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In a season traditionally characterized by a scarcity of vibrant, flavorful fruit, Driscoll’s is looking to change the landscape for consumer fresh food options during the fall and winter holiday period by offering an abundant supply of sweet, delicious raspberries and blackberries. With increased availability of Driscoll’s raspberries and blackberries this year, consumers have a bounty of possibilities to add a little extra joy to their holiday entertaining.Driscolls

“Our brand promise of 'Only the Finest Berries' is only meaningful as long as our berries are the most delicious. Driscoll’s raspberry offering is 100 percent proprietary varieties, which allows us to bring consistently great tasting berries to market,” said Diane Scalisi, Driscoll’s raspberry product marketer. “The late fall represents the second peak production period for Driscoll’s conventional and organic raspberries, which are sourced throughout the holiday season from independent growers in southern coastal California and high-elevation growing regions in central Mexico.”

“Similar to raspberries, blackberries also experience one of the highest volume periods during the holiday time frame, which presents a unique opportunity for retailers and their shoppers,” said Annie Duner, Driscoll’s blackberry product marketer. “Driscoll’s proprietary blackberry varieties are leading the category with unrivaled flavor. Their fresh, delicious and velvety flavor profile complement a wide range of dishes but especially enhance sweet and spicy holiday favorites. We are seeing more and more consumers incorporate blackberries into their holiday menus.”

Wondering how to bring friends and family together this holiday season over a re-envisioned holiday table that includes fresh raspberries and blackberries? In a continuation of Driscoll’s #BerryTogether campaign announced earlier this year, which celebrates the joy of coming together over berries, Driscoll’s has teamed up with food bloggers and foodie communities to explore fresh new ways to include raspberries and blackberries in holiday spreads. The new, shareworthy recipes resulting from the collaboration include a new raspberry Habanero relish to spice up the Thanksgiving feast, a raspberry and beet chevre spread, a cranberry, raspberry and maple sauce, blackberry Hot Toddy, and a quick-and-easy blackberry cobbler. The collection of berry-inspired holiday recipes can be found on driscolls.com.

Driscoll’s has also announced its #BerryTogether holidays sweepstakes. To enter, post a photo of you and your loved ones celebrating with Driscoll’s berries this season on either Instagram or Twitter and use the tags #BerryTogether and #Sweepstakes. One grand-prize winner will receive a KitchenAid mixer, berries for a year and a baking set. Plus, three first place winners will receive a prize of berries for a year. View the #BerryTogether photo gallery and official rules on driscolls.com.

Stemilt has a solution for those wishing they were soaking up sun on a beach. Stemilt’s proprietary variety, Piñata, is an apple that will bring sunshine and sales to produce department shelves as the holiday season begins. 

“This year’s Piñata harvest was a great, successful one,” said Roger Pepperl, Stemilt’s marketing director. “It's a ‘classic crop’ with high colors, excellent condition, and dessert flavors with a nice balance of acids and sugars. Consumers will not be disappointed when they get their hands on these apples.”Stemilt-Organic-LilSnappers-Pinata-3lb

The 2017 Piñata crop was harvested at peak timing which allows Stemilt to maximize the apple’s beautiful color and high acids and sugars. The Piñata is a full red to stripy red with a yellow-orange background making it an apple that really pops on the shelves. Although the apple variety is not as new as other recently revealed varieties, Pepperl accredits the high quality crop to well-established trees.

“We have some of the best, most experienced farmers in the industry and they have worked hard to ensure that the trees are well-established and cared for,” said Pepperl. “Their dedication to those trees is extremely apparent in this year’s crop. They are producing large, high-quality Piñata apples that have everything a consumer wants: a crisp bite with an explosion of flavor.”

Piñata apples are peaking at size 80s conventionally and size 100 organically. Pepperl said retailers should capitalize on the smaller sizes as small-sized fruit bodes well with parent consumers who are looking to provide healthy, flavorful snacks for their children.

“Lil Snapper kid-size fruit is an ideal item to carry, especially in a year with smaller fruit sizing,” said Pepperl. “The Piñata apple is a favorite among children consumers as it has the perfect balance of acid and sugar. Plus, the three-pound pouch bags have proven very successful among parent consumers as they offer the right amount of fruit for a school week.”

Stemilt offers Lil Snappers Piñata in nine/three-pound pouch bags, conventional and organic. Stemilt also offers Piñata in value bags that fall under the umbrella of the Apple Lovers program. Those value bags will be offered in an eight/five-pound Piñata display-ready carton.

Pepperl also suggested retailers use the fun, tropical branding as a way to catch the eye of the consumer. Both Piñata DRCs and standard cartons have palm trees, an apple island and a cruise ship to play off the “tropical twist.” Pepperl said that chains have been successful when constructing high visual, stimulating Pinata apple displays with cartons in produce departments.

“Piñata promotions now through Cinco de Mayo are essential in pushing high volumes and earning dollars,” states Pepperl. “We have seen chains do exceptionally well in January as they use the branding to create a ‘tropical destination’ for shoppers and encourage purchases during the cold winter months. We have also seen displays that combine Piñata apples with pineapples to create an illusion of an island destination and encourage consumers to jump on board with the tropical twist!”

