Fresh & fruitful

A look at the events and exhibitors at the upcoming United Fresh 2010.

By Craig Levitt

From former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s keynote address to an expanded Traceability Demo Center, new Food Safety and Re­search Demo Center and Learning Centers for retailers, United Fresh 2010, scheduled for April 20 to 23 in Las Vegas, promises to offer something for everyone associated with the produce industry.

The focus of the supersession geared for retailers, “Shifting Consumer Trends at Retail & Foodservice” includes the economy’s effects on consumer shopping and consumption behavior. Learning Centers include “Excellence in Foodservice—A Produce Roundtable Discussion with Award winning Chefs,” “Consumer Trends, price Deflation & the Impact at Retail” and “The Future of Locally Grown—Retail Roundtable Discussion.” In addition to retail/food service there are breakout sessions designed specifically for growers/shippers, wholesalers/distributors and fresh-cut processors.

“To deliver real value for our convention attendees, we must deliver programming to meet the unique needs of each part of the supply chain,” says United Fresh president, Tom Stenzel.  He adds that the tailored programming is a key part of the “Winning is Everything” United Fresh 2010 theme.
Beyond the sessions and learning centers show goers can view exhibitors’ latest wares. Here’s a sampling of what the show floor provides:

Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce
For the past several years, Andrew & Wil­liamson has been working on new varieties of grape tomatoes. This year the fruit of that labor is sewn as the Watsonville, Calif.-based company is bringing to market the first of the new varieties.

According to Mark Munger, vice president of marketing, the new yellow grape tomato has high flavor and a long shelf life. “It’s a win-win,” he says. “It’s quite spectacular and unique and we are excited to actually feature them in the booth and let people actually taste them.”

The new items will be packaged in 12-ounce grab-and-go resealable bags, which Munger says have become extremely popular. He says the company has begun shifting all of its specialty tomatoes into grab and go zip lock bags and will be strongly communicating that to retailers. In fact Andrew & Williamson is into the second evolution of its grab and go bags, which are now compostable, making them a green friendly package. Organic grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes will be on display as well.
Dole Fresh Vegetables

Just months after launching its reinvented line of Dole Salads, Monterey, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Vegetables has stepped up its interactive marketing programs in the face of growing demand by bagged salad customers for salad-based conversations, contests, social marketing and other direct-to-consumer initiatives.

The intensified strategy calls for an expanded role for the company’s Dole Salad Guide spokesperson, a reprise of the popular online Dole Super Salad Slider Game and the launch of Dole Salad Recipe Swap, which gives bagged salad users on Facebook the chance to exchange comments on their favorite bagged salad creations.

“The number of new Facebook fans who have chosen to follow the Dole Salad Guide has grown to more than 35,000—an increase of 6,400% since November 2009,” says Ronda Reed vice president of marketing. “This growth is proof that salad users want a more meaningful relationship with the Dole brand—one that can result in new salad recipes, serving suggestions, nutrition tips and even relationships with other salad lovers.”

Reed says the re-envisioned Dole Salads line arrived in supermarkets late last year as one of the most ambitious salad relaunches in history, complete with 32 separate blends and nine salad kits. Highlights of the redeveloped line include a new pinch-and-pull, Easy-Open salad bag; the Dole Salad Guide, an on-pack rating of the taste and texture characteristics of each salad blend; and a new “Pairs well with” section.

Eurofresh Farms
As consumers become more interested in eating healthy, tomatoes have become one of the fastest growing snack categories in the supermarket. In an attempt to meet those growing needs Wilcox, Ariz.-based Eurofresh Farms is focusing on its Bella Bites, a grape-like tomato product line.

“We feel there is such a big need today to get children to eat healthy,” says Mark Cassius, vice president of sales. “So we are really focused on developing some healthy finger foods that taste good and can help parents and get kids eating healthy.”

In addition to featuring the Bella Bites and mini cucumbers, Cassius says new packaging solutions will be on display, intended to create differentiation for Eurofresh. This new label initiative was launched last year and is also intended to help retailers direct consumers as to which tomato is right for different recipes. Cassius says that according to research, while consumers usually have tomatoes on their shopping list, quite often they don’t know exactly which tomatoes are right for a certain recipe.

