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Produce industry tackles Super Bowl sales and promotions
Are you ready for some football? The produce industry sure is. No matter which way you cut it, the produce industry is sure to score big this Super Bowl season. After all, there’s no better way to watch the Big Game than with some fresh fruit and veggie-inspired snacks and dishes. “Merchandising for the Big Game is a very smart idea for produce,” said Jan DeLyser,... Read more
Water efficiency on tap at Fruit Logistica 2018
Fruit Logistica, the international trade fair for fresh produce marketing, attracts more than 75,000 trade visitors from about 130 countries each year. The 2018 event will once again be held at the Berlin ExpoCenter City and City Cube in Messe, Berlin, Germany, on Feb. 7-9. More than 3,000 exhibitors from more than 80 countries will showcase products and services... Read more
The latest trends in brain food can be found in the produce aisle
Brain foods and carb alternatives are two of the hottest healthy eating trends for 2018, and shoppers will be looking in the produce department to find what they need. “Shoppers are always trying to make healthier choices at the beginning of the year, which includes seeking out fresh produce they read or hear about in the food trend lists,” said Alex Jackson... Read more
Several different people in the produce industry are calling the current transportation shortages as bad as they have ever seen at this time of year, with mixed opinions about how soon relief might come. “If it doesn’t ease up by February, watch out,” Kenny Lund, vice president of support operations for the Allen Lund Co., based in La Canada Flintridge, CA,... Read more
Kroger looking to fill management roles
The Kroger Co. is actively recruiting experienced retail and digital and technology talent for new and open corporate and store management roles across its family of companies. "With so many recent changes in the retail landscape, we recognize there are talented individuals in our communities who may be searching for a new career with a new company," said Tim... Read more
Tomato and pepper gap could be coming
While things should finally get back to normal next week for U.S. growing locations, keep an eye on possible gapping in tomato and pepper production out of Florida in mid- to late February due to blossom drop from the extreme cold weather in the last two weeks. At the moment Florida is coming back to life with temperatures returning to seasonal norms this... Read more
Blended Burger Project winners honored
The James Beard Foundation will honor five restaurants nationwide for creatively re-imagining the iconic burger in the third annual Blended Burger Project, a competition challenging chefs to blend finely chopped mushrooms with meat for more nutritious and sustainable burgers. The 2017 Blended Burger Project featured original blended burgers by chefs at 414 restaurants... Read more
The death of retail stores is greatly exaggerated. According to a recent study by Microsoft, Retail Council of Canada and research tool WisePlum, that surveyed 5,000 Canadian consumers, bricks-and-mortar stores capture most of the retail sales in every major vertical. The report, From Omni-Channel to Frictionless Retail: Insights on Today's Consumer With Advice... Read more
Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industry supports the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement provided it upholds fair and free principles, preserves integrated supply chains across the continent. "We urge negotiators to conclude negotiations as soon as possible for the stability of businesses across North America," CPMA said in a statment. NAFTA... Read more
Stemilt expands Apple Lover packs to include organic
Stemilt Growers will be expanding its Apple Lover five-pound pouch bag program with multiple Artisan Organics apple varieties at the end of January. The popular Apple Lover program was launched in 2016 and has captured attention of the biggest apple shoppers in stores in order to help retailers boost volume sales of apples. “The Apple Lover pack increases the... Read more
Curry & Co. partners with Norris Family Farms on blueberries, kiwiberries
Curry & Co. has expanded its product offerings of both organic and conventional blueberries by forming a partnership with Norris Family Farms of Umpqua, OR. The partnership also includes kiwiberries, an exciting product that is growing in popularity with retailers across the nation. Norris Family Farms, established in 1976 by Paul and Sandy Norris, is well... Read more
Christopher Ranch: Rotten Netflix docuseries is slanderous and malicious
The Netflix docuseries Rotten portrays the bad side of numerous food product industries. Each of the segments delves into a food industry that produces and distributes that specific category, with the six episodes of season one focused on honey, peanuts, chicken, garlic, milk and fish. The Garlic Breath segment was a jolt to the owners, staff members, customers... Read more
New retailers dominate consumer preference
Trader Joe’s is the top U.S. grocery retailer according to a study that also showed price and quality are the most important preference drivers for consumers. The study suggested retailers focus on shoring up that weakness before turning attention to other drivers such as convenience, rewards or speed. The other retailers on the top-10 list are 2) Costco, 3)... Read more
Albertsons Cos. announced that President and Chief Operating Officer Wayne Denningham plans to retire near the end of the company’s fiscal year. Denningham garnered over 40 years with the company, having started working as a clerk as a teenager. The company has named Susan Morris executive vice president and COO, overseeing the company’s supply chain, manufacturing... Read more
Logo launches new BelleHarvest marketing emphasis
New, visible changes surrounding BelleHarvest Sales Inc. reflect and strongly reinforce a philosophy for the longstanding Michigan apple grower-shipper. Christopher Sandwick, vice president of sales and marketing of the Belding, MI-based company, said a new logo and vision statement will reflect BelleHarvest’s philosophy that apples are first and foremost a... Read more
Campbell Fresh president and best-selling author confirmed as OPS keynote speakers
The president of one of the worlds most recognized consumer fresh brands and a thought-provoking best-selling author have been confirmed as keynote presenters at Organic Produce Summit 2018, this coming July in Monterey, CA. Ed Carolan, president of Campbell Fresh, and Dan Buettner, noted journalist, author and discoverer of Blue Zones, will be featured speakers... Read more
Naturipe invites consumers to celebrate Braspberries with a social media sweepstakes
Naturipe Farms is leveraging the social media craze of the Braspberry by encouraging berry fans to try the new Braspberry and enter into the Naturipe Braspberry Sweepstakes for daily prizes and to support hurricane relief efforts. “We are excited to promote Braspberries! It is a new delicious treat you get when pressing a plump, fresh blueberry into a fresh... Read more
Following Thomas Fire and mudslide, San Miguel resumes operations
San Miguel Produce Inc. has resumed full operations following the devastating Thomas Fire that broke out in early December 2017. Recent winter rain to the Ventura County area caused flash flooding, resulting in mudslides to the recent burn areas. The Thomas Fire started in Santa Paula Dec. 4 and spread throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.... Read more
Walmart EVP to take on CEO role
Walmart Stores Inc. announced that Judith McKenna will be promoted to president and chief executive officer of Walmart International, the company’s second-largest operating segment. She will be succeeding David Cheesewright, who has been in role since 2014 and recently shared his desire to retire from a full-time role. McKenna, currently serving as executive... Read more
Citrus remains bright spot in winter lineup
Cold weather, fires and floods have impacted a number of crops this winter with transportation issues affecting virtually everything. However, one bright spot has been the winter citrus lineup. Various specialty citrus varieties as well as grapefruit, oranges and lemons are giving retailers options as they look for items to feature in their weekly ads. “The... Read more

