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  • Ten Tips for Retail Produce Merchandising

    Mar 06, 2015
    ProduceDisplayWhether your customers realize it or not, the visual merchandising in your store is one of the biggest contributors to their purchasing decisions. As a retail owner, understanding how to use the psychology of merchandising to your advantage is one of the best ways to influence your success.

    Of all the departments that you merchandise, fresh produce is a beast of it's own. Since the product has a short shelf life and each item comes with it's own unique storage and handling rules, it can be difficult to properly display in a way that moves the product quickly enough to generate profit. That's why we've created a list of tips to assist as you plan out your produce department:

    1. Fresh is king. Though this probably doesn't need to be stated, the most important thing to do when you receive your load of produce is to review for quality, since the rest of the tips on this list won't be effective if you have marginal product! If your load is questionable, contact your wholesaler and make them aware of the issue immediately. This is why brands such as Snoboy, which are picked to order, can be a key differential in your retail fresh produce program.
    2. Understand how to store and handle each item. If you've got some beautiful, crisp lettuce to display but place it uncooled next to bananas so it wilts, your effort is all for naught. Make sure you understand the ideal display conditions for each item and know what items you cannot display next to each other, due to varying ethylene production. Map out your display and make sure all the items are friendly neighbors.
    3. Start with clean, attractive bins and tables. Using dumpy displays makes the product look unappealing. Use props like wire and wicker baskets, or stack appealing boxes. You want to set the stage so the produce can shine.
    4. First in, first out. Since produce has shorter shelf life, it starts a countdown once it arrives in store. Take time to date each box of produce as you receive it with a black marker, and stack the boxes with the date visible. This may take longer, but will make it easier to keep track of age. This comes in handy to help you order, makes it easier to monitor how quickly your inventory is moving, and when you last received. Make sure that the oldest produce, with the least time left, is the most accessible to customers on your displays so it gets out the door quicker. Make sure that product is getting rotated regularly.
    5. Keep the display stocked. Dwindling supplies deter your shoppers. When people see a fresh display with only a few items left in it, they view the remaining pieces as rejects and the product loses appeal.
    6. Try different stocking strategies. Try synchronized precision stacking, where all the items are carefully piled with important features such as stems all facing the same direction. Keep these displays to 2 or 3 layers deep, to avoid smothering the produce at the bottom. This conveys that careful attention is being paid to the produce, and that customer satisfaction is important. You may also try small quantities stacked high in baskets (as long as the display is restocked often). Make sure you hide PLU stickers, so the customer can concentrate on the color and quality of the items.
    7. Try cross-merchandising. Approach each new display project with plenty of thought, and use your creativity to identify other items that can be tied in to maximize your sales. Keep in mind your limitations in terms of size and colume, and the type of product you are trying to move. The rule is to keep it simple, and not overload the display. If you attempt to pile on too many items, the customer loses focuses on the product you are trying to move, and results in less impact. You want to display these items as both a great deal, and an amazing culinary opportunity to your customers!
    8. Use specialty items to draw people in. While it's important to make sure your produce department is stocked with the staples, you can use specialty items to pique curiosity that brings people into the department.
    9. Boost sales with point of purchase marketing. Using colorful posters, offering recipe cards, nutritional ingredients, or product information can help engage the customer beyond the produce.
    10. Offer cut samples. Research your local regulations on sampling. Make sure to keep your samples fresh and rotated, where they can be highyl visible to consumers. Sampling can lead to increased sales, but if not carefully executed, can become a liability. Sampling is effective because it offers the full sensory experience, allowing the customer to enjoy the item and appreciate the flavor.
  • Special Report: West Coast Port Shutdown

    Feb 13, 2015
    As of February 12th, commerce has been at a halt in the West Coast shipping ports. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) released a statement that 29 U.S. West Coast ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles would stop loading and unloading until Monday the 16th. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the PMA have been in frosty negotiations for the past nine months, causing cargo delays and slowed productivity resulting in pain for shippers, retailers, agriculture, and manufacturers across the company. Ships have had to reroute to alternate coasts, and valuable days of shelf life on perishable items are being lost. The groups who depend on timely trans-Pacific trade, such as farmers, are growing deeply concerned about the serious consequences of these interruptions. Due to the gridlock, the National Retail Federation is calling on the White House to help push for a settlement and prevent any further damage to American businesses. Our suggestion? Buy domestic as much as you can until an agreement has been made between the PMA and ILWU.
  • 2015 Desert Freeze Update

    Jan 09, 2015
    There is no denying that last week's cold snap in the desert regions wreaked havoc on the markets. This week has relinquished more seasonable weather, however the damage has already been done. 

