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NWA unveils new logo, website

logo-with-tmLA QUINTA, CA — The National Watermelon Association unveiled a new logo and launched a new website at its 101st annual convention, here.

Bob Morrissey, executive director of the NWA, said the new website,, replaces and is now active — though certain parts are still under construction and will be active in the next couple of weeks. He said feedback about the food-safety content has been extremely positive so far.

In fact, he said Danny Gurwitz, the attorney who represented Frontera Produce, which recently settled claims in the 2011 Listeria outbreak attributed to cantaloupe,IMG 4519Bob Morrissey, executive director of the NWA. said the association has some of the best food-safety content of any website.

Additionally, Vineline, the association’s quarterly magazine, with the latest information about research news, produce legislation, watermelon queen reports and upcoming events, is now available at the site.

Morrissey said the association initiated its logo project because “we realized we needed to brand the association, but we didn’t have a brand that identified us.”

He said the NWA put out a call for logo designs and received 180 results in the first 30 days. It was then whittled down to the top 10 choices and the executive committee chose its top three, which were then presented to the association membership. The winner was chosen and unveiled at the convention.

“We particularly liked the circular graphic around the watermelon wedge because it indicates the global nature of our industry,” he said.

In other news, Morrissey said that next year’s convention will be held in New Orleans and will have a Mardi Gras theme. The 2017 convention is to take place in Lake Tahoe, followed by Nashville, TN, in 2018. In 2019, the convention makes its debut on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Sunkist's fifth consecutive billion-dollar year

Sunkist Growers announced the cooperative’s fifth consecutive billion-dollar revenue year at the company’s annual meeting Feb. 18, with 2014 grower payments increasing to $1.1 billion from $873 million in 2013.

“An extended cold period in December 2013 posed challenges, but the dedication and hard work of our growers and shippers, in combination with a disciplined sales strategy, allowed us to achieve positive results,” Russell Hanlin, Sunkist president and chief executive officer, said in a press release.

Sunkist issued its second grower distribution in 2014, a program made possible by strong results from Sunkist’s for-profit businesses. “Our for-profit businesses continue to contribute positive revenue streams and also help position Sunkist for future success,” added Hanlin.

Sunkist’s licensing program continues to grow. Notably, last year the cooperative announced a licensing agreement with India’s Future Consumer Enterprise Ltd, one of the fastest growing retail and consumer packaged goods companies in India. New partnerships in India and other significant global markets such as Brazil continue to extend the prominence of Sunkist’s brand globally. With 49 licensees in total, the "Sunkist" brand is used to market approximately 700 products in 77 countries.

“We also continued to realize the benefits of our juice processing partnership, which has resulted in improved by-products earnings, more timely payments and significant contributions to our grower distributions,” said Hanlin. “In the third year of this partnership, Sunkist’s business arrangement with Ventura Coastal continues to be important in our efforts to optimize efficiencies, and we look forward to continued strong results to benefit growers.”

The seamless and efficient completion of Sunkist’s corporate office move from Sherman Oaks to Valencia, CA, in September 2014 was another significant event for the cooperative. The relocation, offering an investment opportunity, further strengthened Sunkist’s financial position while also bringing the cooperative headquarters closer to its growers.

“Sunkist, as a 120-year-old organization, has a rich history that this new space honors along with updated technology that helps us better communicate with our customers and partners,” Kevin Fiori, Sunkist's vice president of sales and marketing, said in the release. “Sunkist is well-positioned for growth in the current marketplace and we look forward to continuing the legacy of the cooperative from our new home in Valencia.”

Mark Gillette, president of Sunkist-affiliated Gillette Citrus Inc., was re-elected as chairman of Sunkist’s board of directors during the meeting. “We are pleased to be recognizing our success last year, but more importantly, we are optimistic about the future of the cooperative as a result of the strategic initiatives that Sunkist has undertaken,” said Gillette. “Sunkist is the leading brand for California fresh citrus and we look forward to continuing to provide high-quality fruit to our partners worldwide.”

Founded in 1893, the Sunkist cooperative of family farms offers more than 40 fresh citrus varieties and remains a brand that has been trusted by customers and consumers for over a century. With thousands of grower members in California and Arizona, the Sunkist cooperative reflects the values and legacy of its over 120-year history: family-owned farms where traditional growing practices, stewardship of natural resources and a dedication to innovation are proudly passed through the generations.

Founded under the principle that more can be accomplished by working together, Sunkist continues to promote a culture of family and collaboration with growers and customers to drive beneficial results for all. Sunkist offers a full range of cartons, bags, display masters, bins and reusable plastic containers, which have been designed with customers’ needs in mind. The company provides customer-specific creative marketing and promotional support to retail and foodservice trade designed to build consumer excitement, demand and sales.

Omaha Steaks introduces fresh vegetable line

Gourmet food company Omaha Steaks announced that it is entering into an exclusive partnership with The Chef's Garden, a family farm operation based in Huron, OH, to market a new line of fresh vegetables.

The new line, available on, includes five different collections of chef-grade artisanal produce grown by The Chef's Garden: Roasting Box; Juicing Box; Beauty Box, which includes edible flowers; Roots & Shoots Box; and Nature's Color Box.175882Omaha Steaks' new line of vegetables will be grown and hand picked at The Chef's Garden farm and shipped directly to consumers.

The new fresh vegetable boxes include artisanal vegetables such as Yellow beets, celery root, baby leeks, Demi cucumbers, mixed carrots, pea tendrils. Collections will change with the season to ensure consumers receive only the freshest, in-season vegetables. All of the vegetables will be grown and hand picked at The Chef's Garden farm and shipped directly to consumers. Omaha Steaks will market the collections online initially and later through mail order and its more than 70 retail locations nationwide.

