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Simonian Fruit Co.’s pomegranates begin shipping Sept. 1

With fresh pomegranates expected to harvest about seven to 10 days earlier than normal this year, Simonian Fruit Co. plans to ship early-season varieties starting Sept. 1. Shipping under the "SIMCO" brand, Simonian is one of the more experienced pomegranate grower-shippers in the industry, with more than 35 years of handling the autumn fruit.

The first variety to ship will be the Urbanekgranate, a proprietary variety to Simonian. Other early season varieties include Smith and Early Wonderful. These will be followed by the most popular variety, Wonderfuls, later in the season.

“Overall, the quality looks to be good this season,” Jeff Simonian, vice president of sales, said in a press release. “The size of this year's crop is expected to be normal to slightly smaller than last season. We are expecting another season of good color and flavor as well.”

Simonian added that the company usually ships at least through the first of January, and during some years even into February or March. "We are one of the few shippers that offers a five-month California pomegranate season," he said

Worldwide export is a major part of the company's pomegranate business, with about 40 percent of its total harvest in any given year going overseas. Simonian’s top international markets for pomegranates include Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Japan and Brazil.

Potato Commission extends Big Idaho Potato Truck tour two more years

The Idaho Potato Commission’s Big Idaho Potato Truck Tour has been so successful in generating favorable publicity for Idaho potatoes across the country during its first three years that the commission has decided to extend the campaign for another two years.

That announcement was made by Commission President Frank Muir in a presentation at a breakfast meeting Thursday, Aug. 28, during the 86th annual convention of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association in Sun Valley, ID.

Frank-Muir-Mark-CoombsFrank Muir with Idaho Potato Grower Mark Coombs, who is featured in the Idaho Potato Commission's TV ads.The commission has also, once again, created a new television ad inspired by the tour and by the success of previous similarly themed ads, Muir said.

The truck, a flatbed big-rig on which is mounted a massive replica of an Idaho potato, has drawn crowds and media attention wherever it has gone, covering nearly every state in the union, most of them multiple times and visiting what Muir referred to as some very iconic places. Everywhere the truck is seen, onlookers take photos and make posts on social media about having seen it.

The Big Idaho Potato Truck’s first national tour served as inspiration for the commission’s 2012-13 national television consumer advertising campaign, featuring Idaho Potato Farmer Mark Coombs in a potato field, lamenting that the truck and crew left home months ago and have not yet returned. In the ad, he holds a poster of the “missing” truck and crew, and asks viewers, “If you see them, please tell them to come home,” as fast cuts show the truck at recognizable landmarks around the country and the crew having a grand time.

The ad was so well received that the theme was repeated in the commission’s 2013-14 campaign. In that ad, Coombs sets off across the country in his pickup truck, with his dog, in search of the still-missing potato truck and crew.

For the 2014-15 television campaign, Coombs and another Idaho potato grower set off in a vintage red-and-white bi-wing airplane in search of the “still-missing” truck. Attendees at the IGSA convention saw a preview of the ad during the breakfast meeting. It was scheduled to debut on television that evening.

Yet another of the commission’s highly successful programs has been extended, Muir said. The Potato Lovers' Month display contest has been growing dramatically, with more stores participating every year. Last year, demand for Idaho potatoes during the February promotion was so great it essentially reached the limit of the capacity of Idaho potato packing facilities to meet the demand. Therefore, for the 2015 Potato Lovers Month, the contest period, which has previously been four weeks in February, will be extended to eight weeks. It will start mid-January and continue into mid-March.

Also for the 2014-15 marketing season, the commission is overhauling its website, Muir said. He also talked about the extensive work the commission is doing with bloggers and in social media.

Muir also previewed the commission’s programs for the coming marketing season in the foodservice sector and in international markets.

The previous day of the convention consisted largely of seminars on a variety of topics ranging from “changing the GMO Conversation” to a discussion of potato consumption trends.

Scheduled for Friday morning included the annual lGSA breakfast meeting, which would include presentations by representatives of the National Potato Council, the U.S. Potato Board and the United Fresh Produce Association, to be followed by the annual golf tournament.

Market Basket agrees to sale, Arthur T. Demoulas to return

After several weeks of employee and customer protests as well as the firing of several high-ranking officers, Market Basket and its shareholders announced that they have entered into a binding agreement in which recently ousted Chief Executive Officer Arthur T. Demoulas and other Class B shareholders will acquire the 50.5 percent ownership interest of Market Basket currently owned by the Class A shareholders, led by Arthur S. Demoulas.