    All of the items originating from the Arizona and California deserts were hit with several below freezing nights combined with below average daytime temperatures. The product is showing a lot of epidermal peel, blister, and feathering. There is mildew present in iceberg, leaf lettuce, and romaine. Quite a bit of product cannot be harvested due to the excessive damage, and what is left over is rough at best. 

    Leaf items are a major concern though other items such as broccoli, cauliflower, and celery also took a blow. We are already seeing tight supply and shortages in these items. Due to the cold there will be gaps in broccoli, cauliflower, and related items like broccolini. 

    The markets have reacted sharply upwards as the quality and supply have fallen off. Many shippers are dangerously close to having triggers activated on their processed items such as salad blends, shredded lettuce, chopped romaine, and florets. 

    All growers and shippers have been affected by this event. The damage is extensive; be sure to educate and warn your customers about the consequences of freezing temperatures on produce. Let them know there will be some degree of damage to all desert items. The weather has mostly stabilized back to normal, but it is not enough to reverse what has been done. 
     
  • Special Report: 2015 Kicks off with a Freeze

    Jan 02, 2015
    In Arizona and California, 2015 is kicking off with extremely cold weather and overnight freezes. There has been a major Arctic cold front moving in from the North and stalling over the major growing regions for the past six days, with a forecast extending out for another three. It should thaw out a bit this weekend, although it will most likely remain a bit cooler than normal. Next week it will return to slightly below average temperatures.

    Due to this cold snap, supplies on almost all of the western commodities have tightened up dramatically, with quickly escalating markets. Going into this spell, planting was running slightly ahead of schedule due to warmer than normal temperatures. This resulted in crops being ahead, and combined with the current cold, will results in supplies falling off for a brief gap. 

    Expect to see blister, peel, and lighter weights on most leaf items due to the frost. We have had quite a bit of visible damage thus far, and even with the return of normal weather next week, expect to be shipping mediocre product and lighter supplies for a few weeks. Expect to see the markets up and very strong for the next 10-15 days. Due to our strong network of grower partnerships, Amerifresh is able to provide you the best service during times like these. Make sure to contact the Salinas or Fresno branches for more information.
  • Six Tips to Reduce Calories on Your Restaurant Menu

    Dec 12, 2014
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently rolled out two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations. These new requirements have food service operators scrambling, because the truth may hard to swallow- many menu items at restaurants are very calorie dense.

    One strategy for coping is to reduce the amount of high calorie meat or starch in recipes, and replace that volume with low calorie, nutrient packed produce! Though it's a big change, not to worry, according to Technomic, 67% of Americans now say they feel a vegetarian meal can be just as satisfying as a non-veggie version.

    With the shifting attitude towards vegetables, we've compiled a list of ideas to help you reinvent your menu and keep your health conscious customers happy:

    1. Stack your sides. Cut down portion sizes of meat, then place the vegetables on top of the entree rather than keeping them in the corners of the plate, this adds volume visually without piling on calories.
    2. Put the entree inside the vegetable. Stuffing protein inside items like peppers and mushrooms helps keep the the portions manageable and calories down.
    3. Grind veggies into the entree. For example, grinding mushrooms in with beef for a hamburger patty helps keep the volume up and calories down, while simultaneously packing extra flavor.
    4. Reexamine the ingredients. There are all sorts of low calorie vegetable alternatives to starches these days. Use zucchini ribbons or spaghetti squash instead of pasta, or grated cauliflower for rice.
    5. Build the dish around the vegetables. Rethink how you create new entrees, start by considering the fresh produce you want to use, and build the flavors around them.
    6. Use produce to add visual interest. Fresh produce is beautiful to behold, so flaunt it.
    Do you have any additional tips on how you've successfully used produce to improve the nutrition of your menu items? Let us know!
  • Special Holiday Report: Potatoes

    Nov 13, 2014
    Mashed PotatoesWith the holidays around the corner, it's important that you plan ahead to get your ducks in a row. With the flurry of activity, changes in weather, and resources being allocated differently- it's easy for problems to arise. And, as one of the commonly featured items in a Thanksgiving spread, you may have some extra interest in potatoes.

