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Military Produce Group deploys IFCO RPCs

The Military Produce Group is showing its commitment to the environment by using reusable plastic containers from IFCO Systems for the shipment of fresh produce to dozens of commissaries.

The Military Produce Group, which supplies fruits and vegetables to commissaries in the southern United States, is moving to RPCs from corrugated boxes for several commodities. This move furthers the Defense Commissary Agency's sustainability program.

The initial rollout of RPCs covers about 32 DeCA locations, increasing to 71, which will be served from Military Produce Group distribution centers in Norfolk, VA, Birmingham, AL, and Savannah, GA.

"The Defense Commissary Agency is committed to an environmentally sustainable operation and applauds MPG's use of reusable containers to limit the amount of waste heading to landfills and reduce product damage," Bridget Bennett, supervisory category manager-produce at DeCA, said in a press release.

Military Produce Group works with grower-shippers to ensure military families get the freshest produce delivered to their local commissary at the peak of ripeness.

"The Military Produce Group works diligently to provide healthy food to the commissaries we serve and to do it in a way that keeps our carbon footprint to a minimum," Al Oliver, director of sales and marketing at Military Produce Group, added in the press release. "RPCs from IFCO are helping us be more sustainable while improving the efficiency of our operations."

With more than 180 million RPCs in circulation, IFCO is the leading provider of reusable containers to the fresh food sector worldwide. IFCO handles all RPC logistics, from distributions to cleaning to re-entry into the supply chain. After retail use, IFCO RPCs are folded, collected and shipped back to one of IFCO's service facilities, where they are sanitized and prepared for re-use.

"IFCO is honored to play a role in assisting the Military Produce Group in becoming even more environment-friendly by eliminating waste from the supply chain," Mike Ellis, director of supply chain development at IFCO, added in the press release.

Ellis worked with account representative and fellow veteran Pam Cavallero to ensure a smooth rollout of MPG's program to commissaries.

Wakefern Food Corp. unveils new Elizabeth, NJ, warehouse

WakefernElizabethribboncuttThe ribbon is cut at Wakefern's newest warehouse facility in Elizabeth, NJ, during an April 17 ceremony.Making a return to its roots, Wakefern Food Corp. celebrated the opening of its new Elizabeth, NJ, warehouse with a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 17.

“We are proud to be back in Elizabeth,” Joe Sheridan, Wakefern president and chief operating officer, told a crowd of nearly 200 attendees.

Sheridan and Joseph Colalillo, Wakefern chairman and chief executive officer, joined a roomful of dignitaries — including New Jersey Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno, Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, Sen. Ray Lesniak and Elberon Development Co.’s Chairman and CEO Anne Evans Estabrook — to celebrate the opening of a facility that is expected to create 150 additional permanent jobs over the next decade.

This 524,000-square-foot facility replaces the former Wakefern grocery warehouse at the same site and increases storage capabilities by more than 58 percent to better distribute non-perishable food products to ShopRite, PriceRite and The Fresh Grocer stores across New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts , Rhode Island and Virginia. In addition to the expanded square footage, this new building will feature ceilings 36 feet high, increasing the storage space significantly. There are currently 345 associates who work in the facility.

In June 2011, Wakefern transitioned its non-perishable operations to a temporary facility in Carteret, NJ, to allow for the demolition and subsequent re-construction of its original grocery warehouse in Elizabeth, which was built in the late 1950s. This new location was completed in November 2013 and was fully operational by February of this year.

“The city of Elizabeth continuously strives to grow our economy and create opportunities that generate jobs, as well as increase options within our municipality,” said Mayor Bollwage. “Working together with dedicated partners such as Wakefern Food Corp. and Elberon Development Co. LLC, we are providing assistance and delivering the services that residents want and deserve. This wonderful expansion is a great addition to the Elizabeth business community.”

“Wakefern’s strength comes from its core focus of ‘families serving families,’” said Colalillo. “This personal connection to our business makes a partnership with Elberon and the Evans family — more than 50 years in the making — a natural extension of our commitment to our customers, our stores and the communities we serve. We are also thankful to Mayor Bollwage and the city of Elizabeth for continuing to welcome us as a member of their community and we are pleased to mark our return to our Elizabeth roots with the opening of this new facility.”

Since it was founded in 1946, Wakefern has become one of the larger retailer-owned cooperatives in the U.S. Headquartered in Keasbey, NJ, it operates more than 2.5 million square feet of grocery and non-food warehousing.

National Watermelon Association rolls out industry-branded bin for retail display

Working with a handful of growers and shippers, two major paper manufacturers and the National Watermelon Promotions Board, the National Watermelon Association has created a new bin that it hopes will gain traction at retail as the primary vehicle to represent the watermelon industry.WtrmlnBinCHEP-2

NWA calls the new bin a “marketing vehicle that will sell more watermelons at retail.”

The current retail point-of-purchase landscape is fractured, with shippers and other suppliers utilizing their own bins or generic versions created for the industry. The new bin will provide a consolidated approach that the NWA believes will let consumers know they have found what they are looking for.

“With over 200 different [bins] in use currently within our own industry, it is vital for us to come together as much as possible to create a brand awareness,” NWA Executive Director Bob Morrissey told The Produce News. “Our mantra moving through the graphics portion of the project was — and is — to make watermelon the hero. The graphics alone will sell more watermelons, and that is what we desire in this process, along with reducing inventories, SKUs and costs.”

