PMA praises House vote to repeal Country-of-Origin Labeling Amendments Act

WASHINGTON — The Produce Marketing Association praised the U.S. House Wednesday for voting to repeal country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat products in hopes to prevent up to $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs on produce products alone in a trade dispute with Canada and Mexico.

The World Trade Organization has ruled four times against the United States’ COOL regulations for meat products after Canada and Mexico challenged them as discriminatory for its cattle and hogs. Two days after the U.S. government lost its final appeal, the House Agriculture Committee passed a bill that would repeal mandatory COOL for beef, pork and poultry products.

Throughout the process, Canada has threatened retaliatory tariffs on a wide range of products, including U.S. apples and cherries, and just filed a request with WTO to collect $3 billion in tariffs.

With the threat of retaliation looming, the House voted 300-131 in favor of the COOL repeal bill, H.R. 2393.

“California exports billions of dollars of commodities and manufactured goods to Canada and Mexico, many of which are produced in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA). “The tariff retaliations will cost California more than $1 billion, inflicting a devastating blow to the state’s economic well-being. The COOL Amendments Act will put the U.S. back in compliance with its international trade obligations and stop trade retaliations by two of the nation’s top export partners."

“The produce industry applauds the work of [House Agriculture Committee] Chairman [K. Michael] Conaway — through his leadership, today’s vote shows that members of Congress value the importance of trade and they recognized the potential $1 billion loss in produce exports to Canada and Mexico through tariffs and the uncertainty it would create for long-term contracts,” PMA President Cathy Burns said in a statement after the vote.

“Our industry depends on a fair, transparent and reliable international trading system to supply consumers around with world with affordable fresh produce year-round. As the bill moves to the Senate, we’re asking for their careful consideration and quick resolution,” she added.

Food retailers also praised the House vote.

“Clinging to a failed law in the face of economic harm simply does not make sense. Even the USDA’s own economic analysis of COOL found that it hurt producers, packers, retailers and consumers without offering any clear economic benefits in return,” said Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute.

Some groups are trying to slow the legislation, however, and appealing to Senate lawmakers to find a negotiated resolution.

“U.S. consumers want more information about their food, not less,” said Chris Waldrop of Consumer Federation of America. “CFA urges the Senate to wait until the WTO process is finalized before determining a course of action.”

New report shows KIKU brand apples are setting records

A newly released Category Statistics (CatStat) report released by Columbia Marketing International shows that KIKU apples had the highest growth rate of any apple in the Top 40. According to Nielsen scan data, during the four-week period ending April 25, KIKU sales surged by 484 percent and KIKU volume was up a stunning 615 percent. In March (when apple sales historically decline), KIKU sales soared and are continuing to set summer records.Produce-News-50-50-kiku-email-image

Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for CMI, attributes this growth to the fact that more consumers are discovering the superior sweetness of KIKU apples, which is forging repeat sales. “The study evaluated KIKU performance data in retail chains all over the U.S.,” he said. “There are some critically different approaches used by top retailers, for apple sales, that supermarket chains at the back of the pack simply don’t use.” Lutz added that the CatStat report provides retailers with secrets to key sales success. “Displaying, merchandising, telling the story and running promotions — all of these tools can be used by any retailer, of any size, to maximize sales,” he said.

According to Robb Myers, vice president of imports for CMI, premium imported KIKU arriving from New Zealand and Chile are taking the program one step closer to having year-round availability. “Our customers are leveraging the success they have had with our domestic KIKU crop and are maximizing profits by rolling right into imported fruit,” he said.

Click here for the full report.

Farm Boy to open first fresh market store in Kitchener, ON

Ontario-based Farm Boy 2012 Inc. announced plans to open its next fresh market store in Kitchener, ON, late in fall 2015. The new 22,000-square-foot store will mark the 19th Farm Boy location in Ontario.

"We're very excited to open Farm Boy's doors to the Kitchener community," Jeff York, chief executive officer of Farm Boy, said in a press release. "With us, it's all about the food — offering the freshest, high-quality food along with the best customer experience. We look forward to welcoming the community into our store and want to thank city officials and our neighbours at Fairway Plaza for their support."

