In keeping with a longstanding tradition, The Produce News office will be closed Dec. 21-29 to celebrate the holidays and give our staff some down time to spend with their families.
We will resume our normal schedule for posting breaking industry news Dec. 30. In the meantime, happy holidays as we all look forward to a healthy and prosperous new year.
The Produce News staff
The Michigan Apple Committee’s Healthy Living program — a great fit for consumers who will use the new year as an opportunity to commit to a healthier lifestyle — aims to educate consumers about the health benefits of eating Michigan apples on a regular basis.
The program will run from January through March everywhere Michigan apples are sold, and it will feature a sweepstakes where consumers have the chance to win one of three treadmills.
“The Healthy Living Program is a great way for consumers to start the new year with Michigan apples,” said Diane Smith, MAC executive director. “The sweepstakes gives consumers the chance to win one of three treadmills, which is a perfect complement to healthy food choices as consumers make their New Year’s resolutions for a healthier lifestyle.”
The Michigan Apple Committee will work with retailers across the country to promote the program. Sweepstakes specifics will be included on Michigan Apple bag tags. The program will also include in-store chef demonstrations in major retail stores that feature healthy Michigan apple recipes and allow consumers to taste three of Michigan’s premium varieties: Jonagold, Fuji and Gala.
“Commitment to a healthier lifestyle means more than just losing weight,” said Smith. “Apples offer an array of health benefits and are continually being studied for their role in prevention and management of chronic diseases. We’re focusing on healthy choices, not just looking ‘fit’.”
Consumers and retailers alike can find health information about Michigan apples on MAC’s website at www.MichiganApples.com/healthy-living.
The Michigan Apple Committee is a grower-funded nonprofit organization devoted to marketing, education and research activities to distinguish the Michigan apple and encourage its consumption in Michigan and around the world.
A holiday promotion from Avocados From Mexico, which started in November and runs through Jan. 3, is going exceptionally well and there has been much interest in the organization's next major promotion, which starts late December and runs through February, Maggie Bezart Hall, vice president of trade and marketing, told The Produce News Dec.. 20.
Avocados From Mexico is a partnership between the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association and the Avocado Producers & Exporting Packers Association of Michoacàn (more commonly known by the acronyms MHAIA and APEAM).
The two promotions are part of an ambitious marketing campaign for the 2013-14 season consisting of a series of promotions tied to seasonal events or activities.
The first of these was an Avocados All-Stars promotion, which started in late September and continued through late October, coinciding with the Major League Baseball post-season playoff period.
The holiday promotion has two components: a Spanish-language component called "Feliz Navidad," and a general market component called "Perfect for a Holiday Gathering."
According to Hall, "when we first started on the road of this promotion it was to focus just on the Hispanic stores, but we had such broad interest that we had to take it to the general market also."
The promotion ties in with Modelo beer and is designed to and increase avocado velocity with coupons, she said.
However, by law the Modelo tie-in is not permitted in all locations.
"When you tie in with any kind of alcohol there are different regulations cross the country, so we had to come up with different kinds of coupon versions to be able to meet the needs of all the states across the country," she said.
Therefore, some coupons offer a mail-in rebate of $5 with the purchase of 12-pack or larger of Modelo and the purchase of three avocados from Mexico, and others offer a $2 savings instantly with the purchase of any pork product and three Mexican avocados.
"Our highest interest has been in the one with pork," Hall said. "For that reason, we decided to do a sandwich recipe to go on our signage, that was created by [Chef] Rick Bayless."
Because of the high interest in the pork offer, for next year "we are going to look ... to increase that promotion and look at other partners that we can work through that promotion. Pork is a very important part of the holidays for the Hispanics. They use it in a lot of dishes," she said.
For the promotion, "we created new signage which is really fun," she said. It is 3-D signage that features Modelo and Avocados From Mexico, and the coupon pad.
"We have retail display contest running across the country where for every photo that is submitted they receive a $25 Avocados From Mexico visa gift card," Hall said. "Also, each retailer is setting their own contest based on their own parameters" with cash prizes for the winners.
Following the holiday promotion and carrying through February is the "Ultimate Game Day" promotion, which is "one of our major promotions of the year," Hall said. The program is a partnership with Mission Foods tortillas and tortilla chips and Cholula hot sauce.
"We have a very large television [advertising] program that is not only going to be on network but cable," with coverage on NBC, ABC, Bravo, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel and NFL Network," she said. "The promotion starts Dec. 30 to capture the game day fever [for] the college bowl games, leading into the NFL playoffs" and then the Super Bowl.
The promotion is a fully integrated program, she said. "In print we have a four-color full-page ad in People magazine, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated. It will also include digital advertising, as well as video ads that will be running in the major social media networks."
The promotion will feature over 30 retail display contests with various retailers as well as sweepstakes for consumers "where we will be giving away four $5,000 grocery gift cards," she said.
In all, more than $95,000 in retail promotion money being offered during the "Ultimate Game Day" promotion in addition to $20,000 for the consumer sweepstakes.
