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With an increase in volume of its various differentiated produce offerings, Pasadena, CA-based Sun Pacific has added Canadian retailers as a target group for its sales effort.

Sun Pacific President Bob DiPiazza said there are Canadian retailers that have done business with the firm and have been regular buyers of its well-known Cuties brand of clementines. However, in the past several years, Sun Pacific has also added proprietary offerings in kiwi and heirloom Navels under the brand names Mighties and Vintage Sweet, respectively. DiPiazza said what all three of these products have in common is that they have points of differentiation from the competition and their volume is increasing.

Hence, the firm used the Canadian Produce Marketing Association convention in Calgary to familiarize more Canadian retailers with these products.

“In the past we have had a presence at CPMA, but this is the first year we are exhibiting there,” DiPiazza said. “We are bringing out our owner, [and] I’m going to be there. We are making a big deal of this.”

DiPiazza said thousands of U.S. retailers and consumers have enjoyed these products and the time has come to make a greater push in Canada.

Speaking specifically of each item, DiPiazza said Cuties were the first branded Mandarin in the U.S. market and remain a leading brand in the category. In fact, he said Cuties, with their easy-to-peel skins, have driven the growth of the Mandarin category in the United States to the point where it exceeds all other citrus sales.

Sun Pacific has increased its acreage of Cuties and expects the volume to rise each year for the foreseeable future. Cuties are available in five-pound boxes, and three- and five-pound bags

Mighties, DiPiazza said, invigorated the kiwi category when they were introduced in the 2014-15 season, driving 14 percent growth for the total U.S. kiwi category and capturing 78 percent share of branded kiwi. Sun Pacific has significantly increased its kiwi acreage and is expecting volume growth every year for the next decade. By 2025, the firm expects to produce 70 percent of the North American kiwi supply.

Again, he said this product has been introduced in thousands of U.S. stores and it’s time to achieve greater reach in Canada. Mighties are available in one-, two-, three- and four-pound clamshell packages.

The newest branded item for Sun Pacific is its Vintage Sweets oranges.  DiPiazza said these oranges are a high Brix, heirloom Navel oranges, debuting in 2016 in both the U.S. and Canadian markets. The firm expects Vintage Sweet to do for Navel oranges what Cuties and Mighties have done in their fruit categories.

The Sun Pacific president said that like the other branded products of the firm, Vintage Sweets will provide “a great customer experience, which is what Canadian and U.S. retailers are looking for.”

The product combines a curated growing process with sensory testing to ensure just the right characteristics for a delicious eating experience.  Vintage Sweets are available in standard cartons, as well as three-pound Giro bags and a six-count shrink-wrapped tray.

Sun Pacific also provides a wide range of grape varietals in customized packaging, Navel oranges and lemons under the Air Chief brand, as well as Valencia oranges, grapefruit, Cara Cara and blood oranges, Minneola tangelos, avocados, and both round and Roma tomatoes.

“Our commitment to retailers goes beyond our products,” DiPiazza said. “We work to form long-term, trusted partnerships that include customized marketing programs, in-store training and support, and customer service to ensure a produce program is thriving. We are excited to be expanding that dedication to new partnerships with Canadian retailers.”

A total of seven potato research projects are under way this year as the result of block grants obtained by the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, and CPAC Executive Director Jim Ehrlich said soil health, new variety potato breeding guidelines, post-harvest physiology and integrated management of silver scurf are among the issues being studied.

“We just finished with our research funding,” Ehrlich told The Produce News in early April. “Now we’re trying to put that together with the block grant project.”

Ehrlich said two block grants were approved last year for funding this year, which will be used to study means of improving soil health through rotation, cover crops and green manure.

“We’re tying to narrow it down,” he said of researching ways that “promote more knowledge of soil health.”

Another study will look at nematode control using biological controls, and Ehrlich said scientists will be “looking at native soils here in the San Luis Valley that have never had nematodes.”

The soil is found in several valley locations, and Ehrlich said researchers are eager to find why those particular spots have been, thus far, removed from the problem of nematodes.

As the research continues, so do efforts to bolster trade with Mexico.

The executive director said SLV shippers traveled to the recent ANTAD trade show held in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“Farm Fresh Direct, Skyline and RPE Colorado had people attend, and reports were that it was a good show,” he said of the March event. “We continue to get new customers for the 26-kilometer border region, and figures from Potatoes USA show that shipments from the United States continue to increase to that region.”

Regarding the 2016 crop, Ehrlich said that San Luis Valley acreage is expected to be “about the same as last year,” which was, according to CPAC information earlier in 2016, 51,000 acres. Conventionals comprised 47,000 acres, and organics accounted for 4,000 acres. Russets made up 38,540 of the conventional acres and 3,280 of the organics. In reds there were 2,820 acres in conventional and 240 acres in organics. Yellows had 3,290 acres in conventional and 280 in organics. And specialties had 2,350 acres in conventional, 200 in organics.

