The Supply Side: Wal-Mart supplier community news briefs

• Hostess, Dolly Madison deal struck
A deal for Hostess and Dolly Madison brands is being worked out by HB Holdings LLC, an affiliate of Apollo Global Management and Metropoulous & Co.

The $410 million purchase agreement was announced Jan. 30 that include these brands:Twinkies, Mini Muffins, Cup Cakes, Ho Hos, Zingers and Suzy Q’s.

The acquisition includes the purchase of more than 300 recipes sold under these brand names.

Five plants to be acquired in the transaction are located in Los Angeles; Columbus, Ga.; Schiller Park, Ill.; Indianapolis; and Emporia, Kas. HB Holdings also would acquire depots in Kansas City, Schiller Park and Los Angeles.

Office buildings that are part of the deal include the longtime headquarters of Interstate Brands Corp. at the intersection of Armour Boulevard and Main Street in Kansas City. Headquarters for the business were moved to Irving, Texas, in 2009 when Interstate emerged from its first bankruptcy and changed its corporate name to Hostess Brands.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to be completed by the end of April.

• Government fines Kraft Foods
Kraft Foods Group agreed to pay a fine of $13,911.50 and take system-wide corrective actions after the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection discovered underweight packages of Oscar Mayer-brand lunch meat in several stores.

The fine is the company’s third in two years for violations of Wisconsin’s weights and measures statutes. As part of the agreement, Kraft admitted no wrongdoing.

The underweight packages included eight packages of Oscar Mayer brand cooked ham and one package of Oscar Mayer brand honey ham, according to the agency. The packages were found in several retailer throughout the state.

The problem was discovered by the state’s Consumer Protection Bureau during inspections conducted in June and July 2012


The Supply Side: Wal-Mart supplier community news briefs

• Twinkies deal in the works
Hostess Brands Inc. is reportedly putting finishing touches on a deal to sell its Twinkies brand and other snack cakes for more than $400 million to private equity firms Apollo Global Management L.L.C. and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., according to The Wall Street Journal.

The news comes as Hostess in recent days announced stalking horse bidders for most of its bread brands and Drake’s snack cakes business.

Based in Greenwich, Conn., Metropoulos has been in grain-based foods business for many years and has invested in and managed several branded consumer businesses including: Ghirardelli Chocolate, International Home Foods (Chef Boyardee, PAM, Bumble Bee Seafood, Gulden's mustard and other brands), Pinnacle Foods (Swanson, Hungry Man, Vlasic pickles and other brands), which merged with Aurora Foods (Duncan Hines, Aunt Jemima,

New York-based Apollo acquired CKE Restaurants Inc., the owner of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurant chains, in 2010.

Earlier this week, Hostess agreed to sell several Hostess brands to Portland, Ore.-based United States Bakery, also known as Franz Family Bakeries. This $28.85 million deal includes Sweetheart, Eddy’s, Standish Farms, and Grandma Emilie’s brands.

This news comes on the heels of the McKee Foods’ $27.5 million deal for Drake’s snack cake business of Hostess.

• Executive resigns from Scotts Miracle-Gro
Dave Evans resigned as chief financial officer and executive vice president  this week from Scotts Miracle-Gro and has accepted a similar role with Columbus-based Battelle, the world's largest nonprofit research and development organization.

Evans joined Scotts Miracle-Gro as director of finance for operations in 1993 and moved through several roles before being named chief financial officer in 2006. In 2011 his role was expanded to include strategic planning and business development. Evans will remain at the company through the filing of its first quarter results in mid February and is actively working with Hagedorn and the board of directors on creating an orderly transition.

The company has begun identifying and interviewing internal and external candidates for the role. Scotts Miracle-Gro has a sales office in Bentonville and is a supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

• Cereal makers pump up the protein
Cereal makers Kellogg and General Mills are among food suppliers to pump up the protein as more American’s seek to add more of the muscle-building nutrient into their daily diets.

Nearly six out of 10 Americans consider the protein content when buying packaged food or beverages, according to a 2012 survey from the International Food Information Council.

Food analysts say carbs have been vilified,and fat has negative connotations. Protein stands alone as something that is slowly digested, has relatively modest calories per gram and doesn’t come with a horrible taste baggage, according to Nirvana Chapman, analyst with Mintel.

Of last year’s high-protein launches in the U.S., snack and energy bars accounted for 20%, followed by meal replacement drinks and yogurts, Mintel said.

