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N.J. agricultural convention set for Feb. 3-5

TRENTON, NJ — The 100th New Jersey State Agricultural Convention & Trade Show will be held Feb. 3-5 at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City, NJ. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is hosting the convention in cooperation with the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey and Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

The first New Jersey State Agricultural Convention held after the formation of the state Department of Agriculture took place in 1916 and has commenced annually since then, according to a Jan. 6 press release from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

The 2015 convention and trade show will open Tuesday, Feb. 3, with educational sessions held by the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey. Highlights from the program will include sessions on ethnic and specialty crops in demand by chefs, growing vine crops in high tunnels, choosing tomato varieties, pest management for organic operations, and retail marketing and agritourism. There also will be in-depth workshops on food safety and basil downy mildew.

On Wednesday, Feb. 4, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher will open the New Jersey State Agricultural Convention with his annual State of the State of Agriculture address. Following that morning there will be a presentation on the Jersey Fresh Farm to School Program to assist farmers in partnering with schools to serve more local fruits and vegetables. The State Agriculture Development Committee also will hold a discussion on the Draft Soil Disturbance Standards for Preserved Farmland.

At 6 p.m., the Agricultural Youth Ambassadors will hold a reception, and at 7 p.m., New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is expected to speak at the Delegates Dinner.

On Thursday, Feb. 5, there will be updates from representatives from Rutgers School of Environmental & Biological Sciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the 4-H youth speaker will address the delegates. In the afternoon, there will be a discussion on Palmer Ameranth Weed and election of State Board of Agriculture members.

The trade show will feature vendors and representatives offering a wide range of agricultural products and services.

FreshXperts names new chairman, owner, associates

FreshXperts, a leading consulting group for the fresh industry, has added three new team members and appointed a new chairman. Jonathan Raduns has joined the organization as an owner, and Michael Gretz and David Pennington have joined as associates. Anthony Totta, a founding member of FreshXperts and former vice chairman, was named chairman of the board of directors, replacing Ron Pelger.

The announcement follows on Jonathan-Raduns-Head-Shot-300Jonathan Radunsthe heels of news last spring that FreshXperts named PJ Petrillo as administrator and general manager, tasking her with the job of handling strategic planning and day-to-day operations for the organization. Petrillo has implemented many positive changes since joining FreshXperts, including development of a new mission statement and an intensive vetting process for all new FreshXperts partners. She is also responsible for the oversight of the organization’s leadership committees.

“As FreshXperts’ new general manager, PJ, brought administrative gifts that we found crucial to lead the company in the right direction — to our next level of innovative achievement," Totta said in a press release. "She has done just that, which resulted in the acquisition of our newest FreshXperts.PJ-PetrilloPJ Petrillo

“As our client base expands and our consultancy grows, we want to make sure that we continue to provide our clients with the same high level of personal attention and customer service that they have come to expect from our team of FreshXperts," he said. "Our owners, associates and affiliate members work collaboratively to offer competency in nearly every area of the fresh industry, providing cohesive, comprehensive solutions to our clients’ business challenges.”

“FreshXperts is looking for the right partners to join us in our expansion, not just any partners,” Petrillo said in the release. “We believe that we’ve found the right kind of partners in Jonathan Raduns, David Pennington and Mike Gretz. They are experienced and professional team players, and their unique experiences and skill sets will prove valuable additions to the FreshXperts team.”

Anthony-Totta-Head-Shot-300Anthony TottaRaduns is a retail marketing and merchandising consultant, serving growers, shippers, grocers, foodservice operators and independent specialty retailers. He was previously an associate member with FreshXperts and recently has attained ownership status.

Raduns consults with his clients about merchandising, training, operational, and reinvention strategies that are designed to grow their businesses, limit shrink and drive gross profits.

“I am so pleased to be expanding my role with the organization as an owner," he said in the release. "I look forward to working with the other FreshXperts to help our clients operate their businesses more efficiently and profitably while minimizing waste.”

Mike-Gretz-Head-Shot-300Mike GretzRaduns previously held positions with Wegmans Food Markets and Betters International Food Corporation. He earned a food marketing and distribution degree from Rochester Institute of Technology.

Gretz joined FreshXperts as an associate. He provides strategic market research, marketing and consulting services to the produce and food industries. He offers retail audits of grocery stores, with an emphasis on the produce aisle, and conducts trade surveys. Gretz also supplies historical data related to space and pricing.

“I will be working with FreshXperts to provide a conduit between growers and grocery,” said Gretz. “By looking at the available data in a given area, I help my clients to make informed, strategic decisions that are supported by good research.”

David-Pennington-Head-Shot-300David PenningtonGretz was formerly the president and chief operating officer of Produce for Better Health Foundation. Moreover, he has held positions in marketing, sales management and market research with several large consumer packaged goods companies.

Pennington, another new associate for FreshXperts, provides business coaching, and brings to the table 30 years of management experience. He works with companies to assess their strengths and weaknesses, identify pressure points and strategize how to move businesses ahead. Pennington helps businesses work through cash flow issues, address communication difficulties, and find and train employees. Additionally, he advises business owners about how to achieve balance between work and home life.

