After its recent launch of the SnapDragon and RubyFrost apple varieties, New York Apple Growers has changed its name to Crunch Time Apple Growers. The organization is made up of 145 grower members who are united with the mission of introducing exclusive, flavorful apple varieties to the marketplace.
“The success and interest of these new apples has gotten a lot of attention and retailers were confusing us with other similarly named organizations such as New York Apple Sales and New York Apple Association, so we felt it was time to make a change,”Mark Russell, Crunch Time’s marketing committee chair, said in a press release.
SnapDragon and RubyFrost have been a decade in the making, and their path to go to market is a first for the Cornell apple breeding program. In 2010, NYAG aligned with Cornell to develop a managed release to establish an exclusive licensing agreement in North America for the two varieties. Growers pay royalties on trees purchased, acreage planted and fruit produced, and the income is being used to help support Cornell’s apple-breeding program.
“We wanted the name to reflect our forward-thinking organization that will continue to bring premium apple varieties to market,” said Russell. “In addition, we are now in the process of developing a trade brand presence for the new organizational name as well.”
The SnapDragon apple variety will launch in October in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. RubyFrost will be in stores again this January 2016.
Demand is hot for Ambrosia apples this summer, as they continue to be one of the brightest items in supermarket produce departments. Recently released scan data from Nielsen Perishables Group revealed that for the most recent four-week period through June 27, Ambrosia and Honeycrisp were the only two apples in the top 10 varieties that generated an increase in sales dollars. All other top 10 varieties declined.
The data show that consumers continue to look for highly flavored apples like Ambrosia, Robb Myers, vice president of sales for CMI, said in a press release. “It’s pretty impressive when you consider that in the top 10 selling apple varieties nationally, only Ambrosia and Honeycrisp generated dollar increases," he said. "Ambrosia and Honeycrisp — that’s pretty good company.”
Myers said a big part of the sales increase is a result of a longer Ambrosia domestic season for CMI as well as a strong import season for Chilean grown Ambrosia. He added, “Our goal was to align sales of our stronger late-storage Ambrosia with imported products to ensure continuity of supply right through the new crop out of Washington in early September. It’s obviously a big win and a big opportunity for retailers.”
There is still room for incremental Ambrosia growth according to Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for CMI. “The Nielsen data shows that during the most recent four weeks, only about 50 percent of supermarkets carried Ambrosia,” said Lutz. “It’s quite remarkable that only half the retailers in the country are carrying one of the hottest selling apples in the category. In a year where cherry sales are down, generating incremental apple category dollars with Ambrosia is an easy win.”
Lutz also noted that consumer response to summer Ambrosia promotions have driven strong results for supermarkets. “Ambrosia are really generating a strong lift when retailers promote them,” said Lutz. “Nielsen scan data shows that of the top 10 selling apples in June, Ambrosia was No. 1 in volume lift on promotion, at over 82 percent. It really shows that consumers recognize the value of Ambrosia, and are willing to spend more for a great-tasting premium apple.”
Lutz says that supplies are excellent and CMI will be running Ambrosia promotions with retailers through the month of August rolling into new crop at the beginning of September.
As Peruvian asparagus growers move into their peak season, members of the Peruvian Asparagus Importer's Association are set to deliver top-quality product to their customers. “We are already ahead of the projected volumes for 2015,” said Coordinator Priscilla Lleras-Bush. “We expect to continue to be steady throughout the peak season with abundant supply to retailers and foodservice.”
Peru enjoys a marketplace advantage of being able to produce asparagus throughout the year owing to its favorable climate. Production areas are situated both in the north and south of Peru, allowing for a marketplace timing that infuses the American pipeline with asparagus after domestic production has finished.
“Peruvian asparagus complements the U.S. growing regions and allows retailers to shelve asparagus year-round,” Lleras-Bush said. “Quality Peruvian fresh asparagus is our standard. Exporters and importers strive to exceed their customers’ expectations with the quality asparagus from Peru. We hold to a very precise cold chain management program along the logistics chain that ensures the freshest quality of asparagus.”
Consumption of fresh asparagus continues to grow in the United States. Lleras-Bush was asked what factors are fueling this interest. “We believe that, with the amount of television marketing for cooking at home, these types of shows inspire home chefs to create their dishes at home and even motivate home chefs to create their own recipes to match their families' flavor palettes,” she replied. “For example, many consumers are looking for healthy and easy-to-prepare vegetables for their families, and there are numerous recipes for Peruvian asparagus that are easy to prepare and provide families with creative, delicious and beneficially nutritious meals.”
