GMO 'Arctic' apple company sold

Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the agricultural company behind the newly approved GMO "Arctic" brand apple, has been acquired by Intrexon Corp. The acquisition comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture deregulated the GMO apples.

"We are committed to bringing better versions of consumers' favorite fruits to their grocery stores and kitchens, while addressing additional novel traits in tree fruits that reduce waste and address supply chain challenges," Neal Carter, founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, said in a press release.arct1A conventional Granny apple next to an 'Arctic' Granny. "Joining forces with Intrexon and applying our combined technical know-how is an important step to introducing beneficial products for consumers and growers."

One of the fastest-growing categories of the fruit and vegetable industry is the fresh-cut segment, bolstered by the convenience factor and upward trend in consumption of healthier foods.  Marrying the art of fruit breeding with cutting-edge science results in exciting new products that can benefit consumers and producers alike.

"The Arctic apple provides consumers with an answer to a pesky but common food issue without any flavor-altering, anti-browning additives," according to Intrexon. "It is an alternative to current approaches to browning control, which are more costly and require the application of chemical solutions or antioxidants. Additionally, apples will be increasingly accessible to foodservice outlets, where consumers spend roughly 50 percent of their food dollars, because Arctic apples solve both cost per serving and quality concerns associated with pre-cut apples."

"Okanagan is a world leader in the development of fruit-bearing plants to express enhanced, advantageous traits with tremendous potential to revolutionize the tree fruit industry," Thomas R. Kasser, senior vice president and head of Intrexon's food sector, said in the release. "Through this acquisition, we can deliver more accessible and affordable choices of high-quality foods for an ever-growing population.  We are extremely pleased that Neal Carter will remain with the company providing both the creative spirit and deep understanding of the tree fruit business that will assure continued future success in this expanding business opportunity."

Pursuant to the definitive agreement, Okanagan's stockholders will receive $31 million in Intrexon common stock and $10 million in upfront cash. Consummation of the transaction, anticipated in the first half of 2015, is subject to customary closing conditions.

Retail panel addresses current issues at Southern Exposure

Update: An earlier version of this article misidentified John Pandol and contained incorrect information about the breakdown of genetically modified food in stores.

ORLANDO, FL — Will produce departments expand to correspond with increased sales? Is a separate section for organic produce or home delivery of groceries the wave of the future? Where do you learn about new produce items? How can we reduce shrink in produce or overcome consumer fear of genetically modified produce?

These and other burning questions were posed and answered by a panel of experts in a 1950s TV game-show format at the Southeast Produce Council’s recent Southern Exposure show, here.SEPC3915-JUDGE-REGGIE-GRIFFINReggie Griffin, a 42-year veteran with Kroger Co., now a consultant, served as judge for the 'Ask a Retaile'” panel in a 1950s TV game-show format.

The morning session Feb. 27 drew a packed house of about 200 and was guided by a gavel-wielding judge, black-robed Reggie Griffin, a 42-year veteran of Kroger Co., who served as vice president for produce and floral for 10 years before becoming a consultant.

“If you don’t know who Judge Judy is,” he warned the crowd, “you need to get a life.”

Panelists, all top executives in produce retailing, were Chris Dove, executive director of produce for Delhaize and a 28-year veteran executive at that chain; Gary Miracle, director of produce for Associate Wholesale Grocers and a 44-year retailer, who started as a bagger at Schnuck’s; and Scott Bennett, produce director at Jewel Osco, who started as a produce clerk 30 years ago.

Produce departments will become larger due to increased sales, the panel agreed, though Miracle said they might grow upwards rather than outwards, with more linear feet but not more floor space. Stacking and refrigerated displays will become more prominent, he added.

Dove said a separate section for organic produce will be more popular because the organic shopper wants to see all options in one place. Home delivery of produce and groceries will be largely in urban areas, Miracle said, because customers want to see and touch and smell produce at the store. Dove said home delivery was “no huge deal” but not a problem for his company.

The panel said they learned about new produce products by watching TV shows like the Food Network.

