United Family, Aisles of Smiles help fight muscular dystrophy

The United Family is joining Acosta Marketing and manufacturers to collaborate in the fight against neuromuscular disease through the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s 17th annual Aisles of Smiles campaign. All 66 United Supermarkets, Market Street, Albertsons Market, Amigos and United Express locations in west Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth and New Mexico are participating.

Available now through Sept. 4, guests can purchase products marked with special “Aisles of Smiles” tags, and a portion of the proceeds will support MDA’s research to find treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular diseases. In addition, beginning Aug. 12, guests can also support MDA with a monetary donation by purchasing a $1 or $5 scan tag at checkout.

“The United Family is committed to the health and wellness in our communities, and the Aisles of Smiles campaign allows our guests the opportunity to help families living with muscular dystrophy through their everyday purchases,” Shelby Crews, senior community relations manager for The United Family, said in a press release. “After seeing the success of the Aisles of Smiles campaign from previous years, we’re eager to continue giving to those in need again this year.”

MDA is the world’s leading nonprofit health organization sponsoring research seeking the causes of and effective treatments for neuromuscular diseases. MDA research grants currently are supporting more than 250 projects worldwide.

Toxic spill hits Colorado waterway

Long-term effects resulting from the Aug. 5 inadvertent release of acidic heavy metals into the Animas River in southwestern Colorado were yet to be defined six days after the spill, and the entity responsible for the incident, the Environmental Protection Agency, had not fully assessed danger to humans.

The EPA said that over the next several days, it will determine when access to the Animas River will be restored for uses such as irrigation, fishing and drinking water.toxiThe Animas River Aug. 9, four days after 3 million gallons of sludge contaminated with arsenic, lead, copper and cadmium started moving downstream.

On Aug. 10 Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper declared a State of Disaster Emergency, making available $500,000 from a state fund for response efforts to the spill, which occurred when an EPA team using heavy equipment entered the Gold King Mine, located north of Durango, intending to pump out contaminated water but instead releasing the contaminants into the Animas.

Initial estimates were that 1 million gallons had been released. That number was soon modified, and the EPA said 3 million gallons of sludge contaminated with arsenic, lead, copper and cadmium were moving downstream.

Early on the contaminants broke state water quality limits based on data issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez also declared a State of Disaster Emergency. “I had the chance to see the spill with my own eyes. It is absolutely devastating, and I am heartbroken by this environmental catastrophe,” she said. “As I’ve said before, I am very concerned by EPA’s lack of communication and inability to provide accurate information. One day, the spill is 1 million gallons. The next, it’s 3 million.”

Martinez’ executive order declaring a state of emergency frees up an additional $750,000 in state funds in addition to the $500,000 in state emergency funds that NMED requested and received on Friday.

Farther west California is questioning what the situation bodes for its water supply.

In the meantime, persons living along the Animas in Colorado were requesting well tests.

The EPA response Aug. 10 included delivery of bottled water to the affected areas in Colorado and New Mexico, as well as Navajo Country, AZ, and said it would be testing for contamination as far away as Lake Powell. Sludge had reached Utah, reports said.
While no definitive answer had been given regarding potential health hazards, authorities had closed access to the Animas until at least Aug. 17, and the EPA was said to be developing a criteria to determine risk. The Produce News has contacted the EPA regarding any possible contamination of cropland, but as of press time no response has come in.

Fresh quality consistently high for Washington potatoes

Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, said the state’s producers aim high and consistently hit the mark when it comes to fresh production. “About 13 percent of Washington potatoes are sold as fresh,” he told The Produce News. “This puts us in the top three or four states for fresh potato production, but really No. 1 for quality. That’s the reason why we have such a heavy presence of potato processors. We produce the most consistent quality of any growing region.”OpenerShot2The Washington potato harvest is expected to begin early this year. (Photo courtesy of the Washington State Potato Commission)

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an estimated 170,000 acres were planted to potatoes in Washington this year.

He was asked how weather affected this season’s crop. “We had a lot of hot weather in June and July and not much rain,” he replied. “We avoided the late blight disease conditions that were present in other parts of the country. But it’s still too early to tell what impact the high temperatures had on the crop. The high temperatures may have taken the top off of our yields, so we are probably looking at an average crop when it comes to yield per acre.”

