Produce with punch

With a new format and record attendance, the 2012 PMA Fresh Summit was one to remember.

In October the produce industry converged on Anaheim, California for two days of exchanging ideas, tasting new snacks and building long-term relationships. The consensus on the trade floor was that the Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) 2012 Fresh Summit was a success. The numbers agree. The show had an all-time attendance record, with more than 21,000 attendees, including nearly 4,000 buyers.

“Judging by what we saw here, our industry is optimistic about the future, and excited to seize the opportunities that always come along with market disrupters,” said PMA President and CEO Bryan Silbermann. “To do that, PMA continues to support the needs of our members in new and exciting ways.”

Here are some companies and innovations that captured Grocery Headquarters’ attention on the trade show floor.

Taste the kale
The latest flavor to join Brad’s Raw Food’s line of Raw Leafy Kale is Pina Kale-ada, made with Coconut and Pineapple. There are four other varieties—Naked (plain vegan cheese), Nasty Hot! (Jalapeno & Vegan Cheese), Vampire Killer (Garlic & Vegan Cheese) and Natural Nacho (Pepper & Vegan Cheese). The Pipersville, Penn.-based company’s entire line is made from fresh vegetables and seasoned with natural ingredients. The snack is available in 1- and 2.5-ounce containers with a suggested retail price of $4.49 and $7.99, respectively.

Buddy up!
Buddy Fruits, made by Ouhlala Gourmet, launched Apple Chips, a crunchy snack made with 100% apples. Available in two varieties, Fuji Apples and Granny Apples, each package is made from 1-1/2 apples and no artificial flavorings, preservatives, salt, oil or colorings.

“It is a healthy and convenient option for on-the-go consumers; and a delicious twist on the traditional chip and drink snack,” said Beata Roch, the Coral Gables, Fla.-based company’s social media manager.

Smaller is better
CF Fresh is taking apples down a notch. They are now offering apples in a 2-pound bag in addition to the standard 3-pound bag. “Some retailers expressed an interest in a smaller bag with a slightly lower price point, so we offered a generic bag as a test and it went over really well with consumers,” said Addie Pobst, import coordinator. “We have since had the graphics done for the bag and are offering four or five apple varieties in this size. The response has been very encouraging; it seems to be a better fit for certain retailers.”

PMA Fresh Summit was also a chance for the Sedro-Woolley, Wash.-based grower to meet up with its import partners to celebrate a great season and talk about the potential for some new partnerships next season. “One of the realities of the produce industry is that you spend a lot of time talking and emailing with people in different locations; PMA is that one time we all get together to celebrate the industry and deepen our professional connections,” said Pobst.

Ruby of the orchard
Chelan Fresh Marketing has a new gem, the Orondo Ruby Cherry. The Chelan, Wash.-based cooperative acquired the Orondo Fruit Co. packing plant, making them the exclusive shipper of the cherry.

The cherry was discovered in 2001 and has been noted for its sweet, juicy flavor, Cory Wray, Orondo representative, told Grocery Headquarters. “It is picked for flavor. The growers go through the orchard numerous times in order to pick each cherry at its peak ripeness. It’s very labor intensive.” Chelan will be packing and shipping the cherry when it comes into season in June 2013.

Pineapple at its best
Chestnut Hill Farms arrived with boxes of pineapples, a chocolate fountain and lots of excitement. They left with an award for Best Island Booth. “We wanted our booth to correspond our brand image,” Steve Benchimol, general manager, sales administration told Grocery Headquarters. “It is our belief that we have to be close to our farms and integrate that into our customer experience.”

The Coral Gables, Fla.-based company’s mission was to re-enforce its position in the market as a leading pineapple grower, said Benchimol. “Pineapple is a healthy, beautiful fruit. It is our job to make it easier to be consumed and for retailers to sell.”

Veggies included
Fresh Express, a subsidiary of Chiquita Brands, recent line of Veggie Medleys offers consumers a salad blend with additional vegetables included. The four varieties include vegetables such as grape tomatoes, carrots, radishes and pea pods, along with different lettuce blends.

Consumers usually view bagged salad as a base, said Robert Stallman, general manager, salads and healthy snacking for Charlotte, N.C.-based Chiquita Brands. “By adding the vegetable to the bag, we are offering consumers a convenience; they only have to add dressing.”

