Arizona pomegranate harvest kicks off

BOWIE, AZ -- The first commercial harvest of pomegranates at Hurley Bowie Pomegranates was set to kick off as September begins.

The orchard, located about 100 miles east of Tucson in southeastern Arizona, is thought to be Arizona’s only commercial pomegranate orchard. It is owned by 75-year-old Marshall Turley, who is also a grower of apples and other commodities in nearby Chihuahua, Mexico. The farm is managed by Turley’s nephew, Larry Romney.

Smith-tree During an Aug. 27 tour of the facility, Romney said the season’s first picking would occur Aug. 31. The fruit will be packed and distributed by GreenPoint LLC in Rio Rico, AZ.

GreenPoint representatives were going to be involved in the initial harvesting to direct what fruit would qualify for the fresh market. While the processing market is not a priority for the farm, there is a juice processing plant in Wilcox, AZ, that can convert off-grade fruit to juice.

The orchard’s operators tested Brix levels on ripe pomegranates and consistently found readings at or near 18.

Romney said the Smith variety would be the first to be harvested on the 92-acre plantation. Smith is Bowie Pomegranate’s trading name for a patented variety known as “Angel Red.” Three year old Smith trees will be picked three times, ending in the third week of September. Then a second variety, “Wonderful” will be harvested for three weeks, beginning Oct. 1.

Omar Losolla of GreenPoint said this orchard wouldn’t reach maturity for four years. This year’s small commercial volumes will be sold to in-state retailers as “local” product.

Romney said Smith’s “excellent quality” should compete well with California’s Early Foothill and Granada pomegranate varieties.

But all involved recognize the overwhelming volume advantage held by the California’s sophisticated pomegranate industry. Romney said this competitive position is one of the reasons GreenPoint was chosen to distribute the fruit.

With GreenPoint shipping a variety of fresh produce from Rio Rico, the pomegranate offering can be placed in small pallet quantities on mixed loads.

Romney said the Wonderful variety was first planted in 2010 and Smith the following year. In the winter of 2011-12 the area was hit by an epic cold snap that froze the 30,000 pomegranate trees to the ground. Of those, about 25,000 trees survived and are now flourishing.

Bowie is 3,700 feet above sea level, which brings cool nights needed for deep-red skin color and sweet fruit.

The University of Arizona in Tucson is cooperating with this orchard in testing new pomegranate varieties.

Del Campo to launch new organic line

NOGALES, AZ — In mid-January, a new organic program will be launched by Del Campo Supreme Inc. Jimmy Munguia, sales manager at the Nogales, AZ-based firm, said the small, preliminary organic line will involve eggplant and several tomato varieties, including Roma, round and grape.

Diego-JimmyDiego Ley, tgeneral manager of Del Campo Supreme Inc., with Jimmy Munguia, the firm’s sales manager.“Organics are a growing category and we are hoping to capture a portion of that business,” Munguia said. “Retail has asking for organics.”

Diego Ley, general manager, indicated that Del Campo once had a very small, pallet-quantity organic program. This proved to “be a learning experience. But our focus was not on organics.”

But the firm has land in the Mexican state of Jalisco for organic production to build a significant new organic effort. Del Campo also has great expansion opportunities for year-round, organic, hydroponic vegetables in its Sinaloa greenhouse operations.

Like all other product shipped from the farm, organics will carry the “Del Campo” brand.

On the conventional side, Del Campo grows, packs and ships red and yellow grape tomatoes, Romas, Beefsteak, tomatoes-on-vine, cocktail and vine-ripe tomatoes, red and yellow Bell peppers and mini-Bell peppers.

The firm has doubled its grape tomato production this year.

All of these products, except for tomatoes-on-vine, are shipped 12 months a year.

Former Syngenta exec joins Kroger

The Kroger Co. has named Jessica C. Adelman to serve as Kroger's group vice president of corporate affairs, effective Nov. 1.  

"Jessica brings a wealth of public affairs leadership experience and deep knowledge of the food supply chain," Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a press release. "We look forward to welcoming her to our senior leadership team."

Adelman has 20 years of experience as a public affairs executive in the food industry, most recently as senior vice president of corporate affairs for Syngenta North America since 2008. In this role she was responsible for corporate brand oversight, government affairs, media relations, crisis and issues communications, litigation communications, internal communications and employee engagement, corporate social responsibility and giving. Adelman has held several strategic leadership roles with other companies, including director of Cargill Government Solutions.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Adelman majored in Russian area studies and lived in the former Soviet Union for several years in the 1990s. She earned an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and a master's degree in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an executive certificate in trade policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

As group vice president of corporate affairs, Adelman will focus on reputation management, including external communications and brand public relations; media; government and regulatory affairs; corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability; community relations; crisis management; cause-marketing and corporate philanthropy.

Adelman will relocate with her husband and three children to Cincinnati from greater Washington, DC, where she currently resides.

New marketing strategies needed for today’s shopper

Today’s grocery shopper is much different than ever before, which means new marketing strategies are needed to reach this consumer.

That is the common theme running through the latest Grocery Shopping Trend Survey conducted by the Food Marketing Institute. In a webinar detailing the study in August, FMI Senior Vice President Susan Borra said a generation ago it was easy for retailers and product marketers to reach a majority of grocery shoppers. All they needed to do was to target moms and they would reach half the households and even a greater percentage of consumers.

Today, households composed of children under 18 represent just 28 percent of all homes, which is the exact same percentage of single-member households.

And even reaching the traditional home makeup has become more complicated, because there has been “a paradigm shift” in the roles assumed by husbands and wives, Borra said.

In fact, 50 percent of men claim they have a primary role in shopping, with even more women saying the same thing. The oddity of that statistic is that when you extrapolate the numbers, 203 million people in a country of only 123 million households claim they are the “primary” shopper for their family.

