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Current foodservice trends are indicators for future retail mango movement

Jose Rossignoli, category general manager at Robinson Fresh, said future trends for mango movement at retail can be anticipated based upon current trends in the foodservice sector.

“While mangos are a staple item in various cultures across the world, they are still gaining mainstream familiarity within the North American marketplace,” he told The Produce News. “Despite this, Robinson Fresh has seen foodservice professionals continue to utilize mango’s strong flavor and taste profile to add unique flavor to existing menu items or create new ones.RobinsonFreshRobinson Fresh markets both conventional and organic mangos to its retail, wholesale and foodservice customers. Conventional mangos are marketed under the ‘Happy Chameleon’ brand. (Photo courtesy of Robinson Fresh) More often than not, foodservice trends are good indicators of future retail trends. Robinson Fresh can also help U.S. retailers improve comfortability and drive category loyalty by providing customers informational tools that detail how to pick, prepare and use mangos in their daily diets.”

Robinson Fresh is C.H. Robinson Worldwide’s newly rebranded produce division. C.H. Robinson is headquartered in Eden Prairie, MN.

The company collaborates with growers in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Guatemala to import quality mangos into North America.

“Pre-harvest and post-harvest, Robinson Fresh offers detailed analytics and planning data, quality assurance guidance, as well as an acute attention to detail of a number of other critical areas in the process to ensure continuous improvement in the quality and consistency of mangos throughout the year,” Rossignoli said. “Robinson Fresh offers mangos in red and Ataulfo varieties, both of which are available in various packaging options including bulk and club packaging.”

Robinson Fresh markets conventional mangos under its “Happy Chameleon” tropical brand, which also includes pineapples and limes. Organic mangos are distributed under the “Tomorrow’s Organics” brand.

The company provides comprehensive business solutions and high-quality mangos to customers across market sectors, including retail, wholesale and foodservice. Robinson Fresh also has the ability to sort and select product based on color, ripeness and firmness to better align items to customers’ preferences.

Rossignoli provided some insights about ways in which retailers can capture consumer purchases.

“Mangos are very much impulse or spur-of-the-moment purchases,” he said. “Creating large and colorful displays of mangos during peak season can help create attention in the produce aisle and increase sales. Mango sales increase in early April and remain high through the Fourth of July. The highest sales of the year occur the week leading into Cinco de Mayo, where there is a sales lift of 54 percent from the week prior and more than 4 percent of annual sales in that week alone. Retailers should take advantage of this promotional opportunity and cross merchandise summer items. For example, mango tie-ins with tomatoes, cucumbers, pineapples, limes and other summer produce items give consumers options to create a seasonal and nutritious meal.”

As for category growth down the road, Rossignoli said, “Snacking is becoming one of the most important eating occasions. Through our consumer panel research, we have found that mangos are consumed most frequently in the evening hours and throughout the afternoon as a snack. In addition, most of the time mangos are eaten on their own or combined with other items. As both a flavorful item and a nutritious snack, mangos may very easily fill a consumer’s desire for a convenient and healthy small meal or snack. In addition, as consumers get more familiar with mangos’ various uses, they will look to their retailer for ideas and information around interesting meals or snacking solutions.”

Robinson Fresh customizes promotions with programs tailored to meet individual customer needs. Marketing programs include in-store events and use of point-of-sale information.

“In addition, Robinson Fresh provides customers with detailed consumer behavior analytics and trends in order to help them sell and better market their products,” Rossignoli said. “For example, shoppers who purchase mangos are likely to have avocados in their basket as well. So offering recipe ideas that incorporate both items at the point of sale can be very effective.”

Bi-Lo banners partner with Katie's Krops and Radio Disney

This fall BI-LO, Harveys and Winn-Dixie grocery stores have joined Katie’s Krops to inspire parents and children to lead healthier lifestyles by eating more fresh produce. From Sept. 10 to Oct. 7, a percentage of every specially marked fruit or vegetable purchased will be donated to Katie’s Krops to support Katie’s dream of 500 gardens across all 50 states by 2018.Disney-Scavenger-hunt-1

Select store locations also will host in-store educational sampling events that will feature kid-friendly items from produce sponsors, including Dole Fresh Vegetables, Reichel Foods, Country Fresh, Ready Pac, Buddy Fruit, Starr Ranch, Bolthouse Farms, Wonderful Brands, Sage Fruit and Dayka Hackett.

