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“We are happy to announce that Carole Opel has been appointed regional sales manager of the Giorgio Fresh sales team,” said Bill Litvin, also a regional sales manager for the Temple, PA-based company.

Mr. Litvin noted that in recent years, all categories of produce, including specialties, have witnessed growth due especially to specific consumer-driven trends that include the buy local movement where consumers favor locally grown produce to support the local and state economy.

“Yet another current trend is organics,” he said. “Which, thanks to highly educated consumers, has led to a significant movement in the organic produce category.”

“Sustainability, another trend, sees consumers actively seeking products from retailers that are produced using significant initiatives that reduce the carbon footprint of getting the final products to consumers,” said Mr. Litvin. ”All of these trends can be attributed to consumers who are more educated than ever.”

He added that consumers are seeking information from any available source, and are aggressively researching how the foods they consume affect their bodies, as well as how their purchases effect the economic environment.

With consumers doing their research prior to purchasing products at the grocery store, the current industry trends have resulted in a positive impact on the specialty produce category.

“The Mushroom Council data, combined with our own, indicate that organic produce sales have increased despite the economic downturn,” said Mr. Litvin. “With some of our organic items also falling into our specialty products’ range, we have seen a positive impact on sales, thanks to these current trends.”

Sustainability, Mr. Litvin agrees, is also an important issue today, and some retailers and foodservice operators are asking producers about their sustainability practices.

“Giorgio is dedicated to being on the forefront of practicing ‘green’ protocols, which is why there has been a corporate sustainability program in place for many years at the company,” he said. “Our mandate is to review, document and promote environmental programs.”

Giorgio’s sustainability program, Mr. Litvin pointed out, has been successful in many areas, including water conservation, energy conversation, waste reduction and recycling and pesticide and fungicide reduction.

“In fact, we recycle over 200,000 tons of farm by-products and 4,000 tons of leaves each year,” he said.

Giorgio Fresh got its start in 1928, and today is a leading producer of fresh, frozen and processed mushroom products.

Mr. Litvin said that the company’s sales have remained strong throughout the recession.

“Consumers see a benefit in healthy eating, so they continue to purchase mushrooms,” he said.

He also announced that Giorgio Fresh is in the process of testing several new packaging options to see how they perform in the market.