Growing profits at PMA

The pressure, it seems, is off the produce category. With energy prices more than 50% off their highs of just five months ago, produce suppliers, growers and producers at the annual Produce Marketing Association show said they feel they have a great opportunity to increase sales and profits for themselves and their retail partners over the near term.

“It could not get any worse than it was,” said one attendee at the show, held in late October at the Orlando Convention Center. “With energy prices at astronomical levels, we were losing money just in the shipping process. Now, with prices much more realistic, and apparently falling further, we can get back on our collective feet and get back to the business of offering fresh, unique products to retailers and their customers.”

Perceiving an opportunity to increase sales, many of the exhibitors at the show were eager to showcase their new offerings. Here is a sample of what is coming down the pike over the next few months.


Village Farms goes earth friendly

During the PMA show, Eatontown, N.J.-based Village Farms took the opportunity to educate attendees about its Hydroperfect growing process by highlighting its environmentally friendly assets. By raising produce hydroponically as opposed to field grown, the company claims it conserves water, preserves soil and minimizes the potential for unwanted pests and contaminants. “Most importantly, our Hydroperfect growing methods create the ideal conditions for raising produce that is safer to eat and better for the environment,” says Mike DeGiglio, CEO of Village Farms.

Recognizing that food safety is a major concern for producers and retailers alike, company officials note that because hydroponics do not grow plants in soil there is no chance for soil borne contaminants, and since water is filtered there is never a worry of any water-related contamination. Furthermore, raising produce in a contained environment eliminates the threat of pollution from rain, water run-off, or soil and air drifted pollutants.

With more than 20 years of experience of growing fruits and vegetables hydroponically in the U.S. and Canada, Village Farms executives claim they provide retailers a solution to their food safety concerns. By adhering to the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) modeled after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Good Manufacturing Practices and maintaining respectable Primus Food Safety scores, the company is said to develop produce that is not only long lasting but also possesses a much lower risk of contamination from food born pathogens.

For more information, visit www.villagefarms.com


Shuman Produce: sweet success

Emphasizing the availability of its sweet onions out of Vidalia, Ga., as well as its Peru­vian onion offerings, Reids­ville, Ga.-based Shuman Prod­uce prides itself on offering re­tailers a consistent, year-round supply of sweet onions. But the highlight of this company’s presence at the PMA show was its Produce For Kids (PFK) reception, where it was announced that its spring 2008 campaign benefiting the Children’s Miracle Network raised a record $487,000.

According to John Shuman, president and director of sales for Shuman Produce as well as president and founder of PFK, strong support from such retail partners as Acme Markets, Harris Teeter and Publix Super Markets has enabled the organization to raise more than $1.6 million for children’s hospitals since its inception in 2002. “We greatly appreciate everyone who has supported our mission to date, which has resulted in PFK reaching millions of people through our national campaigns and comprehensive outreach efforts,” he says.

He adds that plans for the upcoming year include the incorporation of the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s “More Matters” messages into PFK’s communications. Both campaigns will work together to educate parents and children about the benefits of eating fresh produce while simultaneously supporting children’s causes.
For more information, visit www.realsweet.com

Yes, those bananas have filling
Attracting large groups of attendees to the Dole booth was the DestapaBanana, a device that cores bananas while still in the peel, enabling them to be filled with any liquid, sauce, syrup or even solid filling. The filling of choice at the PMA show was Ghirardelli chocolate, but other possibilities—such as peanut butter—abound.

According to officials at Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Food Co., the company has secured an exclusive relationship with Destapa to find a partner to sell and market the device, which is anticipated to build incremental banana sales. “We believe consumers will be enthralled by the novelty of the device and purchase additional bananas and fillings as a result,” says William Goldfield, communications director. He says the company plans to roll out the product early next year.

For more information, visit www.dole.com.


Sterilox launches food safety system

Malvern, Pa.-based Sterilox introduced Sterilox Food Safety System Model 2200, a device that company officials say can increase production capacity, offer a trigger-activated manual dispense system and is plug-and-play for easy installation. Sterilox Systems are known for their ability to combine water, salt and electricity to generate a food sanitizing solution for supermarket and foodservice operators.

