Cherry season not over yet — it's just beginning in Canada

The late season is just beginning for the Canadian fresh cherry producers who are in full production from Kelowna to Creston, BC.canche

“With Washington winding down, Canada provides an excellent opportunity for retailers to offer cherries well into August,” Tim Madden, U.S. sales director for Global Fruit, said in a press release.

“Our long growing season and cool nights allow for a slow harvest that should last into the third week of August this year," he said. "It gives retailers an opportunity to provide customers with the ‘Last Taste of Summer’ and bring them back into the produce department for added sales.”

Growers are harvesting high-quality Lapin, Skeena and Sweetheart varieties. Maturing after the initial heat of early July, the condition and flavor are excellent.

Canada provides a unique opportunity to offer fresh cherries through August. Keeping cherries on the display when other sources aren't available helps drive sales and sets a retailer apart from the competition. 

Being a leader in Canada’s fresh cherry production and marketing — with over 100,000 cases already shipped and an estimated 500,000 still to go — Global Fruit provides ample supplies to have cherries on display for the remainder of the season.

Kingston-Crown Jewels partnership extends shipping season

Kingston Fresh, based in Idaho Falls, ID, and Crown Jewels Produce of Fresno, CA, have joined forces to implement a program designed to expand Kingston’s product line and extend its shipping season of fruits and vegetables, including green, red and yellow Bell peppers, Italian and yellow squash, eggplant, melons and grapes.

The companies look to their combined experience exceeding 75 years to maximize the synergies of their new venture.

“Kingston Fresh has been a leading provider of fresh produce to both the foodservice and retail sectors for over 40 years," Nick Proia, vice president of business development for Kingston Fresh, said in a press release. "We are always exploring new ways to innovate and add value to our fresh produce programs, and couldn’t be more excited about consolidating efforts with another industry veteran, Crown Jewels Produce, to maximize efficiencies among our companies. Between us, we will be able to expand our list of offerings, and for the first time ever, offer year-round shipping for many programs.

“Combining Crown Jewels’ grower base and current programs in California, Mexico, Arizona, Peru, Chile and Spain with our current offerings will expand our ability to create year-round programs for all our customers, both foodservice and retail,” Proia added.

David O. Kingston, president of Kingston Fresh, said, “At Kingston Fresh, we are constantly seeking new, creative, and innovative ways to fulfill the needs and exceed the expectations of our customers, and this new venture does just that. I am extremely proud of the work our team is doing in this area and am excited to have a partner with similar goals.”

Surprising trend predictions from some of the nation’s chefs

North America’s chefs, including those of the celebrity rank who appear on food networks and cooking segments, tend to set the nation’s food trends, including fresh produce.

Remember when kale took off, and in one year the retail and foodservice demand for the item skyrocketed? We can hardly remember a produce department without papaya, packaged salad mixes or value-added microwavable specialty produce — all trends that seem here to stay.

Hot new trends are always on the horizon, and savvy retailers and foodservice operators alike are on their trail when word gets out. Consequently, growers, importers, distributors and wholesalers must be on their toes to meet the demand.

It’s not just produce items that are trending. Consumers are also seeking out products that are grown in sustainable ways with no or reduced chemicals, and that offer high nutrition and ease in use.

Gourmet Marketing, a New York City-based marketing firm, takes claim to giving restaurants, bars and hotels the power to succeed online. In December 2014, it published the top 15 restaurant trends for 2015 and beyond.

The report states 2015 will be a continuation for the restaurant industry of the prior few years but at a faster pace as the economy picks up. Top restaurant trends for the year include healthier kids meals, locally sourced foods and greater commitments to reducing kitchen waste.

In its mix of trends, the report states that local sourcing and in-house processing continue to gain ground in the battle for diner’s hearts and minds. Environmental sustainability promises to be the top trend of 2015, but this benefit is just one of the advantages of using local farms and suppliers.

Transparency, local pride and accountability also matter to diners, so local sourcing easily becomes the top trend for forward-thinking restaurateurs to adopt. Many restaurants will carry the trend further by growing restaurant gardens, making their own preserved foods and brewing specialty beverages in-house.

Social responsibility and accountability is number two on Gourmet Marketing’s trend list. Restaurants, they claim, have become major arbiters in their customers’ lives by interacting on social media forums, staging events and popular publicity stunts and encouraging support for charitable causes and political change.

Diners care about where their food comes from, how it’s grown, how suppliers treat their employees and whether animals are raised ethically or caught responsibly.

Social media networking not only provides forums for posting information but also holds restaurants more accountable for their practices and encourages diners to share their experiences.

