your-news image

Gary Roselli joins Allegiance Retail Services

ISELIN, NJ — Allegiance Retail Services LLC announced Aug. 18 the addition of Gary Roselli as category manager for produce and floral. In this position, he will focus on managing merchandising programs and recommending new initiatives and strategies for meeting sales and profit goals.

GaryRoselliGary RoselliRoselli's 15-year career in the supermarket industry began in 1999 in the Customer Service Department at Pathmark's Clifton, NJ, store. In 2008, he became a produce clerk at the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. in Montvale, NJ. Within two years, he was promoted to procurement-planner, where he was responsible for tracking key item performance, analyzing shipping data, sales records and consumer purchasing trends, and supporting the buying staff. In 2011, Roselli was promoted to category manager, where he was responsible for the value-added line, produce beverage and Eastern vegetables products. Roselli is a current member of the Eastern Produce Council.

"Gary's past experience in vendor relations, product inventory management, contract pricing, and plan-o-gram design, coupled with his overwhelming passion for the area of produce, will be of great value to our business as we continue to grow," Dean Holmquist, vice president of perishables at Allegiance, said in a press release.

Allegiance Retail Services, based here, supports independent supermarkets (such as Foodtown, Freshtown, D'Agostino, LaBella Marketplace, Farmtastic and Brooklyn Harvest) for retail success by providing them with marketing, advertising, technological and merchandising support, as well as a full line of Foodtown private label products.

Unique potato varieties showcased at Sunrain open house

Some 60 different "unique and proprietary" varieties of potatoes shared the limelight at an Aug. 13 open house at .Sunrain Varieties LLC in Idaho Falls, ID.

The company, which was formed about six years ago as a partnership of Potandon Produce LLC in Idaho Falls and Toronto-based Earth Fresh, specializes in development of potato varieties of all sorts and the production of potato seed.

02-SunRainPhoto 02 Mel Davenport, president of Sunrain and co-COO of Potandon, and Aaron Derbidge, Sunrain business manager, at the Aug. 13 Sunrain open house.Sunrain was initially "a holding company for varieties that Potandon and Earth Fresh in Canada were both using jointly across North America," said Mel Davenport, president of Sunrain and co-chief executive officer of Potandon. "We formed the company to do our seed production and hold all our varieties and also do grower seed for our production farms. Then, as we got through that process, we decided to expand it some, and we have changed the company's structure a little bit. The company now does the same function for anybody on the outside, too."

Sunrain is "the holder of all the license rights" of potato varieties of all types "that we have brought from all over the world," Davenport said. "The real core focus of the business is to own proprietary varieties from around the planet" that constitute "the best varieties of potatoes" there are.

"We are trying to set up a structure that allows us to bring new potato varieties to the market that are healthy and that add new taste and characteristics to the consuming public," Davenport continued. "We are trying to bring something new to the market and make the potato category exciting."

The 60 or so varieties of potatoes displayed at the open house included potatoes of a wide range of sizes, shapes, types and colors, with names as varied and colorful as the potatoes themselves -- everything from Blue Belle, Jelly and Huckleberry Gold to Potandon 79, Sunrain 12 and PORO2PG76-5. Most are for the fresh market, but chippers are also included in the mix.

Besides selecting and developing existing potato varieties brought from all parts of the world, Sunrain is now also involved in breeding new varieties.

It is a long process. Just bringing an existing variety into commercial seed production takes five years. Breeding new varieties takes twice as long to go from lab to commercial seed production.

"It is not a short-term payback by any means," Davenport said.

"We are very proud of what we have done here," he said. "It is a good start, but we have a long way to go. We expect to do better and better at what we are doing. We are trying to get better at it every day."

Sunrain has "a wonderful staff of people here managing the business," he said.

The company purchased the farm on which its breeding and seed development facilities are located just over two years ago. The main building has been open a little over a year. In addition, "we've got six greenhouses," a screen house and a storage facility, Davenport said. "It is all strictly dedicated to potato multiplication and to making the potato industry getter."

Unlike university potato breeding programs, "we are going to be looking at everything from a market perspective," being "more directly involved in the market than the people n the university system," he said.

Also unlike most other potato breeding programs, "we are looking at potatoes from all over. We have brought potato varieties to North America from every continent except Africa and Antarctica, so it is a much bigger diversification" than other programs. "Hopefully over time it will allow us to open up new consumer avenues to the potato market."

