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F&S Produce launches Sam's Fresh Salsa to test markets

F&S Produce Co. Inc., a leading manufacturer and marketer of fresh-cut produce and other refrigerated value-added products in the Northeast, announced it will be introducing Sam's Fresh Salsa to all of its customers after a successful test market in Philadelphia and New York.salsa

"We are very excited to introduce our all natural Sam's Fresh Salsa to all the retail and foodservice customers in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states," Sam Pipitone, president and chief executive officer at F&S, said in a press release. "We developed this product to duplicate the all natural salsa we made at F&S Produce for company parties and special events. Sam's Fresh Salsa was introduced to the test market areas in 2013 and has become an extremely successful brand in those markets with tremendous consumer loyalty. Sam's Fresh Salsa is an all natural product which makes it a perfect extension of the freshness and safety commitment we have at F&S Produce Company."

"The packaging is superior in that the tamper-evident film seal and cover are leakproof and can reseal tightly to help preserve leftover salsa," Doug Nicoll, director of technical services at F&S, added in the press release. "The customer can clearly view the fresh, colorful salsa on store shelves. As a certified SQF 2000 company with comprehensive food safety and quality systems, the customer can feel assured of fresh, wholesome, tasty salsa."

F&S worked closely with our retail test market partners to make sure we had the proper taste profile, price point and promotional strategy for Sam's Fresh Salsa.

"Sam's Fresh Salsa will launch in our new full color preprinted film sealed containers and will be available in mild, medium, hot and mango/pineapple varieties," Sam Burleson, vice president of sales and marketing at F&S, added in the press release. "We will tailor a promotional strategy with each retailer to ensure we develop programs that create excitement and deliver the fresh, all natural message to the consumer. With the introduction of Sam's Fresh Salsa the consumer now has a clear choice to purchase a fresh all natural alternative to the existing processed salsa brands."

Naturipe builds berry-processing facility in Southeast

MBG Marketing held a grand opening ceremony for its new fresh and value-added blueberry facility July 16 in Alma, GA. There were more than 250 people in attendance between MBG and Naturipe staff, grower-members, business and community leaders, and local and state dignitaries, including Peggy Murphy, mayor of Alma, and Georgia State House Representative Chad Nimmer.

Alma is home to the second individually quick frozen value-added processing and packing facility owned and operated by MBG;Bob-Hawk---CEO-Pres-MBGBob Hawk, MBG president and chief executive officer. the first was opened in Bloomingdale, MI, in 2013, a facility that has provided benefits to all MBG members and customers by producing a high yield pack-out of superior quality blueberries for the "Naturipe" brand.

“The Alma facility will enhance our ability to quickly process berries for our growers in Georgia and Florida and will serve as a back-up facility to our growers in our other regions” Larry Ensfield, chief operating officer of MBG Marketing, said in a press release. “This new facility is over 73,000 square feet, with a capacity of 18,000 pounds per hour, making it the largest blueberry IQF facility in the Southeast U.S.A. We are using the latest technologies to sort, wash and then freeze the berries in a state-of-the-art IQF tunnel. Here, the berries are individually frozen to -10 degrees fahrenheit in less than six minutes to preserve the flavor, nutrients, color and integrity of the blueberries. Additional inspections and sorting takes place before they are packed into bulk containers for foodservice and ingredient buyers or poly bags for retail consumers packs.”

The facility also contains a large fresh blueberry distribution center to service the Naturipe Farms customer base across North America. Current capacity is for more than 10 million pounds of fresh berries during the Southeast growing season with room to expand to match the anticipated growth in production in the region.

In 2013 MBG celebrated its 30th anniversary in Georgia. Don Wade, a retired grower-member who was one of about a dozen growers in that initial co-op meeting in 1983, said during the grand opening celebration that “We started with just a couple of acres and now there are over 22,000 acres of blueberries planted in the state.”

