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Perishable Pundit
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Produce Business

Deli Business

American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur

Wal-Mart’s ‘Save Money —
Live Better’ Slogan Is Step In Right Direction

Wal-Mart has announced a new slogan. Instead of “Always Low Prices. Always” the new slogan will be “Save Money. Live Better.”

Many media reports said this was the first slogan change in 19 years — which is not quite true. Back in 1994, Wal-Mart was compelled to change its slogan, which had been “Always the low price. Always” when the National Advertising Review Board found it deceptive.

The Board was responding to an appeal brought by local Better Business Bureaus and several competitors of Wal-Mart, including Target Stores (at that time a division of the Dayton Hudson Corporation) and Meijer Inc.

The complaint claimed that the slogan inaccurately implied that Wal-Mart’s prices were the lowest prices on each and every item, each and every place and each and every time. The Board agreed this could mislead some shoppers and Wal-Mart changed its slogan.

The new one is unquestionably better from a marketing perspective. Always low prices is a feature that Wal-Mart offers. It is an ironclad rule that we don’t sell features, we sell benefits.

“Save Money. Live Better” combines both. “Save money” is a feature. “Live Better” is a benefit.

So it should be more effective. And it is based on an important reality that Wal-Mart needs to emphasize when so many of its enemies are inclined to think that low prices translate into safety issues, sub-par treatment of employees, etc. Wal-Mart needs to emphasize that its low prices translate into better lives for tens of millions of families:

In Wal-Mart’s case, the agency latched on to a study by the economic research firm Global Insight that found the retailer’s low prices saved customers $287 billion last year — or $2,500 per household.

The agency crafted the two kickoff ads around that number. Each ends with the new slogan and a question, “Wal-Mart saves the average family $2,500 per year. What will you do with your savings?”

In one commercial, a man and his son drive to a used-car lot. The son spots a sporty red car. The father elbows him and tells him to go check it out. As the son runs his fingers across the hood, cue tagline.

In the other, a real-life family leaves a Wal-Mart parking lot in their minivan and hits the road for a vacation. They stay at a tiny hotel. The kids jump on the bed. They swim in a pool, eat ice cream and frolic on the beach. Then the van is shown headed down the highway, passing underneath a sign pointing toward Orlando. Cue tagline.

“I love retail ads that make a specific promise,” said Steve Bassett, a creative director at Martin. “Always low prices was specific, but for me, ‘Save Money. Live Better’ is a bigger promise that is backed up by a number that’s pretty impressive.”

It is a good change for Wal-Mart. The disaster, however, will be if management thinks the new slogan is a way of broadening Wal-Mart’s appeal to upper income shoppers.

Wal-Mart can sell Clorox to many affluent people — they know a bargain as well as anyone. But clothing is a sign post of social standing, and that means it is highly unlikely Wal-Mart will sell a lot of upscale clothing without alienating its shopper base.

If Wal-Mart sticks to the idea that its low prices are a priceless gift to the millions of Americans who live paycheck-to-paycheck, then the new campaign will be a big winner for Wal-Mart.

Wegmans Organic Research Farm: A Model For Homegrown And Organic

It always seems as if Wegmans has a knack for being on the cutting edge. In an age where the organic community is bifurcating between those who most value organic and those who most value locally grown, Wegmans has set up the Wegmans Organic Research Farm.

The short-term mission of the farm has been to provide locally grown organic fruit, vegetables and honey to stores near its Canandaigua location.

Its real goal, however, is to discover ways to profitably produce such products and then share that learning with other farmers. Here is how the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle put it:

Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans Food Markets Inc., sends his buyers around the world in search of products to sell in his upscale grocery chain.

To Thailand for shrimp. To France and Italy for cheeses. To South America for winter fruit.

But this summer, he and his wife, Stency, are supplying Wegmans’ Canandaigua store with fresh, organically cultivated produce that is grown less than 10 miles away, near the couple’s Canandaigua Lake home.

The Wegmans Organic Research Farm, which sits on nearly 50 bucolic acres owned by the family along West Lake Road in Canandaigua, is in its first year of production. The farm’s mission, according to Wegman, is to provide locally grown fruits, vegetables and honey to nearby Wegmans stores and, eventually, to serve as an educational model for local growers, employees and consumers who want to learn about organic food production.

“If it’s not profitable, it’s not much of a model. So that’s our real goal, to establish organic growing practices so we can share with others. It has to be profitable; otherwise no one could do it. That’s really the challenge,” Wegman said one day last month as he walked through raised beds planted with heirloom potatoes, beans, pumpkins, eggplants, cabbages and other vegetables under cool, rain-threatening skies.

The research farm brings together two booming consumer trends that have joined forces at many farmers markets but are just beginning to overlap in the region’s mainstream supermarket aisles: homegrown and organic.

“Why can’t we put the two together? We would like to see if it’s possible,” said Wegman, whose stores have had a homegrown program for about 20 years.

