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Stemilt begins sixth season of all-organic peaches and nectarines

Harvest is under way for Stemilt’s all-organic peach and nectarine crop in Washington state, and natural farming methods are proving yet again to deliver summer fruits with true dessert flavors.

“This is the sixth season that our entire peach and nectarine crop is grown and certified as organic," Roger Pepperl, Stemilt's marketing director, said in a press release.OrganicPeaches MetricPanta "Consumer demand for organic fruit is very high, and we look forward to supplying organic peaches and nectarines that burst with flavor during the final stretch of summer."

Stemilt’s peaches and nectarines are packed under its "Artisan Organics" label and available from late July to mid-September. The majority of these summer fruits are grown by the Douglas family of Douglas Fruit in Pasco, WA. The family has been farming fruit in Washington state since the early 1900s and has grown peaches since 1980.

Back in 2007, the Douglas family and Stemilt transitioned their entire crop of peaches and nectarines to organic production. They took their first all-organic peach and nectarine crop to market in 2009 and haven’t looked back since.

“The move to organics brought our trees into balance from a horticultural standpoint, and balanced trees deliver fruit with higher sugars and acids, resulting in a better eating experience for consumers,” Jill Douglas, general manager of Douglas Fruit, said in the press release. “We also benefit from growing peaches and nectarines in the best locale. The Columbia Basin and Tri Cities area of Washington state has a volcanic-rich soil and is known for having long, warm summer days that build the fruit’s flavor and cool nights to reenergize trees. The perfect combination that is only enhanced by farming the fruit with natural methods.”

The 2014 season is trending a week ahead of normal with growing conditions from spring bloom through summer described by growers as “absolutely ideal” for peaches and nectarines, Pepperl said.

“The fruit looks and tastes incredible," Pepperl said in the release. "Vibrant colors, juicy and sweet flavors with a good amount of acid. Our focus on tree-ripened fruit ensures a consistent level of maturity to further enhance the consumer eating experience. Artisan Organics peaches and nectarines offer retailers with a true differentiation point to their late summer fruit program. We look forward to delivering a premium, high-flavored crop in the coming months.”

Stemilt has a variety of merchandising materials to assist with promotions around Artisan Organics peaches and nectarines, including pop-up display bins and signage that features the Douglas family and conveys their commitment to organic farming practices.

Mucci Farms, execs charged with fraud

A court hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 15 in connection with charges filed against two top officials at Mucci Farms, headquartered in Kingsville, ON. General Manager Danny Mucci and Vice President of Sales and Marketing Joe Spano face charges of defrauding the public and three major grocery store chains by misrepresenting the country of origin of greenhouse vegetables the company markets.

Mucci Farms is also being charged as a business in the case. The retail outlets involved are Costco Wholesale, Sobeys Inc. and Loblaw Cos.

According to court documents filed in Ontario, the men are charged with violations of the Criminal Code, Canadian Agricultural Products Act, Fresh Fruit & Vegetables Regulations, Food & Drug Act and the Consumer Packaging & Labelling Act.

In a prior interview, Spano told The Produce News the company owns and operates 150 acres in greenhouse production and represents an additional 400 acres of Canadian greenhouses. Mucci also represents Mexican growers with an additional 200-300 acres in production.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is conducting an investigation into the case.

When asked about the involvement of the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., Fred Webber, president and chief executive officer, said, "It would not be appropriate for DRC to comment on any ongoing investigation or any pending charges. From a broad perspective, DRC members all have standards and responsibilities they must maintain to continue as DRC members. Any member found guilty of breaching those standards and responsibilities could be terminated or required to post financial security."

Attorney Patrick Ducharme, a senior partner at the Windsor law firm of Ducharme & Fox LLP, is representing the defendants. The Produce News reached him in Miami on July 30 for his comments.

“Yes, I’ve been advised of the charges and expect the case will go to trial,” he stated. Ducharme said he had not received disclosures from the prosecutors prior to his trip to Miami.

Emily Murracas, marketing director for Mucci Farms, also provided The Produce News with a brief statement on July 30. “We cannot comment at this time because of pending litigation,” she said. “But we’re staying positive at this time.”

I Love Produce donates money to local Peru village school

I Love Produce, a pioneer in importation of organic ginger from Peru, took part in a new harvest celebration and ceremony to commemorate its donation of $13,440 to the local village school called the "Antonio Raymondi" secondary school. The school donation program was initiated by I Love Produce to give back to the local native Asháninka Community of Churingaveni where the ginger is from. The Asháninkas are the second-largest indigenous group living in the rainforests of Peru with a culture that dates back to the time of the Incas.

“The Asháninka rainforest area is one of the most remote places I have ever traveled”, said Jim Provost, president of I Love Produce. “A trip there requires a 10 hour flight to Lima, a 12 hour bus ride from the capital to the village and then a perilous river crossing by raft to reach the school. Because of the remoteness of the area, the school lacks many of the resources we take for granted. Our aim is to form a lasting relationship with the school so we can make a difference to their kids on a long-term basis.”

