Kroger names two new division presidents

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI — Kroger earlier this week named Pam Matthews president of the company's central division and Suzy Monford as president of the QFC division.

Monford replaces Matthews, formerly president of Kroger's QFC division, succeeds Katie Wolfram, who is retiring. Monford is assuming the role vacated by Matthew.

"We are grateful for Katie's nearly 40 years of dedicated service to our associates and customers, and we are excited to have Pam and Suzy take on these indispensable leadership roles in our company," stated Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO Kroger. "Both leaders bring successful and distinguished retail experience to the roles and will help with the execution of the Restock Kroger Plan that will bring valuable changes to our customers, associates, communities, and shareholders."

Wolfram will retire from the company after 38 years of distinguished service, effective Nov.  4, the company reported. "Katie has accomplished much in her career with Kroger and has always been passionate about creating an inclusive and diverse work culture," McMullen said. "She has been a valued leadership partner across the company and Central division. We truly appreciate the many contributions Katie has made to Kroger, and we wish her and her family the best in retirement."

Wolfram was named to her current role in 2016 and has been spearheading an aggressive growth strategy in the Central division since joining the region as VP merchandising in 2014. In the last two years, the company has invested nearly $329 million in the central Indiana market, adding five new Marketplace stores and 12 new gas stations, remodeling and/or expanding 14 existing stores, building a regional training center and adding more than 1,400 new jobs to the region. The Central Division operates 138 stores with more than 19,500 associates.

Wolfram began her career with Kroger in 1979 as an assistant store manager in the Cincinnati-Dayton division. She went on to serve in several leadership positions at Kroger's corporate office in Cincinnati and with Kroger's Manufacturing division. In 2005, she moved to Denver to join the King Soopers division as VP merchandising, before joining the Central division in 2014 to serve in the same role.

Wolfram was a leader for the first Cultural Council, a team development and culture-building group, started at the corporate office, and she started the Reach Higher initiative in Kroger Manufacturing. Additionally, Ms. Wolfram represented Kroger as a leader in the Network of Executive Women, Denver.

In retirement, she plans to move back to Denver to be near her daughter and grandson.

Pam Matthews Promoted to President of Central Division
Matthews, currently president of the QFC division, succeeds Wolfram as president of Kroger's Central division, effective Oct. 23. Matthews started with the company in 1980 in the Fred Meyer division. She has held a variety of leadership roles in her 25-year career with Fred Meyer, including store management, training, corporate brand development, and merchandising for deli-bakery, drug-general merchandise and grocery.

Matthews also served as director of deli-bakery merchandising and director of floral merchandising and procurement at Kroger's corporate office in Cincinnati before being promoted to VP merchandising for the Central division in 2006. She moved to the Delta division as VP merchandising in 2014 and was named VP operations in 2015. She was named president of the QFC division in 2016.

Suzy Monford Named President of QFC Division
Monford joins the company to succeed Matthews as president of QFC, effective Oct. 23. Monford is the former CEO of Andronico's Community Markets, a Bay Area chain acquired by Albertsons in early 2017.

Prior to Andronico's, Monford was the head of innovation for Woolworths Supermarkets in Australia, after spending 10 years as an executive for H-E-B Central Market and H-E-B Grocery Company in Texas.

She will be based at the division office in Seattle and oversee QFC's 65 stores in Washington and Oregon.


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Cigarette filter broadens tobacco options

BY Seth Mendelson

Seeking to offer adult consumers more options in the tobacco category, Smokey Mountain Chew is introducing Airio, a pressurized filter that company officials say removes about 66% of the tar and other chemicals from a cigarette.

According to Dave Savoca, president of the Sandy Hook, Conn.-based company, Airio is the world’s smallest cigarette filter, measuring less than a half-inch in size. Using cyclonic action, it is designed to remove chemicals from cigarettes and can help adult consumers with cigarette management or cessation. Airio Micro Filters are a patent-pending design and are shipping from the company’s new manufacturing facility in Coppell, Texas. A 20-filter pack has a suggested retail price of $1.99. Smokey Mountain is offering retailers a 12-pack display — buy 10 packs and get two packs free promotion, Savoca said.

“We are very excited about this product and its potential for us and retailers,” Savoca said. “We think it will bring incremental sales to the tobacco category. There are a lot of consumers who are seeking high-tech vaping alternatives. But there are also a lot of consumers seeking alternatives within the tobacco category itself.” 


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Consumers aiming to improve pet health

BY Mark Hamstra

Consumers are increasingly weighing the health consequences of all of their purchasing decisions, including products for their four-legged family members.

From food and treats to toys and grooming products, shoppers are seeking items for their pets that offer the same healthy attributes as the products they buy for themselves.

“Without a doubt, as pet ownership expands, many consumers, especially those who have embraced a healthier lifestyle, want to be sure that their pets live healthier and longer lives,” said John Vasone, national sales manager at ConairPRO Pet. “They are looking at products that are safe and healthy.”

The trend toward more thoughtful care for pets comes as consumers increase their spending overall on the category. According to IRI, multi-outlet sales of pet products rose 3.2% for the 52-week period ended Aug. 13, to $4.3 billion.

The rise of the millennial generation is propelling these trends, as consumers in the 18 to 34-year-old age group have become a formidable force in the pet products category. Furthermore, they will spend much more in the years to come, according to a 2016 report from Packaged Facts titled “Millennials as Pet Market Consumers.” About 1-in-3 pet owners are millennials, the report stated.

These young consumers are more concerned about maintaining pet health than older generations, and also are more likely to trust themselves to take responsibility for some aspects of pet care, such as oral hygiene, according to the report.

One way to appeal to these pet-owning millennials is to offer an assortment of grooming tools, said Vasone. Frequent grooming using the right tools can help pet owners maintain the health and appearance of their pets’ coats, he said.

Consumers also are carefully reading labels to weed out products that contain ingredients they consider harmful or unhealthy.

For example, grooming products supplier Wahl seeks to appeal to health-conscious pet owners with a line of shampoos made with essential plant oils, contain no parabens and are pH-balanced.

“We are designing these to be safe and easy for your dog,” said Shay Moeller, product manager, North American consumer pet, at Wahl Clipper. “They rinse out easily, and the residue doesn’t stay in the coat or the fur.”

Brands vs. private labels
One of the keys for retailers to succeed in the pet category, according to Moeller, is to offer consumers enough variety to give the category density and allow shoppers to assess the relative value of the items.

“If people go into a store and they see only one grooming tool, or one brush, or one type of shampoo, they tend not to shop those categories,” he said.

While many retailers have embraced private labels in the pet category, Moeller said retail drug chains have seen sales gains in this area of the store by offering a “good-better” product selection with a private-label item and a Wahl-branded product.

“We are finding that if you put in a brand, your category dollars go up,” he said. “If you have one SKU of private-label shampoo, then put in one branded shampoo.”

Branded products help lend credibility to a retailer’s pet category, suppliers said.


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