Pundit Interviews

Pundit Letters

Perishable Pundit
P.O. Box 810425
Boca Raton FL 33481

Ph: 561-994-1118
Fax: 561-994-1610



Produce Business

Deli Business

American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur

On The Cutting Edge:
FreshDirect’s Tenley Allen To Showcase
How Social Media, Partnerships And Social Programming
Can Win Over The Millennials And More
At The London Produce Show And Conference

We have followed FreshDirect, the New York-based online grocery delivery service for a long time. This is partly because it is a cutting-edge firm that may have already revolutionized the future of food retailing and partly because FreshDirect CEO Jason Ackerman’s parents live a few houses down from the Pundit.

We have run many pieces related to FreshDirect, including this early one:

New York's FreshDirect Succeeds When Most Online Grocers Have Failed

…And this one that analyzed the role online services play in serving the consumers’ desires for fresh:

Can Online Mean Fresh To Consumers?

We have had produce executives from FreshDirect on the Perishable Pundit’s “Thought Leader” panel at The New York Produce Show and Conference, so were most pleased when we learned that a FreshDirect executive would be able to present at The London Produce Show and Conference. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more:

Tenley Allen
Marketing Manager
Long Island City, New York

Q: We’re thrilled you’ll be presenting in London. FreshDirect has been a true innovator in web-based delivery of perishable products, a medium that has baffled other retailers. What is the focus of your talk?

A: It is centered on the important role of social media and the innate overlap with an array of partnerships FreshDirect has fostered; looking at how social programming has evolved at our company in the past year.

Q: For context, can you start by providing an overview of FreshDirect as a foundation for recent developments?

A: FreshDirect has been around since 2002. We made our first delivery to Roosevelt Island in July that year. Now we’re a leading online fresh food grocer in the U.S., delivering premium quality fresh-from-the-farm foods and brand-name groceries directly to the doors of customers in the greater New York, New Jersey, Connecticut metro areas and the greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, including Delaware. We’ve cultivated unique relationships with suppliers and farmers around the world to provide customers with the best-tasting, freshest, top quality foods and meals.

Q: In FreshDirect’s infancy, other web-based food ventures were crashing and burning, yet FreshDirect would turn out to be a shining exception. You may appreciate a Perishable Pundit Q&A piece we ran back in 2009, revealing reasons behind FreshDirect’s success amid a competitive market landscape, and its visions moving forward.

How did you become involved with FreshDirect, and what are your responsibilities?

A: I’ve been at the company 4 1/2 years. I started as a produce analyst. I was looking at inventory and helping to forecast buys, working a little bit on assortment, but mostly day-to-day buys and forecasts. Numbers are not my friend.

Q: I’m sure you’re modest on that front…

A: I did that about nine months and quickly found there were opportunities in the produce category that needed attention, and I felt I had the skillset to work on those things. I started working on vendor relations and looking at assortment, and promotions, working on the set up and layout of our online storefront.

This all melded into an associate category merchant position, still in produce, and I did that for about a year and a half. Then I was exploring ways to incorporate my food marketing background. While at Cornell University, I studied what they called food industry management, but it really was food marketing. I wanted to get into that realm of it, so I had a conversation with the Chief Marketing Officer.

I had been running promotions specifically for produce and was doing a fairly good job at that, so he recommended a position where I would work on overarching promotions for the company at large; some high level marketing promotions that touched on all the different departments.

In addition, I ended up being the cover person for PR and community outreach because they needed someone in a pinch. So I was working on all our community relations, and I was working closely with our PR agency. This was at a time when we were starting the process of moving our facility to the Bronx, becoming a friendly neighbor and community member.

I was coming into the world of social media on my own, and realizing there was a world of opportunity there. I pitched myself for that role, and wanted to revise the social scene at FreshDirect, and I got it, becoming the social media manager for a year.

Q: What social media opportunities did you pursue?

A: My first task in that position was to launch an Instagram account. We have over 6,500 followers today. This was significant organic growth. You can’t put money behind increasing your Instagram followers at this point. So this was really nice.

Then we’re on Facebook and Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest.

I’ve had a lot of fun working with different partners; community organizations, brands, bloggers, food artists… lots of ways to leverage what we’re doing at FreshDirect with people who know and love and are excited about food, and the collaboration between the multiple entities to give our customers a way to have a mouthwatering experience.

