The following are the main points to the recently announced proposed merger of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association and the International Fresh-cut Produce Association.

--- Current United President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Stenzel will retain those titles for the new United Fresh Produce Association. Current IFPA President Jerry Welcome will become executive vice president of business development.

--- Both the United Produce Show and the Fresh-cut Expo will continued to be held separately, with the United show concentrating on marketing and merchandising, and the fresh-cut show focusing on equipment and technology.

--- IFPA will move to United's Washington, DC, location, from Alexandria, VA, which is expected to generate more than $100,000 in savings that can be reinvested in member value.

--- The staffs of both associations will be retained, with a plan currently underway to build the most synergy.

A full report appears in More News.

PBH board of trustees elects 2006 executive committee and officers

Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the California Avocado Commission in Irvine, CA, was elected chairman of the Produce for Better Health Foundation's board of trustees at its 2006 annual meeting earlier this month in San Francisco. Ms. DeLyser most recently served as vice chairman of the organization.

The board of trustees recognized the service of outgoing 2005 Chairman of the Board David Parker, director of marketing for Fruit Patch Sales in Dinuba, CA, who remains on the executive committee as immediate past chairman.

Mike O'Brien, vice president of produce for Schnuck Markets in St. Louis, was elected vice chairman, and Mark Munger of Andrew Williamson Sales Co. in Watsonville, CA, was elected secretary/treasurer.

Ray Gilmer, director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland, FL, was elected chairman of the foundation's Consumer Marketing & Communications Committee. Gregg Storey, industry relations lead for Bayer CropScience in Research Triangle, NC, will assume chairmanship of the foundation's Development Committee.

In addition to officers and committee chairs, the following people were elected to serve as at-large members of PBH's Executive Committee:

* Sheila Cohn, nutrition coordinator with the National Restaurant Association in Washington, DC.

* Mary DeGroat, director of public relations for the California Strawberry Commission in Watsonville, CA.

* Terry Humfeld, vice president of member relations for the Produce Marketing Association in Newark, DE.

* Steve Junqueiro of Save Mart Supermarkets in Modesto, CA.

* Paul Klutes, director of brand sales for C.H. Robinson Worldwide in Groton, MA.

* Blair Richardson, president of the California Tree Fruit Agreement in Reedley, CA.

* Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association in Washington, DC.

Outgoing committee chairmen for 2005 were also recognized for their contribution.

* Past Retail Marketing Committee Chairman Tim Meissner, director of sales of River Ranch Fresh Foods LLC in Salinas, CA.

* Past Communications Committee Chairman Ray Gilmer of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland, FL.

* Past Development Committee Chairman Neil Strong, head of industry relations for Syngenta in Moneta, VA.

Indianapolis Fruit to host organic seminar

With the rapid growth of organic sales in supermarkets, retailers need more information about the category. In grand style, Indianapolis Fruit Co. in Indianapolis is answering many of the questions.

On April 24-25 the produce distributor will host 200 industry members for a sophisticated, invitation-only seminar titled "Winning at Retail: Developing Organics as a Strategic Point of Difference."

The company's Shane Towne, who has a background in organic produce, is organizing the seminar. Mr. Towne is marketing and new business development coordinator for Indianapolis Fruit.

Those attending the show hail from northern Wisconsin to Alabama to the Carolinas.

In addition to featuring seminars with four top experts in the organic business, the event will include a food show with about 40 organic food suppliers. Retailers are the focus of the seminar, but those attending will also include distribution center managers, government organizations, the press and local and regional growers.

Indianapolis Fruit is using University Place Conference Center & Hotel as the venue for the event. The invited guests are scheduled to enjoy a reception April 24, then the seminar runs all day April 25. The speakers will be Mark Mulcahy, Jeff Bartovics, Harold Lloyd and Cissy Brown.

Mr. Mulcahy owns Organic Options in Glen Ellen, CA, which is an organic education and consulting company. In 2002 he won the Sustie Award from the Ecological Farming Association. Sustie is an acronym for Steward of Sustainable Agriculture.

Mr. Bartovics has been in the organic food industry in many capacities for the last decade, beginning as a chef. He is the produce pool coordinator of Organic Valley Family of Farms in Lafarge, WI.

Mr. Lloyd is a business school graduate from both the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago. He was president of a family retail company, then began consulting to the retail business 19 years ago. He is based in Virginia Beach, VA.

Ms. Bowman started growing organic food in 1973 and has worked in various capacities within the category since then. In 1996 she helped to start Indiana Certified Organic LLC, which is a USDA- and ISO 65-accredited certifying agency. She is now chief executive officer of ICO and has served as chairman of the Indiana Organic Peer Review Panel, among many other leading roles in organics.

