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Two new dehydration facilities in North Carolina to open, another possible

DEHYDRATION-SWEET-POTATOES1North Carolina is the nation’s leading grower of both sweet potatoes and tobacco, and two or possibly three new facilities opening Sept. 30 and in the second quarter of 2015 will build on both products to create new markets for farmers. The new companies will be located in Farmville and Nashville, and possibly Goldsboro, in eastern North Carolina where about half of U.S. sweet potatoes are grown.

The plants will produce dried sweet potatoes — sliced, diced or ground into flour — and juices that will compete in the $60 billion global health and wellness beverage market, the $143 billion U.S. healthy foods market and the global pet food market, expected to reach $74.8 billion by 2017.DEHYDRATION-SWEETSue Johnson-Langdon, executive director of the N.C. Sweet Potato Commission poses at its offices in Benson, NC, with chips, triscuits, pancake mix, baby food and other sweet potato value-added products that have expanded sales. The U.S. grows less than 1 percent of the world’s sweet potatoes, one analyst asserted, but imports have raised food-safety concerns that make U.S. domestic production more competitive.

An estimated 60 percent of North Carolina’s sweet potato growers also grow tobacco. There are about 1,800 tobacco farms in the state, employing 30,000 workers picking 400 million pounds of tobacco a year.

The original idea behind the facilities, first hatched in 2011 by researchers at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, is that farmers could use sweet potatoes as a crop in tandem with tobacco.

Sue Johnson-Langdon, executive director of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission in Benson, NC, said the new facilities will allow Tar Heel growers to compete with Chinese imports used in pet food and animal feed produced in the United States. She estimates that 25 percent to 30 percent of the sweet potatoes grown here are not harvested, or are culled out during processing because they are too big, too small or misshapen.

“The dehydration facilities will provide a value-added process that enables the entire sweet potato crop to be sold and used,” Johnson-Langdon said. She noted that value-added processes have improved sweet potato sales since 2001, as sweet potato chips and fries were added, along with microwaveable sweet potatoes, sweet potato vodka and beer, and even a sweet potato health drink.   

Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients operations in Nashville will be managed by Universal Leaf North America, a tobacco company subsidiary. John W. Kimber assumed duties in February as chief operating officer. For the past 13 years he was project manager of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission Foundation in Benson, where he secured and managed $2 million in public grants.

CIFI is a business-to-business operation, and has no plans to offer its own consumer products, Kimber said in a Sept. 15 interview. The company plans to start operations in the second quarter of 2015, spending $19 million over the first two years on new state-of-the-art facilities and hiring 64 employees when full production is reached.

Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration LLC in Farmville, NC, will be managed by Ham Produce Co. in Snow Hill, NC. It will begin operations with an opening ceremony Sept. 30. Ham Produce will invest $12 million over next three years and create 57 jobs with average annual salaries of $38,123 plus benefits (average annual wage in Pitt County is $33,769, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce).

"Since we bought the Farmville facility in 2009, it has been our goal to bring jobs back to Farmville," Stacy Ham, vice president of Ham Produce, told The Produce News in an interview.

The potential operation in Goldsboro is still in the planning stages at Lansing Trade Group in Maumee, OH, and officials there declined to say when or even whether it would be launched. Lansing buys and sells commodities including whole grains, feed ingredients, energy products and freight in North America and internationally.

Love Beets unveils new branding as beet trend grows

lovebeetsLove Beets, a line of premium, all-natural, ready-to-eat beets, announced a company-wide rebranding campaign, featuring a fresh new look that more accurately reflects the brand's whimsical approach to preparing and eating beets. Its new, state-of-the-art packaging better aligns with its commitment to providing consumers with the best-tasting, highest-quality products. The new branding will hit shelves this month and will continue to roll out nationwide through the end of the year.

Love Beets' aesthetic shines a spotlight on both the brand's upbeat, cheeky personality and the beet itself, and challenges age-old stereotypes around eating this notoriously intimidating vegetable. The brand's logo, vibrant color pallet and signature smiley faces found on the front of its packages make beets approachable and remind consumers why they should incorporate this trending superfood into their daily diet.

"The creative evolution of Love Beets really brings to life the idea that beets are modern, fun and can be enjoyed by consumers of all ages," George Shropshire, vice president of Love Beets, said in a press release. "We're excited to reveal a whole new look and technology that make beets a hassle-free experience and even easier to snack on whenever, wherever."

Updated packaging for Love Beets products also adds greater visibility and accessibility for consumers on shelf and at home. Innovations include the following:

  • Marinated Baby Beets in five flavors: New packs feature state-of-the-art peel-and-seal technology to keep each beet fresher for longer and allow for easier portioning and storage across meals, snacks and recipes. The packs now stand upright and may be opened and closed several times.
  • Vacuum-Packed Cooked Beets (two varieties):  A new and improved seal keeps beet juices locked in and reduces the risk of refrigerator messes.
  • Beet Juices (three flavors): Beet Juice, Super Tasty and a new Organic Beet Juice boast new, sleek container designs and sizes. Consumers will now be able to choose a 14-ounce re-usable glass bottle or a larger 20-ounce plastic bottle, all available in late November.
  • Club Pack (two varieties): Labels have also been re-imagined with a series of delicious recipes and directions for how to prepare beets.

Love Beets' newly designed website and social platforms feature highly interactive and responsive sections, rich imagery and a lifestyle blog that will highlight health benefits of beets and their many uses — from salads and entrees to smoothies and desserts.

Love Beets' products are available in more than 6,500 retailers nationwide and in Canada.

