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Following an ideal growing season and a beautiful harvest, Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers is seeing exceptional movement of all apple and pear varieties, with demand soaring in the organic category.

Oneonta33 Oneonta National Marketing Representative Brent Shammo said as demand for organics increases, the company continues to transition acreage to certified status. We have seen outstanding growth in both organic pears and apples,” Shammo said recently. “This season we had our first year out of transition for organic pears, and demand has actually outpaced supply. To keep up with that demand, we are transitioning more acreage during the next three years.”

Citing category statistics, Shammo said that in the past six years apple and pear organics have grown by about 30 percent, and he added, “There has been no slowing that trend down.” Once the domain of “health food” and specialty retail stores, organics are now found in most mainstream outlets. Organic growth has moved away from only specialty stores to large retailers like Walmart and Kroger,” he said. “It has shown the consumer demand for organics is not only for shoppers at specialty stores but for everyday customers. With the increased retail availability and the national attention organics receive, both suppliers and retailers can continue to grow their organic footprints.”

As a major grower-shipper of organic apples and pears, Oneonta Starr Ranch is seeing an uptick in demand for certified varietals Shammo said, “Customer trends point towards a movement to organic varietal apples, and we are transitioning more Honeycrisp and Pink Lady to keep pace with demand. As we go forward with the program, we will have more certified organic fruit in all varieties certified, with Gala, Fuji and Granny Smith leading.”

Of course quality has been key to the category’s success, and Shammo said the 2017 crop is “outstanding.” He said, “Our organic apples not only have great flavor, but they also have beautiful color and very good sizing. The Galas and Granny Smiths are great for our consumer bag program, and with the sizing profile and customer demand, organic two-pound pouch bags have hit the ‘sweet spot’ this year with both retailers and their customers.”

Due to Publix’s growth, expanding initiatives and increased efforts surrounding innovation, Publix CEO & President Todd Jones announced new officer positions, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

Randy Barber, 55, will be promoted to vice president of industrial maintenance and purchasing. He is currently director of industrial maintenance. In this new officer role, Barber will be responsible for industrial maintenance, facilities purchasing and manufacturing supply purchasing.

Publix’s fresh retail business units (RBUs) are among those with rapidly expanding initiatives and innovation efforts, so Publix is dividing those responsibilities between two current officers. Moving from Publix’s grocery team, Pete Mowitt, 58, currently vice president of product business development for grocery and non-foods, will lead the bakery and meat RBUs as vice president of product business development for bakery and meat; he’ll also continue to oversee Publix’s store dairy and frozen business areas as well as space management areas. Chris Litz, 54, will continue to lead Publix’s efforts in the deli, produce and meals RBUs as vice president of product business development for deli and produce. RBUs buy product, develop business plans and provide support to the company’s retail stores.

With Mowitt’s new responsibilities, Brad Oliver, 44, will be promoted to vice president of product business development for dry grocery and non-foods. He is currently business development director of direct store delivery products. Oliver will be responsible for overseeing and supporting the dry grocery and non-foods corporate purchasing category management teams.

“Investing in our business is critical to our growth and success,” said Jones. “I’m excited we have associates ready to take the next step in their careers, helping us execute our company strategy.”

Retailers and brands cannot afford to become complacent about the strategic role that delivery plays in their eCommerce strategies according to new research. Half of all shoppers will abandon online shopping baskets if delivery choices on offer are unsatisfactory and 60 percent will buy their goods from one online retailer over another if they offer more convenient delivery options.

This stark message to retailers comes with the launch of the new MetaPack 2017 State of eCommerce Delivery Consumer Research Report, and demonstrates clearly that when it comes to winning and keeping customers, delivery has the power to make or break the online shopping experience.

Top findings:

  • 54 percent of consumers say delivery defines who they always shop with;
  • 39 percent will never shop again with an online merchant following a negative delivery experience;
  • 43 percent have used social media platforms to voice their displeasure at a poor delivery experience and amongst 18-26 year olds, this figure rises to a huge 48 percent;
  • 54 percent say they want eCommerce sites to offer a one-hour delivery in metropolitan areas.
  • The research, which was carried out in August amongst 3,577 consumers in the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and the U.S., asked respondents for their views on a wide range of topics from try-before-you-buy through to loyalty programs.

Demand for try-before-you-buy is set to surge
Consumers have come to expect more and more from their online buying experience and the try-before-you-buy proposition plays well to their general desire for greater convenience and shopping ease. Fifty-seven percent would be likely/very likely to use a try-before-you-buy service — with U.S. (67 percent) and Spanish (63 percent) shoppers particularly excited by this option. While an unsurprising 59 percent of millennial shoppers were eager to take advantage of try-before-you-buy, 47 percent of silver surfers (those aged 50 and above) were also keen to get in on the act.

