October 27, 2011
In Today's Issue:

Industry Reaches Out to Washington for “Speak Up for America’s Food Day” Today

Across the U.S. Thursday, members of the produce industry joined in the national effort to encourage Congress to address the deepening labor crisis in America’s food industry. During “Speak Up for America’s Food Day,” participants used an interactive website to contact their elected officials and convey the industry’s critical need for a practical solution with which American food producers may secure a legal, stable work force.

“Within the produce industry, we face a labor crisis that Congress will only exacerbate with as it considers legislation to make E-Verify mandatory,” said United Fresh Senior Vice President Robert Guenther.

At United’s annual Washington Public Policy Conference held on Capitol Hill earlier this month, more than 500 members of the produce industry met with key congressional offices to press the need to ensure an adequate agriculture work force.

“Speak Up for America’s Food Day” is a nationally-coordinated effort of the Save America’s Food and Economy (SAFE) campaign. SAFE, along with the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, of which United Fresh is a member, urges continued involvement and contact by the men and women of American agriculture with their elected officials in Washington to underscore why America needs legislation now to provide a reliable farm labor force.

More information on the campaign is available at SaveAmericasFood.org, as well as on Facebook at Facebook.com/SaveAmericasFood.

Don’t Miss the United Fresh 2012 Exhibitors Forum this December in Dallas

In an effort to help United Fresh 2012 exhibitors maximize their participation in the show this spring, United Fresh has organized an exhibitor forum with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the American Meat Institute (AMI) and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) that will give exhibitors the opportunity to meet with exhibitors from the other shows, the vendors who will be providing services at the show, hear from the convention center and visitor bureau staff as well as gain insight from industry experts.

Additionally, exhibitors will have the chance to interact with United Fresh staff and industry colleagues in a sociable setting that provides:

Idea Exchange - network with peers from FMI, AMI and NASDA at a Tuesday Evening Reception as well as Wednesday’s Continental Breakfast and Group Lunch.

Research Presentation - focus on the current state of tradeshows and specific business trends within the produce, meat and overall food industry to maximize marketing investment.

Vendor Forum – discover cost-saving discounts and the most efficient approach to handling booth logistics at this mini tradeshow featuring: Freeman, DCC/Utilities & Catering, CompuSystems/Registration, On-Peak/Hotels, Local Transportation/Shuttle Bus, Security, Florist, Photographer, A/V, Computer Rental, and Lowe Refrigeration.

United Fresh Promotion Clinic – after meeting with FMI, AMI and NASDA, exhibitors will break out into individual sessions to talk specifically about pre-show promotion strategies driving the attendees businesses want to see.

Tour of the Dallas Convention Center – see where exhibit space will be located, shuttle bus drop off points, entrances, and proximity to education session rooms. All of which allows exhibitors to gain a sense of potential traffic patterns of attendees.

There is no registration fee associated with attending the forum. A preliminary schedule of events and a registration form is available by clicking here. Please complete the registration form and return it to United Fresh via email at shows@unitedfresh.org or fax to 202-303-3433.

A discount hotel room rate of $99 has been arranged at the Omni Dallas Hotel, connected to the Convention Center. This discounted rate is only available to exhibitors who register by November 17. Please call the Omni Dallas directly at 1-800-843-6664 and mention “Food Industry Exhibitor Forum” or click here to book your hotel room online.

Produce an Impact at United Fresh 2012

The five co-chairs of the United Fresh 2012 Convention Committee shared their thoughts this week about the different ways this year’s show can impact the fresh produce industry. It became clear that next spring’s show, co-located with AMI, FMI and NASDA, will have an impact in more ways than one.

“As a leading importer into the U.S., we are really looking forward to the convention in Dallas this year with FMI,” said Frontera’s Will Steele. “Many of our suppliers and partners work in multiple segments of the business, so there will be something here for everyone with the co-location of FMI and AMI.”

“Our retail team will be looking at fresh produce as a real opportunity to grow our share of the shelf,” added United Supermarkets’ Tommy Wilkins. “Offering consumers the newest, cutting-edge products is top priority for United Supermarkets, and every year we come home from the United show with new products, display concepts and ideas for our stores.”

