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Paying Is Voluntary at This Selfie-Friendly Store

First there was self-checkout. Then Amazon’s cashier-free Go stores. Now there’s pay when you feel like it — we trust you.

At Drug Store, a narrow, black-and-white-tiled store that opened Wednesday in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, there is no cashier or checkout counter. Anyone can walk in, grab a $10.83 activated-charcoal drink and leave.

But the beverages, typically sold online by the case by Dirty Lemon, a start-up that runs the store, are not free. Dirty Lemon has made a bet that customers will pay the same way they order its pricey lemon-flavored drinks for home delivery: by sending the company a text message.

In the store, customers are expected to text Dirty Lemon to say they have grabbed something. A representative will then text back with a link to enter their credit card information, adding, “Let us know if you need anything else.”

Zak Normandin, the company’s chief executive, said he was not worried that Drug Store’s honor system would encourage theft. “I do think a majority of people would feel very guilty for continuing to steal,” he said in a recent interview at the store.

When asked how much money Dirty Lemon was willing to lose to theft, Mr. Normandin demurred, noting that the company would write down any losses as sampling costs.

Founded in 2015, Dirty Lemon counts 100,000 customers, around half of whom order at least a case of six beverages each month. Its high prices, text-message ordering and beauty claims are helping it get attention in a business littered with new health-focused drink brands. Dirty Lemon’s “sleep tonic” contains magnesium, a “beauty elixir” drink features collagen, and an anti-aging drink contains rose water.

The company is closing a round of venture capital funding from celebrities and investors, including Winklevoss Capital, Betaworks and the investment fund of the YouTube stars Jake Paul and Cameron Dallas.

Mr. Normandin said his conviction in Dirty Lemon’s store was so strong that he had already made plans to open another one in New York and two more in other cities, all featuring a separate V.I.P. lounge with a bar and special events. The company has shifted almost all of its $4 million annual digital advertising budget into its retail stores.

Dirty Lemon is forging ahead into brick-and-mortar stores when many traditional retailers are closing locations and investing in digital marketing and e-commerce. But Mr. Normandin said his customers, who are mainly young women, were tired of digital marketing that constantly pushed them to buy things. Rather, he said, they seek unique in-person experiences.

“They want to actually be kind of immersed in a brand, and take it all in, and maybe take a picture,” he said.

Dirty Lemon’s Drug Store features a large, selfie-friendly mirror that reflects a wall of coolers and stark, black-and-white-striped penny tiles creeping across the high ceiling.

So-called immersive pop-up stores and museums, optimized for social media, have proliferated in recent years. This summer, visitors to Rosé Mansion in New York wandered 14 rooms of highly stylized Instagram-bait, sharing geotagged photos, GIFs, and videos of bubble pits and cava fountains. This month, 29Rooms offers an equally Instagram-able “interactive fun house” in Brooklyn. The Museum of Ice Cream and Candytopia, both of them in New York and San Francisco, are comparably photogenic.

Mr. Normandin said his company’s plans went beyond lemon drinks and selfie mirrors to transforming the beverage industry’s distribution methods. The company aspires to “rebuild the infrastructure that has powered beverages since the 1800s,” he said.

That will take a lot of text messages.

Source: The New York Times

whole foods

Amazon expands Whole Foods delivery to 10 more cities

Amazon announced today that it’s expanding Whole Foods Prime Delivery to 10 additional U.S. cities. The full list, which includes 38 cities all told, now includes Charlotte, Las Vegas, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Raleigh, Seattle and Tucson.

In addition to that, the retail giant has also expand coverage in three existing major markets: New York, L.A. and Dallas/Fort Worth. Those spots, along with Charlotte, Raleigh and Seattle, also have alcohol delivery courtesy of the service.

Delivery is one of a laundry list of services available to Amazon Prime users. Service is available between the hours of 8AM and 10PM and can be accessed via Echo with the “Alexa, shop Whole Foods” command.

Amazon acquired the high-end grocery chain last year for $13.7 billion. The deal helped Amazon control yet another retail vertical, taking on services like Fresh Direct with grocery delivery.