Mayor Murphy thanked MBG for expanding its Georgia operations, supporting the community and continuing to invest in the city of Alma and Bacon County. In addition, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal sent his best wishes for success in a letter read by Rep. Nimmer. Paraphrasing the governor, he highlighted the positive economic effects on the region as a result of the blueberry industry and in particular when grower organizations, such as MBG, make a long-term investment and commitment such as this new facility.

The expansion of MBG’s fresh and value-added processing capabilities continues to enable Naturipe Farms to satisfy the needs of a growing market, demanding buyers and improve returns for its growers. “From the start of MBG on November 2, 1936, to today, we have come a long way,” Bob Hawk, MBG president and chief executive officer, said in his opening remarks.

Naturipe Farms LLC is a grower-owned producer and international marketer of healthy, premium berries. With production primarily from multi-generation family farms located in the prime berry growing regions throughout North America and South America. The diverse grower base ensures year-round availability of locally grown and in-season global conventional and organic berries.

Naturipe Farms, formed in 2000, is a partnership between MBG Marketing, Hortifrut SA, Naturipe Berry Growers and Munger Farms. For more information visit: www.naturipefarms.com or https://www.facebook.com/Naturipe.

Stop & Shop celebrating local produce through various events

With summer in full swing and fresh fruits and vegetables in season, Stop & Shop is telling its customers that there is no better time to stock up and enjoy locally grown produce.

In partnership with more than 41 farmers, an array of farm fresh produce grown within nearby communities can now be found at all Stop & Shop stores. Among the popular local produce items that are currently in season and available at Stop & Shop include corn, tomatoes, green beans, mushrooms, squash, blueberries, cucumbers and green peppers.

"Stop & Shop has a long history of partnering with local farmers to provide our customers with the best seasonal produce," Jack Keane, director of produce and floral merchandising for Stop & Shop New England, said in a press release. "Through these partnerships, we are able to get fruits and vegetables from the fields to our stores quickly to ensure quality and freshness. When you buy local produce from Stop & Shop, you know you are getting the freshest product."

On July 26th, Stop & Shop New England will host a "Here We Grow" event at all of its 213 stores from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to celebrate locally grown produce. Children attending the event will receive a "Buy Local" canvas bag, coloring book and seed packets will supplies last.

Stop & Shop's Beverly, MA, Somerset, MA, Newport, RI, and Cromwell, CT, locations are hosting a "meet a local farmer" event, where farm fresh crops will be delivered right to area Stop & Shop locations. Select stores will also be featuring produce sampling from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Stop & Shop bean bag toss games.

All Stop & Shop stores feature a fun photo cutout in the produce department. Customers are encouraged to snap a photo of themselves or their family with the cutout and post to Stop & Shop's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/stopandshop, now through the end of July for a chance to win a $25 gift card and a canvas bag. Two winners will be drawn each week.

Customers can visit www.stopandshop.com/local to find complete information about Stop & Shop's local produce including, recipes and cooking tips for fresh summer produce, a complete list and map of where the produce is from and videos of featured local farmers such as Wally Czajkowski. Czajkowski's "Plainville Farm" in Hadley, Massachusetts has provided Stop & Shop with fresh produce since 1978.

Stop & Shop has been a leader in the buy local movement for many years, supporting local farmers and manufacturers in the states where they operate stores.

Danner named president of Premier Produce

Scott Danner, a produce industry veteran who recently left Liberty Fruit in Kansas City, KS, after a 10-year stint, was named president of Pembroke Park, FL-based Premier Produce.

Premier Produce is a supplier of produce and dairy items to restaurants, hotels, casinos, country clubs and national accounts, and was founded about five years ago, according to Danner, who added that the impressive "high double-digit growth" the company dannerScott Dannerhas experienced in recent years makes this an especially exciting opportunity.

"I think Premier's growth has come from the fact that it is dedicated to servicing its clients and going the extra mile to take care of its customers, and you just don't see that too much any more," said Danner.

Danner said he considers himself a "builder," having taken the helm of smaller companies and bringing them to the next level, and he looks forward to doing the same at Premier.

"The potential for growth at Premier is tremendous, and I am excited about the new energy that comes with taking on this challenge," he said.

