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Kale-Brussels sprouts hybrid to hit stores this fall

A new vegetable will enter produce departments this fall: Kalettes, a green and purple offspring of Brussels sprouts and kale. The flavor of Kalettes can be described as sweet and nutty, combining the best traits of each of its parent vegetables.Kalettes-3

Tozer Seeds — one of the larger family-owned vegetable-breeding companies in England — developed the kale-Brussels sprouts hybrid after more than a decade of research. Its product development staff worked with a variety of different colored sprouts and kale before finally finding its final combination.

Kalettes, which are not genetically modified, were developed by cross-pollinating Brussels sprouts with kale through traditional methods. So far the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have been introduced to the new food with promising results.

Tozer is working with several cooperators to grow and market Kalettes. “We started selling seed in the U.S. in 2012 and quickly realized that this new vegetable was going to be a huge hit with consumers due to the popularity of both vegetables,” Kraig Kuykendall, sales manager of Tozer Seeds-U.S., said in a press release. “The idea behind gathering cooperators to market under the 'Kalettes' brand was to give consumers a consistent name and brand identity to look for in the produce department.”

Plans for the U.S. launch include consumer media engagement and a strong presence on social media channels. The website www.kalettes.com includes recipes and high-quality photography, which will be expanded later this summer.

Fresh Select LLC aims to hire 341 in new tax credit program

A Dinuba, CA-based packinghouse and cold-storage company is in line for the new California Competes Tax Credit, one of 31 companies across the state selected to participate in the new program.

Fresh Select LLC is the only Central Valley company in the running for $500,000 out of a total of about $30 million in tax credits available. A committee is scheduled to vote June 19 in Sacramento on the first round of tax credits.

As part of the tax credit agreement, Fresh Select plans to significantly ramp up employment, with a base of 11 full-time employees last year, 22 this year and up to 352 through the 2018 tax year.

“We are very excited to be selected to participate in this program and be able to provide more jobs locally as well as continue to improve our facility and processes to provide the highest level of service to our customers and growers,” the company said in a statement.

Fresh Select currently employs up to 250 employees during peak seasons and packs up to 1,000 bins a day in a single shift. That would include nearly $6 million in company investments through 2018, which is the tax credit period. As part of the tax credit agreement, Fresh Select would increase operations with the purchase of new equipment.

Fresh Select packs citrus, including easy-peelers, as well as tree fruit, pomegranates and Asian pears for global distribution. In the last two years alone, the company has installed a new Maf Sizer with Global Scan for frost separation, defect sorting and color sorting as well as soft goose neck bin fillers that are gentle enough for apples. New Giro baggers were also installed to meet retail demands.

Other improvements have been made to the state-of-the-art facility to be more energy efficient. The facility is equipped with ozone in cold storage and the refrigerated loading dock for decay control. The facility also has multiple de-greening/ripening rooms.

Fresh Select offers a full-service program which includes trucking both from the field to final destination or to the ports in California.

Grocery Outlet may sell for more than $1 billion

The sale of another retail chain may be on the horizon. Berkeley, CA-based Grocery Outlet, a third-generation family-run discount chain, is exploring a sale valued at more than $1 billion, according to a Reuters report

The article, which cited people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because it is not public, noted that Grocery Outlet has about $100 million in earnings and Barclays and Goldman Sachs were hired to run the sale.

The chain currently has more than 200 independently operated stores in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. Most stores are independently operated by locally based families.

The company was founded by Jim Read in 1946, at which time it sold military surplus at a discount. Since that time it has evolved to provide its customers with a wide variety of offerings, including fresh produce and organics.

Read's grandson, MacGregor Read, has been a co-chief executive officer since 2006. Prior to working at Grocery Outlet, MacGregor worked at Lucky Stores and Del Monte Foods.

Canada poised for changes in the produce marketplace

With an overhaul of its regulatory system for fresh produce imminent, the Canadian marketplace soon will be undergoing more changes than at any time in the past 20 years.

At least that was the view of Fred Webber, chief executive officer and president of the Ottawa-based Dispute Resolution Corp., which can mediate produce sales conflicts among the North American Free Trade Agreement partners of Canada, the United States and Mexico.

He said the licensing change alone takes on a whole new meaning in Canada and it will be much easier for U.S. and Mexican trading partners to check the validity of the Canadian firms with which they do business.

Webber was part of three-person panel discussion about the Canadian produce industry at the United Fresh convention in Chicago, June 10-12. Also discussing the new regulations, which have not been finalized yet, and what they mean were Shelley Ippolito, director of the Destination Inspection Service for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Canadian Produce Marketing Association President Ron Lemaire.

