Fresh from the field

Coming to Atlanta this month, PMA’s Fresh Summit is back— and it is packed with innovation.

By Elizabeth Louise Hatt

From growers to shippers to retailers, the produce industry is once again coming together for one of the biggest shows of the year, the Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) Fresh Summit. Taking over the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta from October 14-17, more than 900 exhibitors will be featuring the latest in fruit and vegetable varieties, snacks and value-added products and packaging innovations.

There a few new aspects to the show that retailers should look out for this year. The “Sensory Experience” contest gives exhibitors the opportunity to demo innovative ways to use their product directly to a panel of buyers and industry leaders. The “Best of Show” exhibitor award will feature a People’s Choice component that will be awarded to the company that receives the most votes through an onsite text poll. The show is also making the most of social media with its continuously updated Fresh Summit Video Wall that allows people to post videos about food industry trends, as well as an on-site news program, PMA TV, highlighting the show’s events.

But when it comes down to it, retailers want to meet the producers. Here is a guide to who is exhibiting and the products they are proudly sharing.

CF Fresh
CF Fresh is featuring their most important commodity—their people. The Sedro-Woolley, Wash.-based organic produce company’s officials strive to accommodate retailers’ ever-changing needs with custom programs and packaging, including private label. “People need to talk to us to find out what we bring—our knowledge, our people, our skills. We work with our customers to develop a program that works for them, and provide our expertise in the organic market to let them know other items that may work with what they are already purchasing to customize a program,” says Addie Pobst, import coordinator.

There are two things Pobst wants retailers to know about CF Fresh. “The first is that we have always been organic and do nothing but organic,” says Pobst. “And we do it year-round. We pioneered an import program for apples and pears coming out of Chile and Argentina in the off season, so we could make organic apples and pears available year-round to our customers.” Booth #3033

Chelan Fresh
Chelan Fresh has teamed up with the National Dairy Council (NDC) and the NFL to help K-12 schools grow their nutrition and physical activity programs. Launched by the NDC and NFL in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Fuel Up to Play 60 program aims to make sure schools make sustainable changes that give students the opportunity to be more physically active and choose nutrient-rich foods. The program provided more than $2.7 million to schools during the 2010-2011 school year.

“Chelan Fresh is dedicated to helping school foodservice operators and retailers bring more to students,” says Terry Braithwaite, director of marketing at Chelan, Wash.-based Chelan Fresh. “Through our partnership with Fuel Up to Play 60, we are able to put healthy, delicious food into children’s hands across the country. We’re excited to be part of the solution and to be working with Fuel Up to Play 60 to combat this childhood obesity epidemic together.” Booth #4875

Chilean Fresh Fruit Association
Chilean Fresh Fruit Association has continued to see rapid growth in specific produce categories. As a result, many participating growers and shippers have formed affinity committees to coordinate activities designed to help continue the rate of growth, says Tom Tjerandsen, managing director-North America, based in Sonoma, Calif. “The key functions of these committees are to assure a high level of quality for exported fruit and to voluntarily fund promotion programs designed to accelerate growth in key opportunity markets worldwide.”

Chilean Fresh Fruit invites attendees to visit their booth to learn more about general market support plan for Chilean fruit, as well as the specific elements included in the individual product category marketing plans. Booth #3414

CHEP USA’s parent company, Brambles Limited, recently acquired IFCO, a provider of shipping platforms, containers and associated services. For retailers, produce grower/shippers and manufacturers this means that the Brambles family of companies is now in a position to provide products and services that address all transport packaging and management needs, says Derek Hannum, director of marketing for the Orlando-based company.

