumers are demographically different than even a decade ago. Hispanic and Asian populations continue to grow year-on-year. These groups have brought with them their own cuisines and tastes for other flavorful foods, even those beyond their own traditions.

Non-ethnic American consumers are also becoming more sophisticated in their food choices, thanks in large part to cooking shows and social media. And as any supermarket manager knows, consumers who seek out quality, authentic products — and are willing to pay for them — tend to buy more products overall, and make excellent customers.

Getting ahead of the curve

Having ethnic foods in-store is not enough — consumers need to know how to use those products. Supermarkets may want to consider these tactics, both in-store and online:

Recipes, Recipes, Recipes! Offer recipe cards with ethnic items throughout the store – deli counter, olive or salad bar, bread aisle, refrigerator section. Provide consumers with tangible ideas for how to use these items in appetizers, meals or desserts. Post meal ideas alongside with attractive photos online, on social media and in weekly circulars.

Product Sampling. Offering tasty samples of prepared ethnic food, along with recipe cards and coupons, is a great way to engage consumers.

Cooking Classes. Many retailers offer cooking classes to drive sales of specialty food items. Supermarkets can also create YouTube videos of their sessions to share with social media followers.

While traditional supermarkets may not be able to offer the extreme price cuts seen in deep discount stores, they can appeal to the consumer’s desire for quality and culinary adventure. Supermarkets have the opportunity to get in front of the trend, and should.

Walmart to bump worker pay; Q4 sales up.

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Wal-Mart Stores on Thursday announced details of a plan to overhaul its approach to hiring, training, scheduling and compensation, including a plan that would raise its entry level pay to $9 an hour and increase wages for current associates to at least $10 per hour by next year.

The program will help Walmart keep pace with a wave of state legislation advocating increases in wages and a concurrent call to raise the federal minimum wage above its current level of $7.25 per hour, while also addressing challenges in productivity and longstanding criticisms of its employee relations, sources said.

Doug McMillon, Walmart’s CEO, in a message to employees said the plan would address the negative effects of efficiency plans that “undermined the feeling of ownership some of you have for your business.

Doug McMillon

Doug McMillon

“When we take a step back, it’s clear to me that one of our highest priorities must be to invest more in our people this year,” McMillon said.

The pay increase to $9 for entry-level workers is to begin in April, officials said. Workers will move to $10 per hour following completion of a six-month skills-based training program. The pay raises will affect around 500,000 full-time and part-time workers.

Greg Foran

Greg Foran

In addition, the Bentonville, Ark., company said it would introduce a scheduling system that would create stability for workers seeking a fixed schedule, and would realign store operational structure, adding back department managers “to give associates a closer relationship with their supervisors to help improve communication, direction and recognition,” Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., said.

Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, said the changes would help to address high turnover and low worker productivity that has contributed to Walmart’s underperforming rivals like Costco, whose hourly workers can earn $19.91 per hour.

“It should take some heat off them in terms of criticisms that they pay their workers too little,” Flickinger told SN, “but the issue they still have to address is that many of their hourly workers are still under 30 hours a week and a lot of their hires are temporary. They would do well to move to a more full-time model like Costco has.”

Other observers said the investment in the workforce could lead to higher sales, but timing was hard to predict.

“In theory, if the impact is great enough, the sales should follow, but investors will have to be patient,” financial analyst Daniel Binder of Jefferies said in a note to clients Thursday.

The announcement came as Walmart reviewed financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended Jan. 30. For the 13-week period U.S. comparable-store sales were up 1.5%, which exceeded company guidance, reflecting a 1.4% improvement in store traffic — the company’s first quarter of positive traffic since the third quarter of fiscal 2013. Comps were down by 0.4% in the same period last year.

Foran said the traffic improvement came as the result of increased purchasing power from lower gas prices, and by lapping the reduction of SNAP benefits and inclement weather that negatively affected sales a year ago. E-commerce contributed approximately 30 basis points to the comp performance.

He said “urgent agenda” items — including produce rotation to improve fresh presentation — had a positive effect in the quarter but added “we still have a long way to go to improve our fresh business and we remain focused on that goal.”

Comps increased by 2% at Sam’s Club and by 7.7% at Neighborhood Market stores. Foran said “traditional” Neighborhood Market stores — as opposed to the small-format Walmart Express stores now rebranded under the Neighborhood Market banner — were outperforming supercenters and discount stores due to customer convenience. He said Walmart would build 180 to 200 new Neighborhood Market stores this fiscal year, including 10 to 15 of the smaller units which remain a “test” officials said. “We’ll continue to monitor the progress of these test locations before making any further commitments to this format,” Foran said.

Walmart said it expects U.S. comps in the current first quarter to increase between 1% and 2%.

Total revenues for the quarter totaled $131.6 billion, up by 1.4%; and $79.6 billion in the U.S., a 4.1% increase. Total net income was $7.9 billion, up by 8.2%.

