KEASBEY, N.J. — Wakefern Food Corp. marked its 75th anniversary during its Annual Meeting last month when executives paid tribute to the family-owned businesses that comprise the cooperative and drive its success.
Chairman and chief executive officer Joseph Colalillo, president and chief operating officer Joe Sheridan, and executive vice president Chris Lane addressed Wakefern members, shareholders, staff and store management during the company’s meeting, which included an in-person and virtual audience.
“As we reflect upon the rich legacy of our cooperative — and the history of our family businesses — we also focus on the future, mindful that we are here today because, working together, our founding families had the foresight, determination and grit to always look forward. Seventy-five years later, we are still made up of family-owned businesses with deep roots in the communities where our stores operate,” said Colalillo, who also leads his own family business, ShopRite of Hunterdon County, which was founded by his father in 1954 and today includes five ShopRite stores.
Faced with increasing pressure from big chain supermarkets, eight independent New Jersey grocers came together in 1946 to maximize their purchasing power by forming a buying cooperative — Wakefern. More than seven decades later, the company represents the largest-retailer-owned cooperative in the U.S., with members who operate stores under the ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, the Fresh Grocer, Gourmet Garage, Fairway Market and Dearborn Market banners. Many of the members are in their third or fourth generation of ownership and have been part of the cooperative since its founding.
As part of annual meeting, Wakefern also reported retail sales of $17.8 billion for the fiscal year ended October 2. During that same period, Wakefern opened four ShopRite stores, four Price Rite Marketplace supermarkets, and welcomed a new member, the Slawsby family. Massachusetts-based Madison Foods is a third-generation grocery business now operating four new Price Rite Marketplace supermarkets in the Boston area.
“Seventy-five years is a big deal — pretty remarkable given that family-owned businesses rarely survive past the third generation,” noted Sheridan.
Lane reported on retail innovations that will continue to move the company forward and elevate the customer experience when it comes to online and in-store shopping.
Initiatives include the continued expansion of Wakefern’s popular and award-winning own brands, Bowl & Basket, Paperbird, and Wholesome Pantry and Wholesome Pantry Organic, as well as the expansion of the Fresh to Table concept in ShopRite stores. The Fresh to Table department reimagines food to go by providing wholesome and affordable fresh food, prepped ingredients and meal solutions to customers.