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Walmart Foundation President Kathleen McLaughlin announced that Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committing an additional $1 million to Team Rubicon, Convoy of Hope, Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and other organizations making a difference on the ground in Baton Rouge and across the state of Louisiana.

Last week Walmart and the Walmart Foundation made a $500,000 commitment to provide support through cash and in-kind donation to organizations helping with flood relief efforts. The total commitment of $1.5 million will be used to provide additional food, water, cleaning supplies and other essential items to those in critical need. Funds will also be used toward longer term recovery efforts.

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this disaster,” Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation, said in a press release. “We have been working closely with non-profit partners, first responders, elected officials and governmental organizations to learn how we can use our strengths to help. We will continue to be there for our friends, family, fellow associates, customers and neighbors in Louisiana.”

Walmart has a long history of providing aid in times of disaster in Louisiana, working hand in hand with the people of the Gulf Region during and after Hurricane Katrina. Walmart continues to help communities prepare and recover by donating emergency supplies, such as food and water, home and personal products, and by creating ways for associates and community members to locate and help one another. In the last 10 years, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have donated more than $56 million in cash and in-kind donations in response to disaster events.

Fresh Solutions Network announced its autumn promotions designed for shoppers returning to their busy fall schedules. The monthly themed merchandisers and coordinating point-of-purchase signs are designed to attract shoppers and increase retail potato sales.merchandiser-Nov-F

“The carefree days of summer are just a memory now. Autumn brings with it a return to routine, and the start of the holiday season,” Kathleen Triou, president and chief executive officer of Fresh Solutions Network, said in a press release. “That’s why our autumn promotions feature quick to cook, tasty, creative, crowd pleaser potato recipe ideas.”

Since for many shoppers dinner preparation needs to fit into a shorter timeframe in September, the Side Delights promotional theme is ”Dinner in 23 Minutes. Seriously!” The merchandiser and coordinating point-of-purchase sign visually display potatoes as the quick, tasty and healthy choice for busy families.

October’s Halloween parties will be howling good with the Side Delights promotional theme, “So Good… It’s Scary!” The enticing merchandiser and point-of-purchase sign offer a QR Code recipe for “Zombie Skins,” a fun potato skins recipe. Sixty-eight percent of Americans plan to celebrate Halloween, while one-third of Americans plan to throw or attend a Halloween party, according to 2015 BIG Research for the National Retail Federation.

November’s Thanksgiving gatherings require mashed potatoes on the table and Side Delights will take center stage with the “Mash It Like You Mean It!” promotion. The themed displays will offer multiple QR Code recipes appealing to the Traditionalist, Diplomat, Hedonist, Procrastinator and Health Nut in each family. Amplify November potato sales with this promotional mash-up. 

Agricultural production is big business in California, which produces significant volumes of fruits, nuts and vegetables, many of which come into solid volumes during fall months. According to Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, The Golden State produces over a third of the nation’s vegetables and two thirds of America’s fruits and nuts.

In its most recent publication, California Agricultural Statistics Review 2014-2015, the department quantified the state’s agricultural production, revealing the significant impact California agriculture continues to have upon the state’s economy.

Notable increases in the value of production were seen for various fruits during the reporting period: plums, 66 percent; all raspberries, 65 percent; freestone peaches, 62 percent; nectarines, 44 percent; and naval and miscellaneous oranges, 34 percent. Notable decreases for the value of production were also noted for sweet cherries at -47 percent.

A snapshot of commodities marketed during the fall months of the 2014 season provides industry insights:

California ranked fifth for apple production, accounting for 2 percent of national volume. The total value of the crop was $57.06 million. The harvest season ran from July 15-Oct. 30.

California ranked first for raspberry production, accounting for 65 percent of national volume. The total value of the crop was $450.9 million. The harvest season ran from June 1-Oct. 31.

