With a shorter crop this year than in 2013, the California avocado industry anticipated an earlier finish to the shipping season, with heavy volumes well into August but declining the latter part of the month and only moderate availability thereafter.
Due to the lighter supplies and the earlier finish, the California Avocado Commission will not carry its promotional activities as late into the season this year as it did in 2013, but those efforts will continue through Labor Day.
"The California Avocado Commission has key account retail and foodservice programs scheduled through Labor Day," said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the commission.
"On the consumer front, we are continuing our advertising campaign and introducing the second year of CAC’s program designed to build consumption of avocados at breakfast time," Delyser said. "For the latter, we’re launching a new Web page on July 30 at www.californiaavocado.com/avocados-for-breakfast , and will be sharing dozens of new breakfast recipes and usage tips for California avocados online and via social media. A dedicated email will feature an article by Registered Dietitian Michele Dudash. Another well-respected RD, Bonnie Taub-Dix will help promote CAC’s avocados for breakfast campaign via public relations outreach."
For retailers, "we are supplying 'Wake Up to Breakfast' recipe brochures that can be merchandised on California avocado displays," she said.
The commission "also maintains online and social media programs throughout the year to satisfy our fans. We share information about the growing and handling practices of premium California avocados and their season, as well as providing recipes and usage ideas," DeLyser continued.
In the foodservice sector, CAC "continues to promote California avocado usage through innovative menu ideas and limited time offers," DeLyser said in the statement. "These have not only been very successful at building demand in foodservice, but also have the additional benefit of introducing consumers to new usage ideas they can try at home.
Datassential Insider reported that this year it is 'all about the avocado' and noted growth in the following menu areas: sandwiches (+18 percent), burgers (+32 percent), pizza (+22 percent), and egg dishes (+15 percent). All of these growth areas have been part of CAC’s targeted outreach."
In the retail arena this year, DeLyser said, "we are excited with the progress the California avocado industry has made in making it easier for shoppers to tell when they are buying California avocado by improving on-fruit country of origin identification. We originally planned to test the concept of a California Avocado brand label at retail this year, but adoption of the idea has been widespread. Retailer reaction also has been very positive. Some retailers who like to promote locally-grown produce have expanded on the idea with their own point-of-sale materials trumpeting the California origin."
Another CAC marketing program "that has made great strides," Delyser said in the statement, "is our American Summer Holidays promotion, with emphasis on the Fourth of July." CAC started developing the promotional connection between avocados and “American Summer Holidays” about four years ago, she said. "It simply made sense to create California avocado recipes and usage ideas that tied in with summer gatherings during the peak of our season. The American Summer Holidays promotions have proven to be successful with this past Fourth of July exceeding all records for consumption (including Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo) with 109.3 million pounds."
With a smaller crop than last year, California had shipped about 230 million pounds of fruit as of July 21, with the season "about 65 percent complete" in terms of shipping volume, according to CAC President Tom Bellamore.
"We saw quite a bit of volume come off in the early part of the season" and continuing "strong through the summer, so we are expecting things to begin winding down by the end of August," Bellamore told The Produce News. "There will still be fruit into September, but probably just for select customers. I think the packers will work with several accounts to try to keep them in California fruit as long as they can, but I think it will become much more selective after the end of August."
Unlike some seasons when "we have been faced with higher inventories of the smaller-sized fruit," Bellamore said, the size profile of fruit in the market has been higher this year, and "the small fruit is performing very well price-wise.
Although fruit from other producing areas has been in the market throughout the California season, California fruit has held a premium, Bellamore said. "That is the case right now, and it has been the case for a good part of the season." It appears that the market "is rewarding California production for its freshness and proximity to market," he added.
With a similar acreage planted to last year and normal yields expected, the 2014 California garlic crop should be up a little from last year, when yields were off somewhat, according to Bill Christopher, president of Christopher Ranch LLC in Gilroy, CA.
At the same time, the amount of Chinese garlic in the market this year should be down, as China has a lighter crop, according to Jim Provost, managing partner of I Love Produce LLC in Kelton, PA, who had just returned from visit to China when The Produce News talked to him July 24.
The net effect is expected to be a little lighter supplies in the U.S. market than in 2013, when China had a larger crop.
The two producing areas have corresponding seasons, and the harvest in both areas was well under way as of late July.
"Size is good on the California garlic this year," said Christopher. "We are hoping for a good year. There should be a little bit more demand. I think there is going to be a little bit less Chinese garlic this year, and the price is going to be a little bit higher."
Some importers who "had not been bringing garlic in legally got caught," and as a consequence "I don't think there will be as much Chinese" this year, he said. "So there may be a little bit more push toward California garlic."
In spite of the sizeable Chinese crop in 2013, garlic prices overall held fairly well according to Christopher. However, the Chinese garlic "comes in waves, then goes away, and then comes in waves." That obviously affected the market. "I think a lot of the retailers, especially, want a steady supply, and they want a steady price," he said. "I think more and more customers in the United States are starting to go with that" wanting to have "a secure supply month in and month out. We are seeing that trend, and they are willing to pay a little bit fore for that, so that has worked out well."
According to Provost, new crop Chinese garlic was just beginning to arrive in the United States in late July. Quality was excellent but sizing was down a little, contributing to the lighter crop.
Provost confirmed that there is an ebb and flow" to the Chinese imports, with temporary oversupplies being followed by a correction.
So far this year, "it has been a strong market," said Louis Hymel, director of purchasing for Spice World Inc. in Orlando, FL. "There hasn't been as much Chinese garlic around, and the California demand seems to be as strong as ever, so the market has been strong."