Along with the 150 newly created jobs, Kitchener residents will soon have the opportunity to experience first-hand the fresh, friendly and convenient fresh market shopping experience that has earned Farm Boy loyal fans in Ontario for over 30 years.

True to its roots, Farm Boy will seek out locally sourced foods and promises to deliver abundant varieties of fresh produce, natural and organic foods and unique specialty items, including artisanal farmstead cheese, butcher-quality fresh meats, eco-friendly, sustainable fresh seafood and its popular line of store brand products.

Best of all, Kitchener residents can look forward to a selection of wholesome, preservative-free, fresh meals, made from scratch in the Farm Boy Kitchen, ready to eat at home or in the Farm Boy in-store eating area. The store will feature an incredible 50-foot self-serve food bar selection offering fresh greens, grains, grilled proteins and an array of hot and tasty favorites.

"We have built a solid reputation in Ontario as a top destination for fresh, wholesome food," York said in the release. "We're confident this reputation will continue to grow in Kitchener and we plan to work hard to earn their business."

2015 Northwest stone fruit volume comparable to 2014

James Michael, vice president of marketing - North America for Washington State Fruit Commission, said growers in the Pacific Northwest are expected to produce stone fruit volume this season that is roughly the same as 2014. After conferring with regional growers, he provided The Produce News with insights about the 2015 crop.

“Like their neighbors in the orchards, peaches, nectarines, prunes and plums are all a little early this year,” he stated. “Not as far ahead as the cherry crop, but at least a week ahead of normal.” Favorable conditions during the production season will translate to excellent quality. “Consistent spring weather like we had typically returns larger sizes with a deeper flavor profile,” he commented.

Apricot production ramped up in early June and was expected to continue through the month. “We don’t have updated acreage numbers, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture does this every four years. But its interesting to note that the apricot crop just getting underway is expected to be similar in size to last year’s large 7,500 ton crop,” Michael commented.

Organic apricots are making their mark. “It may only be 2 percent of the U.S. category, but it’s growing at three times the rate of conventional,” Michael said. “About one-third of our entire stone fruit crop is shipped as organic.

“The other stone fruit crops will begin in mid-July, picking up speed as the calendar switches to August, and then going strong until the end of the month, with the late fruit still shipping out in early September,” he continued.

Stone fruit markets outside the United States continue to be cultivated, and Michael said Canada is showing “huge growth.”

Looking at promotions, the push is on to encourage consumption of stone fruit from the Pacific Northwest. “Peaches and plums in particular have been shown to be incredibly healthy, with significant impacts on one’s health,” Michael noted. “The Fruit Commission is planning a big push to encourage consumers to have both ‘Taste & Health’ with a piece of Washington stone fruit this summer. A piece of fruit isn’t a thing to be eaten, it’s in someone’s kitchen to serve a purpose. We believe Washington fruit serves two: taste and healthy nutrition.”

The commission monitors consumer trends and purchases. “A little over one-third of American households purchase peaches, five times more than buy kale. And when they do, they typically buy them three times across the year,” Michael stated. “The superior growing climate in the Northwest builds flavor profiles which leave a strong impression on consumers. Retailers should align their brand with those impressions of quality and sweet health to finish out their stone fruit promotions. A peach customer’s shopping basket is a full-third larger than a non-buyer, which is significant in these tough economic times for retailers. The typical peach consumer is a middle-income to affluent empty nest couple, who like to cook with fresh ingredients and choose foods with a healthy focus. Tailoring displays and promotions to appeal to those value-triggers will help boost summer fruit sales.”

Northwest pears early, down slightly from last season

The annual meeting of Northwest pear growers was conducted last week in Portland, with anticipated projections on the 2015 fresh pear harvest set at nearly 20.4 million standard box equivalents, which equates to approximately 451,000 tons of fresh pears. The projection is 2 percent higher than the five-year average, and 2 percent lower than last year’s crop. The estimate was collected from fresh pear growers in Wenatchee and Yakima, WA, and Mid-Columbia and Medford, OR, growing districts.Ten-Varieties-of-USA-Pears

With relatively mild winter and warm spring conditions in the regions, harvest is expected to be five to seven days earlier than last season, beginning in late July with Starkrimson, followed  by the Bartlett harvest in early August.  Anjou, Red Anjou, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle and Seckel will be picked from late August through September.  With no major frost issues, crop quality is expected to be excellent with good fruit size for the domestic and export markets.

