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There have been numerous produce growers and shippers in the news lately for reasons they would rather not be: recalls, foodborne illness outbreaks and, in one notable case, even prison terms for company principals.

“Unfortunately, the court of public opinion renders its verdict within 24 hours after the first reporter calls or the first TV camera goes on,” said Cheryl Miller, chief executive officer of Tampa, FL-based At The Table Public Relations. “How you handle the first 24 hours of a crisis can make all the difference.”

The most critical factor is having a public relations crisis communications plan in place ahead of any incident, added the company’s Bill Barlow.

“Just like the military has guns they hope they never have to fire and you have Band-Aids in your medicine chest you hope you’ll never need, you’ve got to be ready for things you can’t predict are going to happen,” Barlow said. “How you get through a crisis is can be as simple as the difference between being proactive or reactive.”

A proactive approach has a plan in place for dealing with any crisis. A reactive approach comes across to the public and media as a deer-in-the-headlights moment.

“When most people are reactive they’re huddling internally trying to sort out what to do. Meanwhile the media’s contacting them, reporters are hitting deadlines, they’re not getting answers, they’re speculating. Now the first round of coverage is speculative then it gets worse and worse and worse,” Barlow said. “If you’re proactive you meet them at the curb — you come out, you’ve got a designated spokesperson, you’ve got some stock answers and hopefully some media training and are ready to deal with the situation because you had a crisis plan in place which allows you to meet the situation head on and look like you have it under control.”

Determining how prepared a company is for a crisis is a fairly simple process. ATTPR has a five-question checklist that makes the process painless:

Do you have a written crisis plan in place now?

Do you have selected spokespersons and are they media trained?

Do you have your initial crisis team contact list developed and does everyone in your company know and understand their responsibilities during a crisis?

Do you know what to say or how to handle queries when news media contact you about your crisis?

Do you have resources in place should a crisis exceed your capabilities or outside resources that can give you objective counsel?

“If you don’t know or can’t answer or you’re not sure, it’s time to pick up the phone and call a professional,” Miller said.

“A lot of people think they don’t need a crisis plan but that’s the same as the military saying, ‘We’re not going to buy guns until someone shoots at us,’ “ Barlow said.

Whether a company handles crisis public relations communications in-house or relies on outside professionals, an independent — and unbiased —agency can help.

“We have a toolkit that helps companies make sure they have at least gone through the initial steps of preparation so when they do have a crisis they can move quickly,” Miller said. “We have out-of-the-box and custom solutions for any situation.”

Better yet, ATTPR and other professionals often offer no-cost evaluations of companies’ current crisis PR preparation plans.

“First of all you have to have an objective view of the situation,” Barlow said. “That’s something every company thinks they’re capable of but in reality — and especially under pressure — that’s usually not obtainable. Second you have to balance that plan with your corporate agenda. Third, it’s got to make reasonable sense for any situation. If you can balance those three things you can establish a good plan. But generally the objective opinion does not come from within.”

Added Miller, “In 2013, there’s no excuse to be hanging in the breeze when it comes to crisis preparation.”

