The Fresh Market exiting California

The Fresh Market Inc., a growing specialty grocery retailer, will be exiting the California market. The stores will be closed to customers by March 31. The company also announced it will focus on growth opportunities in the eastern half of the United States, expecting to add nearly 20 stores this fiscal year.

“After careful consideration of expected future cash flows, the long-term strategic importance of individual stores, and the anticipated timeline of store openings in California, the company has decided to close its operations in California — which include stores in Palo Alto, Santa Barbara and Laguna Hills — in order to focus on higher growth opportunities,” the company said in a press release.

Despite the improving results of these stores in California, Fresh Market concluded that the pace of organic store growth was going to be slower than anticipated. The company believes it can achieve more consistent financial results and a better return on its investments by continuing to grow in markets within or closer to its existing markets at this time.

As a result of the store closures, the company anticipates additional charges in fiscal 2015 of approximately $20 million to $26 million related to the recognition of lease liabilities, asset disposals, severance and other costs associated with the closure of operations in California.

In 2015, the retailer plans to open approximately 19 new stores, with the majority of them opening in the latter part of the fiscal year. "These stores will be within or located close to our existing markets in the eastern half of the United States," Sean Crane, interim chief executive officer, said in a press release. "We are committed to building upon our strategic initiatives to continue to provide greater value for our customers, employees and shareholders.”


Retirement beckons Mission’s Dave Austin

Dave Austin, national director of marketing at Mission Produce Inc., announced that he would retire March 13 after a long and distinguished career in both the public and private sectors of agriculture.

Austin said that Robb Bertels, who has been with Oxnard, CA-based Mission Produce for about two years, will be taking over as national director of marketing.Austin1944Dave Austin

Austin, who will be 62 years old this April, joined Mission Produce in 2002, working from the Albany, NY, area. Before that, he had his own marketing company, called Austin Associates, which was headquartered in Albany, from 1997 to 2002. Mission was a client of his marketing company during those years.

From 1996 to 1997, Austin was director of business development at Agway Inc. in Syracuse, NY. Before that, from 1973 to 1995, Austin was chief marketing manager at the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets in Albany.

Austin, who was born in April 1953 south of Rochester, NY, has been married to his wife, Kim, for 41 years. They have two sons and five grandchildren.

Asked what he will miss most after retiring, Austin replied, “I will miss Mission Produce a lot, of course. But networking and garnering the trust of customers is what I enjoyed the most, by far. In this business, it’s still all about trust and those relationships. It’s a cliché, but boy is it true.”

As to how he will spend those retirement years, Austin stated, "I plan to spend more time with my church. Also, I'm a hunter and a fisherman and a gardener. And I love biking, too. So I'm looking forward to spending more time with all of those things."

He concluded, "Of course, I'm very much looking forward to spending more time with my grandchildren. And with my lovely wife, Kim. It's a true friendship."

Nominations open for CPMA’s Fresh Health Award

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association is now accepting nominations for the 2015 CPMA Fresh Health Award, which is entering into its 17th year.cpma It is presented to the company or organization that best supports and promotes the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables using the Half Your Plate or CPMA’s Freggie Children’s Program to improve population health and industry prosperity.

The award will be presented to a produce company or organization who have met the following criteria:

  • Effectively used of Half Your Plate messaging and materials to promote the consumption of fruit and vegetables.
  • Use of Freggie Children’s Program to increase knowledge and understanding of fruit and vegetables within K to 6 school groups.
  • Supported the CPMA and its partners in their efforts to increase consumption to improve population health and industry prosperity.

Since its introduction in 1998, the award has been presented to 19 recipients. Past recipients include The Barn Markets, the California Strawberry Commission, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, the California Table Grape Commission, Thrifty Foods, B.C., Tree Fruits, The Oppenheimer Group, regional Produce Marketing Associations — British Columbia, Calgary, Ontario and Quebec — Pear Bureau Northwest, Sunkist Growers, Loblaw Cos., Bayshore Shippers, Timiskaming Health unit, Gambles Produce, Peak of the Market and Algoma Public Health.

Organizations wishing to be considered for the award should contact CPMA with a brief outline of how their efforts meet the aforementioned criteria. Supporting materials including photos, video or in-store advertising may also be submitted to support the outline.

The award will be presented at the CPMA Annual Convention and Trade Show on April 16. Deadline for submissions is March 20.

CPMA Passion for Produce Program attracts record number of attendees

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association announced the participants for the 2015 Passion for Produce Program in Montreal.

