Sun World’s Vangelos beets all

11/28/2011 08:41:00 AM
Mike Hornick

In a five-decade-plus produce career spanning the likes of Sun World International, Calavo Growers, Dole and General Foods, no commodity was beyond the reach of Al Vangelos.
Not even the beets in Russian borscht.
In one of his lesser known roles, Vangelos — who plans to retire as Sun World chief executive officer in mid-January — became board chairman of Minneapolis, Minn.-based Russian Farm Community Project in 2004. 
The project formed in 1993 to help boost agriculture’s profitability in Russia’s transition to capitalism.
“About an hour-and-a-half north of Moscow, we bought an old distribution center and updated it as best we could,” Vangelos said.
Production
Besides beets, it processes onions, carrots, potatoes, radishes and cabbage under the Treasure of the Sun label. 
The products go to retail and foodservice in Moscow. 
There’s also a 600-cow dairy farm and a 2,500-acre vegetable and forage farm.
The board wasn’t expecting to get rich quick, and their expectations were not disappointed. 
There’s no beet bubble in Russia.
“We hired about 100 people,” he said. 
“The whole purpose was to put people to work.”
With that purpose served, the board plans to sell its stake. 
It’s one of Vangelos’ priorities when he returns to his Laguna Beach, Calif., firm Novelle Consulting LLC.
“We’re in the process of phasing out,” he said. 
“We said, ‘What are a bunch of Americans who don’t speak Russian doing with a business in Russia?’”
Well, when you put it like that the question does suggest one direction rather than another. 
On the other hand, right about now holiday shoppers are stocking up on beets at their local Pyaterochka or Perekrestok retail outlets.
Good luck on your next adventure, Al.
Pizza my mind
Word spread quickly to California last week that pizza is a vegetable. Or that tomato paste is, which might amount to the same thing.
If there were any more spin on this story, people would tip over. 
Faster, if they’re obese. 
There’s something vertigo-inducing about federal appropriations policy that I can only attribute to the population’s Eastern tilt. 
What have things come to, if you’re left looking to California for balance?
Here all these years I thought pizza was a grain — bleached flour and all that. 
I sprang into action, and ordered a deep dish with the works.
The congressman from my district, Carmel, Calif., Dem. Sam Farr, found much to savor in the House appropriations bills but held his nose at the pertinent provisions.
“I am disappointed that a ‘pizza rule’ was added that will predetermine how new regulations can address tomato paste and puree and sodium,” Farr said in a statement. 
“Part of raising a healthy generation of Americans includes providing the right school meals that allow them to lead healthy lives. 
“This provision has taken us a step back away from that goal.”
mhornick@thepacker.com
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