One of the reasons Wegmans is successful is that the chain’s activities seem more authentic, growing out of genuine values, than many other chains that seem driven strictly by business calculation. Here is how the paper explains the project getting off the ground:

Wegman credits his older daughter, Colleen, now president of the 70-store company, for turning him on to natural and organic foods. When Colleen Wegman graduated from the University of Colorado, her father encouraged her to take a few months off to ski. Instead, she worked six days a week in a natural foods store and later persuaded the company to launch its Nature’s Marketplace departments. But the impetus behind the organic farm started with a barn, which Wegman had been hankering to build as a way to return to his agrarian roots. (He grew up on a farm in Greece.)

When the Wegmans went to the town for a permit to build a 44-foot-high, 7,200-square-foot structure, they were told that a barn that size could be built only for agricultural use. That’s when the research farm idea was born. Stency and Danny Wegman rent the farm to the company, which oversees its management.

“We thought it made more sense to be part of the company so that everyone was involved with it versus a little pet project we were doing. This is really the way we try to do it at Wegmans. We are all in this together,” explained Wegman.

Driving along West Lake Road, the tall, elegant barn is easy to mistake for a winery tasting room. It includes a seed room where Grover preserves seeds from each season’s harvest (each generation becomes hardier and better adjusted to the area’s climate, she said) and a greenhouse where seedlings are started. On the north end of the building is a fenced-in kitchen garden with raised beds, where different seed varieties will be tested to determine whether they are worthy of planting en masse in the fields.

Those fields aren’t your typical single-crop rows. Instead, Grover relies on biodynamic and French intensive techniques that use wide, double-dug, raised beds where beneficial flowers (such as insect-repelling marigolds) are interspersed with vegetables, which in turn are planted in a pattern that maximizes yields in a small space. She eschews chemicals of any kind, even those permitted under the National Organic Program.

Electric fences, chicken wire hoop tunnels and netting throughout the farm are Grover’s best defenses against the location’s biggest challenge: hungry deer.

“It’s like they hand me a list of what they want me to grow,” she said.

Even the copper-topped beehives marked with the swooshy Wegmans W logo are protected by an electric fence to ward off the bears that destroyed the hives of at least one nearby beekeeper, said Grover.

When asked about the high-end hives, Wegman acknowledged, “We might have invested a little more than you might need to. This is where we live, so we are trying to make it as nice as we can.”

“They had to match the barn,” joked his wife. (Stency Wegman swears that her ragweed allergies have disappeared since she started eating local honey.)

Some of Wegmans’ local suppliers seem to be getting the message regarding what Wegmans wants, but the learning curve is a challenge:

During the growing season, Wegmans contracts with 800 growers in the five states in which it has stores.

Organic produce has been readily gaining shelf space at Wegmans for quite some time. More recently, the chain has started offering organic produce under its own label. These products are grown by large, out-of-state producers who are able to supply a steady, year-round inventory, said company spokeswoman Jeanne Colleluori.

Wegman himself hopes to expand the homegrown program’s organic options by encouraging some of the company’s current growers to switch. “That is how we like to do business, with people we can trust.”

Longtime Wegmans supplier Doug Mason of Williamson, Wayne County, took that message to heart, purchasing a nearby farm so he could grow a portion of his field crops organically. Now 40 of his 500-plus acres are certified. He has been harvesting from the organic fields for the past two months, but the jury is still out as far as profitability goes. Some of his organic produce has been sold as conventional or left unpicked because of low prices, Mason said.

“As far as the demand goes, [Wegmans] tells me it is there. I just don’t know yet,” said Mason.

Another Wegmans grower, Rick Pedersen of Seneca Castle, Ontario County, has converted a portion of his 1,300 acres to organic primarily for economic and environmental reasons. The price markup for his organic crops varies from 15 percent for tomatoes to 250 percent for field corn (which he sells as animal feed, not for supermarket consumers).

“It’s not a huge payoff, but I’m getting better at it. There is a very long learning curve on organics. You learn by losing money,” Pedersen said.

So far at least, these locally grown organic items are going to be pricy:

While seasonal homegrown produce may be competitively priced, there’s no doubt that locally grown organic costs more. Those heirloom organic tomatoes from the Wegmans farm were going for $3.99 a pound during one week in August, compared with conventionally grown local tomatoes for $1.49 a pound. For Canandaigua shopper Maryanne Innes, who wants the best tomato possible for her bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, the extra expense is worth it.

“I’m a true believer that local tastes better. But until a year ago, I didn’t pay much attention to organic. Ten years ago, the organic stuff didn’t look as nice as it does now,” said Innes, a Connecticut resident who spends her summers in Canandaigua.

But while Dona Perkins of Victor believes “getting rid of those chemicals” is a good idea, her budget dictates the nonorganic local tomatoes.

In Danny Wegman’s view of the marketplace, he harbors no conflicting feelings about offering organic, conventional, homegrown and imported foods all at the same time.

“It’s different strokes for different folks. It depends on what you’re into at the moment, and frankly these (homegrown organic items) are going to be pricier. … I think there are a lot of products we sell that are like that,” he said, citing wild versus farm-raised salmon as one example.

What he does hope the research farm will accomplish is to breed an appreciation among customers — especially young ones — for how food is grown. “Hopefully (this will) get them interested in eating good food, not junk food. That is a long-term vision.”

