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Fresh Solutions Network takes fresh approach to potato and onion sales

Potatoes and onions are seen as classic commodity crops by many growers, who place too much emphasis on growing and harvesting their products as inexpensively as possible so that they can sell at lower prices.fsn-logo

While that approach may work for some, Fresh Solutions Network sees the equation differently. FSN feels that only focusing on squeezing down costs can actually cost retailers more, by short-changing them on quality, innovation and marketing support.

These areas — product quality, innovation and marketing support — are the three pillars that Fresh Solutions Network is using to help its retail customers to prosper. FSN believes the best breakthroughs — in products and in business — arrive at the intersection of insights and collaboration, so category data are analyzed and developed into insights to develop innovative products and strategic solutions.

"We think the value proposition for retailers has changed and that many of the ways potato and onion suppliers continue to try to capture market share may be a thing of the past," Kathleen Triou, president and chief executive officer of FSN, said in a press release. "They fixate on driving out costs to win business, to the point that their packaging is ineffective and their marketing support is non-existent. Fresh Solutions Network's approach gives retailers unprecedented access to competitive insights, to collaborative innovation, and ultimately to optimal assortments. For example, we recently collaborated with a regional retailer to strategize an optimized assortment that delivered a 7 percent sales increase and stole market share from their competition over a six-month pilot program."

Fresh Solutions Network has reinvented the "supply-and-buy" model by focusing on a direct-supply "dream team," an invitation-only network of potato and onion growers and shippers with superior products and trustworthy track records who personally own the land, work the soil and pack the product.

Many of the long-held ways of buying produce mean retailers may not know where their potatoes and onions are coming from, and that puts quality and accountability at risk. FSN customers always know exactly what product they're buying and which grower they're buying it from.

FSN members are accountable for quality and service — to each other and to their retail customers — because it is literally their own farms that are at stake.

Fresh Solutions Network Partners grow, pack, sell and deliver potatoes and onions directly to their retail and foodservice customers, providing seamless, transparent product supply and service. Fresh Solutions Network, LLC partners are Sterman Masser, Inc. (Masser Potato Farms and Keystone Potato Products in Sacramento and Hegins, PA), Michael Family Farms Inc. (Urbana, OH), Basin Gold Cooperative Inc. (Pasco, WA), Green Thumb Farms Inc. (Fryeburg, ME), Red Isle Potato Growers Ltd. (Prince Edward Island, Canada), NoKota Packers Inc. (Buxton, ND) and Sun-Glo of Idaho Inc. (Sugar City, ID).

USDA unveils $31.5 million grant to boost fruit, vegetable sales to SNAP recipients

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced up to $31.5 million in grants are available to test new ways to make fruits and vegetables more affordable to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants.

News of the program launch drew immediate praise by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and the United Fresh Produce Association.

"Helping families purchase more fresh produce is clearly good for families' health, helps contribute to lower health costs for the country, and increases local food sales for family farmers," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Sept. 29 in Richmond, VA, where he announced the launch of the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive, a new farm bill program.

Under FINI, applicants may propose small pilot projects, multi-year community-based projects, or larger-scale multi-year projects that test strategies to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants through incentives at the point of purchase. Based on the type of project, USDA plans to award grants of $100,000 to $500,000, and applications are due on Dec. 15.

"We encourage our retail grocery members who operate stores in underserved communities to partner with their state SNAP agency and apply for a FINI grant," said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health at United Fresh, who added that the projects are likely to inform USDA programs in the future.

With 85 percent of all SNAP benefits redeemed at grocery stores, "we believe that scaling up produce incentives at grocery stores in underserved communities around the country will have the greatest public health reach by increasing access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables year round," she said, adding that incentives can help SNAP families purchase more fresh produce and increase produce sales.

Stabenow praised the farm bill program she said was modeled after Michigan's successful "Double up Food Bucks" program, which provides SNAP participants with tokens to purchase to locally grown fruits and vegetables.

"These new programs will not only empower low-income Americans to provide their families with more healthy fruits and vegetables, they will also help strengthen local economies by investing in local food systems and organic agriculture," Stabenow said.

