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The Viva Fresh Expo, hosted by the Texas International Produce Association, has launched its first annual Gateway to Innovation Awards to recognize this region’s excellence in packaging design, new product development, food safety, machinery, software and technology.viva

“Since the inception of the Rio Star red grapefruit or the Texas 1015 sweet onion, Texas has always been known for its agricultural advancements. But today, the accelerated growth of the Lower Rio Grande Valley that brings together a variety of multi-national industries and talent has made it a hub for technology.  This has also resulted in the continued development of some of the country’s most innovative fruit and vegetable products and tools,” said Dante Galeazzi, president and chief executive officer of TIPA. “Our vision for this award program is to recognize excellence in innovation from this region in a wide range of important areas including machinery and technology in addition to new product development.”

The contest is open to all Viva Fresh exhibitors.  Winners will be selected by a panel of judges comprised of retail, foodservice, and produce industry veterans based on a set of strict criteria. Applicants may submit their entries at the official application webpage: www.vivafreshexpo.com/viva-fresh-gateway-to-innovation-awards.  All applications are due by Jan. 30 and the finalists and winners will be notified by March 8.  

The category finalists will be displayed at the Viva Fresh Expo April 5-7 at the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio, TX, and The Excellence in Innovation Award for Overall Best in Show will be announced during the event.

Beginning Dec. 27 Whole Foods Market salad bars nationwide will incorporate new composed and build-your-own salad recipes with a focus on root-to-stem food preparation, seasonal produce and superfood ingredients.WFM Salad2

“We’re refreshing our salad bars for the New Year to support shoppers who are looking for convenient, healthy dishes that don’t sacrifice quality or taste,” said Tien Ho, culinary and hospitality executive coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “Our stores are excited to celebrate peak season produce and serve up plant based, nutrient dense recipes that we know our customers crave this time of year.”

In November, buyers and culinary experts from Whole Foods Market revealed their top food trend predictions for 2018, including root-to-stem cooking, which makes use of the entire fruit or vegetable. Popular with those looking to experiment with new flavors or reduce food waste, this trend incorporates lesser used parts of produce such as stems, rinds, seeds and leaves.

This winter, Whole Foods Market salad bars will feature two new root-to-stem composed salads: roasted sunchokes with sunflower seeds, sprouts and chile dressing, and chopped fennel bulbs and stems tossed with lemon honey vinaigrette and honey crisp apples.

Whole Foods Market salad bars will also feature all the ingredients for a build-your-own power salad station, including blueberries, wakame seaweed, turmeric sweet potatoes, broccoli florets, quinoa, roasted mushrooms, flax seeds, superfood salad dressing and power greens. Whole Foods Market chef-inspired salad stations are typically located at the end of the salad bar and updated seasonally, offering signature salads that shoppers can easily customize.

Empowering healthy families, reducing food waste and boosting produce consumption are behind the Produce Marketing Association’s partnership with Brighter Bites, a nonprofit that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables, nutrition education and a fun food experience directly to families in underserved communities to create communities of health through fresh food.Lisa-with-Brighter-Bites-Bags-10.2015Lisa Helfman

“At PMA, our vision is to bring together the global produce community to grow a healthier world,” said PMA Chief Executive Officer Cathy Burns. “Being able to grow healthier families while reducing food waste through this grass-roots, community-based program helps PMA and our members bring that vision to life. We are excited to partner with Brighter Bites to provide them with strategic insights, financial resources and partners throughout the industry that will enable them to take their multi-state program to a larger national scale. ”

Brighter Bites was inspired and created by a mom who successfully changed her children’s eating habits. She envisioned creating the same change in underserved communities by channeling surplus produce to families, meeting them where their kids already are — at school and summer programs. Parents and other volunteers pack bags of fresh, seasonal produce for families to pick up and take home each week during two eight-week sessions during the school year and an additional eight-week session during the summer. These two bags of fresh produce contain about 50 servings of eight to 12 different produce items.Cathy Burns 141018 0506Cathy Burns 0506

“Brighter Bites has grown because our program works, but also because we have incredible partners who help keep our data-proven program going across the U.S. Between local food banks, growers, suppliers, and distributors, the produce industry has bent over backwards to ensure we have enough product to meet our required 50 servings of produce per family each week” said Lisa Helfman, Brighter Bites founder and board chair. “We know Brighter Bites is making a difference in people’s lives and we are thrilled that the produce industry has decided to help us create long-term change in the underserved communities where we currently operate with an eye for future growth.”

Delivering on the promise of fun, tasty, healthy produce
Since its inception in 2012, Brighter Bites has delivered more than 15 million pounds of fresh produce to over 30,000 families. Its goal is to change behavior among children and their families and to increase consumption of fresh produce to prevent obesity and achieve long-term health. The program has a simple formula: produce distribution, nutrition education and a fun food experience that includes sampling a recipe of the week to see just how great produce can taste. Brighter Bites educates parents through nutrition handbooks, recipes and tip sheets, and supports teaching coordinated school health lessons in the classroom while providing teachers with the same fruits and vegetables the families receive, encouraging them to use them during in-class lessons and to change the culture of the school.

“At Brighter Bites, we are creating communities of health through fresh food. We are conquering the last mile of getting produce into families’ homes by using the schools as delivery vehicles, and changing the school and the home environments simultaneously. We are changing the conversation about produce at every point in a child’s day and that is encouraging families to choose fresh food instead of the alternative,” Helfman said. “We started in one city in Texas, expanded to three, and have started our national expansion with growth to the East Coast, launching operations in Washington, D.C., and New York City, and moving into southwest Florida next.

