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Pear Bureau Northwest launches redesigned website

On behalf of nearly 1,600 growers of Northwest pears, Pear Bureau Northwest, based in Portland, OR, introduced a redesigned trade website focused on “the business of pears” on Monday, Dec. 28. Providing pear category resources from crop information to training and marketing support, the new mobile- and tablet-ready website provides a localized tool kit for growing pear category sales.

"We have conducted a lot of research to identify pear consumption trends and retail merchandising best practices to help retailers grow their pear category," said Kevin Moffitt, Pear Bureau Northwest president and chief executive officer. "Providing this data and actionable business building tactics with merchandising tools in a single location increases our ability to serve as a trusted resource for our retail partners."

Visitors to will find information about pear varieties and availability, marketing trends and research, and promotion and merchandising materials. The site is also home to the brand-new USA Pears University, which offers resources to help produce professionals improve their pear knowledge, including an on-line training course covering handling and merchandising. The site also has instructional videos for demonstration and sampling staff.

"We hear from produce managers that training is the single most important way to improve performance and enhance the shopper’s experience,” said Moffitt. “Our training program helps to successfully fill this need and set up retailers for better success in the pear category."

The website also features a Marketing Tools section that includes a point-of-sale material gallery as well as links to download customizable header cards and a social media toolkit.

California citrus dodging the cold bullet, but western veggies feeling the lack of heat

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, nighttime temperatures have dipped below freezing since Christmas, but they haven’t dipped low enough to impact supplies. The same can’t be said with regard to how the cold front has impacted the western vegetable growing areas a bit further to the south.

For the last few nights, the temperatures in the citrus belt, mostly south of Fresno, have fallen to as low as 27 degrees. But the temperatures haven’t stayed at that level for very long and in most instances, the low has been a few degrees higher than that. “We have had no damage,” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual.

westerncropLettuce with frost in Holtville, CA, the week of Dec. 28.He said growers have been using wind machines and irrigation to warm their groves up a few degrees above the danger level. And he noted that earlier December rains put a lot of moisture in the ground which has led to a natural warming of the groves. Nelsen said thin-skinned mandarins are more at risk than the thicker-skinned navel crop but growers have not reported any damage of either so far. However, the CCM executive said the rest of this week still has some cold weather in the forecast so there are still bullets to be dodged. “But starting next week and throughout January the weather people are telling us that we are going to have a series of storms,” he said, noting that rainy weather in the valley typically means grove temperatures do not dip below freezing.

The California mandarin crop has been estimated at about 50 million cartons while navel orange growers are expected to harvest about 86 million cartons this year. Nelsen said harvest of both varieties are on track with fairly strong markets and very good demand.

The cold weather, however, continues to impact vegetable production in the southern desert areas of California and Arizona. Both the Brawley district in California and the Yuma area in Arizona are reporting temperatures far below normal, with the thermometer dropping below freezing at night and only rising to the low to mid-60s during the day.

Jason Lathos, manager of commodities for Church Bros. LLC, based in Salinas, CA, which has fields in both areas, said the frost has kept the harvesters out of the fields until close to noon every day. With quitting coming when the sun sets in late afternoon, there just isn’t enough time to fill the orders. In addition, he said the holiday season creates fewer picking days, and the cold weather has produced lighter yields.

Lathos expected the normal dip in demand during the weeks before and after Christmas to be accompanied by a dip in the f.o.b. price for most commodities. “That hasn’t happened. If anything we have seen a strengthening of the market the last couple of days,” he said on Dec. 29.

While traditionally, he would expect the market to loosen up over the next few weeks, Lathos said he cannot predict that will happen at this time. He noted that it is warmer in New York and Boston than it is in the California desert this winter. He said that unique situation has led to a supply and demand curve that is also out of whack.

Speaking during the week before Christmas, Mike Antle of Tanimura & Antle, based in Salinas, CA, said his firm was well behind in their fields and he reasoned that at some point the fields will catch up and there should be ample supplies to fill orders. He guessed that there would be promotable supplies by mid-January in most of the major crop — the big five as they are referred to: iceberg lettuce, romaine, celery, cauliflower and broccoli. However, he predicated his remarks on a return to normal temperatures, which has yet to occur. And Lathos said the forecast is for rain during next week (Jan. 4-10), which should also curtail harvesting. The Church Bros. executive said that until the weather warms up, he can’t promise any buyers promotable supplies.

The five key items were all experiencing very strong markets with each of them at least in the $20s and cauliflower still north of $40 per carton f.o.b.

Key Foods Stores introduces ‘Gala Fresh’

Key Food Stores Co-operative Inc., a chain of primarily independently owned and corporate grocery stores, recently introduced a brand new banner into its supermarket family — Gala Fresh.

As this new banner continues to roll out, customers can expect to see a growth of locations, ensuring convenient access to Gala Fresh and its offerings. To kick off the roll out of this new banner, Key Foods Stores hosted a grand opening of its first Gala Fresh location at 2485 Grand Avenue, Baldwin, NY on Friday, Dec. 18.

