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Drivend by demand, commission extends Potato Lovers’ Month

The Idaho Potato Commission’s annual Potato Lovers’ Month display contest has become so successful, with so many stores participating, that it has become necessary to expand the promotion to eight weeks, rather than just four weeks in February.

Last year, demand for Idaho potatoes during the February promotion was so great it essentially reached the limit of the capacity of Idaho potato packing facilities to meet the demand. Therefore, for the 2015 Potato Lovers’ Month, the contest period will be extended to eight weeks. It will start mid-January and continue into mid-March.

17-IDPot-IPC-Retail-Seth-PeSeth PemslerPotato Lovers’ Month, now in its 24th year, “has grown exponentially,” said Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail for the Idaho Potato Commission. “It is now the largest display contest in all the U.S. in fruits and vegetables,” and that success is expected to continue.  For 2015, “we will hopefully add some new customers, which we are always trying to do.”

According to Frank Muir, president of the commission, Prior to 2005, the average number of displays for the annual Potato Lovers’ Month display contest was 600. From 2006 to 2012, there were an average of 2,000 displays. “The last two years, we have averaged 4,500. A big part of that is we now have Walmart as a major partner in that event.”

The commission will continue to work with Hormel as a partner for the Potato Lovers’ Month promotion, Pemsler told The Produce News.

As an adjunct to the national contest, “we do individual contests with retailers,” Pemsler said. “We go to retailers and say, ‘If you convince your chain to participate, we will give you an internal contest,’ and the retailer can still participate in the national contest,” he said. “That will continue to expand.”

Elaborating on the reason for extending the time period for the Potato Lovers’ Month contest to eight  weeks, Pemsler said that the number of participating stores has increased so  much in the past two years that “our shippers can’t pack that fast. We actually missed some opportunities this year” because there was not enough volume available to meet the additional demand. By expanding the promotion to eight weeks, “the Idaho shipping community can meet the increasing demand” generated by the Potato Lovers’ Month promotions.

The Potato Lovers’ Month promotion — and many other commission programs — couldn’t be executed without the field team, Pemsler said.

Among the commission’s other retail programs is “our category management initiative, our new data initiative, which is very helpful to retailers. But the way we execute all these things requires our field team,” he said.

The field team consists of people who “grew up doing exactly what the people they are calling on do,” Pemsler continued. “All of our field people — retail and foodservice — come from the industry. ” On the retail side they have been produce directors, “and they have been distributors on the foodservice side, so they have phenomenal knowledge and credibility. They act as consultants to their counterparts.”

The commission is giving increased attention to the Hispanic marketplace in its retail programs. “We did extensive research to identify and understand the Hispanic consumer, and what we learned was the Hispanic consumers are very brand conscious,” and when it comes to produce “they are extremely brand conscious because there are so few bands,” Pemsler said. The Hispanic consumers “skew very heavily toward the perception that a brand is better and Idaho is the best brand.”

To make retailers that have stores with Hispanic demographics aware of those facts, the commission “created a presentation that explains what Hispanic consumers are looking for and how the retailers are missing opportunities if they are not making sure Idaho potatoes are present and visible in those stores, he said.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Drivend by demand, commission extends Potato Lovers’ Month

The Idaho Potato Commission’s annual Potato Lovers’ Month display contest has become so successful, with so many stores participating, that it has become necessary to expand the promotion to eight weeks, rather than just four weeks in February.

Last year, demand for Idaho potatoes during the February promotion was so great it essentially reached the limit of the capacity of Idaho potato packing facilities to meet the demand. Therefore, for the 2015 Potato Lovers’ Month, the contest period will be extended to eight weeks. It will start mid-January and continue into mid-March.

17-IDPot-IPC-Retail-Seth-PeSeth PemslerPotato Lovers’ Month, now in its 24th year, “has grown exponentially,” said Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail for the Idaho Potato Commission. “It is now the largest display contest in all the U.S. in fruits and vegetables,” and that success is expected to continue.  For 2015, “we will hopefully add some new customers, which we are always trying to do.”

According to Frank Muir, president of the commission, Prior to 2005, the average number of displays for the annual Potato Lovers’ Month display contest was 600. From 2006 to 2012, there were an average of 2,000 displays. “The last two years, we have averaged 4,500. A big part of that is we now have Walmart as a major partner in that event.”

The commission will continue to work with Hormel as a partner for the Potato Lovers’ Month promotion, Pemsler told The Produce News.

