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Mushroom industry strengthens commitment to growth

In an effort to capitalize on the continuing success of the Mushroom Council’s program focus on The Blend along with continuing foodservice and retail promotions, ongoing nutrition research and targeted consumer communications, the council has recommended an assessment increase under the Mushroom Promotion, Research & Consumer Information Program.freshmush

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its approval of an assessment increase Nov. 10. It will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016, increasing from $0.005 cents per pound to $0.0055 cents per pound of mushrooms marketed or imported for the fresh market in the United States.

The increase was recommended by the council to continue to take advantage of current momentum in achieving its goal of increasing consumption of fresh mushrooms in the United States. Past efforts by the council have contributed to sustained annual shipment growth of 15 percent in the past five years.

“We believe that the growth is due to an increased focus on The Blend, which combines ground or diced mushrooms with ground meat to create a more nutritious, delicious and sustainable menu item," Tony D’Amico, council chairman, said in a press release. "The Blend momentum aligned with the relationships we continue to build with chefs, retail and foodservice operators, nutrition experts and our success in communicating via social platforms promises to open many more opportunities for increased mushroom sales in the future.” 

“The council determined that 2016 is the right time to increase the assessment slightly in anticipation of additional Blend related initiatives which continue to open up new markets and create increased demand for fresh mushrooms," Bart Minor, Mushroom Council president, said in the release. “The National School Lunch Program continues to serve as the gateway for The Blend growth, leading to rapid adoption by colleges and universities and other institutional operators. In addition, development of a robust sustainability platform for the mushroom industry is needed to meet the demands of menu developers, retailers and ultimately, the consumer.”

The Mushroom Council said it looks forward to increased fresh mushroom demand due to this deeper commitment by the mushroom industry to market growth.

C.H. Robinson continues Chicago growth with lease of new expanded office and warehouse space

C.H. Robinson will expand its business operations in Chicago by signing a seven-year lease for a 235,000-square-foot commercial office building and warehouse. Approximately 150 employees will be based at the new facility, which will open its doors in early 2016.

“Chicago is one of the most important markets in our global shipping network, thanks to its connectivity to Class I rail, ocean shipping, truck transportation and one of the world’s leading airports,” Mike Short, president of Global Forwarding, C.H. Robinson, said in a press release.333-Howard-Warehouse-image-for-mediaC.H. Robinson's new 235,000-square-foot commercial office building and warehouse in Chicago. “This move will enable our customers to have better access to these transportation options, and will position our company to build on our decade of rapid expansion in Chicago.”

The new deal comes on the heels of the company’s announcement that it will build a three-story, 207,000-square-foot office building in Lincoln Park that will house more than 1,000 employees. C.H. Robinson will celebrate its 100th anniversary of operations in the city next year. The company has roughly doubled its Chicago-based headcount since 2005, and its nearly 2,000 Chicago employees account for almost 15 percent of its global workforce.

The new facility will serve as a major hub for both North American and international freight consolidation operations. Every day there are thousands of partial shipments flowing through the supply chain. Through C.H. Robinson’s freight consolidation services, companies that book less-than-full loads of freight on trucks, ships and airplanes have their shipments packaged with other loads to create efficiencies in the supply chain.

"C.H. Robinson is a fixture in Chicago's transportation and logistics community and we are pleased to work together on its continued commitment to growth in the region," Jeff Malehorn, World Business Chicago president and chief executive officer, said in the release. "The Chicago region is one of the nation's — and world's — leading supply chain hubs due to its unmatched access, making it an ideal location for C.H. Robinson's ongoing expansion."

C.H. Robinson’s global forwarding division helps customers ship commercial freight internationally via its vast network of transportation providers. The division has more than 3,200 employees in 100 company offices in more than 30 countries. Domestically, C.H. Robinson’s North American surface transportation division provides full truckload, less than truckload, temperature controlled, flatbed and intermodal freight transportation services and logistics solutions to companies of all sizes, in a wide variety of industries.

“We signed our first lease for a Chicago-based freight consolidation facility 10 years ago, and that building was 30,000 square feet,” Eric Shover, vice president of North America global forwarding, C.H. Robinson, said in the release. “The fact that we just leased a facility with 235,000 square feet speaks to the immense growth we’ve been able to achieve in Chicago over the past decade, and the aggressive plans we have for the future.”

The new facility will also serve as C.H. Robinson’s in-house TSA Certified Cargo Screening facility. This new facility will include 36,726 square feet of warehouse space equipped with state-of-the-art screening technology. The TSA approved C.H. Robinson as a CCSF in April 2012. Since then, C.H. Robinson has provided a dedicated air freight screening team, which ensures expeditious service to shippers. In addition, the facility is tied directly to Navisphere, the company’s global technology platform, allowing customers to track their freight before, during and after the screening process.