Danner's produce career began in 1976 at Cross River Produce in Windsor, CT. Later in his career, he was the first produce employee at C&S Wholesale in Hatfield, MA, where he rose to vice president of operations during his 11-year tenure. He also spent two years as senior director of produce operations at Fleming Foods prior to joining Liberty Fruit.

Danner and his wife, Karen, will relocate to Florida and he officially begins at Premier on July 29.

Study shows traditional grocery stores receive high marks in brand equity

The 2014 Harris Poll EquiTrend (EQ) study, which measures brand equity for more than 1,500 brands across 170 categories, finds traditional grocery store brands rank highest overall in three of the four regions surveyed. The EQ index examines three key factors of brand equity: familiarity, quality and purchase consideration.

This is the first time in the study's 26-year history that Americans were surveyed about grocery retailers on a regional level using the four census regions: West, Midwest, Northeast and South. A mix of grocery retailer formats was included in the study, including traditional grocery stores (e.g. Kroger, Giant), mass retailers with grocery sections (e.g. Walmart, Target), discount grocery stores (e.g. Aldi, Food 4 Less) and club stores with grocery sections (e.g. Sam's Club, Costco), as well as the specialty grocers Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Markets. The study awards Brand of the Year status to regionally focused, traditional grocery store brands in the Midwest, Northeast and South regions.

"These stores put an emphasis on building a relationship with the customer, and it's paid off with positive brand equity " Michael Treboni, executive vice president of retail professional services at Nielsen, said in a press release.

In America's heartland, consumers named Hy-Vee as the Midwest Grocery Store Brand of the Year. While not among the most familiar brands for the region, consumers who are familiar with the brand give strong marks for quality and purchase consideration.

"Hy-Vee has strong purchase consideration scores and very 'connected consumers,' meaning they have strong feelings for the brand and believe it's a good fit for them," Treboni said.

Also ranking above the Midwest Region Grocery Store category average were Meijer, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, Walmart (Groceries) and Jewel & Jewel-Osco.

In the Northeast, Wegmans is Brand of the Year in the Grocery Store category. With about 80 stores, most located in New York and Pennsylvania, Wegmans has a smaller footprint than many competitors in the region.

"However, Wegmans' exceptional quality and purchase consideration ratings make them look like a regional David among national-brand Goliaths," Treboni said.

Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market, ShopRite, Hannaford Bros., BJ's Wholesale Club (Groceries), Stop & Shop, Costco (Groceries), Price Chopper and Giant Food Stores also rank above the Northeast Region Grocery Store category average.

Stretching from Texas to Florida and up the east coast to Maryland, the South region is a sprawling patchwork of grocery retailers, and Publix is its Grocery Store Brand of the Year for 2014.

Primarily located in Florida and Georgia, Publix earns the top ranking with strong purchase consideration ratings and quality marks.

"Publix has a high level of brand advocacy, which means their consumer fan base is telling others how good they feel the brand is. That's brand strength," Treboni said.

Also ranking above the South Region Grocery Store category average are Walmart (Groceries), H-E-B, Trader Joe's, Harris Teeter, Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Sam's Club (Groceries) and Target (Groceries).

Costco is the Brand of the Year among West Region Grocery Stores, with the highest brand equity ranking of any brand in any region.

"While Costco is an international retailer, it has its roots in the West and that strong presence resonates in their brand equity scores," Treboni said in the press release. "Costco has a large proportion of consumers who are 'extremely familiar' with the brand in the West which, along with notable quality and consideration, drives the top score."

Other brands to rank above the category average in the West Region include Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market, Safeway and Stater Bros. Markets.

When looking across the four regions, it is worth noting that both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Markets are the only national brands to rank above the category average in all four regions, with consistently strong quality and purchase consideration scores. This echoes findings from the 2012 Nielsen Store Choice Drivers study, which focused on identifying store characteristics that help build equity with shoppers. The 2014 version of Store Choice Drivers will be released in the fall with a link to key EquiTrend metrics.