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Chipotle commits $10 million to help local farmers

Chipotle Mexican Grill announced the formation of the Chipotle Local Grower Support Initiative, a new program to help smaller, local suppliers meet its heightened food-safety standards. The company plans to commit up to $10 million to help local farms meet its food-safety standards and to make more local ingredients available across the country.chip

The news comes one week after the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention said the multi-state outbreaks linked Chipotle appear to be over. The most recent illness reported to CDC started on Dec. 1, 2015.

“We have supported local farms around the country for a number of years because we believe it is the right thing to do,” Steve Ells, Chipotle founder, co-chief executive officer and chairman, said in a press release. “We recognize that it may make it difficult for some local farms to comply with our heightened standards, but we are looking to help local farmers comply with our standards and to continue our support for local farms and rural communities around the country.”

The company said the initiative will provide the support and education necessary to meet the company’s high standards and help offset the costs of enhanced testing and food-safety practices for some smaller farmers. Additionally, financial assistance will be provided in the form of grants or premiums to help cover the higher costs of enhanced food-safety practices.

Chipotle will also look to develop new partnerships and seek out farmers using greenhouses and other technologies around the country that meet the company’s food-safety standards.

More information about the Chipotle Local Grower Initiative is available at

CAC shows marketing savvy with #BigGameAdd program

When your marketing budget is dwarfed by a heavy-spending Goliath, it’s time take a cue from David. That’s what the California Avocado Commission did with its #BigGameAdd program Super Bowl weekend, joining in the Big Game action on social media by celebrating commercials from food and beverage companies.2016-CA BigGameAdd

The commission took to Twitter to respond to ads in real time throughout the entire game, adding California avocado to advertiser products and serving up tasty recipe ideas.

“With California avocado season beginning now and peak availability expected from March to September, a big media spend around the football championship did not make sense for us,” Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the commission, said in a press release. “Social media gave us the opportunity to be part of the Big Game buzz and build excitement for California avocado season.”

CAC identified the food and beverage brands that would be advertising during the Big Game and created recipes using California avocados with those promoted ingredients. It created fun videos showing consumers how to make the recipes and tweeted them right after the featured commercials aired. CAC even showcased a recipe — Cali-Mex Bowls — using both California avocados and avocados from Mexico, which were advertised during the game.

CAC distributed the news of the #BigGameAdd program to more than 250,000 California avocado fans who subscribe to its recipe newsletter, encouraging a high level of engagement. The social media results were impressive, garnering more than 241,000 impressions in less than 24 hours. Notable retweets came from Butterfinger, Squarespace and Melissa’s Produce. One fan even mentioned “IMO @CA_Avocados is owning #SB50 with its tweets. Forget the commercials!!”

“It required nimbleness and creativity to capture this opportunity, and the resulting consumer engagement was worth it,” DeLyser added in the press release. “We don’t usually feature ingredients such as soda, beer and candy in California avocado recipes, but for this we stepped out of our comfort zone and into the end zone.”

The commission rounded-out game day promotions with targeted retailer activities on and offline in California.

Black Gold Farms: Red is the new color of St. Patrick’s Day

Black Gold Farms is letting retailers know that that this year, red is the new color of St. Patrick’s Day. While the color green may be synonymous with the holiday, red potatoes are already part of St. Patrick’s Day feasts, whether they’re Irish or not — and the sales numbers show it.SPD Ironman 2016 LR-1

To help make red potato sales even stronger in March Black Gold Farms will be promoting red potatoes as the lucky charm for turning leftovers into a week of great meals.

“We will help retailers to tantalize their shoppers — and drive greater red potato purchases — with delicious corned beef and red potato hash leftovers that can be turned into Top O’ The Mornin’ Muffins or O’Leary’s Leftover pizza and even Irish egg rolls,” Don Ladhoff, director of fresh marketing and sales for Black Gold Farms, said in a press release. “Even better, by encouraging shoppers to enjoy more St. Patrick’s Day-themed leftovers, we will help retailers not only move more red potatoes, but also to sell more of other produce categories such as cabbage, carrots and onions.”

For a limited time, Black Gold Farms will be packaging its quality red potatoes in custom five-pound poly bags that urge shoppers to “make magic this St. Patrick’s Day” and highlight a recipe for corned beef and red potato hash on the package back. 

