Gearing up for the Holidays

Mandarins

With the major holidays behind us there are still plenty of opportunities to tie in your product mix with festive holidays, championships and more.

Tangerines, pomelos and oranges are considered good fortune fruit for the Lunar New Year (Jan 28). These fruits are thought to bring continuous prosperity–the more you eat, the more wealth it will bring! Check out our long list of lucky citrus varietals.

Guacamole has long been a Super Bowl Sunday (Feb 5) staple, undoubtedly in a close tie with buffalo wings. We don’t sell buffalo wings but we have plenty of avocados, and all the ingredients needed for the salsa to go with it! Our value added fresh-cut veggie packs are tasty pre-game snacks too.

Chocolate covered strawberries are the obsession and key promotion for Valentine’s day. Blood oranges, raspberries and pomegranate arils make for tasty mimosas too.

*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

Weather Update

Heavy rains and several successive storms, known as atmospheric rivers, raged across California this past week. Atmospheric rivers are long and narrow bands of water vapor that form over an ocean (by cyclonic winds) and flow through the sky. Severe rain, hail, snow and winds has impeded picking and harvesting. Flooding and impacted roads has caused delays in routing up and down the West Coast. Please be prepared for possible sudden changes in availability, quality and price.

Fruit

Apple and Pear

We have a variety for every one of your heart’s apple desires. The classically popular Fuji, Gala, Granny and Braeburns are in good supply with sharp pricing on the Braeburns. Lesser known but equally delicious, we have Ambrosia, Sweet Orin and Opal. Ambrosia’s are a favorite around here with its crisp sweet flavor reminiscent of pear. Sweet Orins offer a beautiful yellow-green skin with enchanting tropical aromas and flavor that hints of pear and pineapple. Let’s not forget about the hybrid varietal, Opal–a cross between Golden Delicious and Topaz. There has been news recently about a genetically modified apple which doesn’t get brown when cut, but the Opal also resists oxidation, so is less likely to brown after slicing. It’s a perfect organic option for lunches and cheese plates!

The pear market is tight at this point in the season. Bosc, and D’Anjou pears from Bridges and Columbia Gorge are almost done but we’ll have some supply from Blue Bird. Prices are expected to increase so order now! Come February, we should see some imported Bartletts from South America hit the market.

Avocado

Now is the time to start planning for Super Bowl promotions and specials. Customers will have guacamole on the brain so take advantage and cross merchandise avocados with red onion, tomatoes, limes and cilantro!  Although rains have delayed harvest, we expect California-grown Bacon avocados to continue for another month. Sadly, the last of the season’s Fuerte are hitting our dock now, so get them while you can! California-grown Fuerte is our avocado buyer’s favorite variety, with a distinct nutty flavor not found in other avocados.

Banana

Banana pricing is expected to increase slightly due to increased GROW program costs. Our bananas are sourced through Organic Unlimited’s GROW (Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers) banana program. The GROW program provides ongoing financial support and services to farm workers, their families and surrounding communities. Let your Account Manager know if you would like to join the GROW banana social justice program.

Did you know when a banana changes color, the nutritional value changes in addition to the flavor? Green is packed with starch, as enzymes have yet to break it down into simple sugars. Eating a banana at this stage is good for diabetics and contains bacteria that promotes colon health. Yellow bananas have had their starch broken down into simple sugars making them a quick source of energy. Yellow bananas also contain antioxidants and anti-cancer properties not available in the green fruit. Bananas with dark spots contain tumor necrosis which help fight malignant cells in the body. The darker the spots on a banana, the better it is at fighting these cells, boosting your immune system.

Berry

After much anticipation, Arizona-grown Duncan Family Farms strawberries have arrived! The red color, irresistible fragrance, and sweet flavor reflect the favorable growing conditions in the Arizona desert during winter! In other berry news, imported blueberry and raspberry prices are increasing due to tight supply. Blackberries are steady with great pricing.

Citrus

This week’s torrential rain has put a damper on the citrus market. Many growers have needed time for fields to dry out before picking can occur. As a result, supply is tightening with some expected delays in shipment.

California lemon prices are increasing with tight supply. The overall lime market is experiencing similar trends in both California and Mexico grown fruit.

Blood oranges are trickling in with some supply from Beck Grove and more projected to arrive at the end of January from Cousins, Homegrown Organic Farms and Heath Ranch. Washington navel and Cara Cara navel supply is steady. Cara Cara from Buck Brand are done, but Homegrown Organic Farms will be continuing so we do not expect any gaps in supply.

