Avocados from Mexico forms partnerships for Cinco de Mayo promotions

Great avocado-consumption events just keeping coming down the road with no end in sight.

The marketing period approaching this year’s Super Bowl, which was held Feb. 1, saw a record number of avocados sold and consumed in the United States.afmlo

Avocados from Mexico, which represented the vast majority of avocados in the U.S. marketplace during that time frame, was the main benefactor of the more than 120 million pounds consumed. Consequently, that weekend became the number one avocado consumption event in history.

AFM has kept the sales pressure up during February and March, as it pitched the consumption of Mexican avocados in a variety of different sandwiches in its “Fanwich” promotion. That promotion, which featured a nationwide display contest, can be currently witnessed at a store near you. Retailers throughout the country are taking part in this concept that gives consumers new recipe suggestions.

And now as the nation gears up for the uniquely American celebration of Cinco de Mayo, Avocados from Mexico is adding its signature product to the celebration in the form of joint promotion with two other strong brands with authentic Mexican heritage: Dos Equis Beer and Sauza Tequila.

Maggie Bezart Hall, vice president of trade and promotion for AFM, told The Produce News that both April and May “over-index on avocado consumption” with Cinco de Mayo being one of the top avocado-eating events of the year. The top usage is as an ingredient in guacamole.

Not surprisingly, when consumers buy avocados they also index very high on the purchase of alcohol, which also works very well with any planned celebration.

As such, AFM believes the joint promotion with Dos Equis beer and Sauza tequila is a perfect match. Both of those brands outperformed their competition during last year’s Cinco de Mayo marketing period, and both are consistently registering sales gains.

Hall said the cross-promotion and merchandising opportunities will give avocados additional platforms on which to increase sales. She noted that avocados are primarily bought based on display activity with eye-catching displays and promotions as sales drivers. The Cinco de Mayo promotion with AFM, Sauza and Dos Equis will feature many different display bin configurations and opportunities for retailers.

AFM says that avocados, beer and tequila share an audience, a heritage and an authenticity that will make the partnership perform greater as a whole than it could individually. Additionally, AFM believes that a joint display can help a retailer build basket value and provide a compelling platform for all parties to stand out on-shelf.

From AFM’s perspective, the partnership allows for leveraging the powerful sales forces of these two national brands, as well as their social media presence.

The tagline on the promotion will be “Keep the Fiesta Going.” That visual will appear on many different merchandising aids including display bins and point of sale material.

The April 1 to May 15 time period for the promotion will capture the run-up to Cinco de Mayo, the day itself and the following weekend, when celebrations are sure to occur.

The elements of the national program will include in-store and online coupons, in-store radio, digital media, display bins, header cards and ripening bags with that display. In-store radio is being employed as research shows that impulse buys as well as brand decisions receive an enormous lift from that type of advertising.

The promotion is being customized to comply with state laws concerning alcohol promotions, as offers will vary by state and region.

Pink Lady trademark to include naturally occurring varieties

Pink Lady America is adding naturally occurring varieties to the "Pink Lady" trademark, which will result in improvements to some fruit characteristics.

The grower-supported organization in Yakima, WA, said the non-GMO varieties of Barnsby, Maslin, Rosy Glow, Ruby Pink and Lady-In-Red (if under license) are now included under the "Pink Lady" trademark.Graphic-Displaying-Best-Choice-At-Retail This means, to eliminate consumer confusion, these varieties will need to be sold under "Pink Lady" store signage.

“This is great news for the consumer,” John Reeves, Pink Lady America general manager, said in a press release. “It first points to the assurance of natural improvements in this apple to be seen in future seasons." He also noted that the use of the 'Pink Lady' trademark in store signage on these varieties will make consumer confusion a thing of the past.

“This is also a very positive move for produce merchandisers who may be wrestling with the identification to be put on a display holding 'Pink Lady' brand apples,” Reeves said in the release. “There is no decision to be made, it needs to be Pink Lady.”

Reeves said the inclusion of other varieties under the name of an apple is nothing really new as it’s been a standard practice in the industry for other apples for many years.

