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Jeff Erickson, a Sioux Falls business executive who has worked in the financial-services industry for more than 30 years, was first appointed to Schwan’s board of directors in 2016 and has served in multiple roles for the Schwan’s family trust since 2012. In addition to his duties at Schwan’s, he is an investor and serves as vice chairman of South Dakota-based American Bank and Trust and manages multiple limited liability companies. Erickson also currently serves as chairman of both the South Dakota Board of Economic Development and South Dakota Banking Commission. Previously, he served as president and chief executive officer of Great Western Bank.

Jeff-Erickson officialJeff Erickson “Schwan’s has benefited greatly from Jeff’s extensive finance background and business acumen since he joined our board of directors," said Schwan’s Chief Executive Officer Dimitrios Smyrnios, who also serves as a director on the company’s board. "I look forward to working closely with him in his new role as chairman to meet the needs of our customers, consumers and employees and strengthen our company for the benefit of everyone who has a stake in our success,”

Erickson will be replacing Allan Schuman, who is completing his term as chairman and will continue to serve as a member of Schwan’s board of directors. Schuman was the third chairman in Schwan’s 65-year history and the first who was not a member of the Schwan family. He has served on the company’s board of directors since 2001.

“On behalf of our board of directors and leadership team, I want to thank Al for being such an asset to Schwan’s all of these years," Erickson said. "We all appreciate the dedication and leadership he has shown as chairman of the company’s board.”

Baldor Specialty Foods, the premier ingredient source for New York City’s top chefs, will announce the expansion of its retail line of Urban Roots Veggie Side Kits at the New York Produce Show expo on Wednesday, Dec. 13. The new products, which are set to debut in early 2018, consist of easy-to-prepare vegetable roasting kits, following Urban Roots’ mission of providing the freshest, peak season produce for simple home cooking.

“Urban Roots has had a retail presence for years, supplying retailers value added produce items,” said Baldor’s Senior Director of Marketing and Development, Benjamin Walker. “With our ability to deliver fresh produce from knife to shelf in less than 24 hours, we saw an opportunity to take our product to the next level by providing customers with even more choices in fast prep, quick cooking, restaurant-quality side dishes without the hassles that come with mail-order subscription services. The January placement of our Roasting Kits follows on the heels of our cauliflower rice kits which debuted in October.”

Attendees at the New York Produce Show will be able to taste the new cauliflower roasting kits at Baldor’s booth, number 401, where the company’s chefs will be cooking on-site.

The Urban Roots roasting kits take minutes to assemble. Slide into the oven for about 30 minutes and they are ready. The roasting kits include; Spanish Style Potatoes; Caramelized Cauliflower; Broccoli Cheddar Bites; Sugar & Spice Butternut; Spiced Sweet Potatoes and; Hot Honey Carrot Fries.

Each kit simplifies the process of bringing fresh and savory roasted vegetable selections to the dinner table and each can be cooked using only one pan, which makes clean-up simple.

The booth will also be displaying their Urban Roots Cauliflower Rice Veggie Side Kits which includes three selections; Chili Cilantro Cauliflower Rice; Tabouli Style Cauliflower Rice and; Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower Rice. The kits are designed for consumers to easily prepare restaurant-quality side dishes, which require little to no chopping, in as little as three minutes. All needed ingredients are included in the kits, so there’s no need to browse through grocery aisle after grocery aisle. One quick stop to the produce section provides a gourmet side dish for two.

“We’ve come up with a number of simple graphics on our packaging that let the consumer know that there’s little to no chopping necessary, how many pans are needed for prep—generally just one—and how long the prep and cooking times are, Walker pointed out. “The goal is to take all of the heavy lifting out of dinner preparation and our packaging is successful in showing that.”

“What better place than the New York Produce Show to showcase our expanded line of Urban Roots Veggie Side Kits,” said Michael Muzyk, president of Baldor Specialty Foods. “Now retailers can bring Baldor’s industry-wide reputation for quality to their grocery shelves.”

