Ahold joins the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program

Ahold USA has joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program, a partnership to improve the lives of U.S. farmworkers.

As part of this partnership, Ahold USA’s companies will only purchase Florida tomatoes from growers who participate in the CIW’s Fair Food Program and expand the Fair Food Program’s standards to farms of participating growers in other states.cwie Ahold will pay a premium on tomatoes purchased from participating growers that growers will pass on to field workers, and it will provide additional financial support for the Fair Food Standards Council, CIW’s partner in monitoring compliance by participating growers with the Fair Food Program standards.

Ahold USA is the parent company of Stop & Shop, Giant Food of Landover, Giant Food Stores of Carlisle, Martin’s and online grocer Peapod. With nearly 780 supermarkets across 14 states and the District of Columbia and 50 million customers each month, Ahold USA companies together represent one of the largest food retailing groups in the country.

Additionally the company will work with the CIW to ensure timely, periodic inspections and audits of the participating farms that supply Ahold USA’s companies, and Ahold will support the Fair Food Program with expanded marketing and advertising, including in-store displays, online visibility and education materials for associates at Ahold USA companies.

The CIW was awarded a Presidential Medal earlier this year for its groundbreaking work in social responsibility, and its Fair Food Program — called “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” in the Washington Post — protects the rights of tens of thousands of workers on farms across the east coast, from Florida to New Jersey.

This announcement builds on the work that the CIW as well as Ahold USA and its suppliers have done to deliver responsibly sourced tomatoes to customers and to help improve conditions for farmworkers in Florida. Ninety percent of tomatoes produced in the United States from November to May are grown in the state. Ahold USA’s support for the Fair Food Program will extend the retailer’s long track record on responsible product sourcing and strengthen the reach, impact and visibility of the CIW’s social responsibility efforts. Ahold USA’s participation in the program will increase the number of U.S. grocery stores carrying Fair Food tomatoes by approximately 75 percent.

“We are truly proud to welcome Ahold USA into the Fair Food Program and excited about the opportunity to work with an industry leader like Ahold,” Gerardo Reyes of the CIW said in a press release. “Ahold USA is the first of the country’s major grocers to join the program and, as such, not only will its partnership help propel to new heights our efforts to protect farmworkers’ rights, but we believe its market leadership will send an invaluable message to the rest of the grocery industry that social responsibility is greatly strengthened when workers, suppliers and retailers work together toward a more modern, more humane agricultural industry.”

“Ahold USA’s companies are deeply committed to responsible practices throughout their operations and to providing customers with great products at great prices from suppliers who share our dedication to strong ethical standards and fair treatment for workers," James McCann, chief operating officer of Ahold USA, said in the release. "The cornerstone of this commitment is the Ahold Standards of Engagement, which commit our companies’ suppliers to these values. The Fair Food Program is a time-tested leader in improving the lives of agricultural workers, and we have observed the program’s success over the past several years. Our companies and our customers care about the welfare of workers in our supply chain, and we believe now is the right time to begin an important new chapter in our partnership with the CIW.”

FDA issues import alert halting shipments of fresh cilantro from Puebla, Mexico

Four years of cyclosporiasis cases led the Food & Drug Administration to issue an import alert that has stopped all fresh cilantro shipments from the state of Puebla, Mexico, until companies can verify food-safety measures and get on FDA’s Green List.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recorded cyclosporiasis cases in 2012, 2013 and 2014 likely tied to fresh cilantro from Puebla, and the same product appears to be causing a current outbreak identified by Wisconsin health officials, says the alert.

“FDA believes it is extremely unlikely that these outbreaks of cyclosporiasis are due to isolated contamination events because of their recurring nature, both in the timing with which they occur (typically April-August each year) and the repeated association of illnesses with cilantro from the state of Puebla,” the alert says. “No single supplier (including retail outlets or distribution centers), packing date, shipping date, or lot code can explain all the illnesses. FDA believes the source of C. cayetanensis contamination is likely attributable to a broader source of contamination.”