    In the past week, Washington potatoes saw a slight increase in demand that carried over into pre-bookings for the upcoming week. Transportation has been available, but is taking a bit of extra time with higher rates. We expect to see the rates climbing higher, with trucks harder to secure towards the end of next week as Christmas trees begin to ship out.

    Another potential cause for concern would be a change in weather. Starting on Monday night, temperatures are expected to dip below freezing, with highs under 50 degrees. This could cause problems for white potatoes, and certain sizes of red. Yellow and purple potatoes should remain unaffected.

    If you have any further questions regarding colored potatoes, make sure to contact our Mt. Vernon branch!
  • California Drought Update

    Oct 06, 2014
    Last week on the West coast in California, groans could be heard statewide as temperatures reached unseasonably warm temperatures, which are expected to last until the end of this week.

    We've written about the drought and record temperatures previously this season, but there doesn't appear to be any relief in sight. The water issues continue to create problems for growers, and their ability to provide high quality produce. Heat damage is sure to begin showing up in leaf items, broccoli, celery, and cauliflower. Crews are going to be working extra early, with short harvest hours.

    Strawberries will be hit especially hard. Most berries are already showing 20% bruising upon arrival at the cooler. The heat will make things much worse. The vines are tired, volume peaked almost two months ago, and most shippers are waiting eagerly for the beginning of the rainy season so that they can begin pulling the plants out.

    Wells are running dry, the earth is cracking, and some communities have even had to begin trucking in drinking water. So while produce growers are resilient, innovative, and even scrappy if they need to be- it would be a great idea to talk to your customers and educate them about this industry wide situation.

    Our advice? Order only what you need, try not to overbuy, as supplies are scarce and shelf lives are short. 
  • The State of the Strawberry Industry

    Jul 31, 2014

    StrawberriesWhile Central Coast dwellers might be rejoicing at the warm nights in the Bay area, the recent weather there has the strawberry industry in a tizzy.

    Strawberry production is heavily dependent on night time temperatures, when the plants are respirating. Slightly cool night temperatures are essential, as it reduces respiration and allows berries to achieve optimal size, firmness, and resilience to endure cross country shipping. The sweet spot for berry growth occurs when it is 41-51 F at night. Anything lower than that slows down growth and production. Warmer weather increases berry respiration and causes even more troubling problems.

    The current heat wave in the Central Coast is due to the hot ocean water in Monterey Bay. There has been a lack of Northern Alaska wind, which has resulted in an absence of rip tide to stir up cool water from the deep. One surfer in the area even said "it's starting to look like SoCal around here" noting the obvious lack of wet suits! This hot water has been causing some of the most prolonged, warmest nights in recorded history for the strawberry growing districts. The temperatures are barely dipping into the upper 50's. Also, the consequential humidity is making weekly mildew control applications necessary for the growers. 

    By our estimations, this will continue until about August 16th. Until then make sure to communicate the following to your customers:

    • Expect bruising to be as high as 20%
    • Expect smaller sizes, up to 32 count
    • Don't overbuy and hold too long, this product is not very strong!
    If you have any further questions on the state of the strawberry industry, make sure to contact our Salinas office!

  • The California Drought and Implications for Fresh Produce

    May 30, 2014
    California DroughtYou may have heard about the water crisis in California. According to the US drought monitor, 100% of California is covered in the top three worst classifications of drought. When most people imagine drought, they attribute it to a lack of rain. While that may be one contributor, it certainly isn't all of it.

