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Banner pomegranate season projected

Growers throughout California's Central Valley are reporting optimal growing conditions for pomegranates.

Ralph Melendez, field operations manager for Slaydeco Inc., a principal grower of early season varieties, expects the company's Granada’s to start shipping by the end of the last week of July. “A consistently warm summer has moved our traditional start date forward by about a week," he said. "We are seeing high color in the Granada’s, with a normal range of sizes. Our Foothills will follow by about a week.”

Jeff Simonian of Simonian Fruit Co. also reported that its early-season varieties are running a week early. When asked about the possible effects of the drought on the overall size and quality of the crop, he said that “it appears that sufficient water is being diverted from annual crops to ensure a normal pomegranate harvest in terms of total volume, range of fruit sizes, sugar and color.”

Tom Rouse of PomWonderful, the principal grower-shipper of the Wonderful variety, said its field managers were also projecting an early start date. "If Mother Nature continues to cooperate, we’ll start shipping a full-range of Wonderful sizes starting in the last week of September or early in the first week of October," he said. "At that point we’ll also be refilling the pipeline with fresh-pack arils. We encourage retailers to contact us to find out more about our full-line of market-proven sales aids. Pomegranates are a high impulse purchase item and they sell best when merchandised in a high-traffic location in the store.”

Sales of pomegranates continue to increase at an average of 20 percent per year, with total shipments expected to exceed 6 million 25-pound-equivalent boxes, according to Tom Tjerandsen, the manager of the Sonoma, CA-based Pomegranate Council.

PMA Foodservice show reaches new heights

MONTEREY, CA — For a show that already is one of the favorites among produce industry members, the PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo managed to set the bar even higher this year, reaching new heights in a number of different categories.

The 33rd year of this popular event, held July 25-27, here, saw a record number of attendees (1,821), foodservice operators in attendance (203), booths (164), participants in the 5k race (389), and attendees of the plant and field tours (60).

DSCN4778On hand from the Idaho Potato Commission at the PMA Foodservice Expo were Tod Schmidt, Jamie Bowen, Jef Pryor, Armand Lobato and Don Odiorne.“It was truly an incredible year for this show,” said Cathy Burns, who was at the helm of her first foodservice conference after being appointed president of PMA Dec. 1. “Jill Overdorf [of Cooseman’s Shipping of L.A.] and Fritz Stelter [of Field Fresh Foods Inc.], who were co-chairs of the conference committee, really deserve so much of the credit for putting together an outstanding program, and they clearly hit the mark on delivering value to the attendees and exhibitors.”

Known for bringing a deft mix of business and networking opportunities to those in attendance, this year’s conference did not disappoint. The program began July 25 with the annual PMA Foundation Joe Nucci Memorial Golf Tournament, which saw the foursome of Anthony D'Amico, Kevin Delaney, Anthony Valdez, Rick Jordan take top honors with a score of 18-under par. Also that morning, attendees had the opportunity to tour the facilities of Braga Fresh Family Farms, Naturipe Farms and Ocean Mist Farms. The opening reception was held that evening, featuring a farmer’s market-type atmosphere.

The program continued bright and early the next morning, as the PMA Foundation 5k Race for Talent led runners and walkers though the picturesque streets of Monterey. Philip Higgins of Markon Cooperative was the top male finisher with a time of 18:51, while Stephanie Cancellieri of Veg Fresh took top honors for the women with a time of 20:10. Robinson Fresh was recognized for its team spirit, entering an impressive 53 runners in the race. Tanimura & Antle got the nod for best team attire.

A robust lineup of educational sessions was held throughout the day on Saturday, beginning in the morning with a presentation on global flavor trends, followed by a food safety update by PMA’s Bob Whitaker.

A highlight of the day was the Chef’s Demo Lunch, which featured both well-known and up-and-coming chefs preparing dishes with a produce-centric slant.

The educational sessions reconvened after lunch with a presentation about what it means to be socially conscious. A session on using data to better manage your business closed out the afternoon. That evening, the popular PMA Foundation Women’s Fresh Perspectives Reception drew a sold-out crowd.

The final day of the conference opened with a general session titled “Put the Latest Trends to Work for You,” featuring Julie Krivanek of Krivanek Consulting. The expo opened later that morning, and the densely packed exhibit hall lent credence to the record crowd in attendance.

