United Fresh to honor Rick and Tonya Antle with Lifetime Achievement Award

The United Fresh Produce Association will honor Rick & Tonya Antle with its Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 Produce Legends Dinner during the United Fresh Midwinter Leadership Forum, Jan. 12-14, at the La Quinta Resort and Club, in La Quinta, CA.

“When you think of true produce industry icons, both Rick and Tonya Antle are at the top of that list,” Brian Kocher, chief operating officer of Castellini Co. and chairman of the United Fresh board of directors, said in a press release. “Both Rick and Tonya each have had tremendous careers in their own right, not only advancing their own companies, but serving as leaders to move the produce industry forward.”united-fresh

The United Fresh Midwinter Leadership Forum brings together hundreds of the association’s volunteer leaders for council and board meetings, the annual United Fresh Start Foundation golf tournament and the Produce Legends Dinner honoring individuals for their lifetime achievement in the produce industry.  

“We are so excited to be honoring Rick and Tonya this year,” Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and chief executive officer, said in the release. “This is the first time we’ve honored two individuals together, and I can’t think of another couple who so fully complement one another in their contributions to the fresh produce industry. From Tonya’s spearheading the growth of the organic produce sector to Rick’s constant innovation at Tanimura & Antle, both of our honorees truly deserve this recognition.”

The Antles join a distinguished group of past honorees, including Mike Cavallero, Joe Procacci, Frieda Rapoport Caplan, Reggie Griffin and Bob Grimm.

The 2016 Produce Legends Dinner will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 12, following the foundation golf tournament. All proceeds from the golf tournament and Legends dinner support the United Fresh Start Foundation’s mission to increase children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables. “Tickets for the dinner, golf tournament, and sponsorships are now available, and we invite friends throughout the produce industry to join us in honoring Rick and Tonya,” Stenzel said.

Rick Antle has been president and principal of Tanimura & Antle Inc., based in Salinas, CA, since its inception in 1982 and CEO since 2003. T&A today grows a full line of leafy vegetables on more than 35,000 acres in California and Arizona. The company also owns and operates a state-of-the-art sustainable hydroponic greenhouse producing leafy greens in Livingston, TN.  

He is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and was honored by being named its distinguished alumni for the School of Agriculture. He was recognized by the Salinas Chamber of Commerce as its outstanding young farmer, and has served in many volunteer roles throughout his career, including chairman of the Iceberg Lettuce Research Board, chairman of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency and as a member of the United Fresh board of directors.

Tonya Antle has been a driving force in the farming and produce industry for more than 30 years since growing up on her family’s table grape and citrus farm in Delano, CA. She is recognized as a top spokesperson and true trailblazer for the organic produce segment, helping to propel organic produce from the fringe to mainstream mass-market retailing.

She is a graduate of the University of California-Irvine and held the position of vice president of organic sales for over 13 years at Earthbound Farm. During her tenure, she was an instrumental leader in building the brand to its half-billion-dollar sales level that it enjoys today. She is committed to mentoring young women in the industry and is a past recipient of United Fresh’s Women in Produce achievement award. In 2010, she joined the Ag Business Department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, as a guest lecturer in fruit and vegetable marketing, and has served the university as a member of the President’s Council. She currently serves on the board of the Community Foundation for Monterey County.

Rick and Tonya Antle reside in Carmel, CA, and have three sons, one daughter and a daughter-in-law.

Natural Grocers expansion to continue with 23 new stores

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc., a specialty retailer of natural and organic groceries and dietary supplements, is looking to add 23 new stores in fiscal 2016. The company, founded in 1955, currently has 106 stores in 18 states.natgroc

In 2015 the rapidly expanding smaller-store format specialty retailer continued its five-year annual unit growth rate of approximately 20 percent by opening 16 new stores, compared to 15 new stores in fiscal 2014, resulting in unit growth rates of 18.4 percent and 20.8 percent, respectively. The new stores in 2016 would boost the company's footprint by 22.3 percent.

In fiscal 2015, net sales increased $104.0 million, or 20 percent, over fiscal 2014 to $624.7 million, primarily due to a $73.3 million increase in sales from new stores and a $30.7 million, or 5.9 percent, increase in comparable store sales. Gross profit in fiscal 2015 increased 20.2 percent over fiscal 2014 to $182.1 million, primarily driven by positive comparable store sales and an increase in the comparable store base.

"We are pleased to report another year of strong financial results while continuing our annual unit growth rate of approximately 20 percent. We are encouraged by the acceleration of our comparable store sales trends this past quarter. The key drivers of our strengthening comparable store sales include our focused sales initiatives, outstanding customer service and continued operational excellence," Kemper Isely, co-president, said in a press release. "As we move into fiscal 2016, we expect to open 23 new stores, resulting in a unit growth of 22.3 percent, and to relocate four existing stores. We believe we have a strong foundation of staffing and systems to support our disciplined growth."

QPMA’s 30th annual Oyster Party hailed as big success

The 30th annual QPMA Oyster Party took place Nov. 6 at Le Rizz Receptions in St-Léonard, QC. The warm and festive atmosphere was an ideal place for visitors to meet customers old and new, and socialize with friends and suppliers in the QPMA, which is at the heart of Quebec’s fruit and vegetable industry.

Business and pleasure with a special flavor
ghiGhislain Perron, the man behind the oyster party tradition. More photos here . Almost 550 guests were welcomed by QPMA Board President Stephan Schmekel of Fresh Del Monte Produce Canada, convention Chair Isabelle Gingras of Sobeys Québec, Oyster Party Chair Chris Sarantis of Canadawide, as well as the interim executive directors of the association, Marie Gosselin of Mûr Conseil and Robert Beauregard of Gestion Flexco.

