Roundy’s-BrightFarms partnership to result in 1 million pounds of local produce a year

BrightFarms recently broke ground on the BrightFarms Chicagoland Greenhouse in Rochelle, IL. This project is a partnership with Roundy's Supermarkets Inc. Slated for completion in early 2016, it will provide produce for Roundy’s stores. It is being built in partnership with Clean Feet Investors.bright-1

Focused on local, low-impact farming, the BrightFarms Chicagoland Greenhouse will be one of the most productive farms in the Chicagoland market, one of the most sustainable sources of year-round baby greens and tomatoes in all of Illinois, and among the most productive salad greens farms, per square foot, in the world. It will create permanent green collar jobs, significantly reduce food miles and improve the environmental impact of the food supply chain.

"Consumer demand for local is growing exponentially — and for good reason: long distance produce hurts the environment and compromises freshness, quality and taste," Paul Lightfoot, BrightFarms chief executive officer, said in a press release. "This greenhouse farm will allow Roundy’s to provide its customers with year-round produce that is not only garden-fresh, but that conserves land and water, eliminates agricultural runoff and reduces greenhouse gas emission."

A cutting-edge, scalable solution to Americans' increasing demand for local and sustainable food, The BrightFarms Chicagoland greenhouse will be 160,000 square feet and grow over 1 milliion pounds of fresh and flavorful salad greens, herbs and tomatoes per year. The greenhouse will use 80 percent less water, 90 percent less land and 95 percent less shipping fuel than conventional produce companies. On average, it will use 64 percent less energy to grow its products than the items it replaces on supermarket shelves. All produce will be pesticide-free.

"We're thrilled that our stores will be able to deliver consumers the freshest, most local greens, herbs and tomatoes possible," Bob Mariano, CEO and chairman of Roundy's, said in the release. "BrightFarms is a model for the future of food and we look forward to exemplifying, together with them, what that future should look like."

"We're honored BrightFarms chose to put down roots in Rochelle, and are excited for the completion of the greenhouses early next year," said Rochelle Mayor Chet Olson. " By 2016, the project will have created over 23 local green collar jobs and over 100 local construction jobs, which means more dollars will be kept in the Rochelle community." 

New fresh salad lines launched at Costco

FiveStar Gourmet Foods, a culinary-focused provider of fresh and frozen prepared foods, has launched two new gourmet salad lines at Costco: Simply Fresh Organic, which features non-GMO, certified-organic ingredients; and Simply Fresh Gourmet, featuring non-GMO conventional and organic ingredients. Neither salad line contains artificial ingredients or preservatives.fivestar

"We created these two salad lines to fill a major void in the marketplace for affordable gourmet salads," Tal Shoshan, founder and chief executive officer, said in a press release. "Our retail partners were also asking us to combine our restaurant-quality expertise with our organic capabilities for the fresh salad segment. We responded with a great lineup of salads, and the corresponding consumer response has been overwhelming, with sales significantly outpacing our initial projections.

"We collaborated closely with Costco to customize products that their members would love. We’re a culinary-driven company with a team of culinary professionals that are continuously pursuing the best dining experiences possible. Combining our love for great food with Costco’s understanding of consumers’ tastes created a perfect pairing."

Shoshan and his team of chefs formulate all of FiveStar’s recipes to reflect freshness and quality of California’s farms and fields.

"We source the best produce, and our facilities are strategically located near our growers," Shoshan said. "Produce picked the night before arrives at our state-of-the-art facilities in the early morning, where it’s prepared and packaged with our freshly made gourmet dressings and a wide array of salad toppings.

"Advanced modified atmosphere packaging ensures extended shelf life without the use of preservatives, so the product arrives and stays fresh until it can be enjoyed," he said.

All packaging materials used in FiveStar’s Salads are from recycled sources.

Waste not, want more: Imperfectly Delicious Produce gaining traction

The gross amount of food that goes to waste in the produce industry — from the farm all the way to the kitchen or dining table — is not news to professionals.