Although the crop is running one to two weeks ahead of schedule, Voigt said early reports from the field point to a crop of average yield and size profile. “We were concerned about what this high heat would do to quality. But it looks surprisingly good, actually very good,” he commented. “There is still a lot of growing season left for the later varieties so only time will tell how it all turns out. The high heat has backed off so we are returning to ideal growing and harvesting conditions again.”

One can’t talk about the West without talking about drought. But Washington producers are generally faring well. “About 95 percent of the state is under severe drought. But we are fortunate that the majority of our irrigation water actually comes from British Columbia, and they had a decent water year,” Voigt explained. “While the vast majority of our crop will be unaffected by the drought, there are some pockets that are of concern. Total production of our specialty reds and yellows will likely be down due to the drought. We’ll be able to preserve those rich colors our customers love about our specialty potatoes.”

On other fronts, Ryan Holterhoff, WSPC director of marketing and industry affairs, said the commission is once again offering grant funding to help promote and sell Washington state potatoes in foreign markets. “The program is an opportunity for companies to develop potential campaign concepts of how they would increase usage of Washington potatoes within their respective markets,” he explained. “Each grant application must show a dollar-for-dollar match within their campaign. Funding has been allocated for projects focusing on both fresh market and processed potato products.”

Submitted applications are reviewed by the Marketing and Industry Affairs Committee, and recommendations for project funding are made to the full commission. Proposals are due at the commission on Aug. 14. All approved projects must be completed by May 31, 2016.

WSPC and the Oregon Potato Commission will host the second annual, unofficial “Potato Bowl.” This year’s event takes place in Pullman, WA, on Oct. 17 as teams from Washington State University and Oregon State University take to the field. Attendees will be served free baked potatoes and toppings, and the two potato commissions will once again engage in some friendly wagering. The losing team’s state commission will make a potato donation to the winning state’s food banks. Fans will be asked to make a donation to the 2nd Harvest Food Bank Distribution Network.

If last year’s outcome is any indicator of this year’s contributions, both commissions will show their support through donations.

Baldor's $20 million Hunts Point expansion

Baldor Specialty Foods has closed on a lease amendment that will expand its facility in the Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx, NY, by 100,000 square feet. The lease, signed with the New York City Economic Development Corp., will allow the fresh produce and specialty food distributor to strengthen the area’s robust food and beverage distribution network.baldor

The Hunts Point Food Distribution Center is one of the largest in the world and includes the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market, the Hunts Point Cooperative Meat Market, the New Fulton Fish Market, and parcels leased to companies, including Baldor and Krasdale Foods.

The nearly $20 million expansion, funded entirely by Baldor, will create 350 new quality jobs in addition to 400 jobs the company has created since moving to the Food Distribution Center in 2007. The expansion will allow Baldor to grow its fresh cuts manufacturing operation and increase its distribution to customers across the city and metropolitan region, including restaurants, hotels, retail food stores, corporate kitchens, nursing homes, hospitals and schools. The project will also serve to promote regional food distribution, adding capacity to Baldor’s current operation that already serves over 50 local farms and partners by distributing 40,000 cases of local product into the regional food system each week during peak season.  

“This expansion solidifies our Bronx location as the headquarters of Baldor Specialty Foods,” TJ Murphy, owner and chief executive officer of Baldor Specialty Foods, said in a press release. “We are proud to make this investment in the Bronx, to strengthen our commitment to Hunts Point, and to continue to be a strong supporter of the area’s overall economic development.”

"It is exciting to have Baldor Specialty Foods expand their operations and create new jobs in Hunts Point," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). "Baldor is known for their fresh, local sourcing from farms across New York state. This will further distribute healthy fresh food options into the regional food system."

Currently, Baldor occupies a 193,000-square-foot warehouse distribution facility with over 1,000 employees located on 13 acres in the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, which it leases from the city. The lease amendment will allow Baldor to expand its facility and relocate its parking spaces to the adjacent Halleck Industrial Development site. Baldor was selected through a public Request for Proposals issued in 2013. The project is consistent with the goals of the Hunts Point Vision Plan to catalyze food-related industrial uses and create local jobs.

Together, approximately half of the food in New York City stores and restaurants passes through the NYCEDC-managed Hunts Point Food Distribution Center. The cluster of wholesale markets sits on 329 acres and support 115 private wholesalers that employ more than 8,000 people. In March 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the City will invest $150 million over 12 years to enhance the capacity of the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, strengthen existing businesses, and attract new entrepreneurs, generating nearly 900 construction jobs and approximately 500 permanent jobs.

