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Avocados From Mexico, the No. 1 selling avocado in the United States, announced the return of its Fanwich campaign, which is designed to maintain strong avocado consumption by inspiring consumers to incorporate avocados on their sandwiches. The Fanwich campaign is built around a strategic partnership with Bimbo Bakeries USA and will target those consumers looking for nutritious ways to improve their meals following the overindulgence of the holidays and Big Game parties. LA0555---2016-FANWICH--BIMBO-SPECTACULAR Large-Bin v4 background

Featuring Healthfull premium breads in the general market, Fanwich will also be expanded to key Hispanic markets with Bimbo Bread. Both brands are manufactured by Bimbo Bakeries USA.

Fanwich will be running during February and March 2016 and will be promoted through a variety of marketing efforts and will encourage health-conscious consumers to get creative and start stacking sandwiches with better-for-you ingredients inlcuding avocados from Mexico.

“This campaign is based on research that shows both bread and avocados are among the top items in the shopper basket and that sandwiches are the fourth key usage for avocados,” Stephanie Bazan, market development director of AFM, said in a press release. “Partnering with Bimbo Bakeries USA enables us to offer a robust program that is releavant in both the general and Hispanic markets.”

Along with consumer savings, appealing and educational in-store merchandising displays that conveniently house either Healthfull or Bimbo breads along with Avocados From Mexico will also help inspire shoppers to choose wisely as they load their grocery cart.

In addition, AFM will be holding its second annual national retail display contest in which retailers have a chance to win $50,000 in prizes. Using at least three pieces of AFM Fanwich POS, retailers simply photograph their display creation and submit online at by March 30. Winners will be chosen based on usage of required AFM Fanwich promotional pieces and overall display look.

In the general market, consumers can get in on the action by entering the Fanwich Fit sweepstakes for a chance to win one of several $500 gift cards up for grabs or a home gym makeover, valued at $10,000. The sweepstakes will be supported with a comprehensive social campaign featuring Whistle Sports social influencers, such as healthy food blogger Kevin Curry, founder of FitMenCook, professional lacrosse player Paul Rabil, and popular health and fitness guru Natalie Jill. Leveraging their huge social media followings, they will be developing a series of AFM videos inviting their audiences to participate in Fanwich Fit and post their own avocado sandwich creations.

In addition, the campaign will be integrated with content on the FitMenCook App, which offers dozens of healthy recipes, a personal weekly meal planner and calorie counter and includes an automated grocery list to make shopping for healthy ingredients even easier. The FitMenCook App was named an App Store Best of 2015 and is the No. 1 food and drink app in 82 countries.

The Southeast Produce Council will present a new kind of educational session — a video workshop, featuring four top produce companies — at its upcoming Southern Exposure conference and expo, scheduled for March 3-5 at the Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood, FL.

The workshop, called Fresh from the Farm Field Trips, will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Friday, March 4. According to the SEPC website, this new workshop will “bring the farm to Southern Exposure attendees by providing them with a fun and education field-like trip experience to learn about the grower-supplier side of the produce industry.”

This year’s inaugural video series will feature four SEPC member-farms: Shuman Produce in Reidsville, GA; J&J Family of Farms in Loxahatchee, FL; DiMare Fresh in Tampa, FL; and Avocados from Mexico.

With this new video series, “Our retail and foodservice members can get an idea of the operations” about those companies in the video, SEPC Executive Director David Sherrod told The Produce News in early February. “And it gives an extra value to our attendees and our members. We hope to make this a staple of Southern Exposure every year.”

Representatives from all four companies in the video will be on hand at the workshop to answer questions from the audience.

Kevin Fiori is leaving his position as senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sunkist Growers in Valencia, CA, to assume a position with Passion Growers, a leading floral company headquartered in Miami. John Striff, current senior vice president and chief operating officer, will oversee the organization’s sales and marketing departments following Fiori's departure in June.fiori-kevinKevin Fiori

“We are so appreciative of the outstanding work that Kevin has done during his time at Sunkist,” Russ Hanlin, Sunkist president and chief executive officer, said in a press release . “While he will be greatly missed, we are fortunate to have a talented executive like John Striff to assume this role. John has been instrumental to many important initiatives throughout the cooperative and we are excited for him to bring his leadership and experience to another area of our organization.”

Striff has worked in the Sunkist system since 2003, first at Sunkist-affiliated cooperative Fruit Growers Supply Company and then at Sunkist Growers. He served as chief financial officer for both organizations, and was promoted to senior vice president and chief operating officer in 2015.

“It is with mixed emotions that I announce my decision to leave Sunkist Growers," said Fiori. "I joined Sunkist because I was drawn to the collaborative culture that makes the cooperative so special within our industry. I feel fortunate to have worked at Sunkist for the past seven-and-a-half years. We accomplished many great things together. I have no doubt that Sunkist will do very well under the leadership of Russ Hanlin with the incredible, talented and dedicated people they have throughout the organization.”

“Working with Sunkist for over seven years, Kevin has done outstanding work on behalf of the cooperative,” said Hanlin.” However, the opportunity for him and his wife to be close to his two boys and three grandchildren was impossible to resist. We will miss him greatly, both personally and professionally.”

