FPFC holds Northern California Expo

PLEASANTON, CA — The Fresh Produce & Floral Council held its annual Northern California Expo April 8 at the Alameda Fairgrounds, here. The event featured more than 150 booths with over 200 companies exhibiting. The crowd of retail and foodservice buyers, in-store produce personnel and industry members numbered more than 1,200.

The “Best of Show” designation was awarded to CDS Distributing in the produce category and B-Fresh Floral in the floral category.11-Idaho-potatoKent Beesley and Armando Lobato of the Idaho Potato Commission. The winners were picked by a vote of the participants, who were given ballots at the beginning of the day and asked to drop them off as they left the building.

FPFC President Carissa Mace said it was a great show with great participation from scores of retail and foodservice executives. The FPFC is the originator of the regional one-day produce exposition, having launched a version of its Southern California show more than 30 years ago. The Northern California show is about a decade old.

For more photos from the event, visit our Sightings page.

Donald S. Perkins, former Jewel exec, dies at 88

Donald S. Perkins, former president, chief executive officer and chairmain of Jewel Cos., died at his home in Northfield, IL, March 25. He was 88.

Mr. Perkins was named president of Jewel in 1965 at the age of 38 and then CEO and chairman of the board in 1970. His leadership at Jewel was marked by rapid expansion and exploration of multiple retail formats.

He retired from Jewel in 1983 and devoted himself to championing strong corporate governance, serving on numerous for-profit and non-profit boards, including Time Warner, AT&T, Cummins Engine, the Ford Foundation and Northwestern University.

Mr. Perkins was also instrumental in the founding of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and served as its first chairman.

Mr. Perkins, born in St. Louis, received his bachelor's degree from Yale University and his master's in business administration from Harvard Business School. He served in the Merchant Marine during World War II and in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.

He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Jane Phillips Perkins; his brother, Bob Perkins, and sister, Joan Gerrard; his children, Betsy Perkins Hill, Susan Perkins, Frank Phillips and Elizabeth Phillips-Sorich, and daughter-in-law Pat Mayland Perkins; eight grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. Mr. Perkins was preceded in death by his first wife, Phyllis Babb Perkins; his son, Jervis Perkins; and his grandson, Jeremy Hill.

A celebration of his life will be held 3-6 p.m. May 16 at Shore Acres Club, Lake Bluff, IL.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Donald S. Perkins Scholarship Fund at Northwestern University, c/o Alumni Relations, 1201 Davis Street, Evanston, IL 60208.

Giumarra spring grapes feature eat brighter!, Fair Trade

Giumarra Nogales debuted high-graphic packaging exclusively highlighting both "Sesame Street" eat brighter! characters and Fair Trade USA certification at the Northern California Fresh Produce & Floral Expo.

Giumarra will offer Nature’s Partner green, red and black seedless grapes grown in the state of Sonora, Mexico. Volumes of all three varieties will be abundant for Memorial Day-themed promotions.trio The company also offers a small volume of Red Globe variety red seeded grapes.

“We have allocated a large percentage of our supply to the eat brighter! program, and all of our grapes grown in Mexico can be marketed as Fair Trade-certified, as well,” T.W. Wilson, grape sales manager for Giumarra, said in a press release. “Giumarra is proud to work with growers who value these strong marketing initiatives, which respectively serve to increase consumption in children and better the lives of farm workers in Mexico.”

The bag designs feature Oscar on green seedless, Abby Cadabby on black seedless, Elmo on red seedless and Ernie on Red Globes.

“Combining the impact of the PMA eat brighter! movement with the social and environmental responsibility of Fair Trade USA certification unites the best of both worlds,” Kellee Harris, western region business manager for Giumarra, said in the release. “Our grape program helps families encourage their children to eat healthy food and also gives back to farm workers and their families to better their lives.”

“Here at Fair Trade USA, we celebrate those who work to embrace the principles of Fair Trade from farm to shelf,” Hannah Freeman, director of produce and floral at Fair Trade USA, said in the release. “Giumarra and their new Fair Trade-certified eat brighter! grapes do just that, supporting farming families across the globe while inspiring conscious, healthy eating right here at home.”

Giumarra will ship Mexican grapes through July and can supply its customers with retail promotions featuring customized point-of-sale materials and social media campaigns.

Harris Teeter leaving Nashville area; Kroger purchasing three stores

Harris Teeter will close its four Nashville, TN-area stores on or around June 15. Three of the locations will be sold to Kroger's Nashville division. The company said it reached the decision "after careful consideration and strategic market review."

Harris Teeter began informing associates of the closings on Tuesday, April 7. The company currently employs 335 associates at these locations, and the company said they will be given the opportunity to apply for a job in local Kroger stores.

In a press release, Harris Teeter said it will work closely with its associates to assist them through the transition in the coming weeks.

Former Cold Train executives file suit against BNSF

On April 7, a $41 million lawsuit was filed by former Cold Train executives against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for damages that put the refrigerated rail car service out of business in August.

Daniel Appel, a partner at the Wenatchee law firm Foreman, Appel, Hotchkiss & Zimmerman PLLC, which is representing Cold Train, told The Produce News that Cold Train’s business plan was based on a 2009 agreement with BNSF to provide special 72-hour service from the heart of Washington’s fruit-producing area to Chicago.

Appel said Cold Train spent $12 million dollars to design and built refrigerated rail service to fulfill the service to Washington shippers. Apples and pears were the primary fresh commodities carried by Cold Train.

“It was a great service and provided shippers with an alternative to trucks,” Appel said. “It was a very beneficial service” to the produce industry.

The company grew its equipment fleet as it gained shippers. Appel indicated that Cold Train was doing “extremely well” in its business plan.

A Cold Train press release on April 7 indicated that “the shutdown of Cold Train was caused by a significant slowdown in BNSF’s service schedules on its northern corridor line beginning in the fall of 2013 because of increased rail congestion as a result of BNSF hauling larger volumes of oil and coal from the Northern Plains region. 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. To makes matters worse, in April of 2014, BNSF abruptly sent out an announcement to customers indicating that it would be immediately reducing intermodal train service from Washington state to only one train a day from Washington state (instead of two), and that transit time would be twice as slow (three days slower) from Seattle/Quincy to Chicago.”

With degraded BNSF service, Appel said Cold Train “customers bailed left and right.”

Cold Train met “on several occasions” with BNSF, Appel said, and was assured the service issues would be addressed. Finally, in April 2014, BNSF said its service for Cold Train would go from 72 to 125 hours. Thus, “shipping produce became impossible. That takes too long.” Four months later, Cold Train closed its doors.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit against BNSF, which was filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington, in Spokane, WA, are Steven Lawson, the former president and chief executive officer of Cold Train, and Mike Lerner, Cold Train’s former managing member.

Appel noted that Cold Train faced not only understandably upset customers, but with the longer service, there was a need for twice as many rail cars and twice as much fuel was needed to maintain refrigerators for 125 hours. As a result, “the hard costs went up considerably.”

BNSF has 21 days from the April 7 filing to respond to the lawsuit “and then we will begin discovery,” Appel said.

“We are very confident that we have a good case against BNSF, based on the facts as we understand them,” said Appel.