“This next-generation Sterilox Food Safety System Model 2200 builds on the outstanding design and performance of our current model to provide additional value for our customers,” says Tom Daniel, senior vice president and general manager for the company. “Our systems offer a tangible ROI through a positive impact on the quality and freshness of perishable products, reduction of shrink and labor costs, and improved sustainability in thousands of supermarkets across the country.”

Accompanying the announcement of the company’s Food Safety System Model 2200, is the news that Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway has placed an order with Sterilox that will complete the implementation of the technology throughout the entire Safeway enterprise by the end of 2009. According to company officials, such retailers as Safeway use the Sterilox Solution in their crisping, misting, cut fruit, bakery and seafood programs as a safe and natural protection against cross contamination of infectious pathogens such as E.coli and Salmonella.

For more information, visit www.steriloxfresh.com


A healthy dose from Sun World

Sun World is offering Scarlotta red grapes which deliver a healthy dose of color and taste to the grape category, says Mike Aiton, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Bakersfield, Calif.-based company. A seedless variety that is said to have a nice crunch and a lot of flavor, the Scarlotta is available from the months of September to December.

Initially introduced by Sun World’s Variety Development Center in 2005 after seven years of testing and evaluation, the Scarlotta Seedless brand is characterized by its consistent large clusters. It is currently grown in the U.S. and is featured among the company’s other grape varieties including its Superior Seedless, Midnight Beauty and Sable Seedless brands.

Aiton ensures retailers who are interested in stocking the Scarlotta Seedless brand that the supply of the product is both healthy and consistent. He says that the company harvested twice as many of the grapes this year than last and is anticipating harvesting double the current crop next year.
For more information, visit www.sun-world.com


White wave
Creating what it calls a “whole new fruit snack concept,” Broomfield, Colo.-based White Wave has announced the launch of Fruit2day. A fruit juice product that contains bits of real fruit, the item is recommended to be showcased in the chilled cut fruit case.

Packaged in two-packs of single serve, 6.75-oz. bottles, the juice has 110 to 120 calories, is all natural and is free of sugar or preservatives. According to company officials, there are two servings of fruit in every bottle, allowing consumer to reach their recommended four daily servings of fruit through the consumption of two bottles.

The product is available in four varieties:  Pineapple Banana, Mango Peach, Strawberry Orange and Cherry Grape. Distribution is currently available nationwide. Suggested retail price for a two-pack ranges from $3.69 to $3.79.

For more information, visit www.fruit2day.com


More tools from Chile
The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association is offering retailers more tools to get the word out about its many products. The association, which represents Chilean growers, is offering in-store merchandising tools and information resource materials, such as price cards, bin wraps, fruit reference guides and shopper recipe folders.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for our retail partners to help educate consumers about our products,” said Tom Tjerandsen, the association’s managing director—North America. “Also, we want to help our retailers provide the right information to their customers. Researchers say that retailers have a fifth of a second to grab the shopper. We want to provide retailers with as much material as possible to help them.”

The tools are available for free by calling 707-938-8400 or visiting www.chileanfreshfruit.com.


Topping off the salad

Atlanta-based Naturally Fresh, already known for its salad dressings, is offering four SKUs of salad toppings: nuts & fruit pieces; roasted pecan & almond pieces; roasted and glazed pecan pieces; and glazed almond & pecan pieces. Each 3.5-ounce package has a suggested retail price of $2.99.

For more information, visit www.naturallyfresh.com.

January is Onion Month
The Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Com­mittee is submitting a challenge to the na­tion’s retailers. The Par­ma, Idaho-based org­­anization is running the Onion Lover’s Month retail display contest in which participating retailers keep a display up for a week during the month and submit photos of it to the group. Winners of the contest will receive a monetary prize, according to marketing director Sherise Jones. The contest is part of the committee’s program that stresses that onions should be part of a healthy lifestyle, she said.

“We recognize the need to expand our relationship with retailers and reach consumers through our retail partners,” Jones added. “Our goal is to develop a larger market for onions and raise awareness that onions are a healthy produce product.”

For more information, visit www.ieoonions.com

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