Discount retailer plans rapid expansion

Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, an extreme-value grocery retailer, will open 14 stores throughout the Los Angeles area beginning this December, and it expects to continue at a rapid pace throughout 2016. groceout

In addition to bringing affordable, healthy options to the Los Angeles area, Grocery Outlet will be making an impact in the local communities as well. All stores are independently owned and operated by residents in or near the communities they serve. With the opening of the first 14 stores alone, the independent Grocery Outlet operators will create jobs for approximately 500 people.

"Giving back to the Los Angeles community is a big priority," MacGregor Read, co-chief executive officer of Grocery Outlet, said in a press release. "My grandfather started this business nearly 70 years ago. As a family-run business, we're proud to say our values are reflected in each of our stores. From supporting little league teams to donating food to those in need, our local owners share our commitment to making a lasting impact."

Most of Grocery Outlet's more than 210 stores — located in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington —  are independently operated by locally based families.

Grocery Outlet Bargain Market buyers negotiate directly with manufacturers to buy overstock and surplus products at deep discounts and pass those savings directly on to customers. All products are 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed.

Grocery Outlet said that this year alone, shoppers have saved more than $1 billion on products purchased at Grocery Outlet as compared to traditional grocery stores.





Rare September storm could be precursor for things to come in California

California farmers and homeowners alike have suffered through four years of the worst drought in history by some measures. There are very strong indications that will change this year with the El Niño conditions strengthening in sub-tropical Pacific Ocean. Early Tuesday morning, Sept. 15, Southern California was reminded what that might feel like as rains pelted Los Angeles for about 10 hours bringing flooding and traffic snarls throughout the area.

About two inches of rain fell in Los Angeles overnight Sept. 14, making it the wettest day of 2015 and also the wettest September day in more than 30 years. By 9 a.m. Sept. 15, 1.78 inches of rain had fallen at Los Angeles International Airport. Just this one day of rain had already made this month the third wettest September in the city’s history.

It’s very rare indeed for Southern California to experience a significant September storm, with heat waves reaching 100 degrees much more common in September.

Other areas of Southern California also had record rainfall. In most instances, the rain is a welcome sight, but flooding is not the way people want to see the drought end. Though no one is claiming that this one storm can be directly tied to the El Niño conditions, there is a connection. When the El Niño conditions exists, which basically mean significant above-average water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, those same warm ocean waters have been accompanied by increased tropical activity in the Pacific region.

Specifically, the Sept. 15 rain is a remnant of Hurricane Linda, which formed in the eastern tropical Pacific. It is the 11th tropical storm from that region so for this year, which is two greater than the average for the previous 30 years.

Recently, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center revealed that there is now a 95 percent chance that El Niño will continue through the winter, which is when California would typically see its share of the rainfall caused by this environmental condition.

There have been six years since 1958 with similar El Niño conditions at this time of year. In each of those years Southern California received above-average rainfall. In three of those years, the entire state also experienced above-average rainfall, but in the other three years, some areas in the northern half of the state remained relatively dry.

Mike Anderson, the California state climatologist, said it is too early to predict just how this El Niño will play out, but he acknowledged that it has always delivered a wet punch to Southern California.

The California Department of Water Resources would like to see a steady influx of storms that somewhat gently blanket the state with rainfall that the reservoirs and the ground can handle. But Mother Nature hasn’t been that nice during previous El Niño years.

Anderson said California’s mantra has been to “hope for the best and plan for the worst.” For the last four years that has meant planning for continued drought conditions with conservation measures and water delivery cutbacks. This year that state agency has to also plan for the flooding that has typically accompanied the heavy El Niño storms.

For the most part, the state’s wettest months come in the January-to-March time frame, but last year December was particularly wet and the different El Niño years have not resulted in a typical pattern. Every year is different, Anderson said.

This mid-September Southern California rain, which was also expected to drift northward as the week progressed, was met with glee for the most part. From San Diego through Ventura counties, there was significant rain. The Oxnard area reported a little more than an inch of rain. It came in less than 10 hours so it did create some muddy fields and delayed harvesting for several hours, but no major damage was reported to crops.

California can use many more of these storms over the next six to seven months, though it would be preferable if the deluges were spread out a bit.

