Albert’s New Zealand apples to begin in May

Albert’s Organics New Zealand-grown apples program, including braeburns, fujis, royal galas, granny smiths and Pink Ladies, is expected to start in mid-May and extend through September, said Simcha Weinstein, marketing director for the Bridgeport, N.J.-based distributor. The apples will be sold under the New Zealand Grateful Harvest label.

The apples, distributed by Albert’s Santa Cruz, Calif.-based growers’ representative and importing division, Source Organic, can be shipped in bulk or in bags, and pickups will be available in Florida, North Carolina, Washington and New Jersey.

Peak size is expected to be 80 to 100, and pricing is to be competitive with the market, with seasonal stable and high-low options available, Weinstein said. Point-of-sale material and featured grower signs will be available.

Albert’s markets 250 to 300 organic fresh produce SKUs. Among the most popular are broccoli, carrots, romaine hearts, avocados, bananas and blueberries.


Awe Sum Organics hires employees

In March, Clay Ryon joined Awe Sum Organics Inc., Capitola, Calif., as operations manager, said David Posner, president and chief executive officer.

Ryon has more than 20 years of experience in the food industry, including 10 years in the organic produce business. He most recently worked as inbound transportation manager for Bridgeport, N.J.-based Albert’s Organics. He also has experience in operations, quality control and logistics.

Posner also said that Kelly Woods joined Awe Sum as a sales assistant and Kym DeWitt was hired as inventory controller.

Posner said Awe Sum discontinued the Peruvian organic pineapple program it initiated last summer because it was difficult to get consistent prices that provided the growers a high enough return to continue shipping to the U.S.

A strong domestic market for pineapples in Peru made exporting unattractive for growers.

Awe Sum imports organic off-season fruits to complement the U.S. domestic fruit season, including royal gala, fuji, braeburn, granny smith and Pink Lady apples; hosui Asian pears; bartlett, red bartlett, abate fetel, packham, anjou and bosc pears; and green and gold kiwifruit.


Earthbound Farm raises money for environmental groups

In recognition of Earth Day, San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Earthbound Farm pledged 25 cents from the sale of each specially marked package of Organic Heirloom Lettuce Leaves to four environmental organizations: American Forests; Environmental Working Group; Natural Resources Defense Council; and Pesticide Action Network North America. Each group will get some of the proceeds, said Samantha Cabaluna, communications director.

The percentage each receives will be based on the percentage of votes it receives on the Earthbound Farm Web site. On April 21, Cabaluna said she did not yet know how much money had been raised.


Four Seasons hires director of procurement

In early January, Jason Hollinger joined Ephrata, Pa.-based Four Seasons Produce Inc. as director of procurement, said Ron Carkoski, president and chief executive officer.

Hollinger, son of Four Seasons owner David Hollinger, worked in organic procurement for the company for seven years after finishing college. He then moved to Costa Rica to immerse himself in the Spanish language, Carkoski said.

While in Costa Rica, Jason Hollinger completed a master’s in business administration in 2009. He then returned to Ephrata to work for Four Seasons’ import company, Earth Source Trading Inc.

Jason Hollinger completed the United Fresh Produce Association Industry Leadership Program in April, Carkoski said.

Carkoski is set to serve on the United Fresh board and its wholesaler-distributor board. It is his second time on the board.


Giumarra adds organic watermelon

The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, is adding organic personal watermelons to its line of organic produce, said Job Villanueva, organic sales manager in Giumarra’s Nogales office.

The company also increased volumes of green bell peppers and cucumbers, which are its most popular organic items. Giumarra has eight SKUs in its organic line, Villanueva said.


Homegrown Organic adds acreage

Scott Mabs, marketing director for grower-shipper Homegrown Organic Farms, Porterville, Calif., said the company represents about 30 growers with about 3,000 acres, which is up by about 15% compared with last year.

About 90% of its growers are in the San Joaquin Valley in California. All of its produce is grown on the West Coast, from Southern California to Oregon.

Homegrown will offer new high-flavored varietals of pluots this season, Mabs said.

Homegrown owns and operates a facility in Arvin, Calif., where most of its produce ships from. It ships a variety of organic produce, but citrus, stone fruit, grapes and blueberries are its main crops.


Tomatoes on-the-vine begin for Origin Organic

Because the early spring weather was sunnier than usual, greenhouse grower Origin Organic Farms, Delta, British Columbia, started picking tomatoes on-the-vine a week to two weeks early, in mid-April, said Raymond Wong, president.

Origin began picking long English cucumbers in mid-March, and beefsteak tomatoes were expected to be ready by the last week of April.

The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, markets Origin’s OriginO-brand organic produce.

Origin planted 23 acres in its high-technology greenhouses this season. About 16 acres are tomatoes on-the-vine, about 5 acres are cucumbers, and the remaining 2 acres are beefsteak tomatoes, Wong said.

Wong said he’s building a following in Vancouver’s chef community that’s helping drive additional retail sales. Many Vancouver area restaurants buy the company’s tomatoes, and some even put the OriginO label on their menus.


Pacific Organic adds tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers

Greg Holzman, chief executive officer, Pacific Organic Produce, San Francisco, said his company will start marketing its Purity brand cherry tomatoes on-the-vine, green and red bell peppers, European cucumbers and mini cucumbers this year.

The new items will be in consumer packs and distributed primarily to East Coast customers. In April, Holzman said the packaging was still being designed.

Pacific Organic also packs private-label produce for retailers, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, Holzman said.

It ships about 2 million cartons of fruit per year to the U.S. and Canada, and to parts of Asia and Europe. The company markets a range of organic fruit, including avocados, citrus and apples.


State Garden sponsors logo look-alike contest

State Garden Co. Inc., Chelsea, Mass., invited entries for an Olivia look-alike contest with a $1,000 grand prize. Olivia is the freckled, ponytailed blonde who appears on State Garden’s Olivia’s Organics logo.

The monthlong contest was scheduled to end April 30. As of April 19, about 60 photos had been submitted, said Rachel Greenstein, spokeswoman for State Garden.

Entrants were to receive a coupon good for a free Olivia’s Organics product of their choice. The winner will be announced May 22 during Boston’s EarthFest.

More than 3,000 packages of Olivia’s Organics’ new Single Salads To Go were distributed in less than three hours on April 19 at the Boston Marathon, Greenstein said. The salads, ranging from 3 ounces to 5.5 ounces, are available in Caesar, Spring Mix and Baby Spinach varieties. They were introduced March 1.


World Variety releases organic produce cookbook

A new cookbook, “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce: A Guide to Easy-to-Make Dishes with Fresh Organic Fruits and Vegetables,” is now on bookshelves throughout the U.S., said Robert Schueller, public relations director for World Variety Produce Inc., Los Angeles.

It features more than 450 organic recipes and serving suggestions using more than 100 types of fruits and vegetables. Schueller said one of his favorite recipes in the book is for apricot, cherry and blueberry cobbler.

In addition to recipes, the book provides information on seasons, varieties and buying and storing produce. It was written by food editor Cathy Thomas, the author of “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce.”