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Purple produce was featured as a top 2017 food trend in national media including NBC’s Today, Fortune, Forbes, Food & Wine, Parade and Consumer Reports. Frieda’s Specialty Produce urges retailers, wholesalers and foodservice providers to take advantage of this purple buzz before it fades.frie

Most of these reports mentioned by name Stokes Purple sweet potatoes, purple asparagus and purple cauliflower, which Frieda’s predicted to be one of the top trends for 2017.

“Purple fruits and vegetables are everywhere in the media right now with purple cauliflower and Stokes Purple sweet potatoes leading the way,” Karen Caplan, president and chief executive officer of Frieda’s Specialty Produce, said in a press release. “Cauliflower in general is gaining ground as a contender to dethrone kale, and Stokes Purple sweet potatoes sales remain strong as shoppers are asking for them by name nationwide.

“This is the perfect time to build a big, bountiful ‘Purple Power’ destination in the produce department or promote special menus while purple is fresh in shoppers’ minds,” Caplan said in the release.

Other purple produce includes passion fruit, purple potatoes, purple carrots, radicchio, Treviso and eggplant varieties.

Frieda’s has been promoting purple produce since its Year of Purple campaign in 2013.

More than 100 retail buyers have already signed up for the 2017 Organic Produce Summit, which will be held in Monterey, CA, July 12-13.

OPS Director of Operations Susan Canales told The Produce News in early January that registration for retailers and other buyers had been open for about a month while general registration will begin on Feb. 6 through the event’s website, www.organicproducesummit.com.

SusanSusan Canales“We are very excited about this year’s event,” she said. “We have already sold out the booth space and have started a wait list for exhibitors. We are also anticipating the attendee limit will be reached so we highly recommend early registration.”

Canales said building on the very successful inaugural OPS in July of 2016, a new venue will allow for a significant increase in both exhibit space and the number of attendees. This year, the event will be held in the newly renovated Monterey Conference Center, which is attached to the Portola Hotel.

“Last year we had 72 booths and this year we have space for 120 booths, which have already been sold.” Canales added that last year’s venue had a cap of about 800 people because of its size, while this year the venue can accommodate closer to 1,400 attendees. She said renovations are still under way at the convention center, noting that occupancy limits for the various meeting spaces have not yet been established.

Besides the venue, the biggest change for 2017 is the addition of a retailer field tour day. On July 12, several busloads of buyers will tour four different Salinas Valley operations: Vitalis Organic Seeds, Driscoll Strawberry Associates, Braga Ranch and Taylor Farms. “We have room for 200 buyers, who will receive a more intimate look at organic production in the valley from seed to farming to processing,” Canales said.

As far as the main events of the OPS are concerned, it will be similar to 2016. There will be an opening reception on the evening of July 12. On July 13, there will be a breakfast session, four breakout educational sessions, a keynote addresses and a luncheon. Each of those events is currently in the planning stage with presenters being lined up. The afternoon of July 13 will be devoted to the one-day trade show.

Canales said retailer signups for both the summit and the tour have been robust and the OPS organizers are convinced that final numbers will easily top the 150 buyers who attended the 2016 show. “Retailers and other members from approved buying organizations are eligible for complimentary lodging and registration,” Canales said.

The Portola Hotel is the headquarters of the event but the Monterey Marriott and the Hotel Pacific are also being utilized.

The New England Produce Council and Dole have donated $5,000 to the Greater Boston Food Bank. The council hosted a dinner meeting at the Greater Boston Food Bank Wednesday, Jan. 11, with Dole as the sponsor.

The evening began with cocktails and tours of the food bank. Anthony Sattler, NEPC president, and Neil Kessler, Northeast region manager at Dole, presented a check to Catherine D'Amato, president and chief executive officer of the food bank.NEPCdonationNeil Kessler of Dole, NEPC President Anthony Sattler of C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc., Catherine D'Amato of the Greater Boston Food Bank, Bob McGowan of Northeast Produce Sales and NEPC Executive Director Laura Sullivan. Photo courtesy NEPC.

The meeting was attended by many NEPC members representing all aspects of the produce industry. Both organizations are proud to support such a worthy charitable organization as the Greater Boston Food Bank.

"The Greater Boston Food Bank provides food for so many men, women, families and children, and the NEPC is excited to be a part of this great cause," Sattler said in a Jan. 12 press release.

The Greater Boston Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and among the largest food banks in the country, according to the release. Last year, the food bank distributed over 57 million pounds of food, with produce at 27.5 percent, or 15 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.

"Our partnership with the New England Produce Council is very beneficial as we continue to provide our partner agencies with more fresh produce to serve those in need in eastern Massachusetts," Cheryl Schondek, the food bank's vice president of food acquisition and supply chain, said in the release. "We are so grateful to Dole for hosting the NEPC event here at the Greater Boston Food Bank for the third year in a row."

The Kroger Co. announced that Mark S. Sutton has been elected to the company's board of directors.krolog

Sutton is chairman and chief executive officer of International Paper, a leading global producer of renewable fiber-based packaging, pulp and paper products. Prior to becoming CEO, he served as president and chief operating officer with responsibility for running the company's global business.

Sutton joined International Paper in 1984 as an electrical engineer. He held roles of increasing responsibility throughout his career, including mill manager, vice president of corrugated packaging operations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, vice president of corporate strategic planning, and senior vice president of several business units, including global supply chain, before being named CEO in 2014.

"We are delighted to welcome Mark to Kroger," Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO, said in a press release. "Mark's deep experience in an end-to-end business and global perspective make him a valued addition to Kroger's board of directors."

Sutton is a member of The Business Council and the Business Roundtable. He serves on the boards of the American Forest & Paper Association and the International Advisory Board of the Moscow School of Management – Skolkovo. He also serves on the boards of Memphis Tomorrow and the New Memphis Institute.

Sutton is elected to serve until Kroger's annual meeting of shareholders in June 2017. At that time, he will stand for election by the shareholders.

The board of directors of Empire Co. Ltd. announced the appointment of Michael Medline as president and chief executive officer of Empire and its wholly owned subsidiary Sobeys Inc. Medline will also serve on the board of directors of Empire.

“Michael Medline is an outstanding Canadian retailer who brings a passion for the customer experience and a proven ability to drive strong operating and financial performance within national organizations and across multiple brands,” James Dickson, chair of Empire, said in a press release. “After an extensive international search, the board is unanimous in its determination that Michael is the right choice to create long-term value for all our stakeholders.”

Medline is a proven leader with a strong track record of success. Prior to joining Empire, he served for more than 15 years in a variety of senior retail leadership roles at Canadian Tire Corp., most recently as that organization’s president and CEO. The company said he is ideally positioned to lead Empire in serving the needs of its customers and to oversee the return of long-term, profitable growth to the company.

“I am proud to be joining Empire, a great retailer which has served Canadians for more than 109 years. I'm looking forward to working with our entire team to put together and execute on a strategy that will thrill our customers, build our brands, and excite our shareholders,” Medline said in the release.

Medline’s appointment is effective immediately. He will work closely with François Vimard and the experienced leadership team to understand the unique aspects of Empire’s business. He will also benefit from the extensive food retailing experience contained on the Empire Board.

“We thank François Vimard for his great work leading the company over the past several months and are extremely pleased that he will move into the position of executive vice president for Empire to play an active role in the transition,” said Dickson.