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Deadline nears to apply for 2015 STEP-UPP class

It's not too late to apply to the Southeast Produce Council's 2015 STEP-UPP class, but the deadline is quickly approaching.

Potential candidates to the next class in the Southeast Training Education Program for Upcoming Produce Professionals must belong to organizations that are currently members of the council.STEPUPP-Logo Each class will be comprised of 10 individuals who have been selected through an application and interview process based on their leadership potential and interest in developing a career path in fresh produce, according to the SPC website.

There is no age limit, but applicants should be employed in an entry to middle management position in a related or foodservice role such as produce manager, produce merchandiser, category manager or produce buyer.

The STEP-UPP program is spearheaded by Faye Westfall of DiMare Fresh, who serves as chairperson, and Tom Page, retired from Supervalu, who serves as vice chairperson.

Anyone interested in applying for the 2015 class should visit For additional information, applicants may contact Westfall by email ( or telephone (813/629-0086).

Applications are due Aug. 1.

United Fresh, produce companies host pavilion at SNA meeting to help schools

WASHINGTON — While the policy battle rages on Capitol Hill about funding for school meal changes, produce companies are joining together in an unlikely location — the School Nutrition Association's annual meeting — to educate school foodservice staff on the best ways to meet the new standards.

Starting this month, school cafeterias must meet new limits on sodium, ensure all grains are whole grain rich, double the amount of fruits or vegetables offered at breakfast and ensure students take half a cup of produce with every meal. Schools will also be required to meet new Smart Snacks in School rules forUnited-SNA-Booth-2This year the United Fresh Produce Association hosted the Fresh Produce Pavilion at SNA's trade show for the first time. foods and beverages sold in school vending machines, snack bars and a la carte lines

For the first time, the United Fresh Produce Association hosted the Fresh Produce Pavilion at SNA's trade show in Boston from July 13-16, where school staff had the opportunity to ask the experts about the most efficient ways to increase fresh produce in school meals.

"School nutrition is an important issue, and it's a huge sales opportunity for the produce industry," said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health at United Fresh.

Some companies, such as Ready Pac Foods and Dole Foodservice, have exhibited at past SNA meetings, but the 1,600-square-foot pavilion is a departure, and an investment for United Fresh and the companies that exhibited.

The produce companies are not there to do business, DiSogra explained, but to help schools with any problems they may have, facilitate an easier way to find distributors or offer help in writing a request for proposal. Exhibitors include Chiquita Brands International, Duda Farms Fresh Foods, Grimmway Farms, HMC Farms, the Mushroom Council, the National Watermelon Promotion Board, NatureSeal, PRO*ACT, Ready Pac and San Miguel Produce.

The pavilion includes a fresh produce vending machine, salad bar and huge cold cases with fresh-cut produce in five- and 10-pound and single-serving packaging.

"People are telling us they didn't know there's such a wide variety of produce available to them," DiSogra said.

By far the biggest show-stopper has been the fresh produce vending machine, which United Fresh borrowed from the National Automatic Merchandising Association.

"That's the hottest thing people have been taken pictures of" and posting on social media, DiSogra said.

DiSogra told The Produce News she is hearing recurrent themes that she'll be bringing back to Washington as a wide coalition of advocates work to help schools increase fruit and vegetable servings for school-aged kids.

School nutrition managers are complaining that children do not have enough time to eat produce during lunchtime.

"They can gobble up a hamburger, but fruits and vegetables take more time to eat," she said.

Schools also need more resources because they did not receive a higher reimbursement rate to support the new school breakfast demands.

In the meantime, SNA has been a leading advocate for a delay in the new school standards, insisting many schools are having difficulty meet the new standards.

United Fresh Chairman Ron Carkoski participated in a high-level meeting last week with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and representatives from 15 health, nutrition and school organizations to discuss solutions for meeting modern school meal standards. Carkoski, president and chief executive officer at The Four Seasons Family of Cos. in Ephrata, PA, was the only produce industry representative at the USDA meeting.

