Just in time to catch the Thanksgiving crowds, the Celebrating Fresh! banners, harkening the imminent arrival of The New York Produce Show and Conference, have been raised in midtown Manhattan!
These banners probably don’t really help us attract any produce industry members to the show. We do it because The Eastern Produce Council and PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine believe that just as it is important to have a world-class industry event, it is vitally important to raise the profile of the industry in the media capital of the world and to begin a movement so that one day, citizens all across the City of New York and, indeed all across the country, will also step up and help us Celebrate Fresh!
Now we hope that you will decide to join us at The New York Produce Show and Conference and its co-located events, The Global Trade Symposium and the “IDEATION FRESH” Foodservice Forum.
There is still time to sign up, even still time to exhibit or sponsor. Just decide to come and Celebrate Fresh!
Here is a brief look at what last year’s event was all about:
This year’s event is bigger and better, with a new venue where we can meet as family, all on one floor — more exhibitors, more learning, more culinary excitement.
You can register for The New York Produce Show and Conference, including the special events and spouse program, right here.
Or, if you would like to exhibit or sponsor, just let us know here.
If one simply read media reports, one would have expected a massive strike against Wal-Mart during Black Friday. Megan McArdle, a special correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast covering business, economics and public policy, had a great column on what actually happened. The title: Unions Organize Walmart Protests; Rest of the Nation Goes Shopping:
For more than a week now, media outlets have been thrumming with the news of a major labor action planned against Wal-Mart for Black Friday. OurWalmart, a union-backed group, planned walkouts and protests at stores around the country.
Naturally, I was eager to see how this would turn out. WalMart has 1.4 million employees in the United States, which is almost 1% of total employment. Associates make an average of somewhere between $8.50 and $12.00 an hour, depending on which sources you believe. If the protests actually represented a significant proportion of their workers, that would potentially signal a landmark change in the American labor landscape. Even if they don't succeed in unionizing Walmart — and allegedly, that's not the point — forcing concessions from Walmart would mark a dramatic shift for a lot of workers, and not incidentally, reduce competitive wage pressure for members of the union behind the Black Friday events.
The group is putting up a valiant media effort, but the result is . . . underwhelming. USA Today called the protests "scattered". "Walmart protests draw hundreds nationwide", said a CNNheadline. According to the Hartford Courant, "Walmart Protests Send A Message But Fail To Deter Crowds".
About 10 picketers stood outside a Mobile Walmart Thursday night to show support for all Walmart employees struggling for better pay and working conditions. . . . The protesters, almost all of which were with the Mobile Socialist Alternative, the local branch of the national Socialist Alternative group, said they were supposed to be joined by Walmart workers that had planned to walk out, but none had showed up.
"The protest organizers have declined to say how many Wal-Mart associates they expect to be involved in the latest round of actions," says Bloomberg, and while the OurWalmart homepage feed contains lots of pictures of protest groups, there don't seem to be a lot of actual Walmart employees. In fact, several rather wistful items champion single employees who have walked out of scattered stores.
The company estimates that fewer than 50 actual Walmart employees participated, and though of course they have an incentive to undercount, OurWalmart has not given any particular reason to disbelieve them.
In any sufficiently large group, you can find a few people who will do anything. And 1.4 million is a very large group. OurWalmart does not need to prove that it can find fifty or even one hundred and fifty people in that group who are willing to walk off the job, nor that it can get members of the United Food and Commercial Workers to protest in Walmart parking lots.
Organizing Walmart — or even extracting labor concessions in the face of threatened unionization — means getting a significant number of employees to join them in a labor action. This was not that labor action. It was not even the labor action that could eventually snowball into that labor action.
Walmart's $446 billion of revenue last year was eye-popping, but its profit margins are far from fat — between 3% to 3.5%. If they cut that down by a percentage point — about what retailers like Costco and Macy's have been bringing in — that would give each Walmart employee about $2,850 a year, which is substantial but far from life-changing.
Further wage improvements would have to come out of the pockets of Walmart's extremely price-conscious shoppers. Which might be difficult, given how many product categories Amazon is pushing into.
Megan McArdle is almost always incisive. Indeed, it was a special treat for us that she was on the screening committee that nominated the Pundit for The Gerald Loeb awards. Although, of course, we have no idea how she voted… it was a small committee, and the very thought that she voted for our work made the nomination more meaningful.
Ms. McArdle also suggested that another strategy labor could use was to try and get consumers motivated, but that didn’t seem likely to work:
The other potential strategy is to mobilize those customers — to cost Walmart business unless they up their wage-and-benefit game. But the Black Friday bargain hunters apparentlysimply pushed past the scattered protests in search of cheap flat-screen televisions — and the progressives who seem most on fire about this campaign are not really very likely to be Walmart shoppers. Which could be a metaphor for the whole US labor movement.
Many of the legitimate complaints of Wal-Mart workers are actually caused by government policy. For example, lots of workers would like full time jobs, not part time jobs. Although they might like benefits, they would still prefer full time jobs to part time jobs even at the same hourly rate. Some might even like the opportunity to work overtime at the same rate.