According to Todd Simon Sr., vice president and owner of Omaha Steaks, the partnership breaks new ground because it brings the extraordinary specialty and heirloom vegetables, herbs, microgreens and edible flowers of The Chef's Garden, which have previously been sourced directly to top chefs and restaurants around the world, to consumer tables across the country.

"Bringing these beautiful restaurant-quality vegetables to our customers aligns perfectly with Omaha Steaks' commitment to creating and providing wholesome and delicious food that brings people together," he said in a press release. The Fresh Vegetable line broadens Omaha Steaks product offering, which already includes premium beef, poultry, pork and seafood, as well as delicious side dishes, desserts and appetizers.

"Until now, The Chef's Garden has focused on providing vegetables to chefs and restaurant kitchens," Farmer Lee Jones, one of the family owners of The Chef's Garden and a pioneer in the sustainable agriculture movement, said in the release. "We are absolutely delighted to be working with a company like Omaha Steaks that is as committed as we are to providing premium quality food."

More information about Omaha Steaks' new Fresh Vegetables is available at

Dandrea Produce announces joint venture with Mas Melons & Grapes

Dandrea Produce has entered into a joint venture with Mas Melons & Grapes. “Our business with the company began over 15 years ago and has gradually but consistently increased with larger product volumes each year,” Frank Dandrea, president of Dandrea Produce, headquartered in Vineland, NJ, told The Produce News. “This alliance attests to how our relationship with their company has developed into a major program for Dandrea.”

The venture was finalized the week of Feb. 9.

Mas Melons & Grapes LLC was founded in 1997 by Miky Suarez, a distributor in Nogales, AZ, and Alberto Vanegas, Carlos Terminel, Alfonso Ruysanchez and Rodrigo Acuña, who are all growers from Caborca, Sonora, Mexico. The company was formed as a partnership with the vision of establishing a vertically integrated group that would grow and distribute its own products.

“Our relationship with Dandrea has continued to grow since we began doing business with the company over 15 years ago, and we are extremely excited to officially start a partnership together,” said Suarez. “Jointly, we are looking to expand our growing operations by investing in more farm land in Mexico as we move forward.”

Dandrea Produce is a multi-generational business that has been operated by family members since it began in 1917. Besides Dandrea, company executives include his brothers: Steven, vice president of sales; and Ron, secretary-treasurer. Two members of the next generation of the Dandrea family -- Jana and Peter Dandrea -- also work for the company. In April two more fourth-generation family members -- Lauren and Adam -- will also join the staff.

“Mas Melons & Grapes distributes from the Nogales facility,” said Dandrea. “The company produces over 950,000 cases of table grapes and over 1.5 million cases of honeydew melons annually. Our investment in Mas Melons & Grapes is integral to our strategic plans. Our vertical integration model is key to our continued success.”

Today Dandrea Produce has a staff of approximately 150 people. It has growing operations in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic. It also has growing partnerships in an additional 14 countries.

“We continually look for growing operations, whether domestically or abroad, to continue to become a completely vertical and true field-to-fork company,” added Dandrea.

Roundy’s honors produce suppliers

Roundy’s Inc. recently held a “Love Your Local Farmer” dinner and award ceremony, inviting Midwest farmers that supply Roundy’s stores with fresh, quality produce to be recognized. The event was held at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee, WI, with farmers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan in attendance. Speakers included Bob Mariano, Roundy’s chairman and chief executive officer; Ben Brancel, Wisconsin Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection;pic1Ben Brancel, Wisconsin Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection delivers keynote address at “Love Your Local Farmer” dinner and award ceremony. Steve Jarzombek, Roundy’s vice president of produce merchandising; and Roundy’s Produce Category Manager Steve Markovich.

Brancel, who hails from a sixth generation Wisconsin farm family, delivered the keynote address. His message stressed the importance of producing and delivering a quality product from field to table, and his comments resonated and energized the farming community present. Jarzombek spoke about produce planning for 2015 and the partnership role Roundy’s offers in helping the farmers present with their upcoming crop planning.

Fourteen different farmers were recognized by Roundy’s:

  • George Espantman of Apple Orchards for “50 Years of Dedication and Service to Roundy’s”
  • Jolanta Hardj of FarmedHere for “Most Innovative Urban Farm”
  • Will Allen of Growing Power Inc. for “Best Sustainable Farm Practices”
  • Ron Balsimo and Wisconsin Food Hub Members for “Two Successful Year of Service with Roundy’s”
  • Mike and Stephanie Borzynski of Borzynski Farms for “Most Valuable Player”
  • Bill Ingersoll of Ingersoll Farms for “Best Service Operator to the Warehouse”
  • Bill Henry of The Gourmet Grower for “Rookie of the Year”
  • Wayne and Michelle Sirles of Rendleman Orchards for “Most Generations in Family Farming”
  • Robert Fechter of Fechter Farms for “Best Specialty Herb Grower”
  • Rick Didier of Didier Farms for “Best Field to Store Service”
  • Rog and Dawn Geers of Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc. for “Providing Largest Varitiety of Apples”
  • Dick Okray of Okray Family Farms for “Potato Packer of the Year”
  • Keith Kersten of Bushel Boy for “Best Greenhouse Tomato Grower”
  • Habelman Bros. Co. for “Best Midwest Cranberry Grower”

More informaiton about Roundy’s partnership with Midwest farmers is available at