The North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission announced the winners of the "Savor Your Sweets" recipe contest, a promotion with independent restaurant operators in the Southeast inviting chefs and consumers to look at sweet potatoes in new ways.
The winners, Cuban Sweet Potato Tacos and Sweet Potato Rice Pudding, aren't typical sweet potato dishes, but Taqueria del Sol and The Kings Kitchen pushed contemporary thinking into new areas.
With the help of USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funding through the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission ran the promotion from April through October 2013.
Taqueria del Sol, with multiple locations, including one in Cary, NC, won the savory category with its Cuban tacos. Diced sweet potatoes were stewed with a typical ground beef and cheese filling for a sweet contrast. On the sweet side, The Kings Kitchen took top honors with its Sweet Potato Rice Pudding.
Both winners received a $1,000 prize. Diners were also able to judge, and selected Sweet Potato Churros from Cantina 18 as the People's Choice winner.
Sue Johnson-Langdon, director of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, visited Taqueria del Sol and presented the check to one of its owners, Chris Calloway, along with Annabel Rocha who created the dish.
"The creativity we see from recipe contests never ceases to amaze me, and the independent restaurants added a new twist to a tool we have used to successfully promote NC sweet potatoes," Johnson-Langdon said in a press release.
The "Savor Your Sweets" promotion ran throughout the Southeast, with heaviest participation in North Carolina, where nearly half of all U.S.-grown sweet potatoes are produced.
The North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission is a nonprofit corporation made up of almost 350 sweet potato growers, packers and processors.
Ready Pac Foods Inc. hired Sally Erickson as its new chief financial officer. In her new position, Erickson will oversee the direction of the company’s financial goals and objectives. She will report directly to Tony Sarsam, Ready Pac’s chief executive officer.
“We are thrilled to have her operational knowledge and experience in creating proven financial strategies, and we look forward to her insights to help achieve our company goals,"Sarsam said in a press release.
Erickson joins Ready Pac with more than 25 years of hands-on finance experience, including directing a variety of complex financial projects, engaging in business and divisional development, overseeing international multi-plant manufacturing and strengthening financial operations within a global arena.
Erickson was previously with Sealy Corp., where she spent 17 years in various positions. Since 2011, she served as the vice president of specialty bedding finance, where she created a profitable business within the specialty bedding start-up division. Prior to Sealy, Erickson also held financial management positions for Emerson Electric, Robert Bosch Corp. and Rexnord Inc.
Originally from Iowa, Erickson earned her bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls and her MBA from Capital University in Columbus, OH. She started with Ready Pac Feb. 18 in the Irwindale, CA, corporate offices.
Key Food Stores Co-operative Inc., a chain of independently owned and operated grocery stores, announced the grand opening of its newest location at 2711 White Plains Road, Bronx, NY. A grand opening ceremony was held the morning of March 7.
"We are so proud to welcome the newest Key Food into our supermarket family," Chief Executive Officer Dean Janeway said in a press release. "This community deserves a high-quality shopping experience, and [store owner] Miguel Luna has done a great job remodeling this store."
This new Key Food has been completely renovated, offering customers fully expanded produce and deli departments, a larger assortment of quality items, and fresh bread baked daily on premises. This store has also become more energy efficient, installing brand-new refrigeration, freezers and lighting systems.
"I am so proud to open my doors and bring a Key Food to this area," Luna said in the press release. "I believe very strongly in the Key Food family; my brothers are also members. I am very excited to join this neighborhood and look forward to welcoming and servicing the community."
Safeway Inc. and Albertsons announced a definitive agreement under which AB Acquisition LLC, the owner of Albertsons, will acquire all outstanding shares of Safeway for $40 a share, totaling $9 billion.
The merger agreement was unanimously approved by the board of directors of Safeway. It will create a diversified network that includes over 2,400 stores, 27 distribution facilities and 20 manufacturing plants with over 250,000 dedicated and loyal employees. No store closures are expected as a result of this transaction.
Bob Miller, Albertsons current chief executive officer, will become executive chairman. Robert Edwards, Safeway’s current president and CEO, will become president and CEO of the combined company.
“This transaction offers us the opportunity to better serve customers by adapting more quickly to evolving shopping preferences in diverse regions across the country," Miller said in a press release. "It also brings together two great organizations with talented management teams. Robert Edwards and his team have done an outstanding job in positioning Safeway’s core business for success, by investing in its stores and creating innovative strategic marketing programs that contribute to shareholder value. Working together will enable us to create cost savings that translate into price reductions for our customers. Together, we will be able to respond to local needs more quickly and deliver outstanding products at the lowest possible price, more efficiently than ever before.”