Weather has caused delays in the arrival of TDE (Temple Tangor, Dancy and Encore) mandarins but we’re hopeful they will come in soon. Stay tuned! In happier news, we have started with clementines from Shore Packing, grown in the fertile Santa Clara River Valley in California’s central coastal region. Fun Fact: the city of Santa Paula advertises itself as the “Citrus Capital of the World.” Minneola Tangelos from Rucker Homestead, in Southern California, are just starting up. Minneolas are sweet and tangy with lots of juice. These are a great option for orange-tangerine juice blends this time of year.

Churchill Orchard Kishu mandarins are here! Easily considered the “best of the Kishus,” this crop is grown in beautiful Ojai Valley in Southern California. The fruit tastes deliciously sweet with just the right amount of acidity. Did we mention they are seedless and easy to peel? Perfect for an anytime snack for kids (or adults!)

Have you tried ruby grapefruit from B&J Ranch? This fruit is eagerly anticipated by our staff, our customers and lovers of great fruit. The fruit, available in all sizes, has yellowish peel with areas of pink and green blush, often caused by the cold temperatures the fruit endures in the desert in the Coachella Valley of Southern California. Cut it open and you’ll find segments of deep pinkish-red flesh with sweet juicy flavor and some seeds. Ruby grapefruit contains anti-oxidant rich Vitamins C and A, fiber and lycopene—the antioxidant that gives the fruit its jewel-like ruby hue!

Let’s not forget about grapefruit’s larger cousin—the pomelo! Pomelos have the sweet mild grapefruit taste with very little of the bitterness commonly found in grapefruit. We have Chandler pomelo from Twin Girls and African Shaddock pomelo from Buck Brand. Both are at the peak of their season and are addictively tasty! Pomelos have thicker skin and slightly more challenging to peel—but we promise they’re well worth it.  The chewy texture is very satisfying and a citrus lover’s dream.

With the Lunar New Year coming up on January 28th, stock up on “lucky” citrus. Tangerines , oranges and pomelos are used as gifts and decorations during this celebration. The round and “golden” color of the fruit symbolizes fullness and wealth. In some regions of China, pomelos are decorated with bright ribbons or colored paper and given as New Year’s gifts to friends and family.

Grape

Red globe grapes are expected to arrive soon but recent storms have caused delays in shipping. This variety has large fruit with crisp firm flesh and tiny seeds in the center. Did you known red grapes contain fewer calories than green grapes and are chock full of Vitamin A, C, B6, potassium, iron and many other nutrients?

Mango

Altaulfo mangoes are expected to gap in supply for a couple weeks. Ecuador grown Kent mangos are in good supply with competitive pricing.  Try adding a few cubes to your smoothie or fruit cup for a tropical twist!

Melon

After a sluggish December, we have steady supply of mini seedless watermelons from Nature’s Nectar recently picked from two new plantings. The quality is terrific for a January melon with rosy to red fruit color, sweet flavor and firm texture. Perfect for fruit salads, savory salads and juicing! Harper’s melons are also available but supply is limited and prices are slightly higher than earlier in the season. Harpers are the netted orange-fleshed melons very similar to cantaloupes.

On the horizon, we’re expecting Mexican-grown Crenshaw and Piel de Sapo melons from Del Cabo. Crenshaws are a variety of Muskmelon made by crossing a Persian melon with a Casaba melon; they have a sweet and spicy flavor. Piel de Sapos, sometimes known as the Santa Claus melon, has thick, green-striped outer rind and pale green to white inner flesh with a mild melon flavor and sweetness close to honeydew melons. These specialty melons have a short three week harvest—make sure to order some while you can!

Pomegranate

We’re fortunate to have an extra-long pomegranate season this year! We have choice and extra fancy options for all your pomegranate needs. Pomegranate is a great fruit to promote this time of year when the focus is on health. High in anti-oxidants, pomegranate has anti-cancer properties, protects against heart disease and guards memory and brain function—it’s literally brain food!

Nuts

We have a full array of all kinds of nuts including: almond, pistachio, walnut, cashew and several blends.  With consumers focusing on health in the New Year, nuts are a great item to promote for the plethora of nutrients and health benefits. Besides being packed with protein, most nuts contain heart healthy substances including unsaturated fats, Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, Vitamin E and plant sterols.

Vegetables

Artichoke

Artichokes are holding at the higher pricing we’ve seen recently but are well worth it. They are especially nutty this time of year, a delicious result of frost bite. Steamed, roasted or made into artichoke water—there’s no wrong way to enjoy to enjoy the nutty flavor of these ‘chokes!

Asparagus

Prices on Mexican-grown asparagus are slowly falling and expected to remain sharp in the short-term. We also have excellent tips! California grown asparagus will be in supply soon at slightly higher pricing.