Experts applaud the effort but doubt the economic viability of the farm:

“It was not long ago that people’s interest in where their food came from ended at the checkout line. Wegmans is picking up on that growing consumer interest in looking past the store to where their food actually comes from and how far it has traveled,” said Jim Ochterski, agriculture economic development specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County.

Having toured the Wegmans farm earlier this summer, he is impressed with its potential to educate growers and the public about small-scale organic agriculture and food production. But for anyone who knows about the economic realities of farming, the Wegmans operation could signal a potential “mismatch.”

“How do you justify the expense of that land (which has an extremely high market value) with these kinds of crops and techniques? Farming offers marginal returns, even on good years,” noted Ochterski. “Still, I think it’s valid and valuable for two reasons. First, [the Wegmans] are preventing inappropriate development. And secondly, they are providing an interesting educational resource.”

Although this strikes us as a labor of love more than a stand-alone business, it doesn’t have to succeed as a stand-alone business. It reminds us of Earthbound Farm’s 30 acre farm in Carmel. It has a farm stand with terrific organic produce, cheese and prepared foods and they are always doing “Harvest Walks” and “Chefs Walks” to educate the public. Lots of stuff for kids as well. The Jr. Pundits enjoyed doing a Ladybug release a couple of years back. Executives there always describe that small public place as a “front page” for Earthbound Farms — a way of introducing the public to its values and putting a small scale, accessible face on a very large organization.

So for Wegmans, can this little farm be its “front page” representing to the public the values the company and its people believe in?

Will it ever make money? Depends on how you figure it. An article such as this one, illustrated with photos showing a healthy and robust Danny Wegman presenting his attractive wife Stency with an organic pumpkin he just picked, is an aspiration for most Wegmans shoppers and far more likely to make those consumers want to affiliate themselves with Wegmans by shopping there than a profile of Danny Wegman with a tie around his neck, sitting in an office somewhere.

Viewed this way, the farm may be profitable already.

Read the article here.

Check out a great photo gallery here.

Watch a nice video here.

Peapod/Stop & Shop Target Businesses And Non-profits For Online Ordering

Peapod and Stop & Shop are both divisions of Royal Ahold and now have opened a new facility specifically designed to serve businesses and non-profits:


Leading Internet grocer Peapod, LLC, and Stop & Shop have announced the opening of a new, first-of-its-kind facility solely dedicated to serving the needs of businesses, schools and non-profit organizations in the metropolitan Boston area.

“Peapod by Stop & Shop is excited to provide enhanced delivery options and product selection to organizations who wish to provide high quality groceries to their associates and clients,” said Peapod President Andrew Parkinson. “This is a high growth potential area of our business and we believe we can offer a unique value proposition — supermarket selection at supermarket values — with no subscription or high minimum order requirements.”

The new facility serves downtown Boston as well as Allston, Arlington, Belmont, Brighton, Brookline, Cambridge, Charlestown, and Waltham, and deliveries are made Monday through Friday beginning at 7AM and ending at 4PM. Customers may choose from a variety of morning and afternoon delivery windows and can shop from over 4,000 products including fresh produce, snacks, beverages, cleaning supplies and office products. The new facility also offers a range of catering options such as deli platters, cheese trays, and fruit trays. Peapod’s state-of-the-art order-fulfillment technology and proprietary transportation routing system help achieve accuracy and efficiency in picking, packing and delivering grocery orders.

“A growing trend in the workplace today is to provide convenient, nutritious food and beverages on-site for employees,” said Andrew Parkinson, Peapod President. “Peapod by Stop & Shop makes it easier for companies to do so by offering the convenience of online grocery shopping and delivery.”

An announcement like this is best seen as an effort to reclaim ground supermarkets long ago lost to warehouse clubs.

When the Pundit was a young boy, he would help shoppers in one of the family’s supermarkets — Bardy Farms in Union, NJ, which was later sold to Waldbaum’s — and, often, that help was to assist some woman who was struggling with three shopping carts filled to the brim.

It typically turned out that the woman represented a business, such as a day care center, a nursery school, a convenience shop in an office building, a small bakery, etc. Her grocery purchases were big enough to buy far more than a consumer but too small to interest a distributor or purveyor.

That clientele has been almost completely lost to supermarkets, as warehouse clubs have specialized in this business and won most of it over.

Although Peapod by Stop & Shop says they are going after this business, it really is a test case. Peapod does not say that it will be price-competitive.

However, businesses really value the ability to order online and get delivery. It costs money to send employees shopping and there are complications regarding them paying for the goods. Not every company has or likes to give out corporate credit cards and not every employee wants to expense such purchases.

So, Peapod, through Stop & Shop, is betting that many businesses will pay a bit more to get a broader selection, package sizes more suitable and the convenience of delivery and online payment.

It won’t always work. Many of these smaller businesses are operated by the owners, and the financial savings are crucial. The burden of buying a membership card or going to a warehouse club once a week is minimal because the business owner does her own shopping at the same time.

For many businesses, though, getting to the warehouse club is an expense and a pain and this new service should be highly appealing.

