( Brooke Park )

From healthy recipes to supply chain solutions, the fresh produce industry is adjusting to cater to consumers and the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following companies recently announced pandemic plans.

Chiquita Brands

Chiquita Brands International is promoting a seven-day breakfast plan to ease menu planning during the pandemic.

“Chiquita is committed to highlighting the fun side of healthy living, and kicking off the morning with a nutritious breakfast is a simple way to build a daily routine that supports overall wellness,” Tina Varjabedian, marketing manager of North America, said in a news release. “By sharing a weekly breakfast menu, we hope to not only reduce stress and fuel families throughout the day, but also add a smile to the faces of people across the country as they adjust to the ‘new normal.’”

The recipes are focused on bananas, and include a fresh fruit bowl, pancakes, waffles and fruit salad with granola and yogurt.

DAT Solutions

DAT Solutions, Portland, Ore., has introduced three products to help carriers and brokers to manage some of the uncertainty in the freight business.

“These unprecedented and difficult times are challenging all of us in new ways and, here at DAT, we feel that helping our customers forecast and plan during this highly volatile market is how we can best support them,” Claude Pumilia, president and CEO of the truckload freight marketplace operator, said in a news release.

The new products are:

  • Ratecast: A forecasting tool that provides real-time rate information and predictions to account for short-term market effects, seasonal effects and long-term price trends;
  • Market Conditions Index (MCI): Gives a dynamic indicator of changes in van, refrigerated and flatbed freight supply; and
  • Book Now: A one-touch booking feature to lock in rates, streamlining the negotiation and load booking process.
  • RateCast and MCI are part of DAT Solution’s new iQ brand, home to its truckload pricing and market analysis services, according to the release.

Emerald Packaging

Emerald Packaging, Union City, Calif., has seen a 150% increase in demand for packaging for retail products, resulting in a need to hire more employees.

CEO Kevin Kelly has added extra sanitation measures to keep employees healthy and the facility clean, spending $250,000 extra to keep the 150,000-square-foot manufacturing facility clean.

Those measure, according to a spokeswoman, include:

  • Purchasing “jet pack” floor cleaning power washers;
  • Adding no-touch infrared temperature machines;
  • Hiring two more employees each shift to clean;
  • Paying employees to stay home if they feel sick;
  • Establishing a 24-hour disinfecting program; and
  • Using 7,000 rags a week for cleaning/disinfecting instead of the usually 2,000.


Digital produce trading platform Growerstock, which is deferring fees until June, is looking ahead to trading in the post-pandemic market.

The Los Angeles company has contacted produce industry trade organizations representatives in the federal government, according to “an open letter to the produce industry” from CEO Tony Nuovo.

“We are running models to determine if there are any ways our advanced trading engine can help stabilize the industry and fuel a rapid industry comeback,” according to the letter.

The pandemic has brought technology to the forefront in connecting suppliers with buyers, Nuovo said, with the produce industry providing “a critical pillar of support to the success and health of our nation and its people.”

“Now your success is vital as we all combat current challenges,” Nuovo wrote in the letter. “Growerstock thanks you, and we look toward brighter days as we provide your organization with enhanced procurement and performance opportunities.”


In a campaign to support Florida growers and feed people who are needs, retailer Publix purchased more than 1 million pounds of fruits and vegetables and donated them to Feeding America food banks.

The program, which the Lakeland, Fla., retailer launched on April 22, is in addition to the $2 million that Publix Super Markets Charities has donate to Feeding America food banks.

Publix also donated 100,000 gallons of milk, according to a news release.

“As a food retailer, feeding families is our greatest opportunity to give back, and we are grateful to be able to do so while supporting produce and dairy farmers,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in a news release. “During such challenging times, we are even more committed to supporting those in need and doing good, together.”

The program addressed the loss of demand that growers are seeing with the closure of schools and many restaurants.

“There are some things you can’t plan for, and this is one of them,” Thomas Torbert, 5 Brothers produce senior sales associate,” said in the release. “You just hope that you can find the right people to work with, people who can come up with the right solutions to help you make it through. We found that right partner in Publix.”

United Exports

Blueberry grower-exporter United Exports, which is based in South Africa’s Western Cape, launched a sewing initiative in 2019 for hair nets and bibs, but the focus has turned to making fabric masks.
Ozblu Academy, a United Exports schooling program named after its branded blueberry, oversees the fabric mask program, according to a news release.
Several other United Exports suppliers are adopting the program, including Wolseley Berries, Hex Berries, Lepalala Berries and Waterberg Berries. The fabric masks are reusable.
United Exports said the program is a success.
“It has been effective in uplifting members of an impoverished community, reducing single-use waste and – above all else – it is serving to protect the hundreds of workers executing an essential service in the current COVID-19 climate,” according to the release.

World Variety Produce/Melissa’s

World Variety Produce Inc., the Los Angeles company that markets the Melissa’s brand, is supporting local organizations on the front lines of the pandemic.
The company established a “retail-like display” of Ojai Pixie Tangerines, Red Muscato grapes and Clean Snax line of snack mixes at Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital, near the company’s headquarters. The produce is offered free to hospital staff, according to a news release.
“This area has now become  a welcomed and delicious time-out from the battle being waged elsewhere in the building,” according to a news release.
World Variety Produce also has provided more than 70,000 meals, 35,000 pounds of fresh produce, and financial support to many entities, including: the American Red Cross, Mayors Fund for LA, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank, Winds of Hope Ministries, Pasadena Unified School District, St. Rose Dominican Hospital, and the police and fire departments of the cities of Anaheim and Vernon.

For more information on the industry response to the pandemic, see The Packer's COVID-19 webpage.

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