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ShopRite has partnered with RWJBarnabas Health to launch a free nutrition and wellness education program available to children and families at ShopRite stores throughout New Jersey and beyond. Called KidsFit at ShopRite, the primary goal is preventing childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity can be prevented and controlled with proper nutrition and lifestyle modification, which will be taught as part of this initiative.nutri The RWJBarnabas Health and ShopRite dietitians — Molly Fallon of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center; Melanie Dwornik of ShopRite; Barbara Mintz of RWJBarnabas Health; and Kerri Likakis of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center — collaborated to bring KidsFit at ShopRite to life.

KidsFit at ShopRite is a free, six-session curriculum-based program taught by ShopRite’s team of in-store registered dietitians that provides children ages 7 to 10 and their families with ways to create simple, tasty recipes while discovering the nutritional benefits of different food groups. Culinary goodies, recipes, and fun giveaways are provided at each class, which are held at local ShopRite stores.

“As our mission is to keep people healthy and to serve as an innovative resource for the communities we serve, this partnership is a perfect match bringing together New Jersey’s largest and most prestigious retail grocery cooperative and the state’s finest health care system,” Barry H. Ostrowsky, president and chief executive officer of RWJBarnabas Health, said in a press release. “This partnership will allow both of our organizations to leverage resources to reach the youth of New Jersey and families and instill healthier eating and wellness habits. We are excited to partner with ShopRite to invest in health promotion, community outreach and overall wellness.”  

“Our team of registered dietitians developed the KidsFit program at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey in 2007 to address the high rates of childhood obesity seen at our health clinic,” said Barbara Mintz, vice president for healthy living and community and employee engagement for RWJBarnabas Health.   “KidsFit is a highly successful, multi-disciplinary educational model that encourages healthy eating and exercise as a way to both prevent and treat childhood obesity.”

KidsFit at ShopRite will be led locally by ShopRite dietitians and includes an interactive program that features scavenger hunts through the stores, cooking classes, healthy recipes and nutrition and wellness tips for kids and families.

“We’re honored to work with RWJBarnabas Health to bring the award-winning KidsFit program to life in our stores,” Natalie Menza-Crowe, director of health and wellness at ShopRite, said in the release. “RWJBarnabas Health is a recognized leader in the health care industry and we’re proud to join forces with them to help fulfill our shared mission of working together to keep communities healthy. We strongly believe that KidsFit at ShopRite is a great program that will encourage and inspire lifelong healthy eating habits.”

CULIACAN, SINALOA — Mexican microclimates provide ideal growing conditions and production seasons for greenhouses, an allure for greenhouse growers in more northern climes that are looking to expand their businesses.

One such business is BC Hot House Foods Inc., located in Vancouver, BC, and headed by David Ryall, chief executive officer. Ryall has been in the fresh produce business since 1967 and was a grower involved in forming BC Hot House 40 years ago. The company provided unifying power for independent greenhouse growers around Vancouver, British Columbia.Jonathan-David-ErnestoAt the Sinaloa Encanta celebration in Culiacan were Jonathan and David Ryall, the son-father combination of BC Hot House Foods Inc., with Ernesto Maldonado of Star Produce. BC Hot House is part of the Star Group.

Consistent with the experience of many other North American shippers, the firm’s retail customers were demanding 12-month supplies, roughly four months longer than British Columbia growers are able to supply.

Thus, BC Hot House began looking south of the U.S. border. Ryall has regularly traveled to meet with Mexican growers for 25 years. Between September and March in recent years, he spends one week per month in Mexico.

Ryall said BC Hot House has moved from simply sourcing with growers for wintertime supplies to contracting with Mexican growers to produce specific varieties to accommodate BC’s product line, which involves several types of tomatoes, cucumbers and colored Bells.

The next step for BC Hot House would be to invest in Mexican production, which is being seriously researched.

BC Hot House currently works with growers in Culiacan, as well as Leon, Guanajuato and in the greenhouse mecca, AgroPark, in Queretaro. Other locations in the highlands north of Mexico City are also either involved or may soon be so.

“We are looking at strawberries in the area,” said Ryall.

He noted that Culiacan’s temperatures exceed any highs at any time of the year north of northern California. Picking from Mexico’s many elevations between 5,600 feet and 6,600 feet provides many microclimate options. Those elevations in Canada involve mountains, he observed. But in Mexico the topography may be plateaus accompanied by “great sun; it really is an outstanding place” to grow greenhouse vegetables.

