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Chris Veillon to head marketing at Nature Fresh Farms

Nature Fresh Farms, a greenhouse vegetable grower located in Leamington, ON, announced that Chris Veillon will lead the company's brand marketing efforts. With more than 17 years of senior marketing communications experience across a variety of industries, Veillon is a seasoned marketer with a proven track record of success.CHRIS VEILLON-Photo

"We are excited to add an experienced marketing professional like Chris to our expanding team at Nature Fresh Farms," Peter Quiring, president of Nature Fresh Farms, said in a press release. "We have seen our business evolve considerably over the last few years, and in doing so we are putting more effort in to connecting with consumers via strategic marketing efforts."

Long known as one of the leading greenhouse Bell pepper growers in North America, Nature Fresh also grows and markets an array of tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers and seasonal lettuce.

"I am very excited to be joining the Nature Fresh team and look forward to helping grow the company," Veillon added in the press release.

Veillon will be based at the company's headquarters office in Leamington.

Ready Pac names Phil Yamamoto VP of procurement

Ready Pac Foods Inc. has hired Phil Yamamoto as its vice president of procurement. In his role, Yamamoto will be responsible for establishing a consistent, dependable and cost-effective supply of materials and agricultural goods to ensure the most efficient delivery of high-quality products to the consumer. He will assist in the assessment and rebuilding of the current supply chain footprint and ensure the company has the right team in place to execute Ready Pac’s strategic plans for growth.Phil-YamamotoPhil Yamamoto

“Phil has built his reputation on a unique ability to maximize profitability by streamlining operations and improving productivity,”  Peter Laport, chief supply chain officer at Ready Pac, said in a press release. “Phil’s leadership style will bring a fresh and collaborative perspective to Ready Pac and I’m eager to see him flourish within our team.”

Yamamoto comes to Ready Pac from Reiter Affiliated Cos., where he served as global director of supply chain management. There, he was responsible for overseeing a fast-paced multi-national supply chain department for the largest producer of fresh berries in the world. He supervised sourcing, procurement, market analysis, national and international contracting, and cost savings for three regions, 10 districts and over 40 production operations.

Prior to Reiter, Yamamoto developed his skills with over 20 years of experience working in senior and executive management positions, including roles at Pitco Foods, Core-Mark International and Rocky Mountain Foods. He developed strategies in team building, strategic sourcing, and supply chain management in food distribution and agricultural production. He earned his bachelor's degree in marketing and management from Adams State College in Alamosa, CO, and his MBA from Regis University in Denver.

Ready Pac successfully selected Yamamoto in partnership with executive search firm O’Neill Consulting Group’s consumer practice team.

New SunSelect greenhouse grows California peppers year-round

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SunSelect, a leading Canadian greenhouse grower, will ship its first-ever California-grown tomatoes this week. This historic shipment marks the beginning of a new era for the British Columbia-based grower, as the doors to its brand new 32-acre greenhouse officially open to fresh opportunities.

Along with cocktail and traditional tomatoes-on-the-vine, SunSelect’s high tech, state-of-the-art facility, located in Tehachapi, CA, will produce sweet Bell peppers year-round. Notably, this makes SunSelect one of the only large-scale greenhouse growers in the Golden State to produce peppers in the winter, enabling attractive programs for retailers seeking California sweet Bells during the colder months of the year and beyond.

SunSelect’s expansion into California has also deepened its long-term partnership with The Oppenheimer Group, an investor in the new facility. And even as SunSelect prepares to ship its first product from the new greenhouse, construction of a second facility is already under way in Tehachapi.

“We have started building an additional 32 acres, which will double our current size and significantly increase our year-round pepper volume,” Len Krahn, SunSelect co-owner, said in a press release. Peppers grown in this second phase will be available in late 2015.

“We chose Tehachapi for a few reasons, including the high light levels to promote uniform plant growth, the plentiful water and low humidity,” said Len’s brother and SunSelect co-owner Victor Krahn. “And because the temperature in this valley is lower than surrounding areas, it is naturally free of many pests.”