Guests enjoyed their fill of tasty, succulent oysters, as well as an impressive variety of delicious entrées featured in a gorgeous, gargantuan and typically Italian buffet. Games in the casino added to the fun, with fresh opportunities for contacts in friendly competition around the tables.

Financial report released
Earlier in the day, a special general meeting was held at which Carole St-Pierre of Bourassa Boyer, the association’s official accountants, presented the annual financial results to the QPMA membership.

Members also adopted the motion that Roland Lafont of Vergers Saint-Paul and Francis Bérubé of Sobeys Québec be made, respectively, first and second vice president of the board of directors.

Stephan Schmekel used the meeting to remind members that “today we’re not only here to thank members, welcome new members, present QPMA achievements and the financial report, but also because we all share values well-known and represented by our directors and members: responsibility, integrity, respect and commitment.”

Interim Executive Director Robert Beauregard also presented the association’s activities report at the meeting.

The QPMA board of directors also took the opportunity to welcome new QPMA members present at the event, including AJIT Transport, AMC Canada, AXXEL Inc., Delmar International, Eskimo Express, MC Produce, Orca Emballages Flexibles Inc./Volm and Pommes Philip Cassidy Inc.

A tradition that has grown through the years
Ghislain Perron was the man behind the oyster party tradition, which started with 50 or 60 participants in a tavern in Anjou and later relocated to its present-day venue at Le Rizz Receptions. While the original party was strictly for serious oyster lovers, its format has changed over the years to accommodate more participants, with a gourmet buffet and an open bar.

Peter Fogarty of Metro Fogarty took over organization of the event in 1995. He passed the torch to Pat Calabretta in 2005, who handed over responsibilities to Stephan Schmekel of Fresh Del Monte Produce Canada in 2010. Since 2014, Chris Sarantis of Canadawide has the job of ensuring its continued success.

Domex kicks off fresh crop of Autumn Glory apples with consumer sweepstakes

Domex Superfresh Growers, a global leader in the growing and shipping of fresh apples, pears, cherries and apricots, will offer a multi-faceted suite of digital and in-store marketing support programs to coincide with the release of this season’s Autumn Glory apple crop.DSG AGSweeps

The Autumn Glory apple is grown exclusively by Domex Superfresh Growers in the Yakima and Wenatchee regions of Washington state and will be available both organically and conventionally.

Since its launch in 2011, the Autumn Glory apple has enjoyed praise from both consumers and retailers.

“Consumer response to the flavor of the Autumn Glory has been tremendous,” Howard Nager, vice president of marketing Domex Superfresh Growers, said in a press release. “With its sweet, firm flesh and subtle cinnamon notes, the Autumn Glory has an intense apple flavor that embodies the essence of a crisp fall harvest, thus the name.”

Building on the success of last year’s Autumn Glory season, Superfresh Growers will support the 2015-16 season with a suite of marketing tools that partner retailers can utilize in-store and online to introduce the new apple variety to consumers.

In-store demos
In-store sampling and education programs will introduce the Autumn Glory apple to consumers and drive sales. The variety will also ship with high-graphic packaging and point-of-sale artwork is available to help retailers build attractive displays.

In-store radio
New 15- and 30-second Autumn Glory apple in-store radio spots have been designed to inspire impulse sales and drive traffic to the produce department.

Social media, digital promos
Ready-to-post Autumn Glory apple recipes, usage ideas, graphics and high-quality photography will be made available to retailer partners to help them promote the Autumn Glory apple on their own digital properties. Domex Superfresh Growers will also drive consumer awareness via Autumn Glory-branded social properties and digital promotions. Custom social media promotional opportunities will also be available.

Consumer sweepstakes and blogger outreach
In addition to retailer support programs, Domex Superfresh Growers will also implement multiple consumer awareness-building activities including a digital sweepstakes that will be promoted on SuperfreshGrowers.com and the organization’s social properties.

The Autumn Glory Apple Sweepstakes offers participants a chance to win a $50 gift card and a shipment of fresh Autumn Glory apples. Domex Superfresh Growers will also be launching a consumer food blogger outreach initiative to help drive awareness for the new variety.

“We are utilizing the power of social media to connect directly with consumers and influencers to build Autumn Glory Apple brand equity and drive demand,” Nager added in the press release. “These activities paired with our suite of retail support programs are designed to build a loyal fan base for Autumn Glory Apples as we increase volumes over the next five years. ”

Autumn Glory apples are now available to ship through March of 2016. Organic Autumn Glory apples will be available beginning in January.

Florida citrus executives killed in helicopter crash

Florida Citrus Commissioner James S. Horrisberger and Phil Tope of Tampa Juice Service Inc. were among the four men who died in Nicaragua earlier this week when their helicopter crashed into the San Juan River shortly after takeoff.

Antonio Lacayo, chief executive of TicoFrut, an orange grower supplying Coke's Minute Maid brand, was also killed in the crash, according to a Reuters report. Messrs. Horrisberger and Tope were examining groves for the upcoming harvest, according to the report.

Mr. Horrisberger had been involved in the citrus industry for 13 years, according to his profile on the Florida Department of Citrus website. He was the North American procurement director for fruit and juices for The Coca-Cola Co.’s global juice business.  Previously, he held various management positions in the juice business for Cargill Inc. He had been serving as vice chair of the Florida Department of Citrus research committee.

Francisco Lemus was the pilot who died in the crash.