Posts Tagged ‘ fruit ’

Issue 87: PMA Summit 2005

March/April – 2006
Author: Lisa Crooks

Popeye has the most complete line of nationally distributed spinach items in the US and Canada.

The organisers of the 56th annual Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) 2005 Fresh Summit International Convention and Exposition PMA attracted 17,000 people and 800 exhibitors from 70 countries. All gathered at the Georgia World Congress Center between 4-8 November 2005. The professionalism for the entire event was wonderful, the experience and knowledge gained in a matter of five days, unbelievable!

Cartoon characters were a feature of the Summit to bring fresh produce to life.

As President of the PMA, Brian Silbermann, showed us the state of the industry with his insight into trends, issues, and opportunities from many different perspectives. Looking at fresh produce food service, projected sales in 2005 was a cool $476 billion, showing 13 years of consecutive growth, and a 47% share of the food dollar. This means consumers are buying more fruit and vegetables. The consumer is telling us what they want, and America showed me what they had to offer.

There were 29 different presentations from motivational presenters from around the world, covering: global trade, technology, hot topics, packaging, professional development, supply chain, consumption, and food safety. I was grateful to be travelling with Maxine Grieve from ‘Value Adding Adelaide Plains’ in South Australia. This organisation helps to develop new market and product opportunities for local business at the quality or premium end of the market. Also travelling with our group was Sue Foster, from Fosters Herbs in South Australia, and Mark McLauchlan, CEO of Foodlands. Between the four of us, attending all the workshops was still a challenge. More time was needed; also concurrent sessions would have been appreciated. There was so much information handed to us, I wanted to see it all!

Morning sessions were served up with an enticing breakfast, where sponsors promoted there products. This gave us a fantastic opportunity to network with others from around the world. Topics covered at breakfast were: Building Sustainable Market Leadership, and Maximising your ‘Return on Customer’, which takes customer relationship to the next level. The week ended with some light-hearted entertainment presented by Scott Adams, the cartoonist, sharing his journey of success in becoming the creator of ‘Dilbert’.

Other workshop topics included:

Reinventing Produce, Re-invigorating Profits
Taking a fresh produce commodity and redefine its perception in the eyes of the consumer in order to increase sales and consumption.

A unique in store display for fresh lettuce.

Another novel idea for marketing indoor plants.

Economic Influences on the Global Produce Market
How global economic indicators relate to the produce industry, and what has the greatest impact.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Data) What’s New, What’s Next
Latest developments and how the implications of these innovations could lead to greater returns for your operations.

Perfecting the Food Service Supply Chain
The answer lies in better communication and understanding. Learning how to identify some of the issues within the supply chain.

Competitive Strategies in Today’s Retail Environment
Produce Business magazine research results gave us insights into EDLP and high/low strategies, the power of loyalty cards, and the role of special buys in the retail stores.

If You Package It, They Will Buy
How packaging influences consumer purchases and what the industry could do to make them buy more.

Advanced Selling Skills: Ready, Set, Close
Assessing your level of selling and providing you with strategies, on how to increase sales significantly, by making a few small changes to your sales process.

The Role of the Wholesaler: Changing Times, Changing Roles
Wholesalers must provide value-added services by acting more as consultants to their customers, creating a mutually beneficial partnership with your customers.

A Town Hall on Transportation, Identifying Opportunities
Open discussion on critical transportation. Industry leaders offered their opinion on what initiatives they believe need to be undertaken. Yes, they have the same issues throughout the world.

Sales for All Seasons
Increasing non-holiday sales in the floral department, using the ‘5 senses’ approach to merchandising, and new opportunities for sales and the out of the box techniques and promotions needed to capture these markets.

A Proactive Approach to Your Food Safety Program
Having a solid food safety action plan is a critical element to your organisation’s future success. This session provided an overview for developing a plan of action, including the proactive measures you should incorporate.

International Retailing Trends, Lessons, and Opportunities
Examples of global retail trends and best practices – including technology, sourcing and merchandising from leaders in the industry.

Competitive Strategy:
Increase Revenue through Improved Positioning
Designed especially for non-marketing professionals – how your products compete with those that are more fun, more convenient, taste better or cost less.

Strategies for Transport Packaging
A panel of supply chain experts outlined the realities of iceless packaging and returnable packaging; the challenges surrounding supply and demand and cold chain maintenance.