A heartier taste
Classic Salads is going after foodservice with two new salads. The Nordic Blend is a mixture of four red and green baby lettuces harvested as baby whole leaves, and the Nordic Spring is a 50/50 combination of the Nordic Blend with the company’s Spring Mix, both available in a 2.5-pound bag.

John Burge, vice president of sales and marketing, describes them as a sweet and crunchy mix that will hold up to a heartier dressing, like a blue cheese or ranch. “We wanted to create something that not only addressed people’s health concerns but also tasted good. The shopper buying spring mix and spinach is very health conscious,” he said.

The Watsonville, Calif.-based company also introduced 5-ounce and 10-ounce clamshells of Baby Kale and Super Mix Superfood that includes kale, spinach, shard and beet top.

Gaga for bananas
Dole Fresh Fruit, based in Westlake Village, Calif., attracted a crowd as it served up frozen fruit treats from the Yonanas dessert maker. Although designed to save over-ripe bananas from the trash and turn them into a healthy dessert, the dessert maker can be used with a variety of fruits, including pineapple, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. It answers the call for healthier dessert options, said a company official.

Super Bowl’s salad bowl
With tailgating and Super Bowl parties in the works, Chris Mayhew, vice president of marketing for Dole Fresh Vegetables, said Dole Fresh Vegetables’ All-Natural Salad Kits are a best-seller for these big, in-store events and promotions. “Consumers want to combine health and convenience without sacrificing taste; taste is a big deciding factor for Superbowl parties.”

For the same reasons, the Monterey, Calif.-based company expects to see its Extra Veggie Salads, introduced this year, to be popular this season. The salads combine Dole’s salad blends with vegetables in a Stay Fresh pouch that maintains crunch and freshness. “We are creating several game day recipes based on Extra Veggies salads this year to give fans a healthier alternative to less-healthy recipes,” said Mayhew.

The first date
The California Date Administrative Committee (CDAC) is spreading the news about dates. For the fourth year, the CDAC is working with the American Dietetic Association and attending the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expos to educate nutritionists and registered dieticians about the nutritional benefits of dates, as well as making plans to expand its educational reach to retailers and consumers.

“Through surveys we learned that dieticians and nutritionists were told to avoid dried fruits,” said Lorrie Cooper, manager of the CDAC. “’Dates are too sweet,’ ‘too much sugar’ and ‘high in calories’ are some of the comments we were hearing. The nutritional benefits were being over-looked.”

To get out the nutritional message locally, the Indio-Calif.-based organization teams up with chefs and caterers to get dates into recipes and on menus for their events. For example, come January/February 2013, the CDAC will be working with the American Heart Association on an exclusive event to kick off its Go Red for Women campaign by providing dates to the chefs. “As consumers look for whole foods to incorporate back into their diets, dates fit right in as a processed sugar replacement. They are naturally sweet.”

The CDAC is gearing up to work with produce retailers to promote the nutritional value of dates, noting that many dieticians and nutritionists have difficulty finding dates in retail and are typically categorized as a dried fruit. “Unlike other dried fruits, dates are a naturally dried fruit and come off the palms with less than 30% moisture. Dates are actually hydrated to add moisture before being packaged and shipped,” said Cooper.

‘Tis the season
Duda Farm Fresh Foods was showing its seasonal packaging—Celery Celebrations. Shipping through the Super Bowl, the packaging is designed to encompass the spirit of the holiday season with eye-catching graphics and information.

“We want to provide retailers with a solution for snacking throughout the holidays and the Super Bowl,” said Nichole Towell, director of marketing for the Oviedo, Fla.-based company. “It has text codes to give consumers usage ideas and recipes.” The packaging is available on the 18- and 30-count bags and the 3-ounce celery sticks.

An eye for freshness
Eagle Eye Produce’s Simply Good Simply Fresh 100% Fresh Potatoes and Onions come vacuum-packed ready to hit the skillet or be popped into the microwave for nine to 11 minutes. Available in seven varieties—Dutch Oven, Four Cheese, Rosemary Garlic, Skillet, Southwestern, Steakhouse and Tuscan—the packages come with a 21-day shelf-life.

“We have been working on this for a few years,” said Nate Klinger, marketing director for the Idaho Falls, Idaho-based grower. “There are a lot of convenience products in the produce department that have been cooked or prepared somehow; this is completely fresh.”