In the absence of government rules, Wal-Mart would probably like this too. It would mean fewer, more committed employees. But the laws regulating things such as pensions do not allow Wal-Mart to simply decide that certain full time employees won’t get pensions while others will.
You can expect more of this as Obamacare comes into effect. Under the law, companies with 50 or more employees have to provide coverage for workers or pay a penalty — but only for workers who average 30 hours or more a week.
You can expect lots of employers to forbid workers from averaging more. So some workers may get health insurance, but also a cut in income.
The program for the inaugural edition of the “Ideation Fresh” Foodservice Forum really was quite extraordinary. This year, we are ramping things up a notch, saluting Culinary “Evolution and Revolution,” as we use produce staples and specialties to create the menus of tomorrow.
A: Dirt Candy is a very small vegetable restaurant in New York’s East Village. Our focus is celebrating vegetables in all their glory. I don’t think they’re highlighted enough in the food world. This is our chance to bring them to the forefront and let people explore them.
Q: Can you tell us about the genesis of the restaurant? Dirt Candy is really one of a kind. What have you seen that other chefs haven’t?
A: My background is in vegetarian cooking, and I was actually a vegetarian for a number of years, but more because I didn’t really like meat. For me, it wasn’t about politics, the environment, etc. There’s nothing wrong with people going vegetarian for those reasons, but that’s not what influenced me.
’ve always loved cooking vegetables. When I decided I wanted to open a restaurant, I knew it would be centered around vegetables. Although I had cooked meat and fish before, it wasn’t my greatest skill, or my passion.
Before I opened Dirt Candy, I looked at restaurants in New York and saw hundreds dedicated to steak, fried chicken, and fish. It seemed bizarre that there didn’t seem to be a single restaurant devoted solely to celebrating vegetables. I had to sit on that for a second before I realized what a great opportunity was at hand.
Q: Looking back even further, what sparked your interest in food and cooking? When did you decide it was time to pursue a culinary career?
A: Food has always been a big part of my life. We were one of those families that loved to eat. Cooking our family meals was a fun after-school thing for me. When we traveled, we’d wake up and have breakfast, then spend time figuring out where to eat lunch and dinner together.
When I was 21, I moved to Hong Kong and did just about anything I could to survive. I taught English and worked for an insurance company, but that wasn’t much fun. Apart from teaching English, I realized there wasn’t anything I could travel with.
I came back to the US with the idea that I’d go to culinary school so I’d have a skill that would take me around the world. Fortunately or unfortunately, I came back to New York for culinary school, and I haven’t traveled for work since!
Q: What kind of fresh produce purveyors do you source through?
A: We use three purveyors: one for mushrooms, one for more exotic items, and Riviera Produce, which is our mainstay. They’ve been very easy to work with, particularly because they’re willing to break cases and deliver smaller quantities when we need them.
Q: Can you share a bit about your strategies for menu planning and sourcing?
A: Once in a while, we order special items for our dishes, but I think our food is exotic enough as is. We make exotic happen using very basic ingredients. When you come in, you’ll see items you can find at any supermarket, but used in many different ways.
Hopefully this inspires our customers to go home and try something different. Using widely available ingredients helps us too. If we run out of something, we can get it at the supermarket.
Exotic products can be more challenging, because sometimes we’re really at the whim of nature. We have a cauliflower dish where we use purple cauliflower, which isn’t available half the time we’d like it to be. Sometimes we wait two or three weeks for it, either because there was a bad crop, or it sold out. When we can get it, we figure out a way to preserve it. Maybe we’ll make it into a jam, dehydrate it, or pickle it to make it last just in case.
Q: What are some other procurement-related challenges you’re faced with?
A: We have a lot of other overhead costs, so ingredients can’t consume too much of our budget. One big problem is that we don’t have a lot of storage. We’ve worked hard to find purveyors that will actually break cases for us, maybe sell us one onion. It’s unfortunate that we can’t always take what purveyors want to sell us, but that’s our problem. We’re the small one.
Q: Do customers frequently ask whether your food is local, organic, etc.?
A: Local and organic for the most part don’t seem important to most of my customers. Every once in a while, we get a phone call from someone who says, “I only eat organic,” and we have to say, “Well… we’re really sorry, but you can’t eat here.”
I’d love to use some more organic produce, but first I’d like to support more local farmers.
Q: What are a couple dishes that you’re particularly proud of?
A: Our Portobello mushroom mousse has been on the menu since the beginning. I found that the Portobello was a staple on many vegetarian menus, but often just as a meat replacement, a disservice to an amazing vegetable. To make it into a creamy, decadent mousse is an awesome feeling.
I’m also proud of our cabbage salad, where we use eleven different kinds of cabbages prepared all different ways: pickled, grilled, made into noodles and wontons. It’s fun to take one vegetable family and make a whole dish out of it. Otherwise, most people wouldn’t sit down and look forward to eating a plate full of cabbage.
We’re always excited to discover new things we can do with vegetables. There is a whole world we’ve hardly begun to explore.
Q: At last year’s “Ideation Fresh” Foodservice Forum, Chandra Ram, editor of Plate Magazine, praised you as a leader in upending the notion that vegetables are best relegated to sides and salads. What other misconceptions are you trying to correct?
