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Fresh Direct Produce has acquired Emperor Specialty Foods, a distributor of mushrooms, pears, and other specialty fruits and vegetables. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.freshdirect

The company said this add-on provides meaningful growth opportunities for Fresh Direct Produce, which distributes more than 1,000 domestic, imported, and organic fruit and vegetable items. Emperor is headquartered in Richmond, BC.

“With a talented management team and range of complementary products, we are confident Emperor will prove an important addition to Fresh Direct Produce, and play a critical role in our value-driven growth plan,” said Davis Yung, president, chief executive officer and co-founder of Fresh Direct Produce.

“The addition of Emperor’s products and customers, as well as a new location, will allow for smart, strategic growth opportunities,” said Kent Robinson, HKW partner and chairman of the board for Fresh Direct Produce. “This is an important step forward for Fresh Direct Produce and we are excited for both teams. The acquisition is also strategically aligned within the Health & Wellness sector, a key area of focus for HKW.”

As a global corporate citizen, Chiquita is responsible for understanding and addressing its impacts, either direct or indirect, upon people and the planet. This responsibility does not stop at its farm boundary or factory gate: Chiquita has identified women and children as two of its most vulnerable groups of stakeholders and has taken on the task of championing human rights initiatives to combat injustices throughout the regions where the brand operates.Chiquita-Women-Empowerment-1

Chiquita has commissioned a child rights impact assessment at its farms in Costa Rica and Panama, working with human rights consultancy, Article One, to adjust UNICEF impact assessment tools for Chiquita´s operations.

It is essential that Chiquita ensure its operations respect child rights within the communities of operation. Chiquita has chosen to focus on education, pediatric health and access to play, as these aspects are vital to a child’s upbringing and future opportunities.

“We believe that Chiquita’s commitment to child rights exhibits strong leadership amongst its peers in the industry. Globally, agriculture continues to have a high risk of child labor,” said Faris Natour, co-founder and principal of Article One. “We are happy to confirm that we found no evidence of child labor at Chiquita farms in the Costa Rica and Panama farms.”

Gender equality is a significant challenge on the banana plantations of Latin America. In this labor-intensive line of work, traditionally dominated by men and situated on remote farms, women are often particularly vulnerable to violence, discrimination, intimidation and sexual harassment. Chiquita has zero tolerance for such acts and is working hard to ensure its guidelines, codes of conduct and tools eliminate such incidents.

“We believe it is vital for all of our employees to feel safe and benefit from the best possible working conditions, free from any harassment,” said Jamie Postell, director of sales North America for Chiquita. “We want our employees to feel empowered and we are always striving to promote more opportunities for engagement to help us continue to grow in this area.”

To further empower its female workforce, Chiquita has created several important and unique tools to safeguard women’s rights and promote opportunities.

  • One key tool is the company’s helpline system available for all employees 24hours/ seven days per week/365 days per year for them to report in an anonymous way any discrimination or harassment complaint. The system is actively communicated and promoted from farm to farm by company representatives.
  • Another of the main tools Chiquita uses to pursue equality and empowerment is an IUF-COLSIBA-Chiquita agreement that has been in place since 2001. This agreement, unique in the banana industry, promotes workers’ rights and since 2013 also specifically protects women’s interests.
  • A final tool is promoting education and awareness as critical ways in changing the culture. Efforts include women talking to women about their rights in their own language and tackling the challenge of changing male views about women’s rights and sexual harassment.

Chiquita is currently analyzing gender pay and opportunity gaps throughout the organization, and aims to have a plan in place to address these by the time of the next 2020 sustainability report.

The industry is just weeks away from pear season and Stemilt Growers is encouraging retailers to start planning their fall lineup to include a wide variety of pears from Stemilt’s Rushing Rivers brand. Brianna Shales, Stemilt’s communications manager, wants retailers to know how important it is to get ahead of the curve even during the busy summer season.PearHarvest 2872

“Although autumn may still be far away, now is the time to start working with your Stemilt representative to get pears ready for big, multi-variety ads as pears are harvested this fall,” said Shales. “This year we are expecting a crop with large fruit size, great flavor and quality, plus an increasing organic category.”

Due to a crop with large-sized pears, Shales said bulk will be the primary promotion vehicle for the 2019-20 season. Retailers should plan large displays with Stemilt’s pear bin or easy pallet display, both of which feature the Rushing Rivers brand. Featuring bulk with Stemilt’s displays gives retailers an opportunity to tell the consumer the story of Rushing Rivers and offer them a bit of information about where the fruit is grown. Shales suggests that retailers should organize pears by variety and color, adding in both red and green varieties to present an attractive color break display that is eye-catching for the consumer.

“Placing prominent pear displays in a high traffic area will boost any retailer’s pear category,” said Shales. “With so many items in produce, it is crucial that retailer’s pears have moments where they are front and center. An attractive display can captivate both the conventional and organic consumer.”

Summer pear varieties that will kick off the Rushing Rivers season include conventional Tosca, Bartlett and Starkrimson, with organic Tosca, Skarkrimson and Bartlett to follow. In mid- to late September, retailers can expect harvest for conventional Bosc, Red d’Anjou and d’Anjou with organic Bosc to follow toward the end of September.