USDA listed the following project aspects it sees as priorities for funding:

  • Maximize the share of funds used for direct incentives to participants.
  • Test strategies that improve understanding how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants, which would inform future efforts.
  • Develop innovative or improved benefit redemption systems that could be replicated or scaled.
  • Use direct-to-consumer sales marketing.
  • Demonstrate a track record of designing and implementing successful nutrition incentive programs that connect low-income consumers and agricultural producers.
  • Provide locally or regionally produced fruits and vegetables, especially culturally appropriate fruits and vegetables for the target audience.
  • Are located in underserved communities.

The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture will host a webinar for interested applicants on Oct. 2 at 2 p.m.

Avocados from Mexico set to unveil 'Made with Love' campaign at PMA Fresh Summit

AFM TAG AIS logAvocados from Mexico will be sharing the love at the upcoming Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit Convention & Exposition Oct. 17-19 in Anaheim, CA.AFM TAG AIS logo

With over 1 billion pounds of imports in the United States and 70 percent market share, AFM will be unveiling its "Made with Love" campaign, which showcases the love and dedication that goes into carefully cultivating avocados from Mexico and the way consumers can enjoy them with the people that matter most.

"Made with Love" conveys the positive, vibrant idea that avocados can take any meal from boring to fun and turn a simple gathering into a fiesta.

Show attendees can experience several multi-sensory activities at the new AFM booth, including a brand new exhibit inspired by the "Made with Love" theme, delicious avocado samples from two gourmet food trucks highlighting four core uses (guacamole, sandwiches, salads and snacking), multimedia content and the latest nutrition news.

"As a strong market leader, Avocados from Mexico is launching a bold, assertive plan that accomplishes our objectives of reinforcing the brand in the minds of consumers, while maintaining a healthy steady growth for the category," Alvaro Luque, president of Avocados from Mexico, said in a press release. "As a leading brand in the segment, we are committed to growing the market. Our new plan delivers more than 1.6 billion impressions to drive avocado purchases and frequency."

The "Made with Love" campaign includes multi-tiered programs to foster category growth. Retail partners can count on robust promotions, partnerships and innovation in merchandising to continue. The brand's presence in foodservice is also expanding with an increase in awareness-generating promotional activity and best-in-class expertise.

At the consumer level, a major advertising, public relations, promotions and digital campaign is set to keep Avocados from Mexico top of mind. A brand ambassador strategy leverages the influence of celebrities, culinary and nutrition experts to share the latest avocado usage ideas, including Patti Jinich, chef and author of Pati's Mexican Table; Maggie Jimenez, Hispanic lifestyle expert and regular on Univision's "Despierta America"; and Barbara Ruhs, registered dietitian and nutrition expert.

Part of the new plan is a strategy designed to "own guacamole" eating opportunities and football.

"Super Bowl Sunday is one of the top avocado consumption days of the year, and AFM will continue with its football-themed promotions through the college bowl season and the National Football League playoffs," Maggie Bezart Hall, vice president of trade and promotion for AFM, added in the press release. "We are excited to share our expanded Super Bowl plans with our partners at PMA and continue to build the momentum."

These new initiatives, combined with a strong new harvest and the unique benefit of year-round availability, will provide fresh, high-quality avocados to be enjoyed by consumers every single month of the year.

Avocados from Mexico Booth No. 2414 Schedule

Saturday, Oct. 18

  • 7:45 a.m.: AFM featured as a PMA General Session Breakfast sponsor
  • All Day: Produce for Better Health Supermarket Dietitian tours by Barbara Ruhs, RD; Avocados from Mexico samples featured four ways
  • 10:30 a.m.: New booth ribbon-cutting ceremony
  • 12 noon: Pavel Pardo, Mexican soccer legend and AFM brand ambassador appearance.

Sunday, Oct. 19

  • All Day: Avocados from Mexico samples featured four ways
  • 11 a.m.: Jorge Campos, Mexican soccer icon and AFM brand ambassador appearance

Former UFFVA president Bernie Imming dies at 94

ImmingBernard Joseph Imming, the former president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, which is now known as the United Fresh Produce Association, died Sept. 23 at the age of 94.