A: First, there’s the misconception that everybody would rather be eating a piece of meat than vegetables, that you’re denying yourself something when you eat vegetables. I don’t think that’s true.
Eating vegetables is a unique experience, good on its own, and I don’t think anyone who works in this restaurant, or anybody who loves it, feels they’re going without when they eat vegetables. There isn’t a single moment where we think, “Ugh, I wish we could use other ingredients instead,” because we already have so much to work with.
Second, a lot of people have the idea that vegetables are something to eat when you’re on a diet, and that they can never be as good as anything else. In reality, they can be as fulfilling and tasty as a piece of meat or anything else.
There’s also the idea that vegetables are hard to work with. They’re certainly different to work with, but no harder than anything else. You just have to learn the right techniques.
Q: In your cookbook, you wrote: “All the way back to the 1800’s, a vegetarian diet has never been allowed to be simply about the food… Vegetarian food has become about saying no to meat, rather than saying yes to vegetables. It focuses on what it’s not, rather than what it is. At Dirt Candy, I obsess over what I can serve, not about what I can’t.” Has your critique of contemporary vegetarianism been more embraced or chided by vegetarians?
A: As far as I can tell, I think I’ve been well received. I don’t think I’ve offended anybody, and when it comes to exploring why vegetarian restaurants aren’t the most written-about restaurants in the city, I don’t have all the answers.
For a while, because the food was actually the least important part of the vegetarian world, behind health, politics, ethics, and environmental concerns, there was less of a focus on making the food taste good. Now people are worrying less about proving themselves, and saying, “Everybody knows what we believe in; now let’s make it taste delicious.” I think that’s something that will continue to happen.
Vegetarian restaurants are getting better. They’re putting chefs in the kitchen who better know what to do with these products, rather than relying on the old fake meat and brown rice dish. There are more people working to come up with amazing ideas in the kitchen.
Q: So would you ever consider branding Dirt Candy as a vegetarian restaurant instead of a vegetable restaurant?
A: I still don’t think that would really describe what we do. There’s nothing wrong with being called a vegetarian restaurant, but it’d be harder for us to be called a vegetarian restaurant and still have people realize that each plate is about one single vegetable.
When you hear “Dirt Candy: the vegetable restaurant,” you can expect to be bombarded with vegetables, whereas at a vegetarian restaurant, they’ll probably serve a mix of vegetables, grains and other proteins.
Q: Your recently published cookbook is unlike any that I’ve seen. Can you explain the format for our readers, and discuss why you chose it?
A: It’s a graphic novel cookbook, the first of its kind. We wanted to do something fun and different to help us stand out, and felt it would be hard to capture the day-to-day energy of the restaurant with a traditional cookbook format.
Our cookbook was never meant to be Vegetarian Cooking 101. Plenty of books do that already. This is the story of Dirt Candy, told through recipes and a graphic novel. Our artist, Ryan Dunlavey, worked hard to put Dirt Candy on paper, and he did a terrific job.
We want readers to look at it and say, “Look at this crazy place. I can do this,” instead of a very serious coffee-table cookbook where I say I learned how to cook Portobello mousse at my grandmother’s knee, and that the recipe has been passed down for generations. That might be more intimidating.
Q: Along the same lines, I think weak culinary confidence hinders fresh produce sales to some extent, which is why one of my favorite scenes in your cookbook is when you scold a Pollyannaish character for cheerily claiming that cooking is magic. You also wrote, “The recipe is not your master! You are not its slave!” Let’s talk about this.
A: Before people started eating out so much, they cooked at home. Along the way, the chef lifestyle became very glamorized. There are many television shows that teach people how to cook, but there are many others that are much more complicated, like Top Chef and Chopped.
It seems like everybody watches these shows and thinks, “Wow. I could never do that,” because it’s so intimidating. Of course, these contestants are highly trained and have been cooking for a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a delicious version of what is being made for yourself.
Food should be approachable. This is one of the reasons we use basic ingredients, like carrots. It’s just a carrot. If we had heirloom rainbow carrots on our menu, people would be less likely to get the impression it’s something they can make at home.
I also tell people that it’s alright if you make a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes! It takes us three months in the kitchen to get a dish right. Why would it take anybody else less time?
Q: What are some simple, but maybe under-recognized ways to get the most out of vegetables?
A: In terms of technique, many cookbooks have catered to middle ground. When you’re told to cook a vegetable, it’s usually “Cook at 350 to 375 for 30 minutes.” You’re not going to get anything except a cooked vegetable. People need to start going slow and low, or fast and high. That is, either cook at a much lower temperature for a much longer time to bring out the inherent sweetness, or cook them at a high temperature for a much shorter time.
Q: I know you were the first vegetable chef to compete on Iron Chef, which is quite an accomplishment. What are some other achievements that you’re particularly proud of?
A: Being here after four years! Dirt Candy opened in October of 2008, one of the worst financial months in history, and we survived. Also, having the idea for the cookbook, writing it, and now seeing it on bookshelves, I really can’t tell you how proud I am.
Three things strike us as particularly important about Chef Amanda’s comments.