As an adjunct to the national contest, “we do individual contests with retailers,” Pemsler said. “We go to retailers and say, ‘If you convince your chain to participate, we will give you an internal contest,’ and the retailer can still participate in the national contest,” he said. “That will continue to expand.”

Elaborating on the reason for extending the time period for the Potato Lovers’ Month contest to eight  weeks, Pemsler said that the number of participating stores has increased so  much in the past two years that “our shippers can’t pack that fast. We actually missed some opportunities this year” because there was not enough volume available to meet the additional demand. By expanding the promotion to eight weeks, “the Idaho shipping community can meet the increasing demand” generated by the Potato Lovers’ Month promotions.

The Potato Lovers’ Month promotion — and many other commission programs — couldn’t be executed without the field team, Pemsler said.

Among the commission’s other retail programs is “our category management initiative, our new data initiative, which is very helpful to retailers. But the way we execute all these things requires our field team,” he said.

The field team consists of people who “grew up doing exactly what the people they are calling on do,” Pemsler continued. “All of our field people — retail and foodservice — come from the industry. ” On the retail side they have been produce directors, “and they have been distributors on the foodservice side, so they have phenomenal knowledge and credibility. They act as consultants to their counterparts.”

The commission is giving increased attention to the Hispanic marketplace in its retail programs. “We did extensive research to identify and understand the Hispanic consumer, and what we learned was the Hispanic consumers are very brand conscious,” and when it comes to produce “they are extremely brand conscious because there are so few bands,” Pemsler said. The Hispanic consumers “skew very heavily toward the perception that a brand is better and Idaho is the best brand.”

To make retailers that have stores with Hispanic demographics aware of those facts, the commission “created a presentation that explains what Hispanic consumers are looking for and how the retailers are missing opportunities if they are not making sure Idaho potatoes are present and visible in those stores, he said.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

FDA to Revise Animal Food Rule, Extends Other FSMA Comment Periods

A number of changes to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) implementation timeline were announced Wednesday.

First, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to publish revised language for the proposed rule on preventive controls for animal food in early summer 2014, alongside the revised produce safety and preventive controls for human food rules.

FDA also plans to extend the comment period for other elements of FSMA.

The new deadline for the intentional adulteration and accompanying draft qualitative risk assessment will be June 30, a 90-day extension from the March 31 deadline originally set by the court. The announcement comes a week after FDA held its third and final public meeting on the rule in Anaheim, CA.

Because the agency will release a revised version of the animal food rule, the March 31 deadline for comments on preventive controls for animal food will remain despite calls for an extension from the grain and feed industry.

Richard Sellers, the American Feed Industry Association’s senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs, said that his organization is “disappointed” that FDA is not giving the industry more time to review the rule “provided the agency themselves was given an extension by the courts.”

Last on the list of Wednesday’s updates, FDA is also extending the comment period on the draft methodological approach to identifying high-risk foods an additional 45 days until May 22.

“The Agency is committed to providing adequate time to comment on proposed rules while recognizing the need to meet court-ordered deadlines for final rules,” reads an FDA statement.

FDA will officially announce the extensions in the Federal Register and will issue constituent updates to inform stakeholders.

Food Safety News

Eco-friendly ProduceShield extends shelf life, reduces pathogens

A new product rolled out in October has been shown to beat back spoilage organisms and extend shelf-life for fresh produce as well as offer a sustainable pathogen-fighting wash that outperforms chlorine or acid-based alternatives, according to developer CMS Technology.

The Danbury, CT-based firm developed ProduceShield after a team of scientists worked more than six years developing an environmentally friendly, FDA-certified as Generally Recognized as Safe product that can respond to the growing instances of foodborne outbreaks, Harley Langberg, operations director for CMS Technology, told The Produce News.

It relies on a positively charged, cationic carrier technology that remains stable in cold and hot temperatures and can be used in wide-ranging environments, said Langberg.

And unlike other washes, ProduceShield does not have to be rinsed after application, and companies tell CMS that they’re looking for alternatives to chlorine and acid-based products because there’s concern bacteria are becoming resistant to these technologies or can reappear after the product is rinsed off, according to Langberg.

Firms that have been using chlorine for more than 20 years are beginning to look for alternatives, especially as new federal food-safety regulations are coming down the pike from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, said Langberg, adding that the product is an effective weapon against E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria.

“We’ve shown we’re better than anything out there,” said Langberg, pointing to the product’s success in killing off spoilage bacteria and extending shelf life for commodities like leafy greens, butternut squash and strawberries.