Source: TechCrunch

Union workers strike at Four Roses distillery just before bourbon fest

Union workers at Four Roses have been on strike since Sept. 7 at the distillery in Lawrenceburg and at its bottling facility in Bullitt County.

The company tried to implement a two-tier system that would reduce benefits for new employees, said Jeffrey Royalty, president of the UFCW Local 10D.

“If we allow two-tier systems to come in, it’s hard to explain to a new employee that you’re going to pay the same dues I do, but you’re going to have 50-60 percent of the benefit,” Royalty said.  “It makes any union’s job a little harder.”

Royalty said Four Roses is taking advantage of Kentucky’s new Right to Work legislation, which prohibits companies from requiring that a worker pay union dues as a condition for holding a job. Membership in his union has not decreased since the legislation passed in 2017, but Royalty worries that a two-tier system would reduce the incentive for new employees to join the union, thus weakening their power.

About 50 members of unions UFCW Local 10D, UFCW Local 23D and NCFO 320 have been striking at the Lawrenceburg distillery and at the warehouse and bottling facility in Bullitt County.

They also plan to strike during the festivities for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, which kicks off Wednesday in Bardstown.

Royalty said the production at the distillery has stopped and the Bullitt County facility is partially operational. But the gift shop remains open, and a receptionist at the distillery said Wednesday morning it was “open for business.”

Lauren Burdette, a spokeswoman for Four Roses, did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent at 9 a.m. Wednesday about whether the distillery was open.

In a statement, Four Roses said, “We value our employees and recognize they are a crucial part of what makes Four Roses a special bourbon. We have been negotiating in good faith with the unions and offered a competitive package for our employees. It is our hope that the unions will reconsider their decision.”

The unions began negotiating with Four Roses about a new contract in late June, but had not come to an agreement by the time their contract with the company expired July 31, Royalty said. They ran on a two-week extension and had been working the last few weeks without a contract.

“Right now we’re at a stalemate,” Royalty said.

He received the last offer from the company on Thursday.

The unions argue that a new contract with Four Roses would make it harder for new workers to earn as many vacation and sick days as current employees and would change certain seniority rules.

Making sure new employees get the same benefits is urgent, given that the company is nearing completion on a $55 million expansion of its distillery. That would mean an influx of new workers to staff the distillery.

“We want to make it better for the next generation,” Royalty said. “Somebody fought a good fight for us 50 years ago to make sure we had the same rights they did.”

Richard Becker, union representative for SEIU NCFO, said that union employees of UPS are reviewing a contract that proposes a similar two-tier system. “Folks realize that these kinds of two-tier contracts can only lead to more conflict in the workplace,” he said.

“What’s at stake here is really the continued vibrancy of the workforce — not only at Four Roses but the workforce in general in this country,” he added.

Source: Louisville Courier Journal

Amazon bought Whole Foods to take on the grocery business — but one competitor shows where its plan is falling flat

  • Amazon acquired Whole Foods last year to cut the prices of organic groceries and reach a wider range of customers.
  • But Sprouts Farmers Market has seen “very little share loss in markets where it overlaps with Whole Foods,” according to a team of UBS analysts including Mark Carden.
  • “Most of Sprouts’s stores are located in middle income suburbs, while the majority of Whole Foods stores are in zip codes where customers aren’t as price conscious,” Carden said.

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is not helping it grab market share from Sprouts Farmers Market, a competitor in the organic-foods space, according to UBS analysts.

Sprouts Farmers Market has seen “very little share loss in markets where it overlaps with Whole Foods,” a team of UBS analysts led by Mark Carden wrote in a Monday note sent out to clients after hosting a meeting with Sprouts executives.

“Much of this is likely due to store placement. Most of Sprouts Farmers Market’s stores are located in middle income suburbs, while the majority of Whole Foods stores are in zip codes where customers aren’t as price conscious. Sprouts Farmers Market also benefits from its smaller box size, which presents a less overwhelming atmosphere for some shoppers.”

