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FSGA touts ‘one of the best growing seasons ever’ for Florida strawberries

Volume for bright red, luscious Florida strawberries began peaking in December, and Kenneth Parker, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, said the 2014-15 season would not disappoint.

“This season has been unseasonably cool, which is excellent for quality,” he told The Produce News in mid-December. “This has been one of the best growing seasons ever.”Florida127

Cooler conditions did delay the onset of harvest by roughly a week, and activity ramped up at Thanksgiving. Berries, he went on to say, were sizing well with good color, and consumers will be fully satisfied with the sweet taste profile of the Florida crop.

Hillsborough County, the region in which winter strawberry production is situated, is widely regarded as the Strawberry Capital of the World for the winter. Parker said growers cultivated approximately 11,000 acres in the fruit this season.

“Hillsborough County produces about 15 percent of the nation’s strawberries and virtually all the berries grown during the winter,” according to the FSGA web site. “The commodity has an economic impact on our community exceeding $ 700 million. The 20 million flats produced each year, if placed end to end, would extend from Plant City, FL, to Seattle and back again.”

Florida strawberries are typically shipped through through April, and Sue Harrell, the association’s director of marketing, said over 80 percent of the berries will be moved outside the Sunshine State.

“We are the most locally grown, freshest berry to the eastern United States and Canada,” Parker said. “We have excellent infrastructure to get berries moving.”

Transportation is predominantly handled by refrigerated truck due to ease of access to major transportation arteries with maximum delivery times of three days. Parker said this is roughly half the time offered by other growing regions.

On the marketing side, Harrell said the association has partnered with the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services’ Fresh From Florida program, under which producers can display the program logo on their product packaging and signage.

This is the second year for extensive use of the program by strawberry producers. The association has approximately 250 members, 80 of whom are Florida strawberry growers. The association, which has worked in behalf of the industry for 32 years, is a voluntary organization.

“We encourage members to put the Fresh From Florida logo on their packaging,” Harrell stated, adding that the association makes this goal easy for its membership. The association pays for membership in the Fresh From Florida program and reimburses producers for their use of the logo.

“Retailers also use it to identify their Florida commodities,” and restaurants also take advantage of the program, she said.

The Fresh From Florida messaging can also be found on trucks rolling along the I-95 and I-75 corridors, which Harrell said are virtually “moving billboards.”

Winter weather can be dicey, and Harrell said the association’s unique Meteorologists’ Fruit Drop brightens up Valentine’s Day in 22 markets in the northeastern United States.

“Twenty-two flats of strawberries are shipped,” she said, with information about Florida strawberries accompanying the deliveries. And meteorologists are happy to give the association some air time to promote the fresh Florida fruit, she said.

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

Weather conditions in Chile have been favorable for this season’s crops

Apart from some recent rains that affected cherry volumes, weather conditions have been favorable for this season. “We expect to see volume increases across all commodities, even cherries,” said Karen Brux, managing director of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, North America, based in San Carlos, CA.

The news is especially good because Chile saw large volume decreases in 2013-14 due to severe frosts in the country.Karen-BruxKaren Brux

Looking specifically at the blueberry category, Brux noted that there is a huge increase over 2013-14.  Exports of Chilean blueberries are expected to increase by 30 percent over last season, with volume exceeding 200 million pounds.

“Roughly 70 percent of exports come to North America, so that’s great news for our market,” added Brux.

She also noted a few promotion tips for retailers. Many shoppers still associate certain commodities, like blueberries or stone fruit, with a specific season, but Brux said, “Retailers should let their customers know that they can continue enjoying their favorite summer fruits during the winter, thanks to Chile.

“It goes without saying that retailers should communicate the key selling points of whatever product they’re carrying to their shoppers,” she continued. “For example, a large retail chain is flying in all of their Chilean stone fruit to offer what they believe are the freshest, best-tasting fruits for their shoppers. We’re helping them develop point-of-sale materials that communicates this. Another large retail chain brings in Muscat grapes from Chile and builds beautiful displays with information that highlights the unique taste of this grape.”