The 16-ounce bags contain four servings with a suggested retail price of $2.99 and will be available in Q1 of 2013.

Hold the milk
Anyone who stopped by the Galaxy Nutritional Foods was in for a treat. Sisters Heather Goldberg and Jenny Engel, founders Spork Foods, a vegan food company based in Los Angeles, were cooking up vegan treats using GO Veggie! Lactose Free and GO Veggie! Dairy Free products.

The GO Veggie! line is a rebranding of the original Veggie line: “About a year ago we began examining our existing brand identity and realized the value of creating a singular brand,” said Rick Antonelli, chief executive officer of Galaxy Nutritional Foods, based in North Kingstown, R.I.

The GO Veggie! cream cheese alternative, part of the dairy-free line of products that also includes cheese slices and shreds, was new at PMA. It is available in plain, garlic and chive varieties. The lactose free includes slices, blocks, shreds and grated cheese.

In the bag
Grimmway Farms’ was showing its Carrot Dippers’ new package. Previously sold in a tray-pack, the carrots are now sold in a bag with five 2.5-ounce snackpacks ($2.49 to $2.99 suggested retail price) or individually (50- to 60-cents).

Additionally the Bakersfield, Calif.-based company is bringing the family back to the table with a value-added side dish. The bag of carrots ($2.49 to $2.79) includes a dollop of butter and seasoning that marinates the carrots in the microwave in about four minutes. “Everyone is time starved so we wanted a quick, easy solution for to bring the family together,” said Bob Borda, vice president of marketing.

The life of lettuce
Hollandia Produce/Live Gourmet has answered consumers’ requests. For the first time, the Carpinteria, Calif.-based company has an organic offering. The Organic Living Butter Lettuce is sold under the Grower Pete’s brand.

“One of the first questions consumers always ask is ‘do you have anything organic?’” said Vincent E. Choate, director of marketing. “We have been working on an organic option for a while and we finally found the right solution.”

Packaged in a clear 1-count container, the suggested retail price for the Organic Living Butter Lettuce varies per region. Retailers can expect to see an organic Watercress available this year.

USA Onions/Idaho-E. Oregon Onion Committee scored with its football tailgating-themed booth. The IEOOC is using this theme to promote their Weber grill marketing platform, which includes free Weber grills for retail display and a football bowl season retail display contest. The contest will award an array of Weber-Stephen grills and accessories, and all entrants will receive a premium full-color 375-page Weber’s Time to Grill cookbook just for submitting an entry.

Keep on truckin’
It was a grand finale for the Idaho Potato Commission, as the Big Idaho Potato Truck ended its countrywide tour outside the Anaheim Convention Center. The 70-foot-long truck was a popular attraction among attendees, but no more than the Eagle, Idaho-based organization’s booth was inside with its Race to Win potato truck races. Spectators flocked to watch the derby and many walked away with prizes.

The IPC also sponsored the relaxation lounge giving attendees a chance to take a break and check out the highlights of the truck’s coast-to-coast tour.

A full cup
Inline Plastics Corp. offered retailers a new solution for prepared foods. The Shelton, Conn.-based company spotlighted its grab-and-go 12-ounce snack cups, part of its Safe-T-Fresh line of products with a crystal clear design. Sized to fit in most car cup holders, the clamshell containers extend shelf life and are ideal for yogurt, parfait, fresh fruit and other snacks, said Jack Tilley, market research manager.

“We are seeing an increase in demand for grab-and-go packaging. People are in a rush and want to pick up something to eat on-the-go. The new line received a great response at Fresh Summit,” he added.

The retail advantage
Retailers at PMA got a glimpse at IFCO’s Fresh Market Advantage, a suite of merchandising solutions that were developed in response to retailer and industry interests.

Retailers and growers wanted more product and price information for their merchandising solutions, said Hillary Femal, director of strategic market development for IFCO’s RPC Management Services. “We started with 60 ideas and enlisted the help of retailers to help us narrow them down.”

The Tampa, Fla.-based company focused on features such as durability and cost value, creating solutions that are reusable, easy to install and will not financially burden any retailers, said Femal. “We also thought it was important to make sure the key information was viewable but not intrusive. Consumers can’t miss it; the key features and price is in direct line of sight.”

Talk of the town
The conversation around Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS) was all about saving money. “We are talking to attendees about some of the new cost savings that can be attributed to our pallets,” said Melissa Reali, marketing manager for the Orlando-based company.