Contamination sources may include fecal contamination of growing areas, irrigation of fields with water contaminated with sewage, cleaning or cooling produce with contaminated water, and/or poor hygienic practices of workers that harvest and process the produce, and lack of adequate cleaning and sanitizing of equipment that comes in contact with the product, the alert says.

The latest FDA action is causing hardship for produce companies, since this state is a major supplier of fresh cilantro, an industry source said. All shipments from that region have halted at this point.

Under the alert, FDA may detain fresh cilantro, whether it is intact or has been cut or chopped, from Puebla sold April 1 through Aug. 31 every year unless the product is listed on the Green List.

To get on the list, Mexican farms will need to prove compliance with food-safety measures verified by inspection and certification by SENASICA under its System for Reduction of Risk from Contamination Program, the Mexico food safety agency. Companies not participating in the SRRC Program can petition FDA directly, and FDA may conduct a limited number of on-site inspections of the growing/processing areas to audit company measures.

“FDA, however, encourages firms growing, harvesting and holding cilantro to participate in the SENASICA’s SRRC program,” and packers should gain approval of COFERPRIS for compliance with Good Production Practices, the agency said.

Duda supports 'Sunday Supper' movement

Recipes made with ingredients from Duda Farm Fresh Foods took center stage at a brunch hosted July 19 at the Food & Wine Conference in Orlando, FL.

The Food & Wine Conference is part of the Sunday Supper Movement started by Isabel Laessig, better known as Family Foodie. The mission: To bring families together to share time and a meal together at least one day a week.FullSizeRender4Duda hosted a brunch featuring a popular family recipes on July 19.

Laessig held the first virtual Sunday Supper in January 2012 with eight bloggers, and since then the community and the notion has grown into a national movement. The Food & Wine Conference brings bloggers together with other food professionals to talk about opportunities for future collaboration when influencing families to spend time together using digital media marketing as a megaphone for encouragement and inspiration. Duda has been an active supporter of the conference from the beginning in 2012.

“As a sixth-generation farming family business, it is important to our company that we participate and support bloggers that are working to encourage American families to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, like eating dinner together on a Sunday night,” Nichole Towell, director of marketing for Duda Farm Fresh Foods, said in a press release. “For us it is about enjoying healthy food with the people that are most important to you.  If we can be part of something this important, it is an honor and a pleasure.”

On July 19, Duda hosted a brunch featuring a popular family recipes such as greens with Dandy radishes, celery and citrus vinaigrette; fresh Dandy fruit skewers with clementines, grapefruit and oranges; and dessert made with Dandy Meyer lemon tarts.

“This movement has developed quite a following and we want our fresh ingredients to serve as an inspiration for bringing families together around the country,” Towell said.

Little Potato Co. launches 'Little Chef' program

The Little Potato Co. launched a new program to provide tools and tips to make it easier for parents to cook with their kids, sharing new and important skills while having fun together.

The program will include a growing collection of “Little Chef Approved” recipes featuring Creamer potatoes, and tips for cooking with kids of various ages at www.LittlePotatoes.com/LittleChef. The program will also be featured through Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, and will invite parents and kids to share favorite recipes they create together.

Research has shown that food preparation and cooking skills affect both kids’ and teens’ food choices. When kids are exposed to fresh, unprocessed foods and learn to prepare them well, they are more likely to feel comfortable buying and cooking these foods as adults.

“Over almost 20 years in business, we’ve noticed that as people learn about our little Creamers and their nutritious goodness as a vegetable, the more likely they are to enjoy cooking with and sharing them," said Angela Santiago, chief executive officer and chief potato champion of The Little Potato Co., as well as a mother of four. "We think it’s important to help kids learn about cooking and delicious, healthy food ingredients early so they grow up with great eating habits, including our Creamers."

The program will expand this fall to offer Little Chefs and their families big opportunities to have fun cooking together, discover the colorful varieties of Creamers, share their cooking experience with others and win fabulous prizes.

The Little Potato Co. is also working on a few other surprises for fall and winter, including further refinements to its very popular packaging introduced last fall. They’re also working on a few twists and tweaks on their value-added Oven|Grill and Microwave Ready kits that bundle Creamers, specialized cooking trays and a variety of savory seasoning packs.

