MONTREAL — The Packer Editor Greg Johnson, Retail Editor Pamela Riemenschneider and Canadian freelance writer Cynthia David gathered the following news items April 14-15 on the Canadian Produce Marketing Association expo floor.
Snoboy has his own Facebook page.
The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based brand of Amerifresh Inc. is one of the oldest continually traded produce brands, said Rick Harris, director of business development, with more than 85 items under the brand.
The company uses Snoboy’s Facebook presence to interact with customers on its Amerifresh Facebook page, as well as serve as the road journal for Amerifresh representatives.
AMF Farms“Chattering” pumpkins, each with a saying to match their expression, are the newest painted mini pumpkin offerings from AMF Farms Inc., Burlington, Wash.
Owners Liz Mitchell and Michele Youngquist grow more than 150 acres of pumpkins. During breast cancer awareness month in October, AMF sells spray-painted pink pumpkins with a pink ribbon, donating 25 cents per case to the cause, she said.
Retailers with Muslim customers should stock up on dried fruit and nuts by July 1, a month before the start of the 30-day Ramadan holiday, said Adel Boulos, vice president of Montreal-based Amira Enterprises Inc., which specializes in Middle Eastern products. The demand for dried dates, figs, apricots and almonds in ethnic markets this year has been “unbelievable,” Boulos said.
Guadalupe, Calif.-based Apio Inc. added microwaveable green beans to its line of value-added produce.
The green beans come in two sizes, a four-serving bag and a 10-serving bag.
The products started shipping in mid-April, said saleswoman Jamie Applegate.
The line includes green beans, green and yellow beans and green beans and carrots.
After a successful test in Chile last year, Aweta-Autoline of Yakima, Wash., plans to test its multiscan machine on sweet red cherries this summer, said Jeff Heil, sales and commercial engineer. The machine can detect a split in red cherries, said Heil, which is a difficult feat.
Aweta’s high-speed grading machine has already proved successful with yellow rainier cherries, he said. Each machine has two rows of 20 lanes, with 12 lanes active. He said more lanes can be activated as needed.
BC Tree Fruit
Kelowna, British Columbia-based BC Tree Fruit wants to make sure consumers know its fruit comes from right in their own back yard.
The company redesigned its packaging and marketing materials for the 2010-11 season featuring archival orchard photos and a rustic look, said Gord Morrison, salesman.
The company also added the tagline “Way more than delicious” to its logo.
“We wanted to give it that old orchard feel,” Morrison said.
BC Produce Marketing Assn.
The British Columbia Produce Marketing Association hopes to have its new website up and running this summer.
Features planned for the new website are member profiles, consumer information and industry links for BCPMA members, said Robert Johnson, vice president.
Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif., plans to offer Costa Rican pineapples under the Calavo label starting in May.
Director of national sales Michael Angelo, said the program will be year-round and available in the U.S. and Canada. He said the company is importing the fruit into Galveston, Texas, but he couldn’t give a volume estimate.
Montreal wholesaler Canadawide Fruits launched a line of packaged fruits and vegetables under the Frescadel label.
“The retail response has been very positive,” said president George Pitsikoulis.
Modified-atmosphere packaging extends the shelf life of the conventional and organic products for an average of 10 days, he said.
The line includes three sweet peppers, three pears and 8-ounces of sugar snaps, and is expected to expand to 30-40 items in the next year, he said.
Frescadel’s organic items are packed in a pulp tray made of palm leaves that degrades in eight to 12 months, he said.
Church Bros. LLC, Salinas, Calif., displayed its new Green Leaf Teen Green brand of sandwich size leaves.
Neil Milburn, partner and national accounts director, said the leaves are shorter and rounder than traditional green leaf lettuces to fit on sandwiches and burgers for use in restaurants and convenience stores.
Also new to Canada are the company’s salad mixes, romaine blends, diced cabbage and coleslaw in 5-pound club store packs, Milburn said, and wasabi arugula.
Sav Tsoukalas, general manager of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.’s Oakville, Ontario, branch, said the company was approved in mid-April to use its Pink Ribbon Watermelon program in Canada.
The program donates a portion of each pink-labeled melon to breast cancer research. Also, bins feature nutrition labels, which he said is unique in Canada.
In April, Classic Salads LLC, Watsonville, Calif., made its clamshell salad lines bilingual for Canadian distribution, and it added QR codes to packages, which link consumers to its website.
