Naturipe Farms celebrated its 100-year anniversary May 5 with the growers and staff of one of the company’s partner-owners, Naturipe Berry Growers.Naturipe-Anniversary-Logo-R10v6-CMYK

The festivities were held at the Naturipe headquarters in Salinas, CA, and included live mariachi music, a Naturipe branded semi-truck, and a presentation of proclamations from Western Growers Association and the office of Sen. Anthony Cannella, of which NBG President Rich Amersehhi accepted on behalf of the company.

“It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to congratulate Naturipe for having reached 100 years, and doing so with pride for what they do, passion and integrity,” said Tom Nunez, board representative of the Western Growers Association, who presented Amersehhi with a proclamation.

“This is one of several celebrations Naturipe Farms will host in honor of the company’s centennial year,” said Kyla Oberman, director of marketing at Naturipe. “We have appreciation events planned during key trade and industry events throughout the year as way to pay tribute to our growers, and thank those who have helped Naturipe reach this milestone.”

In 1917, Central California area growers formed a marketing cooperative, called the Central California Berry Grower Association, and marketed their strawberries using the Naturipe trademark. Today, Naturipe Farms is a partnership between four highly esteemed fresh berry growers — Naturipe Berry Growers, Hortifrut SA, MBG Marketing and Munger Farms.

Naturipe is focused on building collaborative relationships where trust, communication, responsiveness and teamwork with individual growers, customers, consumers, employees and communities are critical to its past, present and future success.

The stage is set to expand the 87-year-old Ocean Spray brand — with many sweet things to come.

In a natural extension of the relationship formed in 2003 to market Ocean Spray fresh cranberries, Oppy and its partner berry growers are now shipping fresh strawberries and blueberries from California under an Ocean Spray brand.

Ultimately, a range of berries, including blackberries and raspberries, will join strawberries and blueberries as part of the Family Farmer Owned brand of fresh produce. The program expands and elevates Oppy’s berry offerings, delivering fruit of high-quality and great flavor in a familiar and trusted label. This expansion also establishes a year-round fresh berry presence for the Ocean Spray brand.ocopDavid Smith, Oppy president and chief marketing officer, with strawberry growers Susan Josue and Ken Hasegawa.

“Ocean Spray was founded by three cranberry growers looking to expand the market for their fruit,” Clark Reinhard, vice president of innovation for Ocean Spray, said in a press release. “The brand is well known across multiple grocery aisles but our presence in produce has been limited to just a few months of the year. The perimeter of the grocery store is growing fast and by collaborating with Oppy our brand will be on fresh, high-quality produce from family farms year-round.”

The Ocean Spray brand bolsters Oppy’s strategic push in the berry category, according to James Milne, vice president of marketing. “We conducted extensive research throughout North America over the past year and discovered a genuine enthusiasm for berries," he said. "There is a clear opportunity for a strong brand like Ocean Spray to enter the market and capture people’s imaginations. This new innovation will disrupt an established category and offer a surprising new berry experience to the trade and consumers alike.”

Following California strawberries and blueberries, the Ocean Spray Family Farmer Owned brand will feature fruit produced by Oppy domestic berry growers in the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and its international network of family farmers.

“Consumers should ultimately understand that when they see the Ocean Spray logo anywhere in the world they are supporting family farms — the same way they do buying at their local farmer’s market,” said Reinhard. “While cranberries remain at the heart of what we do, bringing other berries to market under the same brand will be a huge benefit to growers, retailers and ultimately the consumer.”

“Partnering with Ocean Spray enables us to simultaneously deliver new value to our grower partners and our retail customers,” David Smith, Oppy president and chief marketing officer, said in the release. “Berry growers everywhere understand the stature of the Ocean Spray brand and are engaging with the opportunity. Meanwhile we’re providing our retail partners the exciting option of high-quality strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries packed in a label of high consumer awareness and appeal.”

Smith said the timing is advantageous for all, with berry category sales at retail elevating 15 percent in the last two years, while also realizing average-price-per-pound gains. IRI data shows that berry sales volume has increased throughout the United States, while branded produce is earning greater dollar share throughout the category.

Tops Friendly Markets, a leading full-service grocery retailer in New York, northern Pennsylvania, western Vermont and north-central Massachusetts announced its 2017 Produce Managers of the Year. Nominees from each district were evaluated on several criteria, including sales growth, overall department conditions, and development of associates, customer interaction, merchandising, shrink and profitability.