Last year, Amazon announced it was buying Whole Foods to lower the prices of natural and organic groceries and reach a wider range of customers.

“Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality — we will lower prices without compromising Whole Foods Market’s long-held commitment to the highest standards,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, in a press release.

But Whole Foods is “still perceived to be a more expensive retailer even with its deploying price investments throughout the store, and a higher proportion of Sprouts shoppers are price sensitive than Whole Foods,” said Carden. He added that the natural and organic groceries market is growing at around 6-8% per year based on SPINS data, and so there’s plenty of room for growth at both Sprouts and Whole Foods.

“Sprouts Farmers Market’s natural and organic grocery has taken a step change to north of around 80% over the past 5 quarters,” Carden said.

“Here, stronger brand equity has helped it with new store openings, to the point where its stores in new markets are opening at nearly the same level as those in its existing markets. This has allowed the company to spread its new stores across a wider geographic base more quickly, lowering cannibalization. These actions, along with lifts from further investments in its stores, should help the retailer continue to generate solid top line growth for the foreseeable future.”

US grocery prices overall have not declined a lot over the past year. As reported by Business Insider, grocery prices dropped 0.3% in the 12 months ending in June, versus last year’s 0.6% increase, according to data from Adobe Analytics.

UBS lifted its price target to $33 from $28 — 12% above the current trading price — and maintained its “Buy” rating on Sprouts Farmers Market.

Shares are up 18% since the start of this year.

Source: Business Insider

Kroger Workers Reject Contract, Union Members Authorize Strike

About 1,200 union Kroger workers in the Ohio Valley rejected the company’s most recent contract Saturday as its members also authorized another strike if the two sides can’t reach a deal.

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 KS opposed the contract by a 3-to-1 margin, said Tony Helfer, director of the western division of the union. He declined to say how many of the members voted, but said the group represented a majority of the members.

“Kroger needs to do better,” Helfer said after the votes were counted Saturday evening.

After rejecting the contract, union members also voted to authorize a strike. Although its members already had authorized a strike during the most recent contract negotiations, Helfer said they had to re-authorize it because “the offer was changed a lot.”

However, Helfer said Kroger workers will not be striking soon and have not set a strike date.

The union’s contract with Kroger expired Aug. 4. Helfer said its members continue to work under a contract extension that now expires Sept. 14.

“We’re not rushing for the doors,” he said. “It will be the last possible thing to do to go on strike.”

Helfer said the union is going back to Kroger to ask for what it considers to be a better contract. Although the specifics of the most recent contract offer were not made available, Helfer said a wage increase the company was offering did not offset the rising price of workers’ health care costs.

Amy McCormick, who is the corporate affairs manager for Kroger’s Columbus Division, said Saturday night that the company was not aware of the union’s Saturday votes, and therefore could not respond. The Columbus Division is responsible for 119 of the Cincinnati-based company’s stores, including 11 stores in Ohio and West Virginia where the UFCW Local 1776 KS members work.

Helfer’s announcement came following two meetings the union held Saturday. The first was during the morning at the Masonic Temple in Steubenville, where its members who work for five stores in that area met for the first vote. Those attending that meeting worked for stores in Steubenville, Wintersville, Wellsburg and two Kroger locations in Weirton.

Members of six stores then met Saturday evening at the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack. Those included workers from two stores in Wheeling as well as Martins Ferry, St. Clairsville, Bellaire and Moundsville.

Helfer said the tally to reject the contract was made from combined votes taken during both meetings.

Source: The Intelligencer

ShopRite Rolls Out New Meal Kits

In honor of National Family Meals Month in September, ShopRite has introduced four chef-inspired, dietitian-approved meal kits that aim to simplify dinnertime prep.

Serving two and retailing for $11.99 each, the new ShopRite Kitchen Limited Edition Meal Kit offerings are Smoked Chicken Thighs with Korean Broccoli & Cauliflower, Grilled Chicken Breast with Couscous & Vegetables Bruschetta, Turkey Meatloaf with Sautéed Spinach & Butternut Squash, and Smoked Chicken Breast with Roasted Vegetables & Wheat Berry Feta Salad.

