Boucherville-based importer Agri-Mondo Inc. has built Canada’s first persimmon ripening room in preparation for its third season importing vanilla persimmons from Spain.
The persimmons should arrive in Montreal by early November, ripe and ready to eat, said consultant Robert Beauregard of Gestion FLExCo.
By bringing them in hard, the importer can pre-condition them before shipping to the consumer and prolong their shelf life, Beauregard said.
The Spanish Trade Commission is planning a persimmon campaign this fall, which will include sampling.
The persimmons are currently sold loose or in a consumer box of six or eight.
Agri-Mondo has also created a 600-gram (21-ounce) bag for golden and green kiwis, Beauregard said, and switched from a clamshell to a 2-pound bag for its black Angelino plums arriving from Spain and Italy.
Boucherville-based broker Bellemont Powell has the Quebec rights for the new cabbage-lettuce cross, Lettage, developed by Oceano, Calif.-based Bejo Seeds Inc. Executive vice president Dino Farrese said he’s testing interest in the novelty lettuce, with pointed end and tender leaves, which is currently being tested in major East coast chains. Talks are underway to have the seeds grown in Canada.
Bellemont Powell is also coordinating the launch of Green Giant’s bag of microwavable sweet potatoes, a best seller in the U.S, in Quebec. Each 18-ounce bag contains four to five petite triple-washed sweet potatoes that steam in the microwave in 8 to 10 minutes. The product should be in Montreal stores for Canadian Thanksgiving on Oct. 13.
Botsis Fruits & Vegetables
Montreal-based importer Botsis Fruits & Vegetables Inc. is planning a “serious makeover” of its warehouse to increase efficiency and improve food safety in line with its competitors.
“Our 15,000-square-foot warehouse on two floors is no longer big enough for us,” said Chris Botsis, president of the family-run business, which opened in 2010.
Being one of Montreal’s smaller wholesalers has its advantages, said Botsis.
“My brothers and I see everything that comes in and goes out and we control our quality,” he said.
Customers range from foodservice customers and distributors to retail stores, and Botsis said business has expanded to Ottawa, Quebec City and the Maritime provinces.
Montreal-based importer CDS Foods expects to have Canada GAP certification before the end of the year, says general manager John Della Santina.
CDS continues to make improvements to its two warehouse facilities, said Della Santina, and he predicts an increase in sales over last year.
Prices for garlic are stable, he said, and the demand for Quebec garlic is growing, though there’s a major price difference with imports.
Ginger prices “are crazy,” he said, and will stay high until the Asian crop arrives around the end of January. CDS is also carrying ginger from Peru.
In exotic fruits and vegetables, he said the chayote squash is the company’s most popular item.
Cool September nights were good news for Sherrington-based Groupe Vegco Inc.’s 14 carrot and onion growers.
The crop looks “nice and super for storage,” said account manager Charlene Newton.
In late September, growers were making room for 25,000 bins of onions, about 5,000 over quota, Newton said.
After launching new packages for garlic scapes, garlic and candy-striped beets this summer, Vegco growers began harvesting white purple-top turnips, another new item, on Sept. 15 to be packed in 2-pound bags.
“The response has been great as our growers continue to add new items,” Newton said.
Les Productions Margiric
If the fall weather holds, Lavel-based Les Productions Margiric expects steady volumes on broccoli until mid-November, said marketing director Mario Cloutier.
Cloutier expected to start harvesting fall cauliflower Sept. 22, but said prices were discouragingly low.
“Cauliflower in the U.S. is really high right now,” he said, “but here in Montreal it’s selling for nothing — $11.”
He said a big crop of colored peppers was also forcing Quebec growers to be creative marketers.
“They’re selling at $10 to $12 maximum, the same as green, yet the seeds cost a lot more,” said Cloutier.
Chain stores should help move the volumes, he said, with features on bags of three or four different colors.
Rougement-based Pommes Ma-gic is replacing its 3-pound bags of imported and local apples with a 2-pound zipped pouch under its new Collatio logo, short for collation, or snack in French.
President Sébastien Alix said consumers are looking for quality fruit and “wow” packaging, and the smaller package suits today’s smaller families.
The new pouch of Washington galas, Granny Smith and red delicious launched at Sobeys in September with a $2.99 to $3.99 retail. Quebec-grown empires, Spartans and possibly mcintosh will replace the imports in a few weeks.
The weather has been “almost perfect” for Quebec apples, Alix said, providing good size and quality.
He’s also working on mixed bags of apples and oranges, and the Collatio bags may one day hold fruit and vegetables.
By January, Pommes Ma-gic plans to move its sliced apples from a clamshell to a resealable Collatio pouch.
Sobeys Quebec fruit and vegetable buyer Pierre Landry has been chosen as the third intern for the Quebec Produce Marketing Association’s annual Cultivating the Next Generation program.
The program gives produce professionals aged 18 to 35 the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the industry by observing meetings, attending events and sharing opinions on issues and projects QPMA is involved in.
Landry began his career loading trucks part-time in Montreal warehouses.
Before joining Sobeys, he worked for a local wholesaler, buying and selling citrus and greenhouse products.
He also spent five years working with his father at Anjou-based fruit and vegetable importer Fruits International, jetting off to South Africa, The Netherlands and South America to take care of the company’s offshore programs.
In the next year, Landry will be attending QPMA business meetings, visiting farms, networking at the annual Oyster Party on Nov. 7 and brainstorming with staff for the I Love 5 to 10 a Day program.
He’ll also be in Montreal for the CPMA convention April 15-17.
“Being an intern will keep me busy,” he said, “but I’m happy to be part of the QPMA. Meeting people in the industry brings my career to a new level, and there are a lot of people to meet!”
Sobeys Quebec is encouraging its customers to eat more fruits and vegetables with a new weekly flier called Joy of Eating Better.
Each flier introduces new ingredients, such as rapini, eggplant or the new yellow-flesh Vivaldi potato, and includes two to four recipes, said chief fruit buyer Enrico Charest.
“The flier is working well,” Charest said, “and there’s always something for kids — our future customers — like cantaloupe and honeydew ice pops.”
The flier also includes advice and recipes from three popular Quebec TV hosts and chefs.
Dorval-based S&S Forwarding Ltd., a family-owned freight broker specializing in refrigerated commodities, has opened a Toronto office and created a five-person team in Dorval to handle fresh produce.
“We’re putting things together to be more efficient and it’s worked really well,” said sales manager Peter Snyder, recently appointed to the board of the Quebec Produce Marketing Association.
“With everyone working harder as a team, last year was one of our best years ever,” Snyder said.
S&S hauls produce between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico for the Montreal and Toronto markets.