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IFE to co-locate with United Fresh in 2015 in Chicago

Organizers of the International Floriculture Expo have announced plans to co-locate the 2015 and 2016 editions of one of the floral industry’s leading education programs and trade shows with the United Fresh Produce Association’s United Fresh show, starting in Chicago June 9-11, 2015. The floral and produce expos will be staged side by side, directly across from the Food Marketing Institute’s FMI Connect. Together, the multiple events are building Chicago into a one-stop shopping and learning center for the fresh food, floral and retail industry, serving the entire supply chain from grower through retailer.

The annual International Floriculture Expo is a leading trade exposition and educational conference for mass market retailers, supermarkets, garden centers, retail florists, growers, nurseries, event floral designers and other retailers of floral and foliage products. The 2014 event — coming up June 10-13 in New Orleans — will bring together more than 225 exhibitors and floral industry buyers, merchandisers and decision makers for a full day of education and three days of networking, sourcing and celebrations of the floral industry.

“As United Fresh and FMI Connect are getting ready for an amazing 2014 event in Chicago in just a couple of weeks, I’m thrilled that the excitement surrounding our partnership in this year’s show has led to the International Floriculture Expo coming on board as a partner for future years,” Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “The International Floriculture Expo is the leading trade show and educational event serving the floral industry, and we believe it is destined to grow together with us in Chicago in 2015 and beyond,” he said.

“This move to Chicago opens up an array of buyer and supplier opportunities as we join with shows already attracting 15,000 attendees and 900 exhibitors,” said Bob Callahan, show director for Diversified Communications, owners and organizers of the International Floriculture Expo. “The combination of these powerful events will bring together cross-category retailers from high-volume mass markets and mid-size grocers, to independent operators from the local, national and international markets.”

The International Floriculture Expo will continue its focus on delivering value to the floral industry’s buyers and decision makers, while United Fresh retains its focus on serving the entire fresh produce supply chain. In 2015, unique education programs designed for the floral and produce sectors will take place on Tuesday, June 9. All exhibit halls will be open for a two-day exhibition June 10-11, with admission to all shows for one registration price. The International Floriculture Expo and United Fresh will share the North Exhibit Hall, with a main aisle running down the center of the hall. The FMI Connect expo and its partners will be located directly across the main concourse in the South Hall.

“We look forward to producing United Fresh 2014 as a world-class produce event in just a few weeks, and can’t wait to get started planning for 2015 as the floral supply chain and produce supply chains come together to create the single ‘must attend’ event for our industries in the coming years,” Stenzel said.

Mexican exporters meet with Philly importers to discuss weekly liner service

Driven by Mexico’s expanding economy, 10 major fruit exporters from Mexico toured the Philadelphia Port complex and one of the nation’s largest produce-storage and packing facilities in Vineland, NJ. The exporters also met in small groups with 15 importers from the Philadelphia region — speed-dating style — in an effort to find the right business match for their perishable products.

"We came here to find the right people to take care of our product. We are proud of what we produce and we need to know it will be treated well," Jose Garibay, a berry grower and exporter from Mexico, said in a press release. "I'm certain — with consolidation — we can make this work."

The tour is the culmination of a year-long effort spearheaded by Ship Philly First, a non-profit, membership organization of private business owners who operate port-related companies in the Delaware Valley, the Mexican consulate of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Regional Port Authority and ProMexico, the economic development arm of Mexico.

Together they are working to create weekly liner service between Philadelphia and Veracruz, Mexico, to generate more business for both ports and to bypass crippling congestion for trucks at the border. While the proposed five-day ocean crossing is cheaper, faster, cleaner and safer than traveling the countries’ highways, a regular shipping service between the two cities has not been available for an estimated 40 years.

Ship Philly First President Larry Antonucci, president of 721 Logistics, and former President Fred Sorbello, chief executive officer of Mullica Hill Group Cos., welcomed the visitors, along with Carlos Giralt, Mexican consul of Philadelphia, and Martin Caro, deputy trade and investment commissioner for ProMexico. Jack Murphy of Maersk and Anthony DeBari of MSC — shipping lines that have an interest in creating an ocean route between the two cities — also attended.

"10 billion a year in bilateral trade already exists between Mexico and our region. An ocean route makes a lot of sense," said Sorbello, whose company is one of the largest meat importers in the United States. The next step, he added, is a trade mission for regional importers to Veracruz in July, which should solidify professional relationships.

Rusty Lucca, president of Lucca Freezer & Cold Storage, hosted approximately 80 guests at his 325,000-square-foot facility in Vineland. Visitors watched clementines from Chile and avocados from Mexico rumble down spotless assembly lines before being bagged, labeled and readied for distribution to major retailers, such as Walmart, Costco, ShopRite, Acme and Krogers.

