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Farmington Fresh, a leading provider of fresh sliced apples, oranges, pears and other fruits and vegetables to the foodservice industry and retailers, has reached an agreement with FirstFruits Marketing of Washington to be the exclusive U.S. provider of sliced Opal brand apples.sliced-opal-apples-bag

Discovered in Europe in 1999 and grown exclusively in the United States by Broetje Orchards in Washington state, this apple is a cross between the Golden Delicious and Topaz varieties.

"Farmington Fresh was inspired by the innovation that my grandfather, Nick Rajkovich, brought to the fruit market in his day, and this one-of-a-kind variety is a perfect match to the legacy of excellence that he was known for," said Garrison Rajkovich, marketing manager at Farmington Fresh. "The Opal brand apple is truly unique, with the mouth-pleasing crunch of a Honeycrisp and an exceptionally sweet flavor profile. We're thrilled to be partnering with the Broetje Orchards team to provide a product that fits perfectly with our focus on high quality and customer satisfaction."

After over a decade of cultivation and refinement at more than 60 orchards throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, Opal brand apples started being grown in the United States in 2010. Known for its distinctive yellow-gold color, this variety has been described by some as a "dessert apple" for its floral aroma and sweet yet tangy flavor.

"Our students are amazed by the flavor every time they try an Opal apple," said Margan Holloway, school nutrition director at Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District in Fairfield, CA. "They are my favorite apple to serve and eat personally. I could not be more thrilled to be serving such a delicious and convenient fruit to all 21,000 of our students."

Farmington Fresh offers year-round availability of sliced Opal brand apples for both retail and foodservice. In addition to being the largest supplier of sliced apples for school lunches across California, the company provides this variety along with sliced green and red apples to Northern California retailers including Safeway Inc. and Nugget Markets, with plans to expand its distribution area.

In recognition of its comprehensive support of the Amaize Sweet Corn program, Raley’s was named 2017 Amaize Sweet Corn Retailer of the Year.Amaize

Raley’s was the first retailer in the West to carry Amaize in 2012, and it has developed loyal consumer demand for Amaize through its enthusiastic support of the program across their company banners. This year, Raley’s promotions included produce manager training, point-of-sale signage, social media posts, local radio and a public relations strategy that landed George Crookham, the corn breeder himself, on a morning segment of Good Day Sacramento.

“As a long-term partner, we know Amaize is an outstanding product and our stores and customers anticipate the excitement of this item hitting our produce departments each year,” said Greg Corrigan, senior director of produce at Raley’s. “We are honored to accept this award, and look forward to many more successful Amaize seasons to come.” 

“The Raley’s team has done a fantastic job getting behind the Amaize program for many years,” said George Crookham, chief executive officer of Crookham Co. “We are very pleased to work with them and appreciate all of their efforts in supporting Amaize.”

Amaize was discovered in 1989 by breeders George Crookham and Bruce Hobdey of Crookham Co. The pair began working on perfecting the taste and texture of Amaize after experiencing a type of corn with a pop and crunch that differentiated itself from the textures of other corns.

After 23 years and 10,000 variations of testing, Amaize was created through non-GMO breeding methods. Amaize Sweet Corn is available at select retailers only during the summer months. For more information, visit www.AmaizeSweetCorn.com.

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As the second-busiest container port in the United States, the Port of Long Beach in California received over 339,000 inbound TEUs (20-foot-equivalent units) last month, its busiest October in history. November, equally, could be marked as historic with the port receiving its first-ever container of Colombia-grown Hass avocados, destined for the fresh produce aisles of U.S. retailer Walmart.

While the average consumer will give little thought to this fruit’s 3,752-nautical-mile journey, from Cartagena Port in the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and up the north Pacific coast past Mexico, the provenance of this ever-popular superfood nevertheless bears significance for both U.S. consumers and the retailers tasked with meeting their insatiable demand for avocado toast and creamy Super Bowl snacks.

