NEW ORLEANS — With about 250 booths on the expo show floor, United Fresh 2011 attendees were busy checking out new products and meeting with potential business partners.
Members of The Packer editorial staff gathered these news items from the show floor at United Fresh 2011:
A&B Packing Equipment
The latest generation of packing machines from A&B Packing Equipment, Hartford, Mich., is such a hit with customers that the demonstration model destined for the show floor had to be diverted to a blueberry grower in Georgia so he could begin harvest.
“It was four hours away from the show and we had to divert it,” sales manager Mark Peery said of the latest model, which has been available for about eight months.
The “Evolution” cup filler was a nominee for one of the United Fresh 2011 product awards. Peery said it can handle a variety of sizes of containers, ranging from 4 ounces to 2 pounds. It works particularly well with fresh berries and tomatoes, he said.
The Evolution can handle up to 180 cups per minute. The new model is more accurate when measuring weight, which translates into more money because growers are not “giving away product,” which can happen with machines that have less sensitive scales, Peery said.
Andrew & Williamson
Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, San Diego, offers more packaging options now for its retail customers, said Mark Munger, vice president of marketing.
Six years ago, the company offered just one stock-keeping unit for roma tomatoes, but now it offers 22. Munger said this has been popular for retailers’ private label programs.
He also said the company now packs the Baja Classic line, which is a value line for retailers looking for a lower price point on less than No.1 grade product.
Apio Inc., Guadalupe, Calif., introduced its new Clearly Fresh consumer bags in the past month. The bags are available for consumers to order at apioinc.com, but the company plans to offer them in retail stores soon, said Cali Tanguay, director of technology and business development.
The bags come 10 in a pack and promise to extend the life of fresh fruits and vegetables up to 50% longer once consumers get them home, because of Apio's BreatheWay technology.
Tanguay said they are reusable, but they can't be washed without compromising the BreatheWay technology. She said they can be reused longer by product that doesn't degrade as completely. She expected them to retail in the $3.99-4.99 range.
Apio also introduced a new packaging look to its three snack tray items.
The company's Chipotle salad kit is now offered in smaller retail packs of 12 ounces, rather than just the club store size of 2 pounds. The 12-ounce pack serves four, Tanguay said.
Having just rolled out their Gemini Primus sorters earlier this year, Belgian company Best Sorting announced additional new sorting capabilities at United Fresh 2011. Known for the laser technology on berry sorters, Best is now offering the ability to sort produce by shape, said Peter Dries, area sales representative based in Belgium.
“We are now getting into fresh carrots and sorting for shape and blemishes,” Dries said. “Users can dial up or down the machine depending on what percentage of blemishes or ill-formed produce they want to be accepted by the machine.”
Best is also expanding its manufacturing operation in Denver. The company custom designs each piece of equipment it builds, said Bill Crowley, sales manager for the southeast U.S.
Testing water in produce processing equipment is an absolute necessity for food safety, and many traditional methods rely on test strips that change color depending on the level of contaminants. But Rob Larose, owner of Biosafe Systems, East Hartford, Conn., knows personally what a challenge it is to match test strips to a color chart — he is colorblind.
When he heard about a way to test that didn’t rely on an ability to distinguish shades of color, he knew it was a winner. With a hand-held electronic device, testing can be done through the packing stage.
The device can hold and read up to five test strips at a time and it stores up to 50 readings per slot. Each reading takes about 20 seconds from pre-test to result. Similar technology has been in use in the health care industry for some time.
Biosafe’s introduction of the technology, which is used in conjunction with its peracetic acid solution (instead of chlorine) was one of the nominees for a product award at the show.
California Strawberry Commission
The California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville, is releasing a recipe book.
The book, available in print and as an e-book, features recipes with creative ways to serve strawberries, said Pam Yanez, category and development manager.
“All these young moms love to download recipes to their iPhones,” she said.
The recipe book sells for $7.99. Proceeds benefit the commission’s scholarship program.
Charlie’s Machine & Supply
After seeing a manual onion top ’n’ tailer in use in Europe, Charlie and John Boggs of Charlie’s Machine & Supply Inc., Boulder, Colo., were so impressed with it that they got permission to produce and sell the device in the U.S.
