What's the buzz?

March 27, 2012
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I was pondering the other day why, as vast as the United States is, that the number of food deserts in this country is still significant. The deserts are areas where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain.
There are many retailers, however, that are working to help eliminate the problem of food deserts.
Several national and regional food retailers, including Walmart, Walgreens and Supervalu, have pledged to open or expand hundreds of stores in these low-income markets where finding nutritious food options can be difficult.
In July 2011, Walmart announced it will open 275-300 stores serving the Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated food desert areas between now and 2016. These stores, in both urban and rural areas, will provide access to groceries for more than 800,000 people living in food deserts.
Walgreens said it intends to quadruple the number of Chicago stores in which it provides expanded healthy food selections to serve communities identified as food deserts. It plans to reach a total of nearly 50 food oasis stores.
Supervalu also announced plans last July to open 250 Save-a-Lot stores in areas across the United States where there is limited or no access to affordable, healthy, fresh foods.
So, I’m wondering who is going to be next.
Minneapolis-based Target plans to open a Chicago City Target - the smaller, urban version of the suburban big-box, in 2012. The store will offer fresh food, basic urban living items and some clothing.
Meijer and Whole Foods also have announced plans to open stores in Detroit.
Drugstore chain CVS has been busy taking aim at food deserts in metropolitan areas. It planned to have groceries and food in 1,500 of its 7,200 stores by the end of 2011.
One reason so many retailers seem to be jumping on the food desert bandwagon is because of government tax and loan incentives. That has some up in arms.
It also will be interesting to see as we move into the future, which retailers have success in food deserts. Just because retailers are opening stores in these areas does not mean that consumers are guaranteed to shop there. They have to offer the mix of products and offer a significant value to shoppers, especially since many of them are on tight budgets.
I think this will continue to be a hot topic and one to keep an eye on as 2012 progresses.
As much private label news as 2011 held for retailers, I think 2012 is set to bring even more.
Toward the end of 2011, Meijer planned to use a new value-priced private label line to keep shoppers in its stores when making selections based solely on price. It’ll be interesting to see what affect that may have had when its Q1 earnings come out.
Other big news in the private label world involved Walgreens late last year doing a major PL consolidation that would pare down its lines and also at the same time develop new lines.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see if the Sunny Smile line will bring smiles to consumers.

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