This also brings attention to the broader grape category. Brux said retailers see sales increases across all varieties. The CFFA works with them to develop targeted promotions.

“It’s additionally helpful to give consumers season-appropriate usage ideas and wellness messages,” Brux pointed out. “Consumers are familiar with summer usage ideas for items like cherries, blueberries, grapes and stone fruit, but what about during the cold winter months? We worked with one retail chain to introduce our roasted Brussels sprouts and Chilean grapes recipe via a video that was sent out to a database of more than 300,000 customers. The CFFA also has numerous usage ideas and corresponding images for everything from a cherry, wild rice and quinoa salad to cherry chocolate chip muffins to smoked salmon with blueberry compote or a festive green grape salsa for St. Patrick’s Day.”

For people committing to a healthier lifestyle in the New Year, the CFFA also has commodity-specific health messages available. It is, for example, currently working with a registered dietitian from a large retail chain in the Northeast to supply short sound bites on all of the Chilean fruits.

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

New Seasons Earns B Corp Certification

PORTLAND, Ore. — New Seasons Market announced that it has become the first retail grocer to certified as a B Corporation. The credential is based on a third-party examination of a company’s business practices.

New Seasons, the 12-store natural and fresh foods independent, received the certification following a comprehensive and rigorous assessment of the retailer’s practices, governance, environmental and community impacts, staff benefits and culture.

ALSO READ: New Seasons Declared Zero-Waste Company

“Since day one, New Seasons Market has placed as much value on taking care of employees, our communities and our environment as growing our business,” said Wendy Collie, the chain’s president and CEO, in a statement.

As part of its community commitment, New Seasons Market was recently verified to be a Zero Waste company, diverting 92% of its waste away from area landfills; the retailer also gives 10% of its after-tax profits back to the community.

“For a business with our level of intricacy to achieve this recognition is simply remarkable,” said Collie. “It’s a testament to our staff’s commitment to using the power of business for good.”

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New York looking at outstanding back-to-back apple seasons

As old and new apple crop seasons dovetail each other, insights from the orchard show a bright future for New York’s industry. “Last year, we had an excellent crop, a full crop, one of the largest crops in history,” said Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association in Fishers, NY. “Pricing was OK. Quality and packouts were good. We’re still selling last year’s crop.”

Anticipation is running high for another successful season in 2014. “This year’s crop is on the tree,” Allen went on to say. “Knock on wood, we had no frost damage.” Allen said conditions were conducive to good pollination and tree bloom.NYApple2Gennaro Fazio, director of the apple rootstock breeding project of the ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit in Geneva, NY, evaluates trees developed from different rootstocks in an apple rootstock breeding project. (Photo by Peggy Greb)

“The good news is the potential is excellent,” he added. Taking grower input into account, Allen said this year’s estimate of 32 million bushels is probably conservative, and the actual volume could range between 33 million and 34 million bushels. “We won’t know until July,” he noted.

New York’s growers produce a broad apple manifest that includes varieties such as McIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Rome, Cortland and Macoun. “Honeycrisp volume continues to grow,” Allen commented.

Two new varieties, the SnapDragon and RubyFrost, will be actively promoted this season. “They just really hit the marketplace last winter,” Allen commented. Cornell University, in partnership with New York Apple Growers, announced these varieties last August.

SnapDragon, developed from a Honeycrisp parent, is a fall variety with a crisp texture and spicy, sweet taste. According to Cornell University, the SnapDragon has a longer shelf life than the Honeycrisp, and may give retailers a change to offer the variety for longer marketing windows.

The RubyFrost is a juicy winter variety with a crisp texture and sweet/tart taste. Cornell breeder Susan Brown believes fans of the Empire and Granny Smith varieties will put their seal of approval on the RubyFrost. Allen said the flavor of the RubyFrost continues to mature during storage.

Looking at the industry as a whole, Allen said, “Production is increasing at a very rapid rate.” While acreage itself has not necessarily grown, Allen said per acre production figures are going up as older blocks are replaced with newer varieties. And high-density plantings are yielding better results per tree.