    Parts of California, such as the San Joaquin Valley, depend largely on run off water from the snow melt in the mountains to fill the lakes and reservoirs that in turn are used for crops. From there, farmers get allocations to use the water. This year, the lakes high water mark is at 50% of its normal amount, and farmers are getting anywhere from 5-30% of the normal allocations for their fields. There is a huge lack of water for both the permanent and seasonal crops. 

    As a result of the limited supply, farmers are dropping fruit from their trees to help preserve water the tree uses, without actually harvesting. Yields are expected to be down 30-40% this year. And, furthermore, if the trees aren't taken care of this year, there won’t be a crop for next year. The implications here are huge for tree fruit in both the short and long term.

    The Salinas deal, on the other hand, hasn't been affected quite as much. They depend on well water rather than run off or rain, and are a bit more secure. Although, if there is another bad winter, next year will be rough. So while the growers in Salinas may be groaning about the drought, but it’s due more to the higher cost of water as opposed to the shortage. At this point, no one is rationing, and the situation doesn't feel as critical. 
     
  • Snoboy Produce: The Recipe for Success

    May 16, 2014

    For those who aren’t aware, Amerifresh is the proud owner of the nearly 90 year old Snoboy brand of fresh produce. Snoboy is one of the oldest continually packed produce brands in existence. Since it’s conception in 1925, it has been notorious for consistency, availability, and premium quality.

    You may wonder how a produce brand can offer all of those advantages- often times quality will diminish when availability is poor, or any other combination. Today, we’re letting you in on our recipe for the brands' success.

    We still maintain strict standards for each of the 85 foodservice items we pack (alongside our growing retail category) in Snoboy. We have developed and continue to maintain quality specifications for each item. These standards are written to ensure that only the best product makes it into the Snoboy box.

    Our grower partners keep these specifications on file and know them quite well. They know that at Amerifresh we expect the quality in the field to meet or exceed our standard before it can go in a Snoboy box. We employ a team of quality assurance Associates to check the fields prior to the harvest crew’s arrival. It is their daily duty to independently qualify and select the acreage that we’ll be packing in Snoboy. If it does not meet the standard, we move on to acreage that does.

    We do all of this for a number of reasons:

    1. We are striving to protect the reputation of the Snoboy brand.
    2. We have made an obligation and commitment to our customers to provide this level of quality.
    3. We believe the only way to verify quality is to have our people, resources, and talent at the field level.

    As a result, we truly become our customer’s representative in the field.

    So, next time you see or receive Snoboy product, rest assured that it has undergone this rigorous inspection and selection process. And, if you’ve never experienced the Snoboy difference, we highly recommend you give it a try to see what a distinction our representation in the field can make!

  • Snoboy TV: Iceberg Lettuce Harvest

    May 09, 2014
    Our next installment of Snoboy TV is here! If you've ever wondered what the process for iceberg lettuce harvest looks like, then this is the episode for you.

  • Presenting Snoboy TV

    Apr 18, 2014
    This week we're proud to present the first installation of a new resource we're providing to our customers - Snoboy TV!

    Our goal is to offer a visual education experience which allows you to better understand produce. We will be uploading new videos every two weeks. You can watch them by subscribing to our Snoboy YouTube channel.

    In this first video, we look at the harvest and Quality Assurance process for our brand new Snoboy 12x3 retail romaine heart. Enjoy!

  • Snoboy Romaine Hearts Available Now

    Apr 11, 2014

    Last week we were in Vancouver for the annual Canadian Produce Marketing Association convention. We were up there promoting Snoboy's return to the retail marketplace. Our first item in the line is the Snoboy 12x3 romaine heart.

    CPMA Show

    Snoboy was once a nationally recognized retail brand, and we are so excited to announce that we are now returning to the retail marketplace. Every resealable bag is packed to order to guarantee maximum shelf life and freshness. Our Quality Assurance is out in the field inspecting the orders to ensure that they meet our strict specifications.

    As of this week, this new product is ready to order! Contact Amerifresh today at info@amerifresh.com for more information.

  • Green Gold: What's Up With The Lime Market?

    Apr 03, 2014
    Lime MarketThe city of McAllen has become renowned as the produce capital for Mexican produce crossing into Texas. Last year, Amerifresh strategically opened an office in the city to partner with Mexican growers that want to deliver into the Midwest and Eastern United States. Our McAllen branch is celebrating their 1 year anniversary since the creation of the branch last April!

