From produce aisle to checkout lane: All things grocery in Washington

Archive for May 2011

ShopRite replacing Spring Valley Superfresh

May 23, 2011 - 05:14 PM
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Progressive Grocer has reported that ShopRite is the winning bidder for 10 Superfresh locations in the region, including D.C.'s Spring Valley location.

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Amazon groceries: King of the diapers

May 23, 2011 - 10:34 AM
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After moving from books to clothes, electronics, toys, and motorcycle accessories, Amazon took on the next obvious sales category: groceries. The online retailer’s offerings include organic garbanzo beans and powdered goat milk with vitamin D, and wheels of brie at competitive prices, but one item dominates its bestsellers list: diapers.

Keurig’s 50-pack of K-Cups cling to the number one spot, but diapers and diaper paraphernalia hold 18 of the top 20 spots. Diapers mostly dominate the top 100 bestsellers, with a few notable exceptions (Vita Coco Pure Cocunut Water snagged no. 24, Miracle Noodle Shirtaki Angel Hair Pasta is at no. 45).

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Act now: Triple coupons at Harris Teeter

May 23, 2011 - 09:38 AM
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From now until Tuesday night at midnight, customers can get triple the face value of manufaturers’ coupons at Harris Teeter. If a coupon promises you up to 99 cents off an item, Harris Teeter will knock off three times that.

Check the grocer’s website for stipulations (no expired coupons, only one coupon per item, sales tax is paid in full, etc).

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Is your food shrinking?

May 23, 2011 - 04:31 AM
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If the price of your regular jar of peanut butter jumped, would you notice? Possibly. What if the jar lost a couple of ounces? Probably not. That’s exactly what manufacturers are banking on when they narrow a jug, take a few chips out of the bag, or put a dimple the size of a golf ball in the bottom of a jar.

In a time of high costs and cautious customers, the tactic saves a company money without raising prices or too many eyebrows. This month, a survey found that 84 percent of consumers believe that grocery prices have risen in the last three months. Just 50 percent of the same pool believe packaged food sizes have gotten smaller.

Could that mean that prices really have gone up and package size hasn’t changed? Considering how common package-size reduction is and how hard it can be to detect, that doesn’t seem likely. More likely: Customers more easily see a price tag on a shelf than they can feel the weight of a tub of margarine in their hands.

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Cold cuts in the news: Bologna stopped at the border

May 20, 2011 - 11:31 AM
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Customs officials seized 385 pounds of bologna at the southern New Mexico border this week. The bandit attempting to smuggle in the contraband cold cuts was arrested and the bologna, valued at just under $2,700 on the local market, burned.

It’s not the first time officials have stopped bologna as it illegally attempted to cross the border. In 2003, officials seized 756 pounds of the lunchmeat in El Paso.

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Wegmans subs: sampling for sandwich supremacy

May 20, 2011 - 09:44 AM
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For a particular geographic contingent, Wegmans holds almost mythic status. Fans rave about the prices, the quality, and even the romantic atmosphere with missionary zeal. Nothing, though, inspires more fanaticism than Wegmans sub sandwiches. Drop the words “Wegmans subs” into a sentence while conversing with someone from upstate New York, and you could witness sighs, groans, exclamations, and possibly hand gestures.

With most of the region’s Wegmans stores nestled in deep suburban outposts, the subs aren’t easily accessible to many area residents. To make your trek more likely to succeed, the Market Report conducted a grand sampling of all seven of the store’s signature sandwiches and ranked them according to a number of factors.

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Petworth Community Market opens for the season today

May 20, 2011 - 09:28 AM
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The Petworth Community Market launches its second season today. The market, which runs along 9th at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Upshur NW, is one of the region's few Friday operations. Hours are 4-7 pm.

Organizers raised enough cash to secure an EBT machine for the season, which means customers can pay with both food stamps and credit cards. Petworth is the latest in more than a dozen D.C. markets to start accepting food stamps.

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Whole Foods weekend sample round-up

May 20, 2011 - 06:00 AM
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Samples at a grocery store can range from sad chip fragments next to a depleted jar of mustardy dip to glorious displays of gourmet cheese with fruit compote. Don’t waste your time wandering from store to store this weekend hoping to land something decent. The Market Report brings you the region’s Whole Foods sample schedule.