Allen provided some insights about current consumer trends. “Consumers are drawn to locally grown food,” he noted, adding that there is increased interest in sustainable agriculture and reduced food miles.

“We can really reach consumers that way,” he commented. The New York State apple bag sports the Pride of New York label, signifying that apples are New York-grown. “As an umbrella, it’s a good mark,” Allen said. Another program, Taste NY, gives consumers a change to find out more about fresh items such as apples and value-added items such as apple cider.

Another innovative trend which is catching fire in New York is online grocery shopping. The company FreshDirect delivers grocery store items directly to consumers’ doors every day. “FreshDirect is a retailer without brick and mortar,” Allen stated. The company has been in business for 15 years.

The benefits of the program are easily apparent. “In New York, it’s hard to shop,” Allen explained. “When you’re in a cab or in the subway it’s hard to shop.”

The FreshDirect website gives consumers a heads-up on items in their peak using a star system.

“It’s a great concept,” Allen continued, adding that new apartment buildings in New York and Philadelphia are actually accommodating the program and even providing lockers for residents who may not be at home at the time of delivery.

Digital couponing is another big hit, and Allen said card swipes at retail checkout provide consumers with instant coupon opportunities.

The New York Apple Association uses a full toolbox to market product. Broadcast media continue to open avenues of visibility among consumers. “We always use nutrition and health in our messaging,” Allen added. The association also works with school foodservice operations to move healthy apples into the hands of children.

The association’s website,, is being redesigned. “We anticipate going live no later than July 1,” Allen said. “It will be cutting edge and interactive.”

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

US (WA): Cherry season’s early signs are promising

US (WA): Cherry season’s early signs are promising

If Mother Nature does her part, it could be a good year for Washington cherries.

Cherry trees are still blooming, so detailed data about the crop won’t be available for a few weeks, said Dan Kelly, of the Washington Growers Clearinghouse in Wenatchee. But the early signs are a little encouraging.

“Great bloom,” Kelly said. “We are expecting a large crop but not a ‘monster crop,’ as there are fewer flowers per bud this year,” said B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington Fruit Commission in Yakima.

So far the weather has cooperated, with temperatures above freezing but not hot enough to influence maturity, Kelly said. Bloom is five days to a week ahead of schedule, he said.

“The crop is early, which means there is great potential for Fourth of July promotions,” Thurlby said.

“We expect the first cherries to be picked on or near June 4 this year,” commented Thurlby.

Most cherries are sold within a few days or weeks after being picked.

The length of the growing-selling season is critical — it helps make the difference between a year like 2012 and a year like 2009. In 2012, the largest cherry crop in state history sold out at excellent prices, Kelly said. In 2009, prices dropped dramatically.

The cherry-growing region stretches from the Tri-Cities in the south to Brewster, Okanogan County, and Omak in the north, and fruit maturity comes first in the south and moves north, Thurlby said.

“It appears there will be a nice harvest progression from south to north,” he said. “We do not expect to see growers in north and south harvesting at the same time this year.”

That’s in contrast to 2009, when the first cherries weren’t picked until June 17. “The growing districts were compressed, and we were forced to ship 18 million boxes in 45 days in 2009,” Thurlby said. That contributed to a disastrous drop in prices, he said.

“We hope to get 90 days, at least, of shipping this year on a crop that might end up being 18 million 20-pound equivalent boxes,” he said.

California is Washington’s chief competitor in the cherry market, and California’s weather hasn’t cooperated. The California crop is estimated at 5 million to 6 million boxes, Thurlby said. California cherries are expected to mature early, so “We do not expect a large crossover of volume between the Northwest and California,” he said.

But Mother Nature has to do her part. “All indicators look good,” Kelly said, “but what does that mean? There are lot of bumps in the road between now and then.”

It still could get too cold or too hot; it could rain or hail at the wrong time, he said. “We have to wait and see how the weather treats us.”

“We are running promotional programs in 18 countries, and expect to have most of our promotions in place by the last week in May,” Thurlby said. If conditions remain positive through June, that should “result in the critical momentum required in moving the late-season crop,” he said.