The whole industry will watch this test closely. The supermarkets want these high volume customers back so any hint of success and we can expect a national roll-out of such services very quickly.

C.H. Robinson Launches Our World Organics Line

C.H. Robinson has gradually put together a line of boutique brands. In addition to Fresh 1, it also markets apples under the Mott’s brand, citrus under the Tropicana brand and grapes under the Welch’s brand. Add in a private label program, and it is one of the largest branded marketers in the country.

Now C.H. Robinson, demonstrating it is in sync with all that its customers are thinking about, has announced a new brand:



Our World™ Organics Committed to Promoting
Health, Wellness and Sustainability

Responding to consumers’ desires to provide healthy, convenient foods to their families, while being a good steward to the earth and its resources, C.H. Robinson Company (“C.H. Robinson”) is introducing a new line of fresh organic products. Our World™ Organics will debut at the 2007 Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit International Convention and Exposition in Houston, TX.

As the name suggests, Our World™ Organics not only promotes healthier lifestyles and environmentally-friendly products, it supports activities that lead to long-term sustainable agricultural practices aimed at minimizing the impact on the environment. Over the next several years, Our World™ Organics will utilize C.H. Robinson’s extensive relationships with growers and transportation providers to build a network of regional and local growers who can support the brand and its mission. Sourcing produce locally can help the freshest products make it to consumers’ tables, fulfill consumers’ desires to buy locally, and reduce food miles in the process. As part of its mission, Our World™ Organics will also donate a percentage of net profits each year to organizations dedicated to organic farming or sustainable agriculture initiatives.

Retail customers can expect a full line of organic products, including row crops, citrus, carrots, potatoes and onions, to be available for shipment in mid-November. Each category — vegetables, fruit and value-added, is packaged in its own unique color for quick consumer recognition. As technology and materials become available, the goal is to migrate packaging to bio-degradable, environmentally-friendly materials.

Our World™ Organics is also committed to helping its retailers position themselves as an organic resource by providing support to market the brand. Marketing materials may include such vehicles as advertising, magazines, billboards and in store point-of-sale.

Certainly someone at C.H. Robinson has its pulse on the trends. All in one brand C.H. Robinson proposes to:

  1. Promote Healthier Lifestyles
  2. Market Environmentally Friendly Products
  3. Incorporate Sustainable Agricultural Practices

Plus the hottest trend of all right now — Locally Grown:

Over the next several years, Our World™ Organics will utilize C.H. Robinson’s extensive relationships with growers and transportation providers to build a network of regional and local growers who can support the brand and its mission. Sourcing produce locally can help the freshest products make it to consumers’ tables, fulfill consumers’ desires to buy locally, and reduce food miles in the process.

Plus the company promises to donate a “percentage of net profits” to promote organic and sustainable farming.

And it didn’t forget about the packaging:

As technology and materials become available, the goal is to migrate packaging to bio-degradable, environmentally-friendly materials.

Plus the vaunted C.H. Robinson retail support team expects to be helping “…retailers position themselves as an organic resource by providing support to market the brand.”

It is a big undertaking, and we hope C.H. Robinson isn’t setting itself up for criticism when consumer advocates note that it isn’t able to always do all these things, and certainly not all at once.

Although we wish C.H. Robinson would drop the “Food Miles” language as that has now been clearly demonstrated to have no relationship to anything important and is just a marketing term, we are enormously impressed at the scope of C.H. Robinson’s ambition and its willingness to undertake a great deal to assist its customers.

The truth is C.H. Robinson has been aware of many of these trends for years and, although owning its own brand is probably for the best, it is really Plan B.

Back in 2005, C.H. Robinson was preparing to serve this market by buying FoodSource which, as one of its assets, had the right to sell fresh produce under the Newman’s Own Organics label. As they said on the FoodSource web site:

Newman’s Own® Organics chose to partner with FoodSource to launch their fresh produce line in 2005. We have established a Newman’s Own® Organics Fresh Produce Division dedicated solely to the marketing, sales, and distribution of Newman’s Own® Organics Fresh Produce.

FoodSource was selected by Newman’s Own® Organics because of our extensive experience with quality organic private label programs. We were selected to ensure quality produce and consistent supply. Our organic knowledge has made it possible for the Newman’s Own® Organics Fresh Produce line to expand beyond salads and carrots to encompass a full line of fruit, vegetables, and value-added items.

Nobody has ever spoken publicly about what happened. But the last thing on the Newman’s Own Organics/Fresh Produce web site was a report on the spinach outbreak a year ago.

Although Newman’s Own Organics was not implicated in the outbreak, soon thereafter the whole project shut down. We doubt this was C.H. Robinson’s idea, but C. H. Robinson isn’t the type of company to let a disappointment such as that stand in its way.

If it couldn’t buy a good brand in this space, it will just have to make one from scratch. And from its announcement, it plans to make a great one.

It is that kind of “can do” attitude that has made C. H. Robinson such a fierce competitor.

Best of luck to C.H. Robinson on the new launch.

