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Retail View: Los Angeles market registers strong produce sales growth

The Los Angeles marketplace had very strong volume and dollar growth in fresh produce at retail over the last year, according to the latest Fresh Produce & Floral Council Market Report.

In the 12-month period ending July 1, retailers in the Los Angeles area (which includes Orange County and the Inland Empire) had an 8 percent gain in retail dollars and 3 percent gain in volume over the previous year's numbers. While retailers in California as a whole also had strong dollar growth (7 percent), the state registered only a 1 percent gain in sales. Los Angeles exhibited the greatest increase in volume and dollars of the four markets (San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento) compared in the report.

The FPFC Market Report is a member benefit produced each quarter by Fusion Marketing in Chatsworth, CA, and is designed to give retailers, wholesalers and shippers both a snapshot and comparison look at the California fresh produce retail scene.

The data presented come from many stores in each market. The Los Angeles information comes from four counties and includes 2,825 stores. More than 1,000 stores are surveyed in the San Francisco Bay Area, while over 500 stores provide information for both the San Diego and San Francisco markets.

The comparison data for California as a whole includes all of the stores in each of these individual markets as well as many stores in outlying areas. For the California data, 8,701 stores provide the scan data that is utilized in preparing the report.

FPFC members can look at the data and note growth or declines in many different commodities and the four markets to gauge against their own sales data.

For example, the report shows that pineapple dollar sales have grown for nine straight quarters. While this can partially be explained by a consistent increase in market price, volume growth is also on an upward trend.

The numbers show that for the 12-month period, fresh fruit in Los Angeles accounted for 52 percent of total produce sales while vegetables added 45 percent and the "other" category chipped in 3 percent. These percentages were fairly consistent across all four markets, though in Sacramento vegetable sales outpaced fruit by 49 to 48 percent.

Sales of organic produce in California continue to grow. The numbers for the state show an increase in dollar sales for fruit from 4.7 percent to 6.1 percent during the 12 months ending with the first day of July. Vegetables were even more impressive, jumping from a market share of 7.5 percent to 9.6 percent. Los Angeles trails the state a bit in this category, as organic vegetable dollar sales check in at 5.1 percent with fruit dollar sales being noted at 8.6 percent.

Not surprisingly, San Francisco is the most organic-friendly market in the state. Organic fruit sales account for 11.9 percent of that category while vegetables top 9 percent.

According to data in this latest FPFC Market Report, pineapple has seen a significant increase in volume sales in all four California markets despite higher prices.

Among some of the interesting data that surfaced while perusing the Los Angeles data is that bagged salads, though one of the more expensive vegetable items at an average of almost $4.40 per item, continue to show strong growth.

During the quarter that ended June 30, bagged salads accounted for 10 percent of fresh vegetable sales and about 3.5 percent of volume, reflecting the higher per-ounce cost of this value-added item. Those numbers represented a 16 percent increase in volume and a 23 percent increase in dollars over the previous year.

Sweet corn volume also grew in that quarter for the first time in two years. Corn sales are predictably on a roller coaster ride over the course of the year depending upon the season. But in quarter two of 2014, volume sales increased 5 percent over the previous year.

On the fruit side, grapes, melons, peaches, nectarines and pineapples also showed significant gains in quarter two of 2014 in the Los Angeles over the same period a year earlier.

According to the report, the Top 10 retail produce items for Q2 (quarter two) in the Los Angeles market, as determined by a combination of dollar sales, volume, sales, growth and seasonality, were grapes, melons, nectarines, peaches, pineapples, bagged salads, corn, cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes.

These items were fairly consistent across the four markets surveyed, though there were a few differences. For example, in San Diego and Sacramento onions made the top 10 instead of lettuce. The San Francisco Top 10 included berries, melons, greens and kale.

As one can imagine the Top 10 lists are not just based on sales but a combination of all of the aforementioned factors.