County Executive Ed Mangano, Comptroller George Maragos, Senator Michael Venditto, Councilmember Erin King Sweeney, Legislator Laura Curran, a representative for Congressmember Kathleen Rice, and Key Food executives including Chief Executive Officer Dean Janeway, Chief Operating Officer George Knobloch, and Vice President of Business Development John Durante attended the event. The grand opening celebration featured a ribbon cutting ceremony as well as an appearance by Z100’s Greg T and free giveaways on Friday, pictures with Santa on Saturday, an appearance by Z100’s Garrett Vogel, a Stuff-A-Truck food drive with Long Island Cares on Sunday, and vendor sampling.

“The Gala Fresh banner is a very welcome addition to the Key Food family of supermarkets,” said Vice President of Business Development John Durante. “The Jorge family has worked so hard to create a shopping experience that answers all of the community’s needs, and they’ve truly done just that. Customers are going to love the quality and selection Gala Fresh has to offer.”

At 25,000 square feet, this new Gala Fresh will offer customers an extensive selection of fresh seafood, delivered to the store each day. There will also be an assortment of hot food, sushi, and fresh bakery items. Their produce department caters to all customers’ preferences with both organic and conventional produce to choose from. Fresh coffee will also be available for purchase by the pound. Every Tuesday, senior citizens and veterans can enjoy a 10 percent discount.

"We are very excited to open the doors of the first Gala Fresh,” said storeowner Franky Jorge. “We have been working hard to bring the community something special, and are happy to finally give the area a great shopping experience."


Apple packaging options expanding into new territory

Packaging for nearly every fresh produce item has undergone innovations and even revelations in recent years. And so it’s no surprise that apples are also being packaged in new ways.

Brief research shows new, emerging and popular fresh apple packaging include totes, clamshells, foam nets, baguettes, consumer-sized boxes, individually wrapped, sealed and resealable pouches and insert liners, among others.

Several factors are driving the new apple packaging options. They include food safety, reduced fruit bruising or damage, easily recognized high-graphic logos and brand names, environmental concerns and more.

Kurt Zuhlke, president of Kurt Zuhlke & Associates Inc., headquartered in Bangor, PA, told The Produce News that all of these factors are likely contributing to new apple packaging being offered by marketing firms.

“But sanitary reasons is certainly among the most important reasons,” said Zuhlke. “Fruit that is protected from being touched is a major step in preventing the spread of pathogens or bacteria.”

NY-apple-sales The environment also plays a significant roll according to Zuhlke. He said that the public is more aware of environmental damage than ever before, and consumers like knowing that their clamshells, for example, are made from PET materials and are recyclable.

“Convenience is yet another factor,” Zuhlke continued. “Grocery stores that specialize or offer pick-up and delivery on pre-ordered groceries might want their apples in clamshells because they fit nicely into delivery cartons, and because they’re protected from damage if something heavy is packed on top.”

With so many club variety apples now on the market, and at premium prices, we wondered if they were having an impact of new apple Peter Forrence, president of Forrence Orchards Inc., in Peru, NY, thinks

“Because an apple trades for more money does not determine the packaging,” he said. “Honeycrisp apples are a perfect example. They demand a premium but are typically sold in bulk.”

He does feel that pouches that are virtually covered with high-graphic designs are not a great idea.

“You cannot even see the apples in some of these packages because they’re covered with graphics and verbiage,” he said. “I want my packaging to provide as much product visibility as possible so that consumers can see what they’re spending their money on.”

The New York Apple Association is proud of its new reusable bag that it pilot tested with a key retail partner this

“These new bags tap into consumer interest for both convenience and sustainability,” explained Jim Allen, president of the NYAA. “The bag features an eye catching high-graphic design. We also created a stand-alone merchandiser with a similar high graphic design, which contains 300 bags each and is intended to be placed next to bulk apple displays. Consumers initially buy the bag to take home their apple purchase, and then re-use it as they wish.”

The new bag, Allen pointed out, does not replace the NYAA’s very successful bulk apple tote bag, but is another option.

“The bag and its merchandising unit got lots of attention from retailers who saw it at PMA's Fresh Summit in October and at the New York Produce Show in December,” added Allen. “Many commented that they haven't seen anything like it.”

Zuhlke pointed out that corrugated or paper absorbs moisture and has molding effects, so is not good for storage.

“The idea is to keep the product dry. PET clamshells do that and they allow the product to breath. That allows gases to escape, which results in improved shelf life.”

Zuhlke offers a wide range of clamshells for fruits the size of apples, as well as liners in numerous case count sizes.


Stater Bros. announces new CEO

After serving for 36 years as the chief executive officer of San Bernardino, CA-based Stater Bros. Markets, Jack H. Brown announced Monday, Dec. 28, that Pete Van Helden has been appointed to the position of CEO.

staterbrosvanheldenBrown will continue to work as executive chairman of the board of directors, beginning Jan. 4, and Van Helden will report to him, according to the company press release.

Van Helden has been president and chief operating officer of Stater Bros. since 2013. He is a 38-year veteran of the supermarket industry, first beginning his career in 1977 as a courtesy clerk for Rosauers in Libby, MT. He holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration from University of Phoenix. He also serves as vice president of Stater Bros. charities.

“Pete is well-respected and will do an outstanding job as president and CEO,” said Brown in the release.

Stater Bros. currently operates 168 supermarkets in Southern California.