Dole's new celery available in time for Thanksgiving

Dole is making its exclusive, consumer-preferred variety of celery hearts available nationwide to give fresh vegetable fans from coast to coast the opportunity to experience the variety’s milder flavor, snappier crunch and less-stringy texture.dole

Grown from proprietary seed variety, Dole Premium Celery Hearts is being launched nationally in November to ensure all retailers have ample product in stock for Thanksgiving, the holidays and other upcoming prime celery recipe occasions.

Shannon Yamada, senior manager of product innovation for Dole Fresh Vegetables, said Dole’s Premium Celery Hearts were created specifically to deliver the three benefits that research shows are most important to celery consumers: mild flavor, satisfying crunch and a less-stringy texture. According to a July 2015 In-Home Use Consumer Guidance Panel, Dole out-performs the competition on all three of these attributes.

“We know what celery lovers want, and we’re happy to be able to bring our preferred variety to our retail partners nationwide," Yamada said in a press release. "Whether paired with peanut butter as a healthy kid-friendly snack, chopped in a fresh salad or soup, or cooked in a festive holiday stuffing, Dole has every celery use covered.”

Dole Premium Celery Hearts will be available in early November 2015 in the refrigerated produce section at supermarkets nationwide. It replaces Dole’s existing celery offering and features distinctive new packaging emphasizing the premium nature of the variety.

IGA's imperfect produce program extended, leads to jump in sales

IGA, one of the larger groups of independent grocers in Canada, saw a huge jump in sales as a result of its odd-looking produce program. Following this year's success, the program will return next year — possibly with the addition of new varieties.

IGA grocers decided to offer its customers odd-looking, Quebec-grown produce (cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, beets, peppers and apples) this past harvest season at over 280 IGA stores in response to consumer demand. With average sales increases of 24 percent for the six varieties when compared to a year without this offering, the company views the results as very positive.20150812 C5449 PHOTO EN 476480Odd-looking fruit and vegetables spurred a boost in produce sales at IGA supermarkets. (CNW Group/IGA)

Beets, which IGA said are usually less popular, flew off the shelves with a 91 percent increase in sales. Carrot sales were also on the rise with a 31 percent increase, while apples were up 29 percent, tomatoes were up 20 percent, peppers were up 14 percent and cucumbers were up 7 percent.

The odd-looking fruits and vegetables are 30 percent less expensive on average, providing significant savings for the people who could recognize the produce’s inner beauty.

As part of the program, IGA shared a weekly recipe on the Web, social media and in its flyer, featuring one of the six odd-looking fruits and vegetables to inspire Quebecers with classic and not-so-classic suggestions for preparing them.

The experiment was so convincing, that the odd-looking fruits and vegetables will return next year.

“Customers had been asking for them for quite some time, but their popularity completely exceeded our expectations,” Yvan Ouellet, vice president of procurement and merchandising, perishables at Sobeys Québec, said in a press release. “We can’t deny it — Quebecers are eating up odd-looking fruits and vegetables — quite literally. In light of this success, we can only do it again, and we may even be adding new varieties of exclusively Quebec produce next harvest season.”

IGA said the program wouldn’t have achieved the degree of success and met the demands of consumers without the collaboration and support of the producers involved.

RPE now the exclusive marketing partner of Discovery Garden’s

RPE Inc. has entered into a partnership with Discovery Garden’s LLC to become the exclusive marketing partner for the Discovery Garden’s brand of gourmet potatoes.Discovery-Gardens 1

According to a press release, RPE and Discovery Garden’s share the same goal: to provide consumers with a better looking and better tasting potato. Grown and packaged in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, Sierra Gold and Sierra Rose are two key varieties from Discovery Garden’s.

The Sierra Gold potato combines the creamy texture of a golden potato with the hearty skin of a russet. Unlike other yellow potatoes, Sierra Gold was named the 2012 Gold Medal Winner for yellow potato varieties by the Oregon Potato Commission.

The Sierra Rose potato was named the 2014 Gold Medal Winner for red potato varieties. First offered in 2008, Sierra Rose has an intense deep red skin, golden center and a creamy texture.

“We are more than thrilled about the opportunity to work with Discovery Garden’s and promote their exceptional brand, “Russell Wysocki, president and chief executive officer of Bancroft, WI-based RPE, said in the press release. “We look forward to working with their talented and dedicated team and we’ll do our best to represent the high quality potatoes they grow.”

Discovery Garden’s is a subsidiary company of Cal-Ore Seed Inc. and was established to provide a marketing division for its innovative potato varieties. The two companies work in conjunction and continue to sustain the solid business integrity that Cal-Ore Seed was founded upon in 1965.

The full flavored Sierra Gold and Sierra Rose potatoes are offered in five- and 10-pound poly bags, and 50-pound cartons.

RPE, a second-generation family farm, is a category leader and key grower-shipper of year-round potatoes and onions.