New World Farming Trade, headquartered in New York, is heading into its second season with its Muscatel from Grandma premium pink seedless grapes from Chile.
Jim Mulcahy, sales manager for the company, told The Produce News that the first boat carrying the grapes will arrive around March 5. The season will run through mid-May.
“The grapes were a great hit in 2015,” said Mulcahy. “Last March, Pete Napolitano, host of the NBC television spot ‘Produce Pete,’ featured the grapes. He provided an informative and explanatory segment pointing out the various properties of this specialty premium grape.
Mulcahy added that plans are under way for another “Produce Pete” segment about the grapes some time this March, where Napolitano will provide more information about the grapes and where consumers can purchase them.
Last year, the launch of the Muscatel from Grandma brand was accompanied by newly designed packaging. Mulcahy pointed out that the pink seedless grape is not a typical year-round, on-the-shelf type of grape.
“This called for a highly distinctive packaging bag for instant customer recognition,” he said. “Grapes piled together are a common sight in retail produce departments. And consumers have to pull the bags out to actually see the variety within. It’s confusing. Our new Muscatel from Grandma branded bag is immediately recognizable. We wanted to make it easy for customers to be able to quickly find their favorite grape with our highly recognizable bag design and distinct label.”
The bag also offers a brief historical product background. Mulcahy said that once consumers taste this grape they will always come back looking for more of it.
“The grape has a sweet perfumed taste and a subtle aroma,” he explained. “The complexion consists of light whitish green to golden and on into a pink and light red blush. It is not engineered or developed by a botanist; this superb blending happened in nature itself.”
The logo is suited perfectly with the history of the grape. Mulcahy said that in years past grandmothers in Chile would harvest these grapes from small sections of vines with the help of family members, including children.
“Early on there were no designated vineyards, only small sections of vines scattered throughout north-central Chile,” he said.
The Muscatel from Grandma grape will be available at a wide range of retailers across the country, as well as through major distributors. Among them are Baldor Specialty Foods, which services customers from its locations in the Bronx, NY, Boston, and Washington, DC. Also offering the item will be FreshPro Food Distributors (formerly R.L.B. Food Distributors) in West Caldwell, NJ; Sid Wainer in New Bedford, MA; Serra Bros. Produce in Detroit; T.M. Kovacevich at the Philadelphia Terminal Market; A&J Produce at Hunts Point Terminal Market; and Travers Fruit Co. at New England Produce Center in Chelsea, MA.
“Retailers lined up to carry the grape this year include De Moulas Super Markets in Massachusetts, Eataly and Agatha & Valentina, both in Manhattan, and Caputo’s Markets in Chicago,” added Mulcahy.
Sunkist Growers, based in Valencia, CA, began shipping a couple of late-season specialty citrus varieties this month, helping to spark renewed interest in the category as winter edges toward spring.
Joan Wickham, manager of advertising and public relations for the nation’s leading citrus marketer, said both the Gold Nugget Mandarin and the Ojai Pixie tangerine offer great opportunities for promotions at both retail and foodservice. She said both items are currently in good supply and should remain in the marketplace through May.
The Gold Nugget variety Mandarin is named for its beautiful, shiny bumpy rind. It is a special late-season variety that is easy to peel and very sweet.
Wickham said the California Mandarin season began in October and this year’s crop is very strong and has fruit with incredible flavor. She said that early on growers were concerned that lack of rain might hinder the sizing of the fruit, but a good amount of rain, especially in December, brought on the size and the color of all the citrus varieties.
“Consumers love the convenience of easy-peel citrus, and at the same time they are increasingly seeking seasonal, unique produce items with distinctive flavors and attributes,” said Wickham. “Gold Nugget Mandarins answer both of these current demands, making them a fantastic item to market this time of year.”
She added that retailers can generate excitement for this seasonal favorite with displays and promotions that emphasize how unique this variety is, and that it is only available for a short time. Sunkist offers highly customizable point-of-sale materials to help sell Gold Nuggets, which come packaged in two-, three- and five-pound consumer packs as well as bulk in a carton.
The Ojai Pixie tangerine, named for the California valley in which it grows, is “a special tangerine that is on the small side and intensely sweet,” according to Wickham.