With a price of about $500, Charlie Boggs said that the simple device, which has no moving parts, is an alternative for operations that don’t have thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to spend on automated equipment.
It features a plastic cutting-board type of surface roughly 2½ by 3 feet with a V-shaped opening in the center. The two sides of the “V” are the blades that top and tail an onion when it is rubbed across the surface of the board.
CHEP USA, Orlando, Fla., is touting how its pallets help preserve the environment by highlighting success with Watsonville, Calif.-based Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc.
Driscoll’s uses CHEP pallets to transport strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. CHEP pallets help Driscoll’s achieve its sustainability goals, said Derek Hannum, CHEP’s director of marketing.
Driscoll’s has decreased solid waste generation by more than 387,000 pounds, lowering greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 292,000 pounds and saving enough electricity to power 216 houses a year, Hannum said.
Church Bros. LLC, Salinas, Calif., displayed baby lettuce products. The Cosmopolitan line of baby lettuces includes lolla rossa, red oak, green oak, red romaine, green romaine, tango and mixed selections in 2-pound bags and bulk mini bins, said Ernst Van Eeghen, director of marketing and product development.
Church Bros. also is expanding operations in Mexico. The company grows lettuce, broccoli, cilantro, parsley and green onions in several central Mexico locations, Van Eeghen said. He said Church Bros. expanded south to diversify its operations and provide year-round supply.
Colorful Harvest LLC, Salinas, Calif., is rolling out a new website at colorfulharvest.com. The site includes information about children’s nutrition and other material, said Doug Ranno, chief operating officer and managing partner.
The grower-shipper also is increasing its total acreage in all growing regions. Acreage has increased from 4,200 acres last year to more than 5,000 acres in 2011, Ranno said.
Colorful Harvest received attention for green and colored beans on The Food Network’s “Unwrapped” in late April.
In addition, Colorful Harvest is growing red corn near Plant City, Fla.
Crunch Pak has several new products under development, said Gene Loudon, director of new business development for the Cashmere, Wash.-based company.
One product, called Dipperz, is a 2.75-ounce package with which the company uses gas-injection technology to provide shelf life of 21 days or more. The product should roll out in August.
Crunch Pak recently unveiled an Appletizer tray that will be featured as a party tray.
The company plans to introduce packaging soon featuring characters from Disney’s “Cars 2” animated movie, which will be released in mid-June, Loudon said.
One merchandising tool for bags of sliced apples is a product caddy, allowing bags to stand upright for display. Loudon said the company, working Disney artists, is creating the Princess series in the Foodles line.
“The Foodles business is increasing at a pretty good rate right now,” he said.
Crunch Pak also plans to release new “Phineas and Ferb” cartoon packaging.
Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce NA’s new Fresh Cut Fruit Cups give consumers an on-the-go solution for healthful eating.
The 3.5-ounce cups are packaged in a four-pack and offer three options: Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet Pineapple Chunks, Del Monte Red Grapes and Del Monte Mixed Fruit.
The cups have no sugar or preservatives and have a shelf life of seven to 10 days, said Vidya Samsundar, marketing manager. Suggested price per package is $3.99.
Dole Fresh Fruit
This summer, patrons at select Six Flags theme parks can go Bananas After Dark.
The promotion, which featured grilling recipes last summer, has expanded to include another dozen or so recipes to emphasize bananas’ versatility for entertaining, said Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Fruit.
The Six Flags promotion includes locations in St. Louis and Montreal, where concession stands will offer grilled bananas and there will be promotions allowing patrons to stay an hour later with Bananas After Dark promotions.
Horst, Netherlands-based Dorfa Foodtec, represented at the show by Heinzen Manufacturing International, Gilroy, Calif., has created an onion peeling wheel machine that has 60% fewer moving parts than traditional peeling machines.
The company specializes in equipment for fresh-cut processors. For 50 years, the Dutch firm has been making machines ranging from compact bell pepper coring devices to complete processing lines for potatoes.
Continuing its focus on products for sanitizing, food safety and infection prevention, EcoLab Inc., with U.S. offices in St. Paul, Minn., corporate officials say their firm is responding to customer demands for one-stop shopping.