Retailer uses app to introduce growers to consumers

To help customers understand where their produce comes from, the Great Basin Community Food Co-op in Reno, NV, is launching an innovative app that allows shoppers to virtually connect with the producers of their food. Launching in-store later this month, the Meet Your Farmer app is the first-of-its-kind for a U.S. grocery store — designed to increase awareness and appreciation of local food.

The Meet Your Farmer App will feature 25 producers local to the Reno area sharing their love of farming with consumers. With facts about their history, farming practices and produce, these growers will connect with individuals to tell a story not only about the produce, but also the farmers working behind the scenes to deliver fresh, healthy foods to the store.gowerapThe Great Basin Community Food Co-op will launch the Meet Your Farmer app in-store on Sept. 19.

The free app will enable shoppers to connect with local farmers simply by pointing their smartphones at Meet Your Farmer signs throughout the store. An introduction video from that farmer will instantly play on their smartphone or tablet. Shoppers will be able to meet their farmers and see where their produce was grown.

Steve Cook, creative director of NEON, a Reno-based marketing agency, is the architect of the idea. “I went on a farm tour and saw how people really enjoyed getting to know their farmers and seeing how their food was produced,” he said in a press release. “It set me off thinking of ways to use new technology so it could be done easily in-store by potentially thousands of people.”

Even as consumers become increasingly conscious about where their food comes from and how it is produced, he continued, few will ever have the chance to visit a farm or interact with those who bring their food to market. Meet Your Farmer will connect shoppers to their local producers right in the produce aisle.

“We are excited to be the first grocer to incorporate this technology,” Amber Sallaberry, general manager of the Great Basin Community Food Co-op, said in the press release. “It reinforces our emphasis on local food and community, and our core belief in complete transparency about what we sell to our customers.”

Idaho is a one-stop-shop potato supplier

Ten years ago, Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer of the Idaho Potato Commission, presented the industry with a challenge. “Our goal is to become a one-stop-shop state,” he told The Produce News. “We’re definitely there.”

The challenge did not go unheeded. Muir said Idaho has gained a favorable reputation for production of Burbanks and Norkotahs over the years. “We weren’t a big variety market 10 years ago,” he noted. Today, the state’s producers are also growing reds, yellows and fingerlings. “Our soil is perfect for growing all varieties,” he added. “We have one group that specifically grows fingerlings.”CropOV-FRANK-MUIRFrank Muir

The industry continues to fund research to bring new varieties into commercialization, thereby diversifying its stock and embracing consumer and foodservice preferences.

Muir said chefs are always looking for something new to incorporate into their dishes. “New varieties enhance Russets, not replace them,” he observed, adding that incorporation of potatoes also helps restaurants bring down the per-plate cost for dishes containing protein.

Looking at the 2015 crop, Muir said, “I’m really encouraged by what I’m seeing.” Idaho is home to approximately 600 farms which grow potatoes for the fresh market and process. In all, potatoes are grown on approximately 324,000 aces, and he said producers are expected to move 13 billion pounds of potatoes this season.

While the number is staggering, he gave it a graphic frame of reference, saying this volume would fill 500 football fields to a height of 10 feet. “That’s a lot of potatoes,” Muir said.

By early September, 50 percent of the potato harvest in western Idaho had been completed. “The challenge on the eastern side of the state is that there was a lot of moisture,” Muir said. “Right now, there is heat.”

While the number of tubers will be down somewhat, Muir said, “We will have an average size profile this season. We will have fewer small potatoes than last year. We will have ample supplies for all uses.”

Harvesting will finish in mid-October. “Quality looks very good to excellent,” he added, saying he expects pricing to be favorable.

Idaho potatoes are certified as heart healthy by the American Heart Association, and Muir said use of the AHA logo has been negotiated for Idaho potato growers for packaging.

Approximately 40 percent of Idaho’s potato volume is sold to the fresh market, and Muir said 57 percent of fresh supplies are moved offshore. “We target higher-end demographics. We’re definitely looking at expanding [export],” he said. “Idaho has worldwide trade recognition. It’s a brand of quality image.”

