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To-Jo spotlights its business with Farm Star Living

farm-star-LOGOtransparentFarm Star Living, a lifestyle brand that celebrates American farming, farmers and food, recently partnered with To-Jo Mushrooms, a fourth-generation family-owned-and-operated mushroom farm that grows and distributes a full line of fresh and prepared mushroom products.

“We are so pleased to welcome To-Jo Mushrooms to the Farm Star Living family," Mary Blackmon, Farm Star Living founder, said in a press release. "For over four generations the D'Amico family has been harvesting mushrooms, and we are so excited to help raise awareness of this fabulous company that is family owned and produces locally grown products.IMG 2104Mary Blackmon We are also proud to showcase the mushrooms' impressive attributes as a Superfood.  In fact, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently proposed to require the declaration of vitamin D on the nutrition facts panel of food and beverage products.” 

To-Jo Mushrooms has joined the growing roster of Farm Star Living sponsors, which also includes Limoneira, Springer Mountain Farms and SunWorld.

"To-Jo is committed to excellence in growing standards and raising public awareness about how its farmers and growers take pride in producing fresh, quality, products that are a healthy addition to your family's diet. We believe that Farm Star Living, which celebrates U.S. farmers, is an ideal partner to help people nationwide feel good about the locally grown products they are serving to their families like our To-Jo mushrooms," Peter Wilder, marketing director, said in the release.

To-Jo Mushrooms is a vertically integrated grower-shipper that has been harvesting mushrooms in southeastern Pennsylvania for more than 70 years. To-Jo delivers its mushrooms to stores nationwide, including foodservice and grocery chains across the U.S.

Farm Star Living celebrates American farming, farmers and farm-fresh food. The Farm Star Living website informs customers eager to know who’s behind their food and how to support farmers and farm-fresh food.

Farm Star Living recently launched its A-Z Guide, showcasing all health benefits and nutrition info for every vegetable, fruit, nut, herb and spice from A-Z. Farm Star Living also has an app that provides easy, quick access to hundreds of Farm-to-Table restaurants in major cities throughout the U.S. as well as hundreds of farms open to the public for exciting activities and fun.

More information about Farm Star Living is available at, and @FarmStarLiving.

South African citrus arrives at Gloucester Marine Terminal

GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ — The season's first break bulk ship bearing South Africa citrus discharged June 23 at the Gloucester Marine Terminal, located here on the Delaware River. 

Fruit sampled by The Produce News was sweet and in good condition. According to Tom Mastromarco at Holt Logistics Corp., there were 3,400 pallets of South African citrus aboard "Green Italia." The ship belongs to Seatrade, which has a two-year exclusive agreement to run this South African reefer program to Gloucester.

Thomas Holt III, who works in business development for Holt Logistics Corp., which owns and operates the Gloucester Marine Terminal, said the South Africans will ship a total of about 30,000 or 40,000 pallets of citrus to the United States this season.2014-6-23-0919-Green-ItaliaStevedores at the Gloucester Marine Terminal in Gloucester City, NJ, lift pallets of South African citrus from the hold of the refrigerated cargo ship "Green Italia," which belongs to Seatrade.

Holt said most of that volume will come through his facility this year but in the shoulder seasons — as the South Africans built, then eventually reduce volumes — the citrus will be shipped in refrigerated sea containers.

South Africa's very first seasonal citrus arrival was in sea containers arriving in the Port of Newark, NJ, on June 10, marking the start of the 15th season for South African summer citrus in the U.S., according to Suhanra Conradie, chief executive officer of the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum. The season's first container vessel, "MSC Valvik," carried 90 tons of clementines and Navel oranges for the U.S. market.

In a press release, Conradie indicated that container vessels transport approximately 15 percent of the overall volume during the season.  The Holt operation will receive the remaining 85 percent.

Conradie's office said fresh South African will arrive from South Africa every 10 days through October.

Consumer access to the South Africa citrus will be more rapid in 2014 than in recent years due to a pilot program, which reduces the cold sterilization from 24 to 22 days.

