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NewStar Fresh Foods LLC announced the official acquisition of the company by Anthony Vasquez, longtime employee and current president. With 20 years of experience in agriculture, including more than a decade with NewStar, Vasquez is seizing the opportunity to continue and expand his relationship with the Salinas, CA-based grower-shipper.vasAnthony Vasquez

“When I started working at NewStar 12 years ago, we were leaders in the bagged spinach category and offered a quality line of value-added, vegetable commodities. In recent years our focus shifted to the innovation of specialty and organic product lines," he said in a press release. "Now, as we enter a new era, I believe we can leverage our expertise, focus on our core competencies of service and quality, and effectively expand our offerings to meet today’s market trends.”

Since its foundation, NewStar Fresh Foods has worked to maintain high standards for food safety and product quality throughout the growing, processing and shipping processes. Now in its 20th year, the company’s experienced team comprises employees with a longstanding history at NewStar, including John Killeen, vice president of sales, Luis Barriga, vice president of agricultural operations, and Kenny Snyder, vice president of production, who have a combined 40 years with the company.

“It’s a very integrated process from seed to shipping. We rely on each other’s expertise and leadership,” Snyder said in the release.

That environment of collaboration, innovation and commitment to quality is what Vasquez intends to build on in his leadership role with NewStar. “I know that I still have a lot to learn — you always will in this industry,” Vasquez said in the release. “Produce is ever changing, yet its roots remain. Similarly, I believe this is the right team to take NewStar to the next level of growth and expansion.”

NewStar’s growth continues from the ground up with its increasing list of prime growing regions, including several new areas in Baja and expansion into Oxnard.

Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. and Affiliated Foods Midwest Cooperative Inc. have reached an agreement to combine the two cooperatives’ distribution businesses. The alliance was unanimously approved by the board of directors of each company, and while still subject to certain conditions, including the approval by AFM shareholders, it is expected to close later this year.awg

“This exciting endeavor is exactly what we need to allow our retailers to compete, grow and be profitable,” Martin Arter, the president and chief executive officer of Affiliated Foods Midwest, said in a press release. “The synergies between our joint cooperatives will help our retailers thrive. Our members benefit with a substantially lower cost of goods. Much credit is due to the vision of both AWG’s and AFM’s board of directors to see the possibilities of what we could become.”

David Smith, the president and CEO of AWG, indicated that the consolidation made perfect sense. “We are excited about joining forces and combining the two cooperatives. Expanding our collective distribution areas into several new adjoining states and adding over 800 new member stores will make our unified cooperatives stronger together, leveraging not only the additional scale and buying power but also employing and implementing the best practices of each that have been developed over the 80 to 90 years that our respective cooperatives have been in business.

"Combining our distribution center networks and support infrastructure will allow us to more effectively serve our growing numbers of independent member-retailers," he said. "This unified business will further strengthen our relationship with the vendor community, reduce operating expenses and subsequent cost of goods, and enhance our ability to support and serve our growing membership.”

Affiliated Foods Midwest is a retailer-owned cooperative supplying members that operate over 800 stores in 15 states. AWG is a retailer-owned cooperative supplying members that operate over 3,000 stores in 30 states.

The members of both cooperatives going forward would be members of a larger AWG.

In April Sun Produce Specialties LLC was cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for unlawful employment of Ricardo B. Bombella, an individual under PACA employment restrictions. The company had been given notice by the USDA that it was not permitted to employ Bombella without USDA-approval and the posting of a surety bond.

The finding and revocation were held in abeyance so long as the company paid a civil penalty of $20,000 by no later than July 29.

The Phoenix-based Sun Produce Specialties subsequently paid the civil penalty in full. The finding and license revocation were permanently abated and the case was closed.

In the past three years, the USDA resolved approximately 3,700 PACA claims involving more than $66 million. Its experts also assisted more than 7,100 callers with issues valued at approximately $100 million.

Freshway Foods will introduce its new baby kale blend at the PMA Foodservice Expo. The new blend is a combination of baby green, scarlet and black kale.Image-1-Baby-Kale-Blend

“Our new baby kale blend is mild in flavor and more tender than traditional kale,” Chef Douglas Bond, new product development manager for Freshway Foods, said in a press release. “This blend offers the health benefits of kale to consumers who may be intimidated by the texture of traditional chopped kale.”

Freshway’s baby kale blend is washed, ready to serve and packed in one-pound bags, which are the perfect size for salad bars. “Consumers expect more upscale ingredients on salad bars,” Bond said in the release. “This new blend has great color and texture, and will be the star of any salad bar program.”

Freshway plans to display the new baby kale blend at the PMA Foodservice Expo. “We invite everyone to stop by booth 115 to learn more about this new baby kale blend,” said Bond.

Wish Farms, grower-shipper and year-round supplier of strawberries and blueberries, has made a commitment to donate $100,000 to the Center for Produce Safety. wish

The CPS research campaign focuses on prevention of foodborne illnesses and disease outbreaks in the produce industry. The goal is to narrow and potentially close the knowledge gap in order to prevent future devastating events.

As a longtime member of the agricultural industry, Wish Farms owner Gary Wishnatzki understands that ongoing food-safety research is crucial.

“Foodborne illnesses not only pose a threat to the masses, but to the entire marketplace," Wishnatzki said in a press release. "When a product is recalled, it causes a ripple effect costing the farmer all the way to the grocery store. It is imperative consumers are kept safe. The Center for Produce Safety facilitates important research benefitting the entire produce industry. By supporting the effort it solidifies Wish Farms’ commitment to food safety.”

Wish Farms will donate $20,000 annually over the next five years. Money will fund various research projects, including soil amendments, water irrigation, animal intrusion, wash water sanitation, pathogen transfer from food contact surfaces as well as many other areas. These topics will assist produce companies, and others along the supply chain, to better understand and control cross-contamination risks and protect public health. In addition, the Center for Produce Safety plans to help young, rising scientists work closely with senior investigators and scientists to inspire them to continue specializing in produce safety research.

"We thank Wish Farms for this generous leadership contribution to the Campaign for Produce Safety, especially after the success of CPS's annual Research Symposium," Tim York, chair of CPS board of directors and president of Markon Cooperative, said in the release. "By investing in safeguarding and improving the safety of fresh produce, Wish Farms and other campaign donors are also investing in consumers' confidence that we have their best interests at heart."