Tanimura & Antle sells interest in Dulcinea Farms

Spreckels, CA-based Tanimura & Antle Partnership has sold all of its interest in Dulcinea Farms LLC in Ladera Ranch, CA, to Syngenta Seeds.

In 2003, T&A partnered with Switzerland-based Syngenta to form Dulcinea Farms to market "Dulcinea!" brand produce items in North America. Those items include Pure Heart watermelons and Tuscan-style sweet cantaloupes  proprietary products of Syngenta  and other fresh produce items developed by Syngenta and licensed to Dulcinea.

Syngenta contributed expertise in genetics, breeding and crop protection to Dulcinea Farms for a majority interest in the venture. T&A contributed its experience as a leading grower and distributor in the United States.

T&A CEO Rick Antle said that his company has enjoyed contributing its expertise in helping Dulcinea grow and develop markets in the United States.

As Dulcinea moves beyond its initial development phase, we welcome the opportunity to continue to support the company by being a premium supplier to Dulcinea, he said.

T&A will continue to be a major grower, harvester and cooler for Dulcinea in North America. Bob Nielsen, a senior vice president with T&A, said that details of those services are being refined.

Mr. Nielsen said that forming the partnership with Syngenta did not include T&A selling its interest in Dulcinea to Syngenta, but that it was most effective for both companies to change the relationship.

We helped [Dulcinea] get on its feet, Mr. Nielsen said. Now's a good time to hand it back to Syngenta.

PMA moves 2007 convention from New Orleans to Houson

NEWARK, DE -- Because of the logistical uncertainties in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the executive committee of the Produce Marketing Association has voted to move the site of the organization's 2007 Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition from New Orleans to Houston for the Oct. 12-15 event.

"The industry loves the city of New Orleans and it has always been a great attendance draw. However, because the size and complexity of Fresh Summit makes it difficult to relocate, the executive committee had to make the decision at this time," PMA President Bryan Silbermann said in an Oct. 21 statement.

Houston, which was scheduled to host its first PMA convention in 2012, provides an attractive option, Mr. Silbermann said. "We are fortunate that the city had an opening in October 2007. Houston is definitely a convention destination on the rise with fantastic new hotels and entertainment options that complement a great convention center. In addition, its two airports provide good domestic and international access. It also offers some unique retail and foodservice tour options that will surely be an added benefit."

In explaining the move, Mr. Silbermann added, "We feel certain the city of New Orleans will rebound and become a premier convention destination once again. However, we cannot gamble on the timetable for recovery with an event that represents so much to our industry's marketing programs. The event is scheduled to be in New Orleans in 2017. In the meantime, we will explore options with the city for an earlier date."

Following next month's Fresh Summit in Atlanta, the event moves to San Diego in 2006, Houston in 2007, Orlando in 2008 and Anaheim in 2009. Information regarding PMA events can be found at www.pma.com.

Stemilt to use 5 A Day character to champion apples

Stemilt Growers, based in Wenatchee, WA, rolled out a health-conscious program earlier this fall with a red-apple mascot at the helm touting the antioxidant richness in apples.

Roger Pepperl, Stemilt marketing director, said that 5 A Day's character, Raoul, whose winning smile and bright-red color appeals to both kids and adults, is the cheerleader for Stemilt apples Core of Healthy Living campaign. Stemilt selected the character to be the icon for its fall program from a cast of five Color Way Champions created by 5 A Day and the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

PBH introduced the characters this summer to represent color groupings for fruits and vegetables. Red, white, yellow-orange, blue-purple and green make up the color groups. PBH uses the characters to help consumers remember to eat from each color group daily.

Stemilt adopted Raoul, who represents red fruits and vegetables, to adorn tote bags, mesh bags, display cards and shelf danglers from Stemilt. Mr. Pepperl said that the program helps retailers teach consumers that apples and good health go together. Recent apple research supports this, especially regarding the high antioxidant content of apples.

Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize harmful free radicals of oxygen produced when cells burn oxygen for energy. If left unchecked, free radicals cause cumulative cell damage that may lead to cancer, or in the case of brain cells, Alzheimers, Parkinsons or other age-related mental decline.

In June, USA Today published a story about a Canadian study that compared eight different apple varieties and found antioxidants in all varieties, especially in red-colored apples. Conducted by Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, the study found that most antioxidants in apples are found in the peel.

This summer, Psychology Today also published an article about the quercetin content in apples. Quercetin is a flavonoid believed to be an antioxidant. In the study, rats that consumed quercetin were protected from neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimers and Parkinsons. Food scientist Chang Y. Lee, who conducted the research and was quoted in the article, said that other foods such as tea and onions also have quercetin. But, he added, "How much onion can you eat in a day?"

Stemilts Core of Healthy Living kits each contain three shelf danglers and three display cards. All materials, including tote bags and mesh-bag headers, carry the slogan, Powerful antioxidants in every bite.

North Carolina SweetPotato Commission continues strong promotions

The North Carolina SweetPotato Commission, based in Smithfield, NC, is combating the U.S. trend to eat sweet potatoes only on Thanksgiving and other holidays through a promotional campaign targeting numerous markets.

The commission is an independent, member-based nonprofit commodity group. Its membership, now over 400 strong, is comprised of growers who farm a minimum of one acre of sweet potatoes in the state.

"We produce more sweet potatoes than any other state -- nearly 40 percent of the annual [domestic] supply," said Sue Johnson-Langdon, executive director the commission. "The annual consumption of sweet potatoes in the country is 4.7 pounds per person, and the majority of the consumption is on Thanksgiving Day every year."