Piñata is the brand name for the Pinova apple cultivar, which was naturally crossed between three heirloom varieties — Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Duchess of Oldenburg — back in the 1970s in Dresden-Pillnitz, Germany. Stemilt’s founding family, the Mathisons, obtained the exclusive rights to grow and market the variety in 2004 and it hit the U.S. market in 2009. Now that it has been established, Piñata has become a consumer favorite because of its versatility.

The Piñata variety is an ideal snacking and pairing apple due to its explosive flavor and ability to naturally resist oxidation, or browning. It also does well as a culinary apple due to its Golden Delicious heritage, an apple that is popular to bake with. The Piñata variety holds up well against heated culinary applications, making it a great fit for pies, tarts, and whatever else one dreams up with apples, states Pepperl.

“The Piñata variety couldn’t come at a better time as the holidays are right around the corner,” said Pepperl. “It is the ideal apple in so many different ways; from its flavor to its branding to its culinary abilities, there really isn’t anything this apple can’t do.”

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Southeastern Grocers, the Jacksonville, FL-based parent of the Bi-Lo, Harveys and Winn-Dixie chains, to indicate a high degree of risk. A debt of $1 billion has the grocer considering a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring, according to various reports.southeastern

Southeastern has $475 million in unsecured notes issued by the holding company due to mature in September 2018. It also has $425 million in senior secured notes issued by the operating company due Feb. 15, 2019

"The high refinancing risk due to the company's significant debt maturities in 2018 and 2019 is a cause for concern as the current capital structure is unsustainable and the weak liquidity primarily due to the significant debt maturities increases the probability of a distressed exchange, hence the downgrade," said Moody's Vice President Mickey Chadha. "From an operating performance standpoint [Southeastern Grocers] has demonstrated improvement in EBITDA and credit metrics and we expect this trend to continue.”

According to a Bloomberg report, the company is evaluating a debt-for-equity swap that would give current bondholders an ownership stake, but it has not yet determined whether or not to do that through a bankruptcy filing. 

Sources said Southeastern Grocers has shown improved financial and sales performance this year, slowing the rate of comp declines behind investment in new store formats, including Fresco Y Mas, which has replaced a number of Winn-Dixie stores in heavily Hispanic communities, and Harveys, which has expanded at former conventional sites as a value focused banner.

halo

Today Wonderful Halos, America’s biggest and fastest-selling mandarin brand, kicks off its 2017–18 season with a strong crop and the return of its “Good Choice, Kid” campaign. With a new added focus on adults, the fully integrated campaign is designed to reach all ages, including “big kids” with two new commercials celebrating adults who are challenged to make good, healthy decisions in the face of temptation. Whether confronted with gut-churning fatty fried foods at the country fair or fire-inducing killer spicy peppers delivered by the neighbors, it’s clear that smart snacking with Wonderful Halos is always the right choice.

“We’ve always known that Wonderful Halos is the obvious choice for kids because they’re healthy, easy to peel, seedless and bursting with sweet flavor,” said Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing for The Wonderful Co. “But our research shows that adults also turn to the pure goodness of our California mandarins with the same enthusiasm, so these commercials present the perfect opportunity to extend our existing campaign and celebrate the good choices made by kids of all ages.”

Through a continued investment of $100 million in the first five years of the brand, these new commercials complement the existing “Good Choice, Kid” campaign. Halos will also be making its biggest digital investment yet, launching a robust influencer program, and increasing visibility across its social media platforms. The campaign will be amplified by print, national FSIs, PR, a New York City Times Square digital billboard, and Wonderful Halos’ biggest in-store point-of-sale display program ever, bringing to life Halos’ “Grove of Goodness.” The all-new POS collection features a grove-to-store tractor and grove tree display, highlighting the process of delivering fresh California mandarins directly from farm-to-table.

The two new commercials along with the “Good Choice, Kid” campaign were created by The Wonderful Co.'s in-house creative team, Wonderful Agency, led by new Chief Creative Officer Darren Moran. “In expanding the campaign to directly address adults’ snacking choices, we finally dispel the notion that with age comes wisdom. Adults are just as capable of making wrong-headed choices as kids are,” said Moran. “With these spots, we’re simply offering up a healthy but delicious alternative to runaway organs and ruined parties.”

Wonderful Halos announced its “Good Choice, Kid” campaign at the start of last mandarin season with four smart and witty television spots featuring children facing difficult choices in precariously, far-fetched hilarious situations. Scenarios included a doll-infested mansion, swapping snacks with a scary witch, running away to join the circus, and breaking into a construction site. Both new and existing television commercials will air throughout the mandarin season in local and national markets as part of a multi-million dollar ad spend.

Wonderful Halos are in season now through May and available in three- and five-pound bags and five-pound boxes in product aisles of grocery, mass and club stores nationwide. Since launching in 2013, Wonderful Halos has been the No. 1 mandarin brand every year and is 77 percent larger than the next largest mandarin brand. For more information visit HalosFun.com or Facebook.com/HalosFun.com.