So that was an extremely exciting and rewarding role. It was bittersweet to leave it, but now I’m a marketing manager working on our partnerships. It’s a whole new way of thinking for me. I was able to stay kind of high level in my last role, and now I’m in the weeds, with detail, and still working with third parties, which I love. I enjoy collaboration, so it has that component but in a very detail-oriented way. I’m very fresh in this position, just about a month, and enthusiastic to see where it takes me.

Q: How important in this day and age is social media?

A: At this point, it’s an integral marketing lever. FreshDirect is very excited about talking to millennials in a different way than we have before, and staying relevant to them. Millennials are most certainly at the forefront of social media, especially in the day of mobile, where people are on their phones all the time, you’re waiting in line, and you’re waiting for the subway… I’m in New York, so I see it all the time. People are constantly flipping through their phones. Being present and being able to connect with anyone, but especially millennials… it’s a vital piece of staying relevant and top-of-mind.

Q: It’s helpful in this industry to have young people hip and savvy like you, the newer generation, to stay on top of all this!

A: It’s funny. Even since I’ve been out of the role, which has only been a few weeks, there’s new programming that I haven’t stayed on top of because it’s not my day job anymore. It’s constantly evolving, and ever-changing. It’s so fast-paced, and something is in one day and out the next. Pinterest is adding advertising, and brands are getting on Snapchat. Brands are using all these different channels to reach the consumer and stay as relevant as possible.

Q: How does this social media explosion tie back to fresh produce? Do you have examples you can highlight?

A: Absolutely. FreshDirect is so centered on our sourcing stories, and in the way we cultivate relationships with farmers and ranchers and fishermen. We can show the lengths we go to get fantastic products that are great for the earth and for the body, and great for the producer and the customer. Social is an ideal way for us to highlight those stories. We created a hash tag WTFresh (What The Fresh). It’s an opportunity to showcase outside the box. Maybe people haven’t heard of these products — in most case a produce item. So, something like Buddha’s Hand Citron; it’s a crazy multi-fingered, bright yellow piece of fruit. Most people probably never heard of it, and if you see it, maybe you’re a little scared of it, and then wonder what you do with it.

Another example is kumquats. People are less familiar with these items, so it’s nice to be able to spotlight those and give inspiration on how to use them. Additionally, we had a hashtag, SourcedByFD. This was following and chronicling the travels our merchants make. So they go to Chile and New Orleans for shrimp, Nebraska for cattle, California for blueberries and peaches, Ecuador for bananas, and then the local regions as well. And they’re constantly going on these trips to develop strong ties and partnerships with producers, so it’s great to give insight into that. It’s a medium in our marketing plan to help us get our message across.

Q: Are there ways to measure the impacts of these social media levers, in terms of sales?

A: That is a little harder. There are ways you can track your links and understand how many people are clicking through the link you provide on a post on Facebook or Twitter. Instagram is a little harder to measure the impact. For instance, we did an Instagram takeover, where in one day we worked with a local pizza company and showed five different photos of behind-the-scenes images of their products, and in that one day, their products went out of stock on our site. So, while it’s not a perfect metric, it does show we’re showcasing products telling a story, and then people are reacting and buying those products.

It’s very suggestible. We were selling against a product not in house yet, which is always a nice thing to do, so it was fantastic. Sometimes we sell where you can buy a piece of rhubarb listed on our site, which we know is coming in our facility tonight on transit from the farm. For the pizza example, we were selling ahead, so the pizza wasn’t even made yet.

Q: It doesn’t get fresher than that.

A: That’s the idea, to provide the freshest product possible.

Q: Are you involved in FreshDirect’s creative website shopping experience, such as letting consumers know what items are freshest and tastiest to order that day, and frankly which ones are not…

A: I used to do that when I was on the produce team, but I’ve since pulled out of that area. For the talk in London, I’ll focus on what we were just hitting on, the ways social media is such an integral marketing lever at this point. It’s incorporated across all the channels and it’s fully integrated, the way we’re able to connect with our customers, and insights into the great lengths we’re taking.

With the launch of Instagram and the revitalization of our blog, we have a new way to give insight into our sourcing stories. Before Instagram, we’d put banners on the site, and have it link through another page and tell a story about the producer.

