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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has imposed sanctions on four produce businesses — Steele Canyon Produce, Camila Fresh, Safe Produce and Mary’s Produce — for failure to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.

The following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:

  • Manuel Gomez, doing business as Steele Canyon Produce, operating out of Chula Vista, CA, for failing to pay a $49,809 award in favor of a California seller.  As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Gomez was listed as the sole proprietor of the business.
  • Victor Guerrero, doing business as Camila Fresh, operating out of McAllen, TX, for failing to pay a $23,006 award in favor of a Texas seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Guerrero was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business.
  • Safe Produce Inc., operating out of Nogales, AZ, for failing to pay a $7,760 award in favor of a California seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Rebecca J. Favela and Scott A. Favela were listed as the officers, directors and/or major stockholders of the business.
  • Maria Soto, doing business as Mary’s Produce, operating out of McAllen, for failing to pay a $1,290 award in favor of an Illinois seller.  As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Soto was listed as the sole proprietor of the business.

In the past three years, USDA resolved approximately 3,500 PACA claims involving more than $58 million.  Its experts also assisted more than 8,000 callers with issues valued at approximately $140 million.

Autumn Glory apple harvest is starting just in time to make its annual debut at PMA Fresh Summit 2017 and the apple will be the center of attention for Superfresh Growers. The unique caramel and cinnamon notes of the Autumn Glory continue to make this proprietary apple a rising star for Superfresh Growers.domex

Domex Superfresh Growers will be joined at PMA Fresh Summit by Instagram chef, influencer and recipe developer Christi Lazar of BazaarLazarr to show off two Autumn Glory forward dishes: Autumn Glory Apple Pad Thai Salad and Autumn Glory Apple Ham and Cheese Stack. The Autumn Glory Apple Pad Thai Salad is one of 10 finalists in the PMA Sensory Experience Contest. The salad is a plant-based meal.

“Autumn Glory apples are spiralized and represent the noodle base with a sweet and savory Pad Thai blend of vegetables and dressing. We wanted to create something 100 percent produce based,” said Catherine Gipe- Stewart, communications manager. “The Sensory Experience is about the versatility of produce and creating something the whole family will enjoy. The Autumn Glory Pad Thai Salad excels on all the base criteria for the event. We are excited to share this recipe with everyone.”

PMA Fresh Summit attendees can get a first taste of this plant-based delicious dish at the Fresh Ideas in Action Reception on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 4 p.m. The dish will also be sampled at the Superfresh Gowers booth No. 753 on Friday, Oct. 20.

Lazar will be at the booth, discussing her passion for cooking and baking with Autumn Glory apples. Superfresh Growers chose two of her most popular Instagram featured recipes. The second recipe, Autumn Glory Ham and Cheese Stack, will be sampled on Saturday at the Superfresh Growers booth. “The recipe is one of my most simple recipes, yet I still continue to receive engagement on Instagram months after its original post,” said Lazar.

“We are excited to highlight the versatility of Autumn Glory with Instagram Chef Christi Lazar in the booth,” said Gipe-Stewart. “Christi has been a fan of Autumn Glory apples from the beginning, and has been a huge resource to us in the recipe development and understanding of the complexities and versatility in the apple.”

Autumn Glory harvest will begin mid-October, and will be available November through April. “Last year marked a transition year for Autumn Glory,” said Mike Preacher, director of marketing. “We watched Autumn Glory demand grow dramatically, selling out two months earlier than planned. We are doubling our crop and expect to reach more consumers for a longer period of time.”

The 2016-17 successful Autumn Gory marketing campaign reached 45 million consumers through earned media, blog posts, and social media. “It is not just any apple. It is Autumn Glory apple, a.k.a. the most delicious and juiciest apple I have ever had,” said blogger Aysegul Sanford of Foolproof Living. “They literally taste like candy with caramel and cinnamon undertones with every bite.”

“We have found that consumers truly pick up on the caramel and cinnamon notes within Autumn Glory. We live in an era where everyone wants the next thing to share, whether it is to bring it to the next party, or share on Instagram. Consumers are looking for a new food experience that delivers on flavor and appearance to share, and Autumn Glory does just that,” said Gipe-Stewart.

“We are ramping up our marketing promotions for Autumn Glory this season,” said Preacher. “Social media has been an important part of Autumn Glory marketing, keep a finger on the consumer pulse. We are also continuing to expand our blogger and influencer interaction. Bloggers create a sense of trust and excitement that is invaluable to driving sales to retail customers.”

