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MountainKing Potatoes’ popular summertime merchandising promotion, touting the ease of adding its high-flavor varieties to the backyard cookout, is back for 2017.MountainKing-Summer-Grilling-Display-1

MountainKing’s Get Grilling summer promotion, now available through Labor Day, features the company’s 1.5-pound Steak House Roasters, three-pound Steak House Golds, four-count Steak House Bakers, three-pound Russets, three-pound reds and three-pound B-reds merchandised in grilling half bins, secondary location bins and display-ready cases.

“In past years, we focused our summer grilling promotion on the Steakhouse Roasters,” John Pope, MountainKing’s vice president of sales and marketing, said in a press release. “Based on the overwhelming response, we expanded the promotion to include several of our other popular varieties which also are ideal for outdoor grilling.”

Pope said MountainKing is looking to capitalize on the roughly 40 percent of grill owners who researched new grilling techniques or recipes in the past year.

“The backyard cookout has become a complete cooking experience where the entire meal is grilled,” he said in the release. “This promotion is ideal for encouraging trial of our fresh potato varieties, which shoppers may not have considered for the grill.”

MountainKing’s Get Grilling summer promotion is supported with all-new, high-graphic signage, display sleeve header card with recipe pad, and grilling directions on Kwik Lok or generic label.

According to a 2016 usage and attitude study performed by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, 75 percent of U.S. adults own a grill or smoker; 45 percent of U.S. adults plan to purchase a new grill or smoker and 30 percent plan to grill more in 2017.

Retailers also can submit photos of their Get Grilling merchandising display for the chance to win an outdoor grill. Entries must be submitted to atrettin@mtnking.com by Aug. 31.

MountainKing Potatoes is one of the world’s largest growers of high-flavor potato varieties. About 1 million U.S. households enjoy MountainKing products every week.

CMI Orchards, one of Washington State’s premier apple growers, reported huge successes with its spring Season of Flavor promotion, which included customer favorites Ambrosia, KIKU, Kanzi, Jazz and Pacific Rose apples. CMI's Season of Flavor program kicked off in early March and has spurred creative apple retail displays across the nation.japa

To celebrate the success of the promotion to date and continue its momentum, CMI announced the launch of an “Encore Promotion” extending the Season of Flavor for two leading branded apples, Jazz and Pacific Rose.

“Jazz and Pacific Rose offer retailers a competitive advantage, driving excitement and strength to their apple commodity,” George Harter, vice president of marketing at CMI Orchards, said in a press release. “Promoting premium varieties, while driving a quality eating experience during these late spring and early summer months, is the perfect way to capture incremental dollars and strengthen profits.”

The Season of Flavor Encore Promotion is designed to help retailers take advantage of this short window of opportunity to drive category sales. CMI is offering incentives for retailers and produce managers through a display contest and other perks and prizes.

Jazz and Pacific Rose apples are grown and marketed in the United States by CMI Orchards, Rainier Fruit Co. and The Oppenheimer Group.

California does not appear to have an especially big crop of stone fruits this year, and combined with production problems in the Southeast, that very well could make for a tighter-than-usual marketing situation.

It has been reported that 90 percent of the South Carolina peach crop was destroyed by a devastating freeze, and other production areas in the Southeast have also experienced some losses.Nect2

“It’s just one of those situations when unfortunate circumstances in one region ends up making a good situation for another region,” said Stephen Paul, stone fruit category director for Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA.

While Paul was optimistic that California growers would be able to capitalize on the shorter supply situation, he cautioned shippers about trying to squeeze every dollar they can out of the market and killing it instead.

“The problems in the Southeast will definitely have an effect,” he said, “but I hope shippers don’t get too greedy. You can’t get the price so high that it’s not promotable.”

California had a lot of rain this year, which certainly helped the crops, but Paul said some orchards were hit with rainstorms during the middle of their bloom, resulting in more bloom drop than usual.