“Providing our shoppers with healthy, affordable and time-saving resources has always been a priority at ShopRite,” said Natalie Menza-Crowe, director of health and wellness at the Keasbey, N.J.-based retailer cooperative. “We are honored to take part in [the National Family Meals Month] campaign spearheaded by our partners at FMI, and we look forward to talking to our customers about the many benefits of sharing nutritious family meals.”

The annual campaign was created to educate shoppers about the benefits of sharing family meals and to enable families to enjoy more meals together.

All September long, ShopRite is leveraging its entire team of corporate and in-store dietitians to inspire and teach customers about ways to create nutritious and tasty family meals. The dietitians will host free food demonstrations, classes and events, in addition to distributing free recipe cookbooks, throughout the month.

“Here at ShopRite, we believe that mealtime is family time, and that there is power and value in sharing family meals,” affirmed Menza-Crowe. “Study after study has shown that families that make time to dine together are happier and healthier. It doesn’t just benefit the individual. Family meals benefit our community as a whole.”

ShopRite is the registered trademark of Wakefern Food Corp., the largest supermarket cooperative in the United States. With more than 270 ShopRite supermarkets in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland, ShopRite serves more than 6 million customers each week. Wakefern is No. 7 on Progressive Grocer’s 2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.

Source: Progressive Grocer

Anti-grocery tax measure funded by big soda companies

On Labor Day, groups are speaking in support of Initiative 1634, which would prohibit new local taxes on soft drinks and groceries.

While Seattle’s sugary drink tax would remain in place, the measure would stop other local Washington State governments from enacting similar taxes. Seattle’s tax excludes diet drinks.

The measure says keeping the price of groceries as low as possible improves the access to food for all Washingtonians and taxing groceries is regressive.

In the text of the measure,”groceries” means:

any raw or processed food or beverage, or any ingredient thereof, intended for human consumption except alcoholic beverages, marijuana products, and tobacco. “Groceries” includes, but is not limited to, meat, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, bread, milk, cheese and other dairy products, 2 nonalcoholic beverages, kombucha with less than 0.5% alcohol by volume, condiments, spices, cereals, seasonings, leavening agents, eggs, cocoa, teas, and coffees whether raw or processed.

But because the measure’s biggest financial supporters are large soft drink companies, some say I-1634 is misleading, as no tax on groceries has been suggested by local government and that the initiative is really just about keeping new taxes away from soft drinks, which would keep profits coming in to the soda corporations.

And health advocates don’t see taxes on sugary drinks as a bad thing. Supporters of Seattle’s soda tax said it would cut down on the consumption of sugary drinks that have little nutritional value and are linked to obesity, diabetes and other health problems.

Meanwhile, a news release about a Monday morning rally in Burien says more than 1,300 Washington small businesses, restaurants, cafes, grocers and community organizations have joined in support of the measure.

Speakers at the 10:30 a.m. rally in Burien include union leaders and a grocery store manager.

The group behind the measure is Yes! To Affordable Groceries. The campaign supporting I-1634 has raised more than $6 million, with The Coca-Cola Co. contributing nearly $3 million, PepsiCo, Inc. giving more than $2 million and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. giving nearly $1 million.

The measure will appear on Washington State’s November ballot.

Source: KIRO7.com

Grocery Outlet, A Chain All About Saving Money On National Brands, Wants To Go National

If you are fortunate to live near one of the 300 Grocery Outlets in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania or Washington State, you are used to seeing national brands selling for 40% to 70% less.

A four-pack of Evian 1.25-liter bottled water typically sells for $9.99; at Grocery Outlet you could have bought eight bottles for $3.99. Very trendy Halo Top ice cream can be found at other stores selling for anywhere from $6 to $11.99 a pint; Grocery Outlet had a sale that Layla Kasha, VP of marketing, calls her “favorite buy ever” as the chain sold four pints for $5.99.

How do they do it?

It’s called opportunistic buying: Grocery Outlet works with national brands that have excess inventory or seasonal closeouts or are changing packaging to buy these foods and beverages at deep discounts.