CHEP will also be showing its true 4-way entry wooden block pooling pallet and intermediate bulk containers. “With CHEP it is as much about the system as it is about the product,” says Hannum. “When you combine a national network of service centers, like we have in the U.S., employing world class systems and expertise to manage and control the asset from sourcing through end of life, with a product that was designed for the rigors of a pooling environment, you end up with the most efficient system for product movement. Booth #2515 (CHEP & IFCO Pallet Services); Booth #3165 (IFCO’s RPC)

Del Monte Fresh Produce
Packaging innovations are aplenty at Del Monte. The Coral Gables, Fla.-based company will be showcasing its proprietary Controlled Ripening Technology (CRT) packaging for its 2- to 6-pound banana clusters, as well as other innovations like its Fresh Cut Four Packs, UHP Avocados and new parfait cups. The CRT technology is designed to extend the shelf-life of bananas for up to three days (when the bag is sealed), mitigates bruising and helps retain moisture, which makes them more visually appealing and gives them a perceived sweeter taste.

“As an industry leader in innovation, Del Monte Fresh Produce thrives in offering product solutions that address the needs of the industry and today’s consumers in a sustainable manner,” says Dionysios Christou, vice president of marketing. “We’re continuously working on developing packaging alternatives that assist in reducing our carbon foot print while also meeting the needs of our customers.” Booth #3147

D&W Fine Pack
One of the largest foodservice packing firms in North America, D&W Fine Pack is debuting its PETE square and round PartiPak catering trays and its Cruiser Bowl containers. Both feature black bottoms and clear tops and merchandising, and the Cruiser Bowls are microwaveable. The Fountain Inn, S.C.-based company will be showing its various produce containers, including single- and double-headed lettuce containers, also available in PETE.

“The key trends we’re seeing for this year’s PMA show include a shift to recyclable and sustainable materials as well as green, more eco-friendly materials, an interest in microwaveable containers that protect fresh foods from store to microwave to table and a desire for clear containers and lids to help with merchandising,” says Bob Saric, director of grocery/processor sales. “We have a complete line of cut fruit and produce packaging designed to address this industry’s needs and customer demands across all substrates, including PETE, OPS, PLA and aluminum. Booth #5087

Fresherized Foods
Fresherized Foods will be showing off its current line of Wholly Guacamole, Wholly Salsa and Wholly Queso products. The product line has become a destination category, say company officials, who will be focusing on sharing different usages of the products with customers at the show. There will also be games for retailers to enjoy, such as a football toss game with a chance to win NFL tickets.

“Wholly Guacamole continues to experience double-digit growth and we want to share the success stories of how our retail partners can get their share of these increases,” says Jay Alley, vice president of sales.

Fresherized Foods, based in Saginaw, Texas, was recently acquired by MegaMax Foods and company officials are excited about the acquisition. “It will not affect how we go to market. This should be transparent to your customers,” says Alley. Booth #4375

HBF International
HBF International sells a wide variety of berries under the Hurst’s Berry Farm brand. This year HBF added Oregon-grown cranberries to its product lineup, which includes raspberries, blueberries and specialty varieties such as gooseberries, currants and Kiwi Berries. Attendees can see HBF’s full line of fall berries and sample its Kiwi Berries. “HBF is one of the few companies to offer this fabulous fruit.” says Doug Perkins, managing director. “They’re only available for about a month, so order early.”

HBF International, based in Sheridan, Ore., is the new marketing organization for Hurst’s Berry Farm. “Customers won’t see any change in quality or service,” says Hurst. “It’s the same products and people that they’ve come to trust over three decades of great berries from Hurst’s.” Booth #1661

Idaho-East Oregon Onion Committee
Chelsey Hersley, America’s Next Top Model’s 2010 First Runner-Up, will be hanging out with the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee (IEOOC) as part of its 2011-2012 “All-American Winners” promotion campaign.

Hersley was born and raised in Boise, Idaho. “She is just one example of all that is great about our region,” says Sherise Jones, marketing director for the Parma, Idaho-based IEOOC. “A hard-working, genuine and hometown spirit are all part of the foundation that makes our onion region great, and the committee feels that Chelsey is all that and more.”