Kale's inclusion in San Francisco is not just a bid to be trendy. Sales of this item continue to impress. In the 52-week period ending in late June, the volume of kale sales in San Francisco increased 72 percent while the dollar increase was 64 percent. As one might expect, the tremendous increase in kale volume has led to a small decline in the sales price. On average, the retail price shrunk 4.6 percent in those 12 months.

Kale's popularity was evident in each of the four markets with both dollar sales and volume up at least 59 percent in each market.

Sales data also confirmed that several other trendy items deserve their elevated spots in food magazines. In Los Angeles, both dollar sales and volume of beets were up close to 30 percent in the past year, while Brussels sprouts enjoyed a 22 percent increase in dollars and more than a 10 percent climb in volume.

California continues to be a market dominated by bulk sales, as exhibited by a closer look at the Los Angeles numbers.

Random weight (RW) made up the majority of fruit category sales, contributing more than two-thirds of dollars and 80 percent of volume. Fixed weight (FW) and RW dollars each grew at 7 percent, but RW volume growth of 3 percent outpaced FW by 2 points. RW vegetables contributed just over half of vegetable category dollars and 62 percent of volume. FW volume declined 1 percent, but dollars increased by 9 percent. RW vegetables exhibited growth in both dollars and volume, up 7 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

In terms of market share of dollars, the traditional items remain the most popular. During the 12 months ending June 30, bananas topped dollar sales in the fruit category, followed by melons, apples, nectarines, berries and grapes. The vegetable side was led by potatoes, tomatoes, onions and lettuce.

The detailed report is available through the FPFC website to members only.

Duda Farm Fresh Foods to have innovation on display at PMA Fresh Summit

Duda Farm Fresh Foods is planning multiple activities at PMA Fresh Summit this year including launching a new line of ready-to-eat radishes.

"Duda is all about innovation and doing things differently and we want to bring that fresh approach to everything we do at PMA," Nichole Towell, director of marketing for the Oviedo, FL-based company, said in a press release.Duda-Radish-Group "Our theme this is year is 'Dandy Delivers -- quality, safety, service and innovation.'"

At the show, Duda will introduce Ready to Eat Radishes, a line of three fresh-cut radish products, and will feature the items as ingredients in award-winning original recipes in booth No. 2430.

"We saw an opportunity to innovate in the radish category - offering new forms with compelling product benefits. After exploring billions of potential combinations for new radish products we chose the top three, as items consumers would purchase with the most amount of frequency," Towell said in the press release. "We built our program around Ready Radishes, which are cut, trimmed and ready to eat, along with Radish Coins and Radish MiniSticks. Our research shows these products will entice the radish lover and the younger non-radish user who may be discouraged from using the item due to prep and unfamiliarity."

On Oct. 18, Chef Todd Fisher will be serving Ciabatta and Burrata with Dandy Radish Mini Sticks & Celery Crudo, his award-winning Lemon Grass Steamed Chicken Bahn Mi with Celery and Radish Mini Stick Quickles, and Dandy Citrus Tartlets with Burnt Meringue.

On Oct. 19, the chef will serve Grilled Tombo Tuna Tacos with a Dandy Radish Mini Stick and Black Garlic Slaw, Lemon Grass Steamed Chicken Bahn Mi with Celery and Radish Mini Stick Quickles, and Dandy Meyer Lemon Panna Cota with Clementine Conserva.

Duda is part of #TeamFreshSummit, a social street team project that invited 16 food bloggers to blog live from the PMA show floor. Duda is paired with Carly Morgan from Ever Clever Mom and Megan Myers from Stetted, who will each blog for two hours on Saturday and Sunday.

"We look forward to the new eyes and experience the bloggers will bring to the show," Towell added in the press release. "We understand and appreciate the power of bloggers and we are excited to have these bloggers act as 'Dandy' brand ambassadors and create a positive association for the whole fresh produce industry."

