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Shareholder lawsuit questions Safeway-Albertsons merger

On behalf of Safeway Inc. shareholders, a class action lawsuit has been filed against Safeway, its board of directors, Albertson's LLC, Saturn Acquisition Merger Sub Inc. and Cerberus Capital Management L.P. In March, Safeway and Albertsons announced a $9 billion merger agreement that was unanimously approved by Safeway's board of directors. According to a statement from shareholder rights attorneys at Robbins Arroyo LLP, which will represent the Safeway shareholders, "Omitted and/or misrepresented information is believed to be material to Safeway shareholders' ability to make an informed decision whether to approve the proposed transaction."

The complaint arises out of a March 6 press release announcing that Safeway had entered into the definitive merger agreement with Albertson's, pursuant to which Safeway shareholders would receive, for each Safeway share they own, $32.50 in cash and the right to receive pro-rata distributions of net proceeds from primarily non-core assets, estimated to be worth $3.65 per share. The complaint seeks injunctive relief on behalf of shareholders of Safeway plaintiff and all other similarly situated shareholders of Safeway as of March 6.

According to the Robbins Arroyo satement, Safeway shareholders allege that certain of the defendants, in connection with the proposed transaction, breached or aided and abetted the other defendants' breaches of their duties and obligations owed to Safeway shareholders. The complaint further alleges that, in an attempt to secure shareholder approval of the proposed transaction, the defendants filed a materially false and misleading preliminary proxy statement on Schedule 14A with the U.S. SEC in violation of the Exchange Act and their duties of candor and full disclosure.

The lawsuit claims there were violations of sections of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Act of 1934 related to shareholder approval of executive compensation and liability to contemporaneous traders for insider trading, as well as a U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission rule about false or misleading statements.

The proposed merger would join more than 2,400 stores, something the national consumer group Food & Water Watch has taken issue with. The group estimated that increased retail grocery concentration in the markets where the two chains currently compete could increase consumer grocery prices between $900 million and $2 billion every year. The group also suggested that the merger could harm farmers that are selling into Safeway’s 'locally grown' program.

FreshXperts to offer consulting services at United Fresh 2014 and FMI Connect 2014

Produce consultancy FreshXperts will offer consulting services at the United Fresh and FMI 2014 trade shows, co-located at Chicago's McCormick Place, June 10-13.

First-time clients who schedule an appointment in advance are eligible for a free 30-minute initial consultation during the shows.

FreshXperts will be part of the inaugural Expert Consultation Center at United Fresh where, for the first time, consulting firms will have space to meet with current and prospective clients in an exclusive area on the show floor. They will also have access to private meeting rooms for more in-depth consultation.

"United Fresh and FMI have always provided outstanding forums for new ideas," Tim Vaux, a partner in FreshXperts, said in a press release. "As part of the Expert Consultation Center, FreshXperts has a special opportunity to help members of the fresh and grocery industries find the inspiration, as well as identify the action steps, to take their businesses to the next level. By participating in the consultation center, FreshXperts will be able to help our current and future clients leave the conferences knowing that that they have a plan in place to help them succeed and a team in their corner to support their success."

Vaux continued, "The FreshXperts provide full-service advising that integrates seamlessly with our clients' management teams, lending expertise and manpower without the expenses and long-term commitments of permanent in-house employees."

The group provides solutions for businesses across the fresh industry, offering expertise to grower-shippers in the areas of operations, marketing, sales and merchandising, governance, strategic planning, supply chain management, organics, e-commerce, and social media, among others.

The FreshXperts team also works with supermarkets to develop merchandising and advertising strategies, lend competency in category development, provide new store and remodel planning, manage gross profit margins, contribute expertise in organics, and provide education related to buying and selling produce.

"Our proven strategies and networks of contacts throughout the supply chain assure our clients of success," Vaux added. "We have a well-established track record of achieving profitable and sustainable growth for our clients in fresh foods and retail sales, and we invite conference attendees to schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help their businesses."

Individuals or businesses wishing to set an appointment with the FreshXperts at United Fresh and FMI Connect 2014 may do so by emailing info@freshxperts.com.

Regional poly bags to promote locally grown produce

Black Gold Farms has recently kicked off its 2014 summer red potato harvest with its popular locally grown programs. The programs correspond with Black Gold Farms' harvesting schedule, which starts in Texas and transitions through additional growing regions including Georgia and the Mississippi Delta before heading north into Indiana and the Red River Valley.Texas

Unique five-pound poly bags have been developed for each specific region that features local imagery and messaging that will resonate with local consumers. In addition to on-pack messaging, there is also the opportunity for retailers to develop regionally specific campaigns and customizable point-of-sale materials to emphasize in-store product displays, as well as geo-targeted social media campaigns.

