DELHAIZE DEBT RATING BOOSTED TO INVESTMENT GRADE
BRUSSELS — Rating agencies Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's last week assigned investment-grade ratings to Delhaize Group here, signaling confidence in the financial and operational improvements at the parent of the Hannaford Bros., Food Lion and Sweetbay banners in the United States. Moody's, New York, in a release said the rating upgrade, to Baa3, was underpinned by low business risk, good geographical diversity, scale and competitive positioning, among other attributes. Standard & Poor's, New York, upgraded Delhaize to a “BB+” rating and positive outlook. The ratings will allow Delhaize to proceed with its plan to implement cross-guarantees between Delhaize Group and its U.S. subsidiary, Delhaize America, which itself received a recent credit upgrade from S&P. The implementation of cross-guarantees was conditional upon Delhaize Group obtaining a credit rating from Moody's and S&P at least as strong as the current credit rating and outlook of Delhaize America, Delhaize said in a statement.
PUBLIX TO LAUNCH MAKE-AHEAD MEAL PROGRAM
LAKELAND, Fla. — Publix Super Markets here said last week that it would expand its Apron's recipe program to include a make-ahead meal pilot at two locations. Under Apron's Make-Ahead Meals, registered customers will find ready-to-assemble meal ingredients they can prepare, package and freeze for home use later; customers can also arrange for Publix to prepare and freeze their meals for pickup. The program will pilot at a Publix location in Jacksonville, Fla., which currently houses a cooking school. A second, stand-alone location will be tested at the site of a current Publix store in Lithia, Fla., the retailer added. Publix also said cooking schools have been added to stores in Boca Raton, Fla., and Alpharetta, Ga.
BASHAS' DEBUTS IKE'S FARMERS' MARKET BANNER
ORO VALLEY, Ariz. — Ike's Farmers' Market, Bashas' new banner featuring fresh and organic foods, was scheduled to open its first location here over the weekend, Bashas' officials said. “We're thrilled to open our first farmers' market store,” Johnny Basha, vice chairman of the Chandler, Ariz.-based retailer, said in a statement. “At Ike's, consumers will be empowered to make smart food choices so they can manage common health challenges and live healthier lifestyles.” The 42,000-square-foot store is named in honor of Ike Basha, founder of Bashas'.
GMA CAUTIONS ON ETHANOL-DRIVEN PRICE INCREASES
WASHINGTON — The Grocery Manufacturers Association here last week urged lawmakers to use caution while pursuing alternative energy policy, “taking into full account the possible unintended consequences of a sharp increase in the use of corn for fuel,” Cal Dooley, chief executive officer, GMA, said in a statement. The price of corn has nearly doubled in the last nine months, GMA said. “We support policies that will permit an increase in biofuels production without hampering the ability of the food industry to provide consumers — both in the U.S. and around the world — with a reliable and affordable supply of food,” Dooley said. (For more on the impact of ethanol demand on food prices, see Page 25.)
FORMER AHOLD EXECUTIVE SENTENCED TO 7 YEARS
NEW YORK — A federal judge here last week sentenced Mark Kaiser, a former executive at Ahold's U.S. Foodservice division, to seven years in prison for his role as “organizer and leader” of a scheme that led Ahold to overstate its profits by $800 million. Kaiser had been convicted last year of fraud in the case, in which he directed the creation of fake invoices to artificially inflate vendor rebates. Several suppliers also have pleaded guilty in the case. Michael Resnick, the former chief financial officer at USF, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to six months of house arrest.