Vice president of sales and marketing John Burge said the company redesigned its website to be more consumer friendly, with more recipes and videos, since it expects more consumers to visit with the addition of QR codes.
He said Classic Salads plans to add the codes to its bagged salad lines this summer.
Grapples got a new look this spring, and now it’s coming to Canada.
The joint venture between Columbia Marketing International Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., and Rainier Fruit Co., Selah, Wash., the grape-flavored apple, is now available in a four-count sleeve instead of just the clamshell. CMI regional director of marketing Brett Burdsal said the sleeve is a more economical alternative to the clamshell, and it can ship in a higher count box.
The Grapple also has a new display box this year featuring a monkey.
Del Monte Fresh Produce Co.’s new 4-ounce fruit cups in sleeves of four contain no sugar or additives and have a seven-day shelf life, said John McCann, vice president North American salesman for the Northeastern region, Bloomfield, N.J.
The cups are filled with fresh grapes, cantaloupe, pineapple and mixed fruit, with mango and honeydew being considered. They can also be tailored to a retailer’s needs.
McCann said the refrigerated cups evolved from Del Monte’s Grab ’n Go line.
Del Monte also introduced its golden-skinned MAG cantaloupe, which has a thinner rind and more meat than a regular cantaloupe, McCann said.
The melons are currently being shipped from Guatemala and Costa Rica, he said, with shipments from Arizona expected at the end of May.
Dole Food Co. has launched two 8-ounce salad kits in a clamshell.
The first includes spinach, dried cherries, almond, blue cheese and dressing. The second features baby lettuces, gruyere cheese, sunflower seeds, croutons and a vinaigrette.
Dole is also transitioning more of its salad mixes from bags to clamshells, said CarrieAnn Arias, senior marketing manager for Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc., Monterey, Calif.
“Clamshells are a growing trend that resonates with consumers, especially in Canada,” Arias said.
The Dispute Resolution Corp., Ottawa, added about 40 Canadian members at the close of 2010, said vice president of trading assistance, Fred Webber.
A new Canadian law stating that the importer of record must be licensed either by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or DRC led to some late year new members, Webber said. DRC has 1,353 members as of the start of 2011.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods
Oviedo, Fla.-based Duda Farm Fresh Foods now has a four-count clementine pack in a resealable bag.
The high-graphic bag features a boy and a girl clementine cartoon figure, and is perfect for snacking on the go, said Nichole Towell, marketing development manager.
The four-pack gives retailers a lot more merchandising opportunities as well, Towell said.
“Retailers can merchandise this in other areas in the store, like at the checkout,” Towell said.
Towell said the packs retail for about $1.
Giro Pack Inc., Bryan, Ohio, which manufactures soft mesh bags, touted the “green” attributes of mesh versus poly. Sales and marketing representative Jennifer Pierce said mesh bags use nearly 22% less packaging material than poly bags.
“If a large retailer changed from poly to mesh bags, they would get a five-year supply of mesh out of a four-year supply of poly,” said Pierce. “That’s a whole year of plastic that won’t be going into a landfill and a whole year of savings for the retailer and the consumer.”
Groupe HydroSerre Groupe HydroSerre Inc., Mirabel, Quebec, is introducing two types of greenhouse lettuce in a single clamshell, said Daniel Terrault, vice president of business development.
Blends include heart of Boston and mâche or mâche and niçoise. The company also offers a double-dome clamshell filled with two living lettuces such as red oak leaf and Boston.
For their first CPMA show, the three companies represented at the Guatemala Fresh booth brought limes, mangos, plantains, snow peas, sugar snaps, ginger and red and black beans to Montreal.
“We started small with PMA 25 years ago,” said spokeswoman Monica Figueroa, “but the U.S. market is now crowded with products and we decided it’s time to look for other opportunities, starting with the Canadian market.”
Gourmet Garden, makers of fresh herbs and spices packed in refrigerated tubes, is offering a tour of its Australian plant next May as part of its 2011 sweepstakes, said spokeswoman Celeste Brockwell. Two winners from the U.S. and two from Canada will be announced July 1.
The Grupo Banamiel co-operative, which exports about 100,000 boxes of bananas a week grows 65% Fair Trade conventional and 25 % organic Fair Trade fruit, said engineer Luis Bonilla. He said unlike Central America and South America, the Dominican Republic has very low rainfall, so fewer sprays and no herbicides are needed to grow bananas, which are irrigated.