“Timing is everything,” he said. “If the rain comes at the right time, you have a good crop. If it comes at the wrong time, you have a light crop.”

On the other hand, he said the rain itself is like giving a shot of vitamin B-12 to the fruit. “It’s a jolt of energy. We may see this year a size up across the board,” he said, meaning individual fruit could be, on average, a size larger than last year.

While there has been some stone fruit production in April over the last couple of years, this year experts are predicting a more normal pattern, with mid-May arriving before a plethora of fruit hits the market. But from about May 15 on, supplies should be fairly steady with many promotional opportunities.

Wayne Brandt, president of Brandt Farms Inc. in Reedley, CA, told The Produce News April 25 that while some packers were putting a few nectarines in cartons this week, in general “we are five to seven days later than last year.” He acknowledged that production has come early the last couple of years, but hesitated to label this year as normal.

“What’s normal anymore?” he asked.

As far as promotable volume is concerned, he expects strong volume by the third week in May and noted that the firm has committed shipments to several retailers for Memorial Day weekend ads.

Brandt, who has been involved in the California stone fruit deal for many years, believes the decline in acreage that has been occurring over the last decade has stopped. Noting that without the marketing order, which was eliminated several years ago, there is no firm accounting of acreage, but it appears to him that equilibrium has been reached with regard to orchards being pulled and those being planted.

He added that the main crops growers were transitioning to — most notably almonds and Mandarins — appear to have waned in popularity as production has caught up with demand.

All in all, Brandt is anticipating a fairly good California stone fruit year with good demand, especially in the foreseeable first half of the season. By July, he said fruit production from other eastern production areas could have an impact on the supply-demand curve.

Jeannine Martin, director of sales at Giumarra Bros. Fruit Co. Inc. in Reedley, CA, concurred with Brandt’s assessment.

“We are going to start with white peaches on April 27, followed by yellow nectarines on May 1, white nectarines on May 10, and black and red plums by the middle of May,” she said April 25. “A survey of all the varieties coming up reveals that they will each be between four and nine days later than last year.”

Martin agreed that the Memorial Day weekend is about right as far as promotable volume for the whole spectrum of California stone fruits. However, what she is most excited about is Giumarra’s proprietary peaches and nectarines, which will hit the market mostly in the June-July time frame.

From France, these varieties will be marketed under the DulceVita brand. The Giumarra executive said they are very aromatic and sweet, with the brand name itself meaning “sweet life.”

This new line will be marketed in one-layer flats.

On the organic side, which is Homegrown’s forte, Paul said there probably will not be as many “promotional buys” as there were last year. Last year’s timing resulted in the bunching up of volume at various times during the season leading to a downward pressure on market price.

“I don’t see that happening this year,” said the veteran stone fruit salesman. “I expect the spread of volume to be more consistent.”

But Paul again cautioned about getting too far ahead of the game. “The season is like a book — it unfolds page-by-page. You can’t get ahead of the chapters.”

He did say the volume of organic production continues to grow as more and more growers and shippers add it to their lineup. But he then made an unabashed argument for using Homegrown Organic Farms for organic supplies rather than someone late to the dance.

“Some people added organics reacting to demand and wanted something else in their portfolio,” he said. “And then there are the purists who are in the deal from end to end and offer it year round. That level of commitment is what we do. It’s proactive vs. reactive.”

As far as the California apricot season is concerned, Jim Lucich, who handles sales for Blossom Hill Apricots in Patterson, CA, told The Produce News April 20 that harvest was less than two weeks away. “It’s looking like the first week of May, but it depends on the weather we get between now and then.”

He said no rain appeared to be in the forecast, which is a good thing. California has had lots of rain this year, which is good for the crops, but the timing can cause issues.

“It looks like there is a high-pressure system building, which should help us avoid any more rain,” said Lucich.

The weather also was heating up, which is exactly what the growers are looking for to increase the size of the fruit itself. Lucich said it appeared to be a fairly normal crop and he expects good supplies through most of May and all of June, with production winding down around July 1.

