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Tops has added five new Chef’d meal kit varieties to its two fan favorites. Chef’d meal kits, offered exclusively at Tops, are ideal for busy individuals and families on the go. Now with seven varieties of delicious choices to choose from, one for every night of the week, Chef’d meal kits take the pre-planning out of nightly meals and put time back in the consumer's day.chef

“Chef'd answers the question for the person who says — I still want to feel like I've done all the cooking myself, but I don't want to dedicate two hours to go through the whole process,” said Jeff Culhane, senior vice president of merchandising for Tops. “They are a great option for those looking for a well-balanced meal too. Because they're using fresh ingredients, there are less preservatives. You have a good balance between protein, carbs and veggies.”

These dinner-made-easy meals offer generous portions for two of fresh, simple ingredients allowing you to make a healthy meal, every time, in as little as 10 minutes often with plenty of left-overs to enjoy the next day. Pre-portioned ingredients take the guess work out of measuring, simple step-by-step recipe instructions are included, and unlike other meal kits, there are no subscription plans required.

The meal kit varieties are 20 Clove Garlic Chicken, Black Truffle Butter Sirloin Steak, Smoky Maple Pork Loin, Chicken Tikka Masala, Fried Chicken and Waffles, Weeknight Chicken Pad Thai and Herb Crusted Flank Steaks.

Tops originally launched the Chef’d line in November of 2017. Chef’d partners with celebrated chefs and is led by an award-winning culinary team with more than 30 years of experience in the food industry. Bringing that experience and expertise from their kitchens to customer’s tables to share with their families is something Tops is very excited to stand behind.

These meal kits are the result of a partnership between Smithfield, a global food company, and Chef’d, allowing the teams to combine Smithfield’s unique knowledge of product development, sourcing capabilities, distribution network, and brand portfolio with Chef’d’s world-famous chefs, portfolio of delicious dishes, and direct-to-consumer experience.

HERMOSILLO, SONORA, MEXICO -- Mexico is expected to export 15.85 million boxes of table grapes this spring. This is a decrease by 24 percent, or 5.16 million boxes, from last year’s record crop of 21 million boxes. This year’s total is regarded by the Mexican grape industry as a normal level, with plenty of grapes for retail promotions this spring. Grape quality is regarded as very high.2018-4-19-1625-Perlettes

The main Sonoran grape harvest is to begin in the first days of May. This grape deal will run into early July.

These numbers were released to The Produce News early April 20 as Mexico’s grape industry and its suppliers gathered at Hermosillo’s Los Lagos golf club for the announcement. Juan Laborin, director general of AALPUM, indicated that the estimate was derived from his contact with every grower, asking for last year’s final export numbers. The growers individually provided 2018 estimates for different types of grapes.

AALPUM, the Mexican grape growers association, is based in Hermosillo. AALPUM is an acronym for Asociación Agrícola Local de Productores de Uva de Mesa.

Mid-season green seedless grapes for export are expected to take the largest hit in production in 2018, dropping 30 percent from a total of 4.4 million cases in 2017 to 3.1 million cases this year.

Early green seedless are expected to be down 28 percent to 2.6 million cases. Early green seedless production in 2017 was 3.6 million cases.

Red seedless varieties this year will be down 23 percent from 10.1 million cases last season. The 2018 estimate is for 7.8 million boxes of red seedless table grapes from Mexico.

Red seeded, black and other varieties are each expected to be down 15 percent this spring. Red seeded export production this year is estimated to be 584,000 cases. Black grape volume is anticipated to be 1.1 million boxes. Other varieties should total 713,000 boxes.

Laborin was to offer full comments on the estimate mid-day in Hermosillo, but in recent weeks, he and other industry leaders had stressed that last year's crop had broken all records. Early unofficial guesstimates proved to be highly accurate at 16 million. That volume is regarded a normal. Thus, they stressed retailers will have plenty of promotable volumes and noted the industry will need those promotions to move their healthy crop.

The volume is lower than last year because of unusually high heat in Sonora in December, January and February. In late February, there was frost damage is some districts which lowered productivity. While there are new production areas coming into production in Mexico, those table grape volumes outside of Sonora for 2018 are not yet significant.

On April 20, AALPUM was also releasing recommended retail promotion dates. Promotions for early green seedless would be ideal running from May 22 to June 11. AALPUM encourages red seedless promotions for the five weeks from May 22 to June 25. A four-week span, June 5-July 2, is recommended for green seedless grapes. And red seedless will be available for promotable volumes in the span of May 29 to June 18.

The Produce News will provide further details after the April 20 meeting.

