Church Bros. to showcase #ImperfectVeg at PMA Foodservice

The trend of selling aesthetically imperfect produce is picking up steam, with retailers and suppliers finding a market for produce that might have otherwise headed to a landfill. Church Bros. will showcase its #ImperfectVeg program at the upcoming PMA Foodservice Expo in Monterey, CA. ImperfectVeg-Romaine-Leaves-from-Church-Brothers

The #ImperfectVeg program sells edible fresh produce items to foodservice operators that were previously discarded or rotated back into the soil due to not meeting industry standards for cosmetic attributes.

“With education, the #ImperfectVeg may be accepted faster by foodservice customers because the end consumer chooses off a menu description rather than at retail where they buy with their eyes,” Kori Tuggle, vice president of marketing, said in a press release.

Awareness for this new food trend is growing and Church Bros. will display its #ImperfectVeg product line at the PMA Foodservice Expo in Booth No. 23, including direct field-packed Romaine leaves and cauliflower; and value-added Broccoli bits, and second crop baby kale, baby chard and clip spinach.

On Saturday, July 25, Church Bros. will host an annual private party at the family ranch to thank its customers for their support.

“The family ranch party is part of the Church Brothers’ leadership legacy in the Salinas Valley,” said Tuggle.  “Our customers look forward to the party all year, it’s a great time to showcase our products and say thank you for your business.”

This year Church Bros. will also participate in the PMA Foundation Career Pathways program by hosting students and faculty for a tour of its True Leaf Farms salad processing plant in San Juan Bautista.  

“The best way to get produce center of the plate is through education,” Tuggle said. “We welcome the chance to host future operators during the weekend.”


In the Trenches: Source packing can ease workloads for produce managers

In making my usual rounds to numerous supermarkets, I can easily see it’s that time of year again when heavy consumer demand for summer produce items picks up dramatically. It’s all about melons, stone fruit, grapes, cherries, berries, sweet corn, fresh-cut fruit and outdoor grilling items.

Produce managers have to tackle increased workloads with the high volume of seasonal tonnage moving through the sales system. It takes additional effort to keep all the summer displays fully stocked along with time spent in the backroom processing other products.LABOR-INTcrisping-twist-tiedLabor-intensive lettuce requires trimming and crisping.

As always, I can never resist stopping to chat with produce managers about their everyday experiences. They speak about their obstacles, dilemmas and challenges, including some interesting sales success stories.

During conversations, it’s not unusual to hear one of the most frequent concerns that is often repeated at the store level: labor. Harkening back to my own past produce manager experiences, I can relate to not having enough labor during summer months.

When asking produce managers how things were going, most replied, “I don’t have enough help” or “They keep cutting my hours.” This is the sad part about trying to keep the departments running on a full engine, especially with all the new produce varieties and special programs being constantly introduced.NO-LABOR-LETTUCESource-packed lettuce is relatively labor-free.

So, how can we help these skilled, hard-working department managers? What could our industry offer to support the labor challenges at the store level?  

Much of that help has been made available by various growers, shippers and suppliers. Source-packed produce is a huge part of the industry these days and is becoming more popular as productivity calls for further reductions in product preparation work in the stores.

Why do some companies insist on making produce employees work harder in 2015? Some of the backroom tasks today are being performed as they were back in the 1920s. I’m referring to trimming lettuce, cabbage, celery and other vegetables, then having to run them through the crisping process — all of which takes very costly time and labor.

The trimming and crisping process is still practiced by some supermarket chains because executives feel It looks nice on display. I agree, but times change and work processing needs to change with it as labor becomes more and more costly and hours keep getting chopped. We need to reduce as much manual work at the store level as possible in order for the produce managers to keep up with the rapidly rising sales volume.

The answer, of course, is source-packed produce.

Why load and ship truckloads of leaf lettuce, celery, green onions and cabbage long distances to the stores then have to trim off the outer portions only to pay a fee to have the trash picked up? It makes no sense.

The better choice is to have the product trimmed in the field, packaged at the facility, and have the produce managers simply open the cartons and stock the displays. Furthermore, the displays will always be full, since no labor stoppage for trimming and processing is necessary.

Produce packaging in the United States is expected to increase each year. With modern technology, manufacturers have created and are using recycled sustainable packaging materials that are friendly to the environment. All packaging will eventually be 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable.