Tosca, Bartlett and red pears will also be available through Lil Snappers kid-size fruit in three-pound conventional pear bags or two-pound organic pear bags. Offering an easy grab-and-go snack will bode with parent consumers who seek healthy, easy snacks and will be available both conventionally and organically.

“In the industry as a whole, the organic category is growing, but there is a lot of growth here at Stemilt as well as with our growing and packing partner, Hi-Up Growers,” said Shales. “As we all know, organic is a constantly evolving category and it is in high demand. Even though growing pears organically is a challenge, we feel it’s an important offering to consumers and have recently increased organic pear volumes.”

Stemilt’s Rushing Rivers pear brand was introduced in 2014 and focuses on the two best pear growing locales in the world — the Wenatchee and Entiat river valleys. These neighboring valleys are surrounded by alpine peaks that keeps air flow through orchards and helps pears stay cool during the warm summer months. The soil that sits beneath each tree is rich with nutrients to provide pears with the fuel that they need to grow in size and develop dessert flavors.

“Our Rushing Rivers brand has such a unique story to tell, which is why we encourage retailers to share that story with consumers,” said Shales. “Transparency is appreciated among consumers, which leads to a delightful experience — something we are striving for every day.”

Gelson's Markets has strengthened its board of directors with the addition of Sue Klug, an accomplished former grocery executive with broad operations and marketing experience.klug

Klug currently serves as Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer for Republic Services, a $10 billion recycling and non-hazardous solid waste disposal company based in Phoenix, AZ. Prior to her appointment to this position in 2016, Klug spent more than 30 years in leadership positions with some of the nation's largest supermarket retailers.

Klug served as executive vice president, chief marketing officer of Unified Grocers from 2012 to 2016. Prior to that, she spent nearly a decade with Albertsons, including five years as president of the Albertsons Southern California division, where she was responsible for the operations and financial performance of all 248 Albertsons stores in California and Nevada. Earlier in her career, Klug was a senior executive role for Safeway, overseeing sales and marketing for all 330 Vons and Pavilions stores in Southern California and southern Nevada.

A Southern California native, Klug brings a deep understanding of the competitive California grocery sector to Gelson's.

Klug has extensive relationships throughout the grocery industry and is widely recognized as one of its premiere female leaders. Her previous industry board experience includes the Independent Grocers Alliance in Chicago and Western Association of Food Chains in L.A. County, where she served as its first female president and chairperson. She has been recognized with numerous industry honors.

"We are thrilled to have Sue Klug join our board of directors," said Rob McDougall, chief executive officer of Gelson's. "Her savvy marketing and operations experience in wholesale grocery, supermarket retailing and waste/recycling services will bring valuable insight to Gelson's, and we are grateful to have her onboard."

Even a busy cherry season hasn’t kept Stemilt from slowing down its local community support.

“The month of July started off with fun community events for Stemilt in the Wenatchee Valley,” said Brianna Shales, Stemilt’s communications manager. “With the July Fourth holiday we joined the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce during its Wenatchee Valley Fourth of July celebrations. Then, later in the week, we presented our large donation to the Washington Apple Education Foundation for its scholarship funds.”WAEF-Check-Presentation-2019-Stemilt Jay Fulbright and West Mathison of Stemilt, Jennifer Witherbee of the Washington Apple Education Foundation, and Tate Mathison and Mark Blakney of Stemilt.

Stemilt sponsored and donated cherries to the Cherry Spitting Contest at the Wenatchee Valley Fourth of July celebrations, where contestants of all ages tried to spit the cherry pit as far as they could. The winner of the contest spit his pit upward of 20 feet.

“It was great to see such an enthusiastic crowd,” said Shales. “The holidays really bring this community together and being able to support something that involves our delicious dark-sweet cherries is something we are more than happy to do.”

Stemilt also donated a check for $100,000 to the Washington Apple Education Foundation. WAEF is a local organization that works to impact lives through access to educational opportunities.

The non-profit awarded more than $1 million in scholarships to 310 students last year. Stemilt has been partnering with WAEF for nearly 25 years and raises funds through Stemilt’s TKM Golf Tournament and the company’s Community Investment Committee.

Stemilt has multiple scholarships that children of its employees can apply for, plus one other that is open for all children whose parents work in the ag industry. Stemilt’s scholarships are used at accredited universities.

“WAEF offers many kids an opportunity to pursue higher education and work toward achieving their career goals,” said Shales. “It is a cause we strongly believe in and it is a great avenue to give back to these future local leaders.”

Stemilt’s community contributions fall under the company’s program, Responsible Choice, which was created by Stemilt founder Tom Mathison back in 1989. Mathison’s vision was to leave Earth as good as Stemilt could, and even better if possible. He was a strong believer in good merit and hard work.

“Tom believed in his community and wanted to ensure we could contribute to its success as much as we could,” said Shales. “And West, Tom’s grandson and president of Stemilt, has worked tirelessly to ensure that we keep that philosophy alive throughout our company today.”