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Idaho potato export markets are increasingly important

Export markets are increasingly important outlets for U.S.-grown potatoes in general and specifically for Idaho, according to Frank Muir, president of the Idaho Potato Commission.

Speaking at the 86th annual convention of the Idaho Grower Shipper Association in Sun Valley, ID, Aug. 28, Muir commended the U.S. Potato Board for the efforts it is making to open or re-open various markets around the world for U.S. potatoes. In Idaho, “we are leveraging everything the U.S. Potato Board is doing internationally,” he said. “When we see the growth that is happening internationally, we have to be there, and we are.”

It is a relatively recent phenomenon, at least with regard to fresh-market potatoes. “This is something that has happened in the last 10 or 11 years,” Muir said. “We weren’t doing anything with fresh potatoes 10 years ago in export markets. We are now, in a big way, both in foodservice and retail” with activities ongoing in such countries as Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Brazil, Malaysia, Singapore and Macau. Among other things, “we are involved in trade missions … and reverse trade missions.”

The commission is also involved many of the same types of activities in countries that import Idaho potatoes as it is in the domestic market. Among other things, “we conduct training, in-store sampling and promotions in all of these countries.” Muir said.

As an example, when Mexico opened its borders to U.S. potatoes in mid-April 2014 beyond the 26-kilometer border zone where they had previously been admitted, the Soriana chain of supermarkets was among the customers in Mexico that quickly took advantage of the opportunity to put potatoes in additional stores beyond the border communities.

Just three weeks later, the border was closed again due to a court order. But during the brief time it was open, The Idaho Potato Commission “supplied 60 Soriana locations in Chihuahua and Monterey” with point-of-sales materials for a Potato Lover’s Month display contest.

Idaho sent 10 container loads of potatoes to Mexico, and more were on their way when Mexico again closed its border June 9, but until that happened “we were going big time with Potato Lover’s Month, and it was going to get bigger,” he said. “But Soriana was so pleased with what we did that they wanted to continue the Potato Lover’s program in the 31 Soriana stores within the 26-kilometer area. Soriana tells us that 80 percent of their potato sales are currently Idaho varieties, so even though we had to cut down, we are the major player with Soriana.”

Efforts to get Mexico to again re-open the country’s interior to U.S. potatoes, and when that happens “and we get further into Mexico, the commission is prepared to be there with “a major plan of action,” Muir said.

AALPUM to hold second grape symposium

The Asociación Agricola Local de Productores de Uva de Mesa, known commonly by the acronym AALPUM, announced that it will hold its second International Table Grape Symposium Feb. 5-6 in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

The organization said it hopes to improve on the quality and impact of the first event, which was held in January 2013. The event will cover a variety of topics suggested by producers, researchers and technical advisers, including best practices for producing early crops. In all, 18 presentations are planned for the two-day event.

Sonora is the largest production area for table grapes in Mexico, and product is primarily intended for the export market. As such, farmers there have a particular focus on quality and sustainability.

For more information or to register for the symposium, log on to

Baja greenhouse production takes big hit from hurricane

Greenhouses on Mexico's Baja peninsula endured enormous damage from the winds of Hurricane Odile, which delivered its strongest punch Sept. 16 on the southern part of the peninsula.

Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, located in Nogales, AZ, indicated Sept. 19 that the hurricane "hit southern Baja pretty hard. Reports are still coming in, but the first reports are of 100 percent loss" of the region's produce greenhouses and their crops.

Lance-JungmeyerLance Jungmeyer"We may find that not all the crops were lost," Jungmeyer said, adding that the question remained as to what part of these crops might make it to market. "A lot of the roads were washed out" in Baja.

In the key Mexican production states of Sonora and Sinaloa, there was "minor" crop damage and the rainfall was beneficial in replenishing reservoirs.

"It's a positive because when you grow in the desert, you need all the water you can get," said Jungmeyer. "Overall, even if Baja loses tomatoes and peppers, Sinaloa and Sonora will pick up the slack" to serve demand. "There will not be supplies like you would normal have but it's not dire unless you were growing in Baja."