In addition to Hersley’s appearance at PMA, the IEOOC is reaching out to the next generation of onion consumers with ads, Internet media and print materials using the next generation of the region’s onion industry. Children of IEOOC growers and shippers will be featured in field and picnic photos during the coming year. Booth #4947

Jacobs, Malcolm and Burtt
Jacobs, Malcolm and Burtt markets a full line of fruits and vegetables, including specialty items such as asparagus, pomegranates and melons. The company will be featuring its line of fresh pomegranates and pre-packaged fresh pomegranates arils sold under the Ruby Fresh brand. “With pomegranates a traditional strong holiday seller, Ruby Fresh pomegranates and arils can help boost holiday profits,” says Leo Rolandelli, president. Attendees can also taste samples of the San Francisco-based company’s specialty—asparagus.

The company recently expanded its international commodity supply, offering increased availability. Retailers should visit the company for information about the latest offerings and commodities. “With every sale we try to honor our history by offering the best in produce and customer service,” says Rolandelli.

Booth #2726

Inline Plastics Corp.
Inline Plastics Corp. is introducing two fresh ideas at PMA. First, an extension of its Safe-T-Fresh line, is a sprout/herb container. Like the rest of the tamper-resistant, tamper-evident line, it includes a unique tear-strip hinge that the consumer must remove to access the product and a hanging tab for display.

“The container was developed with Brassica Protection Products for their new multi-hurdle approach to food safety which goes beyond FDA guidance and includes Global Food Safety Initiatives (GFSI) certification,” says Herb Knutson, director of marketing for the Shelton, Conn.-based company. “Brassica is the industry leader in sprouts safety protocols and is now using the new Safe-T-Fresh vented sprout container, which is the industry’s first tamper-evident, tamper-resistant sprout container.”

The second addition is a collection of 10” Safe-T-Fresh clamshell bowls in  sizes ranging from 48- to 80-ounces. “We see a move towards larger containers in the club stores and to smaller grab-and-go type containers in supermarkets,” says Knutson. Booth #963

Ocean Mist Farms
Artichokes will take center stage at Ocean Mist’s PMA booth. The company is debuting a “Season & Steam” microwaveable bag that features two fresh Globe artichokes in packaging that can be opened to allow seasoning and preparation and then resealed and steamed in the microwave.

“Consumer research told us that many shoppers view prepping of artichokes as the major barrier to purchase. By doing the prep work, we make eating fresh artichokes easy and convenient,” said Kori Tuggle, director of marketing and business development for the Castroville, Calif.-based company. The “Season & Steam” microwavable artichoke bag is also a finalist in the PMA’s annual innovation in packaging awards competition. Booth #1347

Orchid Island Juice Co.
Orchid Island Juice Co. is in the process of launching a new marketing campaign called Get to Know Your Juice. It is focused on healthy living and finding the right balance of activity and intake in your life.

The idea behind the campaign is to interact with the consumer on a personal level in order to gain insight into a first-person point of view. Natalie’s, the Fort Pierce, Fla.-based company’s brand, will be taking a very customer-centered approach to sales and promotions by providing insight on consumer behavior as well as display and pricing promotions.

Natalie’s is also launching a new variety, Cranberry Orange seasonal blend, a blend that contains 100% juice and no added sugars. Booth #1331

Rainier Fruit Co.
Rainier Fruit Co. is expecting a growth in this season’s supply of Lady Alice apples. Now in its fourth season, the variety was found in Washington and is exclusive to the Selah, Wash.-based grower. “Our volume has taken a big jump so we’ll have more fruit to offer our retail, wholesale and foodservice partners,” says Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing. “It’s most unique characteristic is that it’s very slow to brown, making it an excellent choice for fruit trays, cheese platters and a salad ingredient. We’ve had successful sales the last few years and retailers look forward to the category contribution from this higher priced item.”