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FDA whiffs on gluten-free labeling laws, say local lawmakers

May 19, 2011 - 02:49 PM
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Virginia lawmakers Jim Moran and Gerry Connolly were among the seven lawmakers today calling the FDA out on its failure to define the term “gluten-free.” The 2004 Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act mandated that the agency designate a federal standard for the term by 2008.

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Georgetown Whole Foods provides much-needed cupcakes to the neighborhood

May 19, 2011 - 12:15 PM
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The Georgetown Whole Foods has released its new weekly cupcake menu, featuring ground-breaking combinations like vanilla with chocolate frosting and chocolate with vanilla frosting. The news will be a great relief to residents who’ve been forced to rely on Georgetown Cupcake, Baked and Wired, Sprinkles, Furin’s, and Georgetown Scoops to meet their need for overly twee baked goods.

The only questions remaining are 1. whether Whole Foods cupcakes, priced at a relatively low $1.99 a piece, will satisfy customers who are used to paying upwards of $4 a pop, and 2. has Whole Foods developed a new food called "choclate raspberry" or is that just a typo?

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Harris Teeter fan produces manic musical tribute (video)

May 19, 2011 - 11:29 AM
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The Market Report has just stumbled upon the vocal stylings of Justine Ezarik, an "Internet personality" and maker of trippy videos. Ezarik has twice brought her artistic vision to grocery chain Harris Teeter, which has, according to her rap lyrics, "what it takes/To be the official store of the United States."

The bubbly blonde dances barefoot in the aisles, sings about Hot Pockets, and talks in a strange accent during trippy Harris Teeter tribute videos.

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Listeria recalls: Vanilla bean paste and blue stilton cheese

May 19, 2011 - 10:52 AM
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New Jersey-based Schratter Foods has issued a nation-wide recall for Quenby Hall Blue Stilton Cheese because of potential Listeria contamination. Listeria causes short-term effects in healthy consumers (like headache, nausea, and diarrhea) but much more serious and sometimes fatal infections in children and those with weakened immune systems. Return your Quenby Hall Blue Stilton Cheese for a full refund at your point of purchase.

UPDATE: The Market Report originally reported the Nielsen-Massey Vanillas recalled its Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. As of June 9, the paste is no longer thought to be contaminated. Further tests by the FDA determined that the Listeria reading in May was a false positive. The FDA has removed notice of the recall from its website. Your vanilla bean paste is safe.

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Exploding watermelons in China raise questions about growth chemicals

May 19, 2011 - 06:00 AM
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File under Reasons to Eat Locally Grown Produce: Watermelons started bursting in eastern China this month after receiving an overdose of growth-accelerators, CCTV reports.

The chemical, called forchlorfenuron, is legal in China, as it is in the U.S. (it’s used here on grapes and kiwi), but experts say farmers used too much during wet weather. The melons began bursting by the dozen—one farmer reported 80 explosions in one morning and 100 that afternoon. He stopped counting after two days.

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The wonderful world of Wheaton grocery stores

May 18, 2011 - 09:20 AM
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Dramatically shifting demographics in Wheaton have brought amazing diversity to the area's groceries. Enjoy snapshots of a few of the interesting items retailing in Wheaton's markets.

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Groceries around the region: Balut, a very special egg

May 17, 2011 - 02:57 PM
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The metro area hosts a smorgasbord of grocery options, from the wildly exotic to the bizarrely artificial. Today is the first in a weekly series of local food taste tests. First up: balut, a type of egg commonly eaten in parts of Asia and retailing locally at the Filipino Home Baking and Grocery store in Wheaton.

Who’s afraid of baby chicks? Me. At least when they’re still in their shells and I’m supposed to eat them.

I know this now after attempting to cook balut, a fertilized chicken or duck egg that’s eaten as a snack in parts of Asia. Unheard of in U.S. chain grocers, these semi-aborted eggs are available in a few specialty retailers around our region, including Filipino Home Baking and Grocery, where I duck in this morning.

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Price of free Costco samples in MoCo: $4 million

May 17, 2011 - 12:45 PM
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Costco, home of legendary samples and cheap bulk items, is coming to Wheaton in 2012, reports the Washington Post. The deal won’t come cheap to MoCo residents—the county is forking over $4 million to shopping mall giant Westfield over two years to help secure the deal. A county council proposal to block that subsidy was defeated Monday.