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Eastern Washington cherry and apple crop updates
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Cherry crop update from Domex
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PMA launches redesigned website, provides better access to resources
In response to member feedback and as part of its new strategic plan implementation, the Produce Marketing Association unveiled its redesigned website ( Tuesday, May 27. With a fresh new design, completely new structure, a fully functioning... Read more
Protecting the 2014 Pacific Northwest cherry crop
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Good season expected for Pacific Northwest cherries
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Wish Farms' consumer program features recipe videos
Wish Farms is offering a year-round supply of conventional and organic strawberries and blueberries. With the Florida strawberry season completed, focus has turned to the California strawberry season and Florida blueberry season. Wish Farms grows strawberries... Read more
Domex Superfresh Growers' orchard tech
Domex Superfresh Growers continues to innovate with use of GPS-equipped tractors as technology moves from the drawing board to the orchard. Use of GPS allows the tractor to create a planting line within an inch of accuracy. A specialized plant platform... Read more
Produce Alliance leads fundraising campaign for children’s hospital
Produce Alliance LLC, one of the larger produce management services companies in the United States, leverages its national distribution and grower-shipper network to lead an annual philanthropic campaign benefitting one of Chicago’s premiere Children’s... Read more
Local sponsorship fuels national health and fitness messaging for California Giant
California Giant Berry Farms has teamed up with the local D-League Basketball Team for the Golden State Warriors this season and launched a kids club to promote health and fitness to fans. The partnership with the Santa Cruz Warriors D-League team resulted... Read more
CMI's high-quality KIKU apples
From picking at the peak of ripeness, to polishing and preserving freshness, to packing, there are a lot of steps involved in making sure that "KIKU" brand apples are high in quality and exceptionally sweet. Columbia Marketing International provided... Read more
E. Armata completes renovation of Hunts Point facility
E. Armata, a fourth-generation family-run fruit and vegetable wholesaler located in the Hunts Point terminal market in the Bronx, NY, has been in business for over 100 years. Today, it is a tenant of major significance on the market... Read more
Limited supplies of Kanzi apples hit the market
Washington-grown "Kanzi" brand apples are hitting U.S. markets this week. Due to high demand for this premium apple — in combination with limited early production on young trees — supplies are limited. An unfortunate hail event last season eliminated... Read more
Super Bowl spud challenge a win-win for food banks
During the days leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII, several challenges have been made by fans of the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks — including a major wager between the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee and the Washington State Potato Commission. The... Read more
Florida's wintertime strawberry production leads the nation
Florida Strawberry Growers Association Executive Director Ted Campbell talks about Florida’s $400 million winter strawberry deal as the season ramps up to full volume this month. The area within a 20-mile radius of FSGA headquarters in Plant City, FL,... Read more
Atlanta’s General Produce named Georgia Family Business of the Year
General Produce Inc. of Atlanta began more than 50 years ago as a purveyor of bananas and has since grown to become one of the Southeast’s larger distributors of produce — from apples to zucchini — with its own fleet of more than 100 trucks providing... Read more
Georgia Pecan season in full swing during National Pecan Month
Sure, Georgia is known for peaches, but since the late 1800s the state has led the nation in pecan production. November is National Pecan Month and Georgia pecan growers are getting ready for the hectic holiday season. Here, grower Al Pearson talks with... Read more
Meijer reduced carbon footprint by nearly 60 percent in three years
Midwest retailer Meijer operates one of the largest all-clean diesel fleets in North America. As part of its ongoing green initiatives, the Grand Rapids, MI-based retailer’s fleet utilized innovative technology to improve fuel efficiency and reduce... Read more
Banana journey from jungle to supermarket is an amazing ride
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Bland Farms sweet potatoes join Vidalia Brands lineup  along with new value-added sweet onion products
Delbert Bland is an onions and potatoes kind of guy; wife and business partner Sandra Bland is the dreamer of the two, thinking of new ways to put what her husband grows and markets to use. And while Bland Farms LLC of Glennville, GA, has become a famous name in the onion world, its subsidiary Vidalia Brands is shaking things up on the value-added and processed side, with a lineup including condiments, dressings, dips, toppings, frozen items, potato chips and snack... Read more
Giorgio to showcase foodservice pack of stuffed Baby Bellas at PMA Fresh Summit
“We will be featuring our entire line of fresh mushrooms at the PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo in Monterey, CA, on July 25-27,” said Bill Litvin, senior vice president of sales for Giorgio Fresh, headquartered in Blandon, PA. “Greg Sagan Sr., vice president of sales, will be joining me at Booth No. 18 to meet and greet customers and prospective customers.” Litvin said the company will be showcasing Giorgio Fresh’s foodservice pack of stuffed Baby Bella mushrooms... Read more
Jim DiMenna, president of Red Sun Farms, formerly JemD Farms, headquartered in Kingsville, Ontario, will be exhibiting at the PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo in Monterey, CA, on July 25-27 at Booth No. 1. Jim Cathey, sales and sourcing manager for the company, will be attending to represent the company. “We’ll be featuring our specialty produce in a foodservice-friendly format along with menu development assistance,” said DiMenna. “We’ll also be discussing... Read more
Movement steady in Aspen’s 12-month potato program
CENTER, CO — “We’re taking care of our customers’ needs,” co-owner and sales agent Dwayne Weyers said recently of Aspen Produce’s year-round potato program. Weyers said the operation provides all consumer packs as well as Kwik Lok closures that have trace-back information printed directly on the Loks. The closures also feature a food-safety precaution note to wash and cook the potatoes, which are Colorado’s highest-acreage vegetable crop, thoroughly before consuming. He... Read more