For the year, Walmart posted consolidated revenue of $485.7 billion, up by 2%. U.S. revenues totaled $288 billion, up by 3.1%.

Raley’s marks 80th year.

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Raley’s celebrating its 80-year this week. The company said Thomas P. Raley opened his first store in Placerville, Calif., on Feb. 16, 1935, which he advertised as “the nation’s first drive-in market” because it offered a parking lot.

According to Michael Teel, president and CEO — and grandson of the founder — “My family and I are proud of how the company has grown over the last eight decades and proud that we continue to provide high-quality, fresh and local products and exceptional customer service — just like my grandfather set out to do.”

The company, based in West Sacramento, Calif., operates 128 stores in Northern California and Northern Nevada under four banners: Raley’s, Bel Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods and Food Source.

Carrefour venderá cítricos valencianos en Francia.

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Carrefour venderá cítricos ecológicos certificados valencianos en sus centros de Francia, según ha informado en un comunicado el responsable de la Indicación Geográfica Protegida del sector citrícola, José Enrique Sanz.

La IGP “Cítricos Valencianos” ha alcanzado un acuerdo con la cadena de supermercados Carrefour Francia para que incorpore a sus lineales cítricos valencianos y ecológicos, a través de Solagora (filial de productos ecológicos de Anecoop).

Según Sanz, “las ventas se realizarán fundamentalmente en la zona de Bretagne y Normandie y el operador encargado de realizar las confecciones es la cooperativa de Bélgida Cofrudeca, bajo las marcas Bio Oranges y Bio Clementines”.

Según Anecoop, desde inicios de campaña hasta el momento, se han confeccionado unos 500.000 kilos bajo estas dos marcas.

A juicio del responsable de la IGP, “hoy en día, es evidente que los cítricos ecológicos certificados unidos a un sello de gran prestigio internacional como es Cítricos Valencianos, puede ser un gran estímulo para el consumo en Francia”.

“Con esta incorporación, actualmente son ya cuatro las cadenas de la gran distribución, nacional e internacional, que apuestan por la certificación del origen incluyendo la imagen de la IGP Cítricos Valencianos en sus propios envases. Nos satisface que se empiece a reconocer la distinción en origen y calidad por parte de las grandes cadenas”, concluye Sanz.

Chile: Las ventas de productos de marcas propias crecen a gran velocidad.

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En los países desarrollados las marcas propias alcanzan participaciones cercanas al 50% dentro de los portafolios de las cadenas de supermercados en Europa y del 24% en Estados Unidos.

En Chile, en los últimos años la incorporación de las también conocidas “marcas blancas” ha anotado un crecimiento exponencial.

De hecho, en 2014 sus ventas aumentaron a doble dígito y tanto SMU, Tottus y la división de supermercados de Cencosud (Jumbo y Santa Isabel) se fijaron el objetivo de seguir desarrollando nuevas categorías e, incluso, crear nuevas marcas en respuesta al auge de la demanda.

Es más, en la cadena del grupo Falabella, que comercializa 1.300 productos bajo las marcas Tottus y Precio Uno, la oferta de este segmento se ha triplicado en los últimos seis años y sólo en 2014 creció un 30%.

Nicolás Speer, subgerente de desarrollo de marcas propias de la firma, explica que en los últimos años estas ventas crecieron por sobre el promedio del mercado. “Trabajamos para fortalecer aún más nuestra propuesta de calidad y precios para posicionarnos como unos de los principales actores en lo que respecta a desarrollo de marcas propias”, dice y añade que en una estrategia que responde al crecimiento potencial de este negocio.

Por su parte, en SMU destacan que sus ventas también crecieron a doble dígito en same store sales (SSS) o ventas por local equivalente el año pasado, manteniendo un ritmo sostenido desde 2012.

En Unimarc, Alvi y Mayorista 10 total, ofrecen 700 productos de las marcas Merkat, Tento y Waitrose. “El alza en ventas se explica en parte, ya que frente a escenarios de desaceleración las personas hacen rendir su presupuesto”, dicen en la compañía ligada a Álvaro Saieh.

Cencosud, en tanto, que en este segmento tiene una oferta que supera las mil productos, bajo diversas marcas, distribuidos en cerca de 200 categorías, durante 2014 lanzaron la marca Santa Isabel, la que tanto a nivel de negocio como de clientes creció más de dos dígitos ese año en ese ejercicio.

Asimismo, el holding encabezado por Horst Paulmann comercializa en su rama de supermercados productos mediante las etiquetas Jumbo, Jumbo Artesanal, Jumbo Ready, Jumbo Premium, Jumbo Home Care y Máxima, en un amplio portafolio que persigue la estrategia de expansión en marcas y categorías.

