Archive For The “News” Category

Church Brothers, FiveStar Gourmet partner to Expand Items, Logistics, etc.

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A partnership has been completed between Church Brothers Farms of Salinas, CA and FiveStar Gourmet Foods of Ontario, CA. The latter has value-added salads and packaged snacks for retail and a range of fresh-cut items for foodservice operators.

The move will allow FiveStar to offer bagged salad kits and other convenience items beyond its Simply Fresh salad line in plastic containers, with conventional and organic products.

Through the agreement, the companies expand product offerings in the retail and foodservice arenas, but also will collaborate on resources, infrastructure, logistics, food safety and facilities, according to a news release from the companies. 

The partnership is effective immediately. There is no change in ownership or personnel, and the companies continue to operate separately.

For several years, FiveStar has purchased product grown by Church Brothers for its Simply Fresh line of salads.

“This legal partnership creates a vertically integrated program for FiveStar Gourmet Foods and we are extremely excited to work with such a well-known, established company like Church Brothers Farms,” Tal Shoshan, CEO of FiveStar, Ontario, Calif., said in the release. “A grower-direct supply helps further our new product innovation especially within packaged salads like blends and kits, which FiveStar plans to impact in a big way, similar to how we impacted the salad bowl category.”    

Church Brothers CEO Brian Church said the company plans to use the partnership to enter the bagged salad category.

“This partnership allows us to expand into regional processing with FiveStar’s state-of-the-art facilities in California and Florida, and quickly scale up to create new, innovative value added-items for our customers,” Church said in the release. “FiveStar will leverage our strong land base of more than 40,000 conventional and organic crop acres to expand into the bagged salad category.”

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Belleharvest, Michigan Fresh Join Forces to Ship Apples

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Two Michigan apple markets have combined sales staffs and represent about 150 growers, which will result in around 3 million bushels of Michigan apple shipments due to the union.

Joining forces are Belleharvest Sales Inc. and Michigan Fresh Marketing.

The merger creates a sales alliance, resulting in the second-largest apple shipping operation in Michigan, according to a news release. In 2018, 10 million to 11 million of the state’s 24 million bushels were sold on the fresh market.

The apples will be packed at 7 facilities owned by Belleharvest of Belding, MI., and Michigan Fresh Marketing of Grand Rapids.

“This move is being made to take full advantage of both companies’ strengths and abilities,” Milt Fuehrer, Belleharvest CEO, said. “By merging the offices into one company there will be a robust sales department along with a wider distribution footprint.”

Michigan Fresh CEO Joe D’Ottavio said the partnership allows for innovation.

“The growth potential these two organizations bring to the market is exponential,” D’Ottavio said. “We have an experienced sales team, diverse varieties, and the ability to pack orders quickly and efficiently.”

The Belleharvest/Michigan Fresh partnership follows other changes in the Michigan apple industry. In January, Applewood Fresh Growers LLC of Sparta, formed to market apples from more than 11,000 acres in Michigan and other states.

Also in January, Riveridge Produce Marketing, a Sparta apple grower-shipper-marketer, acquired Sparta apple company Jack Brown Produce’s sales operation.

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The Launch Of Wonderful Seedless Lemons is Coming this Fall

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By The Wonderful Company

LOS ANGELES, California – The Wonderful Company, known for its dedication to harvesting health and happiness around the world through its iconic consumer brands today announced the introduction of a new produce brand, Wonderful Seedless Lemons, a naturally seedless, Non-GMO Project Verified variety of lemon that will debut this fall 2019. The Wonderful Company owns the exclusive rights to this new, premium quality seedless lemon variety available in North America.

“As the leading grower, shipper, packer, and distributor of citrus in North America, Wonderful is uniquely positioned to offer this new and innovative variety of seedless lemons,” said Adam Cooper, senior vice president of marketing at The Wonderful Company. “As consumers’ appetite for seedless varieties in produce continues to grow, Wonderful Seedless Lemons will disrupt the industry and become a top category driver for branded produce.”

Wonderful is no stranger to the citrus category, with Wonderful Halos quickly rising through the ranks to become America’s No. 1 mandarin brand in less than five years. Lemon category growth and consumer consumption for lemons is second only to mandarins, and has nearly doubled in the last five years, with even more room to grow, according to IRI data. According to a third-party study commissioned by The Wonderful Company, 83 percent of lemon buyers state they are likely to purchase a seedless lemon, and 81 percent cite the inconvenience of seeds as a key reason. Ease and efficiency were two of the top benefits of purchasing a seedless lemon stated by lemon buyers who participated in the study.

“We’re encouraged that lemon buyers have expressed their willingness to pay a premium price for seedless lemons,” added Cooper. “This is a game-changer for lemon buyers and will transform how they use and eat lemons in their everyday life. Wonderful has a history of bringing unique and healthy products to market by building trust and brand love with consumers through our $1 billion investment in brand building for Wonderful Pistachios, Wonderful Halos, and POM Wonderful.”

The Wonderful Seedless Lemons’ marketing campaign will introduce new branded packaging creating a bigger marketplace for bagged lemons, as well as eye-catching in-store point-of-sale (POS) displays to capture consumer attention while shopping. Retailers who have carried The Wonderful Company POS have experienced more than two times lift in velocity growth versus those without. Additional marketing campaign initiatives will roll out during the brand’s debut this fall.

About The Wonderful Company Headquartered in Los Angeles, The Wonderful Company is a privately held $4.6 billion global company dedicated to harvesting health and happiness around the world through its iconic consumer brands. The company’s 10,000 employees worldwide are committed to bringing consumers everywhere the freshest, most wholesome pistachios, almonds, citrus and pomegranates; bottling the finest water and wines; and creating colorful bouquets that are sure to touch the heart. This commitment is reflected in the company’s market share: Wonderful Pistachios® is America’s No. 1 tree nut brand and America’s fastest-growing snack; Wonderful® Halos® is the No. 1 mandarin orange in America; POM Wonderful® is the No. 1 100% pomegranate brand in America; FIJI® Water is America’s No. 1 premium imported bottled water brand; JUSTIN® Wine has the No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon in California; and Teleflora® is the world’s leading floral delivery service.

The Wonderful Company’s connection to consumers has health at its heart and giving back in its DNA. The company has a longstanding commitment to corporate social responsibility, including more than $300 million invested in environmental technologies and sustainability research, $50 million in charitable giving and education initiatives every year, $100 million toward the construction of two charter school campuses in California’s Central Valley, and innovative health and wellness programs, including two new, free primary care clinics for employees and their dependents.

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Less Plastic Packaging is Resulting in Price Slashing at Trader Joe’s

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By Nikki Tran, SFGate

Buying produce at Trader Joe’s is about to get cheaper thanks to the elimination of plastic packaging on certain fruits, veggies, and other food staples.

In a new episodee of “Inside Trader Joe’s,” a podcast created by the grocery chain, hosts Matt Sloan and Tara Miller sat down with produce category manager Jack Salamon to unpack how Trader Joe’s plans to reduce packaging on certain products — which means lower prices for customers.

In the interview, Salamon explained how items like potatoes, onions, and apples can be sold as loose products, but were often bagged or bundled together in plastic containers. Now, the store will feature more loose produce.

How does this translate to cheaper prices? Salamon used fresh garlic as an example. Previously, garlic was sold in a pouch. The price a customer paid for garlic included not only the cost of the produce itself, but also costs associated with making the plastic sleeve, bundling the garlic together, and then topping the bag off with a paper header. The packaged garlic fetched $1.39 for two heads. Now, with those extra, hidden expenses removed, loose garlic goes for 49 cents apiece.

In cases where it is difficult to sell items without packaging, like blueberries, the company is trying out different strategies to reduce its plastic waste, such as thinner, biodegradable, and compostable materials. “We are on track to eliminate 4 million pounds of plastic from our stores in 2019 and 2½ million pounds of that plastic has come directly out of the produce section,” said Salamon.