“Customers want one solution, from soup to nuts,” said Terri Bringgold, senior marketing communications manager for the company’s food and beverage division. “We are ready to meet their demands.”
EcoLab has annual sales of more than $6 billion worldwide and delivers services to produce processors and foodservice operations in more than 160 countries.
Retailers got a look at a new packaging/merchandising approach from Eurofresh Inc., Willcox, Ariz. The company showed off what it called “Produce Seal” on its new line of European cucumbers. The individually wrapped cucumbers have the standard Eurofresh labeling plus the Produce Seal mark and the words “sealed for freshness.”
Mark Cassius, vice president of sales, the individually wrapped cucumbers don’t require wax or preservatives. Another selling point of the European cucumbers is that they have very thin skins, so they don’t require peeling.
The company also is venturing into the arena of produce snack foods with miniature cucumbers, which are about pickle size and packaged in small bags for retail sale.
FoodLogiQ, Durham, N.C., announced a new program with LoBue Citrus, Lindsay, Calif., for its case and pallet level traceability program.
Kerry Farrell, vice president of sales and marketing for FoodLogiQ, said the program includes print-and-apply labels.
Philip LoBue, chief executive officer of LoBue Citrus, said in a news release that traceability is an important part of the company’s food safety and quality management program. This deal allows LoBue Citrus to use FoodLogiQ’s technology in other facets of its operation.
Fox Solutions LLC, McAllen, Texas displayed its new Htech horizontal roll stock bagger, which packs product in half poly/half mesh bags.
General Manager Ed Savigny said the machine uses a continuous roll, and packs potatoes, citrus and onions in bags ranging from 2 pounds to 10 pounds. He said these bags allow packers to print food safety and traceability information on the bags easier.
Fit fruit and vegetable wash from HealthPro Brands, Mason, Ohio, is certified organic, as of last fall.
Todd Wichmann, president, said all bottles of Fit have a organic-certified sticker, which is Organic Materials Review Institute certified.
“This allows consumers to buy organic produce, wash it in our product, and remain organic,” he said.
To offer customers more flexibility and faster packaging, Heinzen Manufacturing International, Gilroy, Calif., debuted its new rigid tray filling system. The conveyor system handles a variety of sizes of trays.
Rudi Groppe, engineering manager for Heinzen, said the new tray filler has quick changeout time when users need to switch sizes of trays. Plastic holders snap in and out in 10 minutes to allow for different sizes of containers. The equipment is designed for high-volume packing operations and is primarily targeted for fresh spinach and spring mix.
Funnels direct the produce into the trays and follow the trays through the compression step, which reduces spillage waste to almost nothing, Groppe said. The machine also can remove the need for hand finishing because lids can be put on with an additional apparatus.
Also new from Heinzen at United Fresh was an enhanced version of the company’s melon peeling machine. In addition to melons, it can also handle pineapples and squash.
The upgraded peeler offers the benefit of touchless operation, reducing the chances of contamination of the peeled produce. At the company’s show booth, butternut squash had been peeled in a distinct pattern, making the produce look more like sculpture than food, to demonstrate the variety of settings available on the machine.
Orlando, Fla.-based plastic pallet supplier iGPS is incorporating Intelliflex temperature recorders to its pallets.
The sensors are affixed using an adhesive and can be programmed to provide a range of information on the cold chain, said Lewis Taffer, chief marketing officer.
Temperature data can be conveyed as a simple “green” or “red” in or out of the specified temperature zone or can be detailed minute to minute over the course of transit, he said.
Market testing is currently under way, Taffer said.
Ilapak Inc., Newtown, Pa., has introduced a bagger than employs ultrasonic technology to seal bags.
The system allows processors and packers to use less film per bag, which translates in to savings in the long run, said Larry Chmielewski, North America sales manager.
The unit also reduces the number of bags that require reworking from 8% to 12% using heat-seal systems to less than 1%, Chmielewski said.
The system, which can fill and seal up to 70 10- to 16-ounce bags per minute, has been in use in Europe and is just starting to see use in the U.S., he said.
Interrupcion Fair Trade
Interrupcion Fair Trade will soon start offering organic Fair Trade avocados from Mexico.
The New York-based importer sources the fruit from Michoacan through McAllen, Texas, said Rafael Goldberg, chief executive officer.
