Leaders of the Pac Northwest

The fresh foods produced and the companies producing them help the Pacific Northwest region thrive.

There are few regions in the country that support American-made, sustainable and organic products more than the Pacific Northwest. It is no wonder the region has made a name for itself in the fresh foods industry.

From tree fruits to potatoes to seafood and even salad dressing, the region is a burgeoning hot bed for the supermarket’s perimeter. Here is a small sampling of the region’s companies, what they do and the products they offer.

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
asmiThe Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) is positioned to help boost retailers’ sales of Alaska seafood this summer. With the commercial fishing season in full swing, Larry Andrews, marketing director, says thousands of fishermen, processors and freight and cold storage workers across Alaska are working to supply consumers with healthy and sustainable seafood.

ASMI’s retail program works with retailers across the U.S. and Canada to support their sales and marketing programs for Alaska Seafood. With offices in Juneau, Alaska and Seattle, ASMI has comprehensive training for retailers’ seafood counter staff, delivered through an interactive web-based training program. The training covers Alaskan species, harvesting methods, nutrition and sustainability.

It is a time of big growth for CMI. The Wenatchee, Wash.-based company recently reinvested a lot of money into its orchards, and now it is moving its focus to reinvest in a state-of-the-art facility, says Brett Burdsal, regional director of marketing.

The first phase will be comprised of 45,000 bins of controlled atmosphere storage for harvested fruit, an 11 dock shipping area with setup space for 17 truckloads and a racked storage room with capacity for more than 80,000 boxes of packed fruit. Following that, in phase two, scheduled to be operational in May of 2014, the company will open a state-of-the-art packing line with an additional 8,400 pallets of racked storage for packed fruit and an additional four loading docks.

In-store, new for this year, CMI has pouch bags for cherries. “We put a lot of time into the design, we think we have something that still showcases the fruit and really attracts the consumers’ attention,” says Burdsal. “So far we have had a very positive consumer response.”

Chelan Fresh Marketing
This summer Chelan Fresh Marketing is promoting the Orondo Ruby cherry. “The Orondo is new cherry variety for us,” says Mac Riggan, director of marketing. “It has been around for a few years but it is the first year we are marketing it.”

To help introduce them to consumers and build a following, Riggan says the Chelan, Wash.-based grower will offer plenty of product sampling for the Orondo, which comes packed in 1- and 2-pound clamshells.

However, Riggan says the packaging is not very important. “Right now we are just trying to build exposure and awareness of the product and the way to do that is not with fancy packaging, it is getting the fruit in peoples mouth. If consumers like something they will buy it, whether if it is a brown, black or pink bag,” he says. “Honeycrisp apples do not sell because they come in a special package. They sell because they taste good. We are looking at it as the Honeycrisp of cherries.”

Domex Superfresh Growers
Domex Superfresh Growers has launched its new website, www.superfreshgrowers.com. Officials for the Yakima, Wash.-based grower say the site will act as the hub for an inbound marketing strategy. Using a proprietary social data analysis tool Domex Superfresh Growers is discovering and actively engaging in conversations with consumers related to the product categories they grow and market.

“Consumers are turning into researchers and increasingly want to know more about their produce,” says Howard Nager, vice president of marketing. “They want to know if what they are eating is healthy, safe and responsibly grown. Listening for what is ‘trending now’ combined with our profit planning strategies, category analysis and customer planning will directly benefit our partnerships at retail and allow us to work together to delight consumers.”

Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee
With anticipation of a strong season beginning in August, officials for the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee say the upcoming crop looks “fantastic” and promotional programs are being put in place to help retailers boost onion sales.

Sherise Jones, marketing director for the Parma, Idaho-based committee, says one change retailers should look for is that the retailer display contest, normally held in January, has been moved to mid-September through October. “The new ‘USA Onion Fall Harvest Retail Display Contest’ will focus on grilling and a favorite fall pastime—football,” says Jones. “Once again this year, retailers may request a free Weber grill to use as part of their display for the contest. Details can be found at: www.USAOnions.com.”

Idaho Potato Commission
The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) is one of the oldest and largest produce associations in the Northwest. It supports and promotes fresh Idaho potatoes around the world and acts as the marketing arm for the entire industry, says Seth Pemsler, vice president, retail/international for the Eagle, Idaho-based company. Major activities over the past year include the Big Idaho Potato Truck—a 28-foot-long, 12,130-pound potato—hauled by a truck across the U.S.

“Now in its second tour, the truck visited 138 retailers and created a phenomenal 500 million media impressions in just its first year,” says Pemsler. A second significant event was the IPC’s Potato Lover’s Month Display Contest, in its 22nd year. This year the IPC received 4,049 entries, more than ever before, making it the largest vegetable display contest in the entire U.S., says Pemsler.

Litehouse Foods
Not only does Litehouse Foods continue to offer new salad dressing flavors to keep up with the growing trends, it is expanding its herb line as more consumers chose to cook with fresh-tasting herbs.

“Litehouse Instantly Fresh Herbs are a great alternative to fresh herbs,” says Stacey Miller, a business development manager for the Sandpoint, Idaho-based company. “Once our herbs are re-hydrated, they will instantly bring signature tastes and aromas to consumers favorite foods.” The two newest additions to the line are Ginger and Lemongrass.

