BC Greenhouse Growers sponsors second annual BC Veggie Day

A retail display contest and media campaign are lead-ins for British Columbia's second annual BC Veggie Day, a May 23 celebration of greenhouse-grown product that traditionally begins to arrive in Canada's westernmost province stores around that time.

According to Linda Delli Santi, BC Greenhouse Growers' Association executive director, point-of-sale materials have been distributed to retailers across BC to engage consumers in the buy-local campaign. The retail display contest runs May 16-22, and the media campaign, which includes radio and television and is receiving support from the British Columbia government's Buy Local Program, runs May 18-23.bcgreenhouseveggiedayBC Veggie Day in 2014 drew a good crowd to festivities in downtown Vancouver. This year the event is being celebrated at multiple venues throughout the province, thanks to the participation by major retailers. (Photo courtesy of BC Greenhouse Growers' Association)

“Last year our inaugural event was for consumer awareness, and we had a gathering in downtown Vancouver. This year's BC Veggie Day has a retail focus, with incentives for a display contest,” she said.

Major retailers involved in the effort include Loblaws and Save-On-Foods, Delli Santi said.

In addition to the displays and multi-media coverage of the event, select greenhouse facilities in British Columbia will be holding open houses for consumer visits, and some retailers will have greenhouse growers on hand during the May 23 observance to meet with shoppers.

“Also, on May 14, there will be a provincial proclamation, and we will meet with government leaders,” Delli Santi said.

Some 42 greenhouse growers are members of the BC Greenhouse Growers' Association and produce more than 95 percent of the province's greenhouse vegetables. Farm gate sales for BC greenhouses is approximately $200 million, and the sector brings more than $600 million to BC's economy. The number of people employed in the greenhouse industry in British Columbia total more than 3,200.

More than five varieties of tomatoes are grown under glass in British Columbia, along with sweet Bell peppers, hot peppers, mini peppers, long English cucumbers, mini cucumbers and butter lettuce.

While most BC greenhouses are in production for 10 months out of the year, some produce year-round.

“Greenhouse vegetable growing is for B.C.’s future food supply,” the association's website at bcgreenhouse.ca says. “We can grow 10 to 20 times the amount of vegetables on the same area of field, feeding millions of people healthy, fresh vegetables virtually year-round.”

Kroger acquisition about innovation and growth

The Kroger Co. has acquired certain assets of dunnhumby Ltd, a leading customer science company, to create substantial opportunities for innovation and growth. A new business called 84.51° will operate with those assets as its foundation. Financial terms of the new arrangements were not disclosed. The new businesses was set to commence operations April 27.krolog

"Kroger and dunnhumby revolutionized retailing in the U.S. by focusing on the customer, and we intend to do it again with 84.51°," Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a press release. "We are launching 84.51° with a powerful foundation, including a decade of experience and a team of incredibly talented associates from both dunnhumbyUSA and Kroger. The ability to combine what we already know with other partners is exciting and will speed up innovation. We expect these innovations to grow our business and deliver a world-class customer experience. We will continue to utilize data science for the benefit of the customer and to deliver a personalized experience, both in store and online. Doing so will continue to differentiate Kroger and create value for our shareholders."

Under the new arrangements, Kroger will retain dunnhumby Ltd's technology and the talent to continue developing Kroger's leading customer insights and loyalty programs for the benefit of its customers.

More than 500 of dunnhumbyUSA's employees will become associates of 84.51°, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Kroger Co.  84.51° will also have the benefit of a perpetual license to use dunnhumby Ltd's analytical tools to find customer insights in Kroger's data. dunnhumby Ltd will provide service and maintenance on those tools for a period of five years, but will no longer have access to Kroger's data. Stuart Aitken, who previously led dunnhumbyUSA, will become CEO of 84.51°.

dunnhumby Ltd will continue to operate in the United States as dunnhumby, expanding its client base and accelerating the growth of its business through the greater flexibility of the new arrangements with Kroger. dunnhumby will now have the ability to use its insight products and data expertise to capture the substantial, previously unavailable potential of the North American market through working with new retailers, consumer brands and media partners.

In addition, 84.51° will have the flexibility to accelerate future innovation by working with new partners and new tools, always toward the goal of engaging customers where, when and how it matters most to them. Where previously Kroger was restricted to working with dunnhumby only, the new non-exclusive arrangement now makes available to 84.51° the use of innovative tools from other companies to analyze its data. 

"We are excited to bring our insights and capabilities to more of the American market and to continue our relationship with Kroger over the next five years," Simon Hay, CEO of dunnhumby Ltd, said in a press release. "The wider U.S. market is a fantastic opportunity for dunnhumby to help more retailers and brands undertake a similar journey using data-informed insights to delight their customers and earn their loyalty."

 

Dietitians, bloggers get up-close look at California avocado industry

VENTURA, CA — Dietitians and bloggers from across the nation got a first-hand look at the California avocado industry during a media tour April 25-26 hosted by the California Avocado Commission.

The tour encompassed stops at a leading avocado nursery, a longtime avocado grower and the country's largest packinghouse, giving attendees a thorough look at one of the most popular crops in the Golden State.

