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George Caratan honored with CFFA Lifetime Achievement Award

The California Fresh Fruit Association honored longtime Delano-based fresh table grape grower George Caratan, former principal of Anton Caratan & Son and Blanc Vineyards, with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award on Thursday, Oct. 9 at the Bakersfield Country Club in Bakersfield, CA.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded by CFFA's mentors' committee, which is comprised of the association's five most recent board of directors chairmen who accept nominations from all past chairmen.941Barry Bedwell, California Fresh Fruit Association president, with Lifetime Achievement recipient George Caratan. The award recognizes individuals who are industry oriented, have provided long-term consistent service to the California Fresh Fruit Association by serving on the board of directors or various committees for an extended period of time throughout their career and a person who, through their time and effort, has influenced CFFA and the industry in a positive way.

"We could not be more pleased that the mentors' committee selected George Caratan for this recognition and award," said CFFA President Barry Bedwell, who emceed the luncheon recognizing Caratan. "George exemplifies the type of long-term commitment and support that makes a segment such as fresh table grapes so successful, not only for himself but for all growers."

As an active member with the California Fresh Fruit Association, Caratan served as chairman for the health benefits trust committee for over 20 years as well as the association's standards and packaging committee.

The first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award was Sarkis Sarabian of Sarabian Farms, named in 2008, and the most recent recipient, in 2013, was Herbert Kaprielian, owner of Reedley-based CRJ Farming Co. LP.

Tom Lange Co. to debut 'Actual Produce' at PMA Fresh Summit

TLang Actual OL RGBTom Lange Co. plans to introduce "Actual Produce," its new line of grab-and-go fruit cups, at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in Anaheim, CA. The product will also be featured in the New Products Showcase.STRAWBERRY-KIWI

"Actual Produce" is a lead brand in Tom Lange Co.'s Foods with Benefits strategy, which was developed to help retailers respond to industry trends and meet consumer demand for fresher, healthier and more convenient products.

The "Actual Produce" fruit cups are single-serve containers that hold five ounces of washed, hand-cut product. Currently offering six cup varieties, all are processed regionally to ensure maximum freshness.

The cups are comprised of recycled resin and are adorned with a label resembling a smiling face. The "Actual Produce" branding is both intuitive and appealing, according to the Springfield, IL-based company. As consumers eat the produce, the reverse label reveals the tagline "EAT. SMILE. REPEAT." The cup is specifically designed to promote the product as a grab-and-go snack with its stackability and easy-open tab.

The full line of Actual Produce, which will be on display in booth No. 2232 at the Fresh Summit, is currently being sold in select Target stores throughout the United States.

IFCO names industry leaders to sales team

IFCO, a leading global provider of reusable packaging solutions for fresh products, has appointed two industry veterans to its North American retail sales group. Greg Kurkjian is joining IFCO as vice president of retail sales and Tammy Gainey is joining as director-Walmart.

"Greg and Tammy are excellent additions to our retail sales team and will make an immediate impact for us in the marketplace,” Dan Walsh, president of IFCO RPCs North America, said in a press release. “Their experience, network of business relationships and understanding of the industry will ensure our present growth trajectory continues."

Kurkjian is responsible for building and strengthening IFCO's retail partnerships in order to execute IFCO's growth strategy. He brings more than 22 years of produce industry sales and management experience, most recently leading retail sales at Mann Packing Co. in Salinas, CA. He has also served in sales leadership roles at HealthPro Brands, Ready Pac, Club Chef and Fresh Express, is a graduate of United Fresh Leadership Class 7 and currently serves as chairman of the United Fresh Leadership Alumni Board. He received his MBA from Loyola University Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio.

Gainey is responsible for increasing RPC penetration at Walmart in line with the company's growth strategy. She brings more than 15 years of experience creating and leading teams in sales, logistics, supply chain and packaging, most recently as director of national accounts-Walmart at Ready Pac Foods. Prior to Ready Pac, Gainey spent two years with IFCO as director of Central and East region sales, where she was instrumental in development of the IFCO RPC program with Walmart. In addition, she served as CHEP's National Account Sales Manager early in her career.

Pear Bureau Northwest names Publix Pear Retailer of the Year

Pear Bureau Northwest, a nonprofit marketing organization that represents the 1,600 fresh pear growers of Oregon and Washington, has named Publix as the 2014 Pear Retailer of the Year for its outstanding pear merchandising activities.

