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Ontario's greenhouse cucumbers 'Always in Season'

ogvgOntario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers has launched its annual winter cucumber program “Always in Season” on Feb. 1. This program signifies the ramp up of production for all varieties of Ontario greenhouse-grown seedless cucumbers and informs Ontario consumers of their availability during the cold winter months.

“Consumers can find fresh, locally grown Ontario greenhouse cucumbers in grocery stores throughout Ontario,” OGVG General Manager Rick Seguin said in a press release. “There’s no need to wait until summer to enjoy locally grown cucumbers.”

The growing demand for Ontario greenhouse seedless cucumbers is motivated by consumers' healthy eating choices. Our growers have increased production to ensure the supply is abundant for Ontario consumers and retailers.

This program is supported by key Canadian retailers. This year’s campaign includes new recipe ideas, retailer flyer ads indicating product of Canada and a media campaign designed to raise awareness of  availability of locally grown greenhouse seedless cucumbers.

Winn-Dixie's next generation store the first of 50 remodels in 2016

After five years absence, Winn-Dixie Baymeadows reopened its doors today and revealed an entirely new store concept. With a focus on stunning quality food, serving with personality and great value, this store has been tailored to the Baymeadows community in Jacksonville, FL, and represents the start of an extensive store remodel program for 2016.winndixie

Sourcing from over 50 Florida farms, the store will feature stunning quality produce displayed on ice, to maintain freshness and expanded varieties, including prickly pears, lychees and dragon fruit, and over 100 fresh, organic items.

“This store provides us with an opportunity to redefine what Winn-Dixie can provide for its customers in a contemporary, friendly and exciting in-store environment focused on stunning quality fresh food, specialty stores-within-stores and very competitive prices,” Ian McLeod, president and chief executive officer of Southeastern Grocers, parent company of of BI-LO, Harveys and Winn-Dixiesaid, said in a press release.

“We are planning around 50 store remodels this year and believe this store represents a step change from where we have been, as well as a clear indicator on how we intend to satisfy our customers’ needs in the future,” he added.

Winn-Dixie Baymeadows offers over 4,000 natural and organic products and hosts the brand new, health food store-within-a-store called Naturally Better. Over 2,600 of these natural and organic products will be completely new.

Winn-Dixie Baymeadows has also been designed to make shopping a little easier for parents. The store features mini shopping carts for children and educational engagement throughout the store, with “moo moo!” and “cluck cluck!” sound features located near the milk and eggs.

“We believe in eating well for less," McLeod said in the release. "This means that while we are offering quality food, customers will not be paying more for their basket. Since October last year, we have invested over $70 million into lowering our prices. We now have over 3,000 new lower prices and over 600 products on Down Down — prices that are down and staying down.”

Other store features include:

  • The Kitchen, which will offer customers an in-house, stone hearth pizza oven and smokehouse. Brisket and pulled pork will be slow cooked in house for 10 to 12 hours, and Winn-Dixie chefs are making a signature pizza sauce and marinades from scratch.
  • Customers can pick up a hot brew of steaming coffee at the Café. With a trained barista on the team and coffee beans roasted on-site, customers can order a latte, cappuccino, espresso or cup of “Joe” and either sit and enjoy at the café style seating or conveniently place in their shopping cart’s cup holder — to sip their way down the aisles.
  • Deli with more than 350 local and international artisanal cheeses and a trained American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Steward on-hand with recommendations and pairings. There will be up to 30-40 local artisanal cheeses, and this will be the first Winn-Dixie to offer a full-range of grass-fed cheeses.
  • Butcher to feature 100 percent natural Adena Meats and Florida Frank’s grass-fed, natural beef and organic chicken, USDA Choice Prime beef steaks, dry aged beef, Berkshire pork, Boar ribs and an expanded assortment of fresh sausages and natural packaged meats. There will be a dry aging meat case, in which chosen cuts of meat can be custom aged to a customer’s liking.
  • Bakery departmentincludes fresh, hot mini-donuts made in-store, full dessert case featuring specialty cakes, a patisserie with local cupcakes from Cupcake 50 Etc., cheesecakes from the Cheesecake Factory and assorted artisanal breads. There will be at least 10 varieties of artisanal breads baked daily and 11 flavors of gluten-free bread. Customers will also enjoy bagels and butter croissants baked fresh daily.
  • A full-service seafood department offering shoppers a variety of seafood assortments, including 4-Star BAP certified sustainable salmon and fresh catch of the day.