For Rio Queen’s Mike Martin, the annual United show is about technology. “As a grower-shipper, I always look forward to the United convention because it is the main stage for Rio Queen to learn about the latest trends in Food Safety, Transportation and Quality Assurance. I can’t wait to give industry friends a large Texan welcome when they arrive to Dallas,” he said.

“We look forward to making a major impact on the Texas community this year with salad bar donations,” said Dan’l Mackey Almy of DMA Solutions. “We did a great job during United Fresh 2011 in New Orleans, but in 2012 we plan to increase donations to a Texas-size goal of 100 salad bars! We will be counting on you to do your part and make a difference here in Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.”

Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Dave Russell points to industry leadership as his draw to the show. “The Del Monte Fresh team is looking forward to the annual convention and excited to showcase everything our great city of Dallas has to offer during this signature event for our industry,” he said. “I’m especially excited to serve as a co-chairman of the convention committee and offer insights to facilitate the most impactful trade show our industry has seen. I invite anyone that is interested in contributing to the United Fresh 2012 Convention to contact John Toner at jtoner@unitedfresh.org for more information.”

This year’s show happens May 1-3 at the Dallas Convention Center. More information is available at www.UnitedFresh2012.org.

Take Your Skills Beyond the Corner Office with the 2012 Produce Executive Development Program

The sixth annual Produce Executive Development Program. Presented through the United Fresh Foundation’s Center for Leadership Excellence in partnership with the Cornell University Food Industry Management Program, the program will be held March 11-16, 2012, at the Statler Hotel & Executive Conference Center on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, N.Y.

The Produce Executive Development Program is an intense, five-day program for mid- to senior-level executives led by Cornell faculty and industry experts.  The course focuses on issues critical to both personal development and the larger challenges and opportunities faced by today’s produce industry executives. Participants will take part in a unique learning experience characterized by cutting-edge theory, industry best practices and thought-provoking discussions about key business issues affecting the global produce industry.

“While this program is designed to address the unique challenges of our industry, it doesn’t stop there. It pushes you to think beyond the industry to the larger issues impacting the business world,” said 2011 program graduate, Brian Coates, senior buyer of produce at Meijer. “You walk away thinking differently about your own business, your role as a leader in the industry, and how you can effectively lead those in your company.”
This robust program agenda will include respected Cornell faculty, guest speakers, and industry experts. Some of the topics for the 2012 course include:

  • Executive Leadership
  • Today’s Food Retailing & Foodservice Climate
  • Team Dynamics and Decision Making
  • Competitive Strategy
  • Financial Planning
  • Career Success…And Derailment
  • Produce Industry Forecast for the Future
  • Strategies for Growth in Entrepreneurial Environments
  • Supply Chain Stimulation
  • Leading Through Change
  • Understanding Your Executive Leadership Style
  • Work/Life Balance: The Power of Sleep

“So many in the produce business know that hard work is an industry standard, and that the title of ‘executive’ is not simply an achievement to be accomplished, but rather another step in a career built on learning and development,” said Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president of member services, foundation. “This program is centered on that ideal, and based on the belief that real learning and development are a continuous process, even for the most seasoned executives.”

In the interest of keeping class size both informative and intimate, enrollment is limited to 40 participants. Tuition for the program includes: five nights lodging, instruction, books, supplies, breakfasts, luncheons and several special dinners. For United Fresh members, the registration fee is $4995 if booked prior to January 20, and $5500 if booked after.  For non-members, the registration fees are $7995 and $8500, respectively. More information on the program is available by clicking here or by contacting Shannon Young, United Fresh education manager at 202-303-3400, ext. 405 or syoung@unitedfresh.org.

Learn What USDA Produce Inspectors Are Looking For in the Produce Inspection Process

To help produce industry members better understand the breadth of the produce inspection process, the United Fresh Foundation, through the Center for Food Safety & Quality, will conduct three more installments of its popular Produce Inspection Training Program in 2012.

