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Roundy’s president to deliver keynote address at United Fresh 2015

Robert A. Mariano, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Roundy’s Inc. in Milwaukee, WI, will address leading produce retail industry executives at the United Fresh 2015 opening general session June 9 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Mariano started out in the retail grocery business at the age of 17, working as a part-time deli clerk at Dominick’s Finer Foods. In 1995 he became president and CEO of Dominick’s. Under his leadership, the company became a top performing regional supermarket chain.

MarianoRobert A. MarianoIn June of 2002, Mariano became chairman, president and CEO of Roundy’s Inc., a leading Midwest grocery retailer with over 22,000 employees and store banners located in Wisconsin and Illinois. In 2010, Roundy’s introduced Mariano’s Fresh Market (today known as Mariano’s), a strategically unique grocery banner offering a highly differentiated food shopping experience fashioned from Mariano’s four decades of experience. Today, the Mariano’s banner consists of 30 stores located throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.

“From appreciating the unique roles that customers, employees and suppliers all play in business cycles to understanding the direction in which public policy, technology and next-generation strategic thinking could shape the industry’s future, Bob, perhaps better than anyone, grasps the complex nature of today’s produce retail environment,” United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel said in a press release. “We are excited to have him share his insight, experience and perspective on how he sees our industry evolving.”

The opening breakfast general session will be held Tuesday, June 9 from 8:00 am – 9:45 am in the Vista Ballroom at the McCormick Place Convention Center and will be sponsored by Sunkist Growers.

Co-located with FMI Connect 2015 and the International Floriculture Expo, United Fresh 2015 will bring together retail, fresh produce and floral leaders who are searching for unique products and looking to enhance relationships with valuable business partners. Registration is available at

Potandon Produce launches a new organic line, new brand

Potandon Produce has announced the launch of its newest brand: "Potandon Produce." Initially the brand will be used to market organic potatoes. The company already offers potato and onion products in the "Green Giant," "Klondike Brands" and "Sunfresh" labels. MG 7168

“Growth in the organic sector has been double digits for over a decade with no real end in sight”, Ralph Schwartz, vice president of marketing, sales and innovation, said in a press release. “We wanted to help our customers capitalize on that trend and drive their organic potato sales to new levels, with a fresh and bold new bag design that their consumers would immediately bond with. The organic segment gives the brand the identity we were looking for and we’re excited to see just how far it grows.”

Mock-ups of the bags were displayed at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit last October and the feedback received helped in the final bag design that will be hitting retail in the near future.

Packed in No. 3 poly bags of red, russet and yellow potatoes, "Potandon Produce" organics will be distributed from locations in Ohio, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Washington state. Sales will be handled from the Potandon Idaho Falls main office.

AFM joins collaboration behind FNV

Avocados from Mexico has announced that it is a founding supporter of FNV, a new brand that promotes fruit and vegetable consumption to teens and moms using the same relentless, compelling and catchy marketing that major consumer brands do.

The collaboration was announced this week during the Partnership for a Healthier America’s Building a Healthier Future Summit, one of the nation’s premiere gatherings of health experts, policy makers and business and industry leaders committed to ending childhood obesity.afmlo

“AFM is proud to be a founding supporter of FNV,” Alvaro Luque, president of Avocados from Mexico, said in a press release. “Mexico is the leading supplier of avocados in the United States, representing nearly 70 percent of all avocado volume, and we are proud to drive awareness of this versatile and nutrient-dense fruit.”

Support of FNV reinforces Avocados from Mexico’s position as a leading superfood brand in the produce category. AFM’s year-round availability affords it the opportunity to continuously connect with consumers about the multiple benefits of consuming avocados. 

In February, AFM became the first fresh produce brand to broadcast an ad and implement a fully integrated digital campaign during the Super Bowl, the most popular football event of the year. It earned widespread acclaim and social media buzz while generating over 1 billion impressions. 

Avocados from Mexico is committed to advancing consumer education about the benefits of avocados and their important role in a nutritious diet. As the category leader, it is incumbent upon AFM to reach out to consumers about this information in a variety of ways. 

The brand is partnering with a registered dietitian to reach consumers throughout the year, and recently launched interactive content to promote the nutritional benefits of avocados on its website and social channels. 

“We know that avocados are a super food, so it's no surprise that Avocados from Mexico is a founding supporter of Team FNV, which will change the way that fruits and vegetables are marketed to families,” Lawrence A. Soler, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for a Healthier America, added in the press release. 

Throughout the Building a Healthier Future Summit in Washington, DC, AFM was one of 40 exhibitors in the Expo Summit exhibition hall and is sponsoring one of the Summit’s healthy snack breaks.

