Turock stressed the need for retailers to inform customers about their sourcing and procurement — to let them know the extent they go to ensure quality and freshness.

“If you can say to your customers that your supply chain is second to none, the beauty of that is that you get an emotional connection,” Turock told the audience of about 500 retailers and suppliers. “Give credit when you use local sources and publicize it.”

Newell, a division of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu Inc., gave its retail attendees plenty to brag about at the conference. The year-old company boasts it can get fresh produce, as chief operating officer Gary Gionnetti says, “from field to fork faster and fresher than anyone else.”

The three-day event featured nearly 70 exhibitors with names that are well-known in the fresh produce industry — NewStar, Green Giant Fresh, Kingsburg, Procacci, Duda and many others — for the 400 or so retail representatives in attendance.

It also featured tours of Newell’s best asset — its 155,000-square-foot distribution center. Retail customers, and potential customers, were given a chance to walk the warehouse floor, open boxes and sample Newell’s lineup of nearly 2,000 stock keeping units.

“This facility is our best selling tool,” said Charlie Nealis, vice president of sales at Newell. “We just have to bring them in for a tour.”

There were three break-out conference sessions focusing on organics in the produce department, gift baskets and floral.

Supervalu chief executive officer Jeff Noddle gave the keynote address.


Exhibitors brought out their finest for the show floor, and it wasn’t just for display.

  • R.S. Hanline & Co., Shelby, Ohio, featured its Chef Creation Quick Cuisine meal packs, which were introduced in May and are available at Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

    The Newell show was the company’s first expansion into other retailers, said Robert Haarhues, sales director for Hanline.

    The ready-to-prepare kits are available in four varieties — chicken and beef in both stir-fry and fajita. The 16-ounce packs come with 4 ounces of cooked meat, 2 ounces of sauce and 10 ounces of fresh-cut vegetables.

  • Jan VanDriessche, national marketing representative for North Bay Produce Inc., Traverse City, Mich., used the expo to showcase the company’s new Peruvian citrus program.

    “We are the first company to be approved to import citrus from Peru,” VanDriessche said.

    Imports began in May with clementines, he said. The season lasts through August. Next season, VanDriessche said his company expects to import clementines, satsumas and minneolas.

  • Many customers weren’t aware of the vegetable stew tray packs available from Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Pearson Foods Corp.

    “We’ve had these for the past 15 years in the Chicago area, and they’ve always sold well,” said Sandra Arnold, vice president of marketing.

    The kits include stew vegetables — carrots, turnips, parsley and onions — in an overwrapped tray.
Emotional ties with consumers can boost profits
Rick Griffith (center), a produce specialist at W. Newell & Co., Champaign, Ill., displays imported navel oranges to Karlene Dixon (left), and Brenda Dowers of Country Market Towne Center, Danville, Ill., during a tour of W. Newell’s warehouse on July 24.