business news in context, analysis with attitude

• Kroger yesterday said that employees working in its Indianapolis division have ratified a new contract that covers more than 5,800 associates working in 61 stores. Specific terms were not disclosed.

Katie Wolfram, president of Kroger's Central division, said that the deal "is good for our associates and also allows us to be competitive and grow in the Indianapolis area."

• The Albany Times Union reports that Hannaford is testing a new program called 'The Misfits" that "sells fruits and vegetables that don't meet the perfect image of their usual offerings. The cucumbers may be twisted into odd shapes, the limes not quite so perfectly green, and the eggplant oversized and lumpy, but they don't taste any different from their better-looking brethren," all of which will be sold at a 30 percent discount.

Ryan Merrone, a produce field merchandiser for Hannaford, described the program as being good for the environment because it cuts down on waste.

It is worth noting that in a different context, CNBC reported yesterday that "the United Nations estimates that more than one third of food produced worldwide is lost or wasted. For all the food that ends up on our kitchen tables, one good, perfectly edible portion makes it to the trash first. And while it's not a new problem, the issue is becoming hard to ignore: In the U.S. alone, the amount of food we waste today is three times more than what we wasted 50 years ago ..."

• The New York Business Journal reports that upscale burger chain Shake Shack "is accelerating its expansion plans amid strong performance from its chicken sandwich and a hot opening of its first California store in West Hollywood ... The company, which has raised its revenue expectations, plans to open at least 16 domestic, company-operated Shake Shacks this year, up from the 13 it had originally planned."

According to the story, "Shake Shack credits its menu innovation as a factor in driving sales. To that end, in the second half of the year, the company will roll out a new limited time only menu item: a Bacon Cheddar Shack burger. It will be a classic cheeseburger, topped with all-natural bacon and melted aged cheddar cheese, priced at $6.89."

What makes me really happy about this story is that one of those new stores may actually be in my Connecticut town, if the folks in the local zoning board every decide to remove their heads from wherever they happen to be and appreciate that Shake Shack both will sell a better-than-average product and expand the town's tax base. Which is just my way of acknowledging that I have a bit of a bias here...

LA Biz reports that Smart & Final Stores says that it "has converted all 33 stores it bought from Haggen in December to Smart & Final Extra! stores. The store openings were part of an aggressive growth plan for the Commerce-based retailer, which plans to open 100 new stores over the next four years and hire at least 5,000 employees to staff those stores ... Haggen last year sold its stores and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after less than a year in California."
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