Fiori continued, “I’ve been offered an amazing opportunity to work with Jaime and Cheryl Peisach and the entire team at Passion Growers. I have a tremendous amount of respect for and look forward to working with Jaime Peisach, Cheryl Peisach, Sam Ferrara, Ben Pauley, Eugenia Barth, Moises Croitoru and others at Passion, many of whom I’ve worked with in the past. As a company, Passion values people, is dedicated to impeccable customer service, and invests in infrastructure to produce the highest quality flowers available. Another benefit of this opportunity is that it allows me to relocate closer to my children and grandchildren, which makes this move perfect for me — both personally and professionally.”

“We are thrilled that Kevin Fiori is joining our team,” said Jaime Peisach, owner of Passion Growers. “We’ve known Kevin for over 15 years and we know he shares our core values. Our culture is built on teamwork, integrity and a system-wide dedication to customer satisfaction. The past working relationships and mutual respect between Kevin, Sam, Ben, Eugenia, Moises and other members of Passion makes this a great fit. The ultimate objective of this move is to expand our individualized products and services to our valued customers. We are committed to earning our customers’ business everyday by providing the highest quality flowers and best customer service available in the industry.”

Rainier Fruit, a leader in the U.S. apple industry, announced the start of a multi-year relationship with the Boston Athletic Association as an official sponsor of the Boston Marathon.

Mark Zirkle, president of Rainier Fruit, based in Selah, WA, said, “We have been in business for 128 years, and as a leading grower of both conventional and organic apples, pears, cherries and blueberries, it makes perfect sense for us to sponsor a legacy event like the oldest, most prestigious running event in the country, the Boston Marathon.”Lady-Alice---Boston-Marathon

In fact, the Boston Marathon is celebrating its 120th running on April 18. The marathon attracts 30,000 registered participants and 500,000 spectators, making it one of New England’s most widely viewed sporting events. Runners and spectators will have access to fresh samples of Rainier Fruit Rising Star apples at hospitality locations and throughout the marathon.

“Athletes are always looking for the best in healthy foods to power their training,” said Zirkle. “Our Rising Star apples, in both conventional and organic options, are known for their crisp texture and exceptional flavors that keep consumers coming back. These Rising Stars include our proprietary Lady Alice apple and standouts such as Honeycrisp, Jazz, and Pink Lady.”

Part of what keeps consumers coming back to any brand is exceptional quality, and Zirkle has made it clear that Rainier Fruit is committed to excellence in the production of both conventional and organic fruit to meet the diverse lifestyle choices of consumers.

“During the past 15 years, we have transitioned as much of our acreage to organics as possible,” he said. “Today we are one of the largest suppliers of organic fruit in the United States. The early lessons we learned in promoting biodiversity, soil quality and general environmental benefits of organic growing are applied to all of the products we grow.”

The sponsorship of the Boston Marathon is more than a singular event for Rainier Fruit, it’s about connecting with individuals seeking a healthy, active lifestyle. According to Running USA, running as a sport has grown by over 300 percent during the last 20 years and nearly 19 million athletes completed a running event in 2015.

“We couldn’t be more excited about this new opportunity to introduce the exceptional quality and sweet flavor of our apples while supporting the running community,” said Zirkle. “This is part of our long-term commitment to providing healthy and nutritious fruit products to people around the world.”

In the years to follow, Rainier Fruit will be working closely with regional and national retailers to leverage in-store promotions and packaging that highlights the Boston Marathon sponsorship while also introducing new tools and resources for health-conscious consumers.

“Runners live everywhere and we love how they embrace athletic lifestyles which include both diet and exercise,” Zirkle added. “We believe our high-quality fruits like apples, pears, cherries and blueberries work perfectly with a balanced healthy diet.”

Two years removed from its all-time high, customer satisfaction with the retail sector fell for a second consecutive year, according to fourth quarter data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. After several years of pretty high customer satisfaction, supermarkets registered their lowest score in more than a decade. Wegmans, one of three retailers to improve customer satisfaction, became one of the highest-scoring companies in the index, while Target saw the biggest drop among supermarkets. acsi

A wide range in customer satisfaction for supermarkets suggests that it is possible to please customers even though overall satisfaction is down for the industry. Wegmans gained 1 percent to 86. Other top-scoring supermarkets include Trader Joe’s (83), H-E-B (82) and Publix (82). Giant Eagle and Wal-Mart at 67 find themselves at the opposite end of the scale. Albertsons, which recently merged with Safeway, rounds out the bottom three at 68.

“When consumers put a premium on service and quality, smaller companies often achieve higher customer satisfaction scores, and it’s the smaller independent chains that continue to set the bar for supermarkets,” ACSI Managing Director David VanAmburg said in a release.

The biggest loser in customer satisfaction among supermarkets is Target, which dropped 12 percent to 71, followed by Whole Foods, which fell 10 percent to 73. Competition for natural and organic foods has been heating up as Whole Foods struggles with a reputation among food shoppers for unjustifiably high prices.

“Customer satisfaction with retail has been higher than its historical norm over the past few years as the economy slowly emerged from the Great Recession,” Claes Fornell, ACSI founder and chairman, said in the press release. “This was because it was a tough environment to compete in. Job security for customer service personnel was hard to come by and everybody was trying harder to please customers. As both job security and employee turnover have increased, the level of customer service seems to have worsened.”