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Uniting for Fresh

Retailers, growers, manufacturers and more will come together in Chicago in June to showcase the latest products, trends and technologies supporting the fresh category.


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The United Fresh Produce Association is holding this year’s annual conference and expo in Chicago, June 13-15. Not only has United Fresh 2017 expanded into the larger West Hall at McCormick Place, the show has also been re-branded and focused into two new expos and conferences: United FreshTEC and United FreshMKT. The new format has been devised for attendees to experience the fresh produce supply chain from grower to retailer and everything in between.

For those looking for new product concepts, business solutions or innovative technology, there is United FreshTEC—designed to highlight the most cutting-edge technologies for the fresh produce industry. The FreshTEC Expo will feature the new Food Safety Pavilion, highlighting the latest technologies to help businesses comply with the regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), as well as the annual University Research Poster Session, the FutureTEC Zone, FreshTEC Learning Center and the FreshTEC X-Change. 

The United FreshMKT will showcase advances in fresh produce, from new products and brands to packaging and merchandising solutions. The expo will feature the Organic Showcase, FreshMKT Learning Center, FreshMKT X-Change and the United Fresh Innovation Awards, where attendees can vote for their favorite companies that are leading the industry through the development, manufacturing and marketing of new products. 

But everyone knows the real action is on the showroom floor. Here is a preview of the latest produce items, fresh food trends and technology that can be found at United Fresh 2017: 

Apio 

Provider of specialty vegetables, salads and party tray products under its Eat Smart retail brand and GreenLine foodservice brand, Apio will be highlighting Salad Shake Ups, its latest line of single-serve salad kits. Available in three varieties—Avocado Ranch, Tropical Lime and Raspberry Acai—Salad Shake Ups feature 100 percent clean label ingredients, with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, and contain up to a dozen ingredients including vegetables, dried fruits and diverse sources of plant protein. 

“We want consumers to know that we hear their calls for meal options that are convenient, healthy and delicious,” says Anne Byerly, vice president of marketing at the Guadalupe, Calif.-based company. “Our ‘100% Clean Label’ initiative is an example of our commitment to customers and market leadership. Eat Smart is the first brand in the non-organic salad kit and tray category to commit to clean ingredients and labeling, with plans for all products to contain a ‘100% Clean Label’ by the end of 2018.” 

CMI Orchards 

Based in Wenatchee, Wash., CMI Orchards is a grower, seller and marketer of apples, pears, cherries and apricots. The company is one of the largest producers of organic apples and pears in the U.S., and is also known for its packaging and retail merchandising programs. 

CMI Orchards will be featuring its cherry crop and imported branded apple programs at United Fresh. With the show taking place right at the launch of this year’s fresh cherry season, company officials are planning to discuss what to expect as the harvest progresses over the following 10 weeks. CMI will also be just starting its import programs on Ambrosia, KIKU and Kanzi branded apples. 

“Retailers will learn how these branded apples boost apple category performance during the summer months,” says George Harter, vice president of marketing. “Oftentimes, we find that retailers who haven’t tried these products during the summer months have no idea the size of the market that they miss when these items are not on the shelf. These are very informed discussions and it’s great for our retail partners to be able to see and taste the quality of these import KIKU, Kanzi and Ambrosia apples.”

Mann Packing Co. 

Mann Packing’s Nourish Bowls are packed with vegetables like butternut squash, sweet potato, cauliflower rice and sugar snap peas. The Salinas, Calif.-based company will be displaying its new Bacon Maple Brussels Nourish Bowl, which joins Monterey Risotto, Sesame Sriracha, Southwest Chipotle and Cauli-Rice Curry varieties. The new flavor features Brussels sprouts, kale and kohlrabi, along with real bacon and a sweet maple glaze. 

Founded in 1939, Mann Packing is a third-generation supplier of premium fresh vegetables and will also be exhibiting its portfolio of fresh cut vegetables, including Veggie Slaw Blends and Organics. “Mann’s leads the way in product innovation, environmental sustainability and green supply chain management practices,” says Jacob Shafer, senior marketing and communications specialist. “Mann’s is consistently vigilant in food safety, employee wellness and quality assurance, making for one of the most trusted brands in the industry.”

​NatureSweet 

NatureSweet owns and operates nearly 1,400 acres of greenhouses in North America, providing numerous varieties under multiple brands in the fresh tomato category. NatureSweet tomatoes are grown to a specification 365 days a year, which guarantees the same flavor, color, size and firmness year round, according to company officials. 

The San Antonio, Texas-based company has launched its new “Tomatoes Raised Right” campaign to highlight its philosophy of growing tomatoes from start to finish. “Raising something right doesn’t happen in a day, so we are vertically integrated, controlling everything from seed to shelf,” says Lori Castillo, marketing director. “Our associates nurture and handpick our tomatoes at the peak of freshness with care.”