Leamington, Ontario-based Highline Mushrooms Ltd. launched two refrigerated foil trays of stuffed mushroom caps, goat cheese/cranberry and goat cheese/spinach.
“We’re taking mushrooms to a new level of convenience and using wholesome ingredients to give consumers a healthy alternative for entertaining,” said chairwoman Elizabeth O’Neil.
The stuffed caps have only one gram of fat each, she said. O’Neil said feedback on the new items has been so positive, the company is looking at new combinations. Highline has also launched vitamin D-enhanced portabello mushrooms and a Gourmet Blend of specialty mushrooms, including shiitake and enoki.
Idaho Potato Commission
The Idaho Potato Commission, Eagle, is a new CPMA member and was a first-time exhibitor in Montreal.
“It was a great show and we plan to continue attending and become active in the other Canadian organizations going forward,” said Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail and international sales.
Pemsler said he was pleased to find Idaho potatoes in all three major retail chains in Montreal, and was shown a new bag being launched by a major Canadian re-packer.
Ippolito Fruit & Produce Ltd., Burlington, Ontario, has launched microwaveable bags of whole Brussels sprouts ready in 5-6 minutes.
President Joel Ippolito said his company is North America’s largest grower of Brussels sprouts. The washed and trimmed sprouts will be packaged in Salinas, Calif., and in Ontario in 1- and 2-pound sizes, he said.
In response to consumer and retailer demand, Ippolito also is offering shrink-wrapped broccoli with Universal Price Codes and Price Look-Up information on the label.
In response to feedback from consumers and retailers, Mann Packing Co. Inc., Salinas, Calif., has scaled down its Snacks on the Go to offer a smaller portion at a lower retail price, said Greg Kurkjian, vice president retail sales in Mason, Ohio.
The revised line includes a 6.3-ounce (formerly 8-ounce) bag of four items, such as celery and carrot sticks, grape tomatoes and light ranch dip, for $1.99. Mann is also offering individual portions of sugar snap peas for the first time with containers of ranch dip, Kurkjian said, as well as five snack-size bags of carrot coins in a 15-ounce clamshell, enough for a week of school lunches.
The new packs will ship in May. He also said Mann’s 12-ounce bag of butternut squash cubes, developed for the holidays almost six years ago, are now shipped year-round.
Just in time for the summer grilling season, Kingsville, Ontario-based Mastronardi Produce Ltd. has a two-count slicer beefsteak tomato pack.
The pack gives consumers ideas for tomatoes and grilling, said Nancy Pickersgill, marketing coordinator.
The company also launched a four-count bruschetta kit featuring four medium beefsteak tomatoes with a spice mix perfect for bruschetta.
“It’s perfect for hors d’ouvres in a hurry,” Pickersgill said.
All a consumer has to do is dice the tomatoes, mix in the spices and serve on a sliced baguette.
Dimpled Sun Drops grape tomatoes from Leamington-based Mucci International Marketing are meaty and extremely sweet (rating 10 on the brix scale), said general manager Danny Mucci.
The new tomatoes are available in any size pack, Mucci said, and can be displayed in a new freestanding unit that holds six boxes.
In other news, production of year-old Bella Sweets mini sweet peppers in three colors has doubled to keep up with demand. Snack-sized eight-count Cutecumbers are available across North America, he said.
The Cooking with Spinach pack, a 1-pound bag of fresh-cut spinach, from NewStar Fresh Foods LLC, Salinas, Calif., is now available in Canada after making its debut in the U.S.
Director of marketing Cindi Dodd said the pack is available with just spinach or with shredded carrots.
Also, new to Canada over the winter are bunches of long-top green onions. Sales director Anthony Vasquez said the onions are about 6 inches longer than traditional green onions.
Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing for Salinas, Calif.-based The Nunes Co., said all the company’s products, which includes iceberg lettuce, cauliflower and asparagus, are now available in organic for the U.S. and Canadian markets.
He estimated that less than 10% of Nunes’ overall volume is in organic, but it’s growing.
Paramount Farms’ Cuties mandarins should wrap up another strong season in mid-May, said Scott Owens, vice president sales & marketing, Delano, Calif.