Publication date: 4/29/2014

Gap between kiwi seasons bodes well for European suppliers

Ready-to-eat kiwifruit is a niche market
Gap between kiwi seasons bodes well for European suppliers

With lower than expected New Zealand kiwi exports and a Chile export season that will likely be delayed, Europe’s kiwi shippers are hoping to take advantage of the period between when New Zealand season ends and the Chilean season begins. “We have been selling okay because it’s been a short supply season,” said Marc Peyres of Blue Whale in France. “New Zealand finished early everywhere and Chile won’t start early, so there’s more space for European fruit.”

While there’s good demand and movement has been going along at a good pace because of a gap in the market, Peyres noted that there are still a few months left in the season, so they have to keep on their toes. “I believe it’s been one of the best seasons in the last 10 years as far as prices for growers,” said Peyres. “But we have to be careful until the end, because if we don’t move enough volume until the end, then it’s not very good.” He stressed the importance of the local market and the need to move lots of fruit domestically in order to finish strong.

Ready-to-eat kiwifruit
With regards to ready-to-eat kiwifruit, Marc notes that there is a niche market of top end retail, who is asking for that. However the main consumers just buy the kiwifruit in the supermarket and let it ripen in the fruit bowl. ”The disadvantage of ready-to-eat is that the consumer is forced to eat it within 1 or 2 days and may end up with throwing the fruit away.”
Also a concern was the growing presence of PSA worldwide. While new techniques have made it easier to deal with the disease, it’s just one of the concerns growers today have to deal with. “It’s still a battle, but we have to work at it, and if done properly, we can continue in spite of PSA,” said Peyres. “We feel better about the situation than we did a few years ago, but we still have to consider what comes next.”
He feels that future solutions lie in new varieties, both because those new varieties could be disease-resistant and because they could offer new marketing opportunities. For that reason, he has good feelings about the new Sun Gold variety coming out of New Zealand. “I have a feeling green kiwi consumption has stabilized,” said Peyres. “So further developing kiwi consumption will bring something new.”
For more information:
Marc Peyres
Blue Whale
Tel +33
[email protected]

Publication date: 2/27/2014
Author: Carlos Nunez

PAMP says state growers are surprised with this season’s crop outcome

“Apple harvest in Pennsylvania was completed in late November, with Pink Lady being the last variety to be harvested,” said Julie Bancroft, executive director of the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program headquartered in Harrisburg, PA. “This crop surprised many growers in the state. Early season crop assessments had some growers anticipating 80-85 percent of a normal crop, but once we got further into the season the outlooks begin to improve significantly.”

Apple-Harvest-2009-112The Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program works hard to promote and market the state’s beautiful apple crop. (Photo courtesy of PAMP)Bancroft added that she fully expects that this year’s crop will exceed initial in-state, early season projections.

“When all is said and done, it’s likely that the crop will actually end up surpassing our official U.S. Apple estimate of 10.5 million bushels, which will also mean we’ve exceeded our 2012 volume,” she said. “We expect to pack select varieties all the way through to the new harvest season in August 2014.”

Commonly referred to as PAMP, the organization is a commodity marketing program established by the Commodity Marketing Act of 1968. It is funded by apple growers and governed by a board of directors. The board is comprised of growers from various regions of the state and a representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

The program’s goal is to promote the sale and consumption of the state’s fresh apples and processed apple products. PAMP works with retailers in Pennsylvania, direct marketers, apple processors and apple shippers to provide point-of-sale materials, promotions and marketing support across various distribution channels. A portion of PAMP’s annual budget is also dedicated to horticultural and marketing research.

PAMP is an active member in both the U.S. Apple Association and the U.S. Apple Export Council. Membership in these organizations allows apple growers, shippers and processors in Pennsylvania the opportunity to work directly on issues and policies affecting the apple industry, both domestically and internationally.

Bancroft noted that this year’s bountiful crop also yielded fantastic fruit in Pennsylvania.

