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Save-A-Lot opens stores in Georgia, Florida

BY Allison Cerra

MINNEAPOLIS A discount grocery chain owned by Supervalu has opened two new stores.

Save-A-Lot opened stores in Hinesville, Ga., and in Jacksonville, Fla. In addition to the newest stores, Save-A-Lot currently operates 29 stores in Georgia and 108 stores in Florida.

“Save-A-Lot is committed to building stores in neighborhoods that want convenience and access to fresh, nutritious food at a great low price,” said Bill Shaner, the company president and CEO. “We are proud to be a member of [the Hinesville and Jacksonville communities] and look forward to serving budget-conscious, value-seeking families in the area.”

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Healthy options hit snack shelves.

BY Barbara White-Sax

Remember when snacks meant just chips or pretzels, and tortilla chips seemed a little exotic? Now when consumers want to snack, they have a plethora of choices ranging from rice cakes to freeze-dried fruit. Increasingly, those snacking options are better-for-you products.

“The market has completely diversified,” said Morningstar analyst Erin Swanson. “There are so many different options for consumers, and there’s no lack of healthy snacking products since that market has expanded.”

A recent study from Mintel suggested that even in this economy, consumers are trading up for more upscale, and often healthier, snack options—particularly when those products offer them something beyond a quick snack fix.

Christine Brown, marketing manager for Natural Snacks, said consumers are demanding more from their snacks than just an indulgence. “People want snacking to be an opportunity to fulfill nutritional requirements, such as a whole grain serving,” she said. “It’s not just a treat anymore.”

Natural Snacks new Jalapeno Puffs, baked puffs made with organic cornmeal, are an example of a better-for-you alternative to a traditional snack. Baked snacks have surged in popularity as consumers turn away from fried products with a high fat content.

Products made from corn, rice and nuts have become more popular. A recent study from Mintel reported that sales of trail mix and rice/popcorn cakes substantially grew (17%) in food, drug and mass over the past few years, although those snacks still account for a small percentage of overall category sales.

Nuts also are being used in new ways. New nut chips and crisps made with pistachios or almonds, the Mintel report said, capitalize on the high nutrient value of nuts. Consumers can feel almost virtuous snacking on a chip that has a high fiber and antioxidant content. Frito-Lay’s True North Nut Crisps and Blue Diamond’s Nut Thins are two examples of successful nut crackers that offer consumers new snacking options.

Increasingly, drug stores are making a push into the better-for-you snacks. Under its Deerfield Farms label, Walgreens markets Flax granola bars, as well as a number of dried fruit products. CVS’s Gold Emblem brand includes trail mixes and granola bars.

Duane Reade’s DR Delish product lineup features trail mix and dried fruit, but the chain had created some interesting trail mix crunches and included soy crisps. Walgreens, which is making its own foray into fresh convenience foods, could follow the Delish lead as it absorbs the Duane Reade stores.

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Martin’s rebrands Ukrop’s stores, policies

BY Alaric DeArment

RICHMOND, Va. —A policy at Martin’s Food Markets of not allowing charity groups to collect donations or sell products outside its stores won’t have Salvation Army Santas chaining themselves to the support columns in protest during the holiday season once the 25 Ukrop’s stores it purchased in Virginia complete their transition to Martin’s stores. But a supermarket chain with a strong local identity is disappearing, nonetheless.

Martin’s, part of the larger Giant-Carlisle chain owned by Netherlands-based Ahold, is putting the kibosh on the longstanding Ukrop’s policy of allowing such groups as the Salvation Army and Girl Scouts to solicit donations and sell cookies outside its stores. The company already had promised to reverse other Ukrop’s policies, such as not selling alcohol and closing on Sundays, which analysts have said led to the family-owned chain losing its top place in the Richmond-area market to Food Lion, owned by Belgium’s Delhaize Group.

Another hallmark of Ukrop’s has been its health-and-wellness programs, with a particular focus on immunizations. Martin’s has programs of its own, but Martin’s spokeswoman Tracy Pawelski said that she was not at liberty to talk about specific plans for the newly acquired stores, though there would be in-store nutritionists. “We’ll be unveiling a number of things later this spring,” Pawelski told Drug Store News. “Our commitment to health and wellness is very strong.”

Martin’s has a history of supporting charities in the communities it serves, such as United Way and the Children’s Miracle Network, and the chain said it would purchase 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to donate to the Central VA Food Bank.

Giant-Carlisle, based in Carlisle, Pa., bought the 25 Ukrop’s stores in December 2009 for $140 million from the Ukrop family, which had owned the stores since 1937. Giant-Carlisle plans to finish rebranding the stores as Martin’s stores this spring.

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