“A cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.”
– Mark Twain
Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, along with broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts. The head is made up of tightly packed clusters of florets, known as the “curd”. It is believed to have originated in Asia Minor and ancestry traces it back to the wild cabbage! Cauliflower is often considered one of the healthiest foods on Earth. With its rich supply of phytochemicals, high level of anti-inflammatory compounds, and ability to ward off cancer, heart disease, brain disease, and even weight gain, there isn’t much cauliflower can’t do.
In the kitchen cauliflower is used in a number of dishes such as soups, salads, curry, and most recently cauliflower “rice.” When it comes to cooking (or not cooking) cauliflower, are all varietals equal? How does the cheddar or graffiti compare to the classic white cauliflower? Try them all and let your customers decide for themselves.
Cheddar Cauliflower ranges from creamy coral to sunburst orange! The hue, it turns out, comes from the extra beta-carotene naturally stored in its florets (which also gives this cauliflower 25 percent more vitamin A than the more common white variety). Its flavor is mild with subtle nutty sweet nuances, a taste which is amplified when roasted.
Graffiti Cauliflower gets its beautiful purple hue, which can vary from pale to jewel-toned, from the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine. Purple cauliflower is mild and slightly sweet with nutty nuances.
Broccoflower refers to green cauliflower, available in the normal curd shape or to the variety with a fractal spiral curd, known as Romanesco broccoli. Both have a lime-green curd color. The striking pattern on the flower head of Romanesco is not only a graphic representation of a Fibonacci series, it is also a logarithmic spiral as close to a fractal as can occur in nature. Look for Romanesco listed under the broccoli category on our availability lists!
*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.
Apple and Pear
The apple market is steady with many popular varietals available including extra fancy Pink Lady, Ambrosia, Fuji, Gala, Granny, and Opal. Let’s not forget the refreshing Cameo! This crisp and hearty apple has a deep, juicy sweet flavor with hints of citrus and a slightly tangy finish. Cameo was discovered in the 1980s when Darrel Caudle discovered a chance seedling that appeared among his Red Delicious and Golden Delicious trees.
Green D’Anjou pear is in strong supply with excellent pricing. Bosc prices are expected to increase soon so order now! Stay tuned for some imported Bartletts from Argentina coming this month!
Avo lovers rejoice! We currently have lots of avocado varieties available. Both California grown and Mexico grown Hass are available with limited supply on the Californians. From the green skins, we have California grown Ettinger and Bacon. Ettingers are similar to Fuerte with a creamy and nutty taste. Mashed, raw or cooked, you can’t go wrong with any variety of these heart healthy fruits.
California grown strawberry supply is limited and it’s unclear when production will bounce back from January’s stormy weather. Supply of Arizona grown strawberries from Duncan Family Farms also remains tight but is expected to improve come mid-February. Import blueberry supply remains steady, especially with berries from Mexico adding to the flow of product from Chile. California blueberry supply from Homegrown Organic Farms is improving and will be steadily available through March. Raspberry prices remain high until supply improves near the end of the month. Blackberry production in Mexico has slowed across all labels and prices have risen sharply. Supply looks like it will remain tight through February as producers have pruned the fields and are awaiting the next set of blooms to come in.
Lemon supply remains tight and pricing is high. Limes are faring slightly better with supply from both California and Mexico growers.
Navel oranges are back on track with several sizes and growers available. Prices seem to be steady. Blood oranges season is underway with delicious fruit from Beck Grove (Demeter certified biodynamic) and incoming supply from Cousins. The blood orange get its name from the blood red color of its juice, which is rich and delicious with overtones of fresh berries. No two oranges are alike; the skin and flesh ranges from orange to deep red. Bloods are easy to peel with few seeds and offer a satisfying tart and sweet flavor. Heath Ranch bloods are done for the season—a casualty of the recent rain!
Minneola tangelos from Rucker Homestead are done for the season. TDE Tangerines, a cross between Temple Tangor, Dancy and Encore mandarins have arrived! The fruit is virtually seedless and is great for eating or juicing. We also have tango tangerines from a couple different growers available. Tangos are a mid to late season variety with a sweet citrus flavor and mild sour notes. Its rind is rich with citrus oil and becomes very aromatic if muddled. Not to be overlooked are the seasonal Kishu mandarins. 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!)
