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Giant Food Stores introduces new fresh meal kits

Giant Food Stores has launched its new fresh meal kit program in 12 greater Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley stores. Each kit features pre-measured fresh ingredients to make two servings of the selected meal as well as step-by-step instructions. Giant's fresh meal kits will be featured in the produce, meat or deli sections.giant

“Our customers are busy and these new fresh meal kits are another innovative way we are helping them to save time and eat well by getting a delicious and convenient home-cooked meal on the table,” Erik Keptner, senior vice president of sales, merchandising and marketing, said in a press release.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, they are also a great option to prepare a special dinner. The fresh meal kits, which will vary by season, are all ready to prepare and cook in 35 minutes or less.

Varieties currently include:

  • Pan seared chicken breast with creamy mushroom sauce, garlic roasted green beans and seasoned wild rice
  • Baked chicken parmesan with rosemary Yukon gold potato wedges and fresh ratatouille
  • Mini Italian style meatloaf with couscous and fresh vegetables
  • Peppercorn steak with creamy blue cheese sauce, chive mashed potatoes, and garlic roasted broccoli and cauliflower
  • Pan seared boneless pork chops with apple and honey mustard sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes

The cost for one kit, which serves two people, is $14.99 and two kits to serve four people is $24.99. In addition to being available at the 12 stores, Peapod customers in greater Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley can also order the kits for delivery.

Super avocado sales in 2015 portend very bright future

As of this writing, Super Bowl 2016 — and another Avocados from Mexico commercial — is right around the corner. While the game is surely being anticipated by more people, all segments in the avocado industry are excited about what the ad might do for this year’s sales.

Although it’s impossible to directly credit AFM’s Super Bowl ad in 2015 for the great year that avocados had in the United States, it is seemingly also impossible to ignore its impact.IMG 0628Since 2010, the avocado industry has registered an average increase of 11 percent growth, which was greatly eclipsed in 2015, which saw a total of 2.14 billion pounds sold in the United States — a 16 percent increase over the 1.85 billion pounds sold in 2014.

Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board, said the numbers don’t lie and avocado sales in 2015 in the United States were “phenomenal” against virtually any measurement. And those increases started with a good sales month in January 2015 and continued to be strong in the period immediately after the Super Bowl in February, which is typically not a great avocado month.

“Ten million more pounds of avocados were sold in February 2015 vs. February 2014,” he said. “Raising awareness is a great way to expand sales.”

The 30-second spot — and AFM’s social media promotions before, during and after the commercial ran — garnered a lot of publicity for the avocados. Many published critiques of the Super Bowl ads gave high marks to the avocado ad for creativity and originality.

Escobedo said that whatever the reason avocado sales in the United States in 2015 showed very impressive growth. “We just finished wrapping up the year,” he said in late January, “and the growth [in sales] was just phenomenal.”Emiliano-EscobedoEmiliano Escobedo

HAB has its finger on the pulse of the total industry like no other organization because it collects assessments from every handler on a per-pound basis, which enables it and the other avocado commodity groups to fund their programs. The more than $53 million collected in 2015 is spread among the point-of-origin committees and HAB. HAB receives 15 percent of the total assessment while each committee receives the other 85 percent of the funds collected specifically from the avocados produced in the region they represent.

In 2015, a total of 2.14 billion pounds of avocados were sold in the United States — a 16 percent increase over the 1.85 billion pounds sold in 2014. “That means 293 million more pounds were sold in 2015 vs. 2014,” Escobedo said.

Since 2010, the industry has registered an average increase of 11 percent growth. To have that greatly eclipsed in 2015 is mind-boggling.  The increase is even more impressive considering Peru sent fewer avocados to the United States in 2015 and California’s crop was also smaller than the year before.  

Mexico, Escobedo said, accounted for virtually 100 percent of the increase — and then some. “There was a decline from Peru but a massive surge from Mexico. Mexico shipped 437 million more pounds in 2015. That’s 33 percent growth,” he said.

Now a month into 2016, HAB has a conservative estimate of an increase of 5 percent to 2.25 billion pounds for this year, but it would be no surprise if double-digit growth continues. There are factors that indicate the growth will be much closer to the five-year average than this year’s single-digit prediction.

In the first place, California has a much larger crop. It is expected to be at least 100 million pounds greater than 2015, which in itself is more than a 4 percent total increase in avocado volume.  

Escobedo said Peru is one of the wild cards. After a difficult year with regard to pricing for its imports in 2014, Peruvian avocado shippers were very conservative last year, leading to the decrease in volume.  They also had some other outlets for their fruit.

Another unknown factor in 2016 is when and if growers in the Mexican state of Jalisco will be granted access to the U.S. market.

“I hate to speculate,” said Escobedo, noting that for the last year many have been predicting that the market would be opened sooner rather than later. But it is a foregone conclusion that it will happen at some point. Jalisco doesn’t have a huge amount of production, but it does have enough to make a difference.  

Escobedo said, however, that the largest impact on U.S. consumption in 2016 might be the global market. There were widespread reports in January that Australian avocados were being sold for as much as $14 apiece because of demand in that market. Escobedo said worldwide demand is on the rise, and in the long run he believes there will be sufficient world supply to meet that demand, as there are many agricultural production areas around the world gearing up their avocado volume. But in any given time period, world supplies can be in a demand-exceeds-supply situation.  

What is hard to deny, however, is that it is going to be another good year for avocado producers, and the Super Bowl ad on Feb. 7 is figuratively, if not literally, kicking off the season.

Three companies restricted from operating in the produce industry

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has imposed sanctions on three produce businesses for failure to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.

The following businesses and individuals are currently restricted from operating in the produce industry:

  • Da Vinci Carriers Inc., operating out of Garden Grove, CA, for failing to pay a $23,704 award in favor of an Ohio seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, John H. Thompson was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business.

  • Wichita Food Mart Inc., operating out of Wichita Falls, TX, for failing to pay a $4,545 award in favor of a Texas seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Darrell Taylor was listed as the officer, director and major stockholder of the business

  • Hart Produce Co. Inc., operating out of Hart, MI, for failing to pay a $500 award in favor of a Florida seller. As of the issuance date of the reparation order, Jerry A. Brandel and Arthur H. Brandel were listed as the officers, directors and major stockholders of the business.

In the past three years, the USDA resolved approximately 3,700 PACA claims involving more than $66 million. Its experts also assisted more than 7,100 callers with issues valued at approximately $100 million.

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.