Inside the fully sealed greenhouse, SunSelect has employed the latest technology to assure an optimal growing environment where sustainable practices are undertaken. From water recycling to re-introduction of waste CO2 as fertilizer to natural air heating, cooling and re-circulation systems, SunSelect extends the commitment to sustainable growing it pioneered in British Columbia to its new California greenhouse.

“We are serious about growing the best tomatoes and peppers in the most sustainable manner we can,” Victor Krahn said.

SunSelect tomatoes-on-the vine will be available at the end of October, and peppers will follow about a week later. While product will ship throughout the U.S., part of the sustainability strategy includes a focus on the local California market.

“We are launching a new series of packaging that emphasizes the California origin of our new items,” he said, noting that the iconic California bear is featured on the packs. “We anticipate that a considerable amount of our early product will be sold here, and we are eager to build a local following.”

Aaron Quon, greenhouse and vegetable category director for The Oppenheimer Group ― SunSelect’s marketing partner ― points to the significant impact the new facility could have: “This is an important step in the evolution of the North American greenhouse category,” he said. “With SunSelect, we will be the first to offer U.S.-grown greenhouse sweet Bell peppers year round. And with the addition of TOVs and cocktail tomatoes―combined with SunSelect’s BC production of peppers and cucumbers―we can deliver a full basket of high-demand items to our customers from SunSelect any day of the year.”

Produce for Kids reaches $5 million to support children's charities

After the close of the 2014 Produce for Kids campaigns, the organization reached a milestone donation of more than $5 million raised to support local children’s charities. Through in-store campaigns, the digital Power Your Lunchbox Pledge, and with the help of retail and produce partners, Produce for Kids is making a substantial impact in local communities.

During Produce for Kids’ 12th year, campaigns were supported by 17 grocery store chains and more than 40 fresh produce companies, raising $453,000 to support children’s charities in retail partners’ local markets.

“It gives me great pleasure to announce that Produce for Kids has surpassed the $5 million mark in total donations raised,” John Shuman president of Produce for Kids, said in a press release. “When we started Produce for Kids 12 years ago, we never imagined that it would turn into such a year-round healthy eating resource for families or make the impact it has had in local communities throughout the country.”

New in 2014, Produce for Kids launched the first Power Your Lunchbox Pledge, a digital campaign encouraging families to pack healthier lunchboxes. Through a dedicated microsite, media and blogger outreach, and social media efforts, more than $5,000 was raised to support health and wellness classroom projects through DonorsChoose.org. The campaign resulted in nearly 15 million media impressions and more than 20 million social media impressions. The second annual Power Your Lunchbox Pledge will run from August 3 to September 18, 2015.

Moving into its 13th year, Produce for Kids’ flagship in-store campaign welcomes on several new retail partners. Partnership opportunities are open for produce companies at the following retailers: ACME Markets, Ahold’s GIANT and Martin’s Food Stores, Giant Landover, and Stop & Shop divisions; Associated Wholesale Grocers’ Major Savings, Advantage, Independent, Country Mart, Homeland and United divisions; Meijer Stores; Price Chopper; Publix Super Markets; and Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc.’s Pick n' Save, Copps Food Center and Metro Market divisions.

In addition, Produce for Kids will be launching a new longer-term kids club loyalty program at Associated Wholesalers Inc. and Niemann Foods. The full marketing program will include in-store signage, shopper coupon booklets and promo item shipments.

If you’re interested in finding out more about a campaign or how Produce for Kids can support you with your healthy eating initiatives, please contact Mallory Hartz at mallory@produceforkids.com.

Record numbers attend PMA’s Anaheim convention

On the day that the Produce Marketing Association’s 2014 Fresh Summit opened, Bryan Silbermann, PMA chief executive officer, promised it would be the most well-attended event in the history of the organization.

His educated guess proved accurate, as the association announced that a new record of more than 22,400 people attended the three-day event, Oct. 17-19 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California. A day of seminars and workshops was followed by the weekend trade show that featured 1,090 exhibiting companies occupying 265,300 net square feet of show space.   The previous attendance record for PMA’s annual event was about 21,200.DSC 0713PMA President Cathy Burns and Bryan Silbermann, PMA chief executive officer, entered the stage playing tambourines to 'Happy' by Pharrell.