Technology for Supply Chain Excellence
Consider technology such as e-commerce, barcodes, RFID tags and ‘smart shelves’ that can help you improve your operations and increase the speed and efficiency of the supply chain.

Spotting Consumer Trends
Understanding emerging consumer trends within the produce industry and how to profitably position your products: and meet ever-changing consumer demands.

If Produce Is So Good, Why Isn’t More on the Menu?
This was an interactive panel discussion on how to help your customers get more fresh produce, and what were the obstacles.

Implementing a Produce Safety Action Plan and Commodity Specific Guidelines
In response to food-borne illness associated with produce, the FDA is writing a ‘Produce Safety Action Plan’ designed to help prevent future outbreaks.

Connecting with the Customer:Taking Relationships to the Next Level
How will your actions today increase the value of your customer base tomorrow? Discovering how to leverage the strengths of the organisation to grow shareholders’ value.

Data Synchronisation
Equipping you with the basics of data synchronisation: what it is, why it is important, how it can benefit you, and where this critical process is heading.

Produce Managers Speak Out:
Consumer Behaviour As Seen Through Their Eyes

What do consumers do in reality as opposed to what they say, what consumers really value in a produce department, and what observations produce managers can share about consumer purchasing behaviour.

Everything you need to know about floral label requirements
Could the floral labelling regulations impact your business? Are you compliant with regulations. This session outlined mandatory requirements, and how some companies are handling the challenges of compliance.

Surviving and FDA Inspection:

Preparation, Compliance, and Action

Understanding your rights and what you need to do in order to be prepared for an FDA inspection.

The Secrets to Global Market Access
Hearing how some companies have gained market access into two of the biggest global markets, the United States and China. Learning from others what obstacles they had to overcome and what kind of preparation you must do before attempting entry.

Hiring Tomorrow’s Top Performers

Learning vital facts about the workforce of the future, and helping to identify what will motivate it.

The Complexities of Global Shipping

Discovering the challenges that both exporter and importer face, and what innovations have been developed to solve these challenges to increase efficiencies.

How Well Do You Understand Your Customers, and Theirs?

The importance of research can enhance supply chain communication and collaboration; examples of cutting-edge strategies that have helped companies enhance their supply relationships with consumers and supply chain partners. Options available for gathering valuable information, and how to gather and interpret your own research.

Time was allocated to visit the exhibition site of the PMA with around 800 exhibitors. There was plenty to see. Many countries from around the world proudly showcased there displays, some bringing in cartoon characters to promote products, chefs to prepare food, and authors to sign books – no stone was left unturned. Congratulations to the exhibitors; they helped to make the Summit the success it was.

The Summit identified two types of consumers to market fresh food products. The first is the consumer who wants everything done for them, just zap and serve. The type of consumer is the one who enjoys starting from scratch and preparing food. Both the supermarket and farmers’ market have a larger variety of choices. For example, take the simple carrot. It comes in different colours, typically orange, and now comes in purple and white. Options available to the customer include: whole, baby, diced, grated, sliced, julienne, carrot chips, some packs in plain orange while others are multi-coloured, pre-packed, vacuumed packed, partially cooked, blended with other vegetables, displayed with dip, and packaged on serving trays: all displayed on the shelf, be it in the fresh produce department, the freezer or the meat section, even to the deli. It was hard to choose the most popular line, as quantity of stock on the shelf appeared to be the same.

Supermarkets display fresh produce in a variety

of ways to capture consumer interest.

An assorted array of fresh produce to tempt the consumer.

By this stage of the conference, I was grateful for a change of pace and ready to be taken to the shops to see the finished products. Supermarkets are offering a larger variety in America catering more for the convenience shopper. Only some stores continue to use the black boxes; most have now opted for narrower and taller individual displays, giving the appearance of quantity and variety on the shelves with pre-cut, ready to serve, throw away containers. Then there are the farmers’ markets, offering variety plus tempting the taste buds for the more unusual. The farmers’ markets are strategically placed in more upmarket areas. In many of the markets you not only find fruit and vegetables, but also fresh seafood, a meat section, and a dairy section, including cheeses. Alcohol also appears to be a popular line with Australian wines proving very popular.

As growers, we are encouraged to see the new ideas, then to ask ourselves how we can do that better? The one thing that is clear, is that value adding is big in America!

For further information contact:

(For more information about the PMA go to website

About the author
Lisa Crooks is a Queensland-based hydroponic and soil parsley grower.

Issue 86: Laser Labelling

January/February – 2006
Author: Steven Carruthers

In-line Natural Light Label System – vertical installation.

