Welcome to The Friday Checkout — Grocery Dive’s weekly column providing more insight on the news, rounding up the announcements you may have missed and sharing what’s to come.
Grocery sales increased 8.3% in June, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau — a solid month’s performance for the industry.
But that result masks what’s become a very turbulent shopping landscape. Consumers are feeling battered from rising prices and changing their habits as a result. Research shows they’re buying more private labels, condensing trips and eating more at home.
They’re also venturing toward discount stores. Scott Patton, Aldi’s vice president of national buying for the U.S., recently told Insider the chain saw 2.5 million new customers shop from their stores. Most of those were middle- and high-income consumers, he noted.
That could spell trouble for traditional grocers that aren’t always known for having the lowest prices in town. For shoppers tired of paying north of $5 per gallon for gas, Save A Lot’s recent offer of being able to buy a family meal for around that price becomes rather enticing.
But by and large, these grocers are still faring pretty well, if recent traffic data is any indication. Second quarter foot traffic at companies like Acme Markets, Weis Markets and Publix is trending well above what they saw three years ago, pre-pandemic, according to results from Placer.ai.
June foot traffic to Acme was up 17% in June over the same period in 2019, while at Weis traffic was up 8.6% over the same period. This indicates that, while traditional grocers might not be as hot as discounters right now, they’re still benefiting from at-home eating trends spurred by inflation and the ongoing pandemic.
In case you missed it
H-E-B growing e-commerce facility footprint
The Texas grocery chain announced it has opened a 50,000-square-foot e-commerce fulfillment center in Leander, Texas, to support curbside and delivery orders and its “longstanding presence in the area.” The grocer opened its second store in Leander late last year.
H-E-B expects the new facility will employ more than 150 people. It marks the fifth e-commerce fulfillment center the grocer has opened since 2018 and one of several set to open this year, including one in Plano, Texas, to support expansion into the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. The grocer didn’t specify how many future facilities are planned.
The grocery chain noted the area of Central Texas where the Leander facility is located is a “rapidly growing part of the state.”
C-suite changes continue at Dollar Tree
Following a shakeout that saw several top executives leaving the company, discount chain Dollar Tree has welcomed a new chief information officer (CIO). Bobby Aflatooni, most recently executive vice president and CIO for The Howard Hughes Corporation, has filled the role after the quick exit of former CIO Andy Paisley.
Paisley was among a group of Dollar Tree C-suite members — including Chief Legal Officer William Old, Chief Operating Officer Thomas O’Boyle and Chief Strategy Officer David Jacobs — who recently parted ways with the company after an activist investor-led revamp of its board. Kevin Wampler is also planning to step down from serving as its chief financial officer once a successor is found.
Aflatooni brings more than nine years of experience at Dollar General, serving as the competitor’s CIO for nearly three years and as senior vice president of infrastructure, according to Aflatooni’s LinkedIn profile. Aflatooni also brings experience from information technology roles at several other companies, including Yum! Brands and Capital One Auto Finance.
Dollar Tree said Aflatooni’s appointment is the “first of a number of executive additions related to our recently announced leadership changes.” The company also said it’s pushing its Investor Day from October 2022 to spring 2023.
ClusterTruck shuts down Kroger location
ClusterTruck is closing its operations on Friday at a Kroger in Fishers, Indiana, The Indianapolis Star reported. The 1,200-square-foot ghost kitchen opened there in October 2020, according to the newspaper.
Kroger operates another in-store ghost kitchen with ClusterTruck at one of its stores in Columbus, Ohio. The ClusterTruck location at a Kroger in Carmel, Indiana, that opened at the start of this year reportedly temporarily closed a few weeks ago with plans to reopen and it’s unclear what the status is. ClusterTruck also has standalone locations in Indianapolis.
The closure at the Fishers location doesn’t seem to be putting a damper on Kroger’s ghost kitchen efforts. The grocer recently announced a “virtual food court” in partnership with Kitchen United at a Los Angeles Ralphs and said the companies plan to open additional in-store ghost kitchens in Texas later this month.
Number of the week: $13.5 million
That’s the size of a community development grant investment group Yellow Banana received last week from the Chicago government. These funds are to be invested in Save A Lot supermarkets Yellow Banana runs in underserved parts of the Midwestern city.
Yellow Banana plans to use the grant, along with its own capital, to remodel five Save A Lot locations and reopen a Save A Lot store that closed in 2020 to help reduce food insecurity in the Chicago neighborhoods where the supermarkets are situated. The improvements to the discount grocery stores will include new flooring, lighting, signage, refrigerated cases, and heating and air conditioning systems.
Albertsons announces Q1 earnings
Next Tuesday, Albertsons will release its results for the first quarter of 2022, and investors will be looking for information about how the company has been dealing with the runaway food inflation that has recently been buffeting the economy. The grocery chain might also discuss its ongoing efforts to build shopper engagement and provide an update on the strategic review it announced in February.
Amazon releases second-quarter results
Amazon will announce its second-quarter results on Thursday, two weeks after holding what the e-commerce company said was the biggest Prime Day event in its history. The e-commerce giant has been stepping up its focus on groceries, and added four locations in New Jersey and New York to its steadily growing Amazon Fresh supermarket chain earlier this month.
Trader Joe’s workers holding unionization vote
Associates at a store in Hadley, Massachusetts, plan to vote on Wednesday and Thursday on whether to unionize. If the workers decide to formally organize as part of the group Trader Joe’s United, the location would become the first one in the grocery chain where associates are represented by a union.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Scott Patton’s name.