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In its third consecutive Super Bowl ad, Avocados From Mexico is touting the “good fat” designation that avocados received recently from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

The promotion organization was afforded many accolades for its 2015 and 2016 ads, and AFM President Alvaro Luque said humor will once again be front-and-center for the 2017 commercial. The 30-second spot is expected to air early in the game during the first commercial break.Alvaro-LuqueAlvaro Luque  

AFM will also release a 60- or 90-second version of the ad through social media, as it did the previous two years. While the healthy aspect of avocados will be highlighted, he said it is being done in a fun way.  

Luque said the message this year builds on those that were presented the previous two years. “The first year we used the ad to reinforce that the main origin for avocados was Mexico,” he said. “Last year we focused on the fact that Mexican avocados are always in season. Our new message is that they are healthy and contain good fats.”

Though it might seem difficult to gauge the value of a Super Bowl ad as well as its cost-effectiveness, Luque said it scores on both points. He said there is an “intangible value” of advertising during the Super Bowl.  “It opens doors for us,” he noted, adding that retailers across the country are excited to take part and promote Mexican avocados during the weeks leading up to the event and during Super Bowl weekend itself. AFM’s “Guac Nation” promotion that kicked off in late December and runs through January will generate 26,000 avocado displays.

Last year, the AFM president said the buzz created by the Super Bowl and AFM’s participation led to 2.8 billion AFM impressions on the nation’s consumers.  

And AFM uses the popularity of pro football’s biggest game to kick off its post-Super Bowl promotion called Fanwich, which is a basketball-themed program urging the use of avocados in sandwiches. In mid-January, Luque said AFM had already secured 15,000 retail Fanwich displays for the month of February. It attempts to sell retailers both promotions at the same time.

Super Bowl weekend has long been a huge consumption period for avocados, and this year there should be plenty of fruit available for its favored football-watching use — guacamole. Luque said supply and demand appear to be “right on spot.” He acknowledged that January 2016 was “a little crazy” as there was too much volume in the marketplace, leading to a significant drop in price as the Super Bowl weekend approached. Pricing at farm gate did not recover for several months.

Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc. in Santa Paula, CA, confirmed Luque’s assertion. He told The Produce News Jan. 17 that a very solid market was holding firm as “supply is looking pretty well matched to demand.”

He said Mexican producers have shipped or are expecting to ship about 190 million pounds of avocados to the U.S. market during the first four weeks of January. In 2016, that total was about 210 million pounds.  The 10 percent reduction has kept the market near the $40 level for the most valued sizes. Wedin said that is about $10 greater than one year earlier.

In addition, Mexican producers are forecasting volumes to the U.S. market near the 35 million pounds-per-week level in February. Wedin expects that will keep the market on much more solid footing during the spring.

Robb Bertels, vice president of marketing for Mission Produce Inc. in Oxnard, CA, concurred. “We are in decent shape leading up to the Super Bowl,” he said Jan. 17. “Production has been increasing out of Mexico but the market has still been pretty tight, largely because of the size curve. We think this strong market is going to continue.”

California, which has a crop that is estimated to be around the 200 million-pound level — about half of last year’s volume — has been understandably slow in getting that fruit to market. The market is strong, and Wedin believes some growers, with good-sized fruit, will start picking.

But a couple of strong California rainstorms have given hope that the fruit could size better than expected, adding revenue to that farm gate per-pound return. The key to that, according to Wedin, is patience.  Good winter rain followed by a warm spring should result in larger fruit. The bulk of California’s volume is expected to be marketed in the April-through-August timeframe.  

Bertels said supplies of California avocados are very limited and the local fruit that Mission is packing is mostly destined for export. He said that the fruit on the trees looks very good and appears to be sizing well.

Greg Mooney has joined North Shore as Director of Sales. Mooney joins the company with nearly 30 years of industry experience. His past roles spanned sales, analytics and produce category management, including key positions with Kroger, Fresh Express/Chiquita and Dole.Greg-Mooney---Press-Release

"Greg brings to North Shore Sales & Marketing perspective from both a retailer as well as grower," North Shore Vice President Suzette Overgaag said in a press release. "He has a solid understanding of the business, and we are so excited to have him on our team."

