Soup To Nutz

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With the unusually cool and rainy weather we have had in the past two months, one would think the crop of Jersey Fresh fruits and veggies would be delayed less or less than robust this season. According to New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) Secretary Doug Fisher, that is not going to be the case. Although the planting season began two weeks late, that slow warmth has provided excellent growing conditions which will yield a better than usual crop with an extended growing season. Secretary Fisher, along with his team and family farmers from all over the Garden State, gave their reports at the Eastern Produce Council’s Spring dinner on May 21 at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ. The message NJDA came to convey is that locally grown produce is where it’s at. Jersey peaches will be available from July 1 to September 13; blueberries, which have been grown in New Jersey for 100 years, are ready now; and sure-to-be delicious Jersey corn is close to four feet tall. To coincide with this year’s growing season, the NJDA has refreshed its website. Now available is Plug in a location and what you are looking for and a map appears with all the locations to find that product. It’s a win-win.

Weis Markets has had a very busy spring. Earlier this month, it announced a multi-year partnership to become the official grocery store of Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA. This includes two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, a NASCAR Xfinity Series event, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, a Verizon IndyCar Series race and two ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards events. “Pocono Raceway offers great racing and one of the most family-friendly venues on the East Coast, providing a locally focused customer experience in our core markets of Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” said Ron Bonacci, Weis Markets vice president of advertising and marketing. “We look forward to incorporating our sponsorship into our marketing programs in the coming months to give our customers the chance to see great racing. This will be a terrific partnership for our customers, racing fans and our company.” Weis Markets sponsorship includes extensive signage, digital and audio recognition at all raceway events. In addition, plans are in the works for a NASCAR show car appearance schedule for stores near the track.

Along with the Pocono Raceway deal, Weis is helping customers take a step toward a healthier lifestyle with the launch of its new themed health and wellness program, Plant Powered. The chain-wide initiative features in-store signage identifying a variety of healthful plant-based foods that can easily be incorporated into everyday meals and snacks. Customers will see special signage on Weis Quality and Weis Signature Collection and Full Circle price tags, as well as select national brands, identifying foods that support a balanced, plant powered diet. Foods identified as Plant Powered by the Weis dietitians include: fruits and vegetables, beans and lentils, fruits packed in 100 percent juice or water, vegetables that can be drained and rinsed, whole-grain rice, pasta, cereal, bread and specialty grains, soy and almond milks, healthful oils, select nuts and tea. “Our Plant Powered program offers guidance on an eating approach that is a more flexible than vegetarianism or veganism, yet may offer many of the same benefits, including lower risk for heart disease and an increased intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and unsaturated fats,” said Weis Markets’ lifestyle initiatives manager Beth Stark. “According to Nielsen survey data, we know that more than one in three Americans are actively trying to include more plant-based foods in their diets. This program aims to help them understand where to find these foods and how to enjoy them at home.” In addition to offering fresh new plant-powered recipes, Weis’ registered dietitians also offer simple swaps to make the shift from animal-based to plant-based ingredients in shoppers’ favorite meals. This program is the latest addition to a robust list of health and wellness initiatives driven by the Weis’ growing team of seven registered dietitians. Also, Weis has announced the expansion of its HealthyBites Magazine with an online health and wellness community that connects customers with the Weis dietitian team. The Sunbury, PA based retailer offers free in-store dietitian hosted events in select stores across its marketing area.

Not only is Weis helping its customers keep a healthy lifestyle, their stores raised $385,000 for more than 150 local animal shelters and pet rescue organization during its tenth annual Paws for Pets initiative, marking a 21 percent increase compared to 2017. During the four-week program from April 26 to May 23, customers purchased vouchers for $1, $3 or $5, with all proceeds donated to pet shelters and rescue organizations selected at the local level. Weis customers also donated various pet-related products including dog, cat, puppy and kitten food; cat litter; collars; harnesses and leashes; and related products. Weis also partnered with local shelters to host nearly 30 pet adoption events and pet photo shoots at local stores. “Our Paws for Pets program has had another record year thanks to the hard work of our store associates, and the generosity of our customers,” said Bonacci. “They’ve helped us generate record donations in 2018 and nearly $2 million in contributions and product donations since 2008. These donations will help more than 150 animal shelters and rescue organization throughout our market area.”

IDDBA 18, held in New Orleans from June 10 to 12, was nothing short of spectacular. More tham 10,500 attendees browsed and met with 891 exhibiting companies qualified buyers, merchandisers, executives, manufacturers, brokers, distributors, and other industry professionals. This sold-out expo consisted of a record 2,089 booths. The event offered an abundance of educational experiences from actionable merchandising ideas and new products to presentations from influencers and experts, with more opportunities to grow one’s business than ever before. The speaker lineup included influencers, leaders, and entrepreneurs who provided attendees with a powerful learning experience and offered them key business takeaways. No big headliners this year, though. The New Product Showcase, which must be viewed as soon as the show floor opens, was a destination for those looking for unique products and innovative trends all in one place. Attendees got an all-encompassing look at the 1,300-plus new cutting-edge products and packaging. Hummus was our winner of the “how many more companies are going to make this stuff” award. Another newer learning opportunity was Expert Neighborhood where attendees had one-on-one consultations with experts from various industries. Questions about leadership, business, regulations and marketing were answered during premade appointments. Experts included CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors, and specialists who have the experience and knowledge to navigate through business challenges. There were also some mini seminars with general admission on the show floor. Hearing the speakers was a significant issue which needs some work, however. The always popular Show and Sell presented fresh examples of how businesses can engage and appeal to customers through merchandising ideas, concepts, and demonstrations. Trends and research were depicted through displays using real products from IDDBA sponsors. From donut samplings with unique toppings to pairing ideas and customized meal kit options, these concepts helped attendees experience out-of-the-box approaches and learn new ways they can engage shoppers.