One of the biggest challenges, he said, is logistics. The recent port shutdowns affected volume moved to the processing sector. “Processors had to adjust,” he continued. “It certainly made it more difficult.”

The commission is fully invested in ongoing trade missions. “We have representatives that go on every governor’s trade missions,” Muir commented.

Avocados from Peru concludes unprecedented 2015 campaign

The Peruvian Avocado Commission has closed its 2015 season with more than 100 million pounds of fruit imported into the United States over a three-month period. Since it began exporting to the United States, Peru has become an increasingly important supplier of avocados during the summer peak season.

Much of the success of the 2015 season can be attributed to the innovative promotional campaign that combined a number of first-in-category events and web200Earlier this year the Peruvian Avocado Commission sponsored free avocado topping in New York City at the New York Mets’ Citi Field in honor of National Hot Dog Day.

“From coast to coast we worked with top retailers, influencers, and partnered with a number of successful brands to get Avocados from Peru on the minds and plates of consumers across the country,” Xavier Equihua, president and chief executive officer of the PAC, said in a press release. “We are especially grateful for the support of the retail trade who have recognized and promoted the quality of Avocados from Peru.”

One strategic element of the 2015 multi-faceted and multi-media marketing campaign was the support of a social media campaign that was designed to drive engagement and focus on quality content across multiple channels.

The brand’s social media strategy made a strong impression with consumers and had a measurable impact on brand awareness with millions of impressions.

PAC flourished in digital content creation and distribution during the 2015 season with a digital cookbook that is available as a free download in Apple’s iBook Store and on the brand’s Facebook page.

The book in hard-copy format was also available in limited quantities and distributed to attendees of the 8th annual World Avocado Congress, held Sept. 13-18 in Lima.

Additionally, PAC also released new editions of AVOMAG, the first-in-category online magazine focusing on exciting news from the world of avocados.

Throughout the season, PAC partnered with thoughtfully selected Flavor Ambassadors who embody the brand and messaging to drive strategic public relations initiatives with significant impact. Flavor Ambassadors for the 2015 program included Chef Martin Morales, chef-proprietor of London’s Andina and Ceviche restaurants; and Washington D.C.’s Peruvian Brothers, who operate a renowned food truck.

The primary goals of PAC’s 2015 marketing program were to reinforce consumer awareness of the flavor and nutrition found in Avocados from Peru and to support retailers during the peak summer season.

Highlights of the 2015 Season include:

  • A kick-off event on board the USS Cole that was captured in a segment that aired on more than 100 television stations across the country and reached millions of viewers.
  • Co-sponsorship of the Smithsonian Institute’s 49th Annual Folklife Festival featuring custom dishes from the Peruvian Brothers, culinary duo and operators of one of Washington, DC’s top-rated food trucks, that marked the first time avocados from any country were served on the National Mall.
  • A focused media tour in New York City with top London Chef Martin Morales visiting elite culinary and media establishments.
  • For the first time in the category, PAC sponsored free avocado topping in New York City at the New York Mets’ Citi Field in honor of National Hot Dog Day.
  • Release of video capsules about the perfect growing conditions of Peru, the country’s culturally rich heritage, and the industry’s deep commitment to social responsibility and sustainability.
  • A robust sampling program of fresh Avocados from Peru in 1,600 Walmart locations and more than half of the nation’s Costco stores during the summer season. In addition, Costco is currently promoting the PAC e-cookbook via its Facebook page, which has more than 1 million followers.

To bookend the successful 2015 season, the Peruvian Avocado Commission is hosting more than 1,000 international attendees at the eighth annual World Avocado Congress Sept. 13-18 in Lima. One of the highlights of the congress is a scientific program focusing on health and human nutrition and updated information regarding agricultural management, production and commercialization.

The congress also includes research presentations of scientific, marketing and commercial subjects from all parts of the world that influence the future of the industry.

Additionally, PAC will support a brand new pavilion at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit taking place Oct. 22-25 in Atlanta and featuring the first 8x16 jumbotron display in the history of the event.  

The marketing efforts of PAC reflect the organization’s commitment to supplying the United States with top-quality fruit during the summer season while building relationships with consumers and retailers to educate the public about the health benefits of Peruvian Avocados.