“Shrink is a big part of our life in produce,” said Dove, whose company has a department devoted to reducing shrink. Other panelists said it was a necessary part of produce operations because it was tied to quality.

Genetically modified food is already in the stores — 80 percent of grocery items contain ingredients of genetically modified origin, according to John Pandol of Pandol Bros., who noted, “We have a Star Trek industry, but our consumers want Little House on the Prairie.” Consumer education is the answer, panelists said.

Along the way, panelists noted double-digit sales growth in value-added produce products, the continued growth of the local food movement and how sampling can drive sales. Consumers need help in learning how to prepare produce, Miracle observed. Technology in stores is the key to consumer education, Dove added.

Summing up, Griffin said there is a huge gap between the grower -- the supply side -- and the retailer -- the demand side, “and I hope we’ve reduced it today.”

Next year’s SEPC program may include a panel, “Ask a Shipper,” a council official said.

Giant Eagle shuttering discount banner

Giant Eagle, one of the nation’s larger food retailers and distributors, announced that it will discontinue operations of its  discount grocery chain throughout western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio.cents All eight of the company’s Good Cents Grocery + More locations will cease operations by the close of business on Thursday, March 26.

“While our Good Cents locations initially gained popularity, numerous business and economic factors have made it difficult to continue to successfully deliver the shopping experience customers have come to expect from Good Cents,” Dan Donovan, Giant Eagle spokesperson, said in a press release. “We greatly appreciate the loyalty and patronage we have received since the stores’ openings.”

The discount chain focuses on lower operating costs, "without compromising quality or a clean and safe shopping environment," Donovan said in the release.

The company is working to identify open positions at other area Giant Eagle Inc. locations for those interested in continuing employment.


Green Giant completes national network of fresh herb facilities

Green Giant Fresh has completed its national network of fresh herb packing facilities. These locations extend the company's ability to deliver premium fresh herbs around the country from certified local and regional farms.GROUP-GGF-Herbs-Pouches

“These strategic locations mean better efficiencies and shorter lead times, adding to the products’ shelf life, retailer profits and consumer satisfaction,” Jamie Strachan, Green Giant Fresh chief executive officer, said in a press release. “Our local and regional certified farms supply local herbs when possible, and draw from common regional farms to deliver year-round supplies.”

In addition to its original herb farm near Chicago, Green Giant Fresh packs and ships its line of 15 farm-fresh herbs from Saco, ME, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and Salinas, CA. This national coverage ensures the freshest herbs available year-round across the United States and Canada. Additionally, Green Giant Fresh has the most extensive line of pouch herbs combined with a complete line of clamshell herbs. Organics, private label and foodservice packs are also available through this common footprint.

"I've worked for a number of major fresh herb companies over the past 25 years, and I’m confident we’re poised to deliver on our mission of consistently delivering quality fresh herbs year-round,” Vern Meyer, general manager of Green Giant Fresh herbs, said in the release.

Rawl honors employees, customers at 90th anniversary celebration

IMG 5424W. P. Rawl family members and employees assembled for a group photo to memorialize the firm’s 90th anniversary at a reception Feb. 26 at the Southeastern Produce Council’s Southern Exposure show in Orlando, FL.

ORLANDO, FL — About 80 employees and customers of W.P Rawl & Sons Inc., a greens grower, packer and shipper in Pelion, SC, gathered here Feb. 26 in a family reunion atmosphere to celebrate the company’s 90th anniversary. The event was held in conjunction with the Southeastern Produce Council’s Southern Exposure show.

“We’re honored to call you partners,” Ashley Rawl, a vice president of the family-owned company, told the assembled crowd.  He said the anniversary “brought a lot of memories — hard times and good times — and you all helped us.” He noted employees with years of service to the company, including a trio with a total of 100 years with the company.

Rawl said the family still continues its founder’s tradition of gathering each Christmas Eve for oyster stew. New developments also abound, he said, including expanded fields in South Carolina and Florida, a new processing line that will double the processing capacity and new vegetable products coming to market.  

A video reviewed the history of the company, and photos tracing its 90 years were posted around the reception room, with photo albums also on tables throughout the hall.