Domex Superfresh Growers launches apple recipe sweepstakes

Domex Superfresh Growers, a global leader in the growing and shipping of fresh apples, pears, cherries and apricots, continues to provide retailers with innovative tools to connect with consumers with the launch of a new social media promotion called “Your Awesome Apple Recipe Sweepstakes.”DSG PressReleaseImage-01

Domex will offer a suite of in-store and online partnership opportunities, including ready-to-post social content, pre-designed point-of-sale materials and co-sponsored #EatApples Twitter parties.

“Domex Superfresh Growers is focused on creating more meaningful consumer connections and building a more powerful social partnership with our retail partners both in-store and online with delicious fruit and great content," Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex, said in a press release. "Consumer-focused marketing programs like our 'Your Awesome Apple Recipe Sweepstakes' paired with proven category business intelligence is one of the many tools we offer to our retail partners to help them prepare for the changing demands of the modern marketplace. ”

“Your Awesome Apple Recipe Sweepstakes” utilizes the Superfresh hashtag #EatApples and the company’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest social properties to connect consumers to apple recipes, new usage ideas and messages about health, wellness and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The photo sharing sweepstakes will start Sept. 15 and end Oct. 31.

To enter, consumers are asked to upload an original photo to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest showing off their favorite apple recipe or usage idea. The image caption should include the hashtag #EatApples and the company should be tagged @Superfreshgrowers.  

Through a random drawing held in mid-November, three winners will be announced. One Grand Prize winner will receive $1,000, one first prize winner will receive $500 and one second prize winner shall receive $250.

Retailers who would like to find out more about “Your Awesome Apple Recipe Sweepstakes” and other potential partnership opportunities should contact Nager at
The promotion landing page can be found at

Dave Howald joins Pear Bureau Northwest staff

Pear Bureau Northwest announced that Dave Howald has joined the company as the regional marketing manager responsible for the Western United States territory.

Howald brings a 31-year history of retail marketing, merchandising and sales experience to the Pear Bureau, having lent his expertise to produce organizations including RFT Freshsource, the California Strawberry Advisory Board, Chiquita and the California Iceberg Lettuce Commission.Dave-Howald-Pear-Bureau-NorDave Howald For the past 22 years, he has served as retail marketing director for the California Avocado Commission, where he developed and implemented customized strategies for grocery accounts that included Albertson’s, King Soopers, Safeway, Winco, Raley’s and Kroger.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to join the Pear Bureau Northwest and am eager to apply my expertise to contribute to an already dynamic team,” Howald said in a press release.  “I look forward to using the Pear Bureau’s robust proprietary and third-party data assets to increase my accounts’ knowledge of the pear category to improve marketing and merchandising techniques and grow sales.”

“Dave’s extensive produce industry experience will be of immediate value to Western U.S. retailers," Kevin Moffitt, Pear Bureau Northwest president and chief executive officer, said in the press release. "He will be a tremendous asset to his accounts as they improve the success of their pear category. Dave will also add value to the Pear Bureau team and the pear industry in the Northwest as a whole.”

Howald studied public relations at California State University Long Beach, and he lives in El Dorado Hills, CA, with his wife, Patti. He has served on the board of directors for the Fresh Produce & Floral Council and the Buy California Marketing Agreement, and has also served on advisory committees for organizations like the Produce for Better Health Foundation.  He was honored as a fellow in the United Fresh Produce Association’s Leadership program sponsored by DuPont in 2004. He volunteers his time with the El Dorado Hills CC&R Citizens Advisory Committee and continues to serve on the FPFC Northern California Committee.

Kroger donates 50 million pounds of fresh food

kroggeeThe Kroger Co. donated more than 50 million pounds of fresh meat, produce, dairy and bakery items to local Feeding America food banks in 2013 through its groundbreaking Perishable Donations Partnership — enough bread, meat, cheese and produce to lay 3,700 miles of Kroger's classic deli sandwiches side-by-side from Washington, DC, through Houston to southern Oregon.

This also equates to more than 25,000 tons of perishable food waste diverted away from landfills and incinerators last year.

Coinciding with Hunger Action Month, Feeding America's month-long campaign to inspire individuals to take action to help end hunger in their communities, Kroger is raising awareness about food insecurity with customers and associates throughout September through social media, store signage and more.

Kroger's Fred Meyer division pioneered the Perishable Donations Partnership about 10 years ago. Stores partnered with local food banks in the Pacific Northwest to collect fresh food and properly store it so it could be quickly shipped to reach hungry families. Kroger adopted Fred Meyer's model and worked with Feeding America to develop food-safety and quality control standards, and trained associates to facilitate the program in their stores.

Scaled across Kroger's family of stores beginning in 2008, Kroger's Perishable Donations Partnership program depends on store associates taking the time every day to identify meat, produce, dairy and bakery items that can no longer be sold yet remain safe, fresh and nutritious complements to dry goods donations to food banks.

"Our associates bring our Perishable Donations Program to life," Lynn Marmer, Kroger's group vice president of corporate affairs, said in a press release. "Every day in our stores, individual associates rescue healthy, nutritious fruits, vegetables and proteins to be quickly distributed to feed hungry families through Feeding America's network of food banks."

As a founding partner of Feeding America, one of the nation's larger domestic hunger agencies, Kroger has been engaged in the hunger relief effort for more than 30 years. Today, the Kroger family of stores has longstanding relationships with more than 100 local food banks. The company's total contribution to food banks exceeds 200 million meals annually — or 4 million meals every week — when combining perishable foods, dry goods and funds.

More information on Kroger's year-round effort to alleviate hunger is available at