The avocados will join other Fair Trade-certified offerings such as pineapple, blueberries, apples, pears and kiwifruit, Goldberg said.
They will be available nationwide in the U.S. and Canada, and pricing will be similar to other organic avocados with a 5% to 10% premium that funds the Fair Trade social responsibility efforts, he said.
Junction Solutions, a supplier of integrated inventory tracking and workplace management software, now offers a package-level product traceback feature.
The Englewood, Colo., company’s traceback feature uses quick-response codes on consumer packaging (or cases or pallets depending on client needs), said Douglas Myslenski, senior product specialist.
Consumers scanning the label are taken to a website detailing when and where the product was packed and/or other customizable information, he said.
The software is Microsoft-based, and aspects of it are in use at Taylor Farms, Driscoll’s and other produce companies, he said.
Rishon-Lezion, Israel based Juran Metal Works Ltd.’s new pomegranate ArilSystem doubles the capacity of previous equipment, said Avner Galili, marketing director. The extractor handles 56 pieces of fruit per minute and produces less waste from extraction than previous models.
Galili said waste is less than 5% with the new machine, and arils are suited for fresh consumption rather than juice.
Koppert Biological Systems
Koppert Biological Systems in early May relocated its headquarters from Romulus, Mich. to Howell, Mich., said Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, crop adviser for Koppert.
Leafy Greens Council
The Leafy Greens Council, St. Paul, Minn., is expanding its promotion of leafy greens served in the Denver public schools.
Ray Clark, the council’s executive director, said the soup and salad campaign serves 3,500 children through 80 salad bars.
Clark said the school district plans to expand the school-funded promotion. He said the council provides foodservice workers materials. Children vote on their favorite dishes in the program, which started four years ago.
“If we can present to children foods that are fun and enjoyable to eat, and more children every year eat the foods, it will be successful,” Clark said. “This program kind of eases the negativity associated with certain foods, like spinach.”
Silliker Group Corp., Chicago, has become Merieux NutriSciences Corp.
The company continues to provide scientific expertise to those in the produce industry who need testing and auditing services.
About two months ago the name changed to reflect two other divisions of the operation, said Jessica Sawyer-Lueck, director of marketing and communications.
The food safety/quality division retains the Silliker name. Joining it under the Merieux umbrella are BioFortis, which does contract research about innovations in nutrition, and BioAgri, which is a research laboratory in Latin America for environmental, pharmaceutical, chemistry analysis and food technology.
After years of testing, Metz Fresh LLC, King City, Calif., is publicizing its “test and hold” food safety program.
The spinach, arugula and spring mix grower-shipper and packer uses primuslabs.com to test every lot of lettuce for salmonella and E. coli, said Jeanette DeConinck Hertzler, director of sales development.
“We want people to know,” she said. “The industry can’t quite get its arms around it. It’s taken three years to fine-tune this.”
In the past, such testing required three days. Today, it can be accomplished in 19 hours, DeConinck Hertzler said.
Monterey Mushrooms Inc., Royal Oaks, Calif., plans a summer portabella promotion to run May 25 through Sept. 7.
Director of sales for the western region Mike Reed said consumers are familiar with buying portabellas for grilling, but the summer promotion highlights other uses.
Reed said part of the program encourages retailers to offer portabellas by the each, which gives lower price points than by the pound, which gives consumers a lower price point to get into the category.
The new AccuPoint 2.0 system from Lansing, Mich.-based Neogen Corp. allows 100 times more test points than previous versions.
The new model, released about two months ago, allows users to test 999 points compared with the previous model’s 99-point capacity, said Rob Clancy, director of sales.
AccuPoint 2.0 also has a larger color screen and a more descriptive test site for easier recordkeeping.
North Shore Sales & Marketing Inc., Thermal, Calif., has launched a website to promote its Living Herbs line of products.
The consumer-focused site — www.livingherbs.com — features a store finder function, searchable recipes and product care and preparation instructions, said Serena Leiterman, executive assistant.
The site includes photos, and how-to videos are planned as well, Leiterman said.
North Shore’s Living Herbs are all grown in Thermal and are available throughout the U.S. and Canada, she said.