It’s unfortunate but true that Americans demand the most visually appealing fresh produce where they shop. Foodservice operators are slightly different. Often the fruits and vegetables they use are cut up and combined with other ingredients to create menu items.IDP-spinachProduct like this spinach, which does not meet the grade standards for sale at retail, is used in the Imperfectly Delicious Produce program run by Compass Group.

Despite that, the result of consumers’ penchant for perfect produce is the high percentage removed from the product in the field during harvest and at repack and distribution facilities.

Romaine is one example. According to Charlotte, NC-based Compass Group USA, growers calculate that getting 10 percent more yield out of each acre could help pay for the extra labor and take better advantage of all the resources that went into growing.

In April 2014, Compass Group, with its procurement arm Foodbuy and in partnership with subsidiary Bon Appetit Management Co., established Imperfectly Delicious Produce, commonly referred to as IDP, to rescue fruits and vegetables that are cosmetically imperfect from growers and distributors.

“This produce might have languished in fields or been sent to composting or a landfill simply for not meeting an artificial standard of attractiveness,” said Jason Dye, senior manager of category development for Foodbuy. “We had a previously established relationship with Church Brothers, a grower in Salinas, California. We contracted with them for various products that we feature throughout the country, such as chopped Romaine, spring mix, green leaf lettuce, spinach and more.”

The IDP program was initially focused on a second growing cycle on freshly cut acres of spinach, where chef clients of Foodbuy would purchase the spinach as IDP. Traditionally, a second cut is not done because the outcome is slightly imperfect greens.

During a Compass chefs’ tour in the summer of 2014, the team also identified waste in Church Bros.’ processing operation. They included broccoli fines, the small florets that get left behind during processing, and cascade greens, a blend of the small leaves inside the heads of Romaine and green leaf lettuces that are too small to be sold.

“The team also observed the Romaine lettuce harvest, where pickers were pulling off the crisp outer leaves to form perfectly sized heads for market, then tossing the discarded leaves on the ground, effectively forming a salad bowl of greens left on the soil,” explained Dye. “They asked what it would take to save them because chefs typically don’t need perfect looking lettuce leaves when they are cutting them up to use in salads. That’s when they learned that growers could get 10 percent more yield out of each acre if that otherwise wasted product could be sold.”

As a good thing tends to evolve into a domino effect, IDP also discovered that by utilizing this otherwise wasted product, they were also conserving California’s precious water — enough to fulfill the use of nearly 3 million people per day.

California grower-partners have so far rescued enough produce for 140,000 people to reach the Daily Recommended Value of produce consumption for one year with only incremental water use.

“IDP now has grower-partners in nine states,” said Dye. “And our work has only just begun. Today the product mix in each market consists of seasonal products grown by local farmers and also products from national growers. Both sources are important and complement one another throughout the year.

“In June 2015, year to date, Compass Group IDP purchases met the fruit and vegetable RDA requirements for 125,000 people for one day by implementing the IDP program,” Dye continued. “IDP rescued over 188,000 pounds of produce that would have otherwise been discarded or sent to compost or waste.”

What’s next for IDP? It plans to expand its otherwise wasted produce line in more ways. Dye questions, for example, why the standard for cauliflower is white. What if the vegetable’s natural color — warm yellow — was allowed to shine?

“Our initial focus was to identify viable items and create the operational efficiencies throughout our supply chain in order to properly establish the market for IDP items,” Dye pointed out. “Now that we have a foundation to build upon we can enhance our marketing efforts at the unit level in order to properly tell the story and further grow the program.”

Move asparagus, build sales

The Category Management Plan Outline for Fresh Peruvian Asparagus produced by the Peruvian Asparagus Importer’s Association has served as an invaluable tool, providing the retail and foodservice sectors with the kind of detailed information needed to move product and build sales.

“PAIA has been successfully formed since 2001. We have recently had our 10-year anniversary and are closely approaching our 15-year anniversary,” said Coordinator Priscilla Lleras-Bush. “We have been compiling the CMPO for over 10 years. The CMPO is available for the entire retailer and foodservice industry. Actually, many retailers find the information very informative due to the detailed statistics, key consumption demographics and merchandising strategies that are made available in the CMPO. Additionally, each year upon its release and publishing, we receive attention of the entire industry with requests to receive the CMPO.”