First, she differentiates her cooking with vegetables from vegetarian cooking. Much vegetarian cooking comes weighed down with ideology that many reject. This is about the food.
Second, the focus on staple ingredients not only makes the dishes plausible for home cooks and broader foodservice usage, but it switches the focus to technique –which is learnable. This is about the cooking.
Third, while the cuisine is innovative, it also pays homage to the fact that for most of human history, most cultures devoted themselves not to proteins, which were often rare, but to finding ways to make produce flavorful. This is about utilizing traditional techniques in new and exciting ways that taste delicious. This is about selling flavor, not medicine.
Chef Amanda was on Iron Chef America. Now you can watch her, up close and personal, as part of the “Ideation Fresh” Foodservice Forum.
You can register for the ”Ideation Fresh” Foodservice Forum and The New York Produce Show and Conference right here.
If you are already registered for the show and want to add the “Ideation Fresh” Foodservice Forum to your registration, just send us a note here.
It was an important piece because it combined so many of the keys to business success in the years to come: global connections, non-commodity proprietary varieties, cutting edge innovation, supply chain cooperation… so much more.
That interview was conducted with David Marguleas, Executive Vice President at Sun World. He will be appearing on the panel with DuDu Ivri of Tali Grapes and Zeina Orfali of Marks & Spencer, so we most anxiously wanted to extend this conversation.
We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to see if she could find out more:
Dudu (David) Ivri
CEO Tali Grapes
Moshav Lachish, Israel
Q: Your participation on the Global Trade Symposium panel with David Marguleas of Sun World and Zeina Orfali of Marks & Spencer sounds intriguing. Could you share Tali Grapes’ history, rooted in an ancient grape-growing region traced back 3,000 years through archaeological discoveries, and how it has become the biggest table grape producer, marketer and exporter in Israel?
A: We are a cooperative of table grape growers in Israel. While each farmer has his own business, we work together to maximize the things that can be done best together or only can be done together, such as buying packing materials and all marketing and branding.
Lachish is a village that was established in 1955 for running the cooperative, and Tali Grapes is the brand name of this cooperative. Originally we were 66 growers, but we are serving some other growers from all over the country, mainly in grapes but also in other things.
A few numbers to understand; we are located in the mid-South part of Israel, in the old city of Lachish. This place has always been advantageous for growing table grapes because it is 300 meters below sea level, relatively dry, with light chill, so we can keep the grapes very nicely on the vines.
There were originally Jews here growing grapes. We can see depictions in the sculptures when the king of Syria conquered the city of Lachish. There is art on an historic stone now in the British museum, and in the background you can see vines. We can see this place was very good for growing grapes 3,000 years ago.
Q: With that fascinating historical context, could you discuss today’s market dynamics in Israel?
A: Tali Grapes is growing 550 hectors of grapes — all the varieties. And we are producing about 18,000 tons of table grapes each year. Although not big in American numbers, we are the biggest group of growers and also marketers and exporters, and we do it by ourselves. We also grow flowers and grain and non-irrigated products. We are doing that in common.
To get an idea of the market in Israel, it’s dominated by supermarkets and big retailers similar to the U.S., but we still have a big amount of private shops selling fruits and vegetables, about 20 percent of the market. Retailers make up 50 to 60 percent, and the balance is mainly farmers markets.
The climate here is between that of Bakersfield and Coachella, California. The growing area is about a two-hour drive from cities. So, there is no problem to come to the city and have farmers’ markets two or three times a week. There is still a slice of the market working like that.
What we are doing as one big organization a lot of growers couldn’t do by themselves, which gives us an advantage in technology, high-end marketing opportunities, etc. We have a grading system, and we give growers all the support to produce the best varieties and quality grapes.
Q: Could you elaborate on how you capitalize on this advantage?
A: When it comes to the market, we have a unique grading and tracking system, which is all computerized. The growers come to our facility with grapes, where we do the quality control and barcodes and check the grapes independently in our isolated lab to insure they meet sugar-level specifications, are uniform in color and berry size, etc.
Our parameters are determined through our research and focus groups, mainly by what is important for the consumer. Immediately, the growers can access on the web pertinent information to monitor exactly what is being done with the crop, and they can get feedback and fix any problems throughout the process, as well as improving their harvesting techniques and packaging. From that point, we take the grapes to market, and customers can verify the value of grapes they got from us in this strict race for quality.
We do a lot of R&D on grapes in Israel, where we work with other researchers, in conjunction with the agricultural ministry.
Q: What are some of the key study results you’ve incorporated?
A: We are using all these technologies to reduce the use of pesticides and to eliminate the spraying of undesirable materials. All the fields are controlled. Harvesting is all monitored on geographic information systems (GIS), and we also do independent laboratory testing for our growers throughout the harvesting stages. We know exactly the levels of residues, and have a good idea of how to get residues to go down.
We also have training programs and give seminars to help the growers with their soil, fertilizers and land use, sharing the results of our research and giving them the analysis. For example, using nets over grapes so growing is very controlled to improve uniformity of grapes, and also using plastic coverings to put grapes out earlier and another covering for later varieties.
