SpartanNash holds 2015 Holiday Expo in Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS — SpartanNash, headquartered in Byron Township, MI, held its 2015 Holiday Expo Aug. 26-27 for its vendors, independent retailers and corporate stores at the downtown Minneapolis Convention Center, here. A refrigerated semitrailer, sporting the company’s new logo and the tagline “Taking food places,” was rolled into the building and was completely surrounded by fresh produce vendors.

“I think the new SpartanNash logo is a very attractive layout,” Bill Reddering of Chandler Topic Co., a food broker in Maple Grove, MN, told The Produce News. “And now they’re going to be putting that wrap on many of their trailers and get their logo out there so people will see it.”

Hundreds of exhibitors showcased new products, offered expo specials and networked with grocery store representatives during the two-day show, while attendees took advantage of the many exclusive show offerings and placed orders.

SN-HOLIDAY-EXPOThe SpartanNash 2015 Holiday Expo Aug. 26-27 at the Convention Center in Minneapolis included a refrigerated semitrailer surrounded by a multitude of fresh produce from its vendors.“The show has created a lot of energy with all the store orders,” Riddering said. “They seem to love all the produce they have out here and to learn a little more about what everybody is offering.”

Tom Williams, manager of corporate retail produce and floral at SpartanNash in Minneapolis, told The Produce News that there were some new products on display at the expo that would soon be part of its offerings for customers at its corporate stores.

“We’ve got some items here that are going to be starting in our stores, actually in the next couple of weeks,” said Williams. “Glory Greens, and sliced apples, and we just brought in the Tasti-Lee tomatoes.”

Williams enjoyed the networking, all the new products, and the energy at the Holiday Expo.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to come in and interact with our vendors, our great vendor partners, and take a look and see what other things are new — things that we can bring into our stores,” he said. “We’re always looking to improve and looking for what’s that new thing that we need to get into our stores. That’s what I love about shows.”

Wholesum’s Amado expansion will bring Beefsteak tomatoes

AMADO, AZ — Six acres of Beefsteak tomato seedlings will be placed in the new Amado greenhouse expansion of Wholesum Family Farms Inc. The massive glass-house construction brings this Wholesum facility to a total of 18 acres.

Hot-JoseJose Covarrubias, operations manager of the Amado, AZ, greenhouse.On Aug. 26, Jose Covarrubias, operations manager of the Amado facility, walked The Produce News through the final stages of the new construction. Using only the newest technologies, this greenhouse produces organic hydroponic tomatoes. Some new construction improvements are based on experience with the adjacent 12-acre facility, which became operational in late 2013. Tomatoes-on-vine are grown in the existing building.

Covarrubias said the first Beefsteak harvest would come in the third week of October.  

When it is up and running, the new facility will require an additional 25 employees, which will bring the total Amado greenhouse staff to almost 110.

Wholesum packs on site all of the tomatoes grown at this greenhouse. On Aug. 26, Covarrubias had received a brand-new, bright red grading machine for the new Beefsteak production.

In late August, harvest of tomatoes-on-vine approached an end on a planting that was 51 weeks old. These will be replaced by a new TOV planting in the third week of September.

Covarrubias said productivity declines as the vines age. A normal packout for the facility is 95-99 percent, but that was down to 80 percent at the end of the productive commercial life of the TOV plants.

Amado is 29 miles north on Interstate 19 from Wholesum’s Nogales headquarters.

Domex introduces branded pear pouch bags with eat brighter! artwork

Domex Superfresh Growers, based in Yakima, WA, will debut a new line of two-pound gusseted “Superfresh Kids” brand pear pouch bags with Sesame Street characters in support of the eat brighter! campaign.

The eat brighter! campaign is a unique and powerful partnership with Sesame Workshop and the Produce Marketing Association, in collaboration with the Partnership for a Healthier America, which encourages kids ages 2 to 5 to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

superfresh-kids-pear-pouches-2“Pears are a terrific fruit for kids of all ages,” Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, said in a press release. “The many different varieties provide ample flavor and snacking opportunities with a variety of uses. In addition to showcasing Sesame Street characters, our new bags will also carry our own ‘Superfresh Kids’ theme branding, which features artwork of kids participating in various outdoor activities. We didn’t forget about all the moms and dads out there, the back of each bag provides ripening tips for achieving optimal flavor. We feel very strongly about connecting the grower with the consumer in an effort to showcase their dedication, energy and passion for growing the safest, best tasting and most nutritious products.”

There will be a separate pouch for Bartlett, Bosc, Anjou and Red Pear varieties. Individual varieties will be available in both conventional and organic options and each bag will feature bilingual information satisfying Canadian export requirements.

Domex Superfresh Growers works closely with its partner Blue Bird Inc of Wenatchee, WA, to grow, pack and ship some of the finest quality pears in the Pacific Northwest while representing almost 10 percent of the Northwest pear crop and over 25 percent of the organic supply.