“This merger is one of several actions we have taken in recent months as a result of our strategic business review," Edwards said in the release. "The combined value of the transactions described above is expected to deliver a premium to Safeway’s shareholders of 72 percent from one year ago, and 56 percent over the share price six months ago. Safeway has been focused on better meeting shoppers’ diverse needs through local, relevant assortment, an improved price/value proposition and a great shopping experience that has driven improved sales trends. We are excited about continuing this momentum as a combined organization. We look forward to working with Bob Miller and the rest of the Albertsons team as we proceed together on a path towards becoming an even stronger organization.”
Banners will include Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Albertsons, ACME, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw’s, Star Market, Super Saver, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Amigos.
The merger agreement includes a “go-shop” period, during which Safeway, with the assistance of Goldman Sachs, its financial advisor, will actively solicit, receive, evaluate and potentially enter into negotiations with parties that offer alternative proposals. The initial go-shop period is 21 days. For a 15-day period following the termination of the go-shop period, Safeway will be permitted to continue discussions and enter into or recommend a transaction with any person that submitted a qualifying proposal during the 21-day period. A successful competing bidder who makes a superior proposal during the go-shop period would bear a $150 million termination fee. For a competing bidder who did not qualify during the go-shop period, the termination fee would be $250 million.
The mango industry continues to marvel at how supplies continue to increase yet the market remains strong. The numbers tell the story. According to the National Mango Board, mango consumption per capita in the United States increased by about one-third from 2005 to 2012, which is the last year that per capita consumption numbers were available.
In 2012, more than 800 million pounds of mangos were imported into the United States. Last year, the number of imports topped 900 million pounds. With similar growth this year, 1 billion pounds is within reach… or at least on the near horizon.
Ronnie Cohen, vice president of sales and one of the founding partners of Vision Import Group, River Edge, NJ, believes growth in the category will continue unabated for the next decade. And he believes the potential is there for more than 20 years of continuous growth as long as the industry gets creative and comes out with some new packs and some value-added products.
Larry Neinkerk, president of Splendid Products LLC, in Burlingame, CA, and another longtime mango importer, is just as bullish. He said the National Mango Board has done a “fabulous job” of promoting mangos and coordinating the top promotional efforts with the heavy shipping periods.
This year again has gotten off to a good start as heavier-than-usual supplies from Peru during the first two months of the year were met with strong marketing opportunities. And that situation has continued. Transitioning into the Mexican season in March, importers were expecting lighter supplies and a very good market. Bill Vogel, president of Vision Produce Co., in Los Angeles, and the current chairman of the National Mango Board, said in late February that Mexico was running about two weeks behind normal. So he expects a strong market throughout March. He said heavier supplies in April should lead to good promotions, good movement and good prices.
Vogel said that one of the secrets to increased sales is to give the consumer a top-quality product. In fact, he believes it was Peru’s top quality that led to higher prices this winter despite higher volumes. “That’s a testament to the good eating quality of the fruit,” he said.
Gary Clevenger, managing member and co-founding partner of Freska Produce International Inc., Oxnard, CA, was also anticipating a drop in supplies from Mexico in March but expects that to be followed up by increased supplies throughout the rest of the summer.
He said mango sales have been increasing every year and he sees no reason for that to stop anytime soon. Despite the lower volume from Mexico in March, Clevenger expects those shippers to make that up as the season moves forward.
“Beginning in late March and all through April, May, June and July we should see great volume from Mexico and great opportunities for promotion,” he said. “Every year Mexico seems to set a new record (for mango shipments to the United States) and I think it will be the same this year.”
The Mexican mango season typically begins in February with shipments from the states in the most southern region, including Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero. The yellow-skinned Ataulfo typically dominates the early shipments with red-skinned mango varieties following behind by a couple of weeks.
As it gets deeper into spring and throughout the summer, the harvest moves north. First into Michoacán than Jalisco and Nayarit. Finally, Sinaloa checks in in late spring with fruit throughout the summer.
By the end of the summer and into September, Los Mochis, in the northern reaches of Sinaloa, is the last major Mexican production area to produce mangos and send them to the United States.
Of course, there are several other sources of mangos to the U.S. market over the next few months including the Central American countries of Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala.
The market price for mangos was as much as $8.50 per flat in late February before Peru reached its peak week during the later stages of the month. With that peak, came a drop in price, but importers were expecting it to spike again once Peru winds down.
March could see strong pricing throughout the month, but to a person, each exporter predicted promotional pricing levels once April showed up on the calendar.