Sold out Viva Fresh show set to kick off with local flair and flavor

The Viva Fresh Produce Expo is set to kick off with a sold out show that is embracing the sights, sounds and electric buzz of the host city Austin, TX.

Up-and-coming musicians and local award-winning chefs will delight high-profile buyers and grower-shippers from throughout Texas, Mexico, and neighboring southwestern U.S. states.

During the expo opening reception, three chefs, from the Texas International Produce Associations’ home base in McAllen, will feature their own signature specialties.

Adam Cavazos and Jesse Castellon from their restaurant Spork alongside Larry Delgado who owns two restaurants, House. Wine. & Bistro and SALT, will all be serving up a range of tasty menu items from food trucks, which are iconographic of the Austin city scene.

“For a first-year show, it’s unbelievable that the show floor, golf tournament and the hotel are all sold out and we have a waiting list,” Bret Erickson, president and chief executive officer of the Texas International Produce Association, said in a press release. “We’re looking forward to launching our inaugural show with some wonderful Texas-style country music and delicious food.”

Three chefs from the Hilton staff have partnered with expo members to create a unique menu that will feature not only the produce grown in the Southwest, Texas and Mexico, but will also resemble traditional southwest cuisine.

Their dishes will be featured at the Tex-Mex luncheon on Friday, March 27, and at the Expo Hall Luncheon on Saturday, March 28. Each chef, Mark Dayanandan (Executive Chef), Paul Parr (Sous Chef) and Sean Durkin (Banquet Chef) brings years of culinary experience and are excited for the opportunity to put their skills and knowledge to work.

On the music front, the Cody Bryan Band, quoted by Billboard Magazine as “One of the rising stars in the Texas music scene,” will play at the Viva Fresh Expo’s Welcome reception on Friday, March 27 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Foxy building up to We Love Broccoli Day with St. Broccoli Day

This year the Nunes Co. Inc. and Foxy Produce kept the green theme going after St. Patrick's Day with 'St. Broccoli Day' on March 18, which will lead up to National We Love Broccoli Day on Sunday, March 22.stbr The company is still celebrating St. Broccoli Day at www.StBroccoli.com, which presents an amusing origin story of St. Broccoli, as well as a variety of recipes.

Broccoli contains the highest amount of uber detox antioxidant, glucoraphanin, shown to increase the elimination of carcinogens in the body by 61 percent, according to a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Similarly, new organic BroccoLeaf — the leaves of broccoli — contains antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are powerful detoxifiers.

"When it comes to good nutrition, no one can or should be a saint every day," registered dietitian Ashley Koff said in a press release. "With spring breaking through, the day right after St. Patrick's Day is a great one to start spring cleaning your body. I always recommend organic broccoli and BroccoLeaf to my patients. No detox effort is as effective without it."

Koff will host a live Facebook chat on March 22 from 3–4 p.m. at www.Facebook.com/FoxyProduce, where she'll offer nutrition advice and suggest unique ways broccoli and organic BroccoLeaf can be prepared.

Former Sun Pacific executive named VP of fresh foods for Haggen Pacific Southwest division

Haggen, a West Coast regional grocery chain that is in the midst of an aggressive expansion in Southern California, has named five senior executives in its Pacific Southwest division.

Rich Winters, formerly vice president of sales and business development for Sun Pacific in Pasadena, CA, has been appointed vice president of fresh foods. Prior to Sun Pacific, Winters was vice president of retail merchandising and marketing for the Northern California division of Safeway.Shaner La-CostaBill Shaner, chief executive officer of Haggen’s Pacific Southwest division, in the produce department of the chain’s new store in the La Costa neighborhood of Carlsbad, CA.

The other senior executive appointments include Wendy Oliver, senior vice president of operations, who previously was vice president of the Southern California division of Albertson’s; Chris Linskey, senior vice president of marketing, a veteran of the Vons chain; Jaime Prager, vice president of center store, who was formerly director of Hispanic category management for Smart & Final in Los Angeles; and Melina Ranii, vice president of human resources, who formerly was director of recruitment and development for Trader Joe’s in Monrovia, CA.