Tasteful Selections to open new facility in November

In just five years, Tasteful Selections, a specialty potato brand from Bakersfield, CA-based RPE, has grown so much that it is now expanding from its original location to a bigger facility.

The new Tasteful Selections facility in Bakersfield is expected to open around the end of November, just in time to handle the holiday rush and increased volume. The 200,000-square-foot facility is completely dedicated to grading and packaging Tasteful Selections specialty potatoes. Not only will the new facility increase production capacity from eight packaging lines to 12, but it will double the capacity for washing potatoes.

Additionally, the new facility will have more shipping docks and improved refrigeration and storage using European-style storage bins. Water processes have also been redesigned so that all water used in the facility is reused either for washing more potatoes or is applied to nearby farmland.

“The brand new facility will help us give our customers and consumers the best possible experience with our potatoes,” said Russell Wysocki, president and chief executive officer of RPE. “With the added production area, we’re ready to help customers meet whatever consumer demand for specialty potatoes there is.”

The new, fully automated Tasteful Selections facility will improve workflow, as well as the overall quality and shelf life of potatoes for customers, which will ultimately create a better experience for consumers, according to the company press release.

“The amount of success we have experienced with Tasteful Selections is unprecedented,” explained Wysocki. “Because of the constantly increasing consumer demand, the new expanded facility in Bakersfield was needed to help us meet the needs and fill the orders of all our customers. Tasteful Selections has provided 50 percent incremental growth for our customers and we are committed to meeting their needs.”

The newest addition to the Tasteful Selections line, organic baby potatoes, will be officially unveiled in the New Product Showcase at PMA Fresh Summit, Oct. 17-19 in Anaheim, CA.

Tasteful Selections LLC is a joint venture of RPE, CSS Farms and Plover River Farms Alliance Inc. It is a vertically integrated grower, shipper and marketer of premium specialty potatoes.

Intergrow Greenhouses expansion ready for winter production

Intergrow Greenhouses Inc., based in Albion, NY, has nearly completed its recent expansion and addition of growing lights in the greenhouse for winter production. The expansion will increase Intergrow's total acreage to approximately 80 acres of greenhouse under glass in the Northeast region.intelog

Intergrow installed approximately 9,000 light fixtures in the greenhouse for its winter production. The addition of lights will enable Intergrow to supply its customers with locally grown tomatoes 12 months of the year without the need to source from other regions or countries.

A new Cogeneration-CHP generator will be added to assist in the electrical demand for the growing lights. The packinghouse facilities are also upgraded with new automated systems to handle the increased production.

"The demand for year-round locally grown produce justified the substantial investment needed to grow tomatoes during the winter months in New York," Kris Gibson, vice president of sales and marketing for Intergrow, said in a press release. "Warm weather and sunlight are in limited supply during the Northeast winters, but with the addition of lights we can now create optimal growing conditions year-round. Our customers will be able to have locally grown tomatoes on the vine and beefsteak tomatoes delivered within 24 hours of harvest providing the freshest tomatoes possible, even in the middle of winter."

Intergrow Greenhouses Inc. is one of the larger greenhouse tomato producers in the Northeast, located in New York state along the shores of Lake Ontario. Founded in 1998, Intergrow ships across the Northeast and Midwest with its own fleet of reefer trailers, reducing food miles for retailers and distributors.

Sunkist kicks off citrus season with new retail initiatives

Autumn means brisk fall weather and the return of Sunkist citrus season. In Booth No. 2038 at this year’s PMA Fresh Summit expo in Anaheim, CA, Sunkist Growers will be encouraging trade customers to celebrate the season with the vibrant colors and tastes of citrus.

“Leaves are turning and days are getting shorter, but with the winter comes Sunkist citrus — bringing a taste of California sunshine to the cold winter months,” Joan Wickham, Sunkist advertising and public relations manager, said in a press release.01 Sunkist-Growers-logo “We are looking forward to kicking off our 2014-15 growing season at this year’s Fresh Summit to showcase our new initiatives, packaging and point-of-sale materials for our trade partners.”

