The Produce News | Today's Headlines - The Produce News - Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897. Sun, 04 Oct 2015 05:14:02 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Southeastern Grocers lays off 250 in organizational restructure

Southeastern Grocers has laid off roughly 250 associates as part of an organizational restructure of the store support center in Jacksonville, FL, and regional support centers across seven states in the Southeast.

The company, which said the change was made "in an effort to simplify its operating model and increase efficiency," added that there are no changes to in-store operations teams. southeastern

"The changes will enable Southeastern Grocers to reinvest in improved quality, service and value for customers, develop store improvement programs across the network, and support the stores more effectively," the company said in a statement. "And the efficiencies will also enable Southeastern Grocers to better address the needs of its customers."

The company said all affected associates will be supported through the restructure of the organization with career transition services, full and fair compensation and personal support to assist associates and their families.

All departing associates will be provided with the following: full compensation regardless of an associate’s length of tenure; health benefits for the total notice period; departing associates will retain their employee discount for 12 months; and departing associates with over 20 years of service to Southeastern Grocers will retain their employee discount for a decade.

Southeastern Grocers, parent company of BI-LO, Harveys and Winn-Dixie, operates more than 750 grocery stores and pharmacies across Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia.

]]> (press release) Today's Headlines Fri, 02 Oct 2015 17:00:00 -0400
$12.58 million for A&P insiders leading up to bankruptcy

A&P insiders received $12.58 million in payments during the year leading up to the company filing for bankruptcy protection July 19. Chairman Gregory Mays alone received more than $4.5 million in bonuses and consulting fees.AP

In a message to members, UFCW 464A President John T. Nicolai said, "This union finds those payments outrageous and unconscionable. We are losing our jobs from a mismanaged company that has the audacity to reward those that are causing our misery and strife. Your union strongly believes, and will fight for the concept that those funds should be recovered and used to benefit the union workers and the creditors."

In documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court earlier this week, the company detailed payments made to current and former executives, as well as other insiders.

Paul Hertz, chief executive officer, and Christopher McGarry, chief administrative officer, each received a $1.5 million contribution from an executive management trust three months before the company filed for bankruptcy protection. Earlier in the year each received a $225,000 bonus for 2014.

Eric Kanterman, chief merchandising officer, received a $400,000 retention payment two days before the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

Less than a year after joining the company, Timothy Carnahan, senior vice president and chief financial officer, received a $250,000 contribution from the executive management trust.

The documents also provide information on payments made to these and other executives for salary, benefits, cell and car allowances, expense repayments, vacation time and holiday pay.

]]> (Ryan G. Beckman) Today's Headlines Fri, 02 Oct 2015 13:55:00 -0400
Plan for National Papaya Board advances

Homero Levy de Barros has been around papayas his entire life. As a child growing up in Brazil, he ate them almost daily. Now as president of a tropical fruit company that bills itself as a papaya specialist, he sells them by the container. So there is very little he doesn’t know about the fruit.

And one thing he does know is that papayas have a much greater potential than they are currently realizing in the United States.Papayas-on-packing-beltA new National Papaya Board, modeled after the success of the National Mango Board and the National Watermelon Promotion Board, will be under consideration at an Oct. 23 meeting in Atlanta during the PMA Fresh Summit.

“The key is to better educate everyone in the supply chain, as well as consumers, about the many benefits of this fruit,” said Levy de Barros, who founded his company, HLB, 26 years ago in Germany and opened HLB USA in Florida 17 years ago.

He has long wanted to collaborate with other papaya grower-shipper-importers to exchange ideas for the betterment of the papaya industry, but prior efforts proved fruitless.levyHomero Levy de Barros

Now, based on the success of boards formed for commodities such as avocados, watermelons and mangos, Levy de Barros is making a push to form a similar board for papayas, and he has enlisted William Watson to help guide the effort.

Watson, a former executive director of the National Watermelon Promotion Board and the National Mango Board, who now runs a consultancy called The Fresh Approach that specializes in working with commodity boards, will lead a meeting of the papaya industry at the upcoming Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit convention in Atlanta, with the ultimate goal of forming a National Papaya Board.watsonWilliam Watson

“The idea is to mirror what William did with the watermelon and mango boards,” said Levy de Barros. “Because of their success, I have always thought that we could do the same for papayas. If we get everyone together, we could raise awareness for this wonderful fruit. The potential is tremendous for increasing papaya sales.”

