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Kragie: Orderly marketing will ensure retail, consumer satisfaction with kiwifruit

Chris Kragie, vice president of Western Fresh Marketing Services Inc. in Madera, CA, is urging California kiwifruit growers to hold off on their harvests until the fruit reaches a soluble solids content of 7.0, thereby ensuring the best product quality for retailers and a good eating experience for consumers. Conditions, he went on to say, should be optimal for California kiwifruit toward the end of September.

Kragie urges retailers to continue moving imported fruit at this time from sources they trust. “To ensure fruit quality and consumer acceptance, we believe in orderly marketing as the best strategy,” he told The Produce News. “We feel you should stay with the fruit from any country that will give this commodity a great tasting fruit and, in turn, will ensure trust and repeat business from the consumer.

01-Kiwi-WesternFresh-Chris-Chris Kragie, vice president of Western Fresh Marketing Services Inc. in Madera, CA“When the industry is buying kiwi from any country, they should ask if this fruit was picked and packed under proper conditions and not forced to ripen by gas before the fruit has reached high enough sugar content to ensure consumer acceptance,” he continued. “If not, the fruit will never ripen, meet a level of sugars that will ensure good taste, and overall will shrivel. Our opinion on gassing fruit is the sugars aren’t high enough to gas until late September, but we feel it best to wait until mid-October.”

Global kiwifruit dynamics are complicated, and the industry is currently facing a host of supply-side challenges. “There is such a shortage of kiwi worldwide,” Kragie stated.

Western Fresh has a branch office in Santiago, Chile and imports kiwifruit from mid-March through mid-September. “We had a major freeze in Chile,” Kragie commented. Data, he stated, reveal that overall kiwi shipments from Chile to the United States are down 65 percent.

The quality of product being imported by Western Fresh from Chile is good and holding well in storage. According to Kragie, in normal production years, the rejection rate on arrival is typically 5 to 7 percent. “This year, it’s been 2 percent,” he noted.

In addition to the freeze, vines in Chile were also attacked by Psa, a pathogenic bacterium. While growers have replanted vines, Kragie said it will take two to three years of recovery for more normal production to begin. Typically, growers can harvest a minimal crop three years after new vines are planted. Normal production occurs in the fourth and fifth years.

Globally, production is also down in New Zealand.

Turning to California, Kragie said water shortages in and south of Sacramento are affecting kiwifruit production. “California is short on water,” he stated. “This is putting stress on the vines.”

He expects overall volume marketed this season will be down approximately 10 percent, tracking statewide trends.

Western Fresh is looking at Sept. 28 as the first pick and pack date. As for the first pack out of California, he said, “Ten percent of the crop will move to fill worldwide pipelines.” As dry as the global pipeline is, Kragie added, “We’ve got to make it last into April before Chile starts.”

The company will have year-round kiwifruit supplies available. “We will stay ahead of the curve to ensure a great eating fruit for our loyal customers and consumers,” Kragie said.


National Mango Board encourages 'Ripe and Ready to Eat' mango program

The National Mango Board is moving forward with its Ripe and Ready to Eat mango program — a program aimed to provide U.S. consumers with a quality fruit that is ripe and ready to eat by the time of purchase. The NMB has done extensive research that shows that ripe fruit has higher acceptance rates within consumers.

The RRTEMP gives mangos a marketing advantage, eliminating the obstacle of consumers purchasing fruit short of its desired ripeness level, thus providing high-quality fruit. To identify a high-quality eating mango, the NMB has developed minimum maturity indices, proper fruit ripening protocols and fruit sensory descriptions to attract and satisfy consumers. Proper mango temperature management is one of the most important elements in order to have a quality ripe fruit that is ready for consumers to enjoy.

“Appropriate temperature management is an important component to improve consumers’ mango eating experience and knowing the opportunities of improvement is beneficial to the industry. Consumers continue to tell us they do not know when a mango is ripe,” said NMB Executive Director William Watson. “Our mango ripening program is designed to provide tools for the industry to consider if they want to develop their own ripening system. We have seen considerable growth of many other commodities that have been packed and shipped through a ripening program. There is still much more research to do but feel we are on the right path.”

