Unified Grocers names winner of Ben Schwartz Retail Grocery Visionary Award

Newport Avenue Market, which offers shoppers both mainstream and specialty grocery options, was recently awarded the Ben Schwartz Retail Grocery Visionary Award from Unified Grocers. This is the 10th year that Unified Grocers has presented the award to an outstanding independent retailer and the first time this award has been given to a single store. Rudy and Debbie Dory and their daughter, Lauren Johnson, owners of Newport Avenue Market, accepted the award at a special awards dinner in Los Angeles.

Schwartz-Award-winners-2-15Ben Schwartz (seated) with Bob Ling of Unified Grocers and Newport Avenue Market owners Debbie Dory, Lauren Johnson and Rudy Dory.“It’s an honor to receive this prestigious award, and I’m proud that Newport Avenue Market is the first single-store recipient,” said Rudy Dory.

In presenting the award, Bob Ling, president and chief executive officer of Unified Grocers, said that Newport Avenue Market has thrived because it’s a reflection of the Dory family: “Rudy, Debbie and Lauren are committed not only to their customers and their staff but also to the local community and that’s reflected in their many successes over the years.

“Their passion to create a unique shopping experience is clearly evident as you walk through the store,” he added. “Innovation, quality and a friendly, knowledgeable staff are central to the success of Newport Avenue Market and that’s why customers come from near and far.”

The award is given to an independent retail grocer or grocery company that is a leader and innovator in the retail grocery industry. The award recognizes retailers who, by their practice and example, have consistently demonstrated initiative, creativity and leadership within their businesses and, in the process, have inspired others to think and act creatively and with passion in the grocery field. To be eligible, retailers must be — or have been — a member of Unified Grocers or one of its predecessor companies.

Lil Snappers kid-sized fruits go pink in combo bag

Stemilt and Sunkist have brought two kid-favorite fruit varieties together in the newest offering from the Lil Snappers line. Inspired by the color pink, the new three-pound combo pack features Stemilt "Pink Lady" brand apples and Sunkist Cara Cara Navel oranges in a convenient and resealable grab-and-go pouch bag.Stemilt Lil-Snappers Bags MZO-CaraCara-PinkLady

Introduced in October 2014 at PMA Fresh Summit, the pink apple and orange bag is the second combo item in the Lil Snappers line, which the two brands jointly market and pack under. It joins the Stemilt Gala apple and Sunkist Navel orange pack to create a new combo item that’s ideal for cross-category promotions in the late winter months, and especially in February alongside all of the Valentine’s Day merchandising décor. The Lil Snappers product line also includes packs for individual Stemilt apple varieties and Sunkist citrus varieties.

Known for their pink skin and sweet-tart flavor, Pink Lady apples are among the top apple varieties enjoyed most by kids. Pink Lady apples thrive in Stemilt’s hottest Washington state growing locales, like Mattawa and Tri Cities. The trees that produce Pink Lady apples are the first to bloom, but last to harvest, making the late winter and spring-summer timeframe the ideal time to enjoy this apple variety at its peak.

Pink on the inside Cara Cara Navel oranges are known for their sweet and cranberry-like flavor. This seedless orange has low acid levels and lots of juice which makes it a kid favorite. Cara Cara is known as "The Power Orange" because it has more Vitamin A and C than other orange varieties. They come straight from Sunkist’s family of growers in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and are available from December through April each year.  

The three-pound high-graphic pouch bag features a bright pink stripe on the top to make it stand out at retail. The bag has a press-to-close resealable zipper, sturdy handle and is designed to stand up easily whenever it is on display — whether at retail stores or in the refrigerator at home.

“Our pink combo bag brings exciting flavors and high-quality fruit from Stemilt and Sunkist in a smaller size profile that’s perfect for kids,” Brianna Shales, Stemilt communications manager, said in a press release. “It’s a great grab-and-go item that today’s busy parents want to find in their journey to feeding their kids healthy and tasty snacks.”

“It’s peak season for both Pink Lady apples and Cara Cara Navel oranges,” Joan Wickham, Sunkist’s advertising and public relations manager, said in the release. “Parents rave about Lil Snappers and how convenient they make it to get their kids to eat more servings of fruit. This vibrant and fun combo pack is a great new item to introduce in stores in the final months of winter and first months of spring in order to boost sales in two of the produce department’s most important categories.”

The Pink Lady apple and Cara Cara Navel orange combo bag is available now. Nine three-pound bags are packed and shipped in a display-ready carton, which makes for easy merchandising at retail.

'Kanzi' brand apples now available

CMI has announced that "Kanzi" brand apples are now available. Each year Kanzi apples are held in storage and released in February, timed to coincide with dwindling supplies of local apple varieties and when retailers are hungry for a new products.Kanzi-pouch-bag

“Retailers have come to appreciate the quick punch in sales with Kanzi apples that jumps to an early peak by Valentine’s Day,” Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for CMI, said in a press release. “Historically, Kanzi sales build quickly on release and continue with strong performance well into March.”

