Tag Archives: produce

Organic sales inch upward for some foodservice suppliers

Organic produce generally isn’t as popular among foodservice operators as it is at retail, largely because of its price.

Still, several suppliers offer a number of organic products for their foodservice customers, and many report at least a small uptick in sales.

Church Brothers Farms, Salinas, Calif., launched its organic salad offerings about a year ago, said Kori Tuggle, vice president of marketing and business development.

“We’ve started and have kept it simple with three ‘staple’ organic salad items: wild arugula, spinach and spring mix,” she said.

The company’s organic demand is increasing “modestly” among foodservice customers, Tuggle said.

“I believe operators are still looking to offer organic items. However it has to meet their food cost limitations,” she said.

Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif., offers a full line of organic vegetables “with sustained growth projected for 2017,” said Mike O’Leary, vice president of sales and marketing for the fresh-cut division.

Sales of organic baby spinach have held steady, and it continues to be popular at foodservice, he said.

Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., continues to expand its product offerings to meet the demands of consumers who prefer organic produce, including avocados and bananas, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing.

“We supply different offerings to different segments or venues,” he said. “For instance, organic avocados are sold to two of the casual dining chains we supply.”

Demand for Arcadian Harvest Organic from Mann Packing Co. Inc., Salinas, Calif., continues to grow, said Gina Nucci, director of corporate marketing.

The product is particularly popular at universities and organic-focused restaurants as well as retailers, like Whole Foods salad bars, she said.

Arcadian Harvest Organic, available year-round, combines four lettuce varieties, like green leaf, red leaf, tangos, lollo rosa, batavia and oak leaf, according to the company’s website.

In the avocado category, Robb Bertels, vice president of marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., said there currently is a “little bit of demand” for organic product at foodservice, especially from specialty restaurants. But he said demand seems to be growing.

“Millennials have a certain passion for organic,” he said, so he expects that trend to result in increased organic sales.

Mission Produce ships organic avocados in white boxes with purple accents so that the product stands out in distribution centers or storage areas, he said, distinguishing it from boxes of conventional fruit.

D’Arrigo Bros. Co., Salinas, Calif., offers organic versions of its Andy Boy romaine hearts and Andy Boy broccoli rabe, said Claudia Pizarro-Villalobos, director of marketing and culinary.

Andy Boy organic romaine hearts come in cartons of 12 three-count packs and seven six-count packs, and Andy Boy organic broccoli rabe comes in 1-pound bunches.

Story by Tom Burfield

Fourth of July avocado consumption expected to top 100 million pounds

Spring and summer are key times for California avocado availability and the California Avocado Commission is offering back-to-back programs in support. The commission kicked off its programming in April with season opening activities followed by its American Summer Holidays program in May, California Avocado Month activities in June and programs for the Fourth of July.CAC-Mass-Fried-Oysters

CAC’s June California Avocado Month activities this year included a sponsorship of the venerated Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. The food hall, in the heart of the city, turns 100 years old this year, and is a popular spot for foodies and tourists alike with more than 90,000 visitors each month. For the entire month of June, 11 market vendors featured California avocado dishes at their restaurants. CAC hosted a media preview at the venue in late May. Bloggers and other media shared information about the event and California Avocado Month, including outreach by LAist, DineLA and FoodBeast.

“Magic can happen when you get bloggers and the media to try the California avocado dishes created by talented chefs,” Jan DeLyser, vice president marketing of the California Avocado Commission, said in a press release. “We have been blown away by the media coverage of CAC’s Grand Central Market sponsorship, which has exceeded 82 million impressions so far.”

The commission’s California Avocado Month advertising incorporated print and in-store radio as well as Pandora audio targeted to where California Avocados are in distribution. It was supported by social media that has generated 8.2 million impressions to date. Retail support for California Avocado Month has run the gamut with one chain featuring store-wide programs involving multiple departments, a display and sales contest, a featured recipe in their service deli and Father’s Day activities. Another retailer created a BBQ theme event supporting California avocados that included an online social media recipe contest and a team member wellness challenge.CAC-Maine-Lobster-Roll-FB

On the heels of its June marketing support, CAC supports a push for Fourth of July. “After five years of promoting California avocados for Fourth of July, the holiday has become one of the biggest avocado consumption events of the year,” DeLyser said in the press release. “This year the commission is continuing to market California avocados and California avocado recipes for the American Summer Holidays, from barbecue to salads to baking.”