South Africa citrus production for this season is at high levels and will enable greater volumes for the U.S. market. Normal weather conditions to date have enabled harvesting to proceed without interruption. "Weather and climate conditions cannot be underestimated when it comes to the taste and appearance of our fruit," said Conradie. "South Africa's summer heat contributes to the sweet taste followed by colder temperatures which enable the fruit's color to brighten orange.

Strong relationships with importers and retailers in the U.S. and close collaboration before and throughout the season assure the preferred sizes and volumes are shipped at the correct market time. "Smaller fruit yields well for the growing popularity of bagged fruit in the U.S. market," said Conradie. "In all cases, fruit to the U.S. exceeds the internal quality requirements and is packed to assure it exceeds the strictest of fruit safety regulations."

This program began in 1999 with 50 tons and has grown to roughly 41,000 tons per year. South African citrus exported to the U.S. is grown primarily in the Western and Northern Cape regions.

Fairway highlights its focus on local

Fairway Market, which started as a small stand in New York City selling locally grown fruits and vegetables, has expanded over the past 80 years, but its focus is still on everything local.fairwayyyy To celebrate this, Fairway is launching a monthly guide saluting all of its local partners and distributors, whose products can be found in its produce, fish, meat, dairy bakery, specialty departments and more throughout its stores.

The guide will provide brief descriptions of the farms, fisheries, dairies and manufacturers, easy-to-follow recipes using the products and special savings. Special emphasis is directed to how the products are manufactured, including fruits and vegetables that are grown organically.

"We know that our customers care about what they eat and where it comes from," Bill Sanford, interim chief executive officer, said in a press release. "There is truly wonderful food being harvested and crafted by family farmers, local fishermen, small artisan food-makers, bakers and roasters right here in our own backyard. You can find the best of it in this new monthly food-lovers' guide, and of course, in all our stores."

He added that when buying local, "You're not just buying the freshest and best-tasting foods available, you're also helping save the environment and supporting your local economy."






Stemilt’s Kyle’s Pick cherries raise the bar for retailers

Stemilt will kick off the second season of its premium cherry program, Kyle’s Pick, this week in Washington state, about a week ahead of last season’s timing. The company reserves the best cherries — premium varieties, largest sizes and dessert flavors — for Kyle’s Pick pouch bags in July and August to help retailers differentiate premium quality and most importantly, win over consumers, who traditionally buy cherries on impulse.KylesPickPouchCherryBag

Named after Stemilt co-owner and fourth-generation cherry grower Kyle Mathison, Kyle’s Pick cherries were widely accepted during their launch year at retail in 2013. With greater volumes and fantastic growing conditions in 2014, the stage is set for Kyle’s Pick cherries to be an even bigger hit this summer.

“Kyle’s Pick cherries are the perfect way to keep the momentum going on cherries after the big Fourth of July holiday,” Roger Pepperl, Stemilt's marketing director, said in a press release. “The Kyle’s Pick seal on every bag is a mark to signify the high-quality cherries inside, which consumers recognize. A great cherry eating experience turns into a second great experience, and Kyle’s Pick cherries are proven to drive repeat sales during an important time for the cherry category.”

Using its state-of-the-art electronic packinglines, Stemilt can set firmness, size and sugar-level standards in order to ensure only the best cherries make it into each Kyle’s Pick pack. The company also reserves premium varieties, including Hill Bings, Sweetheart, Skeena and Staccato, for Kyle’s Pick cherries. Some widely planted prominent varieties are excluded from this brand purposely because of their consumer perception in taste panels. Stemilt will continue down its path of planting cherries that will not only fit their orchard sites, but also meet consumer flavor expectations.

“Skeena cherries will be the featured variety in Kyle’s Pick bags in the coming weeks. It’s a variety that likes to grow large, firm, and has incredible dessert flavors. We’ve had prime growing conditions in Washington state this summer, which will add to the exceptional quality of Skeena and other Kyle’s Pick cherries,” said Pepperl.

The timing of the Kyle’s Pick cherry program falls right in line with the time that Mathison harvests his own crop of cherries on Stemilt Hill in Wenatchee, WA. A known leader in the cherry industry, Mathison continually strives to raise the standard for cherries in order to enhance the consumer eating experience.

