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Kroger VP to retire after 43 years with company

Kroger’s Atlanta division announced the retirement of Charles Mitchell, vice president of operations. He has been with the company for 43 years.

Mitchell began his career with Kroger in 1972 as a management trainee in Atlanta. He held a variety of leadership roles in merchandising and operations, and has served in his current role of vice president of operations since 2009.Charles-MitchellCharles Mitchell

"Throughout his extraordinary career, Charles has been a strong contributor to the success of the Atlanta Division,” Bruce Lucia, Kroger’s Atlanta division president, said in a press release. “He has made a positive impact across our industry, and his knowledge and expertise will be greatly missed. We thank Charles for his many years of dedicated service and wish him and his wife, Toni, the very best in retirement."

“It has been a privilege to serve as Kroger's vice president of operations,” Mitchell said in the release. “I am grateful for the opportunities afforded to me, and to our associates for their commitment to Kroger customers.”

Mitchell is a graduate of Tuskegee University, and is active in the Atlanta and Kroger communities. He served in a leadership role in the grocer’s Multicultural Committee and Enterprise Diversity Committee, and is an active supporter of the United Negro College Fund, helping to raise more than $1 million to support the non-profit over the years.

Three companies barred from produce industry for at least two years

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited Super Save Market LLC, Super Aloha Ltd. and Cheung Chau Trading Inc., in Honolulu, HI, for failure to pay for produce.

Super Save Market LLC failed to pay $16,350 to two sellers for 19 lots of produce; Super Aloha Ltd. failed to pay $39,211 to two sellers for 21 lots of produce; and Cheung Chau Trading Inc. failed to pay $55,967 to one seller for 65 lots of produce. 

As a result of these violations of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, the three companies cannot operate in the produce industry until Oct. 21, 2017, at which time they may reapply for a PACA license.

Additionally, Nhi Tran, Janie Lo, Tony Liu and Soniya Liu may not be employed by or affiliated with any PACA licensee until Oct. 21, 2016, 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.

Cecelia Packing kicking off new year with premium citrus offerings

Cecelia Packing is gearing up for its Sky Valley Heirloom Navel season. The limited offering of these premium Navels will begin shipping in January and continue to early April.cara

Packaged under the Sky Valley brand and in their distinctive blue and orange four-pound bag, these premium heirloom Navels are known for their great flavor.

Sky Valley Heirloom Navels come from a single ranch developed in the 1930s. Grown in the shadow of Smith Mountain near Orange Cove, CA, the Sky Valley Navel delivers extraordinary flavor week after week during their season.

“We are anticipating an excellent crop to jump start the New Year,” Randy Jacobson, sales manager for Cecelia Packing, based in Orange Cove, said in a press release. “As we get closer to January, the sugar and acid levels in the fruit begin to rise creating the distinctive, incredibly orange flavor that Sky Valley is famous for.”

Cecelia Packing is now shipping Cara Caras through April. They are picked at the peak of flavor to ensure they have great taste and color. Cara Caras are high in Lycopene, a natural pigment with antioxidant qualities, which explains their signature pink interiors. Cara Caras are packed and shipped under the Cecelia label in full and half cartons and are available in three-, five- and eight-pound bags.

Cecelia Packing has also installed a new Brix sensor on its packing equipment. The new technology will allow for greater quality control on citrus products. The sensor can detect internal parameters of quality such as sugar content, dryness and internal physiological defects. 

US Foods expands footprint with acquisition

US Foods has agreed to acquire Dierks Waukesha in Waukesha, WI. This acquisition underscores the company’s commitment to growth, and mergers and acquisitions as a key path to continued growth. With this acquisition, US Foods substantially strengthens its presence in the upper Midwest.usfood

Family owned for three generations, Dierks Waukesha serves more than 3,500 customers throughout Wisconsin, northern Illinois, upper Michigan, and eastern Minnesota from fine dining restaurants and caterers to schools and institutional organizations.

Known as “The Fresh Guys,” the Dierks name has become synonymous with providing the freshest center of the plate items, produce and vegetables in the area. With approximately $120 million in annual sales, Dierks is one of the leading independent foodservice distributors in the region.

“Dierks has been a top foodservice provider for restaurants throughout the area since 1963 and you don’t stay in business that long without doing things right,” Russell Scott, Midwest region president of US Foods, said in a press release.  “We are excited to build on the great reputation of Dierks and introduce its customers to the innovative products and best-in-class marketing, technology and business solutions that have made US Foods an industry leader.”

US Foods will service customers throughout the region from both its distribution center in Menomonee Falls, WI, and the Dierks distribution center in Waukesha. The Dierks employees will be joining US Foods and will continue servicing customers throughout the area.

“We are excited to welcome the very talented Dierks team to the US Foods family,” Pietro Satriano, president and chief executive officer of US Foods, said in the release. “The addition of this great team and the new distribution center will allow us to better serve our customers throughout the area and positions us for continued growth throughout the region.”

Thomas Muehl, one of the owners of Dierks, and Kevin Musser, CEO of Dierks, will also be joining US Foods.  Both will play integral roles in the transition of the business so that it is as seamless as possible for customers.

“US Foods has a lot to offer both our customers and our employees,” said Muehl. “I’m excited that the Dierks team will now be a part of this great company and for our customers to gain access to the expanded offering from US Foods that is sure to help them be even more successful.”

The transaction is expected to close Dec. 31.  Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

CPMA launches education and training for industry

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Responding to member requests for industry training, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association has facilitated the development of online programs for the produce industry. CPMA has engaged members nationally and internationally in the development of meaningful and cost-effective training for the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for success in the produce industry. The first component of the program, the Produce Basics Certificate, was launched Dec. 16 at elearning.cpma.ca.

Certificate topics, delivered through online modules, include Professionalism, Communications, The Produce Supply Chain, Storage and Handling, Produce Identification, Product Knowledge, Food Safety and Food Safety Initiatives. The Produce Basics Certificate also includes evaluation through a final online exam to ensure certificates are issued only upon a demonstrated knowledge of content.

“The broad scope of the modules allow each learner to develop core competencies and apply that learning to their specific work context,” Eric Biddiscombe, CPMA director and senior category director at Loblaw Cos., said in a press release. “This program is perfect for newcomers to the industry, and I can see it becoming a key introductory piece for new hires.”

“Our industry deals with highly perishable goods on a daily basis, and this introductory certificate will educate industry on best practices to ensure produce is always the best quality for consumers,” Ron Lemaire, CPMA president, added in the press release. “At only $150 per participant, this program is a cost-effective way for companies to train staff on the unique needs of our industry. We look forward to expanding this program as we move forward with this initiative.”

Building on this introductory certificate, the CPMA is developing additional credentialing for various career levels. These additional program elements will be introduced in 2016.