The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., recently beefed up its Special K Protein lines of cereal, meal bars and shakes and launched a “Protein Effect” advertising campaign built around protein’s role in “outsmarting hunger.”

Kashi, a Kellogg brand, delivers a similar message in its marketing, billing its GoLean cereals as containing an egg’s worth of protein per serving. Its web site includes a protein calculator to help consumers determine their daily intake requirements.

Several high-protein products were introduced in January, including General Mills’ Fiber One Protein Bars and Post Great Grains Protein Blends cereals.

Both Kellogg and General Mills have sales offices in Rogers and are major suppliers to Wal-mart Stores Inc.

• Macy’s makes more executive moves
This week Macy’s Inc. revealed several changes to its senior executive team, effective immediately.

Thomas Cole is retiring as Macy’s chief administration officer after 41 years with the company. He will remain with the company through May 2013 to help the transition of other executives.

William Allen joined Macy’s as chief human resources officer. Allen will oversee Macy’s human resources, diversity strategies and corporate communications and external affairs functions.

Robert Harrison, previously Macy’s executive vice president for omnichannel strategy, assumed the newly-created role of chief omnichannel officer. He also joins the company’s executive committee.

Karen Hoguet, Macy’s chief financial officer, will assume additional responsibility for credit and customer services, real estate, non-merchandise purchasing and sustainability.

Peter Sachse, Macy’s chief stores officer, will assume additional responsibility for store planning, design and construction.

All four executives report to Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren.

• Procter & Gamble partners with crowdfunding site
Procter & Gamble Co. is teaming up with CircleUp, a crowdfunding website that connects startup consumer brands with investors, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The partnership will get companies on CircleUp in front of P&G executives who are looking for new brands.
Most of the companies on CircleUp have $1 million to $10 million in yearly sales and are working to raise about $1 million from individual investors

Companies that raise funding from CircleUp’s investors are worth keeping an eye on, according to Andrew Backs, manager of new business creation at P&G.

“If it’s a bad idea, then it’s just simply not going to get funded,” Backs told Bloomberg Businessweek.

Procter & Gamble is a supplier to Wal-Mart and has a large office in Fayetteville.


The Supply Side: Wal-Mart supplier community news briefs

• McKee Foods bids to acquire Drake’s brand from Hostess
The maker of Little Debbie snack cakes, McKee Foods, has offered $25 million to $30 million for the Drake’s brand of Texas-based Hostess Brands Inc., according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The Drake’s brand includes products such as Devil Dogs, Ring Dings and Yodels.The Journal reports Hostess plans to file a stalking-horse bid for the Drake’s business this week in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y.

The proposed transaction would require a judge’s approval to be put into action, and the offer would be subject to higher bids at auction.

McKee Foods was founded in 1934 by O.D. and Ruth McKee in Chattanooga, Tenn. The company introduced the Little Debbie brand in 1960, basing the name and logo on the founders’ granddaughter. The company has annual sales of about $1.1 billion. Mckee Foods has a large plant in Gentry and is a major supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

• Peer Foods Group.acquires Emge Foods
Peer Foods, a Chicago-based meat processor, said it recently purchased Indiana-based Emge Foods in an effort to expand its product lines.

Emge Foods is known for its sausage, hot dogs, bologna and specialty bacon and ham cured using the Emge family’s unique techniques. Its products are available nationally.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Peer Foods is a supplier to Wal-Mart for branded and private label meats.

• Unilever scales back spread business
Unilever announced plans to close its spreads factory in Atlanta on June 30. This move will address spare capacity among the company’s other U.S.-based spreads plants.

The decision affects 125 employees at the Atlanta factory, where Country Crock, Imperial, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter products are manufactured.

London-based Unilever has divested its frozen meals brands to ConAgra and its Skippy peanut butter to Hormel in recent months. This has reduced the company’s food business to margarine, dressings and savory sauces. Unilever employs about 11,000 people in the U.S. and generated more than $9 billion in sales in 2012. The company is also major supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.with a sales office in Rogers.


The Supply Side: Wal-Mart supplier community news briefs

• Target taps former Amazon executive to run online segment
Jason Goldberger signed on as the senior vice president of and Mobile, according to a press release from the retailer this week.

Goldberger will lead all functions associated with Target's e-commerce business, including the user experience, merchandising and analytics. He will start working for Minneapolis-based Target Feb. 11.

He most recently was executive vice president for the New York-based Gilt Groupe, where he was responsible for the New York-based online retailer's home, gourmet food and kids businesses, as well as companywide business development.