“He’s a visionary who will be the first to tell you that growing cherries with world famous qualities that meet the Kyle’s Pick standards is a journey and not a destination. Kyle’s Pick cherries aren’t just a testament to the quality of cherries that Kyle grows, but a way for us to share his passion with consumers and differentiate Stemilt cherries at retail,” said Pepperl.

Stemilt will pack the random-weight Kyle’s Pick pouch bag throughout the month of July and into early August. Once Mathison begins harvesting cherries atop his high-elevation orchards, called Amigos, Stemilt will pack its second pouch bag in the Kyle’s Pick program series, called Half Mile Closer to the Moon.

Moon cherries are another unique offering of Stemilt’s. The high-elevation location of the Amigos orchard allows Mathison to harvest cherries into late August. “For every 100 feet increase in vertical elevation, cherry harvest is pushed back one day,” said Mathison. “At Amigos, we’re farming cherries between 2,800 and 3,200 feet above sea level — literally a half mile closer to the moon.”

“Starting now with Kyle’s Pick cherries and then transitioning into Moon cherries in mid-August is the way to differentiate your cherry program as premium. Share the story of Kyle’s Pick cherries with your shoppers and impress them with this flavor-first program in order to boost sales,” said Pepperl.

Retail View: Publix provides blueprint for success

By virtually all accounts, Publix Supermarkets is one of the best regional chains in the United States and is consistently listed as one of the best places to work by Forbes magazines and others who rate such things.

The company’s chief executive officer, Ed Crenshaw, told an audience at the United Fresh Produce Association convention in Chicago, June 10-12, that the first statement is the result of the second. He said it works for retailers but it will work for any company. If you have happy employers, you will have a successful company.

Crenshaw said in the highly competitive food retail game, there are three ways a company can distinguish itself: service, quality and price. “You need to be good at two (of those things) and the best at one of them. For us, it is service,” he stated.

In 1974, Crenshaw joined Florida-based Publix, which now has more than 1,075 stores in six southeastern states. He said he has seen a lot of changes in the time but the one constant has been the chain’s devotion to customer satisfaction. “We are always looking at ideas to make our stores a better place to shop and work.”

He credited Publix founder George W. Jenkins for establishing the philosophy that the company still follows today. Quoting Jenkins, Crenshaw said: “If you treat your associates right, they will treat the customers right and that will increase sales and profits.”

Publix’s top guy said the most critical piece of any company is their employees. “Every business is comprised of people who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect every day.”

Every year Publix recognizes its employees that have reached service anniversaries of five, 10 or 15 years. In a business sector with very high turnover, Crenshaw said this attention to the employees is the key to retention and success. “Publix continues to grow while others (in the retail sector) have consolidated or closed down,” he noted.

It is this executive’s contention that the care shown to employees is transferred to both their customers and their suppliers.

Of course, he added that another of the reasons that employees are happy at Publix is what he called the company’s “secret sauce.” And that is that the firm is an employee-owned company, which gives each associates a real stake in the business.

Speaking to a group of many suppliers of fresh produce, Crenshaw acknowledged the role that fruits and vegetables play in Publix’s success, stating that at his stores “produce is the star of the show.”

Publix’s customers are trending toward caring more about health and wellness and are looking for more nutritious food. They want to know where the company sources its food, are looking for more local options and want GMO-free food. He said the company does not carry genetically modified food.

Through its digital space, Crenshaw said Publix tries to give its customers the personal connections they desire with suppliers. The firm also likes to use display-ready boxes in its stores to give the customers a further connection with the farmers who supply the produce.

But Crenshaw said the best relationship builder that Publix has with its customers are the one-to-one interactions between store employees and those customers. The firm encourages those interactions and he said the retailer takes the same approach with its suppliers. Best business relationships are also those based on one-to-one interactions, he said.

Crenshaw summed up his talk by seemingly summing up his philosophy: “Do what you do to inspire others,” he said, “making a better tomorrow.”