Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blogging-Grocers' Memo: Grocers That 'Blog,' 'Twitter,' 'Facebook' ... and More

Safeway 2.0: Safeway Stores, Inc. recently became the latest major (as in third-largest U.S. supermarket chain) grocery chain to add a Blog to its Website,

Safeway Stores bills its relatively new Blog as "The Official Safeway Blog." The Safeway Web site-based Blog is written by Kate, who is a full-time Safeway employee. Below is how Kate describes the Safeway Blog and herself:

About the Blog
Welcome to the official Safeway blog. What's this blog all about? In a nutshell, it's about family, food, value and fun. Of course, what makes this blog really exciting is YOU — so join the conversation!

About the Author:
Hi, my name is Kate. I am mom to three wonderful daughters Gabriella, Madeleine, and Mae and wife to a great guy, Max. I work full time at Safeway and a large part of my job is getting to hear from a lot of women out there about everything that's important to them. Welcome to my blog.

Safeway Stores, Inc. added Kate's Blog when it did a redesign of its Web site in the late fall of last year.

In the Blog, Kate writes about a wide variety of topics: nutrition, meal ideas, local foods, natural and organic products, what's happening in the stores, promotions, and the like. She also encourages readers to comment on the posts.

For example, below is Kate's post from today, March 4, 2009:

Local Mandarins
03-04-2009 08:10 AM
By Kate

My favorite fruit of winter is the mandarins, we go through a five pound bag a week! Super sweet, easy to peel, and the girls love them. The brand we have in our store is from California, which I appreciate as I know they didn't travel huge distances to get to my store which means they’re always fresh (haven’t had a “dried out” one yet) and taste great! We try and support our local businesses in whatever we do –the local “pizza place”, the barber – vs. the chains. We feel it’s particularly important now as we’ve seen so many businesses close on our “main street”. What do you buy that’s local?

[View the Safeway Web site Blog here.]

Safeway Stores, Inc. isn't using the Twitter micro-blogging, social networking site as of yet, something grocery chains like Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, Tesco's Fresh & Easy, Oregon's New Season's Market and a number of others have started to do. Are you listening Kate? We think it would be a great tie-in with her Blog.

The New Seasons Market Blog - and Peanut Butter: Speaking of Portland, Oregon-based New Seasons Market, the nine-store natural foods chain also is a "Blogging-Grocer." And the independent natural grocery chain recently used its Blog to update consumers and customers on the peanut product recall, which appears to be far from close to being over.

The February 19 Blog post is titled: "What's the Story With Our Bulk Peanut Butter Recall?"

In the post, New Seasons' president Lisa Sedlar says the natural grocer has thus far removed over 135 different FDA-recalled peanut-related products from store shelves. She says it's been the most massive product recall she has experienced in her 20-plus years in the natural products industry.

[You can read her post on the peanut product recall and issue in the New Season's Market Blog here.]

New Seasons Market also has a feed on the popular social networking site Twitter. You can view it here. Below are New Seasons' two most recent "Tweets" (Twitter talk for posts) on its Twitter feed:

@rebeccashapiro Of course. Plenty of GF cereals to munch an along with alternative milks like hemp & hazelnut. from TweetDeck in reply to rebeccashapiro
Free cereal & milk tasting this weekend.

Cereal: It's the budget crunch that goes great with milk! from TweetDeck.

[Read about another way New Seasons Market has used its Blog: December 7, 2008: Retail Memo: New Seasons Market CEO Brian Rohter Speaks Out Again Today on the Whole Foods Market, Inc. Subpoena of His Company's Data.]

New Seasons' also uses Facebook. There's a link to its Facebook site on the Blog.

The "Whole Leader" of the "Blogging-Grocer" Pack in the U.S.: Whole Foods Market, Inc. is the pioneer in the food retailing industry in using Blogs as a part of the its social networking communications and marketing outreach strategy.

The first Blog on the Whole Foods Market Web site was (and is) "The CEO's Blog, written and published by CEO John Mackey. He started the Blog in 2005. CEO Mackey hasn't been posting much on his Blog of late though. His last post was in early November, 2008.

CEO Mackey also no longer posts anything on his "The CEO's Blog" about the FTC. v. Whole Foods Market, Inc. ongoing antitrust case. He stopped posting about the legal case last year after just one post (See the May 21, 2008 post here) about his return to Blogging. He did so so as to not interfere with the ongoing litigation.

