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Stemilt Growers will be expanding its Apple Lover five-pound pouch bag program with multiple Artisan Organics apple varieties at the end of January. The popular Apple Lover program was launched in 2016 and has captured attention of the biggest apple shoppers in stores in order to help retailers boost volume sales of apples.stemiltseoije

“The Apple Lover pack increases the shopper’s purchase size, so we see a rise in volume, which leads to increased sales for the retailer,” said Roger Pepperl, Stemilt’s marketing director. “We expect to see a considerable amount of success with the Artisan Organics Apple Lover pack due to the convenience of the bag and the overall increase of the organic category.”

As the rise of the organic category continues, Pepperl believes that the organic varieties available will engage well with organic shoppers who consume large amounts of apples each week. The Artisan Organics Apple Lover five-pound bag will feature four popular organic varieties, including Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith and Red Delicious.

“These varieties will bode well with organic apple shoppers as they are long-lasting varieties, that are popular among every age group,” said Pepperl. “The bag is brightly colored so it really pops in the refrigerator, encouraging kids and adults alike to grab an apple — resulting in quicker consumption.”

The Artisan Organics Apple Lover pack design and packaging was created in-house by Stemilt’s marketing team. The pouch bag is designed for easy grab-and-go convenience for shoppers who are looking for high quality and convenience. The packaging also has the ability to stand up, making it easier for the consumer to store in their refrigerator and for retailers to create unique displays to show off the fruit.

“The capabilities that these Artisan Organics Apple Lover five-pound pouch bags have allows retailers to really get creative about how to display the fruit,” said Pepperl. “The DRC’s match the bright and colorful personality of the bag and are essentially like building blocks, so you can make prominent displays to catch the eye of the consumer. Plus, the vibrant color of the Granny Smith variety will really pop against the red varieties, allowing for some fun color blocks.”

Stemilt Growers has been growing organics since 1989, when founder Tom Mathison transitioned a large amount of acreage from conventional to organic. Today, Tate Mathison, Tom’s grandson, and director of sales at Stemilt, is focused on ensuring that Stemilt’s Artisan Organics program is consumer-driven.

“Today, Stemilt focuses on its Artisan Organics apple program on growing modern varieties that shoppers want,” said Mathison. “Pouch bags are extremely user-friendly, while organic is a top choice among fresh produce consumers, making the combination of the two very profitable among retailers.”

Stemilt’s organic apple volumes increased by more than 50 percent year-over-year and Pepperl foresees a continuous increase in organic. “Our Artisan Organics program is only getting larger. We are excited to watch the expansion of organics and continue to provide consumers with the flavors they want through the Artisan Organics programs.”

Stemilt’s Artisan Organics Apple Lover packs will be available until early summer.

Curry & Co. has expanded its product offerings of both organic and conventional blueberries by forming a partnership with Norris Family Farms of Umpqua, OR. The partnership also includes kiwiberries, an exciting product that is growing in popularity with retailers across the nation.BlueberryBush

Norris Family Farms, established in 1976 by Paul and Sandy Norris, is well known for its high-quality blueberries, which are picked and packed from June until the end of September.  Peak volumes on the southern Oregon farm are generally earlier than the rest of the region and this provides customers with a key transition from California to the Pacific Northwest.

“We’re very excited to have the Norris family as a partner," said Aaron Ensign, Curry & Co. president. "Their export-quality fruit, exceptional farm and facilities, and shared values make for an excellent fit. We’re both family owned and operated, and are committed to supporting our communities.”

“Curry & Company played a big role in our entering the blueberry business many years ago," said Norris. "We’re pleased to align with a dynamic and talented group that still appreciates family farms. We look forward to a great 2018 season.”

The Netflix docuseries Rotten portrays the bad side of numerous food product industries. Each of the segments delves into a food industry that produces and distributes that specific category, with the six episodes of season one focused on honey, peanuts, chicken, garlic, milk and fish.

The Garlic Breath segment was a jolt to the owners, staff members, customers of and even consumers who purchase Gilroy, CA-based Christopher Ranch’s products. The company — the only U.S. grower and distributor whose name was specifically used in the film — isn’t holding back in its response to the film and its attempts to portray the company in a negative way.KEN--BILL-CHRISTOPHERKen Christopher, executive vice president of Christopher Ranch and third-generation family member, with his father, Bill Christopher, president and second-generation family member.

Ken Christopher, executive vice president and third-generation family member of Christopher Ranch, said, “The segment is loud with accusations. It gives Christopher Ranch, the largest family-owned garlic company in the U.S., a loudly slanderous shout-out as it points to us as being a major part of a garlic conspiracy that has its hands in all kinds of dirty business.”