CAC’s United Plates of America promotion, which launched prior to Memorial Day, features recipes that combine California avocados with American regional specialties. For the Fourth of July, the commission partnered with Chef Ryan (Peaches) Lamon, the executive chef and co-owner of Peaches’ Smokehouse and Southern Kitchen, who is perhaps best known as the winner of the Cooking Channel’s “Food Truck Race Off” in 2014. Chef Lamon created and promoted new recipes that highlight how easily California avocados can elevate one of America’s favorite regional cuisines — Southern barbecue.

Extending the United Plates of America program, CAC’s social media will feature a Route 66 theme, including a blog post, a carousel on Facebook and supporting Twitter polls about select Route 66 stops. Print advertising continues in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento, along with in-store radio and Pandora audio.

Digital advertising has played a big role in California avocado marketing this year, and CAC’s American Summer Holidays creative will be running on Food52, Tasting Table, Nativo and PureWow. Nativo also will feature two custom articles: Four Ways to Celebrate Fourth of July with California Avocado and 5 All-American Ways to Celebrate With California Avocado.

Additionally, customized retail support — including demos, point-of-sale materials and display bins — will run in support of the United Plates of America program. Retailers are using CAC’s United Plates of America recipe booklet showcasing 18 recipes and tips pairing California avocados with “plates” from the U.S., particularly California and the West.

The avocado industry forecasts that avocado consumption for Fourth of July festivities will be 100.8 million pounds, which is about on par with Fourth of July 2016.

Story by Producenews.com

Supreme Court Wants Quick Response On Citrus Veto

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday gave Gov. Rick Scott’s administration until noon Monday to respond to a lawsuit challenging the governor’s veto of $37.4 million intended to go to residents whose healthy citrus trees were cut down as the state tried to eradicate citrus-canker disease.

The Supreme Court set the deadline after the lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of homeowners in Broward and Lee counties and their attorneys. Lawmakers included the money in the 2017-2018 budget after years of litigation about the state’s removal of trees in those counties and other parts of the state.

The money would satisfy judgments against the state, which destroyed healthy trees from 2000 to 2006 as officials fought citrus canker.

The filing Tuesday at the Supreme Court contended that Scott’s veto of the money was unconstitutional and asked justices to address the issue before the July 1 start of the fiscal year. In vetoing the money June 2, Scott cited “ongoing litigation” as the reason.

Story by Health News Florida.

Whole Foods stock rockets 28% on $13.7 billion Amazon takeover deal

Shares of Whole Foods Market rocketed 28 percent on Friday after Amazon said it plans to acquire the grocery store chain for $42 a share, in a deal valued at $13.7 billion.

Amazon’s offer represents a 27 percent premium to Whole Foods’ closing price on Thursday. With Whole Foods shares trading around Amazon’s offer price, investors appear to be speculating that another suitor could make a play for the grocery chain.

Whole Foods has been under pressure from activist investor Jana Partners and money manager Neuberger Berman, which have called on Whole Foods to sell itself. The investors have criticized Whole Foods for its poor performance, and have suggested the chain could be merged with another grocer.

“This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” John Mackey, Whole Foods’ CEO, said in a statement.

Mackey will remain CEO of the grocery store chain after the deal closes, and the store will continue to operate under the Whole Foods brand.

Amazon has long been pushing to expand its online grocery business, seeing it as an emerging opportunity. Currently, very few people purchase their groceries online even as more shoppers switch to buying other goods that way.

Some analysts had seen Wal-Mart being best positioned to compete in the next phase of growth in online shopping because it was going to be able to use its vast footprint of stores to help distribute products ordered online. Also, Wal-Mart has been successful with its so-called click-and-collect model, where shoppers order online but stop by the store to pickup their orders.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods has been seen as a laggard in the online shift. Their stores tend to be in urban markets where there was an overlap with Amazon Fresh and Prime Now.