“Exporters need to know their perishable products are taken care of, that they are placed in a clean, secure facility with state-of-the-art temperature control," said Lucca, who provided a Mexican lunch for all in his 100-seat on-site cafeteria. "They also need to know their produce will be repacked in the most attractive way. This visit is an insurance policy. I am not the only game in town, but I am representative of the quality of warehousing and value-added service that is available in this region."

Located on 44-acres in Vineland, Lucca Freezer & Cold Storage receives more than 200,000 pallets of fruit annually from around the world.

Michigan apples finishing and ready to bloom

BENTON HARBOR, MI — For Greg Orchards & Produce Inc., located here, the 2013 apple storage deal was coming to an end by late May.

On May 13, Barry Winkel, partner and general manager, said, “We’ve been packing 10 hour days and for the last few Saturdays. But I can’t complain. We had the biggest year we ever had.”

Michigan produced “30 million bushels” in 2013 “when normally we have 21 [million] or 22 million,” he said. “The markets have been good. The later we go, the better it gets, as other shippers finish.”Barry-Marilyn-GrAt Greg Orchards & Produce Inc., Barry Winkel, partner and general manager, and Marilyn Redder, sales manager, check out packing of the tail end of the 2013 Michigan apple crop.

Given good prices, “I wish we could start the fall from here,” Winkel joked.

The outlook is very good for the 2014 Michigan apple crop, he added.

Although it was a hard winter for Michigan, “It was never cold enough to hurt the apple trees,” he said. “We could have as big of a crop as last year. We use newer rootstocks that are precocious and bear consistently. We look forward to another good crop.”

When the 2012 Michigan apple crop was destroyed by multiple spring frosts, “it set everyone back a year.” But the industry rebuilt and recovered.

“Either you get bigger or you get out,” Winkel said. “The numbers of customers keep getting smaller as the chains buy each other. The industry has really changed in the last 15 years.”

Winkel said Michigan’s peach crop “looks good. Normally once you hit 10 below zero, you lose your peaches. We had some minus-15 and minus-17 nights, but it wasn’t that cold for long and we are looking at a good peach crop.”

He added that Michigan peach trees have such heavy blooms “that the growers could lose half of them in the winter and still have a good crop. The sour cherries are fine too and Concord grapes in Lawton look good. The wine grapes are more tender and they got hurt.”

Greg Orchards’ Marilyn Redder, sales manager, summed up the early-spring status of Michigan fresh fruit crops by saying, “I’ve heard no one say they’ve had problems.”

Winkel said Greg also markets 60 acres of asparagus production. Northern Michigan asparagus will run until the end of June.

Consumer study reveals top grocery stores

Trader Joe’s continues to deliver a grocery experience that leaves shoppers wanting more. A study of more than 6,200 consumers by Market Force Information, a worldwide leader in customer intelligence solutions, found that Trader Joe’s is North America’s favorite grocery retailer based on satisfaction. Publix and ALDI were ranked second and third. All three were lauded for their courteous and fast service, as well as the quality of their private-label brands.    

The study was designed to uncover the grocers that shoppers frequent most often, which chains excel in customer satisfaction and why they prefer one to another. For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and their likelihood to refer that grocer. The results were averaged to attain a Composite Loyalty Score, which reveals the intersection between overall satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending a store to others.

Trader Joe’s took the No. 1 spot out of the 12 grocery chains studied, with a score of 82 percent, and was trailed by Publix with 80 percent. ALDI, Costco and Hy-Vee rounded out the top five. This is the second year in a row that Trader Joe’s ranked first and Publix ranked second. Whole Foods and Wegman’s, which made it into the top five in the 2013 study, scored well, but failed to garner enough votes to earn a top spot on this year’s list, while brands like Safeway moved up considerably.

With its quirky branding, unique private-label products and a constantly rotating array of merchandise, Trader Joe’s has amassed a loyal following of shoppers looking for an unconventional grocery shopping experience with a neighborhood feel. The national chain is regularly recognized for delivering a level of service and customer satisfaction that exceeds expectations.

Market Force discovered what sets the leading grocery brands apart from the pack, as well as potential areas for industry differentiation, by looking at why shoppers spend the majority of their grocery dollars at one store over another. Publix and Trader Joe’s scored highest in many of the operational attributes that matter most to consumers, including courteous service, fast checkouts and inviting atmosphere. ALDI was the clear leader in low prices, ShopRite received the highest marks for its sales and promotions, and Walmart was lauded for offering a one-stop shopping experience. Hy-Vee and H-E-B also ranked in the top five of many of the categories.