In addition to asking Big Bird, Elmo and others to help shout out to kids and moms about the many options and benefits of increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption, Domex Superfresh Growers will also conduct a social media campaign this fall supported by the hashtag #eatpears where consumers will have an opportunity to win prizes. The promotion will be supported on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

WPVGA involved in wide education and promotion effort

Promotions of Wisconsin potatoes are widening for the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association. Dana Rady, the association’s director of promotion, communication and consumer education outlined the aggressive program.

Chuck-DanaChuck Curl of RPE Inc. with Dana Rady at the PMA convention in New Orleans in October 2013. Rady is the director of promotion and consumer education for the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association. To educate consumers and expand markets, the association (WPVGA), received a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, to promote “Healthy Grown”. The trademarked Healthy Grown is certification for Wisconsin growers who produce with the application of very specific sustainability measures. “It is not conventional nor organic,” Rady said. “It’s a happy medium between the two and one that takes a unique approach to growing potatoes. Our sustainable farmers work with ecologists, conservationists and researchers to conserve water, prevent erosion, support native plants and animals and restore natural ecosystems, to name a few benefits. It’s a program that really sets Wisconsin apart.”

Rady said that new graphics are being created to wrap one-quarter-sized retail display bins to carry the “Healthy Grown” message in 2015-16.

The relatively small “bins can be put anyplace in a store without being in the way. They can be in areas that offer cross promotion opportunities.”

Kwik Lok tags will also be used on potato bags to promote “Healthy Grown” and Wisconsin. The tags provide a bonus because retailers are not required to use another SKU.

Another new retail promotion this year is a revitalized giveaway of a Harley-Davidson. Until a few years ago, WPVGA had a drawing from its booth at the PMA Fresh Summit to give away a Harley motorcycle that was custom pained with attractive artwork portraying the Wisconsin potato industry.

“We’re still working out the details,” Rady said, “but we’ll give the Harley away at the end of this year.”

This fall WPVGA will be creating a new television commercial that highlights growers’ responsible water use and respect for Wisconsin’s environment. It is the second of a series of TV ads. The first had a “thank the farmer” theme, with potato industry suppliers, such as truck, insurance and equipment suppliers speaking about the importance of agriculture to Wisconsin’s economy, Rady said. This commercial is being broadcast in the preseason Green Bay Packers games.

WPVGA is also involved in the creation of a 30-minute television episode with the Wisconsin grilling celebrities, “Mad Dog and Merrill.” In the show, three growers speak with the hosts about agricultural practices, irrigation technology and sustainability.

This fall starts WPVGA’s second year on the road with its customized traveling billboard, the “Spudmobile”. “This is a huge accomplishment,” Rady said. “The Spudmobile has been “very, very busy throughout the past year, especially during summer.” Designed to promote Wisconsin potatoes and educate consumers on potatoes and agriculture in general, the sophisticated remodeled RV has eight interior exhibits. Three of these have been recently upgraded.

The Spudmobile will be widening its range in the coming year. Most of the appearances have been in state, with participation in Minnesota and at Mariano’s stores in Chicago. In the near future, appearances in other Midwestern states and more distant destinations -- including produce conventions -- are possibilities.

Rady said WPVGA participated in the 2015 United Fresh convention in Chicago. The association will be returning in 2016.

Other ongoing promotional and educational efforts will be a continuation of grower food safety training classes in early 2016. “We are really happy with this program, which has helped growers get on the right track in preparation for their audits.”

Rady said the WPVGA consumer and trade websites “have a new look. The consumer site,, includes a database of recipes for any meal.”

In Wisconsin, WPVGA is extending the U.S. Potato Board initiative for placing potato-friendly salad bars in schools. WPVGA has already donated a salad bar to the Oshkosh school district. “To involve our growers this year, the association will fund half the cost of each bar and will look for growers to fund the other half. Not only will this help us donate more bars, but it also features the growers who provide Wisconsin families with quality produce. For each bar we donate, the USPB will match those donations.”

ShopRite set to open store in former ‘food desert’

A ShopRite location in Newark, NJ, in an area once referred to as a “food desert” is set to open at the end of September following two years of construction.

The opening of the store will bring hundreds of jobs and a new shopping option to this urban center in northern New Jersey. A ShopRite spokesperson said 340 people have already been hired, the majority of which are Newark residents.

The 70,000-square-foot store will serve as the anchor to the Springfield Avenue Marketplace, a mixed-use retail and housing complex.

“It’s going to be a fantastic store,” ShopRite said in a statement. “It will have everything you would expect from Shop Rite, and more.”

Whole Foods announced earlier this summer that it would also open a location in Newark on Broad Street, which would also anchor a mixed-use retail and housing development.