“Each of our leaders has extensive experience in the grocery business as well as professional and personal connections to the Southern California marketplace,” Bill Shaner, chief executive officer of Haggen Pacific Southwest, said in a press release. “You couldn’t ask for a stronger group to lead our historic rollout of 100 stores in 100 days.”

Haggen first opened its doors to Southern California shoppers on March 11 in Carlsbad, followed by two additional stores in El Cajon. Three additional San Diego area stores were scheduled to open by March 22.

On March 24, Haggen will open its first store in Los Angeles County in Palmdale, and its debut Orange County location in Laguna Beach. On March 31, Haggen will open its first two stores in Kern County in Bakersfield, and its first San Bernardino location in Chino Hills.

These stores are the first of 83 California stores Haggen plans to acquire and convert to the Haggen brand in the first half of 2015. Once the acquisition is completed, the grocery chain will expand from 18 stores with 16 pharmacies to 164 stores with 106 pharmacies; from 2,000 employees to more than 10,000 employees; and from a Pacific Northwest company with locations in Oregon and Washington to a major regional grocery chain with locations in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona.

Twenty-six Washington store conversions began in mid-February, and 20 Oregon store conversions were scheduled to begin the third week of March. The seven Nevada and 10 Arizona stores will be the last to convert in the late spring. Each week, between one and 12 stores will be converted.

Colemans supports Half Your Plate campaign

All Coleman locations joined the Canadian Produce Marketing Association March 19 to celebrate the new Half Your Plate campaign designed to boost fruit and vegetable consumption among Canadians.colemans

Colemans locations across the Newfoundland province opened their doors to school kids to learn more about the campaign and speak with registered dietitians at select stores about the benefits of eating more fresh produce.

Half Your Plate is a new healthy living initiative that empowers Canadians of all ages to eat more fruits and veggies to improve their health. The program was developed in cooperation with the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Public Health Association.

Half Your Plate is a simple concept that focuses on practical ways to add a variety of fruits and veggies to every meal and snack. The program is fun, practical and informative while providing tips on how to prepare fruits and veggies for meals and snacks at home, at school, at work, eating out or on the go. For more information visit www.halfyourplate.ca.

Sun continues to shine on Pompano Beach produce despite rough winter

While the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported no major losses or damage to crops this winter, many companies based in Pompano Beach, FL, sited that the brutal cold temperatures experienced throughout much of the Northeast in January and February did have an impact on business.

“The past month has been tough due to weather,” Chip Jetter, president of Pompano Beach-based Garden Fresh Distribution Service Inc. told The Produce News on March 11. Growing weather has been great, he went on to say, adding there’s been “a lot to sell, but not a lot of people to sell to.”

Had it been a “normal winter” Jetter believes the markets would have been “really strong for everything.” And his sentiments seemed to be shared by his produce industry peers.

“The cold weather across the country has made business challenging,” said Michael Warren, president of Central American Produce, also based in Pompano Beach.

“We have been feeling this in our fruit categories, as production has been good in most areas and demand off as the winter storms swept through,” he said.

However, both Jetter and Warren said they are starting to see business picking back up as the temperatures rise and spring begins to come out of hiding.

“We are happy to see temperatures warming and demand picking up,” Warren added.

J.T. Guida, president of Pompano Beach-based Pexco Produce, agreed that business had been slow this winter due to weather and the economy. He also noted that volume for Pexco’s strawberry deal was up due to its “superb quality,” but pricing was down on average.

Strawberries are one of the major crops to come out of Florida. Throughout the first week of March, Florida strawberry shipments were about 30 percent higher than the year prior, according to Erin Gillespie, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We have already surpassed last year’s total shipments by about 10 percent,” she added.

In addition to strawberries, Florida also has a wide variety of commodities which its currently shipping, including snap beans, broccoli, cabbage and Chinese cabbage, celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, grapefruit, greens, lettuces, herbs, oranges, parsley, bell peppers, potatoes, radishes, squash, strawberries, tangerines, temples, and tomatoes, including cherry, grape and plum varieties.

“Millions of cartons and tens of thousands of truckloads of fresh products will be shipped across the United States and to many nations around the world,” Gillespie said. “A total of 159 countries and territories currently import a Florida agricultural commodity.”

So despite some Florida businesses feeling the brunt of the brutally cold weather this past winter, there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, which is typically the case for the Sunshine State.