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Oppenheimer extends Mexican grape season with new growers

With the addition of two new growers, The Oppenheimer Group is forecasting its longest and most strategic Mexican grape season to date.

This year marks the fifth season that Vancouver, BC-based Oppenheimer will represent grapes grown by the Platt Bros. in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. This year, Oppenheimer has added a second grower in that area, Vi?edo Monte Cristo, as well as Vi?edo Maribel in Caborca, a city located northwest of Hermosillo.

?This approach enables us to build volume at key periods while also extending the season," said John Anderson, Oppenheimer?s chairman, president and CEO. "We saw the opportunity to bridge the Chilean and San Joaquin Valley grape deals by creating partnerships with strategically located Mexican growers. We?re looking forward to a good season with all of our Mexican grape producers."

Oppenheimer will begin shipping Mexican Perlettes and Flames in the second week of May. Superiors will follow a few weeks later.

?Grapes in Caborca are harvested approximately 30 days later than the Hermosillo production," said Dutch Bol, the company?s grape category director. "These grapes will give us a steady supply of preferred varieties into late June or early July."

All Oppenheimer?s grapes from Mexico will be shipped in the company?s branded bags and boxes.

?To help serve our customers better, we began shipping Mexican grapes in the "Oppenheimer? brand last year, and it worked out really well," said Mr. Bol. "Over the last few months, the trade has become accustomed to seeing Chilean grapes in our branded packs. By keeping our Mexican packaging consistent with the Chilean packaging, we hope to make the transition easy for our customers."

Oppenheimer sales and quality control staff will be present at the vineyards during the season. Working alongside the growers, they will assist with the harvesting, packing and shipping processes.

The grapes will be shipped in zip-lock bags, packed in standard 40x50 cm and 40x60 cm boxes, crossing into the United States in Nogales, AZ, where Oppenheimer quality control staff will make final inspections before delivering product to customer locations.

Chilean fruit season to set new volume records

Sometimes those issues that seem to be a problem turn out just fine. So it has gone for those in the Chilean fruit business this year.

Rain early in the season harmed the cherry harvest, and for grapes and other items, it reduced export levels through the season?s first couple of months. The industry began to rebound in February, and has come on so strongly that this will become a record year for Chilean export volumes to the United States, Tom Tjerandsen, managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association in Sacramento, CA, told The Produce News April 11.

?There was a lot of conjecture early on that there was no way to make up for lost shipments early in the season." Mr. Tjerandsen noted that "cold weather made the grape harvest late and weather problems affected the early cherry harvest," so the season started a couple million boxes behind record pace.

?But we?re going to have another record year for shipping to the U.S. from Chile," he said. The late success has come despite the fact that "importers have to bid against a strong euro. It is easier for the Chileans to ship to Europe because of the strong currency. In spite of that, [North American] retailers have found shoppers to be willing and interested." These retailers "are not at all reluctant to order this year because the fruit quality is exceptional, including stone fruit, which they usually grouse about. This year the stone fruit was really fine quality. The stone fruit, all agree, has been exceptionally high quality this year. It has been a good year for shippers."

Mr. Tjerandsen said that the CFFA "has a new [point-of-sale] package this year, full of proven-effective sales materials that retailers have really embraced and used aggressively. This has helped move additional volume." While Chilean fruit is regarded in the trade as a product that has saturated the North American market, he said, "the fruit is still a high-impulse purchase. For some people it is still somewhat of a startling concept to have grapes, peaches and plums in the winter. Point-of-sale materials help call this to their attention."

Fran Boetes leaves Brooks to start his own firm

Fran Boetes, who oversaw sales, marketing, transportation and fruit purchasing for Brooks Tropicals as senior vice president of marketing and sales, left the company March 31 to begin his own management strategy and marketing consulting firm, Frans H. Boetes LLC, based in Miami.

With extensive U.S. and international experience, Mr. Boetes said that his goal is to help companies become more successful. "I want to guide companies into new markets using new business concepts," he said. "The market is getting more and more aggressive, and I have a lot of experience in the field to help companies become successful and increase their sales."

Mr. Boetes joined Brooks Tropicals in late 2003 as vice president of marketing, and was soon promoted to senior vice president of marketing and sales. Prior to Brooks, he was a managing director for Coca-Cola in the Netherlands. In all, he has more than 30 years of experience in business, having run his own consulting business, Boetes? Consultants, prior to his tenure with Coca-Cola.