Retailers can drive even bigger sales by merchandising red potatoes using promotional materials, including attention-grabbing posters that showcase three different leftover recipes, as well as shelf talkers and special Kwik Lok tags that encourage shoppers to “see how red potatoes turn leftovers into great meals.” Pallet bin displays are also available, and social media efforts will bring even more awareness of red being the new color of St. Patrick’s Day.

Black Gold Farms grows and packs red potatoes for several retail customers using retailer-label packaging; the merchandising materials, Kwik Lok tags and pallet bin displays will also be made available to these accounts.

Stemilt sees apple sales trend up

Apples contributed more dollars on average to U.S. produce departments in December 2015 than in 2014, despite volume being down slightly year-over-year, according to the latest Stemilt-O-Graphic. The latest apple category insights from Stemilt are based off of four weeks of data from Nielsen FreshFacts, which compare the timeframe of November 29-December 26, 2015 to the same period in 2014.Jan2016TotalUS

“The highlight of this recent data set from Nielsen is that bulk fruit averaged $1.80 per pound in December 2015, and was up $0.17 year-over-year. Bags were also up, selling for $0.07 more per pound,” Roger Pepperl, Stemilt marketing director, said in a press release. “It’s not surprising to see higher retail prices given the fact that the 2015 national apple crop is down considerably from record levels in 2014.”

Two of the category’s top apple varieties, Gala and Honeycrisp, made up a smaller percentage of the December mix in 2015 than in 2014. Honeycrisp dropped 2 percent to 10.3 percent of category sales, while Gala was down about 1 percent. This is due to smaller fruit size on Gala and certain regional growing areas finishing up on Honeycrisp earlier in 2015 than in 2014, Pepperl noted.

Among the many trademarked varieties available in December, Stemilt’s signature variety, Piñata, was a bright spot. Piñata was up 55.3 percent in volume year-over-year, which Pepperl attributes to high demand and an increase in promotional activity at retail.

“Piñata is a consumer favorite apple when it is available in the late winter and spring months, and that is especially showing this year at retail," he said. "December was a great month to kick-off the apple’s season, and we are excited to continue the great momentum with more promotion opportunities around this apple coming up. Piñata’s bi-coloring and unique flavor make it a great substitution for large Gala’s, which are in short supply this year.”

The 2015-16 crop year saw smaller fruit size on average for apples, which has made Stemilt’s industry-leading pouch bag brand of three-pound apples, Lil Snappers, a great promotion vehicle for retailers. Pepperl recommends both Piñata and Pink Lady varieties for upcoming spring Lil Snappers promotions, as both have excellent qualities out of storage and are kid favorites.

“Parents love Lil Snappers apples," Pepperl said. "The grab-and-go bag of fruit sized just for kids makes it more convenient than ever for them to include fresh fruit in their child’s lunch or to serve for snack. Lil Snappers are a perfect item to promote at retail in the late winter and spring."

Meijer program generates $2.4 million for food pantries

The Meijer Simply Give program set a holiday record with $2.4 million for food pantries throughout the Midwest, making it the most successful holiday campaign in the program’s history.simply

Meijer customers donated more than $936,000 during the holiday Simply Give campaign, and combined with a donation from Meijer, set the donation total to more than $2.4 million. The Simply Give program has generated more than $21 million since November 2008 for food pantry partners to restock their shelves and feed hungry families.

“We cannot thank our customers, team members and food pantry partners enough for continuing to rise to the challenge and help us feed hungry families in the communities we serve,” Hank Meijer, co-chairman, said in a press release. “It’s inspiring to see this level of engagement.”

The Grand Rapids, MI-based retailer began its Simply Give program in 2008 as a way to help local food pantries throughout the Midwest achieve their mission of feeding hungry families.

During each Simply Give campaign, which runs three times a year, customers are encouraged to purchase a $10 Simply Give donation card upon checkout. Once purchased, the donation is converted into a Meijer Food-Only Gift Card and donated directly to the local food pantry selected by the store for that campaign.

“Hunger is a problem that occurs in all of our communities, which is why the funds generated from Simply Give stay local,” Meijer said in the release. “The Simply Give program gives everyone a chance to work toward ensuring no one has to go without food.”