    Robert Velasquez, sales/trader in the growing McAllen office, has been in the produce industry since 1998 and active in the lime market his entire career. Robert explains that over the last 2 years the lime market had reached lows of $6.00 per carton across all sizes. This year, Robert says, “I doubt we will see prices even under $10.00 dollars a box.” Last month the lime market saw record highs of over $100.00 per box! This is the first time in Robert’s career he seen such highs in the lime deal. 

    There are two reasons why there are such high spikes in the lime market movement; weather and bacterium on the lime trees. The primary cause is weather. The lime growing regions of Mexico saw heavy rains and cold temperatures lasting longer than normal last winter. The Mexican growers in Veracruz can attest to the consequential low volume this weather has caused. The decrease in volume has created an influx of demand causing him and other growers alike to harvest whatever fruit is available on the trees, which is already smaller than normal. Picking this fruit now means that this fruit is not able to stay on the trees longer to grow/mature into a larger piece of fruit. The result means that moving into April fruit is expected to stay small. Robert also says that we should start to see more volume by the end of this week and into next week.
  • Amerifresh Associate Spotlight

    Mar 06, 2014
    Annette CalandraWhen you do business with Amerifresh, you get something that can’t be bought or automated- real people with years upon years of hands on experience in the produce, logistics, foodservice and food retail industries. Each month, we put a spotlight on the Associates who keep the engine purring by providing you with the best customer service and expertise out there. So without further ado, we are proud to present to you the people who so hard to help you succeed.

    Meet Annette

    Annette Calandra has been with Amerifresh for 21 years and comes from a long lineage of farmers. When she was young, her family moved to California, where her father bought 40 acres and began farming table and wine grapes.  From there the family business expanded into a successful packing operation out of Sanger, California. At 18, her brother took over the business after they tragically lost both parents. Due to her extensive family history, she is an expert in table grapes. Today you can find Annette working as a Sales Associate out of Fresno, California.

    What are some of your hobbies?
    Snow skiing, entertaining friends and family, cooking Italian food, travelling, taking care of my seven grandchildren, watching them play sports, going to plays and musicals, and I love to talk talk talk  with friends, family, and co-workers! 

    What words best describe you?
    Very outgoing, very bubbly

    What is your favorite movie?
    Pretty Woman, Godfather, and Sound of Music

    What was your first CD/album?
    The Beatles

    What would you do with a million dollars?
    I’d rent a cruise ship and take my entire family and friends on a beautiful trip to Europe for a month, and share my wealth with them all!  I’d also donate money to many charities and my church.  

  • Special Report: Cabbage

    Feb 20, 2014
    CabbageSt. Patrick's Day is coming up, and restaurateurs are preparing for the festivities. As is to be expected, interest in cabbage is picking up considerably. At the same time, prices are shooting up. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average prices are almost double what they were last year, and considerably higher than they have been for the past several years. 

    Along with astronomical prices, supplies are tightening up as shippers receive more and more calls leading up to the holiday. It is in situations like these when it pays to be working with a produce marketer with buying power as strong as Amerifresh, with powerful existing relationships spread throughout a network of reliable growers!

    So, hang on, and make sure to pre-book your cabbage in the upcoming week. We'll get a better idea of this market as we approach St. Patrick's Day!
  • National Grocers Association 2014 Recap

    Feb 13, 2014
    This past week we made our first appearance at the National Grocers Association annual trade show. It was a valuable experience and we were so grateful for the opportunity to exhibit in the Produce Marketing Association pavilion!



    Our primary reason for attending the show is that we are excited to announce the reintroduction of Snoboy fresh produce into the retail market place. 

    Established in 1925, Snoboy was once a nationally recognized retail brand- as you can tell from this recovered 1955 TV commercial. After a hiatus from grocery shelves, we are now offering a new line of Snoboy retail products to independent retailers! We spent our time at the show connecting with grocers from across the country about our new line of products.