The Urban Roots Veggie Side Kits are available in select stores across the northeast.

“Consumers can find them in the produce aisle of grocery stores like ShopRite and DeCicco’s,” noted Walker. “Our kits are also available for delivery through e-commerce partners, Fresh Direct, FoodKick and

“We provide the freshest, seasonal produce every day and our kits will reflect this,” he continued. “And we will absolutely curate additional seasonal selections. Customers can keep up with all our new product offerings on, or our Instagram @meeturbanroots”

A significant milestone was reached when Curry & Co. celebrated 50 years of business this month. The company originally began as Oregon Onions in 1967 and changed their name to Curry & Co. in 2014.

According to Aaron Ensign, president of the company, “Our company is better positioned then ever for the next 50 years. All of our programs are experiencing significant growth. We had a very strong domestic berry season that’s led to great import sales. Our operations in South America and Mexico are expanding, both with sales to the USA and globally. We were extremely busy at PMA’s Fresh Summit in New Orleans, and will have exciting announcements about other programs early in 2018.”

Curry & Co. is headquartered in Brooks, OR and has an office in Los Angeles and Santiago, Chile. Two key personnel moves were made this past summer. The first was bringing Ruth Campos-Martinez to the team from the Giumarra Cos. to help manage and develop key growth sales and procurement strategies for berries. Then, they rehired industry veteran Trish Lovell as the director of sales and marketing with a focus on their domestic and international vegetable sales.

Curry & Co. will celebrate its 50th anniversary at Brooks, OR in December, honoring team members and growers with the most longevity.

Curry & Co. is headquartered in Brooks, OR. Their fruit and vegetables are synonymous with the highest quality, freshness, and delicious flavor. The focus of their year round blueberry program is on South America until domestic berries begin in 2018. They are also widely recognized for their year-round sweet onions and storage onions.

Visit for more information.

I can’t believe what I am seeing out in the supermarket produce trenches lately. It looks like we’re having a “Going Out of Business Sale” in many of the potato sections.All-Potato-Varieties---All-Idaho-Brand

Many of the supermarkets I visited in recent months have sharply reduced the bagged potatoes they carry. In most cases, the five- and 10-pound bags of Idaho potatoes are so condensed that the exposure is totally ineffective in capturing higher profit.

Why has this happened? We realize our business is changing, but potatoes are still the leading vegetable crop in the United States. In fact, Idaho grows more potatoes than anywhere else in the country. Consumers must still be craving potatoes if we keep growing them in such high volumes, so why are the five- and 10-pound bags being diminished in produce departments?

According to 2016 industry reports, potatoes account for 12 percent of the entire produce department sales volume and are second in the top 10 most popular produce items. Furthermore, 78 percent of shoppers purchase potatoes and 80 percent plan to purchase them even before stepping into a grocery store. The demand hasn’t stopped overnight. Why cut back on high profit in the bag section?

Consumers haven’t changed their potato-buying desires. Instead, a number of retailers changed their merchandising practices. Many companies have decreased bag allocation, which makes little sense since it translates to lost profits.

I have seen customers unintentionally stroll past the potato section mainly due to the limited size and quantity make for a lackluster display that draws no attention. The only exception on display size is when a five- or 10-pound bag is advertised or a contest is held. Other than that, there is less interest in going all out to sell potatoes “on purpose” — and at the regular price.

Why are so many retailers aggressive in setting up large potato displays only when they are on sale, specially priced at such low gross profit? On the other hand, retailers cut them back to only a few bags at the regular price at a higher profit.

We’ve all heard the expression “don’t give the house away.” My ears still ring from hearing it so many times from my former president. Yet, some bagged potatoes are priced below cost. There is no need to slash the price so low that it fails to return any profit. This is pointless.

The Idaho potato is a brand and a premium-quality product with a very strong reputation. According to a latest Nielsen report, the sales share of branded produce is continuing to increase and now accounts for 38.5 percent. Cut-rate retails only diminish the value of a premium brand.

