Food Lion has unveiled a new, easier shopping experience for customers in 31 stores in the greater Wilmington, NC, market. The stores are the first in the Food Lion chain to receive remodels as part of the grocer's new "Easy, Fresh and Affordable...You Can Count on Food Lion Every Day" strategy, which was announced earlier this year.
"Since announcing our new strategy, we've been doing a lot across the Food Lion chain to create positive change," Beth Newlands Campbell, president of Food Lion, said in a press release. "We're proud to continue that momentum by launching the first market of enhanced stores that bring all the elements of our new strategy to life to make shopping easier for customers. Our customers told us that they want a grocery experience where it's easy to shop, easy to save and easy to figure out what is for dinner tonight. In these enhanced stores, we've worked to deliver just that. We invite our customers and the Wilmington community to come out and experience grocery shopping reimagined at Food Lion and let us know what you think about our new stores."
The remodeled stores debut new features that make shopping easier for customers. Food Lion expanded its selection in stores by adding thousands of new items so customers can get everything they need in one trip. The new assortment of products includes a dedicated gluten-free section and a wide selection of quality fresh meat and produce that carry a double-your-money-back guarantee.
Food Lion also made great deals easier to find throughout the store with new yellow signage and three easy ways to save: MVP On Sale, Extended Savings and Great Value Every Day. MVP On Sale items are the great savings and promotions that Food Lion is known for, including deals from the weekly flyer. Extended Savings are prices reduced for longer on items throughout the store - up to 13 weeks. Great Value Every Day indicates incredibly low prices always available on Food Lion private brand items and in-season produce.
For busy families on the go, Food Lion has also added Daily Dinner Deals, hot meals for families of four for around $10, offered from 4-7 p.m., as well as all-day daily meal deals, in the deli department.
Knowing that customers want to get in and out of the store quickly, Food Lion made checkout faster with improved technology, larger display screens so customers can see items and prices as they're scanned and additional associates available to bag groceries for customers. Unpacking is even easier at home with new blue bags, in addition to the traditional white bags, which help customers easily identify cold and frozen items.
Food Lion will continue to roll out storewide enhancements in markets over time. The company plans to launch an additional 45 remodeled stores in the greater Greenville, N.C., market in November.
Food Lion, which serves more than 9 million customers each week at more than 1,100 locations in 10 states, was founded as Food Town in 1957 and still calls Salisbury, NC, its hometown.
A complete list of the remodeled stores, as well as other information, is available at www.foodlion.com/newsroom.
With a total crop volume at only 60 percent of a year ago, the California avocado season is winding down as Mexico gears up to fill demand.
Ron Araiza, director of sales for Mission Produce Inc. in Oxnard, CA, told The Produce News Aug. 20 that California was expected to send around 6 million cartons of fruit to market this week and reduce its volume by around 1 million cartons per week for the next several weeks. That means California would send around 4 million cartons to market during the Labor Day week of Sept. 1.
That’s a far cry from the typical demand of about 35 million cartons per week.
“During September, we [avocado shippers] are going to be looking to Mexico to provide 25 [million] to 28 million cartons per week,” he said.
The total California crop is expected to come in somewhere around 300 million pounds when all is said and done, which is 40 percent less than last year’s volume of close to 500 million pounds.
Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp. in Escondido, CA, said that by mid-August, California growers were at about 273 million pounds. He anticipated shipments throughout September, albeit at a relatively low level.
“Three hundred million is possible,” he said. “We may get there.”
Like most of the industry, Henry Avocado sources from many different countries of origin and attempts to fill the orders of its customers relatively seamlessly. While there is a market price differential depending upon origin, the key is simply to fill demand.
As August turns into September, there will still be some Peruvian avocados being sold from inventory and Chile is expected to have a very limited volume of avocados for sale within the United States by early September.
Henry said Mexico will supply most of the country, while most shipments of California avocados will stay close to home to fill the Golden State’s cavernous demand for the fruit.
One California area gearing up for that September time slot is the Morro Bay avocado deal from California’s Central Coast, marketed under that name. Over the last couple of years, growers in California’s furthest avocado-producing region have been creating a niche market for their fruit, which they claim has superior taste because climatic conditions require the fruit to stay on the tree almost twice as long as other areas.