“Through our ongoing partnership with Katie’s Krops and our produce sponsors we have a unique opportunity to encourage children to taste, smell, feel and ultimately enjoy trying new produce that they may have never explored,” Bob Denomme, Bi-Lo Holdings vice president of produce, said in a press release. “We welcome all our customers to join us as we expand our partnership with Katie’s Krops and to visit your local BI-LO, Harveys, or Winn-Dixie to partake in the fun of trying something new.” 

Additionally, the grocery stores have joined Radio Disney to bring its "TRYit" campaign to all stores. Designed to inspire kids and families to try a variety of new healthy foods while having some fun at their local grocery store, the "TRYit" events are part of a joint effort to help inspire children and parents to lead healthier lifestyles through an integrated promotion of fresh produce. Consumers entering any BI-LO, Harveys or Winn-Dixie location from Sept. 10 to Oct. 7 will find Disney’s “TRY it!” campaign has taken over the produce department.

In-stores, consumers will be greeted with Disney signage with characters from popular Disney franchises. The signage provides direction for the in-store Disney scavenger hunt and instructions for entering The Big Apple Sweepstakes. The Disney scavenger hunt takes shoppers to select fruits and vegetables where sweepstakes clues are given along with produce facts for kids. Once all clues are collected, children and parents can text in the code to be automatically entered into the sweepstakes with prizes, including a vacation package to New York City with hotel accommodations, airfare and tickets to ABC’s "The Chew."

Select locations will also host Radio Disney Road Crews, who will provide interactive entertainment, fun prizes and giveaways. Demonstrations at 100 stores will sample fresh fruits, vegetables and recipe cards will be distributed from the Disney-themed eCookbook.

“We are looking forward to bringing the magic of healthy living into the produce department where kids have the opportunity to interact with fruits and vegetables in an exciting way,” said Denomme. “Through the engaging content provided at the in-store events to the interactive Web-based cookbook we hope to help educate families on making nutritious selections each time they do their grocery shopping.”

California Giant enters fall berry season

Autumn will begin just in time for California Giant Berry Farms’ fall strawberry crop from Santa Maria, CA, complementing the harvest still under way in Watsonville and Salinas. Typically this was considered the tail end of the season, but now with the added volume the company has fruit to support consumer demand for year-round fresh strawberries.fall-crop-2

The company is expecting the volume to be strong from both Santa Maria and the Watsonville/Salinas district well into fall through holidays in October and November if weather continues to be favorable. However, this year that is a double-edged sword with California farmers hoping for a strong rainy season due to drought conditions. 

At the same time, blueberry season is beginning again in South America as the Pacific Northwest season winds down.  California Giant expects excellent quality and promotable volume of fresh blueberries beginning in October from regions in South America and extending well into the Spring.

Holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving are at peak times for retail grocery shopping, and California Giant is in constant dialogue with its consumers on ways to include their fresh berries in the mix, as well as featuring themed consumer promotions and contests. 

Programs on tap include back-to-school promotions, Halloween recipe ideas and a recipe promotion highlighting Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Food Blogger partners are also creating unique recipes, entertaining tips and Pinterest pages featuring California Giant fresh berries that extend the company’s reach during this time period with innovative ideas.

WP Rawl rides Kalemania to best-seller status, offers new kale products

PELION, SC — Kalemania began unofficially in January 2012, when Google searches for today’s superfood showed a sharp spike. Until then, kale was just another healthful, cabbage-like, leafy green vegetable. Just a small cloud on the horizon, kale was, no bigger than a man’s hand.KALE-RAWL92214-PROCESSING

But to the product development team at WP Rawl, here, kale was in their wheelhouse, so to speak. As early as 2008, Ashley Rawl, vice president of sales, marketing and product development at WP Rawl recalls, the team noticed kale growing in popularity.

“The term superfood became associated with kale and it has been on the upswing since.” Kale is now the best-seller at WP Rawl.

“For years, one of our largest kale customers was in foodservice,” Rawl recalls. “They used it as a garnish.”

As foodservice began using it as an ingredient, WP Rawl saw an opportunity to expand and began looking at other ways to sell and market kale.