Q: That sounds much more time-consuming, and perhaps a distraction for busy customers trying to complete their orders…

A: It didn’t coincide well with the shopping experience. It took away from people trying to get in and get their products in their cart and make their order. So when they’re on social, they’re more apt to pay attention. Maybe they’re in a more relaxed scene, and it’s easier for them to digest information and get little quick soundbites. It’s not this whole thing they need to read up on, this high level, top flying story… And I think there is something really powerful about that; especially for a food retailer. We’re not going after Bon Appetite magazine. We’re making great strides in creating our own content and telling our own stories.

Q: Since this sneak preview is going in our online publication, we have an opportunity to provide links to some examples of how you’ve capitalized on social media.

A: That’s a good idea. Let me gather some for you. [Editor’s note: Allen provides numerous social post examples for readers to link to here]:

We’re Celebrating With This Tangerine

Olive You 

Ken, Our Specialty Food Merchant, And His New Buddies

Our Produce Team Is Visiting Pine Barrens Native Fruits

Big Fish, Happy Seafood Buyer 

Our FD Seafood Team Is On Their Annual Trek To Alaska

The Editorial Staff Is Hard At Work

Ultimate Cheese Cleanse For Foodies

The Dress Debate Is Bananas

Here’s To All Men, Happy Father’s Day

Sweeten Up Your Summer Skewers With Stone Fruit

Q: What ideas are in the pipeline?

A: There are companies that are doing a really good job of integrating social and customer content. Anthropology is a great example, where it’s actually pulling in photos from people using different hashtags. Say I bought a new dress and I think it looks great… I can put a photo on Instagram and use a hashtag and Anthropology will pull that into its site and showcase the dress.

This is something we looked into. So, I could be grilling salmon with asparagus, I could upload a photo of that on Instagram, use a hashtag and then on the salmon page, “look what our customer Tenley made for dinner last night.” It’s giving inspiration to other customers. So we’re putting the power in our consumers’ hands.

There’s a world of opportunity and we’re only scratching the surface.

Q: I’m embarrassed to tell you I’ve never used Pinterest or Instagram or Snapchat. My kids joke with me that I’m in the dark ages!

A: It’s really interesting to look at social and the differences between the generations. I’m 28, and my mom only knows about it because I’ve told her about it, and she doesn’t understand Snapchat at all. It’s kind of a cool way to connect the generations. We’re able to show them these new products. It’s not something off-putting to older generations but something they can embrace as well. It’s a nice way to share our food, and inspirations and stories. And it’s relevant to everyone. It’s a way to reach into the masses and connect with the people in the know.

A large part of our target market is millennials; early 20s to mid to late 30s, in the food scene. They’re talking about food, hosting parties at home, and food has become a center focus.

Q: You fit right into that target market! Your enthusiasm throughout this interview is refreshing, and attendees certainly are in for a lively and forward-thinking presentation.

A: I’m very passionate about food and FreshDirect, and social media. I’ve spoken at Cornell the past two years, and people are highly engaged, and ask lots of questions. It’s a fun topic by nature. I’m really excited about building social connections and being a part of The London Produce Show.


Tenley is in the hippest part of the produce industry -- social media, marketing and FreshDirect, but she has producer side roots. Her father is none other than Jim Allen, President, CEO at The New York Apple Association, a charter exhibitor at both The New York Produce Show and Conference and The London Produce Show and Conference and an association charged with protecting the interests of the apple growers of New York State.

So Tenley is the perfect person to bridge the gap between the grower and the consumer, by using an intermediary such as FreshDirect.

So many important issues are raised by how the industry deals with this space.

What are the opportunities for producers to develop their own brands through social media? Can retailers that are not online still use these tools in a way that will keep them competitive with on line services and, as online food-ordering services proliferate — Amazon , Google and others are all eyeing the space — can such tools differentiate one company from another?

And how does the industry use these tools to relate to digital natives? Come to The London Produce Show and Conference – definitely bring your tablets and smart phones — and learn some cutting-edge lessons on how these tools can be used to connect with consumers now and, increasingly ,as time goes on.

You can learn more about The London Produce Show and Conference right here.

This is a small brochure we created that showcased the event from last year.

Please register at this link.

And, remember, we have a great “better-half” program; you can learn about it here.

You get the most out of the event by staying onsite at the headquarters hotel. It maximizes networking and thus the value you take out of participating. Get discounted rooms at the headquarters hotel right here.

