Atlas Produce revamps date packs

Bakersfield, Calif.-based Atlas Produce and Distribution Inc., which specializes in California-grown medjool dates, has introduced greener packaging.

Marketing coordinator Kyra Dykes said the clear clamshells for the Caramel Naturel brand are processed using 65% less energy.

They can also be recycled more often into other uses such as food containers, Dykes said.

Grown in the Coachella Valley, Caramel Naturel medjools, golden dates and deglet noors, which are now available pitted, appear at retail, club stores, specialty food stores and foodservice throughout North America.

Sales of medjools have increased steadily over the past three years, Dykes said. Date almond rolls and coconut rolls, made fresh to order, are also gaining in popularity.

Atlas unveiled a website devoted to its Caramel Naturel line, part of a new social media strategy to engage consumers.

The Caramel Naturel line is now a licensed member of the Buy California Marketing Agreement, better known as the California Grown marketing campaign.

Georgia pecan group mulls grower fees

The biggest challenge in promoting products is getting enough money to do it, marketing boards agree.

“It takes money to get the word out there,” said J.W. Christiansen, a pecan grower and consultant to the Nut Tree Pecan Co. in Albany, Ga.

“We’re beginning a campaign to have a referendum next year to see if growers will approve another half cent, which would give us 1 cent a pound,” said Christiansen, who is a board member of the Atlanta-based Georgia Pecan Commission.

“It will give us more dollars, but it won’t really give us much more buying power than when we started out,” he said.

“Whatever you do as far as TV and magazines go, when you start sending people to other countries to promote your product, it’s all expensive,” Christiansen said.

Since 1995, the commission has assessed all growers with 30 acres or more a half cent per pound, with two-thirds going to promotion and one-third to research.

Ocean Spray opens Canada location

Kristen Borsari, director of marketing for North America, said Lakeville, Mass.-based Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. is opening a cranberry receiving station in Richmond, British Columbia, with a capacity of 100 million pounds a year, a 50% increase in capacity.

“It will be a more convenient way for growers in the Richmond area to deliver their fruit and allow us to get it ready to go into our food and beverage plant,” Borsari said.

The plant is scheduled to open Oct. 1.

On Sept. 28, Ocean Spray is building a real cranberry bog for the opening of the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.

“Consumers get to see how cranberries grow and try new products,” Borsari said.

At retail, Ocean Spray has launched 10-ounce sizes of its Craisins brand infused with pomegranate, blueberry and cherry juice.

Craisins with 50% less sugar are also debuting in September.

Oregon hazelnuts see volume growth

Polly Owen, manager of the Portland-based Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board, said the 2012 harvest is expected to reach 40,000 tons, which would mark the second year of increased production and represents a 4% increase over last year’s 38,000 tons.

“There’s no issue getting rid of it,” Owen said.

“A local handler said if he had two more loads he could sell it today.”

With the arrival of new varieties resistant to the Eastern filbert blight, the industry is set for a major expansion, Owen said.

“There’s a tremendous interest in planting hazelnuts, and we should see some significant growth in a couple of years,” she said.

Raisin group marks Japan trade agreement

Glen Goto, chief executive officer of the Fresno, Calif.-based Raisin Bargaining Association, which represents a third of the state’s raisin grape growers, said the California raisin industry recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of its trade relationship with Japan.

“Forty years ago, the Japanese didn’t even know what a raisin was,” Goto said.

“Now they’ve become one of our biggest export markets.”

Most of the raisins exported to Japan go into baked goods, he said, and the rest are used for snacking.

South Georgia Pecan boosts food safety

Valdosta, Ga.-based South Georgia Pecan Co., the largest pecan sheller in the Southern U.S., is the only pecan plant in the country certified to SQF Level 3, said Paul Joseph, vice president of sales.

“The discovery of salmonella in peanuts and peanut butter in 2008 really pushed us to the forefront of quality and food safety innovations,” Joseph said.

“We test every product we produce every day for pathogens and microorganisms and clear every product through our lab before it’s shipped all over North America and abroad,” he said.

Though there’s never been a problem with pecans, the risk is there, he said.

“You have to do a good job handling and validate all your processes to make sure.”

Wonderful Pistachios continues Get Crackin’

Wonderful Pistachios is ready for football season with the fourth edition of its Get Crackin’ campaign and two new commercials set to run during the NFL Superbowl game Feb. 3 in the U.S. and Canada.

“The week leading up to the Superbowl is typically our single best week of consumption throughout the year,” said Marc Seguin, vice president of marketing for North America for Los Angeles-based Paramount Farms.

Nine new 15-second spots in the $30 million advertising campaign focus on the fun of opening pistachios and eating them in different ways.

“In this DVR world, people can start and stop and always catch our ads,” he said. “We’ve found that to be very effective.”

Sending pistachios to retail in display bins so retailers can put them right out on the floor and on display is also part of the strategy, Seguin said.

Each bin holds about 260 8-ounce bags.

He said Paramount is also rolling out Salt and Pepper and Chili Lime flavored pistachios in 7-ounce bags, retailing for $3.99, $2.99 on sale.

“We’re on an amazing run with growth of 40%, 35% and 50% in the past three years,” Seguin said.