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Fresh Solutions Network LLC establishes 'Side Delights' brand

Fresh Solutions Network LLC announced the establishment of the "Side Delights" brand as a powerful new full-line player in the fresh potato category. As a result, Fresh Solutions Network will be rebranding many of its existing potato offerings to bring them under the "Side Delights" master brand, including its Steamables, Bakeables, Grillables and Gourmet Petite potato products.10lbFamilyShot

The "Side Delights" name is a result of extensive consumer testing, with the goal of maximizing consumer appeal while forging an emotional connection with shoppers that will benefit the entire potato category. The brand name is rooted in the fact that 80 percent of fresh potatoes are consumed as a side dish, while “Delights” reminds consumers of how much their family enjoys eating potatoes as well as reinforcing the quality of the products grown by the owner-operated farms of Fresh Solution Networks.

The Side Delights packaging design itself is grounded in research conducted by the United States Potato Board, which found that consumers wanted potato type, size and origin clearly identified to make their shopping easier.  In addition, consumers desired recipes and serving suggestions on potato packaging, and responded more favorably to packages that featured images of prepared potato dishes.

“Our Side Delights lineup will bring new energy to the potato category, complementing retailer brands while providing a consistent appearance with compelling graphic design across the other offerings at the potato table” Kathleen Triou, president and chief executive officer of Fresh Solutions Network, said in a press release. “In addition, the establishment of a master brand allows us to deliver stronger support to our retail customers, as it focuses all of our marketing activities around a single, memorable brand that their shoppers can look for.”

The Side Delights introduction will be supported by an extensive digital campaign, including an engaging consumer-focused website loaded with recipes, preparation suggestions and information on the farms and farming families that make up the Fresh Solution Network. The full line of Side Delight offerings will be available for shipment beginning in September, and retailers should expect to see more additions to the brand’s lineup down the road. 

“The consolidation of our existing offerings under the 'Side Delights' brand name is just the first chapter in this success story,” Triou said in the release. “We have a number of other innovations in our pipeline, and they will be even more effective at generating added sales for our retail customers when we introduce them as line extensions to the 'Side Delights' master brand.”

SunFed Produce names Brett Burdsal to marketing post

SunFed Produce, based in Rio Rico, AZ, has hired Brett Burdsal as director of marketing, a new position.

Burdsal told The Produce News "this is a phenomenal opportunity with a company with such a great reputation for growing unbelievably high-quality produce," adding that working with SunFed's highly-professional staff "will make my job easy."

Burdsal was hired away from Columbia Marketing International, based in Wenatchee, WA, to "take SunFed to the next level," including working more closely with both consumers and retailers, he said.

SunFed's approach to produce retailers will not only involve "marketing, but category management, as well."

"Retail buyers and wholesalers know who we are because of the 20-year reputation of Danny Mandel," who is SunFed's president and chief executive officer. On the other hand, consumers don't necessarily know the "SunFed" brand, Burdsal said. For SunFed to be a household name, the proper packaging and market outreach is necessary.

"My job is to communicate with consumers, and also retailers, and to be a true partner on a lot of items."

SunFed "has an incredible story" to be told regarding its organic products. The firm "also has a lot of product that is certified as Fair Trade and it is all non-GMO. These are all stories to bring to consumers."

Other stories to be told involve the careful selection of varieties for flavor and relating how Mexico is such an important produce supplier for the U.S. market. In addition to Mexico, SunFed sources produce out of the Dominican Republic and Guatemala. 

Burdsal said the key commodities shipped by SunFed are squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and Bell peppers.

California Grape & Tree Fruit League changes name to California Fresh Fruit Association

The California Grape & Tree Fruit League has officially changed its name to the California Fresh Fruit Association, an identity its members believe better defines the broad types of commodities it represents.

The California Fresh Fruit Association will formally present its new name to executive and legislative officials its annual fruit delivery Aug. 12 in Sacramento. And to celebrate this important milestone, an evening reception with government officials and California Fresh Fruit Association members will follow.

The membership-based organization is one of the oldest agricultural trade associations in California, dating back to 1936 with the merger between the California Growers & Shippers Protective League and the California Grape Growers & Shippers Association.

The possibility of a name change was presented by the association's Strategic Planning Committee in 2013 upon the completion of its five-year strategic plan. Members were approached by the board of directors to consider a new name that would encompass more of the commodities it represents, such as fresh grapes, blueberries, and deciduous tree fruits like peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, pears, apples, cherries, figs, kiwis, pomegranates and persimmons. In summary, the association represents the state's permanent fresh fruit crops with the exception of citrus and avocados.

With support from the board of directors and the organization's nearly 350 members, the California Fresh Fruit Association proceeds with business as usual under its new name, advocating for fresh fruit growers, shippers and marketers. The association's headquarters will remain in Fresno, CA.

"While undergoing a name change is no easy task, little has changed as we've made sure to continue with our responsibilities as usual," Barry Bedwell, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association, said in a press release. "As we began the process, we wanted to proceed with a name that accurately represents our members and the commodities they provide. We couldn't be happier with our selection. California Fresh Fruit Association is exactly who we are and what we represent."


Cold Train ceases expedited intermodal service in Washington

On Aug. 7, Cold Train Express Intermodal Service announced it would be suspending service at its location at the Port of Quincy, WA. Cold Train, operated by Rail Logistics of Overland Park, KS, developed a transportation model which allowed fresh producers in the Pacific Northwest to take advantage of refrigerated rail service that moved commodities to Chicago, IL, and points beyond in a timely and efficient manner.