Number four on the trend list is Asian foods and ethnic cuisines, which is expected to become increasingly popular this year. Expect more fusions of local ingredients and Asian and ethnic cooking techniques. Popular Chinese, Thai and Japanese foods will lose ground to smaller Asian cuisines, like Korean and Vietnamese.

Peasant dishes, ethnic street foods and foods from the former Soviet Union’s Asian satellite countries will become trendy. Look for more emphasis on umami, the fifth taste, and balanced foods that combine salty, sweet, sour and bitter flavors in creative ways. Diners are abandoning sweet foods for dark and bitter tastes that are found in dark chocolate, bitter coffee and leafy greens.

HGTV, an American basic cable and satellite television channel owned by Scripps Networks Interactive, broadcasts a variety of how-to shows with a focus on home improvement, gardening, craft and remodeling. HGTVGardens blogger Danny Bonvissuto published 2015 Edible Trends: The Next Hot Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs

She garnered comments from chefs across the country to discuss the hottest ingredients coming out of the ground and onto the plate in 2015.

They include Persian and Pakistan mulberries, which Victor Scargle, executive chef of Lucy Restaurant & Bar at Bardessono in Yountville, CA, said, “are always an incredible option.” He uses the under-the-radar berries in various applications, including a tasty shake with freshly picked mint.

There are several items on Bonvissuto’s list that are so old that trending fame will make them new again. Think rhubarb, beet greens, kohlrabi, all squashes, apples, parsley and collard greens.

Of the less common on her list is epazote. "I think fresh epazote will be a trendy herb to use in 2015,” said Michael Armstrong, executive chef of Bodega Negra in New York City. “With the increasing popularity of modern Mexican cuisine, I expect to see more uses of epazote in cooking.”

Thai basil, while not as rare, is also expected on the trend list going forward. Known for its licorice-like flavor, Thai basil could be the “it” herb this year. At TAO Asian Bistro in Las Vegas, chef/partner Ralph Scamardella uses it with red curry on his diver sea scallops.

Don’t expect the kale trend to drop off the side of the earth overnight. These trends sprout fast and strong, but once consumers welcome them into their diets, they are likely to stay around for a long, long time.

ACME footprint to get boost from A&P bankruptcy

ACME Markets has entered into an agreement to acquire 76 A&P stores in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania under the A&P, Superfresh and Pathmark banners. The company currently operates 107 stores.

The offer is subject to customary legal and bankruptcy court approvals, following A&P’s chapter 11 filing on July 19, including the potential for higher bids to be submitted and anti-trust approval.

A&P announced July 20 it would sell approximately 120 of its 296 stores for $600 million and close an additional 25. The same day Ahold's Stop & Shop division announced it would acquire 25 of the A&P stores in Greater New York for $146 million.

A&P has asked the court for an order requiring other bidders to submit their bids by Sept. 11, with an expectation that court approval for the sale of the stores would be received by Oct. 15.

A&P selling 120 stores in $600 million deal, files for bankruptcy protection

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc. has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time in five years. With 25 stores closing and approximately 120 being sold for $600 million, A&P will be losing nearly half of its current 296 stores.

Ahold's Stop & Shop division will acquire 25 of the A&P stores in Greater New York for $146 million. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2015.

At one time A&P, which operates in six states under the brand names A&P, Best Cellars, Food Basics, The Food Emporium, Pathmark, Superfresh and Waldbaum's, was the largest U.S. supermarket chain with more than 15,000 stores.aplog

“After careful consideration of all alternatives, we have concluded that a sale process implemented through chapter 11 is the best way for A&P to preserve as many jobs as possible, and maximize value for all stakeholders,” Paul Hertz, president and chief executive officer of A&P, said in a press release. “The interest from other strategic operators has been robust during the company’s sales process to date, and we have every expectation that will continue in chapter 11. And while the decision to close some stores is always difficult, these actions will enable the company to refocus its efforts to ensure the vast majority of A&P stores continue operating under new owners as a result of the court-supervised process. We greatly appreciate the continued support of our customers, suppliers and employees, who have maintained an unwavering commitment to our business and our customers.”

The company also announced that it is seeking court approval to enter into a $100 million debtor-in-possession financing agreement with Fortress Investment Group. A hearing to approve the DIP facility was scheduled for July 20. Upon approval, this facility will enable A&P to continue operating its stores, pay its suppliers, vendors, employees and others in the ordinary course of business.

All asset and store sales will be conducted through a court-supervised sale process, subject to court approval and certain other conditions. The sale process could include a possible credit bid for certain assets to be purchased by A&P’s current investors.

A&P said it will continue to conduct business and serve customers at its stores during the court-supervised sale process. The open stores will remain fully stocked with a complete range of products, and all existing customer promotional and loyalty programs will stay in place during this process.