Waste not, want more: Imperfectly Delicious Produce gaining traction

The gross amount of food that goes to waste in the produce industry — from the farm all the way to the kitchen or dining table — is not news to professionals.

It’s unfortunate but true that Americans demand the most visually appealing fresh produce where they shop. Foodservice operators are slightly different. Often the fruits and vegetables they use are cut up and combined with other ingredients to create menu items.IDP-spinachProduct like this spinach, which does not meet the grade standards for sale at retail, is used in the Imperfectly Delicious Produce program run by Compass Group.

Despite that, the result of consumers’ penchant for perfect produce is the high percentage removed from the product in the field during harvest and at repack and distribution facilities.

Romaine is one example. According to Charlotte, NC-based Compass Group USA, growers calculate that getting 10 percent more yield out of each acre could help pay for the extra labor and take better advantage of all the resources that went into growing.

In April 2014, Compass Group, with its procurement arm Foodbuy and in partnership with subsidiary Bon Appetit Management Co., established Imperfectly Delicious Produce, commonly referred to as IDP, to rescue fruits and vegetables that are cosmetically imperfect from growers and distributors.

“This produce might have languished in fields or been sent to composting or a landfill simply for not meeting an artificial standard of attractiveness,” said Jason Dye, senior manager of category development for Foodbuy. “We had a previously established relationship with Church Brothers, a grower in Salinas, California. We contracted with them for various products that we feature throughout the country, such as chopped Romaine, spring mix, green leaf lettuce, spinach and more.”

The IDP program was initially focused on a second growing cycle on freshly cut acres of spinach, where chef clients of Foodbuy would purchase the spinach as IDP. Traditionally, a second cut is not done because the outcome is slightly imperfect greens.

During a Compass chefs’ tour in the summer of 2014, the team also identified waste in Church Bros.’ processing operation. They included broccoli fines, the small florets that get left behind during processing, and cascade greens, a blend of the small leaves inside the heads of Romaine and green leaf lettuces that are too small to be sold.

“The team also observed the Romaine lettuce harvest, where pickers were pulling off the crisp outer leaves to form perfectly sized heads for market, then tossing the discarded leaves on the ground, effectively forming a salad bowl of greens left on the soil,” explained Dye. “They asked what it would take to save them because chefs typically don’t need perfect looking lettuce leaves when they are cutting them up to use in salads. That’s when they learned that growers could get 10 percent more yield out of each acre if that otherwise wasted product could be sold.”

As a good thing tends to evolve into a domino effect, IDP also discovered that by utilizing this otherwise wasted product, they were also conserving California’s precious water — enough to fulfill the use of nearly 3 million people per day.

California grower-partners have so far rescued enough produce for 140,000 people to reach the Daily Recommended Value of produce consumption for one year with only incremental water use.

“IDP now has grower-partners in nine states,” said Dye. “And our work has only just begun. Today the product mix in each market consists of seasonal products grown by local farmers and also products from national growers. Both sources are important and complement one another throughout the year.

“In June 2015, year to date, Compass Group IDP purchases met the fruit and vegetable RDA requirements for 125,000 people for one day by implementing the IDP program,” Dye continued. “IDP rescued over 188,000 pounds of produce that would have otherwise been discarded or sent to compost or waste.”

What’s next for IDP? It plans to expand its otherwise wasted produce line in more ways. Dye questions, for example, why the standard for cauliflower is white. What if the vegetable’s natural color — warm yellow — was allowed to shine?

“Our initial focus was to identify viable items and create the operational efficiencies throughout our supply chain in order to properly establish the market for IDP items,” Dye pointed out. “Now that we have a foundation to build upon we can enhance our marketing efforts at the unit level in order to properly tell the story and further grow the program.”