Burger King Adds
Apple ‘Fries’ As Part Of Healthier Kids Meal Program

Burger King has joined the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which basically means it agrees to promote healthy eating to children under 12 years of age:

As part of its Advertising Commitment, Burger King Corp. developed a strict set of Nutrition Guidelines that it will follow with respect to the food and beverage products it advertises to children under 12 years old. By December 2008, such advertising will be limited to Kids Meals that provide:

  • No more than 560 calories per meal
  • Less than 30 percent of calories from fat
  • Less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat
  • No added trans fats
  • No more than 10 percent of calories from added sugars

These stringent nutritional standards are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 and other scientifically established dietary recommendations. A Kids Meal that will meet the criteria is currently in development and will be available in restaurants some time in 2008.

The new Kids Meal is planned to include Flame Broiled CHICKEN TENDERS® (4 piece), MOTT’S® Organic Unsweetened Apple Sauce, and HERSHEY’®S 1% Low Fat Milk. Other innovative products are also in development including BK™ Fresh Apple Fries, fresh-cut red apples sliced to resemble real fries served in a FRYPOD™.

The sex appeal to go along with this announcement was the planned introduction of BK™ Fresh Apple Fries, which are basically red apples, peeled, and then cut in the shape of French fries and served in the same container used to hold French fries.

The announcement got media everywhere and most seemed favorable to the idea, as did Burger King:

“We think kids will flock to it,” said Burger King spokesman Keva Silversmith. To devise the product, Burger King developed a proprietary cutting process that makes apple slices look like fries. Then they’re washed in water with lemon, to keep from turning brown.

It is a nice idea. The JR. Pundits love McDonald’s Apple Dippers — also peeled apple pieces — and, in this case, the French fry-like packaging may let parents hold off younger children from trying French fries. Once they get older, though, as Advertising Age pointed out:

Mr. Silversmith said that Burger King has made the changes in response to moms who want more healthful options for their children when they come into the store.

Persuading children to eat apple slices instead of french fries, however, is going to be the parents’ problem.

We are all in favor of the new product. The biggest problem with McDonald’s Apple Dippers is they frequently run out of them — telling us there is sufficient shelf life concern to lead to under-ordering.

Just the other day at a McDonald’s, the Jr. Pundits were offered two bags of free cookies when it ran out of the apple dippers. The boys rejected them, loudly, explaining they preferred Apple Dippers. Yeah for the boys!

Yet while we are sure the product will be good, we suspect it is not a satisfactory replacement for French fries.

French fries are savory and apple slices are sweet — they serve a different function in a meal. So if it wants more than to just be able to say “we have healthy things on the menu,” Burger King needs to come up with an alternative that fulfills the same function in the meal, not just one that looks similar.

Still, more produce out there can’t hurt and a more healthy option is a good thing. It will be interesting to see the sales figures.

Produce For Kids Hits The Big Time With PBS Kids Alliance

In running pieces, such as Kudos To All Involved In Produce For Kids, we have celebrated the Produce for Kids program, launched by John Shuman and Shuman Produce for the purpose of bringing the produce trade together to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network, which supports a network of children’s hospitals across North America.

The other goal of Produce for Kids has been to get children to eat more produce by educating them about the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and by keeping it fun for the kids, including a special Healthy Kids Club.

Now the organization that John Shuman built from a dream is hitting the big time, with a new alliance with PBS:


PBS Parents and Produce for Kids® Provide Resources, Recipes and Materials for Parents to Make Healthy Choices for Their Families National Campaign Kicks Off in October

Produce for Kids® (PFK) and PBS KIDS are joining forces to launch an in-store and online initiative to promote healthy eating and smart food choices through the numerous benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. The initiative kicks off October 1st with a supermarket-based educational campaign encouraging children to “Eat Smart for a Great Start,” and resources and activities on pbskids.org and PBS Parents (pbsparents.org). A portion of the proceeds from the in-store October campaign will go back into PBS’s services and programs.

Featuring Hooper, the loveable and curious animated guinea pig from the PBS KIDS preschool destination, participating grocery stores will bring the fall campaign to life in their stores’ produce sections with colorful brochures and displays to help encourage kids to take their own personal steps towards living healthier lifestyles.

Since the program began in 2002, Produce for Kids® has become known for creating innovative retail promotional campaigns for the produce department that both educate kids on the benefits of healthy eating with more fruits and vegetables and raise funds to support children.

“We are absolutely thrilled and honored to partner with such a trusted, respected organization such as PBS KIDS as part of our produce industry effort to inspire children and their parents to lead healthier lives,” said John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce and founder of Produce for Kids®. “We plan to continue that fun approach to education because our sponsors and partner retailers agree that it is a great way to generate consumer excitement for fruits and vegetables.”

To further support these efforts, pbskids.org has created a healthy eating page that will include relevant games, fitness challenges and activities. PBS Parents will feature an extensive area that includes activities and information on how parents can help their children build healthy eating habits such as:

  • Parent Helpers that provide parents with strategies, activities and creative ways to encourage kids to eat healthy foods and make eating healthy foods fun;
  • An article on “Picky Eaters” that provides parents with advice on how they can encourage even the pickiest eaters to eat healthy foods;
  • Recipes using fruits and vegetables from children’s favorite PBS KIDS programs;
  • Engaging activities that kids can play at the grocery store to make them aware of the healthy options around them as well as help them build math and literacy skills;
  • An Expert Q&A with child nutritionist and author Connie Evers;

    And much more!

