The produce industry is celebrating the passage of trade legislation that will support the growing globalization of fruits and vegetables.
By a vote of 60 to 38, the U.S. Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority, which will allow the president to send a completed trade agreement to Congress for an up-or-down vote and no amendments.
Since President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, every president has had authority from Congress to negotiate trade agreements that open up new market opportunities for the United States. Congress last enacted TPA legislation in 2002, and it lapsed in 2007.
“United Fresh applauds the Senate for renewing Trade Promotion Authorization,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh. “Trade deals that break down market access barriers and create new economic opportunities benefit the industry at home and abroad, expanding consumption of America’s abundant supply of fruits and vegetables in rapidly developing regions of the world. We look forward to the president signing this legislation and working with his administration to finalize the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.”
“We’re pleased that a bipartisan Congress has shown strong resolve to pass TPA and to see this transformative bill through to the desk of President Obama,” Richard Owen, vice president of global business development for the Produce Marketing Association, said in a statement. “The buying and selling of fresh produce occurs in a global environment, and that’s becoming more evident each day. Our ability as an industry to compete in the international market is tied to the ability of the United States to eliminate barriers to facilitate free and fair trade. TPA provides a framework that builds confidence with our international partners and foreign governments that a deal negotiated will make it through the political process for approval.”
With TPA being sent to the president, the administration can now focus on finalizing trade negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which the U.S. is looking to enter with 11 other Asia-Pacific countries. It would be the largest trade deal in history, opening markets and expanding access to U.S. agriculture exports to more than 800 million people.
“News of this Trade Promotion Authority passage is fantastic news for the port, for the region and for the state,” Paul Anderson, president and chief executive of the Port of Tampa, said in a statement. “Here in Florida, trade supports 2.4 million jobs, and TPA ensures that trade agreements will have the clearest opportunities to be successfully negotiated. The port firmly supports passage of this legislation, and we are extremely grateful to our leaders in Washington, the American Association of Port Authorities, and our fellow ports nationwide for their support. It’s important that we continue to recognize the value of our ports and the nexus of trade activity to our country, our economy and to our citizens. The positive impacts of TPA passage will be with us for generations.”
A new Market Street supermarket in Midland, TX, held a grand opening ceremony June 24 to celebrate the store’s new look, features and offerings resulting from a complete transformation of the former Albertsons Market.
Market Street, known as the place “where everyday meets gourmet,” is designed to provide a unique shopping experience for guests who care about food. The store has extensive options for guests to maintain a healthy lifestyle, as well as everyday items shoppers are accustomed to finding.
“We are thrilled to officially introduce our Midland guests to the Market Street experience and are confident it will change the way they think about an everyday grocery store,” Robert Taylor, president of The United Family, a Texas-based grocery chain that operates Market Street and Albertsons Market in Midland-Odessa, said in a press release. “This is the first store we’ve converted to a Market Street, so this grand opening is a testament to our dedicated team members and guests, who have demonstrated tremendous patience throughout this process.”
Market Street features a large selection of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, including more than 100 organic options. The store also has an “Ask for a Taste” program in the produce department, which allows guests to sample any product before making a purchase.
“Guests will enjoy the comprehensive offerings at Market Street, as well as some of the unique features not available in traditional grocery stores, such as in-store dining,” Wes Jackson, chief merchandising officer for The United Family, added in the press release. “We have teams in every department committed to ensuring we can meet our guests’ every need.”
Market Street’s commitment to service includes a concierge service, which is available to assist guests with party planning, catering and custom gift baskets. Other notable store changes are evident in the expanded full-service bakery, in-store dining space, Starbucks coffee, expanded wine and beer section, bulk foods section and an extensive selection of gluten-free items both in the Living Well section and throughout the store.
Guests will continue to see shelf tags featuring “healthy attributes” that identify products in 10 different categories, such as low-sodium, heart-healthy, organic, and gluten-free, as well as the company’s “Dietitian’s Top Pick” program.