Increased emphasis on fingerlings,  specialty onions at Strohauer Farms
LASALLE, CO — Growing demand for specialty items has prompted northern Colorado grower-shipper Harry Strohauer to ramp up emphasis on his fingerling potato crop and specialty onion packaging this season. Strohauer said the fingerlings, as well as russets and Yukons, are being offered both as conventional and organic. “Our potato category includes conventional and organic russets, Yukons, Banana Fingerlings, Rose Finn/Ruby Crescent Fingerlings, French Fingerlings... Read more
David J. Elliot moves into organic pear production
David J. Elliot & Sons Co. has moved into organic pear production this season. The company is located in Courtland, CA, and has been growing and marketing pears for six generations. Sales Manager David Thiessen said, “[Organic] volume will be relatively light this year.” The company continues to grow Bartlett, Golden Bosc, Comice, Forelle, French Butter, Seckel and red varieties. “The weather has been very good for growing pears — warm days with very little... Read more
Tanimura & Antle crop expert deals with many factors
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With its “Foxy” brand of fresh produce, The Nunes Co. in Salinas, CA, has embarked on an ambitious and long range effort to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. “We are taking a long-term view of what we can do at store level to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables,” said Matt Seeley, Nunes’ vice president of marketing. “In our industry we should all be looking for ways to increase sales and consumption and I don’t think there is a better... Read more
David Arena: New Jersey peaches are running a little late this year
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New products, good service fuel sales for Church Bros.
Creating customized blends that focus on flavor is fueling unprecedented sales growth for Salinas, CA-based Church Bros. LLC. “We just looked at our weekly numbers and we are breaking records in every category,” said Ernst Van Eeghen, vice president of marketing and product development for the long time Salinas Valley grower-shipper. Church Bros. has made a concerted effort to customize its salad blends for its customers while focusing on improving the flavor... Read more
Concord Foods operates in fresh and manufactured-food realms
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Coosemans LA + Shipping prides itself on employee longevity
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Professional Produce adds organics, completes food-safety initiative
Professional Produce, located in the Los Angeles suburb of Vernon, CA, recently hired John McCormick, and is planning on handling organics, in addition to conventional produce, said President Ted Kaplan in an interview with The Produce News. The organic program, which the company was “just starting,” will include citrus and “a few other items,” Kaplan added. Prior to joining Professional Produce, McCormick worked for Muranaka Farms. Before that, he was with Ralph’s... Read more
Nature Fresh Farms to expand successful organic line
Nature Fresh Farms recently added organic bell peppers to its product offering, and the line has been so successful, the company plans to double its current five-acre production next year. Nature Fresh is also doing trials for various types of tomatoes and will eventually branch out into cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant. Chief Executive Officer Peter Quiring said the move was in response to customer demand. “We saw the growth in the category and it wasn’t slowing... Read more
BYRON CENTER, MI — The Michigan vegetable deal for Van Solkema Produce Inc. is progressing well, according to Todd Van Solkema, chief executive officer of the family business, located here. The crops “are all about two weeks late,” Van Solkema told The Produce News the first week of June. He said Michigan cabbage shipments would begin about June 20. Squash harvest was expected to begin in mid-June. Radish shipments for Van Solkema started on May 28. “Carrots are... Read more
When Hollandia Produce LP in Carpinteria, CA, works with customers in the foodservice community, “we are mostly talking about white tablecloth establishments,” said Vince Choate, director of marketing, in an interview with The Produce News, June 24. “Most of the foodservice business we do generally serves that particular niche within the foodservice sector.” The company’s “two entry points” with those establishments are “our flagship product, which is the living... Read more
“Southern Specialties is growing and shipping fabulous specialty tomatoes that are perfect for all summer tomato recipes,” said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for the Pompano Beach, FL-based grower, importer and shipper of high-quality specialty produce. “Chefs can create unsurpassed dishes with a selection of our heirloom, baby heirloom, teardrops and yellow beef tomatoes.” Eagle explained that Southern Specialties started supplying white... Read more
Foodservice is an important sector for Prime Time International in Coachella, CA, which specializes in colored bell peppers and mini-sweet peppers. The company has been exhibiting at the Produce Marketing Association Foodservice Conference & Expo in Monterey, CA, “for maybe a dozen years or so,” said Mike Aiton, Marketing Manager of Prime Time Sales LLC. “For our business and for the type of people we see there and the things we are trying to accomplish, it... Read more
MAHWAH, NJ — As it has for many years, Supreme Cuts is very much looking forward to the Produce Marketing Association’s annual Foodservice Conference & Expo, scheduled this year for July 25-27 at the Monterey Conference Center in Monterey, CA. Supreme Cuts, a precut vegetable processor perhaps best known for its high-quality line of snipped green beans, has been attending the popular foodservice conference for more than six years. “It’s a great show for us,”... Read more
George Wooten, president of Wayne E. Bailey, headquartered in Chadbourn, NC, told The Produce News that the company, a leading producer of sweet potatoes, will be exhibiting at the PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo in Monterey, CA, on July 25-27. The company will be represented by Ronnie Mercer, a company sales manager. “Ronnie will be reiterating to our customers and prospective customers about the availability of the sweet potato sizes that we offer,” said... Read more