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Move to New Fresh-Cut Facility is Announced by San Miguel Produce

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By San Miguel Produce

Oxnard, CA– San Miguel Produce, Inc., a leader in the fresh-cut dark leafy greens category, announces the move to a new state-of-the-art facility in Oxnard, CA, a few miles from their old facility/headquarter location. 

The 85,000 sq. ft. facility addresses the increasing demand and growth the company has experienced and allows for additional office and production space- including the addition of two new form fill machines. 

 “We are very excited for this new building and the opportunity it brings,” says Roy Nishimori, CEO of San Miguel Produce. “This move will improve our production capacity and support the continued growth with our customers and the innovation of new items.”

While the construction of the new facility was completed in the winter of 2018, the busy holiday season pushed back the installation of the final production line. Now fully operational for the last few months, the company has been focused on fine-tuning processes in the new plant. 

With the increased capacity, San Miguel Produce is now positioned to grow its production out of the West and better serve its customers. 

About San Miguel Produce

San Miguel Produce, Inc. is a 4th generation family farm focused on growing and processing nutrientdense greens under brands: San Miguel Produce, Cut ‘N Clean Greens and Jade, Asian Greens.  Since 1976, San Miguel has been farming on the coastal plains of Oxnard, CA and throughout Ventura County. With our fresh-cut processing plant located near our fields, we harvest to order to ensure our valued customers get the very best farm-fresh greens…which is our definition of “Farm Fresh, Grower Direct.”

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Grimmway Farms of California Acquires Generation Farms of Georgia

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Grimmway Farms of Bakersfield, CA has bought Generation Farms of Lake Park, GA, which grows carrots and other vegetables.

The acquisition of Generation Farms includes its operations in southern Georgia as well as in northern Florida. However, the purchase does not include Generation Farms’ Vidalia onion business, which is the former Stanley Farms’ operations.

Grimmway did not disclose the terms of the transaction.

Grimmway began growing carrots in Cook County, GA., and Live Oak, FL., in 2015 and opened its Southeast Regional Packing Facility in Sparks, GA., in February 2018, according to a news release. Grimmway ships conventional carrot products under the Grimmway Farms, Bunny Luv and Premier labels from the facility from mid-December through May.

“Generation Farm’s diverse processing capabilities and productive land base provide a unique opportunity to grow our regional carrot program and expand our organic division,” said Eric Proffitt, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Grimmway Farms.

Generation Farms was founded in 2013, when Coggins Farms and Produce Inc. of Lake Park and Stanley Farms of Vidalia joined operations. Grimmway plans to continue supplying Generation Farms customers in the region.

The company ships carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, blueberries and watermelons.

“We are excited to increase our footprint in the Southeast and welcome the talented team at Generation Farms to the Grimmway Farms family,” Jeff Huckaby, president of Grimmway Farms, said in the release. “We would also like to recognize Steve Grinstead and the Grinstead Group for providing expert advisory service and enabling a seamless transition from beginning to end.”

Grimmway is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

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New York Packing Facility is Opened by Apple Acres

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A 60,000 square-foot packing facility has been opened by Apple Acres LLC of Lafayette, NY just in time for the new apple crop. Harvesting started in July.

The building, spanning two football fields, features a packinghouse line with a straight path configuration that minimizes fruit handling, according to a news release. It is certified under Global Food Safety Standards. The facility has Compac, Van Doren Inc. and Burg sorting and packing equipment.

The company recently expanded acreage, and apple varieties include Rubyfrost, SnapDragon, Macintosh and Empire. The company also packs for other New York apple growers.

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Apple Picking Robots Make their Debut this Coming Apple Season

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Some apples you haul this fall may be a part of American history, because they will be the first ones in the U.S. picked by a robot instead of human hands.