The port provided the physical facility, rail track, rail siding and loading equipment. Cold Train owned the containers and worked with producers to load and deliver commodities to the port.

The facility includes one million square feet of cold storage warehousing providing perishable and produce shippers with distribution, cross-dock and storage capacity in and out of Washington. Cold Train had an established track record moving fresh commodities such as apples, potatoes and onions.

Cole Jessup, who handles domestic sales at Columbia Marketing International in Wenatchee, WA, provided some producer insights to The Produce News on Aug. 8, hours after the announcement was made.

ColdTrainDuring a special work session held in January, members of the Washington State House Transportation Committee met with officials to discuss cost effective, efficient shipment of Washington apples into the Midwest. Seen here are Pat Boss representing the Port of Quincy and Cold Train, Pat Connelly representing the Port of Quincy, Cole Jessup representing Columbia Marketing International and Mike Durfee representing Diamond Logistics Northwest. (Photo courtesy of Cold Train Express Intermodal Service)“One minute, we have things up and running. The next minute we don’t. It really puts us in a bind just because transportation has been such a big issue over the years,” he stated. “Cold Train was a fantastic service. We just got the news yesterday afternoon. We are looking at a big crop for pears and apples and need all the transportation options available.”

According to data made available by Cold Train, use of intermodal transportation was growing from the Pacific Northwest. During 2010, Cold Train moved approximately 100 containers of perishables per month from Washington to the Midwest. By 2013, that number had risen to approximately 700 containers per month shipped from Washington and Portland, OR.

By the end of 2013, Cold Train anticipated it would be shipping 1,000 containers each month from the region.

Jessup said Cold Train made significant infrastructure investments at the Port of Quincy, and the service was invaluable to CMI. “Getting fruit to the market has been a chore, especially in the winter,” he continued, adding the trucking industry continues to suffer from a lack of available trucks and drivers.

CMI, he went on to say, is watching developments closely to see what action Cold Train may be able to take to restore service in the future. Jessup said CMI will continue to use Railex service to move fruit.

“The announcement by Cold Train follows a number of scheduling issues on BNSF Railway’s Northern Corridor line that have been occurring with BNSF beginning late last fall because of increased rail congestion as result of a surge of oil and coal shipments on the Northern Corridor line,” Cold Train said in a statement. “In fact, from November of 2013 to April of 2014, BNSF’s On-Time Percentage dramatically dropped from an average of over 90 percent to less than 5 percent.”

This past April, BSNF Railway announced an initial reduction in intermodal service out of Washington to one train a day with transit times being two to three days slower than prior timetables.

“As a result of the scheduling change in April, the rail transit time nearly doubled,” Cold Train stated. “Unfortunately, this caused Cold Train’s costs of equipment, fuel and other costs to double, and caused many customers — especially fresh produce shippers — to look for other transportation service options. In fact, because of BNSF’s scheduling issues from November of 2013 until present, Cold Train lost most of its fresh produce business, including apples, onions, pears, potatoes, carrots and cherries, which was more than 70 percent of the company’s business. In addition to adversely impacting many Washington State fresh produce growers and shippers, BNSF’s scheduling changes have affected many retailers and wholesalers in the Midwest and East Coast that purchase Washington State fresh produce and frozen foods.”


N.J. officials celebrate Farmers Market Week

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials marked Farmers Market Week on Wednesday, Aug. 6 with a visit to the Bordentown City Farmers Market in Bordentown City, NJ.

Gov. Chris Christie proclaimed Aug. 3-9, 2014 as Farmers Market Week in New Jersey and  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, likewise, proclaimed the week National Farmers Market Week to remind consumers to visit these markets this summer and fall.

Hlubik-Farms-BoothNew Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher with Paul Hlubik, a Burlington County farmer and State Director of USDA Farm Service Agency, at the Hlubik Farm booth at the Burlington City Farmers Market."The Department of Agriculture encourages New Jersey residents to support community farmers markets and our state's agriculture industry," Secretary Fisher said in a press release. "Farmers markets like the Bordentown City market not only provide access to the freshest Jersey Fresh produce, but act as a neighborhood gathering place where people can meet the farmers who grow their food, exchange recipes using the fruits and vegetables and have an enjoyable time."

Secretary Fisher was joined at the market by James Harmon, USDA Food & Nutrition Service director of special nutrition programs; Paul Hlubik, state director of USDA Farm Service Agency; and other state, county and local officials.

"USDA is pleased to see the farmers market sector mature and grow here in the Garden State, seeding new business opportunities for farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs," Harmon said in the release. "Farmers markets are often the first place consumers can meet their local farmers and are a building block for expanding local and regional food systems."

"The beauty of buying locally from your community farmers markets is that not only are you, the consumer, guaranteed some of the Garden State's freshest, most delicious, healthiest food choices at a convenient location and a competitive price, you also are contributing to the local economy," said Hlubik. "That farmer is your neighbor buying goods and services from other businesses in and around your local community, creating jobs, adding a scenic vista, contributing to a healthy environment — all keeping your community vibrant. In my two careers both in USDA and as a farmer, I'm dedicated to promoting your neighborhood farmer for generations to come."

There are 148 community farmers markets in New Jersey, eight of which are new this season. Farmers who attend these markets sell produce they've picked at the peak of ripeness within 24 hours of sale to ensure the best taste and highest quality. Many of the farmers accept WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers and SNAP food stamp cards.