Associated Wholesale Grocers names new CEO

Associated Wholesale Grocers, which supplies over 3,400 grocery facilities in 26 states, announced that David Smith has been selected to succeed Jerry Garland as president and chief executive officer beginning in January of next year.

Smith is currently the executive vice president of operations for the company. He began his career in the food industry as an independent store owner and has worked in various assignments at the wholesale level.smithDavid Smith

Smith joined AWG in 2003 and opened the new Gulf Coast division in Louisiana in 2013 as senior vice president, general manager. 

“AWG is fortunate to have someone as experienced in family-owned businesses as David with an experienced leadership team in place to support his efforts,” Barry Queen, chairman of the board for AWG, said in a press release. “The AWG board has worked closely with Jerry over the past few years on a succession plan that will provide a smooth transition and continue the momentum that the company and our members have benefited from over his time as CEO.”

Garland has served as president and CEO since 2009 and has grown AWG into a $9 billion wholesale cooperative operating nine distribution centers. During his tenure the cooperative has grown sales by 31 percent and increased net income by 70 percent, while lowering operating expenses.

“On behalf of the entire membership we want to thank Jerry for his 25 years of service and particularly for the outstanding results during his tenure as CEO,” Queen added in the release. 

Garland will continue to serve AWG in an advisory capacity after the transition is complete. He will also continue to serve as chairman of the Food Marketing Institute until the end of his current term.

IGA supermarkets launch imperfect produce program

IGA, which comprises 290 retailers in Canada, now features imperfect produce at its stores as a result of consumer demand. According to the company, its imperfect produce will be 30 percent less expensive on average than standard produce.

"IGA is proud to offer odd-looking fruit and vegetables in stores throughout [Quebec]," the company said in a statement. Six varieties — cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, beets, sweet peppers and apples — will distributed "in all their imperfect glory" for six weeks to 290 stores throughout the province, based on season and availability.

The company said this campaign aims to meet the demand of so many Quebecers who wish to make responsible choices by purchasing less perfect-looking, local produce that has the same great taste as its prettier counterparts.

Among the benefits of its imperfect produce program, IGA noted that items would be strictly Quebec-grown produce.

Numerous recipes have been inspired by these six vegetables and fruits, and each one will be featured in the IGA flyer during the six week promotion.

This promotion is a reflection of The Joy of Eating Better, launched by IGA in May 2014 to inspire Quebecers to eat better by encouraging them to make responsible choices, eat healthier, discover local and international flavors, and cook differently and more often.


Supplies tight as Peruvian sweet onion season begins

Supplies of Peruvian sweet onions are expected to be tight as the 2015-16 production season begins. “Peruvian sweet onion hectares are down this season by 30 percent due to overproduction and very poor prices last season,” John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce Inc., said on Aug. 10. “The harvest has begun in Peru and supplies are tight as we begin the season. Supplies are expected to remain tighter than normal as harvest is ramped up across the industry as we move into September.”peruonSupplies of Peruvian sweet onions are expected to be tight as producers move into production during the 2015-16 season. Supplies are expected to remain tighter than normal going into September. (Photo courtesy of Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc.)

Although the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture expected light shipments of Peruvian sweet onion imports would begin around Aug. 2, the National Potato and Onion Report dated Aug. 7 did not show any activity.

This past January, Miguel Ognio Gomez, chief executive officer of  KeyPerú, provided some comments and insights about the 2014-15 shipping season in the publication Agraria. According to Ognio Gomez, a total of 135,000 tons of Peruvian sweet onions were shipped at a value of $50 million (US dollars).

According to Ognio Gomez, this tonnage represented half of onion supplies that were available for export. He added the other half of the crop was left in fields unharvested.

Overproduction during the season resulted in lower prices. “Our country planted about 3,500 hectares of sweet onions this season, when we normally plant between 2,500 and 3,000 hectares,” he commented.

Ognio Gomez also noted that the United States is the main market for Peruvian sweet onions, receiving approximately 80 percent of the volume. Last season, he went on to say, production for some American producers was delayed, thereby creating a surplus of onions in the marketplace. Higher prices for sweet onions in the United States resulted in reduced sweet onion purchases and variety substitution by consumers.