Washington state is experiencing smaller than normal apples with apples peaking one to two sizes smaller for the conventional crop, and two to four sizes smaller for organic crop varieties. “We will see similar sizing for Autumn Glory. This will be a great year for bag promotions due to size. Autumn Glory pouch bags are a key part of our marketing program, and we have seen exponential growth in pouch bag sales, especially in the past few years,” said Preacher.

In addition to the Autumn Glory pouch bag line (available in organic and conventional), Superfresh Growers is featuring their newly redesigned Superfresh Organic Pouch Bag apple and pear line. Two-pound pouch bags were up 52 percent and three-pound up 15 percent in last four weeks (IRI data ending Aug. 6). Pouch bags continue to drive apple and pear sales due to their self- merchantability.

“Superfresh Organic Pouch Bags have been a big hit at trade shows this year. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Organic Pouch Bags ensure the correct ring each time, and are filling a retailer need to ensure organic growth is registered at purchasing level,” said Preacher.

“This is going to be a great year for Autumn Glory apples,” said Preacher. “We couldn’t be more exited on how well the fruit is eating this season. We look forward to an extended season and to continue supporting retailers as Autumn Glory continues growing in distribution.”

With SweeTango apples being among the first varieties to be harvested each fall, produce departments are now fully stocked with this premium apple variety renowned for its sweet-tangy flavor and remarkable crunch, much to the delight of fans that await its return.

A strategic mix of marketing and PR programs are being employed to spur sales among loyal fans while also increasing awareness of SweeTango among consumers who have yet to taste the variety. Consumer outreach efforts focus on digital activities that include a redesign of www.sweetango.com, new recipe videos, a social media contest, and recipe blogs by influential food bloggers.SweeTango-Website-on-Tablet

The overarching objective is to cultivate and strengthen connections between consumers, retailers and growers. The new website at www.sweetango.com achieves this by featuring an interactive map that helps consumers find SweeTango retailers near them, along with grower profiles that detail how and where this premium apple is grown.

“When it comes to SweeTango, tasting is believing," said David Williams, vice president of sales and marketing at Fowler Farms. "The flavor is outstanding. It’s still a new variety to many consumers, so raising awareness of this premium apple through impactful marketing is vital. Stronger retail sales result from these efforts, which inspire more planned purchases as consumers make a point to add their new favorite apple to their shopping lists.”

#ShareTheCrunch Social Media Contest: Win $1000 for you and $1000 for your local food bank!
Running through Nov. 1, this social media contest invites consumers to show on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram how they #ShareTheCrunch of SweeTango with others. By giving SweeTango to friends, family, and community members, consumers help to raise awareness of the variety while also celebrating generosity and community giving. Each entry is open to public voting, and the grand prize is $1,000 for the entry with the most votes, plus $1,000 for the winner’s local food bank. There are also randomly drawn weekly giveaways for SweeTango gift boxes.  The contest is open to residents in the U.S. and Canada and is found at www.sweetango.com.

Recipe Video Series
Fresh new recipe videos are being released throughout the season, each about one minute in length. The videos show step-by-step directions for preparing on-trend family-friendly recipes that highlight the flavor, crunch and nutrition profile of SweeTango. These include apple dips, a smoothie bowl, and a recipe that calls for the use of an Instant Pot, a pressure-cooker/slow cooker hybrid that has quickly become the new must-have kitchen tool for home cooks, therefore recipes are very popular. Videos are being distributed across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest.

SweeTango Society Food Blogger Program
More than a dozen influential food bloggers in the U.S. and Canada are featuring new custom-created SweeTango apple recipes on their blogs and social media channels throughout SweeTango season. With a different blogger posting an innovative recipe each week, SweeTango consumers will have a new reason to add SweeTango to their shopping list. Over the course of the season, the total reach of blogger audiences will exceed 3 million.