The firm is focusing marketing efforts on three links in the food supply chain: supermarkets, universities and schools, and farm and processors.

Langberg said ProduceShield can be used on the farm as part of its post-harvest spray before product is sent to processors or supermarkets. In supermarkets, it can be applied to protect against spoilage and bacteria from the handling of produce. Some supermarkets just use water or a citrus wash.

The new product also has tremendous benefit in schools and universities.

“They want something that protects against spoilage and protects the children,” Langberg said.

Georgia-based Kennesaw State University has successfully integrated ProduceShield into its food program that serves 7,000 meals a day. Known as a leader in food safety and sustainability efforts, the school was recognized last year by the National Restaurant Association with its Innovator of the Year Award.

The university found produce washed with ProduceShield lasts two to three weeks longer than if the fruits and vegetables were washed in water, which is a huge benefit for a school that manages its own farm, greenhouse and apple orchards.

“As food safety is at the forefront of our program, we appreciate not only the preservation qualities of your product but the eco-friendly component that ties in to our sustainability initiatives,” Gary Coltek, senior director of Kennesaw’s culinary and hospitality services, wrote in a testimonial about the product.

In the meantime, the company has contracted with a food-safety research institute to conduct further tests on its new technology, and it plans to ramp up marketing in the retail sector and extend the marketing reach to seafood, poultry and plastics.

For more information, log on to www.cmstechnology.com/produceshield.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Whole Foods Extends Additional $15M to Local Producers

AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market will increase funding of its Local Producer Loan Program by $ 15 million for a total of $ 25 million.

Started in 2007, the program provides loans to local growers, producers and food artisans to help grow their businesses. Whole Foods has issued 184 loans totaling $ 10 million to 155 businesses since the program’s inception.


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“Expanding the Local Producer Loan Program is a direct result of the innovations and successes of our loan recipients,” Betsy Foster, global vice president of growth and business development, said in a press release. “By playing a role in advancing new ideas, growing businesses and realizing dreams, Whole Foods Market stays connected with both our neighborhood producers and our global food community.”

Whole Foods stocks products from some loan recipients, and says others “support the natural foods industry.”

The loans have fixed low-interest rates and typically range from $ 1,000 to $ 100,000.

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FDA Extends Comment Period on Trans Fats

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has extended the comment period on its preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils — a source of artificial trans fats — are not safe to use to use in foods.

The FDA published its original recommendation to revoke the oils’ “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status on Nov. 8, with a 60-day comment period, but it has extended the comment period another 60 days, to March 8.


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“This extension is being provided in response to numerous stakeholder requests to provide additional time for comments,” the FDA said in announcing the extension.

Companies that wish to use ingredients that do not have the GRAS designation must petition the FDA to use them. On Tuesday, the American Academy of Family Physicians said it ‘strongly supported” the FDA’s effort to eliminate trans fats.

“We are pleased to wholeheartedly support the FDA’s determination that PHOs are not generally safe for use in food,” AAFP Board Chair Jeff Cain said in a statement.

The AAFP said it has found that partially hydrogenated oils contribute to obesity, have adverse effects on blood cholesterol levels, put patients at risk for coronary heart disease and contribute to insulin resistance — a precursor to diabetes.

Read more: FDA Recommends Phaseout of Trans Fats

In making her initial announcement about the effort to eliminate trans fats, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg noted that many manufacturers and retailers already have moved to decrease the amount of trans fat in their products.

Still, she said, “While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern. The FDA’s action today is an important step toward protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of trans fat.”

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Fresh & Easy Adds Service, Extends Hours

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market here is adding additional personnel at its self-service checkstands while it considers the possibility of switching to full-service checkouts, a company spokesman told SN.

The stores were acquired last month by Yucaipa Cos., Los Angeles-based investment firm that is also the majority shareholder in A&P. Yucaipa purchased 167 locations from United Kingdom-based Tesco, which did not offer full-service checkouts and which had cut back on front-end staff in the last few months of its ownership.

In an effort to be more convenient, the company has also extended its operating hours in California and Arizona, with Nevada stores scheduled to follow. Stores in California and Arizona are now open from 6 a.m. until midnight daily, and locations in Nevada will extend their hours on Dec. 30. The previous hours were 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., depending on the location, until 10 p.m.


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The hours are being extended, according to the website, to make it “fresher and easier” to shop, with the tag line: “Making ‘better for you’ more affordable and more available.” The spokesman said the company plans to retain the Fresh & Easy banner on its stores.

