MONTEREY, Calif. — The Packer’s Editor Greg Johnson, Packer foodservice writer Ashley Bentley and contributing writer Jody Shee visited exhibitors at the Produce Marketing Association’s Foodservice Conference & Exposition July 30-Aug. 1.
They compiled these notes from the show floor (PART 1 of 3 PARTS):
Andrew & Williamson
Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, San Diego, introduced its value-added packaging line in grab-and-go bags.
John King, vice president of sales, said the line consists of 3-pound bags of cucumbers and 2-pound bags of roma and grape tomatoes.
Avocados from Mexico
With new foodservice use data for avocados in hand, the Association of Producers, Packers and Exporters of Avocados from Michoacan (APEAM) talked versatility at the expo, sampling slices of avocados with four sauces from around the world.
New data from research the association commissioned shows 78% of restaurants use avocados year-round, most often sliced into salads and on sandwiches or mashed into guacamole. Chefs see potential for avocados in upscale burgers and sandwiches, healthful menu development and innovative appetizers.
“It’s the first time we’ve done this type of research,” said Emiliano Escobedo, marketing director for APEAM.
“A lot of people were surprised by the versatility of avocados.”
Research also found 91% of operators order avocados at least once a week, and about half order them daily.
Fish carved out of carrots and tiny melon balls in tiny fruit baskets are an example of the new carved produce offered by Santa Maria, Calif.-based Babé Farms.
The company launched its specialty carved produce within the month, said Ande Manos, saleswoman.
“It’s a specialty item, something they can special order,” Manos said.
“It really compliments our existing line of specialty vegetables.
The products ship in vacuum-sealed bags. Manos said the selection displayed at the show was just an example of the products the company can produce.
Bushman’s Inc. added Jim Stefan to its sales department to give the company an enhanced presence in foodservice.
Stefan’s career started at Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc., Milwaukee, Wis., as produce stocker at Pick ‘n Save stores, and later as a traveling manager who took over when a produce manager was on vacation or when a new one was hired.
He also worked for Fleming Cos., Lewisville, Texas, in a store-level training position, and Alliant Foodservice, which was later purchased by U.S. Foodservice. He was produce director, dealing with produce and other perishables, at Alliant for 2½ years before the acquisition.
“From there, there was an opportunity for me at Maglio & Co., one of our vendors,” Stefan said.
“They hired me as a California veg buyer, but I transitioned into sales within a year-and-a-half.”
Stefan was with Maglio for nine years, most recently as regional sales manager, before joining Bushman’s.
California Asparagus Commission
It may be out of season for California asparagus, but the commission that represents the industry is still working on ways to promote the state’s crop in preparation for the January harvest.
The commission plans to continue events like the one it held at the University of Massachusetts in late March, during which flyers, posters, newspaper ads, radio ads, website promotion and even a giant asparagus character spread the California asparagus message.
It also did a promotion with Mimi’s Cafe that lasted through June, in which four fresh asparagus items were added for the season, and one became a permanent side.
Sales to the chain were up 18% over 2009, said Jay Bell, facilitator of Jay Bell & Associates, a business communications firm that works with the committee.
California Tomato Farmers
California Tomato Farmers, Fresno, has a new website feature that allows users to search through its members’ food safety certification statuses and audit histories.
“Typically, they have to contact individual members for food safety information,” said Ed Beckman, president.
“This has all our members, all their answers, all their audits.”
The site is updated every week, Beckman said.
California Tomato Farmers is also working with SureHarvest to develop a sustainability strategy plan that takes a look back at what its members are doing. It expects to have more information on that in coming months.
Chilean Blueberry Committee
This was the first year the Chilean Blueberry Committee, Santiago, exhibited at the conference since the group’s formation last fall.
The Chilean blueberry industry gives a voluntary contribution — which helps the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to promote blueberries beyond the months the berries typically are available from U.S. growers — to now allow a year-round promotional program, said Tom Tjerandsen, managing director for North America for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association.
“Chile just announced that they are voluntarily increasing the amount that they are devoting to building what was traditionally an off-season supply in North America. This 12-month supply is so critical for the foodservice industry,” he said.
Last year, Chile exported 40,000 metric tons of blueberries to the U.S., an increase of just over 20% from the previous year, in spite of an early season freeze and the earthquake. This year, Chile expects another sizeable increase.
Christopher Ranch, Gilroy, Calif., is finding success in foodservice midway through its new green garlic season.
Amber Oliveira, sales and project manager, said green garlic is simply immature garlic and appeals to chefs because of its milder flavor. She said the company ships it in 4 by 1-pound packs, and the season runs from April to October.
Christopher Ranch also now offers its peeled garlic in 5-pound bags instead of just 5-pound jars. Oliveira said the bags use 80% less packaging than jars.
Colorful Harvest, Salinas, Calif., now ships melons under its own label, said Douglas McFarland, marketing director. He said the company is building brand equity in foodservice and retail.
Also, McFarland said Colorful Harvest started advertising its red sweet corn in radio spots in Northern California, including on the San Francisco Giants pregame show.
Country Fresh Mushroom Co., Avondale, Pa., was a first-time exhibitor. The company wanted to show foodservice uses for its 35 varieties of mushrooms, which are available in all cuts and pack sizes, said Bob Besix, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
Cashmere, Wash.-based fresh-cut apple marketer Crunch Pak LLC introduced a Stix pack of sliced red apples in a 1-pound bag for the foodservice market.
Marketing director Tony Freytag said the pack will become widely available in late August with the arrival of the new crop. He said the product is designed to help chefs use apples in salads or with carrot and/or celery sticks.
Discovery Garden’s, Oakdale, Calif., promoted its Sierra Gold potatoes with russet skin and gold flesh and Sierra Rose potatoes with red skin and yellow flesh to the foodservice market.
While the Sierra Gold has been in and out of foodservice on a limited basis, it now is available year-round, and the Sierra Rose is just now available to foodservice, said Amanda Leo, assistant sales and marketing manager.
Both potato varieties are available in 50-pound cartons or bags in size A and B.
Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville, Calif., went live with its new foodservice website in late July. Bob Fisher, foodservice salesman, said the site, www.driscolls.com/foodservice, appeals to chefs and consumers. It features recipes, care and handling information, berry usage suggestions and chef commentary.
Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif., now offers its washed butter lettuce and red oak lettuces in 2-pound clamshells for foodservice.
Dan Holt, director of foodservice sales, said the cartons go right on a pallet, with no need to put them in cardboard, and they’re No. 1 recyclable and made from recycled material.
He said the company has had good success with clamshells in retail because they extend shelf life and limit shrink, so he expects the same benefits with the larger foodservice clamshells.
MacKay & Hughes, Toronto, has changed its name to Earth Fresh to coincide with the name it goes by in Ontario, said Brian Cater, vice president of international sales.
The company purchased a farm and grows 7,000 acres of potatoes and has strategic alliances and partnerships with other growers to provide potatoes, carrots, onions, beets and parsnips.
The company is also building a packaging plant.
Edible Software, Houston, introduced a two-way traceability software solution, a two model stream, where forward you type in a lot number and it shows where the sales were made, or reverse, type in the sales order number and it shows where it came from, said Trevor Morris, senior vice president.