California Giant Inc. opens office in Chile

Watsonville, Calif.-based California Giant Inc. has opened its first office in Chile, said Joe Barsi, the company’s director of business development.

The office, in Santiago’s Las Condes neighborhood, opened in October and will have two or three employees working there this season, Barsi said. Nader Musleh, who has worked for Cal Giant for two seasons, is the company’s country manager.

Growth in its Chilean business and a commitment to supply customers with a year-round supply of blueberries helped drive the decision, Barsi said.

Oppenheimer Group expects Ocean Spray sales to grow

For the second year, Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group will pack Chilean blueberries under the Ocean Spray label, said Nolan Quinn, the company’s berry category director.

After a strong showing in its inaugural year, Quinn expects another good season in 2010-11.

When it comes to brand identities, he said, it’s hard to beat Ocean Spray.

“We had a smaller program planned last year, and wound up doing more,” he said. “It worked out fairly well. Ocean Spray has 97% brand recognition.”

A higher percentage of the Chilean blueberries Oppenheimer sells this year are expected to be packed under the Ocean Spray label, Quinn said.

Some, however, will still be packed under the company’s own Oppenheimer label, he said.

Ocean Spray-branded Chilean blueberries could be cross-marketed this season with Ocean Spray’s new line of blueberry juices, which was introduced in late 2009, Quinn said.

A similar effort this summer included couponing, but Quinn did not know if Ocean Spray’s promotional budget for the winter would include coupons.

Sun Belle adds Chicago employee and plans move to Maryland

Washington, D.C.-based Sun Belle Inc. has hired a new business manager in its Chicago office and has plans to move into a new warehouse and office in Maryland in 2011.

Ken Hopps joined Sun Belle the week of Oct. 4, said Janice Honigberg, the company’s president.

Hopps, who has extensive produce and floral industry experience, joins Sun Belle from Lee’s Summit, Mo.-based FreshXperts, a cooperative of eight consultants, each specializing in different sectors of the produce industry.

Hopps, who grew up in Mexico, has a lot of experience importing produce from Latin America, Honigberg said.

Sun Belle plans to officially open its new East Coast facility in Hyattsville, Md., next summer, though it will be using the warehouse and office before then, Honigberg said.

At almost 50,000 square feet, the new building is much larger than the company’s facility in Washington, D.C., proper, Honigberg said.

Sun Belle has been in that facility since 1993, and has expanded it, but the company’s steady growth necessitated a move, Honigberg said.

Rosemont Farms veteran joins Sun Valley International

In September, Bob Ritchart, a longtime employee of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Rosemont Farms, joined Tampa, Fla.-based Sun Valley International as the company’s vice president of sales.

Ritchart said he relished the chance to get in on the ground floor of a new enterprise. Last season was the first in which Sun Valley, a division of logistics specialist Cargo Transport Inc., began importing fruit.

“This will be the first full year for us to take our temperature and gauge our success,” he said. “It’s good to get with somebody in the industry who’s hungry. A lot of people out there are excited for us.”

One big draw for Ritchart about joining Sun Valley was the company’s logistics advantage over other importers, given its parent company.

“Logistics-wise they have all the lanes, their own independent trucks, transportation out of growing areas,” he said. “Cargo Transport has phenomenal name recognition and a great reputation.”

Ritchart worked for Rosemont for 9½ years, leaving the company as category sales manager.

Jack Callahan, the company’s executive vice president, said he was excited to be working with such a seasoned veteran of the produce business.

“Bob is a no-nonsense veteran with more than 20 years in the Industry, 16 years in produce sales specializing in imported and domestic fruit,” Callahan said. “His ability to create effective and value-added programs is well documented, and we believe his talent coupled with our new model will provide outstanding value to our customers.”

By Markets Editor Andy Nelson