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PRO*ACT names Greener Fields Together grant program winners

Greener Fields Together, the sustainability and local produce initiative created by PRO*ACT, has announced winners of the first Cultivating Change grant program. Cultivating Change is committed to supporting local farms financially to improve their ability to produce, market and distribute fresh produce.  

Twelve grants were awarded to eleven local farms in amounts ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. Grants for $10,000 were bestowed by a panel of industry leaders. Farms winning awards of $3,000 and $5,000 were selected by peer review and online voting. One farm, Jaemor Farms in Alto, GA, won both a panel judge and peer review grant.

The winning local farms are:

 Farm Project Amount Awarded PRO*ACT Distributor
Jaemor Farms of Alto, GA Plastic Bins to improve food safety practices  $13,000 Royal Food Service
Central Texas Specialty Growers LLC of Plano, TX Rainwater Conservation Collection System   $10,000 Hardies Fresh Foods
Poche Family Farm of Independence, LA High Tunnels  $5,000  Capitol City Produce 


The industry review panel included Nova Sayers, NSF’s Business Development - Global Food Division; Johnna Hepner, PMA’s director food safety and technology; James Barham from USDA rural development and agricultural economist; Jim Ebersold, purchasing manager at Ted’s Montana Grill; JoAnne Berkenkamp, president of Tomorrow’s Table LLC; and Glenda Yoder, Farm Aid’s associate director.

“We are extremely proud of the winning farms,” Max Yeater, president of PRO*ACT, said in a press release. “Greener Fields Together was developed to achieve measurable sustainability improvements in the fresh produce supply chain and this program supports that mission. The grants will be a boon to the winners’ ability to produce high-quality, local produce. We look to them as leaders in the future of our industry.”

Cultivating Change grants will be funded on an annual basis to qualifying growers. Applications for the next round of awards will be accepted between Sept. 1 and Oct. 31.

Ed O’Malley named president of Royal Rose as parent company increases North American presence

Cultiva, parent company of Royal Rose, has announced a number of changes and major investments, furthering its commitment to become a leading global supplier and innovator of Italian specialty vegetables and other offerings. Most notably, Royal Rose will now become Cultiva NA (North America), and Royal Rose will be Cultiva NA’s trade brand. Dennis Donohue, longtime Royal Rose president, will now move into the role of chief innovation officer for Cultiva, and Ed O’Malley has been named the president at Royal Rose. Ed-OMalleyEd O’Malley

Donohue will support owners Carlo and Federico Boscolo’s vision and global strategy for the company and their subsidiary companies and continue to support Royal Rose product development and business diversification while assisting O’Malley in getting situated in his new role.

“I’m excited to move to a more global role that emphasizes and appreciates Carlo and Federico’s commitment to innovation,” Donohue said in a press release.

In addition to these structural changes, Cultiva has begun to explore and test different growing regions in North America, while applying Italian technology and growing methods for its baby leaf production. This expansion aligns with the “Radicchio Revolution” marketing campaign it launched this past October at the PMA Fresh Summit in Atlanta. The company also has several value-added products in development to follow a wider release of its popular Med-Hearts line, which is currently sold across the United States, with a solid footing in the Northeast.Dennis-DonohueDennis Donohue

“The Boscolo family’s commitment to growth and innovation really stood out to me, and we look forward to finding new ways to introduce these amazing Italian specialty products to a greater audience in North America and Asia,” O’Malley said in the release.

“Because one of our core missions is to be sustainable, this necessitates innovation and a solid structure throughout the company itself, so that it can then filter into our growing methods, harvesting, processing, product development, and distribution," Federico Boscolo, vice president of Cultiva Global, said in the release. "We know that there will be disruptions from upcoming innovations, we are putting ourselves in the best possible position to capitalize on them when they come.”

O’Malley is a veteran of the fresh and packaged foods industry. He was most recently president and chief executive officer of Datepac, where he created the Natural Delights brand. In his 14-year tenure at Dole Foods and several years with Albert’s Organics and Fresh Express, he held management positions in marketing, innovations, business management and supply chain. His international experience includes postings in the Philippines, Afghanistan, the Georgia Republic and Russia. He has his MBA in agribusiness from Santa Clara University and his bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois.

Donohue served as mayor of Salinas from 2006-12 and is widely credited for Salinas’ outreach to the Silicon Valley during his term in office. He is expected to announce his formal candidacy for Monterey County’s fourth supervisorial district in early 2016.

To align his companies internationally, Carlo Boscolo recently launched Cultiva, which is now one of the largest radicchio producers in the world. It has also been announced that its UK company, MB Produce, will now be Cultiva UK.

RubyFrost apple makes its second wintertime debut

Grown in New York state and available exclusively from Crunch Time Apple Growers, RubyFrost is expanding its retail distribution across the United States. The 2016 RubyFrost season will launch at retail starting in mid-January and is expected to last for a limited time.  RF 5  

After a successful release in 2015, production of RubyFrost apples has grown significantly allowing Crunch Time Apple Growers to expand marketing efforts to include coupons, high-graphic bags, bins and in-store demos.   

 “We were really pleased with the results of this past season and the positive feedback we received from consumers who embraced this new wintertime apple,” Mark Russell, apple grower and marketing committee chair, said in a press release.  “RubyFrost is known for its crisp texture combined with the well-balanced taste of sweet and tart flavors making this a great apple for snacking as well as baking.”

Crunch Time Apple Growers teamed up with Cornell University, a world leader in apple breeding since the late 1890s, to bring the RubyFrost and SnapDragon apple varieties to market. Both apple varieties are grown exclusively in New York state and the royalties support Cornell’s apple-breeding program.