MARKETS AND TRENDS

SoCal, Arizona heat may boost production
Precipitation in Florida will continue off and on throughout the week and will clear out by Saturday morning with another cold front behind it. Temps will be below normal Saturday through Tuesday, Jan. 16. Out west temps will be above normal for the South California and Arizona deserts starting this Friday and continuing through all of next week, which may lead... Read more
Hurricane Irma continues to haunt Florida farmers as the U.S. Department of Agriculture once again decreased its monthly estimate of the state's 2017-18 citrus crop. The USDA now says Florida will produce 46 million boxes of oranges, down 4 million boxes from November and 8 million boxes from October. The USDA makes its first estimate in October of each year... Read more
On Wednesday, Dec. 13, Southern California’s largest fire — the so-named Thomas fire in Ventura County — was still raging and had consumed more than 235,000 acres. There was reason for optimism as winds had died down the previous day and firefighters were starting to gain control, but the fire still had Santa Barbara in its sights with a fierce battle continuing... Read more
Perfect growing conditions created a supply-exceeds-demand situation for many vegetable items following the Thanksgiving pull, and many were expecting the same conditions to prevail in December until a weather event happens. According to Jason Lathos of Church Brothers LLC, it has been a tale of two transitions this year: the best of times and the worst of times.... Read more
Vegetable supplies in transition with strong markets
As November dawned, there was a significant transition in vegetable production and markets were strong, portending a solid winter vegetable deal from the West. The lettuce market came off its very high mid-October run, which saw prices nearing the $40 mark, but many other commodities remained tight as the Thanksgiving pull sat just off the horizon. Mark McBride,... Read more
Avocado supplies on verge of normalcy
It has been a long time coming but the supplies of avocados in the U.S. market appear to be approaching a more normal situation, which should result in more promotions and a resumption of the decade-long upward trend for the fruit. For the first time in more than a 10 years, consumption in the United States declined in a 12-month period straddling 2016-17 as... Read more
Avocado supplies need to ramp up
If orderly marketing of avocado volume in the United States is the goal for the next year, shipments from Mexico to the United States need to increase significantly — and soon. Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc. in Santa Paula, CA, said a review of the numbers show that the United States consumed about 480 million... Read more
Avocados from Peru shipped a record 145 million pounds of Peruvian avocados to the United States in an extremely condensed window of time during the summer months, helping to meet soaring demand for the fruit in a season when domestic production was down significantly. “The shortage in the U.S. avocado market this past summer provided AFP the opportunity... Read more
In 2016, Peru represented 40 percent of the world’s supply of asparagus and about 43 percent of the total U.S. import dollar value. These numbers have remained fairly consistent over the past five years, though typical market fluctuations have occurred. Peru continues to maintain fairly steady supplies of product into the United States the entire year,... Read more
Though California has been harvesting its new crop of garlic for the past couple of months, there has been no significant downward pressure on price and it doesn’t appear to be in the cards. Bill Christopher, chief executive officer of Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, CA, said garlic has actually been in short supply for most of the time over the last couple... Read more
Michigan apple crop should be strong overall
After a May 8-9 frost damaged apple buds in certain Michigan production areas, opinions are varied on the outlook of the state’s 2017 fresh apple crop. “In my opinion, some areas are quite good. And some areas are not so good. At the end of the day we will have about 75 percent of the volume we had last year. Maybe it will be 80 percent,” Scott... Read more
The Peruvian sweet onion is characterized by a having a very mild flavor and good shelf life, and it comes at the perfect time for most, when the Vidalia program is just winding down. Some U.S. companies have partnered with local growers while others have invested in infrastructure and control their own crop. Miguel Ognio Gomez, chief executive office of KeyPeru,... Read more
Tight avocado supplies to continue through summer
The demand exceeds supply situation that has defined the avocado market continuously since late spring of 2016 is expected to continue through the summer before loosening up this fall. Interviews with several grower-shippers revealed the same facts. Production from California and Peru will be winding down to a trickle by the end of August and Mexico is not expected... Read more
What to expect from California apples
While the California apple deal is just a blip in the industry when you consider that the state of Washington harvests more of the fruit in a week than the Golden State does over the course of a year, Alexander Ott, executive director of the California Apple Commission, noted apples from his state couldn’t be fresher since once they are harvested, the industry... Read more
‘It’s shaping up to be a good year’ for Washington potatoes
Last winter’s heavy snowfall and a wet 2017 spring put Washington potato growers in the fields later than the 2016 season, but reports from the Washington State Potato Commission indicate a good crop is coming in. Chris Voigt, executive director of the Moses Lake, WA-headquartered organization, told The Produce News on July 25 all signs are positive. “We... Read more
Florida orange production is projected to come in at 68.7 million boxes this year, down nearly 30 percent from the 2014-15 crop. The 2015-16 Florida orange crop comprised 81.5 million boxes, a 16 percent decrease from the 2014-15 crop of 96.8 million boxes of oranges. While there has been a sharp decrease in production, the latest forecast increased slightly... Read more
Inferno-type weather hit California in late June with temperatures as high as 122 degrees scorching the Coachella Valley, and temperatures near 110 degrees visiting the San Joaquin Valley. The result was a drop in July grape production from Coachella and a slow start to the San Joaquin Valley deal. “The high temperatures have played havoc with color and... Read more
Big things expected for California pears
At the end of June the California Pear Advisory Board, located in Sacramento, CA, released estimates that this year’s California pear crop will come in at around 3.27 million 36-pound boxes, an increase of 36 percent from last year’s 2.4 million. This impressive increase can be attributed to more favorable weather in just about all the growing districts,... Read more
As the summer solstice hit on June 21, California’s weather heated up with record temperatures noted in many different communities. At the same time, the market for red potatoes also heated up and a strong market is expected throughout July. Gary Askenaizer, who handles bulk potato sales for Progressive Produce Corp. in Los Angeles, told The Produce News... Read more
Garlic producers upbeat about domestic garlic crop
Hopes were high for the 2016 domestic garlic crop as it followed a 2015 crop that saw numerous El Niño-related weather events, from floods to droughts to tornados, which wreaked havoc on many garlic fields. Unfortunately, the 2016 crop was also down by 15-20 percent of normal, also due to inclement weather condition. Domestic garlic producers tend to... Read more