Florida ag continues to receive brunt of El Niño’s impact

Average rainfall numbers as much as 800 percent greater than normal continue to stack up in Florida, wreaking havoc on many different annual crops from peppers to strawberries to sweet corn.

“During November, December and January, we had about three-and-a-half inches of rain last year,” said Tony DiMare of DiMare Homestead Inc. in Homestead, FL, speaking of the winter of 2014-15. “This year we have had 25 inches. In one stretch, Homestead had 15 inches over three days.”tony-dimareTony DiMare

All this rain has devastated the vegetables crops, delaying planting over and over again, wiping out young plants and damaging production about to be harvested. The result has been months of short supplies and high prices.

“And there is no relief in sight,” said DiMare.

His comments were echoed by Gibson Wilkinson of Wilkinson-Cooper Produce Inc. and Ted Wanless of S.M. Jones & Co., two Belle Glade, FL, firms.

“We got a lot of rain last week and it is still too wet to get into the fields,” Wanless said Feb. 2. “We won’t know until next Wednesday what kind of damage has been done to the sweet corn.”

Wilkinson’s firm also specializes in sweet corn and he said his fields received 7.5 inches of rain in a very short time frame. He said some of the plants will be lost, and although some might survive, he is predicting a disruption of sweet corn supplies well into March.Kenneth-ParkerKenneth Parker

The f.o.b. market price reflected these issues as sweet corn was selling for $20-22 per carton on Feb. 2 — an almost unheard of price.

DiMare agreed the markets were high across the board but he said it isn’t doing a lot of good for growers or shippers “because there is hardly anything left out there.”

He wouldn’t predict when supplies might return to normal, stating, “We are in unchartered territory. We’ve never seen rains like this at this time of year. We are getting August rains now.”

DiMare said the weather models have predicted that this well-above-normal rainfall will last for at least a couple more months. Considering the accuracy of the prediction for the past couple of months, DiMare isn’t doubting that rain will be the order of the day for weeks and maybe months to come.

Kenneth Parker, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, located in Plant City, in central Florida, was a lot more optimistic. Florida strawberries have had a problematic season with warm fall temperatures leading to January volume that was 50 to 75 percent lower than normal. But Parker said there have been more rains in South Florida than the Plant City area, which is where the state’s strawberry industry is centered. And, he said, the soil composition allows workers to get into the field to pick the berries fairly soon after a rain.

“We are not like California where you might have to wait a few days after a rain,” he said.  “We can get in right away.”

Looking at the current fruit on the strawberry plants, Parker said volume is already starting to increase and by mid- to late February, he was expecting supplies much closer to normal level.

“The plants and fruit look beautiful right now,” Parker said Feb. 2.  

While Florida growers have lost a significant portion of their season volume because of the lack of supplies in January, he noted that some growers could push their crops into May and try to make up for some of that lost volume at the end of the year.

In the meantime, El Niño’s impact on California continues to stay in the northern half of the state, piling up the mountains with snow and putting many communities well ahead of precipitation levels of the past four years and slightly ahead of normal averages.

However, Southern California, which was predicted to receive the full force of El Niño, has not had the torrential downpours yet in 2016. This means coastal and desert vegetable production areas have been able to move forward unfettered. Excellent supplies have ensued and many crops are currently in a supply-exceeds-demand situation.

After almost two years of good markets, this has meant below break-even costs for many different items. And with no rain in the forecast through mid-February, this situation has a very good chance to continue at least through this month.