California ranked first for fresh market strawberries production, accounting for 90 percent of national volume. The total value of the crop was $2.254 billion. The harvest season for strawberries for all uses ran from Feb. 20-Nov. 15.

California ranked first for date production, accounting for 99 percent of national volume. The total value of the crop was $34.5 million. The harvest season ran from Oct. 1-Dec. 15.

California ranked first for fig production, accounting for 99 percent of national volume. The total value of the crop was $18.41 million. The harvest season ran from June 10-Sept. 15.

The department did not rank California for its production of raisin-type grapes. The total value of the crop was $709.5 million. The harvest season ran from May 15-Nov. 15.

The department did not rank California for its production of table grapes. The total value of the crop was $1.572 billion. The harvest season ran from May 25-Dec. 15.

California ranked first for kiwifruit production, accounting for 99 percent of national volume. The total value of the crop was $32.6 million. The harvest season ran from Oct. 1-May 31.

California ranked first for lemon production, accounting for 91 percent of national volume. The total value of the crop was not delineated. The harvest season ran from Aug. 1-July 31.

The department did not rank California for its production of navel and miscellaneous oranges. The total value of the crop was $740.4 million. The harvest season ran from Nov. 1-June 15.

The department did not rank California for its production of Valencia oranges. The total value of the crop was $201.7 million. The harvest season ran from March 15-Dec. 20.

California ranked third for pear production, accounting for 23 percent of national volume. The total value of the crop was $88.6 million.  The harvest season ran from Aug. 5-Oct. 5.

And finally, California ranked first for tangerine, mandarin, tangelo and tangor production, accounting for 79 percent of national volume. The total value of the crop was not delineated. The harvest season ran from Nov. 1-May 15.

Del Monte and Port Manatee have signed an agreement to keep the company's fruit coming into the Florida Gulf Coast port for as many as 20 more years.

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc., which has imported fruit into the port since 1989, is now signed to a lease extension with Port Manatee through Aug. 30, 2021, with options for three additional extensions of five years each. If all options are exercised, Del Monte will be doing business at Port Manatee until at least 2036.manateedelmonte081816An extended lease agreement could keep Del Monte fruit imports coming into Port Manatee for two more decades.

“Extension of Port Manatee’s long-term partnership with Del Monte demonstrates the mutual commitment on the part of our port and a most-valued tenant,” said Betsy Benac, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, which at a Aug. 18 meeting approved the new agreement for Del Monte’s distribution facility at Port Manatee.

“We look forward to sharing success with Del Monte for decades to come,” said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director.

One of the North America’s larger marketers and distributors of fresh produce, including as the world’s No. 1 fresh pineapple marketer, Del Monte deploys refrigerated vessels to weekly import bananas and pineapples from Central America via containers and pallets. Export cargo includes linerboard that is used for packaging, as well as various third-party containers and project cargos.

“We are very pleased to continue our relationship with Port Manatee,” said Brian Giuliani, Del Monte’s Port Manatee-based port manager. “The cooperation with Port Manatee is exceptional and has been vital to the growth of our business at Port Manatee.”

Since 1989, Del Monte has moved 8.7 million short tons of cargo through Port Manatee, while Del Monte’s Southeast distribution center at Port Manatee has flourished to become the company’s second-largest U.S. facility.

Located “Where Tampa Bay Meets the Gulf of Mexico,” Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal and Cuba’s Port of Mariel, with 10 40-foot-draft berths serving container, bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo customers. The port generates more than $2.3 billion in annual economic impact for the local community, while supporting more than 24,000 jobs, without levying ad-valorem taxes.

PROSPECT, CT — People have been shopping at Oliver’s Supermarket for many decades, enjoying excellent value and friendly service as well as a wide selection of items, especially high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables. Their experience got a big boost in April when the store completed a major remodeling, with special emphasis on the produce department.Oliver3643Dan McAllister of Bozzuto’s Inc. with Mendi Mamudi, Evelyn Monroe and Len Noble of Oliver’s Supermarket in front of a display featuring Connecticut-grown produce.