The company started back in 1946 when the founder Jim Read bought surplus canned food from the government and opened up retail stores to sell it at super-low prices to consumers. The company continued to expand and went beyond its sourcing from the government to contract with national brands including Del Monte, ConAgra, Quaker Oats and Revlon. Today the company is run by the third generation of the family, MacGregor Read and Eric Lindberg (who is married to a Read), who are co-CEOs and partner with the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman.

Lindberg told me that 60% of what is sold in the stores is bought opportunistically, that they are expanding to include more fresh foods and that one of their fastest-growing sections falls under their NOSH program: natural, organic, specialty and health.

This partnership has allowed Grocery Outlet to expand to 300 stores (with 30 more scheduled for 2018 and 40 to be added in 2019), and it reached $2 billion in sales last year, according to Supermarket News.

What is different about Grocery Outlet’s business model is that the stores are independently owned and operated by local families. The families determine what products to carry, and their focus is to be hyper-local to meet the needs of the neighborhood. According to Lindberg, Grocery Outlet receives 1,200 to 1,500 applications a month to be owners and selects a mere 10.

Some of the owners are former store managers at ALDI, a chain the company sees as a direct competitor. Grocery Outlet’s advantage, according to Lindberg, is that it has greater local involvement and sells branded foods and beverages at a time when the grocery industry is rapidly increasing its focus on store brands. On an annual basis, store brands represent 17% of brick-and-mortar sales and are growing at a rate of 5% a year — compared with just 1% for national brands on the whole.

Grocery Outlet calls itself an “extreme-value grocer,” and a recent look at a few of its offerings supports the claim. Power Bars that retail for $1.99 each are sold for four for $1 because of a package design change. Quest Nutrition Bars had excess production and sold for 99 cents instead of their normal $3 price tag. Honey Bunches of Oats breakfast cereals sold for $1 — far less than the $4.99 you would pay at a traditional supermarket.

One drawback is that since these are opportunistic buys, what you find in a Grocery Outlet today will be different from what you find there on your next shopping trip.

It’s easy to draw comparisons to dollar stores, which also typically buy opportunistically and have the same adventurous feeling in seeing what you might find. But there is a huge difference: Most of the newer Grocery Outlet stores, like the one owned by Sandra and Carols Torres in Downtown Los Angeles (pictured above), are beautiful and give one the feeling of shopping in an upscale supermarket.

What does the future hold for Grocery Outlet? Lindberg and Hellman Friedman want to bring the banner national. While both ALDI and Lidl impress him, he says Grocery Outlet competes well with both. In an era when national brands continue to lose market share and struggle against store brands, Grocery Outlet might just be their rescuer.

Source: Forbes

UFCW launches boycott of Rite Aid stores in Southern California

Many of us have stopped by a Rite Aid for some aspirin, band aids or maybe a soda and chips, but how many of us think about the workers behind the counter? Usually we get what we need and out the door we go. Well, the workers at Rite Aid are asking us to take a moment and think of them and the potential loss of jobs the company is proposing, loss of say in their healthcare and no wage increases.

On Wednesday, September 5, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) launched a boycott against Rite Aid stores, asking customers to shop elsewhere until Rite Aid management returns to the bargaining table with a fair contract offer for workers. The boycott protests Rite Aid management plans to strip health care from current retirees and slash 25 percent of full time workers.

The boycott comes less than a week before the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor votes to grant a strike sanction, officially approving a strike by Rite Aid workers if the union deems it necessary. UFCW is one of the 300 trade unions that are part of the County Fed, which represents over 800,000 union members.

The most recent contract between Rite Aid and its employees expired on July 14, 2018. Since then, Rite Aid has refused to change the substance of its offer.

“We are boycotting Rite Aid because they are doing their employees wrong,” said John Grant, President of UFCW Local 770. “The company made $21 billion last year. It paid its CEO a $3 million bonus for screwing up a merger with Albertsons. But they still want to stick it to their workers. This is unfair and unacceptable.”

