Dan Galbraith, Sections Editor In making early analysis of top fresh produce news stories of 2012 for The Packer’s Dec. 31 print edition, one thing jumping out at me was how much big company-related news there was.
And the company news ran the Clint Eastwood gamut from the good, to the bad, to the downright ugly.
Produce businesses and retailers selling produce made it into The Packer’s pages for a wide variety of reasons.
Whether it is because of the U.S. push for more nutritious diets or the fact that produce is just trendy, there seemed to be more companies than ever making news because of fresh fruit and vegetable offerings.
Many national fast-food chains added fresh produce to their menus, and fresh produce companies added to their offerings by acquiring competitors or merging with them.
The flip side saw retailers and growing operations making headlines because of illness outbreaks and/or product recalls. Or bankruptcies. Or Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act actions. With substantial outbreaks involving cantaloupe, mangoes, spinach, salad and sprouts in 2012, there seemd to be as much bad and ugly news as there was the good for companies in the industry.
An outbreak of outbreaks
Unfortunately for fresh produce businesses, the prevalence of outbreaks and financial turmoil overshadowed much of the positive news. That’s been the norm in consumer and consumer media circles, but it also proved the case within in the industry in 2012, as the seven most-viewed Packer stories involving company news had distinct negative spin.
The most-viewed story, by a longshot, was San Antonio-based Delta Produce LP blaming retailer H-E-B for a much-ballyhooed bankruptcy case we followed. Delta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and filed for $100 million in damages against H-E-B.
No. 2: A $56-million PACA case against the Alejo produce family of Los Angeles.
And the hits just kept on coming — with stories about East Coast Brokers and Packers standing on the sidelines of the tomato business; Chamberlain Farms recalling cantaloupe linked to an outbreak; Coachella, Calif.-based Amazing Coachella Inc., parent company of Peter Rabbit Farms, being named as a romaine supplier in an E. coli outbreak; and Dole recalling salad for the second time in six days.
That list of seven doesn’t even include other most-viewed stories such as a false positive test result causing a Taylor Farms California Inc. recall; a Missa Bay LLC/Ready Pac Foods Inc. recall on apple slices provided to McDonalds and Burger King; a Daniella mango recall; and a continuing saga of food safety stories resulting from listeria at Burch Farms, which prompted the company to exit the cantaloupe deal.