With new sources and new packaging, 2015 is under way in a big, bright way for The Oppenheimer Group’s berry category.
The full-service produce marketer is now shipping its berry range in Sesame Street-branded "eat brighter!" packs. Sourcing from South America, Mexico, Florida and California, Oppy offers blackberry clamshells featuring Ernie, raspberries with Cookie Monster, blueberries showing Grover’s furry face, and strawberries as red as Elmo on the label.
“With their intense color, berries lend themselves perfectly to the 'eat brighter!' concept,” Jason Fung, director of category development for Oppy, said in a press release. “Displayed together, the packs present themselves as a Sesame Street ‘destination’ on the shelf. All of our currently seasonal berries are represented in the eye-catching packaging as part of this very important movement to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption among young families.”
At the same time, the marketer is increasing its strawberry offerings significantly this season, building scale and enabling it to deliver more comprehensive berry programs.
“Last year we shipped California strawberries for the first time, testing the waters and assuring we could create a program that accommodated our customers’ needs,” said Fung. “We have built on that ‘year one’ effort through relationships with growers in Coachella, Oxnard and Salinas, so now we can serve more of our customers with larger organic and conventional California strawberry programs.”
Fung noted that Oppy has entered full-fledged partnerships with high-quality berry producers, investing financially and strategically planning the season to optimize the retailer and consumer experience — while also creating a strong fiscal position for the growers. The program began in December and extends through September.
While Oppy’s California strawberry program is growing, so are its berry offerings from other locales. The marketer is shipping Florida strawberries and — along with the industry — is anticipating more volume in the weeks ahead.
Recently, the first Oppy raspberries hit the market, sourced through new relationships with proven Mexican berry growers. Meanwhile, its import blueberry program from Peru and Chile are enjoying excellent momentum, Fung said.
“Berries have become a very important facet of the produce department, delivering a high dollar share to the bottom line,” he said. “Because they are such a critical part of the mix, the quality and consistency has to be there 365 days a year.”
Oppy has been building its berry category expertise relative to consumer insights, merchandising, logistics and other key areas in tandem with Total Berry in the United Kingdom, a fellow operating company under the Total Produce umbrella and European berry leader.
“We are proud to say that the Oppy berry program has evolved to the point that retailers can comfortably rely on it for continuous supply of high-quality fruit,” Fung said.
Workers at the Hunts Point Terminal Market voted to approve a new, three-year contract, with 97 percent of workers voting "yes." The 1,300 workers, members of Teamsters Local 202, will receive significant wage increases in each year of the contract.
"It's our best wage and benefits package in two decades," Daniel Kane Jr., president of Teamsters Local 202, said in a press release.
Following the ratification vote, teamsters members and leaders said the ball is now in the New York City's court to ensure that Hunts Point stays competitive.
"This is only the first step in ensuring that Hunts Point Market remains a home for good jobs in the long term," Kane said in the release. "Now it's time for our city government to step up and ensure that this public property has the necessary infrastructure to meet 21st century needs and withstand the next hurricane."
The release stated that the facilities — located on an East River peninsula — have long needed renovation, and the urgency has only increased following Hurricane Sandy. Several mayoral administrations have considered projects to renovate Hunts Point Market, but no plan has yet moved forward.
"Hunts Point feeds New York," Kane said in the release. "Hunts Point employs the Bronx. We can't wait any longer to protect this vital resource for our city."
Unified Grocers has made a number of key internal promotions and additions to its leadership team. Key among the announced changes are three promotions within the company’s senior management team. President of Market Centre Joe Falvey and Chief Marketing Officer Sue Klug have been elevated to executive vice president, and Chief Information Officer Gary Herman has been promoted to senior vice president.
“To continue our recent momentum will take imaginative and energetic leadership,” Bob Ling, president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “That means continuing to develop and add to our senior team, giving opportunities to those who have proved themselves ready to take the next step in their careers and adding the best talent from outside the company.”
Falvey has been with the company since 1999 and has been instrumental in driving the successful growth of Unified’s specialty division, Market Centre. Under his leadership, Market Centre has created new sales opportunities in growing categories such as organic, natural and ethnic foods.