Watson said he is energized by the opportunity to help the papaya industry form a board.

“It’s really kind of fun to get all those growers and importers into a room and help them get together to better handle their product,” said Watson.

In laying out a framework for the formation of a board, Watson said the first step is to get the industry together to see if there is interest. Provided there is industry support, he said the industry will have to decide if they want a research and promotion board or a voluntary option, which will be discussed at the meeting in Atlanta.

A research and promotion board has the authority to collect money through assessments for the purpose of researching or promoting the commodity, but it differs from a marketing order in that it cannot enforce grade standards.

“If they choose to form a board, the government will want to see that the industry is organized and it’s not just one or two growers behind the effort,” said Watson. “The government also wants to see a diversity of interests involved in the papaya industry. It will be important for us to get USDA on our side because the industry will have to make a proposal at some point to make this happen.”

He said the proposal would include such information as the assessment rate, the number of members on the board and what will be done with the money that is collected. USDA will look at the proposal and likely come back with a number of questions, said Watson. Once the questions have been addressed, the proposal will be published in the Federal Register and be open for comments from the industry. Provided there is sufficient support, a referendum will be held and the future of the board will be determined.

“The beauty of a board like this is that the industry can shape it any way it wants,” said Watson. “If there is enough support through the referendum, then the industry can start collecting assessments, manage industry resources and promote papayas.”

Regarding the timetable for the formation of a board, Watson said he has seen it take anywhere from 18-24 months up to five years.

“But I think that is something I can help with,” he said. “It is a relatively small core of people involved, and I think we can move things along pretty quickly. The one main challenge I see is that depending on when things start to advance, we will be working with an outgoing [presidential] administration or a new administration, and this will likely not be a priority for either.”

“I contacted a number of growers and importers and all thought it was a great idea,” said Levy de Barros. “I can only see this as a win-win situation for all involved with papayas. We want to create demand with stable prices so we can avoid the valleys by maintaining steady consumption. William knows how to navigate through the labyrinth of bureaucracy, and I am very excited that this will begin a new chapter in papaya history.”

Watson said the meeting would be held Friday, Oct. 23, at 1 p.m. in room B202 in the Georgia World Congress Center.

Levy de Barros encourages those who cannot attend the meeting to visit him in the HLB Specialties booth (No. 2069) during Fresh Summit or email him at for more information.

]]> (John Groh) Today's Headlines Fri, 02 Oct 2015 13:00:00 -0400
SuperValu CEO to retire, executives promoted

SuperValu Inc. announced that Sam Duncan has informed the company’s board of directors of his intention to retire as president and chief executive officer on Feb. 29, 2016, following the end of the company’s fiscal year. The company also announced that Bruce Besanko has been promoted to the newly created role of executive vice president, chief operating officer, reporting to Duncan, and that Susan Grafton has been promoted to executive vice president, chief financial officer, reporting to Besanko. Both appointments are effective immediately.supervalu

Duncan was named president and CEO in February 2013 in connection with the sale by SuperValu of five retail grocery banners to Albertson’s. Under Duncan’s leadership and direction, SuperValu has repositioned its three core business segments: Independent Business, Save-A-Lot and its five remaining regional Retail Food banners, as well as helped deliver increases in shareholder value. Duncan, 63, is retiring to spend more time with his family in the Pacific Northwest.

“SuperValu is a terrific organization and we have accomplished a great deal together during the past two-and-a-half years,” Duncan said in a press release. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with our employees and thank them for all of their hard work and dedication. I am also looking forward to finishing the year strong and continuing to drive sales and cash through my remaining time at the company, as well as providing time and support to ensure a smooth transition for my successor. After 46 years in the grocery and retail business, this is a bittersweet moment, but I am also excited by the opportunity to have more time for my family and personal interests following my retirement.”

“Sam has made a tremendous contribution to SuperValu during his tenure as president and CEO,” Jerry Storch, non-executive chairman of the board, said in the release. “He helped stabilize the business following the sale of the five retail grocery banners and has led a turn-around in the performance of the entire company, including improving the performance of all three of its core business segments. The company is in a better place today because of Sam’s leadership. The board is very grateful and appreciative for Sam’s contributions to the company. The board process for naming the next CEO is under way, including consideration of internal and external candidates.”