“It’s important to try and educate consumers,” he says.

Fresherized Foods
The makers of Wholly Guacamole and Wholly Salsa are at it again. According to Jay Alley, vice president of sales for Wholly Guacamole, a subsidiary of Fort Worth, Texas-based Fresherized Foods, Wholly Queso joins the Wholly family.

“So far Wholly Queso has been received very well by retailers,” says Alley. “It’s a great item that complements our guacamole and salsa lines. If you go to a party the dips you’ll typically see are guacamole, salsa and queso. It makes perfect sense for us to bring this to product to market.”

Alley says that sampling at the Fresherized booth, which has traditionally been predominantly “guac dogs,” will be expanded to include nachos with Wholly Queso this year. “United Fresh is the first time Wholly Queso will be out in public,” says Alley. He adds that product distribution will begin in May and will be supported with FSIs as well as advertised together with the other Wholly  products.

The Garlic Co.
“Because garlic is all we do, we have the knowledge and expertise to do it right, and the innovation to create a wide range of customer friendly garlic products,” says John Duffus, sales and marketing manager.

Since 1980 Duffus says The Garlic Co., based in Bakersfield, Calif., has been committed to providing the finest garlic and responsive customer service to a wide range of retail, food service and industrial customers.

“In the retail market, the convenience of peeled garlic is just beginning to take hold with the consumer, says Duffus. “Sales are increasing each year as consumers discover they can enjoy the flavor of fresh peeled garlic by simply opening a jar.“

The Garlic Co. has taken this a step further and created a new way to present ready-to-use garlic to the consumer. Its VakPak Peeled Garlic offers recipe-sized portions of fresh peeled garlic cloves in a vacuum-sealed pouch, which Duffus says makes cooking with fresh garlic quick and easy without the worry of excess product or packaging.

Melissa’s/World Variety Produce
The Los Angeles-based company offers more than 1,000 produce items including organic, soy and specialty items under the Melissa’s brand name. According to Robert Schuel­ler, director of public relations, United Fresh provides an opportunity to not only showcase new products but highlight existing signature items as well.

Some of the new items at United Fresh include additions to the steamed line of value-added vegetables. The most recent are steamed six bean medley, steamed black-eyed peas and steamed kidney beans.

“This line extension came from the success of a couple of our other steamed items [steamed baby beets and steamed lentils] that we had introduced less than five years ago,” says Schueller.

The timing of United Fresh allows Melissa’s to highlight many of its spring and summer grilling vegetables, which include Latin, Asian and tropical and organic items.

Naturipe Farms
As a grower and marketer of healthy foods, Naturipe offers a full line of conventional, organic and premium strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and cranberries. According to Robert Verloop, senior vice president of sales and marketing, United Fresh takes place right in the middle of the Salinas, Calif.-based company’s crop, enabling them to set up customer meetings to conduct mid-year business reviews, present the latest crop updates and to introduce new innovations, sales promotions and upcoming events.

“The berry category continues to be a produce leader and the future looks very bright with new varieties that will score high with consumers and help bridge production gaps,” says Verloop. “Overall growth of some berries will come to fruition as new blueberry plantings start to come into full production that have been in development over the last three to five years. United Fresh is a great opportunity to discuss some of these new growth opportunities.”

Potandon Produce
As exclusive marketer of Green Giant Fresh Potatoes and Onions, Potandon Produce continues to develop new products that benefit both the retailer and the consumer. “Our exclusive varieties, Klondike Rose and Klond­ike Goldust are delicious, thin skin, yellow flesh potatoes with a creamy texture and buttery flavor and have become very popular with the consumer,” says Steve Ottum, COO of the Idaho Falls, Idaho-based company.

Potandon also offers these varieties available in baby potatoes, sold in mini-mesh 1.5-pound bags “for easy pickup by the consumer,” says Ottum. These mini bags are available in five different varieties including Klondike Gour­met Red-Skinned Yellow-Fleshed Pot­atoes, Klondike Gourmet Yellow-Skinned Yellow-Fleshed Potatoes, Klondike Gourmet Purple-Skinned Purple-Flesh Potatoes, Klondike Medley (a variety pack) and Klondike Fingerlings.

