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Associated Wholesale Grocers is celebrating its 90th anniversary today. Since its incorporation on March 29, 1926, AWG has grown from a group of 20 independent grocery retailers to serving now more than 3,000 retailers.

“AWG is proud of the growth, revenue and success we’ve seen in our 90-year history,” David Smith, president and chief executive officer of AWG, said in a press release. “We serve our members by reducing expenses, providing resources to overcome competition, and cultivating dedicated employees guided by a strong leadership team.”

AWG was created to provide its family-owned retail member stores the essential building blocks needed to establish themselves in each of their different marketplaces. AWG provides support services, educational programs and financial returns to member retailers in addition to grocery products. The collective strength of the cooperative model has provided ongoing opportunities for independent retailers to develop unique and sustainable businesses. These businesses have grown, despite an ever-changing retail environment.

“Our model has proven successful for 90 years,” added Smith. “Together, we have survived and thrived in a marketplace of big box stores thanks to the passion of our member retailers, board of directors, employees and suppliers.”

From humble beginnings to its record sales of $8.9 billion in 2015, AWG has expanded from one warehouse to nine and serves retailers in 31 states. AWG said this success has proven that independent grocers are stronger together.

Riveridge Produce Marketing, a vertically integrated apple grower, packer and marketer and a leading shipper of Michigan apples, has added Michigan-grown asparagus to its product line. 

Asparagus, like apples, is a crop that does very well in Michigan thanks to the climate provided in part by the proximity to Lake Michigan, according to a company press release. Michigan is the second-largest grower of asparagus in the United States, keeping more than 120 family farms active in the commercial growing of asparagus.Don-ArmockRRidgeDon Armock

Michigan asparagus is unique in how it is harvested, with each spear snapped by hand so that the vegetable is fully edible, eliminating the need to trim large end pieces. Riveridge plans to use that message through marketing support in radio ads and billboards in select markets and media and blogger outreach.

Additionally, Riveridge is refreshing packaging and creating new approaches to make the asparagus purchase and cooking even easier for the end consumer.

“We have always marketed other produce throughout the year outside of apples, but this year, along with our partner packer, are committing more focus and resources to Michigan asparagus sales,” Don Armock, president of Sparta-based Riveridge Produce Marketing, said in the press release. “Michigan-grown asparagus kicks off the bounty of produce Michigan offers and we look forward to the opportunity to expand its footprint.”

Michigan-grown asparagus, depending on variables such as weather, will begin to hit produce departments in early May, with supplies available through June. Images, recipes and nutritional information will be available to help promote the benefits to make sure consumers are getting their Michigan-grown asparagus in that short six- to seven-week window.

Total citrus sales in dollars are up by 8 percent over last year in the December-to-February time period, highlighting consumer enthusiasm for seasonal  citrus, according to recent IRI Worldwide data.

“Consumers are seeking fresh, bright and delicious foods during the winter months — creating great opportunity for peak season citrus,” Joan Wickham, Sunkist’s director of communications, said in a press release.sunkistlogo “As temperatures rise with the beginning of spring, consumer focus on healthy eating intensifies and retailers can capitalize on health trends with the many varieties of seasonal citrus that are available throughout the spring.”

Navel oranges, a consumer favorite available until June, have performed very well this season with sales by volume up 7.5 percent in February over last year. Organic Navel orange sales by volume increased by an impressive 68 percent over the same period.

In addition, nutrient-rich Cara Cara Navel orange sales rose 12.5 percent by volume in the last 52 week period compared to 2015. Cara Cara Navel oranges, known for their distinctive pink flesh and intensely sweet flavor, are available through May.

Meyer lemons have also seen positive results this season, with sales by volume up 4.9 percent in February over last year. Thought to be a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon, Meyer lemons are sweeter than conventional lemons and have a rich golden yellow skin and floral aroma.

Retailers can also capitalize on varieties coming into season now such as Gold Nugget variety mandarins, a late-season mandarin named for its bright, beautiful bumpy rind with deliciously sweet flavor. Gold Nugget variety mandarins are in season now through May.

Ojai Pixie tangerines, another springtime specialty variety, are also in season. Named for the lush Ojai region of Southern California where they’re grown, Pixies are small in size, seedless and intensely sweet. Sunkist plans to ship Pixies through May.

California Star Ruby grapefruit is also beginning harvest. Known for its health and weight-loss benefits, grapefruit is a fantastic springtime item for retailers to promote. With its rich pink flesh and distinct sweet-tart flavor, California Star Rubies are available now through July.

Sunkist offers to retailers eye-catching packaging and customizable point-of-sale materials to educate consumers about seasonal citrus and bolster sales by highlighting flavor profiles, nutritional information, usage tips and recipe ideas.

GreenFruit Avocados, a fully integrated avocado supplier based in Newport Beach, CA, announced that it has merged with FrutiVal, a Mexican grower and packinghouse. The merger will position the company to create direct programs from Mexico to the United States and other overseas markets year-round.greenfruit

FrutiVal also provides GreenFruit with a state-of-the-art packing facility in Uruapan, Michoacán, that is equipped with two packinglines — one for the U.S. market and the other for overseas markets.

The merger aligns with GreenFruit Avocados’ ambitious growth goals for both the United States and Asian markets. As consumption of avocados continues to increase, it’s crucial to have a consistent, steady supply for customers.

“I am very happy to announce our partnership with GreenFruit Avocados,” said Ygnacio Valerio, general director at FrutiVal S.A. of C.A., who has 22 years of experience in the Hass avocado industry. “This alliance presents exciting new opportunities for our clients to obtain avocados directly from the grower. GreenFruit clients can expect fresh fruit, and a fully compliant food-safety program. We see a long, successful partnership with GreenFruit Avocados to provide our clientele with a service they can trust.”

The new partnership also makes GreenFruit Avocados a direct grower for both organic and conventional orchards in Mexico, which is a fundamental part of long-term pricing for retailers and foodservice customers. Understanding cost and volumes in the fields allows GreenFruit to create long-term fixed price programs, enabling customers to sell more avocados.

“I am extremely excited about the new partnership,” Brian Gomez, vice president of GreenFruit Avocados, added. “Not only does this make us a direct grower and packer in Mexico, but it also enables us to customize programs for our clients in the U.S. and around the world.”

Wysocki Family of Cos. was recently presented with the 2015 Community Spirit award by United Way of Portage County at its annual Recognition Luncheon Tuesday, Feb. 9, at the Holiday Inn in Stevens Point, WI.rpe

Awarded annually, the Community Spirit Award recognizes an organization for its longtime outstanding corporate and employee support of United Way. Wysocki Family of Cos., a United Way supporter since 2008, was one of over 225 United Way supporters that successfully raised more than $2.8 million to help people within Portage County.

“Wysocki Family of Companies is committed to supporting and volunteering with organizations like the United Way to help the communities where our employees live and work,” Russell Wysocki, president and chief executive officer of RPE, said in a press release.

Wysocki Family of Cos.’ employee-led United Way committee creates year-round fundraisers to raise money for the organization. Each year the committee develops new and inventive workplace fundraisers to engage all employees and encourage employee donations to United Way. A few of these annual events include, but are not limited to, bake sales, chili cook-offs, basket raffles, a cookout and a dunk tank, a tailgate extravaganza and a bean bag toss tournament. Additionally, Wysocki Family of Cos. donates annually to Project Fresh Start, a United Way Portage Count program that donates school supplies to children within the community.

Through all the events, Wysocki Family of Cos. and its employees are able to donate over $50,000 each year to support the programs and services offered to community members through the United Way.