Prior to that, Goldberger was senior vice president of marketing and merchandising for Hayneedle, an Omaha, Neb.-based online retailer that sells home decor and outdoor products.

He also spent eight years at Seattle-based, where he was general manager of the e-commerce giant's home and sports/outdoors categories.

• Petsmart promotes CEO from within
PetSmart Inc. named David K. Lenhardt as CEO replacing Bob Moran, as part of its planned management succession which will become effective after the specialty pet store's annual shareholders meeting in June.

Lenhardt joined PetSmart about 13 years ago in the services, strategic planning and business development unit and is the company’s chief operating officer. He worked at Bain & Co. and in Merrill Lynch & Co.'s investment banking division, prior to PetSmart.

PetsSmart said Lenhardt will also be appointed to the board of directors. Moran will retain his title as chairman, a position he was appointed to a year ago.

Joseph O'Leary, executive vice president of merchandising, marketing, supply chain and strategic planning, will replace Lenhardt as president and chief operating officer effective June 14.

• Hot Topic executive resigns
Jim McGinty, chief financial office of teen retailer, Hot Topic, resigned from the company, effective March 29.

George Wehlitz, vice president of finance, will serve as the interim chief financial officer.

Wehlitz joined Hot Topic in 2008 as vice president of finance. Between 2005 and 2008 he worked as chief fiancial officer for speciality retailer,Cycle Gear.

• Hampshire Group names Buxbaum as CEO
Paul Buxbaum was named CEO of apparel manufacturer Hampshire Group. The 57-year-old Buxbaum is former top executive at Haggar Clothing.

He replaces Heath Golden who resigned as president and CEO and also plans to vacate his position as a board member.

• Kimberly-Clark taps auto exec for chief information officer
Kimberly-Clark named Jennifer Sepull as the company's chief information officer and vice president of IT Services.

Sepull will report to Mark A. Buthman, chief financial officer.

She joins Kimberly-Clark from American Honda Motor where she served in a similar position overseeing of the automaker’s Information Systems Division.

Sepull earned her bachelor's and juris doctor degrees from Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and also has pursued other studies at Harvard University and Cambridge University in England.

Kimberly-Clark is a supplier to Wal-Mart with a sales office in Rogers.


The Supply Side: Wal-Mart supplier community news briefs

• Kraft disputes packaging use with Kellogg
Kraft Foods Global Brands, a unit of Mondelēz International, recently filed a lawsuit against Kellogg Co. alleging patent infringement.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division on Jan. 16.

The filing states Kellogg used packaging technology for its Keebler and Sandies cookies that Kraft claims mirrors its “Snack ‘n Seal” technology, which is patented.

Kraft was awarded a patent for the “Snack ‘n Seal” technology on July 19, 2005, and is seeking damages as well as a permanent injunction barring Kellogg from infringing the patent.

Kraft and Kellogg are suppliers to Wal-Mart with local sales offices in Northwest Arkansas
• Sececa acquires Sunnyside Foods
Seneca Foods Corp. completed its acquisition of Sunnyside, Wash.-based Independent Foods, a privately-held processor of canned pears, apples and cherries.

The acquisition was first announced in November, and terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“We believe these operations are a complementary fit with our existing canned fruit business,” said Kraig Kayser, president and CEO for Seneca Foods. “We are very excited about this acquisition and the addition of the Sunnyside, Wash., facility to our production facilities and the extension of our product offerings it brings to our company.”

• Crossmark promotes Crafton to CEO
Joe Crafton was named CEO of Crossmark, a sales and marketing services in the consumer goods industry.

Crafton, who served as president of Crossmark until his recent promotion, succeeds John Thompson, who has been CEO since 2010.

Thompson will now be chief strategy officer, focusing primarily on acquisitions and strategic alliances. He remains a shareholder, serves on the company’s board and will continue to be responsible for overseeing the company’s international businesses.

Ben Fischer will retain the role as chief operating officer and has assumed the additional title of president as well as other responsibilities.

Crafton began his Crossmark career in 1988, was elected to the board in 2000 and held a variety of leadership positions before being appointed president of the company in 2010. Prior to joining the company, Crafton was a manager with Procter & Gamble.

Crossmark has an office in Rogers and serves the local retail supplier community.


