Novazone boosting its presence in the food industry

BALTIMORE -- Novazone Inc., a provider of innovative ozone- based solutions to improve the freshness and safety of food and water, is looking to make its mark in produce as part of its plan to become strategically focused on the food industry. The company was on hand promoting its services at the International Fresh-cut Produce Association's Fresh Cut Expo 2006, here, April 26-29.

Paul White, chief executive officer of the Livermore, CA-based company, said that he has noted more demand from the food industry as environmental legislation has ramped up regarding the use of chemicals traditionally used in the food disinfection process. Mr. White said that ozone is highly effective as a disinfectant for food, as well as to control both ripening and decay.

"Basically, if they store it or use water on it, we are an environmentally friendly option," said Mr. White.

Ozone can be used in either an aqueous or a gaseous state, said Mr. White. As such, it has versatility along the distribution chain. In packing operations, ozone can be used in flume water to disinfect produce before it is packed. He cited cherries and asparagus as two commodities that have experienced the benefits of ozone applications.

In its gaseous state, ozone effectively controls mold in the air of a cold storage facility, for example. Mr. White cited a recent test case where the storage life of pears was extended by six weeks with the use of ozone.

This summer, the company is launching a new product that is designed for use in shipping containers. A recent test on nectarines resulted in a shelf life extension of three to five days, which could be especially attractive to tree fruit shippers sending product from California to New York.

Gaseous ozone helps suppress the natural production of ethylene, said Mr. White, so when used on a product like nectarines, the natural ripening process can be arrested. When the product arrives at destination, ozone use is discontinued and natural ethylene output resumes and ripens the fruit.

Novazone currently has about 250 customers in 16 countries around the world. While there are other companies that provide ozone systems, Mr. White said that when a company uses Novazone, it gets the proper service needed to maintain an effective ozone program. Or as Mr. White put it, "Others sell the equipment but not the science. We supply both."

Ozone is not new technology, having been used for decades in municipal water supplies. The Netherlands began using the technology in its drinking water systems in the late 1800s. But people and companies are starting to realize the hazards of chemical use for their workers and on their foods, said Mr. White, and so the awareness of ozone has grown.

And a main benefit of ozone, an oxygen molecule, is that it converts back to its natural state after 20 minutes at ambient temperature, so there is no concern with disposal, said Mr. White. The return on investment for a company converting to an ozone system from Novazone varies, said Mr. White. The company does offer financing as well as service contracts.

Indianapolis Fruit organic seminar deemed a success

An April 24-25 seminar on merchandising and handling organic produce "was everything we hoped it would be," said Mike Mascari, owner and president of Indianapolis Fruit Co. in Indianapolis.

The seminar attracted 240 people, many from a large section of the middle of the United States, and was deemed "a large success" by Mr. Mascari.

He noted that "not listed in any particular order of importance, we had produce directors and produce managers and a few store directors and a few owners and people from the shipping community, a governmental agency and the produce press."

The produce distributor hosted an invitation-only seminar titled "Winning at Retail: Developing Organics as a Strategic Point of Difference."

Mr. Mascari said that one of the conference speakers, Harold Lloyd, "was someone who really helped not only because of his experience in organics but with his knowledge of retail."

Mr. Lloyd, who is based in Virginia Beach, VA, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania business school and the University of Chicago. He was president of a family retail company prior to beginning a consulting firm geared toward the retail business 19 years ago.

Mr. Mascari said that Indianapolis Fruit sponsored the conference because "we believe in education and we are committed to it. I'm not only talking about education and training for our associates, but working with customers to do whatever we can in changing the environment to keep them on the cutting edge."

Shane Towne, marketing and new business development coordinator for Indianapolis Fruit, who organized the seminar, said, "We received 10 or 12 responses the next day with the sentiment that as a whole, the presentation re-established their passion for the industry. Any time you talk issues and attendees pull away one thing, it's good. Our attendees pulled away several pearls. They were reinvigorated and will take that back to the store. If they do that, the seminar was a success."

Mr. Mascari said, "Our plan is to do this again next year."

Among the lessons he learned is not to schedule the next session so close to the FMI/United show, so as to reduce conflicts for those invited. It will probably be held late next winter.

In closing, Mr. Mascari said, "We are only as good as our customers. If we help make them better, it will benefit all of us."

Sun World joins Summeripe alliance

Summeripe Worldwide Inc. in Dinuba, CA, announced the addition of Sun World International LLC in Bakersfield, CA, to the Summeripe Alliance of quality tree fruit shippers.

Sun World joins an existing group of shippers of preconditioned peaches, plums and nectarines that includes Crown Jewels Marketing, Family Tree Farms Inc., Giannini Packing Co., Mountain View Fruit Sales Inc., Pandol Bros. Inc., Simonian Fruit Co., Visalia Produce and Wespak Sales Co.

Sun World was established in 1976 as a packer and marketer of fresh fruits and vegetables. Throughout its initial decade, the company was a leading producer and marketer of a wide range of commodities such as carrots, leaf lettuce, asparagus, green onions, sweet corn, cherries, cantaloupes, citrus, dates and strawberries.