After extensive research, the NMB in conjunction with the University of California Davis (Department of Plant Science), the University of Florida (IFAS Center for Food and Distribution and Retailing), Universidad del Valle in Guatemala and INIFAP in Mexico, developed a Mango Handling and Ripening Protocol. The Mango Handling and Ripening Protocol is designed to help improve mango handling practices in the United States, leading to better quality mangos, greater consumer acceptance and higher mango sales. Topics covered in the protocol include: Mango Maturity and Ripeness, Mango Temperature Management, Mango Storage and Transportation, and Mango Handling and Merchandising at the Store.

The NMB hosted a Mango Ripening Webinar on August 20, that expanded in detail each of the topics covered on the Mango Handling and Ripening Protocol. Speakers included Dennis Kihlstadius from Produce Technical Services and Wendy McManus, retail program manager at the NMB. During the webinar, the experts provided best practices and recommendations for stores and distribution centers that included improving temperature management at all distribution levels during transportation and storage, as well as mango displays at store level.

For more information on mango handling best practices, visit

For a copy of the mango Handling and Ripening Protocol, visit

The Mango Ripening Webinar is also available to view at



Food Lion plans makeover for North Carolina stores

Food Lion has unveiled a new, easier shopping experience for customers in 31 stores in the greater Wilmington, NC, market. The stores are the first in the Food Lion chain to receive remodels as part of the grocer's new "Easy, Fresh and Affordable...You Can Count on Food Lion Every Day" strategy, which was announced earlier this year.

"Since announcing our new strategy, we've been doing a lot across the Food Lion chain to create positive change," Beth Newlands Campbell, president of Food Lion, said in a press release. "We're proud to continue that momentum by launching the first market of enhanced stores that bring all the elements of our new strategy to life to make shopping easier for customers. Our customers told us that they want a grocery experience where it's easy to shop, easy to save and easy to figure out what is for dinner tonight. In these enhanced stores, we've worked to deliver just that. We invite our customers and the Wilmington community to come out and experience grocery shopping reimagined at Food Lion and let us know what you think about our new stores."

The remodeled stores debut new features that make shopping easier for customers. Food Lion expanded its selection in stores by adding thousands of new items so customers can get everything they need in one trip. The new assortment of products includes a dedicated gluten-free section and a wide selection of quality fresh meat and produce that carry a double-your-money-back guarantee.

Food Lion also made great deals easier to find throughout the store with new yellow signage and three easy ways to save: MVP On Sale, Extended Savings and Great Value Every Day. MVP On Sale items are the great savings and promotions that Food Lion is known for, including deals from the weekly flyer. Extended Savings are prices reduced for longer on items throughout the store - up to 13 weeks. Great Value Every Day indicates incredibly low prices always available on Food Lion private brand items and in-season produce.

For busy families on the go, Food Lion has also added Daily Dinner Deals, hot meals for families of four for around $10, offered from 4-7 p.m., as well as all-day daily meal deals, in the deli department.

Knowing that customers want to get in and out of the store quickly, Food Lion made checkout faster with improved technology, larger display screens so customers can see items and prices as they're scanned and additional associates available to bag groceries for customers. Unpacking is even easier at home with new blue bags, in addition to the traditional white bags, which help customers easily identify cold and frozen items.

Food Lion will continue to roll out storewide enhancements in markets over time. The company plans to launch an additional 45 remodeled stores in the greater Greenville, N.C., market in November.

Food Lion, which serves more than 9 million customers each week at more than 1,100 locations in 10 states, was founded as Food Town in 1957 and still calls Salisbury, NC, its hometown.

A complete list of the remodeled stores, as well as other information, is available at


Northwest pear growers forecast larger crop than originally expected

With harvest currently underway, representatives of the Northwest pear industry have officially updated their initial projections for the 2014 fresh pear crop yield.

Reports of a crop of excellent quality have been confirmed from all corners of the pear-growing regions in Washington and Oregon, and the updated projection is showing a crop larger than previously forecast in the spring.

The revised estimate points to more than 20.2 million standard 44-pound box equivalents (or 445,144 tons) of pears for the fresh market. This estimate is 2 percent larger than the five-year average, and 6 percent smaller than last year's record crop. The Northwest pear industry's initial spring projection showed a crop of 18.7 million boxes.