Sunrain is "trying to bring things to the consumer that aren't available today" and to get consumers "excited about potatoes," he said. "Consumption of potatoes is going down per capita, and we would like to see it turned the other way."

Good rates punctuate summer trucking season

The summer transportation season was active with good, strong rates at numbers allowing truckers to make a decent living. At least that was the view of a couple of New York truck brokers surveyed on the subject in mid-August.

“May, June and July were super busy,” said Lance Dichter of LD Logistics, based in the Bronx, NY. “August has fallen off a bit but we had a good strong summer.”

Paul Kazan, president of Target Interstate Systems Inc., also headquartered on the Hunts Point Terminal Market in the Bronx, agreed.

“We scratched the ceiling at $10,000 in May, which was too high,” he said. “All summer the rate has been hovering between $7,000 and $8,000. It has been good business. Everybody seems to be within $100 to $200 of each other so no one getting a big competitive advantage and truckers are able to make a living.”

Both men had just read an article in the New York Times a few days earlier lamenting the shortage of truck drivers. Both agreed it could be a long-term problem as the economy heats up and truckers have other options.

“It’s a tough way to make a living,” said Kazan. “It’s not a 9-5 job. When rates are low, these guys are better off slinging hamburgers at McDonald’s. But the rates this summer have been pretty good.”

Dichter said it does take a certain type of individual willing to be away from his family for so many days in a row. He said cross-country trucking is difficult and is susceptible to driver shortage situations. “But from Florida (to destinations up the Eastern Seaboard) you are only away for a day or two and you can make a pretty good living.”

The New York Times article said driver pay has not kept up with inflation and many workers are finding jobs elsewhere. However, the article said fleet operators are starting to pay better wages and even $2,000 signing bonuses to attract new drivers. The article suggested that truck driving may be one profession where blue collar workers can gain the upper hand in negotiating for better rates because of a lack of drivers. Most blue collar and unionized workers have seen their wages fall, adjusted for inflation, over the past seven or eight years.

The article focused on fleets and didn’t specifically discuss independent owner-operators of refrigerated trailers that form the backbone of the fresh produce industry. Both Dichter and Kazan indicated that the produce transportation industry still operates largely under the watchful eye of the tried and true economic model of supply and demand. If the supply is down and the demand is up, rates soar.

And that is exactly what happened in May. While Kazan saw rates hit the five-figure level on his longest routes, Dichter never saw anything quite that high but he did see some hauls at $9,500 for the lanes he arranges transportation for.

The slow-down in cross-country August business can partly be explained by the many local deals across the country. August is the month of the backyard farmer and the one and two acre guys who sell their goods at farmers’ markets. In the aggregate in a normal year that does lead to fewer cross-country loads.

But Dichter is expecting a September bounce back. “August has been real quiet but I expect it to pick back up in September.”

Even during the lull time in August, he said perishable truck rates hung around the $7,000 to $7,100 level, which indicates that drivers and fleets operating in the fresh produce space are doing much better than those chronicled in the New York Times article, where less than $50,000 per year is the average wage.

FDA Deputy Commissioner Mike Taylor to speak at The Washington Conference

Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, Food and Drug Administration, will present the keynote address Wednesday, Sept. 10 at the Breakfast General Session of The Washington Conference.

Deputy Commissioner Taylor will provide an update on the FDA’s rulemaking for the Food Safety Modernization Act. FDA has proposed several rules under FSMA that could have significant impact on the fresh produce industry and the safety of our nation’s fresh produce.

"We look forward to hearing from Mike Taylor about FDA’s new supplemental proposals, as well as FDA’s vision going forward in FSMA implementation," said Tom Stenzel, United’s president and chief executive officer. "It’s a rare opportunity to hear directly from the FDA's lead food official and one of the highest food-safety authorities in the federal government about implementation of the complex FSMA law.”

Taylor's food-safety resume is distinguished, starting his FDA career in 1976 as a litigating attorney. He then served as FDA's deputy commissioner for policy from 1991 to 1994, overseeing FDA's policy development and rulemaking, including the implementation of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act and issuance of new seafood safety rules.

From 1994 to 1996, he served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as administrator of the food safety and inspection service and acting under secretary for food safety. During that time, he spearheaded public health-oriented reform of the FSIS. From 2000 until his appointment as deputy commissioner for foods in July 2009, Taylor has worked in academic and research settings on the challenges facing the nation's food-safety system and ways to address them.

"United Fresh values ongoing dialogue and cooperation with FDA about FSMA implementation,” said Stenzel. “We appreciate hearing from Mike Taylor at The Washington Conference about FDA’s work to make the FSMA regulations workable and effective for the entire produce supply chain.”