News that the e-commerce giants buying grocery store Whole Foods sent grocery stocks reeling on Friday.

Kroger sank nearly 16 percent before the bell. Supervalu dropped 11.5 percent while Costco dropped 6.5 percent. Sprouts Farmers sank 9.2 percent.

“This is an earthquake rattling through the grocery sector as well as the retail world,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, told CNBC in an email. “We can only imagine the technological innovation that Amazon will bring to the purchasing experience for the consumer. Now, we can see in hindsight that its recent dithering around the brick-and-mortar experience, as an experiment, was only a rumbling of the seismic event in the offing.”

Shares of Amazon were up about 3 percent following the news. The deal is expected to close in the second half year.

Jana Partners did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Story by Sarah Whitten at Cnbc.com

Aldi’s expansion puts grocery retailers on notice

Discount grocery retailer Aldi announced June 11 that it would invest $3.4 billion to expand its U.S. store base to 2,500 by the year 2022.

The German grocer currently operates 1,600 stores in the United States and said earlier this year it would expand to 2,000 by the end of 2018 at a cost of $1.6 billion.

The $5 billion move would have Aldi as the third-largest U.S. food retailer by store count behind Walmart and Kroger.

“It should absolutely be more than scary to traditional grocers and retailers,” Mikey Vu of the consulting firm Bain & Co., was quoted as saying in a June 12 article in The Wall Street Journal. Vu said Aldi has improved its stores and products in recent years, and is attracting a larger mix of shoppers.

A point of differentiation by Aldi and other discounters, such as Lidl, which is set to open its first U.S. locations this week, is their longstanding use of store brands to keep prices down, a common practice in Europe. U.S. consumers have traditionally been more brand loyal, but that is beginning to erode, especially with the millennial generation.

Millennials “are value-oriented and don’t hold the same stigmas about private-label items that older generations do,” Mike Paglia, director of the research firm Kantar Retail, was quoted as saying in the WSJ article.

“As we continue to expand and grow, our purchasing power continues to increase and allows us to bring products at better prices for consumers,” Scott Patton, Aldi’s head of corporate buying, said in an interview with CNBC.

Aldi said the new store openings would create 25,000 jobs over the next five years.

Story By Producenews

Florida packing houses struggle to maintain supplies amid greening crisis

packinghouses

Stories of the fatal bacterial disease, citrus greening, often focus on growers, who have seen their annual harvest decline by more than 70 percent because of greening.

Just as severely impacted have been Florida’s fresh citrus packinghouses, which buy a large portion of Florida’s annual orange, grapefruit and tangerine harvests and sell them to supermarket chains and retailers across the U.S. and ship to export markets, including Japan, Canada and Europe.

In the 2000-01 citrus season, Florida had 106 citrus packinghouses operating across citrus belt, which runs roughly south of Interstate 4, according to the Florida Department of Citrus. That was before greening was first confirmed in Florida in the fall of 2005.

Each of the top 24 packinghouses sold more than 1 million cartons of fresh citrus that season, according to the Lakeland-based Citrus Administrative Committee, a federal agency that regulates the industry. All packinghouses combined shipped 55 million cartons.

The 2016-17 season saw only 26 packinghouses operating in Florida, less than a quarter of the total from 16 seasons earlier, the statistics show.

Among them, only one, Egan Fruit Packing LLC in Fort Pierce, will ship more than 1 million cartons, and the industry output in 2016-17 will total just more than 12 million cartons, a 78 percent decline during the 16 seasons.

Few expect things to improve in the near future, which is why several of the remaining packinghouses, including Ben Hill Griffin Inc. in Frostproof, have already announced they won’t re-open for the 2017-18 season.

“We don’t have enough fruit to efficiently run the plant we have,” said Dennis Broadaway, general manager of the packinghouse operated by the Haines City Citrus Growers Association. “We’ve been sitting on this surplus equipment, thinking things may turn around. Obviously, it’s not going to turn around.”