As an added value to membership, PFP was created by the CPMA in 2010 to provide rising stars in the produce industry with the opportunity to accelerate their professional development through a unique mentoring experience at the Annual Convention and Trade Show. At 19 attendees, this is the largest number of participants to date.

“We are thrilled to have so many rising stars from some of the leading companies within our industry,” said Ron Lemaire, President, CPMA. “PFP provides mentoring and education in a fast-paced but fun setting where participants learn through targeted mentoring sessions and networking events. This program also gives participants the opportunity to increase their knowledge beyond the scope of their current role within the industry.”

Over the three day Convention and Trade Show, PFP candidates are partnered with industry mentors for off-site tours, interactive sessions, networking events, and more to learn all they can about the fresh produce industry in Canada. PFP candidates gain knowledge through first-hand experiences, discussions, and networking that empowers them to return to work with an enriched understanding and renewed enthusiasm for the produce industry. Candidates develop lasting relationships with mentors, fellow candidates, and other industry leaders that will guide them through their careers.

PFP has mentored 65 candidates to date and is proud to continue growing this program.

The CPMA is proud to announce the 2015 PFP candidates:

  • Gregory Bass of Metro Richelieu Inc.
  • Lynda Dick of Red Sun Farms
  • Peter Duckett of Loblaw
  • Sarah Friesen of Vineland Growers Co-operative Ltd.
  • Jack C. Hall of The Giumarra Cos.
  • Allen Hoang of Westmoreland Sales
  • Pierre Landry of QPMA Internship/Sobeys
  • Lex (Barry) Lexchin of Richard E. Ryan & Associates Ltd.
  • Fiona McLean of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers
  • Justin Meilleur of Del Monte Fresh Produce Canada Inc.
  • Dorothy Redick of First Fruits Marketing of Washington LLC
  • Michael Rojas of AMC Direct Inc.
  • Susan Sipos of Nova Agri Inc.
  • Bryson Slade of Martin's Produce Sales
  • Michael Sousa of Mann Packing Co. Inc.
  • Jean-Luc Talbot of Metro Richelieu Inc.
  • Rhaymond Tuazon of Fresh Direct Produce Ltd.
  • Ryan Thomas of Markon Cooperative
  • Joel Veri of Exeter Produce

Mexican asparagus veteran describes odd year

NOGALES, AZ — Bob Shipley, founder of Shipley Sales LLC in Nogales, has exported Mexican-grown asparagus to northern neighbors more than 20 years. In Caborca, Sonora, he has been an asparagus grower for as long as 15 years. He explained that the tomatoes and vegetables that account for the vast preponderance of Nogales’ volume are shipped in mixed loads with reefer trailers set in the range of 40-50 degrees.Reed-Bob-ShipleyReed Shipley, a salesman for Shipley Sales LLC in Nogales, AZ, with his father, Bob Shipley, who founded the company.

Asparagus needs to be shipped at 36 degrees and “there are not too many cold trucks” leaving Nogales to suit that temperature.

For this logistical reason, the Mexican asparagus deal has generally not flowed through Nogales. But this spring, several Nogales produce distributors are handling asparagus.

Much of the asparagus is grown in a wide area around Caborca, which is 100 miles to the west-southwest of Nogales. Northwest of Caborca are Mexicali and San Luis, which are near the leafy greens production of Yuma, AZ, and El Centro, CA.

Those thousands of leafy green trailers roll to market with temperatures that are ideal for asparagus. Because of the cost of California labor, El Centro’s asparagus volume has mostly moved south across the border, according to Shipley.

It happens that this season other Nogales companies are becoming involved, although all agree there is a challenge with a poor-yielding Mexican asparagus crop.

Up and down field temperatures starting in December seemed to throw the spear production out of whack.

Shipley said one theory on low asparagus production is that this season some growers burned off the cut ferns too early, preventing normal growth and dormancy.

Whatever the cause, the Mexican growers in that region are harvesting between half or as little as one-third of a regular crop.

Shipley said the northern Mexico asparagus deal usually starts in January, “but this year there was not much until the end of January. Some growers say it will catch up in March, but maybe that is wishful thinking. I don’t know how miracle tonnage can happen this late. March is the last big month for Mexico.”

There is some production in early April, he added, and “with Easter on April 5 this year, the growers should expect to enjoy a good Easter market. With reduced supplies, though, this year apparently won’t have sufficient volume for Easter ads.”

In late February, the asparagus market was in the mid- to high $30s for the 28-pound pack.