Jungmeyer said it was wind damage more than rain that devastated Baja. "The wind tore down structures and the plants were ripped to shreds. But maybe some can be salvaged. It was the winds that were really concerning."

Initial news reports indicated Baja's winds were 100 miles per hour. A Sept. 20 CNN report said the winds hit 125 mph.

Jungmeyer indicated that the Baja greenhouses had scarcely begun harvesting. He noted that Mexico's primary vegetable shipping season runs from November until June.

On Sept. 19, Jose Luis Obregon, president of IPR Fresh in Rio Rico, AZ, confirmed that Mexican production areas aside from Baja endured little impact from Odile, nor from Hurricane Norbert, which struck Mexico two weeks before Odile.

Obregon indicated that some Nogales-area distributors started receiving Mexican colored Bell peppers and tomatoes Sept. 19. "There is some squash in Nogales from Hermosillo," he said. "And cukes have been arriving in Nogales with honeydew and watermelons for a while." Mostly, "the season for Nogales starts next week [Sept. 22]. Slowly but surely, we're starting in Nogales. Sonora will begin in the next two weeks. Sinaloa will start in the last week of November."

These growing areas have enjoyed rain, "but nothing major" that would damage crops," said Obregon. "There has been no destruction from wind."

Albertsons, Safeway name leadership for combined company

Albertsons and Safeway Inc. announced the new senior leadership team and division leaders for the combined company that will take effect upon the closing of their merger, which is pending customary regulatory approvals.

“We’re drawing on the strong talent within both companies to build an innovative, customer-focused and growth-driven company,” Safeway President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Edwards, who will serve as the combined company’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “We are confident in this team’s ability to build a great company that’s positioned to win over the long term by earning the loyalty of grocery shoppers in every market we serve and delivering superior operational and financial results.”

No banner changes are planned.

“We know the best way to grow our business is to have the highest quality fresh departments, lower prices, clean, well-stocked stores and the best customer service in the market,” Bob Miller, Albertsons current CEO who will become executive chairman of the combined company upon completion of the transaction, said in the press release. “Our teams will focus on delivering what customers want locally, and we will give our store teams more flexibility to make decisions that are right for their neighborhoods. The division teams will have the responsibility to have the right assortment for their markets.”

Safeway shareholders approved the proposed merger agreement on July 25, under which AB Acquisition LLC, an affiliate of Albertsons, will acquire all outstanding shares of Safeway. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, pending FTC approval.

After regulatory approval and closing of the transaction, the new company will have the following leadership team:

  • Bob Gordon, executive vice president and general counsel
  • Shane Sampson, executive vice president, marketing and merchandising
  • Andy Scoggin, executive vice president, human resources, labor relations, public affairs and government affairs
  • Jerry Tidwell, executive vice president, supply chain and manufacturing
  • Lee Wilson, executive vice president and chief administrative officer
  • Bob Dimond, executive vice president and chief financial officer, reporting to Wilson
  • Justin Ewing, executive vice president, corporate development and real estate, reporting to Wilson
  • Barry Libenson, interim executive vice president and chief information officer, reporting to Wilson. Libenson is expected to be with the new company through March 2015, at which time a successor will be named.
  • Wayne Denningham, executive vice president and chief operating officer, South Region
  • Justin Dye, executive vice president and chief operating officer, East Region
  • Kelly Griffith, executive vice president and chief operating officer, North Region

The new company will be comprised of three regions and 14 retail divisions. The company will keep the focus and financial responsibility at the division level, but take full advantage of the expertise, vision and core capabilities of the corporate team. The 14 divisions will be supported by corporate offices in Boise, ID, Pleasanton, CA, and Phoenix, AZ.

The division presidents for the new company, who will report to the chief operating officer for their respective regions, will be:

  • Dennis Bassler, Portland Division, North Region
  • Paul McTavish, Denver Division, North Region
  • Susan Morris, Intermountain Division, North Region
  • Tom Schwilke, Northern California Division, North Region
  • Dan Valenzuela, Seattle Division, North Region
  • Shane Dorcheus, Southwest Division, South Region
  • Scott Hays, Southern Division, South Region
  • Sidney Hopper, Houston Division, South Region
  • Lori Raya, Southern California Division, South Region
  • Robert Taylor, United Division, South Region
  • Steve Burnham, Eastern Division, East Region
  • Jim Perkins, Acme Division, East Region
  • Jim Rice, Shaw’s Division, East Region
  • Mike Withers, Jewel-Osco Division, East Region


Retail View: Men shopping more, but have different drivers

An NPD Group research project has confirmed that men are more often the primary shopper in their households than they once were, but they accomplish the task a bit differently than women and approach it with different attitudes.