Broadaway was referring to equipment on two of the three packing lines, which have been idle for the past three seasons, he said.

The Haines City Citrus Growers Association has put its packinghouse up for sale, although it expects to run the facility in 2017-18 and perhaps the following season until it finds a buyer, Broadaway said.

As Broadaway stated, locking up a supply of fruit is the key to survival until scientists can find a way to overcome citrus greening’s damaging effects.

Like the Haines City Growers, some packinghouses ensure supply by signing long-term agreements with independent growers that commit a certain portion of their harvest to that company. As citrus growers leave the industry, particularly small and medium-sized growers with less than 1,000 grove acres, those packinghouses are left with finding uncommitted fruit on the open market.

Others hope to survive by pursuing a grow-your-own strategy. That means packing mostly fruit from your own groves like the Peace River Packing Co. in Fort Meade.

“Our model is we have to secure our own fruit supply, and we’re planning aggressively to meet that goal,” said General Manager Larry Black. “We’ve increased the acreage we’re growing under from 1,800 acres to 2,700 acres in the last 10 years.”

About 80 percent of the oranges, grapefruit and tangerines that run through the Peace River packinghouse come from the company’s own groves, he added.

That percentage has increased in recent seasons because the supply from independent, or third-party, growers has dried up not just for Peace River but across the industry, Black said.

“We grew our third-party business in the past, but in the last three years that supply has really diminished,” he said.

Even with aggressive new plantings, however, the Peace River packinghouse’s output has fallen from more than 1 million cartons in 2008-09 and the following season to about 400,000 this season, Black said.

In addition to a diminishing third-party market, the contraction stems from the greening-related production declines in its mature groves, the same declines seen across Florida, he said. In addition, new groves don’t produce marketable fruit until at least the third season after planting.

“Over the next five years, we’re going to focus on rehabilitating groves that have not been productive,” Black added.

That means Peace River won’t be increasing its acreage, but much of that acreage will have newer, more productive groves, thus increasing supplies.

Another packinghouse pursuing a grow-your-own strategy is operated by the Hunt Bros. Cooperative, which has more than 5,000 grove acres in Polk County and the Immokalee area.

Frank Hunt III, president of the family company, agreed the supply of third-party fruit has dried up.

“In recent years, we haven’t purchased anything,” he said. “My volume is off 40 percent from what it was, but because I control my fruit, we are able to maintain packinghouse volume.”

Hunt Bros. has shipped 889,936 cartons of fruit through April 30, the second highest total in the state, according to Citrus Administrative statistics. Still, that’s down from 1.4 million cartons in the 2013-14 season.

One hope for maintaining supplies, at least in the near term, is the success of some new tangerine varieties that appear to tolerate greening infection better than the traditional varieties, Black said. The trees still become infected, but greening symptoms such as the smaller size of the fruit and increased pre-harvest drop appear to be not as severe.

About 70 percent of Florida’s “specialty citrus” crop, including tangerines and tangelos, is sold on the fresh market.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts the 2016-17 specialty harvest at 1.63 million boxes. A carton of citrus, the standard packinghouse measure, equals a half-box.

In addition to tolerating greening, the new specialty varieties are easy to peel and are seedless or nearly so, Black said. Both qualities are in high demand among U.S. consumers.

Shipments of the new varieties have increased from 33,061 cartons in 2013-14 to 258,289 cartons this season, a nearly eight-fold increase, according to Citrus Administrative statistics. The agency projects that total to rise to 400,000 cartons next season.

One popular new variety is the Sugar Belle tangerine, developed by breeders at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred and released to commercial growers in 2009.

Because of high demand from growers, Sugar Belle ranked second among all specialty trees grown last year in Florida citrus nurseries, according to Fred Gmitter, professor of citrus genetics and breeding at the Lake Alfred center who helped develop the variety.

“There’s been a high interest in new varieties from Florida growers,” Black said. “The Sugar Belle and other new releases are showing some encouraging signs against greening.”

Story by Kansas.com