In the dynamic landscape of 2023, where global events have continued to shape industries and economies, Associated Food Stores stands as a resilient force, navigating through challenges and capitalizing on opportunities. 

This year has been a journey of growth, evolution and strategic advancements for AFS, reflecting profound dedication to delivering unparalleled value to its members.

Join the exploration of the top stories that defined the company in 2023, showcasing AFS’s resilience, achievements and contributions to a rapidly changing business environment. 

The year presented incredible challenges for Associated Food Stores’ (AFS) member retailers and team members, including the tragic passing of Bill Price, AFS’s vice president of fresh foods along with the passing of Dick Winegar, founder of the Dick’s Market stores. Others near and dear to AFS also passed away and they will be greatly missed.

Vote for Other Top AFS Stories of 2023

With the passing of these prominent leaders being top stories of 2023, the following summaries highlight some of this year’s other major happenings. Please review the many accomplishments and help name AFS’ top stories of 2023 by completing the quick poll at the end of the article. Additionally, there is a place to submit any top stories not currently on the list. The results will be announced in early January.  

In Fall 2023, Associated Food Stores, in collaboration with trusted legal partners, created a holding company structure to facilitate the strategic division of its business operations, reducing risk and related insurance costs across its business operations. A video explaining the change can be found here.

Associated Food Stores set an all-time sales record the week of November 12 to November 18. With more than $49 million in wholesale sales, the week’s totals exceeded the previous record set last year. While ongoing inflation is a factor, the collaborative effort and teamwork throughout the company is driving the extraordinary results.

Warehouse modernization is Associated Food Stores’ initiative to ensure the Farr West Distribution Center remains a full-service, state-of-the-art facility both now and in the future. The multi-million-dollar project was approved by the AFS board of directors in December. Automation will play an integral role in the revolutionary project. Warehouse modernization leads to important benefits throughout the company including:

• Increased speed, accuracy, and efficiency throughout the organization.

• Alleviate unavoidable labor challenges.

• Enhanced ability to meet the increasing demands of retailers and their customers.

• Improved efficiency for retail team members. As an example, pallets will arrive based on store schematic to save both time and labor expenses.

AFS plans to fund the warehouse modernization project with a combination of existing cash reserves, operating cash flow generation and bank financing and is forecasting no negative impact to member patronage rebates (residual rebates or otherwise) because of warehouse modernization. The company considers warehouse modernization a significant investment foundational to the future of “One Associated” that is fully expected to generate future returns for its member-owners. 

Get the Latest About Warehouse Modernization

In 2022, Associated Food Stores was thrilled to announce it now has member owners in New Mexico. Two Farmers Market stores, owned by Matt, Michael and Grant Pennington, along with Deborah Vavra became members of AFS. Farmers Market is a third-generation owned independent grocer.  

Learn About AFS Members in New Mexico

Nestled in the heart of the Pinebrook neighborhood of Park City, Macey’s Market Pinebrook, ARO’s latest major remodel, officially grand opened on Wednesday, November 8, marking a significant moment for the communities it serves and the Macey’s brand. Macey’s Market Pinebrook is the first of its kind, designed to deliver a shopping experience tailored to the unique needs and preferences of the mountain community. Click below to watch a video highlighting the store.

ARO has additional remodels on the way with a grand opening of the Sugar House Macey’s in January 2024 and Macey’s East Sandy later in the year. Lin’s also made several extraordinary improvements through highly strategic “small ball” projects leading to widespread results for the Southern Utah stores. 

Associated Food Stores continued its tradition of hosting regional gatherings, called Retailer Connection meetings across AFS’ service area. Over six weeks, meetings took place in Montana, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado, fostering discussions on diverse topics and presentations. 

The meetings allow member retailers to make suggestions, ask questions and receive updates on AFS’ key initiatives. 

In a survey conducted by Forbes, in partnership with market research firm Statista, Associated Food Stores earned a well-deserved spot on the prestigious list of America’s Best Employers by State. This recognition showcased the company’s commitment to fostering a positive work environment and highlighted its dedication to team members.

While sales were impressive across many of the company’s Exclusive Brands, several stars stood out as particularly notable. With amazing appetizers, mouthwatering pizzas, scrumptious cookies, frozen desserts and breakfast sandwiches, cozy comfort food and much more, Crav’n Flavor has taken off as an important part of AFS’ brand portfolio. 

Two other brands, whose names and brands were created and developed at Associated Food Stores, are also shining examples of 2023 success. Beehive Bread & Pastry Co., from the bakery department, saw solid results last year. Additionally, Red Button Vintage Creamery continues to grow toward becoming a $10 million-brand. Along with the remarkable popularity of Red Button Vintage Creamery ice cream and pie, Boyd Irving and the Exclusive Brands launched gourmet popcorn in 2023.

The AFS Annual Business Meeting and FoodShow are time-honored traditions of Associated Food Stores. For more than 80 years, retailers have gathered to learn about company progress, talk with vendors and interact with fellow retailers. The annual business meeting kicked off 2023’s event on the evening of March 28 with a comprehensive report on financial results and exciting executive team presentations. The following days were filled with buying and interaction as hundreds of retailers, team members and vendors gathered at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City.