“This partnership further reinforces PBS KIDS’ commitment to supporting children’s healthy development for success in school and in life and eating right is one component of that,” said Andrea Downing, VP Home Entertainment and Partnerships, PBS. “With the continued decline in children’s health, PBS wants to help families address the challenges that kids face in making smart food choices and be a part of a healthy, lifelong solution.”


Participating retailers in the fall kick-off campaign will be Meijer, which operates 181 supercenters throughout the Midwest; Publix Super Markets, which currently operates more than 900 stores in the Southeastern United States and Giant Food Stores, LLC who owns and operates more than 150 Giant Food Stores in the Northeastern part of the country. Retailers will provide support for the program by providing a per-unit/case donation on designated produce items shipped to retailers during the promotional period.

The Produce for Kids® Web site (www.ProduceforKids.org) will provide a portal to the PBS KIDS and PBS Parents sites. It will also feature an online sweepstakes drawing for kids and parents to “Give One, Get One”. Kids can sign up to enter their name in a grand prize drawing (Get One) and a donation will be made to their local PBS station in the winner’s name for the same value as the grand prize (Give One).

The 2007 Produce for Kids® sponsors are Aurora Products, Cal-Organic Farms™ Carrot Chips, Cohen Produce Marketing Bag Apples, Country Fresh® Vegetable Platters, Crunch Pak® Sliced Apples, Del Monte® Sun Fresh® and Orchard Select® Jarred Fruit, Del Monte® Avocados, Dole® Fresh-Cut Salads, Eat Smart® Cut Vegetables, Green Giant® Potatoes, Lighthouse® Salad Dressings, Mann Packing® Sugar Snap Peas, Michigan Apple Committee Bagged Apples, OppenheimerTM Group Tomatoes, Santa Sweets® Grape Tomatoes, Shuman Produce’s REALSWEET® brand Vidalia® Onions, Stemilt Growers® AppleSweets® and Pears, Sunkist® Pistachios and Valencia Oranges, T. Marzetti® Apple Dips, Thomas Colace Company Tomatoes, Verdelli Farms Curly Leaf Spinach and Village Farms® Tomatoes.

About Produce for Kids®
In 2002, John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce, formed Produce for Kids® (PFK), an organization designed to help educate kids and parents on the healthy benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables while raising funds for hospitalized children through the Children’s Miracle Network. Since its inception, more than 45 fruit and vegetable companies, produce commodity boards/associations and supermarket retailers have supported PFK’s mission to “Get Healthy, Give Hope.”

PBS KIDS, for preschoolers, and PBS KIDS GO!, for early elementary school kids, are committed to providing the highest quality non-commercial content and learning environment for children across the country. Providing age-appropriate, diverse programming for kids, PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! programs consistently earn more prestigious awards than any other broadcast or cable network. Only PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! have earned the unanimous endorsement of parents, children, industry leaders and teachers. With additional PBS resources to complement its programming, including PBS KIDS online (pbskids.org), PBS KIDS GO! online (pbskidsgo.org), PBS Parents (pbsparents.org), PBS Teachers (pbs.org/teachers), PBS Ready To Learn services and literacy events across the country, PBS is providing the tools necessary for positive child development. PBS is a nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation’s 355 public television stations, serving nearly 73 million people each week and reaching 99% of American homes.

For those of you not in the know, Hooper is a hot commodity with the pre-school set. PBS Kids features a short, called Miss Lori and Hooper, which runs in between programs. Miss Lori is a teacher and here is how PBS explains Hooper:

Hooper is Miss Lori’s endearing, fun-loving companion. He is a guinea pig with the personality and energy of the quintessential five-year-old boy. He is inquisitive, slightly mischievous, funny, smart and sweet. He is constantly on the go and getting into things. Like most preschoolers, Hooper is determined to do things on his own and doesn’t take “no” easily. Hooper has a wide-eyed innocence about the world. His love of learning is infectious, enticing other kids to learn along with him. Hooper loves dinosaurs. In fact, he is a dinosaur fanatic, and if he could turn into one he would!

You can watch a segment of Miss Lori and Hooper on exercise right here.

The genius of Produce For Kids is that it enables both retailers and sponsors to “Do well while doing good.” The basic gist has been to provide retailers with a promotional program that calls for the sponsors to donate money each time their items are sold through a participating retailer.

The retailers get a boost in sales, while wrapping themselves in the halo of association with Produce for Kids and the Children’s Miracle Network. Vendors who commit as sponsors get high profile positions for their products, often exclusives on their category and also benefit from the goodwill of being associated with a good cause. Of course the kids win because money is raised for the Children’s Miracle Network.

Everyone wins. Now that PBS Kids is associated, that halo will just burn brighter for everyone. With more information from PBS Parents, there is one more chance to get the word out, and with Hooper in the store and online, kids will have still one more reason to want to eat healthy.

It is good news for the industry, and there is plenty of room for more retailers and sponsors to get involved. We hope many will consider it.