Market Force also looked at consumer preferences across categories such as produce, meat and private-label products. Publix won on offering the highest-quality produce, with H-E-B a close second. Trader Joe’s dominated in categories related to healthy food and nutrition. It scored an 83 percent for its natural and organic food choice, far ahead of Publix with 31 percent. It also led by a wide margin in providing nutrition and health information and instituting sustainable policies. The honors for best private-label brand products also went to Trader Joe’s, followed by ALDI and H-E-B.

On a national basis, shoppers reported spending more money grocery shopping at Walmart than any other chain. However, because Walmart has thousands of locations in North America and some of the other brands have fewer than 100, Market Force identified the four most popular grocers∗ in each region. Walmart led in all regions, except for the Northeast, where ShopRite was a strong favorite. Publix was the second-favorite in the South, Kroger in the Midwest, Safeway in the West and Sobeys in Canada.

  • Nationally – Walmart, Kroger, Publix, ALDI
  • Northeast – ShopRite, Walmart, Stop & Shop, GIANT
  • South – Walmart, Publix, Kroger, H-E-B
  • Midwest – Walmart, Kroger, Hy-Vee, ALDI
  • West – Walmart, Safeway, Costco, WinCo Foods
  • Canada – Walmart, Sobeys, Loblaws, No Frills

Consumers were also asked to rate their customer experience during their most recent grocery shopping trip and while 50 percent said they were delighted, the remainder rated their experience either just OK or bad. This could point to a missed opportunity for grocery brands that are failing to capitalize on their operational expenditures or to foster customer loyalty.

“Competition is fierce and growing in the grocery sector with regional players going national and national players moving toward neighborhood market concepts. It’s only getting more difficult to attract and keep customers, and being adequate is no longer good enough,” Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force, said in a press release. “We’ve found that delighted customers are three times more likely to recommend a grocery store than those who had just an OK experience. This tells us that chains that truly wow their customers on their first visit can establish brand advocates who go on to recommend the grocer to friends and family.”

Of those who reported dissatisfaction, the most common reasons given were long checkout times (cited by 46 percent), inability to find the products they want (32 percent), the produce quality was lacking (16 percent), poor service by floor associates (15 percent) and poor service by cashier (15 percent).

Local food sourcing is of increased interest and importance to shoppers, based on Market Force’s study findings. More than half (59 percent) said that local sourcing of meat, produce and dairy products is important or very important, and 65 percent are more likely to buy these products if they’re locally sourced. What’s more, one-third of respondents reported that they buy at least a quarter of their produce from farmer’s markets in their area.

Organic foods continue to gain in traction, and the most prevalent organic products purchased are produce, meat, dairy, snacks and cereal. The main reasons given for purchasing organic were better nutritional value, better quality and absence of genetically modified organisms.

Although GMOs have been prominent in the news, half of those surveyed have little-to-no familiarity with this breed of food – 38 percent indicated they’re unfamiliar with them, compared with 13 percent who said they’re very familiar with them. Of those who indicated they’re very familiar with GMOs, 69 percent expressed a concern about their use.

Market Force also found that consumers are increasingly buying prepared meals for all occasions — 34 percent said they often buy them for themselves, 29 percent said they purchase them for a group and 37 percent said both. Convenience was by far the driving factor behind prepared-meal purchases, followed by those who said they buy them as an alternative to dining out, and for value/food quality.

A trend that doesn’t seem to be gaining much steam is online ordering. Eighty-eight percent said they have never ordered groceries online, and 67 percent indicated that they have no interest in ordering them via the Internet in the future.

The survey was conducted in March 2014 across the United States and Canada. The pool of 6,247 respondents reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with nearly 60 percent reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 73 percent were women and 27 percent were men, and 50 percent have children at home.

∗ Regional findings were more splintered across grocery chains, so the results could be considered slightly less precise

Lipman opens premier packing facility in Dallas

Lipman, one of North America’s larger field tomato growers, recently opened a 150,000-square-foot packing and repacking center in Dallas, consolidating the operation from three separate locations. Furthering Lipman’s commitment to geographic diversity, the facility will directly accommodate demand from customers in Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Arkansas.

“This location brings Lipman’s entire Dallas team Lipman-Dallas-FacilityLipman's new 150,000-square-foot packing and repacking center in Dallas.together — from our drivers to our sales force and office personnel — allowing us to communicate and work more efficiently to fulfill customers’ needs,” Brett Combs, general manager overseeing Lipman’s Dallas facility, said in a press release.

Housing more than 140 employees, the fulfillment center also includes several rooms designed for ripening bananas and avocados, cross-docking, storage and offices for key personnel.

“The opening of this facility allows us to better accommodate our diverse range of customers and deliver the high-quality produce they’ve come to expect from Lipman,” added Combs.

Lipman’s strategically located farming, packing and distribution facilities allow the company to provide wholesale and retail customers with fresh produce year-round. All Lipman facilities are operated by a team of seasoned managers with decades of produce experience.