"This is our first year putting this together," Mr. Towne said. "The response for this has been amazing. We are very pleased about the response. This came out of the need that we were hearing from retailers, 'This organic category isn't going away. It's here to stay. It's double-digit growth consistently and it's not slowing or even leveling off. How do I pull organics into my regular set?' Out of that, we almost called this seminar Demystifying Organics."

He said that traditional retailers need the tools to apply an understanding of organics, and the issues surrounding organics, to individual stores.

Mr. Towne said that Indianapolis Fruit "hangs its hat on customer service. We really pride ourselves on educating our retailers so they can educate their consumers. There are so many questions and misunderstandings around organics, so we thought 'Let's get the key, right people involved for an outstanding seminar.' "

Indianapolis Fruit is a certified-organic distributor and handler "and we want to be that source for organics, he added. "More importantly, we want to educate our customers on the proper way to handle organics, so everyone in the mix is profitable."

United and IFPA to join forces, giving members a greater voice

WASHINGTON -- The United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association and the International Fresh-cut Produce Association announced April 19 that they will pool their resources and merge thir organizations to become the United Fresh Produce Association by the end of the year.

The new marriage reflects a consolidating industry, stepped up food-safety pressures and the ever-increasing blurred line between processing and other sectors of the supply chain.

"This is a merger of two strong, independent and respected associations, and a major step forward for both IFPA and United members, and the entire produce industry," IFPA Chairman Mark Miller of Fresh From Texas said in a statement.

United Chairman Nick Tompkins of Apio Inc. said that the merger would allow the new association to reach out to all other companies in the produce supply chain to join the essential mission of promoting the produce industry.

Last September, top officials from both groups sat down at United's Washington Public Policy meeting to discuss a strategic alliance that would pool valuable resources and ever-increasing demands on members and association staff who are committed to responding to key industry issues, such as food safety.

In February, United President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Stenzel and IFPA President Jerry Welcome talked again on a long plane ride home from a European meeting, where it became clear they wouldn't save enough resources by simply coordinating efforts. The answer, it appeared, was to evolve by merging operations, resources and expertise in order to best represent members across the supply chain from seed to retail.

On March 30, the top leaders of IFPA and United voted to recommend the merger to their own boards, and earlier this month both boards of directors voted unanimously to seek membership approval of the new organization. The results of that vote will be announced May 6 at the United Produce Show.

The groups both share a commitment to pressing issues such as food safety and increasing America's consumption of fruits and vegetables, said Mr. Stenzel. With the Food & Drug Administration's produce action plan and the increased scrutiny of the lettuce industry, there is huge pressure on the industry to make sure the products are as safe as they can be for consumers, he said.

Both groups employ full-time food safety experts -- IFPA's David Gombas and United's Jim Gorny -- but they weren't "capturing the synergy because they were doing the same thing and reporting back to the same committees," said Mr. Stenzel.

The merger of the organizations will provide leadership in food safety and health, government relations, business innovation and an improved return on membership investment. The combined group will provide a stronger voice to the news media, continue two targeted trade shows that service different segments of the industry, and encourage IFPA's outreach to companies in Europe, said the groups.

Under the new structure, IFPA's Fresh-Cut Expo, which is taking place later this month, would continue to promote equipment and technology needed to drive innovation in seed development, agricultural production, post-harvest handling, packing and packaging, warehousing and distribution, and other technical solutions. The United Produce Show would continue its focus on marketing and merchandising innovations for produce sales growth through retail, foodservice and other channels.

With IFPA's lease up at its Alexandria, VA, office, the timing seemed right, said Mr. Welcome, who will be moving operations to United's more spacious Washington, DC, office. The press statement issued by the two groups said that reducing office overhead would generate more than $100,000 is savings that can be reinvested in member value.

The groups entertained the idea of combining forces years ago, but the timing was not right. "IFPA was incredibly ahead of the game in recognizing the potential of fresh-cut processing," said Mr. Stenzel, who added that it was a young industry and the organization helped bring the role of processing to the mainstream. At the time, processors and grower-shippers occupied different segments of the industry. Now it is uncommon to find companies that just cut fruits and vegetables, as the industry continues to become more efficient, undergo consolidation and blur the lines of what is considered processing.

The organizations plan to blend staff as they both agreed to find positions for everyone. Mr. Stenzel said that both staffs have been asked to come up with a plan that will "build the most synergy" and best serve the membership. Once the vote from the membership is final, the newly minted organization plans to hold its first meeting at United's Washington Public Policy conference in September.

The new organization is likely to change the dynamics of the produce industry. News of the merger reached the Produce Marketing Association, which issued a statement from PMA Chairman Janet Erickson of Del Taco Inc. and PMA President Bryan Silbermann.