“A business can rise no higher than its leader is able to take it,” said Pennington.  “The leader is the ceiling. I look forward to working with leaders in the produce industry to raise the ceilings of their organizations.”

Totta, a founding partner in FreshXperts, was named chairman of FreshXperts. He has more than 30 years of experience in fresh produce procurement, supply chain management, retail sales, purchasing, wholesale development and distribution. He maintains relationships with many of the industry’s largest grower-shippers and works with produce companies and grocers across the globe.

FreshXperts is a full-service advisory team for profitable, sustainable growth in fresh foods. Its consortium of consultants shares over two centuries of fresh produce industry experience. More information about FreshXperts is available at

Bi-Lo Holdings names president and CEO

Bi-Lo Holdings, parent company of BI-LO, Harveys and Winn-Dixie grocery stores, announced that Ian McLeod has been appointed president and chief executive officer, effective March 2. McLeod succeeds Randall Onstead, who will remain in place through March 2 to ensure a smooth transition.

“Ian is a proven leader with more than 30 years of expertise and a strong track record of driving profitable growth," Bi-Lo's board of directors said in a press release. "In his time running over 2,200 Coles food, liquor and convenience stores, which employs 100,000 associates across Australia and includes over 760 full-service supermarkets, he led a major turnaround in that business, improving the quality and value of products as well as the service and store standards offered to customers.  Ian significantly increased sales from AUD $28.8 billion to AUD $37.4 billion, doubling profits (earnings before interest and tax) during six years and outperforming in the market for 20 consecutive quarters. We are confident he will be instrumental in driving continued growth and success at Bi-Lo Holdings as we execute our strategy and work to further enhance our customers’ shopping experience.”

“The BI-LO, Harveys and Winn-Dixie grocery store brands have a strong history and today serve our customers through the efforts of over 70,000 hardworking employees; I am excited to move to the U.S. and join the team at this important time,” McLeod said in the release. “I look forward to leveraging my experience to help build upon Bi-Lo Holdings’ reputation by serving our loyal customers even better, attracting new customers through great quality and value and further strengthening our competitive position within the industry.”

Mr. McLeod previously served as Group Commercial Director for Wesfarmers Group, one of Australia’s largest listed companies and one of its largest employers with diverse business operations, including supermarkets, discount department stores, home improvement and office supplies, coal production and export, chemicals, energy and fertilizers, and industrial and safety products. 

Wesfarmers Group acquired the Australian retail group Coles in late 2007 and appointed McLeod as managing director to lead the challenging turnaround of the company, consisting of over 2,200 food, liquor and convenience stores, including over 760 supermarkets, 800 liquor stores and 640 gas stations across Australia. 

Prior to Coles, McLeod was CEO of Halfords Group Plc, a British retail chain specializing in car parts, cycling products and outdoor leisure goods. Previously, McLeod spent 20 years with ASDA supermarkets, a British supermarket group acquired by Walmart in 1999, where he was a member of the U.K. Management Board and also spent 12 months as a member of the Executive Board of Walmart Germany. McLeod attended the Harvard Business School AMP program in 1999 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in Scotland in 2010 for services to business and retail.

NMB launches its 2015 marketing campaign: Always Summer

The National Mango Board is gearing up to launch its 2015 marketing campaign, which will reinforce mango nutritional and educational messages to U.S. consumers as well as the fruit’s year-round availability. The overall theme in 2015 is Always Summer, and the NMB will bring the spirit of summer to consumers through programs and events that incorporate soccer, snacks and salsa. mango

The campaign year will have three elements: It’s Always Summer Here from January through April, Celebrate Summer from May through August, and Back to Summer from September through December.

The National Mango Board’s marketing campaign has made a significant and positive influence on media and consumers over the years. Since 2005, fresh mango consumption has increased 53 percent in the United States, with much of it attributed to NMB efforts.

Soccer, snacks and salsa will be the main components throughout the 2015 campaign. The soccer component includes the NMB as an official partner of the National Women’s Soccer League and will engage consumers at selected games, as well as with social media, website channels, athlete appearances and more. In addition, the NMB will sponsor U.S. Youth Soccer, participating in sampling events during tournaments as well as engage in social and multimedia channels with a heavy up period during U.S. Youth Soccer Month. The snacks component will include a cooking class with key influencers in different U.S markets, where the NMB will have the chance to share new recipe ideas with media influencers. Finally, the salsa component will feature new recipes for sharing throughout the year. There will also be social media contests to encourage consumers to share their own favorite mango salsa recipes. Throughout the year, the NMB will send shipments to celebrities, media, top athletes and influencers to encourage mango conversations on all media channels.

On the nutrition PR and marketing program front, the NMB will convey mango messages to its consumers. This program shares the nutrition story through influential dieticians, retail dieticians’ outreach as well as multimedia strategies. The NMB’s Registered Dietitian Network retains three nationally recognized media dietitians — Frances Largeman-Roth, Julie Upton and Katherine Brooking — who help the NMB in securing national coverage in print, online and broadcast outlets. Moreover, the NMB will be a sponsor for the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance, a professional association specifically catered to retail dietitians, which focuses on equipping them with business skills and industry insights. The NMB’s sponsorship will consist of mix webinars, newsletter articles and visibility at RDBA events.

