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Business in Vancouver has recognized Village Farms as one of the fastest growing companies in British Columbia for 2017. The list is compiled by Business in Vancouver, a weekly business news journal that ranks companies based on outstanding growth over the last five years.

The publication’s annual list of the fastest growing companies in British Columbia includes a wide range of entrepreneurs across many business sectors. The list is intended to provide a representative sample of companies in the province whose entrepreneurial direction and focus are gaining highest traction through new opportunities being seeded.

Three years following the introduction of its Rushing Rivers pears brand, Stemilt is celebrating another pear season with a new mantra surrounding this fruit: renew shopper confidence in pears through a strong focus on flavor. Dubbed “Operation Flavor,” Stemilt’s new initiative may sound quite basic, but it’s actually an involved journey that will look at how pears perform throughout the supply chain following a decade of pear category decline in the produce department.PearHarvest 2817

“The pear category contribution to the total produce department dropped 0.08 percent in just one year’s time and is currently at an all-time low of under 1 percent. When you see this on paper, you have two choices — follow the past and stay the same or make a bold change. Operation Flavor is Stemilt’s journey to reverse this trend and get more shoppers to enjoy pears,” said Roger Pepperl, Stemilt marketing director.

Stemilt and its pear partners, Peshastin Hi-Up, have launched this Operation Flavor mission and with it several internal pear pilots and promoters. The pilots are leaders that will look for and enact change for Rushing Rivers pears, while promoters are believers in pears that implement Stemilt’s flavor and quality standards.

“The journey is already under way internally, and in the future, we will look to bring retail pear pilots and promoters on board. If we can increase the knowledge on pears shared throughout the supply chain, we can fine-tune the quality and flavor experience for shoppers. That will result in better category results for pears,” said Pepperl.

Stemilt’s Rushing Rivers pears come from the Wenatchee and Entiat river valleys, ideal real estate for pears. It’s here where hands-on multi-generational growers from Stemilt and Hi-Up focus on harvesting pears at the optimal pressures that will result in high-flavored fruits. After harvest, there are rigorous cooling practices, an overcapacity in packing that gives Stemilt the industry’s best packaging flexibility, and packaging that’s engineered for a successful RipeRite pear ripening program.

“Our Rushing Rivers pears have always had a phenomenal story to tell, and committed growers and production teams behind them. We’ve embarked on Operation Flavor to fine-tune all these things we are doing right, and locate new theories to test throughout the supply chain that will help us ensure flavor comes first for pears,” said Pepperl.

As the Operation Flavor journey gets under way, Stemilt is excited about the addition of two new ThermalTech TarpLess ripening rooms at its Olds Station facility in Wenatchee. The extra-deep rooms will carry out the company’s RipeRite ready-to-eat pear program in hopes of delivering both consistency and flavor to produce departments. Two dedicated pear ripeners are among the new Operation Flavor pear pilots, and they will be looking at ways to fine-tune the RipeRite process throughout the season.

“Just like at retail, we’re aiming to do a lot of little things right to make Operation Flavor a reality. It’s a journey, and one our entire team is passionate about. Rushing Rivers pears are going to be even better today because of the people behind the scenes looking to steer a new course for pears,” said Pepperl.

The largest retailer of organic food sales in the United States announced its commitment to participating in the inaugural Organic Grower Summit Dec. 13-14 in Monterey, CA. Costco, with annual fresh produce sales of $4 billion, will sponsor a half-day event providing certified organic farmers and growers the opportunity to meet with Costco buyers.

This news comes on the heels of all exhibit booths for the event being sold out last week. The first ever OGS, a joint production between California Certified Organic Farmers and Organic Produce Network, will bring together organic growers, producers and processors for two days of education, information and networking opportunities with organic production supply chain and service providers. The event includes a series of educational sessions, keynote presentations, a variety of meal functions and a sold out exhibitor area, featuring more than 70 organic supplier and service providers.

The Meet the Organic Farmer session provides certified organic farmers and grower representatives the opportunity to meet face to face with Costco organic produce, dairy, meat and grain buyers to discuss their operations and products.

"Costco is committed to meeting directly with organic farmers, who are truly on the front lines of bringing top quality organic products to market. We appreciate the work OPN has done in putting together this unique opportunity to meet face to face with those responsible for actually growing organic products," said Heather Shavey, assistant vice president for Costco. "Our buying team is looking forward to learning more about organic production, hearing about new product innovations and building new supplier opportunities to meet the growing demand for organics for our shoppers."