“This is truly an intimate show that brings top-quality buyers to a central location,” said Suzanne Wolter of Rainier Fruit Co. in Selah, WA. “Between the educational sessions and the social events, it offers multiple opportunities to network over the course of three days.”

Kevin Stanger of Wada Farms in Idaho Falls, ID, said, “This show provides a good mix of people and is great for building relationships.”

Chloé Varennes of Redondo Beach, CA-based Gourmet Trading said, “It was nice to see the increased number of foodservice operators this year. It’s great to talk to the operators about their menus and how they can add more produce to them.”

“We got some good solid sales leads as well as the opportunity to meet with many of our existing customers,” said Robert Tominaga of Southwind Farms in Heyburn, ID.

Elizabeth Doerrfield of Capital City Fruit, based in Des Moines, IA, a first-time exhibitor at the PMA Foodservice Expo, said, “I love the intimacy of this show. We have come to this show for a number of years but this is our first time as an exhibitor and it has been a great experience. We definitely plan to be back as an exhibitor next year.”

“A record-breaking show like this highlights the value of the ongoing collaboration between the fresh produce and foodservice industry. The energy and networking that occurred throughout the weekend was palpable,” Burns added. “Bringing to life our ‘Innovate the Plate’ theme, the innovations came in many forms and represented consumer trends across the foodservice industry – ultimately validating the drive to put more fruits and vegetables in the center of the plate.”

Uruguay citrus joins Oppy lineup

Uruguay-NavelSweet citrus snacks are abundant now at Oppy, as the marketer adds fruit from Uruguay to its summer offerings.

Early shipments of Uruguayan lemons — which sold out quickly — were followed by clementines and Navels that will be available through August. This is Oppy’s first offering of fruit from Uruguay, which was granted access to the U.S. market in 2013.

“It’s a brief season characterized by good quality as growers work to create a foothold here,” James Milne, citrus category director, said in a press release. “First impressions count. We’ve been pleased by the fruit we’ve received to date, and feedback from our customers has been enthusiastic and encouraging.”

Oppy is shipping the "Urugold" label, which is packed by four Uruguayan growers.

“Uruguayan fruit adds another dimension to our citrus offerings,” Milne said. “During the summer, we’re marketing a wide assortment of oranges, including the popular easy-peelers from Chile, Peru and Australia. We’re excited to present fruit from a new source country to our customers, knowing the flavor is intense and the condition excellent.”

Oppy is offering Uruguayan fruit in two-, three- and five-pound bags as well as bulk.

Retail View: Bolthouse launches refrigerated retail snack program for kids

Beginning with seven new fruit- or vegetable-forward offerings, Bolthouse Farms in Bakersfield, CA, has launched a new line of kid snacks designed to be sold in a healthy kids section of the produce department.

Suzanne Ginestro, vice president of strategic marketing at Bolthouse Farms, which is one of the larger producers of baby carrots and premium juice beverages in North America, told The Produce News that the new line would be launched Aug. 11, with at least 15 retail chains already committed to the program.BFK veggieclamshell

She said Giant Eagle, A&P, Hy-Vee and other regional retailers will launch on that date, while some of the nation’s larger national supermarkets — such as Walmart and Safeway — are contemplating doing some test marketing of the concept in the near future.  

Ginestro said the idea has been in the making for 18 months and represents Bolthouse’s goal of giving kids more healthy options.  

“I’m a mom of two kids myself, and it is frustrating that when I’m looking for items that won’t have the boomerang effect, they all come out of the pantry,” she said. “We need more items that come out of the refrigerator.”

She explained that there are, of course, a plethora of whole fruits and vegetables that can be placed in a kid’s lunch in the morning, but most of them come back at the end of the day uneaten, which is what she calls the “boomerang effect.”

The new line of kid snacks is based around real fruits and vegetables with no added preservatives and is designed to have the flavors kids are looking for in a snack.

Ginestro said this effort is the result of lots of research to find out what moms want to buy for their kids, and taste testing to make sure that kids will eat the items.

“There are tons of choices to fill a lunch box, but very few are ideal for moms,” she said. “We are trying to get more fresh fruits and vegetables in those lunch boxes.”

The seven items in the initial launch, which will be branded as “Bolthouse Farms Kids,” come from three categories — smoothies, fruit tubes and veggie snackers. Ginestro said there are two smoothies, three fruit tubes and two veggie snackers.

Ginestro believes these items are winners with a great chance for commercial success. The Bolthouse executive said there are many other items in the testing phase that will be introduced as the program proves its worth.