    Our mission is to empower independent retailers with an established high quality brand to better compete in the marketplace. Snoboy brand fresh produce offers:
    • Maximum shelf life. Each piece is packed to order, no sitting around on cooler floors waiting to be bought!
    • Consistent levels of freshness, color, size, and flavor. Our field inspectors only accept products that meet our strict specifications.
    • Reliability. Snoboy is sourced from a wide network of grower-partners, so availability is not tied to a single grower, region, or weather patterns.
    Our first item in this line is a three count romaine heart. This will be followed by sleeved celery, bagged red and green leaf, and cello wrapped iceberg lettuce. 

    Overall, The NGA Show was a great experience, and we are excited about our re-entry into this market!
  • Special Report: California Tree Fruit

    Jan 23, 2014
    Tree fruit season is upon us, but not without trepidation from most shippers.

    California legislation finally declared a drought State of Emergency for the valley this past week. The central valley has not seen any measurable amount of moisture since last winter, making this the most severe drought since water measures started being recorded in the state in 1849! Snow pack for summer irrigation allocations has been non-existent.

    Growers are currently pumping water to maintain the trees, and they are beginning to bloom (pictured). This is a cause for anxiety, as it's abnormally early and tree fruit growers are still under threat of frost.

    Based on the above, it could be a very rocky season for peach, plums, nectarines, apricots, cherries and other tree fruits. We're unable to predict crop size or volume at this time, but without water, we can be certain that neither will be bountiful.
  • Amerifresh Associate Spotlight

    Jan 02, 2014
    When you do business with Amerifresh, you get something that can’t be bought or automated- real people with years upon years of hands on experience in the produce, logistics, foodservice and food retail industries. On the first Friday of each month, we put a spotlight on the associates who keep the engine purring by providing you with the best customer service and expertise out there. So without further ado, we are proud to present to you the people who work so hard to help you succeed.

    Meet Arline

    Arline inspecting lettuce in YumaArline Castellanos is a Sales Associate in the Arizona branch of Amerifresh. She has been with the company for two and half years. She got her start in the industry six years ago at Performance Produce in Nogales, AZ where her Aunt-In-Law offered her a position! She specializes in helping our food service accounts, and considers herself the most knowledgable about tomatoes.

    What are some of your hobbies? I'm a movie buff, and love spending time with my kids!
    What words best describe you? Enthusiastic, funny, and outgoing.
    What is your favorite movie? Forrest Gump!
    What was your first CD/album? Hmmmmmm... sorry, don't remember.
    What would you do with a million dollars? The very first thing I would do is take a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong vacation in Greece!

  • Frost Damaged Explained

    Dec 12, 2013
    Over the past week, many growing regions have experienced several days’ worth of freezing temperatures.  As you can guess, this isn’t great for crops. But, do you know why?

    Today we are covering just a few of the key items that may be affected by the recent freeze, and how it affects the plants.

    Leaf Items

    Leaf items are about 90% water. It is due to this fact that when temperatures dip below 32 F it causes the cells in the plant to freeze, expand, and then burst. These exploded cells initially show up on the outer layer of the plant as “epidermal peel”. As the freeze continues, more cells burst; the peel worsens, and eventually turns dark and discolored.

    When shippers pack this product, they make sure to remove the ugly “damaged” layers to leave an aesthetically appealing item. This means they remove more leaves and therefore generally leads to lighter shipper weights.

    Celery

    Celery is more resilient than delicate leaf items, but if a frost is intense enough can cause some damage. Like lettuce, celery will start sloughing off its dead bursted cells, in the form of blister. The stalk also experiences stress under cold conditions which can weaken the structure of the plant, so that when it is cut it will start cracking or splitting. This is most noticeable on celery sticks.

    Broccoli and Cauliflower

    These items typically deal with cold by slowing down growth, going dormant until conditions are favorable again. This can mess up harvest schedules and cause a bit of gapping in supply.
     
Submitting your question!
Our team of fresh produce experts have produce buying down to a science, which is why we call them Buy-ologists. They are at the source, acting as your eyes and ears in the field at every major agricultural growing region, comparing price and quality to get you the best deal.
Whether you need reliable market information or a mixed load, we are here to help!
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