In his role as chief operating officer, Besanko will retain oversight of the finance function, and assume oversight of the company’s independent business operations, five regional Retail Food banners, and the company’s merchandising, marketing and pharmacy functions.

“I’m very pleased that Bruce has been promoted to the role of COO for our company,” Duncan said in the release. “He has done a superb job as CFO for SuperValu, working with me and the leadership team on all aspects of the company’s turnaround success. He is an astute businessman who has always impressed me with his leadership and how he deals with business challenges and opportunities. In this role, I am confident he’ll help lead our operations teams to successfully plan and execute against our future business strategies.”

Duncan continued, “Additionally, we are very fortunate to have Susan in our ranks as someone who can step right into the CFO role. She has a tremendous financial background and has been instrumental in helping us reposition our financial organization and the overall business over the past one-and-a-half years.”

]]> (press release) Today's Headlines Fri, 02 Oct 2015 11:00:00 -0400
Montreal Canadiens-Provigo partnership renewed

Provigo announced that its partnership with the Montréal Canadiens is being renewed for three years, confirming its status as the Habs' official grocery store. As a partner, Provigo will do more than ever for customers and Canadiens fans with a series of new initiatives throughout the season, including in-store promotions throughout the year to win more than $100,000 in team-related prizes.provigo

"We are very proud to have renewed and, in particular, expanded our partnership with this organization, which — in addition to generating a lot of pride in Quebecers — shares our values of social and community engagement," Charles Valois, vice president of promotions for Provigo and Loblaws Québec, said in a press release.

Starting with the first game on Oct. 7, the "Earn points with every win" promotion will give everyone enrolled in the PC Plus rewards program a chance to earn bonus points on the purchase of certain specially marked products after the team wins a game.

"The points can be accumulated and are offered until the end of the next game, which is on October 10. If the Canadiens win again, the points will be available until the end of the next game, and so on. If the Canadiens lose, the points will not be available until they log another win. This could represent hundreds of millions of PC points in all," Valois said in the release.

"The partnership is part of relaunching Provigo in Québec; the relaunch stresses discovery, taste and freshness, in other words, the fact that we love food," Nathalie Langlois, marketing director for Provigo and Loblaws Québec, said in the release. "Accordingly, the campaign's creative platform focuses on the Elevate your Game signature."

During home games at Bell Centre, fans will be able to enjoy a new twist on the classic hot dog and other traditional hockey foods thanks to the two Provigo condiment bars. The stations will be set up in Club Desjardins to give fans a chance to discover original ways to dress up classic foods with the savory President's Choice and PC Black Label Collection brand condiments. Following some games, product samples will also be handed out to fans.

The partnership also includes the return of the Canadiens' popular Provigo Practice, to be held at Bell Centre on Feb. 21, 2016.

"Our customers are huge Canadiens fans and share our passion for hockey," Langlois said in the release. "Last January, 14,000 customers attended the Canadiens' Provigo Practice, a family event that invites fans to attend an official hockey practise and interact with players. Many such fans expressed their thanks in person or through social media. More than 1,275 tweets with the hashtag #ProvigoHabsGo were posted."

]]> (press release) Today's Headlines Fri, 02 Oct 2015 10:58:19 -0400
Mark Daniels joins Mountain King Potatoes

Mark Daniels has left Global Organic Specialty Source and has joined Mountain King Potatoes, a grower-shipper headquartered in Houston. He started with his new company the last week in September, he told The Produce News Thursday afternoon, Oct. 1.

Daniels, who has more than 30 years of experience in the produce industry, had joined Global Organic back in early January of this year.Mark-DanielsMark Daniels Before that he had been with Military Produce Group for about seven years. He currently serves as president of the Southeast Produce Council.

Daniels, who is based in Savannah, GA, said that he will be responsible for sales and business development throughout the Southeast at Mountain King, which handles all varieties of potatoes, mostly from Colorado. Mountain King is affiliated with Schoenmann Produce Co. Inc., also headquartered in Houston.

"I have always thought of Mountain King Potatoes as a company with very high integrity," said Daniels. "They are very innovative. I think this is a great opportunity to partner with them and gain some more experience. I am looking forward to developing our market share in the Southeast."