Yet, beyond the industry, it is an inspirational story of how each of us could make a difference. We are not confined by the walls of the profession we find ourselves in. Each of us is limited only by the limits of our imagination and our willingness to work toward a goal.

Resolving to eat healthy is part of resolving to be all we can be. The phenomenal success of Produce for Kids is a sterling example of how much more most of us can strive to accomplish.

Congratulations to Produce for Kids and PBS Kids on the new alliance. Many thanks to John Shuman for a sterling example of a life well lived.

Mayda Sotomayor
Heads Up Seald Sweet

She started in the produce industry as a receptionist, working her way through college. Then she fell in love… with an industry. And now Mayda Sotomayor has become the CEO of one of the most venerable names in the business:

As Seald Sweet International continues to grow and diversify its global strategy, new positions have been appointed in the management of the Vero Beach, FL-based citrus marketing company. Effective Wednesday, August 29th, former senior vice president, Mayda Sotomayor, has been named the new CEO, becoming the first female Chief Executive Officer in the history of the 98-year-old company.

Among her many accomplishments at Seald Sweet, Ms. Sotomayor is credited with building Seald Sweet’s imports programs over the last decade, positioning them as a global leader in the citrus category, and continuing to build transcontinental partnerships with its parent company, Belgian-based UniVeg.

Additionally, she was recently elected as a board member of Mouton Citrus, PTY, one of the leading producers of citrus in South Africa and partner of Seald Sweet. She is also on the board of directors of Forbel S.A, a totally integrated Uruguayan citrus company owned by Seald Sweet.

There should be very few problems in transition as one suspects she has been doing many elements of the job for some time. She is assuming the position from Heinz Deprez, owner and President of UniVeg, which owns the majority of Seald Sweet. Mr. Deprez has been “acting” CEO since 2004.

Ms. Sotomayer is bringing with her a revamped management team:

Also acquiring new positions within Seald Sweet, David Mixon is the new Chief Marketing Officer, heading the company’s new business ventures. Since joining the management team in 2004, Mr. Mixon has driven expansion for the company in Florida, California and Texas.

Coming from UniVeg’s Portugal location, Vitor Figueiredo has been appointed the new CFO. Mr. Figueiredo’s financial experience with UniVeg’s $2 billion turnover will enable the company to continue to maximize profits and build new investments.

In addition to the globally sourced citrus from countries around the world, Seald Sweet also continues to broaden its product offering base with other commodities, such as pears, grapes and blueberries from Argentina, Peru & Uruguay.

The new position is something of a vindication for David Mixon, who had spent many years with DNE but has built a new and successful career with Seald Sweet. Mr. Figueiredo isn’t well known in the States but seems like the trusted UniVeg guy sent to keep an eye on the money.

Ms. Sotomayer has expressed her role this way:

When asked how she felt about leading a company in a relatively male-dominated industry, Sotomayor said she felt “no pressure.”

“Today there are so many opportunities for women in international business,” Sotomayor said. “All it takes is hard work and determination and never to listen to those who tell you — you can’t do something.”

In her eight years with the company, she has been a senior vice president and director of imports.

In her new role, she will focus on the company’s response to citrus diseases and expanding Seald Sweet’s product offering with other commodities, such as pears, grapes and blueberries from Argentina, Peru and Uruguay.

“Short-term, we will focus on strengthening the Florida citrus industry as it continues to recover from hurricane and canker losses,” Sotomayor said. “Long-term, we will continue to gain a higher percentage of the market share in fresh citrus while expanding our product base.”

In her prior roles with the company, Sotomayor assisted building Seald Sweet’s imports programs and growing a better partnership with its parent company, Belgian-based UniVeg.

Seald Sweet is a fantastically interesting company in that it has managed to transform itself from a sleepy citrus co-op into the arm of a multi-national produce giant run by someone everyone in Europe says is sharp as a tack.

We wish both Mayda Sotomayer and David Mixon well in their positions, and we welcome Vitor Figueiredo to America.

Let’s Celebrate:
We’re Living Longer!

With the one year anniversary of the 2006 spinach crisis upon us, it is worth noting that we are exceedingly fortunate to live in a time and place in which relatively tiny risks — such as E. coli 0157:H7 on spinach — can be considered a major problem.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with a statement announcing that U.S. life expectancy has hit a new high:


A child born in the United States in 2005 can expect to live nearly 78 years (77.9) — a new high — according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2005.”

The report from CDC′s National Center for Health Statistics is based on approximately 99 percent of death records reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for 2005 and documents the latest trends in the leading causes of death and infant mortality.

The increase in life expectancy represents a continuation of a long-running trend. Over the past decade, life expectancy has increased from 75.8 years in 1995, and from 69.6 years in 1955.

“This report highlights the continued reduction in deaths from the three leading killers in the United States, heart disease, cancer and stroke, which is most likely due to better prevention efforts and medical advances in the treatments of these diseases,” said Hsiang-Ching Kung, a survey statistician with CDC′s National Center for Health Statistics and one of the report′s authors. “If death rates from certain leading causes of death continue to decline, we should continue to see improvements in life expectancy.”

