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PESQUERIA, SONORA, MEXICO — About half the table grape volume of Mexico is produced by medium-sized growers.

These growers are increasingly gaining access to the proprietary grape varieties that are already being utilized by the country’s larger-volume growers. For many reasons the new selections boost all growers, said Ivan Platt, who is a second-generation viticulturalist and fourth-generation cattleman. Hector-Ivan-Platt-Early-Sweets-La-FloridaFather and son Hector and Ivan Platt in their new Early Sweet grape plantation at Viñedo La Florida S. de R.L. de C.V. in Pesqueria, Sonora.

La Florida was the toured-vineyard for the Mexican grape industry tour on April 19. The company is expanding its vineyard but currently works on 250 acres. The firm’s proper name is Viñedo La Florida S. de R.L. de C.V.

La Florida featured a large crop of healthy-looked Perlettes, which are expected to be harvested about May 5. Adjacent to the Perlette block was a young planting of proprietary Early Sweet green seedless grapes. For La Florida, these grapevines will offer small volumes of mature fruit for the first time in 2019. A second Early Sweet vineyard will come into production in 2020.

“We have a good mix of conventional and new varieties," he said. "The market has asked for new varieties.”

Platt is a partner in La Florida with his father, Hector Platt, and uncle, Arial Platt.

Hector Platt said, “The new generation of grapes — the new varieties — are more productive,” which will keep La Florida competitive.

He noted that he has seen better production, more consistency and higher prices in the new varieties. The new varieties also require less labor. “But,” he continued, “we are choosing very carefully.”

The firm is not changing for the sake of change either. Hector Platt said, for example, that La Florida is pursuing a red seedless variety that is superior to Flame. But, “Flame is still the strongest variety” and keeping its position at the vineyard.

Flame and Superior harvest is expected to begin about May 10.

Hector Platt indicated that his Perlette blocks this year were carrying between 20 and 25 bunches per plant, “which is on the lower side. But it’s not low” compared to average years.

La Florida has been exporting through Oppenheimer for 15 years. “They do very good work,” Ivan Platt said. “That is a good, serious company.”

With research showing that very few children and young people eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables, Delhaize has launched a creative new marketing campaign to encourage them to eat healthier.dela

Called Magical Vegetables, the campaign changes the names and packaging for 12 types of vegetables with a goal to get kids to try them. Carrots, for example, are orange rockets, peppers become treasure boxes and tomatoes are clown noses throughout the campaign.

"Vegetables of course contribute to a balanced diet and are the tastemakers of numerous dishes," said Tim Lammens, vice president of talent, organization, internal communication and sustainability. "By presenting vegetables in a fun and creative way, Delhaize wants to encourage children to discover less-popular tastes easier and faster.

Delhaize consulted with several schools to make the name selections. Children let their imaginations run free, drawing inspiration from magical stories, fairy tales and stories of trolls and druids.

The program is being launched in Belgium, where only 5 percent of the population eats the daily recommended amount of fruit and vegetables per day — with children and young people scoring the lowest.

"This is an alarming conclusion. Parents sometimes have to pull out all the stops to let their children eat enough vegetables," said Lammens. "With a little magic and imagination, Delhaize wants to help parents make their kids happy for vegetables."

The Chilean citrus season has begun, with the first clementine shipment departing from Valparaiso to the West Coast in week 14, one week earlier than in 2017. Nearly 48 tons (2,880 boxes) of clementines (Oronules variety) were on the vessel. It is expected that volumes will increase quickly as numerous orchards start harvesting over the next few weeks.cffa

Easy peelers have rapidly evolved into the growth driver for the citrus category, and Chile has been supplying increased volumes year on year to meet the rising demand of the North American market. Chile is the main Southern Hemisphere provider of easy peelers, with steady supply of clementines through July, and mandarins from August through October.

In 2017, the combined supply of clementines and mandarins from Chile grew by 22 percent, reaching 113,545 tons. Further market growth is anticipated this season, with initial projections for clementines alone indicating a 24 percent increase to around 51,000 tons. Mandarin projections will be released by May. Chile exports more than 95 percent of its clementines and mandarins to North America.

Similar to 2017, the Chilean Citrus Committee is forecasting a strong season for Chilean citrus. “We’re expecting consistently high-quality fruit this year," said Juan Enrique Ortúzar, president of the committee. "We had very favorable temperatures this autumn, with warm days and cooler nights, and last year’s strong rainfall has also provided plenty of water for irrigation.”

In light of increasing market opportunities, the Chilean Citrus Committee has further expanded its marketing program in North America, and will be implementing its largest campaign to date in 2018. The integrated campaign will include in-store and online marketing programs with retail chains across the U.S. and Canada, participation in numerous trade shows, foodservice education and more. Marketing will be ongoing through October.

“Retailers can rely on Chile for all their citrus needs, whether clementines, mandarins, lemons or navels," said Karen Brux, managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association. "We look forward to partnering with the trade and offering consumers great tasting Chilean citrus throughout the summer and fall.”

Taylor Farms, a leading producer of value-added healthy fresh foods, announced today three new chopped salad kits are hitting retail shelves coast-to-coast; Avocado Ranch, Maple Bourbon Bacon and Buffalo Ranch. These new salad kits cater directly to consumers’ taste preferences and are unique additions to the company’s already extensive portfolio.taylor

"We approached the creation of these salads by looking at what is trending in restaurants and QSRs as well as through conducting extensive qualitative recipe research with consumers," said Charis Neves, product manager at Taylor Farms.  "We’re excited to be expanding the fastest growing segment within the salad category — the chopped salad kit segment has grown double-digits more than 18 percent year-over-year in latest 12 weeks, 16 percent in latest 24, according to Nielsen — and by bringing to market flavors that resonate with today’s consumer we make it easy to enjoy a fast and healthy meal in no time.”