Sprouts' leadership shift

Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. announced that Doug Sanders, the company’s current president and chief executive officer and member of the board of directors, has been appointed executive chairman of the board as part of the company’s established leadership succession plan. Amin Maredia, chief financial officer, will ascend to the position of CEO, and Jim Nielsen, chief operating officer, will assume the position of president and chief operating officer.  dougDoug Sanders

“On behalf of the board of directors, I would like to congratulate Doug, Amin and Jim on their new roles,” Andrew Jhawar, chairman of the board, said in a press release. “This transition is the result of our board’s deliberate succession planning process, and I am pleased that this same team will continue to lead Sprouts into the future. During their respective tenures at Sprouts, both Amin and Jim have proven they are the right leaders to guide Sprouts, and Doug’s appointment to the executive chairman role will allow him to continue to provide strategic direction for the company.aminAmin Maredia

“I also want to thank Doug for his outstanding contributions to Sprouts since its founding,” continued Jhawar. “Doug has helped to lead Sprouts from a single store in 2002 through our transition into a publicly traded company with over 200 stores in 13 states coast to coast, and I look forward to continuing to work with Doug on our board of directors.”   

“I am truly grateful to have been part of Sprouts from its beginning and thank the board of directors and all 20,000-plus team members,” Sanders said in the release. “I strongly believe Sprouts has the team, foundation and strategy in place to achieve long-term success, and I am excited to continue to be part of the strategic direction of Sprouts serving as executive chairman of the board.”jimJim Nielsen

“I am so honored to succeed Doug as CEO of Sprouts, and I know we will continue to be nimble, innovative and customer-focused to deliver on our mission of ‘Healthy Living for Less,’” said Maredia.  “There has never been a more exciting time for our company as consumers’ expectations of grocery stores continue to evolve. I look forward to working closely with Doug as executive chairman, the board of directors, Sprouts’ exceptional leadership team and its committed team members in growing the brand successfully and profitably in the years ahead.”

“My appointment as president and chief operating officer of Sprouts is incredibly humbling,” said Nielsen.  “Through innovation and execution, we will drive operational excellence and focus on growth opportunities to expand our footprint while delivering value to our customers. Our dedicated team members will continue to educate, empower and inspire our customers who want to eat healthier and lead a better life.”  

The company also appointed Susannah Livingston, vice president of investor relations and treasury, as its interim chief financial officer, until the company completes its search for a new chief financial officer. 

Livingston has over 25 years of financial, treasury and investor relations experience, including the last two years with Sprouts, serving as its vice president of investor relations and treasury since January 2015 , and vice president of investor relations and communications from April 2013 to December 2014. Her experience includes financial roles with increasing responsibility at Solutia Inc., a global manufacturer of performance materials and specialty chemicals.

J&J Family of Farms promotes Rundle to CEO

After more than 25 years at J&J Family of Farms and 10 years at the helm, fourth-generation family member Chris Erneston has stepped down as chief executive officer. Chairman of the Board Lynn Rundle assumed the additional role of CEO effective Aug. 1.

Erneston will maintain financial ownership in the business, along with a role on the board and will provide general business consultation to J&J.Rundle-VG2015 X6R0102Lynn Rundle

In 2012, Rundle became the chairman of the board at J&J as part of a corporate reorganization that allowed for aggressive company growth. Rundle has 35 years of experience in agribusiness and has unique expertise organizing farmer-based supply chains that connect directly to customers.

“Lynn has been active in our business since 2012 and has learned not only our inner workings — but our people and our values.," Erneston said in a press release. "I’m confident his leadership will continue to help J&J grow as a high-quality produce provider.”

Rundle is no stranger to agriculture having served as founder and CEO of 21st Century Grain Processing, a leading specialty grain-based ingredient manufacturer.  During his tenure at 21st Century, a grower-based cooperative, Rundle led the company from its inception in 1997 to a successful sale in 2010.  Rundle has also showed his passion for agriculture with the creation of several other successful agribusinesses and he has also worked closely with the agribusiness community, acting as an entrepreneur, educator, leader and executive for various producer associations.  

“As a long-time advocate of the agriculture industry, it’s exciting to take the helm of a well-respected, multi-generation company like J&J,”  Rundle said in the press release. “This is dynamic time in the produce industry that shows promise for limitless opportunity — especially driven by such a qualified and dedicated team of employees and farmers.”