Klug has served as chief marketing officer since joining Unified in 2012. She is responsible for all corporate marketing and communications activities, as well as the company’s retail marketing service and retail technology functions. She has already elevated Unified’s marketing efforts in a number of areas, developing new strategies including a robust scan data program giving retail insights to our retail members and the company’s successful Celebremos! and MercadoSavings Hispanic marketing programs. In an expanded role, she is now responsible for strategic sourcing and real estate. In addition, Klug — working closely with members of the board — will take a leadership role in strategic planning.
Herman has been Unified’s chief information officer since 2000, overseeing the company’s information services function. Under his direction, Unified maintains state-of-the-art logistics systems and an extranet that ties together the company’s vendors, buyers and retail members.
“Joe, Sue and Gary have proven track records of delivering solid results for our organization,” said Ling. “All are dynamic leaders whose vision and passion have helped drive Unified’s recent successes. They will play important roles in driving the next phase of the company’s growth.”
In addition, the company announced a number of additions to the executive team: Mike Brown has been promoted to vice president of retail services; Blake Larson has been promoted to vice president of accounting; Keith Miller has been promoted to vice president of Market Centre operations; and Ray VanWetten has been promoted to vice president of sales for the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, Unified welcomed a new member of the team, Gregg Bostick, who has joined the company as vice president of logistics.
One Banana announced its plans to increase its North American operations, including the appointment of produce industry veteran Craig Carlson as president of One Banana North America, effective immediately.
This North American expansion and new company structure are in keeping with One Banana's commitment to connecting with customers directly and maintaining consistent consumer accessibility.
“Our brand ethos is based on transparency and clear vertical integration," Fernando Bolaños Valle, chief executive officer of parent company AgroAmerica, said in a press release."As such, it is crucial that we are as close to our customers as possible and have a strong and effective North American-based team in place to service them. We are thrilled to have Craig on board to spearhead these efforts."
Carlson will oversee One Banana's North American headquarters in Miami. He will report directly to Valle.
Prior to becoming One Banana's president, Carlson consulted on the development of the "One Banana" brand. He comes with over 35 years of experience in the retail and food service spaces. He previously served as senior vice president of produce for U.S. Foods and senior produce director for Walmart, among others.
“The food world has changed," Carlson said in the release. "People are rightly demanding more from produce companies. I am proud to join a company so committed to producing the highest-quality, most socially and ecologically responsible banana. I look forward to continuing the incredible progress we have made to date."
Westmoreland Sales Group, a leading Canadian greenhouse vegetable grower, has signed a two-year contract with IFCO Systems, a global provider of reusable packaging solutions for fresh products. Westmoreland is now shipping "Topline" brand tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from its distribution centers in Ontario and Michigan to retailers across North America in IFCO RPCs.
Leamington, ON-based Westmoreland cited IFCO’s history of excellent customer service and commitment to food safety as the main reasons it selected IFCO to be its RPC provider. Also important were IFCO’s proximity to Westmoreland’s facilities, ability to respond quickly and ability to supply RPCs to service the increasing retail demand for Westmoreland’s product.
“We are working with IFCO to ensure our Topline products arrive to our retail customers in the best possible condition while lowering costs through the supply chain," Brian W. Blommaert, chief executive officer of Westmoreland, said in a press release. "The IFCO RPC solution also supports Westmoreland’s commitment to the environment by helping to reduce the number of cardboard boxes used.”
IFCO handles all RPC logistics for Westmoreland, from distribution to cleaning to re-entry into the supply chain. After each retail use, IFCO RPCs are folded, collected and shipped back to one of IFCO’s service facilities, where they are sanitized and prepared for re-use.
“Westmoreland is a great partner, and we are pleased the company is using IFCO RPCs to deliver high-quality product to retailers in the U.S. and Canada," Dan Walsh, president of IFCO North America, said in the release. "We are constantly developing new solutions to address specific opportunities at companies like Westmoreland, and their move to our program is proof that trading partners and consumers benefit from working toward the common goal of greater service and safety.”