The plan has taken on a life of its own, changing and evolving to reflect industry dynamics. “We have seen the category grow in consumption year-over-year,” Lleras-Bush said. “We have been able to include the successes within the category. For instance, just this year asparagus ranks as the number two purchased product in 2014. This is a huge among the category, and we are humbled by the ranking and will continue to press forward to provide U.S. consumers with quality fresh asparagus from Peru.”

The CMPO is a valuable informational tool that provides receivers of asparagus with detailed industry-specific data designed to increase asparagus sales.

“If we are able to help grow the category above and beyond providing the fresh quality Peruvian asparagus, we also provide tools to assist retailers and foodservice grasp the key buying demographics and recommendations of promotion and advertising ideas,” Lleras-Bush went on to say.

“It is our objective to promote the Category Management Plan Outline for Fresh Peruvian Asparagus, and we are most optimistic the outline will supply retailers and industry at large with information that communicates the health benefits, key demographics and innovative approaches and strategies to increase consumption of fresh Peruvian asparagus,” she continued.

The plan can be obtained from any member of the Peruvian Asparagus Importer’s Association or by contacting Lleras-Bush.

Sprouts' leadership shift

Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. announced that Doug Sanders, the company’s current president and chief executive officer and member of the board of directors, has been appointed executive chairman of the board as part of the company’s established leadership succession plan. Amin Maredia, chief financial officer, will ascend to the position of CEO, and Jim Nielsen, chief operating officer, will assume the position of president and chief operating officer.  dougDoug Sanders

“On behalf of the board of directors, I would like to congratulate Doug, Amin and Jim on their new roles,” Andrew Jhawar, chairman of the board, said in a press release. “This transition is the result of our board’s deliberate succession planning process, and I am pleased that this same team will continue to lead Sprouts into the future. During their respective tenures at Sprouts, both Amin and Jim have proven they are the right leaders to guide Sprouts, and Doug’s appointment to the executive chairman role will allow him to continue to provide strategic direction for the company.aminAmin Maredia

“I also want to thank Doug for his outstanding contributions to Sprouts since its founding,” continued Jhawar. “Doug has helped to lead Sprouts from a single store in 2002 through our transition into a publicly traded company with over 200 stores in 13 states coast to coast, and I look forward to continuing to work with Doug on our board of directors.”   

“I am truly grateful to have been part of Sprouts from its beginning and thank the board of directors and all 20,000-plus team members,” Sanders said in the release. “I strongly believe Sprouts has the team, foundation and strategy in place to achieve long-term success, and I am excited to continue to be part of the strategic direction of Sprouts serving as executive chairman of the board.”jimJim Nielsen

“I am so honored to succeed Doug as CEO of Sprouts, and I know we will continue to be nimble, innovative and customer-focused to deliver on our mission of ‘Healthy Living for Less,’” said Maredia.  “There has never been a more exciting time for our company as consumers’ expectations of grocery stores continue to evolve. I look forward to working closely with Doug as executive chairman, the board of directors, Sprouts’ exceptional leadership team and its committed team members in growing the brand successfully and profitably in the years ahead.”

“My appointment as president and chief operating officer of Sprouts is incredibly humbling,” said Nielsen.  “Through innovation and execution, we will drive operational excellence and focus on growth opportunities to expand our footprint while delivering value to our customers. Our dedicated team members will continue to educate, empower and inspire our customers who want to eat healthier and lead a better life.”  

The company also appointed Susannah Livingston, vice president of investor relations and treasury, as its interim chief financial officer, until the company completes its search for a new chief financial officer. 

Livingston has over 25 years of financial, treasury and investor relations experience, including the last two years with Sprouts, serving as its vice president of investor relations and treasury since January 2015 , and vice president of investor relations and communications from April 2013 to December 2014. Her experience includes financial roles with increasing responsibility at Solutia Inc., a global manufacturer of performance materials and specialty chemicals.