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Ahold preparing major Peapod push into New York market

BY Michael Johnsen

ZAANDAM, The Netherlands — Ahold announced plans to significantly expand its Peapod presence in the U.S. market when announcing fourth-quarter results on Thursday. "Peapod is expected to double its capacity in the U.S. in 2014," Dick Boer, Ahold CEO, told analysts. 

"We’re planning to open a semi-automated New Jersey warehouse during this summer of 300,000 square feet — clearly focusing on the demands of the New York City market," Boer said. As many as 21 million people live within New York City’s boundaries, Boer said, "so enormous opportunity for us to move in that market — we’re already there, but to accelerate that growth."

Boer reported that Peapod would also concentrate on expanding its number of pick-up points by 200 by the end of the year. 

Furthering its commitment to online strategies, Ahold recently opened a state-of-the-art digital innovation lab in Chicago, Boer said. "[This] allows us to attract top talent to help us shape the future."

Ahold USA on Thursday reported net sales of $6 billion, down 2.1%. Identical sales dropped 2.1% (2% excluding gasoline) reflecting the sales effect of Hurricane Sandy last year and a challenging fourth quarter, the company stated. For the full year, net sales were $26.1 billion, up 1.1%. Identical sales were up 0.2% (0.3% excluding gasoline). 

“In 2013, we continued to implement our Reshaping Retail strategy, leveraging changing consumer needs and pursuing growth opportunities in both existing and new markets," Boer stated. "We also continued to rapidly expand our online businesses, achieving strong double-digit sales growth," he said. “While we expect economic conditions to gradually improve, we remain cautious in our outlook for the food retail sector in 2014. Our ongoing focus on expanding our online businesses is expected to continue to result in strong sales growth. We will continue to look for ways to simplify our business in order to reduce costs so that we can invest in our value proposition and offer customers a better shopping experience every day.”

 

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Deutsche Bank: Kroger in the running for Safeway in addition to Cerberus

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Deutsche Bank on Thursday speculated that either Cerberus or Kroger could acquire Safeway. 

The firm noted that divestitures in a Kroger acquisition would exceed those in a Cerberus buyout.  

A Bloomberg report published last week suggested Cerberus was the lead bidder for Safeway’s operations. 

"While other private-equity firms also have expressed interest in buying the second-largest grocery chain in the U.S., they are more interested in cherry-picking assets, people familiar with the situation have said," Bloomberg reported. "Safeway is not interested in selling off pieces and would prefer to be sold in its entirety, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private."

 

 

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CDC: Obesity prevalence down among 2- to 5-year-olds

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — The latest obesity data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in the Feb. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed a significant decline in obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years. Obesity prevalence for this age group went from nearly 14% in 2003-2004 to just more than 8% in 2011-2012 — a decline of 43% — based on CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data. 

Although the JAMA study does not specifically compare 2009-2010 with 2011-2012, NHANES data does show a decline in the 2- to 5-year-old age group during that time period — from just more than 12% in 2009-2010 to just more than 8% in 2011-2012.

“We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping. This report comes on the heels of previous CDC data that found a significant decline in obesity prevalence among low-income children ages 2 years to 4 years participating in federal nutrition programs,” stated CDC director Tom Frieden. “We’ve also seen signs from communities around the country with obesity prevention programs, including Anchorage, Alaska, Philadelphia, New York City and King County, Wash. This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic.”

While the precise reasons for the decline in obesity among 2- to 5-year-olds were not clear, many child care centers have started to improve their nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years. In addition, CDC data show decreases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth in recent years. Another possible factor might be the improvement in breastfeeding rates in the United States, which is beneficial to staving off obesity in breastfed children. 

“I am thrilled at the progress we’ve made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans,” stated Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States of America. “With the participation of kids, parents and communities in Let’s Move! these last four years, healthier habits are beginning to become the new norm.”

Overall, CDC’s latest NHANES obesity data published in this week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated there had been no significant changes in obesity prevalence among 2- to 19-year-olds or adults in the United States between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012.

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