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Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. and Affiliated Foods Midwest Cooperative Inc. recently announced that they had reached agreement to combine the two cooperatives’ distribution businesses. The combination of the two cooperatives is slated to take effect next month after receiving near unanimous approval from the over 400 grocery store member-owners of Affiliated Foods Midwest. Following the unification, AWG will have annualized consolidated sales of approximately $10 billion.

"Before our members voted to unify, they learned how they would benefit from a lower cost of goods and an expanded array of services," Martin Arter, president and chief executive officer of AFM, said in a press release. "Our boards knew that unifying the cooperatives would produce substantial financial rewards for the retailer-members and would produce long-term growth.”

Following the transaction, Arter will assume the new position of senior vice president and manager of the northern region of AWG overseeing operations for the Nebraska and Great Lakes divisions. Arter said, “I’m looking forward to the growth opportunities in the new Northern Region with David’s leadership.”

“While we were anticipating tremendous support for the unification by AFM’s members, I was humbled by the virtually unanimous vote in favor and by the enthusiasm and standing ovation the members demonstrated at AFM’s shareholders meeting," David Smith, the president and CEO of AWG, said in the release. "AWG will indeed be stronger together by joining forces with this amazing group of like-minded retailers.”

AFM shareholders approved the transaction by a vote of 410 to 2 and executed agreements to become part of their new co-op and commence being supplied next month.

Post transaction, the expanded AWG will provide products and services to over 3,500 independently owned member stores located in 35 states from nine full-line wholesale divisions.

In addition to its cooperative wholesale operations and related services, the company operates subsidiary companies which provide wholesale supply of health and beauty care, general merchandise, pharmaceutical supplies, and specialty, natural, organic and international foods, together with certain real estate and supermarket development services, retail accounting, digital marketing services, and military commissary supply.

Houweling’s has named Kevin Doran chief executive officer of the Houweling’s Group of Cos. Doran joined the company in 2015 as chief operating officer and was added the responsibility of president this past January.

“Having seen the results to date of Kevin’s leadership, I believe it is time for him to assume overall operating responsibility as CEO of the company," Casey Houweling, chairman of the board, said in a press release.Kevin-Doran-CEO-HouwelingsKevin Doran "I have confidence that the business is in great hands. This allows me to focus my attention where I have the most passion. Specifically the continued focus on all elements of sustainablity, as greenhouse technologies continue to develop to make producing close to markets both finacially viable, and help solve the carbon waste impact on the environment.”

Doran’s extensive experience in the produce industry — both in North America and Europe — along with a career foundation built in retail merchandising, marketing and operations, make him ideally suited for the CEO chair. 

“I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for Casey and what he has built. To be entrusted to lead Houweling’s Group, is a responsibility I take very seriously,” Doran said in the release. “Houweling’s has always been on the cutting edge of innovation in high-tech protected crop agricuture. These innovations have led to a position whereby the company is ideally alligned with the mega trends in produce. Local for local, short and effective supply chains, and healthy products produced in a sustainable way are just a few.”

Houweling’s Group is a greenhouse vegetable grower, propagator and marketer with operations in Delta, BC, Camarillo, CA, Mona, UT, and Loveland, CO. A year-round grower, with more than 200 acres of greenhouse farms, Houweling’s produces tomatoes and cucumbers sustainably.

WASHINGTON — Would fresh produce interests be better served by President Hillary Clinton or President Donald Trump?

The United Fresh Produce Association gathered two former high-level officials, former Secretaries of Agriculture John Block and Dan Glickman, for a lively debate on the last day of the Washington Conference, just weeks before the election.unitedlastday-025Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of United Fresh, flanked by former Secretaries of Agriculture John Block and Dan Glickman.

“The public wants change and Hillary does not represent change,” said Block, who served at the top agriculture post during the Reagan administration (1981-86). Trump has gathered a team of 70 agriculture supporters under his top advisers and Block said he’s been impressed. Trump wants to kill the death tax, he said at the Sept. 14 breakfast session.