En route to Brokaw Nurseries in Saticoy, CA, Jan DeLyser, vice president of the commission, told tour attendees that the state is expecting a crop of about 327 million pounds this season,2014-CPS-Pool-panel-AChef Pink (right) of Bacon & Brine in Solvang, CA, and of the Food Network's 'Cutthroat Kitchen' fame, speaking with Randy Axell of Rancho Rodoro and Jan DeLyser of the California Avocado Commission. More photos available here which will be harvested by approximately 5,000 growers who take enormous pride in producing a high-quality "home grown" crop.

At Brokaw Nurseries, the state's largest avocado tree producer, Sales Manager Aimee Meidinger-Smith led an informative demonstration on the first two years of the life of an avocado tree, from seed to sale to a grower.

Following the stop at the nursery, the tour proceeded to Rancho Rodoro in Santa Paula, CA, where grower Randy Axell, a third-generation avocado grower, invited attendees to pick avocados on his 25-acre avocado orchard.

Axell exuded pride in his craft, telling attendees, "I love being able to spend every day on our farm and in the groves. It's very satisfying to be able to grow something from a tiny seed to a full tree."

After the grove tour, Axell invited attendees into his historic barn where Chef Pink of Bacon & Brine in Solvang, CA, and the Food Network's "Cutthroat Kitchen" fame prepared a California avocado-themed lunch.

The final stop was at Mission Produce's new state-of-the-art avocado packinghouse in Oxnard, CA, which is the largest avocado packinghouse in the world — until its facility in Trujillo, Peru is completed in just a few weeks.

Mission officials led attendees through the operation and explained the technology it employs to get the highest-quality — and safest — product to consumers.

Following the tour of the packinghouse, the commission hosted a dinner for attendees that featured California avocados in each course. Prior to the dinner, Katie Ferraro, a registered dietitian who works with the commission, extolled the nutritional virtues and versatility of avocados during a demonstration.

DeLyser said the avocado category has exploded in recent years and acknowledged that production in Mexico, Peru and Chile has enabled consumption to reach unimagined levels. But she said California holds a special place in the minds of some U.S. consumers who prefer a "home grown" avocado when available.

The California avocado season runs from April through September, and the state produces 90 percent of the nation's avocado crop. Seven varieties of avocados are produced commercially in the state, with the Hass variety accounting for 95 percent of the total crop volume.

Potandon Produce announces start date for Arizona red potatoes

Potandon Produce LLC, the exclusive marketing agent for Pinto Creek Co. LLC in Eloy, AZ, announced that its fresh potato season will begin May 4.AZ-Lock

This year, consumer bags will be shipped with a redesigned “Grown in Arizona” Quik-Lok tag.  

“Our Arizona customers enthusiastically responded to the local call-out, and with so many consumers asking about the origins of their food, it made perfect sense to move ahead with this program nationally,” Bernie Pavlock, Potandon's business development director, said in a press release.

The company said growing conditions have been very good this year and production is ahead of schedule. Red potatoes are expected to start the week of April 27, with yellow and mini potato varieties getting started about mid-May. These new-crop potatoes will also be available in Idaho Falls at the Potandon distribution facility about one week after the scheduled start dates.

Pinto Creek is a PRIMUS-certified facility with a full-time quality assurance person on-site daily. The packing facility has seen steady improvement over the past five years, by adding a new storage facility to state-of-the-art grading and sizing equipment.

Inspector training among concerns raised at first FDA public meeting on FSMA implementation

WASHINGTON — While Food & Drug Administration leaders say inspectors will undergo a culture change before enforcing the Food Safety Modernization Act and “educate before regulate,” the produce industry is looking for assurances inspectors will be well trained and apply the law consistently across the diverse industry.

FDA shared some details of a plan to implement FSMA at an April 23-24 public meeting where the agency asked for input from stakeholders on the looming import, preventive controls and produce safety programs.

While FDA leadership may be committed to changing the adversarial role of inspectors, it will be a “herculean task” to implement the culture change throughout the ranks, said David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology at United Fresh Produce Association, one a seven panelists who spoke on Friday.

The real test will come when inspectors show up at farms or knock at the door of produce facilities, he added.

Other food industry representatives urged FDA to make sure inspectors are well trained and “not just box checkers,” and to share the training curriculum with industry.

“We want to remind FDA there’s a lot of different ways” to make food safe, said the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s Leon Bruner, who called for guidelines to help industry comply with FSMA but warned against making them inflexible.

As FDA rolls out the massive new food-safety system, Bruner suggested the agency develop a formal appeals process when disagreements arise between a facility manager and an inspector on interpretation of FSMA.

FDA hinted at plenty of changes being considered to enforce the law.

FDA said it’s investing in specialized training for produce inspectors, most of whom will be state inspectors on the farm, and plans to hire subject matter experts sprinkled throughout the country who will advise inspectors “in real time” to promote consistency.

FDA is working with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture to develop a voluntary on-farm assessment that would be conducted before companies must comply with the law.

The agency is also eyeing whether to factor in “market-driven produce safety programs,” such as the USDA Good Agricultural Practices audit programs and marketing agreements, to make decisions on resource allocation when it comes to inspections.

During the meeting, state representatives warned against dumping an “unfunded mandate” on states, the front lines for educating and regulating industry.

Without adequate funding, said Chuck Ross, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Foods & Markets, “We are buying a grand illusion.”