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.
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.
With the passing of these prominent leaders being top stories of 2023, the team voted on the other top stories of last year and here are the results in order beginning with number one:
#1 – AFS Named Top Place to Work
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.
The survey, which involved the participation of 70,000 workers at companies across the United States, aimed to identify employers that stood out for their outstanding workplace culture and employee satisfaction. Companies with a minimum of 500 employees were considered, making this accolade even more significant.
#2 – Project ROAR: Warehouse Modernization
Project ROAR 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 made great strides in 2023. Project ROAR will lead 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.
In September, AFS board members toured the Farr West Distribution Center to see the progress. See the video here. The company considers Project ROAR 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 Project ROAR
#3 – Macey’s Bagger Wins National Competition
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.
#4 – First “One AFS” Award Recipient Named
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.
#5 – Independent Retailer Growth
Members of Associated Food Stores saw significant growth in 2023. Lee’s, Digby’s, Mario’s (replacement) and Sam Patch Co. (replacement) opened new stores and many others, including Pioneer Market, Bowmans, Clark’s, Flaming Gorge Market and Yoke’s Market made noteworthy remodels and improvements. As AFS members strive to meet the needs of their communities, financial success follows and many members have experienced impressive results as they continue their commitment and dedication.
#6 – ARO Continues Success
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 here 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.
#7 – Exclusive Brands Continue Growth
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.
#8 – An End of an Era: Print Ad Distribution
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.
With so many great stories, there was a four-way tie for the number-nine spot on this year’s list:
#9 – Pharmacy Record
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.
#9 – AFS Launches Electronic Shelf Labels
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.
#9 – AFS Accolades Ramps Up Team Member Recognition
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.
#9 – Harvest of Hope Delivers Bounty to Local Food Banks
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.
#10 – FoodShow and Annual Meeting
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.