HOUSTON — Traceability and local produce are top-of-mind subjects for major retailers.

That’s according to Reggie Griffin, vice president of produce for Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., who was a featured speaker at the May 10 meeting of the Houston Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association.

Kroger vp visits Houston association

Pamela Reimenschneider

Ken Faour, (left), of Houston-based Magnolia Produce, talks with Reggie Griffin, vice president of produce for Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., following Griffin's presentation to the Houston Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association on March 10.

Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association joined Griffin at the event, which drew a crowd of about 100.

Griffin was a member of the association back when it began its signature charity event, the Gift of Produce more than 20 years ago.

“It’s cool to see what this organization has done and how it has continued to grow,” he said. “It’s groups like this that have to continue to work on the challenges and problems our industry faces.”

Two areas of utmost importance that Griffin urged attendees to think about are traceability and local produce. Griffin said he is a supporter of the Produce Traceability Initiative. 

“We’ve got to figure out how to trace cases of product from one point or another,” he said. “It is a good thing that the industry is working together to figure it out.”

Locally grown produce also is here to stay, he said.

“I liken it to organics 5 or 10 years ago,” he said. “Everyone thought it was a fad, but it’s part of our life. It’s a lifestyle choice that, as marketers and retailers, we have to embrace it.”

United Fresh  update

Stenzel also gave an update on the latest policy initiatives the United Fresh Produce Association is working in, including its “A Salad Bar in Every School” program.

Attendees at the meeting questioned the logistics of working with school districts and ensuring there is proper handling and follow-through with produce.

“The schools want to have it,” Stenzel said.

Stenzel said United Fresh urges the industry to do what it can to provide support.

Next meeting:

HFFVA president John Kreger of the Houston Food Bank said the organization plans to have its next meeting on May 12.

The scheduled speaker is Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.