As consumer demand for fresh, easy and ready-to-use ingredients continues to rise, NatureSweet aims to provide consumers with variety to meet the needs of different usage occasions throughout the year. The company’s product offerings include Glorys, Cherubs, Constellations, SunBursts, Jubilees and Eclipses.

​Neogen Corp. 

Neogen Corp. offers food safety products, services and expertise to help ensure the safety and quality of food, nutraceuticals and nutritional supplements. Based in Lansing, Mich., the company will be showcasing its food allergen and ATP sanitation verification diagnostics, as well as its new NeoNet ATP communication system at United Fresh.

NeoNet is a cloud-based software platform that enables corporate food safety directors to control the effectiveness of the sanitation programs at each of their facilities. With this system, each facility does routine ATP testing and transfers the results to their local computer networks, where the data is then automatically synced to the customer’s universal NeoNet system.

“Corporate quality assurance and sanitation directors have needed a way to quickly learn of potential problems and compare results across facilities, as well as production groups and equipment within those facilities,” says Tammy Ritter, marketing analyst, Neogen. “Especially for organizations that have multiple, far-flung facilities, the challenge has been to efficiently collect and interpret that data company-wide. NeoNet greatly simplifies that process by presenting the collected data graphically without having to conduct extensive data analysis.”

North Shore

Hydroponic greenhouse grower of living produce, North Shore delivers conventional and organic fresh herbs and microgreens using sustainable greenhouse growing technologies under its two brands, North Shore Living Herbs and North Shore Organic Living, with product lines available in up to 12 potted varieties and 22 packaged clamshell varieties.

“What makes us different is that we can actually say our produce is the freshest available on the market,” says Chris Wada, marketing manager. “This is because we harvest, pack and deliver our products with the roots still attached for the freshest and most flavorful experience. This is 100 percent true because our plants are still alive and last three times longer or more than traditional cut herbs.”

The Palm Desert, Calif.-based company will be displaying all of its fresh living herbs, both potted and in clamshells, as well as its living microgreen clamshells. North Shore’s products are all Sustainably Grown Certified and Non-GMO Project Verified.

​Peri & Sons Farms

As the first recipient of SCS Global’s Sustainably Grown certification for domestic onions, Peri & Sons Farms’ dedication to food safety and being non-GMO, USDA Certified Organic and sustainably grown has earned the company the GFSI/GlobalGAP certification. Based in Yerington, Nev., Peri & Sons grows Sweetie Sweet onions and is also a select grower of Sunions, a new tearless sweet onion that is available from December through March.

“Our deep personal commitment sets us apart from huge collective farms,” says Teri Gibson, director of marketing and customer relations. “For us, farming is personal and we have a passionate, hands-on approach to every aspect of growing and marketing the white, yellow, red, sweet and organic onion varieties we are known for.”

The company will be promoting its Sweet BBQ Bloomer Onion, a low-fat alternative to the traditional deep-fried blooming onion. Its new high-graphic, single-serve grab-n-go bag is filled with a large sweet yellow onion and a special spice blend packet, while the packaging provides consumers with cooking instructions.

​Sunkist Growers

Sunkist Growers is a fresh citrus sales and marketing cooperative owned and operated by thousands of family farmers in California and Arizona. The company was founded on the principles of partnership and collaboration—both within its organization and with the industry, according to Joan Wickham, communications director at Sunkist.

 Sunkist offers more than 40 varieties of premium quality, fresh citrus, including oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, tangelos and mandarins. Based in Valencia, Calif., the company will be showcasing its summer citrus and highlighting the many marketing tools it offers customers for the season. From point of sale materials, recipes and trending tips, Sunkist aims to be the go-to resource for all things citrus. 

Wonderful Citrus

Wonderful Citrus, part of the Wonderful Co., is an integrated grower, shipper and packer of fresh citrus, including: clementine/mandarin, navel, Minneola and Valencia oranges; lemons; limes; Texas red grapefruits; and other citrus varieties. Based in Los Angeles, Wonderful Citrus owns, cultivates and harvests more then 58,000 acres of fresh citrus, shipping its fruit worldwide and ensuring a year-round supply.

The company will be highlighting all of its citrus, including Wonderful Halos mandarins, the largest and fastest-selling mandarin brand in the U.S., according to David Krause, president of Wonderful Citrus. “Our sweet, seedless and easy-to-peel Halos mandarins have become the ideal, healthy snack that kids and parents love with over 1.4 billion servings sold this season,” he says. Wonderful Halos mandarins are 100 percent California-grown, and are in season from November through May.

Wonderful Citrus also plans to educate retailers at United Fresh about its crop quality, supply and pricing for the upcoming season, as well as its innovative in-store point-of-sale materials and what the company has planned for the future regarding its investment to drive consumer interest and demand of the Wonderful Citrus portfolio.    

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