The NMB is also looking forward to another groundbreaking year for the retail and promotions program. The NMB will once again produce mango bin displays to help move more mangos at retail. A limited number of bins will be available at no charge to mango shippers for distribution to their smaller retailers that do not currently receive promotion allocations from the NMB. The NMB’s Mango Connection newsletter will have the official announcement.

The NMB will again hold its annual Mango Mania Display Contest, now in its fifth year. All retailers, big and small, are able to participate in this contest where more than $12,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the stores that build the best mango displays. The contest will run in July, and mango suppliers are strongly encouraged to get involved. Industry members should look for the announcements this spring for more information and online order form for contest point-of-sale kits.

The NMB’s retail program will continue promoting its Mango University platform, which includes training videos, tips, quizzes and prizes. All produce associates who complete the program will be eligible for prizes and receive a mango diploma. In addition, the NMB will continue to promote its newly developed Mango Handling & Ripening Protocol, detailing the best practices for handling, merchandising and ripening mangos to help retailers move more mangos. Moreover, the NMB will keep moving forward with releasing its Mango Mover e-newsletter, which is catered to retailers and includes handling and merchandising tips, plan-ahead promotions and market information. The NMB will be attending several retail trade shows in 2015 to further awareness and identify new opportunities and contacts relevant to its various program areas. The NMB will attend the following retail trade shows: Southeast Produce Council; New England Produce Council and the New York Produce Show.

Lastly, the NMB will move forward with its outreach efforts to encourage use of fresh mangos in foodservice. The foodservice PR and marketing program works with operators, chefs and foodservice media to increase presence and sell-through of fresh mangos at foodservice.

This year, the NMB will continue to work with foodservice media to share news about fresh mangos and secure editorial placements. The NMB will also conduct chain promotions throughout the year as well as pitch new mango recipes and ideas that can reach distributors and operators. Moreover, the foodservice program will keep focus on educating culinary students and instructors, as well as practicing chefs, about handling and cooking with fresh mangos. The NMB accomplishes this through its Fresh Mango Culinary Curriculum, which incorporates training lessons and quizzes. The Culinary Curriculum has been approved by the American Culinary Federation for 8.5 continuing education hours.

Finally — and new this year — the NMB will execute a distributor pilot survey that will help the NMB further explore promotion and education opportunities and gain insights within the foodservice industry.

Specialty citrus reaching peak for Sunkist

With the California winter in progress, many specialty citrus varieties, including pummelos, Cara Cara Navels and Minneolas, are in peak season.

“We’re in peak Sunkist citrus season and this year’s crop is tasting delicious,” said Joan Wickham, manager of advertising and public relations for Sunkist Growers Inc. in Sherman Oaks, CA.Murcott-91Sunkist's California W. Murcott mandarins will be available February through April. “This time of year is particularly special because many unique varieties are available, though only for a limited time. As consumers are becoming more adventurous with food, these seasonal specialties are increasing in popularity.” 

The specialty citrus includes several different oranges as well as a number of other varieties. Each is available in this winter-to-spring timeframe, and Sunkist produces a wide array of materials for retailers to educate consumers about these unique varieties. The point-of-sale materials include nutritional information, recipes and usage tips.

Some of these specialty varieties include:

Moro orange
Also known as blood oranges, the Moro orange has a deep maroon interior and an orange or orange-red blushed exterior. It offers a distinct rich orange taste with hints of berry. Available December through mid-April, it is an easy-to-peel fruit that is great for snacking.

Cara Cara Navel orange
This unique variety looks like a Navel orange on the outside, but the seedless interior has a rich pink hue from the natural presence of Lycopene. Available December through May, these extremely sweet Navels are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of fiber, earning them the nickname “The Power Orange.”

The largest of all citrus fruit, pummelos have a thick, dark green peel that fades to yellow as the season progresses. Less acidic than traditional grapefruit, they have a zesty, tropical scent with a sweet tangy flavor. It is available mid-October through mid-May, and is noted for its high content of vitamin C.

Sweetie (Oro Blanco)
This specialty variety is a cross between a white grapefruit and a pummelo, and is available mid-October through mid-March. Pummelos have a bright green exterior that fades to a golden yellow as the season progresses. They are generally round to flat-round with a thicker rind than a traditional grapefruit. Sweeties are sweeter than traditional grapefruit, and an excellent source of vitamin C.

Minneola tangelo
Minneola tangelos are easily identified by their distinctive knob-like formation at the stem. A cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine, juicy Minneolas are larger than most Mandarins with a deep red-orange exterior and a bold, tangy flavor. They are available from mid-December through April.

Sunkist Smiles
This variety is seedless and easy to peel. Sunkist Smiles Clementines and California Mandarins are flat-round, with a deep orange, smooth glossy skin. They are sweet, juicy and make an excellent treat for lunches, snacks and recipes. It is a great promotional item for kid lunches. Clementines are available mid-November through January while California W. Murcott mandarins are available February through April.