Revolutionary new laser labelling technology now makes it possible to eliminate awkward adhesive labels on fruit and vegetables. The Natural Light Labelling System is able to etch barcodes, product codes, use-by dates, country-of-origin, logos and graphics on soft and hard skin produce. STEVEN CARRUTHERS writes that the new laser technology offers significant benefits for consumers, retailers, packers, and growers who want to distinguish their product.

(L to R): Damien Gibson, Andrew Keaney and John Scott from Natural Light Technology, NZ.

The revolutionary Natural Light Labelling System unveiled in Sydney at AUSPACK 2005 offers significant benefits for consumers, retailers, packers, as well as hydroponic and greenhouse growers who want to distinguish their product in the marketplace. The development of laser-labelling technology for fresh fruit and vegetables also coincides with mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) regulations soon to be introduced in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The Natural Light Labelling System, developed by US-based Durant-Wayland, is now being used for practical applications to label fresh fruit and vegetables in the United States and New Zealand. The main benefits of this technology are that it eliminates the use of difficult-to-remove adhesive labels, and it offers product traceability.

How does it work?
The Natural Light Labelling System has been specifically designed to easily integrate into and interface with existing pack-house equipment. The patented in-line laser equipment, which stands one metre high, facilitates printing on produce with precise control without degradation to the product. It does this in much the same way as a magnifying glass concentrates the sun’s rays, however laser technology is more precisely controlled, as it is in eye surgery.

The machine is typically installed horizontally above the packing line. For some installations this is not possible, and the machine is then placed vertically beside the line. However, a vertical installation is the exception rather than the rule. There is no difference in the machinery for a vertical as opposed to a horizontal installation, only the orientation of the machine itself and, of course, the mounting superstructure necessary to install it horizontally.

An in-line Natural Light Label System – horizontal installation.

A close-up view of a vertical installation used to label watermelons.

The Natural Light Label System is used to label watermelons at Coosaw Farms in South Carolina.

The precise control of emitted light removes the pigment layer from the surface of the produce to reveal a contrasting sub-layer. Because this removal process has been designed not to penetrate the surface or skin of the produce, it does not promote decay, reduce shelf-life, or deform the produce. In fact, if you run your finger across an etched label, you will not be able to feel it at all. The end result is sometimes referred to as a tattoo, however, the process is really the opposite of tattooing in that it removes pigment rather than adding it, and the process does not penetrate the skin whereas tattooing uses needles to penetrate the skin and inject dye.

The laser label can reflect the ‘Product Look-Up’ (PLU) code, country-of-origin, grower lot number, use-by date, barcode, or any other requested information. Not only is each piece of produce permanently coded, but the specific information can be stored electronically for any period of time.

The laser light printing process is environmentally friendly by using no consumables to label the produce.

The main features and benefits of the new laser technology are:

– Instant PLU change-over.
– Eliminates the high cost of adhesive labels.
– Eliminates consumer complaints with adhesive labels.
– No waste and very low energy costs.
– A ‘Green Product’. Favourable to the environment and consumer health.
– Capable of lot tracking, traceability, information gathering, etc.
– No consumables.
– Very low operational maintenance costs.
– Only one laser head per lane is required to meet information requirements.
– Requires no additional personnel to maintain constant operation.
– Packers no longer have to deal with inventory overheads, operational and maintenance costs that are associated with adhesive labels.
– Capable of marking produce that adhesive labels could not i.e. cucumbers.
– Capable of country-of-origin marking.
– Capable of programming in multiple languages.
– Can be used with existing pack-house equipment.
– Speed up to 14 pieces per second.
– All natural process that never comes into contact with the produce.

Laser technology only etches the outside skin of this cucumber product, offering a contrast of colours against which the laser label is etched.

Country-of-origin label requirements
The introduction of country-of-origin labelling regulations in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, makes this a timely technology. All produce in the United States is required to have a label identifying its country of origin no later than October 2006, with one year to comply. Depending on how the statute is interpreted, growers may not be allowed to sell any fruit without a label, including single pieces of fruit and vegetables.

Australia and New Zealand introduced mandatory country-of-origin regulations in late 2005 that provide consumers with clear and unambiguous information on the source of a food product, both packaged and unpackaged, including single pieces of fruit and vegetables. Like the United States, the food industry in Australia and NZ will have a phase-in period.

Whether or not COOL is made mandatory, the technology is still an attractive alternative to gummed labels.