“The color and quality of this crop is second to none,” she said. “Because the fruit quality is so desirable, we’ve seen sustained steady demand. We are beginning to see consumer demand for newer varieties like Honeycrisp very slowly starting to challenge traditional consumer favorites like Red Delicious.”

She also said that although the number of growers is down very slightly — less than three percent — new plantings are increasing in the state.

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

New Seasons Plans ‘Three-Level’ Store

PORTLAND, Ore. — New Seasons Market confirmed plans to construct a 25,000-square-foot grocery store on the southeast corner of SE 45th Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard in Portland.


Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.

The store will feature a three-level structure: an underground level with parking for 56 cars; a street-level store with covered bike parking; and rooftop features, including a deck with a semi-enclosed dining area for customers and offices for store personnel. All three levels will be accessible by an elevator and stairs. 

The new store will be built on the site of the former Wood Pro Beauty Center, Putters Bar and Grill, and the Woodstock Wellness Center.

“We’re excited and humbled by the outpouring of enthusiasm during our exploration of this location,” Wendy Collie, president and CEO of New Seasons Market, said in a statement. “Making a decision to build a new store takes many months, and we appreciate the Woodstock community’s interest and patience during the process.”

Officials said they expect the store will break ground this summer and open in late summer of 2015.

Read more: New Seasons Buys New Leaf Chain

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Ice Cream: A Dessert for All Seasons

A cold, creamy ice cream cone is welcome relief on a hot day. And while summer is the category’s highest consumption period, seasonal flavors, new packaging and other innovations help position the frozen dessert as a year-round staple. “Ice cream manufacturers are encouraging people to enjoy their products longer than just the summer,” said Peggy Armstrong, spokeswoman for the International Dairy Foods Association, Washington. Seasonal products like Turkey …

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Spain: Cucumbers have the worst quotes of the season’s start

Spain: Cucumbers have the worst quotes of the season’s start

Of all the supply of horticultural products, cucumbers are recording the worst product prices in the beginning of this 2013/2014 crop year.

None of its varieties’ first prices are exceeding thirty cents in any of the province’s trading centres. Long cucumbers have an average price of 0.24 €, French cucumbers are about 0.28 € and short black cucumbers are being sold between 0.28 and 0.17 € per kilo. Eggplant prices have remained similar throughout the past seven days. Long eggplant’s first quote is of 0.65 € and is later sold at 0.45 € per kilo. The striped eggplant traded is between 0.85 € and 0.50 € a kilo.

As for the zucchini, its thin variety is being sold between 0.74 and 0.28 € per kilo. The fat zucchini has a first price of 0.57 € and a later one of 0.36 €. The tomato is not getting high prices during the month of September. The vine tomatoes have an average price of 0.30 € and the long shelf life red tomato is being sold between 0.40 and 0.25 € per kilo. The strike bean has reached first prices of up to € 1.70 and ends at around 0.80 €. Red beans have an average price of € 1.30, and the helda variety, the variety of which there is the most of at present, range between 1.55€ and 1.10€  per kilo.

Regarding peppers, red lamuyo is still leading with quote prices that start at 1.00 € per kilo and end at € 0.60. The green lamuyo ranges between 0.70 and 0.50 € per kilo. The California red pepper has a first cut of 0.77 € and final cuts for 0.62 €. The green California pepper has an average price of 0.45 € and the yellow California pepper is being sold between 0.95 and 0.80 € per kilo. Italian green pepper first cuts’ are at 0.70 € and the final cuts are around 0.47€ per kilo.


Publication date: 9/24/2013

Peru poised to become larger player in U.S. avocado market in coming seasons

Peruvian avocados first gained access to the U.S. market late in the season in 2011, making 2013 the third year but the second full season that avocados from Peru have been available to buyers in the United States.

The Peruvian season runs from June through September, corresponding to the peak of the California avocado season, and also to the peak consumption months for avocados in the United States.