There are plenty of safety advantages to iGPS’s reusable pallets, company officials add. The pallets include Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that enable organizations to immediately identify contaminated shipments, limit the spread of food-borne illness and facilitate product safety recalls.

Mushroooming design
Monterey Mushrooms has received nothing but positive feedback about its new package design, said Joe Caldwell, vice president of the Watsonville, Calif.-based company. The eco-friendly plastic-wrapped cardboard trays have usage ideas printed on them that appeal to consumers and environmentally conscious shoppers alike.

“Most of the comments from consumers are about getting rid of the Styrofoam tray from an environmental perspective,” said Caldwell.

From fruit to glass
Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co. has done it again. The Fort Pierce, Fla.-based company added two new juices to its all-natural offerings—Honey Tangerine, which is a type of tangerine, and Strawberry Lemonade. “As all of our juices are, they are all-natural, fresh and have no preservatives,” said Natalie Sexton, marketing associate. “There is never anything added to our product. People are becoming more health-conscious and want to know what they are consuming.”

The Honey Tangerine is available in 16- ($1.99 suggested retail price), 32- ($3.99) and 64-ounce ($5.99) bottles, and the Strawberry Lemonade comes in 8- (99-cents), 16- ($1.49) and 64-ounce ($3.99) bottles.

Green bean bags
The new Organic Snipped Green Beans value pack from Pero Family Farms Food Co. is a 24-ounce resealable bag that can also be microwaved.

“It is a convenience package offering the best value for the household,” Nick Bergstrom, chief sales officer for the Delray Beach, Fla-based company, told Grocery Headquarters. “In a way we are competing against ourselves to do promotions on organic green beans that can compare with conventional ones.” The value pack carries a suggested retail price of $5.99 to $6.99.

Peru for you
Chef Ricardo Zarate, rated Best New Chef in 2011 by Food & Wine, was representing Peru with his take on Peruvian comfort food for guests to try. The treats were inspired by fresh produce from Peru.

Exporters of citrus, grapes, avocados and asparagus were present to offer insight into Peru’s ideal growing conditions and the characteristics of Peruvian produce. According to booth representatives, the country is the number one provider of asparagus to the U.S. and has seen a 613% increase in volume of avocado imports from 2011 to 2012.

Quite a pear
There was a Sportacus sighting at Pear Bureau Northwest (PBN). The Milwaukie, Ore.-based organization has partnered up with the children’s TV series, LazyTown. For retailers PBN is offering a full line of point-of-sale materials featuring LazyTown characters including skirting, wobblers, stand-up display posters, stickers, floor signs, channel cards with recipe pads and life-size standees. Retailers can also talk to the bureau about in-store sampling opportunities.

Shake, rattle and eat!
Swing dancers in ‘50s garb captured attendees’ attention as they passed by the Potandon Produce booth. Carrying over the theme from the custom-built 1950’s-style concession trailer that road-tripped around the country on the Johnny’s Be Good road tour, the booth was laid out like a diner complete with a Juke Box and star appearance by Don Most, the actor who played Happy Days’ Ralph Malph.

Despite the party atmosphere, officials for the Idaho-Falls, Idaho-based company were spreading an important message that its Green Giant Fresh Klondike Rose Potatoes is now participating in the Box Tops for Education program. The company is proud to give back to America’s schools, said Barbara Keckler, marketing supervisor.

Gone digital
Produce for Kids (PFK) announced it will be embarking on a digital strategy to reach shoppers on a year-round basis and during its campaigns. The new strategy will include simplified in-store POS displays, a website redesign that includes mobile optimization and more exposure for participating sponsors and retailers.

“With the rise of the digital era, shoppers are glued to their phones, tablets and laptops. Reaching them is harder than ever,” said John Shuman, founder and president of the Orlando, Fla-based company. “With these new initiatives, we’ll be better equipped to reach shoppers to spread the healthy eating message and bring value to our sponsors and retailers.”

A new apple for the day
Junami was in the spotlight at the Rainier Fruit Co. booth. The new apple variety received an incredible response from retailers and consumers, said Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for the Selah, Wash.-based company. “It’s a refreshing variety that bring the taste buds alive.” The variety will be available in late December.