Ruby grapefruit from B&J Ranch is going strong with plenty of large sizes. This grower’s fruit is loved by citrus and fruit eaters alike so stock up! African Shaddock pomelos from Buck Brand are limited ending soon. Order now and don’t miss out on trying this delicious citrus! Pomelos have the sweet mild grapefruit taste with very little of the bitterness commonly found in grapefruit.
Red globe grapes have finally arrived and are worth the wait. This season’s crop has sweet juicy flavor and crisp bite. Because of their large size, red globes make great ice cubes when frozen. Be careful of the seeds in the center!
After a short gap, Altaulfo mangoes from Ecuador are back in supply. Peruvian grown Kent mangos prices are dropping so be sure to add some to your order! Kents have beautiful red-green skin and sweet tender flesh that tastes best when perfectly ripe. Look for yellow undertones or dots that cover more of the mango as it ripens. Squeeze gently to assess ripeness and look for wrinkles, which indicates they are ready to eat!
Mini seedless watermelon supply is increasing and is expected to remain steady overall. Prices, however, have not come down as demand has been outpacing availability. Mexican-grown Crenshaw from Del Cabo have come in and are tasting fantastic. Crenshaws are a variety of Muskmelon made by crossing a Persian melon with a Casaba melon; they have a sweet and spicy flavor. Harper’s melons are also available but supply is limited. Harpers are the netted orange-fleshed melons very similar to cantaloupes. Both these specialty melons are great options for a sampling table!
Pineapple supply is gapping as imported product is experiencing delays at the US border. We’re hopeful more supply will be available in the coming weeks.
Pomegranates have had a truly monumental season this year, extending way beyond normal season expectations. We still have a limited supply of choice grade fruit as well as arils packed in 8×4.4ounce split bowls. With healthy food trends leading the way this year, stock up on this super food while it’s available!
Nuts and Seeds
With consumers focusing on health at this time of year, nuts and seeds are a great item to promote for the plethora of nutrients and health benefits. Our nut availability includes: almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts as well as sunflower and pumpkin seeds, all sourced from local California farms. Our nuts are offered in several pack types and available shelled or roasted and salted.
Artichokes pricing has finally come down so don’t miss out on the attractive pricing! California grown ‘chokes often get “frost kissed” during the winter, causing some outer layers to turn brown. Although the brownish color is less pretty, “frost kissed” artichokes have a nuttier and more intense flavor than the ones not affected by frost. Artichokes are “frost kissed” when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. Following a freeze, it takes two to three weeks before the artichoke plant can start producing “frost free” ‘chokes again.
Mexican grown asparagus supply is suddenly very tight. California grown asparagus is limited but we’re hopeful supply will increase soon. This early in the season, California grown asparagus is especially delightful with sweet and succulent flavor and hearty crunch!
Although the overall green bean market is dropping, our main supplier, Natures Nectar is limited with slightly higher pricing. 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.
The broccoli market is dropping with steady supply and attractive pricing on crowns and sweet baby broccoli, also commonly known as broccolini. With healthy resolutions still intact, seize the opportunity to promote and include this veggie in ad or specials program.
Romanesco supply is also holding steady. We love that Romanesco retains its gorgeous green color even during cooking. Cook it briefly to emphasize the grassy, vegetal aspects of its flavor; cook it longer and a subtle, earthy sweetness emerges
We have sharp pricing on both California and Mexico grown Brussels sprouts. Now is the time to stock your shelves with this nutritious veggie and consider adding halved sprouts to your fresh-cut program for customers seeking convenience. Brussels sprouts are often prepared in the oven but we love it finely chopped and raw as part of a refreshing slaw!
White cauliflower has excellent pricing on all sizes. We’re seeing steady supply on cheddar cauliflower from Trina Perry and Capay Organic but pricing is high. Graffiti (purple) cauliflower remains limited. Prepared raw or cooked, cauliflower still offers many vitamins and nutrients. Add some to your order and don’t miss out on the cauliflower “rice” trend!
Prices are falling on California grown celery with steady supply from several growers. Despite recent turbulent weather in January, quality is strong with vibrant color and sweet, crisp flavor. “Stalk” up now before Mother Nature disrupts the market again!
Persian and English hothouse cucumbers are still limited due to a gap in production. Slicer cucumbers are holding steady with supply from Mexican grower, Ram’s Farm. These ‘cukes have excellent mild flavor and lovely smooth skin.
Amidst unpredictable weather, availability of boxed and bunched greens continues to be hit or miss. Both wild arugula and baby spinach were subject to frost damage, heavily impacting supply. We’re expecting more product to become available in early February. Spring mix and baby dino kale are holding steady for the moment but the market remains uncertain.
Chard and kale production from California desert regions have improved, and prices have come down accordingly. Warm weather is forecasted in the short term and supply from the region should be steady during the stretch. Closer to the Bay Area, wet weather will likely limit harvest for a few days.
Lettuce, Retail Greens and Herbs
Red and green romaine continue to be limited. Red butter lettuce is becoming more steady with green butter expected to follow suit. On the retail front, baby spinach retail packs continue to be limited and wild arugula retail packs will likely be limited as well. We have some supply of retail bags and clamshells but get your orders in early as they’re selling out every day.
Iced herbs are in good supply. Basil has been limited and is expected to remain limited in the near future. Some quality issues caused spearmint supply to be slightly limited.
With impending rain and inconsistent temperature on the horizon, expect the lettuce, greens and herbs market to be uncertain with sudden changes in quality, price and supply.
Shiitakes from Far West Fungi is limited but with product from Top Hat Mushroom also hitting the market, there should be steady supply. Oyster mushrooms from E&H Farms have started up and are chock full of earthy flavor. E&H Farms is located in Oakdale, California in San Joaquin Valley and produces a variety of organic oyster mushrooms in different sizes and colors. Mushrooms are harvested daily to maintain freshness and quality. Cold temperatures in British Columbia continues to cause gaps in supply from All Seasons. Production is expected to return to normal rates once the temperature warms up. Supply of button mushrooms, criminis, beech and portabella remains steady through local grower Monterey Mushrooms.
The pepper market is tight with limited availability on yellow, orange and green bells. Prices are on the rise. Red bells have more supply but are still experiencing the higher pricing.
The potato market is abundant with a wide variety of spuds available. We have russets, yellows, reds, and Yukon golds in various sizes as well as specialty potatoes such as purple “C” and fingerlings. Yellow 10×5 bales have sharp pricing—get in on these while you can!
Rutabagas, turnips and parsnips are in good supply. We offer a wide variety of turnips including white, gold, purple top, jumbo purple top, and scarlet. Scarlet turnips (closer to fuschia) add a vibrant splash of color to displays and menu. Often confused with a turnip, rutabagas are an entirely separate vegetable that originated from a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. Similar to many other root veggies, rutabagas can be enjoyed raw, roasted, boiled or mashed! Some parsnip growers are winding down, but we do not expect any gaps in supply. Parsnips are a great alternative to carrots and offers a sweet mild flavor. Cold weather makes them sweeter! It was even used as a sweetener in Europe before the arrival of cane sugar. Jicama supply is limited due to some routing challenges.
The ginger market is holding steady with imported and domestic product currently available. We have yellow ginger from several Peruvian growers as well as young white ginger and yellow ginger from Hawaiian grower Kolo Kai. Increasingly popular, ginger is hailed for the health benefits and flavor enhancement in cooking. Turmeric is also high in demand for its myriad of health benefits. Often added to juices, tonics and food, turmeric has dozens of great medicinal and cooking uses. Supply is strong from Hawaiian growers.
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.
Yellow squash and other specialty soft squash are very limited with high pricing. Mexico grown zucchini prices are dropping and supply is steady. Take advantage of the sharp pricing and stock up on this versatile and popular veggie. Zucchini spirals or ”zoodles” are all the rage this year.
Imported green acorn squash from Rico Farms in Mexico is done for the season as is imported and domestic delicata squash. Butternut, Kabocha and spaghetti are holding steady.
Cooler temperatures are causing Roma tomatoes to ripen more slowly and impacting supply. We expect prices to go up and supply to remain limited in the short term. Tomatoes on vine (TOV) are holding steady with supply from Mexican and domestic growers. Sugar plum and sweet grape prices are up although Good Life Organic’s sweet grape tomatoes in a compostable fiber basket are still on the lower side. We’re seeing attractive pricing on the cherry tomato heirloom medley from Del Cabo. High quality and great flavor make these a great cherry tomato option!
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.
Joyloop packaged fresh-cut vegetables are great additions to any store. They offer sweet potato spirals, sweet potato “rice” as well as zucchini spirals and cauliflower “rice.” All varieties are great alternatives to traditional pasta or grains and have a shelf life of 10-12 days. Each 8 x 8 ounce bag is approximately 2-3 cups of veggies. These are great items to promote and have on stock as customers are looking for easier ways to eat healthy.