Other research allows us to store Red Globes up to five months and also Scarlotta grapes. We start harvesting in May and stop in December, but we are still able to market grapes up to February. We have GlobalGAP, and also strict accreditation requirements for growers that are consistently checked by the outside, including Field to Fork accreditation from Marks and Spencer.
Q: How recognizable is the Tali brand name?
A: We have strong brand name in Israel with Tali Grapes. We’re supporting the brand with a big promotional campaign every summer to kick off the season, including jingles on radio stations, TV spots, and also communicating with consumers through brochures that contain a promotional code, where they connect for three weeks on the Internet to win sport bicycles. It moves the grapes very nicely. We have over 120,000 entries on our Internet site in those three weeks. Out of that activity at Point of Sale, we get good recognition of our brand. In studies, 8 to 10 people in Israel recognize the name.
Q: Is your brand associated with innovative varieties? Are you ever concerned that taking a risk on a new variety could impact your brand reputation?
A: That’s a good question. It’s difficult to put new varieties on the shelf. It’s a very difficult mission. For us, we are running with quality and innovation, new varieties and packaging. What I’m going to try to emphasize at The Global Trade Symposium is how this strategy and service wins in the long term.
We believe we have a brand market share, the classical brand market share. But we believe we also have the perceived market share that gives you the extra value and leadership in the industry. We’re told that people believe we are the only ones growing grapes in Israel.
To serve that reputation for quality, innovative packaging and, above all, new varieties, we are licensing some varieties in Israel and we have most of the commercial varieties.
We established a Tali Boutique line with special bar codes and distinctive packaging. This line includes varieties like Scarlotta, Midnight Beauty, and Sable, which we market under the brand name of Tali Grapes. There will always be the new varieties coming, and we want a way for consumers to easily identify them.
When we get consumer awareness to test varieties, the second thing is sorting out the good varieties, all with very good flavor and eating quality and the best chance for consumption, weighing the cost and value. We conduct both growing and marketing tests. Not only what is selling well, but what is good for growers in terms of enough incoming fruit during production; is it labor-saving and things like that. The new varieties are one of the key tools in creating a leadership role.
Q: How do your partnerships drive this strategy?
A: The UK is our biggest export market now. The supermarkets have their own packaging and preferences for how they want to sell grapes, and we work closely with them to fulfill their needs.
We found very good partners in terms of breeders in the market. Sun World is very serious in their business. They come to you with important information; what are the plusses and minuses, the best ways to arrive at solutions, what are the chances for success… They have to know the growers, and the milestones and junctions to get the very good retailers.
Q: Is Sun World notable in this respect?
A: In this business, there are marketers and there are breeders. Sometimes as a breeder, you’ll have a nice variety but it will be very difficult to grow and you’ll never make money out of it. It may be a sexy, chic one, but will produce a quarter of the boxes you have from another variety.
When dealing with Sun World, you’re dealing with a breeder, marketer and exporter and the company is testing it all. We consider that a strong point of Sun World. We are able to see varieties all over the world and are open to meet growers in South Africa or Chile… If we trial a variety before other growers, people come here to Israel and we are sharing the knowledge and experience we are having with growing.
In this way, we establish a worldwide club of growers and share feedback with each other. Sun World is putting meetings together in Berlin at Fruit Logistica and at PMA. Sun World is coordinating all this. Also they manage good connections between growers.
We’ve worked with Marks & Spencer since the 1980s. We find a lot of similarities in their ways of doing business. It’s not the biggest supermarket in the UK, but it’s fast in running with quality and introducing new produce, being brave on the shelf, taking produce to the point of maturity so it will be best for the consumer. And also being sure that the consumer understands the product is coming matured and ripened for you like it should be.
Marks and Spencer is also known for its innovative packaging and point of sale. They have their classic supermarkets and their on-the-go formats in train stations and also small point-of-sale in gas stations. When consumers come to Marks and Spencer, they are buying more than produce. They are also buying confidence; consumers say, ‘It’s been monitored, and Marks and Spencer is also sorting out the best for me.’
Q: While you’ve developed a brand leadership position in Israel, don’t you face widespread competition when exporting?
A: We are exporting to the UK where there are grapes from all over Europe, Italy, Spain, Greece… We are coming from much further away, by sea taking 10 days and we’re paying duty as well. We are competing with grapes transported within three days timeframes. The only way to have a premium in that market is with new varieties and new packaging.
We found a home in Marks & Spencer for years because they are looking for the new varieties, and of course they’ve been tested. They’re not just bridging gaps. They have a competitive advantage by replacing grapes that are a little bit tired, refreshing the shelves and always doing something new. It’s like a glove to a hand.
The UK is a very big market, well, big in our terms. Our brand name is recognized with distributors and importers. All those in the industry dealing in this market know Tali Grapes. Usually in establishing a brand name it starts with the industry.
But we’re speaking about a window of weeks from the end of August to Mid-September where we supply fine Thompson grapes, which we specialize in. We started with Sable and now supply Scarlotta.
During the Global Trade Symposium panel, we are going to demonstrate the whole issue of innovation as a business driver; how do you promote your business with market share and perceived market share, what is needed on the shelf, and what are the chances that a consumer doesn’t know a hidden demand…
What is the retailer looking at, and what is the breeder doing and the grower doing, and what is demanded of the coordination and cooperation between us? It’s a very nice thing.