To constantly boost the taste and flavor of BC’s products, Ryall travels the world to consider new seeds and variety types.

Through the seed company Enza Zaden, the firm is currently marketing a Dutch tomato-on-the-vine variety, Avalantino, which is slightly larger than half the size of the average TOV. Its combination of sweetness and acidity “enabled us to get the best possible flavor in a tomato that is bigger than a cherry tomato.”

Supervalu Inc. announced plans for its fourth annual National Expo, which will be held July 25-27 at the RiverCentre in St. Paul, MN. The event will feature a full day of educational seminars and workshops tailored to help independent grocery retailers serve their customers better, as well as access to more than 300 vendors across nearly 130,000 square feet of exhibit space.

“In a short period of time, the National Expo has become one of the must-attend events in the grocery industry,” Mike Stigers, executive vice president of wholesale at Supervalu, said in a press release. “The expo gives independent retailers the opportunity to learn from experts through thought leadership content, industry trend discussions and networking opportunities all geared toward strengthening relationships and further enhancing their businesses. It also offers retailers the chance to meet personally with hundreds of vendors to hear more about new products and solutions that can help them drive additional sales in their stores.”

Retailers attending the 2017 expo can expect to find a showcase of innovation, featuring new items, new merchandising solutions and new in-store concepts spanning all aspects of grocery retailing. Retailers also will have access to special products and promotions. One of the expo’s favorite features is the Monster Buys & Auction items event, where prices on merchandise continue to drop as more quantities are purchased. Last year, more than 200 separate items were featured as part of the Monster Buys & Auction.

Another highlight of the expo is the Master Marketer Awards ceremony, which will be held July 27. The awards recognize the best merchandising, marketing and community relations initiatives from Supervalu’s independent retailers over the past year. Last year, Karns Foods, with eight locations in central Pennsylvania, was named the Grand Master Marketer, the top award presented.

Attendance at the National Expo is by invitation only. Supervalu customers will receive information about event registration, travel and hotel directly through their account managers. Vendors should contact their region merchandising team for information on applying for a booth.

After extensive consumer research, Sun World International LLC, based in Bakersfield, CA, has honed its messaging to both consumers and the trade with a new brand promise that will appear prominently on its website and in its promotional material.

Chief Executive Officer Merrill Dibble told The Produce News that the launch of the new messaging (“Better Farms. Better Flavor.”) will coincide with Earth Day, which celebrates its 47th anniversary on April 22, 2017.  sun-world

Dibble said Sun World conducted extensive consumer focus group, shop-along and survey research to determine the key influencers for grape purchasers.

“We did a deep dive into what consumers are looking for from a table grape brand,” he said. “What it boils down to is that they are looking for great taste, great quality and the knowledge that the grapes are grown in a sustainable way.”

Expounding on these characteristics, the Sun World CEO said texture and sweetness were the two main qualities associated with a good eating experience. “Consumers are also looking for consistency day in and day out,” he said.

Dibble noted that in the business of growing a fresh product, that “is difficult to deliver but not impossible.”

In discussing sustainability, consumers tend to put several different elements under that large umbrella. “We learned that they do care about water management and that we use water responsibly,” said Dibble. “They also care that we engage in fair labor practices, that our workers enjoy working for us and that we pay them a fair wage.”

He said consumers want growers to manage their pesticide use wisely and responsibly, but there was not an overwhelming call for organic production. He said the focus groups also did not insist on “local” production, which Dibble interprets as an understanding that grapes aren’t grown everywhere.

While the deep dive into consumer attitudes has led to some messaging changes, Dibble said that with regard to cultural practices, “more than anything it confirmed that what we are doing on the sustainability front is the right way to go. We have been heading down that path for a long time.”

He said the company uses solar energy and efficiently manages its water while responsibly using crop protection tools. But the firm is adding some transparency to its effort.

“The research showed that consumers want to know what you are doing with regard to sustainability,” he said. “We are going to present the Sun World Sustainability Program & Annual Report in a straight forward, easy-to-read fashion.” The first report is expected to be available on the firm’s website late this year.

The sustainability program will benchmark and set target goals for sustainability activities, many of which are already being implemented by the company, such as solar-powered vineyards, water reclamation, bee forages and farmworker safety and empowerment programs.

A refreshed website is another of the messaging changes that will be introduced on Earth Day. Sun World will share the brand promise through a series of events throughout the year, including new packaging designs and a Family Farm Earth Day Celebration for employees and families.