Burns noted that it was a PMA member that first alerted her to the program, and once she saw the short-term food security solution and the long-term impact on families, she was hooked. “I could see right away that we needed to get behind Brighter Bites and help wherever we can,” she said. “I’m humbled, but not surprised, by the response from the produce community as they work to provide fruits, vegetables, distribution logistics, and financial resources to Brighter Bites. Making connections is at the heart of PMA’s work, and we’re thrilled to be able to help bring our members together with Brighter Bites wherever it moves next.”

Research proves it works
A two-year, peer-reviewed research study by UTHealth School of Public Health demonstrates that families ate most or all of the produce provided by Brighter Bites, which amounted to an average of 57 servings of fruits and vegetables each week. In addition, the research shows that once families have completed the program, their consumption of fruits and vegetables remains high – 74% of the families are maintaining the same levels of consumptions as when they were getting the free weekly bags of produce.

“This is one of the reasons we are so enthusiastic about supporting Brighter Bites,” Burns said. “The research shows the program works on several levels. There is the immediate benefit of providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those who don’t have access to it or may not be able to afford it. Through its recipes and other educational materials, Brighter Bites teaches these families how to choose and use fresh food, empowering them to buy and cook with fresh produce in the future. Brighter Bites models delicious and healthy eating habits at school and at home. And the residual effect of increased consumption outside the program is exactly what we want to see — a program that builds consumers for life.”

Target Corp. has agreed to acquire Shipt Inc., a leading online same-day delivery platform, for $550 million in cash. Target will leverage its network of stores and Shipt’s proprietary technology platform and community of shoppers to quickly and efficiently bring same-day delivery to guests across the country. The acquisition significantly accelerates Target’s digital fulfillment efforts, bringing same-day delivery services to guests at approximately half of Target stores by early 2018. The service will be offered from the majority of Target stores, and in all major markets, before the 2018 holiday season.

At launch, Target will offer same-day delivery of groceries, essentials, home, electronics and other products, while expanding the products offered over time. By the end of 2019, same-day delivery will include all major product categories at Target.

“We laid out an ambitious strategic agenda in early 2017, which included a focus on giving our guests a number of convenient ways to shop with Target, whether it’s ordering online and picking up in one of our stores, driving up to pick up an order, or taking advantage of services like our new Restock program. With Shipt’s network of local shoppers and their current market penetration, we will move from days to hours, dramatically accelerating our ability to bring affordable same-day delivery to guests across the country,” said John Mulligan, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Target. “By the 2018 holiday season, we will be servicing every major market across the country with same-day delivery, and Shipt’s service-oriented approach aligns well with Target’s commitment to delivering an exceptional shopping experience for our guests.”

Founded in 2014 and located in Birmingham, Alabama, Shipt is a rapidly growing membership-based grocery marketplace and same-day delivery platform. The service leverages an extensive network of over 20,000 personal shoppers to fulfill orders from various retailers and deliver within hours in more than 72 markets. Shipt values a personalized, customer-first delivery experience that simplifies life and saves time for members. Through Shipt’s app, members are connected to local, reliable shoppers who help facilitate a quality delivery experience that is personalized, efficient and convenient.

“We are very excited to partner with Target, one of the most loved retailers in the country with a reputation for supporting local communities. Partnering with Target and the national scale they provide allows Shipt to further accelerate our growth, bringing our service to more people, in more markets across the country,” said Bill Smith, Shipt’s founder and chief executive officer. "We’ll continue growing our marketplace and membership base, working with a variety of retailers to drive scale and efficiencies. We look forward to introducing Target guests to the convenience of our same-day delivery services, with the level of personal attention only Shipt can provide."

Shipt will be a wholly owned Target subsidiary, and will continue to run its business independently. It also plans to expand partnerships with other retailers seeking same-day, last-mile capabilities. All current Shipt employees will continue to be employed by Shipt and will work from their current offices in Birmingham and San Francisco. Smith will remain in his current role, and will report to Mulligan. In addition to same-day delivery capabilities, Target will also leverage Shipt’s expertise as the company enhances and strengthens its supply chain, including integration with the recently acquired transportation technology company, Grand Junction.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close prior to the end of calendar year 2017. This all-cash acquisition will be immaterial to Target’s near-term financial results. It is expected to be modestly accretive to the company’s earnings per share in 2018, while accelerating digital and total sales growth over the medium term.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed up to $250,000 in support of ongoing relief efforts surrounding wildfires in California. This includes funding for nonprofit grants supporting the America Red Cross and Salvation Army for shelter and feeding efforts, as well as in-kind product donations to support first responders.

walieworld “We are saddened by the devastation caused by the wildfires and the impact to our associates and the communities we serve,” said Julie Gehrki, vice president, programs for Walmart. “This has been an unprecedented year for disasters around the United States, and we remain committed to support relief efforts to help them through this difficult time.”

Walmart has a long history of providing aid in times of disasters, helping communities prepare and recover by donating emergency supplies, such as food and water, home and personal products. Since 2005, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have donated more than $60 million in cash and in-kind donations in response to disaster events. This year, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have donated more than $35 million to 2017 disaster relief efforts.