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California Avocado Commission launches consumer blog

The California Avocado Commission recently introduced the latest in its communication efforts designed to encourage demand and increase awareness of California avocados: The Scoop blog.

With about 77 percent of Internet users reading blogs and nearly one-third of consumers saying that blogs influence a purchase decision more than any other media or social channel, CAC's blog launch is maximizing its ability to personalize consumer marketing communications.

"CAC continuously upgrades communication vehicles to be in sync with consumer behavior," Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the CAC, said in a press release. "The goal of The Scoop blog is to be the hub of compelling content that resonates with California avocado's target audience and brings the heart of the brand to life."

The Scoop content will center on four content areas: culinary; wellness and nutrition; holidays and eating occasions; and news and articles about California avocados, consumer stories and will integrate with CAC campaigns.

CAC recipes plus recipes from blogger partners and other credible sources will support key initiatives. The blog will incorporate California avocados into timely food trends, feature artisan chefs and provide cooking tips for home chefs of all experience levels. Content also will align with commission marketing plans around American summer holidays, with a special emphasis on the 4th of July.

"The California avocado season timing is expected to be somewhat condensed this year, with peak availability from mid-April through Labor Day," DeLyser added in the press release. "We timed the launch of The Scoop blog to encourage readers to check avocado labels for 'California' and to ask for the fruit at retail and foodservice establishments as the season gets under way. There's nothing more powerful than consumer demand."

VOC presents annual awards, launches 2014 marketing campaign

The Hawks Point Golf Club in Vidalia, GA, looked like a scene from “Pirates of the Caribbean” Feb. 8 as almost 300 costumed Vidalia onion growers and their families packed the Vidalia Onion Committee’s annual awards banquet and prepared to launch the 2014 season and the annual marketing campaign.

This year’s gala was themed “Protecting Our Treasure” and brought out an array of costumes and interactive events with a pirate motif that would have been equally at home an hour away on the coast of Savannah, GA.VOC-9Bo Herndon knows onions — and also knows he will be flashing the ‘V is for Vidalia’ sign frequently in 2014.

Dry Branch Farms of Collins, GA, was named Grower of the Year, while Barbara Braddy of Braddy Farms in Mt. Vernon, GA, received the first ever Vidalia Ambassador Award.

The Grower of the Year recognizes overall achievement and success as a producer with an emphasis on quality production and compliance with the Vidalia marketing order. Candidates must be registered Vidalia onion growers, cannot be currently serving on the committee, submit reports and payments in a timely manner, have no or few complaints to the committee office, conform to all standards set forth in the order, and enhance and support brand recognition.

Dry Branch Farms is a fourth-generation family farm, owned and operated by Wallace and David Jarriel.  The Jarriels started growing, packing and shipping their first sweet onions in April 1990. In 1995 they built a new packinghouse with controlled atmosphere rooms and were recognized as “Conservationist of the Year” for Tattnall County, GA. Dry Branch Farms continues to grow and expand its facility and now farms between 350-400 acres of onions.

The inaugural Vidalia Ambassador Award was established to recognize dedication and diligence to the Vidalia Onion Industry. Braddy, a retired schoolteacher and now office manager at Braddy Farms, oversees all sweet onion sales and has been an active VOC board member for many years. Established in 1966, Braddy Farms produces Vidalia onions, cotton, corn, soybeans and pecans on 5,000 acres.

Said Vidalia Onion Committee Chairman Kevin Hendrix, “I was honored to present the Grower of the Year Award to Dry Branch Farms, which recognizes excellence in quality, production and service to the Vidalia Onion Committee. And Barbara Braddy has contributed so much time and effort to our industry, the Ambassador Award was well deserved as it recognizes her passion, dedication and ongoing service.”

The unveiling of the VOC’s annual marketing campaign has become an anticipated event over the past few years, as the committee’s marketing efforts have blazed a trail that has run from Hollywood to Nashville raising the profile of the world’s most famous onion. The new campaign — “V is for Vidalia” — kicks off April 21 and focuses on promoting the versatility and benefits of Vidalia onions to consumers.

“Our goal is to reach a younger consumer demographic,” explained VOC Executive Director Susan Waters. “This fun, energetic campaign, combined with increased digital and social media activities, is the first step in reaching the Millennial generation consumers and starting to establish their long-term loyalty for the Vidalia onion brand.”  

The initial campaign push comes April 25-26 with VOC hosting a field tour for food bloggers to coincide with the 37th annual Vidalia Onion Festival. Bloggers will not only get a behind-the-scenes look at the Vidalia onion industry but also participate in select festival events.   

“We are excited to invite food bloggers from around the country to tour the Vidalia onion fields and packaging facilities at the beginning of our season,” said Hendrix. “Our goal is to educate them on the entire experience from farm to fork and let them become more familiar with how and where Vidalia onions are grown.”

Other components of the 2014 “V” campaign include on-pack brand messaging; digital coupons; social media outreach; point-of-sale materials; national food blogger contest; and varied advertising and public relations activities.

As part of the promotion, the VOC will be including a digital coupon on its Facebook page and will be giving away weekly prizes on Facebook during the months of May and June.  

“In 2012, our digital coupon on Facebook had over 35,000 downloads with a 23 percent redemption rate so we expect to get another great response,” said Waters.  

The VOC is also in the process of updating its website to develop a newly expanded section focusing on providing retailers with key marketing and merchandising resources. Starting April 1, retailers will be able to access a current crop report, highlights from a new onion category research study, downloadable campaign graphics and merchandising tips, as well as storage and handling information.  

Retailers can also request POS materials from their Vidalia onion supplier, which will feature the colorful “V is for Vidalia” theme for full-bin and half-bin displays as well as self-adhesive, tear-off recipe pads.

