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wegAccording to the just-published 2018 Temkin Experience Ratings, Wegmans ranks No. 1 for providing the best customer experience of any supermarket in the country, and in fact, received the highest overall score of any of the 318 companies across 20 different industries that were evaluated. This marks the eighth consecutive year that Temkin has measured customer experience.

"We are incredibly proud and know this happens because we all work together and help one another," said Colleen Wegman, president and chief executive officer. "We truly mean it when we say, 'every day you get our best,' and thankfully this is the result."

To generate these ratings, Temkin asked 10,000 U.S. consumers to rate their recent interactions with 318 companies across 20 industries.  They then evaluated their experiences across three dimensions: success, effort and emotion.

Stemilt’s proprietary variety, the Piñata apple, found the spotlight this month through popular online food media outlets, So Yummy and Serious Eats. The flavorful tropical apple with culinary qualities was featured in two recipe videos, including one with an everyday apple hack. The Piñata videos will reach more than a million food-minded consumers via these popular channels leading up to Cinco de Mayo holiday, a big promotion time for the Stemilt signature fruit.

“We’re excited to partner with these leading food channels to amplify the retail activity on Piñata apples now and into the Cinco de Mayo holiday. Piñata is an heirloom cross with a balanced sweet, tart, and slightly tropical flavor profile and flesh that can handle cooking temperatures, making it a culinary standout,” said Brianna Shales, Stemilt communications manager.pina

Stemilt’s Serious Eats partnership began in March and helped food enthusiasts kick off spring with an Instant Pot pulled pork taco and apple slaw recipe. The Instant Pot is one of the most sought-after small kitchen appliances today. In fact, NPR reported that on Amazon’s 2015 Prime Day, more than 24,000 units were sold and it jumped to 215,000 the following year, before selling out. In 2017, it was among the top five sellers on Amazon’s Black Friday list.

So Yummy is currently sharing a video of their Piñata Apple Upside Down Breakfast Cookieswith its 17 million plus Facebook followers.

Both Serious Eats and So Yummy are online food media outlets that feature recipes that can be crafted in the home, which makes their creations with the versatile Pinata all the more exciting for Stemilt.

“So Yummy and Serious Eats each come with their own style, and both provide a fun and sharable end result that will help drive shoppers to seek Piñata apples out at grocery stores,” said Shales. “Each of these outlets reach an audience that we know will love Pinata. They both have high fan engagement making them influential in the culinary world. This allows us to reinforce Piñata as an apple to enjoy and also tap into an audience that might not have had the chance to know what Piñata is.”

Stemilt is not new to the influencer game, having tapped into popular food bloggers for years for brands and proprietary varietals like Lil Snappers kid-size fruit, Rave apples, and Skylar Rae cherries.

“Intent marketing and tapping into the power of influencers has proven to be an effective way to build brand awareness, whether it’s during a seasonal push like Cinco de Mayo for Pinata apples or throughout the year for a brand like Lil Snappers,” said Shales.

The Piñata brand apple was introduced to U.S. markets in 2008 when Stemilt’s founding family, the Mathison’s, purchased the North American rights to grow and market the fruit in 2004. A cross between three heirloom varieties — the Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Duchess of Oldenburg — the variety has a lot to offer apple lovers everywhere. The red-yellow apple comes with a classic apple profile with a bit of a tropical twist at the end. The flesh is crisp and juicy making it the ideal apple for heated culinary dishes.

“The flavor profile and build of Piñata will do well in any sort of heated application, making it a great apple to use for the upcoming Cinco de Mayo holiday,” said Shales. “The tropical twist is a great lead in for any retailer to promote the festive holiday on May 5.”

Rick Antle, president and chief executive officer of Tanimura & Antle, the largest lettuce and vegetable producer in the Salinas Valley, died Saturday, April 14, after a short battle with cancer. He was 61.ant

Mr. Antle grew up in the family business as the grandson of vegetable pioneer Bud Antle and son of the equally imposing Bob Antle. He began his career at Bud Antle Inc. in the early 1970s and launched Tanimura & Antle with his father and brother and the Tanimura family in 1982.