In April 1948, Mr. Imming was employed by the United Merchandising Institute in Kansas City, MO, as an instructor in retail merchandising. He was transferred to Washington, DC, in 1956 to become corporate secretary of UMI's parent organization, UFFVA.Imming-1Bernard Joseph Imming He was appointed executive vice president of UFFVA in 1973 and two years later was named president and chief executive officer. He was also founding president of the United Nutrition Education Foundation. In all, he served the UFFVA for 37 years before retiring on June 1, 1985.

After retiring from UFFVA, he established The Association Consultancy, and in the ensuing 15 years served scores of state and national associations.

"Bernie was a wonderful leader of our association and the produce industry," Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, said in a statement. "I was fortunate to join the staff in 1993, and Bernie still served as a mentor to me. His regular phone chats and drop-bys to the office were times for me to pick his brain about industry issues, but really learn more about the culture that is an essential part of our industry's character. I was so pleased when Bernie could travel to New Orleans for our convention in 2011. It wasn't an easy trip for him, but I've never seen him happier than seeing old friends and rolling around the trade show floor in his wheelchair. We will miss him."

Mr. Imming was also a military veteran, and during his four-and-a-half year service in World War II, he served in the Aleutians before returning to attend Officers Candidate School in Camp Davis, NC.Imming-and-FordBernard Joseph Imming with President Ford. He was commissioned in August 1943, and served a year at the Antiaircraft Artillery Training Center in Fort Bliss, TX, before joining the U.S. Sixth Army in the Philippines. He was a member of the initial occupation forces that established the headquarters base for Sixth Army in Nagoya, Japan, in September 1945. He retired from active duty as a First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Reserve.

Mr. Imming also was noted for volunteering his time to a number of organizations. In the most significant voluntary service related to his career, he was elected chairman of the board of his professional organization, the American Society of Association Executives, in 1984. He continued his subsequent activity with ASAE as chairman of the Past Chairmen's Roundtable for more than a decade thereafter.

He represented the fruit and vegetable industry on the U.S. delegation to the annual U.S._European Community Conference on Food and Agriculture. He served on committees and as an adviser to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food & Drug Administration and other government groups. He often testified before U.S. Congressional committees and federal agencies on legislative and regulatory proposals, and is widely recognized as a speaker in industry and association circles.

He also was a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Association Committee of 100 for 15 years. He earned lifetime designation as a Certified Association Executive, and in 1985 was named Association Executive of the Year by the national professional newspaper, Association Trends. In 1979, he was presented with the Key Award, the highest honor accorded an association executive by the American Society of Association Executives.

Born May 30, 1920, in Marysville, KS, Mr. Imming was the first child of Joseph J. and Elizabeth C. Imming. He graduated from Hayden (Topeka Catholic) High School in Topeka, Kansas, in 1937, and from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO, in 1941, with a bachelor's degree in language and literature.

He married Constance Curran on Aug. 31, 1943, while in military service. She died Nov. 23, 2007. They had no children.

Visitation is scheduled for Oct. 1 at 10:00 a.m. at the Everly Wheatley Funeral Home in Alexandria, VA, followed by a memorial service at 11:00 a.m. Burial will be at Columbia Gardens in Arlington, VA.

Schnucks taps Steven Mayer to oversee produce and floral

Steven Mayer has joined Schnuck Markets Inc. as vice president of produce and floral reporting to Chief Merchant Steve Harper.

Mayer was formerly president of Flavor 1st, a large produce operation spanning 20,000 acers of farmland across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and specializing in growing and packing produce for sale to grocery store chains, wholesalers and farmers markets.Steven-MayerSteven Mayer Mayer worked directly with growers and supported farm operations across the region.

Mayer comes to Schnucks with more than 35 years of experience in all aspects of the industry and has held key management positions in major grocery operations across the country. 

“We are excited to bring Steve on board as his depth of experience literally from farm to table will help us as we work to build on the Schnucks reputation for quality fresh foods," Harper said in a press release. "We have a strong perishable program now, and with Steve’s expertise we can grow our supplier network as we focus new ways to bring the freshest foods to our customers.”

Mayer graduated from the University of Phoenix, where he holds a double major in business administration and management, a master’s in organizational management and taught business courses for a time. He also holds a doctorate in business administration from California Coastal University.

Mayer and his wife, Jeanette, are the parents of Amy, Connor and Brandon.