I’m reminded of Friedman’s book,The World is Flat. There’s a beautiful saying of how the wings of a butterfly move something around the world. I like to say how the wings of a butterfly shake the leaves of the vineyards and the grapes blow to the shelves in the UK.
Q: You’re very poetic and inspiring…
A: Looking at my presentation, I would say, of course there are difficulties, but I believe we should all the time be thinking like that. We decided years ago we are not just grape growers; we are part of an industry differentiating and branding — each has its sparkle and target market segment.
No one wants to be in a commodity business, because there is only one way to improve — more efficiency and less costs. You’re not just a producer but you’re producing value. When branding yourself and creating marketing values, the people you work with and the partnerships you form give you opportunity, and that very good synergy allows everyone to prosper.
There are some people who are important because of their position and some people who are important because of their ideas, still others because of their passion. Dudu is one of the rare birds who combines all three attributes.
Among the joys that come from doing The New York Produce Show and Conference is the opportunity — the privilege really — to learn from and shake hands with passionate, knowledgeable and important people such as Dudu Ivri.
Of course, anyone can have that opportunity. You just have to commit to learning all you can and becoming all you can become.
Come to New York, come learn about how you can make innovation a driver in your business. Come hear new ideas and make new friends and associates.
You can register for The Global Trade Symposium and The New York Produce Show and Conference right here.
If you are already registered and want to add The Global Trade Symposium, just let us know here.
I’ve been involved in the fresh fruit and vegetable business a little over 30 years. I’m Canadian, but I’ve lived in the States almost 20 years. My first foray in produce was at Sunkist Growersin Canada and the U.S., where I stayed for 14 years, primarily concentrating on the domestic side of the business.
Throughout my career, I’ve had tremendous opportunities and been coached by some phenomenal people. That’s why I’m so passionate about the industry today. At Sunkist I was surrounded by many influential people, so it’s difficult to single out a few. Sticking with management, definitely Russ Hanlin, David Bernstein and Mark Tompkins.
I then worked at Frieda’sback in 1990, and while I wasn’t there for a long time, it provided an opportunity to view strategic marketing done by the best in the business. Frieda, Jackie and Karen Caplan at Frieda’s were truly inspirational to me. The quality of experience speaks more than the quantity of experience, and we remain business contacts and personal friends.
Interestingly, Frieda’s did a bunch of work in New Zealand, and was the first to import kiwifruit to the United States. It’s serendipity that all these years later, I find myself in New Zealand as General Manager of Enza. And my last job before joining Enza was at BC Hothouse, where Frieda’s had a working relationship that carried over the years.
That’s what is great about this business. If there are six degrees of separation between people in general, then in the produce industry it is about 2 degrees.
Up to this point in my career at Sunkist and Frieda’s, I had a lot of exposure in the North American marketplace. Then I had the chance to really get to know the international business through Robert Autenrieth when I joined his family fresh fruit export company, The Autenrieth Co., started by his father in Los Angeles, California. The primary focus was the Pacific Rim and some business in Europe and New Zealand. Particularly because it was a smaller company, it was very hands on. I went out to the field and the pack house, was involved in the sales and transportation side, and really got to appreciate the complexity of the business as well. Robert and I are in touch probably on a weekly basis.
I then had the opportunity to go back to the Pacific Northwest, where I worked for Vanguard International. My areas of focus were on fruit and vegetable import and export trading with Korea, Japan and within the North American marketplace.
And then I was recruited back up to Vancouver to BC Hothouse Dave Smith, a gentlemen I’d known 20 years when he was president and CEO of BC Hothouse. Vancouver was where my family lives, and I was excited to get into the greenhouse side of the business. It was at a time when the industry was going through turmoil, starting to deregulate, and facing all the challenges that go along with that. I worked at BC Hothouse four years before joining Enza.
While it may not be easy, there is always great opportunity to succeed when the industry goes though tumultuous change. We won’t stop this cycle in an industry dealing in perishable products, where everything doesn’t come in nice neat bundles. Mother Nature has a way of wreaking havoc. I joke occasionally that there’s another woman that causes more excitement than me!
We heard that in Dawn’s work, she was increasingly wrestling with the question of how in an age of global trade, producers and marketers could relate to the trending interest in where one’s food comes from.
We were thus thrilled when Dawn accepted our invitation to address The Global Trade Symposium at The New York Produce Show and Conference and proposed this title for her talk: A Local Age in A Global World: How Technology and Marketing Can Help Global Players Establish a Direct Consumer Connection Around the World.
We wanted a sneak preview of what Dawn would be presenting and asked Jodean Robbins Duarte one of our senior contributing editors at Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, to find out more:
Dawn E. Gray
Dawn Gray Global Consulting
Vancouver, BC Canada
Q: Now that you have your own business, what kind of work do you do?
A: I am a produce industry expert and consultant specializing in organizational leadership and business development with an emphasis on operations, grower relations, sales and marketing. I’ve helped companiesincrease sales, reduce market-based costs and overhead costs and create operational savings.
