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Mars Super Markets and East Coast Fresh Cuts showcase Sesame Street campaign at Baltimore store

BALTIMORE — Maryland-based East Coast Fresh Cuts and Mars Super Markets, the first supplier-retailer team to jump on board the "eat brighter" campaign, showcased fresh produce branded with Sesame Street characters Sept. 24 at a Baltimore store alongside students from a nearby elementary school.

The 'eat brighter!' movement offers royalty-free access to Sesame Street characters and was forged by Produce Marketing Association, Sesame Workshop and the Partnership for a Healthier America.

The program, launched last October, began taking off after a marketing toolkit was released in March and companies starting using the Sesame Street characters in media placements, in-store signage and packaging, explained PMA President Cathy Burns.

Some 29 suppliers are participating and selling fruits and vegetables with characters designed to reach young children in 19,000 stores.

East Coast Fresh Cuts, based in Savage, MD, services 2,500 stores and was one of the first companies to sign on and start working with PMA, said Ross Foca, president of the company.

"It's a natural fit since we're all about delivering natural products to young children," Foca said at the Sept. 24 event.  

It only took a few months to officially launch the new signage, and now products are in more than 2,000 stores, said Jessica Amodeo, marketing representative for East Coast Fresh Cuts.

The family-owned Mars Super Market chain also was the first retailer to adopt the "eat brighter" campaign and to host the first supplier-retailer event to showcase the Sesame Street produce promotion.

"Kids and mothers were loving [the displays] when we were setting up," Peter D'Anna, Mars Super Market's produce director, said at the event. "It's something that children recognize the characters," and that helps parents purchase fresh produce.

Connie Stukenberg rejoins California Avocado Commission as retail marketing director

Produce veteran Connie Stukenberg has returned to the California Avocado Commission staff full-time as retail marketing director. Stukenberg, who had worked on CAC’s merchandising staff from 2000 to 2009, then continued her affiliation with the commission as part of her own business consultancy, CS Sales & Marketing for Results, rejoined the CAC staff effective Aug. 31.

“CAC vice president Jan DeLyser and I are thrilled to have Connie’s merchandising and marketing expertise on staff, as well as all that she brings to the table with her retail relationships and passion for California avocados,” Tom Bellamore, CAC president, said in a press release.Connie-StukenbergConnie Stukenberg

Stukenberg’s expanded responsibility with CAC includes calling on corporate accounts Albertsons, Costco and Safeway. She also has responsibility for retail marketing in Arizona and California, including the Los Angeles wholesale market. This appointment aligns with commission’s focus on marketing of California avocados in the Western United States and with targeted customers across the country.

“Connie is an expert in avocado merchandising and marketing,” said DeLyser. "The relationships that she has built with retailers and others in the produce industry are invaluable.”

Stukenberg has been affiliated with the produce industry for more than 30 years, beginning in 1979 implementing programs for in-store juice extractors in an era before bottled refrigerated juices were merchandised in produce. An innovator from an early age, she co-founded Citrus Connection in 1987 and built the fresh juice company until it was purchased by California Day Fresh Foods (a Chiquita subsidiary that was later renamed Naked Juice). She stayed on with Naked Juice, managing national and regional key retail account sales until 2000 when she joined CAC.

Well-known for her service on numerous charity and industry committees and boards, Stukenberg was a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award for recognition of more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service to community and country. In 2012 the Fresh Produce and Floral Council presented her with the “Buz” Bolstad Produce Achievement Award for meritorious service and outstanding contributions to the produce industry and council. She is currently serving her third term on the board of directors for FPFC and will serve on the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Committee beginning in 2015.

San Miguel announces expansion plans, including partnership with Herndon Farms in Georgia

San Miguel Produce Inc. announced a two-phase expansion of new and expanded growing-processing operations in both the east and west.

The Oxnard, CA-based company said its national retail and foodservice growth of nutrient-dense, specialty greens has made it necessary to expand its growing and processing operations two-fold to provide a comprehensive and strategic, farm-fresh, grower-direct, value-added greens program to meet the demand of its customer base.

The first of the company's two-part expansion is the addition of the new Georgia plant to open this winter. This location will service its current customer base in the midwestern and eastern regions of North America and open opportunities for new business in this region. This new growing-processing operation is a partnership between San Miguel Produce and long-time grower Herndon Farms in Lyons, GA. Construction of the new processing facility is expected to be completed by November.