Consider how far we’ve come in the produce industry. Just look at all the items that are easier to handle, labor-free and help guarantee a fully stocked display: poly sleeved celery, packaged leaf lettuce, bagged grapes, bagged cherries, clamshell berries, bagged asparagus, bagged green onions, packaged green beans, poly capped broccoli, packaged salads and fresh-cut fruit. Plus, there is more to come as growers and shippers continue to create and innovate new exciting packaged products.

Source-packed produce has many benefits and will deliver more profit to the bottom line. Packaging prevents dehydration, keeps product clean, has less shrink spoilage, less waste and saves on employee labor. It also allows for employees to be out on the sales floor maintaining full displays and servicing customers, which is the main objective for sales growth.

Start allowing the produce managers to better perform their jobs by preventing labor-intensive tasks. If you haven’t already done so, get with the times and let go of the past. Leave the trimmings in the field, eliminate old-fashioned backroom labor, and by all means help the store produce employees spend their time out on that sales floor where the action takes place.

Ron Pelger is the president and CEO of RonProCon, a consulting firm for the produce industry, and a co-founder of FreshXperts LLC, a group of produce professionals. He can be reached by phone at  775/853-7056 or 775/843-2394 (mobile) or by email at

Loblaw strikes canceled, union contract accepted in 69 Ontario stores

Employees of 69 Loblaw-owned stores in Ontario markets from Ottawa to Windsor have voted to accept a six-year contract offer from Loblaw Cos. Ltd.

Strikes commenced July 2 in nine stores and strikes were scheduled to commence in 60 additional stores on Saturday, July 11; however, at this time all have been called off.

"In a competitive market, the terms of the contract provide both our colleagues and our company a fair deal and security," the company said in a written statement. "Ultimately, it sets the stage for an even stronger relationship."

The stores, including select Real Canadian Superstore, Zehrs Great Food and Loblaws Great Food locations, are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, locals UFCW 1000A and UFCW 175 & 633.


SEPC Southern Innovations Symposium to innovate and educate the industry

The Southeast Produce Council announced plans for this year’s Southern Innovations Symposium, to be held Sept. 17-19 in Charleston, SC. The symposium will offer an agenda designed to provide the industry with the most cutting-edge information as well as and high-profile celebrity keynote speakers. Additionally, the new Bright Ideas Platform will be launched.

Kicking off Sept. 17, the conference will begin with a hands-on networking activity for the ladies of Southern Roots.Jamie-and-Bobby-2012Jamie and Bobby Deen, sons of the ‘Queen of Southern Cuisine,’ Paula Deen, will be the featured keynote speakers at the Sept. 18 General Session in Charleston, SC. Facilitated by personal and professional career coach Barbara Poole of Success Builders, attendees will be challenged to help each other identify ways to achieve greater contribution and fulfillment by integrating their lives with their livelihoods to establish a work-life balance.

On Sept. 18, attendees will welcome Frank Singleton from Frank Singleton Communications to discuss the ever-changing world of business and marketing during the educational session. With more than 25 years of experience, Singleton has led successful public relations and brand-building programs for some of the world’s leading brands with achievements resulting in more than 40 awards spanning several industry organizations.

As leaders in culinary innovation, the SEPC is proud to announce that Jamie and Bobby Deen, sons of the “Queen of Southern Cuisine” Paula Deen, will be featured as this year’s keynote speakers at the General Session Luncheon on Sept. 18. As entrepreneurs and businessmen themselves, the Deen brothers are taking the Deen name to an ever-growing younger audience looking to expand their culinary endeavors and have fun in the kitchen.

On Sept. 18 from 12:30 p.m.  to 3 p.m., the new Bright Ideas Platform will feature some of the most innovative products and services the industry has to offer. The smaller trade show-like environment will showcase no more than 50 tables of the most exceptional ideas coming to market later this year. All attendees of the conference are invited to walk the show, which will feature a few innovative surprises of its own, and pick up a complimentary signed copy of the Deen brothers’ new cookbook, Get Fired Up.

“Regardless of the industry, the way we think about and run our businesses must change to not only keep up, but stay ahead of the game,” said David Sherrod, executive director of the SEPC. “The Southern Innovations Symposium has been revamped to provide attendees with the tools and resources they need to effectively educate their companies on how to move forward, as well as provide a great platform for quality networking.”

