A Time For Brilliance


Against a backdrop of countless new products and upbeat attendance, PMA's president urges the produce industry to be loud and proud when communicating with consumers.

A record-breaking 18,300 attendees descended on Orlando, Fla., last month for the Produce Marketing Association's (PMA) 2010 Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition, which also attracted an unprecedented 4,000 buyers from the retail, foodservice and wholesale sectors.

In keeping with the always impressive event's legacy of combining outstanding networking and excellent educational opportunities, as well as the host city's designation as the "happiest place on Earth," this year's Fresh Summit proved to be another triumph.

"We measure success not by attendance numbers, but by the quality of the experience our participants tell us they had," notes John Oxford, president and CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos., and vice chair of the volunteer-led Fresh Summit committee. This year's Fresh Summit "delivered real business value on many levels," Oxford continues, "from the networking opportunities connecting buyers and sellers, to the educational sessions designed to help attendees to innovate and to build the new relationships they will need to grow their businesses for the future."

While the Newark, Del.-based trade group is rightly proud of the value Fresh Summit offers its members, its president/CEO, Bryan Silbermann, says the annual event symbolizes the many ways PMA "offers year-round value to our global supply chain — from the experts we have hired from industry, to our expanded volunteer leadership opportunities, to our many other educational and networking events, and our expanding website content."

From a broader industry standpoint, however, Silbermann was quick to note during his "State of the Industry" address that the success of this year's Fresh Summit is but one more pivotal milestone for the produce industry's allied trading partners to build on in the coming months and years ahead, to move the consumption needle decidedly forward. Citing stagnant per capita consumption growth of fresh produce logged in the past year, Silbermann challenged the industry to take a more vigorous role in telling its story to consumers and be more proactive in getting ahead of unfounded media messages that confuse consumers and erode confidence.

He took particular aim at a recent "Dirty Dozen" list of fresh produce allegedly loaded with pesticides. Instead of demonizing such erroneous media reports, however, Silbermann said the industry must do a better job of combating misconceptions more forcefully, rather than letting "advocacy groups define who we are. This has happened because we have been silent about who we are and what we do," which he says is particularly unfortunate for an industry that's largely comprised of multigenerational family-owned companies.

"It is time to get brilliant," said Silbermann, reinforcing his plea for the industry to take up the twin challenges of telling its story better, and in turn, selling more products. "We need to stop telling people what to eat, and start selling the value of what they are eating," be it in the flavor of fruit, or in how consumers can use vegetables as part of a home-cooked meal.

During his wide-ranging address, Silbermann also advised marketers to fully embrace the digital arena and new technology. "You need to keep up with virtual tools to tell your story, or you will be left behind," particularly by younger, socially conscious consumers who are actively seeking information about their food and related purchase decisions.

Meanwhile, out on the Fresh Summit exhibit floor, the annual new-product pageant was in full glory with countless product, packaging and food safety innovations, highlights of which appear on the following pages.

Chiquita FreshRinse Sets New Standard

Using the largest gathering of produce executives in the nation as a springboard to launch what it bills as a "breakthrough for food safety and freshness," Chiquita's Fresh Express subsidiary unveiled a new FreshRinse technology wash that dramatically reduces microorganisms on leafy greens and better maintains freshness.

"Based on our extensive research, we view FreshRinse as the biggest invention since the start of pre-packaged salads," explains Fernando Aguirre, chairman/CEO of Cincinnati-based Chiquita. Noting that the technology sets "a new standard in food safety for the produce industry," Aguirre adds that FreshRinse will be made available for license industrywide and will be backed by a major consumer education program, including significant television and print advertising and other outreach activities to communicate to consumers its important food safety and quality benefits.

Employing a process described as being scientifically validated for fresh produce safety, FreshRinse delivers a substantial reduction in microorganisms on leafy greens, including superior microbial efficacy against such pathogens as Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7, as compared with the industry's conventional chlorine sanitizers.

Containing two organic compounds that are on the USDA's GRAS list, the new lactic acid-based solution was extensively tested in real-world processing environments, during which time cells with E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria were added to the wash and the leaves of leafy greens. Mike Burness, Fresh Express's VP for global food safety and quality, says test results have shown that non-chlorine-based FreshRinse outperforms chlorine by a factor nine times or higher with the three culprit pathogens.

Acceptable for use on both conventional and organic produce, FreshRinse "has the potential for far-reaching and meaningful future applications, and is an environmentally friendly technology," Burness says, noting that the ingredients will decompose to compounds that pose no harm to the environment.

In addition to a considerably heightened food safety proposition, Burness says FreshRinse also offers consumers a better eating experience, since the chlorine sanitation process is eliminated and therefore helps the greens better retain natural colors and aroma. Further, although the product is marginally more expensive than simple chlorine, cost should pose no barrier, as it's estimated that it will be around one cent higher per bag.

Burness says Chiquita is currently retrofitting its own facilities to accommodate the FreshRinse technology and expects by year's end to make the process commercially available to other companies.