We have exactly two booths left if you want to participate as an exhibitor, so please let us know here.

And sponsorship opportunities allow you to position your company as a leader; find out about opportunities right here.

We look forward to seeing you at The London Produce Show and Conference!


Pundit’s Mailbag — 
Max Yeater Of Pro*Act Speaks Out:
Much Of The Distribution Sector 'Heavily Invested'
But How Will A Judge See The Barriers To Entry?

Our piece — What The FTC Doesn’t Know May Hurt Us…Sysco/US Foods Merger Is Pro-Consumer Judge Has Opportunity To Let A Thousand Distributors Bloom — brought an objection from a most knowledgeable reader:

I always enjoy reading your articles and find them both insightful and opinionated.  Quite refreshing these days given the environment we live in. 

I did, however, come across something in your May 18th article, “What the FTC Doesn’t Know May Hurt Us”, that made me initiate this response. 

When speaking about “this being a business with low barriers to entry”, I’m confounded as to how you can make this generalized statement. 

Of course, there will always be entrants that cut corners to be low cost providers, but there are many, including Pro*Act Distributors, Sysco, US Foods, Fresh Point, Markon Affiliates, large independent broadliners, etc., that invest heavily to ensure customers get safe, valuable products every day. 

Reputable companies are investing in warehouse management systems, state-of-the-art (energy efficient) transportation solutions, costly ERP systems to provide customers with world-class reporting services, management teams and on and on, but I’m sure you get my point. 

To say “of course, there are complications but, at base, you need a warehouse and a truck to do this business” is, in my opinion, selling the heavily invested distributor short. 

—Max Yeater

Pro*Act LLC
Monterey, California

OK, the Pundit deserves three strikes with a wet noodle for being flippant on this one. Having grown up in the produce distribution business, keynoted many a distribution firm’s annual meetings and facilitating several share groups related to produce distribution, we knew better than to make it seem so easy.

In fact, it is very difficult. Organizing procurement, ensuring food safety and many of the things Max mentions in his letter are exceedingly difficult to do well.

Yet, to some extent the very existence of an organization such as Pro*Act lends credence to our point.

The FTC’s basic claim is that a merger of Sysco and US Foods would allow the merged company to dramatically raise prices and pocket the profits. In order for that to work, there would have to be a long period in which others could not enter the business.

For example, if Airbus and Boeing were to merge, they could, theoretically, raise prices on large passenger jets. It would take many years, possibly decades, before anyone else could design new airplanes. The Airbus A-380, for example, began development work in 1988 and finally made its first commercial flight in 2007! So that is almost two decades for an established aircraft manufacturer.

We doubt that Sysco/US Foods is a monopoly at all, precisely because regional or specialty distributors such as Pro*Act members are there to compete right now.

But if, in fact, Sysco was able to make these incredible profits in a particular city, another distributor would start serving the area, with Sysco’s high profits serving as an umbrella that justifies bringing in product from a more distant location than would usually make sense.

So to give an example, normally San Diego distributors price their products so that Los Angeles distributors cannot compete economically. The high gas cost and extra driver time make the LA distributors uncompetitive. But if Sysco raises prices in San Diego because it has a monopoly due to the merger, then a Los Angeles distributor can compete.

Yet, under the worst possible circumstances, where there are no nearby facilities, the barriers to entry are still not very great precisely because a new firm sensing opportunity could join Pro*Act and compete with Sysco!

In other words, one doesn’t have to build a direct procurement organization; one doesn’t have to start from scratch with a food safety program; one doesn’t need to guess what technological platforms to use. Pro*Act and other member-supported distribution groups are there to help!

In addition, because the foodservice distribution business is regional, one doesn’t have to have the capital, the labor etc., necessary to serve the whole world at once, as a wide-body aircraft manufacturer has to do.

So, while we apologize for making the food distribution business look too easy — from the court’s point of view, the industry has far lower barriers to entry than industries such as a wide-body jet manufacturing.

Nothing is easy in life, and the people who work hard to make food distribution work are the lifeblood that connects producers and consumers. Hats off to every person involved.

Many thanks to Max Yeater for pointing out the Pundit’s failure to make the difficulty of world class distribution crystal clear. 

Pundit’s Mailbag — 
Jersey Fresh: Local Before Local Was Local!
Can Vic Savanello And Beth Feehan Find Common Ground?
Do Consumers Actually Need An Official Definition For Everything?

