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New Santa Sweets packaging encourages youngsters to eat brighter!

Procacci Bros. Sales Corp. has unveiled new Sesame Street-themed packaging for its popular Santa Sweets authentic grape tomatoes. The new packaging and label, which features Sesame Street’s lovable red character, Elmo, is Procacci's first contribution to the Produce Marketing Association and Sesame Workshop’s nationwide eat brighter! initiative. Procacci-eat-brighter-Labe

“Our Santa Sweets grape tomatoes are a perfect fit for this fantastic initiative,” Rick Feighery, Procacci Bros. vice president of sales, said in a press release. “Kids love their sweet taste and that they’re great for snacking. The health benefits are numerous — just one serving contains 45 percent of the recommended daily values for vitamin C and iron. Grape tomatoes contain no cholesterol or fat and they’re an outstanding source of the powerful antioxidant lycopene.

The ‘eat brighter!’ campaign presents one of the most exciting marketing opportunities that Procacci Bros. and Santa Sweets has encountered since introducing grape tomatoes to the mass U.S. market in the late 1990s, according to Frank Paone, director of marketing.

“When we joined the program, our team saw it as a natural fit to put a Sesame Street character on our own existing label near Tom, Matt & Otto, our longtime Santa Sweets mascots," Paone said in the release. "We love the ability to promote the characters to children as we’ve seen proven success around the industry with it. Grape tomatoes are such a sweet and healthy snack for young diets and we believe that the ‘eat brighter!’ program will help us get them into more lunchboxes and onto children’s plates."

Available year-round, Santa Sweets authentic grape tomatoes are ripened on the vine and handpicked to ensure the highest quality. The ‘eat brighter!’ labels are available to ship to customers immediately.

Fresh & Easy launching Smarter Market concept

Since transitioning to new ownership a year ago, Fresh & Easy has reinvigorated its brand and its stores with the aim of fulfilling a new mission: saving customers time by making fresh and natural food more available and affordable.

Fresh & Easy is bringing this mission to life through store remodel and reintroduction to customers as a Smarter Market. Using many of its Las Vegas stores as a test, Fresh & Easy is unveiling its innovative take on creating modern convenience with a new “Fresh To Go” hot food bar, a more open, modern feel and layout and a revamped product selection with lower fixtures and a more abundant selection of fresh food.

“We’ve evolved Fresh & Easy by constantly innovating to improve our stores and our products,” Mike Evans, Fresh & Easy vice president of marketing, said in a press release. “The company has been reinvigorated and we are now using Las Vegas as a test market to implement even more new ideas and concepts. As with all the changes we have made, we are going to constantly evaluate and fine-tune our ideas to bring our customers something exciting and new.”

The new Fresh & Easy is a company built on fresh ideas, the company said in the release. Innovation is at the core of everything a Smarter Market does, including hundreds of new unique fresh products introduced this year, eggs stamped with a laid-on date, an in-store growler program, and USDA-certified grab-and-go sandwiches and salads.

The first new-look Fresh & Easy was unveiled two weeks ago in Las Vegas, and this weekend seven stores will celebrate their grand re-opening, with additional stores in the area being updated through the end of December.

Industry leaders see abundant opportunities for fresh produce and floral in 2015

Around the globe, the new year is celebrated in vastly different ways and at different times. Despite our diverse traditions though, I believe December is always a good time to reflect on the past year and prepare for what lies ahead (both good fortune and challenges).

Since members drive PMA’s direction, I asked some U.S. member-leaders what they think are the biggest opportunities for the fresh produce and floral industries in 2015.silbermannBryan Silbermann The lenses they each use to view their world reflect the wonderful diversity that they bring to bear.


Kevin Fiori, vice president of sales and marketing, Sunkist Growers and PMA Board of Directors chairperson
As befits a world-class marketer, Kevin focused on connecting with consumers. A few words surfaced when discussing the opportunities of 2015 — food safety, organic vs. conventional, sustainable, local, social responsibility.

Keeping those thoughts in mind, Kevin sees the way we connect to the consumer is changing rapidly. There are various social media conversations taking place that affect the fresh produce industry — some are fact based and others are not.fioreKevin Fiore He stresses that we need to get better at telling our story or it will be told for us, so we must make sure it’s honest and fact-based. There’s no need for embellishment, we have a great story to tell.  

Making sure our honest and compelling story is told is how we’ll boost consumer confidence, according to Kevin.


Tim Riley, president, The Giumarra Cos.
Tim likes to kid himself about his focus on technology and operational focus, so we shouldn’t be surprised that he identifies emerging technologies as a major area of focus in the years ahead. He sees further upgrades to more sophisticated software systems for use on-farm and in distribution, and he echoes the comments heard at PMA events this year where Big Data will be coupled with CRM to provide solid process management.  

rileyTim RileyAdvanced dashboards in ERP systems will deliver business intelligence and analytics, and even more importantly, will be built around the business processes of our industry (not off-the-shelf packages modified for us).

Tim calls out the advances being made in aeroponics and recommends we all pay attention to the advances being made in protected agriculture generally as a game-changer.

Tim channels the optimism of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and sees a bright future for our industry as it adopts the new tools coming its way.


Alec Leach, president, Taylor Farms
Alec’s view reflects the big-picture perspective that’s so typical of him personally and his company. He proposed that one of the most important topics for 2015 facing our industry will still be increasing consumption of fresh produce.alecleachAlec Leach

In noting that there are a few ways to help with this ongoing critical goal for both the health of the nation as well as our respective companies, Alec shared his excitement about what programs like eat brighter! can do to help sell fresh produce to a new generation of customers. He also took time to point out our need to successfully understand and implement the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act requirements to enhance both customer and consumer confidence in our fresh products.