Sun World operates one of the world's larger fruit breeding programs and has extensive farming and packing operations in Southern California and Central California. One of its strengths is in farming and promoting unique produce varieties with improved flavor, size, color, seasonality and overall fruit and vegetable quality.

Pat Steider, president of Summeripe Worldwide Inc., said in a release, "This combination is another step in the right direction for both companies. Sun World's reputation, quality fruit and experience will be vital in the growth of the Summeripe program. We have developed a value-added approach to our program. Delivering a great box of fruit is no longer good enough for retailers today. We must do more to add value to the retailer's equation."

In a statement, Bruce Burton, chief executive officer of Sun World International LLC, who joined Sun World after extensive experience with Dole Fresh Fruit and owning two businesses, Stockton-based California Fruit Processors LLC and Produce Quality Assurance LLC, said, "We understand the importance of taking a proactive part of valuable programs such as Summeripe. We view the Summeripe program as 'best of class,' and this is another way to communicate Sun World's commitment to providing the highest quality and most consistent flavor to our customers."

David Jackson, owner of Family Tree Farms, who has been a Summeripe Alliance Member for three years, believes Sun World and Summeripe will be a formidable combination. "Sun World is a great organization. Of all the companies within the industry, they are certainly one of the best, and we are proud to call them a partner."

Mike Aiton, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Sun World International LLC, whose experience in the retail world will bring additional expertise to the retail partners of Summeripe, added, "With the increase in demand for Summeripe fruit from existing and new customers, it is imperative for the Summeripe Alliance to continue to grow and increase the supply of quality conditioned stone fruit. Sun World is excited to join the existing shippers within the alliance. The Summeripe alliance is just one more step in the amazing history of Sun World, ensuring that more customers and retailers enjoy great taste and flavor. We are ready to participate in delivering the ultimate eating experience to consumers around the world."

Tristan Kieva joins Sun Pacific

Sun Pacific, the Los Angeles-based grower-shipper known for its recent success in launching the national Cutie clementine program, announced the hiring of Tristan Kieva as its new vice president of marketing.

Ms. Kieva has been in the produce industry for 16 years, the last seven of which were spent at Frieda's Inc. in Los Alamitos, CA, where she rose to the position of vice president of sales and marketing. Prior to Frieda's, she worked as marketing director for Paramount Farms in Los Angeles, and as the corporate marketing manager for Smart & Final in Vernon, CA.

Barney Evans, general manager of Sun Pacific, said in a statement, "This position was newly created not only to place more emphasis on our marketing efforts to assist in the company's growth but also to recognize the continued need to communicate directly to the consumer."

Ms. Kieva called her move to Sun Pacific "a great opportunity to assist the company in becoming more relevant to the consumer and selling more product through the retailers front register." She added that her immediate goals will be to assist the company on its focus with key retailers to increase awareness of both its clementine and kiwi ripening programs.

Founded in 1969, Sun Pacific, a grower-shipper of premium quality Navels, Valencias, clementines, kiwifruit, tomatoes and table grapes, has seen substantial growth over the decades, which most recently is fueled by its clementine and kiwifruit programs.

Mann taps insider to lead company

Bill Ramsey and Don Nucci, co-owners of Mann Packing, have named company veteran Mike Jarrard as the firm's new president and chief executive officer. He replaces Joe Nucci, who died unexpectedly last July at the age of 40.

Mr. Jarrard was most recently vice president of business development for Mann, where he managed company affiliates Garden Valley LLC and Fresh Leaf Farms LLC.

Mr. Jarrard came to Mann Packing from Dole Fresh Vegetables in 1994 as product manager for fresh-cut products. Mann had entered the retail fresh-cut vegetable market in the early 1990s, and the product line was experiencing substantial growth. Mr. Jarrard created a financial reporting structure and fresh-cut budgeting system tailored to the companys specific product lines. He also developed an effective cost accounting system for plant operations. In 1997, he was promoted to director of fresh-cut products, continuing to help bring Mann into a market leader positon in fresh-cut vegetable category.

In 2000, Mr. Jarrard took on the role of director of new business development, where he was charged with identifying and directing the analysis of product line expansions and new business opportunities. He also developed and managed Manns co- packing operations with Verdelli Farms, based in Harrisburg, PA. Mr. Jarrard served as general manager of the newly formed Fresh Leaf Farms LLC, of which Mann Packing is the sales and marketing agent. Fresh Leaf Farms is currently one of the leading suppliers of fresh, washed, whole leaves. He implemented and developed all facets of the new business venture including infrastructure development, personnel and production.

In 2002, Mr. Jarrard was named vice president of business development for Mann. He continued to oversee full operational responsibility for Fresh Leaf Farms, with processing plants in California and Arizona.

He was also a lead member of Manns team that was responsible for the acquisiton of Garden Valley, a grower of stringless sugar snap peas. Garden Valleys proprietary varieties of stringless sugar snap peas have helped Mann catapult the item into a leading SKU in the fresh-cut vegetable category. Mr. Jarrard had full responsibility for Garden Valley, with farming and harvesting operations in California, Arizona and Mexico. Both Fresh Leaf Farms and Garden Valley have shown substantial growth under his leadership.