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The Kanzi apple season is in full swing as Southern Hemisphere imports peak. Exclusive importer CMI reported that Kanzi will continue to arrive from now into August to coincide with the final, strong sales months of the Southern Hemisphere apple season in the United States.Kanzi-Euro

Robb Myers, vice president of sales for CMI, said CMI learned last year that late summer Kanzi can provide a much-needed lift to apple category performance in August. He said a strong domestic Kanzi program has established the apple with consumers and built demand for it.

Myers said Nielsen supermarket data underscores the rapid growth and consumer recognition of Kanzi.

Nielsen data show that over the last 52 weeks, “no other apple in the top 30 varieties came close to matching the growth rate of Kanzi,” according to Myers, “Kanzi volume increased 104 percent as more than 4,500 stores nationally jumped on this hot new apple.”

Myers says Kanzi apples imported from New Zealand and Chile energize category sales for supermarkets at the most challenging part of the apple season.

“This is the time of year where supermarkets are fighting to hold customer transactions in the apple category," he said. "Even in summer apples are important to overall produce department sales because they are the second-largest fruit category at retail. We’re seeing something totally new — high-quality, branded apples like Kanzi helping retailers boost consumer transactions at the traditional low point of the apple season in the weeks before our new crop begins to hit the stores.”

Myers said imported Kanzi are continuing to arrive in the United States and are available right now for a limited time.

“When customers discover Kanzi apples, they keep coming back for more," he said. "We see it time and time again. CMI’s import season should overlap nicely with our Washington crop — coming off the trees in September. Getting your customers hooked now will keep them coming back for more throughout the apple season.”

L&M has kicked off its Midwest summer season with the grand opening of a warehouse and new farm acreage in Hamilton, MI.

The company recently completed construction on its 20,000-square-foot facility with state-of-the-art cooling, multiple temperature zones and new offices. The new facility is welcomed by L&M manager, Jake Parker, who has spent the last five seasons in Michigan.

“It’s great to have a new facility to work out of,” said Jake Parker, L&M’s manager in Michigan. “We are off to a really nice start, beginning with the harvest of beautiful, dark green cucumbers last week and moving into Bell pepper and hard squash harvest in about two weeks.”

L&M’s Parker has worked closely with Daryl Coffey for three years. After last season, Coffey and L&M officially formed a joint venture and began planning for the future. Parker manages the sales side of the business and Daryl Coffey manages the farming.

“I have been working with growers and product in Michigan for five years and Daryl is the best,” said Parker. “He is an expert farmer and exemplifies customer service. He’s a pleasure to work with every day and we are proud to welcome him into the L&M Family.”

Greg Cardamone, general manager of vegetables for L&M, said the company has growth plans in the future in the Midwest. “The diversity and quality of products from Michigan are truly impressive and we are excited to be growing our business here,” he said. “This is an important link for our company. It completes L&M’s goal of growing vegetables year round for our customers, providing the control of the product that allows us to meet our customers’ needs and deliver the freshest vegetables from one of the finest growing regions in the country.”

L&M will be shipping a variety of vegetables from the new facility, including peppers, cucumbers, chiles, yellow and zucchini squash, eggplants, cabbage, hard squash, pumpkins and ornamentals.

The company brings an experienced team from its Southern farms up to Michigan to work on-site each year, ensuring consistency and customer service. The season lasts from early July through early October.

L&M also has summer operations in Clinton, Elizabeth City and Hendersonville, NC; Peru, IN; and Stanley, NY, in addition to a full line of Southern vegetables.

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Ask This Old House, a popular home-improvement show on PBS, recently aired a six-minute segment exploring how Idaho potatoes are grown and thoroughly explaining how potatoes from Idaho differ from potatoes grown in other states.

Landscape contractor Roger Cook, a veteran of the show for over 30 years, traveled to Idaho Falls to meet fourth-generation potato farmer and Idaho Potato Commissioner James Hoff. With Hoff's help, Cook showed millions of his loyal viewers how Idaho potatoes are harvested and stored and offered a few tips on growing potatoes in home gardens. 