This year the Peruvian Avocado Commission expects a total volume of between 40-45 million pounds of avocados from Peru to come into the U.S. market, which is only a small portion of the aggregate total volume of about 1.7 million pounds of avocados from all sources the industry expects to be consumed in the United States in 2013.

010-GlobalAvos-PeruAvoA Hass avocado grove in Peru. (Photo courtesy of Peruvian Avocado Commission)But in coming seasons, “Peru will continue to increase its presence in the U.S. market,” Xavier Equihua, CEO of the Peruvian Avocado Commission, told The Produce News.

Noting the continued double-digit growth of avocado consumption in the U.S., Equihua, who is also CEO of the Chilean Avocado Importers Association, emphasized that “there is room for everybody.”

There is a potential in 2014 for Peru to export 90-100 million pounds of avocados to the United States, he said. “There are young trees beginning to bear fruit that will be ready next year.”

He also expects large sizes again, as is the case this year, because “young trees usually bear large fruit and that is the case with Peruvian fruit.”

Peru has “an incredible potential to become a very large source for avocados to the U.S.,” he said.

Mexico, which has year-round production, is and will always continue to be “by far the largest” supplier of avocados to the U.S. market, Equihua said. “We all know that. But everything is complementary, and there is room for all of these sources.”

Peru has “something that no other foreign origin has,” he said, and that is peak volume during the peak consumption periods in the United States. “I am not saying that Mexico is not a producer of avocados during that period, but their peak production really is not during the July and August periods.” Only California and Peru are at their peak during the peak consumption months.

As U.S. demand for avocados continues to grow, California experiences fluctuations in volume from one season to the next and cannot always meet demand, Equihua pointed out. “You will always have these kinds of fluctuations where you have large summer crops from California and then smaller crops from California, and Peru will make an excellent source for filling those gaps.”

Per capita consumption of avocados in the United States. “is going to continue to increase, and having other origins like Peru in the market gives retailer choices, which is very important,” he said. “Retailers don’t want to be stuck with one origin.”

Nor is Peru relying just on the U.S. market as an outlet for its expanding production. “Their primary market right now continues to be the European Union, and the U.S. is a secondary market right now,” Equihuia said. But the United States “has great potential to become as large or even larger than the European Union” as a market for Peruvian avocados.

“Peru is also looking at diversifying its portfolio,” he continued. Notably, Chile “for sure will be open next year for Peruvian fruit, and there is no doubt that Peru will export avocados to Chile” during the spring and summer months when Chile’s own production is low. Chile is “a great market for avocados,” with per capita consumption second only to Mexico.

In the United States, as consumption continues to climb, there will “be a need for sources like Peru to continue exporting more,” Equihua said, and he expects to see other producing countries to come into the market as well.

With a relatively small volume of Peruvian avocados in the U.S. market at present, the Peruvian Avocado Commission has a fairly small budget, so its marketing activities are limited.

“Our marketing activities this year are very classic,” Equihua said. “It is retail-focused program based on offering retail tags and offering demos,” and targeting East Coast markets. The commission is continuing in its campaign this year with the same theme used in 2012, which is “Monumental Taste.”

A June 13 press release from the commission stated that “the integrated marketing effort is designed to raise consumer awareness and support the product at retail via a robust media buy that includes mobile billboards near retail outlets, radio, in-store signage and store demos. This year’s efforts will focus on key markets including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston and is intended to put a solid foundation in place for enhanced efforts in the following years.”

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US (WA): Large sizes anticipated for this season’s apples

Estimates concerning the upcoming Washington apple crop suggest large sizes this season. The start of the season is also expected to begin earlier this year.

Measurements done by Domex Superfresh Growers earlier this month revealed large fruit sizing. With sizes expected to peak on 88′s, 80′s and larger, sizing is expected to be exceptionally large this year. But, noted Domex’s Howard Nager, there are still several weeks left before the start of the season, and many things can change in that time.

Harvesting is expected to commence at the start of next month, and promotional volumes should arrive up to two weeks earlier than they did last year. While official estimates for the size of this year’s crop are still several weeks away, current unofficial estimates put this year’s apple output between 110 million and 125 million boxes.