Bean

Green beans from Rico Farms have come to an end, but there are beans available from Good Life Organic, De la Costa, and Natures Nectar. Nature’s Nectar is a small producer that represents its own brand. 100% of their production is located on the southern end of the Baja peninsula in a small town called El Pescadero. This growing region has a relatively mild climate that makes it ideal for growing vine-ripened fruit and gorgeous vegetables.

Broccoli

Broccoli pricing and supply remain stable but may tighten due to recent severe weather. Sweet baby broccoli, also commonly known as broccolini, is expected to be in good supply for the next few weeks. Similar to broccoli, sweet baby broccoli has smaller florets and longer, thin stalks. It has a sweet flavor with notes of both broccoli and asparagus. Don’t forget about the bright beautiful Romanesco!

Brussels Sprout

Brussels sprouts pricing is coming down as Mexican-grown sprouts hit the market. We also have beautiful sprouts from third generation Rodoni Farms located in Santa Cruz, California. The Rodoni family is famous for developing the Rodoni Brussels Sprouts Stripper which mechanically cuts the sprouts from the stalks. We have plenty of sprouts–ask your Account Manager about volume deals!

Cabbage

Despite stormy weather, cabbage is in good supply. We have green, red, Napa, and beautiful Savoy for all your cabbage needs. Easily the prettiest of the bunch (we think!) Savoy has deep green and crinkly leaves.  Its flavor is mild and earthy and can be enjoyed raw in salads or cooked in soups and stir-fries.

Carrot

Bulk carrots from Ralph’s Greenhouse are limited due to a hard freeze on the crop. It may be some time before supply loosens up as weather patterns are hard to predict! Bunched carrot supply is tight but we still have several options including baby rainbow, baby yellow, baby nantes, baby chantenay and baby imperators.

Don’t forget about our baby peeled carrots (also available in rainbow) that are perfect for fresh-cut programs and Super Bowl promotions!

Cauliflower

Cheddar and graffiti cauliflower is extremely limited as our main grower has moved through their plantings. However, white cauliflower is in good supply with excellent quality. Load up on this versatile and very healthy cruciferous vegetable as we cruise through healthy resolutions month and cold/flu season! Chock full of phytonutrients and antioxidants, cauliflower is equally nutritious when consumed raw or cooked.

Celery

Celery prices are climbing as the market tightened up this past week. Severe weather leaves some uncertainty as to where prices will settle. Supply remains somewhat steady at this time with both domestic and imported crop available. Expect an uptick in celery demand as we get closer to Super Bowl weekend and football fans want celery sticks with their game wings!

Cucumber

All is cool on the cucumber front. Persian and English hothouse cucumbers are limited due to a gap in crops. Prices on the English hothouse are expected to remain high and supply limited until early February.  Slicer cucumbers are in great supply from a number of growers with excellent pricing. We are also excited to announce Fair Trade cucumbers are available from Wholesum Harvest! Wholesum Harvest’s Fair Trade program is one of the gold standards in the industry and has even expanded to their domestic production!

Eggplant

Prices are back up after last week’s dip and we now have beautiful globe eggplant from Nature’s Nectar! Did you know that eggplants come in both male and female types? The male type has a more bitter taste, whereas the female has a more neutral and slightly sweet taste. If the bitter flavor of the male-type bothers you, try sprinkling salt on your chopped eggplant and let it sit for 5 minutes to draw out excess moisture and bitter compounds. Blot with a towel and proceed with your recipe.

Greens

It’s not looking great right now for bunched greens; the market is very tight. Recent rains have left fields muddy, adding even more challenges to the already tedious task of picking greens. Kales, dandelions and chicories are very limited although chards seem less affected by current factors. Expect some variances in quality and price as we ride out the effects of the storm.

The plateau in quality and availability in boxed greens ended with 2016. So far, 2017 has been a whole new ballgame. Growers are seeing mildew issues, harvesting has been limited due to weather issues, and with the holidays, labor has been somewhat short leading to limited production. With unpredictable weather ahead, the boxed greens market continues to be uncertain.

Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs

As expected, the lettuce market is also affected by recent weather. Red leaf and 24 count romaine is very limited. Fortunately, supply on green leaf, loose romaine and retail packs of romaine is strong with excellent quality. Red butter lettuce from Frazier Lake is plentiful and simply gorgeous! This is a great option to add a little color and flair to any ordinary salad!

Keep an eye out for green butter and red oak leaf Salanova® lettuce from Duncan Family Farms coming soon. Salanova’s unique core structure allows fully mature, compact heads of lettuce to be easily cut into individual uniform leaves once harvested. These unique lettuces have a higher yield, are easier to cultivate and have increased shelf life.

