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NatureFresh Farms picks first OhioRed tomato crop

With an active tomato market during the last few months, NatureFresh Farms created a breathe of fresh air in late February with the harvest of its first crop of OhioRed tomatoes.

“It’s a great day for NatureFresh to pick the first crop from a new greenhouse, especially in the middle of winter in Ohio,” Peter Quiring, president of NatureFresh Farms, said in a press release.NFF-OhioRed Tomatoes-W

NatureFresh announced in January 2015 that it would be building a 180-acre state-of-the-art greenhouse project in Delta, OH, that would allow the company to grow year round in the Midwest. Interest in the project picked up considerable steam in the fall when the first tomato crop was planted in November. With an increase in hours of sunlight over the coming weeks, crop projections will rise which will mean more Ohio tomatoes making their way to the market.

“We continue to receive email and social media messages daily from consumers that are all over the Midwest asking about our new OhioRed brand tomatoes and when they will be available,” Chris Veillon, director of marketing for NatureFresh, added in the press release.NFF-Peter Quiring-OhioRedPeter Quiring, president of NatureFresh Farms.

Given the location of the facility in Ohio and unique nature of greenhouse vegetable growing, the company has been getting a great deal of interest from local schools wanting tours of the greenhouse. “We look forward to educating students from all over the Midwest about greenhouse growing, just like we do with our mobile Greenhouse Education Center,” Veillon added.

The company’s #GreenInTheCity tour kicks off March 31 with the mobile greenhouse scheduled to attend more than 80 events in 2016.

Construction of NatureFresh’s Phase II of 15.3 acres is under way and will be completed later this summer. Phase III (also 15.3 acres) of the greenhouse facility will begin construction late this spring with completion expected in early fall 2016. This will bring NatureFresh’s total acreage of new construction to 45 acres in Ohio alone in less than 12 months.

The significant increase in acreage will enable NatureFresh Farms to grow tomatoes year-round in Ohio to meet the increasing demand from its customer base in the Midwest and Canada.

Combining the acreage being built in Delta, OH, with the company’s current Canadian production in Leamington, ON, NatureFresh will grow and market 175 acres of its own production. NatureFresh Farms continues to be one of the largest independent, vertically integrated greenhouse growers in North America.

NatureFresh will be displaying the new OhioRed brand tomatoes at the SEPC’s Southern Exposure convention and trade show March 3-5 in Hollywood, FL. The company will be promoting their extensive line of greenhouse grown produce at booth No. 919.

Fresh Solutions Network wins packaging design award for Side Delights Roastables

Fresh Solutions Network has won a packaging design award from Graphic Design USA, American Packaging Design Awards. The award celebrates Side Delights Roastables fresh potato package design, with its vibrant color palette and rustic visuals, encouraging a perfect potato choice for dinner tonight.8770 Roastables Sleeve Group

“We had very clear objectives for the design team to express the potential of potatoes as a canvas for bold flavors, while providing the best packaging design on the market,” Kathleen Triou, president and chief executive officer of Fresh Solutions Network, said in a press release. “We designed the packaging with a very specific audience in mind, stimulating shoppers’ creativity both in-store and at home.”

Side Delights Roastables are the finest quality, triple-washed petite potato varieties. The packaging was designed to appeal to the growing and coveted group of millennial shoppers, who are self-described as adventurous with their food choices, frequently trying new recipes featuring fresh food items, and consider food preparation as an important feature of their lifestyle.

Side Delights Roastables include sachets of delicious, Montana Mex spice blends made with pure, sustainably sourced, gluten-free, 100 percent natural spices. These spice blends have broad appeal and encourage recipe experimentation at home.

Kroger's president of Smith's division to retire

The Kroger Co. has announced that Jay Cummins, president of the company's Smith's division, plans to retire on April 29, after 44 years with the company. His replacement will be announced at a later date.krogerlogo

"Jay has always led with enthusiasm and passion for our people and teams. It shows in the great pride he takes in the accomplishments of associates, especially when they go above and beyond for our customers," Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a press release. "We are thankful for Jay's service to Smith's and Kroger, and to our local communities where he has always demonstrated a personal commitment to making a difference for others. We wish Jay, his wife, Terrie, and their family all the best in retirement."