Also on Sept. 10, conference attendees can participate in United’s Forum at FDA, where they will have the unique opportunity to meet with FDA officials and ask questions about FSMA and other regulatory issues that are affecting their produce operations.

For more information about The Washington Conference, Sept. 8-10, visit www.UnitedFresh.org/TWC or call 202-303-3400.

TransFresh introduces Tectrol Storage Solutions for fresh blueberries

TransFresh Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Chiquita Brands, has adapted its flagship technology, Tectrol Modified Atmosphere Packaging System, which is widely used to provide protection to strawberries in transit, to meet specific needs of the rapidly growing blueberry market.

"We had various shippers coming to us" asking to use the Tectrol system for pallets of blueberries to be kept in storage for two to four weeks, Rich Macleod, vice president of the TransFresh Pallet Division, said in an interview with The Produce News. "We said, 'Sure, it sounds like a great idea to us,'" and initially used the same system that is being used for strawberries. "But what we learned is that if you are going to store product in pallet bags and store it in an effective modified atmosphere, your technology must be much more precise, much more concise and much more stable."

Transfresh-Rich-MacleodRich MacleodRecognizing that simply using the same technology that works for strawberries in transit did not meet the needs of the blueberry industry, "we backed up and said, 'Time out! Let's take our blinders off," said Macleod. So the Tectrol team took a fresh look at the technology. "As soon as we did that, we started getting a series of creative ideas from my team," and specifically from Reilly Rhodes, TransFresh Tectrol business manager for fresh blueberries, who spearheaded the multi-year development project, as to how things could be done differently.

"It was an incredibly valuable lesson," Macleod said.

"To develop the unique Tectrol Storage Solution for fresh blueberries, TransFresh looked more closely at storage needs versus shipping needs," according to a TransFresh press release.

While the strawberry application required high-volume capability on the order of 300 pallets a day in a large facility, working in the range of 100 units a day in a blueberry facility would keep everybody "pretty happy," Macleod said. "That allowed us to modify our technology."

The "A-ha" moment, as Rhodes called it, came when the development team decided to try turning the pallet-sealing method quite literally on its head, according to the release.

Rather than pull a pallet bag over the top of the pallet and seal it with tape to a sheet of plastic placed under the stack of trays on the pallet, they tried inverting the bag and pulling it up around the pallet, then sealing it across the top, said Macleod. "As soon as we did that, our seal technology became virtually 100 percent effective."

Once the sealing system was redesigned, "we married the redesigned seal and bag with the Apio BreatheWay technology," Rhodes said in the release. Apio is a subsidiary of Landec Corp.

By having achieved precise control over the seal and then combining it with the predictable breathability of the BreatheWay membrane technology, "we have created a package that has a stable atmosphere" with stable, predictable levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, Macleod said. Blueberry customers who want to store pallets of blueberries "to manage the markets now have a tool that appears to be working beyond their wildest dreams.

The development of the Tectrol Storage Solution for fresh blueberries was "a multi-year research and development," according to the release. It resulted in "a sealed package system with adjustable oxygen transfer rates that react dynamically to changes in temperature and berry respiration for more reliable fresh blueberry storage."

"What's remarkable about the Tectrol Storage Solution for fresh blueberries is that the innovative zip-sealed pallet system combined with the patented breathable membrane allows just the right amount of oxygen transfer needed by the fruit, resulting in greater atmosphere control than previously possible and a virtually fool-proof packaging operation," Macleod said in the release. "Customers who may have struggled in the past to meet the specific atmosphere needs of fresh blueberries are now finding they have a new solution available with higher consistency and a more stable atmosphere for greater storage reliability."

Macleod further commented that customers may now have much more confidence in their storage solutions by being able to more effectively match supplies with market demand. TransFresh expects that its new storage solution can be adapted to other commodities such as fresh cherries and grapes.

"Domestic markets have sold 15 percent more blueberries this year than last and represent a fast-growing berry segment," according to the release. "As these markets have grown, the demand for a more effective storage solution has accelerated. Because blueberries are grown in a variety of countries and districts, and varieties tend to have steep production peaks, the ability to hold blueberries in modified or controlled atmosphere conditions helps to smooth out the bumps in market supply and demand. A pallet-sized atmosphere package such as the Tectrol Storage Solution gives suppliers the flexibility to market a quality product through the peaks and valleys of the distribution system."