Despite a cold, wet winter, navel sales and quality have also been good, Owens said. Navels should finish in mid- to late June. Minneola sales have also been strong as people look for more variety in the citrus category, he said.
Peak of the Market
A veggie figure sitting on a park bench before a wall of vegetables helped Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Peak of the Market win the first-place booth award at this year’s CPMA trade show.
Since last fall, the company has placed quick-response codes on Kwik Lok closures on bags of onions and potatoes. The tag, which also carries a photo of Peak of the Market president Larry McIntosh, invites consumers to scan the label with their smart phone to receive instant recipes for the product from the company website.
“Response has been excellent,” said Dave Whitmore, vice president sales. “A lot of customers already subscribe to our weekly recipes, but this way they don’t have to wait until they get home to find a recipe for dinner.”
PEI Potato Board
Greg Donald, general manager of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, said PEI’s fresh sales are up about 18% compared to a year ago because of a worldwide shortage, but prices have not increased as much as the board had anticipated.
Exports to the Caribbean have increased significantly, he said. The province has sent already sent a shipload of potatoes to Russia, where last year’s crop was devastated by bad weather, as well as regular container loads. Sales to the U.S. are also up, he said.
Pier-C Produce Inc., a vegetable grower, packer and shipper based in Leamington, Ontario, recently installed an automated carrot line in its second packaging facility in Chatham, Ontario, which opened last spring.
“By generating more product in less time, the new line will allow us to expand our customer base,” said office administrator Crystal Penney.
Los Angeles-based Pom Wonderful has downsized its 8-ounce package of ready-to-eat pomegranate arils to a 4.3-ounce cup said Paul Brushey, sales and merchandise.
The packaged arils took off in Quebec last year, Brushey said, after a year on the U.S. market, and their popularity continues to grow. He said Pom Wonderful hopes the smaller package will attract a wider audience for the ready-to-eat product, which was introduced in the U.S. two years ago.
Retail interest in high-end wild mushrooms and fiddleheads has grown stronger in the past year, said Joe Salvo, president of Ponderosa Mushrooms in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.
After a series of forest fires last summer, Salvo said he’s looking forward to a big crop of morels in British Columbia, where the season is just starting.
Oregon foragers have been picking morels for the past month, and they’re also available from Northern California. Fiddleheads, which Salvo packs in an 8-ounce plastic-wrapped tray for $4.99 retail, have been coming in from Oregon and should appear soon in British Columbia, he said.
Rainier Fruit Co. is focusing its blueberry efforts on one niche in particular.
Of the company’s 500 acres, about three-fourths are organic, said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director.
“We’ll ship about 4 million pounds this year and 3 million of that is organic,” she said. “Organic is where we’re finding our niche. Every customer we’ve taken out to our fields cannot believe the flavor of these blueberries.”
Wolter said the blueberry program is a nice complement to Rainier Fruit’s other offerings.
“Blueberries overlap with cherries and apples so we can load all three in one truck,” she said.
The Heritage Blend of salads from Salinas, Calif.-based River Ranch Fresh Foods LLC is now available in Canada after its U.S. debut over the winter.
Lynn Iwanow, director of sales for Canada, said the line competes with spring mix but offers better shelf life.
Heritage Blend comes in both retail and foodservice packs — 5-ounce and 1-pound clamshells and 1-pound clear foodservice bags. Heritage is a proprietary 50/50 blend of green and red lettuce varieties, Iwanow said, that offers a minimum of 17 days of shelf life, compared to a typical 14 days for spring mix.
Santa Sweets brand Rinse-N-Snack SweetRipe grape tomatoes from Ag-Mart Produce Inc., Plant City, Fla., are now in bilingual packs and available in Canada.
Ag-Mart, which does business as Santa Sweets Inc., introduced rinse-and-eat value-added grape tomatoes last year in the U.S. The Rinse-N-Snack Sweet Ripes come in dry pints and include built-in strainers. The lid is also resealable, said Ken White, director of sales for Procacci Bros., Philadelphia, parent company of Ag-Mart.
About 25 Scotian Gold Cooperative Ltd. growers are growing SweeTango apples on 100 acres in the Annapolis Valley, said Karen Corey, director of marketing & business development for Scotian Gold Co-op Ltd., Coldbrook, Nova Scotia, which owns the Canadian rights.
