Chelan Fresh aiming for new heights with Rockit apples

Going into its second distribution season for the diminutive Rockit apple from New Zealand, Chelan Fresh is looking at increased movement this year, according to Director of Marketing Mac Riggan.Rockit-Apples

Riggan said first loads of Rockits will arrive mid-May, and he anticipates they will be in stores in late May and available through late August.

“Reception has been extremely positive,” he said in a press release. “People just love them. They're small apples, 1.5 to two inches in diameter, and they fit just perfectly in a child's hand. They have a rosy red, thin skin and white, crisp flesh, and they're sweet and crunchy. Another unique characteristic is the apple's delicate core. Really, aside from the stem and a few seeds, the apple is completely edible.”

Rockits are packed in three-, four- and five-count tubes.

Non-GMO, the Rockit originated by crossing a cultivar from the rose series of apples with a crabapple. Riggan said initially most growers did not expect a market for the small fruit. “But one grower saw the potential, and now it's taking off," he said. "I've been in meetings where a bowl of Rockits is on the table, and people eat two or three. They're small, and they're very good.”

Riggan said that Chelan Fresh growers have Rockit trees in the ground in Washington, and the trees are expected to begin bearing fruit in 2017 or 2018. In addition, Chelan Fresh has partnered with Borton Fruit in Yakima, WA, where Rockit Apples will also be grown.

Loblaws launches Naturally Imperfect produce program

Smaller misshapen produce that tastes great and is healthy is now available at select Loblaw Cos. locations in Ontario and Quebec. Furthering its commitment to offer affordable, quality products to customers, Loblaw Cos. is introducing the "no name" Naturally Imperfect line of fruits and vegetables. Starting with apples and potatoes, "no name" Naturally Imperfect produce costs up to 30 percent less than traditional produce options found in store.

"We often focus too much on the look of produce rather than the taste," Ian Gordon, senior vice president of Loblaw Brands, Loblaw Cos. Ltd., said in a press release. "Once you peel or cut an apple you can't tell it once had a blemish or was misshapen. 'no name' Naturally Imperfect is a great example of Loblaw and our vendors coming together to find an innovative way to bring nutritious food options to consumers at a great price."

Produce involved in the "no name" Naturally Imperfect program was previously used in juices, sauces or soups, or may not have been harvested due to their small size. With this program, Loblaw Cos. is working to ensure farmers have a market for smaller, misshapen fruit ensuring it does not go to waste.

The program will be available at Loblaws' Real Canadian Superstore and select No Frills locations in Ontario as well as select Maxi stores in Quebec.

Del Monte acquisition expands U.S. business

Del Monte Foods Inc. has completed the acquisition of Siloam Springs, AR-based Sager Creek Vegetable Co.'s assets for $75 million. Sager Creek has generated annual revenue of approximately $250 million. fromonte

Sager Creek Vegetable Co., formerly known as Allens Inc., is a producer of specialty vegetables for the foodservice and retail markets. It manufactures well-known brands, including "Veg-all," "Freshlike," "Popeye," "Princella," "Trappey's" and "Allens."

"This acquisition provides Del Monte the opportunity to expand on Sager Creek's Foodservice business platform and new retail product offerings while driving significant operating synergies in our network of vegetable production facilities," Nils Lommerin, chief executive officer of Del Monte Foods, said in a press release.

Sager Creek acquired the business of Allens Inc. in a bankruptcy proceeding in 2014. Allens was founded in 1926 and owned and operated by multiple generations of the Allen family.

"On behalf of our associates, we are honored and proud to become a part of the Del Monte family," Chris Kiser, chief executive of Sager Creek, said in the release.

IEOOC losing longtime marketing director

Sherise Jones, longtime marketing director for the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee, is leaving that position May 31, opting not to renew the contract between her company, SJ Management, and the onion committee for the 2015-16 marketing season.

The announcement came March 12 in a press release from Candi Fitch, executive director of the committee.

“The Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee thanks Sherise for her dedication to the Idaho and Eastern Oregon Onion industry, and for the contributions she made as the marketing director,” Fitch said,CookoffSherise Jones, IEOOC’s marketing director. (Photo courtesy of the National Onion Association) adding that the committee “wishes Sherise well on her future endeavors.”

Committee Chairman Kay Riley echoed Fitch's well-wishes, noting, “She has said she wants to pursue other things in the produce industry.”

Jones said her 10 years as marketing director has been “very rewarding, and the IEOOC has seen so many successes along the way.”

She added, “We have heightened the presence of USA Onions through our web site and social media as well as with our programs with Weber Grill products. Having Grillmaster Kevin Kolman at our PMA booth was a great boost, and USA Onions also made significant inroads with its participation in the All-Idaho Culinary Tour in Chicago.”

The position of marketing director will be based in the committee's Parma, ID, office, and Fitch said details on the position are available at the web site,

“I believe the committee will continue with the programs we've worked so hard to establish,” Jones said. “And I want to be available to make the transition smooth as the new person comes on board.”

Jones said she is looking at new opportunities within the produce industry. “I feel the relationships that have resulted from my association with USA Onions are lifelong, and the people I've worked with through the years have become good friends,” said Jones. “I hope to maintain contact and stay very close to my friends in this area as this new direction opens up.”

Associated Food Stores names food-safety director

Associated Food Stores, an independent retailer-owned warehouse based in Salt Lake City, which provides complete warehouse facilities and services to more than 400 grocers throughout the Mountain West region, has named Malinda Boothe director of food safety.

Boothe will be responsible for developing and implementing a dynamic food-safety and compliance program for Associated Food Stores’ members, ensuring each one remains compliant with government food-safety regulations.

“I am excited to be part of the team and want to make AFS the industry leader in food safety,” Boothe said in a statement. “Many changes are occurring within the food-safety environment and my primary goal is to ensure our retail members are extremely progressive in protecting their customers and teams.”

Boothe previously served as the director of compliance for A&Z Produce in Salt Lake City and held several management positions in loss prevention and food safety at Supervalu stores throughout the Intermountain West.

“We are excited to welcome Malinda to the AFS team and know she will do great things with the food-safety program,” said Bob King, vice president of member retail operations and government affairs for AFS. “We are positive our retailers will find her expertise and knowledge incredibly valuable.”