Northwest Bartlett pear season starts with smaller fruit

The 2015 Washington state Bartlett pear harvest is under way. Early field predictions indicating an increase in small-sized pears are proving to be accurate, according to initial harvest reports.

Packing reports coming out from orchards already harvested show Bartlett sizing is down significiantly from last year, said Steve Castleman, senior vice president of sales for CMI.swegope

“Our horticulturists told us to anticipate having more small Bartlett pears to sell and that’s the story," he said in a press release. "This will require most retailers to rethink their Bartlett pear plans because for the first time in several years the promotable pears will be small bagging-sized fruit.”

Castleman reported that sizing in Anjous and Bosc may be norml, but the boost in small Bartlett pears opens a door for supermarkets. “Last year we had to turn retailers away who wanted to jump on our pouch bags because we didn’t have the supply of small fruit," he said. "That’s completely changed this year with fewer large Bartlett pears and significant, promotable volume in our bagging sizes.”

An increased supply of smaller Bartlett pears for bags creates a big opportunity for creative retailers, according to Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for CMI. He said bags have been driving pear category growth over the past year.

“Small fruit is perfect for premium pear packages and Nielsen data for the past 52 weeks shows that pear category growth is being driven by pear pouch bags,” he said in the release.

Lutz said that over the past year for the total United States, Nielsen scan data shows that random weight pear volume declined by 9.4 percent while bagged pears increased by 18.2 percent. “The growth is being driven by bag sizes of three-pounds and smaller. Any retailer that hasn’t jumped on these packaged pears is missing sales,” he said.

While the Nielsen data shows packaged pears driving category increases, the two-pound pouch bag is the key opportunity for rapid growth. “Over the past year, sales of two-pound pouch bags are up by 125 percent," he said. "No package size in the top 10 comes close to the rate of growth being driven by two-pound pouches.”

Lutz says that consumer feedback indicates shoppers like the two-pound pouch because it is small enough to encourage trial by light users.

“Fifty percent of U.S. households have two people or less,” said Lutz. “The average pear consumer is an infrequent buyer so they are cautious. With a lower price point consumers see CMI's two-pound Sweet Gourmet Bartlett pear pouch as lower risk than buying a larger, more expensive bag enabling us to attract new consumers into the category.”

Lutz also said he believes the success of pouch bags is related to stronger graphics on the packages as well as the upscale appearance of the bags. “Bagged pears were traditionally packed in low cost poly bags conveying a low quality message to consumers,” said Lutz. “The beauty of our new pouch bags is that they appeal strongly to consumers looking for both high-quality fruit and the convenience of not having to select individual pears.”

Nogales produce history bound for Library of Congress

How did the Mexican produce importing industry grow from just a few rail car loads to hundreds of thousands of trucks today? How has this growth affected the socio-economic and cultural areas of whole communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, its government, families and individuals?

Those are some of the questions that the project called The Crossroads of Confianza: A Study of The Fresh Produce Industry in Nogales, Arizona, may be able to answer.First-rail-cars-of-Mexican-grown-tomatoes-entered-the-US-at-Nogales-in-1905First rail cars of Mexican-grown tomatoes entered the United States at Nogales in 1905.

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in conjunction with Southwest Folklife Alliance, a nonprofit folk arts organization and the University of Arizona, are working together on a new oral history project. Eventually, the results of the project will be part of the Library of Congress, and will become part of the nation’s rich history.

This initiative is being conducted by Occupational Folklorist, Nic Hartman, who will be collecting stories of the produce industry in Nogales. These stories will become part of a collection of occupational studies that include Idaho firefighters, New York tugboat captains and Vermont farmers, said Hartman.gotsis-2

“This will be an asset for the whole community as, it helps us understand how Nogales has developed into the city that we know today,” Lance Jungmeyer, president of FPAA, said in a statement. “I also believe that understanding the past of the produce industry, examining its roots and knowing the key elements and stories behind this fascinating business have great benefits for us now and for the future members.”

Among the advantages of knowing the history of the produce industry in the region, Jungmeyer said it “builds and strengthens emotional attachments to the operations that power us to make positive changes,” and “it’s an opportunity to continue to demonstrate the importance of this industry in the community.”

The assemblage of stories will be conducted via personal interviews. Hartman encourages anyone interested in participating to contact him by phone at 812.457.6467, or by email: