Archive For The “Health” Category

Organic Produce Retail Sales on Rise, but Not Necessarily Due to COVID

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Noticeable gains during the pandemic for retail sales of organic produce have experienced , but it is not necessarily due to the public’s desire to eat healthier.

Category Partners LLC of Idaho Falls, ID has observed the sales increase, which also has been experienced by conventional fruit and vegetables. This may be more the result of shutdowns of other out-of-home choices for purchasing produce.

Category Partners contends organic produce was carrying a slightly higher growth rate than conventional prior to the pandemic and this has remained mostly consistent.

It is hard to say whether consumers are choosing organic fruit and vegetables because they may be perceived to be more healthful than conventional, the company notes. However, organic produce does come with a health perception that often is cited by users as a reason they buy it.

The main reason organic consumers give for buying organic produce is the perceived healthfulness of the product, the firm notes, so it is better for you from a nutrition standpoint, and it has lower levels of pesticide residues than conventional.

Sustainability also comes into play for younger consumers.

The price premium over conventional produce is the primary reason consumers give for not purchasing organic produce.

Shoppers are unlikely to purchase items if the price differential between organic and conventional is too great where they feel they can’t afford organic fruit and vegetables.

Accessibility and occasionally quality are other factors than may affect purchasing decisions.

Bananas are far easily the No. 1-selling organic item in the produce department, followed by carrots and apples.

It is believed bananas lead the pack in large part because they have among the smallest price premiums in the produce department between conventional and organic.

The price differences between organic and conventional vary by commodity.

The per-pound price difference between conventional and organic bananas is 13 cents, the firm reports. The difference for carrots is 38 cents and for apples, 62 cents.

On average, organic item are about double the cost versus a conventional product. In the future the gap is expected to narrow.

From a dollar standpoint, organic packaged salads lead the list, followed by strawberries and apples.

Bananas are No. 8 in dollar sales and carrots come in at No. 7.

Packaged salads have the second-highest price variance between conventional and organic — about an 80% price premium.

The 50% to 60% price premium range is where you see the items that are really driving the volume. Moving outside of that, you can may generate dollars, but you’re going to experience loss of volume.

As far as packaging, the trend away from packaged produce apparently has been disrupted by the pandemic. The long-term trend among consumers, especially younger consumers, seems to be away from plastic packaging.

However, packages that are proliferating, like the gusseted pouch bags, are having tremendous success with consumers.

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Genetically Modified Tomatoes Could be Alternative for Parkinson’s Patients

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A genetically modified tomato enriched with the Parkinson’s disease drug L-DOPA has been produced by scientists at the UK-based John Innes Centre.

L-DOPA is used to treat Parkinson’s by compensating for dopamine, which is depleted in patients with the disease. The drug is made from tyrosine, an amino acid found in many foods. While it’s most commonly produced chemically, this version can cause unpleasant side effects.

Natural sources exist as well, but only a few plants contain measurable quantities, primarily in their seeds. These likewise can have negative effects on Parkinson’s patients due to other characteristics of the plant. The velvet bean, for example, is the most studied source, containing up to 10% L-DOPA in its seeds.

However, the bean itself causes elevated levels of tryptamines which can cause hallucinations. Using tomato plants as a natural source of L-DOPA could have the benefit of providing an alternative to those who experience adverse reactions, such as nausea or behavioral issues when taking the chemically synthesized version.

It may also have the impact of creating an affordable new source of this medication, particularly in developing nations where access to pharmaceutical drugs is limited.

A team at the research facility modified the fruit by introducing a gene found in beetroots responsible for the synthesis of L-DOPA. They inserted a gene encoding a tyrosinase, an enzyme that uses tyrosine to build molecules such as L-DOPA. This brought up the level of L-DOPA specifically in the fruit part of the plant and led to higher yields than those associated with L-DOPA production in the whole plant.

Tomatoes in particular were chosen to be modified with the drug as they are a widely cultivated crop and can be used for scaled-up production, potentially becoming a standardized natural source. The levels of L-Dopa achieved in the genetically modified tomatoes, 150mg per kg, were comparable to those observed in other L-DOPA accumulating plants without the drawbacks.

The goal from here is to create a production pipeline where L-DOPA is extracted from the tomatoes and purified into the pharmaceutical product.

“The idea is that you can grow tomatoes with relatively little infrastructure. As GMOs (genetically modified organisms) you could grow them in screen houses, controlled environments with very narrow meshes, so you would not have pollen escape through insects,” explained Professor Cathie Martin, a fellow of the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) and corresponding author of the study. “Then you could scale up at a relatively low cost. Local industry could prepare L-DOPA from tomatoes because it’s soluble and you can do extractions. Then you could make a purified product relatively low tech which could be dispensed locally.

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Latest Dietary Guidelines Emphasize Importance of Vegetable Consumption

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By Potatoes USA

DENVER — “It’s official: the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans have yet again confirmed the importance of eating more vegetables such as potatoes that provide potassium and vitamin C.1

“The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations focus on increased nutrient-dense vegetable consumption. Americans can take simple steps toward eating healthier by choosing potatoes. As a nutrient-dense vegetable, potatoes support all three healthy eating patterns – Healthy U.S., Healthy Vegetarian, and Healthy Mediterranean – defined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Potatoes’ versatility also means they can easily fit into meals across a variety of personal and cultural preferences for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“For the first time in the history of the committee’s guidance on nutrition and health, the Dietary Guidelines also covers specific recommendations for individuals under two years old, supporting potatoes as a healthy first food for babies and toddlers, as well.

“Potatoes are a good source of potassium, providing 15% of the daily value per serving in addition to being an excellent source of vitamin C, providing 30% of the daily value per serving. Vitamin C may help support the body’s immune system,2 which is likely to be especially top-of-mind for Americans as we head into 2021.

“What’s more, research shows that you’re likely to feel full for longer3-5 and support your body with the nutrients it needs when you choose good carbohydrates like potatoes. A serving of potatoes has 26 grams of high-quality carbohydrates that can help fuel an active lifestyle. Carbohydrates are the key fuel utilized by the brain and by muscles during exercise.6 Many Americans are moving to plant-based diets7 and obtaining enough high-quality protein is important in this process. Potatoes contain 3 grams of a complete protein that can easily be absorbed by the body.8,9

“Many Americans are struggling with food insecurity and are not meeting recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake.10 Research suggests that potatoes are an affordable, nutrient-dense vegetable that provides more nutrients per penny than most other vegetables.11

“Potatoes are a nutritious, affordable option that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways – including simple, delicious preparations with few ingredients, making them easy to incorporate into a healthy diet. For more information on potato nutrition and preparation please visit”

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About Potatoes USA
Potatoes USA is the marketing organization for the 2,500 commercial potato growers operating in the United States. Potatoes USA was established in 1971 by a group of potato growers to promote the benefits of eating potatoes. Today, as the largest vegetable commodity board, Potatoes USA is proud to be recognized as an innovator in the produce industry. For more information on Potatoes USA’s mission to “Strengthen Demand for U.S. Potatoes” by creating positive change in the industry through innovative and inspiring approaches, please visit

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Unique Varieties Gain Popularity with Organic Sweet Potatoes

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Over a recent 16-year period North Carolina sweet potato volume has jumped by 42 percent. That translates into consumer consumption hitting 7.2 pounds per capita. 

The North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission reports much of the increase is attributed in large part to consumers searching for healthy food choices. This ranges from fries, to fresh cuts, and sweet potato tater tots. 

While the majority of the N.C. crop remains the conventional orange-fleshed covington variety, there is growing consumer interest in organics. There is a perception among consumers that ‘organic’ means healthy. However, research finds no difference in nutritional value between organic and conventionally grown. So it becomes a matter of producers meeting consumer demand.

Of the newer varieties, purple sweet potatoes with their purple-tinted skin and violet flesh are gaining in popularity. Plus, being a novelty is an attraction to some consumers. 

Vick Family Farms of Wilson, N.C., reports shipping more organic and specialty varieties as niche items, such as reddish-purple, white-fleshed murasaki, to retail supermarkets. These were developed at the University of Louisiana in the early 2000s, and the sweet bonita, with its tan skin and white flesh. Vick also still grows a few acres of beauregards, red-copper tubers with deep orange flesh. Nash Produce of Nashville, N.C. is seeing an increase in demand for its organics, bonita and murasaki varieties. 


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Bolthouse Introduces Carrot Dogs

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Have you ever eaten a hot dog that tastes like a carrot? Neither have we, but that’s about to change.

Bolthouse Farms of Bakersfield, CA has developed a new lineup of “carrot swaps.”

The name of the line is Wunderoots, and it includes Carrot Dogs, Carrot Fettuccine and Riced Carrot.

Both the Carrot Rice and Carrot Fettuccine kits can be prepared on a stove top or in the microwave. Carrot Dogs are designed to be grilled, according to a news release.

Bolthouse recommends merchandising all items from the line in the value-added section of the produce department. The Wunderoots items are expected to debut in spring 2021.

Carrot Dogs may be the most unusual the bunch. In creating the hot dog alternative, the company shaves carrots into the shape of a traditional hot dog, brines them for a smoky flavor, packages them and puts them through high pressure processing so they have a longer shelf life.

Bolthouse has three flavors of the Carrot Dog: Classic American, Chorizo and Sweet Italian.

While the product still tastes like a carrot, it is seasoned with spices traditionally not used as much with produce, and it has the texture of a hot dog.

Bolthouse contends it’s just the beginning of finding kind of new and creative ways to make, in this case carrots, but a broader mission on that is really about making plants more fun, more exciting.

The company expresses optimism about the Riced Carrot product, which will be available with sauces including Sesame Stir Fry, Green Chile and Yellow Coconut Curry.

Consumers are used to kind of vegetable noodles, but this vegetable rice is much better nutritionally than eating white rice.

The Carrot Fettuccine kits will be available with sauce options Marinara, Spicy Thai Basil and Red Coconut Curry.

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Research Indicates Financial Strength Closely Tied to Produce Purchases

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Consumers’ financial strength is closely related to how well U.S. retailers’ fresh produce departments perform, according to an IRI representative.

Jonna Parker, the company’s Team Lead for Fresh, said that IRI primary shopper research found that if Americas were to receive a second stimulus check from the U.S. government, they would be more likely to spend it on meat and produce than other food and beverages.

“In all, 21% of consumers said they would buy more meat, 20% more produce and 7% would purchase restaurant meals more often,” she said in a joint report by 210 Analytics, IRI and the Produce Marketing Association (PMA). “This shows the fresh produce department performance is closely tied to financial strength.”

Consumers were also asked how the loss of a weekly unemployment benefit of $600 might affect shopping behavior.

“The top answer among current beneficiaries of the benefit was ‘buy less meat’ at 35%, followed by ‘buy fewer fresh fruits and vegetables’ at 29%, ‘buy fewer premium products’ at 24%, ‘switch more purchases to store brands versus national brands’ at 19%, and ‘buy fewer convenient meals to instead cook from scratch’ at 18%,” Parker said.

The joint report noted that fresh produce sales at U.S. retail in the week ended August 9 were up 9.5% year-on-year – putting it below the 12-13% weekly growth seen during July. Year-to-date through August, fresh produce department sales are up 11.1% over the same time period in 2019.

Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 27.4%. Joe Watson, VP of Membership and Engagement for the PMA, said that economic pressure “tends to have big impacts on grocery shopping”, including channel choice, the type of items and quantity bought, and the importance of price and promotions.

“During the next few weeks and months, it will be important to highlight the great value of fresh produce and home cooking,” he said. “At the same time, consumers appreciate help with recipe ideas and meal planning as that is an increasing area of struggle. We will also keep an eye on back-to-school that will look very different this year, which will once more impact year-over-year trending.”

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Organic food sales top $50B in 2019, up 4.6 Percent

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Organic food sales in 2019 exceeded $50 billion, including $18 billion for organic produce.

“The category continues to be the star of the organic sector and often the starting point for organic food buying,” The Organic Trade Association wrote in a news release. “Millennials and younger generations have grown up with organic and remain the growth drivers for this category.

“Organic produce makes up almost a third of all organic food sales, and organic fruits and vegetables — including fresh, frozen, canned and dried — have now captured 15percent of the fruits and vegetables market in this country,” OTA wrote.

The report describes the $18 billion in organic produce sales for 2019 as a nearly 5 percent increase from the previous year.

The United Fresh Produce Association’s FreshFacts on Retail 2019 Year in Review, which uses retail scan data from Nielsen, lists organic sales for fresh produce specifically as $5.9 billion, up 5.5 percent from 2018. Per the report, organic fresh vegetables surpassed $3.3 billion in 2019, up 3.8 percent from 2018, and organic fresh fruit made nearly $2.2 billion, up 7.0 percent.

OTA’s recently released 2020 Organic Industry Survey indicates continued interest in organics from many shoppers.

“Our 2020 survey looks at organic sales in 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak, and it shows that consumers were increasingly seeking out the organic label to feed their families the healthiest food possible,” Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of OTA, said in the release. “The pandemic has only increased our desire for clean, healthy food. Our normal lives have been brought to a screeching halt by the coronavirus. The commitment to the organic label has always resided at the intersection of health and safety, and we expect that commitment to strengthen as we all get through these unsettled times.”

The outlook for organic in the immediate wake of the pandemic is uncertain, according to OTA. Organic sales growth could slow because many consumers may be more price-sensitive, or growth could remain steady as consumers look for “cleaner” products in an effort to protect their health.

“It’s hard to know what’s ahead of us, but consumers will continue to trust in and depend on the organic label,” Batcha said in the release. “Organic producers and processors — indeed the entire organic supply chain — have been working around the clock through this difficult time to keep our stores filled with healthy, toxic-free and sustainably produced organic food and products. Organic is going to be there for the consumer.”

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Mariani Packing Launches Probiotics in Single-Serve Packs

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VACAVILLE, Calif. — Mariani Packing Company, the world’s largest independent family-owned producer of dried fruit, announced they are continuing their rich history of innovation by launching new Probiotic Single-Serve Packs. Based on the success of their best-selling Probiotic Dried Fruit line and consumer demand for on-the-go packaging, the new Probiotic Single-Serve Packs will come in a weekly 7-day supply carton, in two fruit varieties: Probiotic Apricots and Probiotic Prunes, in 1.4 oz each pack.

Mariani’s dried apricots and dried prunes contain soluble fiber, acting as a prebiotic, that may be a fuel source for probiotics to thrive. They are also naturally sweet, with no sugar added, and a good source of antioxidant vitamins A and E, vitamins B6, B12, potassium, and iron.

The GanedenBC30® probiotic active cultures in Mariani’s Probiotic Apricots and Probiotic Prunes are 10x more effective than yogurt cultures in surviving the transit through the harsh stomach environment into the gut. Just 1 serving per day may safely support your digestive health and immune system. GanedenBC30 is recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, as well as vegan, gluten-free, Non-GMO Project Verified, Kosher, and Halal certified.

“Today’s consumers are looking for convenient, healthy and on-the-go solutions that are nutritious and delicious. The new Mariani Probiotic Single-Serve Packs combine the natural prebiotics found in fruit with GanedenBC30  Bacillus Coagulans GBI-30, 6086® probiotics  to help boost immune and digestive wellness anywhere they are; at home, work, school, or travel,” states Bob Hyland, VP, Global CPG Sales & Marketing.

These new Probiotic Single-Serve Packs are the latest in Mariani’s full line of Probiotic dried fruit including Probiotic Cranberries, Raisins, Apricots, Berries & Plums and Prunes, available nationwide at Albertsons/Safeway, Walmart and most major retail grocery stores or online at

About Mariani Packing Company
Mariani Packing Company, Inc. is the world’s largest independently and family-owned producer of dried fruits. Since 1906, the Mariani family has been providing premium quality dried fruit to consumers and customers all over the world. The Mariani family of products can be found in over 40,000 retail outlets in the United States and in over 65 countries worldwide.

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Watercress, the CDC’s Most Recommended Powerhouse Veggie, Boosts Immunity

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By B&W Quality Growers

Fellsmere, Fla. – As COVID-19 concerns escalate around the country, consumers are seeking immunity-boosting ingredients to incorporate in their diets. While it may be common knowledge that leafy greens are an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients, there is a lesser known variety that reigns supreme when it comes to health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks watercress at the top of their list of Powerhouse Fruits and Veggies, the foods most strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk.