Along with the launch of the products, Bolthouse is offering merchandising services and consulting to retailers, advising them how to market the items and how to reset that section of their produce department to take maximum advantage of these new items. The goal is to create a snack destination within the produce department of every retail store in the country.

“The launch of Bolthouse Farms Kids underscores our commitment to continually inspire healthy eating in children through products and flavors that make fruits and vegetables fun,” Jeff Dunn, president and chief executive officer of Bolthouse Farms, said in a company press release. “Junk food is winning the war on grabbing the attention of Americans, particularly our kids. Our hope is that by introducing a line of products that kids want to eat and moms can feel good about we can drive a lasting love of these foods and a healthier future for the next generation.”

The new refrigerated snacking destination created by Bolthouse Farms is intended to drive an evolution in kids’ snacking habits similar to what has taken place with adults over the last several years, with more people reaching for better-for-you options in the refrigerator.

While Bolthouse obviously wants to feature Bolthouse Farms Kids products at the new retail destination, Ginestro said Bolthouse hopes other companies create new produce-forward refrigerated snack options for children.  And, in fact, there are already many items that would qualify such as pre-cut fruit, fruit purees and fruit-and-vegetable snack packs.

To maximize consumer traffic to the kids’ snacking section, Bolthouse Farms will provide retailers with a full merchandising system to implement on shelf and will maintain the destination on an ongoing basis, if that is a service that retailers would like.

Ginestro said the point-of-sale material being created is not branded, so many different products can participate in that section.

The specific initial Bolthouse Farms Kids products involved in this launch are a Strawberry Meets Banana and a Peach Meets Mango smoothie. The fruit tube options are Mango Meets Banana & Pineapple, Strawberry Meets Banana and Blueberry Meets Raspberry With Greek Yogurt.

The fruit tubes can be eaten out of the refrigerator for a creamy fruit experience or out of the freezer as a delicious frozen treat.

Veggie snackers will come in Carrot Meets Ranch and Carrot Meets Chili Lime flavors.

Cub Foods and Robinson Fresh team up for world-record attempt

Records are meant to be broken, which is why Cub Foods and Robinson Fresh have teamed up to top the Guinness World Record for largest fruit display.

Robinson Fresh will supply and transport four truckloads of fresh MelonUp! Pink Ribbon watermelon to the Cub Foods store in Maple Grove, MN.Pink-Ribbon-Watermelon The display will be approximately 1,500 square feet in area and contain about 10,200 watermelons. The total weight is estimated to be 157,000 pounds, exceeding the current record of 11,023 pounds.

Shoppers are encouraged to visit the display on Saturday, July 26 to receive free watermelon samples, take part in a watermelon-eating and seed-spitting contests, and spin the watermelon wheel for a chance to win various prizes. In addition, Fairview Clinics’ mobile mammography unit will be on-site, and representatives from Susan G. Komen Minnesota will be available to talk with consumers about nationwide breast cancer research efforts.

“We are excited for the opportunity to promote MelonUp! Pink Ribbon watermelon, an important summer product of ours, in such a big way,” Darren Caudill, vice president of merchandising and sales for Cub Foods, said in a press release. “We invite everyone to visit the store, where they can enjoy the celebration while also gaining additional education about local breast cancer awareness efforts.”

The MelonUp! Pink Ribbon branded watermelons are tied to Robinson Fresh’s cause-marketing program, in which a portion of all watermelon sales are donated to breast cancer research organizations on behalf of participating retailers. Cub Foods, a long-time supporter of the program, has donated nearly $70,000 since 2008.

“We value and appreciate Cub Foods and Supervalu’s support of the Pink Ribbon Watermelon program,” Josh Knox, category general manager at Robinson Fresh, said in the release. “The program began with the intention of educating consumers about the multitude of health benefits that watermelon can provide, and has developed into a fun and collaborative way for retailers to give back to and raise awareness within their communities.”

Watermelon is fat free and packed with immune-boosting vitamins such as A, B6 and C. According to the National Watermelon Promotion Board, watermelon contains higher levels of lycopene — a powerful antioxidant studied for its potential role in reducing risk of certain cancers — than any other fresh fruit or vegetable.

The Pink Ribbon Watermelon program has donated nearly $950,000 to nationwide breast cancer research organizations on behalf of retail customers. To find out more about the Pink Ribbon Watermelon program, please visit the program’s Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr pages.