NEW ORLEANS — The Packer’s Dan Galbraith, Tom Karst and Vicky Boyd collected these news items at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit 2013:


Burch Farms

When faced with an unusually large sweet potato crop two years ago, Burch Farms diverted much of the off-grade tubers into making vodka.

Bottled under the Covington Gourmet Vodka label, the beverage is gluten-free and kosher, owner Jimmy Burch Sr. said.

Burch has partnered on the venture with fellow grower Bobby Ham, and together they farm about 15,000 acres of sweet potatoes. They also have joined with business development specialist John Kimber and distillation expert Jim Eason to form Covington Spirits.

The name reflects the sweet potato variety that goes into it, Burch said.

The vodka took a gold medal at the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

The company has purchased a still and plans to continue making the distilled spirit.


Clear Lam

Roman Forowycz, chief marketing officer for Elk Grove, Ill.-based Clear Lam Packaging Inc., introduced the company’s Snap Apart Multipack and the widespread commercial launch of its PMA Impact Award-winning Peel and ReSeal Lidding Film.



Massillon, Ohio-based Corr-Choice’s new MultiCorr Triple Wall Bulk Packaging is designed to hold heavy produce, such as watermelons.

The company also has new 100% recyclable GreenGuard, a patented replacement for paraffin wax. It is water-repellant and repulpable.



At the Calavo booth, Ken Catchot, chief financial officer for Renaissance Food Group LLC, Rancho Cordova, Calif., — a division of Calavo — said the company displayed three new varieties of hummus trays.

The company also rolled out new bistro snacks, which feature half a sandwich paired with a salad or fruit. The company is focusing on big-sized snacks, Catchot said.



Yuma, Ariz.-based Datepac launched an extension to its Snack Pack line with Coconut Date Clusters and Almond Date Clusters, billed as “bite-sized cousins to Natural Delights” date roll products.

These are the first two cluster offerings from the company and are designed as adult snacks or lunchbox fare for children.

Datepac plans to launch pistachio, chili-lime and organic date roll clusters in the near future, said Edward O’Malley, president and chief executive officer.



Duda Farm Fresh Foods, part of Oviedo, Fla.-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., is rolling out a 1-pound celery pack that’s “more commodity-oriented than value-added,” said Mark Bassetti, senior vice president.

The company also recently introduced a 1.25-pound celery pack with characters from the movie “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.”

Duda also plans to come out with value-added radish products around January, Bassetti said, as an encore to the Radish MiniSticks it launched last year for use on salad bars and in tacos, among other things.


Farm Fresh Produce

Faison, N.C.-based Farm Fresh Produce has redesigned its 40-pound sweet potato cartons to make them color coded for sizes and grades, office manager Bethany Malcolm said.

In the past, some produce department employees had difficulty differentiating among grades, “so this makes it easier for our customers,” she said.

A red background is for jumbos, a black for No. 1s, and a blue for small and mediums.


Freska Produce

Oxnard, Calif.-based Freska Produce International LLC has a new avocado program from Mexico to combine with its California program for year-round product distribution.

The company also plans to have a new packinghouse for avocados in Oxnard by spring 2015, managing member and co-founder Gary Clevenger said.



Redwood City-based HarvestMark talked up the new “Missions” feature for its mobile shopper research program ShopWell Insights, which allows HarvestMark to offer brand owners targeted demographic information, marketing manager James Allgood said.

“It allows shoppers to input information about themselves such as their food allergies and intolerances, then they scan ingredients on food packaging, and ShopWell Insights can suggest healthier alternatives for them,” Allgood said.

Information about the shoppers using the program can then be accessed by retailers and marketers through analytics they choose so they can better serve the shoppers they want to target, Allgood said.

“They can get feedback very quickly, and these are demographics that have typically been elusive,” he said of the feature that launched in September.

The company is also looking to focus its efforts south of the border.

“Our Mexico PTI solution inquiries are really on the rise, and we’re going to do some campaigns soon purely for that Mexican market,” Allgood said.



Tampa, Fla.-based IFCO told show-goers about its new website,, which educates consumers about reusable plastic containers’ environmental advantages.

Vice president of global marketing Hillary Femal said IFCO also focused expo efforts on childrens’ nutrition.