“The ‘Better Farms. Better Flavor.’ promise will be a common thread throughout all of our global brand building efforts,” said Sun World Marketing Manager Natalie Erlendson. “When our customers carry Sun World grapes, they can have confidence that they are delivering to shoppers the best in premium-quality grapes, backed by a consumer-centric brand position that will create loyalty and repeat sales.”

Dibble said the new packaging, with the brand promise, will be rolled out later this year for the late-season varieties and will be included on all Sun World grapes in 2018.

Erlendson said the firm will communicate its brand promise in all of its consumer marketing efforts, including its packaging, social media campaigns, in-store promotions and point-of-sale material.

During my retail supermarket career, I had the opportunity to work in the most populated location in the country: New York City. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the estimated population of New York City as of July 2016 was 8.5 million. A little over 3 million are foreign-born immigrants. Most of these people have an appetite for fruits and vegetables from their native countries. Those items were unfamiliar to most Americans in earlier years.SPECIALTY-PRODUCE-2Merchandising specialties in a fixed section of the produce department is the most effective technique to generate sales of the category.

As a former retail produce director in the New York marketing area, I realized that there was demand for items other than staples like potatoes and bananas. Our customers had different desires for produce based on their individual ethnic communities. I quickly became aware that we needed to give the people what they craved.

Besides, we had the Hunt’s Point Terminal Produce Market right in our backyard, and the wholesalers there had everything needed to meet those needs.

This business constantly changes, yet in many ways it stays the same. We just have to keep making some adjustments as new trends surface. Updating is always part of making companies better.

Recognizing the rapid growth of specialty produce over that past many years, this category still has room for growth. In working with retailers, I see many missed opportunities for specialty items, and there is a need to regroup and revitalize the program at the store level. Some departments have too few options and others have gone overboard, causing the section to be disproportionate and puzzling to shoppers.

Karen Caplan, president and chief executive officer of Frieda’s Specialty Produce in Los Alamitos, CA, said, “It used to be that a retailer would show their commitment to specialty produce by offering everything under the sun. The more items, the better the variety offering. We have found that this can be confusing to shoppers, and difficult to manage for retailers. The future of specialties will be offering the correct items, probably a smaller offering of individual items, especially for the consumers who shop in that store. Sometimes, less is more.”

We often experimented how best to merchandise specialty produce. Specialties were tested as a group in a section and also tested commingled with similar produce items. After the comparison, our analysis revealed that merchandising specialties in a fixed section was most successful in generating sales. This approach has better visual impact and adds a more subjective “buy appeal” to customers.

Whenever resetting a specialty section, the category should be supported and aggressively marketed to encourage sales. This can be accomplished with advertising and in-store signage.

“Periodic promotion of specialty items is key to building consumer demand and awareness,” Caplan said. “This could be by utilizing creative signage, building bigger displays or sampling products on busy shopping days. With the advent of registered dietitian nutritionists and chefs in many stores, getting these professionals to utilize and highlight specialties will help rev up the engines of specialty produce sales.”

Many items make up the variety of offerings in the current day produce department. There has been a tremendous ethnic growth in many communities across the country. With that growth comes a demand for certain foods from around the world.

Robert Schueller, director of public relations at Melissa’s Produce in Los Angeles, said, “Retailers continue to expand specialty produce based on demographic changes in local shoppers. No longer are retailers just carrying napa, daikon and bok choy in their Asian vegetable section. Retailers now view Asian produce as an expanded category in a four- to six-foot section with greens and root vegetables. Latin American produce continues to be the fastest growing ethnic cuisine. Other than tomatillos and jicama, retailers added a wider assortment of other Latin produce specialties, especially a greater variety of chili peppers. Retailers continue to offer a variety of ethnic specialty produce as a one-stop shop for their customers in reaching goals of building loyalty in them.”

The more new produce varieties continue to be introduced on arrival into U.S. retail stores, the greater the need there is to expand department space. This factor requires serious planning before produce items become crammed.

“Growth of the traditional supermarket focuses around the fresh departments,” Schueller continued. “Retailers are currently squeezed for space, especially in produce. Produce departments will eventually expand up to 20 percent of the store. Most produce departments are experiencing resets mainly to accommodate a greater expansion of ethnic specialty fruits and vegetables.”

The newly developed ethnic communities will signal a change in merchandising strategies at the store level. It is recommended that you analyze your own retail produce operation and consider resetting the specialty produce sections in order to meet current and future customer needs.