But Glickman, who served as former President Clinton’s agriculture secretary (1995-2001), said, “Donald Trump is not a friend of the workforce” that the produce industry needs to do its job. 

The fresh produce industry needs reliable, seasonal labor, and Trump was successful in the primaries before his polarizing position on the immigration issue.

“He wants to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it,” Glickman said, adding, “I believe what he says.”

Block shot back that Clinton’s recent comments about half of Trump supporters being “deplorable” means she is “putting down hard-working people.”

There’s no question Clinton would support nutrition standards, and the former President Clinton was one of the most pro-trade presidents in Washington, Glickman said.

Trump worries that other countries are not following trade rules, and he’ll make sure trade agreements are “toughly negotiated,” Block countered.

In final comments, Glickman said, “For your business, I don’t think the choice is even close.” Clinton has a record on nutrition, immigration and trade issues. “Your economic issues will be better served.”

The choice is also clear in farm states, Block said. “When I go to farm states, people support Donald Trump. They don’t trust Clinton and they worry she’ll usher in more regulations.”

Saint-François Member of the National Assembly Guy Hardy welcomed the Quebec Produce Marketing Association’s donation of fruits and vegetables to the non-profit Sercovie organization. Sercovie has been hard at work for more than 40 years promoting the development of healthy lifestyle habits for those over the age of 50. The QPMA’s contribution includes fruits and vegetables for the more than 500 clients who get their meals delivered to their homes thanks to the Sercovie Meals on Wheels program.qpma

“Sercovie is very active in our community. In addition to adapting its services to the needs of our retirees, they help our seniors maintain healthy lifestyles by organizing and providing many activities. The QPMA’s donation will allow Sercovie to offer even more nutritious food to those they serve and more effectively educate them on the importance of healthy eating,” Hardy said in a press release.

“Every year since 1973, we’ve been there helping seniors and those with loss of autonomy, thanks to the generosity of our volunteers and donors," Rémi Demers, Sercovie executive director, said in the release. "Healthy eating for those 50 years of age and older can sometimes be a challenge. It’s a collective task we must work at continually. The support we’ve received today from our MNA Guy Hardy and the QPMA is a great help and encourages us to continue our work with the Sherbrooke community.”

A fruitful partnership
Eating fruits and vegetables is intrinsically linked to developing healthy lifestyle habits. “A diet that is sufficient in fruits and vegetables is your best insurance policy for healthy aging,” Julie DesGroseilliers, nutritionist and spokesperson for the I love 5 to 10 servings a day campaign, said in the release. To ensure the growth in consumption of fruits and vegetables in Quebec, the QPMA has come up with a unique way of working with Members of the National Assembly to help local organizations to benefit from donations of fruits and vegetables.

The I love 5 to 10 servings a day campaign was launched in 2004 to increase awareness on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. “We want to show everyone that eating fruits and vegetables is a simple pleasure, accessible to all and good for everyone’s health,” said Sophie Perreault, QPMA chief executive officer. “We’re very pleased that the MNA for Saint-François supports this initiative. It’s a real, concrete gesture that promotes healthy lifestyles for all Quebecers.”

IMG 2572On Aug. 31 the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation hosted 23 embassies and 11 industry representatives at a luncheon event in Ottawa. Ambassadors, high commissioners and agricultural minister-counselors received valuable foundational information on how their vendors can ensure they are export-ready and to encourage country delegation participation in CPMA’s upcoming convention and trade show in Toronto.

Participants were impressed with the breadth of information provided and affirmed that events such as these are essential to continue engagement with the embassies and their commercial trade offices to facilitate the smooth export and import of fresh fruit and vegetables. This included understanding the seasonality of Canadian production so that international exporters understand when there are gaps in availability that they can fill.

Industry participants were pleased with the chance to discuss potential trade opportunities with the countries represented, and expressed interest in participating in future events.