Kirkland sentenced to one year in Adams case

David Andrew Kirkland, former director of purchasing for Adams Produce Co. in Birmingham, AL, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison March 20, 2014, according to an AL.com report. Upon his release, Kirkland will serve three years of probation.

Adams Produce, which was founded more than a century ago, filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Several employees have been accused and convicted of resorting to fraud with regard to overpayments by various public entities for fruits and vegetables sold to military bases and schools as the company was going through financial problems.

According to court records, certain Adams employees, in the wake of the company's financial problems, resorted to fraud involving contracts the company had with the U.S. government to provide fruit and vegetables for military bases and schools.

As The Produce News reported this past October, Scott David Grinstead, the former chief executive officer of Adams Produce, was sentenced to 16 months in prison Oct. 29.

There are three other former Adams employees charged in the case who have pleaded guilty and await sentencing: Stanley Joel Butler, Christopher Alan Pfahl and Michael John O’Brien.

In addition to any time served, the co-defendants will jointly pay $481,000 in restitution to the Defense Supply Center.

Mexico publishes rule allowing cross-border potato trade

The Mexican government published a final regulation March 20 regarding cross-border trade of fresh potatoes, allowing shipments of potatoes between the United States and Mexico in both directions, with the details on phytosanitary and other protocols still to be worked out.

"The U.S. potato industry and our partners at USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are pleased to learn that the Mexican government has issued its final rule designed to achieve the bilateral goal of expanding trade in fresh potatoes between our two countries," according to a joint statement issued March 20 by the National Potato Council and the U.S. Potato Board. "Publishing the final rule is an important step in the parallel regulatory efforts taking place on both sides of the border. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has indicated it will publish is final rule in the Federal Register next week. The final regulations issued by Mexico provide the structure for trade in potatoes between all countries and Mexico. A specific protocol agreed to by the U.S. and Mexico will govern the specifics of potato trade between the countries."

Shipments of potatoes between the United States and Mexico were expected to begin before June.

"It has been a long time coming," John Toaspern, vice president of international marketing at USPB, said in a telephone interview with The Produce News March 21. "We made progressive steps along the way, but certainly this is the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people."

The cross-border trade in fresh potatoes should benefit growers both the United States and Mexico as well as consumers in both countries, he said.

"We are very excited that all this hard work and perseverance is going to have, hopefully, the ultimate payoff. However, we are not quite into the end zone yet," Toaspern added, stating that he would be pleased to make additional comments "when U.S. potatoes are for sale in Mexico City."

"We believe this is about a $100 million potential market" for fresh U.S. potatoes exported to Mexico, Mark Szymanski, director of public relations for the National Potato Council, said March 21. Currently, "we are able to ship fresh 26 kilometers into Mexico, so a very limited amount of fresh shipments" are now going into Mexico. However, Mexico is the third-largest export market for U.S. frozen and processed potatoes, with a $185 million value in 2012, "mostly frozen," he said.

Mexico's final regulation is "definitely a significant step" in the process of expanding access of fresh potatoes to all of Mexico, Szymanski said.

It is too early to tell what it will mean for Idaho, the leading potato-producing state in the United States, according to Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail and international at the Idaho Potato Commission.

"We have no knowledge" as to exactly what the new protocols will be, "so we are going to have to wait to really understand the implications, for Idaho especially but also for everybody else," Pemsler said. "Access has been granted but the details have yet to be published. In about two weeks, they will publish the final protocol process, which will include phytosanitary."

Not only will the United States be shipping potatoes to Mexico, but Mexico will be shipping fresh potatoes to the United States, and "Mexico grows some pretty good potatoes," a white variety not grown in the United States, according to Pemsler. That "could be a positive for the potato category in total because any time a new variety comes in it may meet new consumer needs or expectations, so it could actually help further develop the potato category."

The Idaho Potato Commission " would like to thank the U.S. Potato Board and the National Potato Council" for their efforts over many years "to create market access," Pemsler said. "Their persistence has made it possible for the border to finally open. Certainly we support everything that they have done and their success."

Giumarra introduces California plum promotion

Giumarra Reedley announces its summer 2014 plum promotion, “Easy as Pie,” which should boost the quantity of plums consumers purchase. The new packaging and retail display program will be introduced to the industry at the Northern California Fresh Produce & Floral Expo on April 9 in Pleasanton, CA. Giumarra will be at Booth No. 95.natures partner plum bag

The promotion features plums packed in "Nature’s Partner"-branded two-pound zip-lock pouch bags with a peel-off recipe label and QR code linked to a YouTube cooking video. The video, “How to Make a Fresh Plum Pie,” features Helen Krause of Reedley, CA, who shares her plum pie recipe and step-by-step easy baking techniques.

Krause is a retired plum grower and previously grew plums for Giumarra. She will appear at Giumarra’s booth from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the expo to hand out samples of her plum pie.

“This new Nature’s Partner plum promotion will lift retail plum sales by giving consumers a reason to buy plums in quantity,” Jeannine Martin, director of sales for Giumarra Reedley, said in a press release. “A consumer enticed to make Mrs. Krause’s plum pie recipe will need to purchase two two-pound bags of plums.”

Additional retail merchandising tools include an innovative reversible high-color vinyl display wrap, which can be used with Nature’s Partner Euro shipper boxes or RPCs. One side of the wrap features the plum promotion and cooking video QR code. The other side depicts a multi-stone fruit design that can be used throughout the California season.

“The dual design wrap gives the retailer merchandising flexibility and extends the life of the display materials, making it much more sustainable long term,” Kellee Harris, Western region business manager for Giumarra, said in the release.

Nature’s Partner red and black plums will begin shipping in early June and will be available through September. Both varieties are available in the promotional pouch bags.