This season CMI has also come out with a crystal-clear high-graphic two-pound pouch bag accompanied by a two-box shipper display. The display can be assembled in less than 30 seconds, making it one of the fastest displays on the market. Kanzi apples are also available in two-layer bulk and standard cartons.

Lutz said retail scan data shows the two-pound pouch bag is an ideal grab-and-go promotional item, bringing in incremental sales now that some of the other apple varieties have finished up. But he cautioned that retailers should take note that Kanzi sells out quickly. According to Nielsen Perishables Group, last February over 2,000 stores added Kanzi with an average shelf distribution of five weeks before supplies sold out.

Kanzi retail pricing is important, according to Lutz, with last season's strongest week in dollar performance taking place when the retail price dropped below $1.99 a pound.

Domex delivers on Super Bowl wager

Howard Nager, vice president of marketing at Domex Superfresh Growers, delivered a box of fresh Autumn Glory Apples to Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R-MA) in her Boston office Friday, Feb. 6. The special delivery was in honor of a friendly wager between Lt. Gov. Polito and Washington state Lt. Gov. Brad Owen (D-WA) on the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX.

The Autumn Glory is a unique Washington apple variety grown and marketed in North America exclusively by Domex Superfresh Growers.Nager PolitoHoward Nager of Domex Superfresh Growers delivering fresh Autumn Glory Apples to Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.

“While we were disappointed at the outcome of the Super Bowl, we are thrilled at this opportunity to share our delicious Autumn Glory Apples with Lt. Gov. Polito,” Nager said in a press release. “The Autumn Glory apple with its sweet, firm flesh and subtle ‘cinnamon’ flavor is what you imagine an ‘old-fashioned’ apple would taste like and a perfect representation of the beauty of Washington state.”

In the week leading up to the Super Bowl Lt. Gov. Owen announced that he would wager fine Washington wine, salmon and Autumn Glory Apples among other Washington state-themed gifts to his Massachusetts counterpart.

In response, Lt. Gov. Polito offered an assortment of craft beer and a box of cannoli, both products of her hometown of Worcester, MA. Both lieutenant governors also agreed to make a donation to a local food pantry of the winner’s choice.

“I’m excited to offer Lt. Gov. Owen some of Worcester’s finest goods, but I have a feeling he will not have the opportunity to enjoy them this year,” Lt. Gov. Polito said in an earlier press release. “Either way, this wager is meant for a good cause to support our teams and local food pantries.”

In accordance with the wager, Domex Superfresh Growers donated over one ton of Fuji, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious apples to NW Harvest, a Washington state hunger-relief agency.

“While the Super Bowl wager was mostly for bragging rights, the real winners here are our local food pantries,” Nager said in the release. “We are proud to support our community and NW Harvest in their mission to provide nutritious food to those in need.”  

Mushroom industry gathers for 23rd North American Mushroom Conference

The mushroom industry held the 23rd North American Mushroom Conference Jan. 22-24 at the Intercontinental Resort & Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The mushroom farm community, currently embracing the success and preparing for the strong sales potential of the meat and mushroom blend, had much to celebrate and share throughout the conference.

The blend was creatively served by the talented hospitality staff of the Intercontinental. Chef Efrain Cruz showcased mushroom versatility by featuring different varieties into plantain soup and other traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. Chef Cruz embraced the mushroom blend in 50/50 beef and mushroom meatballs for the opening reception and in a hearty meatloaf for the buffet lunch.

“The concept absolutely makes sense, especially in hotel dining where it keeps dishes juicy through long serving time while enhancing flavor, and blends seamlessly into our traditional banquet offerings,” Cruz said about the versatility of the blend.

Conference sessions featured presentations on global food trends, social media and measuring marketing return on investment to encourage mushroom shippers to best take advantage of the growing blend trend.

Additional sessions shared the latest in leadership, team management and growing techniques to support the industry in continuously producing high-quality mushrooms for the expanding market demand.

The warm and sunny location drew 300 participants including representatives from 45 North American mushroom farm operations, 25 exhibitors showcasing supplies, services and equipment, international researchers and farm management experts.

The business sessions concluded with a presentation by Curtis Jurgensmeyer of J-M Farms, who incorporated his operation’s struggle in his presentation, To the Brink and Back, which explored production struggles, staff and family tragedies and natural disasters before returning to a period of success and growth.

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden also spoke on the future of agriculture and she encouraged mushroom growers to maintain the strong spirit of family and perseverance common in the mushroom industry. She shared the need to continuously communicate industry needs with Washington officials to work together in promoting U.S. agriculture.