The website lists a series of changes that are under way, including “higher quality and better taste; fresher foods made and delivered daily; exciting new products; your favorite natural and organic products; better service and assisted checkout; [and] greater value (best quality at a great everyday price).”

The website also is soliciting consumer suggestions at [email protected].

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United Extends Military Discounts During Shutdown

WICHITA FALLS, Texas — In light of the government shutdown and closure of military commissaries, United Supermarkets will extend its Military Discount Wednesdays program to seven days a week.

The program will offer a 10% discount on grocery purchases for all active, retired and civilian military who present valid military ID at all eight United Supermarkets and Market Street locations in Abilene, Burkburnett and Wichita Falls, Texas. The stores were chosen because of their proximity to active U.S. Air Force bases.

Fuel, gift cards and pharmacy purchases are not eligible for the discount.

Read more: Shutdown Halts Inexpensive Groceries for Military Personnel

“These communities have seen several hundred military families furloughed due to the shutdown of the federal government this week,” said Mark Yowell, regional vice president for United Supermarkets, LLC, in a statement. “Coupled with the resulting closure of the base commissaries, it has become difficult for these families to meet their grocery needs.”

Military Discount Wednesdays was originally scheduled to run through Veterans Day, but the discount will now be available daily until further notice.

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FSIS Extends Comment Period for Tenderized Beef Labeling

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on Friday quietly extended the comment period for a long-delayed proposal to require labeling for certain tenderized beef products.

The move, which responds to industry requests, means that stakeholders will have 60 days longer, or until October 8, to weigh in on the proposed rule. Industry groups had asked for a 120-day extension, but the agency said it believes a 60-day extension is “sufficient.”

The rule, initially proposed on June 10, would require the term “mechanically tenderized” on the label for raw and partially cooked needle- or blade-tenderized steaks, including beef products injected with marinade or another solution, unless those products are fully cooked at an official establishment.

“FSIS is also proposing to require that the print for all words in the product name appear in the same style, color, and size and on a single-color contrasting background,” the notice states. “In addition, FSIS is proposing to require that labels of raw and partially cooked needle- or blade-tenderized beef products destined for household consumers, hotels, restaurants, or similar institutions include validated cooking instructions that inform consumers that these products need to be cooked to a specified minimum internal temperature, and whether they need to be held at that minimum temperature for a specified time before consumption, i.e., dwell time or rest time, to ensure that they are fully cooked.”

Interested parties should visit the Federal Register for information on submitting comments.

Food Safety News

Government Extends Review of Smithfield-Shuangui Deal

The U.S. government will extend its review of the proposed sale of Smithfield Foods to Shuanghui International, which would be the largest Chinese takeover of a U.S. company, Smithfield said on Wednesday.

The Virginia-based company said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the interagency group charged with reviewing the national security implications of foreign acquisitions, notified all parties that it will take an additional 45 days to review the deal that was submitted to the panel on June 18.

Lawmakers, food safety groups and consumers have expressed concerns about what the sale of the world’s largest pork processor to a Chinese company might mean for food safety, but most experts expect the deal will be approved. Smithfield said both companies expect the transaction to close in the second half of 2013.

While being grilled by the Senate Agriculture Committee earlier this month,  Smithfield CEO Larry Pope vowed that the sale would have no impact on the quality or safety of Smithfield’s products.

“It will be the same old Smithfield, only better,” Pope said. “There should be no noticeable impact in how we do business operationally in America…except we plan to do more of it.”

Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Thad Cochran (R-MI), chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, have urged the CFIUS panel, which is led by the Treasury Department and includes most national security-focused agencies, to include the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

“We believe that our food supply is critical infrastructure that should be included in any reasonable person’s definition of national security,” read a letter signed Stabenow, Cochran, and 13 of their agriculture committee colleagues. “Any CFIUS review of this transaction should look beyond any direct impact on government agencies and operations to the broader issues of food security, food safety, and biosecurity.”

Shuangui was embroiled in a high profile food safety scandal in 2011 after a state-run media outlet found the company was selling pork tainted with clenbuterol, a lean- and growth- promoting drug that is widely banned because it is dangerous at low levels in meat products. Pope and others have suggested the company is seeking to improve its food safety reputation by acquiring the expertise and technology that Smithfield Foods has developed and also by using a trusted American brand name.

The CFIUS panel responded to the letter but did not comment on the request, noting its review process is confidential.

Photo of truck pulling into food bank courtesy of Smithfield Foods, Inc flickr.

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