Many factors justify strong prices for California garlic, Hymel said. Growers have "so many increases in costs that never seem to stop increasing," including those associated with California agriculture's water shortage. "This year has been a challenge," and next year will be even more challenging, he said.
David Grimes, proprietor of David E. Grimes Co. in Hollister, CA, which brokers garlic and also grows garlic marketed through several different California garlic companies, said this year's California Early garlic is "one of the nicest crops I have seen in a long time." It has nice size and nice color, and "yields are going to be pretty decent from what I have seen in the fields around here." The harvest was just beginning on the California Late variety. "I think the Late garlic is going to be a very nice crop as well," he said. Some growers will have good size; some will be a bit smaller. But "overall, I think it is going to be a good crop of garlic with good packouts."
The garlic out of Central Mexico this year did not size well, "and a lot of the crop was way down" on both red and white varieties, Grimes said. Currently, sizing "still seems to be an issue coming up into the Mexicali region as well."
As for Chinese garlic, "that is the big question right now," he said.
"We are hearing" that the Chinese crop may be down a little bit, said Michael Layous, who is in sales and marketing with The Garlic Co. in Bakersfield, CA, noting that the Chinese imports have a major effect on the market. "If they send a lot of garlic, the market is flooded." If they send less, "it has a significant effect on market pricing," he said. But "none of us really know how much they have or how much they are going to send over here." If Chinese imports are short for whatever reason, "there could be quite a void" in the U.S. garlic market" and I will be important for California growers to manage their inventory in order to keep supplying customers "until next June or July."
Indianapolis Fruit Co. hosted its 27th annual golf outing and trade show July 21-22, drawing more than 100 vendor suppliers and 300 retail customers, making it the best attended event in the company's history. More than 450 total guests enjoyed the two-day expo, held at the Crane Bay Event Center in downtown Indianapolis.
The Produce Mom, the official blog and consumer brand of Indianapolis Fruit Co., hosted a welcome party to kick off the event festivities.
Members of The Produce Mom Family of Partners were entertained at the Indianapolis Colts Grille and enjoyed the opportunity to network, re-cap the 2014 achievements of The Produce Mom, and discuss brand goals and collaboration opportunities for the future.
"Viva Tierra Organic has been a long-standing partner of Indianapolis Fruit Company," said Deidre Smyrnos of Viva Tierra Organic. "Through The Produce Mom, we are innovating and growing together."
At the trade show, Indianapolis Fruit Co.'s vendor partners displayed and sampled their products during the showcase, and relished the opportunity to interact with retailers.
"The opportunity to connect and demonstrate our product with our Indy Fruit partners and retailers makes this a worthwhile investment of our time and resources," said Diana McClean of Tanimura & Antle.
A special appearance by NASCAR legend Donnie Allison and his grandson Justin Allison, a rising star in the ARCA series, provided some Hoosier hospitality and Indianapolis culture for the guests.
Chris Bonaminio, general manager of Jungle Jim's, praised the event, saying, "The show was a testament to the way Indianapolis Fruit Company conducts business: Friendly, honest and top-of-the-line."
Diane Kurrle, U.S. Apple Association’s vice president of public affairs, has been named senior vice president.
Kurrle is being recognized for more than 10 years of tireless work on critical industry issues.
“We are creating an expanded portfolio of responsibilities to leverage Diane’s unique talents, relationships and experiences both inside and outside of government," Jim Bair, president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. "That portfolio will be relabeled Government Affairs. This will add clarity to the public’s understanding of her role here.”
USApple noted that during her decade with the association, Kurrle has been a vital asset and team member, excelling not only in terms of what the outside world sees, but also internally where she has stepped up to assist in the association’s management. Most recently, Kurrle juggled her own responsibilities while also acting as interim president and CEO.
Bair said he hopes the new moniker will better reflect Kurrle’s value to USApple and to more accurately signal to both external and internal audiences the breadth of responsibilities she executes.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods won the chef demo competition at the PMA Foodservice Conference with a recipe that featured the company’s value-added fresh celery and radish ministick products.
On Saturday, July 26, Chef Todd Fisher created and served a recipe for Lemongrass Steamed Chicken Bahn Mi Bun with "Dandy" Radish and Celery “Quickles” that won the chef demo competition. Seven chefs, each sponsored by various produce companies,participated in the competition, which featured an interactive deconstructed buffet.
“Celery is a staple in professional kitchens around the world, adding a crunch when raw and a distinct yet mellow flavor when cooked,” Fisher said in a press release. “In this recipe, the celery and radish made this bahn mi bun (a sandwich and a popular snack food in traditional Vietnamese cuisine) delicious and vibrant and aides in the addition of fresh produce to your plate.”
Fisher, a Monterey peninsula resident, has more than 20 years experience as a culinary veteran, restaurateur and food consultant. He has worked with Duda for more than 10 years and specializes in culinary education and entertainment.
“Chef Todd brought the fun and flavor to PMA Foodservice this year,” Nichole Towell, director of marketing Duda Farm Fresh Foods, said in the press release. “Our winning recipe was a true expression of the conference theme this year: Innovate the plate.”
The recipe will be featured on the company’s website, www.dudafresh.com.
With nearly 90 years of growing experience, Duda Farm Fresh Foods is one of the larger growers and processors of celery in the United States and around the world. Duda’s fresh-cut celery products are marketed under the "Dandy" brand and sold and served in retail and foodservice establishments throughout North America year-round.