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St. Patrick’s Day dining with a modern twist

Royal Rose has teamed up with Catherine Fulvio — one of Ireland’s top culinary stars, an award-winning food writer, Irish food ambassador, TV chef and the proprietor of Ballyknocken House & Cookery School — to develop a modern twist on St. Patrick’s Day dining. The company now has a St. Patrick’s Day salad-themed carton for all the Royal Rose radicchio currently being harvested. Boxes-with-Radicchio

The cartons and recipe card went into circulation the week of March 2, and the recipe card is available to download from www.radicchio.com/recipes.

Inspired by his visit to the award-winning Ballyknocken House & Cookery School, Dennis Donohoe, president of Royal Rose, thought of Chef Fulvio when he began wondering why St. Patrick’s Day dining is associated with corned beef and cabbage. “It’s springtime, it should be fresh and seasonal produce to reflect the season,” he said.

Chef Fulvio started with traditional Irish ingredients: baby potatoes and smoked salmon. Drawing on her Italian heritage she added fresh radicchio and then created a dressing with Irish stout, mustard and honey. The result is a balance of fresh seasonal produce and a warming luxurious taste.

“I loved the way that Catherine had taken really traditional ingredients and given them a contemporary twist to create a really delicious warm salad for St. Patrick’s Day,” Dennis said in a press release. “But it seemed such a shame not to share the recipe. So I called up friends in our sister city Drogheda in Ireland to see if we could design a recipe card and packaging to celebrate the recipe and St. Patrick’s Day.”

“I am so proud of my Irish heritage as are so many millions of people in America. It just feels right that we should celebrate this holiday. At Royal Rose we are thrilled to present our St. Patrick’s Day Warm Salad and hope that it will be enjoyed by many families across the States this St. Patrick’s Day.”

Mexican asparagus veteran describes odd year

NOGALES, AZ — Bob Shipley, founder of Shipley Sales LLC in Nogales, has exported Mexican-grown asparagus to northern neighbors more than 20 years. In Caborca, Sonora, he has been an asparagus grower for as long as 15 years. He explained that the tomatoes and vegetables that account for the vast preponderance of Nogales’ volume are shipped in mixed loads with reefer trailers set in the range of 40-50 degrees.Reed-Bob-ShipleyReed Shipley, a salesman for Shipley Sales LLC in Nogales, AZ, with his father, Bob Shipley, who founded the company.

Asparagus needs to be shipped at 36 degrees and “there are not too many cold trucks” leaving Nogales to suit that temperature.

For this logistical reason, the Mexican asparagus deal has generally not flowed through Nogales. But this spring, several Nogales produce distributors are handling asparagus.

Much of the asparagus is grown in a wide area around Caborca, which is 100 miles to the west-southwest of Nogales. Northwest of Caborca are Mexicali and San Luis, which are near the leafy greens production of Yuma, AZ, and El Centro, CA.

Those thousands of leafy green trailers roll to market with temperatures that are ideal for asparagus. Because of the cost of California labor, El Centro’s asparagus volume has mostly moved south across the border, according to Shipley.

It happens that this season other Nogales companies are becoming involved, although all agree there is a challenge with a poor-yielding Mexican asparagus crop.

Up and down field temperatures starting in December seemed to throw the spear production out of whack.

Shipley said one theory on low asparagus production is that this season some growers burned off the cut ferns too early, preventing normal growth and dormancy.

Whatever the cause, the Mexican growers in that region are harvesting between half or as little as one-third of a regular crop.

Shipley said the northern Mexico asparagus deal usually starts in January, “but this year there was not much until the end of January. Some growers say it will catch up in March, but maybe that is wishful thinking. I don’t know how miracle tonnage can happen this late. March is the last big month for Mexico.”

There is some production in early April, he added, and “with Easter on April 5 this year, the growers should expect to enjoy a good Easter market. With reduced supplies, though, this year apparently won’t have sufficient volume for Easter ads.”

In late February, the asparagus market was in the mid- to high $30s for the 28-pound pack.

Former Gourmet Trading CEO joins Mission Produce

Mission Produce Inc. has hired Brian Miller as the company’s new senior vice president of sales and marketing. He comes from an extensive produce industry background, including the last 15 years when he served as president and chief executive officer of Gourmet Trading Co.

Miller will be filling the position held by Ross Wileman, who has been with the company for 31 years and will be moving into an area where he will lead Mission’s special initiatives. missionBrian Miller

At Gourmet Trading Co., Miller progressed from a position in sales in 2000, to the vice president of sales and marketing, and finally to president and CEO of the company. After graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Miller joined the Oppenheimer Co. as a salesman prior to moving to Gourmet.

“Brian is highly driven and goal oriented," Steve Barnard, Mission's president and CEO, said in a press release. "He has South American, Asian and European experience, which will add great value to Mission’s future.