The proposed regulations have gone through several levels of vetting as well as the initial comment period, so these experts appeared to be fairly confident that their impressions of the final regulations are accurate.

Ippolito said it appears that every company importing fruits or vegetables or preparing them for export between countries or between Canadian provinces will have to be licensed under the new regulations.

In addition, all licensees will have to be members of the DRC. Webber said that shippers doing their due diligence will be able to check to make sure a buyer has a license, and is a member in good standing of the DRC. But even if a seller does not do its due diligence, it will be very difficult to sell to a non-licensed company because the product will be prohibited from entering Canada if it is not headed to a licensee.

"You just can't sell it to whoever," said Webber. "You will have to sell it to someone legally."

With regard to the DRC, he said that anyone will be able to appeal to the DRC for help in a slow-pay situation, but still only DRC members will be able to participate in the dispute resolution piece.

So that means there is still a very viable business reason for countries outside of Canada doing business with Canadian companies to have a DRC membership.

Ippolito also discussed the revitalized Destination Inspection Service, which has gone through an overhaul over the last several years. Today, that government agency provides timely inspections on conditions, quality and temperature, and it can also conduct custom inspections. She said the CFIA inspectors operate on a 24/7 time schedule and they produce clear and transparent inspection reports that are available digitally.

Webber plugged the program, telling U.S. and Mexican shippers to make sure they designate a DIS inspection when asking for one from the receiver. He said a receiver can use a private inspector but it must be with "informed consent "from the shipper, and he indicated that it might not be as accurate.

"Please, please, please make sure, when there is a problem, you get a DIS inspection," urged Webber.

Lemaire also discussed what he called the "massive change" in the Canadian produce marketplace. He also complimented the government in accomplishing these changes "lightning fast."

With more transparency and a better situation, the CPMA executive said there are great opportunities for doing business in Canada. He called it a very diversified country with 37 million resident of which 6.5 million are immigrants. Canadian's immigrant population continues to grow, and, as in the United States, ethnic populations tend to be very big consumers of fresh produce.

And also like the United States, the Canadian population is getting older, which is another driver of increased produce consumption. He said Canadians are adventurous eaters with a recent survey stating that 77 percent of the respondents had eaten a new produce item in the past year.

Lemaire said the changes in the regulations, while significant, should not be traumatic for those exporting product into Canada. He indicated that CPMA and other industry representatives worked with the regulators to make sure the regulations were not onerous.

Speaking specifically about food-safety requirements, Lemaire said they are outcome-based, relying on a heavy dose of science and risk analysis.

"The proof will be in the pudding," he said, but clearly indicated that he is very optimistic.

Sunshine Sweet Corn hits record levels

The industry witnessed more sweet corn shipping records broken in the Sunshine State this spring. As most of the country experienced one of the coldest springs on record, Florida’s spring deal saw a sluggish start capped off by another record May, with consecutive week totals that exceeded 1.6 million crates shipped. sunshinesseetThe Sunshine Sweet Corn Farmers of Florida and its members have helped to drive this movement by supporting an integrated marketing campaign that reaches multiple audiences across a variety of channels.

“We faced a variety of obstacles, including extended cold in the North U.S. and trucking challenges during a critical period,” Paul Allen, SSCFF president, said in a press release. “Despite that, we shipped nearly 7.8 million crates in April and May.”

The quality of Sunshine Sweet Corn was cited by many retailers as a driving force behind this growth in spring corn sales. Third-party inspections, funded by SSCFF members, have helped to guarantee consistent high-quality throughout the season, and a strong marketing campaign has driven consumer demand.

“When you are able to drive purchase and deliver a great-tasting product to the market, you have the recipe for a successful season, regardless of the challenges you face,” Allen said in the release.

“As an industry, we have invested significant time and resource to change the perception of sweet corn as just a summer vegetable and improve attitudes toward spring corn,” Ted Wanless, chair of SSCFF’s marketing committee, said in the release. “Through an integrated campaign that has included outreach to trade, media, influencers and consumers, we have been able to grow sales in the face of hyper-local and seasonal trends.”

This year’s program included a television advertising campaign in partnership with Fresh From Florida, which aired in three markets: Indianapolis, Buffalo and Raleigh-Durham, NC.

Its marketing agency, PadillaCRT, secured coverage for fresh spring corn in national and local print and online media that reached over 100 million consumers in April and May. Further investment in online initiatives resulted in more than 60,000 visits to sunshinesweetcorn.com, and a successful Pinterest contest generated more than 60,000 pins and repins, and 9 million impressions across the platform.

Sunshine Sweet Corn is grown in Florida from premium non-GMO seed varieties that are reviewed and approved each year.