Bright, juicy and sweet, Sunkist Navel orange season begins in mid-October. To help retailers capitalize on seasonal consumer enthusiasm for this seedless orange, Sunkist is offering its decorative holiday 10-pound cartons and a new 2015 “Year of the Sheep” Lunar New Year carton, perfect for building festive, eye-catching displays in store.

Sunkist will also debut its "Sesame Street"-themed packaging, created as part of the cooperative’s participation in the Produce Marketing Association and Sesame Workshop’s “eat brighter!” movement. The newly designed 10-pound Navel orange carton and polybag, as well as a Giro-bag for easy-peel Mandarins — a kid-friendly favorite — will be on display at Sunkist’s booth. The colorful, eye-catching packaging will allow retailers to showcase the beloved "Sesame Street" characters to encourage families to eat more fresh produce.

For the first time, Sunkist is will be making its popular hockey program available across North America, allowing U.S. customers to partake in the program — which has been very successful in Canada. Hockey-themed Navel orange packaging, including 10-pound cartons, variable weight Giro bags and four-pound net bags, as well as optional account specific program overlays, will be available for retailers drive sales and capitalize on hockey fan enthusiasm during citrus season.

Showcasing Sunkist citrus as an ingredient, Chef Jill Davie will be serving up a Sunkist Flatiron Steak with Citrus Spiked Butter Beans featuring Sunkist Navel oranges and limes and Sunkist Lemon Shrimp, Bacon & Avocado Toasts, demonstrating the versatility of lemons in cooking.

From cooking to décor, lemons are a versatile household staple that is growing in demand. Sunkist is pleased to offer quality, fresh lemons year-round. At PMA Fresh Summit, Sunkist will highlight its many lemon offerings, including conventional, organic, Meyer and seedless. Whether displayed in bulk or packaged in bright, convenient pouch and net bags, Sunkist lemons shine on the shelf and in the fridge.

Grapefruit refreshments will also be served at the booth to promote Sunkist’s “Not Your Mother’s Grapefruit” campaign, aimed at putting a modern twist on grapefruit to inspire millennial consumers to eat more of this delicious, nutrient-rich fruit. A refreshing, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice will be served in the morning and a Sunkist Grapefruit IPA Twist cocktail will be sampled in the afternoon, highlighting current mixology trends.

Lil Snappers kid-size fruit will also be featured at Sunkist’s PMA Fresh Summit booth. Lil Snappers kid-size fruit is premium fruit great for lunches, treats and snacks and packaged in three-pound re-sealable stand-up pouch bags. In conjunction with Stemilt Growers, the two companies offer over 20 Lil Snappers citrus, apple and pear varieties that are perfectly sized for little hands.

With over 40 citrus varieties, Sunkist will also preview its seasonal specialties that come into season during the winter months. Varieties such as Cara Cara Navel oranges, Moro (blood) oranges and Minneola tangelos are quickly growing in popularity among consumers, offering opportunities for retailers.

Visitors to the Sunkist booth will also be invited to learn more about the cooperative’s growers through Sunkist Family Stories, a campaign featuring the cooperative’s multigenerational farmers. Offering a glimpse into the life of today’s modern farmer, Sunkist Family Stories allows consumers to experience the dedication and care that go into growing fresh, premium Sunkist citrus.

“Consumers are interested in the where their produce comes from and how it is grown, providing an opportunity for retailers to educate consumers about the origins of their products,” Julie DeWolf, Sunkist director of retail marketing, said in the release. “As a cooperative of thousands of California and Arizona farmers, Sunkist has deep roots and many powerful stories to share about our growers. This season, we are excited to offer retailers customizable point-of-sale materials to bring these inspiring stories to life in-store and encourage purchase.”