“We continually look for new and different venues to tell the Idaho potato story to our target audience, which includes both men and women,” Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer of the Idaho Potato Commission, said in a press release. “James’s deep knowledge of and passion for Idaho potatoes, paired with Roger’s enthusiasm and curiosity, created a very informative and entertaining segment.”

The segment was filmed in October of 2015 during the end of the harvest season and aired the following spring.

Summer is peak produce season, and Associated Retail Operations banners — Macey’s, Lin’s, Dan’s, Dick’s Market and Fresh Market — are adding Utah love to the produce department with its Local Farmers Markets program, which launched July 1 and has been successful in increasing produce sales and guest count in each store.

The in-store program includes signage highlighting Utah-grown produce and the farmers who supply them, as well as parking lot tent sales on Saturdays.

“Buying from Utah farmers and growers allows us to offer our guests the freshest produce at great prices, since it doesn’t have to travel as far,” Danni Barnhart, produce manager for Associated Retail Operations, said in a press release. “As locally owned retailers, it is important for us to support other local businesses, especially our farmers and growers. Our guests love that we offer a wide variety of Utah grown products.”

The Local Farmers Market program is made possible through a partnership between Associated Retail Operations and 33 Utah farmers and growers, including Bangerter Farms, Houwelings Tomatoes and Hartley’s Best Onions.

Each of the farmers is GAP certified or in the final stages of achieving the certification, which was set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the new food-safety regulations. The program aligns with industry trends that show local is the new organic according to consumer preferences.

This month, Walmart plans to introduce a new food label that it hopes will help reduce food waste while keeping food prices low.

“With 795 million people in the world reportedly going hungry, food waste is an ugly problem to face,” said Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for Walmart. “In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that consumers throw away $29 billion worth of edible food each year in their homes. Walmart is especially concerned with reducing food waste, not only because we’re the world’s largest grocer, but also as an integral part of our [everyday low cost] philosophy that provides you everyday low prices. Two culprits of food waste are confusion caused by food labels and the tossing of imperfect — but perfectly usable — fresh produce.”

According to Yiannas, current labeling is confusing to consumers as food-safety indicators. “Most of the labels are created based on peak quality,” he said in a recent blog. “Adding to the confusion is the different language used on labels, including ‘best by,’ ‘use by’ and ‘sell by.’ That’s why, in the last year, we started requiring suppliers of nonperishable food products under our Great Value private label to use a standardized date label, ‘Best if used by’.”

The switch will go into full effect this month and involves thousands of products. Yiannas said the change was motivated by the release of a report by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America in 2013.

“My team has been working on a solution since then,” he added. “I expect the standard labels to have an even bigger impact on waste reduction since many of our suppliers sell products under their own labels outside of Walmart. This is significant, as the global economic impact of food wastage comes to about $750 billion each year.”

John Forrest Ales, Walmart’s director of corporate communications, spoke with The Produce News in mid-July to talk about the problem of food waste and ways in which the company is addressing the issue. “At the heart of who we are is everyday low cost,” he said. “We take that incredibly seriously.”

Ales said Walmart has developed its own distribution system to source fresh produce on a global basis. “We have a unique supply chain. We have standards beyond the Food and Drug Administration as to what produce should look like,” he said. “Our farmers pack and sort according to these standards.”

Recently, questions have arisen about food waste and what has been termed “ugly” or “wonky” produce. Fresh produce that falls into this category may not look perfect on the outside, but still provide consumers with high-quality fresh produce when consumed because the flaws are cosmetic only. An example, Ales said, is a three-legged carrot growing from a common green top.

“Farmers find alternate uses for these in most cases,” he explained, saying that the volume of product that does not fit with Walmart’s standard is relatively small. “There’s not a lot of that moving through the supply chain. You can’t just create three-legged carrots.”

In some instances, Ales said Walmart works with its network of farmers to move whole lots of produce that may have been affected by weather conditions. Freezes are examples, he said, of more global events that might have an impact upon the quality of fresh produce.

In the meantime, Jordan Figueiredo, a municipal recycling agent in Castro Valley, CA, and food nutritionist Stefanie Sacks are planning to submit a petition to Walmart at its Bentonville, AR, headquarters on July 20 signed by persons who encourage Walmart to address food waste by making produce that is less than perfect cosmetically available at its stores.