Litehouse also offers multiple shipper programs offered throughout the year to tie into different holiday and recipe creations.

Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers
About four years ago Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, based in Wenatchee Wash., became the marketing and selling arm for Diamond Fruit Growers. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Diamond Fruit Growers, an 80-member-owned co-op based in Hood River, Ore. In celebration the grower hosted a gala event at the end of June. The company also held an employee appreciation luncheon recognizing the contributions of more than 30 longstanding employees.

“We will continue the anniversary in various ways,” says David R. Garcia, president and CEO of Diamond Fruit Growers. “That includes Oneonta recognizing the anniversary within different advertising opportunities.”

Pear Bureau Northwestpears
The Pear Bureau Northwest’s regional marketing managers work closely with retailers to customize pear marketing programs for their stores. Using up-to-the-minute pear category data and research, these marketing plans incorporate merchandising tactics that drive sales.

The Pear Bureau, based in Milwaukie, Ore., conducts consumer advertising and PR to help raise awareness of pears as a healthy option and recipe ingredient for any course of any meal of the day. Ads for USA Pears will reach more than 19 million consumers starting in October in various national magazines. “Our ads engage and educate consumers about pear ripening and recipes, which will help to get this high-impulse purchase produce item on more shopping lists,” says Cristie Mather, director of communications.

Potandon Produce
Potandon Produce knows that potatoes and onions play a big part in consumers’ meals throughout the summer. The Idaho Falls, Idaho-based company begins shipping fresh potatoes from the Northwest in July, harvesting Klondike Goldust and mini potatoes, followed by Klondike Rose potatoes in August. Potandon will also provide a continuous supply of russets from Idaho, Washington and Colorado throughout the summer.

On the onion side, California and New Mexico onions will be available throughout the summer while the Idaho and Oregon onion crop, including yellow, red and white onions, will harvest from August through October, and then ship out of storage until April.

“Some of the sales generating ideas coming from Potandon this summer include merchandising, in-store signage packages and secondary display options for increased consumer visibility,” says Dick Thomas, vice president of sales. “One of our focuses this year has been to help retailers more effectively merchandise their potato sections for increased profitability.”

Rainier Fruit Co.
The Rainier Fruit Co. has become one of the largest, modernized farming and marketing companies in Washington State, says Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing. “The keys to success have always been a dedication to the people we serve—customers, employees and growers—and a willingness to grow and change with the times.”

In the past few years, the Selah, Wash.-based company has become a premier grower of Honeycrisp apples, introduced two exclusive varieties—Lady Alice and Junami, positioned themselves as a national supplier of premium organic products and established a reputation as one of the finest producers of Northwest cherries and blueberries.

“Rainier’s foresight to invest in new technologies and unique varieties comes at an exciting time in the apple category,” says Wolter. “Signature items such as Honeycrisp, Junami, Lady Alice and Jazz are bringing new excitement to a generally staid category.”

Viva Tierra Organic
With a broad base of certified organic growers located across several growing regions, Viva Tierra Organic provides a year-round supply of organic tree fruit. In addition to apples and pears, the Sedro-Woolley, Wash.-based company markets other organic fruits such as apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines, as well as organic northwest onions.

“The 2013 northwest season is looking very promising,” says Matt Roberts, sales manager. “Growers have reported heavy blooms and good fruit set as warm spring temperatures have generated good conditions in the orchards. We are optimistic for another great harvest.”

This year the company, previously known as CF Fresh, celebrated its 20th anniversary by changing its name to Viva Tierra Organic. The Viva Tierra brand has been the company’s main brand since the company was founded in 1993.

Wada Farms Marketing Groupwada
Celebrating 70 years in business, Wada Farms Marketing Group has been growing and shipping famous Idaho russet potatoes since 1943. While the russet potato has been what Wada Farms has grown its business on, officials for the Pingree, Idaho-based company are excited about the opportunities their other traditional or unique potato varieties represent to today’s changing consumer.

“Establishing our varietal development program has been a targeted effort with highlights that include better growing practices, varietal selections, completion of our newly built colored-potato packing facility and investments into improving our cold chain management,” says Chris Wada, director of marketing. “With our full-line of Idaho Russets, round colored potato varieties, fingerlings and specialty retail packs, we will continue our goal to always put quality potatoes on consumers tables with integrity and respect.”

Wilcox Fresh
With its Northeast Distribution Services business out of Portland, Maine, Wilcox Fresh is utilizing rail cars to help save its customers money. Wilcox packs potatoes at the facility where customers can either transport out product on their own or have it shipped to them, says Jim Richter, executive vice president, sales and marketing for the Rexburg, Idaho-based company.

“By using the rail cars into Portland we can either bring the product already packaged in from Idaho or we can pack to order there. We also ship our Potato Jazz brand out of that facility and creamers, which are doing very well,” he adds.

Wilcox also has a year-round organic program that allows us it to supply a full line of organic vegetables and some fruit items to customers. “We will be adding some salad mixes that will be packed under the Mother Earth Fresh label and those will be organics as well,” says Richter.

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