EPC meeting draws good crowd and remembers its fallen leader

HACKENSACK, NJ — Members of the Eastern Produce Council came out in force Wednesday evening, Sept. 9, for the council's first meeting following its traditional summer break.

Members heard two dynamic presentations by the co-sponsors of the meeting: Avocados from Mexico and the Idaho Potato Commission. Maggie Bezart Hall, vice president of retail and promotion, led the Avocados from Mexico delegation, and Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail and international, led the Idaho Potato Commission delegation.

Held at the Stony Hill Inn, here, the meeting was also memorable for being the first in more than 25 years without the guidance of John McAleavey, the council's longtime executive director, who died June 5.

EPC2680Susan McAleavey Sarlund addressed the Sept. 9 meeting of the Eastern Produce Council, her first as executive director of the organization.EPC President Vic Savanello, director of produce and floral at Allegiance Retail Services LLC, opened the meeting by asking for a moment of silence for Mr. McAleavey. "John McAleavey led this organization for over a quarter of a century," said Savanello. "He was so well respected, and he had a tireless work ethic. He will be very hard to replace."

But that process took a big step forward at the meeting when Savanello introduced Mr. McAleavey's daughter, Susan Sarlund, who was named EPC executive director back on July 14. "She brings a wealth of experience with the Eastern Produce Council," said Savanello. And alluding to her work behind the scenes with the council over the last few years, he affectionately called her "the Oz behind the curtain."

"To say this is bittersweet for me is truly an understatement," Sarlund said as she took the microphone for the first time in new role. "Working side by side with my father, John, was a privilege. He taught me so much personally and professionally, and as so many of you know, his passion was contagious. I know he is thrilled that I -- together with my brother, John Jr., and mother, Joann, here tonight -- are here to carry on this legacy. I just want to express our gratitude for the support you have shown our family over the past few months."

She continued, "As Vic mentioned, we are excited for a new season of EPC events, and we are here to assist you, our membership. We encourage you to share what's going on at the EPC with your peers in the industry; we could love to have them join our vital organization and are always looking for member volunteers to contribute to our events. Again, thank you for being here tonight. I am honored to be your new executive director."

John McAleavey also served two terms on the New Jersey Agricultural Society's board of trustees, from 2009 to 2015. But he died before the society could present him with a plaque thanking him for his service, a tradition at the society for those whose terms have concluded. As a special way to say thanks, Al Murray, New Jersey's assistant secretary of agriculture and who also serves on the ag society's board of trustees, came up to present a plaque to Mr. McAleavey's widow, Joann, at the EPC meeting.

Trader Joe’s to open new store in nation’s capital

Trader Joe’s announced that it will open a location in the Capitol Hill area of Washington, DC.

The new store, slated to open in summer 2017, would be located at 750 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, near Eastern Market, at the site of the former Hine Junior High School.

The site of the new location is part of a redevelopment project that will include 162 residential housing units, a 163,000-square-foot office building, and space for retail and restaurants.

Trader Joe’s currently has four locations in the District of Columbia, all in the Northwest quadrant, with plans to open new locations in the Northeast area on H Street and in the Southeast near National Park.

Crunch Pak announces CEO resignation

Cashmere, WA-based Crunch Pak announced the resignation of Chief Executive Officer Scott Sargent after two years in the role on Sept. 9.

“Working with the team at Crunch Pak has been one of the great privileges of my career,” Sargent said in a company press release. “I am proud of what we accomplished as we pursued the interests of the company and brought value to our numerous consumers.”

Scott-Sargent-Crunch-Pak-CEOScott SargentPrior to joining Crunch Pak, Sargent was manager of supply chain purchasing for the 1,700-restaurant chain Chick-fil-A. Sargent also worked for the consulting firm, Booz Allen, and Delta Airlines.  Sargent is a Navy veteran with five years of active duty service.  Upon leaving Crunch Pak, Sargent will spend time with his family before pursuing other professional opportunities.

Crunch Pak Chairman of the Board Mauro Felizia wished Sargent the best for the future and thanked him for his contributions to Crunch Pak.

“Crunch Pak is a strong, well-established organization and we appreciate Scott’s commitment to the company,” Felizia said. “We are poised for continued growth and we look forward to writing the next chapter of our innovation story.”