Each region was asked to submit candidates for consideration before being reviewed by Tops Friendly Markets regional vice presidents John McCaffrey and Mike Patti along with Jeff Cady, director of produce and floral for Tops Friendly Markets.

“The ability to creatively merchandise the product, interact with the customers, and oversee the growth of not only the product, but the people within the department is paramount,” Cady said in a press release. “Produce is a vital part of our day-to-day business, and being able to undertake this and manage it successfully is something we truly appreciate and want to recognize in these individuals.”

This year’s award recipients are as follows:

  • Buffalo South Produce Manager of the Year from Derby, NY: Eddie Mercado
  • Buffalo North Produce Manager of the Year from Medina, NY: Terry Bensley
  • Midstate Produce Manager of the Year from Corning, NY: Chris Buchholtz
  • Buffalo Central Produce Manager of the year from Seneca Mall: Scott Grange
  • Buffalo East & West Region Produce Manager of the Year from North French: Rob Czaja
  • Rochester & East Region Produce Manager of the Year from New Henrietta: John Dedie
  • Syracuse South Produce Manger of the Year from Northside: Bill Steinbrecher
  • Syracuse North Produce Manager of the Year from Camden, NY: Dean Maracchion
  • North Country Produce Manager of the Year from Elizabeth Town, NY: Amanda Hapeman
  • Fingerlakes Produce Manager of the Year from Farmington, NY: Anthony Costigan
  • Western PA Produce Manager of the Year from Warren, PA: Mike Atkins

Fairway Georgetowne LLC, operating out of Brooklyn, NY, has posted a $25,000 surety bond with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to obtain a license to operate in the produce industry.

Under the regulations of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, the company was required to post a bond following its prior involvement in bankruptcy.

USDA will hold the bond for three years, providing assurance to the industry that the company will be able to pay for produce purchased and to conduct business according to PACA rules.

In the past three years, the 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.

Doc’s Food Stores, a Bixby, OK-based supermarket chain that operates as Country Mart, JB’s Market and Apple Market, launched the Mushroom Council’s successful Blend model in the deli, meat and produce departments at all its retail stores and experienced sales gains in all three departments.

The Blend is a method of mixing finely diced mushrooms into proteins such as beef, turkey, lamb or pork to make hamburgers, meatloaf, meatballs, tacos and chili. The Blend enables consumers to enjoy their favorite foods while reducing their intake of fats, sodium, cholesterol and calories, while adding a portion of produce.

“The results of The Blend promotion exceeded our expectations,” Bart Minor, president of the Mushroom Council, said in a press release. “Doc’s did an excellent job of launching and promoting The Blend with sampling, passing out recipe cards and cross promoting in the three departments. They made sure their customers knew about the benefits of The Blend.”

Throughout the promotion, Doc’s advertised fresh Blend Mushroom Burgers and Blend Meatloaf in its Weekly Summertime Savings circular. “How to Prepare The Blend at Home” was also featured. The retailer also sampled Blended Turkey Tacos and Blended Chili for customers to try. The retailer supported the initiative with local and trade public relations initiatives. The launch was so successful that consumers came into the stores asking specifically for Blend patties.

The results of The Blend promotion indicate that people were encouraged to try The Blend and make it at home. The produce department had a 60 percent sales increase in fresh mushrooms. The meat department saw an increase of 12 percent in hamburger patty sales. Blended burgers represented over 8 percent of all patties sold. A 10 percent increase in meatloaf lunch and dinner sales in the deli department occurred when switching over to Blend meatloaf.

“We are excited about the sales results of The Blend launch at our stores,” Danny Williams, director of produce marketing for Doc’s Food Stores in Bixby, OK. “Our customers really liked our Blend meatloaf and patties so we’ve decided to keep these items as part of our everyday product offerings.”

Due to the success of The Blend program, Doc’s Food Stores continues to offer and sell The Blend in the produce department by displaying point-of-sales materials to keep customer informed of the benefits. The meat department continues to sell Blend patties and the deli department continues to offer The Blend.

The Mushroom Council attributes the success of the promotion, in part, to the well-defined strategic plan. From the start, Doc’s had specific goals to achieve when they launched The Blend. It also envisioned a program that would live beyond the launch period. Doc’s established employee and total-store incentives to encourage staff to stay focused on mushroom/Blend sales goals, which varied by store.

The Mushroom Council encourages retailers interested in implementing The Blend at their stores to visit for more information and retails sales support.