“The major difference here is the involvement of a trademark name along with a brand promise with specific quality requirements in that promise that are focused on those varieties,” Reeves said in the release. “So, this becomes yet another reason for those in the apple industry and at retail to be supportive of trademarked fruit in the future. It’s all about product improvement and related quality assurances.”

According to Reeves, growers, produce merchandisers and consumers will be seeing such advances as an expanded market availability with "Pink Lady" brand apples arriving in stores much earlier in the season.

“As the last apple to be harvested, 'Pink Lady' brand apples have traditionally also been very late to reach the market with ‘new crop’ supplies,” Reeves said. “Now we’ll be seeing newly harvested 'Pink Lady' brand apples on the market as much as two months earlier.”

Also adding to this earlier arrival of this consumer favorite will be trademarked apples being ready to eat when harvested. This compares to the original apple sometimes needing to be stored for a period of time while sugars and acids come to balance.

“While an expanded season is a terrific consumer benefit, it’s also important to remember this continues to be an apple meeting the original brand promise,” Reeves said. “This means a non-GMO apple providing the sweet/tart flavor profile, crunchy texture and the slow to turn brown with cut characteristics the consumer has become so used to enjoying.”

It’s also important to note that these apples being marketed under the "Pink Lady" brand, that support the "Pink Lady" brand promise, need to be sold under "Pink Lady" store signage. These branded apples are packed to specific quality standards.

Johnsons to serve time for crop insurance fraud

Brothers Aaron and Derek Johnson, who were convicted of felony counts of conspiracy and making false statements to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency and law enforcement officials after a jury returned a unanimous verdict in Fargo, ND, Dec. 11, have 14 days to appeal their sentences handed down by U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson on March 9.

The judge sentenced Aaron Johnson, age 50, to four years in prison and five years of supervised release. Derek Johnson, age 47, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and five years of supervised probation. Both will serve their time in federal prison in Duluth, MN.

Erickson ordered that the Johnsons' farm equipment and land be seized and sold to satisfy financial restitution of nearly $1 million due to crop insurance fraud.

At the time charges were filed, it was alleged that the brothers purposefully damaged their potato crops from 2002 to 2010. The judge based the amount of financial restitution in the case upon losses during the 2006 crop year. According to the U.S. Attorney's office, the damage included the application of Rid-X to potatoes, use of warehouse heaters to hasten product deterioration, and addition of spoiled and frozen potatoes to stored product.

The conviction is one of only a handful of this type to have occurred. According to Mark Price, an investigator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency, there have been six convictions since 2012, and only one in 2014.

Frank Donio Inc.'s Annabel Arena dies at 87

Annabel Arena, matriarch of Frank Donio Inc. and daughter of Frank Donio, who founded the growing, shipping and produce distributing company in 1933 that bears his name, died Friday, March 6, at her home in Hammonton, NJ, surrounded by her loving family. Mrs. Arena, who had been in declining health since suffering a stroke about five years ago, was 87 years old.AnnabelAnnabel Arena, circa 1988. (Photo courtesy of the Donio family)

Born in the Rosedale section of Winslow Township, NJ, she lived her entire life in the Hammonton area, known throughout the produce industry as the blueberry capital of the world. She attended St. Joseph Grammar School and Lower Camden County Regional High School. She also attended Temple University, somewhat of a rarity for women in those days, noted her daughter, Judy Arena Pape, one of the owners of the company.

"As so many people have said to me, my mother was ahead of her time," Pape told The Produce News Monday, March 9. "She was a woman in business when that didn't happen very much. But she was the glue that held us all together. And she was counseling all of us even from her bedside until the day she died."

Annabel Donio worked in the banking business from 1947 to 1952. She married Joseph Arena on Nov. 22, 1952, and in 1955 she joined the Donio family business, serving as secretary and treasurer of Frank Donio Inc. and Donio Trucking Co. until 1999, according to a published report. She served on the board of directors at Frank Donio Inc. for the rest of her life.

As might be expected from her experience in the banking business, Mrs. Arena "was always a numbers person," said Pape. "She was very methodical in how she went about everything. She was the numbers person at Frank Donio Inc. She was our chief financial officer before there was even a name for that."

