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Improvements for Mexican mango industry slated for upcoming EMEX meeting

ANAHEIM, CA — EMEX A.C., Mexico’s mango packer export association, late this fall will be meeting to vote on, among other topics, tightening quality standards for Mexican export mangos.  

Named Empacadoras de Mango de Exportación A.C. and based in Zapopan, Jalisco, the group’s exporters are the 65 hot-water treatment plants that process mangos to suit USDA phytosanitary standards for the United States.

“One hundred percent of our volume goes to the U.S.,” said Enrique Sánchez, who started his two-year stint as EMEX president in February.

Sánchez said that EMEX, which was formed in 1991, coordinates all activities for exporting mangos to the United States. At its annual meeting Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in Puerto Vallarta, the membership will vote on an effort by Sánchez to lift quality standards for export fruit. Quality standards are in place but a new agreement would have stronger regulations for export mangos.

“I can’t assure the government will support this,” he said. “But it will be better for everyone in the mango business” to have stronger quality standards. “But I am not the government! We already pay for [government] inspections. But we would have tougher standards.”  

Tougher competition with better fruit throughout the industry will strengthen the entire Mexican mango business, he noted.

Sánchez also indicated that the coming meeting will also have a discussion of improving food-safety standards through more stringent controls on the water used in mango hot-water treatment.

A third item on the agenda in late November is an effort to have better mango crop and harvest schedule estimates.

“This will be a tool for produce exporting and distributors in the United States to make better deals based on the volumes we will be exporting,” he said. “This is a priority, for sure.”

EMEX has a committee that is engaged in analyzing developing new foreign markets, Sánchez said. New markets in Asia, Latin America and Europe can be developed through recommendations on promoting mangos through quality and health issues. EMEX administrates Mexico’s portion of U.S.-market mango marketing through the National Mango Board.

Sánchez said EMEX’s 65 members are located in states that run up Mexico’s Pacific coast all the way from Campeche to Sinaloa.  There is also a hot-water treatment plant and exporter in Baja California.

Start planning early for holiday season

It’s hard to believe that summer has past, fall is here, and we are already seeing Christmas decorations and merchandise in the stores. That should be a signal to start planning produce programs for the big holiday shopping season.

Thanksgiving is just ahead, with Christmas not far behind. This means it’s time to get organized and ready to set your merchandising strategies in place.

This year’s planning should include your customers and how their buying habits will influence produce sales. Consider that consumer confidence has shown improvement recently, which could suggest there may be more buying activity this season.

Consumers tend to spend more during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Ideal planning and display merchandising could put retailers over the top in sales and profit if coordinated properly.

Expert planning for the upcoming holidays will make an immense difference in product quantities, labor requirements, merchandising displays, delivery schedules, advertising programs and sales goals. The most important key in planning is being ready for shoppers as early as possible. The earlier the better.

Here are some holiday guidelines to assist in making your planning easier:

Thanksgiving holiday sales trend

Sales increase about 5 percent the week before Thanksgiving and increase up to 25 percent the week of Thanksgiving. Sales decrease approximately 22 percent the week after Thanksgiving.

Christmas holiday sales trend

Sales increase about 6 percent the week before Christmas and up to 23 percent the week of Christmas. Sales decrease approximately 13 percent the week after Christmas. People then make light purchases for the New Year’s holiday.

Merchandising displays

Your plan should consist of plan-o-gram drawings that identify prime locations that specific holiday items are to be displayed.

Make sure to place the most popular items in several strategic spots in order to motivate customers in shopping the entire department. Visual impact will play a vital role in customers making an instant purchase.

The “art of display” is very influential in those purchases. Start with the main display set as close to the entrance doors as possible, such as in the lobby. This will launch an instant visual impact on customers and trigger a holiday shopping mood in them. Remember, you only have a split-second to capture their attention and grab that initial sale.

Product availability

During the holidays, customers do not want to spot-shop all around town. They usually prefer one store to buy items for the entire dinner meal. Make sure to have sufficient quantities of product to maintain fully stocked displays. Produce out-of-stocks can lose up to 15 percent of sales.