Rundle received his bachelor's and master's degrees in agriculture education from Kansas State University.  Beyond his work experience, Rundle has also been recognized with various industry awards, including Outstanding Young Alumnus Award in 1999 from Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture, Leader of the Year by KSU’s Huck Boyd Rural Development Institute in 2001 and elected to the Executive Committee of the North American Millers Association in 2008.   

Rundle is relocating from his home in Missouri to the West Palm Beach, FL, area where he hopes to stay active in community volunteer work dedicated to kids, including his work with Lead to Read, an organization he co-founded to support urban school children.

Daymon Worldwide names new CEO

Daymon Worldwide has named Jim Holbrook its chief executive officer of Daymon Worldwide, effective Sept. 1 Holbrook also joins the Daymon board of directors.damon

He succeeds Carla Cooper, who earlier this year informed the board of directors of her intention to retire.  Daymon said Cooper will actively support the CEO transition process and will remain in an advisory capacity until the end of 2016.  All of her direct reports will report directly to Holbrook.

“Daymon is truly fortunate to have enjoyed the benefits of Carla’s leadership for nearly seven years, including nearly five years as CEO,” Ron Daitz, non-executive chairman of the Daymon Worldwide board of directors, said in a press release. “Her vision for the company, her global experience, relentless work ethic and unsurpassed customer relationships helped transform the company at a critical time.”

Washington apple crop shifting to meet demand

Just released crop estimates for the 2015 apple crop in Washington predict a decline of 10.5 percent from the record harvest in 2014. According to some industry experts, the predicted decline in the overall crop is a reflection of significant changes occurring at the orchard level.

The report released Aug. 6 estimates significant production increases in Honeycrisp and sharp declines in Red and Golden Delicious — two apples that have been icons of Northwest apple growers for more than 50 years.2015-2016-Apple-crop-volume-image

The late summer crop estimate is issued each season by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association. This year’s report reveals a total crop estimate of 125.21 million cartons compared to a 140 million box crop last year, a decline of over 10 percent. The report predicts in the coming year that production of Honeycrisp will leap by 33 percent, Red Delicious will drop by 26.2 percent with Goldens declining by 24.5 percent. Gala is predicted to decline by 3.5 percent, Fuji will drop 5.8 percent with Granny Smith production unchanged.

The industry report reflects significant changes growers have made over the last few years in response to market conditions and shifting consumer demand, according to Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing at CMI.

“Market prices for apples send very clear signals to our growers on what varieties they should expand and which apple trees should be removed,” Lutz said in a press release. “The message growers heard loud and clear from the 2014 crop is that retailers and consumers want more Honeycrisp and branded apple programs.”

Lutz said that it is not uncommon to see a decline in total production in the year immediately following a bumper crop like the Washington industry experienced in 2014.

Lutz added that production trends at CMI are consistent with the statewide estimate. “Our growers are reporting they expect production declines in Reds and Goldens to be larger than the state average,” he said. “We will have significant increases in Honeycrisp, particularly from newly planted orchards with high-colored fruit, so we’re really excited to bring these apples to our customers.

“The hidden news in the 2015 crop report is that newer variety apples continue to make up for the erosion in production of the legacy varieties,” said Lutz. “CMI growers have made huge investments so that we have plenty of high-colored Honeycrisp on the way. To maximize the success of this variety, we’re introducing our new Happy Bee Honeycrisp pouch bag program, which will drive retail excitement this Fall. We’ll also have significant increases in production of our popular branded apples like Ambrosia, KIKU and Kanzi.”

Lutz said organic apple and pear production also appear to be a bright spot in the coming year. “CMI leads the organic apple and pear category with our No. 1 'Daisy Girl' brand," he said. "Our growers estimate that in the coming year our production of our Daisy Girl Organic apples and pears will jump by about 10 percent. That’s great news because organics have been the hottest growth driver in the category.”