]]> (Gordon M. Hochberg) Today's Headlines Fri, 02 Oct 2015 09:50:50 -0400
Stabenow rallies United Fresh Washington Conference to not let Congress roll back school standards

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) urged the United Fresh Washington Conference heading to the Senate Sept. 30 to ask for commitments that lawmakers will not roll back child nutrition standards.

Stabenow, ranking member on the powerful Senate Agriculture Committee, rallied the 500 attendees before visits to the Senate as part of the United Fresh Produce Association’s annual Washington lobbying campaign.united

The timing could not have been better for the annual produce industry meeting, as the nutrition law was due for reauthorization on Sept. 30.

School meal standards are at a crossroads, she said, with opponents eager to change the fruit and vegetable recommendations of one-half cup for school meals after reports of plate waste and complaints from some schools. But some 95 percent of the nation’s schools are meeting the new school meal standards.

With a measuring cup in hand, Stabenow asked if one-half cup was too much for the nation’s children and grandchildren.

“I hope the message you will send is we have to keep moving forward” on school nutrition, Stabenow said. “I’m counting on you to push back on that.”

She added, “We need commitments here.”

After the breakfast session, Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of United Fresh, said, “We’ve got our marching orders.”

Even generals have called for changes to school meals after reports the obesity crisis is affecting the ability of the military to find healthy recruits, Stabenow continued. “I’m standing with the generals,” she said.

She also spoke in favor of keeping the school fruit and vegetable program limited to fresh produce. It’s not too much to keep one federal school program for fresh only, she said.

One of the principal authors of the last farm bill, Stabenow pledged to work with the produce industry to keep opening markets and provide opportunities for research for the specialty crops.

The group also heard from Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), a member of the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary Committees, in his first speech to a national produce group.

Perdue, a supporter of Georgia’s fruit and vegetable industry, lamented the gridlock in Washington, not unlike other speakers during the three-day meeting, and called for policies to encourage greater export opportunities for the produce industry and fewer intrusive regulations.

]]> (Joan Murphy) Today's Headlines Thu, 01 Oct 2015 19:00:00 -0400
Retailer's Misfit produce program launches in time for Halloween

Associated Food Stores will begin selling Misfits, odd and misshapen produce sold at a discounted price, just in time for Halloween. The Misfit produce program will be offered year-round, although the variety of produce will vary depending on the season and availability.misfits

Leigh Vaughn, senior produce category manager with Associated Food Stores, said guests should check the Misfit produce area often, as the variety will change frequently. “The Misfit produce area will be a treasure hunt for guests," he said.

Robinson Fresh's Misfit produce will be sold with an attractive discount, an incentive for customers who are focused more on value and flavor than aesthetics. An additional benefit of buying Misfit produce is its sustainability factor since unusually shaped produce has typically been thrown away, contributing to food waste.

“Robinson Fresh is proud to collaborate with retailers who are helping to combat food waste and raise awareness about this growing issue,” Drew Schwartz off, director of marketing at Robinson Fresh, said in a press release. “Our hope is that through Misfits we can change the way that the world views imperfect fruits and vegetables.”

Several different factors affect the appearance of fruits and vegetables. Inconsistent variables during growth like weather, temperature, water amounts and sunlight can change the appearance of produce. And while the appearance may be strange, the taste and quality of the produce is not compromised.

Associated Food Stores is a Salt Lake City-based retailer operating five banners: Macey’s, Fresh Market, Dan’s, Lin’s and Dick’s Markets.

]]> (press release) Today's Headlines Thu, 01 Oct 2015 13:00:00 -0400
Sunkist's director of export marketing retires

After more than 30 years in the citrus industry and nearly 11 years at Sunkist, Dave Pott, Sunkist director of export sales, will retire at the end of this year. Pott’s position will be assumed by Ray Mizutani, who joined Sunkist in 2011 and has worked in the export department focusing on the Korean market. Prior to Sunkist, Mizutani worked for Nishimoto Trading, procuring California citrus for the Japanese and Chinese markets.Sunkist-Growers-logo

“Dave has been a key contributor to Sunkist’s export sales division, managing relationships with importers and exporters. We will miss him,” Kevin Fiori, Sunkist’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a press release. “Working closely with Dave during his time at Sunkist, Ray has gained the respect of customers, the shipper community and his colleagues within our organization. We feel fortunate to have him leading the export team moving forward.”