Highlights of the report include:

Life expectancy for whites was 78.3 in 2005, unchanged from the record high of 2004. Life expectancy for blacks increased slightly from 73.1 years in 2004 to 73.2 years in 2005.

The age-adjusted U. S. death rate fell to below 800 deaths per 100,000 population in 2005 — an all-time low.

The death rate from the three leading killers in the United States — heart disease, cancer and stroke — declined in 2005 compared to the previous year. The age-adjusted death rate from heart disease fell from 217 deaths per 100,000 in 2004 to 210.3 in 2005, while the age-adjusted death rate from cancer dropped from 185.8 per 100,000 in 2004 to 183.8 in 2005. The age-adjusted death rate from stroke declined from 50 per 100,000 in 2004 to 46.6 in 2005.

The age-adjusted death rates for the seventh leading cause of death, Alzheimer′s disease, and the 14th leading cause of death, Parkinson′s disease, both increased approximately 5 percent between 2004 and 2005.

Preliminary figures also indicate an increase in the U.S. infant mortality rate from 6.79 per 1,000 live births in 2004 to 6.89 in 2005. However, this increase is not considered statistically significant. Congenital malformations, or birth defects, were the leading cause of infant mortality in 2005, followed by disorders related to preterm birth and low birthweight. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was the third leading cause of infant death in the United States.

You can download the complete report here.

Despite this good news, press reports still focus on the negative, as in this Washington Post article:

…the United States still has a lower life expectancy than some 40 other countries, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The country with the longest life expectancy is Andorra at 83.5 years, followed by Japan, Macau, San Marino and Singapore…. mortality for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease continue to increase…

Much of this is silly. These countries don’t typically absorb anywhere near the number of immigrants that the U.S. does, and they don’t have the continental scale of a diverse population we do. To compare U.S. numbers to Andorra — population 71,822 — is meaningless.

And since everyone must die of something, if we reduce deaths from the big three — heart disease, cancer and stroke — we will see increases of deaths from other diseases. It is the nature of these kinds of statistics.

The 78-year-life expectancy is, in a practical sense, much higher. Once people get past the one-year-old mark, life expectancy goes up as preliminary numbers indicate 6.89 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Then get past teenage accidents — accidents of all type were the 5th most common cause of death. Don’t commit suicide — the 11th most common cause of death. And avoid being murdered — the 15th leading cause of death. The data isn’t given in a way one can calculate it. But it all means that if you make it to the 78-year-old life expectancy — you still have, statistically, many years ahead of you.

It is well to remember all this as people preach the benefits of “back to nature’ in food and in life. Whatever bad things chemicals may do to us, whatever bad things industrial agriculture may represent, whatever negatives civilization dishes out — the more advanced, the more developed, the more industrialized a society is, the longer people live.

It is, in fact, only countries of phenomenal wealth that have the luxury of focusing in on these episodic pathogen events. So next time you hear the media wailing, take a deep breath and remember that the cry you are hearing is another way of saying that we are at the very pinnacle of human civilization, and even poor Americans have access to luxuries — TV, radio, antibiotics, winter fruit — that Charlemagne himself could never dream of.

Spinach Crisis,
One Year Later

Today is the one-year anniversary of the Great Spinach Crisis of 2006. The consumer media is filled with the predictable follow-up stories. The good ones have titles such as, A Year After Spinach Scare, Growers Strive To Keep Produce Safe. The not so good ones have titles such as, U.S. Failed To Boost Produce Inspections.

We discuss what the industry is doing about food safety every day and so don’t necessarily think that we have to do a recap today.

MUCH HAS BEEN DONE. Not only the California Leafy Greens Agreement — although that is most prominent — but in many commodities and in many places, food safety has a higher profile and importance than it had a year ago. New industry institutions such as the Center for Produce Safety have been established.

THINGS ARE HAPPENING. Just yesterday, Arizona had a public hearing on creating its own Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. It seems likely to happen as it is all the same people who support it in Salinas. That would cover about 90% of the nation’s leafy greens production and almost all of the nationally distributed product.

THERE ARE REAL ISSUES. Our recent report on product testing touched a real nerve. And the Metz Fresh recall raised real questions as to what our responsibility is to consumers.

We’ll be dealing with the spinach crisis and its aftermath next week and for many weeks to come.

Today, we think the biggest risk for the industry is that as the spinach crisis recedes in time, it may recede in memory. And, unfortunately, humans tend to be motivated by threats they perceive as imminent.

Just over a year ago, we ran a piece entitled, A Look At The Faces, which profiled the two people who were known at the time to have died as a result of eating our industry’s product.

In the end there were three confirmed deaths. Perhaps the best way to honor their deaths is to keep their faces in our mind’s eye, that our resolution to produce safe food should never falter. So, on this one-year anniversary of a very sad chapter in the history of a very old industry, we remember…

Marion Graff
77 years old
Kyle Allgood
2 years old

Betty Howard
83 years old

We can do them no honor greater than to assure that their deaths were not in vain. It is only our actions in taking the steps necessary to prevent this from happening again that can give meaning to their deaths.

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