Retail greens are facing similar challenges as the rest of the greens market but to a lesser degree. We’ll continue to offer the best quality and variety we can find, but patience and flexibility are the keys to riding out this storm.

Iced herbs are also affected by the weather but the diversified growing regions minimize the overall impact to the market. Some herbs are sourced from hoop houses, which makes picking and harvesting much easier. Cilantro supply is strong but we may see small gaps in supply for curly and Italian parsley. Overall, pricing is expected to go up.

Mushroom

We’re seeing gaps in supply from All Seasons due to cold temperatures in British Columbia. Production is expected to return to normal rates once the temperature warms up. Fortunately we have steady supply of button mushrooms, criminis, beech and portabella from Monterey Mushrooms. We also have sharp pricing on #2 shiitakes from Top Hat Mushroom in 5-pound bags. This is a great item to push at this time of year for soups and stews so act fast! In the wild mushroom world, supply will be limited to yellow foot, black trumpet, and hedgehog until Morels come back on the scene in March or April (depending on the weather). For something a little fancier, check out our white truffle and winter black truffles available by the ounce! Ask your Account Manager about our supply of dried mushrooms for something exotic to spice up winter menus.

Pea

English peas are still very limited. Snaps and snows are in good supply with prices slowly coming down on snap peas. The flavor has been consistent for winter peas.

Pepper

The pepper market is strong with great supply on all varieties of imported bell peppers. We’re seeing sharp pricing on Mexico-grown red, orange and yellow bells from Aztlan—currently at peak production! Looking for some green bells? We’re seeing high quality options from Uesugi Farms and Divine Flavor. Peppers are a great item to add to any fresh-cut program as crudité or a pre-cut fajita mix!

The chili pepper market is a little tighter. Domestic jalapenos from Pasha are done but we have great pricing on imported jalapenos from Del Cabo. Red jalapenos are limited and may not be available until their next season in late spring/early summer. Anaheims and serranos are available now but cherry bombs will gap in supply until early February. On the sweeter side, we have delicious sweet petite pepper medley packed in clamshells from Del Cabo.

Potato

Russets from Fern Ridge are limited due to record cold temperature in Oregon. However, we have supply from several other growers so there should be no gaps in supply. Overall, the potato market is holding steady with great supply and pricing on Yukons, red and yellow creamers. Purple “C”s are limited but availability should pick up in the next couple weeks. Don’t forget to check out our fingerling options. We have French, Russian Banana and medleys! Fingerlings are great served alongside roasts with skin-on or sautéed with butter and herbs!

We love love Rancho Piccolo purple sweet potatoes! The quality is high on these purple skinned beauties and pricing is competitive to purple stokes. Load up on our many varieties up sweet potatoes including Garnets, Hannah sweets, Japanese sweets, and Jewels. Sweet potatoes are the new starch as customers turn to sweet potato spirals and sweet potato fries for their recipes.

Root

Roots are where we’re at this winter with good supply and excellent pricing on parsnips, rutabaga and turnips. We’re especially fond of parsnips at this point in the season. The flavor is mild and sweet after the winter frost. Although usually cooked, parsnips can be eaten raw like carrots! Looking to mix up your roots? Take a look at our sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes. This tubular root has a delicate, sweet artichoke-like flavor. Try ‘em roasted with some olive oil or puree into a light but creamy soup! Be careful of the inulin content in sunchokes—which may cause some discomfort to those with a sensitivity!

Peruvian yellow ginger supply is strong with many growers coming on the market. Prices are low; this is a good time to grab it! We’ll also see some young yellow ginger from Hawaii coming soon!

High on the health trend list this year is turmeric. Often added to juices, tonics and food, turmeric has dozens of great medicinal and cooking uses. Supply is steady with a few different varietals available Hawaiian grower, Maui Olena. Available in 5 and 25 pound bags, we offer: Hawaiian Red, Yellow Indira and White Amada. Hawaiian Reds have a robust and earthy flavor while White Amada offers creamy white flesh and the taste of green mango. Yellow Indira boasts the highest concentration of curcuminoids—the compounds responsible for turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties

Specialty Vegetable

Did you know we offer aloe vera? This prickly plant is more than just room décor. It offers numerous medicinal applications and can be applied directly to the skin for hydration or added to yogurts, drinks and desserts to help lower blood sugar and soothe the digestive system.

Squash

We are excited to announce we have Fair Trade zucchini available from Wholesum Harvest, grown in Mexico. Wholesum Harvest is committed to fair sourcing and this program allows them to pay workers fairly and empower the community. Learn more about Wholesum Harvest’s Fair Trade program. Yellow squash and other specialty soft squash including sunburst and pattypan are very limited.