Mr. Boetes said that his strengths lie in the agricultural, packaging and regulating areas of business, and his international experience will be a benefit to clients as the produce industry becomes more global in nature, with the prominence of product from Chile, Mexico and Brazil.

?The world is getting smaller but more complicated," he said. "People know their businesses and tend to stick to what they do well. I know how to develop new business concepts and how to implement them to help people expand their businesses. Everyone wants to be successful, but it has to be in a professional way, or someone else will come along and do it better."

Mr. Boetes said that he enjoyed his time at Brooks Tropicals, calling it "a great company." He pointed to his ability to increase sales, implement new business concepts and increase brand recognition as some of his more notable accomplishments at the company.

As for the structure of his new consulting company, Mr. Boetes said that he is looking to maintain a small business. "I am considering taking on some partners, but I am not looking to have a big company. I am just going to play it by ear. I will have some clients soon, and we?ll see how it goes."

Craig Wheeling, chief executive officer of Brooks Tropicals, based in Homestead, FL, said that there is currently no plan to replace Mr. Boetes, and that his duties would likely be divided among people both inside and outside the company.

John Schouten accepts newly created role at Ready Pac Produce

Ready Pac in Irwindale, CA, has announced that John Schouten has joined the executive team in the newly created role of executive vice president and chief operating officer, reporting directly to Larry Kern, president and chief executive officer.

Initially, Mr. Schouten will focus on improving manufacturing, distribution, quality and produce sourcing at Ready Pac with the overall objective to enhance execution across the enterprise, as well as accelerate value creation for the company?s products. Additionally, he will concentrate on Ready Pac and Salad Time post-merger activities to assure that Ready Pac provides the standard of service and product quality its customers have come to expect.

For the past 18 years, Mr. Schouten served in executive positions with the Dole Food Co., most recently as president of Dole Fresh Flowers. In that capacity, he led Dole?s global floral operations, including oversight of the growing, manufacturing and distribution of its flowers to both wholesale and retail grocery channels.

?John?s track record is outstanding. Specifically, his overall operating experience and expertise in vegetable growing, sourcing and distribution will be instrumental as we capitalize on "Ready Pac? brand opportunities," Mr. Kern said in a statement.

Prior to his role with Dole Fresh Flowers, Mr. Schouten held positions of increasing responsibility at Dole Fresh Vegetables for a 15-year period, which led to his promotion in 2000 to senior vice president and general manager of worldwide commodities for the company?s commodity vegetables operation.

Mr. Kern added, "With the recent additions of Allan Sabatier, Steve Dickstein, Steve Govedich, Mark Rodriguez and now John Schouten, I believe that Ready Pac has an excellent senior management team in place and a strong foundation from which to drive profitable business growth and customer satisfaction."

Mr. Schouten is a graduate of the University of Oregon, where he earned his bachelor degree in geography, with a minor in geology. He is also fluent in Spanish. Mr. Schouten and his family will move from Miami to Irwindale over the next few months.

PMA releases safe produce handling messages in Spanish

Since 1998, the Produce Marketing Association, based in Newark, DE, has addressed food safety at the consumer level through its financial support of the Partnership for Food Safety Education, a non-profit membership organization dedicated to educating consumers at home and at work about safe food handling.

During PMA?s Fresh Summit 2004 in Anaheim, CA, PMA and the PFSE unveiled produce-specific safe handling messages for consumers; now, these valuable consumer-education tools have been released in Spanish.

?Adding Spanish versions of the safe produce-handling messages enhances the usability and extends the reach of these key education resources," said PMA Vice President of Government Relations Kathy Means. "As consumers heed the advice given in the new dietary guidelines and add more fruits and vegetables to their lifestyles, it is critically important that they know how to properly handle produce safely and properly. Plus, PMA members and our board of directors said they wanted these safety tools in Spanish, and we?re pleased to make that possible."

The safety messages revolve around Check, Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill and Throw Away. Outreach tools (available in both English and Spanish) have been developed for use by industry members as well as consumer influencers such as extension officers. Web-based offerings will consist of a brochure and a flyer with room for a company or agency logo, a draft news release, PowerPoint presentations, downloadable graphics, and idea-generator lists. They are available on the Internet at aterials/. PMA encourages members who conduct community outreach programs to consider including these materials in their efforts.

PMA was a founding member of the partnership, and PMA President Bryan Silbermann serves on the PFSE board of directors. PMA served on the partnership work group that developed the messages and is providing funding for material dissemination.