Formed in 2010, Crunch Time Apple Growers is a grower-owned company united with the mission of introducing exclusive, premium flavor apples to the marketplace. The organization comprises 145 grower members in the state of New York, representing about 60 percent of the state’s apple production.

Opportunities for retailers to boost January apple performance

With a smaller national apple crop it has been no surprise that retail volume has declined from record levels set last season. However, an analysis conducted by CMI Cat Stats reveals ways that select retail chains drive apple category increases.FredMeyer Ambrosia 5330

The latest supermarket data on apple category performance for the season from September through Nov. 21 shows that U.S. apple volume sold declined by 5.4 percent. Retail sales declined 2.2 percent with the average retail price moving up 3.4 percent to $1.56.

According to Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for CMI, hidden in the scan data are the strategies leading retailers are using to drive sales and volume despite the shorter crop. He said an analysis by CMI shows that best-in-class retailers are using very similar approaches to raise performance apple performance and beat back competition.

“We know best-in-class retailers use different category strategies,” Lutz said in a press release. “But what they really do well is understand how the opportunities shift as we transition from the fall/holiday season into the winter months of the first quarter.”

Lutz said the opportunity for retailers during Q1 is that changing supply conditions require supermarkets to rethink their category opportunities. He said that between the fall and the first quarter of the year, the average U.S. supermarket loses over 250 pounds of volume and over 350 dollars per store per week in apple sales — dollars that best-in-class retailers capture.

The CMI Cat Stat study confirms that in the first quarter of the year, the two highest selling apple varieties — Gala and Honeycrisp — decline in performance as supplies diminish. Best-in-class retailers are aggressive in expanding sales efforts beyond these two primary subcategories to newer products to lift the declining sales base.

“Best-in-class retailers use the winter months to introduce new varieties and branded apples to consumers”, said Lutz. “This timing is perfect because most of the low-priced 'hot' apple deals that occur at harvest are gone so top retailers seize these winter months to accelerate sales and build stronger displays of hot new branded apples like Ambrosia, KIKU, Kanzi and others.”

Lutz cited Nielsen data showing that among five best-selling branded apples, best-in-class retailers drive more than twice the ACV dollars as low performing retailers.

Lutz concluded that basic apple category performance “starts with mainline apples like Gala, Fuji Honeycrisp, Reds and Grannies.” But he added, “The incremental sales opportunity is to offset the traditional seasonal sales declines by introducing consumers to new tastes and flavor profiles.”

Charles Kuperus of New Jersey dies at 57

Charles M. Kuperus, a former secretary of agriculture for the state of New Jersey, died Dec. 30, 2015, at home in Sussex Borough, NJ, after a battle with a rare form of brain cancer. He was 57 years old and a lifelong resident of Sussex Borough.KuperusCharles M. Kuperus

Mr. Kuperus was named New Jersey’s sixth secretary of agriculture in 2002, following Arthur R. Brown Jr., who served in that post for about 20 years. Mr. Kuperus resigned on Dec. 31, 2008, and was succeeded by Douglas H. Fisher, the state’s current secretary of agriculture.

“During his tenure, he was a tireless advocate for the industry,” Al Murray, the state’s assistant secretary of agriculture, told The Produce News Monday morning, Jan. 4. “He was a big advocate of farmland preservation, and during his administration, the state preserved about 84,000 acres of farmland.”

Mr. Kuperus also created the Jersey Grown program to promote the state’s nursery and horticultural industry, which is similar to the Jersey Fresh program, which promotes the state’s fresh fruits and vegetables. “He was always thinking of the future,” said Murray. “He wanted to make sure that there would always be farmers in the Garden State.”

Charles Miles Kuperus was born Aug. 5, 1958, in Sussex Borough, to Anne (Aukema) Kuperus and the late Miles Kuperus Sr. He attended Sussex Christian Elementary school in Sussex, NJ, and graduated from Eastern Christian High School in North Haledon, NJ, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

The department noted that in addition to his tenure as secretary of agriculture, Mr. Kuperus and his wife founded Kuperus Farmside Gardens. Mr. Kuperus served at Sussex Christian Reformed Church, on the Sussex Christian School Board and on the Christian Schools International Board. He also held leadership positions on the Sussex Borough Council, Freeholder Board of Sussex County, Sussex County Board of Agriculture, New Jersey Farm Bureau and State Planning Commission.

Mr. Kuperus is survived by his wife of 36 years and high school sweetheart, Marjorie (Veenstra) Kuperus; his children C. Mark and Michelle of Lafayette, NJ, Katherine of New York, NY, Jonathan and Rachel of Haskell, NJ, James and Katherine of North Haledon, NJ, Annette and Carlos Franco of Morristown, NJ, and David and Alexandra of Ridgewood, NJ; his grandchildren Charlotte, Stella, Matthew, Penelope and Grace; and his siblings Grace Datema (Jack) of Zeeland, MI, Henrietta Van De Weert (Roy) of Goshen, NY, John Kuperus (Helen) of Wantage, NJ, Miles Kuperus Jr. (Lisa) of Wantage, NJ, and Anne Amels (John) of Wantage, NJ.

Family will receive their friends on Monday, Jan. 4, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Sussex Christian Reformed Church, 51 Unionville Ave., Sussex, NJ 07461. Friends and family are invited to attend a memorial service on Tuesday, Jan. 5, at 10:30 a.m. at Sussex Christian Reformed Church. Funeral arrangements were made with Ferguson Funeral Home in Sussex. For condolences and directions, visit

Memorial donations may be made to Sussex Christian School and Eastern Christian School.