Harvest began in late July with the Starkrimson and Bartlett pear varieties. Anjou, Red Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle and Seckel will be picked from late August through mid-October. No significant weather issues have affected the crop to date.

The top three varieties in terms of production remain the same as in previous years: Green Anjou pears are anticipated to make up 53 percent of the total 2014 crop, while Bartlett and Bosc pears are expected to yield 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

The updated estimates for the organic portion of the Northwest pear crop have increased proportionally, showing a total of 976,780 standard 44-pound box equivalents (21,489 tons) of organic pears in the 2014 harvest. This is an increase of about 3 percent when compared to the 2013 record organic crop, and a 16.6 percent increase over the five-year average.

"Compared to last year's record crop, this crop is more consistent with the five-year average," Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the Pear Bureau Northwest, said in a press release. "We're looking forward to another crop of excellent quality and fruit size to meet the demands of the domestic and export markets. Our representatives across North America and around the world have a full season of promotions in place to help boost sales, and we're looking forward to working with our retail partners in another successful pear season."


As California avocado crop winds down, Mexico gearing up to fill demand

With a total crop volume at only 60 percent of a year ago, the California avocado season is winding down as Mexico gears up to fill demand.

Ron Araiza, director of sales for Mission Produce Inc. in Oxnard, CA, told The Produce News Aug. 20 that California was expected to send around 6 million cartons of fruit to market this week and reduce its volume by around 1 million cartons per week for the next several weeks. That means California would send around 4 million cartons to market during the Labor Day week of Sept. 1.

That’s a far cry from the typical demand of about 35 million cartons per week.

“During September, we [avocado shippers] are going to be looking to Mexico to provide 25 [million] to 28 million cartons per week,” he said.

The total California crop is expected to come in somewhere around 300 million pounds when all is said and done, which is 40 percent less than last year’s volume of close to 500 million pounds.

Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp. in Escondido, CA, said that by mid-August, California growers were at about 273 million pounds. He anticipated shipments throughout September, albeit at a relatively low level.

“Three hundred million is possible,” he said. “We may get there.”

Like most of the industry, Henry Avocado sources from many different countries of origin and attempts to fill the orders of its customers relatively seamlessly. While there is a market price differential depending upon origin, the key is simply to fill demand.

As August turns into September, there will still be some Peruvian avocados being sold from inventory and Chile is expected to have a very limited volume of avocados for sale within the United States by early September.

Henry said Mexico will supply most of the country, while most shipments of California avocados will stay close to home to fill the Golden State’s cavernous demand for the fruit.

One California area gearing up for that September time slot is the Morro Bay avocado deal from California’s Central Coast, marketed under that name. Over the last couple of years, growers in California’s furthest avocado-producing region have been creating a niche market for their fruit, which they claim has superior taste because climatic conditions require the fruit to stay on the tree almost twice as long as other areas.

Jim Shanley of Shanley Farms in Morro Bay, CA, said a couple of growers are out of the deal this year because of drought issues, but he has added two other growers and should have volume similar to what the deal had last year for the eight-week shipping season. The deal was expected to kick off on Labor Day and last through October.

“It will be similar to last year, but we won’t be able to grow it this year,” he said.

Shanley is expecting get a premium for that fruit in the high $30s. In fact, in mid-August California fruit was selling for top dollar in the high $30s. Peruvian fruit was at least $10 less per carton than that, and Mexican avocados were somewhere in between, with that price dependent on the origin of the fruit.

As September unfolds, Mexican growers will be shipping from several different blooms depending upon the location of the trees where the crop is harvested. By the end of September, the new crop for the new season will be on the market.

Chile, which comes into the U.S. market during the fall months, is expected to have less volume this year than last, according to Henry. He said the Chilean drought is still affecting volume and Chilean shippers have several options for their fruit, including Europe and other South American countries. They are no longer so heavily dependent on the U.S. market.

While promotions from the California avocado industry will wind down after Labor Day, Mexico is increasing its visibility in the marketplace. Its first promotion of the season is sports-themed and designed to kick off the U.S. football season as well as the Mexican avocado season.