"Regarding the announcement of the merger between IFPA and UFFVA, we have every confidence that the volunteer leaders of both associations made the right decision for their members. We wish them well and plan to continue to work closely with the United Fresh Produce Association.

"We will continue to expand the value we provide PMA members in the areas of education, marketing information, technology and standards, government relations, food safety, and premier networking events such as Fresh Summit, the foodservice conference and others," said the PMA statement.

IFPA and United announce intent to join forces

WASHINGTON -- The leadership of the International Fresh-cut Produce Association and the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association announced April 19 their intent to combine forces to deliver the highest possible level of value to members and meet today's critical challenges facing the fresh produce industry.

"This is a merger of two strong, independent and respected associations and a major step forward for both IFPA and United members and the entire produce industry," IFPA Chairman Mark Miller of Fresh From Texas in San Antonio, TX, said in a statement. "With our combined board leadership and staff expertise in public policy, food safety, marketing, nutrition and health, education, leadership development, media communications and supply chain issues from field to fork, we will serve our members with greater resources, greater expertise and greater efficiency than ever before."

"Our combined organization will not only offer greater member value and expertise, we will reflect the strength and heritage that each association brings forward today," United Chairman Nick Tompkins of Apio Inc. in Guadalupe, CA, added. "IFPA has been an essential force since 1988 in helping grow the fresh-cut, value-added produce industry to the mainstream business that it is today. United recently celebrated our 100th anniversary of service to the industry. To mark the importance of today's new partnership, upon completion of this merger we will launch together an even stronger brand 'United' than ever -- to be called the United Fresh Produce Association -- signifying this new partnership between members of our two associations and reaching out to all other companies in the produce supply chain to join us in this essential mission to promote our industry."

The merger of IFPA and United will provide unparalleled leadership to its members and the produce industry in five key areas:

--- Leadership in government relations, issues management and media advocacy. IFPA and United are the only broad-based produce associations based in Washington, with board and council leadership and strong professional staff in all aspects of public policy, government affairs and media relations. The combined group will deliver unmatched value in shaping legislative, regulatory, political and legal solutions to challenges threatening the industry's growth and profitability, while providing the strongest possible voice for the produce industry before the news media.

--- Leadership in food safety, quality assurance, nutrition and health. The new organization will capitalize on IFPA's strong record in fresh-cut safety and quality assurance, with United's long commitment to food safety regulatory affairs and government relations. IFPA and United are the only produce associations to each have member-led food safety and technical committees, whose efforts will now be combined for maximum synergy. The new staff team will feature unmatched depth of scientific expertise with Dr. Jim Gorny, Dr. Dave Gombas and Dr. Ashley Bell leading food safety efforts, and Dr. Lorelei DiSogra directing nutrition and health programs.

--- Focus on innovation and business growth through increased produce sales and profitability. IFPA and United will offer the industry unique value in two targeted trade shows that meet the needs of specific sectors of the produce business. IFPA's Fresh-Cut Expo will continue to be held annually and expand to focus on the equipment, tools and technology needed to drive innovation in seed development, agricultural production, post-harvest handling, packing and packaging, warehousing and distribution, and other technical solutions. The United Produce Show at FMI will continue to grow its focus on marketing and merchandising innovations for produce sales growth through retail, foodservice and other channels.

--- Local and global services to meet members' needs. In recognition of the global nature of the produce business, yet critical needs facing smaller companies at the local level, the combined organization will be both globally and locally focused to address the unique business needs of its members around the world. IFPA's recent outreach to provide value and services to companies in Europe will continue.

--- Streamlined services and improved return on membership investment. The new organization will drive a level of cost-effectiveness and efficiency for member companies not available in separate organizations. By combining forces, management will drive overhead costs lower, maximize staff synergy and expertise, and dramatically improve member company time efficiency. It is estimated that reduction in office overhead alone will generate more than $100,000 in savings that can be reinvested in member value.

Discussions to develop a strategic alliance between IFPA and United began in September 2005 and focused on the possibility of combining resources, expertise and industry leadership to better serve the two organizations' respective memberships. On March 30, the executive officers of IFPA and United met to review a possible business plan for this strategic alliance and voted to recommend a full merger of the two associations to their own boards.

In subsequent independent meetings April 12 and April 14, respectively, the IFPA and United boards of directors voted unanimously to proceed and seek membership endorsement of the merger.

An electronic ballot seeking endorsement of each board's action is being sent to the voting members of each association April 19, with results of that vote to be reported May 6 at the United Produce Show at FMI. If approved, the boards of IFPA and United have authorized their respective officers and executive staff to complete the legal requirements necessary to execute the merger as soon as possible.