For more information, visit www.freshexpress.com.

A Better Broccoli

A new and improved broccoli option will soon be headed to supermarket shelves via a new product — Beneforté — from Apio Inc., which says the vegetable naturally boosts the body's antioxidant enzyme levels at least two times more than other leading broccoli varieties do.

Noting that each serving of the promising new broccoli product naturally contains two to three times the phytonutrient glucoraphanin — which naturally boosts the body's enzymes that help maintain the antioxidant activity of vitamins A, C and E — per serving than other leading broccoli varieties produced under similar growing conditions, Ron Midyett, Apio's CEO, says, "Beneforté brings a natural improvement so [consumers] can get more from [their] broccoli while maintaining the great flavor and quality."

Born after more than 10 years of plant breeding that combined the best attributes of commercial broccoli with a wild variety found in southern Italy, Beneforté is the result of a collaboration between Apio and Monsanto's Vegetable Seeds division to develop broccoli and cauliflower varieties that possess unique, desirable consumer traits such as improved nutrition, flavor, color, texture, taste and aroma.

A wholly owned subsidiary of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Landec Corp., Apio will roll out Beneforté in select chains in the early spring of 2011.

For more information, visit www.apioinc.com.

Duda Unwraps Red Celery

After nearly 20 years in developement, Oviedo, Fla.-based Duda Farm Fresh Foods is stoked about its new red celery. Marketed under the Celery Sensations brand, the new and unique celery variety is the brainchild of horticulturist Larry Pierce, Duda's manager of celery seed research, who began working on the project back in 1991. Using traditional techniques and natural plant breeding methods, Pierce cross-pollinated an existing commercial variety with an old-world heritage celery root, or celeriac, variety, which was red in color, to produce a commercially viable variety for today's consumer's taste profile.

"It has the same great crisp, fresh flavor as regular celery, with added crunch that consumers like so much," said Dan Duda, president/ chief operating officer of the eponymous produce pioneer.

Celery Sensations will be sold with Microsoft Tags — high-capacity color barcodes (HCCB) — that are placed directly on packaging and contain encoded product information on storage, usage tips, recipes and meal suggestions that consumers can easily access by scanning the tag with a mobile device such a cell phone.

For more information, visit celerysensations.com or www.dudafresh.com.

Meet Smurfit's Meta Tray-8

Creve Coeur, Mo.-based Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. took the wraps off its new Meta Tray-8 — a high-performance eight-corner produce tray that increases stacking strength with less fiber, reduces waste and transportation costs, and offers eight graphic panels for greater on-shelf differentiation.

What's more, the flat blank optimizes supply chain efficiencies with a reduced storage footprint, alongside precise performance benefits and a wide range of depths and footprints ranging from 10 down to 5 down for faster setup and change-over.

In addition, Smurfit-Stone also offers a new wax-replacement containerboard — Ensulate — for products that are packed or distributed in wet or cold-humid environments. Trays and boxes made from Ensulate are fully recyclable, and further offer applications for produce, poultry and meat, and other products that are distributed in cold-humid environments or require freezer release. Particular produce applications include beans, berries, cabbage, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, spinach and tropical fruit.

Currently in use or in trial for beans, cabbage, romaine lettuce, spinach, frozen chicken, fresh pork and bottled water, and certified recyclable by the Fibre Box Association (FBA), Ensulate trays and boxes replace containers that have wax impregnation or wax curtain coat, and offer compelling environmental and economic benefits. Recyclers will pay retailers to pick up Ensulate with other OCC rather than retailers having to pay disposal companies to landfill waxed containers.

For more information, visit www.smurfit-stone.com.

Kaeppel, Cherry Join Stagnito Media Sales Team

Two seasoned professionals have joined the Stagnito Media advertising sales team. Maggie Kaeppel is Eastern Marketing Manager for Progressive Grocer, while Elizabeth Cherry was recently named Western Regional Marketing Manager for PG and its sister brands, Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Owner.

With responsibility for PG’s eastern territory, which includes Pennsylvania; New Jersey; Maryland; Delaware; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; West Virginia; North Carolina; South Carolina; Geogia; and Florida, Kaeppel brings to her new role a dynamic background in the consumer packaged goods, pet and retail health care market segments. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, she was most recently with Bowtie Inc., and prior to that was employed by Lebhar-Friedman for 19 years, where she worked on various business-to-business trade publications. Kaeppel and her husband have two children.

Elizabeth Cherry also comes to Stagnito Media with over 20 years of media sales, marketing and management experience, and brings a wealth of knowledge to her position as a result of an accomplished and impressive career in print and online b-to-b trade and consumer media experience.

A native of Los Angeles, Cherry gained vast experience with recognized brand names in both consumer and trade marketing capacities. She currently resides in Manhattan Beach, Calif., with her husband and two children.

Kaeppel can be reached by phone at (630) 364-2150 or via e-mail at [email protected]. Cherry can be reached by phone at (310) 546-3815 or via email at [email protected].

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