MONTEREY, CA — The 2015 PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo kicked off with a seaside gala here July 24. Record numbers of attendees were expected, as Bryan Silbermann, PMA's chief executive officer, told The Produce News Assistant Editor Maggie Giuffrida, the newest member of our video team.
College students interested in learning more about careers in the fresh produce industry joined the PMA Foundation Career Pathways program at PMA Foodservice Conference in Monterey, CA. Activities included a specialty produce item tasting session, hosted by Coosemans LA Shipping’s Jill Overdorf.
In this video, students explain their reaction to a variety of speciality items, including rambutan, finger limes, dragon fruit, passion fruit and buzz buttons.
ALDI launched an online video series in collaboration with Ben Bailey, popular comedian and Emmy award-winning host of "Cash Cab." The series is equal parts education and entertainment to help introduce ALDI to new customers across the United States and in Southern California specifically, where ALDI is planning to open approximately 45 new stores in 2016.
Surrounded by hidden cameras, Bailey surprised hundreds of shoppers at a Chicagoland store in late April. Bailey posed as an ALDI employee throughout the day, handing out wine and cheese samples, replenishing the produce aisle and doing price checks, all while quizzing shoppers on their ALDI Cart Smarts. These entertaining and candid moments are captured in a new video series available at lovealdi.com.
"I had a blast interacting with customers at ALDI and was amazed by how passionate they are about the savings, quality and selection of their groceries. People were quick to call out their favorite products and how much money they save each month," Ben Bailey said in a press release. "While ALDI does things a bit differently, you grow to appreciate the quirks as you get to know the ALDI way, especially when you realize how those quirks save you money. Once you're in, you're instantly hooked."
According to a new study commissioned by ALDI, 61 percent of US adults said it was too difficult to eat healthy and organic on a budget, and nearly eight out of ten respondents said they would buy fresh, high-quality and organic products if it wasn't so expensive — KRC Research conducted this research via an online survey of 1,029 Americans ages 18 or older May 21-24. At ALDI, shoppers can find great prices on fresh, high quality products, including organic items, for up to 50 percent less than traditional grocers, based upon a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading national retail grocery stores. This includes more than 70 varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Rising demand for lower prices and quality combined is fueling significant expansion for ALDI. To bring quality and affordability to the West Coast, ALDI recently announced expansion plans to launch approximately 45 new stores in Southern California in 2016, with its first stores opening in March 2016. The ALDI expansion to California is an integral part of a five-year strategic plan to open 650 new stores across the nation. By the end of 2018, ALDI expects to operate nearly 2,000 stores, enabling ALDI to offer its fresh, high quality groceries at everyday low prices to more than 45 million customers each month.
"With nearly 40 years in the U.S. market, we are excited to celebrate the ALDI story and highlight our smarter shoppers by putting a fun, humorous spin on it," ALDI Director of Public Relations Liz Ruggles said in a press release. "Our vision for these videos is to drive awareness and education among new customers in a memorable way. Ben Bailey was the perfect choice to help us share that story with the California market. We're hoping these videos give people a laugh and inspire them to shop at ALDI."
For some youngsters — and their parents — it’s the same old peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple or fruit cup and some carrots sticks day after day in lunch boxes.
But Great Lakes International Trading’s new Awesome Apricot Yummy Fruit Bus is bringing new zest and a lot of fun to kids. The adorable school bus-designed box holds nine 1.4-ounce individually wrapped packs of moist delicious sugar-free sun-dried Turkish apricots. They are perfect for school lunches, and a healthy alternative to sugar-filled foods. And kids love playing with the bus.
Great Lakes Director of Fresh Sales John Battle explained to The Produce News the inspiration behind the new item.
“Our office employees, combined, have over a dozen school-aged kids,” said Battle. “We got our inspiration from them as they explained that a new, healthy item was needed to add to their kids’ lunch boxes. People love the buses, and kids keep them as a toy. But that wasn’t the idea; we wanted to portray a healthy lunchtime snack.”
Great Lakes’ design and sales team put their heads together and went about figuring out how to step up to the task. They put the Turkish apricots in snack-size peel-back trays. Parents need only to pull out a tray and tuck it inside lunch boxes.
“The next question we asked ourselves was how to get kids to not be afraid to eat apricots,” Battle explained. “That’s when the idea of packing them insides of a high-graphic school bus took hold. People love the buses, and kids keep them as a toy. That’s great, but we wanted to portray a healthy and easy to pack lunchtime snack.”
The company, which is highly recognized as a leading distributor of high-quality dried fruits and nuts, began receiving and promoting the Awesome Apricot Yummy Fruit Bus last school year. New Turkish apricots arrive in August each year, marking the beginning of the new season. Great Lakes takes control of the apricots from the orchards to the packinghouse in Turkey. As the importer of record, the company has total control all the way to supermarket warehouses.
Its nationwide push, which included its video ad campaign, was, and continues to be, directed through social media.
“Within two days of putting the promotional message on Facebook we had virtually thousands of hits,” said Battle. “We also sent dozens of samples to mom-focused bloggers and parent magazines. Amazingly, it’s the bloggers that are grabbing this message quickly, and once they start chit-chatting the sky is the limit.”
With the beginning of a new school year on the near horizon, Great Lakes is now into its big back to school nationwide push, and it is asking retailers for pre-orders for the back-to-school year.
“Retailers and consumers alike enjoy the benefit of the 12-month shelf life,” noted Battle. “We’re promoting the Awesome Apricot Yummy Fruit Bus to an entirely new demographic; kids who are opening up their lunch boxes to find a delicious, healthy treat.”
Great Lakes suggests a $5.99 retail price for the box, and retailers are finding success at this price while still enjoying a nice return. The fact that each bus has nine packs breaks down to a very reasonable per-portion price for a healthy and delicious snack.
The company is also packing a couple other healthy snack items in school bus boxes, but their big initial push is on the apricots.
“The Awesome Apricot Yummy Fruit Bus is in stores now, but with the new apricot season, and the new school year starting, our push is for back to school orders,” said Battle. “The item is doing very well in New England, and we’re pushing for the Midwest and Western U.S. It’s a brand new demographic being introduced to a brand new dynamic item.”
It doesn’t matter if the crop is large or small. It doesn’t matter if the weather is good or bad. Every year in the Northwest, at some point the cherry season peaks. When the peak comes, it presents retail buyers with the best cherry sales and promotion opportunities of the entire season.
“This is the week,” Steve Castleman, senior vice president of sales at CMI, said in a press release. “We are hitting our seasonal high point for cherry availability and promotional pricing right now.
“After this week, we expect statewide volume to really start to drop off,” said Castleman. “Our CMI warehouses received a huge volume of cherries that were harvested over the holiday weekend. It’s the big receiving rush that we expect to see every year. Using harvest history as our guide, we see this week as one of the final opportunities for retailers to buy cherries at the peak of the season.”
Castleman added that there will certainly be cherries in the market for several weeks but the seasonal peak this week is much earlier than normal. “We knew the crop was early," he said. "But from what we’re hearing from our own horticulturists and other orchardists around the state, after this week the cherry supply will begin to decline. Retailers that jump on cherries right now will see the best quality and pricing of the season.”