Allegiance Retail Services holds annual holiday food show
EDISON, NJ — A large number of industry people gathered Thursday, July 17, for Allegiance Retail Services LLC's annual holiday food show, held here at the New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center. "Close... Read more
Record crowd attends FPFC Expo
The Fresh Produce & Floral Council held its annual Southern California Fresh Produce and Floral Expo on Tuesday, July 15 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, CA, where a record 1,500 attendees enjoyed... Read more
STEP-UPP class visits Philadelphia and New Jersey produce areas
The Southeast Produce Council's 2014 STEP-UPP class visited produce facilities and farms July 8-11 in the Philadelphia and southern New Jersey areas as part of its ongoing learning experience for class... Read more
 George Tanimura's 100th birthday celebration
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Watermelon Night a success
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60th Summer Fancy Food Show
The 60th Summer Fancy Food show, one of the larger marketplaces devoted exclusively to specialty food in North America, took place June 29-July 1 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York.... Read more
Fresh Produce & Floral Council luncheon
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EPC holds last meeting before summer break
PATERSON, NJ — The Eastern Produce Council held its final dinner-meeting Tuesday evening, June 24, here at The Brownstone, before taking a little time off for its traditional summer break. Earthbound Farm... Read more
PMA Fresh Connections: Retail
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SPC holds golf tournament for charity
BRASELTON, GA — The Southeast Produce Council held its inaugural Charity Golf Classic Wednesday, June 18, to raise money for the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, with a silent auction held the evening... Read more