Potandon also offers a value-added product, Whole Baby Steam Potatoes in Sauce in four flavors: Roasted Garlic, Four Cheese, Mesquite Smoked Bacon and Three Chile. Ottum says these potatoes, which are microwavable in 4.5 minutes, act as a perfect side dish. He suggests that retailers can stock these potatoes in the refrigerated produce section or the meat department for incremental cross-promotional sales.

Village Farms
With a vision steadfast in sustainability and quality, Doug Kling, senior vice president, chief sales and marketing officer says the Eatontown, N.J.-based company strives to combine nature’s best with advanced technical know-how to grow produce that bursts with old-fashioned taste and respects 21st century environmental principles.

“We are looking forward to United Fresh 2010 and are positioned to offer our customers a meeting room space at the show,” says Kling.  “This will allow Village Farms and the customers we serve more one-on-one face-to-face communication in a relaxed environment set apart from the hustle and bustle of the show floor.”

Village Farms is also exhibiting at the New England Produce and Floral Expo where visitors can see all of its hydroponic greenhouse varieties including tomatoes on the vine, Campari cocktail tomatoes, beefsteaks, Roma and grape tomatoes, sweet peppers and long English cucumbers.

A day in Boston

With more than 200 exhibitors, the New England Produce and Floral Expo, held April 14 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, provides produce managers and buyers quality face time with suppliers from across the nation. According to Laura Sullivan, executive director of the New England Produce Council, 100% of the attention is placed on exhibitors and their products.

“In the past we tried to do educational seminars, but we felt it took away from what the show was really about,” says Sullivan. “We do have a thank you reception the night prior to the show, but aside from the keynote morning breakfast, where some award will be presented, the show is really about showcasing products.”
Here is a small taste of what retailers are in store for:

Idaho Potato Commission
One of the most important messages the Eagle, Idaho-based Idaho Potato Commission will attempt to deliver at the show is the current state of the potato market. According to Seth Pemsler, vice president, retail/international, this year’s potato market has been very different from years past.

“Pricing is low, volume is up,” says Pemsler. “Potatoes are one of the few produce categories that has been a real shining star from a volume standpoint. It has been a challenge from a price standpoint because everyone is using potatoes as a loss leader. We are prepared to talk to retailers about what is going on in the market and more importantly what we recommend they do.”

One thing that Pemsler recommends is that retailers don’t sell potatoes cheap because they are items that consumers generally buy anyway. The fact that retailers are now able to buy potatoes at a lower cost than in the past provides them with an opportunity to sell them at a reasonable price, making a larger margin while offsetting some of the margin loss they may have in other categories.

The Sandpoint, Idaho-based company is showcasing four product lines, with the highlight being the introduction of its yogurt dressing. Paul Kusche, marketing director, says the new product is a twist on the yogurt category and will contain kefir, an ancient world culture that has high levels of probiotics. The product comes in the traditional pourable glass bottle, but the packaging communicates the benefits of having half the fat and half the calories of regular dressing.

“We are relying on the packaging to help get the message out,” says Kusche. “When you have something as unique as kefir, people sometimes need to better understand what it is.”

Also being featured is the recent launch of Litehouse’s apple cider, which, depending on the time of year is made from one of three different apples—Gala, Honeycrisp and Fuji.

Tanimura & Antle
The Salinas, Calif.-based company is focusing on its hydroponic living lettuce, as well as re-showing its artisan lettuce, with modified packaging, which Diana McClean, marketing project manager, says received tremendous response and interest at last year’s show. Other items highlighted at the show include a shrink wrapped lettuce, a wrapped leaf lettuce, red leaf, green leaf, romaine, endive and escarole as well as artisan onions.

“These are items not generally found anywhere else or that somebody else does not carry,” says McClean. “So that’s what we try to focus on at these shows, along with the balance of our commodity line, which is pretty full.”
Instead of using the regional show to launch products, Tanimura & Antle is showcasing its communication programs and providing retailers with an opportunity to experience the company’s products.

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