Two new member programs were introduced this year. The Fresh Careers Program offered students who have an interest in the food industry a chance to experience professional networking at IDDBA 18. With a career ambassador guiding them, the students soaked it all in: they explored the trade show floor, saw new product innovations, and networked. A group of four students from Saint Joseph’s University (SJU), chaperoned by George Latella, visiting professor of food marketing, participated. The young women were professional, eager to learn, unafraid to ask questions and ready to take on the ever-changing food industry. The other new program are IDDBA Deli & Bakery Rising Stars Manager Certification and Entry-level Associate Certification programs. These new professional development programs assess and recognize a mastery of work knowledge and competencies needed to run a service deli or bakery department or to provide customer excellence as an entry-level team associate.

IDDBA continues to stay relevant as it grows attendance each year and innovates the event as changes in the dairy/deli/bakery sector of the food industry occur at a rapid pace. Get your Mickey ears ready, next year’s show is in Orlando, June 2-4.

On May 19, Kreider Farms hosted its first World Vision 6-K for Water on its farm in Manheim (Lancaster County), PA. The amount raised, $155,000, was much higher than the original goal of $100,000. More than 300 people participated in the inaugural event. The race is a 6-K and not a 5-K (as are most races) because in impoverished countries the average distance people have to walk round-trip to get clean drinking water is six kilometers. The funds raised from this walk will provide fresh water wells in local communities for up to 3,000 children around the world. Kreider Farms owners Ron and Hollee Kreider are big supporters of World Vision. Congrats!

Philadelphia-based, family-owned and operated deli manufacturer Dietz & Watson is using celebrities other than Momma Dietz (Ruth Eni, the daughter of company founder Gottlieb Dietz) to raise brand awareness for the nearly 80 year old company. The “It’s a Family Thing” campaign uses a real-life couple – actress and model Brooklyn Decker and her tennis star husband Andy Roddick – to underscore the importance of family and to highlight some of the unique, funny and crazy little life moments that make family, family. This is a message that is important to the family company and always has been. “This partnership with Andy and Brooklyn will set the stage for raising awareness of our brand and premium products in our most important markets,” said Lauren Eni, vice president of brand strategy and great granddaughter of founder Gottlieb Dietz. “Our aim was not only to advertise, but also to entertain by relating our brand and our products to everyday consumers and the little life moments that occur in all of our lives day in and day out. “We call our full line of deli meat and cheese products ‘approachable gourmet,’ because they are premium items made with premium ingredients, but they are designed in a lot of ways for people with busy lifestyles that that require both convenience and quality,” added Eni. This campaign is a first for the company in working with celebrities to serve as the face of a campaign. Being millennial parents themselves, Decker and Roddick were a natural fit. They represent the connection between sharing life’s little moments and the current consumer shopping the grocery store. This real-life look inside these celebrities’ home is the kind of thing consumers seek out on Instagram, on celebrity social media pages, reality TV shows featuring celebrities and more. The spots will run nationally in 20 U.S. markets including Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC. A third, remaining spot will air later this year and will saturate these markets and more. For this campaign, Dietz & Watson focused on the integration of creative and product features in the spots and will be combining the campaign with an in-store presence to help connect and drive consumer demand for Dietz & Watson items at retail partner locations. In addition, as part of this campaign, key retailers will be supported with targeted out-of-home, radio, digital, and social activations. Deli-Deli!

The New Jersey Food Council (NJFC) hosted a special event to honor 2018 scholarship recipients from the Educational Development Scholarship Foundation at Forsgate Country Club, in Monroe, NJ earlier this month. The recipients and their families were joined by members of the board of directors as well as company sponsors of the individual scholarship awards. Since the inception of the program in 2011, the three NJFC scholarships have grown from $2,000 to $5,000 each and now the foundation manages an additional 16 member supported scholarships. In all, 19 scholarships will be awarded this year totaling $62,000. “We continue to be impressed with how significantly our scholarship program has expanded over the last few years,” said NJFC President and CEO Linda Doherty. “The growth of our scholarship program since 2011 is a rewarding benefit to our members and their families. The overwhelming support of our members and the opportunity to make such a meaningful contribution to the lives of our associates and their families makes this one of the most rewarding programs we offer.” Doherty added, “NJFC received 247 applications this year for consideration, nearly doubling the number of applications received in relation to last year. The selection committee was overwhelmingly impressed with the number and quality of applications. Our scholarship winners and all applicants are a shining example of the youth of today and their goals to succeed in today’s competitive business climate.”

The circle of life continues as Megan Caruso of Burris Logistics and her husband John Caruso welcomed son Luca Alexander to the world on May 25. Baby and Mommy are healthy and doing well. Luca is a real cutie!

Birthday shout outs for the celebratory month of June go to: Jeff Geiges, Acme Markets; Mark Tarzwell, Mrs. T’s; Jim Burke Sr., Seafood America; Bill Derbyshire, Liberty Coca-Cola; Doug Clemens, Clemens Food Group; Tom Morrison, Integrity/ESM; Nancy Rodgers-Fluharty, Pace Target Brokers; John Sottile, retired, Anco Cheese; Ralph Nagle, retired, Rastelli’s Market Fresh; Brian Chick, Imler Poultry; Food World/Food Trade News editor Terri Maloney; and our fearless leader, publisher Jeff Metzger. Buon compleanno a tutti! A special birthday shout-out to the hard working folks at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market as they celebrate seven years in the world’s largest fully-enclosed, fully-refrigerated wholesale produce terminal. Cent’ anni!


Quote of the month: “We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came…” Joni Mitchell