Effective immediately, Arthur T. is returning to Market Basket with day-to-day operational authority of the company. He and his management team will return to Market Basket during the interim period while the transaction to purchase the company is completed. James Gooch and Felicia Thornton, the current co-CEOs, will remain in place pending the closing, which is expected to occur in the next several months.

The chain, based in Lowell, MA, has 71 supermarkets in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine. Over the past few weeks, lack of product and customers has reportedly caused the company to lose millions of dollars in sales.

A statement from Arthur T. noted that all associates are welcome back to work with the former management team to restore the company back to normal operations.

"The shareholders and the company would like to thank Market Basket customers and partners for their strong support through the years," Arthur T. said through a spokesperson. "Our shared goal is to return Market Basket to the supermarket that its customers have come to rely on for service, quality and best prices.  We look forward to seeing you at your local Market Basket."

Dole introduces Salad Companions just-add-lettuce solutions

Dole Salad Companions, a line of natural, just-add-lettuce salad solutions providing a total-recipe option in an all-in-one-package, gives consumers everything they need to turn their favorite, freshest greens into an exciting flavorful salad.DOLE PestoAsiago SaladCompa

Each Salad Companions recipe includes a variety of flavorful toppings — including dried cranberries, crispy apple chips, roasted nuts and other ingredients — with an original, perfectly paired dressing. Consumers simply toss Salad Companions with their favorite greens, head lettuces or premixed salad blends to create a delicious salad in minutes.  

Four new Dole Salad Companions launched in convenient tray packaging in June, and national supermarket distribution is expected by October 2014.

  • Dole Salad Companions Apple Walnut Harvest:  Crispy apple chips, dried cranberries, walnuts, aged white cheddar cheese and Dole's own Apple Cider Dijon Vinaigrette dressing. Pairs best with Dole's popular Spring Mix or similar blends.
  • Dole Salad Companions Pesto Asiago:  Pine nuts, sun-dried tomato croutons, shredded Asiago and Mozzarella cheeses, and Dole's own Signature Caesar dressing. Pairs best with butter lettuces or mild, sweet greens like Dole's Butter Bliss blend.
  • Dole Salad Companions Pecan Honey Dijon:  Dried cranberries, roasted pecans sweet cornbread croutons, aged white cheddar and Dole's own Honey Dijon dressing. Pairs best with Dole's Field Greens or similar blend.
  • Dole Salad Companions Signature Caesar:  Parmesan, Romano, Asiago and Mozzarella cheeses, toasted garlic croutons and Dole's own Signature Caesar dressing. Pairs best with Romaine lettuce or a Dole Salad blend like Hearts of Romaine or Leafy Romaine.

The all-in-one nature of Salad Companions, especially the addition of the dressings, makes them easy for consumers to try new salad recipes with perfectly paired ingredients without having to commit to an entire bottle of dressing or other bulk ingredients.  "We made it easier to enjoy new salad combinations," Elsa Pong, Dole Fresh Vegetables director of marketing, new products and innovation, said in a press release. "Thanks to Salad Companions, consumers can easily pair them with their favorite greens for a flavor adventure every day of the week."

Salad Companions will be available in the refrigerated dressing section or alongside Dole's existing salad kits and blends for the suggested retail price of $3.79.

Dole will support Salad Companions with on-pack coupons at shelf; Web, social media and shopper marketing programs; and exclusive Salad Circle content. PR outreach will include product sampling to generate product awareness and elicit trial and reviews from food media, culinary and fitness bloggers, registered dieticians, supermarket registered dieticians, chefs and other salad ambassadors.

Farm Fresh Direct expanding products, pack options and alliances

Monte Vista, CO — Going into the 2014-15 season with vigorous growth in virtually every aspect of its operations, Monte Vista-based Farm Fresh Direct of America is releasing five new spud varieties, offering several new pack options and announcing its partnership with Albert Bartlett, one of the largest fresh potato shippers in the United Kingdom.

Each of the events alone is newsworthy, and combined they represent significant expansion for the 30-plus grower-owned corporation.farmfreshdirectcolopotatoesDave Yeager, vice president of business development for Farm Fresh Direct Launched some 15 years ago by a smaller group of third- and fourth-generation potato growers, Farm Fresh Direct has seen steady growth, with a merger in 2011 that enlarged the base to include out-of-state growers, providing increased supplies on a year-round basis for customers.

