New group seeks to energize fresh asparagus industry
June 26, 2006
Newly formed WEA Farms in Lima, Peru, is launching a new line of value-added fresh asparagus products for retailers. Focusing on providing value-added items like Euro covers, microwavable bags, MA bags, tips, clamshells and other special packs, WEA intends to energize the fresh asparagus industry.
"Everyone involved in this project is extremely excited," Peter Warren, a partner of WEA Farms, said in a press release. "We are targeting higher-end customers who are looking for a premium product with dedicated attention to the packing process. Our customers are already experiencing the benefits and opportunities of these value-added products among their own customer base."
WEA Farms represents over 600 acres of certified asparagus fields which it will pack in a new state-of-the-art facility in Lima. "The decision to locate the plant in Lima was based on the ability to be closer to the airport," Mr. Warren said in the statement. "It will allow us to have better control over post-harvest conditions. The product arrives in refrigerated trucks within eight hours of harvest and is immediately packed and prepared for exportation."
A unique focus of the WEA Farms operation is the concentration on detail vs. volume. "We only pack 2,000 cases a day," according to Mr. Warren. "Our major focus is on quality and attention to packing the product perfectly, as opposed to moving large quantities of product."
The operation's "emphasis on packing and the drive to provide new products is about meeting specific customer needs," said Mr. Warren. "We are currently working with customers in England to sell 'the concept' of 'Vitamins in a Bag.' This 100 percent ready-to- eat microwaveable bag maintains all the natural nutritional value of the asparagus as it cooks."
Other customer needs are being met through the utilization of the actual packaging. "The Euro covers give a better high-end presentation, keep the product fresher, and the taste is better," said Mr. Warren. "The Euro wrap provides cooking ideas, handling and usage information and other promotional messages. We also provide our display-ready shipping boxes, which have increased sales for retailers."
WEA Farms is a joint-venture among Peter Warren, Wilson Encalada Atapaucar and Winder Encalada Atapaucar. Mr. Warren is a 24-year veteran of the U.S. and international produce industries, having worked many years in Florida importing fruits and vegetables. He was one of the early importers of fresh green asparagus while working at Winter Fruit Co. in Philadelphia. He later helped drive the development of the industry in Peru, which currently exports more than 12 million 11-pound cases a year to the United States and close to 4 million cases to Europe and other countries.
Mr. Warren moved to Peru two years ago to focus on future innovation in the industry.
Wilson and Winder Encalada, originally from Cuzco, Peru, have worked for some of the top export companies in Peru including Inca Fruit and Agricola Chavin.
"Together they have run packing facilities and harvest crews for some of the best farms in the country," said Mr. Warren. "Now we're combining our expertise to make this venture a paramount one-of- a-kind operation."
In 2005, WEA exported close to 100,000 cases using four different packing facilities, shipping to the United States, Europe, Brazil and Argentina. The new plant is the newest and most certified plant in Lima. "It is completely climate controlled with the latest technology," said Mr. Warren. "We are currently working with the largest importers in the U.K. and Spain. Our combined experience and innovative ideas are already bringing the best buyers to our door.
"The season begins in two weeks and we can't wait to get started," he concluded.
The Perishables Group to provide data solutions to BI LO/Bruno's
June 25, 2006
The Perishables Group, an independent consulting firm specializing in the fresh foods industry, has a new agreement with BI LO and Bruno's to provide the necessary data and tools for a customized perishables performance tracking and category development program.
The agreement will enable BI LO/Bruno's and its supplier partners to gain new insights into category performance across the perishables departments including produce, meat, seafood, deli and bakery.
"This level of information has historically not been available in perishables," Michael Yakovsky, group vice president of perishables marketing at BI LO/Bruno's, said in a statement. "It will help us more effectively identify new opportunities in perishables. It will also allow us to work more effectively with our supplier partners by enabling them to better understand our performance as well as the competitive market performance."
In a statement, Bruce Axtman, president and CEO of the Perishables Group, based in Chicago, said, "We are very pleased to have expanded the scope of our work with BI LO/Bruno's. We look forward to helping this industry leader build on its success through direct involvement in its merchandising activities and in facilitating information sharing with its suppliers."