The consumer celebrated at PMA Foodservice educational session

It truly is all about the consumer.  At least that was the theme three speakers articulated during an educational session at the PMA Foodservice Conference held in Monterey, CA, this past weekend (July 24-26).

“It’s All About the Base: Meet Today’s Consumers” was the direction three experts took the crowd as they tried to explain various segments of the consumer population.  

Brent Walker, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of c2b solutions, introduced the audience to “psychographic marketing profiles.”  This concept categorizes consumers into five groups and notes that these psychological profile categories reveal that consumers have different motivations and respond to different stimuli. Knowing who your audience is and targeting them specifically with promotions they will respond to is key to marketing success. 

He said consumers in these various categories might engage in the same activity, but it is for different reasons and you must know that if you are to increase their participation.  For example, he said, both “balance seekers” and “willful endurers” over index in eating organic food, but they do it for different reasons.  “Willful endurers”, he said “distrust the man” so they seek unconventional alternatives.  “Balance seekers” are eating organic produce because they are open to new ideas and respond to marketing that seeks the “why” behind suggestions.  

Walker said both groups are engaging in the same activity but they need different messaging.  He indicated why messaging is so important earlier in his talk when he noted that target marketing is the key to success.  You need to know who is using your product and how to reach that group because market segmentation is at a very high level.  For example, he said that one-half of 1 percent of the population is responsible for 25 percent of all car rentals in the United States.  Reaching that tiny group would obviously be the goal of any car rental company.  

During this session, Brian Numainville of Retail Feedback Group reported on Generation Z, the kids who heavily influence their parents’ buying decisions, especially in the food category.  In the United States, this group is 68 million people strong and will represent 40 percent of consumer buying power within five years.  This group’s demographic is different than any before it.  About 17 percent of the G.I. generation (often called the Greatest Generation) was multiculturally diverse.  More than 50 percent of Generation Z are multicultural.  This is the first time that threshold has been reached.

This group already has $200 billion in spending power.  You might think you would know how to reach them, but Numainville said only 6 percent communicate via email while 63 percent use texting.  They clearly are responding to the digital revolution in different ways than their parents or even older brothers and sisters.  Another interesting fact:  88 percent of them like their parents.  They are very collaborative, get information from Google and peers before making a purchase, and 73 percent of them influence the dinner choices in their households.  And good for the produce industry, they want to eat more fresh, natural and organic food.  

To reach this group, Numainville said use digital media and be concise, unique and transparent.  They like to get their information in eight-second soundbites.

Stephanie Bazan, Avocados from Mexico’s Hispanic marketing director, analyzed the growing group she is focused on in her job.  She pays particular attention to the “Nueva Latina” (new Latin woman) who she said controls the buying decisions in the exploding Hispanic market.  

If Bazan is correct, you ignore the Hispanic population at your own peril as it is the fastest-growing demographic in the United States.  And Latina moms are growing at a much faster clip than any other group of woman having children.  She also noted that pockets of Hispanics are popping up in urban areas all over the country, not just on the coasts.  

The good thing for fresh produce marketers is Hispanics over index in fruit and vegetable consumption and even as they acculturate the last thing they give up is their food traditions.  Bazan said it is their connection to their traditions and they want to stay connected and keep their kids connected to their heritage.  She called the nueva Latina the “CEO of her household” and the “gatekeeper” to the family’s food consumption.  She said the Latina mom wants to strike a balance between healthy and convenience.  In fact, Hispanics are fueling most of the growth in the foodservice category, and more than 50 percent of the growth in the entire food category.  “If you are not targeting the Hispanic segment you are missing the boat,” she said.

Look around your restaurants, she added, if it is full this weekend, it is probably full with Hispanic families.  She said some of the keys to marketing to them are being family friendly and offering fresh products.  She said the Hispanic restaurant goer is willing to pay more for fresh food.  “Play up the freshness to appeal to this group,” she advised.