It is the shoppers who will pick the winners during this particularly chaotic time for the nation’s food retailers. With many options before them, consumers have a plethora of choices before them, including Amazon’s attempt to completely change the landscape.

Like most wars, the key is in preparation, said Steven Muro, president of Fusion Marketing, who was the keynote speaker at a recent Fresh Produce & Floral Council Southern California luncheon. Quoting an ancient Chinese military strategist, Muro told the FPFC members, “Every battle is won before it is fought.”Steven-MuroSteven Muro

The Fusion founder noted that the grocery industry is going through a period of dramatic change and the possible outcomes are store closings, fewer employees, less shelf space and fewer vendors. But his presentation wasn’t a doomsday forecast but rather a potential blueprint for success.

Muro noted that many retailers — both grocery and general merchandise — that were prominent fixtures on the landscape several decades ago are now gone. In fact, even since this millennium dawned, the Southern California retail scene has seen more than its fair share of exits, including Fresh & Easy, Wild Oats, Mrs. Gooches, Circuit City, Sports Chalet and The Good Guys, to name but a few. In total, 6,000 retail outlets closed in 2017.

But Muro said, “Retail is not dying, it is transforming. There may be fewer stores but they are not going away. Shoppers are deciding where to shop.”

Speaking specifically of the grocery industry, Muro does not believe there are too many physical locations but he believes they are poorly distributed. He said there are food deserts and food meccas with too many retailers chasing the same affluent shoppers in a limited number of ZIP codes. He said this uneven distribution of stores is a major issue, leading to diminishing returns.

As a case in point, Muro researched his own neighborhood in the Los Angeles suburbs and found 18 traditional grocery stores and a multitude of mom-and-pop stores within a seven-minute drive of his house. And, by and large, each of these traditional markets are selling and promoting the same items in the same way. This leads to downward pressure on price as one of the few differentiators.

Muro said large retailers have a propensity to add more units in an effort to invoke the economies of scale. Instead, they are exacerbating the problem. But he sees light at the end of the tunnel as many of the larger retailers — including Kroger and Walmart — have announced slower growth moving forward.

And these retailers are not only competing against themselves but also against many new ways for consumers to fill their refrigerators, including home delivery of grocery, meal kits and of course, online shopping with Amazon lurking as the behemoth.

To Muro, the solution is to change the focus to become more shopper-centric. He said many companies are doing this and argued that those will be the survivors.

He said Amazon, with its purchase of Whole Foods, along with several other efforts, is very shopper-friendly and continues to launch initiatives that speak to the needs of the consumer. The company is planning to have Amazon Lockers at its physical locations so consumers can order online and quickly go pick up their orders. The company is also mining the data obtained through purchasing and creating easier ways for consumers to shop, including its Echo and Alexa devices, which instantly allow consumers to connect to the Amazon platform from anywhere in their house. Soon, Muro suspects, consumers will be able to order groceries through Alexa.

Amazon, he said, wants to become the biggest retailer in size, scope and presence, with profits sacrificed for marketshare. He opined that this is not great news for local vendors, which proliferate in the produce industry, as this national platform relies on national distributors. Amazon is in the process of adding 19 new fulfillment centers with more than 17 million square feet of space.

To compete in this changing environment, Muro believes retailers have to focus on the shopper experience. They have to create new formats with both visual and appetite appeal. He applauds the growing movement to put restaurants and bars in retail outlets to create destinations for potential shoppers.

“Shoppers want entertainment,” he said, adding that retailers need to add fun to the shopping experience. Muro showed several slides of innovative retailers creating destination departments that can attract the shopper into the stores.

He noted that the floral department is an excellent place to start, as that is still an item consumers are cautious about purchasing online. And most floral products are bought in grocery stores, which creates a great opportunity to get these shoppers in a store to witness the changes the retailer has made.

He said appetizing displays and meal-ready departments that help shoppers choose today’s home menu offer more opportunities to be shopper-centric. He challenged vendors to help retailers create these unique shopping experiences and said they need to use better packaging and new products to excite the consumer. He argued that price promotions are not the way to be a game changer.

“Are you adding value?” he asked, saying packaging should include recipes and other information consumers are looking for. “Communicate with the shopper.”

Muro also touched on what he called the “gamification of marketing,” commenting that this is a growing trend. Many consumers are into computer games, and he called this an opportunity for marketers to create fun with their packaging and attract new customers. He spoke of a gaming sweepstakes that was recently very successful for a tie-in promotion with beef and mushrooms that Fusion Marketing was involved in.

He believes the trend toward convenience will continue and that the winners will be those offering items and services that truly save time. He likes Kroger’s click-and-collect option and believes the launching of an in-house snack line by the Texas retailer H-E-B shows innovation.

Muro concluded that there will be winners and losers as the retail landscape changes, and the winners will be those who prepare for the transformation, utilize available data to drive decision and work together with their partners to focus on the shopper.