Rainier’s Honeycrisp variety, both organic and conventional, is also seeing an increase this season. “We are the largest growers of Honeycrisp in North America and have the only extensive inventory beyond the month of February,” says Wolter. Booth #4175

Ready Pac Foods
Ready Pac Bistro Bowl Salads are constantly being reinvented. A new flavor, Smokehouse BBQ Style Ranch, joins the line of chef-inspired recipes each with less than 300 calories and packaged in the company’s proprietary Single Seal Technology. The technology is designed to keep salad fresh longer and is made with 70% post-consumer PET in a 50%-solar powered plant.
Made with the same gourmet ingredients and technology, Ready Pac’s Bistro Dinner Solutions will also be featured at PMA. “They are the family’s answer to ‘what’s for dinner?’” says Tristan Kieva, director of marketing. “They serve about three people and carry a suggest retail price of $5.99.”

The Irwindale, Calif.-based company is looking to introduce a new Fresh Fruit Parfait line offered in proprietary packaging that keeps the yogurt, granola and fresh fruit separated until the consumer is ready to eat the parfait. Booth #4147

Shuman Produce
Shuman Produce is presenting some exciting opportunities at the Fresh Summit for attendees to enjoy, say company officials. On Saturday and Sunday, radio personalities Chef and the Fat Man will be cooking up some of the Produce for Kids Ideal Meals recipes, and on Sunday Shuman will welcome Miss America, Teresa Scanlan, to talk about the Produce for Kids program, which has raised nearly $3.5 million for children’s charities.

Retailers can check out the company’s new consumer packaging line, including the new consumer bags for spring and fall. Officials will also be discussing its year-round sweet onion program and the newly designed pink ribbon packaging supporting the Susan G. Komen for the Cure campaign.

“We’d like to welcome attendees of the 2011 Fresh Summit in Atlanta to our home state,” says John Shuman, president of the Reidsville, Ga.-based company. “Shuman Produce is happy to present our year-round sweet onion program and innovative marketing programs that we’re known for throughout the industry.” Booth #3437

Sun-Maid Growers of California
The main attraction at the Sun-Maid Growers of California booth will be its two newest items, Sun-Maid Vanilla Yogurt Mini Raisins and Sun-Maid Vanilla Yogurt Cherries. “These two items have already demonstrated success at retail and anyone who hasn’t tried these items will want to make sure they get a taste,” says Joe Tamble, vice president of sales. Tamble also advises retailers with smartphones to check out Sun-Maid’s new packaging for key products that features QR (quick response) code technology.

There will also be a celebration going on at the booth. In honor of the Kingsburg, Calif.-based grower’s upcoming 100-year anniversary in 2012, it will be highlighting its tradition and the retail and consumer relationships it has developed over the years. For the first time ever at PMA, the company will also be serving samples of its Sun-Maid Raisin Bread. “This is just one example of how raisins can be used as part of a recipe to make a delicious meal or snack,” says Tamble. Booth #4735

Sunlight International Sales
Sunlight International Sales, the marketing and sales arm of JP Dulcich and Sons, is introducing its “Pretty Lady for the Holidays” merchandising program—and the only place to see these exciting promotional items in person and in advance is at this year’s PMA, says Nick Dulcich, director of sales and owner. The point-of-sale materials offer colorful packaging, convenient grab-n-go stand-up colander bags, shelf danglers and more.

Retailers can sample products from the current fall and winter line-up, including Autumn King, Luisco, Crimson, Globe, Autumn Royal and Scarlet Royal grapes. “Buyers and retailers will see our full promotional displays on the floor, demonstrating the impact that our point-of-sale programs will have on sales this year,” adds Dulcich. Booth #1259

Sunsweet Growers
Sunsweet Growers is targeting health-minded consumers with two new products. Plum Amazins are diced dried plums to be used as an ingredient or topping that addresses consumers’ demands for all-natural ingredients with less calories and sugar. D’Noir Prunes, a premium prune, also debuted receiving positive consumer response, and Jeff McLemore, marketing director-dried fruit for the Yuba City, Calif.-based company says “its our best prune yet.” Alongside the new products, Sunsweet will show its Sunsweet Ones, PlumSweets, the Antioxidant Blend and Philippine Mangos.