The second phase of the company's expansion is the addition of 40,000 square feet to its current plant in Oxnard, CA. This expansion will help service the company's customer growth in the western region and expand its product line and volume. Expected completion time for phase two is 2016.  

The combined two farms and facilities will enable San Miguel to triple its current growing and production capacity and provide better service for its expanding national customer base of retail and foodservice partners.

Both facilities will be adding new advanced technologies and processes designed for the many innovative products the company continues to offer and grow.

In addition, both farms and facilities expect to continue to add many new jobs in each region, enhancing the communities they serve.

These two new state-of-the-art processing facilities will set a new industry standard by providing greater innovation platforms for growing and processing dark leafy greens, building on its nearly 40-year heritage for growing greens and 20 years of processing high-quality fresh-cut specialty greens.

San Miguel's brands include:

Cut 'N Clean Greens - an extensive line of nutrient dense, specialty greens, both conventional and organic. The Cut 'N Clean Greens line is considered the cornerstone product of the company and was the first washed, chopped, ready-to-use bag greens on the market launched in 1995. Today, the company said it offers the most varieties of specialty greens year-round throughout North America.

Jade - an authentic Asian greens line that was the first washed, ready-to-use fresh Asian greens on the market when it launched in 2008.

San Miguel Produce - conventional and organic bunch greens that are considered a premium brand nationally for quality and consistency year-round since. San Miguel was established in 1976

As a focused niche company, vertically integrated to manage all aspects of growing, processing and marketing its products, San Miguel has earned the reputation for being the category leader for specialty greens. The company is driven by innovation, quality, data, nutrition and consumer trends all which have played a significant role in helping to take nutrient dense greens such as kale, chards, collard and bok choy mainstream and onto the plates of consumers everywhere.

San Miguel has been an integral part of the Ventura County community for 40 years and new investments like these signify the company's continued growth and commitment to Ventura County, CA. The company also looks forward to building on that same commitment with its partner Herndon Farms in its new, second home of Toombs County, Lyons, GA.

Pure Flavor Bell peppers out of this world, on International Space Station

Pure Flavor has provided greenhouse-grown Bell peppers for the crew members of the International Space Station. These peppers will be part of the fresh food supply delivered on the Space X-4 cargo flight.purvla

On Sept. 21, Space X-4 began its cargo flight from Cape Canaveral, FL, to bring supplies to ISS, including a list of highly nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We are honored to be part of this adventure to bring fresh vegetables to space” Matthew Mastronardi, chief marketing officer at Pure Flavor, said in a press release. “All of us at Pure Flavor are very excited to be working with NASA in their journey to explore the universe in a healthy way.”

Early in the space program prepared meals for astronauts in space were only available in semi-liquid form stored in specially designed packages. A few short decades later, technology has evolved and has given astronauts the ability to have more variety and better food selections, which include some fresh fruits and vegetables.

"Pure Flavor would like to thank NASA for including us in this amazing journey and look forward to other future opportunities," the company said in the release. "The company wishes the crew members all the best and have a safe return flight back to earth."

Garden Cut launches new branding and label design

"Garden Cut," a brand of Indianapolis Fruit Co., has launched a new branding and label design for its pre-cut and ready-to-use products in retail stores. A new "To Go Snack" line of produce-based products has also been released during the launch.  Starting Sept. 22, the newly branded Garden Cut products sold throughout the Midwest were available in hundreds of grocery stores.AppleSweet tartComboWedge12

“We are responding to the growing business segment of fresh-cut, more convenient product,” Mike Mascari, Indianapolis Fruit Co. owner, said in a press release.  “By updating our brand labeling and packaging, we have made Garden Cut product easier to locate in a store’s produce department and in more convenient portion sizes for consumer use.” 

Mascari also noted that pre-cut product appeals to customers who want to incorporate produce into their cooking and diet without the preparation time.

A Garden Cut task force reviewed current market trends, the competition and many designs before settling on the new brand identification. Product offerings were updated to streamline efficiencies in the packaging lines, yet still be able to respond quickly to on-demand customer orders. 

“The new To Go Snack offering is especially popular in convenience stores,” John Cunningham, director of sales and marketing, said in the release.  “We are happy to offer a fresh and healthier alternative in these locations, from a brand that the consumer can recognize and trust.”

“Brighter brand colors make the packaging more attractive while still showing the high quality of the produce product,” said Antonia Mascari, IFC marketing manager.  “We moved away from our previous green branding coloration because it could not be seen against green produce. The new purple and yellow brand colors make it easier to identify Garden Cut at the store level.”