Doling out that kind of cash when the county faces a $300 million budget shortfall next year doesn’t look so great to some residents, including a few on the council. Marc Elrich told the Post that “the idea of giving $2 million of our scarce dollars to Westfield is a mistake. We can take this $2 million and put it to better use in our community.”

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Ron Paul makes play for Amish vote with raw milk legislation

May 17, 2011 - 08:01 AM
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Could raw milk sneak in ahead of health care and the economy as the top issue in the 2012 election?? If so, Ron Paul’s in fine shape. The libertarian-minded, FDA-hating congressman and candidate for president introduced a bill last week that would legalize the sale of raw milk across state lines. (Paul isn’t the only 2012 hopeful who’s waded into the raw-milk debate—Jon Huntsman signed a bill into law as Utah governor legalizing the sale of raw milk in retail stores in 2007.)

“Hard as it is to believe, the federal government is actually spending time and money prosecuting small businesses for the ‘crime’ of meeting their customers’ demand for unpasteurized milk!” Paul said in a statement introducing the bill. He referenced the recent arrest of Amish farmer Dan Allgyer, who got busted a few weeks ago selling milk to a food club in Maryland. “As a result of this action, Rainbow Acres’ customers will no longer be able to purchase unpasteurized milk from this small Amish farm.”

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Safeway to revamp Tenleytown store

May 16, 2011 - 02:51 PM
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Jonathan O’Connell of the Washington Post reports that Safeway is planning to revamp its Wisconsin Avenue store. The 34,000-square-foot Tenleytown store could be expanded into a 58,000-square-foot store with 150 apartments on top and 10 to 15 new townhomes.

It would be the third in a series of expansions and updates undertaken by Safeway in the region, following plans to replace stores in Wheaton and Petworth. Both are mixed-use projects, topped with apartments.

Safeway officials tell the Post that they’re still gathering community input on the Tenleytown plans. As one person observed on Twitter, let’s hope talks don’t devolve into this.

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Renegade coupon counterfeiter brought to justice

May 16, 2011 - 02:01 PM
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One of the biggest institutional coupon frauds ever perpetuated in the U.S. is over. Lucas Henderson, a 22-year-old student at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology, was charged last week with wire fraud and trafficking in counterfeit goods and faces up to 30 years (!) in prison.

Henderson allegedly created hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fake coupons for items ranging from Tide to PlayStations, reports PCWorld. Under the laziest monikers ever (Anonymous 123, Anonymous 234, and Anonymous 345), Henderson posted fake coupons for PowerBars, Campbell’s, and Magic Hat Beer. In October, Henderson made the mistake of posting several items from an IP address assigned to him by his university, leading investigators to him.

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COW ON CAPITOL HILL: Cute, but it might kill you

May 16, 2011 - 01:23 PM
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After much anticipation, many speeches, and much sign-waving from raw milk fans today on Capitol Hill, the rally’s star finally showed. A Maryland Jersey cow was led into Senate Park, in view of the Capitol, and milked. She also ate a fair amount of Senate Park grass as rally organizers toasted the American farmer with glasses of her milk.

It was the latest move by the pro-unpasteurized movement, recently galvanized by the arrest of Amish farmer Dan Allgyer for selling raw milk across state lines. For people like Judith Mudrak, who traveled to the rally from New Jersey, the fight has been going on for 10 years. She grew up drinking raw milk in Switzerland and “was so disappointed not to have the real stuff here.” Like most of the people I spoke to at the rally, Mudrak believes unpasteurized milk is healthier than drinking pasteurized, a claim vigorously disputed by the FDA, CDC, and several states where the sale of raw milk is illegal.

Gail Houze, New Jersey mother of seven, also believes in the healthfulness of the raw stuff and feeds nothing else to her kids. “Never had a single ear infection,” she says. “We are just so pleased.”

Indeed, beautiful, able-bodied kids swarm the event, waving signs and eating snacks and in general being adorable. Hard to argue that raw milk is hurting them, but at least one parent is concerned.

“If it’s not produced with 100 percent accuracy at all times, a goof can happen,” says Mary McGonigle-Martin. “And it can kill you.”

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