In 2023, Associated Food Stores introduced the “One Associated Award.” As the company’s premier team-member recognition, the award is presented to a team member who exemplifies leadership, commitment and heart in driving the mission of Associated Food Stores to enrich lives, one grocer, one family, one meal at a time. 

Duwayne Warren was the first recipient of the One Associated Award. He was given the award at the annual meeting and was featured in the year’s annual report. Read more here. 

In 2023, the Associated Food Stores’ advertising and rewards teams shared exciting news about their ongoing digital coupon efforts. The improvements are a true reflection of a “One Associated” effort as there were dozens of important contributions made from all facets of the organization. In 2023, digital coupon clips are up more than 350 percent and digital coupon redemptions were up more than 40 percent.  

Seven stores, in partnership with Associated Food Stores, conducted an exciting test of electronic shelf labels (ESL) as part of a years-long effort to enhance shelf-edge communication. 

Four Kent’s stores, along with Stewart’s in Roosevelt, Utah, Broulim’s in Driggs, Idaho and Macey’s on Parley’s Way in Salt Lake City, Utah tested approximately 1,000 tags in each location. The tags were placed in all departments and temperatures, including under the misters in produce areas, to test the new technology. 

As 2023 concluded, many more retailers expressed interest in rolling out the new signs.

Bridge, AFS’ new intranet, powered by Microsoft SharePoint, was launched in October. The site is a robust and versatile platform offering enhanced collaboration, communication and content management capabilities. 

Engage is an integrated team member engagement platform that fosters team member connections, relationships, comradery and engagement company wide. Engage includes features such as interactive news feeds, surveys, polls and communities, aiming to enhance the team member experience and promote a sense of belonging within the organization.

Karli West, a bagger from Macey’s grocery store in Provo, Utah took first place at the National Grocers Association’s best bagger competition on February 27, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Karli battled against top baggers from around the nation in an intense, but fun-filled event. As a reward for her impressive finish, West received a $10,000 cash prize and a trophy. West is the fifth bagger from Macey’s to win the national competition since 2005.

Accolades, a new team member recognition platform launched in 2023, is designed to recognize and appreciate the valuable contributions of AFS team members. AFS Accolades allows team members to recognize their peers for doing great work, going above and beyond, wishing them a happy birthday and more. 

In October, Associated Food Stores officially unveiled its pioneering new initiative, the AFS Spark Data-Sharing platform. This innovative tool promises to revolutionize the way AFS’ retail members, vendor partners and the wholesaler itself perceive, analyze and leverage data, ushering in a new era of informed decision-making and improved collaboration.

In March, AFS announced additional emphasis on digital weekly ads through a combination of email marketing, paid social media, organic social media and paid digital media. With digital, AFS leverages more ways for member stores to connect with their shoppers, far more than with paper ads. Participating retailers benefit by using the highly measurable tools and opens up more opportunities in the future.

Success at AFS and its member stores requires skilled people and high productivity, which makes learning more critical than ever. Through the newly introduced Learning Hub, AFS is focused on delivering scalable, personalized learning to team members company wide. The new platform is just launching and, along with the AFS and ARO teams, it will be available to member retailers (MRO) as a new retail training service in the coming months. Retailers can learn more at FoodShow 2024.

Retail technology team members, and the many who benefit from their efforts, had reasons to celebrate as they achieved their wildly important goal on October 19. The goal was ambitious but crucial: to convert 130 stores to RORC version 7 by the end of the year. RORC version 7 represents a significant technological advancement for these stores, offering new capabilities that enhance the customer experience during the checkout process. 

In July, AFS announced the launch of Pocket, a revolutionary program designed to replace the AIMS system. With a fresh name, appearance, and design, Pocket is set to deliver a more modern, sleek, and seamless experience for users.

Throughout November, guests at Macey’s, Dan’s, Dick’s Market, Lin’s and Fresh Market were asked to donate to the Utah Food Bank at check out through the stores’ Harvest of Hope effort and they responded—combining for a total of more than $240,000. In addition to these stores, hundreds of AFS member-owners also participated and the results of their contributions will add to the incredible total.

In a significant leap forward for AFS’ internal processes, the Information Technology team introduced a groundbreaking tool in 2023 – the Advertising, Marketing, and Promotions (AMP) portal. This innovative platform serves as the internal replacement for EPM, the promotional software used by the procurement department. The AMP portal is designed to streamline and enhance promotional activities, offering brokers a user-friendly interface to input promotional documents and deals seamlessly.

In southern Utah, the Lin’s pharmacies celebrating groundbreaking sales records including multiple record-setting sales weeks. At the heart of their success was not just the traditional prescription filling but a robust offering of clinical services that has become an important offering for the community. 

After reviewing the top stories of 2023, it’s now time to vote for the top five. Click here to vote or submit any stories not currently on the list.