That continued a tradition of the Antles selling the crops that the Tanimuras grow dating back to 1949. Together the two families built a powerful and innovative company, with Rick Antle taking a lead role in guiding the course for the past three decades.

Over the past 35 years, T&A has been every bit the industry leader that its predecessor Bud Antle Inc. was. It has been involved in all aspects of the industry and is the largest grower-shipper in the commodity business. A year ago, Mr. Antle told The Produce News, “Our sweet spot seems to be in the 16-20 percent range,” he said, referring to the company’s market share in lettuce and its other core products.

He also led the company into many different innovative areas of the industry as it currently has a greenhouse and artisan lettuce operation in Tennessee and is greatly increasing its presence in the organic sector.

A year ago, the leadership of the organization formed an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) to assure a smooth transition as the company moves forward and also to gives its vast number of employee a material stake in the operation. Tanimura & Antle has always been one of the leaders in the industry with regard to its workforce.

In 2016, Mr. Antle, along with his wife, Tonya, was honored by the United Fresh Produce Association with its distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr. Antle is survived by his wife, Tonya, and his two sons, Brian and Jeff, both of whom are involved in the company. He is also survived by his brother, Mike, who is currently on T&A’s board of directors. Funeral services are pending.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has said restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any chopped romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, from the Yuma, AZ, area as it could be contaminated with E. coli.

At this time nearly all of the romaine lettuce being harvested and shipped throughout the United States is from California growing areas and is not implicated in the outbreak.

The CDC is recommeding caution, saying consumers anywhere in the United States who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce at home, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. However, the advisory does not apply to romaine grown elsewhere.

"Before purchasing romaine lettuce at a grocery store or eating it at a restaurant, consumers should confirm with the store or restaurant that it is not chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing region," the CDC said.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to those who have been impacted by this outbreak," United Fresh Produce Association, Arizona and California LGMAs, the Produce Marketing Association and Western Growers said in a statement.

"We are cooperating fully with government and working closely to further identify the specific source of this outbreak," said the industry associations. "Specifically, government officials are advising consumers not to consume chopped, bagged romaine grown in Yuma. At this time, this advisory only applies to chopped, bagged romaine, not other forms of romaine such as whole heads or hearts. This advisory also does not apply to romaine grown elsewhere, including California. Consumers may check with their retailer and/or restaurant to assist them in identifying product origin."

"The leafy greens community takes the responsibility for producing fresh produce very seriously," the associations said in the statement. "Leafy greens food-safety programs in both California and Arizona are the most rigorous in today’s produce industry. Both programs include mandatory farm food-safety practices, and frequent government audits to ensure those practices are being followed."

Mann Packing Co. has launched its first complete line of fresh veggie noodles and veggie rice.por

Following the successful launch of its Spicy Thai Nourish Bowls featuring fresh kohlrabi noodles last year, the company is now offering a full line of standalone veggie noodle products, including Butternut Squash Rotini, Kohlrabi Linguine, and Sweet Potato Fettuccine.

Mann’s veggie noodles feature unique, chef-inspired cuts that work perfectly as a pasta-swap. The development of the new line speaks to increased consumer demand for vegetables that can easily be used in place of a traditional carb. Shoppers spent more than $30 million on veggie noodle products in 2017, showing 409 percent growth compared to the previous year, according to Nielsen.

Mann’s new fresh veggie rice products are made from a variety of colorful vegetables and are a convenient alternative to traditional rice, with fewer calories and carbs per serving. The new blends include Cauliflower Rice, Broccoli & Sweet Potato Rice Blend and Cauliflower Fried Rice Blend, which includes carrots, kohlrabi and sugar snap peas.

Consumers are continuing to look for ways to incorporate more vegetables in their diets, and in 2017, sales of veggie rice items grew 514 percent compared to 2016, according to Nielsen.

“The veggie noodles and rice categories are booming and we saw an opportunity to get in on the growth with these new product lines,” said Rick Russo, vice president of sales, marketing and product management at Mann’s. “These versatile products can be used in everything from Pad thai to risotto. As consumers become increasingly aware of the importance of eating fresh produce, we expect to see more products like this taking the place of traditional carbs.”

The new products will be on display at Booth No. 1219 at the CPMA Annual Convention, April 24-26 in Vancouver.