“We had just enough last year to supply Atlantic Canada retail stores and send a little to Ontario,” she said. “We expect to triple our volume this year, pending good growing conditions, and look forward to expanding our market area.”
Sundia, based in Oakland, Calif., has added a snack-size cup of fresh ruby red grapefruit slices from Mexico to its line of fresh-cut fruit cups, said chief operation officer and general manager Dan Hoskins.
“We see the trend to individual packages sky-rocketing,” Hoskins said.
Sunkist Growers of Sherman Oaks, Calif., is selling fresh grapes grown by two of its California citrus shippers.
Julie DeWolf, director of retail marketing, said black, green and red grapes, seeded and seedless, will be available in a variety of bags and clamshells. The first grower, from California’s desert area, will supply grapes from May to mid-July under the Mr. Grapes label, she said, and the second will supply Central Valley grapes from mid-July to September under the Bravante label.
“It seemed like a natural fit since these growers understand the Sunkist system,” DeWolf said.
Fresh-cut processor Sun Rich Fresh Foods Inc., Richmond, British Columbia, has launched a 12-ounce dual pack of diced mango and papaya with a seven-day shelf life.
Canadian retail sales manager Jeanette Weeks said the product is available in the province’s Overwaitea Foods stores and will launch in Loblaws and Thrifty stores at the end of April. It’s available for foodservice through a U.S. distributor.
Tanimura & Antle
Salinas, Calif.-based Tanimura & Antle has a new high-impact display carton for its Artisan Red line of onions.
The cartons feature photographs of serving suggestions, along with a quick response code for consumers to scan for more information.
“It’s moveable, so retailers can cross-merchandise onions in the meat department or with salads,” said Rick Antle, president.
The company also continued its Artisan lettuce promotions through the summer with seasonal contests driven by social media.
Consumers can scan lettuce packs with QR codes that lead them to contest entry as well as recipes and more information.
The company also added the on-packaging promotional information for Canadian retailers for its summer promotion. Canadian law prohibits contests, so the company features recipes and other information through QR codes, Antle said.
Vicky St. Geme, vice president of marketing for Taylor Farms, Salinas, Calif., said by May the company should be able to ship Taylor’s organic bagged salads from all its North American processing plants.
She said this will allow the company to get fresher product to customers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Having the expo in Montreal was significant for California apple shippers because the Golden State exports a higher percentage of its apples to Canada than any other U.S. state, said Kristine Marceca, executive director of the U.S. Apple Export Council, Arlington, Va.
She said with Washington state dominating Canada’s west because of its freight advantage, California looks to Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces as strong markets. Marceca said July-September is an important window before Washington crop comes on strong.
The U.S. Apple Export Council uses promotion help from the Buy California initiative and federal Market Access Program.
Veg Pro International Inc., Sherrington, Quebec, plans to offer its new single-serve salad line in the U.S. in May.
Executive vice president of sales and marketing Daniel Dufresne said the company plans to ship U.S. product from its Belle Glade, Fla., plant. Its Canadian product comes from its operation in Sherrington.
In the salad line are spring mix, Caesar and baby spinach.
Wayne E. Bailey
At the end of April, Wayne E. Bailey Produce, Chadbourn, N.C., plans to offer a free-standing retail display for its 1.5-pound bags of ready-to-cook sweet potatoes.
The bags have four to five triple washed sweet potatoes per bag that can be steamed in 8 minutes, said president George Wooten. The black cardboard units will come with the sweet potato order and can be refilled with Bailey’s Green Giant or George Foods brands, he said.
Greenhouse vegetable grower Westmoreland Sales, Leamington, Ontario, is introducing Amori cocktail tomatoes to the North American market under its TopLine label, said Max Mastronardi, salesman.
He said Westmoreland has doubled its acreage on roma grape tomatoes, now in their third year, and mini cucumber acreage is also increasing to keep up with the growing demand.
The company has begun sending produce to Canadian customers in returnable plastic pallets. Mastronardi said greenhouse production in the Leamington area has been slowed this spring by a lack of sunshine.
Zuhlke & Associates
Kurt Zuhlke & Associates Inc., Bangor, Pa., now offers in Canada a clamshell pack for apples that is in the size 60 count range. Like other products from the company, the packaging is made with recycled PETE plastic, and is recyclable, said Kurt Zuhlke, president and chief executive officer.