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Retailers, growers join Produce for Kids to provide $4 million in donations to charities in a decade

produce kids Produce for Kids has donated more than $4.1 million to children’s charitable concerns, including the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and DonorsChoose.org. The program brings grower-shippers and retailers together to help raise funds that stay in the local community.

Produce for Kids started as a one-time spring promotion, conceived by John Shuman of Shuman Produce in Reidsville, GA, after his young son received care at a Children’s Miracle Network hospital. Shuman connected with Orlando, FL, marketer Heidi McIntyre for that first campaign. The results were so overwhelming the campaigns continued and Produce for Kids has since become a full-time, stand-alone organization.

Here’s a look at the highlights of last year’s Produce for Kids activities.

Buyer demand drives T&A's reintroduction of 'Field-Fresh' wrapped leaf lettuce

tavideo imageSomeone once said, "What's old is new again." Reviving a unique harvesting technique originally launched a decade ago, Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle has reintroduced its "Field-Fresh" wrapped leaf lettuce for one simple reason: buying segment demand.

T&A's research shows that its field pack technique increases shelf life by 11 days and reduces shrink 20 percent. These compelling stats, coupled with buying segment demand for the reintroduction of the process, have prompted T&A to return to a field pack process it originally launched more than 10 years ago.

"The special plastic and the sealing process we use on the whole leaf product keeps the lettuce more fresh and protects it," Brian Antle said in a field interview video. "There isn't as much handling of the product in the short amount of time it takes to go from the field to the box."

To help retailers educate shoppers on what it takes to get product from the field to the supermarket, T&A's field wrap plastic and channel strips carry a QR code that directs smartphone users to videos showing T&A’s lettuce being harvested and packed, as well as tips for preparation when it reaches consumer kitchens.

All Tanimura & Antle vegetables are field packed. T&A currently offers several varieties of field-fresh packed lettuce: romaine, red and green leaf, endive and escarole.

Salinas-based Mann Packing’s new video supports sustainability of its vegetable trays

mann packing videoMann Packing, based in Salinas, CA, released a new video and ad campaign at the recent United Fresh 2013 convention in San Diego, which looks to reinforce the sustainability features of its lidless vegetable trays.

Last fall the company redesigned its vegetable platter and removed the familiar black plastic portion of the package commonly used as the lid.

The company decided to redesign the platters after conducting research into what consumers want in fresh item packaging, said Christine Keller, director of marketing and innovation.

The research found that 92 percent of consumers asked said they did not use the black trays for serving as intended (even when instructions prompt them to do so); and when told about the positive impact removing the lids would have on the environment, the same 92 percent said they would be happy without them.

Mann uses one of its own executives in this video, which takes a humorous approach in driving home the sustainability message.

 

RockTenn’s Meta series improves efficiency with better strength and cost savings

Norcross, GA-based RockTenn, one of North America’s leading vertically integrated packaging manufacturers, has introduced a pair of products that can provide produce shippers substantial savings on materials and freight, as well as allow for better packouts and more product per pallet.

The “Meta” case and the “Meta Tray-8” have already helped some shippers save money and increase efficiency in produce distribution. The products, part of RockTenn’s trademarked “Meta System,” are engineered to provide greater strength and product protection while utilizing as much as 11 percent less fiber in production. The result is a lighter product that provides more support in critical areas and allows more produce to be packaged in the same amount of space as traditional materials. The new designs also let shippers add an extra layer to a pallet to cut shipping costs.

Here’s a look at the Meta production process and resulting benefits.

Perfect weather turns Vidalia onion crop around, second half yields and quality are ‘phenomenal’

vidalvidAs the Vidalia onion season started in mid-April, growers feared they had a disaster on their hands. With seed stem bolting through the crop, it appeared that as much as half the Vidalia deal would disappear. For the first half of the season those projections were correct. But perfect weather for second-half Vidalias has flushed the seed stem issue from the fields and size, yields and quality are tremendous.

In fact, some growers say second-half volume will actually make up for volume lost in the first half of the season.

“We look to have a very strong storage crop that will last us well into the months of June, July and August. We look to have no problems filling up our storage,” said Troy Bland, director of quality control and procurement for Bland Farms in Glennville, GA. “We’re going to put just as many onions in storage as we would if we didn’t have the seed stem issue. I think a lot of people got scared of the seed stem issue at the beginning of the season. What we are bringing in has been phenomenal quality. The quality this year has been the best we’ve seen in a couple of years.”

The early news pushed some retailers off the Vidalia deal. Those who persevered have been rewarded. Those who did not can now promote Vidalias with confidence.

“Some true Vidalia retailers didn’t get scared, but some of them are and they backed off the promotion,” said John Williams of Herndon Farms in Lyons, GA. “We’ve got a heck of a crop to market now and over the next three months promotions need to be as big as they can – don’t go anywhere else for onions because we’ve got plenty of them.”

Torrential rains led to an outbreak of seed stem, which causes onions to bolt and go to seed. Once harvested, the stem rots quickly and the heart of the onion follows. But when the rains abated the result was “perfect growing conditions for the second half of our crop,” Williams said. “There is absolutely no disease pressure and the onions really sized up, there are a lot of jumbos and colossals. It’s really made up for the [first-half] losses.”

Said John Shuman of Shuman Produce in Reidsville, GA, “May 5 we’re sitting in church on Sunday morning, the sun came out, you could see it through the stained glass windows and it has shined every day since. It’s been windy, it’s been hot, just perfect conditions — you couldn’t have ordered them up any better. The onions have really responded, they are bright, they look good, quality is very high and we’re very excited about the turnaround. The early losses we had predicted are being diluted right now with really high yields on our mid- to late-season varieties and things are really looking up. I think you’re going to see a very good summer season for Vidalia onions with good availability and a stable, steady market.”

The tremendous second-half volume will allow Vidalia growers to extend their storage crop well beyond initial projections and through the summer months.

“It’s a high-quality crop and a lot more onions are going into storage than any of us ever felt like there would be; we have been really blessed,” Shuman said. “As a result of all of that the market has come off a little bit and it’s at a price range now that retailers can really get behind and promote it. The quality is here. The industry’s got enough storage onions available to supply their needs all summer.”

Added Williams, “People thought this was going to be a short crop and we thought we could be out of Vidalia by end of July, but I think we’re going to have Vidalias until the end of August, so the season will definitely be extended. We knew we had a pretty good crop on the back end but we’ve been blown away with these yields. Now we just have a lot of onions to sell.”