Laurie Demeritt, chief executive officer of The Hartmann Group, who was a co-presenter during the webinar with FMI’s Borra, indicated that it is not false bravado that leads to this inflated number. Instead, it is that different members of the family bring their own interpretation to what constitutes the primary shopper. Is it the preparer of the list, the preparer of the meal or the person primarily responsible for doing the shopping?

And the concept is further complicated when household members share the responsibility for both cooking and shopping. Some people delineate themselves as secondary shoppers, but often — as the numbers indicate — both participants consider themselves the primary shopper.

If it is hard to determine who is making the buying decision, it is difficult to target market. Yet Demeritt said it is very important for retailers and marketers to understand who the buyer is.

Another area explored by this extensive survey was the changing composition of in-home meals. A Rockwellian picture of the nuclear family gathered around the table for a meal is truly a relic from the past. The survey revealed that 47 percent of eating occasions are a singular event. And people eat differently when they eat alone.

The survey also found an increase in eating occasions as snacking has increased tremendously, with eating a snack before breakfast and just before bed trending upward. Borra said eating occasions are now meals 50 percent of the time and snacks the other 50 percent.

These changing habits do offer opportunities for retailers.

For example, Borra said 63 percent of the time the decision about what to eat is made within one hour of consumption. That is one reason why prepared food at retail is a huge growth item. Demeritt said shoppers “are looking for inspiration at the store.”

And that is especially true of younger shoppers.

Of the age groups studied, millennials are least likely to prepare a list or to actually plan out the meal ahead of time. As expected, the older shoppers engage in list making and planning more often. Women do use a shopping list more often than men, which is another factor that can be exploited in-store. Women more often pantry shop, while men more often are picking a needed item and may be more susceptible to impulse buys.

There is a strong correlation between cooking and shopping as the primary shopper tends to do most of the cooking. But the fact is that men’s presence in both the supermarket and the kitchen is rapidly increasing. In just one generation, men’s participation has grown 50 percent.

Shopping and cooking have gone from “a matriarchy to a democracy,” said Borra. More people are involved and expressing their opinion. More than 55 percent of the people living in multiple-person households say they customize their meals for individual tastes. In other words, the days of one-menu-fits-all are quickly disappearing.

Borra reiterated that this is a positive for retailers, as it gives them the opportunity to help shoppers make buying decisions and meet their changing needs. She said a very high percentage of shoppers trust their retailer and do look to them for suggestions.

This survey, like many others, also points to consumers wanting to eat a healthier diet. Seventy percent say they don’t eat as healthy as they would like, but 92 percent said they eat healthier at home than the meals they eat outside the home. This again bodes well for retailers.

Consumers also have a high regard for the food safety of supermarkets and the ability of the Food & Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to keep their food safe.

About 93 percent trust their grocery story and believe the food is safe. Seventy-two percent trust that growers have their safety in mind when producing the product. These numbers have been growing steadily since reaching a low level during the E. coli outbreak associated with fresh spinach in 2006.

The FMI survey did not reveal much participation in online food shopping. Only about 8 percent of those questioned said they had bought food online in the previous 30 days. Millennials skewed a little higher, but still only 12 percent in that mostly 20-something generation had bought food online in the previous month.

And when shoppers do buy online, about half the time they are purchasing snacks rather than staples. Only 18 percent of all online food buys in this survey consisted of fresh produce. That 18 percent of the 7-8 percent shopping online accounts for only about 1.5 percent of shoppers.

In her concluding remarks, Demeritt reiterated that there needs to be a major marketing shift by American retailers because of the buying shift of consumers. Borra echoed those remarks, noting that retailers have to find new ways to target market, perhaps honing in on more specific shopper demographics than they ever have in the past.

CMI: Early season apple opportunity 'best in history'

Washington state’s unprecedented early apple harvest is already driving strong supermarket sales, according to industry experts. An early bloom and consistently high temperatures through the growing season pushed harvest dates forward in the state’s orchards by as much as three weeks.

Early season sales reports from the Washington State Tree Fruit Association show that shipments to date are 12 percent higher than the early crop in 2014, and over 300 percent higher than the same time period in 2013.apeue

According to Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing at CMI, this early season apple opportunity offers retailers an easy way to boost sales prior to the traditional October peak.

“There is a huge potential sales spike for retail supermarkets that recognize the opportunity to jump on the apple category earlier than normal,” Lutz said in a press release. He noted that the average supermarket doesn’t reach the seasonal plateau of 8 percent category contribution to total produce until early to mid-October. He said retailers that commit to early apple opportunities hit this level by mid-September, generating up to four additional weeks of peak season dollars and volume.

“Washington had an early crop last year as well,” Lutz said in the release. “This year is even earlier and the category data from last year shows that retailers who seized the opportunity enjoyed peak season sales levels several weeks before their competition.”

Lutz cited Nielsen scan data results from last fall — showing that chains that capitalized on the early season a year ago dominated competitors in terms of overall apple category performance.

“If you look at just the month of September last year, when the earlier harvest enabled retailers to build out full apple assortments sooner, the supermarkets that seized this opportunity generated significant sales gains,” said Lutz. “The top 20 chains in September grew apple sales by 6.5 percent with a category contribution of over 9 percent. The apple category average for the total U.S. was an increase of just 1.6 percent in sales with a category contribution of 6 percent.”

Lutz said last year was just a warm up for the 2015 season. “We’re so much earlier than normal — it’s just a great opportunity for retailers to energize their sales right after Labor Day. We’re already well into harvest on Galas, Honeycrisp, Reds, Fujis and organics. We’ll have Grannies next week. The opportunity to bring in the apple shopper is right now, not October,” he said.