Consumers say they shop more with e-tailers that offer delivery loyalty programs — and almost a third are prepared to pay an annual fee for premium benefits that eliminate the need to factor in, or worry about, the delivery cost of their purchases:

  • 42 percent say loyalty schemes make them feel special;
  • 31 percent would pay a monthly fee to get unlimited next-day deliveries;
  • 55 percent would prioritise one e-tailer over another if it offered a delivery loyalty programme; this was particularly the case for US (75 percent), Spanish (71 percent) and Italian (59 percent) shoppers;
  • The consolidated delivery model was also a popular idea with US (84 percent), Spanish (81 percent), Italian (73 percent), French (71 percent) and UK (65 percent) shoppers.

The need for speed
With next-day and same-day delivery now an established practice, consumer hunger for ever faster delivery options continues unabated.

Asked to evaluate their most important delivery considerations for online purchases, more than half (52 percent) ranked fast delivery as their top or second most important priority — up from 30 percent of last year's respondents.

Demand for one-hour delivery service in metropolitan areas was also on the up, with more than half (54 percent) of all respondents saying they want the online commerce sites they shop with to offer this service.

Ultra-fast delivery holds a particularly strong appeal for millennial shoppers (66 percent) and those aged 27-38 (68 percent). Similarly, the ability to take advantage of a one-hour delivery service was a particularly attractive proposition for 85 percent of Spanish and 70 percent of U.S. shoppers. It held least appeal for Dutch shoppers (24 percent).

Consumer hunger for a premium 'same day' service is growing. This year, demand for a premium 'same day' service almost doubled in all countries surveyed. It was particularly appealing to Italian (33 percent), U.K. (28 percent) and U.S. (22 percent) consumers, with 22 percent of all respondents taking advantage of a same day delivery option in the last six months.

Personalization is rising up the agenda
Last year personalization was ranked as an important delivery consideration by just 2 percent of shoppers. Fast forward to 2017 and 15 percent now say they expect online providers to know who they are, and to schedule delivery in line with their usual or preferred arrangements.

Moreover, the ability to select which carrier delivers their online purchase is becoming a top control consideration for a growing number of online shoppers:

  • 42 percent of all respondents said this was important to them;
  • 63 percent of all US respondents said this option was important to them — and for 32 percent of these it was vital;
  • 38 percent of millennials (18-26) wanted this facility;
  • 55 percent of those aged 27-38 indicated this was a priority for them - and of this number, 20 percent said it was essential they were able to select who made their delivery.

Driven by trending flavors, fruits and vegetables, Raley’s has expanded its Ready-To-Go meal options (first launched in 2010) with new sizes, flavors and packaging. The program now includes 32 different meals, all made with fresh, premium ingredients that can be found in the fresh deli department in grab-and-go displays.roasted-cauliflower-chickpea

“Our customers are in for a real treat with Raley’s new Ready-To-Go meals,” said Keith Knopf, Raley’s president and chief operating officer. “We understand the importance of convenient, healthy food options at a value and believe our customers will enjoy the new meals, made with quality ingredients that taste great!”

Ready-to-Go focuses on higher quality and better-for-you options that include unique, global flavors like Chicken Fajitas, Moroccan Style Couscous and Beef with Chimichurri Sauce.

In addition to the packaging, which shows that these meals contain only clean and fresh ingredients, Raley’s took label transparency a step further by tapping its recently launched labeling system for the product line. The Raley’s Shelf Guide is a one-of-a-kind shelf tag program that helps customers combat label confusion to find options that meet their personal dietary needs. In this case, Raley’s new Ready-to-Go meals will offer customers clear descriptions, including “Nutrient Dense,” “Calorie Conscious,” “Vegan” and “Vegetarian” directly on the package.

The meals can be heated up in as little as two minutes and range from $3.99 for a single serving to $16.99 for the family size. In addition to adding more modern flavors, Raley’s has improved the size and packaging. The new package is modern and functional; customers can heat the aluminum trays directly in the microwave or oven. Ready-to-Go meals come in three different convenient sizes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including mini, entrée size and large family size.

Raley’s Ready-to-Go program is the latest addition to the company’s commitment to providing customers with “Better for You” products, with healthy, nutritious options customers can feel good about eating.

The New England Produce Council's annual dinner dance gala is set for Saturday evening, Feb. 3, 2018, at the World Trade Center/Seaport Hotel in Boston.NEPC-logo

The Magical Garden Dinner Dance will begin with cocktails at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m.

Last year's gala drew about 230 people, and "we're looking to have a similar attendance" at the upcoming event, NEPC Executive Director Laura Sullivan told The Produce News Friday, Nov. 10.

An important part of last year's dinner dance was the Sock Drive to collect socks for those in need, when the council partnered with Friends of Boston Homeless. That proved extremely successful, with more than 600 pairs of socks for men, women and children donated.

Sullivan is optimistic for equally successful results this coming February. "A lot of people think of donating coats during the cold winter months," and coats are obviously very important to those in need, she noted. "But sometimes a warm pair of socks is really what they need."

For more information on the 2018 dinner dance gala, visit the NEPC's website or contact Laura Sullivan by phone at 781/273-0444.