Debora Coleman, floral sales manager, Albertsons
Debora’s comments are important because they reflect how integral the floral sector has become to driving a fresh image at retail. She commented on the struggle with talent, as sourcing talent remains an ongoing issue. She noted that as the economy has recovered, we have seen some of the talented store-level associates leave for other companies and often leave the industry entirely.

Debora also mentioned that developing a program that helps attract young people to the industry through better advertising and working with area schools will become vital as we all move to increase the talent in our industry. In commenting about some high schools in her area that offer floral design programs, she said that no one is working with them to pull that talent over to our industry, so developing a national campaign will be vital.


John Oxford, president and CEO, L&M Cos.
John’s big-picture view parallels that of his fellow PMA vice chair Alec Leach, with its focus on building consumption.oxford  johnJohn Oxford John noted that while it’s hard to single out just one issue as the most important facing the fresh produce industry, increasing consumption is certainly one of them.

He went on to comment that while the problem is difficult because it’s so broad and all encompassing, it’s also not a short-term problem and there doesn’t appear to be any easy low-hanging fruit.

That being said, John believes that the bigger the challenge the bigger the opportunity. Therefore, he stated, as an industry we must combine all of our resources from great tasting, innovative, easy-to-eat products to marketing movements like eat brighter! to leading the way in low-cost production. We must keep our eye on the prize of a thriving fresh fruit and vegetable industry in a healthier, more productive global economy.


Drew Yurko, CFO, FreshPoint
Drew-YurkoDrew YurkoPMA’s new treasurer, Drew Yurko, shares Debora’s focus on talent, not surprising for someone who was a standout at the PMA Foundation’s first Emerging Leaders Program a few years ago.

Drew noted that attracting enough top talent to fill our leadership pipeline is a key priority because once people get into the produce industry, they tend to love it. The trick is enlisting quality individuals who haven’t been exposed to our industry through family or friends. To work toward filling this need, Drew plans to continue to network in our communities both formally and informally, and focus on mining the candidate pool that is available through the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent.

Side Delights Steamables are the answer for busy consumers

The NPD Group just released its 29th annual Eating Patterns in America report, and it found that one of the single biggest changes in U.S. eating patterns over the last five years is an increase in meals eaten at home. Side Delights Steamables are well-positioned to take advantage of this trend to satisfy Americans who want fresh, nutritious food. steamables-family-rev-2

“We are eating more meals in our homes, but not cooking more dishes,” Harry Balzer, vice president of The NPD Group and author of the report, said in a press release.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the fresh potato category, where the microwaveable/steamable segment has seen dollar sales shooting up 31 percent for the 52-week period ending Sept. 27, according to data from Nielsen FreshFacts.

Side Delights Steamables are triple washed, fresh, whole, small potatoes in a microwave safe package that is ready to serve in just eight minutes. Steamables also use light-blocker packaging technology to keep potatoes fresher and protected from greening due to harsh store lighting.

Side Delights Steamables come in seven potato varieties: Russet, red, golden, white, purple, fingerling and sweet potatoes. The inclusion of purples, fingerlings and sweet potatoes brings together these rapidly growing specialty potatoes with the on-trend convenience of microwave cooking.

“Retailers have a tremendous opportunity with offering their shoppers more quick and convenient ways to enjoy fresh potatoes,” Kathleen Triou, president and chief executive officer of Fresh Solutions Network, said in the press release. “Side Delights Steamables gives them a complete lineup of gourmet potatoes that appeal to time-starved families as well as Millennial shoppers, all packaged using the latest technology to protect their premium quality.” 

While Triou recommended merchandising Side Delights Steamables in the produce department with other fresh potatoes on an everyday basis, she noted that big volume opportunities come from displaying these high-impulse potatoes near rotisserie chicken in the service deli or adjacent to the ready-to-heat entrees in the meat department.

New Ready Pac salad kits help at the holidays


This holiday season Ready Pac Foods Inc. has launched a series of innovative solutions for the dinner table, helping to turn a simple meal into special moments and traditions. Ready Pac’s latest innovations — the Cranberry Pomegranate Complete Salad Kit, Autumn Harvest Complete Salad Kit and Thai Complete Salad Kit — will make holiday meals easy and delicious so family and friends can focus on what matters most: enjoying their time together.

“It’s amazing what a shared meal can do to bring us closer together,” Tristan Simpson, chief communications officer of Ready Pac Foods, said in a press release. “A good meal can open up our hearts, stimulate conversation and remind us how important it is to reconnect with our family and friends. I love the idea that our Ready Pac Complete Salad solutions are helping to do that for families across the country.”

Ready Pac’s new Cranberry Pomegranate Complete Salad Kit features a fresh blend of arugula, baby greens and radicchio, feta cheese, sweet cranberries, honey roasted almonds and a tangy sweet pomegranate cranberry vinaigrette.

Ready Pac’s new Thai Complete Salad Kit is a blend of green leaf lettuce and spicy peanut lime cilantro dressing, paired with the kit’s crispy wonton strips and peanuts.

Ready Pac’s new Autumn Harvest Complete Salad Kit features some of the latest food trends, including baby kale and spring mix with broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and radicchio. The rich flavors of fall are captured in its crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds, sweet figs and raisins, spiced cornbread croutons, and creamy citrus and brown sugar dressing.