She noted that the Ojai Valley, which is less than 100 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, has a rich soil and a unique climate that creates perfect growing conditions for this variety. Sunkist sells it in one-, two- and three-pound consumer packs as well as bulk in a carton.
While retail sales are the most prevalent, Wickham said both these specialty citrus varieties, as well as other unique varieties, are finding increasing favor in the foodservice sector. She said chefs are always looking for relatively unique items that let them stand out from the crowd. Most often in the higher-end restaurants, these specialty citrus are used in salads, but the Sunkist executive said they are also finding their way into other dishes.
In fact, a Wall Street Journal article published a couple of years ago noted that New York restaurateur and chef Sarabeth Levine of the Sarabeth chain said she loves to use citrus — specifically the Gold Nugget Mandarin — in an entrée salad.
“I took the orange segments and sliced them horizontally and placed them on top of the salad. It was so delicious and juicy,” she said in the article.
Wickham said the use of specialty citrus in the foodservice sector is a growing trend, which Sunkist is capitalizing on as it works through mostly broad line foodservice distributors to spread the word to that sector.
Freshway Foods announced that Larry Schultz, a 45-year veteran of the fresh produce industry, is retiring. Schultz started his career with the Crosset Co. in June, 1970, two days after his high school graduation, and will wrap up his career with Freshway Foods in early 2016.
Schultz grew up in Melbourne, KY, on a large farm. He credits his father for teaching him the fundamentals of business at a young age. “We learned about managing a P&L at 5 or 6 years of age,” Schultz said in a press release. “My father was the first CEO I worked for. He would harvest green beans in the fall, and if the beans didn’t sell at market twice, he would disc under the crop and plant something else. He felt that planting another crop would bring more money, while everyone else was trying to sell beans for lower and lower prices.”
Schultz was 16 years old the first time he ever went to the grocery store. His father would buy a 50-pound bag of flour and a 50-pound bag of sugar every week. The family raised everything else they needed on the family farm. “Each night we churned butter, and each child took a turn,” He said. “My mother made six to eight loaves of bread from scratch every day, in addition to working in the vegetable garden with the younger children.”
Schultz was interested in growing vegetables from a young age. He always had a garden, and in 1979, at age 26, he started a farmers’ market in northern Kentucky called Tailgate Markets. Up to 56 local farms brought in produce five nights a week to different locations in the community. “We met at churches and in shopping centers,” Schultz said. “I was raising 20 acres of vegetables with my brother at the time, and after I got off work I would head to the market to sell our produce,” he adds. The Tailgate Markets were a success and are still in operation today.
On June 1, 1970, Schultz started work at the Crosset Co. in Cincinnati. He worked full-time in the company’s repack department and drove a milk truck for his father during his free time. After spending time in the repack department, he was moved to the warehouse.
In 1976, Schultz had the opportunity to drive a delivery truck for Crosset. He delivered fresh produce to T-way and Supervalue stores in West Virginia and Virginia. “Drivers were expected to be salesmen; if there was extra product on the truck, it was my responsibility to sell it,” Schultz said. “That experience got me interested in sales and working with customers, which is something I still enjoy today.”
In 1980, the Crosset Co. wa purchased by Castellini Co., and Schultz moved to second shift as a production foreman. In 1988, he was transferred to Club Chef, where he held increasing levels of responsibility until leaving to join Freshway Foods in 2003.
Schultz joined Freshway Foods in 2003 as director of operations. “What I liked when I came to Freshway was that it was a young company that was wanting to grow,” he said. “Both owners of the company were young and had aggressive goals for the company’s growth. I knew it was a great opportunity."
Schultz took the opportunity in 2006 to move to Sanford, FL, to set up a pilot processing facility. “This was a learning experience for me, as I dealt with customers every day,” Schultz said.
In 2008, Schultz returned to Sidney, OH. “2008 was a difficult year in our industry due to the economy, but we are a nimble company and we were able to adjust and regrow our business,” Schultz said.
During his tenure at Freshway, he has supervised hundreds of people, and he has trained people who have gone on to become supervisors, general managers and vice presidents. “You have to drill down to every associate, that in their heart they need to be sure they did the best job they could do,” he said. “You have to know in your heart that you have done the right thing. In our industry, you want to make the safest product possible, and remember that there are families and children who eat our products.”