The Board of Directors is working with Crunch Pak’s senior management team to manage the transition; a search for a new leader is underway.  In the interim, former company CEO John Graden, will assume responsibility of Crunch Pak’s slicing division and Tony Freytag, senior vice president of sales and marketing, for all company branding efforts which includes sales and marketing.



Vilsack urges Congress to reauthorize child nutrition standards

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack welcomed Congress back to town Sept. 8 with an urgent message that lawmakers should spend the remaining legislative days reauthorizing the child nutrition law.

“It's important for Congress to find a way to provide for reauthorization without taking a step back, for Congress to continue the commitment that it made in 2010 to a brighter and better future for our children,” Vilsack said at the National Press Club.

He dismissed “myths” that plate waste was on the rise since the healthier standards came into effect or that it’s too expensive to serve healthy meals to school-aged children.

“For the past three years, kids have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school thanks to the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which made the first meaningful improvements to the nutrition of foods and beverages served in cafeterias and sold in vending machines in 30 years,” said Vilsack, who announced $8 million in grants to help school nutrition professionals better prepare healthy meals. “Nearly all schools are successfully meeting the standards, and these grants part of our ongoing commitment to give states and schools the additional resources they need.”

United Fresh Produce Association President Tom Stenzel praised Vilsack’s message to Congress on the need to reauthorize the child nutrition law, which expires Sept. 30. Congress is facing a plethora of demands, including keeping the government afloat, hosting the Pope and debating the Iran deal, before leaving town.

“Schools serving a variety of great tasting fresh fruits and vegetables — often providing kids with choices in a fruit and veggie/salad bar -- have been highly successful in meeting the modest requirement of including at least a half-cup of a fruit and vegetable in school lunch,” Stenzel said.

He also urged Congress to support the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program, which introduces fresh fruits and vegetables to four million lower-income school children each day.

United Fresh is committed to working with Senate and House Agriculture Committee leaders “to ensure that child nutrition programs continue to help our nation’s children adopt healthy, lifelong eating habits,” he said.

HLB Specialties first to import Goldenberries without cold treatment

Pompano Beach, FL-based HLB Specialties, a U.S. importer and tropical fruit specialist, has resumed importing fresh Colombian goldenberries, also known as cape gooseberries

Previously, the fruit had to undergo a 14-day quarantine treatment mandated by USDA before being distributed in the United States, which dramatically reduced shelf-life and increased costs. Now shipments from verified “fruit fly free zones” can enter the country without undergoing the cold treatment and HLB Specialties is the first to receive new shipments.

“Previously it was difficult and costly to handle Colombian Goldenberries because the cold-treatment would give us only about one week to sell, distribute, and have the shoppers enjoy the fruit at home,” said Andres Ocampo, HLB Specialties’ director of operations and Colombian himself. “With the new regulation we have two to three weeks shelf-life and can offer a much more competitive price.”

Fruti-Reyes-125 The turn-around time is extremely fast, sometimes only 48 hours from cropping to arrival at any major U.S. airport. HLB Specialties carries the fruit in baskets and clamshells of 3.5-ounces each that come in boxes of 12 units (baskets) and 9 units (clamshells). They can be flown to any U.S. airport and there is currently no minimum order requirement.

Goldenberries grow year-round on a vine and resemble small tomatillos with a brown papery husk covering the round, cherry-sized fruit, which protects the berry and is removed at the time of consumption. The fruit is yellow when ripe and its unique flavor is sweet-tart, refreshing and slightly acidic.

“Since the fruit is grown virtually wild and with little human interference and minimal pesticide use, most people don’t even wash the fruit, just remove the husk and pop it in their mouths,” noted Melissa Hartmann de Barros, the company’s director of communications. The berry can be a little sticky due to the natural oil that serves as a protectant. Because goldenberries are such an uncomplicated and healthy snack, “it’s easy to lose track and finish a whole clamshell in one sitting while working or entertaining,” according to Hartmann de Barros.

Fresh goldenberries have a distinct presentation, making them a versatile item used in foodservice. In Europe, where they have been popular for years, they are commonly used as garnish in cocktails, desserts, juices and fruit salads. Their tart flavor also makes them a perfect pairing with cheese and wine or chocolate ganache. Goldenberries are marketed as a superfruit due to their high concentration of nutrients, such as antioxidants, vitamins A and C, as well as fiber. They are cropped sustainably.