The show itself featured a who’s who in the fresh produce industry as well as an array of innovative and cutting-edge products, ideas and marketing concepts. Of course, bountiful fresh produce from around the world filled the aisles but so did products made from chia, quinoa and flax seed. Traditional marketing images of fresh produce were plentiful but so were cartoon characters from Sesame Street, Disney and other popular culture.

Highlighting the general sessions were a couple of trendy marketers admonishing the produce firms to join the 21st century and leave traditional promotional schemes behind. In addition Silbermann and PMA President Cathy Burns set out their blueprint to how a company can survive in these changing times.

The two PMA executives highlighted several trends that companies should focus on as they set their course for the future. Burns told the audience that multiculturalism is no longer a niche but is mainstream. She said ethnic diversity in the United States and globally has created a great opportunity for the produce industry, which can capitalize on the many different items that make up this sector’s product framework.  

Silbermann indicated transparency from the field to the fork is no longer a choice but basically the cost of entry. He said firm’s must be “proactively trustworthy” if they want to catch the attention of the consumer. On this theme, Burns said “word of mouth” is still the most trustworthy means to spread information about your products and company.

The PMA CEO talked about the convenience factor and how that is shaping eating occasions for consumers in the United States.  Fresh Summit highlighted the concept with an opening party that featured a dozen food trucks serving the thousands of people who attended.  

DSC 0708Dick Spezzano, president of Spezzano Consulting, receiving the 2014 Robert L. Carey Leadership Award from Jay Pack, last year’s winner.Silbermann also said women in the workplace, one-person households and on-line purchases are trends that significantly shape produce purchases.

Burns talked about the obesity epidemic and the opportunities that the produce industry’s great nutritional story presents for marketers. She said without a change in eating habits, today’s children will be the first generation to have shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Both executive talked about PMA’s “Eat Brighter” campaign, which allows produce industry firm’s free access to Sesame Street characters on their brands and marketing tools.

The two other general sessions featured modern marketers Jeremy Gutsche of trendhunters.com and Gary Vaynerchuk of Vaynermedia. Both admonished the crowd to forego what has gotten them to where they are and seek out what’s going to happen next. Gutsche said the “three traps of a farmer” are complacency, repetitiveness and protectiveness. He said to succeed a company has to be willing to destroy what got them there and look to the future for the next best thing. He said curiosity and trying something different is much better than repeating the past…even if it was successful.

Vaynerchuk style and approach was different but his message was the same. He said the biggest problem with most companies — in fact, pretty much all of them — is “they don’t market in the year we live in.”

He has made a living being ahead of the curve. His main message was that every firm needs to be a media company and connect with the end consumer. Don’t look for the retailer or others along the supply chain to do that for you or you will be left behind.  He said social media is the medium that should be used because that is what consumers are using. Your message can be great he said but if the consumer isn’t listening to it, it is worthless. He told the crowd that he did significant research about how the produce industry is marketing to the consumer and found it to be lacking. In fact, he said 90 percent of those dollars are wasted. He advised reallocating funds to conduct meaningful social media connections to the end user.  

During the Friday workshop sessions, perhaps the most well attended meeting was a discussion of the newly-released Food & Drug Administration supplemental proposals for the Food Safety Modernization Act. FDA Deputy Commissioner of U.S. Foods Mike Taylor and his staff analyzed the new proposals which basically add flexibility and reduce some of the testing and requirements in the initial proposals. The new rules also exclude more farms from compliance. These proposals are open for comment with final implementation of the FSMA Produce Rule scheduled for late in 2015.

The convention also featured the awarding of the 2014 Robert L. Carey Leadership Award to Dick Spezzano, president of Spezzano Consulting. “This is a man who epitomizes what it means to give back to the industry in which he’s worked for over 50 years,” said last year’s winner Jay Pack, while presenting the award to Spezzano. “He believes in reaching out to youth — to build healthy eating habits early and to attract the best and the brightest young talent.”

Spezzano is also the chairman of the PMA Foundation, which puts him back on the PMA board 20 years after he served as chairman. No industry member has ever achieved that level and length of service in the history of the organization.