Customers do not shop twice when produce items are unavailable. A consistent stocking level increases consumer trust, comfort and satisfaction. If items are not available, customers cannot make purchases, it’s as simple as that.

Manage your inventory

It’s one rule to ensure you have enough product to keep displays fully stocked. On the other hand, it is also wise to aim for a good after holiday cleanup as well. Every produce item is on borrowed time and will not hold its freshness forever. You must keep a sharp eye on inventory every single day. Prevent carrying over massive amounts of certain items, especially those that were advertised features. This will only lead to high shrink and lower profit in the end.

Remember, sales decrease 23-25 percent after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Focus on upselling

Consumers generally spend more during holidays, especially the Christmas period. There’s no reason to sell cheap. Concentrate on being unique with product and displays. Be a bit fancier and offer extra jumbo size apples, pears, and Navel oranges, for example. Tie in upscale items on wing displays alongside your prime holiday item locations. Don’t be shy to get a premium price for top-quality product and larger sizes.

Fruit baskets

Shoppers normally buy fruit baskets for gift giving. They don’t want a small cheap basket. People will upgrade when buying special occasion gifts and are even willing to pay more for such items as fruit baskets.

Let go of the old thinking that advertising a low-priced fruit basket will have customers rushing to your store. Stop offering those chintzy baskets with only a few pieces of fruit in them. Fatten up those baskets and upgrade the pricing to $20, $30 or even $50. Don’t think small on this particular classy item.

Also, go with pre-made fruit baskets. Time and labor is tight, and outsourcing can accommodate the labor needs of every store and ensure full displays at all times to prevent missed sales.

There is a short window of time to plan your holiday strategy. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before we all know it. Don’t sit back and put this critical sales period aside. If you want to beat last year’s sales and achieve the budgeted gross profit, it’s up to you to plan it in advance, then make it all happen.

Ron Pelger is the president and CEO of RonProCon, a consulting firm for the produce industry, and a co-founder of FreshXperts LLC, a group of produce professionals. He can be reached by phone at 775/853-7056 or 775/843-2394 (mobile) or by email at ronprocon@gmail.com.

Mastronardi has successful PMA Fresh Summit

“We had a very successful PMA Fresh Summit show in Anaheim this year,” said Daniela Ferro, communication coordinator for Mastronardi Produce Ltd., headquartered in Leamington, ON. “Chef Nikki Dinki was in our kitchen all weekend creating amazing dishes using our signature products, as well as our featured product ‘Discover the World’s Flavors’ ‘Wild Wonders. Full of diverse colors, shapes and flavors, this mix of tomatoes from around the world is the perfect way to create unique dishes.”

Mastronardi is promoting the “Wild Wonders” initiative as tomato artistry from around the world. Ferro noted that once people try them all, they will never see or taste tomatoes the same way again, and may even become tomato aficionados.

In packaging suitable for families of any size, “Wild Wonders” come in 12-ounce and two-pound clamshells that are made with post-consumer recycled bottles/post-industrial recycled plastics or with plastics that have been developed from renewable resources.

The company was also very excited to share its plans of its 2015 Flavor Tour at the Fresh Summit. This food truck tour began in August and traveled from Massachusetts all the way to California, bringing its flavors to consumers across the nation. Mastronardi is now taking stop requests for the 2015 tour, which will begin in May.

“We started booking a number of stops for our 2015 Flavor Tour following the overwhelming success of our 2014 tour,” said Ferro. “Our food truck served gourmet samples at PMA all weekend long and helped to welcome ‘Tour de Fresh’ riders as they arrived at PMA.”

Mastronardi also featured its “Sunset Eco Flavor System,” which was an Impact Award Finalist.

The system, which includes high-graphic corrugate boxes and top-seal “Eco Flavor Bowls,” reduces packaging materials by at least 20 percent and is 100 percent recyclable.