The film also groups Christopher Ranch to Harmoni International Spice Inc., a U.S.-based importer of Chinese garlic. This company is accused of using forced prison laborers in China to peel garlic and bite off the root end of the cloves because their nails have been worn down to the stub from doing it by hand. The film claims that Harmoni is the largest exporter of Chinese garlic to the U.S. and that Christopher Ranch is its biggest buyer.

“A lot of viewers subscribe to the Netflix brand, which makes its malicious and slanderous claims even more upsetting,” said Christopher. “It’s a David versus Goliath tale of untruth. It muddied the waters of what is a fair and trustworthy brand that the Christopher family firmly stands behind, and has since its founding 62 years ago.

“We are proud of our reputation as a highly regarded company, and we are making ourselves available to discuss this untrue, slanderous and malicious story to our customers and other industry professionals, and even consumers,” he added.

The Garlic Breath segment is very confusing, even if you’re involved in the fresh produce industry. It pits small growers and importers against each other and against the giants, and it points out how they were manipulated by another player who deals in Chinese garlic, and how a group attempted to create a cartel with Harmoni. It loudly and repeatedly attacks Christopher Ranch and Harmoni, and leaves viewers confused about what the story was attempting to disclose.

“It’s a complex story, and especially the way it was written and filmed,” added Christopher. “There are many major players in the U.S. garlic industry, but they felt somehow justified to call out only our name. The even referred to Christopher Ranch as the ‘Walmart of garlic.’”

The film also makes reference to the Fresh Garlic Producers Association, based in California, claiming that Christopher Ranch is the founder and only member of the organization, and that it formed the association as a level of protection for the company from U.S. government agencies. Christopher said the company is not the only, nor is it the leading, domestic grower who holds membership in the association.

“We have worked for over a decade to curb Chinese garlic dumping in the U.S.,” he said. “The FGPA was created to protect and promote the U.S. domestic garlic industry from illegal and unfair dumping of cheap foreign product. We work within the association to protect thousands of U.S.-based jobs and to sell U.S.-grown product.

“The dumping caused many California growers to go out of business during this period of time, and today there are only about four leading growers left, and they are active members of FGPA,” he continued. “Claiming that Christopher Ranch controls this association is an absurd statement. Decisions are made on a consensus basis between all members. To cast us as a major antagonist in this story is unsettling and unfair.”

Christopher openly said the company does source a small amount of Chinese garlic from Harmoni, but Harmoni was investigated by U.S. Customs & Border Protection just last year, and was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Christopher Ranch grows up to 90 million pounds of California garlic annually, which represents more than 90 percent of the garlic it sells to its customers.

“Some customers prefer less-expensive garlic options, so for them we source alternative product from various suppliers in Spain, Argentina, Mexico and China,” explained Christopher.

The Garlic Breath segment of Rotten also implies that Christopher Ranch uses forced prison labor-peeled garlic in its wildly popular line of jarred products by flashing photos of the line and its well-known labels in scenes.

“We can assure our customers that Chinese garlic is not packed in any Christopher Ranch branded product,” said Christopher, “and we strictly adhere to Country of Origin labeling. Christopher Ranch promotes sustainable agriculture and small farmers. Small farms that sell their product in farmers markets are a foundation of many communities, and we celebrate them.”

In one scene, boxes of garlic stacked at a warehouse in China awaiting shipment show a logo of a golden lion. The film’s moderator states the logo is the Christopher Ranch brand.

“This is totally untrue,” said Christopher. “We have no part or knowledge of this logo. Furthermore, Christopher Ranch is proud of our commitment to our customers and community to be both ethical and transparent regarding our business operations.”

In a statement Zero Point Zero, the show’s producer, said, “The series was created to hold the food industry accountable, and we stand by the reporting in the episode and in the series.”

Trader Joe’s is the top U.S. grocery retailer according to a study that also showed price and quality are the most important preference drivers for consumers. The study suggested retailers focus on shoring up that weakness before turning attention to other drivers such as convenience, rewards or speed. The other retailers on the top-10 list are 2) Costco, 3) Amazon, 4) H-E-B, 5) Walmart, 6) Wegmans, 7) Aldi, 8) Sam’s Club, 9) Sprouts Farmers Market and 10) Whole Foods

Top performing grocery retailers include relatively recent entries into the supermarket business and are more likely to be a national banner. All of the top 10 banners, except H-E-B, were either established or began to expand around the 1980s, which allowed many of them to carefully select store locations. As a result, many of these banners can focus and differentiate their prices, products, and store experience more effectively than older mainstream banners.

