Jirstrek Fruits readies lineup for holidays

Montreal-based specialty importer Jirstrek Fruits Ltd. is heading into the holiday season with vacuum-packed French chestnuts, cooked and peeled; zucchini flowers from Israel; tree-ripened palmer mangoes from Brazil and figs from Argentina, said project manager Danielle Chayer.

“Volumes have been very impressive this year,” said Chayer, who flies in 300 specialty items for retailers, caterers and hotels.

“We feel there’s an interest in having better fruit.”

Les Rotisseries St-Hubert succeeds with salads

Prepared salads made with fresh-cut lettuce and vegetables aren’t just a growing force in Montreal supermarkets.

Laval-based Les Rotisseries St-Hubert, a popular casual dining chain with roots in Quebec, is introducing one or two salads a year to its chicken-focused menu with great results, said Nicole Buchanan, principal buyer for procurement service for Meilleures Marques, Anjou, Quebec.

While Caesar salad remains the most popular, Buchanan said the marinated artichoke salad, new this spring, is gaining fans. It combines marinated artichokes with greens, grated carrots, Italian dressing and a lemon wedge.

A goat cheese and fruit salad incorporates apple wedges, dried figs and golden raisins on a bed of lettuce tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette, while the Bangkok salad topped with chicken features sliced red peppers and canned mandarin orange and pineapple segments.

St. Hubert’s main course salads contain at least three servings of fruits and vegetables.

Les Serres du St-Laurent adds tomato variety

The producers of Savoura tomatoes, Les Serres du St-Laurent Inc.. have a new director of sales and development this fall and a new product.

Pierre Cayer, former district sales manager for Wonderful Brands, joined the greenhouse vegetable grower in October to succeed Valerie Grenier, who is joining her husband’s real estate firm to spend more time with her two young children.

Grenier said the new Savoura grape tomato, available in large-scale production in November, is one of the sweetest varieties available.

She said the fruit is picked by hand with the stem on to maintain freshness.

The grape tomato is sold in an 8.8-ounce clamshell in Provigo and Metro stores, she said. It retails from $2.99-3.99.

This year’s hot summer produced an oversupply of field and greenhouse tomatoes, which depressed prices.

By mid-October, however, Grenier said prices were getting back to normal levels.

Organzo growers export to Asia

Organzo, a St.-Hilaire-based network of eight Quebec growers who specialize in Asian food, shipped its first two containers of napa cabbage to South Korea this summer.

“Everybody thinks Asian produce is shipped to North America and it’s impossible to do the reverse, but we discovered that some Asians don’t trust the Chinese product they’re importing, and they’re looking for foreign alternatives,” said president Julie Nichols.

Nichols said a Korean living in Ontario helped her arrange the sale.

To extend the season for Asian vegetables, Organzo has added a grower in Dixie, Ga., who Nichols met at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit 2011.

The group sells about 70% of its products in the U.S.

Nichols said the grower started harvesting in late October, after the Quebec season ended, and will open the market for Asian produce in Quebec in the spring.

Productions Margiric adds line for RPCs

With the end of the growing season, Laval, Quebec-based Productions Margiric Inc. plans to modify its packing line for next year, said marketing director Mario Cloutier.

Cloutier said Brampton, Ontario-based Loblaw Cos. Ltd. has requested that all fruit and vegetables be packed in reusable plastic cartons starting with the first spring crops.

“We’re going to have to change all our sizers to carry the boxes, and we’ll end up with separate packing lines for Loblaws, Metro and IGA,” Cloutier said.

“We have to be ready to face this new challenge,” he said.

QPMA rolls out kits for kids’ care centers

With statistics showing that 50% of the food children eat between birth and the age of 5 is provided at child care centers, the St.-Leonard-based Quebec Produce Marketing Association has created a kit for kids that makes eating fruits and vegetables fun.

“Food preferences that become established around age two are known to last up to age 20, so it’s important to start familiarizing children with a wide range of flavors by the time they’re 6 months old,” said QPMA executive director Sophie Perreault.

Since September, the colorful kit, published in French, has been distributed free to more than 2,600 child care centers across Quebec.

It features the well-known character Mandoline, and includes a game to match fruits and vegetables, recipes for nutritious dips and a checklist that encourages kids to use their five senses when tasting a new fruit or vegetable.