Publix is being recognized with this award due to its successful implementation of pear merchandising tactics that resulted in substantial increases in pear sales and volume over the past year.  By implementing proven pear merchandising strategies, Publix has taken advantage of the profit opportunity that pears offer at retail.

According to Kevin D. Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of Pear Bureau Northwest, Publix achieved this level of success in the category by implementing several innovative pear merchandising tactics. “Offering shoppers two green pears simultaneously, Bartlett and Anjou, was one of the top tactics that Publix introduced over the past year to see their pear sales really soar,” he said in a press release. “Recent research that we conducted shows that retailers that carry these two varieties at the same time results in a 7 percent sales increase over stores that offer only one green pear.”

Moffitt also noted that Publix implemented other pear merchandising best practices, like offering ripe pears on display, maintaining large multi-variety pear displays positioned at the front of the produce department, and utilizing secondary displays to increase visibility for this high impulse purchase fruit. In addition, it offered bagged pears to attract savvy shoppers. “Publix has shown how good pear merchandising increases sales, and in their case that meant substantial increases in pear sales over the past year,” he said.

Garry Bergstrom, business development director of produce and floral at Publix, accepted this award on behalf of the company: “It is an honor to be the recipient of this award, and we look forward to continued growth and success in the pear category in the future.”

The Pear Retailer of the Year Award was established by Pear Bureau Northwest in 2011. Past honorees were Demoula’s Market Basket (2011), Meijer (2012) and Ingles (2013). The Pear Bureau’s team of regional marketing managers selects the annual recipient based on sales performance, creativity in pear merchandising, and overall excellence in supporting the pear category.

The Pear Bureau also celebrates “Top Performers” in the pear category, and honorees for 2014 are Ahold USA Inc., Big Y Supermarkets, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Dierbergs Markets, Hannaford Bros. Co., Hy-Vee Food Stores, The Kroger Co., Rouses Supermarkets, Sprouts Farmers Market, Wegmans Food Markets and WinCo Foods.

Pear Bureau Northwest partners with grocery retailers nationwide in an effort to increase overall success with the pear category. The organization provides marketing and merchandising expertise that is customized specifically for each retail organization, using its pear consumer research findings as well as individual store analysis using an in-house data system that measures pear category performance nationwide.

Vidalia Onion Committee reaches younger audience with digital marketing efforts

The Vidalia Onion Committee reached a younger audience with successful results this past season when it launched the "V is for Vidalia" campaign. The campaign kicked off April 21 and focused on promoting the versatility and flavor of Vidalia onions with increased social and digital media outreach.

"The Vidalia onion brand has strong recognition among consumers nationwide," Susan Waters executive director of the VOC, said in a press release. "But our consumer research indicated that Baby Boomers have the highest percentage of usage while Millennial consumers have the lowest. In the past, we have spent the majority of our efforts on traditional [public relations] and we realized that we were not reaching this important younger audience."

As part of the campaign launch, the VOC hosted a field tour with food bloggers from around the country. Featured online with the hashtag #VisforVidalia, the weekend tour resulted in 324 social media posts from the food bloggers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest reaching 5.45 million total consumer impressions. In addition, 7,000 fans followed the tour on the VOC's Facebook page.

From May through August, the bloggers posted 31 articles on their sites reaching an audience of 1.5 million consumers.

"We provided each blogger with a $500 Visa gift card to post on their blog sites as an online give-a-way," Waters said in the press release. "This resulted in 146,000 entries, which is the largest consumer audience we have reached with an online give-a-way to date."

The VOC implemented a digital coupon, weekly trivia contest and food blogger recipe contest on their Facebook page.

"We increased our Facebook fan base by 62 percent to over 57,300 fans," Waters added. "In addition, we had a 30 percent increase in unique visitors to our web site during the campaign and the majority of these were consumers aged 18-34."

The VOC provided high-graphic bins, bags and point-of-sale materials for retailers.

"In an effort to provide more resources for retailers," Waters said in the press release. "We created a new retailer section on the VOC web site which includes onion category research highlights, downloadable campaign graphics, merchandising tips and retailers can sign up to receive our seasonal crop report."

The Vidalia Onion Committee will continue with same "V is for Vidalia" campaign theme for the 2015 season as part of a long-term promotional effort to build consumer awareness and increase usage.