“This is the highest position we have ever filled here at Mission,” Barnard added.

“Ross will be involved with specific company initiatives which include food safety, global quality control and standardization from a sales point of view," Barnard said. "Ross will also continue with industry affairs.”

Mission has operations in the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Peru, Canada and The Netherlands as well as eight value-added ripe centers across North America.

Mission is currently involved with major construction projects in California and Peru, where two new packing plants are nearing completion. The company is also growing its own avocados in Peru where significant planting has taken place over the last five years.

“The avocado category has grown at 10 percent, compounded annually for 15 straight years, and the numbers are even higher this year," Barnard said in the release. "With demand for the fruit at all-time highs, sourcing and growing is more important than ever. Concerning our Peruvian operation, we have invested heavily into the production of avocados, transportation and logistics. These moves were all essential in addressing the current demand.”

Mission has also made strong Asian connections and has developed that area into a significant marketplace for avocados. The European market is growing substantially as well, where Mission plans another ripe center in Rotterdam in the very near future.

Wegmans, Whole Foods and Publix make Fortune's top 100 list

Fortune magazine's list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” includes retailers Wegmans, Whole Foods and Publix. Wegmans led the group, coming in at No. 7. Whole Foods was ranked 55th, and Publix came in at No. 81. All three companies have been on the list since it began in 1998, something only nine other companies have accomplished.

"I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: Our employees make Wegmans a place where customers feel happy and cared about, and my job is to make sure our employees feel that way, too,” Danny Wegman, chief executive officer, said in a press release.

“Employees of (the) family-owned supermarket chain wear name tags that bear the number of years of ‘incredible service’ they have accumulated," Fortune said about Wegmans. "Hundreds of them visit the company’s own 50-acre organic farm each year. Consumer Reports rates Wegmans as the best grocery store in America.”

Wegmans customers and employees will celebrate the honor on Saturday, March 7, when cake will be served at every Wegmans store at a time selected by individual stores. If customers prefer a healthy option instead of cake, Clementine tangerines will be offered. Stores will announce the time on signs posted in each store’s entryway.

Two-thirds of a company’s score is based on a survey, which is sent to a random sample of employees. The survey asks questions related to their attitudes about the management's credibility, job satisfaction and camaraderie. The remaining third is based on a company’s responses to the Culture Audit questionnaire, which asks detailed questions about pay and benefits programs, and open-ended questions about hiring, communication and diversity.

"As we celebrate a company milestone this year, I'm proud to reflect on our commitment to our people, culture and communities over the past 85 years," Ed Crenshaw, CEO of Publix, said in a release. "We are humbled to be recognized by Fortune for 18 consecutive years as a great place to work. The secret to our success is our associates — company owners themselves — who’ve been making Publix a great place to work for 85 years."

Vegetable market could tighten as demand increases

The weather throughout the country has had a profound impact on the vegetable market over the last month, and it’s not done yet.

Experts say that as the East thaws out and demand picks up, the market is firming up and over the next month or so supply gaps could materialize.

Douglas Schaefer, president of EJ’s Produce Sales Inc. in Phoenix, said he knows the situation is tightening up when he starts fielding calls from occasional customers looking for product.

“We started getting those calls over the weekend,” he said Wednesday, March 4. “Things have been sloppy (bad markets) because there just hasn’t been any demand. But you can feel it changing.”

Mark McBride, who sits on the sales desk for Coastline Family Farms in Salinas, CA, agreed.

“The celery market has been bad for a long time and we’ve had an oversupply of lettuce as the East Coast digs out from under the snow,” said McBride. “Nobody buys when its 20-30 degrees and you have 12 feet of snow outside.”

But McBride said it is starting to warm up and orders are starting to filter in.

This is also the time of year that vegetable production, especially lettuce, transitions from the deserts of California and Arizona to California’s Central Coast and the San Joaquin Valley district of Huron.

“I was just out walking the fields in Huron the other day,” said McBride. “It looks like we are going to start the week of March 23, which will dovetail well with the end of our Imperial Valley deal on March 20.”

He added that a transition period can always create a supply gap, as the shift doesn’t always go as smoothly as anticipated.

And West Coast weather can still play a very important role in March and April.

In its mid-February forecast, Salinas, CA-based Tanimura & Antle noted that the spring could bring some unpredictability. At that time, the vegetable giant said it is continuing to harvest ahead of schedule, because of warm desert weather.

“This has helped the short-term supply shortage issue but will create supply gaps this spring,” according to T&A. “Expect volatile markets in March and April.”

It appears those volatile markets could arrive right on schedule.

During the last week of February, Iceberg lettuce was only trading for about $7 to $8 per carton, but many of the other lettuces, including Romaine and leaf items, were in shorter supply with f.o.b. prices in the teens. The first week of March saw an upward pressure on Iceberg lettuce, with Romaine continuing to be in a demand-exceeds-supply situation.