Newman's Own Organics hits the streets
March 21, 2006
CHICAGO -- Larger-than-life graphics of Newman's Own Organics hit the streets of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin this month. The graphics cover the entire body of delivery trucks belonging to Goodness Greeness, a leading distributor of organic produce in the Midwest, and are the result of a distribution partnership between Goodness Greeness and Newman's Own Organics.
The development marks the first use of Newman's Own Organics graphics on a vehicle. Bob Scaman, president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Goodness Greeness, designed the ad campaign to highlight the partnership between the two companies. The ad campaign uses Goodness Greeness delivery trucks as moving billboards. The white trucks serve as a fresh backdrop for the Newman's Own Organics artwork, which covers the entire body of the trucks.
"We continuously seek out products that contribute to well being and health," said Mr. Scaman. "The high level of recognition of the Newman family name is a great way to raise the general level of awareness of organic products."
Goodness Greeness has been dedicated to bringing the freshest organic produce to consumers in the Midwest since its founding in 1991. Newman's Own Organics was established as a division of Newman's Own in 1993, and became a separate company in late 2001. Headed by Paul Newman's daughter, Nell Newman, the company develops products from certified organic ingredients. All products are certified organic by Quality Assurance International.
"We are so happy to partner with Goodness Greeness to bring these great organic products to midwestern consumers," said Ms. Newman. "Goodness Greeness adheres to the highest standards of quality and has one of the best cold-chain management systems in place. We know that our produce is always going to arrive on the grocers' shelves as fresh and beautiful as when it came out of the field."
Newman's Own offers organic food products with wide consumer appeal. "We feel that people want to know more about the food they eat, not just how much fat or cholesterol a product contains," said Ms. Newman. "How ingredients are grown and processed on the way to their grocers' shelf is becoming more important to today's consumer. Once people see how much organic foods have improved since the early days of packaged 'health' foods, we hope they'll try other organic food products."
California asparagus season delayed by cold, wet weather
March 21, 2006
by Rand Green
As of early February, it was looking as though the California asparagus season might get underway earlier than ever due to mild winter weather. But wet and exceptionally cool weather from late February through early March has delayed the crop, making it later than usual rather than earlier. It may also be lighter than normal in volume throughout the season (which typically runs through May), according to some sources.
The California Asparagus Commission, however, projects a total volume for the season of 75 million to 80 million pounds, which would be very similar to last year, according to Cherie Watte, the commission's executive director.
Once the weather warms up and dries out, Ms. Watte expects to see good production out of the Stockton, Salinas and central California districts.
The most exciting new development for the California asparagus industry is the release of a new asparagus variety that is expected to have improved characteristics over the dominant variety currently being grown.
The UC157 variety, which has for many years been the dominant variety in commercial production, "has performed admirably well," said Tom Tjerandsen of McClure & Tjerandsen, a San Francisco-based advertising and public relations agency representing the California Asparagus Commission. "From what everybody can determine" based on the early tests for the new variety, "it is going to be a barn burner."
Over the past 10 years, the commission has been investing "right around $70,000 a year into varietal research and basic research projects" with the primary goal of developing a new asparagus variety "that is a much more marketable commodity" and that will keep California at "the cutting edge of the quality standard," said Ms. Watte. Out of that research has come the new UC115 variety, which "is a relative of 157 but improves upon the positive marketing qualities of 157 by producing a longer green spear with a tighter tip."
The new variety has been given the trademarked name of DePaoli, she said. That name honors Ms. Watte's predecessor at the commission, Bill DePaoli, who was executive director of the commission from its founding around 1990 until his death in July 1999 and who headed the commission's voluntary precursor organization, the Asparagus Growers Association, for about 20 years prior to that.
The UC157, "the current variety that we all grow," is dominant not only in California but also in Mexico and it "works well in Peru and China. It is produced everywhere," Ms. Watte said. "We wanted to produce a new standard that would set California apart, something that we would have exclusive production rights for at least a period of time."
The DePaoli was "just released last month," she said. It is not in commercial production yet, and "it will be three years before we see any commercial production of this new variety." The seeds planted this year will produce seedlings for transplant next year that will begin to produce spears the following year.