“This store finished a remodeling in April,” Len Noble told The Produce News toward the end of July. “It started with expanding the produce department, and then the store engineer from Bozzuto’s gave us a floor plan, which we followed. The result is a greatly expanded produce department.”

Noble and Kenneth Gnazzo bought the supermarket back in 1980 from the previous owner, George Oliver. Noble sold his interest in the store to Gnazzo in May of this year, but continues to manage the store. Cheshire, CT-based Bozzuto’s Inc. has been the primary supplier to Oliver’s for about 13 years, he noted.

[The friendship between Oliver’s and Bozzuto’s actually goes back a lot farther than that. A young Greg Veneziano had worked at Oliver’s from 1973 to 1975, where he was the produce clerk as well as working in grocery and other areas of the store, while he was attending Mattatuck Community College; and he worked with the current produce manager at Oliver’s over 25 years ago. Today, Veneziano is vice president of perishables at Bozzuto’s.]

The fact that fresh produce is so important at Oliver’s was a major consideration in deciding to remodel the entire store, noted Noble. One traditional aisle within the produce department was taken out, which greatly opened up one end of the department. In fact, “the produce department is close to twice as large as it was before the remodel,” he stated.

“Dan McAllister [a produce merchandiser at Bozzuto’s] had a lot to do with this new set-up,” said Noble. “Dan had a lot to do with coming up with the format of open tables, that are more accessible and more easily shopable to our customers. Dan and Greg have been absolutely wonderful with the backup they’ve given us.”

Produce sales have always been strong at Oliver’s, and the new, open layout of the produce department should keep them strong in the years ahead. In fact, “in the summer months, produce sales represent about 17 percent of total store sales,” Noble informed. “They are a very important part of the business.”

Understanding the importance of fresh produce to the supermarket, Noble pointed out that “when you walk into the store, the customers’ first impression is how they judge the store, and here, produce is the first department they see.”

The town of Prospect, located in the center part of the state, was established in 1827, and had a population of about 9,500 as of the year 2012, according to the town’s website. Many of the town’s residents are longtime customers of Oliver’s, and Noble enjoys greeting many of them by name.

“The customer loyalty here is extremely high,” he stated. “The average sale per customer is very high. This is a one-stop shop, and [customers] feel very comfortable here.”

Customers not only feel comfortable at this store, they also are knowledgeable and informed. Like many consumers around the country, shoppers at Oliver’s Supermarket like to support their local farmers, and they look for locally grown produce as soon as they can. In fact, “They start asking about locally grown products in May,” said Mendi Mamudi, who has been at Oliver’s for eight years, all as produce manager.

When The Produce News visited this supermarket toward the end of July, corn, green squash, yellow squash, beans and leaf lettuce — all grown in Connecticut — were prominently on display. Additional items in larger volumes “should be coming in by the first week in August and will run through around mid-September,” said Mamudi, who worked at two other retailers before joining Oliver’s, and who has a total of 21 years experience, all in produce.

Mamudi said that “the locally grown trend is very strong” with many customers at Oliver’s. “It’s very important to them to know that something is grown in their backyard,” he stated. “The security of knowing it’s grown in their backyard — that’s a home run.”

Asked to describe the early shipments of local produce, Mamudi replied, “So far, Connecticut produce is excellent. Corn is always a big hit.”

Referring to Bozzuto’s, he continued, “It’s nice to have a warehouse that supports locally grown. Not every store has that access. The fact that I can pick up the phone and get it here is good. You can get everything you need from Bozzuto’s. They support the local farmers. We get a lot of support from these guys. It’s a relationship. Our success is their success. We can’t do it alone.”

That feeling of mutual support was reinforced by Noble himself. “Greg has been a big help. He’s always there. As far as the support, we can always rely on it and always depend on it.”