This year's leap, with its new product and packaging roll-outs, positions FFD where Vice President of Business Development Dave Yeager said it wants to be: "We want to be all things potatoes for our customers. With all our varieties, our organics and our transportation services, we really do provide one-stop shopping."

The five new varieties are all now grown commercially in the San Luis Valley and are being introduced to consumers this season. They are the Golden Russet, Natural Blush, Crimson Sunset, Petite Merlot and Petite Chardonnay, and all are proprietary varieties to FFD.

Farm Fresh and Albert Bartlett are rolling out a sixth variety, the famed Albert Bartlett Rooster, which originated in Scotland, in October.

Overall organic acreage has been tripled, with certified Golden Russet and Rooster varieties part of the total organic volume.

More than 50 new varieties were trialed, and over the next several years a half-dozen will be introduced to U.S. consumers. Yeager said the Golden Russet is destined to be a hit with its smooth, gold skin and russet shape. It is packed in 5- and 10-pound poly bags for retail and in 50-pound cartons for foodservice, and it is available in both conventional and organic categories.

Tim Wall, marketing manager and general manager for Express Bake and specialty, said the Golden Russet is "a great all-purpose potato. It is also the best tasting russet we have ever trialed, suited to every method of cooking - baked, fried, mashed, roasted. But it's especially good baked because the thin skin becomes light and crispy."

The Natural Blush, both men said, has exceptional flavor, and Wall said it's "phenomenal mashed." The round potato has a cream-colored skin, white flesh and pink-hued eyes. The Natural Blush is packed in five-pound poly bags for retail.

Uniquely oval, the Crimson Sunset has smooth, red skin with very shallow eyes and pale yellow flesh. It retains its firm texture when cooked, which makes it equally suitable for broiling, grilling, steaming and baking.

Both the Petite Merlot and Petite Chardonnay are, as implied by their names, smaller sized than the other new varieties. The Petite Merlot is similar to a fingerling but more oval, and its red skin and pale yellow flesh have good eye appeal. This new variety has great storage qualities, and it is packed in 2.5- and five-pound poly bags and in 14-ounce microwave and oven-safe trays.

The Petite Chardonnay, also available in 2.5-pound consumer poly bags and 14-ounce microwave and oven-safe trays, is a versatile addition to any meal with bright yellow skin and pale yellow flesh. It maintains its firm texture and can be broiled, boiled, grilled, steamed or roasted.

"All of our varieties have been chosen based on their superb taste and cooking qualities," Yeager said. Wall added that criteria also include agronomics - how well the potatoes produce and store v. cost to do so and if they are sustainable - as well as appearance.

"The specialty potato category is growing rapidly," Wall said, adding that consumers are responding well to "the wealth of choices."

The Rooster expands consumer choices even more - "It's not a red. It's not a russet. It's a Rooster, and we have it as conventional and organic," Yeager said.

The unique qualities of the Rooster make it a standout among potatoes, the men said. "It has pink skin and cream-colored flesh with a nutty, buttery taste," Yeager said. Wall added, "The flavor is just amazing. It is the taste that sells this potato, absolutely."

Roosters are packed in 2.2 and 4.4-pound pillow packs under the "Rooster" label. Yeager said the Expo packing facility, one of five in the FFD group in the San Luis Valley, is adding nearly 20,000 square feet of production area with two of the latest state-of-the-art packing lines to accommodate the specialty packaging.

He noted that teaming with Albert Bartlett is a win/win for both operations. FFD is a leader in U.S. potato growers with ongoing expansion of its products; it introduced the PotatOH microwavable line of Express Bake PotatOH, Express Bake Sweet PotatOH and Express Bake PotatOH Fingerling Medley several years ago and continues to add to and improve the value-added category. Albert Bartlett, founded more than 60 years ago, accounts for one out of every five fresh potatoes sold in the United Kingdom

"We bring these new varieties at a value," Yeager said. "We're launching them at competitive prices."

With its farms in Colorado, Nevada, Nebraska and Kansas, Farm Fresh has also enlarged its geographical presence with operations in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. As it produces internationally, it ships to other countries as well.

"We are developing varieties to go to Mexico," Yeager said. He said, "We want all of our customers to know they have flexibility to call us with their needs. We can build trucks to fill every order."