Black Gold Farms' strategic network of farms has allowed it to meet the demand from retailers and consumers for locally grown produce, including red potatoes. These locally grown programs have increased Black Gold Farms' overall sustainability efforts with reduced food miles and keeping as much business local as possible.

"With the benefit of being the only potato grower and packer with our unique geographic diversity, we are able to provide a distinctive and exciting locally grown program for summer red potatoes," Leah Brakke, director of marketing for Black Gold Farms, said in a press release. "We see this as a huge opportunity for our retail customers to showcase local product and packaging that they can take pride in. Every location is different, and we want to capture that essence as much as we can."

WP Rawl launches 'Nature's Greens' kale chips kit

WP Rawl has introduced a new product to its "Nature's Greens" brand line. The new ready-to-bake kale chips kit showcases the versatility of kale and will be launching soon at various retailers throughout the country.kalechipskit

The 12-ounce kale chips kit includes a seasoning packet and pre-cut kale. All that is needed to prepare are two tablespoons of olive oil. One bag yields 16 cups, making the kit a great value compared to ready-to-eat kale chips.

"With pre-made kale chips increasing in popularity over the past few years, we have been discussing ways to get in on the trend," Ashley Rawl, director of sales, marketing and product development for WP Rawl, based in Pelion, SC, said in a press release. "As the category leader in leafy greens, we decided the best way to provide great value to our consumers was to add a healthier and less expensive alternative."

The Nature's Green kale chips kit will launch with Chili & Lime seasoning, with additional flavors rolling out later this summer.

Kings bringing back 24 Hour Just Picked Promise for summer

kingloeogKings Food Markets continues its tradition of bringing customers the freshest, highest-quality ingredients with the 2014 launch of its exclusive 24 Hour Just Picked Promise.kingssei

The 24 Hour Just Picked Promise is Kings' commitment to make locally grown, farm-fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs available to shoppers within 24 hours of being picked — giving shoppers the benefits of a local farm stand in the convenience of their neighborhood food markets. The program will commence May 23.

"At Kings, we are constantly pushing the boundaries on behalf of our customers, and through our 24 Hour Just Picked Promise, we are able to redefine freshness," Judy Spires, president and chief executive officer of Kings Food Markets, based in Parsippany, NJ, said in a press release. "All summer long, shoppers looking for the crispness, taste and nutrition that only comes from locally grown, fresh produce can come to Kings and look for our 24 Hour Just Picked Promise seal. They can know those fruits, vegetables and herbs were hand-picked on a local farm less than 24 hours ago. It's a commitment to local farmers, quality and freshness you can't get anywhere else."

Kings works with a network of more than 25 regional farmers throughout New Jersey and Connecticut — in towns such as Vineland, Mullica Township, Swedesboro, Landisville, Buena Hammonton, Newfield, Medford, New Lisbon and Millmay, NJ — to deliver all of its Just Picked produce fresh to Kings stores within 24 hours of being hand-picked.

Local farmers supplying the program select only the freshest, seasonal products in the morning, and through an expedited distribution process, they are delivered to Kings' stores and prepared for sale the next day. The program is unique to Kings and was developed in partnership with Massachusetts-based Red Tomato, a non-profit organization committed to better connecting farmers and consumers.

"We're very proud to be able to deliver produce this fresh, from farms in our communities, to our stores and, ultimately, our shoppers," Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce, meat, seafood and floral for Kings Food Markets, added in the press release. "It's the only program of its kind, and now, when our shoppers are picking up their fresh seafood, favorite cut of meat or a new cheese to bring to a party, they can also get the same freshness that's offered at a farm stand right in Kings' produce department — making all those summer flavors really come alive."

Kings customers looking to support local farmers and buy the freshest produce available can look for the 24 Hour Just Picked Promise seal in Kings' stores. The items available at each store will vary daily, although customers can expect to find such summer staples as arugula, basil, cilantro, mint, blueberries, cucumbers, kale and tomatoes with the Just Picked Promise.

For the latest updates on which Just Picked products are available or for weekly recipes incorporating the fresh ingredients, customers can visit Kings' website (www.kingsfoodmarkets.com), follow Kings on Twitter (@KingsFoodMkts) — using the hashtag #KingsJustPicked — or like Kings on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kingsfoodmarkets).

The program will run in all Kings stores from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, with the exception of Kings Old Greenwich in Connecticut, which will start in mid-June.