Pape added, "Nobody was faster on an adding machine than my mother was. But as time went on, she also learned how to use an iPad. And she learned how to master it."

Mrs. Arena was predeceased by her brothers, Samuel A. Arena and Frank G. Donio. She is survived by her husband of more than 62 years, Joseph Arena; her daughter, Judy Arena Pape, and her husband, Tom; her sons, Joseph J. Arena Jr. and his wife, Rose, and David Arena and his wife, Lori; her grandchildren, Katie A. Kuehner and her husband, Wayne, Annie Pape, David Arena Jr., Andrew Arena, Alec Arena and Nicholas Arena; her sisters-in-law, Diane Donio and Angela Donio; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

"My mother put into place a lot of the infrastructure that got our company through the first 60 years," said David Arena, who is president of the well-known company. "All the things she put into place, the way she worked and conducted herself — she was a major force in our lives. She will be missed by a lot of people."

The family suggests that donations may be made to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation. P.O. Box 781352, Philadelphia, PA 19178, attention Susan Wallach. 

Ocean Mist heirloom artichokes 'Easy as 1-2-3'

March marks the beginning of peak heirloom artichoke season and Ocean Mist Farms is supporting sales with multiple activities designed to generate sales and consumer awareness for this special variety of fresh artichokes.

The family farmers of Ocean Mist Farms, one of the larger growers of artichokes in North America, have been growing heirloom artichokes for more than 90 years. OMF Easy-As-1-2-3 logo

The heirloom artichoke variety is a perennial plant that grows from original rootstock that dates back to the start of Ocean Mist Farms in 1924. The formal classification of an heirloom fresh fruit or vegetable is any distinct variety that grows and has been in trade for more than 50 years using the same lineage.

Like a family recipe, this unique variety of artichoke grows from the same rootstock that has been passed down to each generation of Ocean Mist family farmers for more than 90 years — never from seed. Artichokes have such a strong legacy in California that they were named the Official State Vegetable of California.

Ocean Mist Farms’ heirloom variety is also the variety that chefs prefer. Many chefs refer to the heirloom variety as the "red label,"artch referring to the red font color on the Ocean Mist Farms carton.

Peak volume of the Castroville heirloom crop is expected in April, Diana McClean, director of marketing, said in a press release. All the heirloom artichokes will carry a red PLU/UPC sticker to help shoppers find the Ocean Mist Farms’ heirloom variety in stores.

“During spring’s heirloom artichoke season, we activate a multi-faceted promotional strategy that includes retail contests, radio ads in Northern California, a consumer sweepstakes, custom in-store point-of-sale, display bins and petal inserts,” McClean said.

The consumer sweepstakes will run in April and the theme is “Easy as 1-2-3.”

“Artichokes can be made in countless ways, but many people use the same cooking method and dip the petals in their favorite sauce,” McClean said.

For the Easy as 1-2-3 sweepstakes the players, who must be members of the Ocean Mist Farms’ Artichoke Club, can enter each day by selecting their favorite base, mixer and herb to create a unique artichoke dip. Daily prizes will be awarded and unique dip names will be generated to share across social media platforms.

The sweepstakes dipping game details will be communicated via social media channels and petal inserts in stores across the country. The petal inserts will be placed in every other artichoke for stores that agree to carry the item and labels will be added to the clamshell packages, which is a new packaging option for the spring season. Daily winners will be entered in chance to win a grand prize of $1,000.

“We want to use the Easy as 1-2-3 theme to demystify the artichoke eating experience and add a fun engaging element to the process,” McClean said.  “We like that it gets people thinking creatively about cooking with artichokes.”

Ocean Mist Farms will also activate geo-marketing with its email Arti-Alerts sent to members of its Artichoke Club when retailers have heirloom artichokes on sale-specific in their market. The same message is also shared via Ocean Mist Farms’ Facebook page and other social media channels.

The culmination of peak season will be the Annual Castroville Artichoke Festival held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds May 30-31. The festival features Arti the Artichoke, Agro Art, chef demos, artichoke field tours, wine tasting and assorted activities for artichoke lovers of all ages.