Jim Shanley of Shanley Farms in Morro Bay, CA, said a couple of growers are out of the deal this year because of drought issues, but he has added two other growers and should have volume similar to what the deal had last year for the eight-week shipping season. The deal was expected to kick off on Labor Day and last through October.
“It will be similar to last year, but we won’t be able to grow it this year,” he said.
Shanley is expecting get a premium for that fruit in the high $30s. In fact, in mid-August California fruit was selling for top dollar in the high $30s. Peruvian fruit was at least $10 less per carton than that, and Mexican avocados were somewhere in between, with that price dependent on the origin of the fruit.
As September unfolds, Mexican growers will be shipping from several different blooms depending upon the location of the trees where the crop is harvested. By the end of September, the new crop for the new season will be on the market.
Chile, which comes into the U.S. market during the fall months, is expected to have less volume this year than last, according to Henry. He said the Chilean drought is still affecting volume and Chilean shippers have several options for their fruit, including Europe and other South American countries. They are no longer so heavily dependent on the U.S. market.
While promotions from the California avocado industry will wind down after Labor Day, Mexico is increasing its visibility in the marketplace. Its first promotion of the season is sports-themed and designed to kick off the U.S. football season as well as the Mexican avocado season.
The value of domestic mushroom production topped $1 billion for the fourth year in a row, according to a recently issued U.S. Department of Agriculture report. The 899 million-pound crop from 2013-14 broke last year's record value by $12 million.
The strong demand for mushrooms increased the value of the Agaricus crop to $1.05 billion from more than 882 million pounds sold. Pennsylvania accounted for 65 percent of the total volume of sales and second-ranked California contributed 12 percent.
Brown mushrooms, including Portabella and Crimini varieties, accounted for 152 million pounds, up slightly from last season. Brown mushrooms accounted for 17 percent of the total Agaricus volume sold and 22 percent of the total Agaricus value.
Production of 65.7 million pounds of specialty mushrooms, including varieties such as Shitake and Oyster, added $65.7 million in value.
During the 12- month reporting period, several large farms closed, decreasing the total number of Agaricus growers in the United States to 103. Another indication of production consolidation is that growers with sales exceeding 10 million pounds accounted for 77 percent of all Agaricus sales.
The data are from the annual National Agricultural Statistics Service production report, which was released Aug. 20. This demand growth is reflected in mushroom retail sales for the same time period.
Over the same 12-month period of the NASS data, the mushroom category grew 3.1 percent, adding nearly $33 million in incremental retail sales. Brown mushrooms had an enormous impact on the category, growing 7.7 percent and contributing an additional $24 million to the category. Organic mushrooms are the fastest-growing segment, up 40 percent in dollars. They comprised nearly 6 percent of the category for this period.
"Increased demand will lead to an increase in the price for mushrooms," American Mushroom Institute President Laura Phelps said in a press release. "Growers and shippers continue to face challenges of higher production costs, including raw materials, wages and energy. There are still gaps left by the closure of large farms. With tight supply, prices should be moving up to meet demand."
Timothy Richards, an agriculture economist for the mushroom industry, noted that "mushroom demand remains strong; our forecast is that demand is predicted to grow at least 2.5 percent, while domestic production is forecasted to grow at around 2 percent. This obviously will put upward pressure on price. Retail sales are expected to grow around 3-4 percent per year, and while the Blend Trend is still just getting started, even a small increase in foodservice/processed mushroom demand can have a significant impact on the bottom-end of mushroom pricing, which then trickles up the product line."
Mushroom Council marketing programs promoting mushroom blendability, the culinary technique of blending fresh mushrooms with ground meat to maintain flavor and texture while reducing calories and fat, has opened up an entirely new market for mushroom sales resulting in increased demand.