Shelf tags also include the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System, which rates the nutritional value of foods throughout the store on a scale of one to 100. The United Family was the first supermarket chain in Texas to adopt this system. Unique to Market Street stores, guests also have the option to join a free store tour hosted by a registered dietitian.
“Market Street is one of the few grocery stores in the state that has registered dietitians, who are helping guests try to balance busy schedules while still raising healthy families,” Robin Hawkins, director of health and wellness for The United Family, said in the press release. “Guests can take advantage of our in-store tours that focus on different diet and health needs in addition to other resources to help guests make healthy choices at checkout.”
The Canadian Produce Marketing Association has been hosting town hall meetings for the produce industry across Canada for the past two weeks. There has been a tremendous response from the industry, with 80 to 100 participants on average in each region. The meetings covered important issues to members and partners, ranging from increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables to food safety. They also featured moderated retail panels with industry leaders from major grocery chains.
“We are thrilled by the positive response from the industry,” Mike Furi, 2015-16 CPMA chair, said in a press release. “The success of these sessions shows us that our members need more than an annual convention and trade show, they also need small concentrated events across Canada to have their voice heard. The more input we have from our members, the better we can respond to their needs and concerns. I am overjoyed by the success of these events and we look forward to hosting more in 2016.”
“The Town Halls have given us an opportunity to meet members face to face in a casual setting,” Ron Lemaire, CPMA president, said in the release. “We got lots of great feedback and positive response to our current activities, which reinforces the programs we are currently running while giving us ideas for the future.”
These free informal industry meetings were meant to provide members and non-industry partners with information on core issues affecting their businesses and communities. Events were hosted across Canada starting in Wolfville, NS, followed by Montreal, Leamington, ON, Winnipeg, MB, and Calgary, AB. The CPMA wrapped up the town hall meetings June 25 in Vancouver.
Jacquie Trombley joined the Leamington, ON-based Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers in the capacity of marketer liaison officer, a newly established position. Trombley will be the primary liaison between licensed marketers and the OGVG board and management, the OVGV announced in a May press release.
The release stated that through this new position, the OGVG’s objective is to positively work with the marketer community with the intent of optimizing the market value for Ontario greenhouse vegetables and maximize returns for producers, while enhancing the overall consumer image of Ontario greenhouse vegetables and adhering to trade requirements.
Trombley graduated from St. Clair College’s advertising, marketing and communications management program in 1997. She has a diverse 18-year background in advertising, marketing, corporate communications and project management. She has worked with a large advertising agency, and has experience in financial and corporate marketing at one of Canada’s largest financial institutions in Toronto. She has also overseen a variety of marketing and advertising campaigns at a local marketing company.
Most recently, Trombley taught marketing at St. Clair College in Windsor, ON.
The OGVG is also celebrating its new website, www.OGVG.com, which was launched Jan. 14. The new site targets consumers and other potential users of Ontario greenhouse vegetables. Key features include a cleaner and more attractive design and enhanced search and navigation capabilities that provide a more engaging user experience.
The organization’s objective was to design a site that would be a definitive resource and guide for people seeking information about Ontario greenhouse vegetables. It provides a fresh and simple look with easy navigation to social media pages. And it features how to select produce, nutrition tips, storage of produce, consumer tips, print or download recipes, videos, contact information and optimization for mobile devices.
“We’re excited about our new website which targets consumers of our members’ best in class produce,” said George Gilvesy, general manager of the OGVG. “It is providing the public the information they are looking for to make Ontario greenhouse vegetable products top of mind when making their produce selections.”
Gilvesy added that support for the development of the new site came from the Province of Ontario through the Local Food Fund.
On Dec. 19, the Ontario government announced the new Greenhouse Nutrient Feedwater Regulation under the Nutrient Management Act. The development of the regulation is an example of the positive outcome that results when sector representatives and government ministries collaborate.