Will customers buy etched fruit?
A consumer research study commissioned by Durand-Wayland in early 2004 covered four geographically dispersed US markets – Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta. The primary focus of the study was on apples, stone fruits and hard-skin fruits. A key finding from the study was that consumers don’t like sticker labels, which they found hard to remove, leave messy, unhealthy gum residue, and end up on the floor or stuck on the consumer.

Natural Light Label System installed at the Sunkist Ventura, California, facility.

When educated about laser labelling, consumers preferred it to the current labelling on edible skin/hard skin fruit and produce. Laser labels also mean no risk of biting or swallowing stickers, and less chance for contamination. For consumers, laser labelling will mean there will be no messy glue to wash off the fruit, and no chance of choking on an inedible piece of paper or plastic. Other benefits cited by consumers included environmentally friendly aspects, and the fact that produce can be traced.

Traceability is an important aspect because produce is perishable and it doesn’t come with a ‘use-by’ date. Now it will be possible to brand single produce quickly to not only identify where it has come from, but also with a use-by date under optimum storage conditions. Traceability also means contaminated or diseased fruit can be identified by batch numbers.

Will the consumer pay more for etched produce? Obviously, that will depend on the packer. However, the Natural Light Labelling System represents a cost savings to most packers.

What’s in it for retail outlets?
For most produce, and most applications, the percentage of produce that receives a label is well over 99% using the Natural Light Labelling System. The developer also reports the numbers are permanent, larger and easier to read than adhesive labels. For retail outlets, this means no more errors or time wasted at the checkout line because a cashier is confused about whether that tomato is hydroponic or organically grown. Laser-etched labels also overcome the problem of customers switching labels, thus eliminating losses from specialty produce being passed off as a cheaper variety.

There is also the cleanliness aspect. Laser labels mean no more problems with labels adhering to displays, checkout conveyors, floors, or other products. There are no longer any microbe-harbouring adhesive in the fresh produce area.

What’s in it for the packers?
Laser technology reduces the packer’s consumable costs for labels. It also eliminates the problem of adhesive labels that don’t adhere to the produce you are packing. They can end up everywhere – in your delicate machinery, in employees’ hair and clothing, on the bottom of your shoes. Remember, those labels that now decorate your packing house come at a cost. Also, there is the problem of storing this season’s left-over labels over the off season, only to find that the adhesive has deteriorated by the next season and the labels won’t adhere.

How you do like this scenario: All of your hard work has paid off in the shipment of some beautiful tomatoes. Trucks take it away to the wholesaler or agent who in turn sells it to retailers for consumers to enjoy. Then, you get a phone call from your agent. It turns out that only 71% of the fruit has labels on it. There was nothing wrong with your tomatoes; just the label.

There is no per piece cost with laser labelling technology. Maintenance and cleaning costs are also reduced dramatically. With fewer moving parts, the Natural Light labelling system is more reliable than conventional labelling machines. This means less down time working on equipment, changing reels, clearing jams, etc.

Another benefit of this technology is the virtual zero lead time required for one-time promotional logos. There is no investment in expensive inventory because labels can be customised quickly for individual retailers.

The Natural Light labelling system eliminates the high cost of adhesive labels with strong benefits for consumers, retailers, wholesalers, packers and growers. It is also an opportunity for hydroponic and greenhouse growers to distinguish their product in the market place. The introduction of mandatory country-of-origin regulations in the United States, Australia and New Zealand also makes the Natural Light Labelling System a timely and relatively inexpensive technology compared to conventional sticker-type equipment. A label that offers traceability and can be eaten safely, is good news for everyone.

For further information contact:
Natural Light Technology Ltd, PO Box 22 037, Otahuhu, Auckland, New Zealand
Ph: Fax: +64 (0)9 917-1472

About the author
Steven Carruthers is the Managing Editor of Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses, a bi-monthly magazine published in Sydney, Australia, and Vice-President of the Australian Hydroponics & Greenhouse Association (AHGA), Australia’s peak industry body. Steven is the recipient of the Australian Business and Specialist Publishers Association (ABSP) Bell Award for ‘Best Small Publisher of the Year’ in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and was highly commended in 1999. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses is the recipient of the ABSP’s Bell Award for ‘Best Specialist Magazine of the Year’ in 2000 and 2001. Steven is also an affiliated member of the International Federation of the Periodical Press and author of several books including the bestseller, Hydroponic Gardening published by Lothian Press.