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Expanding export markets important to moving increased Washington apple volume

The Washington Apple Commission continues with due diligence to promote exports of the state's ever-increasing apple volume. "With the larger anticipated Washington apple crop, we are putting heavy emphasis on export opportunity," President Todd Fryhover told The Produce News. "I can say all programs are fully funded and we're hopeful to see a 20-percent increase or more for 2014-15."

Buzz in the orchard is translating to excitement for a successful season. "With 140 million [boxes] on the trees, the first exports will begin right away," Fryhover commented.ExportOverview1Last season, the Washington Apple Commission launched a new regional marketing campaign, Mother's Love, in Southeast Asia. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Apple Commission) Movement to Mexico, Canada and Taiwan continues to be robust, and important markets are developing in Southeast Asia and Central America.

Fryhover provided some numbers that illustrate the importance of export markets. "The 2013-14 WA apple crop is approximately 115 [million boxes]. For [2014-15], the August estimate indicates 140.19 [million boxes], our largest crop, above the 2012-13 volume of 128.25 [million boxes]," he stated. "Thirty-four percent is our goal and has been the percentage in past seasons. We are enthusiastically working towards reaching this goal this season."

Levels of increased production in Washington's apple industry have been carefully planned. "Some of the numbers above might seem daunting," Fryhover continued. "However, I would like to point out that we have been investing in more productive orchards, new varieties with a taste and texture for everyone, technology at the warehousing level and generally getting better and better at growing, packing and delivering high quality apples worldwide."

Prospects are good as the harvest approaches. "I've been around a long time, and this is one of the most 'even' crop loads I've seen," he stated. "Providing Mother Nature doesn't create issues or labor is short, this should be a good season."

Last season, WAC initiated a new regional marketing campaign, Mother's Love, in Southeast Asia. Export Marketing Director Rebecca Lyons said the program was highly successful. Lyons spoke with The Produce News to explain the concept of the campaign and the successes achieved.

"We wanted to create a region-wide campaign to engage our target consumers, women between the ages of 25 to 45, and appeal to their desire to feed their families delicious, wholesome food," Lyons commented. "Using the reputation of Washington apples coming from a safe, clean and healthy environment, the campaign focused on mothers providing only the best for their families."

Most of the promotional events associated with the campaign were held between November 2013 and March 2014. "Activities included specially designed point-of-sale material, display contests, consumer games and activities, in-store demonstrations and sampling, roadshows and other market-specific activities," Lyons went on to say.

The countries targeted by the Mother's Love campaign were Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. "Together, these countries account for over 4.5 million 40-lb cartons of Washington apples, worth approximately $93 million in f.o.b. sales," she stated. "Although due to the smaller crop versus 2012-13, our overall exports have decreased by over 7 percent, these countries -- with the exception of Thailand, which decreased 5 percent -- have all shown strong increases this season. During the campaign, we saw overall shipments to the markets increase an average of 50 percent compared to the same time frame last year."

WAC plans to expand the program within current Southeast Asian markets. "We are increasing the program reach beyond the major metro regions to appeal to consumers in outlying regions, which are experiencing strong growth in retail penetration and offer additional opportunities for Washington apples, particularly Red Delicious," Lyons said.

Although Red Delicious accounts for approximately 50 percent of Washington apple exports, Lyons said Mother's Love was not a variety-specific promotion. "We did encourage retailers to feature multi-varietal displays to heighten the visual appeal to consumers. We are seeing more and more displays of three or more varieties in the organized retail sector," she said. "They want to provide their customers with choices, and Washington certainly offers a lot of them."

Weis celebrates new flagship store with giveaways, donations

Weis Markets celebrated the grand opening of its new Selinsgrove, PA, flagship store with a true celebration. The festivities included a community ribbon cutting ceremony with local public officials and dignitaries, along with company donations to local nonprofits. Customers were also surprised with free bags of groceries during check out at the registers.

The 66,740-square-foot store features larger fresh departments with more than 700 varieties of produce and a greater selection of organic and natural items.

“We celebrated the exciting launch of a store we’ve been planning for a number of years," Jonathan Weis, president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. "From concept to ground breaking and now grand opening, we have meticulously planned every detail of this state-of-the-art store with great care to ensure our customers receive the very best from Weis Markets. We have proudly served Snyder County for more than a century and we’re honored to continue this for many, many more years to come.”

The new store is also designed to be eco-friendly, featuring advanced refrigeration and climate-control technologies to lessen its effects on the environment. These technologies will reduce the store’s refrigerant usage by 60 percent compared to that of a conventional supermarket.

Additional enhancements include an international cheese section, more gourmet and international foods, as well as a full-service pharmacy, deli and expanded food service department and bakery. The store’s café offers dine-in and take out service, outdoor patio seating, and 750 varieties of domestic and imported beer. The location also has a Gas N’ Go fuel station on the premise.

The store employs more than 200 full- and part-time associates.