CheckPeruThe school donation program was set up with I Love Produce’s ginger supplier, Rainforest Organic. The money from this project will support the school library, computer room and other facilities, said school director Jaime Fernández Yoni Cave of Antonio Raymond School.   “For the children this project is a-dream-come-true.”

The harvest ceremony included local traditional clothing, dancing, singing, a feast of local food and drink followed by a spirited game of basketball. A movie of the event can be viewed on company website — iLoveProduce.com.

“The rainforest region of Peru is an ideal place to grow organic ginger because it is virgin land and we only allow ginger to be grown once every six years on the acreage in order for the land to fully recover”, said Guillermo Medina, owner of Rainforest Ginger. “The forest provides everything for the Asháninka. Most Asháninka children attend a primary school and alongside their usual lessons the school children learn how they can contribute to their community and look after the environment. They are taught that it’s their forest and their home. It’s also important that communities can make an income from their forest resources. So together we’re helping the Asháninka to receive training in how to improve the ginger and the land it is grown on, so that they can make a decent living and pass down their skills to the next generation.”

“The good people at Rainforest Organic show a good deal of love and care for the products that they produce,” said Provost. “It shows in the quality of their ginger. New crop Peru ginger is now arriving in the United States and we now have organic and conventional ginger for sale at prices competitive to the Chinese market.   The harvest ceremony was perfect timing because the market has been short of ginger, and is ready for a new supply of good quality, and good value ginger.”

“China has dominated to ginger market for years, but because Chinese ginger prices have increased in recent years, there is a great opportunity for the ginger buyers and consumers in the United States to evaluate the ginger from Peru and get an indication of its value in the market,” Provost added.

Ready Pac celebrates new Wrap Kits with vacation giveaway

Ready Pac Foods, Inc. recently launched its latest contest promotion, Elite Eats. This indulgent-inspired promo gives contestants the chance to win an ELITE spa vacation for two at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix — valued at $3,000, courtesy of Ready Pac.

Contestants enter by voting for their favorite new Ready Pac Bistro Bowl Wrap Kit on Ready Pac’s website before Aug.10 or by following a link from any one of Ready Pac’s other digital sites on Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

EliteEats Ready Pac is using #eliteeats to notify customers of contest news and updates. The winner will be randomly selected from all submitted entries by Aug.10. Through this web-based promotion, Ready Pac aims to broaden and delight their consumer base, while spreading the word about their exciting new line of Bistro Bowl Wrap Kits.

As a departure from the traditional concept of healthy single-serve salads, Ready Pac Bistro Bowl Wrap Kits are the only on-the-go meal solution to fuse the concept of healthy ready-to-eat salads with a build-your-own-wrap component. Ready Pac plans to elevate their relationship with consumers beyond the sales transaction to a place where the Bistro brand and user lifestyles are effortlessly connected.

“We have so many fantastic new wrap flavors – even I am having trouble narrowing down my favorite!” said Tristan Simpson, vice president of corporate communications at Ready Pac. “Our Elite Eats contest is a great way to engage and reward our consumers for responding so positively to our latest innovation platform. Bistro Bowl Wrap Kits are such a clever departure from other fresh prepared meal offerings on shelves right now — we’re excited to find new opportunities for shoppers to fall in love with our line of Bistro Bowl Salads all over again.”

To learn more about the Elite Eats contest or about Ready Pac Bistro Bowl Wrap Kits visit readypac.com.

Sage Fruit teams up with Marvel to 'snack like a super hero'

Sage Fruit announced the release of an exciting new product line that will feature Marvel characters.

SpideyBeginning July 2014, Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man cherry packaging will be available at retailers nationwide. This will include Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man pouch bags, as well as Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man point-of-purchase display bins. Based on recent Q Score data, Spider-Man is the No. 1 action-based character with boys, and with the massive pop culture appeal of the "Marvel" brand, this new program is expected to reach multiple other demographics too.

“Sage Fruit is dedicated to encouraging a healthy lifestyle in not only adults, but children as well,” Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing, said in a press release. “We feel this can be accomplished through innovative marketing programs that provide engaging content, useful tools and unique experiences. Our hope is that with this new collaboration, we can reach a younger demographic and that we can help parents by making nutritious eating and physical activity simple and fun.”

“Marvel’s characters are about strength, performance, and doing the right thing,” Michael Jerchower, director of licensing at Marvel, said in the release. “What better way to encourage healthy habits in kids than to use Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man and the Avengers as Super Hero role models who emulate an active lifestyle?”

Sage Fruit Co. will also be launching brand new packaging and marketing opportunities featuring Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man for the 2014-15 apple and pear crops.