"Blendability is creating interest in mushrooms which has increased more home cooks to explore mushrooms," Mushroom Council President Bart Minor added in the press release. "The buzz around blendability is contributing to overall mushroom demand. Blendability is currently being quickly adopted in foodservice outlets both commercially in restaurant chains like Seasons 52 and Macaroni Grill and non-commercially, most notably in the National School Lunch Program. The continued growth of mushroom blendability in foodservice has not only increased foodservice sales but increased overall demand for mushrooms."
The NASS report shows a price increase of 10 percent for mushrooms sold for the processed market -- a clear sign of more widespread foodservice use for items such as burger toppings and meat blends.
Pacific Trellis Fruit, the Fresno, CA-based distributor of grapes and tree fruit, announced it will implement some changes at Dulcinea Farms, which it purchased earlier this year.
Key among those changes is the departure of John McGuigan, manager of Dulcinea, who will leave at the end of August.
"John, a 25-year veteran of the produce industry, has been a great asset to the company since his joining," the company said in a press release. "He was of great assistance to us on this latest acquisition, helping us to transition it from a public company structure to a more market- and grower-focused operation."
"I have had the great fortune to work for outstanding organizations and help get them positioned for success for the future," McGuigan added in the press release. "I know that the team will do great things with Dulcinea Farms going forward, and I wish them all the success in the world."
Other changes planned for the fall include the expansion of Dulcinea's melon program, with new production areas for all varieties. The company said the 2014-15 winter melon program will have increased volume with product coming from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
Additionally, Pacific Trellis has hired former Syngenta employee Paul Collazo to a new research and development position, where he will work on existing and new proprietary melon varieties.
Steve Dabich, an eight-year veteran at Dulcinea Farms, continues the role of director of sales.
Pacific Trellis Fruit farms over 6,000 acres of melons annually and is the owner of the consumer brands "PureHeart," "Tuscan-Style" and "Ruby Bliss," and many others under the Dulcinea label. It is also a sizable grower and importer of grapes, tree fruit and other commodities.
Potato sales for U.S. growers pose interesting questions. Eighteen percent of the crop is exported, but statistics on domestic potato consumption create a mystery, according to Mike Carter, co-chair of the domestic marketing committee for the U.S. Potato Board and a member of the board's executive committee.
Carter, who is also the chief executive officer of Bushmans' Inc., located in Rosholt, WI, said that "overall meal occasions" for U.S. consumers to use potatoes have gone up, but domestic consumption "by volume is down [and] that is counter-intuitive."
One explanation of the contradiction is that "as family sizes have shrunk, and with the economic realignment since 2008, consumers are more frugal." Instead of buying a 10-pound bag of potatoes and eventually throwing out four pounds of old potatoes from that bag, they buy less volume but consume all they buy.
"I am not convinced that people are eating less potatoes," Carter said. "Potatoes are America's favorite vegetable. More pounds are sold in produce that anything. They are cheap and they are healthy, so we have all of those things going for us. Are people eating less now than they were? Maybe, but it's not as bad as it sounds."
Still, he added, it's up to the board to "get people excited" about buying spuds.
The board has partnered with the Hungry Girl culinary organization to promote potatoes. This has exceeded Carter's expectations, as the consumer blog now has over 1 million followers. Hungry Girl also operates a Facebook page and reaches consumers through many media outlets. Hungry Girl's audience involves the female demographics that USPB has targeted.
Carter noted that if the board's efforts can promote one more potato eaten each week per consumer, sales are no longer a concern. This can be achieved by showing that potatoes are healthy and nutritious. Fears caused by "perceived negatives" that potatoes are fattening need to be removed. New specialty potato varieties need to be understood and will open new ways of consuming potatoes.
Key to accomplishing these objectives is for the USPB to create a new five-year marketing plan. Carter said this strategic review and adjusted plan is underway.
In recent years, the board had targeted "Linda" as its primary audience. Linda represents women in the age range of 20s to 50s who cook for their family. Carter said the new target audience may be narrowed to the age group of the 20s, as health-conscious young people are learning to cook. "We have to develop a new wave of consumers."
Carter added that digital media provide many opportunities to reach this group.
He noted that the USPB is not just promoting fresh domestic potato consumption but, among other efforts, export markets to ensure ongoing expansion of that critically important segment.