Honey Belles open New Zealand pear season

New Zealand’s first pears of the year are on the water, with North American arrivals of the ready-to-eat Honey Belle variety planned for the first week in March. This small, sweet fruit heralds the beginning of the much-anticipated New Zealand pear season, which includes Bosc, Comice, Velvetine and Taylor’s Gold, available spring and summer from The Oppenheimer Group. honeybelle pack

“Honey Belle is a terrific little pear,” David Nelley, executive director of Oppy’s apple, pear and cherry categories, said in a press release. “Green with an appealing red blush, it’s unique because of its crunchy texture and honey sweet flavor. Honey Belle delivers a sweet, juicy eating experience that kicks off our specialty pear season from New Zealand perfectly.

“It’s going to be a huge pear year for Oppy,” he continued. “We plan to sell greater volumes of Comice, Taylor’s Gold and Bosc than previous years, positioning us really well to build excitement around the pear category — a category that is sometimes overlooked.”

This is Oppy’s fourth year marketing Honey Belles, and they are new to many consumers as distribution to date has been primarily in Canada. Grown exclusively in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay region by Kiwi Crunch, Oppy markets Honey Belles in bulk as well as eye-catching 2.2-pound punnets.

“The packaging is cutting edge, and our Canadian retailers have loved it,” said Nelley, who anticipates Honey Belle distribution to grow across the United States this season.

Oppy provides merchandising materials to help retailers convey the “ready to eat” message. Additionally, since the pears are small in size but big in flavor, Nelley noted they are an excellent choice for kids’ lunch boxes or afterschool snacks.

“Parents are always on the lookout for new ideas for nutritious, natural, great-tasting treats to give our little ones,” said Nelley. “Small pears like Honey Belles fit the bill thanks to their small size, sweet flavor, and vitamin content. Retailers can promote them as an ideal addition to the lunchbox.”

Honey Belle pears are available March through May. Other New Zealand pear varieties start later in March and continue into the summer. Simultaneously, Oppy will offer Bartlett, Bosc, D’Anjou and Packham pears from Argentina and Chile.

Alliance for Food & Farming fires back at EWG ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, questions relevance

An annual report titled the “dirty dozen” was released Feb. 25 concerning pesticide residues and produce. However, the group releasing this report recently called conventionally grown fruits and veggies “best” foods for consumers and strongly urged increased consumption of these healthy foods. 

“This group continually issues confusing and conflicting information targeted toward consumers,” Marilyn Dolan, executive director of the Alliance for Food & Farming, said in a press release. “One day they are calling safe and healthy produce ‘dirty’ and ‘toxic laden’ and the next they are stating they are ‘best’ foods. This simply isn’t helpful and studies are beginning to show this type of conflicting information may be having a negative effect on consumers.”

Recently, a new peer-reviewed study conducted by the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future found that conflicting messaging on food safety and nutrition may be having a detrimental effect on the dietary choices of consumers, especially those with lower incomes. 

Researchers involved in the study recommended that “those who want to improve food production techniques and those who want to improve nutrition cooperate to create consistent messaging about healthy eating” for the benefit of consumers.

The so-called “dirty dozen” list has also been largely discredited by the scientific community, according to Dolan, who said, “Before using or promoting this list or covering today’s list release, we ask concerned consumers and the media to review some of the peer-reviewed studies and government reports that can provide a scientific perspective about pesticide residues. These include the following:

  • USDA Pesticide Data Program report released in December — The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food & Drug Administration concluded that “residues do not pose a food safety concern.”
  • Journal of Toxicology, a peer-reviewed paper that examined the methodology used to develop this ‘dirty dozen’ list, concluded that no established scientific procedures were followed in the development of the list and the recommended substitutions of organic for conventional forms of produce did not reduce risk.
  • Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health issued a peer-reviewed study that showed that people who ate seven or more servings of produce per day reduced their risk of premature death by 42 percent. Consuming that many servings reduced the risk of death from cancer by 25 percent and heart disease by 31 percent. 
  • Journal of Food & Chemical Toxicology published a peer-reviewed paper that found that if Americans increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables by a single serving, over 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented annually. This study was conducted assuming all servings were of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

The AFF launched the website in 2010 to provide science-based information about the safety of organic and conventional produce. 

“Consumers deserve truthful, credible information about the safety of their foods so they can make the right shopping choices for their families,” Dolan said. “We believe that facts, not fear, should guide those choices.”

She added, “Our message mirrors that of health experts everywhere: Eat more organic and conventional fruits and veggies every day for better health and a longer life.”

That sentiment was echoed by the U.S. Apple Association, which released a statement in response to the EWG’s 2015 “Dirty Dozen” list.

“Any report that tells people not to eat apples is just silly and giving potentially harmful advice,” said Jim Bair, president and chief executive officer of USApple. “Consumers would be smart to simply follow the advice of the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which all say eat more fruit.”