She said the fact that consumers have increasing opportunities to use technology to obtain detailed information quickly has been a benefit to the industry. “The natural movement/trend for asparagus will be to increase in consumption due to the healthy, nutritious and flavorsome characteristics of Peruvian asparagus,” she observed.
Statistics from Agrodata show that Peru exported a total of 99.9 million kilograms of fresh asparagus in 2014, which represented an increase of 6.84 percent over export volume in 2013. The United States was the chief destination for fresh Peruvian asparagus at 60 percent of total volume. The value of the 2014 asparagus exported to the United States was $176 million.
As part of ongoing expansion plans and continued capital investments, Kingdom Fresh Farms is expanding its greenhouse operations in Tehuacan, central Mexico. The expansion will add approximately 62 acres of production to the growing site and more than double existing production.
The new hydroponic greenhouses will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology to accommodate year-round production and best-in-class food safety to guarantee safe, high-quality products.
“This expansion is a continued step toward better serving our customers and their needs," Dan Edmeier, vice president of sales for Kingdom Fresh Farms, said in a press release. "The additional volume allows us to offer more products on a year-round basis for now and in the future as we grow together. Our customers stress year-round availability and high-quality products and we believe the consistency of our tomato program in Puebla is central to our continued growth and success.”
Guillermo Martinez, general manager, said, “We have several quality growing locations, and Tehuacan is one of our locations where conditions are ideal: great weather, lots of sun light, excellent water quality and most importantly good, hardworking employees.”
The current expansion is Phase I of a five-year expansion plan that will continue to increase volume and allow for the addition of specialty items. Additionally, the current expansion will also create 250 new jobs making Kingdom Fresh Farms one of the major employers in the area.
As always, the Mushroom Council, headquartered in San Jose, CA, plans strong promotional initiatives in conjunction with National Mushroom Month in September.
The mushroom industry has rallied around the council for its ongoing and highly successful promotions that have resulted in increased consumption across North America.
Kathleen Preis, marketing coordinator for the council, said the publicity this year will be strongly connected to The Blend promotion through traditional public relations outreach and Mushroom Month-themed social media posts.
“The council plans to partner with a well-known YouTube personality to create a series of videos highlighting The Blend,” said Preis. “And we will promote the five winners from the summer’s Better Burger Project campaign with the James Beard Foundation. The five chefs with the most Instagram tags will be invited to prepare their burgers at the annual James Beard Foundation conference in New York City at the historic James Beard House in October.”
The winners will also be announced via traditional and social media.
The partnership with the James Beard Foundation in the Better Burger Project has been a huge success. Nationwide, 222 restaurants have participated in the campaign by menuing creative takes on mushroom blended burgers. The council has garnered more than 32 million media impressions with articles published about the project in various consumer media outlets.
The Mushroom Council recently exhibited at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in Salt Lake City, UT. At the show the council sampled blended products as well as individually quick-frozen diced mushrooms, which, due to popularity of The Blend, are now available to districts for direct delivery as well as for diversion to processing into blended products.
“There are now over a dozen blended products available for school districts to purchase, including mushroom blended burgers, tacos and meatballs,” said Preis. “Dozens of districts menu The Blend to their students.”
The Mushroom Council launched a Mushroom Harvest of the Month Kit for schools to incorporate mushrooms into their farm-to-school programs. The kit includes everything needed to promote mushrooms as a produce item for students. San Diego, Philadelphia and Dallas are all incorporating mushrooms into their Harvest of the Month program.
Preis pointed out that total mushroom shipments have increased by approximately 2 percent for the 52-week period ending April 2015.
The council will continue its streamlined marketing strategy to promote The Blend and the Better Burger Project.
“The Blend is still in the early phases of adoption in the market,” noted Preis. “The council will continue to promote and partner with strategic organizations to grow awareness and acceptance of The Blend, and we will continue to expand it into retail with pilots at select chains across the country.
“To expand the foodservice segment, the council will continue to work with strategic partners, chains, foodservice management companies, schools and universities to assist in menu development to add The Blend to menus,” she added.
The council will also once again promote its Pink campaign and breast cancer awareness promotion in October as mushroom shippers change to pink mushroom tills to signify the annual $50,000 donation to City of Hope research from the mushroom industry.
Preis offered updated statistics on mushroom sales. She said that white button mushrooms continue to hold the largest share with 62 percent of mushroom sales.
“Brown mushrooms, including Portabella and Crimini, represent 33 percent of total mushroom sales,” she added. “Specialty mushrooms hold approximately four percent of sales, but are the fastest growing category with 7 percent growth in total dollar sales for the 52 week period ending June 14.”