Cummins began his Kroger career as a clerk in 1972 in Huntington Beach, CA. In the following years, he served in positions of increasing responsibility in store and district management and in grocery merchandising for the company's Food 4 Less division.  In 2002, Cummins was named vice president and general manager of the Food 4 Less Midwest division, where he led the expansion of the Food 4 Less price impact warehouse store format in the Chicago area. In 2004, he was named president of the Food 4 Less division, which operates stores in California, Illinois and Indiana. Cummins was named president of the Mid-Atlantic division in 2007 before assuming his current role in 2014.

Cummins serves on the Board of Western Association of Food Chains. Under his leadership, Smith's has received several awards recognizing the company's philanthropic efforts, including Outstanding Corporation/Foundation by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Las Vegas Chapter in 2015.

From its division office in Salt Lake City, Smith's 17,000 associates serve customers in 139 stores throughout seven western states.

PMA Fresh Connections: Retail addresses shopper experience to build sales

The Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Connections: Retail will return to Philadelphia April 5-6 and will connect retailers and suppliers through retail-based education sessions, networking opportunities and an optional tour of the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.

Industry experts will deliver tips on key elements that affect retail including current trends, shopper experience and consumer collaboration.

“This will be a terrific shared learning experience for me,” Alan Alexander, founder and chief executive officer of Recoleta Digital Media, said in a press release. “I can learn more about all of the aspects of the produce industry and provide valuable information regarding the power of personalization to individuals attending the event.”

Alexander will be among the experts speaking during the education session Create Sales Opportunity: Personalize the Shopper Experience. This session will explore consumers’ needs and how they shop. Attendees will learn how to embrace the minds of tech-savvy consumers to meet consumer demands and develop personalized strategies to grow sales. A consumer panel will be present to answer questions provided by the audience.

“I’m very excited to meet and interact with all of the attendees this year at Fresh Connections: Retail, and I’m hoping to provide a few intriguing surprises along the way in terms of the information I will be presenting,” Alexander added.

The education session Restaurant Table to Home Kitchen: Dining Trends Inspiring Retail will tackle how to transform the most popular restaurant menu items into fresh product offerings to increase retail sales.

Attendees will also hear from a global food and drink analyst on trends -- such as global flavors and dynamic ingredients -- that affect both retail and the supply chain. In addition, a consumer panel will discuss how these foodservice trends influence fresh produce purchases.

Online communication and consumer relations will be discussed during Learning from Each Other: Creating Demand through Collaboration. Attendees will explore the importance of consumer influence and learn how to improve user experience to deliver high valued products and services.

“It’s nice to take advantage of events such as this that dedicate such an extensive focus on a specific component of the produce industry’s supply chain,” Joe Watson, PMA vice president of domestic business development, added in the press release. “It can be a helpful source that provides the necessary tools for creating those key personal relationships with retailers.”

Retailers scheduled to participate at this year’s event include:

  • Acme Markets
  • Ahold USA Inc.
  • Allegiance Retail Services LLC.
  • Associated Wholesale Grocers
  • Associated Grocers, Baton Rouge
  • Bozzuto’s Inc.
  • C&S Wholesale Grocers
  • Harp’s Food Stores
  • HelloFresh
  • Redner’s Markets Inc.
  • Southeastern Grocers
  • Wakefern Food Corp.

On the morning of April 6, an optional tour will be available for individuals to take a look at independent fresh wholesalers that sell to retailers within a 150-mile radius of Philadelphia. Tour participants will witness the world’s largest fully enclosed, fully refrigerated wholesale produce terminal, spanning 700,000 square-feet, and will learn about delivery and distribution setup, food safety inspections, cold chain management and more.