The process was facilitated through the Ontario Greenhouse Environmental Strategy task force. Its representatives are drawn from the greenhouse sector, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change.
The common goal was to develop and implement a streamlined solution that is protective of the environment and cost effective for the sector.
“On behalf of Ontario’s greenhouse sector, we thank Premier Wynne, Minister Leal and Minister Murray for their continued commitment to this kind of open, consultative process” said Jan VanderHout, chair of the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance, in a press release. “This process is an excellent example of what can be achieved by working together to improve and streamline regulations. The result will enable increased productivity and growth across the entire agri-food value chain.”
The new regulation will help greenhouse growers better comply with environmental standards by reducing costs and uncertainty of approvals. It will promote reuse and facilitate the recycling of greenhouse nutrient feedwater while providing farmers with a new source of irrigation water and nutrients for their field crops.
Just in time for peak cherry season in the Northwest, Stemilt is bringing back its signature program for premium cherries, called Kyle’s Pick. Typically an early July program, the early start for Kyle’s Pick falls in line with harvest in Washington state, which is running about 10 days ahead of normal.
Stemilt reserves its best cherries — premium varieties like Skeena, and largest sized fruit with high firmness and dessert flavors — for specially marked Kyle’s Pick pouch bags in order to help retailers merchandise quality and drive repeat sales of cherries during the peak season.
“The Northwest cherry crop has been in a demand-exceeds-supply situation throughout June, and though promotions are starting up now, the industry anticipates a smaller crop of about 16-million boxes (20# equivalent)," Roger Pepperl, Stemilt marketing director, said in a press release. "Merchandising is key during the cherry peak and promoting quality is the best way to differentiate your cherry program and help consumers make the impulse purchase decision that cherries are. This is what Kyle’s Pick is all about.”
Named after Stemilt co-owner and fourth-generation cherry grower Kyle Mathison, this is the third season Kyle’s Pick cherries have been available. The program is built around quality-first fruit and helps retailers tell the story of the grower in order to tie the fruit back to the land, which is increasingly becoming a story that today’s consumers want to hear.
“Only the cherries that meet Kyle’s high standards for quality make it into Kyle’s Pick packs," Pepperl said in the release. "The program is built around flavor and a dessert eating experience, and the exact qualities of cherries that Kyle harvests at his own orchards on the legendary Stemilt Hill in Wenatchee, WA, during this timeframe.”
Stemilt uses its state-of-the-art electronic packinglines to sort out cherries for Kyle’s Pick packs. The lines use high-definition camera imaging and computer software to digitally size and sort cherries based on set firmness, size, and sugar level standards. The company also reserves premium varieties, including Stemilt Hill Bings, Sweetheart, Skeena, and Staccato cherries for Kyle’s Pick.
“Stemilt is the leading producer of Skeena cherries in Washington state and we are strategically planting more. This firm, deep red, large-sized and high-flavored cherry is the best variety available during this timeframe, and one that will deliver a great eating experience, and with it, sales in the cherry category,” said Pepperl.
Stemilt will pack Kyle’s Pick cherries until late July when it transitions to its high-elevation cherry package, called A Half Mile Closer to the Moon cherries. Moon cherries are grown primarily by Mathison at his Amigos Orchard in Wenatchee, which sit at elevations ranging from 2,500 to 3,200 feet above sea level. Just like Stemilt Hill in July, the unique Amigos growing locale remains cooler during the heat of the summer, and provides Stemilt with the latest freshly harvested cherries in Washington state. Stemilt will pack Moon cherries in late July and for the first two weeks in August this year.
“Retailers who promote size and dessert flavors will experience the best results during this unique Northwest cherry season, which is both early and in high demand. Stemilt’s signature late-season cherry programs, Kyle’s Pick and Half Mile Closer to the Moon deliver premium quality fruit and the stories to drive impulse and repeat sales,” said Pepperl.