The Supply Side: Wal-Mart supplier community news briefs

• Post Foods acquires Attune Foods
Post a subsidiary of Post Holdings, has acquired San Francisco-based Attune Foods, a health field company. Founded in 2006, Attune Foods makes Uncle Sam high fiber cereals, Erewhon gluten-free cereals, Erewhon organic graham crackers and Attune chocolate probiotic bars.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“Attune Foods is strengthening our commitment to healthy living, whole grains, the gluten-free community and the Non-GMO Project with a new owner, Post Foods,” Attune noted on its website.

“While we’ll continue to operate independently with the same team in San Francisco, we wanted to be transparent about our newest supporters. Everything else stays the same: our people, products, recipes, ingredients and trusted certifications.

“In fact, our independent spirit and deep-rooted commitment to the natural foods industry is what attracted Post.”

• ConAgra Foods appoints Lamb Weston leader
Greg Schlafer has been named president of ConAgra Foods’ Lamb Weston business unit, effective Feb. 25. He will step into a position that has been the responsibility of Paul Maass, president of Commercial Foods for ConAgra, for more than a year.

“Greg brings a customer-focused approach, 20-plus years of experience in the food industry, and a proven track record of success in the commercial/business-to-business space,” Maass said. “I’m confident his leadership will add tremendous value for our customers, our suppliers, and our team as we continue maximizing the long-term potential of this important part of ConAgra Foods’ business.”

Schlafer was most recently vice-president of the Bakeries & Foodservice division for General Mills Inc.

ConAgra is a major supplier to Wal-Mart with local offices in Northwest Arkansas.

• Flowers wins bids on Hostess breads
Flowers Foods last week signed agreements to acquire certain Hostess bread brands One agreement includes the brands of Wonder, Nature’s Pride, Merita, Home Pride and Butternut breads along with 20 bakeries and approximately 38 depots for a total purchase price of $360 million.

Flower said it will also pay $30 million for the Beefsteak brand.

The transactions are subject to a court-approved bankruptcy process being initiated by Hostess. If Flowers' bids are approved by the bankruptcy court, they would then be subject to a competitive auction process to be held in several weeks.

The company would expect to close the transactions shortly following court approval if it is selected as the winning bidder. The transactions also are subject to regulatory clearance.

"This agreement is consistent with Flowers Foods' long-term growth objectives to reach significantly more of the U.S. population with its fresh breads, buns, and rolls," said George E. Deese, chairman and CEO of Flowers Foods. "We believe these assets would enhance our ability, over time, to provide more U.S. consumers with quality baked foods at a good value through existing and new retail and foodservice customers."

Flowers Foods plans to finance the transactions through a mix of available cash on hand and debt.

• Singer to retire as CEO of Snyder’s-Lance
David V. Singer, CEO of Snyder’s-Lance Inc., has announced he will retire after the company’s annual stockholders meeting on May 3.

Carl Lee Jr., who has been president and chief operating officer since December 2010 and was also CEO. of Snyder’s of Hanover for five years, will take over the head leadership role.

“Dave has accomplished much in his tenure at Snyder’s-Lance, and we appreciate greatly the strong foundation that has been built under his leadership,” said Bill J. Prezzano, lead independent director. “His dedication and industry experience have been instrumental in the company’s growth into the snack industry leader it is today, and we look forward to building on that success.”

• National Retail Federal elects 2013 -2014 board
The National Retail Federation has elected Saks chairman and CEO Stephen I. Sadove to chairman of the NRF board of directors and chairman of its executive committee. Sadove succeeds Terry J. Lundgren, who is chairman, president and CEO of Macy’s.

The Container Store chairman and CEO Kip Tindell was elected first vice chairman of the board, treasurer and chairman of the finance committee, and HSNi CEO Mindy Grossman was elected second vice chair of the board and secretary.

The three executives join NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay to form NRF’s leadership team. Each board officer will serve a two-year term.

“Representing the breadth and diversity of the retail industry from small business owners to global brands, the board will help shape NRF’s strategic objectives and advocacy agenda,” said Shay.

Other newly elected retail board members included Beth Aberg, president, Random Harvest Inc.; Sasha Bopp, CEO, Crate and Barrel; Brendan Hoffman, president and CEO, Bon-Ton Stores Inc.; and Ravi Saligram, president and CEO, OfficeMax.

State retail association executives elected as ex officio board members included Michelle Ahlmer, executive director, Arizona Retailers Association and Roland Myers, president and CEO, Tennessee Retail Association.

Associate Member Advisory Council representatives re-elected to the board included Karen Lowe, general manager, Global Retail Industry, IBM Corporation; Ramón B. Martin, president, Merchant Services Americas, American Express Company; and Alison Paul, principal, Deloitte & Touche LLP.


