Sun Pacific expects more fruit and more sales of ‘Cuties’ brand

VISALIA, CA — It has been another challenging year for California citrus growers, who have struggled against historic drought conditions, the Asian Citrus Psyllid and accelerated maturity during the past season.

“It has been no fun for growers,” Al Bates, president of Sun Pacific Farming, said June 17 at the company’s grower recruitment meeting. “But demand for Cuties is still greater than the supply.”

Sun Pacific held the meeting to show the results of its sales and marketing efforts. Bates and Berne Evans, chief executive officer, addressed the crowd of several hundred current and potential Cuties growers.

Despite those challenges, Sun Pacific’s “Cuties” brand has enjoyed success, and growers in the San Joaquin Valley of California are continuing to plant Mandarins, Murcotts and Tangoes for the popular commodity.

About 170 million five-pound boxes were sold over the past season, and it is estimated that there will be 250 million available next year based on plantings that are just coming into production, according to Evans.

Market research has shown that “Cuties” is one of the more recognized produce brands in the United States, and getting the popular fruit into McDonald’s Happy Meals has certainly helped to boost that presence. Sun Pacific and McDonald’s are expected to renew their deal for the coming year.

Former White House chef found dead in New Mexico

eswalter-scheib-clinton-1Walter Scheib, a former White House chef who served under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, was found dead late in the day June 21 near the Yerba Canyon Trailhead outside Taos, NM.

Scheib, 61, was last seen June 13 when he set out on a solo hike. He was reported missing the next day, which set off a massive search that included ground teams and aircraft.

Authorities were still gathering information and no further details are currently available.

Scheib, who was the co-author of "White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen" (2007), was a well-known figure in the produce industry and was a featured presenter and chef at several recent Produce Marketing Association Foodservice Conferences.

Reinhart-Avocados From Mexico partnership to provide fresh avocados year-round

Reinhart Foodservice and Avocados from Mexico have joined forces to bring ripe avocados right to operators' doorsteps. AFM, which represents the always-in-season fruit, will now be packaged under Reinhart’s "Good Roots Produce" brand, offering operators fresh, convenient products all year round. roej

“Since we unveiled 'Good Roots,' we’ve seen a tremendous amount of positive feedback from our customers,” Rob Ondrus, Reinhart produce category director, said in a press release. “By joining with AFM, we’re able to broaden our commitment to provide the freshest, high-value products all year round. AFM has seen much success in the last year, and no doubt our customers will be clamoring to add this item to their menus going forward.”

Reinhart launched Good Roots Produce in 2014 and offers versatile, wholesome produce solutions from the ground up as well as consistent quality for today’s operator. AFM provides 60 percent of the world’s avocados, all of which are grown in Mexico and have a four-season bloom. Together, AFM and Reinhart can satisfy consumer cravings by delivering fresh Haas avocados under the "Good Roots" label no matter the season.

“The combination of AFM’s quality avocados produced by our experienced growers, state-of-the-art packing, and transportation systems make this the perfect match for us and Reinhart,” Mark Garcia, director of foodservice marketing for Avocados From Mexico, said in the release.

Kroger launches natural and organic eCommerce website

To meet rising demand for convenience and healthy living, The Kroger Co. and its Colorado-based King Soopers division launched the new natural and organic eCommerce website KingSoopers.com/LiveNaturally.kingsoop

Open to King Soopers customers who live in and around the Denver metro area, and offering more than 36,000 natural and organic products, KingSoopers.com/LiveNaturally provides the convenience of online shopping for a variety of healthy living products — while virtually extending the product selection and creating an endless aisle experience for King Soopers customers. Every product is free from more than 101 artificial ingredients and preservatives that many customers prefer be left out of products.

"Increasingly, our customers are looking for more simple, convenient and relevant ways to shop, whether it's in-store, on our website or on their mobile devices," Russ Dispense, King Soopers president, said in a press release. "It has never been easier for King Soopers customers to shop online for thousands of natural and organic products."

Kroger called the eCommerce website the next step in its effort to make seamless, omni-channel shopping a reality for its customers.

"King Soopers has a long heritage of leading in the natural and organics space, so we are excited to launch our pilot in Denver," Kevin Dougherty, Kroger's group vice president of digital and Vitacost, said in the release. "KingSoopers.com/LiveNaturally extends the in-store shopping experience to create a true 'endless aisle' experience with ship-to-home service for thousands more healthy foods, vitamins, minerals and supplements than are available in our stores today."

The new website utilizes the technology platform and ship-to-home fulfillment network of Vitacost.com, one of the larger pure eCommerce companies in the nutrition and healthy living market. Kroger completed its merger with Vitacost.com in August 2014.

The company said it will test and learn in the Denver market before replicating the experience in other markets.

Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers apricots arrive early

An early start to the 2015 Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers’ apricot season, both conventional and organic, is providing the market big, sweet fruit that Oneonta Marketing Director Scott Marboe described as the “best eating quality we’ve seen in years.”

One of the season’s stars in the category is OSRG’s popular “Grab n’ Go” consumer pouch for its “Gourmet” label, a one-pound resealable pouch bag that is perfect for snacking.RobadasOrganic apricots from Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers. (Photo courtesy of OSRG)

“Only select varieties are good enough to pack in our ‘Gourmet’ label,” Bruce Turner, national sales representative, said in a press release. “These apricots have the best flavor and color and are packed to differentiate them from others. We want to call attention to the superior eating quality of the ‘Gourmet Apricot’ from OSRG, and these are absolutely super sweet.”

Marboe said the Washington crop is coming in somewhat earlier this year as well, but “because Washington apricots are able to hang on the tree a little longer, they are sweeter than fruit from other growing regions.”

The Gourmets are only packed with size 72s and larger in their black and white pouch bags, and they are also available in Pantapack, peaking in 60, 64 and 72.

Marboe said organics are peaking in 60, 64 and 72 Pantapack.

“Our Organic tree fruit is true tree-ripened and hand-packed,” Marboe said in the release. “And we insert a point-of-sale card in every 20th carton to help our retail partners build displays of these organic apricots.”

Marboe said the Robada variety, with “incredible flavor,” was being harvested in mid-June.

“It is a very nice apricot, with an orange background color and a hint of blush. It will make an amazing display,” Turner said.

OSRG expanded its stone fruit program in 2014, and organics make up nearly 30 percent of the total volume, Marboe said.