Morrissey said the NWA approached the design of the new bin with very specific goals in mind:

  • Create a bin that will sell more watermelons. 
  • Eliminate the clutter of wording and logos.
  • Make a single, common file available to all paper companies and shippers.
  • Minimize SKUs nationally to reduce costs.
  • Create a national marketing footprint at retail.

The new pre-print bin is now available for the summer 2014 season. The NWA is encouraging all shippers, retailers and paper manufacturers to use the new bin as a replacement for any other bins. NWA makes clear this is not a bin designed simply to become another SKU.

NWA believes the final version of the bin will reduce costs, increase sales and create a national presence at retail. But there were other viable candidates considered and some of those will get another look in the future.

“There were a number of variations that the development group looked at, which led to this one selection,” Morrissey said. “Our plan moving forward is to review it annually, and tweak it as necessary to stay current while striving to appeal to consumers. Recognition at retail is the priority.”  

The new bin is another example of the work NWA does for its members, from lobbying on Capitol Hill to coordinating the annual Watermelon Queen competition.

“We want to end each day knowing that we have done something for the better good of our members,” Morrissey said. “The corrugated bin initiative is one of those achievements where we will be able to see concrete results and know that we have contributed to the success of our members and the crop industry. Once we begin to see the build of these watermelon bins at retail in the thousands, we will be pleased. The heavy lifting is just beginning at the selling side to gain acceptance. The future looks very bright and watermelon will be the hero.” 

Industry leaders to be honored at Texas Produce Hall of Fame banquet

Six leaders of the Texas produce industry will be honored April 28 at the 2014 Texas Produce Hall of Fame Banquet.

The Produce Hall of Fame was established in 1988 and has since presented 134 living and posthumous awards and 17 Scott Toothaker Awards to men and women who have contributed a large part of their lives to the betterment of the Texas produce industry.

The six men to be inducted at the upcoming banquet include Bill Robertson and Lloyd Miller, well respected growers who contributed significantly to the Texas produce industry. They will be in attendance with their families to receive these awards in person.

Receiving the Hall of Fame Posthumous Awards will be David Peterson and George (Eddie) Edwards, who were well respected independent farmers.

John M. McClung and Ray Prewett will be honored with the Scott Toothaker Award for their dedication and service to the Texas produce industry. The Scott Toothaker Award was established in 1989 for those individuals who are not directly involved in production agriculture, but who have made special contributions to the industry.

The Hall of Fame is considered one of the most treasured events that the Texas International Produce Association holds every two years, because it provides the opportunity to pay tribute to those who have paved the way for the Texas produce industry, along with acting as a fundraiser for the William E. Weeks Agricultural Scholarship that was established to encourage future generations to carry on the hard work of past leaders.

Top chefs earn top honors at United Fresh 2014

Seven of the country's most exciting chefs and foodservice professionals representing an array of culinary styles and backgrounds will be honored this June as part of the United Fresh Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards Program. Sponsored by PRO*ACT LLC, and now in its seventh year, the program honors chefs and their companies for their innovative and influential use of fresh produce in the culinary arts. The United Fresh Produce Association will formally recognize the seven winners at United Fresh 2014, the association's annual convention and expo in Chicago, June 10-13, 2014.

"We at PRO*ACT continue to be amazed at the creativity, vision, and dedication to fresh produce shown by the honorees in this program," PRO*ACT President Max Yeater said in a press release. "We are so proud to be a sponsor of the Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards and we thank all of the nominees and chefs who work so hard to increase the consumption of healthful fresh fruits and vegetables."

The seven winners were selected from more than 130 nominations submitted by produce companies and foodservice operations across North America. A panel of produce and foodservice industry leaders reviewed each nominee's demonstrated incorporation of fresh produce into menu development, use of protocols for correct storage and handling of produce, leadership in produce-related community service and special events, and recognition by their company and industry peers.

"These winners have made extraordinary dishes that feature fresh fruit and vegetable mainstays on their menus and we are proud to honor them for the important role they play in showcasing our industry," Tom Stenzel, chief executive officer of United Fresh, said in the release. "We appreciate their tremendous commitment and recognize PRO*ACT's generous support in honoring these winners and their positive influence on restaurant menus across the nation."

The winning chefs, along with an executive from their company, will attend United Fresh 2014 in Chicago. All honorees will participate in a panel session, Restaurant Flavors and Trends from the Best, on Thursday, June 12 at 1:30 p.m.

The 2014 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award winners:

  • Business in Industry: Chef Daniel Benigno, Guckenheimer executive chef at TD Ameritrade, Omaha, NE.
  • Casual & Family Dining Restaurants: Chef Carlito Jocson, executive chef, Yard House, Irvine, CA.
  • Colleges & Universities: Chef Chandon Clenard, senior executive chef, Stanford University Residential Dining Services, Stanford, CA.
  • Fine Dining Restaurants: Chef Adam Hegsted, chef and owner of Eat Good, Wandering Table and Yards Bruncheon, Spokane, WA.
  • Hotels & Healthcare: Chef Rolf Nettesheim, executive chef and foodservice director, The Palace Group, Miami.
  • K-12 School Foodservice: Chef Jason Morse, executive chef, Douglas County School District, Castle Rock, CO.
  • Quick Service Restaurants: Jeff Sinelli, founder, CEO and chief vibe officer, Which Wich, Dallas.

For more information on the Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award program, please contact Miriam Miller Wolk at 202/303-3410.