Mooney will take responsibility to drive the company's overall sales and business-development strategy forward. North Shore is currently in the process of expanding its growing capacity to meet the growing demand for living produce.

“I am extremely excited to be joining such a talented team of great associates at this wonderful family owned and operated business,” Mooney said in the release. "Throughout the entire organization, there is a sense of pride unlike any organization that I have been involved with before. North Shore’s commitment to customer service is beyond anything that I have experienced during my 28-year career in the CPG industry.”

Amid fanfare and banners, a load of avocados grown and packed in the Mexican state of Jalisco was headed for Texas the week of Jan. 16-21, marking the first time avocados from that region would have access to the U.S. market.

While that truck was moving north on the Mexican highway, Potatoes USA and the U.S. National Potato Council issued a joint press release noting that “interim steps” had been taken by the United States and Mexico, creating “additional fresh potato access to Mexico” for U.S. producers.

About a day later, the avocado truck was rerouted, a planned celebration in Laredo, TX, was delayed and leaders of the two potato organizations noted that “any actions to open the Mexican market to U.S. fresh potatoes [beyond the 26 kilometer zone along the border which currently has access] are postponed indefinitely.”

It’s unclear exactly what happened and U.S.-Mexico negotiators have not issued any clarifying statement. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that anyone from either government officially will link the efforts to open the U.S. market to Jalisco avocados with the plan to further expand the Mexican market for U.S. potatoes. Off the record, however, several different members of the U.S. fresh produce industry say the twin negotiations have been ongoing for quite some time.

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that all states in Mexico will have the opportunity to ship avocados to the United States providing they follow certain protocols, which had yet to be established. Producers and packers in the Mexican state of Michoacán who follow a prescribed process have had access to the U.S. market on a gradually expanding basis for more than two decades.  Producers in other states have been lobbying for that same access. For more than a decade, U.S. potato producers have been trying to increase their access to the Mexican market.

It appeared that those outcomes had been met this week — and they still may be imminent — but they have been delayed.

Four separate members of the U.S. avocado industry confirmed to The Produce News that the Jalisco avocados were packed and shipped over the weekend, with one person claiming to have seen photos of the event. Another industry representative received an email from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday, Jan. 17, announcing that the Laredo celebratory event had been “postponed indefinitely.”

On the potato front, the update on Monday, Jan. 16, from the two U.S.-based organizations said that Mexico’s agriculture department (SAGARPA) had published a new pest risk assessment for U.S. potatoes and a requirement sheet for the import of those potatoes. The release said that while U.S. and Mexican agricultural officials still have to “define the process by which imports will be allowed,” it characterized this action as “a very positive step in a 15-year process to gain access to all areas of Mexico.”

The release also indicated that immediate access was possible, though it noted that the filing of lawsuits could stop implementation of the effort — a scenario that has happened in the past.

A day later, the same executives for the same two organizations, responding to an email from The Produce News, said it was their understanding that access to Mexico was postponed indefinitely until Mexican regulations are in place.

As a practical matter, Jalisco’s winter production is all but over and the area will not have avocado supplies to ship to the United States again for several months. U.S. potatoes, on the other hand, have year-round availability and could begin shipments as soon as allowed. However, one potato industry member said he has been watching this play out for more than a decade and is not hopeful that a resolution is imminent.

President-elect Donald J. Trump will officially nominate former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue for secretary of agriculture, multiple news outlets reported Jan. 19, rounding out the new administration’s cabinet a day before inauguration.

Perdue, who is no relation to the family that runs the Perdue Farms chicken enterprise, served as a state senator in Georgia before being elected governor in 2003 — the first republican governor in 130 years. He would replace Tom Vilsack, who served as secretary of agriculture since 2009.sonny-perdueSonny Perdue

As governor of Georgia, Perdue enacted strict food-safety regulations after a deadly salmonella outbreak was traced to peanut butter from Georgia.

As head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Perdue would oversee around 100,000 employees and administer a budget of approximately $140 billion spread across multiple programs. He also would be charged with formulating the 2018 farm bill.