The Supply Side: Wal-Mart supplier community news briefs

• ConAgra raising capital
ConAgra Foods Inc. is offering to sell about $240 million of its common stock through an underwritten public offering. The Omaha-based company also granted the underwriter a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional $35 million of its common stock.

ConAgra intends to use the proceeds to fund, in part, the acquisition of St. Louis-based Ralcorp Holdings. ConAgra Foods agreed in November it would purchase Ralcorp in a transaction valued at about $6.8 billion, including the assumption of debt. If the acquisition is not consummated, ConAgra Foods plans to use the net proceeds for general corporate purchases.

ConAgra Foods has filed a registration statement relating to the securities with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The offering may be made only by means of a preliminary prospectus supplement and the accompanying prospectus.

ConAgra Foods is a major supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and maintains a local sales office in Northwest Arkansas.

• Macy’s CEO tagged for P&G board
Procter & Gamble name Macy’s chairman, president and CEO Terry Lundgren as the newest member of its board of directors.

Lundgren fills a position vacated by Johnathan Rodgers who is not seeking re-election when P&G’s holds its annual shareholder meeting in October.

"We are delighted to welcome Terry Lundgren to the board," said P&G chairman, president and CEO Bob McDonald. "He brings extensive leadership, strategy and risk management experience, as well as exceptional knowledge of the consumer industry and dynamic marketing practices. His hands-on experience in organizational optimization will be invaluable as we continue to drive our productivity programs forward."

Lundgren will serve on the governance and public responsibility and the innovation and technology committees of P&G’s board. Retiring board member Rodgers has served on the board since 2001.

• Nestle to sell some of its assets
The South American division of Nestle is working with Rothschild to sell Latin American assets valued at more than $1 billion to win regulatory approval for its purchase of Pfizer's nutrition unit, according media sources.

The company is in the early stages of the sales process. It is believed the assets may draw interest from H.J. Heinz, Danone SA, Abbott Laboratories, Mead Johnson Nutrition and Grupo Lala SA.

Nestle is a supplier to Wal-Mart Stores and maintains a large sales office in Rogers.

• Nonnie’s Foods acquires La Dolce Vita
Nonni’s Foods, a supplier of biscotti and almond thins in North America, has acquired the La Dolce Vita brand from Villa Veneto Corp.

Villa Veneto makes artisan biscotti and other specialty cookies sold in the club and grocery channels like Sam’s Club and Walmart.

“La Dolce Vita is a strong strategic fit with Nonni’s, supports our growing biscotti business, expands our baking capabilities and positions Nonni’s, THINaddictives and La Dolce Vita to accelerate growth within premium cookies,” said Dave Bere, CEO of Nonni’s Foods.

• Kraft executive joins Hillshire Brands
Brian Davison was recently chosen as senior vice president of corporate strategy and development at Hillshire Brands.

Davison will be responsible for acquisition, merger and divestiture activities, strategic planning and implementing high impact projects. He joined the company on Jan 2, and will report to CEO Sean Connolly

“Brian has deep food industry and consumer knowledge that he uses to create high impact strategic and operational plans,” said Connolly. “His addition to our management team will help focus our business development activities and build additional momentum for companywide operational improvement priorities.”

Davison worked in strategic planning at Kraft Foods. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois as well as a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago.


The Supply Side: Wal-Mart supplier community news briefs

Butterball acquires Gusto Packing

Butterball LLC acquired Montgomery, Ill.-based Gusto Packing Co. which includes the company’s leadership team and approximately 500 employees. Gusto produces six product lines – Hickory & Apple Wood smoked bacon, bone-in smoked pork and turkey products, smoked boneless hams, cooked hams, pork and turkey deli meats plus spiral sliced hams.

“With Gusto’s 260,000-sq.-ft. facility, we are adding approximately 325 million lbs. of further-processed capacity to our operations,” said Rod Brenneman, Butterball CEO. “This additional capacity allows us to support Butterball-branded geographic expansion and achieve greater account penetration within current markets. It also affords us the ability to develop and manufacture innovative products for the Butterball brand.”

The acquisition provides Gusto an opportunity to benefit from a national logistics and distribution network and further enhance quality and food-safety initiatives, according to Brenneman.

North Carolina-based Butterball is the largest turkey product producer in the US – producing more than 1 billion pounds of turkey per year. Butterball has a processing plant and sales office in Northwest Arkansas.