The top three varieties produced by Northwest growers remain the same as in previous years; Green Anjou pears are anticipated to make up 54 percent of the total 2015 crop, and Bartlett and Bosc pears are expected to yield 21 percent and 15percent respectively.

Green Anjou pears are showing a projected crop decrease of 1 percent compared with 2014, but 1 percent above the five-year average. Bartlett pears are expected to decrease by 7 percent compared with last season’s results, with a crop yield of 1 percent increase over the five-year average.  Growers anticipate that the Bosc pear crop will increase 5 percent over the 2014 harvest, or 4 percent higher than the five-year average.  The size of the Red Anjou pear crop is expected to decrease by 4 percent from last year, but remains up 4 percent compared to the five-year average.

Harvest of certified organic pears in the Northwest is projected to make up about 5 percent of the total with  974,115 standard boxes (21,430 tons) for the 2015 harvest, a decrease of  over 11 percent when compared with a strong 2014 organic crop, but still a healthy 8 percent increase over the five-year average.  Bartlett and Green Anjou are the two most abundant organic pear varieties, with Bartlett estimated at 301,500 organic standard boxes, and Green Anjou projected yield at 377,000 boxes for 2015.

“This year’s projection, while down from the last two years, still predicts a solid, manageable pear crop with promotable quantities for both the domestic and export markets,” Kevin Moffitt, Pear Bureau Northwest’s president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “With excellent quality and sizing expected, the Pear Bureau marketing team already has advertising and promotion plans in place to continue to increase pear consumption worldwide. New consumer research has identified some exciting insights about domestic pear consumers including that fact that millennials make up the majority of our highest pear purchasers, categorized as those who buy an average of nine pears per purchase. This information, along with customized retail analysis, will be shared with buyers to help increase the profitable pear category.”

As the new season begins, the domestic marketing team is gearing up for programs designed to increase consumption and awareness of fresh pears.  The Pear Bureau will continue an aggressive print advertising campaign focused on educating consumers to “Check the Neck” to know when a pear is ripe and ready to eat.  The Pear Bureau’s website will have a fresh look for the new season, with a greater spotlight on recipes and digital resources to help consumers enjoy all 10 varieties of Northwest pears and explore versatile ways to use them.  An integrated PR and communications program will continue to enlighten consumers on the nutritional benefits and culinary uses of pears.

The Pear Bureau will continue to use its comprehensive, proprietary pear category data to custom-tailor merchandising and promotional plans for retailers nationwide.  New digital and Web-based resources and training will be added to usapears.org to support retailers and wholesalers in the new season.

“We have great success showing retailers how small changes in their fresh pear buying returns strong results at their cash register.  By collaborating on attainable goals and objectives, we help retailers and wholesalers improve their pear category performance,” Moffitt said.

For the 2015-16 season, the Pear Bureau will conduct export promotions in 36 countries worldwide, with fourteen international marketing representatives coordinating promotions for USA Pears with both consumer and trade activities targeted for each country’s market.  Focus will continue on the top export markets for USA Pears, including Mexico, Canada, Colombia, and the UAE, as well as China and India, which remain two of the strongest growth markets for the industry.  The Pear Bureau is also prepared to reintroduce promotional activities in Russia — a former top-three export destination — should the market reopen to U.S. exports.  Key activities for the season include continued partnership with movie studios Fox Pictures and Universal Pictures for joint promotions in Latin America, where USA Pears are featured using images from kid-friendly movies like Penguins of Madagascar and Minions through billboard advertising, consumer contests, and in-store promotions.

The Pear Bureau will also extend PMA’s “eat brighter!” Sesame Street campaign into its Mexico in-store activities. Also in Mexico, the Pear Bureau’s proprietary pear category data system continues to provide insight specific to the Mexican market and allow for season-long marketing programs to be customized for each retailer.  A joint promotion with the children’s television program LazyTown will be conducted in Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala.

Chinese New Year-themed activities in major cities in China will continue to promote USA Pears during a key promotion period.  Also in Asia, the Pear Bureau will launch a new social media activity in China and India.