Staging a boycott of a major company such as Rite Aid is not an everyday move. So exactly why  are UFCW and its members taking these steps?

Rite Aid management has consistently and pointedly shown disrespect and contempt to its employees throughout negotiations. In addition to allowing the contract to expire without seriously negotiating, their offer demands include:

—Eliminating all retiree healthcare from current retirees, immediately leaving thousands of retired senior citizens without healthcare.

—Their proposal has misleading language about wage offers that would exempt almost 90 percent of employees from any wage increase. For example, if any employee’s wages are affected by minimum wage increases, or the employee is at the top wage step, they get nothing. This represents the vast majority of employees.

—Excluding employees from a say in their healthcare: Currently, the Rite Aid healthcare plan is jointly managed as a trust fund by the UFCW and Rite Aid. Rite Aid is making elimination of the joint management plan a precondition for any contract. Instead, they demand complete authority to raise premiums or eliminate benefits at their whim.

—Rite Aid’s proposal would eliminate 25 percent of the current full-time positions and instead replace them with part-time employees, many of whom would be ineligible for healthcare or retirement benefits.

UFCW Local 770 represents roughly 2000 Rite Aid employees working at 122 stores in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Newhall, Arroyo Grande, Camarillo, Harbor City, San Fernando Valley, and Atascadero. Other UFCW locals representing Rite Aid employees and also promoting the boycott are: Local 135 (San Diego area), Local 324 (Orange County), Local 1428 (Covina), Local 1167 (Inland Empire), Local 1442 (Santa Monica), and Local 8 (Golden State).

A spokesperson for UFCW Local 770 could not confirm whether or not the general public outside of Southern California is encouraged to honor the boycott. Working people will have to decide for themselves if they want to continue patronizing Rite Aid for the duration of the boycott. Folks may decide this is a time for solidarity for fellow workers struggling to make a livable wage.

$21 billion in profits? Who made that happen? Rite Aid workers, not the CEO with the $3 million bonus!

You can sign a petition of support for the boycott here. The boycott Facebook page is here.

Source: People’s World

Stater Bros. moves ahead with store upgrades

Continuing a flurry of store remodels, Stater Bros. tomorrow plans to hold grand reopenings at four locations.

The Southern California supermarket chain said it will reopen renovated stores in Santa Ana (2360 North Tustin Ave.), Calimesa (1155 Calimesa Blvd.), West Covina (375 North Azusa Ave.) and Rancho Cucamonga (9750 Nineteenth St.) on Sept. 5.

Along with an enhanced layout, the remodeled stores feature interior upgrades such as new flooring and energy-efficient LED lighting. Customers also will see a wider selection of premium wines and an expanded section for freshly prepared, grab-and-go food items.

The remodel of the West Covina store also will bring FujiSan Handcrafted Sushi, made in-house daily at a dedicated sushi island; a display case with an assortment of fresh fruit cut in-store each day; and a bulk food station offering a selection of nuts, dried fruit and snacks sold by weight, according to Stater Bros.

“Providing a pleasant shopping experience, taking good care of our customers and supporting the communities we serve remains at the core of our business,” Chief Executive Officer Pete Van Helden said in a statement.

The retailer’s latest reopenings follow the premiere of five other remodeled stores on July 18 in Moreno Valley (25900 Iris Ave.), the Woodcrest area of Riverside (17050 Van Buren Blvd.), Yorba Linda (18527 Yorba Linda Blvd.), Upland (1619 North Mountain Ave.) and Jurupa Valley (11070 Limonite Ave.).

Among those stores, Stater Bros. noted that the Woodcrest and Jurupa Valley locations now feature a more open store layout with a widened perimeter, while the Moreno Valley store added the sushi island, bulk food station and fresh-cut fruit display.

In March, Stater Bros. reopened another remodeled store in Rancho Cucamonga (7200 Day Creek Blvd.). And this fall, the grocer plans to open its first store — on a former Vons location — in Pasadena, which also will be the retailer’s westernmost store in the San Gabriel Valley.

Overall, Stater Bros. operates 171 supermarkets in the Southern California market.

Source: Supermarket News