We received a number of responses regarding our piece, New Jersey Prepares To Define Local, But Do We Need To Penalize Retailers? How The Initiative Will Hurt Jersey Farmers And Consumers Vic Savanello Speaks Out.

One thoughtful writer is passionate about local. In fact, we’ve previously published Beth Feehan, Director, New Jersey Farm to School Network, on this very subject in a piece titled, Pundit's Mailbag — Buying Locally Grown And The Freedom To Choose Otherwise.

This time, after reading what Vic Savanello, Director of Produce & Floral at Allegiance Retail Services and President at The Eastern Produce Council, had to say, she wanted to share some “food for thought” with the industry:

The work my organization does in New Jersey centers on getting more locally grown fresh food into schools, not only to teach children where real food comes from, but also to create life-long fruit and veg eaters.

The Farm to School movement is in direct alignment with reversing an obesity epidemic that stands to bankrupt our country should we not arrest it within the next generation. The numbers are staggering, and it is proven that diets full of fresh fruits and vegetables provide a path to a healthier life.

These lessons about produce are enhanced when there is a story behind the product, when an actual human being grows the food and when a child gets to connect to agriculture in a hands-on way. Farm visits and farmer visits to schools are profoundly impactful when trying to teach children about whole food, and we are lucky enough in New Jersey to still have farmers in our midst to learn from and enjoy the bounties of their labor.

Several years ago, during the first ever “Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week”, which celebrated what is being grown in New Jersey, a reputable produce distributor involved in a school event was asked to purchase local apples for a taste-testing event. The distributor sent apples from Maryland and New York when there were absolutely apples available from New Jersey orchards. Luckily, because the students were too young to understand this, we were able to enjoy their reactions to the different types and tastes of apples. It was a teaching moment. But an opportunity to talk about the local farms that the apples COULD have come from was lost and our efforts to encourage eating locally were muted.

I use this as an example of how local has been utilized for different viewpoints. What is local to some isn’t necessarily local to others. In the larger food supply, most times price is king, but in smaller markets where the aggregation involves family farms and smaller producers, there’s a different set of transactions that isn’t always based on getting the lowest price possible.

The Jersey Fresh marketing program needs a new slogan—“Jersey Fresh: Local Before Local Was Local.” Jersey Fresh is THE original local state program, and we’ve been at the forefront for years in supporting our growers. But with the emergence of “local” moving beyond an adjective to a potentially misappropriated marketing tool, all parties involved are scrambling to figure out how to maximize the impact of this ill-defined word.

I believe (without actually having a discussion with the New Jersey State Board of Agriculture prior to writing this) that New Jersey farmers are trying to make sure that when a store says something is local, there is an explanation of what that definition of local is. Defining state of origin allows the consumer to decide because the purchase is transparent.

There are always going to be different connotations of “local” in this industry. New Jersey may not succeed in defining it at this juncture but our farmers deserve a voice. I volunteer myself to continue this conversation in person and online, as has Mr. Savanello, should a convening be considered. This is a debate that is worth having, and I encourage all parties concerned to get together to discuss this important issue in the Garden State.

—Beth Feehan
New Jersey Farm to School
Trenton, New Jersey

Beth’s passion is obvious, and we are lucky to have people like her in our midst. Her drive to build a better world is inspiring.

This all being said, it is worth noting that there is a large gap between what we wish were so and what we know is so. To mention a few points:

1) We have little evidence that getting more produce into schools actually makes children more likely to consume large amounts of fruits and vegetables when they are older.

2) We have little evidence that eating more fresh produce as children reduces obesity when these children become adults.

3) Whether produce is grown in state, in nearby states, in distant states or in foreign countries, the produce is grown by “actual human beings” and often on “family farms.”

4) Because local does not naturally mean “within state boundaries,” if one wants to order produce from a particular state, one must specify that.

5) Price is not the only factor in purchasing, but it is not established that eating only local increases consumption. In fact, because New Jersey does not grow many wonderful produce items — mangos, avocados, bananas and pineapples to start — and grows others only seasonally, it is at least reasonable to think that children brought up to always eat delicious produce wherever it may come from will have higher levels of consumption later in life than children taught to always seek out local produce.

6) Programs such as Jersey Fresh are wonderful rallying points for a state’s industry. These programs may even increase consumption of in-state produce within that state. But the evidence is pretty scant that the sum total of these programs across the country increases total consumption of fruits and vegetables.


Beth’s supposition is that “New Jersey farmers are trying to make sure that when a store says something is local, there is an explanation of what that the definition of local is.” This may be true. But the proponents of these rules are also biasing the process by saying that if you stick to produce grown only in the state of New Jersey, there is no need to define local. The farmers could just as easily ask retailers to post their definition of local: In state, within 100 miles of the store, within 200 miles of a distribution center, grown in the USA, etc.

And finally there is a question of what the penalty should be if things get messed up. Few would argue against fines and even imprisonment for those who intentionally go out to deceive consumers. And, in fact, we already have a panoply of laws and regulations that can lead to large fines or put people in jail if they, for example, label product falsely.

If, however, a supermarket chain labels product as local, buys it from 100 yards over the border in Pennsylvania or New York and fails to put up signage explaining this — is this a serious problem where we should start hitting retailers with fines?

And do New Jersey farmers really benefit if their produce gets declared “not local” by other states in retaliation of this rule?

That New Jersey farmers deserve a voice is beyond doubt. But in exercising this voice, they should be aware of how other states may react to this move, to how larger markets benefit them and to the dangers of making everything a law.

Nutrition labeling on fresh produce is still a voluntary program. Because compliance has always been so high, the FDA never felt the need to make it mandatory. If there must be a state definition, wouldn’t it make sense to make it a voluntary guideline and avoid the whole issue of imposing fines and consequences?

Many thanks to Beth Feehan of the New Jersey Farm to School Network for weighing in on this topical issue.

Pundit’s Mailbag – 
Vitamin D Mushrooms And Mushroom Blending
How Changing The Product, And Expanding Usage Options, Is Crucial;
If We Want To Boost Consumption
Then We Have To Market It!

Our piece, Branding And In-Store Marketing: Perfect Together... St. Joseph’s Superstar Professor John Stanton To Present At London Produce Show And Conference, brought many letters including this one from the man who represents mushrooms, the marketing of which was the subject of much of the discussion.

As always, love the Perishable Pundit, especially when combined with my other favorite candid friend John Stanton! Just a quick note to say, thanks for the poke… I had several folks forward the article and it gave me a chance to say, "THAT'S what I've been TALKIN' about!!" AND, to let them know we are not dead yet… with the revamped nutrition labels still to be announced and then implemented, when vitamin D, for the first time EVER, will become a mandatory listing.

They will get one last bite at this apple, one more chance to make a difference, to lay claim to this "nutrient of concern".  As my new favorite line from a movie (The Theory of Everything) states…."As long as there is life, there is hope."

— Bart Minor, MBA
Mushroom Council
San Jose, California

The industry always cries that it wants to increase consumption, but almost all the efforts to do so focus on promoting the produce that happens to be in the supply chain. The Mushroom Council has really gone the extra mile to not just promote mushrooms, but to change mushrooms to make them more popular.

The idea of adding Vitamin D is one important element of this effort; the other is to use mushrooms as a blend with ground beef in hamburgers and meatloaf.

Right now they are working with the Better Burger Project. See how it works:

It is a really simple project geared for chefs:

Calling all chefs! The James Beard Foundation is inviting restaurants and chefs all across the country to participate in the Better Burger Project™ by featuring a “Better Burger” on their menus.

The Better Burger Project is an in-restaurant menu promotion that strives to improve the burger by blending ground meat with finely chopped mushrooms, creating a more delicious, healthy, and sustainable burger.

Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up here!
2. Create your “Better Burger,” blending at least 25-percent fresh, cultivated ground mushrooms into your burger patty. Learn more about the blend here.
3. Menu the dish throughout the promotion period, from Memorial Day through July 31, 2015 — and beyond if you choose!
4. Ask your customers to vote on Instagram by sharing your “Better Burger,” posting with #BetterBurgerProject

 After the promotion concludes on July 31, 2015, the five (5) chefs with the most Instagram uploads by consumers will win a trip to New York City in October 2015 to cook their “Better Burgers” at the official welcome reception for the annual JBF Food Conference at the historic James Beard House. We’ll be monitoring social media participation during the promotion and posting weekly updates to our blog and on betterburgerproject.org, so be sure to check back often. (Read the official contest rules here.)