Abundant Robotics of Menlo Park, CA, a maker of apple harvesting machines, will partake in Washington state’s next harvest.

Abundant’s picker has been described as having something in common with a really smart Hoover vacuum than a human hand. The robot moves down rows of orchards and uses artificial intelligence with a dash of LIDAR to search for ripe apples. Once spotted, a robotic arm with a vacuum gently sucks the apples from the tree into a bin.

The achievement is a combination of advances in machine learning and robotics, as well as how apple orchards have evolved over the decades. Now apples are grown on trellises similar to tomatoes or cucumbers. Modern apple trees are also smaller, derived from dwarf varietals yielding more per acre and produce fruit more quickly after being planted.

These horticultural leaps have allowed farmers to double their apple yields. They’ve also made the job of picking easier for humans and, now, for robots.

Orchards are now sufficiently uniform and predictable for machines to reliably pick fruit, and canopies are narrow enough for sunlight, the human eye and vision systems to penetrate.

The debut in American follows a rollout in New Zealand, where Abundant started harvesting earlier this year. Abundant has raised $12 million with backing from GV, formerly Google Ventures, among others. The startup formed out of the robotics division at SRI International, a research lab in California.

Abundant’s main competition is Fresh Fruit Robotics, an Israeli startup that’s developing a picker using a claw-like appendage. Both companies have received funding from the Washington State Tree Fruit Research Commission.

That labor shortage has been accompanied by higher wages. In Washington state, the minimum wage is set to jump by $1.50 to $13.50 an hour next year, an increase that could amount to a quarter of a million dollars for a grower that manages 250 acres. The typical American farm worker makes $11.84 per hour.


Washington state accounts for nearly two-thirds of all apples shipped in the U.S. and robots are seen as playing a vital role in harvesting. American ranks second globally in apple production behind China.

Agricultural robot shipments are predicted to increase from the current 60,000 units to more than 727,000 in 2025.

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Taylor Farms Acquires Earthbound Farm

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By Taylor Farms

SALINAS, Calif. – Taylor Farms is pleased to announce the acquisition of Earthbound Farm from Danone, SA. We are grateful for Danone’s stewardship of Earthbound Farm during the past two years and for the opportunity to return ownership of this organic fresh produce leader to local roots and family ownership.

Earthbound Farm will join the Taylor Farms Retail Group and help lead growth in the dynamic organic fresh produce category. We will build on Earthbound Farm’s tradition of organic authenticity, new variety development and quality focus with expanded regional organic growing and processing capability to better serve Earthbound Farm’s customers and consumers across North America.

ABOUT TAYLOR FARMS

Taylor Farms is a leading North American producer of salads and healthy fresh foods. Taylor Farms is grounded in a commitment to quality, innovation, sustainability and food safety. Taylor Farms is family owned and based in “The Salad Bowl of the World” Salinas, California. www.taylorfarms.com

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Estimate of Retail Price Inflation for Vegetables Increases

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Both retail and farm-level prices for fresh vegetables have been revised upward for 2019.

In the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Price Outlook report of June 25, the agency reported that although fresh vegetable prices decreased 1% from April to May, prices are 5.2% higher than in May 2018. “The price indexes for all fresh vegetable components (potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, and other fresh vegetables) continued to show strong year-over-year growth,” the USDA said in the report.

“Following a 1.1% increase in 2018, this month’s forecast for fresh vegetable prices has again been revised upward, with expectations for an increase in a range between 3% and 4% in 2019.”

The USDA said the index of farm-level vegetable prices increased by 3.6% in May and was up 9.6% since the same time last year. The farm-level vegetable producer price index declined 1.7% in 2018, but the USDA now calls for an increase of 11% to 12% in producer prices for vegetables this year.

The USDA said the index for producer prices for fruit decreased 3.7% in May and was 15.9% lower since a year ago. After a decrease of 1.9% in 2018, the USDA said fruit prices at the farm level in 2019 are expected to decrease between 4% and 5%.

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