Paramount Citrus used the show to highlight the imminent start of its Mexican lime deal, said David Krause, president of Paramount Citrus, Delano, Calif.
The company has acquired land in Mexico with lime production. The deal is expected to be finalized in mid-May and shipments may start the end of May, Krause said.
“We’re excited about it because it is one of the few mainstay citrus products we didn’t have.”
About a month after its re-launch, more than 700 organizations are using ProduceOverload.com, said Mike Dziak, director of marketing for the Clackamas, Ore.-based company.
Dziak said that the service, which allows suppliers with excess product to contact buyers online, expects to have about 6,000 users within the next year.
The subscription-based service costs $199 per year, he said. There are no limits on how many posts a user can make, he said.
“It is the like the Craigslist of produce sales,” he said.
Carl Davies, chief executive officer of Prophet North America, Bakersfield, Calif., said the supply chain software company is marketing the Pr3 solution to the U.S. fresh produce industry. The Pr3 is a software system is a fresh produce management software system for all stages of the supply chain, he said.
“Within Europe, we have some of the largest names in produce using this system,” he said.
Wes Liefer, president of Pura Vida, Brea, Calif., said the company’s pineapple line is growing this year.
Pura Vida offers gold variety pineapples from Costa Rica year-round for retailers and processors.
He said the company also is expanding its specialty melon line this season. Starting about May 20 from Yuma, Ariz., Pura Vida offers crenshaw, casaba, canary, galia, santa claus, sharlyn and orange-flesh honeydews through about mid-August, as the deal transitions to Blythe and Huron, Calif.
The company also recently added salesman Ron Strum in February. He’s based in the Scottsdale, Ariz., office, and he brings about 30 years of produce experience.
With an eye to the increasing food safety needs of growers, SCS Inc., Santa Monica, Calif., plans to take traceability technology to the beginning of the food chain — into the fields.
“We’re going all the way to the field with the farmer with our RFID systems,” said executive vice president Michael Wisne.
He said the company will soon have field monitoring and soil sampling applications for the technology.
SCS systems already provide growers with software to do a variety of management tasks, including completing financials, lot tracing from farm to fork, sales and order tracking and the generation of reports.
SGS North America
SGS North America, Rutherford, N.J., recently hired Ken Elenius as the SGS regional manager for food in the southeastern U.S.
Elenius said he believes Florida in particular is “a green field” for the company. SGS can provide auditing solutions across the produce supply chain, from seed to store.
Elenius said the company’s services can handle the regulatory needs of importers and exporters in Florida and across the U.S. to make doing business a smooth process. He said because of the customers that SGS already has in the produce industry around the world it already knows the regulatory challenges produce businesses face.
“We can help them meet the regulatory requirements quickly so the freshness of their products can be maintained,” Elenius said.
SGS North America is a member of the SGS Group, Geneva, a world leader in inspection, verification, testing and certification with 60,000 employees in 1,200 offices.
Silver Creek Software
Customer demand drove Silver Creek Software Inc., Boise, Idaho, to introduce a warehouse management system during the past year.
Company president John Carpenter said the new system focuses on helping produce businesses meet the requirements of the Produce Traceability Initiative.
Silver Creek also recently revamped its software products for fresh-cut processors. The new versions are based on sales projections, rather than on previous sales, so that processors can better manage their production, said sales representative Steve Rucker.
With its new vertical bag machine and existing line of materials, Sorma Group’s U.S. division, Exeter, Calif.-based Sorma USA, hopes to capture a larger portion of the fresh produce packaging market.
Its newest generation of packing machines is a multipack system that can handle a variety of bag sizes, from half pound to 10 pounds. The machine can fill up to 26 bags per minute.
An array of materials and bag shapes and styles are available, including bags with mesh sides and built-in carry handles for consumer convenience.
Retailers can extend the life of their fresh produce and sanitize it all in one step with water, salt and electricity — and a little help from Sterilox Food Safety.
According to regional vice president Tom Happ, the Malvern, Pa., company has a machine that uses the triple threat of water, salt and electricity to kill pathogens and spoilage organisms. He said the Sterilox solution also can be run through misting systems in produce departments to keep them free of mold, mildew and other organisms.