“It also promotes healthy snacking with its peel back top, rinse holes and attractive bowl to set out for snacking or entertaining,” added Ferro.

She said that at every PMA Fresh Summit, the Mastronardi booth features executive chefs preparing the company’s best, most flavorful signature recipes.

Additionally, Mastronardi sales team member, Peppe Bonfiglio, was recognized at the Fresh Summit for his success in the PMA Emerging Leaders program.

Market Fresh’s Monett facility is nearing completion

ANAHEIM, CA — In November, Market Fresh Produce LLC, which has its business office in Nixa, MO, will be opening a revitalized warehouse 40 miles away in the southeastern Missouri town of Monett.

Tyler Phipps, general manager of the Monett operation, told The Produce News at the PMA Fresh Summit in Anaheim, that the facility’s multiple functions are to be a tomato repacking facility, a ripening service and a redistribution center.

Phipps said Monett will service a business circle that includes parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Tennessee.    

Monett will repack tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and peppers.  “Those are our key commodities,” he said. “We will potentially repack more. We will listen to our customers and that will dictate the next move.”

The facility was previously operated by Harlin Fruit Co. Phipps said the current cold chain-controlled facility is “shy of 20,000 square feet, and we are looking at an expansion.”

The expansion would involve modernized ripening rooms and adding more space to operate. The modernization of the current facility will turn to establishing a comprehensive food-safety program.  

“As soon as we are operating, that will be priority number one,” he said, adding that it’s impossible to establish a food-safety program amid a construction project.

Phipps noted that Market Fresh has national distribution through contracts with strategically located produce partner-distributors around the country to pack its Market Fresh brands. But the Monett facility “gives us distribution in southwest Missouri.”

At the time of the Oct. 18 interview, Market Fresh was starting its North Carolina sweet potato deal. “The quality is really nice,” he said. “They are slightly behind [schedule], but it’s a great crop this year. It will pick up in November, which is a huge month for us in sweet potatoes.”

Phipps said the national demand for sweet potatoes has greatly heightened over the last two years because of consumer better awareness. Consumers have been introduced to new ways to use sweet potatoes thanks to foodservice creativity in offering the commodity, according to Phipps.  

Phipps, whose father Steve owns Market Fresh, was director of field operations for the firm prior to taking on the Monett project.

Wholesum Harvest wins top award in 2014 Sensory Experience Contest at PMA Fresh Summit

Organic grower Wholesum Harvest took home top honors at the 2014 Sensory Experience Contest at Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Convention and Expo, held Oct. 17-19 in Anaheim, CA.

Wholesum Harvest, one of 10 finalists competing in the contest, won the Buyers’ Choice Award for its Organic Eggplant Vegetable Balls with Roma Tomato Sauce. The recipes were developed exclusively for the company by Chef Tony Merola in Wholesum Harvest’s executive kitchen.

“We were so pleased to be part of the Sensory Experience Contest, and to share our healthy, delicious recipes prepared with Wholesum Harvest’s fresh, organic produce,” Ricardo Crisantes, general manager of Wholesum Harvest, said in a press release. “We have been working hard to develop new and exciting recipes — many of which are featured in the Organic Living section of our website — that are easy to prepare, flavorful and appeal to those looking to live an organic lifestyle. It was a privilege and honor to be recognized for our contributions to the competition.”

After review by the contest judges, the recipes were served at the Fresh Ideas in Action Reception at the convention. Wholesum Harvest’s recipes were also recognized in the Innovations at Work area, and will be featured in PMA’s Fresh Magazine.

Contest judges included representatives from Coosemans Shipping of LA, Delhaize America, Disney Consumer Products, Grocery Outlet Inc., Kings Food Markets, Kitchen Witch LLC, Mollie Stone’s Market, Pro*Act, The Produce Mom, Save Mart Super Markets, SUPERVALU and Sysco.

Wholesum Family Farms, an organic produce company based in Nogales, AZ, offers certified organic tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, mangos, squash and zucchini under the “Wholesum Harvest” brand.