The 2014 Harris Poll EquiTrend (EQ) study, which measures brand equity for more than 1,500 brands across 170 categories, finds traditional grocery store brands rank highest overall in three of the four regions surveyed. The EQ index examines three key factors of brand equity: familiarity, quality and purchase consideration. This is the first time in the study's... Read more
Ruby Fresh to unveil new Jewels pomegranate arils cup line
Fresh off the production line, Ruby Fresh announced an entire new line of Ruby Fresh Jewels Pomegranate Aril cups, available in four- and 5.3-ounce grab-and-go snack cups in a handy two- and four-pack. The line will make its debut at the PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo in Monterey, CA These new single-serving Ruby Fresh Jewels aril cups make it easy to... Read more
Atlanta’s Nickey Gregory Co. hires industry veteran Andrew Scott
Produce industry veteran Andrew Scott has joined The Nickey Gregory Co. LLC, headquartered in Forest Park, GA, as vice president of marketing and business development. Nickey Gregory Co. has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years, adding a second warehouse in Miami, a dedicated tomato operation in College Park, GA, and multiple expansions of its... Read more
A July 16-18 trade meeting to develop a weekly, direct ocean shipping line between the seaports of Veracruz, Mexico, and Philadelphia exceeded the expectations of many involved. This service might begin as early as the first quarter of 2015, according to Fred Sorbello, who recently stepped down from his role as president of Ship Philly First. On July 22, The... Read more
WASHINGTON — Beginning July 22, eligible fruit growers who experienced losses in 2012 due to frost and freeze, and who did not have access to crop insurance, will be able to apply for disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The latest farm bill included a provision — penned by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) — that allows farmers without access... Read more
Sunkist promotes fresh citrus varieties and trends at the PMA Foodservice Conference
Sunkist will be showcasing more than 40 of its varieties of fresh citrus at this year's PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo July 25-27, allowing foodservice trade to sample fresh mixology recipes that highlight trending global influences and Meyer lemons, a variety that is quickly growing in popularity.  “Lemon demand is stronger than ever, and specialty... Read more
Ready Pac introduces Baby Kale European Salad Blend
Ready Pac Foods, based in Irwindale, CA, is capitalizing on the soaring popularity of kale with the release of the Ready Pac Baby Kale European Salad Blend. More and more consumers are incorporating kale into their everyday meals, with the items experiencing 250 percent increase in dollar sales since last year. According to International Dairy, Deli & Bakery... Read more
Mann Packing introducing Kalettes, Arcadian Harvest Emerald at PMA Foodservice Expo
Mann Packing will launch two items — Arcadian Harvest Emerald and "Kalettes" brand Kale sprouts — and feature its Salad Solutions program at the PMA Foodservice Expo this year in Monterey, CA. Arcadian Harvest EmeraldMann’s Arcadian Harvest Emerald is a blend of two green leaves with a sweet crisp bite and a sophisticated leaf shape. Gina Nucci, director... Read more
Weather takes toll on 2014 Rocky Ford cantaloupe volume
Despite some recent hail storms and difficult spring weather in southwestern Colorado, Rocky Ford cantaloupe producers are expecting to harvest an overall volume of the signature fruit that is comparable to last season. "Our business is 100 percent dependent on weather," said Michael Hirakata, chairman of the Rocky Ford Growers Association and general manager... Read more
Community pulls together, Northwest fire rages
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Wawona Packing Co. of Cutler, CA, is voluntarily recalling certain lots of whole peaches (white and yellow), nectarines (white and yellow), plums and pluots packed June 1-July 12 due to the potential of the products being contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Wawona Packing has notified retailers of the specific lots being recalled. No other products are... Read more
PHILADELPHIA — International produce trade is thriving, and the ports of the Delaware River are serving that growth and expanding services for the global fruit trade. Countries like Peru and Uruguay are growing in their role to export fresh fruits and vegetables to the United States. Chile remains an enormous produce supplier, with that trade now spread across... Read more
Each day through July 29, Food Lion is giving one customer at each of its participating stores the opportunity to win up to $100 in free groceries during the grocer’s “MVP Free Grocery Giveaway.” One grand prize winner will also receive a year’s supply of free groceries. More than 15,000 winning customers will enjoy immediate savings of up to $100, not to exceed... Read more
Chelan Fresh Marketing has joined The Produce Mom family of partners. The partnership was established with a primary goal of marketing the Rockit apple, which has been promoted on The Produce Mom's blog, social media and WISH-TV/Indy Style news segments. The Rockit apple promotions were well-received. Jeff Ryg, Kroger Central Division, praised The Produce... Read more
The board of directors of Loblaw Cos. Ltd. announced that Galen G. Weston, executive chairman, has been appointed as president, effective immediately. Thomas O'Neill, lead independent director, confirmed the appointment as part of a series of management changes at the company. As executive chairman, Weston is responsible for setting the strategic direction of... Read more
Turbana taps into community opinion to find new social program to support
Corporations often donate money to charities or non-profits, but it’s rare to find an organization that lets the consumer decide where their support should go. Turbana, a premier banana producer,  is taking its social movement “Growing Smiles, Sharing Goodness” to a new level by encouraging the community to speak up and choose causes close to their own hearts... Read more
Pricing expected to be strong as NW onion growers begin new season
On March 31, Northwest Farm Credit Services looked at onion production during the 2013-14 crop year and provided some insights about upcoming production and pricing for 2014-15 in its Onion Market Snapshot. "Northwest onion markets are closing the 2013-14 marketing year strong, with prices bolstered by tight supplies," the agency stated. "However, growers' profits... Read more
Jazz apple campaign raises funds for diabetes prevention
Through Crunch to Contribute, a social media campaign that offers a $1 donation to the American or Canadian Diabetes Association in exchange for every Jazz apple photo uploaded to, people everywhere are crunching for a cause. Accessible via Facebook, smartphones and desktop computers, Crunch to Contribute boasts a growing gallery of images... Read more
South African citrus adds color and hope to Nelson Mandela International Day
The South Africa Consulate General in New York and South African summer citrus will celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day Friday, July 18 on what would have been Mandela's 96th birthday. South Africa is the world's second-largest exporter of citrus next to Spain. Two New York City celebrations will mirror programs in South Africa, where citrus production... Read more
School districts across the country are serving an unprecedented amount of fruits and vegetables in school lunches and breakfasts, and USA Pears is recognizing districts who have stepped up to put pears on students' plates. USA Pears has named San Diego Unified School District, School District of Pickens County (South Carolina), and School District of New Berlin... Read more