Happ said 4,600 supermarkets already use Sterilox systems and solution. He expects to increase the six-year-old company’s customer base with the third-generation machinery now available.
The distribution arm of Sun Belle Inc. expects to begin marketing Erika raspberries this summer.
Based in Schiller Park, Ill., the grower-distributor has been working on bringing the new variety to the U.S., and according to vice president John Hedges, the berries should be released from quarantine this summer.
Known for their large size and bright color, the Erika variety will expand the company’s berry lines, which already include blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and red currants. East of the Mississippi River the company also distributes a full line of greenhouse vegetables and specialty produce.
Coachella, Calif.-based Sun Date expects to nearly double its medjool date crop this fall, said D.J. Ryan, salesman for Sun Date.
The company may harvest between up to 6 million pounds of medjool dates this fall, compared to 3 million pounds of medjool in the fall of 2010.
Medjool harvest will begin the first week of September, though medjools are frozen and sold from storage year-round.
The Gold Nugget mandarin orange took center stage at the Sunkist Growers Inc. exhibit, said Claire Smith, director of corporate communications for the Sherman Oaks, Calif., company.
The variety, named for its bright, slightly bumpy exterior, extends the mandarin season in California through May. Smith said Sunkist created a video for YouTube featuring a magician to promote the Gold Nugget.
Thanks to his 10-year-old daughter Molly, Brian LaForest, who handles inbound sales for Superior Sales Inc., Hudsonville, Mich., found the perfect logo for the company’s new table grape brand.
Superior launched Molly’s Sun Select grapes at United Fresh 2011. The grapes will come from Mexico and are expected to be available from May 9 through July 14 this year.
Varieties planned to be marketed under the new label include delicious red, green and black seedless. Superior also plans to add other products to the Molly’s Sun Select brand line.
TrueTrac LLC, Salinas, Calif., has expanded its mobile web-based product tracking software.
TrueTrac, a software development company that distributes through Bunzl Distribution Inc., St. Louis, has launched a suite of traceability software.
ItemTrac allows for item-level traceability, HarvestTrac streamlines harvesting activities, and AuditTrac provides more efficient food safety collection and storage, said Ian Duffield, product manager.
“We are really putting the technology in the field,” Duffield said. “This is using the same technology on top of what they’re (growers) are being forced to do with the Produce Traceability Initiative.”
Valparaiso, Indiana-based Urschel Laboratories Inc.’s new 20-inch slicer gives customers a more economical option for fresh-cut produce.
Tim Nagrosst, regional sales manager, said the company’s E TranSlicer is ideal for smaller processors that hand feed produce. The slicer can be customized with an attached cutting board for convenience.
The slicer, introduced in early February, has three types of wheels available — flat and crinkle slices, julienne and microslice — and is ideally suited to elongated fruits and vegetables.
“This model is in the $40,000 range, whereas the larger model is in the $60,000 range,” he said. “It’s perfect for smaller processors on up to larger operations, depending on how you feed into the machine.”
Creston, Iowa-based Vanmark Equipment LLC reduces downtime from hours to minutes with its new quick-change coupler for produce peeling equipment.
Tom Mathues, general manager, said the new coupler reduces what used to be a 6-hour maintenance call to around 5 minutes.
Introduced in November, the quick-change couplers also can be retrofitted to all existing Vanmark peeling equipment.
A touch of color helps draw attention to Village Farms’ growing practices on the company’s new designs for stoplight packaging.
Helen Aquino, marketing manager for the Eatonton, N.J., company, said a little bright purple is a colorful change and helps emphasize the company’s use of beneficial bugs and other sustainable practices. The design rolled out in April, Aquino said.
Antigo, Wis.-based Volm Cos. Inc. showed off its new Volmpack Ultrek 320 vertical form-fill-seal bagger.
The bagger is capable of speeds of up to 50 bags per minute.
The unit garnered a best new product award at the expo.
The Cabo Fresh line of guacamole from Yucatan Foods, Los Angeles, has new packaging this spring.
Saleswoman Jessica Brown said all Cabo Fresh packs are now in a No. 1 recyclable container, and allows the product to be seen better. She said the packaging also allows the guacamole to remain fresher longer.
Cabo Fresh guacamole comes in 10- and 12-ounce containers.