Leading customer data science company dunnhumby's inaugural Retailer Preference Index study that explores the evolving $700 billion U.S. grocery landscape. The RPI study surveyed 11,000 U.S. households and analyzed consumer emotional sentiment for 59 grocery retailers and then combined the survey data with the retailers’ financial performance which then created each retailer’s preference index.

“Does the grocery retail world really need another top 10 list?” asked Jose Gomes, managing director of North America for dunnhumby. “We believe there is a need because other studies either rank retailers on financial measures or survey responses, never both. Our model captures the complexity of customers’ preferences and their actual choices by quantifying the relationship between how they perceive a retailer with their emotional connection and the financial performance.”

The RPI found that the top quartile retailers share four effective strategies:

  • Price-focused. Aldi’s laser focus on price and certain high-volume staple categories like dairy and packaged foods secured the discount retailer with high rankings on price and overall RPI. Stores that index high enough on price, can often sacrifice on convenience, speed, digital and personalized discounts and information and still rank highly.
  • Quality-focused. Although Whole Foods Market performs below average on prices, it still achieves a high overall RPI because they index so high on quality.
  • Value-focused. Trader Joe’s, Costco, Sprouts Farmers Market and H-E-B all indexed high on quality and price. Stores that index high enough on price and quality can sacrifice on convenience, speed, digital and personalized discounts and information and still rank highly.
  • Price-focused and supported by digital execution. Walmart’s success in digital translates into a high RPI ranking and from indexing high on price and convenience. Target ranked second on digital execution but ranked only average on the other supporting factors, moving it out of the top quartile of the RPI.

“We firmly believe that retailers must differentiate themselves today to be competitive in face of the myriad of options shoppers have,” said Gomes. “Differentiation begins with the retailer identifying the shoppers that they can serve better than their competition. A solid customer-first strategy, backed by customer data science, will help the retailer focus its finite resources and attention on the customers that are the most important to their success. This study is intended as a first step on that path of understanding.”

The second best performing quartile of retailers include some of the higher performing, older grocery banners, including Meijer, Publix and Kroger. This quartile has the highest top of mind recall and the second highest financial performance. This group does not perform as well as the top quartile because their price and quality scores are not as strong, but this second group differentiates itself by excelling at secondary preference drivers, such as promotions, rewards and information.

Many undifferentiated mainstream banners are delivering minimal value to their shoppers. Even though many have been shopped at for a longer period, they have the weakest emotional connection. The study suggested they must focus on improving value perceptions and reconnect with their shoppers or profitability will be a challenge in an increasingly competitive market.

Albertsons Cos. announced that President and Chief Operating Officer Wayne Denningham plans to retire near the end of the company’s fiscal year. Denningham garnered over 40 years with the company, having started working as a clerk as a teenager. The company has named Susan Morris executive vice president and COO, overseeing the company’s supply chain, manufacturing and operations functions.

“Susan is a talented leader within our company, and she fully embraces our entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to running really good stores,” said Bob Miller, chairman and chief executive officer of Albertsons. “Susan raised her hand to come to Albertsons LLC in 2010 when she was a senior vice president of sales and marketing for a competitor, and she took the only job we had open — a grocery sales manager in our Southwest division. She has proven herself to be a valuable part of our leadership team in readily accepting new challenges, developing others and bringing teams together, and I know that her broad experience will be of significant value to Albertsons Cos. as we move forward.”

Morris began her career in Albertsons' Denver division while still in high school and worked her way up in the ranks proving her ability to lead, execute and cultivate great teams in one assignment after another in her 30-plus years in the retail grocery business. Her career has spanned roles from store director to corporate grocery sales director, vice president of bakery and operations and, upon the sale of Albertson’s Inc.’s assets to SuperValu, vice president of customer satisfaction. In 2013, Morris was named intermountain division president after a three-year stint in the company’s Southwest division, and subsequently was asked to lead the Denver division in 2015. Morris was named executive vice president of east operations in April 2016 and was moved to lead west region operations in March 2017.

Morris will continue to lead the Seattle, Portland, Northern California and Southern California divisions as part of her role. Jim Perkins, executive vice president of operations and special projects, will continue as president of the Acme and eastern divisions. Mike Withers, executive vice president of east region operations will lead the remaining six divisions, which include Denver, intermountain, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, southern, southwest and United.

Morris will be based at the company’s Boise, ID, corporate campus.