With a name like Rio Queen Citrus it is not hard to figure out that Mike Martin’s Mission, TX-based company offers up the finest in Texas oranges and grapefruit. But many people are unaware that onions are a major — and growing — part of Rio Queen’s program.

TEX-MEX----Rio-Queen-1Ted Brasch, Mike Martin, Dante Galleazzi and Ken Martin of Rio Queen Citrus in Mission, TX. (Photo by Chip Carter) “Onions are a big part of what we are and we’re still growing on the onions side. We’re not trying to take over the world but we’re trying to do a great job at what we do and we feel like if we bring top quality to the market, we’re going to earn respect and we’re going to earn the business of the retail and foodservice crowd that’s looking for that quality,” Mr. Martin said. “So we make an effort to do a great job and service is a big part of it. We have to be here and be willing and able to meet customers’ needs on any given day.”

Since Mr. Martin’s grandfather, Missouri businessman James Ware, bought a 20 acre citrus grove in Mission in 1967, Rio Queen has expanded its operation to management of over 5,000 acres of citrus and 1,150 acres of onions across the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and ships product throughout the United States and Europe.

Despite the company’s reputation as a one of the state’s largest and best citrus grower-shippers, Mr. Martin said, “Believe it or not, if you look at the whole year we sell more onions than we do citrus and people don’t even realize that. But we’re selling onions year-round, where citrus, even though it’s a long season, it’s still a season. We’re not the largest shipper in Texas for citrus and I don’t necessarily want to be, that’s not my goal — we’re comfortable where we are and happy with what we do and try to do the best job we can and have been for a long, long time. We’re fortunate to have family members who are still very involved in our citrus operation and we take a lot of pride in it.”

The company lays claim to the title of the largest grower and shipper of onions in the Lone Star State and also has deals in grape and cherry tomatoes and honeydew. A recent acquisition includes a mail order division delivering quality gift fruit and other unique food items directly to consumers.

Tomatoes and honeydew are “a smaller part of the deal, but we focus on quality and taste,” Mr. Martin said. “We’re trying to give consumers the best possible taste in every single product every single time. And for our customers who believe in what we’re doing, it’s paying huge dividends and bringing them back to us.”

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