Don’t give Idaho potatoes away. Big discounts are not necessary. No auto dealer sells a Rolls Royce at a deep discount price or at cost. Idaho potatoes are the Rolls Royce of the potato category. Shoppers will pay a premium price for the Idaho brand.

Here is a hypothetical example of gaining profit at a premium price:
A 25-store chain advertises 10-pound bags of Idaho potatoes at $2.99 with a cost of $2.50 each. They sell 12,500 bags at a total cost of $31,250 and generate $37,375 in sales. That results in a profit of $6,125.

Likewise, if that same grocery chain increased its advertised retail another 50 cents to $3.49 and even sold 10,000 bags, it would actually earn more profit. The total cost would be $25,000 and total retail sales $34,900, resulting in a profit of $9,900. That’s $3,775 more profit for the produce department.

Our business is all about profit. Smart retailers can earn more profit simply by charging a few cents more on a premium brand. Bagged Idaho potatoes are less sensitive to price relative to its premium known quality brand.

Retailers should never underestimate the 10-pound bag of Idaho potatoes. Increasing display space will not only move more bag tonnage but will also add much-needed gross profit to meet the produce department’s hefty budgeted commitment.

Wise merchandising is the key to success. To earn incremental profit, set up a secondary display of 10-pound bags of Idaho potatoes at the regular retail. You will sell a greater amount and help with your profit obligation expected by management.

Your company is not in the volume business, it’s in the profit business. By lowering potato prices just 10 percent, you’ll need to sell 33 percent more just to break even. That is not in anyone’s budget.

The fresh tomato market had prices well into the mid-$20s and beyond in early December, and experts expect the demand-exceeds-supply situation to last through the end-of-the-year holiday season.Tomatoes-at-Retail-Cal-supermarket

“It’s no mystery, said Joe Bernardi of Bernardi & Associates, a broker specializing in tomatoes from virtually every point of origin. “Florida typically provides 80 percent of the nation’s tomatoes in December. This year they had a little wind and rain, which has changed that.”

He, of course, was referring to the series of storms and hurricanes that ravaged Florida in October and greatly affected its agricultural production areas, wiping out some planted fields and delaying farming activity for several weeks.

Reggie Brown, manager of the Florida Tomato Committee, said the storms were especially harsh on southwest Florida, where the bulk of the tomatoes are grown. Besides wiping out planted acreage, the longtime Florida tomato industry advocate said it took three to four weeks to dry out the fields, which greatly disrupted the production cycle. He indicated that Florida’s tomato industry is like a well-oiled machine with lots of moving parts. On a schedule worked out well in advance, fields are prepared for planting while seedlings mature in nursery greenhouses. When the time is right, those fields are planted at timed intervals to produce tons of tomatoes from the fall through the spring.

“Now we’re off schedule and I expect we won’t get back to normal until early to mid-January,” Brown said, noting that Mother Nature still gets to play a role. “We have a cold front coming in tonight (Dec. 5). That will stop the plants from growing. Give us some warm weather and we can get back on track.”

He noted that Florida is currently shipping about 40 to 50 loads of tomatoes per day, which he estimated to be less than half of normal.

Bernardi said Northern California shipped its last fresh market tomato in mid-November with Southern California following suit by the end of the month. As he spoke in early December, tomato production in Baja California was humming along but the West Mexico production areas were still about two weeks away from sending tomatoes to the United States. “We are expecting to see some cross (from Mexico into the United States) during the week of Dec. 18.”

He added that it appears that Mexico has a good crop and timing is fairly normal. “That means we should see volume by the middle of January.”

Bernardi said the market on Florida tomatoes on that day was in the high $20s for most sizes. “I haven’t seen prices this high (at this time of year) since the 1989-90 Florida freeze.”

He said shortly after the Christmas holiday, Florida shipments should be greater causing the market to return to a more normal level.

Brown said the high f.o.b. prices are allowing most Florida tomato growers to at least recoup their crop expenses, which were greatly increased by the storms. But he reminded that the reason the prices are high is that most growers have a half a crop at best “so nobody is getting rich.”