Also new was the exclusive Lady Alice, an apple variety that was discovered in Washington and can be recognized by its distinct pink stripe over a cream-yellow background. “According to Nielsen sales data, the ‘other’ apple category increased more than 50% in both sales dollars and volume from September to April,” said Wolter. “This presents an opportunity for retailers to shift their focus to new varieties and drive additional dollars through the department.”

Bring the harvest home
Ready Pac Foods is ready to entertain with a new party platter combination. Just in time for tailgating and Super Bowl parties, the Pear and Apple Harvest Platter includes pears, apples, grapes and seasonally available kumquats with caramel dip, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses and crackers.

“With more consumers opting to choose foods at their seasonal best, this item is perfect for fall and winter entertaining,” said Tristan Simpson, director of marketing and communications for the Irwindale, Calif.-based company.

With a cherry in the middle  
Sun-Maid Growers of California’s new snack puts the cherry inside the chocolate. Dark Chocolate Yogurt Cherries are tart dried cherries coated in a creamy dark chocolate yogurt positioned as a tangy-sweet snack.

The initial response has been very good, said Joe Tamble, vice president of sales for the Kingsburg, Calif.-based grower. “Raisins are our bread and butter, but we participate in all segments of the dried fruit category. These are cherries covered in chocolate—delicious comfort food.”

Packed in a 5-ounce re-closeable zipper bag with a suggested retail price of $3.99 to $4.99, the dark chocolate cherries are currently shipping.

Salads with a kick
Taylor Farms’ line of chopped salads are such a hit, say officials, that the company added a new flavor. The BBQ Ranch Chopped Salad includes bacon, BBQ sauce and Ranch Dressing along with lettuce and vegetables.

The entire line has received an excellent response, said Vicky St. Geme, vice president of marketing for the Salinas, Calif.-based company. “In the places we have introduced our chopped salads in the past year we are number two after Caesar Salad. Chopped salads are very big right now; you can add a protein and it is a complete meal.”

A piece of heaven
Attendees flocked to the Village Farms booth for a taste of Chef Will Lew’s exclusive recipes using the Heavenly Villagio Marzano, the company’s Mini San Marzano. After a better than expected response and sold out season, company officials said  they are ramping up production for 2013.

Part of Village Farms Olde World Flavor collection, “Heavenly Villagio Marzano has the authentic tomato flavor experience that is highly desired but generally lacking in many varieties on the market today,” said Helen L. Aquino, marketing manager for the Eatontown, N.J.-based company. “We hear this over and over again from consumers.”

A bite of fun
Wada Farms is bringing fun to the table with its Fun Bite-Size Potatoes. The 1.5-pound bags of Mini Reds and Mini Golds are a rebranding of the company’s Restaurant Quality Gourmet line.

“We switched up the brand with the goal of highlighting the fun eating characteristics of bite-size potatoes,” said Chris Wada, director of marketing for the Idaho Falls, Idaho-based grower. “There is a smash recipe on the back of the package and we are developing a mobile website that has recipes and fun ways to prepare and eat Fun Bite-Size Potatoes.

Close to home
Wilcox Fresh acquired a new distribution facility in Portland, Maine to distribute potatoes and onions to its New England customers. This, as well as a third facility in San Antonio, Texas, will alleviate the traffic in the Birmingham, Alabama warehouse that has been in use for about the last three years, said officials for the Rexburg, Idaho-based company.

Additionally, Wilcox announced a partnership with the Little Potato Co. The companies will be offering a 1.5- and 3-lb. bag of gourmet potatoes in four varieties—Baby Boomer (small yellow potatoes), Blushing Belle (red skin/yellow flesh), Piccolo (oblong-size yellow potato) and Terrific Trio (red, yellow and blue mix). “There is a need in the category to diversify and bring some excitement,” said Jim Richter, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

A Sweet Look
On display for the first time together at Fresh Summit, Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co.’s offerings now all feature the George Foods brand. This includes the Chadbourn, N.C.-based company’s popular bags of steamable sweet potatoes, as well as some new products, such as its four-pack of fresh sweet potatoes.

“We believe that having a retail display that promotes a consistent brand image across multiple items has a big impact and creates recognition,” said George Wooten, president.
Wayne E. Bailey was also bringing attention to its new Sweet Potato Fingerlings, which carried the George Foods name. They are available in 1.5-pound bags or in bulk in 10-, 20- or 40-pound units. www.sweetpotatoes.comc

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