The United States currently relies on neighboring Mexico for around 82 percent of its avocado supply, according to the Hass Avocado Board. But tough NAFTA talks with have led Mexico in recent months to not only revisit its existing free trade agreement with the EU (the world’s second-largest avocado market), but also to seriously pursue trade ties with China, whose growing middle class is demonstrating a similar propensity for “avoddiction.”Avocado-photo

With demand high and supply sometimes unpredictable, retailers would welcome an opportunity to close any gaps by increasing imports from other approved origins, including Peru, Chile and the Dominican Republic.

Now Colombia can be added to that list, accompanied by enviable features such as its closer proximity to the United States than its South American rivals; its ability to produce Hass at least 10 months of the year; and its well-established transport and logistics schemes, thanks in large part to the local banana industry.

Sustainable supply chain commitments
“Securing an uninterrupted supply of quality fresh avocados through the year and especially at times of high demand is of significant importance to our retail customers,” said Julián Muñoz, vice president of sourcing at Westfalia Fruit USA. The operation, headquartered in Camarillo, CA, will receive and check the fruit at its partner facility in Fillmore Piru before packing it for retail stores. Ripening services are also being added to the mix.

Most large retail groups have high expectations of their suppliers and associated facilities in terms of their social and environmental sustainability, and conduct regular audits and investigations into supply chain conditions.

“A sustainable food supply chain gives consumers transparency into how their produce is grown, which is another important factor in the retail sector today,” Muñoz added. “While we play a crucial role in providing supply security to our customers, we are also tasked with working continuously towards reducing the environmental impact of our agricultural practices.”

These are areas in which many Colombian avocado suppliers are beginning to make their mark, and that’s not just the opinion of Pedro Aguilar, general manager of Westfalia in Colombia, whose container of Hass arrived at California’s Long Beach port on Nov. 14. GlobalGAP auditors have certified many of Westfalia’s growers that demonstrate the requisite standards for on-farm food safety and sustainability.

One such farm is La Estancia del Viento, located in close proximity to Westfalia’s Colombian packhouse. Owned and run by Juan Zuluaga and his wife, Claudia Mendez, the farm is currently being monitored to determine if fruit production meets the stringent export requirements laid out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ICA, including pest-control protocols.

Both the farm and the Westfalia packhouse were visited recently by U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker, who showed considerable interest in the export process and was impressed by the level of control and professionalism seen at the premises.

Rapid expansion of Colombian production capacity
The benefits of such positive developments are likely to be felt by the entire Colombian avocado industry, whose Hass exports are expected to reach $60 million f.o.b. value by December this year. Producers are demonstrating their faith in the industry’s future by planting more trees; approximately 16,000 hectares are currently planted to avocados, with production areas growing at a rate of 15 percent annually, or 2,000 hectares per year.

“With the opening up of the U.S. market, it is expected that the industry will grow up to 30,000 hectares within the next four to five years,” Aguilar predicted, adding that foreign investment in new growing regions is also on the rise, with orchards being established even in areas previously affected by “the conflict.”

From a socio-economic perspective, the Colombian avocado industry creates close to 26,000 permanent jobs in the rural areas, and during harvest times this figure can double. Aguilar’s operation, as part of the Westfalia Fruit Group, has since its inception upheld the multinational’s guiding principles including sustainability, integrity and inclusivity. The group continues to live its values by supporting and training small-scale farmers in developing regions, setting up schools and clinics in impoverished areas, and building much-needed infrastructure that improves the lives of rural communities.

With so many of the right boxes ticked, it’s not surprising that the Colombian Hass industry is receiving growing interest from U.S.-based companies, as they begin to understand the long-term potential of this exciting new origin.

LGS Specialty Sales, one of the leading importer and distributors of citrus and avocados is proud to announce the addition of mini avocados to the product round-up. Under the Tiny Tim’s label, these mini avocados are available to retailers starting this month. 

Stemming from the Suavo Avocado family, Tiny Tim’s keep the creamy flavor profile of the larger hass avocados while reducing food waste with single-serving proportions. Tiny Tim’s are sourced from the most ideal growing regions of Mexico to provide high-quality fruit to consumers looking to try trending avocado recipes year-round. 