"We’re excited to have such as distinguished candidate from Georgia be nominated as secretary of agriculture," said Susan A. Waters, executive director of the Vidalia Onion Committee. "Having grown up on a farm, Sonny Perdue has not only a good understanding but the right qualifications to assist and support farmers. We think he’ll be a great asset for the agricultural industry."

“We support the nomination of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as secretary of agriculture and congratulate him on gaining the confidence of President-elect Trump," Tom Nassif, Western Growers president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Over the course of Gov. Perdue’s career, he has proven to be a consummate champion for agriculture and will undoubtedly serve our industry well in this capacity. We look forward to working with the governor to develop and implement the public policy priorities of the fresh produce industry.

"While the secretary’s importance to agriculture is obvious, Gov. Perdue will assume the role at a particularly vital time as our country reengages in a discussion about the future of our immigration system," Nassif said. "Reform is essential to the long-term viability of American agriculture, which is unique among industries that rely on foreign workers in that our labor needs cannot be met by domestic workers. Foreign hands will harvest our crops, either here or abroad. It is our hope that once confirmed, Governor Perdue will be a relentless advocate for immigration reform that works for agriculture and will present our case to the president, other key cabinet members and members of Congress who will be engaged in future negotiations."

“We congratulate Gov. Perdue on his selection as the next secretary of agriculture. We have high regards for this past work with our Georgia fruit and vegetable industry, and are confident he will bring a passion and commitment to supporting agriculture, and helping us deliver healthy foods to all Americans," Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and CEO, said in a release. "We anticipate meeting with Gov. Perdue soon, and working with him on critical issues such as securing an adequate workforce through immigration reform and a new guest worker program, bolstering free and fair trade, serving the neediest Americans through federal feeding programs and more. ”

"We look forward to working with him once the nominee is confirmed," said Kathy Means, PMA's vice president of industry relations. "Produce and floral are critical to the ag economy as well as trade, and we stand ready to help in the transition and the work ahead. It’s encouraging to have an ag secretary from a state like Georgia, with such a diverse ag sector, including a strong fruit and vegetable industry."

Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Association, based in LaGrange, said, “We’re very pleased that former Georgia Governor Perdue is the designee for secretary of agriculture. He is involved in agriculture himself and is very familiar with what’s going on with different types of agriculture. With the various different types of crops and production we have in Georgia, he will have a great background to help the produce industry.”

Hall added that he hoped Perdue would continue the advancements that have made in the farm bill with respect to specialty crop research funding and block grants.

Additionally, he said, “When he was governor, he was very open and accessible, and I feel good that we’ll have a very open secretary for all agriculture, especially the specialty crop industry.”

Supervalu Inc. announced that Anne Dament has been named senior vice president of retail, merchandising and marketing effective immediately. In this role, Dament will lead the company's retail banner operations, oversee the retail merchandising and marketing functions, and report to Mark Gross, Supervalu’s president and chief executive officer.supervaluAnne Dament

Dament, a 25-year retail veteran who began her career at Supervalu, most recently served as senior vice president of merchandising for Target Corp., where she oversaw food merchandising for its grocery business, including perishables, non-perishables, food service and private label brands.

"I’m thrilled that Anne is joining our leadership team,” Gross said in a press release. “As we focus on improving our retail store performance, Anne's experience across varied retail and merchandising disciplines should prove extremely beneficial. Anne is a dynamic, collaborative leader with great experience building and leading high performing teams through transformation and change.”

“Returning to Supervalu provides a great opportunity to collaborate with grocery veterans I’ve respected throughout my career. Together, I’m looking forward to bringing a renewed energy to our retail banners,” Dament said in the release.

Prior to joining Target, Dament spent seven years in senior level positions at PetSmart, including roles as vice president of merchandising solutions and vice president of services. Dament’s retail career also includes 10 years in roles of increasing responsibility for Safeway, where she held numerous category director positions, as well as the positions of vice president, business unit general manager, homecare and general merchandise; group vice president,; and group vice president of perishable strategy.

A native Minnesotan, Dament holds a marketing degree from St. Thomas University in St. Paul, MN.