Maple products are predicted to be at the top of food trends this year. We are currently offering a full line of delicious maple products including maple syrup in various size packs, maple sugar candy, and even whipped maple cream (great on toast, pancakes, yogurt and more!) All products are certified organic and great to have through the winter months. The products are sourced from Maple Valley Co-op, a producer co-op modeled after famed Organic Valley. If you need a healthy sweet treat, maple is the way to go. Ask your Account Manager for the details.
Valentine’s Day is coming up on February 14th. Plan ahead for one of the largest floral days of the year! All Thomas Farm bouquets will include red and pink tulips for the occasion. Holiday bouquets will each have 10 tulips, Pink Ice, plus various protea and greens. Seasonal bouquets will each have 5-7 tulips, plus various protea and greens. Cutie bouquets will each have 3 tulips and other flowers. Order in advance to guarantee shipping by the 14th.
Full Belly Farm dried bouquets are available without pre-order, subject to availability.
How Good is Your Shrink?
Produce managers generally have a sense that there will always be some level of shrink. It used to be that a certain percentage of shrink was actually a byproduct of the “stack ‘em high and watch ‘em fly” strategy to reach sales goals so shrink was tolerated with a “good enough” syndrome.
However, times are changing with profitability, competition and food waste issues coming to the forefront. Shrink rates are finally being scrutinized because it is missed opportunity to increase the bottom line. Simply put “good enough” is no longer good enough. Shrink occurs for many reasons and many systems can be put in place to revise shrink to a sustainable level such as 1-3%. It’s a merchandising issue as much as it is a purchasing issue. But what cannot be measured is hard to fix. It is common for produce departments to run 5-8% shrink and most often there is not a clear picture of where the losses are occurring. Setting shrink metrics is pivotal for changes to happen throughout the department and in sustained ways.
So, just how do you do that?
A project that begins to gain insights into what limits freshness and drives shrink is the place to start. It’s crucial to spend time developing a system to gather a base of facts. Most stores have basic, if not detailed daily sales information. As a produce buyer, it’s a good idea to learn Excel and a necessary one if you are going to drill down into the shrink challenge and set new target goals. There are free and easy to learn tutorials on the web or you might even convince your employer to send you to an Excel class. Either way spreadsheets are fast becoming the produce buyers friend, offering purchasing and pricing insights that just aren’t visible with a clipboard or a calculator.
There are 3 types of spreadsheets to successfully manage your shrink:
A purchase order guide tracks how much you need to order to keep your display stocked until your next delivery. When setting up an order guide it forces you to look at how much you are selling of each item per day from your sales reports so that you can dial in your orders and prevent spoilage. It also gives you another perspective with which to step back and carefully review how much display space you allow for each item. Walking through this step with the employees who do the stocking provides valuable insight to plan a reset with new stock levels that save purchasing dollars and improve freshness.
A purchase journal guide tracks your purchases and helps you stay within your budget and monthly margin goals. Are you ordering to fill the department or are you ordering within your budget? Sometimes departments can hold much more product than what daily sales require causing unnecessary spoilage. Accurately setting your displays to be abundant, attractive and within budget is another area to focus efforts. Purchasing accuracy is one piece of the pie in maintaining freshness and preventing shrink.
A blended margin pricing guide allows you to price each item, enter the volume purchased and then adjust the individual margin for each item to achieve a blended target margin. Highly perishable items need to be priced to move quickly, otherwise they will spoil. This sometimes means they will have a margin lower than the target margin for the department. Longer shelf life items can capture a greater margin and offset items under the target margin to help the department meet its target goals and maintain freshness and prevent spoilage. Without taking into account your purchase volume (weighted margin) your target margin is just a shot in the dark. Setting up and managing a daily guide does not need to be time consuming, a well-constructed guide could take as little as 20 minutes a day.
By gathering and piecing together data from every relevant area, sales movement reports, a weekly purchasing budget guide, blended margin spreadsheet and working with staff on display level best practices and so on, it is possible to rapidly build up a clear picture of what’s driving shrink. Percentage points add up and shrink is more often spread across many categories and systems rather than just a few. Making detailed changes across the department is what’s required to recapture the margin points on a daily basis. By taking these steps and using new tools shrink levels can begin to fall in a matter of weeks and provide you with solid numbers to base future actions on as well as regain thousands of dollars from product shrink.