• Pinnacle Foods to launch an initial public offering
Pinnacle Foods confirmed it hopes to raise $100 million with an public share offering announced last week.

The New Jersey-based food company is backed by private-equity firm Blackstone Group, and manufactures packaged foods under its Birds Eye frozen foods and Duncan Hines grocery brands and owns labels including Vlasic, Van de Kamp's and Mrs. Butterworth's.

Blackstone will continue to own a majority of its voting shares after the IPO is completed.            

Pinnacle Foods operates a manufacturing facility in Fayetteville and maintains a sales office in Bentonville as a supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

• Archer Daniels Midland sells business unit
In a strategic move to use its resources in more profitable areas, agri-business giant Archer Daniels Midland Company recently sold its 23% stake and other interests back to Mexican Corn Flour producer, Gruma S.A.B. de CV.

The deal fetched Archer Daniels $450 million, as well as an additional amount – up to $60 million – over the next 42 months on the fulfillment of certain conditions.

Archer Daniels has local sales offices in Northwest Arkansas.

• Nestlé Waters inks deal
Changes are on tap at Nestlé Waters North America as the company recently signed a five-year contract making it the exclusive water supplier for Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins restaurants nationwide.

Nestlé Waters is the nation’s leading bottled water company with 15 brands making it the third largest non-alcoholic beverage company by volume in the U.S.

The beverage company also said beginning Jan. 1, it will takeover the manufacturing and distribution of its iced tea brand NESTEA®., which was previously manufactured and distributed by The Coca-Cola Company as part of a joint venture with Nestlé.

NESTEA will be available in most major grocery, convenience and drug stores in the following flavors and varieties: Iced Tea with Lemon, Diet Iced Tea with Lemon, Iced Tea with Raspberry, and Red Tea with Pomegranate Passionfruit.

Nestlé operates a large sales office in Rogers and is a major supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

• Kraft Foods bets on bold flavors
Kraft Foods has revved up its innovation pipeline to bring more than 40 new products to the family table in 2013. Each has been developed to satisfy consumers' appetites for bold flavors, flexible eating patterns and simpler product recipes while still delivering great quality and value, according to the release.

"Bland and boring do not cut it anymore," said Barry Calpino , Vice President, Breakthrough Innovation, Kraft.  "We're seeing an all-out quest for fun, passion and adventure in food and beverages as people embrace a multitude of global and regional flavors. Culinary experimentation is 'in,' so everyone wants the flexibility to customize their food. Our latest innovations are fun, great-tasting products that meet those needs and are in sync with today's lifestyles." 

The full list of the new products can be found in the release.

Kraft operates a large sales office in Bentonville and is a major supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

• Epson mourns death of retail leader
Epson America announced today (Jan, 2)  that Barry Wise, a long-time consultant and retail industry leader, passed away on Dec. 28, 2012 following a brief illness.

“He was a one-of-a kind visionary who made an indelible mark in the retail technology industry,” said Mike Helm, Director of Sales for Epson’s Business Systems Division and long time colleague of Wise. “Barry was passionate and insightful about how technology could make a difference to retailers. He helped bring key Epson products to market over the years and forged partnerships that made a significant impact on our business. Epson has lost a dear friend and a valuable partner,” added Helm.

As President of Wise Retail Consulting, Wise’s knowledge and expertise were well recognized in the retail technology industry. He worked behind the scenes in support of industry standards and initiatives for Epson at National Retail Federation and he was a founding member of ARTS (the Association for Retail Technology Standards) and served on the advisory council for the NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) Standards Committee.    

• East and Gulf Coast port strike averted
Retailers breathed a sigh of relief last week as the  International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance agreed to extend their contract negotiations for an additional 30 days averting the closure of major shipping ports.

“We welcome the news that a contract extension has been reached. However, we continue to urge both parties to remain at the negotiating table until a long-term contract agreement is finalized,” said Matthew Shay, CEO of the National Retail Federation.

“While a contract extension does not provide the level of certainty that retailers and other industries were looking for, it is a much better result than an East and Gulf Coast port strike that would have shut down 14 container ports from Maine to Texas.

“A coast-wide port shutdown is not an option. It would have severe economic ramifications for the local, national and even global economies and wreak havoc on the supply chain.

He said following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the recent eight-day port strike in Los Angeles and Long Beach, this extension is a welcomed sign to the entire supply chain community – from manufacturers to retailers – that the two sides understand the risks of a shutdown and are listening to the concerns of the shipping community.