“This program provides a valuable resource to industry members throughout all sectors of the produce supply chain,” said Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president, member services, foundation. “We continue to see many new and returning companies take advantage of the straight-forward training and practical applications that this unique course offers.”

“Through our partnership with United Fresh, these programs present a special opportunity for the government to connect with and educate the private sector,” said Robert Keeney, deputy administrator, Fruit and Vegetable Programs, USDA-AMS. “As we enter our tenth year since the program started, we’ve trained nearly 750 industry members and interest continues to remain high.”

These hands-on training sessions are executed in partnership with USDA-AMS and will be offered at the USDA Fresh Products Branch National Inspectors’ Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, VA: January 9-13, May 21-25, and September 10-14.

The program is offered in two specialized courses: Fundamentals of Produce Inspection and Commodity Labs. Upon completion of both courses, attendees receive a certificate of completion from United Fresh and USDA.

The first of the two courses, Fundamentals of Produce Inspection, is a prerequisite of the Commodity Labs course and focuses on topics such as inspection essentials, the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), sampling procedures, and general market principles. The three-day Commodity Labs course takes place in the lab and applies the principals learned in the fundamentals course to real product inspections. Each Commodity Labs course will include the five most commonly requested commodities: grapes, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes, and will be customized with additional commodities based on the attendees’ most common preferences (up to 12 in total).The following course options are available in the coming year:

January 9-10                 Fundamentals of Inspection
January 11-13               Commodity Labs
January 9-13                 Both Courses

May 21-22                     Fundamentals of Inspection
May 23-25                     Commodity Labs
May 21-25                     Both Courses

September 10-11          Fundamentals of Inspection
September 12-14          Commodity Labs
September 10-14          Both Courses

Class size is limited and attendees are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. The registration fee for United Fresh members interested in the introductory course is $895, while the advanced course is $1225. If both courses are taken together, members may register at the discounted rate of $1925. If three or more colleagues from the same member company register for both courses at the same time, each will receive a $100 discount on the registration rate.  For non-members, the prices are $1095, $1425 and $2325, respectively.  Seminar registration fees include training seminars and all course materials.

Attendees may register for the training seminars on the United Fresh website at www.unitedfresh.org or by contacting Shannon Young, education manager, at 202-303-3400, ext. 405 or syoung@unitedfresh.org.

What Did You Miss at the Washington Public Policy Conference?

Have you seen the photos and the video from the 2011 Washington Public Policy Conference yet?

If not, you’re missing out! New photos and video highlights from WPPC are now available at UnitedFresh.org, UnitedFresh.TV, or by clicking here. Included in the highlights are candid moments from congressional visits, the Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill, the Face-to-Face Meetings with regulators at FDA, EPA and USDA, and a unique Flipcam diary of the annual Washington conference from the young leaders’ perspective.

Click here to see all the new photos and catch some moments you may have missed!

Meet Your United Fresh Board of Directors: Steve Burnham Literally Brings a World of Experience to Safeway’s Produce Department

Steve Burnham
Senior Vice President of Produce, Floral and Bakery
Pleasanton, California

How did you find your way to Safeway?

I started 22 years ago in the stores as a meat clerk and worked my way up through various store positions. Then I went backstage to the Northern California Division office as a Category Director for Meat. Then I held various positions at the Corporate office, starting in 2001. From there I was named Vice President of Seafood, then Vice President of Marketing Planning. The company believes in cross training its talent so we know all of the various departments, so I moved to Vice President of Produce. Last year I was promoted to Senior Vice President of Produce, Floral and Bakery.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Brazil and spoke Portuguese as my first language. My parents were missionaries. When I was five years old we moved to California, which is where I’ve lived ever since.

You are the most recent addition to the United Fresh board. Can you tell me how, as the “new guy” you are helping to bring new perspective to the board?

When I attended my first board meeting, I was impressed at the diversity of the board relative to industry representation. The board is comprised of growers, suppliers, shippers, food safety experts and people from the food service sector. I look forward to bringing my perspective to the board and learning from its members.