Learn more about participating in the Better Burger Project™.

Whether retail or foodservice, it is a misguided dream to think promoting inconsistent produce will by itself move the needle on consumption. But producing better products that create compelling reasons for consumers to eat them has every chance in the world of changing eating habits.

Many thanks to Bart Minor for reminding us of these important efforts.

Pundit’s Mailbag – 
Mother’s Day Edition Strikes A Chord: 
'It Made Me Review My Role As A Mother, Grandmother And Great Grandmother'
'It Will Cause Me To Say Things To My Mother'
We All Need To Seize The Opportunity To Speak Before It Is Too Late

Our special Mother’s Day Edition — highlighting a speech Ken Whitacre gave on the occasion of his mother’s 80th birthday celebration — was titled, Blood From A Turnip: How A Mother’s Love Can Transform The Life Of Her Child, and it moved many to write:

From mothers themselves:

This is a THANK YOU for sharing Ken's Mothers' day tribute.

It really made me review my role as a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.

What a joyful and remarkable woman.

Again. . . .

Sincere thanks.

—Dr. Frieda [Frieda Caplan]
Frieda’s Inc.
Los Alamitos, California

To daughters (who are mother’s too!):

I woke up this sunny Mother’s Day, made some coffee and read the Perishable Pundit .

I’m sure I met Ken’s mother at Jim’s son’s Bar Mitzvah – but now I know her so much better.  That was an ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL tribute to his mom.  Gave me real insights into Ken as well.

And thanks to Jim for sharing it via the Perishable Pundit.  It always strikes me how I only know one dimension of so many people.  You know, I may know the person, but not how many siblings they have. I may think I know a person, and then, at a later date learn about some tragedy or life changing experience they have had. 

And now, I know that Ken has 4 siblings, that his father died 30 years ago and that his mom is inspiring and amazing.  And that she truly shaped Ken into the generous, giving person he is.

Happy Mother’s Day…and I know you and Ken are both such wonderful sons and husbands, that you will make sure the women in your life feel appreciated and loved today.

—Karen B. Caplan
President & CEO
Frieda’s, Inc.
Los Alamitos, California

To captains of the industry who have been at the very pinnacle of American commerce:

Just want to tell you I loved the 80th birthday speech about Ken’s mother. It will cause me to say some things to my mother today when I call her.

Ken’s speech reminded me of a group exercise I did years ago. The assignment was to come prepared to give the speech you hope your children would give about you at your 80th birthday party.

Very insightful exercise.

While Ken’s mother would never write those things about herself, his comments were heartwarming and special. Thanks for sharing them with the world.

Dave Dillon
Former President/CEO
The Kroger Company
Cincinnati, Ohio

Some people had short, to the point, things to say:

Love, love, love this! Thank you Ken Whitacre & Jim Prevor for sharing this. "How My Mother's Love Changed My Life.”

—Kimberly Flores
Marketing Director
Seald Sweet International
Vero Beach, Florida

And some were prompted to say more:

I enjoyed the Whitacre tribute for Mother’s Day.

My mother was born on a dairy in Arizona. As a girl she milked cows, then as a married family woman, she raised 2 children (I came along later) she packed lettuce in an ‘ice shed’ when lettuce was packed and then iced for shipping in railcars, and weighed cotton my father farmed near Phoenix — before machine harvesting in the 1950s..

When my father was farming lettuce south of Willcox, Arizona, in the 1960s, my mother took a job at a bank in town so that I could get to school the 21 miles (including 6 miles of dirt road) and participate in sports and school activities until I could drive myself.

My parents never missed a high school football or basketball game — home or away during my high school career, and my father came to town to see as many baseball games as he could although he was busy with the farm every spring of the year.

My mother ‘got it done’, all of it, and with love and affection.

Here is another great piece about mothers from the Los Angeles Times, You can’t  put a price on a mother’s love. Her work’s another matter— if you have the time to read it. It has a good tongue-in-cheek message.

—Richard A. Eastes
Marketing Consultant
Grower Relations Adviser
Rixx Intl. Marketing Co. Inc.
Visalia, California

Some pieces brought warnings that they took from the piece and cautioned us to speak up while someone is there to listen:

Just read Ken Whitacre’s tribute to his Mother in the Perishable Pundit.  What a nice way to honor your Mother on her birthday!  What is really great is that she had the opportunity to actually hear him say what is in his heart.