“I don’t anticipate we’ll be down much if at all,” Ehrlich said.

Organics continue to increase in demand, and Ehrlich said the area’s fingerlings are also seeing growing demand.

“There’s also more and more demand for petites,” Ehrlich  said.

In terms of snowpack, the San Juan Mountains were at 84 percent of normal in early April but were as high as 110 percent during the winter.

“We’re not in bad shape,” Ehrlich said, “but we could use more snow.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has filed an administrative complaint under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act against World Best Tropical LLC. The company, operating from Florida, allegedly failed to make payment to eight produce sellers in the amount of $341,918 from February 2014 through October 2014.

World Best Tropical LLC will have an opportunity to request a hearing. Should USDA find that the company committed repeated and flagrant violations, it would be barred from the produce industry for two years.  Furthermore, its principal could not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee for one year and then only with the posting of a USDA-approved surety bond.

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.

Albertsons Cos. has appointed current Denver Division President Susan Morris to the position of executive vice president of retail operations over its East region. Morris is filling the vacancy created when Kelly Griffith announced earlier this month that he would be leaving the company.albertSusan Morris

Since March of 2015, Morris has led the company’s Denver Division team, overseeing over 130 stores in five states. She joined Albertsons when she was 16 as a customer service clerk in Colorado, and worked at store level until she graduated from Colorado State University when she accepted a job at the division office. Her career has spanned roles from store director to corporate grocery sales director, vice president of bakery and operations and, upon the sale of Albertson’s Inc.’s assets to Supervalu, vice president of customer satisfaction. In 2010, she was senior vice president of sales and merchandising when she left Supervalu to join Albertsons LLC. In March 2013, Morris moved from her role as vice president of marketing and merchandising for the Southwest division to Intermountain division president.

“Starting at an entry-level position and working your way up to a leadership role is very much alive and well at Albertsons Companies, and Susan is the latest example of that,” Wayne Denningham, chief operating officer, said in a press release. “In the span of our company’s history, we have helped to develop some of the greatest retail leaders in the industry today, and Susan is certainly an excellent addition to that list. Her experience in grocery is invaluable both as an operator and a merchant. We look forward to her taking on this key role as we look to continue to grow and strengthen our operation while furthering our goal of becoming the Favorite Local Supermarket across the nearly 2,300 neighborhoods we serve.”

Fresh Express, a retail packaged salad producer, and Chiquita welcomed Florida Gov. Rick Scott as they celebrated the recent move of their corporate headquarters to Florida.

The move brings approximately 120 Fresh Express and Chiquita jobs to the new Fresh Express headquarters in Orlando, and another 90 jobs to Chiquita's new headquarters in Dania Beach in south Florida. The two companies have a combined annual revenue of $3 billion a year.  rickstoGov. Rick Scott visited the new Fresh Express headquarters

"Fresh Express is incredibly excited to become part of the Orlando community," Ken Diveley, chief executive officer and president of Fresh Express, said in a press release. "It's clear that the central Florida region, and the entire state, is a tremendous area in which to locate our offices. We look forward to being part of the great state of Florida, where Gov. Scott continues to build a strong business community."

Gov. Scott toured the new Fresh Express headquarters, met with company officials and welcomed the company to the Sunshine State.

"We are working to make Florida the best place in the country to live and raise a family," Gov. Scott said. "Today's announcement means hundreds more Floridians will be able to get a great job in the Sunshine State. I would like to thank Fresh Express and Chiquita for choosing Florida to grow their company. Florida businesses have created more than 1 million new jobs across the state in just five years, and we will keep working to make sure Florida continues on the path to becoming first for jobs."

The move was spurred last year after the Cutrale Group, one of the largest orange juice producers in the world, and the Safra Group, a global financial services firm, acquired Chiquita Brands International. Fresh Express is a subsidiary of Chiquita.

After the acquisition, the owners decided to move the Chiquita and Fresh Express headquarters from Charlotte, NC, to Florida. Orlando was selected because of its proximity to other Cutrale Group holdings, and Dania Beach was selected because of its proximity to the port where Chiquita receives bananas for ripening and distribution.

The new Orlando headquarters features 90 jobs for Fresh Express and 30 jobs to service Chiquita's corporate IT needs. The headquarters includes offices for executive management, as well as sales, marketing, operations, human resources, procurement and logistics. The Dania Beach headquarters will serve similar central office functions for Chiquita.

"We're happy to add to the economic health of the area, and we look forward to growing Fresh Express here," Diveley said.

Fresh Express distributes about 250 different salad, vegetable and fruit products, with 50 fresh produce offerings for food service outlets and healthy snack products. In addition to the Orlando headquarters, it also has five packaging plants throughout the U.S.

Chiquita distributes bananas in approximately 70 counties around the world. In addition to its Florida headquarters, it has major operations in Europe and Central America, as well as distribution and ripening facilities throughout the U.S.