Potandon Produce offers on-pack coupons for The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Potandon Produce is teaming up with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on its upcoming release of the new action adventure, The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Spiderman-Coupon The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be released on Blu-Ray Combo Pack and DVD Aug. 19. Specially marked "Green Giant Fresh" brand five-pound russet potato consumer bags will carry a $5 off instant redeemable coupon, usable when both the DVD and the potatoes are purchased together. These specially marked packages will be distributed starting mid-August with a coupon expiration date of Oct. 31, 2014.

Potandon Produce will have additional point-of-sale materials available to highlight the promotion to consumers at store level. Additionally an aggressive email and social media program will be launched to support the promotion.If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview, please contact Barbara Keckler at (208) 557-5131 or e-mail


Stemilt celebrates peak season with new 'All Eyes on Apricots' promotion

Stemilt Growers is making sure all eyes are on apricots in the next two weeks with the launch of a new promotion that celebrates the peak season for the delicious summertime fruit, and a big health benefit apricots provide.

The company's "All Eyes on Apricots" promotion focuses on the fantastic flavors and jumbo sizes of Stemilt's Washington-grown cots, while educating shoppers how eating apricots for vitamin A can help maintain good vision and overall eye health.

apricot-pos"Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A, with 13 percent of the daily recommended value in just one apricot," Roger Pepperl, director of marketing at Stemilt, said in a press release. "They also contain vitamins C, E, and carotenoids which protect the retina, the part of the eye with the sharpest vision. Our 'All Eyes on Apricots' promotion is a great way to call attention to Stemilt apricots at your stores during their peak season and promote health, a topic that consumers care a lot about."

Stemilt is the leading apricot grower and shipper in Washington state. Currently, the company is harvesting its main apricot varieties, Rival and Perfection. This year's fruit is jumbo-sized with great dessert flavors thanks to ideal growing conditions throughout the spring and early summer growing season.

"Apricots are a heritage item at Stemilt, and the quality of the 2014 crop is one of the finest we've seen in years," Pepperl added in the press release. "They're tree-ripened and come from great locales like Tri Cities and growers like the Douglas family, who have farmed fruit for four generations. Warm days produce apricots with balanced sugars and acids while cool nights give them their classic vibrant orange color and beautiful pink-red blush."

Stemilt is packing the majority of its jumbo-sized apricots in panta packs, which makes for easy-to-build displays at retail. The company created an 11x7 point-of-sale sign for the "All Eyes on Apricots" promotion, which retailers can use to build bright displays and tout the eye health benefits apricots provide. Stemilt can also set-up display contests and demos to further create store excitement around apricots during this peak season.

"Now is the time to make sure all eyes are on apricots in your produce department," Pepperl added. "It's the peak season for Stemilt's premium quality, dessert flavored, and healthy apricots. The next two weeks are key for using apricots to drive sales in order to boost your stone fruit category."


Conversion under way for several Twin Cities Rainbow Stores

SuperValu Inc., one of the nation’s leading grocery wholesalers, has begun supplying the first of 18 Rainbow stores that are being acquired as part of the transactions that were announced May 7 between Roundy’s and a consortium of SuperValu and independent retailers. Following the store conversions, SuperValu will supply all 18 of the acquired stores out of its Hopkins, MN, distribution center.

SuperValu along with four Twin Cities-based independent retailers — Jerry’s Enterprises, Haug Enterprises, Lund Food Holdings and Radermacher Enterprises — are expecting to complete the store conversions before the end of July. As previously announced, 10 of the 18 stores will become Cub Foods locations, two will operate as Byerly’s and the other six will remain Rainbow stores.

“I am very pleased that we are now adding these 18 stores to SuperValu's distribution network and that we are expanding our supplier relationship with a group of very strong independents and longtime customers of our independent business segment," Sam Duncan, SuperValu president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. "We expect these fine retailers will serve the Twin Cities better than ever with an expanded store base. Each of these independent retailers, along with Cub, are longtime grocers who know this market and their customers and are actively involved in their stores and communities.”