“Hunts Point is home to one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, and Baldor Specialty Foods' significant investment and expansion will create hundreds of more quality, local jobs for the people of the Bronx," said NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer.  “Baldor and the rest of the Hunts Point markets are a hub for food distribution and a center for good jobs, enhancing New York City’s connections to regional food networks and bringing fresh produce to dinner tables across all five boroughs.” 

Stemilt Lil Snappers ready to head back to school with kid-sized apples and pears

Stemilt’s Lil Snappers are heading back to school with kids this fall thanks to an early start on both apple and pear harvest in Washington state. Gala apples and Bartlett and Starkrimson pears are among the first varieties harvested each August, and coming off the tree 10 days earlier than normal following an early spring and warm summer temperatures.LilSnappers-Gala-RedPears-BartlettPears

According to Stemilt marketing director Roger Pepperl, Washington’s apple crop and the Northwest pear crop are both down in volume over last year, yet still ripe with promotion opportunities, especially on smaller fruit, which Stemilt packs in its award-winning Lil Snappers line of three-pound pouch bags.

“The warm temperatures we experienced in the Northwest this summer tend to slow down the size development of apples and pears, and as a result, we expect these fruits to be down a size from last year," Pepperl said in a press release. "This adds volume of premium kid-sized apples and pears, making our Lil Snappers line a great promotion vehicle, especially during the fall as the new crop comes off the tree and parents are thinking of what to put in lunches as their kids head back-to-school.”

The grab-and-go Lil Snappers three-pound pouch bag has seen tremendous growth and success since it launched back in 2011. Parents love the convenience of the bag, the quality fruit and kid-focused flavors inside, and its ease in providing kids with healthy fruit for their lunches or snacks. The three-pound size of the Lil Snappers pouch bag also benefits retailers by boosting their categories through a higher retail price and purchase size.

An analysis of Nielsen scan data from the 2014-15 season showed just how Lil Snappers three-pound pouch bags of pears outperformed other pear pouch bags in the marketplace.

Nielsen data from 2012 showed the average purchase size of pears to be 1.7 pounds per trip. During the 2014-15 season, Lil Snappers three-pound pouch bags of pears had an average retail of $1.59 per pound while two-pound other brand pouch bag pears averaged $1.78 per pound. At three pounds, Lil Snappers pears averaged $4.77 per bag at retail, while two-pound pouch bags of pears averaged $3.56 per bag. The larger package size of Lil Snappers results in 25 percent increase in dollars over two-pound pouch bags of pears.

“The data shows that Lil Snappers three-pound pouch bag pears return the highest retail dollar transaction size of all pear pouch bags in the marketplace," Pepperl said. "In 2014-15, Lil Snappers three-pound pouch bag pears also moved seven times more volume than two-pound pear pouch bags. Lil Snappers are a great merchandising vehicle for pears because they boost the purchase size and ensure dollar sales increase in the category as well.”

Stemilt recommends promoting Lil Snappers pears regularly alongside bulk promotions. A healthy pear category will run multiple bulk varieties of pears on ad monthly and use bags as a secondary purchase driver both on and off promotion. On bulk apples, multi-variety ads should run bi-weekly during the fall and winter months, Pepperl noted.

“Bulk displays will be the main merchandising vehicle for apples and pears this season, but with greater volumes of premium, kid-sized fruits available, Lil Snappers are a great line to carry to attract today’s busy parents who want to give their kids healthy snacks and school lunches,” said Pepperl.

Stemilt carries multiple apple varieties in the Lil Snappers line, including Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Pinata, Granny Smith and Pink Lady. The company also has four Lil Snappers pear varieties: Bartlett, d’Anjou, Bosc and red pears.

Each three-pound Lil Snappers pouch bag stands up in the refrigerator for easy storage and access, and features a sturdy handle and press-to-close resealable ziplock. There are an average of nine to 11 apples or pears inside each bag of Lil Snappers, which is the ideal size for fruit-purchasing households with kids.

“Apples and pears are among the best portable fruits, and the three-pound size of Lil Snappers is ideal for today’s families to utilize for on-the-go lunches and snacks. Parents can pack a piece of fruit in two school lunches every day for a week with Lil Snappers,” Pepperl said.