Retailers may have to look twice when passing the booth as the company recently redesigned all its packaging with a modern look. “Sunsweet is at the forefront of consumer needs and wants and will continue to innovative with new packaging and product offerings to drive the category,” says McLemore. Booth #4047

The Garlic Co.
Diced Vak Pak Garlic from The Garlic Co. is making its debut at PMA. Free of preservatives and sized for most recipes, “you get all the amazing flavor of fresh California garlic without the hassle of chopping it yourself. All the taste and none of the tedious preparation,” says Corinne Pettit, retail sales manager for the Bakersfield, Calif.-based company. The Vak Pak line, which also includes whole-peeled garlic, uses proprietary equipment and processes for peeling, processing and packing that is engineered to extend the shelf-life of fresh garlic.

“Your garlic choice matters,” says Pettit. “Customers recognize superior California garlic and prefer it to Chinese garlic. If you want to provide your customers with the best possible flavor and highest level of safety, choose The Garlic Co.” Booth #1855

Village Farms
Attendees may not recognize Village Farms at PMA. The Eatontown, N.J.-based grower is debuting its new brand image, complete with new packaging and a new logo. The look was designed to enhance the image of Village Farms and to represent what the company stands for—sustainability, an eco-friendly, premium and safe product and the company’s tagline “good for the earth,” says Douglas Kling, senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “The company is looking to do some very significant expansion over the next five years and we wanted a logo that represented how sustainable the company actually is.”

The company is also announcing the addition of two new facilities at the PMA show. A state-of-the-art greenhouse in Monahans, Texas, will begin production in early 2012 using the company’s proprietary technology, GATES. Launching in September, Village Farms is expanding its presence in the Caribbean with a packing facility in the Dominican Republic.
The company will also be unveiling an exclusive item at the show. “All I can say is that it is an exclusive variety and in a package and format that has never been seen before in North America,” says Kling. Booth #5035

Well-Pict Berries
Known worldwide for its proprietary varieties and year-round availability, Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Berries has expanded the growing areas for two of its newest strawberry varieties and its newest raspberry variety. The additional space has lengthened the harvest and boosted supplies through the late fall/early winter season.

The company has continued using its latest package design, which has proven very popular since its introduction, says Dan Crowley, sales manager. “Both our newest 2- and 4-pound packs are designed for improved product protection, while addressing concerns about shipping costs and the environment. The clamshell design can provide approximately 35% more unit density than previous designs, resulting in reduced fuel usage and cheaper freight rates without compromising product volume or safety.”

Attendees can sample Well-Pict’s berries at the show and lean about the company’s current Chugginton promotion. Booth #2726

Wish Farms
Wish Farms latest introduction is going straight to smartphones. Its new Variable QR (Quick Response) Code Label will be featured on clamshells carrying strawberries, blueberries and grape tomatoes that will be able to link directly to a mobile website. Each variable QR code is unique, linking the user back to the farm and the picker who picked the produce.

“By implementing the FreshQC traceability system, a product of VirtualOne which combines data collection and traceability into one process, we saw a unique opportunity to use this tool to educate and provide relevant information to our consumers,” says Gary Wishnatzki, president of the Plant City, Fla.-based company. “The trends have been that consumers want to know more and more information about their food and where it comes from.”

The QR code labels and mobile website are part of a broader effort to build the company’s brand identity, which began with the 2010 launch of its consumer brand, Wish Farms and Misty the Garden Pixie. “Many consumer-focused marketing efforts will be introduced in the coming months to coincide with the company’s expansion,” says Wishnatzki. Wish Farms recently added blueberries to its year-round offerings and is focused on building a year-round vegetable program. Booth #5155

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