Because Chilean stone fruits finished up, for the most part, before California’s shipments are getting under way, Lucich said there has been a bit of a gap in supplies in apricots and the other stone fruits, which should lead to good demand at the consumer level.

Retailers, he said, are also looking for some new commodities to promote, which, he believes, bodes well for this year’s stone fruit crop.

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The first two Meijer stores in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are set to open May 18. These new supercenter are two of seven new stores Meijer is opening in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin this year. The company has also opened a new 192,000-square-foot supercenter in Greenfield, WI.

The new Upper Peninsula stores recently began receiving merchandise and have begun training for team members in preparation for bringing shoppers fresh grocery options and a one-stop shopping experience.

On May 18, Meijer leadership and local dignitaries will dedicate each store’s first day of business with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. While weekly Meijer sales at the supercenter and gas station begin when doors open on May 18, the retailer will also feature special promotions and events to commemorate each store’s grand opening celebration beginning on May 21.

Regarding the newly opened Wisconsin store, Executive Chairman Hank Meijer said, “We are very pleased to provide our new Greenfield neighbors with the service, selection, quality and low prices that Meijer customers in other communities have come to expect.”

The new store is one of seven new Meijer supercenters opening this year and part of an investment of more than $375 million in Wisconsin and across the Midwest, which includes six other new stores and 22 different remodel projects throughout its six-state footprint. Two additional Wisconsin stores will open on May 16.

The Grand Rapids, MI.-based retailer operates 230 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

The Southeast Produce Council will open registration on May 23 to its 2017 fall conference, which will feature a whole new look and platform with the addition of a full trade show and a focus on two key industry areas: organics and foodservice.Southern-Innovations-Final-Logo

Formerly known as the Southern Innovations Symposium, the annual event is now the Southern Innovations Organics & Foodservice Expo. It will offer attendees the intimate networking experience that Southern Exposure (the council's annual winter conference and expo) is known for, but will focus more closely on new products and services, as well as education, in the areas of organics and foodservice.

The event will take place Sept. 28-30 at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort on Hilton Head Island, SC.

The council is still in the process of firming up some of the details of the conference, such as speakers and panelists, but most of the schedule has been set.

The conference will kick off Thursday, Sept. 28, with a Farm to Table Welcome Reception, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

A full schedule is planned for Friday, Sept. 29. The general session and keynote breakfast will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Two workshops will follow. The first, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., will focus on the relevance of foodservice to the produce industry; the second, from 11 a.m. to noon, will focus on the role of organics in the produce industry. The expo will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the President's Dinner Dance will take place from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

On Saturday, Sept. 30, attendees can choose from three different events: inshore fishing, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; the Founders Memorial Golf Tournament (which honors all the founders of the council, including the two who have died, Ken Lanhardt and Terry Vorhees); or a local tour and lunch, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The conference will conclude, as usual, with the Ultimate Tailgate Experience, from 3:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

During the general session and keynote breakfast, a new award will be presented to honor a rising star (i.e., a person under the age of 35) in the Southeast produce industry.

The venue at this enhanced event can accommodate approximately 85 exhibitors, and the council is hoping, perhaps even expecting, to sell all of those spaces, SEPC Executive Director David Sherrod told The Produce News April 19. Those exhibitors should be a "cross section of companies from the U.S., Canada and Mexico," he said, and hopefully will include "a good number of exhibitors from the Southeast."

About 330 people attended last year's fall conference, but "with the new format, we're anticipating to greatly increase the attendance, maybe even to double it," said Sherrod.

All events will take place at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort, with the exception of the expo, which will take place at the Hilton Head Island Beach & Tennis Resort's conference center, which is about a mile from the Westin.

For more information, or to register for the Southern Innovations Organics & Foodservice Expo, contact the SEPC's Anna Burch by phone (478/982-4411) or email (info@seproducecouncil.com).