Food Lion has introduced in-store helper Marty the Robot at a store in La Follette, TN. These helpful robots are currently in four Giant/Martin’s stores in Pennsylvania and the brand plans to deploy them to all 171 Giant/Martin’s stores by the end of 2018.robo

These friendly robotic associates have been roaming the aisles of several Giant/Martin’s stores since last year, and now Food Lion is also putting the concept to the test. Marty maneuvers around using advanced artificial intelligence and the same laser imaging technology found in self-driving vehicles. He can perform checks that help the store run more smoothly and safely for both customers and associates.

Marty clean sweeps the store 12 times each day to identify slip and fall hazards on the floor and alert associates. When he finds a severe hazard, he pages associates and positions himself by the spill, notifying customers to be cautious. Marty can also scan the shelves for out-of-stocks and to check that shelf pricing is aligned with the front end register system.

With his big eyes, nametag and Shop & Earn ribbon, Marty has been hard at work at the La Follette store for a number of weeks now, and has drawn a great deal of attention from associates and customers alike. While the store is open, Marty quietly goes about his business, moving up and down the aisles and calmly avoiding people or other obstacles. He “sleeps” at night in a charging station so he is powered up and ready to work each morning.

Store Manager Cindy McCulloch said at first Marty was something of a curiosity to both associates and customers, but has quickly become a valued member of the store team. Customers still stop and look, and associates quickly make introductions. "He's becoming quite popular, and many of our customers come by the store with friends and family just to 'meet' our newest associate," she said. They’ve even seen numerous Facebook postings and selfies with Marty. 

In future, they hope to improve the design to incorporate temperature checks and reporting so store managers can focus on other activities.

In accordance with the Apr. 20 start date announced by the Vidalia Onion Committee, Giumarra will begin shipping both organic and conventional Vidalia onions the third week of April. Giumarra Southeast is pleased to offer promotable volumes of Nature’s Partner-brand Vidalia onions in bulk and bagged pack styles.vida

“This year, we will have increased volume available throughout the season,” said Stu Monaghan, division manager of Giumarra Southeast. “Quality is looking excellent and we have been discussing marketing opportunities with our customers who consider Vidalia’s a cornerstone of their onion category. Consumers ask for them by name.”

Now in the third year of its onion program, Giumarra is continuing to offer Vidalia and sweet onions in partnership with G&R Farms of Glennville, GA.

“We know that organics are of growing importance to consumers, and we are excited to offer our customers an organic option for this summer favorite,” said Kristina Lorusso, regional business development director for Giumarra.

Giumarra’s domestic Vidalia onion season is complemented by Peruvian sweet onions to round out a 12-month sweet onion supply, all loading from the same location in Glennville.

Exhibitor booth registration is now open for the Organic Grower Summit, slated for Dec. 12-13 in Monterey, CA. Organic supply chain partners and service providers are encouraged to sign up for a booth at the second annual OGS, which features two days of information, education, and networking opportunities with organic growers.ogs

Produced by California Certified Organic Farmers and the Organic Produce Network, OGS will include targeted educational sessions on various aspects of organic production from leading authorities. Additional keynote presentations from influential and preeminent speakers on a variety of issues and opportunities in organic produce, meat, dairy, and processed organic items are also on the two-day agenda.

“There is a strong appetite for information and networking opportunities that bring together the various sectors of the organic community. OGS is an outstanding opportunity to exchange ideas and information that help us to advance organic for a healthy world,” said Cathy Calfo, executive director and chief executive officer of CCOF.

With 27 sponsors already committed to participating at OGS, exhibitors will include seed, packaging, soil amendment, food safety, ag technology and equipment manufacturers connecting with organic field production staff, supply chain managers, pest management advisors and food-safety experts.

“The organic community truly sees the benefit of an event connecting organic growers and farmers with those in the supply and service chain. As organic continues to grow, the need for expanded education and information throughout the farming community is paramount to its continued success,” said Tonya Antle, co-founder of the Organic Produce Network. “Working together with CCOF, OGS is the right event to bring all components of our community together to exchange ideas and information.”

OGS will be held at the Monterey Conference Center. General registration is slated to open in July, with components of the educational program, including session topics and speakers, to be released in the coming months.

To date 27 companies have signed on as sponsors of the event: AGCO, Valent, Driscoll, Moxxy Marketing, California Organic Fertilizer, Vitalis Organic Seeds, STK U.S.A., Seed Dynamics (Pulse Organics), Marrone Bio, Bank of America, Rabobank, Catalyst Product Group, American Ag Credit, IFCO, Andreini & Co., Bejo Seeds, 3 Star Lettuce, True Organics, Rijk Zwaan, Terramera, SunWorks USA, Suboneyo USA, Volm Cos. Inc, Ferti-Organic, Crop Production Services, K.Coe Isom and Creative AG Products Inc.