Often we wait until it’s too late to do so.  Well done!  

—Terry Humfeld
Executive Director
The Cranberry Institute
Newark, Delaware

Others caught that it was an ode to a friendship as well as celebration of a mother:

I have just read Jim's tribute to his friendship with Ken, and his tribute to his Mother.

Wow! No other words -- really, none. Well done.

This Pundit was truly remarkable on so many levels.

—Lisa Packer
Senior Vice President
Star Group Synegrated Communications
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Some just wanted the Pundit and Ken to know they were reading:

I enjoyed reading your article and Ken’s speech commemorating his mother’s birthday. What a fitting tribute from Ken.

—Mike Mascari
Indianapolis Fruit Company
Indianapolis, Indiana

Others thought it elevating:

A very poignant column.  I read it before church and was very touched by it.

—Jim Carr 
The Produce Reporter Company
Carol Stream, Illinois

Some related to the story:

I just wanted to tell Ken how much I enjoyed his "speech" from his mother's birthday party that was published for Mother's Day in the Pundit.

I also grew up in a similar background; father died young; and somehow these mothers held it all together for us.

—Floyd Avillo
RLB Food Distributors
West Caldwell, New Jersey

Some were moved to imagine the scene:

What a wonderful tribute to Ken’s Mom!  The world would — indeed — be a better place if everyone acted more like Mary Whitacre!

Of all the gifts she may have received on her 80th birthday, I am certain that his speech was amongst her most treasured. 

As I read Ken’s words, I pictured a room full of family and I envisioned the young people listening intently to his challenge — to heed the lessons that Mary Whitacre had taught in a life defined by sacrifice, perseverance, hard-work, and an unwavering devotion to her children. 

Ken’s words — and Mary’s life — has been and continues to be an inspiration.

Thank-you for sharing them.  Sincerely, I feel enriched now knowing more about Mary Whitacre.

May she continue to be blessed with good health and happiness in the years ahead.

—Jim Bartelson
Senior Vice President
Phoenix Media Network, Inc.
Boca Raton, Florida

Some people speak simply:

Jim and Ken,


—John Shelford

Some were moved to introspection:

Thanks so much to Ken for sharing the story of his Mom. Many of Ken’s comments hit home to me in a big way.

Sitting in the Pittsburgh airport at 9:30 am on Mother's Day truly made me stop for a moment, take a breath and say thanks Mom. 

—Howard Nager
Vice President Marketing
Domex Superfresh Growers
Yakima, Washington

Some thought of the children:

What a great message to the next generation!  What a wonderful and giving Mom Ken has. 

Ken’s mom’s silent but effective example to her kids and the community around and the list of accolades to her from the speech will resonate in many peoples’ minds and hearts.

How truly beautiful – and what a great 80th gift to a mother from her son.

—Priscilla Lleras
Peruvian Asparagus Importer's Association

Some sent it to their mothers – who happens to be the executive administrative director of the Hunts Point Market!:

Wonderful speech by Ken. I flagged it for my mom to read.

Thanks for sharing.

—Harold Gordon
Jones Day

New York, New York

Some wanted to know still more:

What a great Mom and Son. For the 85th I want to know the story of how this incredible woman influenced the educational path that led Ken to Cornell?

Although a different generation, my Mom was a parallel, although in an agricultural community. But my dad lived to 81.

Congratulations to Jim for having shared Ken’s great story.

—Dave Diver
Former Vice President of Produce
Hannaford Bros.

And Mama Pundit saw the blessing in it:

How many mothers are fortunate enough to have their sons give this beautiful speech on their 80th birthday?

Mary Whitacre did a good job, so I wish her a Wonderful Mother's Day and a happy birthday from the Prevor family!

— Roz Prevor


The Mother’s Day holiday has passed but the day is always right to show mothers, fathers and others important in your life how much they mean to you.

Parents are primary among these, perhaps because there is a biblical injunction to honor them, but perhaps also because of the reality of the situation that most do their best, guided by not much more than love.

When the Jr. Pundit Primo, aka William, sometimes starts to complain, we explain the truth: That we were there when he was born, and as the doctor rushed him off for his APGAR score, we waited, hopeful that the instruction booklet would come next.

Alas it never came. It is a good thought to remember as we think of our mothers and, with Father's Day approaching, our fathers too.

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