“As we continue to respond to trends in the marketplace, Tiny Tim’s mini avocados were a natural fit in our product line,” said Luke Sears, president and founder of LGS. “We know that consumers are reaching for convenience items, so we’d like to provide a healthy option that fits their needs. Tiny Tim’s are an excellent on-the-go item for individuals who do not want to have to store the other half of their avocado.”

Tiny Tim’s joins the product line on a newly designed website featuring the new branding unveiled at Fresh Summit this year. The site features descriptions of the individual product lines, growing regions, sustainability and social information. Additionally, recipe inspiration, tips on storing the fruit, usage tips, and nutritional facts can be found throughout the site. 

“We take great pride in growing and sourcing the best tasting fruit and providing high-quality customer service to our consumers and trade partners. We are also proud to have an avocado program that continues to outpace category growth,” Sears added. “We hope to continue this legacy for many years to come!” 

For additional information, visit www.lgssales.com, or follow LGS Sales’ social media platforms for daily inspiration.

Joseph G. Procacci, a produce industry legend known for reshaping the U.S. tomato market with Santa Sweets Grape tomatoes and UglyRipe heirloom tomatoes, has died. He was 90.Joe-Procacci

At the early age of 8, Mr. Procacci began pedaling produce in the streets of Camden, NJ, from his father's pushcart. From those humble roots, Mr. Procacci became an industry giant, building a vertically integrated produce powerhouse that develops its own seeds, grows, packs, and distributes produce, and supplies roughly 10 percent of the fresh tomatoes in the United States.

As chief executive officer and chairman of Procacci Bros., Mr. Procacci had a profound impact on shaping the produce industry as we know it today. He was a driving force in pallet standardization, grading standards, food safety, trade agreements, and he is credited with single handedly preserving the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. As the exclusive distributor of the authentic Santa Sweets Santa F1 variety, Mr. Procacci introduced the national U.S. consumer market to grape tomatoes in the late 90s. In 1999, Mr. Procacci dispelled the myth that it was impossible to produce high-flavor, vine-ripened tomatoes that could be shipped to markets all over the country when, after 20 years of developmental research, he introduced the UglyRipe tomato, an heirloom, beefsteak-style tomato with distinctive ribbed shoulders and meaty flesh.

During his distinguished career, Mr. Procacci served on many executive boards, including as chairman of the United Government Relations Committee, the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, and National Association of Perishable Agriculture Receivers. Most recently, Mr. Procacci was a leading figure in the opening of the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, the nation’s largest fully enclosed, fully refrigerated wholesale produce terminal. Mr. Procacci’s impact on the produce industry did not go unnoticed by his peers. The many honors he earned include Eastern Produce Council Man of the Year, NAPAR Receiver of the Year and the United Fresh Lifetime Achievement Award.

Despite being a larger than life presence in the produce industry, Mr. Procacci was a private man: quiet, humble and widely viewed as a consummate gentleman. Whenever praise or accolades were bestowed on Mr. Procacci for his many successes he was unfailingly modest and gracious, always crediting the contributions of others. In early September when he stepped down as CEO of Procacci Holdings LLC, Mr. Procacci stated, “I’ve been blessed with honest, hardworking employees and uncommonly loyal customers. It’s been a great honor to work with and alongside so many great people. I am extremely proud to be passing this honor and privilege on to my son, J.M., and hope that someday, he will be able to do the same with his son.”

“Throughout his life, my dad was a successful and innovative businessman, dedicated to fulfilling his customers’ needs. He was a fearless and relentless leader in our industry. If the produce industry ever opened a hall of fame, my dad would be our Babe Ruth,” said J.M. Procacci. “When I was 10 years old, dad gave in to my requests and started bringing me to work with him when I was off from school. For more than 50 years I’ve had the incredible privilege of working alongside him. Dad lived a remarkable and full life -- one where he was revered in his profession and adored by his family. By the grace of God, dad recently got to meet the Procacci family’s newest member, his first great-grandchild. He’ll be missed by colleagues, friends and loved ones far more than I can properly put into words.”

Mr. Procacci is survived by his wife of 69 years, Teresa, his son, J.M., daughters Loretta and Rita, 10 grandchildren, one great-grandchild, his brothers, Michael and Sam, and his sister, Rose.