RIVERSIDE, MI — Four generations later, Monte Package Co. has a revitalized business in selling veneer baskets like those on display in the firm’s Riverside packaging museum.
Sam Monte, director of operations for the firm, said his great-grandparents, Anthony and Rose Monte, launched the business in 1925 by selling veneer baskets to southwest Michigan’s countless fruit and vegetable growers.
Monte Package now offers a full-service produce packaging line, including the latest technology.But still, proving that life moves in cycles, the interest in locally grown and traditional farming has re-invigorated the demand for baskets resembling those commonly used 90 years ago.
The design of some baskets — like those used by some Michigan grape growers — are virtually unchanged in 90 years. Otherwise, consumers want to buy produce that “looks farm-fresh on the shelves,” said Monte. “They like the look that it was picked yesterday.” Much of the packaging “has new-school features and we try to make it look like baskets of the 1920s.”
At the same time, Monte Package is offering a wide variety of permutations on the grab-n-go shelf-display, clear, zipper-closure display bag, which is perforated to allow produce to breathe.
“It’s something safe, protected and ventilated for moisture control,” said Monte.
Perforations can be customized to maximize shelf life of particular items. “People love them on shelves,” he added. “The industry universally is using them, from growers to packers to wholesalers and mom-and-pop stores or for farm markets.” Major national retailers, of course, are also using these bags.
Two years ago, Monte started offering the “Greencoat” brand of packaging to replace waxed corrugated boxes. Monte said these water-resistant boxes are 100 percent recyclable and repulpable. They are strong for field or shed packing, eliminate waxed-box disposal fees and promote environmental and sustainability efforts.
The company’s website offers hundreds of items related to produce packaging and merchandising.
Sam Monte’s grandparents, Salvatore (Sam) and Connie Monte, took over the business about 1960. Sam Monte’s father, Tony Monte, took over the business 30 years ago and expanded to corrugated packaging. Tony’s brother, John Monte, moved to Florida when the firm opened two distribution centers there.
Sam and Tony Monte are both graduates of the University of Miami-Ohio. They have extended their company’s reach to the Midwest, including Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.
The firm also has customers in distant points such as New Jersey, Florida and Texas. It is developing the California market as well.
J.P. Dulcich & Sons, a grower of premium California table grapes, announced its newest variety — the Green Emerald, a proprietary green seedless grape — is available only through Sunlight International Sales.
Having realized years ago that market trends showed consumers wanted green grapes that were larger and sweeter than the average varieties found in most stores, the Dulcich family set out to develop a green variety that would fit the perfect profile of size and flavor.
In 2007, Dulcich & Sons found and began to study an original variety of green grape that was large in size but still contained a hard seed trace. Determined to see what this promising variety could produce, Dulcich put it through a two-year selection process that resulted in a dedicated test parcel planted in 2009. After two additional years of production and market testing, the new variety finally was ready for expanded plantings. This long development process produced the grape the Dulcich family was looking for: seedless, extra large, super sweet with high Brix, crunchy and flavorful.
In December 2013, J.P. Dulcich & Sons received a plant patent to grow and ship the Green Emerald variety.
The Green Emerald has an impressive shelf life and is perfect for both the domestic and export markets. According to the company, it is truly unique and different in comparison to other green grape varieties on the market today, and received considerable acclaim from both retailers and consumers during its testing phase. For the 2014 shipping season, Dulcich has increased the availability of the Green Emerald, expanding its growing area to provide longer market access. Expected availability will be mid-August through the end of November.
"We realized that customers were not getting the green grapes they wanted so we decided to find the perfect grapes ourselves," Nick Dulcich, president of Sunlight International Sales, the marketing arm of J.P. Dulcich & Sons, said in a press release. "Fresh, big green grapes with sweet flavor and a healthy crunch. That's what customers want, and that's the Green Emerald. This is the best green grape I have ever seen! It has size and taste and has an incredible shelf life."
In celebration of this new variety, Sunlight International's Facebook page will be offering a special giveaway starting in August.
Delhaize Group has completed the divestment of the Sweetbay, Harveys and Reid´s operations to Bi-Lo Holdings for a cash amount of $246 million, subject to customary post-closing adjustments.
As part of a previously announced Federal Trade Commission settlement, Bi-Lo Holdings LLC agreed to sell 12 supermarkets in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to settle charges that its acquisition of 154 stores from Delhaize America would harm competition in several local markets in those states.
Delhaize Group also completed, in a separate transaction, the sale of its distribution center in Plant City, FL, to C&S Wholesale Grocers for an amount of $28 million.
Beginning on June 12 with a match between Brazil and Croatia and lasting until the finals are played a month later, the World Cup is sure to spawn many celebrations, even in the United States, where soccer is not considered a major sport.
Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board, said globally the World Cup is huge. “It’s the second most watched sporting event globally, only behind the Olympics.”
While it does not create quite the same frenzy in the United States as it does in Europe, South America and most of the rest of the world, Escobedo said it is still a very big event.
In 2010 — the last time it was held — almost 122 million viewers in the United States tuned in to watch at least some of the final game, which pitted eventual winner Spain against the Netherlands. That was a 22 percent increase over viewership in 2006.
With Brazil hosting this year’s tournament and games being held generally in the same time zones as in the United States, the ratings should be even higher. Add the fact that many soccer-crazed fans from Mexico, Central America, South America, Europe and all over the globe have settled in the United States, and network executives are anticipating record-breaking audiences for many of the matches.
Escobedo said soccer fans love to follow their national team but they also follow many other teams, as it is an international sport and the identity of the stars is very well known globally.
He said players from one country often play professionally in another, creating global fans for that player and their team. “You might have a player on the German national team who plays in Mexico professionally,” he said. “That will cause some of his Mexican fans to follow the German team.”
Escobedo indicated this happens all over the world, creating great interest in many teams. He believes many of the games will receive substantial viewership, especially as the World Cup marches toward its conclusion and story lines are developed, with stars and underdogs emerging.
The United States has a very credible team this year that may well make its deepest run into the tournament ever, again creating some instant fans.
Escobedo said just like during the Super Bowl, many people will be hosting World Cup parties in the United States centered around the television schedule. Mexico plays its first game on Friday, June 13, while the United States begins its quest for soccer immortality on Monday, June 16.
One needs only to look at the televisions commercials that have already appeared touting the games to see the impact national advertisers think the event will have.
Anheuser-Busch and its brands have already started running World Cup-themed ads on ESPN and during other sports shows.
As far as the produce industry is concerned, Avocados from Mexico has also already launched a World Cup promotion called “El Mejor Partido,” or “Best Game Ever,” which kicked off May 12 and will run through June 30. The promotion features two well-known Hispanic professional soccer players, Jorge Campos and Pavel Pardo, and is targeting 800 high-density Hispanic stores in several markets, including Texas, Chicago and various cities on the East Coast.
“Our goal is to reach Hispanic consumers with our avocados and share in the excitement of soccer’s biggest match,” said Alvaro Luque, president of Avocados from Mexico.
The soccer players will be making in-store appearances in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York and Miami. AFM is sponsoring the Best Game Ever Sweepstakes to augment the promotion, presenting prizes to many lucky recipients.
An informal survey of a handful of retail produce executives at a recent industry event revealed no special promotions are being planned.
“It’s a good idea,” said one vice president of produce for a regional chain, “but we haven’t planned anything and we haven’t been approached by anybody.”
However, a search of the Internet reveals that several food and beverage companies are making a big deal of the event. Budweiser, which is the official beer of the 2014 World Cup, is launching television and print advertising as well as ramping up a social media campaign. After every match, through Twitter votes, the beer company will name a “Man of the Match.”
McDonald’s, another sponsor, has redesigned its fries packaging to resemble a soccer field. And Nabisco has launched a “Pass the Love” contest, which asks consumers to upload photos stating why they love soccer.
Escobedo said the interest by national firms certainly indicates that there are opportunities. He suspects there will be many in-store promotions for beer, chips and other products, and he suggests there might be cross-promotion possibilities for avocados and other fresh produce items.
Well-Pict and Meijer are once again partnering with Produce for Kids for the 12th annual Get Healthy, Give Hope campaign to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for children’s organizations, including Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Well-Pict and other top fruit and vegetable suppliers will participate in a consumption-based donation to these local facilities, which provide comfort, treatment and hope to millions of sick children. The company is partnering with Meijer for this great cause, which will also encourage families to include more healthy fresh produce to their diets.
Since 2002, Meijer has raised nearly $950,000 for local children’s organizations. To help Meijer increase its donation, shoppers are encouraged to add more produce to their grocery carts May 25 through June 21.
“What’s so special about this campaign is that it gives retailers and customers an opportunity to help our neighbors, because all funds raised are used within the local community,” Dan Crowley, vice president of sales and marketing at Well-Pic, said in a press releaset. “We are excited to extend our ongoing partnership with Produce for Kids to not only help children’s hospitals, but to also grow awareness of healthy eating habits for children and families.”
Throughout the campaign, signage will be featured in Meijer produce departments, which will list all participating companies, as well as healthy, easy-to-prepare recipes. In-store materials will also encourage shoppers to visit www.produceforkids.com for additional information on the campaign and to read healthy tips from real parents. Well-Pict is also utilizing social media, local advertising and point-of-sale materials to help promote this effort.
More information is available at www.produceforkids.com/news/meijer-get-healthy-give-hope-campaign.