The new Chopped Salad Kits:

Avocado Ranch: America’s favorite salad dressing plus avocados. Avocados are continuing to grow in popularity as consumers purchase these superfoods at a rapid pace. Retail sales of avocados are up 17.1 percent year-over-year. Chopped green cabbage, chopped romaine lettuce, carrots, green onions and cilantro with corn, taco seasoned cheese and creamy avocado ranch dressing.

 Maple Bourbon Bacon: Hitting all of your taste buds with sweet maple bourbon, paired with smoky and salty bacon. Chopped romaine lettuce, broccoli, red and savoy cabbage, green onions, carrots and coarse cut smoky bacon, golden honey almonds and maple- bourbon vinaigrette.

Buffalo Ranch: A flavor continuing to grow in popularity across all generations, paired with America’s favorite salad dressing. Chopped romaine lettuce, broccoli, red and savoy cabbage, green onions and carrots, topped with buffalo seasoned crouton crumbles, creamy Monterey-Jack cheese and buffalo ranch dressing.

The new chopped salad kits act as standalone items, and are also easily adaptable in the kitchen for a wide variety of uses. Each new recipe features the Taylor Farms 100% Free From label. All products that feature this label are free from artificial preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, as well as hydrogenated fats and high fructose corn syrup. Visit www.taylorfarms.com/clean for full details.

Taylor Farms Chopped Salad Kits are available nationwide.

Georgia has a strong produce industry, offering a variety of products that are in high demand both nationally and internationally. Among the most popular is the world-famous Vidalia sweet onion.Sun-shining-over-mature-Vidalias

“In 2018, there are just over 30 different registered growers in the Vidalia industry, which is limited to a growing area of 20 southeast Georgia counties,” said Amanda Lott, marketing coordinator for Shuman Produce Inc., based in Reidsville, GA. “But more than 75 percent of the industries acreage is grown and packed in just two of those counties: Tattnall, home of Shuman Produce, and Toombs — with Tattnall County being the largest producer.”

Walt Dasher, co-owner of G&R Farms, based in Glennville, GA, said the state is becoming more and more of a powerhouse in the overall produce industry.

“Georgia is positioned very well to service the South, Northeast and Midwest markets,” he said. “It normally has a mild climate that allows for multiple production areas for various crops. I am seeing and hearing more and more interest from the retail industry about what Georgia has to offer these days.”

He also said the Georgia Department of Agriculture is doing a wonderful job in helping to promote Georgia-grown products. 

Then there’s the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, based in LaGrange, GA, which provides programs and services to its membership designed to increase production efficiencies, provide educational opportunities and promote new markets.

According to the association’s latest figures, production of fruits and vegetables in the state is nearly $1 billion at the farm, with more than 170,000 acres in production. According to the GFVGA in April, Georgia vegetable growers overwhelming voted to extend their current marketing assessment for an additional three years. With an assessment of a penny per marketing unit for any producer with more than 50 acres of a select group of crops (green beans, Bell peppers, specialty pepper, carrots, broccoli, beets, eggplant, cabbage, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, cucumbers, greens, squash and tomato), the agreement passed with a 92.5 percent of votes in favor.

Dasher’s outlook on Vidalias for 2018 is promising, though some bad weather at the beginning of the year has thrown some things off.

“No one was immune to the cold weather in January so how the market reacts for our second half of our crop will be very important as to how we actually balance out at the end of our season,” he said. “We have had to learn how to grow new varieties after they have experienced extreme cold temperatures. We are changing from past practices to try and manage growth through a different process than in years’ past.  Anytime you have to make changes on the fly, it can be stressful.” 

Bob Stafford, interim director of the Vidalia Onion Committee, headquartered in Vidalia, GA, noted the industry is very excited about the quality of onions they are seeing this year.

“With the Vidalia Onion & Vegetable Research Center in partnership with the University of Georgia, we are constantly working to improve our seed varieties,” he said. “Due to these improvements, our onions seem to get better every year. The research center held a field day last week, which showcased some of the work that is going on at the facility to continually improve our product.”

Retailers, he said, can do their part in helping to tell the story of the Vidalia onion’s provenance — hand-cultivated by 80 growers in a limited region of south Georgia.

“By positioning Vidalia as a premium brand through signage and in-store displays, retailers can help create additional awareness of Vidalias as an artisanal product desirable to consumers,” Stafford said. “We’re in the process of overhauling our website, vidaliaonion.org, to make information about the crop and the committee more readily available and easy to digest for all audiences. We’re also undertaking a variety of PR and marketing activations this season to help raise awareness and demand.”

Holly Chute, executive chef for the Georgia Departments of Agriculture & Economic Development, said Vidalia onions are such a great product to cook with because of their sweetness and how they truly enhance the flavor of dishes. 

“Their unique flavor profile sets them apart from any other sweet onions marketed from around the country,” she said. “I love to make creamy Vidalia onion soup which can be served hot or cold. Any type of grilled Vidalia onions are wonderful, from the traditional whole onion, cored with butter or bouillon cube wrapped in foil to a thick slice brushed with oil and grilled, you can’t go wrong. Warm Vidalia onion dips are delicious and adding to any casseroles will enhance the flavor.”