Like most things in business, my role is evolving. Particularly within the supply chain in the fresh fruit and vegetable industry, the needs are different for different players. So in some cases, my work is more about change management; in others, it’s the more traditional marketing, branding, and product launch expertise.
Q: How did you wind up in the produce business?
A: I started working for Sunkist and became addicted to the business. I’ve always said produce isn’t a career; it’s a disease, and once you get it — it’s fatal. It attracts a high energy, very passionate person and that has always appealed to me.
Over the past 36 years, I’ve worked for some of the top organizations in the world, including The Oppenheimer Group, Turners and Growers, Enza International, BC Hot House Foods Inc., Vanguard International and Sunkist Growers Inc.
Q: What made you decide to take the big leap to launching your own business?
A: The launch of my consulting business was fortuitous. It was brought on by others whom I respect in the industry. It was pointed out to me that my international experience and breadth of different disciplines was very unique and would allow me to add value to the people and organizations I would come to work with. Adding value to those I work with is of utmost importance to me.
Q: What are some of the main challenges you’ve been confronted with over the years?
A: There’s been a lot of consolidation on the buy-side. As an industry, we’ve talked about consolidation on the supply side, but it’s happening incrementally there. So the result is a big challenge as big, big retailers need volume and want promotional contributions to support them.
There are increasing expectations that fresh produce should be able to contribute and behave the same way as the center-aisle guys. How do we as an industry pull those things together when you have literally hundreds of thousands of growers trying to sell?
It’s the entrepreneurial spirit of the grower that makes this business so fantastic, but how do you connect that with the needs of these large retailers? This is not only a challenge but a great opportunity.
Q: What is a key influence right now in business?
A: To stay competitive, you need to be on top of changes and ensure you’re relevant to customers. Companies are looking more and more at what they must do to stay on top of change and trends and stay relevant. And they’re realizing they don’t need to have that expertise on staff but can outsource – indeed, in many cases they have no alternative but to outsource.
Q: Can you give us a little sneak preview of what will you be talking about in New York?
A: My presentation focuses on connecting the entire supply chain. It’s about how we connect grower, wholesaler, distributor, retailer and consumer. For many years, the concept of building a consumer brand in produce has been extremely challenging. There have been only a handful of companies recognized as hitting that mark.
However, there are some very powerful tools available today that have not been available in the past. We also have a more demanding and curious consumer than in the past. The question is whether we can convert consumers at point-of-purchase.
When you look at the reasons behind local produce purchases, it shows that, “unaided,” very few people will purchase local over other choices. However with “aid,” almost everyone will.
For the consumer, it’s not necessarily all about a local label; it’s more about who you are (i.e., who the growers are, where did they come from, how do they grow, etc.). So the question becomes how do we make that happen at the point of purchase?
One of the greatest challenges of bolstering consumption is connecting all those dots to know how we come to have a more direct influence for all the stakeholders in the supply chain.
Q: What can participants expect to walk away with?
A: My hope is that participants will walk away with a more clearly articulated statement of the challenge and the opportunity. They’ll be able to see ways to embrace that opportunity and tools to use within their own business to achieve those goals.
Whether it is growers connecting to buyers or retailers being able to merchandise more effectively, my goal is for everyone to truly begin to see each other as partners and not enemies.
In a way, we can explore whether we’re moving back to the future, as in my parents’ era, when there were small family-owned grocery stores or green grocers. Are we going back to that, but in a new way? As the consumer tries to juggle his or her requirements, there is a desire for someone to help him/her — to be the subject matter expert. It’s how they will receive that help that creates such a plethora of opportunity.
Q: You raise incredibly intriguing questions. Is there one particular group within the industry that you are addressing by posing these questions ?
A: I believe it will create an opportunity for valuable conversation. I am a big believer in defining what we’re trying to solve, identifying the opportunity and looking at how we collectively, as a team along the supply chain, run at the problem as opposed to running to another player along the chain to have them solve it. There is a lot of strength in unity, and we are going to strategize about how to create that united supply chain and how to make it a tool to accomplish great things in your business.
Who can ask for more? To take a global production base and find a local message is no small matter. It is achievable though. Partly it is because the Internet and social media have changed the nature of brand-building and communication, partly because catch phrases such as “local” rarely mean to consumers what they literally mean. This is where authenticity and locale enter the fray.
This instructive seminar is being held on December 4, 2012, as part of the Global Trade Symposium at The New York Produce Show and Conference.
Dawn is jetting in on the Cathay Pacific non-stop from Vancouver. Wherever you are coming from, however you are going to get there, make sure you have a seat at Dawn’s presentation.
To register for The Global Trade Symposium and the entire New York Produce Show and Conference, click here.
If you have already registered for the show and just want to add the Global Trade Symposium, let us know here.
Simultaneously a socially courageous and endangered point of view. Not coincidentally the right one and on the side of Liberty. Sadly, we have less courageous, more opportunistic politicians and we get exactly the governance we deserve.
I wish your piece on “price gouging” could be reprinted in every newspaper in every region which will suffer a natural disaster.
This posturing on the part of politicians who want to go after the non-existent phenomenon of “price gouging” probably know better, but that doesn’t stop them from acting shamelessly in the midst of human hardship.