B&W Quality Growers watercress is revered by health experts and restaurant chefs for its health benefits and flavor, but home chefs have yet to realize its full potential. Watercress boasts many healthy features, including anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, 28 vitamins, minerals and compounds, and it provides a great source of Vitamin C, proven to reduce cold and flu symptoms.

The vibrant green watercress from B&W Quality Growers, the world’s largest grower of distinctive baby leaves, is versatile and adds a peppery crunch to many dishes. It can be used in salads, smoothies, appetizers, entrees, and more.

“Self-care has become so important these days, and what better way to take care of you and your family than to feed them the most nutritionally-dense food on the planet,” says Mark DeLeo, CEO, B&W Quality Growers. “Not only is watercress packed with vitamins and minerals, it is deliciously versatile enough for chefs to create memorable takeout dishes and home cooks to spice up family favorites.”

B&W Quality Growers partnered with chefs to develop simple, yet flavorful recipes they can make in under 30 minutes, such as Watercress Frittata, Watercress Turkey and Pear Panini, and Watercress Hummus. For information about B&W Quality Growers and more chef-inspired recipes, visit

About B&W Quality Growers
For 150 years B&W Quality Growers has produced distinctive baby leaves® with unique flavor profiles including green watercress, exclusive red watercress, baby arugula, red kale, and baby spinach. With year-round availability from seasonal farms spanning eight states, B&W grows, packs and ships premium quality leaves to retail, wholesale, foodservice and specialty customers across North America and Europe. B&W’s products are certified Kosher, food safety compliant and naturally packed for maximum freshness. Learn more about B&W at

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New Study Explores Beneficial Affects of Blueberries

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The equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries, given as 22 g of freeze-dried blueberries, may beneficially affect areas of health in overweight men with type 2 diabetes, according to new research study.

The double-blind study was conducted at the Stratton Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Albany, New York. It found that intake of the equivalent of one U.S. cup of fresh blueberries (given as 22 g freeze-dried blueberries) resulted in clinically significant improvements in measurable indicators of type 2 diabetes – Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and fructosamine – compared to a placebo.

These indicators represent two ways to measure glycemic control in those living with diabetes. First, measuring HbA1c levels provides insight into long-term glycemic control, with the ability to reflect the cumulative glucose level history of the preceding two-to-three months. Testing fructosamine levels provides information on average blood glucose levels over a two-to-three-week time period.

The results also showed significantly decreased levels of serum triglycerides after blueberry consumption compared to placebo. Left untreated or uncontrolled, elevated blood triglyceride levels may increase the risk of serious complications such as cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of morbidity and mortality for individuals with diabetes.

“To date few human clinical trials have evaluated the potential beneficial health effects of blueberries in populations with type 2 diabetes,” said Kim Stote, Ph.D, MPH, RDN, who has a research appointment at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, and is the study’s lead investigator.

“While the results cannot be generalized to all populations, the evidence that a dietary intervention with a realistic serving of blueberries may be an effective strategy to improve metabolic factors associated with type 2 diabetes.”

Over an eight-week period, researchers studied 52 overweight male participants between the ages of 51 and 75 who had a medical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes for at least six months as indicated by hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) > 6.5 and < 9 and BMI > 25 kg/m2. During the study, non-insulin diabetes medications were prescribed to 100% of the participants.

Other inclusion criteria for subjects included no insulin use and no heavy exercise. Participants were randomly assigned one of two interventions: either 1) 22 g of freeze-dried blueberries (the equivalent of one U.S. cup/d fresh blueberries) along with their regular diet or 2) 22 g of a placebo powder (matched in energy and carbohydrate content to the freezedried blueberries) along with their regular diet.

Of note, fiber was not controlled in the study, which is known to influence glycemic response. Fasting plasma glucose and serum insulin were not significantly different after eight weeks of consumption of freeze-dried blueberries, compared with placebo.

Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, CRP concentrations, blood pressure and body weight were not significantly different after eight weeks of consumption of freezedried blueberries, compared with the placebo.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes (about 1 in 10). Approximately 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when insulin is made by the pancreas, but the body’s cells gradually lose the ability to absorb and use the insulin. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing in the U.S. population due to aging, physical inactivity, being overweight and obesity status, all of which are serious risk factors.

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