Organizations receiving donations from Weis Markets at the grand opening ceremony were Snyder County Libraries, Selinsgrove Seals Summer Day Camp, Girls on the Run of the Greater Susquehanna Valley, Selinsgrove AYSO (youth soccer), Selinsgrove Football Boosters, All Saints Episcopal Church/Martha’s Table, Selinsgrove Youth Football, Meals for Seals, Dauntless Hook & Ladder, Union Snyder Community Action Agency, St. Paul UCC/Five Fishes & Two Loaves, Selinsgrove Area Band Booster Association.

Produce Mom promotes school salad bars on Indy TV

The ever-active “Produce Mom”, Lori Taylor was scheduled to raise awareness for the national school salad bar initiative on live Indianapolis television on Aug. 21. According to a press release on that morning, Taylor was slated for the IndyStyle program on WISH-TV 8.

Taylor is The Produce Mom for The Produce Mom LLC, which is a subsidiary of Indianapolis Fruit Co., Inc.

2014-3-18-1357-Indy-Fruit Participating in a Produce for Better Health event in Scottsdale, AZ, on March 18 were Lori Taylor, The Produce Mom, Indianapolis, and Antonia Mascari, marketing manager of Indianapolis Fruit Co., Inc.The press release noted that to date, 2,800 schools nationwide have received salad bars through the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative. Taylor refers the industry to for information on sponsoring a salad bar.

“Our industry is uniquely positioned to stem the tide of the national health epidemic while inspiring the next generation of produce consumers. The Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative highlights this commitment to combat childhood obesity through improving child nutrition. That’s why I’m honored to be assisting Hilary Martin of Frey Farms, the United Fresh Midwest Salad Bar Captain, in the industry push for salad bar placement in Indiana Schools,” Taylor indicated.

She also noted, “If you’re part of the produce industry, then you probably don’t need to be convinced of the tremendous potential that bringing salad bars to schools has for this country. Salad bars are popular with students and make it easy for schools to serve a wide variety of fresh produce. They empower kids to make their own healthy choices and create excitement about trying new fruits and vegetables.”



Empress plum season under way

The 2014 Empress plum season should be a bumper crop of high-quality fruit. Empress plums are a seasonal niche fruit with a loyal following in several regions of North America. They are only available for four to six weeks, and this year’s harvest is starting five to seven days earlier than a typical year due to outstanding weather.empress-plum-7

Overall production of Empress plums is expected to be up by 20-25 percent for the popular "Blue Goose" label, which is marketed exclusively by the Grant J. Hunt Co. There will be two sizes available, 1-3/4 inch and two inch.

“This is one of the cleanest crops of Empress plums I’ve ever seen," Eric Patrick, marketing director, said in a press release. "We are getting great size, and could potentially peak on the larger two-inch plums. The Milton-Freewater [OR] region has had ideal growing weather for the past couple of weeks with virtually no wind, so the fruit is really clean looking. Consumers are in for a treat.”

Empress plums are large and egg-shaped with blueish-purple skin and a freestone pit. They are popular with the baking community because when they cook, the plums turn into a thicker, almost jam-like consistency without turning into mush. Tarts, cakes and other baked goods then maintain their shape better and don’t turn into a soggy mess which can happen with other fruits and plums.

The Grant J. Hunt Co., formed in 1934, is headquartered in northern California and has offices in Yakima, WA, and Seattle.

Dole Fruit Bowls, Key Food and Captain Planet Foundation to host Learning Garden contest

In order to promote the understanding and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, Dole Fruit Bowls, Key Food and Captain Planet Foundation are teaming up to host a learning garden grant contest.

The Dole Fruit Bowls, Key Food and Captain Planet Foundation Project Learning Garden Grant Contest will allow New York City school officials, parents or volunteers involved with eligible schools (K-5) to apply to win a Captain Planet Learning Garden. Two grand prize-winning schools will win a Learning Garden from the Captain Planet Foundation, which includes garden installation (or expansion of an existing garden), a mobile garden cooking cart, standards-based learning garden lessons, lesson supply kits and a day of professional development for teachers. In addition, the two winning schools will receive a one-year supply of Dole Fruit Bowls.

CPF’s Project Learning Garden provides the opportunity for teachers to extend the classroom into the garden for project-based learning, fresh vegetable tasting events and an understanding of the role that fresh fruits and vegetables play in a healthy lifestyle.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Captain Planet Foundation to offer Learning Gardens to New York City schools,” Stan Stuka, marketing director of Dole Fruit Bowls, said in a press release. “We know that the best learning gardens have the power to teach students about good nutrition and how fruits and vegetables grow, even when they begin simply by planting seeds in up-cycled Dole Fruit Bowls.”

“We are extremely excited to be a part of this program,” Michele Gissi, interactive marketing and public relations manager of Key Food Stores Co-Operative Inc., said in the release “As a food retailer, we pride ourselves on nutritional education and healthy eating options. We are so happy to be able to bring Learning Gardens to two schools in our community through this grant.”

A panel of judges will select the two grand prize winners, who will be announced on National Food Day, Oct. 24.

“We know that when kids engage with a learning garden, they develop an early palate for fresh fruits and vegetables and an authentic understanding and appreciation for the natural world in which they live,” Leesa Carter, executive director of Captain Planet Foundation, said in the release.