Bravo! You have made the case quite simply and elegantly.
We appreciate the endorsements but, alas, find that all too many people are not so much interested in the actual results of their actions as they are in the aesthetics of the matter.
Often advocates for various expenditures have little evidence that such expenditures will help the intended parties. What they know is that they will feel better having voted to “do something” than if they did nothing.
Much labor legislation doesn’t improve the life of the intended workers; it raises the cost of production and thus drives jobs overseas where, fairly often, working conditions are worse. But it makes advocates feel they are fighting the good fight — and they are spared the sight of poor people — though, in fact, their actions make more people poor than had to be so.
Even issues that many assume are obvious — say child labor in agriculture, which we wrote about both here and here — pose empirical questions. If you ban children from working with their parents in a field, what happens to the child? Are they safer? Is their family more or less affluent? Do they attend stimulating summer camps instead? Or do they sit alone in the heat bored to death? Or worse, do idle hands do the devil’s work?
Steven Spielberg’s new movie Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis, is interesting in no small part because it portrays Lincoln as a man with big ideas who understood that he had to deal with legislators on their own level. David Brooks at The New York Times made this point well in his column, Why We Love Politics:
We live in an anti-political moment, when many people — young people especially —think politics is a low, nasty, corrupt and usually fruitless business. It's much nobler to do community service or just avoid all that putrid noise.
I hope everybody who shares this anti-political mood will go out to see "Lincoln," directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner. The movie portrays the nobility of politics in exactly the right way.
It shows that you can do more good in politics than in any other sphere. You can end slavery, open opportunity and fight poverty. But you can achieve these things only if you are willing to stain your own character in order to serve others — if you are willing to bamboozle, trim, compromise and be slippery and hypocritical.
The challenge of politics lies precisely in the marriage of high vision and low cunning. Spielberg's "Lincoln" gets this point. The hero has a high moral vision, but he also has the courage to take morally hazardous action in order to make that vision a reality.
To lead his country through a war, to finagle his ideas through Congress, Lincoln feels compelled to ignore court decisions, dole out patronage, play legalistic games, deceive his supporters and accept the fact that every time he addresses one problem he ends up creating others down the road.
Politics is noble because it involves personal compromise for the public good. This is a self-restrained movie that celebrates people who are prudent, self-disciplined, ambitious and tough enough to do that work.
It is, in fact, easy to spout platitudes, to claim that one works for the good. To actually achieve good, to accomplish a noble end is far harder.
David Brooks goes on to point out that great politicians often are transformed during their careers:
The movie shows a character-building trajectory, common among great politicians, which you might call the trajectory from the Gettysburg Address to the Second Inaugural.
In the Gettysburg phase, a leader expresses grand ideas. This, frankly, is relatively easy. Lots of people embrace grand ideals or all-explaining ideologies. But satisfied with that they become morally infantile. They refuse to compromise, insult their opponents and isolate themselves on the perch of their own solipsism.
But a politician like Lincoln takes the next step in the trajectory. He has to deal with other people. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” does a nice job celebrating an underappreciated art, the art of legislating.
The movie is about pushing the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives. The political operatives Lincoln hires must pay acute attention to the individual congressmen in order to figure out which can be appealed to through the heart and which through the wallet.
Lincoln plays each potential convert like a musical instrument, appealing to one man’s sense of idealism, another’s fraternal loyalty. His toughest job is to get the true believers on his own side to suppress themselves, to say things they don’t believe in order not to offend the waverers who are needed to get the amendment passed.
That leads to the next step in the character-building trajectory, what you might call the loneliness of command. Toward the end of the civil war, Lincoln had to choose between two rival goods, immediate peace and the definitive end of slavery. He had to scuttle a peace process that would have saved thousands of lives in order to achieve a larger objective.
He had to discern the core good, legal equality, among a flurry of other issues. He had to use a constant stream of words, stories, allusions and arguments to cajole people. He had to live with a crowd of supplicants forever wanting things at the door without feeling haughty or superior to them.
If anything, the movie understates how hard politics can be. The moral issue here is a relatively clean one: slavery or no slavery. Most issues are not that simple. The bill in question here is a constitutional amendment. There’s no question of changing this or that subsection and then wondering how much you’ve destroyed the whole package.
Politicians who can navigate such challenges really do emerge with the sort of impressive weight expressed in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. It’s a speech that acknowledges that there is moral ambiguity on both sides. It’s a speech in which Lincoln, in the midst of the fray, is able to take a vantage point above it, embodying a tragic and biblical perspective on human affairs. Lincoln’s wisdom emerges precisely from the fact that he’s damaged goods.
There never were all that many Lincolns around and there are fewer still today, and we are in deep trouble if we need our politicians to have the character or skills of Abraham Lincoln. But surely it is not too much to expect our politicians to not merely surrender to popular prejudices but to try to move the population to a truer understanding of the ways of the world.
Hurricane Sandy is history now, but who among our leaders is now working to build the public support necessary so that recovery from the next natural disaster is not, once again, hindered by the need to pander to petty prejudices?
Many thanks to Daniel Barth and Doug Stoiber for weighing in on this important matter.