Sunkist is also promoting Jeff Gaston to director of Western sales to oversee accounts in the Western region from the cooperative’s headquarters in Valencia. Gaston has been with Sunkist for 16 years, previously working from Vancouver, BC.

“Jeff has been an integral part of our sales team for many years, and we are pleased to be promoting him to a leadership position to focus on growth in the Western region,” added Fiori.

Sunkist is also making positive changes to its varietal management team with the addition of Terri Mouton, who recently joined the cooperative as director of varietal sales, focusing on the Mandarin, tangerine and tangelo categories.

“Easy-peel varieties are in high demand, and we are putting a dedicated team in place at Sunkist to oversee and grow this important category,” said Fiori. “Terri understands the challenges of the produce market and has a proven track record in business development, sales and marketing strategy. We are excited to have her onboard to help take Sunkist to the next level as we move forward with our mandarin business.”

]]> (press release) Today's Headlines Thu, 01 Oct 2015 12:00:48 -0400
Sweet potato production surging in United States

America’s sweet potato industry is alive and thriving. According to a special article issued by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sweet potato production is surging in the United States.

The report, issued on May 1, was authored by Taylor Johnson, Norbert Wilson, Michelle Grosz, Deacon Fields and Jennifer Bond.

“U.S. sweet potato production has increased substantially over the last 15 years,” the authors wrote. “In 2000, total U.S. production was 13.8 million hundredweight and close to the 10-year (1990-99) average of 12.42 million hundredweight. In subsequent seasons, sweet potato production increased by an average of 6.1 percent per season, ultimately resulting in record high production (29.6 million hundredweight) for the 2014 marketing year.”

While sweet potatoes are grown across the United States, the authors said, “They are best suited for cultivation in southern states which have warmer climates and longer frost-free growing seasons relative to other regions of the United States. In particular, North Carolina’s climate and soil conditions are ideal for sweet potato production. Since 1971, this state has been the No. 1 sweet potato producer and, in 2014, North Carolina produced 53 percent of all sweet potatoes grown in the country.”

North Carolina’s industry grew 185 percent over the past 15 years, buoying the domestic industry. “However, other states make significant contributions and have also experienced gains. Over the same 15-year period, California production has increased by nearly 100 percent; Mississippi’s production has increased by 155 percent,” the report stated. These two states accounted for 30 percent of domestic sweet potato production in 2014.

North Carolina, California, Mississippi and Louisiana accounted for 91 percent of aggregate sweet potato production, and the authors attributed increases to gains in yield and area harvested. “North Carolina leads the nation in area harvested and total production; however, California typically posts the highest average yields,” the report stated. “In 2014, California producers harvested an average of 275 hundredweight per acre; in North Carolina farmers realized 220 hundredweight per acre.”

The average season farm price per hundredweight of sweet potatoes during 2014 was $23.60, the second highest on record and 50 cents below the record high of $24.10 set in 2013. “Since 2000, the average sweet-potato price has posted year-to-year increases in nine of 14 marketing years for an average annual gain of 3.8 percent over the period,” the authors wrote. “With production steadily increasing, growth in utilization — including domestic consumption — has supported higher prices.”

Per capita consumption increased nearly 80 percent between 2000 and 2014, increasing from 4.2 pounds to 7.5 pounds. According to the report, “Significant increases in per capita consumption have taken place since 2010, when the availability-based estimate of per capita use indicated a one-pound per-person increase to 6.3 pounds per person as compared to the 2009 estimate of 5.3 pounds per person. Consumption estimates jumped again between 2010 and 2011, rising 0.8 pounds per person, before falling to 6.3 pounds per person in 2013. The current per capita estimate is 1.3 pounds per person higher than the 2013 estimate and is the highest per capita consumption estimate on record.”  

Increased consumer demand for sweet potatoes has tracked information about the health benefits of sweet potato consumption. “Recognition of the relative health benefits of sweet potatoes has boosted fresh consumption, as well as the utilization of processed sweet-potato products such as sweet potato chips, fries and pre-cut, cubed, mashed and pureed sweet potatoes,” the authors stated.

In addition to increased domestic volume, the United States has also seen an increase in the volume of sweet potatoes it imports from countries such as China and the Dominican Republic. According to the report, all of this imported product is fresh or dried. 

]]> (Lora Abcarian) Today's Headlines Thu, 01 Oct 2015 11:00:00 -0400