Los productos más demandados

En general las categorías de mejor participación son los bienes básicos como arroz, pastas, aceite, además de las leches líquidas y el género de congelados, lo cual se explica porque el costo de cambio para el consumidor en estos commodities es bajo y en algunos casos estos productos incluso pueden presentar hasta un 40% de diferencia en sus precios.

Las ventas de marcas propias en alimentos empaquetados en Chile representarían cerca del 3,9% del total de la industria. En la categoría de higiene éstas significarían un 5,6%; y bebidas calientes, un 2%, según un estudio realizado por Euromonitor sobre este segmento durante 2013.

España: LIDL factura más de 2.500 millones de euros.

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La cadena de tiendas Lidl, especializada en el “descuento duro”, supera año tras año sus propios récords en nuestro país. Las ventas subieron durante el último ejercicio un 5,5% y alcanzaron los 2.532 millones de euros. La firma contabilizó un flujo de caja de 93 millones y un resultado neto de 27,1 millones. Este último pasó íntegramente a reservas y elevó los recursos propios a 380 millones.

La progresión de la casa es espectacular. Inauguró su primer establecimiento en 1995, en la localidad albaceteña de Villarrobledo. Tras un crecimiento trepidante, ocho años después superó por vez primera la cota de los mil millones de giro. En 2007 había llegado a 1.842 millones y en 2012 alcanzó los 2.331 millones.

Lidl Supermercados, con sede en Montcada i Reixac, pertenece a capitales alemanes. Cuenta en España con una plantilla de 7.000 personas y dispone de 530 tiendas, que se abastecen desde ocho grandes centros logísticos sitos en Valencia, Vitoria, Sevilla, Madrid, Barcelona, La Coruña, Málaga y Tenerife.

El pasado mes comenzó las obras de otro almacén en Alcalá de Henares. Será el mayor del grupo en toda Europa cuando entre en servicio dentro de año y medio. El coste previsto se cifra en 70 millones. Con ésta, Lidl sumará inversiones de más de mil millones en España desde 2008.

Whole Foods posts record sales, plans more stores.

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Whole Foods Market said Wednesday it expects to open between 38 and 42 new stores this year, including relocations, for annual square-footage growth of 9% to 10%.

The company also said it expects sales growth for the fiscal year to top 9% and same-store sales to rise in the low- to mid-single-digit range, while it anticipates a greater decline in gross margin than in fiscal 2014 as it continues to invest in value.

For the 16-week first quarter ended Jan. 18, net income rose 5.7% to $167 million, while sales climbed 10.2% to a record $4.7 billion and same-store sales rose 4.5%, with average weekly sales per store of $724,000, or sales per gross square foot of $990. Gross margin fell 20 basis points.

Walter Robb

Walter Robb

Co-CEO Walter Robb said the company attributed its sales momentum to “customers’ positive response to many strategic initiatives, along with improving consumer confidence.”

During a conference call with financial analysts, Robb said the chain’s strategic initiatives included the following:

• The launch of a national “values matter” brand campaign in TV and print.

Although final brand-tracking results have not yet been determined, “the early read is very positive,” Robb noted, “indicating a 100% increase in awareness for our target audience, with increases in both value perception and intent to shop versus our measured competitors.”

• A 15-city partnership with Instacart, with average weekly online delivery sales since September having passed the $1-million mark, reaching as high as 5% of total sales at some stores.

Whole Foods intends to expand the program to additional markets, broaden its product offering and provide richer content about quality standards, Robb noted.

• Offering digital technologies, including Apple Pay, whose users total approximately 2% of Whole Foods sales.

• A test of a shopper reward program, called Affinity, at 12 stores, which has shown “high activation and registration rates and above-average basket sizes for participants,” Robb said.

The Affinity program will be expanded to the Washington D.C. area in the spring, he noted, “with hopes of having it live in a majority of stores for the 2015 holiday season.”

• A new Whole Foods app that has recorded nearly 600,000 downloads.

Robb said the app enables users to access personalized and local store offers, events and information, along with 3,700 recipes where ingredients can be added to shopping lists with a single tap.

• A test of lower produce pricing in several markets.

Although it is too early for conclusive results, “we are looking at expanding the test to additional markets [because] we believe more competitive produce pricing will greatly benefit our overall value perceptions,” Robb said.

In other comments, Robb said changing technology and growing demand for customization “have fundamentally altered retailing forever [in terms of] how and when customers choose to connect with us, and we are rapidly building out an extended experience beyond the four walls of our stores.

“At the same time, we believe customers will always want the human connection, sense of community and unparalleled shopping environment our stores deliver, and we are focused on evolving a richer customer experience through innovation, improved value and even higher levels of transparency on the products we sell.”

Whole Foods said it opened nine new stores during the first quarter, including expanding into Ottawa, Canada, and completed 40 store remodelings. It has already opened three new stores during the second quarter, Robb said, with plans to open eight additional stores.

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