Grower Steve Couture of Couture Farms in Kettleman City, CA, said that only 40-50 pounds of the seed have been produced to date. While that will all be planted this spring, "it is going to take several years" before there will be commercial production of the variety.
While the variety shows promise, "all we know at this point is the results of the trials," he said. "It will be watched for its vigor next spring," then there will be "a very small harvest in 2008."
Among the expected improvements in the DePaoli is improved yields. Trials have shown it to be "a heavier producer than the 157," Mr. Couture said.
Another advantage to growers, according to Ms. Watte, is that since the DePaoli grows a longer green spear with a tighter head, the tip does not feather out or fern out as quickly in the field. That may allow farmers "a little extra time" to harvest the crop. Harvesting crews may only need to go through the field every 36 hours instead of every 24 hours, she said.
The variety appears also to produce a more consistently sized spear, she added. But "as a consumer, to me the most attractive characteristic is that it gives me more useable product," as it can be cut to a nine-inch spear, or even longer, that is all green. There is no white butt to be trimmed off and discarded.
As for the current year's crop, Ms. Watte said, "we don't expect to have any major shortcomings in our season. We expect to be up and going and fully functioning very soon, and for sure by the end of March," with steady production throughout April and May. "By the end of the year, we should see a pretty stable volume," which will be down from what the state was producing five years ago but very similar to a year ago.
California has five distinct production regions, four of which are within the scope of the California Asparagus Commission, she said. The largest acreage is in the Delta region -- San Joaquin, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties -- with around 17,000 acres in production. Next is Salinas and the northern coast -- Monterey and San Benito counties -- with around 6,000 acres in production. The central San Joaquin Valley has about 2,500 acres, and the Santa Barbara-Santa Maria area has around 500 acres. The Imperial Valley, which is not part of the commission, also has around 500 acres, she said.
The commission "has had some very successful [promotion and public relations] programs over the last couple of years," partnering with other commodity groups in order to multiply the impact of the growers' limited money, Ms. Watte said. Production so far this year "has been marked by some early production in central California and the Delta area that was interrupted by freeze events and rain events in late February and now in early March. So the actual commencement of a full-fledged, gang-buster harvest has yet to start. We are waiting for it to dry out a little bit before we begin a non-stop harvest. We thought we'd have an early season," but that expectation has changed, she said.
Production from Mexico has been "successfully filling the pipeline that California would have filled if they had been able to ship," although it has been "quite a strain for them to do so" as they approach the end of their season, said Mr. Tjerandsen.
Woody Johnson of Growers Express in Salinas, CA, which handles asparagus from growers in Mexico and in Stockton, CA (the Delta area), said in mid-March, "We are getting close to winding down in Mexico and probably have maybe another good month or so out of there." Stockton will get going in time to "take over in April and May," he said. But he expects light production throughout the season. "I don't think there will be a gap," he said. "It is just going to be a much lighter deal than it was last year," just as there has been lighter volume out of Mexico throughout the season there. "That translates into a little higher pricing," he said.
Mr. Couture concurred. "I think supplies will stay very tight this whole spring California asparagus deal," he said.
Although Couture Farms started harvesting asparagus in early February this year, "We have had a terribly difficult time getting started. The weather has been very hard on us," said Mr. Couture.
But asparagus is more forgiving than some other crops, such as cherries, where a single rain event at bloom time can wipe out a crop. With asparagus, all it takes is a day or two of warm, dry weather between storms for some shoots to emerge.
Even through the rainy period, Couture Farms has been able to get into its fields a couple of days a week and do some harvesting, however light.
Couture Farms is optimistic about the future of the asparagus business, Mr. Couture said. That optimism is demonstrated in the fact that "we are planting another 80 acres" this year. "Asparagus is a good business," he said. "I feel that there is never enough asparagus for Easter for all the people who would like to feature it at that time," and that will certainly be true this year, Mr. Couture continued. "We will have a very small window ahead of Easter where there would be any chance to accumulate any supplies for that big pull."
He expects that the best time for promotions this year will be the end of April and early May. "We should already be thinking about setting up those Mother's Day ads," he said.