California hard squash supply is steady but prices are going up across the board for butternut, delicata, Kabocha and spaghetti. We also have imported green acorn squash from Rico Farms in Mexico. This acorn-shaped squash has a mildly sweet and nutty flavor with a thin skin that is edible when cooked. We like using the squash halved as a bowl and stuffed with meats, cheeses, soups or other veggies!

Tomato

We’re seeing very attractive pricing on tomatoes on vine from a couple different growers. Look for Wholesum Harvest’s Fair Trade TOV which is boasting comparable pricing to non Fair Trade options. For more Fair Trade produce, Roma tomatoes are also available with great supply. In cherry land, red cherry tomatoes are limited but heirloom cherries are holding steady. Sweet sugar plums from Del Cabo are available with sharp pricing.

 

Fresh-cut

If you haven’t looked into our fresh-cut program, now is the time. We offer a full line of fruits and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways—peeled, cubed, julienned, sliced just to name a few! When convenience and health are top of mind in 2017, stay ahead of trends by making sure your store, deli and walk-ins are stocked appropriately to take advantage of increased demand. Talk to your Account Manager to see how we can support your value-added program.

Coming up on Super Bowl weekend, consider adding baby peeled carrots and fresh-cut veggie packs of celery, carrots, and bell peppers to your displays. Customers will be searching for easy finger-foods to complement the standard guacamole and buffalo wings!

We’re excited to introduce two new healthy products from joyloop: organic sweet potato spirals and organic sweet potato “rice.” Both are great alternatives to traditional pasta or grains. Also, check out the zucchini spirals or as we like to call them “zoodles” and cauliflower “rice.” These are great items to promote and have on stock as customers start thinking about healthy eating.

 

Grocery

Juice

Love Beets offers delicious beet and beet and ginger juices in 6-pack bases of 14 ounce bottles. Beet juice is full of powerful antioxidants and nitrates, boosting stamina and endurance. All juices are 100% natural and gluten free, with no added sugars, artificial colors or preservatives. Love Beet’s unique filtration system allows for a desirably smooth taste.

Not a beet fan? We also carry lemon juice, apple juice and orange juice from Columbia Gorge in ½ gallon containers.

 

Floral

Heavy rains have put a temporary halt to production of fresh cut flowers from Thomas Farm. All efforts will be put into keeping the soil (and flower bulbs) in place. Delivery is expected to resume starting January 19th, weather permitting. But through the rain, there is some sunshine! Tulip bouquets are finally here and available for delivery! Tulips are sold as straight packs with 10 stems to a bunch per color. Add these to your floral display for a stunning boost of color and cheer.

Full Belly Farm dried bouquets are available without pre-order, subject to availability.

 

Merchandising Corner

Keeping in Tune with Merchandising Opportunities

What do resolutions, good fortune, sports and romance all have in common? They are all opportunities to highlight produce and cross merchandise other foods that shoppers associate with these smaller holidays. They are also prime opportunities to keep your merchandising festive all year long. Did you know that Super Bowl Sunday is the 2nd largest day of food consumption in the United States after Thanksgiving? Over 8,000,000 lbs. of guacamole will be consumed on this day. That’s a lot of avocadoes.

Increasing department and store sales the week before game day should be easy with a little display planning. Integrating crowd-pleasing finger foods or beverages into your fresh display will help shoppers to easily make their purchase. Placing fresh dips, chips, tomatoes, jalapenos and cilantro around your avocado display will inspire guacamole, salsa and nachos. Building a russet potato display and working in sour cream, green onions, ranch dressing and pre-cut fries will remind shoppers just how good Tailgate Tots are and encourage sales for this game day favorite.

But before we get to Super Bowl Sunday, keep the inspiration of New Year’s resolutions going strong with health focused displays. Bowls are booming and this trend offers opportunity to work protein, grains, fruits, nuts and spices into your set. Savory snack bars or sea veggies next to your fruit display can easily add a few extra dollars to the average transaction as well.

With the Lunar New Year approaching, healthy and wealthy go together. Displaying and eating tangerines, oranges and pomelos is said to bring wealth and luck. According to the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, the tradition stems from the way the Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, while the word for tangerine echoes luck. It’s good if they have leaves, because leaves symbolize longevity. The leafy green Gai Lan (Chinese broccoli) is served whole to wish the parents a long life.

Before you know it, February will be here and you can woo just about anybody into buying strawberries and chocolate or blood oranges and champagne with a well-crafted display!