“Today we are very pleased where this amazing leafy green has taken our business,” Rawl observed.

WP Rawl had been growing kale for decades, but over the past few years it grew more kale, became a category leader, made it available year-round and launched more kale products, bringing the total to 21 (most recently, a new line of kale chip kits: Chili and Lime and Cajun Spice & BBQ Seasoning). It flooded the zone with kale recipes, and up-to-date information on the ever-expanding health benefits of kale.

WP Rawl has named 2014 as the year of kale. Kale Up! its website calls it, and offers recipes for events such as St. Patrick’s Day in March (“Kiss Me, I’m With Kale!") to seasonal Kalesicles in June and kale breakfast recipes in September. On its website, the grower, processor and shipper offers tee-shirts, also used at trade shows and community events, with kale slogans such as: “Kalelujah!” and “Hey Girl…Eat Kale.”

Kalemania continues, as National Kale Day approaches Oct. 1 and kale creeps out of salads, juicers and smoothies into beauty products like face masks, skin care creams and nail polish. And WP Rawl is opening new doors also.

“The next few months will be an exciting time for us as we introduce a variety of new kale products,” Rawl told The Produce News in mid-September. “We will have two new kale chips kits ready by mid-October, and will begin expanding our Nature’s Greens line with a chard & kale blend, followed by our new Burgundy Kale. Later that month, we will launch our Nature’s Greens Kalettes.”

Kalettes is not the name of a Doo-wop group, it’s a new hybrid of kale and brussels sprouts, product of a decade of research by Tozer Co. in England, who has contracted with WP Rawl and five other U.S. firms to grow and market Kalettes here.

Kalettes are in limited quantities now, but supplies will increase through fall and winter.

“We’re very excited to introduce a new vegetable to the market; this opportunity doesn’t come around often,” Rawl said.

Not bad for a small family farm in the midlands of South Carolina that began almost a century ago growing and canning peaches, and got into leafy greens in a big way in the early 1970s.

It continues to operate as a “family farm” with nine family members in the business. In the late 1990s it created new markets when it began to offer pre-packaged, ready-to-cook vegetables, Rawl noted.

WP Rawl offers 15 varieties of fresh vegetables and 50-plus packaged, value-added products, sold by retailers from Florida to Maine and from Texas to Wisconsin.

United Fresh focuses on transportation, import rules at Washington Conference

WASHINGTON — The United Fresh Produce Association met with federal lawmakers recently carrying a short list of must-haves at its Washington Conference, but the three-day meeting also delved into a list of regulations the produce industry is closely scrutinizing.

The Food Safety Modernization Act's proposed regulation for sanitary transportation includes a provision that could easily render shipments adulterated if records show a variation in temperature controls, Jon Samson of the Agricultural & Food Transporters Conference said at a Sept. 9 session, here.

"This could substantially increase cargo claims," he warned. "We want more flexibility in the rule."

The Food & Drug Administration's first federal rule for hauling food underestimates compliance costs and exempts small trucking companies, which could hurt their businesses in the long run, he warned. More than 90 percent of trucking companies operate six trucks or fewer, and refrigerated truck companies are even smaller, he said.

The FDA needs to provide details on a range of issues, including how and who will maintain records, before the rule becomes final by March 2016.

Samson said the American Trucking Association also is working with Congress to suspend some provisions of the hours-of-service changes that were implemented in July 2013. The rule requires a 30-minute break during the first eight-hour shift. But depending on the shifts, carriers could end up having to take two 30-minute rest periods to comply with the rule, and that's costly, he said.

Legislation that would delay enforcement of the rules for at least a year while a study is undertaken is moving through Congress, Samson said.

Imports have their own issues, and Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association, said changes are needed to ease the flow of trade.

More Customs officials are needed on the U.S. side for the nation's busiest ports of entry, and a memorandum of understanding that would have the U.S. government recognize Mexico's food safety and quality inspections would go a long way, Jungmeyer said.

Importers are keeping a close eye on the FDA's plans to collect importer fees to pay for FSMA, a move that would affect border crossings, he said.

"Each new fee may invite retaliatory measures by foreign governments," Jungmeyer warned.

Other changes on the produce industry's plate include the Animal Plant & Health Inspection Service's proposed user fees for inspection services to prevent pests and diseases and changes to container inspections.