“We’re driving the message of increasing our children’s produce consumption in an entertaining fashion with Kid Chef Eliana (doing cooking demonstrations),” Femal said.


Interrupcion Fair Trade

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Interrupcion has introduced Fair Trade asparagus from Peru. The product comes from 38 small-scale producers who have 1 to 2 hectares (5 acres) each, said fair trader Michela Calabrese.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for growth,” she said. “We’re working to strengthen the cooperative.


It’s Fresh

It’s Fresh, which was named best first-time exhibitor, promises two or three days of extra shelf life with its new ethylene sheet technology that’s rolling to retailers in the U.S. and Europe.

It costs about 2 cents per pound of fresh produce it protects, said Aaron Berstler, public relations counsel for Kohnstamm Communications Inc., St. Paul, Minn., representing It’s Fresh.

The sheets work especially well with berries, stone fruit, tomatoes, avocados and pears, said Chris Bishop, a professor and researcher at University of Essex-affiliated Writtle College, who was at the show and who provided third-party verification of It’s Fresh claims.

“We’ve studied numerous new food preservation technologies that have failed to live up to their claims,” said Chris Bishop, a professor and researcher at University of Essex-affiliated Writtle College. “After 14 months of intense trialing and scrutiny with the most robust testing protocols, the It’s Fresh technology has consistently demonstrated the ability to extend product life, product quality and substantially reduce waste.”

Plant Sciences, Inc., Watsonville, Calif., performed additional third-party test verification, Berstler said.


Mastronardi Produce

Kingsville, Ontario-based Mastronardi Produce used PMA Fresh Summit to launch its Y.E.L.O. (an acronym for Youth, Energy, Life, Om) tomatoes and Top Seal packaging advancement.

“Unlike other yellow tomatoes, it’s sweet, flavorful and has a long shelf life. As it comes from the greenhouse that brought the world Campari-brand cocktail tomatoes, it’s sure to be a hit.” marketing director Chris Veillon said.

Top Seal, a preprinted film designed as an alternative to clamshells, offers customers increased sustainability through less waste and labor. It’s also tamper resistant and was a PMA Impact Award finalist.


Mission Produce

Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., is planning to build at least one packinghouse in Peru to handle the almost 5,000 acres of avocados that should begin producing in about 1 1/2 years, said Tim Hallows, western region marketing manager.

The Peruvian season somewhat mirrors the California season, though Hallows said Mission Produce plans to export much of the Southern Hemisphere crop to Canada and Europe.

The extra production is needed to meet consumer demand, which is growing by 10% annually, Hallows said. Production right now is increasing only 3% annually.


Nature Fresh

Red, yellow and orange organic greenhouse bell peppers will be available from Nature Fresh Inc., Leamington, Ontario, beginning in April 2014, said Tyler Clark, speciality tomato and pepper specialist for Nature Fresh.

Planting will begin in Janaury, and harvest will begin in April and continue through the end of 2014 for the fully certifed acreage, he said.

Acreage under glass for the Nature Fresh organic bell pepper program will be about 4.5 acres out of a total greenhouse capacity of 66 acres.


Pear Bureau Northwest

The new online retailer training program was a hot topic at the Pear Bureau Northwest/USA Pears expo booth.

“It just hits the merchandising basics for newbies like how to talk to customers,” said Cristie Mather, director of communications. “And they get a hard copy of a certificate for completing the course.”

Ingles Markets earned the award for 2013 Pear Retailer of the Year, with honorable mentions going to Roundy’s Supermarkets, Tops Markets and The United Family.

Mather said there is a bumper crop of extra-large sized pears, and she encourages retailers to carry them to increase rings.


SCS Global Services

SCS Global Services has a new testing service that aims to offer expanded laboratory


“We are now able to provide a wide range of in-demand laboratory testing services for the food industry at very competitive prices, paired with comprehensive food quality and safety certification services,” Chip Wood, director of business development for SCS Global Services, Emeryville, Calif., said in a news release.

The company also can test products to see if they are genetically modified or live up to gluten-free claims.

In addition to the new testing services, SCS presented a series of educational mini-courses at the Fresh Summit booth, Wood said.

Topics included sustainability certification, the facts and myths about antioxidant superfoods, components of a comprehensive vendor risk management program, and GlobalG.A.P.