But Ms. Johnson-Langdon said that the holiday-only trend is changing. Thanks to the strong media attention the product is receiving and the heavy promotion and marketing done by producers, distributors, commissions, councils and others, sweet potatoes are making regular appearances on restaurant and foodservice operation menus, as well as on home dinner tables -- and on a year-round basis.

Ms. Johnson-Langdon is an outstanding proponent of the sweet potato industry. Her efforts to get the commission's message out to retailers, foodservice operators and consumers have proven highly successful. She promotes sweet potatoes across the United States and in Europe with an unequaled amount of tenacity and determination. This year's marketing efforts are as strong as those in past years.

"We have several new programs," she said. "Besides exhibiting at trade shows, we also send out about 500 press releases to the media on a regular basis that help to keep the press and related entities updated on important information related to sweet potatoes."

Much of the commission's recent attention and focus has been, however, on promoting sweet potatoes in the United Kingdom.

"We have been shipping North Carolina sweet potatoes to the U.K. for a few years, but shipments have more than doubled in the past year alone," said Ms. Johnson-Langdon. The British consider sweet potatoes an exotic vegetable, and see the item as sexy and trendy. American's nostalgia places sweet potatoes on the Thanksgiving table, but consumers in the United Kingdom have no such memory. They also like to incorporate the item into savory dishes as opposed to the candied recipes that are traditional in the United States. For example, recipes such as curried sweet potatoes or risotto with sweet potatoes are popular among the British. They also do a lot of baking with the item, such as including it in bread pudding.

Ms. Johnson-Langdon traveled with some associates to exhibit at The Restaurant Show in London, which ran from Sept. 19-21. The commission's chef, Brent McIntire, was in attendance and prepared recipes. He also provided tips on how to choose product, how to handle and store sweet potatoes, and he offered preparation techniques.

"It was a chef-to-chef experience," said Ms. Johnson- Langdon. "We received a very favorable reaction, and many people said we were the hit of the show. In all, about 9,000 people from around the world visited our booth." The commission is also having great success with its "North Carolina Sweet Potato Recipe Club. Ms. Johnson-Langdon said that it is a consumer-driven program that provides 80 three- by five-inch recipe cards, mailed by post, and if consumers request it, a quarterly newsletter.

"The club was kicked off in July of this year and it was successful from the start," she said. "Our first mailings exceeded 3,000 membership packages. We also included a questionnaire, and we have received a return of about 2 percent - a high return for this type of survey. The club continues to enjoy great success through daily signups on our web site. There are no membership restrictions, and we invite everyone to join and enjoy the benefits."

The commission's newsletters are packed with valuable information. The fall edition featured Shawn Wellersdick, chef and co-owner of the Port Land Grille in Wilmington, NC, and Sara Foster, chef-owner of Foster's Market in Durham, NC, and Chapel Hill, NC, and several other top chefs in the state. The bulletins also include recipes, a Q&A on sweet potato issues to which Ms. Johnson-Langdon personally responds, discussions of harvesting topics and information on the nutritional aspects of sweet potatoes.

Regarding the 2005 sweet potato crop in North Carolina, Ms. Johnson-Langdon said that acreage is down by 5-6 percent, and the harvest was delayed a bit because of the dry weather. However, early indications are that the quality will be very good this year. Because last year's crop was the largest ever recorded, grower-shippers will be able to compensate for the shortage with existing supplies. The environmental storage systems used today will keep sweet potatoes for up to 15 months and still deliver them as fresh as the day they were harvested.

A few years ago, the commission developed an advisory board comprised of chefs from throughout North Carolina. Ms. Johnson-Langdon said that 13 chefs now serve on the board. Chef-members support North Carolina sweet potatoes by developing recipes and offering them on their menus. They also help to promote the item as representatives in chef cook-offs, special media appearances and other venues in the state and when they travel.

The North Carolina SweetPotato Commission continues with its many other projects and involvements, and it constantly works on finding new ways to promote the product in the United States as well as around the world. It also continues to fund research conducted at the North Carolina State University in Raleigh for a sweet potato breeding program. The work is carried on at the school's Micopropagation Center, where weed, pest management and horticulture practices are developed.

One thing is certain: As long as Sue Johnson-Langdon is involved, there will always be new projects and programs in the works at the commission, and North Carolina sweet potatoes will continue to enjoy strong and effective promotional and marketing campaigns.

(A full report on sweet potatoes appears in the Oct. 24 issue of The Produce News.)

Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo opens facility in Vernon

More space, more coolers, faster loading and secure grounds are just some of the reasons organic grower-shipper Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo has a new address in Vernon, CA.

The company relocated its Los Angeles warehouse, packing and distribution operation Sept. 1, taking over more than half of a facility which formerly served as a Whole Foods distribution center.

"The move to this well-outfitted, more modern facility will definitely increase our efficiency overall and allow us to better serve our customers," said Rob Jacobs, vice president of sales and marketing.

Among the many advantages of the move are additional coolers with more space, which will facilitate the multi- temperature storage and handling of Del Cabo's tomatoes, vegetables and basil, and Jacobs Farms culinary herbs. The increase in cooler space is definitely going to help our herb pack out, said Jesse Vera, general manager of the Vernon operation. As in our South San Francisco distribution center, we can maintain the cold chain and extend shelf life by packing herbs at their optimum temperatures. Another big advantage of this new space is the addition of more loading docks. The increase to 10 loading doors with levelers allows us to load faster, with more efficiency.

Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, based in Pescadero, CA, was founded in 1980 and is now celebrating its 25th anniversary.