Last year Whole Foods kicked-up its Blogging activity a few notches when it redesigned its Web site and added its very active "Whole Story" Blog. The natural grocer uses the Blog regularly, posting culinary suggestions and recipes, items about new products at Whole Foods, nutrition information, stories on sustainability, local foods and other similar issues, and a "Whole Lot More."

Whole Foods also has been using the Blog to inform consumers about the FDA peanut product recall, including listing all of the items its pulled from its shelves in Blog posts.

Whole Foods also includes food-related videos and podcasts on its Web site in conjunction with its "Whole Story" Blog.

Additionally, Whole Foods now has a series of interactive forums on its Web site, in which consumers can discuss food-related topics and issues with each other, as well as with Whole Foods Market's Bloggers.

Lastly, Whole Foods ties its Web site Blogging in with three social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook and Flikr (for photographs). The links to each are here: Whole Foods Market photos on Flickr, Whole Foods Market on Facebook, Whole Foods Market updates on Twitter.

A number of Whole Foods regional divisions, such as Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio, also have Twitter sites of there own, which offer a local angle.

Whole Foods Market is taking Blogging and the use of social networking sites very seriously. In fact, its the only grocery chain of any format we are aware of that currently has a senior staff member, Paige Brady, who's full-time job is social networking. She's Whole Foods' "Blogger-in-Chief."

At this point in time, based on our research, Whole Foods is the top "Blogging-Grocer" in the U.S.

[Suggested Reading: June 7, 2008: Retail Memo: Whole Foods Market, Inc. Launches New and Improved Company Blog; Leadership 2.0 and Increased Transparency on the Move in Food Retailing ... May 22, 2008: Retail Memo: Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey is 'Back to Blogging'; As Well as Being 'Back in Town.' ... May 25, 2008: nday, May 25, 2008 Retail Memo: More On John Mackey's Return to Blogging...United Kingdom's Waitrose Chief Exec Mark Price Goes His Own Way in His 'The Grocer's Blog'.]

The UK's "Grocery-Blogger-in-Chief": The May 25, 2008 post linked above mentions Mark Price, the CEO (official title: managing director) of the upscale Waitrose supermarket chain in the United Kingdom. If by our own account Whole Foods Market is the leading "Blogging- Grocer" in the U.S., Waitrose gets that honor in the UK.

In addition to Waitrose chief Mark Price's Blog, there's also a Blog by the grocery chain's nutritionist, and another by a local British hog farmer who supplies premium pork to Waitrose.

We really like the personal touch Waitrose uses in its Blogging. It creates interest in the personalities behind the grocery chain.

[You can check out the latest Blog posts from the Waitrose folks here.]

[Three past stories from NSFM about the Waitrose "Blogging-Grocers": Retail Memo: Waitrose's 'Chubby Grocer' Mark Price 'Weighs-In' on His Rival; Marks & Spencer CEO and 'The King of Pants' Sir Stuart Rose... Leadership 2.0 Memo: More Food and Grocery Industry Leaders Need to Adopt Digital, Interactive Communications Strategies in This Digital Age... Retail Memo: More On John Mackey's Return to Blogging...United Kingdom's Waitrose Chief Exec Mark Price Goes His Own Way in His 'The Grocer's Blog'.]

A Very Independent "Blogging-Grocer": Jim Hiller, the owner and CEO of Michigan's eight-store Hiller's Markets, goes his own way in his grocer's Blog, taking positions and offering his opinions in the Blog on a variety of issues.

His chief issue of late has been urging folks to buy American automobiles, which shouldn't be a surprise since Hiller's stores are located in the Detroit, Michigan region, home to America's struggling "Big Three" automobile companies.

But Hiller also writes about a wide-variety of other issues in his Blog -- like oysters -- which he wrote about in a post on February 16.

But today's post in his Blog, "Jim's Blog: A Message From the Helm," on the Hiller's Market Website is about cars. It's titled: "A New Ride," and is well worth reading. [Click here to read the post.]

We like that independent grocer Jim Hiller shows who he is in his Blog. After all, one of the keys to the success of independent grocers in the U.S. is showing a personality. Jim Hiller does that in spades, as does Hiller's Market in its merchandising and operations.

[Suggested Reading: December 23, 2008: Independent Grocer Memo: Eight-Store Michigan USA Independent Hiller's Markets Demonstrates Why Independents Survive and Thrive in the U.S.]

[Blogging-Grocers Memo is a regular feature of Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM). If you spot a grocer Blogging about something of interest (or even not of interest), feel free to send us a note and a link at: Comments on grocers and Blogging are welcome on this post. Just click the "comments" link below and offer your opinion.]
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