Sunkist announces sixth straight billion-dollar revenue year and second consecutive billion-dollar grower payment

Sunkist Growers announced the cooperative’s sixth consecutive billion-dollar revenue year Feb. 17 at the company’s annual meeting in Valencia, CA. Moreover, for the first time in Sunkist’s history, the organization has issued grower payments of over a billion dollars for the second consecutive year.

“Sunkist has made many advancements to keep the cooperative well-positioned in the current business environment and last year’s results demonstrate the positive impact of those improvements,” Sunkist President and Chief Executive Officer Russell Hanlin said in a statement.

Notable changes in the past few years include the implementation of the cooperative’s grower distribution program.

“We made our third distribution to growers in 2015, and are committed to increasing these distributions annually,” Hanlin added. “This program was accomplished through an effective cost-containment plan and revenues from our for-profit businesses.”

Sunkist’s juice processing joint venture with Ventura Coastal has yielded positive results for the organization. Now in its fourth year, the business partnership continues to generate improved by-product earnings, more timely payments and greatly contributes to grower distributions. Sunkist’s robust licensing program and global sourcing business is also advancing. With 49 licensees in total, the Sunkist brand is used to market approximately 700 products in 77 countries.

“All of these businesses continue to contribute to positive revenue streams and also help strategically position Sunkist for future growth,” said Hanlin.

Another significant event for the cooperative was Sunkist’s headquarters relocation to Valencia, CA, in 2014, which strengthened Sunkist’s financial position and also geographically centralized its business operations to the cooperative’s grower base.

“The positive changes and growth we have achieved in recent years have been accomplished with the leadership and dedication of Sunkist’s board of directors, chaired for the past five years by Mark Gillette,” Hanlin said. “His commitment and leadership has been instrumental to our organization, and we are thankful for his valuable contributions to Sunkist.”

As his term as chairman of Sunkist’s board of directors comes to a close, the contributions of Mark Gillette, president of Sunkist-affiliated Gillette Citrus Inc. of Dinuba, CA, was recognized during the meeting. Gillette served as chairman for five consecutive terms, the maximum time allowed under Sunkist by-laws.

Gerald Denni, general manager of Golden Valley Citrus Inc. in Strathmore, CA, and co-owner of Mittman-Denni Citrus Management, was elected to his first term as chairman following the meeting.

Elected by the board to vice chairmanships for 2016-17 were Mark Gillette of Dinuba, CA (District 1), James Finch of Ojai, CA (District 2) and Nicholas Bozick of Mecca, CA (District 3).

The meeting welcomed this year’s incoming directors, including Norman Evans of Terra Bella, CA, Amy Fukutomi of Oxnard, CA, Jim Layes of Riverside, CA, Tony Lombardi of Terra Bella, CA, Randy Vogt of Visalia, CA, and Scott Wiley of Terra Bella, CA. Also joining the board were Steve Cutting of Manhattan Beach, CA, and Robert Grether of Somis, CA, who have previously served on the board.

Enduring members of the 2016-17 board include Craig Armstrong of Thermal, CA, Ron Arnott of Mentone, CA, Allen Camp of Ventura, CA, Donald Dames of Oxnard, CA, Burt Fugate of Santa Maria, CA, Curt Holmes of Fresno, CA, Gary Laux of Porterville, CA, Brad Leichtfuss of Fillmore, CA, Robert Linderman of Visalia, CA, Warren Lyall of Pauma Valley, CA, Samuel Mayhew of Oxnard, CA, Eric Meling of Ivanhoe, CA, Cecilia Perry of Yuma, AZ, Kevin Riddle of Orosi, CA, and Kevin Severns of Orange Cove, CA.

Sunkist also honored the service of outgoing Directors John Kalender of Woodlake, CA, Russell Katayama of Orosi, CA, John Matthiessen of Visalia, CA, Martin Mittman of Porterville, CA, Thomas Mazzetti of Riverside, CA, Richard Pidduck of Santa Paula, CA, and Randy Veeh of Visalia, CA.