More than 2.5 million coupons being distributed nationally for consumers to buy three avocados from Mexico and one bottle of Cholula hot sauce and get one package of Mission chips or tortillas free between Dec. 30 and Feb 28.
In addition to those major promotions, "we have retail-specific programming running throughout every month," Hall said.
In Texas, cowboys do not retire — they ride off into the sunset. John McClung, president and chief executive officer of the Texas International Produce Association since 1999 and a former United Fresh and national government official, recently packed his saddlebags and has officially turned over the reins of TIPA to Bret Erickson, who had already been serving in that capacity for the past year-plus.
Despite McClung’s protestations that he “didn’t want any *&^%$ party, no @#$%* speeches, and no #$%&@ parting gifts or awards,” more than 50 well-wishers turned up at the Nuevo Santander Art Gallery in McAllen, TX, to provide an appropriate sendoff for the man who played a pivotal role in expanding the Texas produce deal across international borders.
Said Erickson, “We showered him with praise and he seemed to have a great time catching up with a lot of his old friends, some of whom he hadn’t seen in a while.”
The setting was particularly fitting since McClung, an accomplished woodworker, has several pieces on display in the gallery. He will have more time to pursue that activity moving forward and also looks forward to focusing more on the bucolic bed and breakfast he and wife, Judy, operate near McAllen as a getaway for birdwatchers.
McClung became president of TIPA (then Texas Produce Association) in 1999 and oversaw the Texas Produce Export Association; Texas Gift Pack Shippers Association; Texas Produce Marketing Cooperative; TexaSweet Citrus Industries Inc.; and three federal marketing orders for South Texas (citrus, dry onions and melons). He also served on the Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee of U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a member of the Texas Border Coalition and is active on boards of the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation, Frontera Audubon Society and Friends of the Wildlife Corridor.
McClung began his career in 1968 as a general assignment reporter for United Press International based in California. After completing his masters at the University of Minnesota in 1971 he joined Miller Publishing, a subsidiary of the American Broadcasting Co., and in 1973 was named that operation’s Washington bureau chief.
In 1981 he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as director of Information & Legislative Affairs for the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service. In 1984, he became USDA’s overall director of Information.
In 1987, McClung became senior director of Public Affairs for United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association (now United Fresh Produce Association) and in 1990 was named vice president for Government Relations and Public Affairs.
Prime Time Sales LLC in Coachella, CA, which specializes in bell peppers grown in both Mexico and the United States, first ran trials of mini-sweet peppers as an expansion of its line in mainland Mexico during the 2010-11 season, crossing the products into Nogales, AZ.
The trials went well, and the company increased production in 2011-12 and again in 2012-13, according to Mike Aiton, marketing manager.
This year, the company has again increased its mini-sweet pepper production, Aiton said Nov. 19. “We have never had as many mini-peppers in Mexico as we have this winter. That is one item we have grown considerably across the board, maybe 20 percent from last year.”
The little mini-sweets are typically about one and a half inches long, he said. Like the company’s full-sized colored bell peppers, the mini-sweets come in red, yellow and orange.
“Right now, the mini peppers are very active [with] very high prices,” Aiton said. “In advance of the holidays, the markets are high” as demand exceeds supply. “We are just now coming into what I would call good volume, and it is going to get bigger for us with every passing week,” he said. “[It is] a great item. We have quite a good following on that particular item right now.”
Apart from the mini-sweets, “our program is largely unchanged” from last year for the Nogales deal, Aiton said.
Prime Time’s Mexican production consists of red, yellow, orange and green bell peppers plus the mini-sweets and, in addition, round vine ripe tomatoes, Roma tomatoes and grape tomatoes.
The acreage this season is “fairly static” on the bell peppers and up about 20 percent on the tomato products, but while the bell peppers are grown in the state of Sinaloa in mainland Mexico, the tomato products are grown on the Baja Peninsula. They cross into the United Sates at San Diego rather than Nogales.
Prime Time has both hothouse and field-grown bell peppers, Aiton said. “We have both elongated and blocky” styles. “The biggest item we have are the field grown elongated red peppers. Next is green bells, then our hothouse varieties — red, yellow and orange — are next in terms of volume.”
The company began receiving hothouse peppers from Sinaloa in early November. “Volume is going to continue to increase as we move deeper into the season,” Aiton said.
The green bell peppers were expected to start around the first week in December, with the field-grown red bells starting around Christmastime. Those are “fairly typical starting dates,” he said.
Prime Time was currently receiving tomato products from its grower in the Vizcaino area of Baja. “Those are all loading in San Diego right now” and will go all the way through winter, he said. The company also has a spring deal out of La Paz in southern Baja.
One advantage for Prime Time in its Mexican production, according to Aiton, is that it is very consistent with the company’s California production. “The packinghouse that we have in Sinaloa, for example, is the exact duplicate of the one we have in Coachella,” he said. “The standards are the same. The people are the same. The policies and procedures are the same. Our customers tell us it is very seamless to move from one area to another just because of the consistency and the quality and the sizing and the packs that we put up. So having complete control, I think, is an advantage for us.”