With a variety of educational opportunities lined up, the Southern Innovations Symposium still has plenty of time for its industry-loved networking. Kicking off with a beachside Get Acquainted Welcome Reception on the evening of Sept. 17, moving indoors for a more formal President’s Dinner Dance on Sept. 18, and rooting for a favorite team at the Ultimate Tailgate Party on Sept. 19, the weekend has a variety of occasions to meet some new faces and catch up with some established ones.

The conference will also host a variety of networking activities to provide attendees with a taste of Charleston. From the Ken Lanhardt Memorial Golf Tournament to inshore fishing, or a horse-drawn carriage ride and lunch in downtown Charleston, there is something for everyone looking for a little southern charm.

In addition to the events mentioned, the SEPC will also be using the conference to commemorate five years of their STEP-UPP program with a reunion of all classes on Wednesday night, Sept. 16. To register for this year’s Southern Innovations Symposium, visit

Provigo Le Marché celebrates two years of transforming Québec's grocery landscape

At the eagerly awaited opening of the new Provigo Le Marché flagship store in Longueuil, QC, Provigo's management took the opportunity to present a glowing report on the first two years of the banner's Québec relaunch. The concept's unique offer and modern design has revolutionized the shopping experience and customers' habits, resulting in a marked increase in sales, particularly in the fresh products category.

The past 24 months have been marked by the rolling out of five completely renovated Provigo stores and 15 Provigo Le Marché stores as part of the company's massive $210 million investment in Québec. This has resulted in the direct creation of some 1,300 new full- and part-time jobs, as well as an important new alliance with Québec growers and Aliments du Québec.

Earlier this year, The Produce News visited the Provigo Le Marché superstore in Montreal’s historic former Jean-Talon train station. View some of the highlights here.

Management revealed some key findings attesting to how the new concept affects the eating habits of the 1.5 million Québec consumers who shop each week at Provigo. Particularly noteworthy results include the following:

  • Significant changes to grocery basket composition, with fresh products accounting for 55 percent of the contents on average, an increase of 7 percent compared to two years ago.
  • A steady annual increase of 6 percent in purchases of organic products, whose number varies between 100 and 150 during harvest periods.
  • An increase to the frequency of store visits.
  • The food category that experienced the highest growth is "ready-to-eat" meals, freshly prepared by Provigo's chefs.
  • The new product category that experienced the most sustained demand is fresh, preservative-free juices.
  • In-store culinary workshops experienced an average growth in popularity of over 90 percent.

The opening of the third Provigo Le Marché built in Montréal's South Shore was attended by elected officials, regional food producers, suppliers, industry partners and customers. Speaking in a tent erected outside the store, Pierre Dandoy, senior vice president of operations for the Provigo, Provigo Le Marché and Loblaws Québec banners and architect of the relaunch, said, "If, two years ago, we were able to blaze ahead with such assurance, it is primarily due to our ability to listen closely to what consumers across Québec and our dedication to travel the world to identify the most innovative food and retail practices. Today, while we are delighted with the success of the relaunch and the difference we're making to the lives of Québecers, we can nonetheless affirm that the best is yet to come. We thank all our customers and partners for their trust and loyalty — and you can be sure we're listening more closely than ever."

New at the Longueuil flagship store

The store's conversion has made it possible to accommodate many additional services and new items, including a wide range of fresh products and items from growers and producers regionally and across Québec; and an expanded selection of organic fruits and vegetables, plus a salad bar and a juice bar serving juices freshly squeezed each morning.

"Today, we are proud to open the Provigo Le Marché flagship store in Longueuil," said Sylvain Jodoin, general director for the Provigo Le Marché and Loblaws banners in Québec. "My 210 store colleagues and our teams have devoted months to creating an environment in which consumers will enjoy discovering the fresh local products we'll be offering them each day based on the advice of our in-store experts."

The Provigo Le Marché team, which continues to be a strong community supporter, took the occasion to hand a total of $4,000 in donations to the Centre jeunesse de la Montérégie, Moisson Rive-Sud, Breakfast for Learning and young athlete Julianne Séguin, all of whom were on hand to thank the members of the team for its generosity and involvement.