Anecdotal evidence, as simple as one’s own observation, seemingly points to a growing trend of more men doing the grocery shopping.  

Darren Seifer, an NPD food and beverage industry analyst, said that research group had heard the same supposition and set about to quantify the belief with data. During May and June, researchers for the NPD Group interviewed almost 3,000 adults about their grocery shopping habits and produced NPD’s The New Grocery Shopper.  

“We found that 41 percent of men and 59 percent of women claim they are the primary shopper for their households,” he said.

This compares to a study done by the consumer research firm GfK MRI and an ESPN report in 2011 indicating that 31 percent of men nationwide were the primary household grocery shoppers that year, up from 14 percent in 1985. This represents a 33 percent increase in three years and a 200 percent increase over the past 30 years.

This is partly explained by an increase in single-person households. Sixteen percent of the men in the NPD research said they are shopping for one-person households, while 12 percent of the primary women shoppers were in this category.

Still, the research clearly points to more men doing the shopping and controlling more of the grocery dollar than ever before.

Interestingly, Seifer said the research did not show much of a statistical difference based on age. While it has been reported that households consisting of millennials are more apt to share household duties than older Americans, the research showed that men in every adult age group are handling the primary shopping in fairly equal percentages.

Seifer reiterated that the survey was based on conversations and not observations, and consequently perception and reality sometimes diverge.

For example, many respondents indicated that the shopping duty for their particular household is split between the man and the woman in the household.

In this category, 54 percent of the men said the shopping duty is shared evenly.  However, 61 percent of the women who say they share this duty with the man in their household claim to do the lion’s share.

There is also a difference in the perception of the activity.  Men generally view shopping as a chore that they are interested in accomplishing quickly, while more women view it as an activity that allows for some leisure contemplation, including “shopping” aisles that are not on their shopping list.

However, women use a shopping list more often than men, and women also spend a significantly higher amount of money than men on the average trip. Women spend an average of $97 on each shopping trip while men lag behind at $83.  

For the produce department, the news that men are shopping more often is not necessarily good news. Seifer said that during their respective trips to the market, 84 percent of the time women buy fresh produce. When men are doing the primary shopping for their households, they buy produce only 68 percent of the time.

On the other hand, men shop the prepared foods sections more often than women. Convenience appears to play a bigger role for men and may point to increased opportunities for marketers of fresh produce and other items that could be packaged more conveniently.

When examining the foods and beverages in homes in which the male is the primary grocery shopper, convenience plays a greater role than those homes in which women are the primary shopper, according to the report.

Prepared foods are purchased more often by male primary grocery shoppers, affording them the opportunity to acquire foods that require little to no effort. Male grocery shoppers are also less interested in the consumption of better-for-you foods or avoidance of certain foods than are women grocery shoppers.  

“A deeper understanding of each male shopper age group is necessary for companies that want their messages and products to appeal to men,” said Seifer.

But that could be well worth the effort as the 41 percent of households with a male being the primary grocery shopper represent more than 40 million households.

Seifer said the take-home message is that while men are doing more shopping, they appear to be doing it “begrudgingly.”  

He said it would behoove marketers and retailers to cater messages and service to this group of shoppers who are more interested in getting in and out quickly than in “shopping” every aisle. He suggested that an app that tells the male shopper exactly what aisle the product he is looking for is on might be very useful — and it might attract that shopper back to that store.

“Just as there are slow shifts in consumption behaviors over time, so are there slow shifts in who does the grocery shopping,” said Seifer. “While men make up more than their fair share of people who say grocery shopping is a chore, the fact remains that they’re doing it more often, which means that different dynamics are coming into play.”