"OGS is delighted Costco is coming to show their support of the certified organic farming community," said Tonya Antle, cofounder of the Organic Produce Network. "This is a great opportunity to have organic farmers get in front of Costco to tell their story as part of the inaugural OGS."

Certified organic growers, producers and processors interested in making an appointment to meet with Costco, can register as an attendee at www.organicgrowersummit.com/registration and click on the "Meet with Costco" tab for further information.

Among the inaugural Organic Grower Summit educational session topics that will be covered are Issues Facing Organic Farmers Today; Organic Disruption—Cannabis: The Next Frontier; Clean and Renewable Technology; Tools for Plant and Soil Health; Essentials of Sustainable Packaging through the Supply Chain; and Leveraging Precision Agriculture. Each of the six sessions will feature leaders from the organic industry, as well as experts in the field of discussion.

Featured keynote presentations will include Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator, AMS, and USDA, which oversees the National Organic Program. Two additional influential thought leaders will also provide unique viewpoint and analysis and will be announced shortly.

Exhibition Booths for allied service suppliers are sold-out. Companies interested in being added to the exhibitor wait list can contact info@organicgrowersummit.com.

As the seasons begin to change, Wegmans is looking to share new innovations and fresh ideas to help consumers enjoy delicious, easy meals and more family time, and produce is taking center stage.

Veggie Purees
Available in carrot, cauliflower and zucchini basil, veggie purees are delicious way to love veggies. The purees are a blend of fresh veggies and herbs meant to be enjoyed as a side dish, a sauce or a recipe builder for soups, pastas and more. They are available in eight-ounce or 20-ounce options. Menu magazine includes 12 pages of great ideas for easy meals featuring veggie purees such as Cauli-fredo Pasta and Ready-to-Cook scallops. They are also included in new Power Meals and Chef’s Case Meals debuting this month.

Fruit Delight Yogurt
Available in strawberry, apple, mango, peach and raspberry, Fruit Delight is a serving of 2 percent Plain Organic Greek yogurt packaged with real organic fruit pieces ready to mix in — there’s nothing else like it in the dairy case. With three times the fruit and 25 percent less sugar than Wegmans 0% Greek Yogurt, this is a great option for anyone seeking a quick and healthy way to enjoy real fruit with their yogurt. Fruit Delight is available in 5.3-ounce cups in the dairy department.

Wegmans Organic Honeycrisp Apple Breakfast Bread
Made with real organic Honeycrisp apples, this bread contains six grams of protein and a half serving of whole grains per slice. It’s baked in the Wegmans Bakeshop in Rochester, NY, and has a sweet flavor.

Boo Kits
Bring your neighborhood together with this spooky surprise. Boo Kits including two treat buckets, shredded filler, two “we’ve been booed” tags and two instruction sheets will help you start a fun tradition this Halloween season. Fill the bucket with a special treat, leave it on a neighbor’s doorstep with a tag and instructions, ring the bell and then run! If your neighbors leave a treat for you, display a ghost tag on your door so everyone will know you’ve already been “boo-ed.”

POM Wonderful, the largest grower and producer of fresh pomegranates, pomegranate arils and pomegranate juice in the United States, and the worldwide leader in fresh California pomegranates and pomegranate-based products, has acquired Ruby Fresh, a leading processor and distributor of fresh pomegranates and arils, based in Firebaugh, CA.

This acquisition, combined with existing operations, further enhances POM Wonderful's position as North America's leading pomegranate producer and distributor.

The Ruby Fresh brand, which leverages both domestic and international grower partners, enjoys a strong reputation within the marketplace and will remain intact. Through this acquisition, POM Wonderful will be able to further improve its service to customers, providing greater supply during the North American season, increased access to arils beyond the traditional October to January season, as well as offering a wider variety of package sizes.

"The addition of Ruby Fresh to the POM Wonderful family significantly enhances our ability to provide customers with pomegranates and arils both during the North American season and outside of it," said Elizabeth Stephenson, president of POM Wonderful. "This season's crop is shaping up beautifully, and we're thrilled to be able to offer both delicious and healthy brands to even more consumers through this acquisition."

David Anthony, head of sales for Ruby Fresh, added, "POM Wonderful is a well-respected leader within the pomegranate industry. We're excited to be joining The Wonderful Company family and look forward to working together to grow the market for fresh pomegranates and arils."

Ruby Fresh's employees and physical operations will be integrated into POM Wonderful.