What is one area in which you feel innovation can help advance the retail segment of the produce industry, but is currently unexplored or untapped?

The industry should capitalize on social media as a means to inform and engage with customers. Social media is still in its infancy stage, but it has a tremendous reach. There is a food revolution going on with technology and consumer engagement. Customers can and will become experts on food because there is enough information out there. We want to make sure we provide the correct information in a trustworthy and easily accessible way. 

What are some of your personal experiences that you feel help you to think bigger-picture and better develop solutions for the issues facing the produce industry?

I worked in many positions within the industry. This has helped me understand the business and translate that knowledge to a better shopping experience for consumers.

While our customers are becoming more savvy, they also still demand the process to be easy and fast. In the store, they should be able to quickly find what they want, at the right price, and also find something new and unique to make them want to slow down or come back. However, when they’re at home on their computer or using their mobile device, they want more information. This is where we can give them information about food safety, recipes, meal ideas, information about the growing region that a produce item comes from, nutritional benefits and more.

You got your start at Safeway in the meat department. How does the world of meat retail relate to the produce world? Do similar strategies carry over?

For healthy eating, produce is now the star. It’s center plate. At one time, meat was the largest portion of the plate. That has changed now. USDA’s new “My Plate” guidelines for healthy eating say half your plate should consist of fruit and veggies, the rest should be protein and grains. The produce industry has an opportunity to provide half of every meal. That’s a great challenge.

There are strategies that translate between the meat and produce departments. Pricing, health and wellness, shelf life and cold chain all translate between the two. The pace of play in produce is faster than in any other perishable department because the minute you harvest, that item is on a countdown. We want that item to be fresh when the customer gets it home. That is our challenge.

We’ve just finished the Washington Public Policy Conference, and United is a very policy and issues- focused organization. What are some of the issues that you see as particularly important, for Safeway, for the retail segment and for the industry as a whole?

I was impressed with the level of engagement and productivity that United Fresh has on Capitol Hill. Going forward, we need to find ways to streamline the involvement of government and make it more effective for everyone. We have to address redundancy within the audit process without compromising food safety. We also need to remain united on determining the solution for the Produce Traceability Initiative. Finally, we need to find proactive food safety measures, rather than reactive measures.

What is one success that you’ve had, either personally or professionally in the last year?

I was promoted to Senior Vice President of Produce, Floral and Bakery. This has been very important for my career and a great opportunity to grow my leadership skills and work with a larger number of talented people.

What is one thing that you’d like to accomplish in the coming year?

I plan to focus on helping the industry address and tackle the nation’s obesity epidemic. The produce industry, more than any other, is positioned to lead this effort collaboratively with retailers, associations, and the government. We have the ingredients with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and the USDA’s new “My Plate” guidelines.

What are some of your favorite pastimes or hobbies?

Travel. I surprised my wife with a vacation to Italy, which we’re taking in May. I’m looking forward to having new culinary experiences that I can bring back home and possibly spark even more innovation within the U.S. produce industry.

New Member Welcome

Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry.

  • Archi’s Acres, Inc., Escondido, CA

United Fresh thanks all current members for their dedication to the association and the produce industry. Please let us know whenever we can be of service to you.  For more details about the benefits of membership, please contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940 or Miriam Miller Wolk at 202-303-3410.

Chairman’s Roundtable Thanks 2011 Supporters

United Fresh’s Chairman's Roundtable provides extra support for programs in government relations, food safety, nutrition policy and other areas to help grow the produce industry. We are pleased to recognize the following companies who have committed to the 2011 Chairman’s Roundtable:

  • Andrew Smith Company, Spreckels, CA
The Chairman's Roundtable is an opportunity for United Fresh member companies to contribute above and beyond their basic dues. Roundtable members are industry leaders who set the pace in building United Fresh's strength in areas that do not generate their own revenue. Members of Chairman's Roundtable enjoy special recognition throughout the year for their support. For more information on the Chairman’s Roundtable, please contact Senior Director of Membership Miriam Miller Wolk at 202-303-3410.
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