Wonderful Halos promotes healthy snacking with Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Actress, television personality, designer and philanthropist Kristin Cavallari helped kick off the second year of a partnership between Wonderful Halos California mandarins and Boys & Girls Clubs of America to promote healthy living.

Wonderful Halos, the No. 1 selling brand of mandarins in the country, is donating another $100,000 to Boys & Girls Clubs of America to support healthy lifestyle programming at clubs around the country. Funds are used for health education, sports programming, as well as after-school food, which is often the last meal of the day for some club kids. Included in Wonderful Halos’ donation is fresh citrus fruit to supply clubs with healthy snack options.image008

Cavallari, former cast member of mega-popular MTV series “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” and author of upcoming book, Balancing in Heels, due out in March, joined volunteers at a Boys & Girls Club in New York City to deliver Wonderful Halos and other healthy foods for a snack time treat and to host fitness activities to promote the importance of healthy habits.

“Teaching kids good habits at an early age really sets the foundation for them for the rest of their lives,” Cavallari said in a press release. “For example, I plan to encourage my little ones to reach for healthy snacks such as Wonderful Halos in lieu of sugary treats. And now this partnership has allowed me to promote healthy eating and thinking to a huge network of youth across the country.”               

Boys & Girls Clubs of America is the nation’s premier youth development organization serving nearly 4 million youth annually. More than 4,100 club locations have helped develop young minds with the skills and abilities to become productive citizens. Boys & Girls Clubs of America works to provide a world-class club experience for all youth and this includes teaching how to live a healthy lifestyle along with demonstrating good character, citizenship and academic success. Signature Boys & Girls Club programs, such as Triple Play, Smart Moves, Smart Girls and Wanna Play, provide opportunities for club kids to get active, understand and educate themselves to make smart choices that impact their health.

“Instilling early and often the foundations of a healthy lifestyle is key to developing long-term wellness habits that shape successful adults,” Jennifer Bateman, national vice president of health, wellness and gender for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, added in the press release. “We’re grateful for partners like Wonderful Halos that support our health and wellness initiatives. Each day BGCA and clubs around the country work to enhance our strategies and drive deeper impact to help club members learn and practice healthy habits so they can achieve a great future.”

“Wonderful Halos believe that kids are the catalyst for change in the household, and they can influence their families to make healthy choices,” Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing for Wonderful Halos, added in the press release. “That’s why we are proud to partner with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to help make healthy food and resources available to club kids. During the first year of our partnership, we directly saw the positive influence clubs have on kids’ lives, and so it was natural for us to continue our partnership through 2016 and to continue support their health initiative.”

Consumers will enjoy 2 billion servings of wholesome California mandarins this season, which they can find in the produce aisles of grocery, mass and club stores now through April (California mandarin season). They are available in one-, three- and five-pound bags and five-pound boxes.

For more information on Wonderful Halos or to stay up-to-date on the Wonderful Halos and Boys & Girls Clubs of America partnership, visit, or @halosfun on Twitter. For more information on Boys & Girls Clubs of America and how to help, please visit

United Family celebrates 100th anniversary with $100,000 in school donations

As part of United Supermarkets’ 100th anniversary celebration, The United Family will donate $100,000 to local schools throughout west Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth and eastern New Mexico, as part of its Shop to Support Schools program.united

Beginning Jan. 13 and running through Oct. 15, guests may link a school of choice to their rewards account at any United Supermarkets, United Express, Market Street, Albertsons Market and Amigos grocery locations and earn points as they shop. At the end of the earning period, The United Family will award $1,000 to 100 schools based on the percentage of each school’s shopping activity.

“United Supermarkets has long held fast to the belief that supporting education is important and we have looked for ways to do that,” Robert Taylor, president of The United Family, said in a press release. “This program is designed to let our guests make their hard-earned dollars do more than just buy groceries. It really lets them have a voice in making donations directly to schools.”

To sign up for the free rewards program, guests can visit or use the “United Market” mobile application, which is available for iOS and Android operating systems. For a list of participating schools and more information on The United Family’s Shop to Support Schools program, visit