“Larry has left a permanent positive mark on all of us here at Freshway,” said Phil Gilardi, owner of Freshway Foods. “His drive to teach others and help them realize their full potential not only in the world of produce, but more importantly, in the game of life, is an example for all of us to follow,” he adds.
Schultz is proud of his accomplishments at Freshway Foods, but one project holds a special place in his heart: “When I joined Freshway, the company didn’t have a recycling program. Over the past 13 years, I have helped to build a robust recycling program that delivers profit to Freshway."
Schultz’s strong work ethic has played a significant role in his success at Freshway. “The work ethic instilled in Larry at an early age paid him dividends his entire life. You can teach someone how to evaluate the quality of produce, interpret yield and labor statistics, and organize people, but to lead the way with a can-do, ‘whatever it takes to make the customer happy’ mentality, is something that must come from within,” said Devon Beer, president of Freshway Foods. “Larry has done an outstanding job of instilling that attitude in our managers and workforce.”
In addition to his work at Freshway, Schultz has made a significant contribution to the Sidney/Shelby County community. “We are very proud of the impact that Larry has made in the local community as well,” said Beer. “As demanding as his job was, he seemed to always find time to give back in a meaningful way to those who needed a helping hand. The best example of this is his work with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Larry was not only a ‘Big’ himself, but served on the board of directors and worked hard to make it a stronger organization capable of helping more people.”
Schultz shared some of the significant changes the fresh produce industry has gone through since 1970. “When fresh-cut processing started, it was because you had too much of a commodity. Whole produce was harvested from a field first, then processors would come in and clean up the field,” Schultz said. “Today, processors don’t allow any other company into the field. This enables us to better control food safety.”
Product packaging has changed in the past 45 years as well. “We had never heard of oxygen rate transmission and we used the same film for everything. We packed everything in a five- or 10-pound bag, which we closed with a metal clamp. Average shelf life was five to seven days, which would never be accepted today.”
Schultz pointed out that transportation has also changed dramatically in the past 45 years. “When I started working in 1970, raw produce came in on railroad cars — there were very few semi trucks,” he explained. “Product sat directly on the floor of the railroad cars. I remember the first time I ever saw product on pallets. It was 1974 and the Sam Tanksley trucking company brought a load of produce on pallets from the west coast. It was such a big deal that everyone wanted to look at the product and see how it rode on the trip.”
Schultz believes the future is bright for the fresh produce industry: “The good news is that our focus on healthy eating is growing. Produce is not only the best thing to eat for your health, it also has great flavor. I am especially excited to see traditional commodities like turnips and beets becoming popular again. They were popular when I started in this industry, and now they have come back and everyone is eating them.”
Although he is retiring this year, he plans to keep contributing to the fresh produce industry. “I plan to travel up and down I-75 from Michigan to Florida and work with farmers to help them develop and grow their business,” Schultz said.
Schultz also plans to spend more time with his grandchildren, and he will join the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization in Florida. He also plans to join his wife, Julie, in volunteering at Hospice.
Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., a grower-shipper of sweet onions, asparagus and a variety of fruits, based in Greencastle, PA, announced Feb. 19 the unexpected death of Kurt J. Schweitzer, chairman and president of the company.
Mr. Schweitzer, who joined the company in 1979, succeeded Bob Evans as Keystone’s chairman and president in 2008 and has been a critical force in its success through his leadership and vision, the company said in a press release.
He is credited with assembling a talented and dedicated staff, and with forging strategic partnerships that vaulted Keystone into a position of leadership in a number of produce categories, with the ability to supply customers with high-quality product on a year-round basis.
The press release, which offered no further details about his death, said Keystone staff members would honor Mr. Schweitzer by “continuing to provide impeccable service to our customers and growers. Kurt’s charge to all was 'Don’t survive, thrive!' We go forward with his spirit."
Keystone Vice President Martin D. Kamer will be acting president until further notice.
The Produce News will publish additional information as it becomes available.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has imposed sanctions on three produce businesses for failure to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.
The following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:
In the past three years, the USDA resolved approximately 3,700 PACA claims involving more than $66 million. Its experts also assisted more than 7,100 callers with issues valued at approximately $100 million.