North Shore Living, formerly known as North Shore Living Herbs, has undergone a comprehensive rebranding effort. As the leading hydroponic greenhouse grower and the company known for the original living herbs, the rebranding consists of six key upgrades: redefined company mission, consolidation to a single brand, new company logo, packaging redesign, trade show booth and website.northshor

“All of the products we grow and package are living with the roots attached for freshness. It’s the reason we are able to deliver the longest lasting fresh herbs and microgreens to retail. This rebrand elevates our focus on living, which includes products that create opportunities to enjoy life’s special moments in the kitchen and around the dinner table. Making those moments the center of who we are is important,” said Chris Wada, marketing manager. “While we absolutely love the simple and clean direction of our new design elements, living our mission to make every home cooked meal a special occasion is what we care about the most. Our goal is to bring the joy back to cooking, the conversations back to meals.

“The timing of PMA accelerated the debut of our rebrand to the trade by a couple of months," Wada said. "This now gives us more time to talk with retailers about their individual needs and create a custom merchandising, promotion and social content plan for our consumer launch starting in January. That said, it is business as usual going into the busy holiday season with our existing product packaging and displays. We plan to begin transitioning customers to the new brand during the first quarter of the year, with a sunset date of April 1st for old packaging.”

Simple, honest, clean and authentic is what the new packaging aspires to communicate. The new logo and packaging designs were developed in-house using a creative approach that included everything from branding consultants to consumer surveys to studying the psychology of using white space in design. This new packaging stands out on the shelf, puts the spotlight on the beautiful product, and communicates living — both in the logo and by showing the plants roots on the front of the clamshell products. North Shore Living will replace its existing brands North Shore Living Herbs and North Shore Organic Living.

In addition to the rebrand, North Shore Living has recently completed a 6 million dollar greenhouse expansion to its Thermal, CA, location to meet the growing demand for both its conventional and organic living herbs, expanding its available production of over 20 different varieties in packaged clamshells or potted sleeves.

With a focus on the future, the company, which was founded in 1987, has come a long way. This Saturday at PMA, marks its 30th anniversary to the day. There won’t be balloons or cake, but there will be fresh mint chocolate chip ice cream cones made from the freshest living herbs on planet earth. Taste the living difference at booth No. 3300. 

Supervalu and Associated Grocers of Florida Inc. have entered into a definitive merger agreement for Supervalu to acquire Associated Grocers in a transaction valued at approximately $180 million.supervalu

This transaction provides Supervalu with the ability to expand its operations into a new part of Florida as well as provides new opportunities to bring Supervalu's products and services to Associated Grocers' diverse customer base in south Florida, the Caribbean, and other international markets. Additionally, as part of the pending transaction, Supervalu has reached a long-term supply agreement with Associated Grocers' largest customer that will go into effect upon the closing of the transaction.

Founded in 1945, Associated Grocers is a retailer-owned cooperative that distributes full lines of grocery and general merchandise to independent retailers, primarily in south Florida, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Asia. Associated Grocers' customer base of conventional, specialty and ethnic stores includes an exciting mix of multi-cultural independent grocers that complements Supervalu's customer base.

Supervalu expects the combined company will be well positioned to efficiently serve its broad range of customers and offer an array of value-added services, helping Associated Grocers and Supervalu customers compete and thrive in an increasingly demanding grocery environment. During Associated Grocers' last fiscal year, which ended July 29, 2017, Associated Grocers' revenues were approximately $650 million, estimated by Supervalu under its accounting policies.

"Associated Grocers represents a great opportunity for us to further expand our wholesale business into another important region," said Mark Gross, Supervalu's president and chief executive officer. "We believe Supervalu is uniquely positioned to be the supplier of choice across the grocery industry and this acquisition is another example of how we're delivering on our growth strategy."

Gross continued, "Christopher Miller and his talented team have done outstanding work to build and support a dynamic and diverse retailer base. We're looking forward to welcoming the strengths and talents of the Associated Grocers team to Supervalu and working together so that, once the transaction is complete, we can bring the benefits of our combined scale and expertise to their customers to help them better compete in the evolving grocery industry."

"I'm very excited about this announcement," said Associated Grocers' President Christopher Miller. "Being a part of Supervalu will provide us with access to resources, products, services and overall capabilities that are essential to helping us continue to provide top-notch support to our customers. Supervalu and Associated Grocers share a common dedication and commitment to the independent retailer and together we'll be in a great position to provide opportunities, innovation and increased value to our customers, both domestically and in foreign markets."

The transaction, which was approved by each company's board of directors, is currently expected to close by the end of calendar year 2017, subject to approval by Associated Grocers' shareholders and other customary closing conditions. Following completion of the merger, Associated Grocers will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Supervalu.