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Perishable Pundit
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Industry Leaders To Share Knowledge And Ideas At New York Produce Show Thought-Leadership Panel Keynote Breakfast

It was just over a half decade ago that we began the establishment of a new industry institution with an announcement:

New York, NY — The Eastern Produce Council and PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine announced today their collaboration to launch The New York Produce Show And Conference….

“New York City is the epicenter of the region that buys more fresh produce than any location in the country,” explains Dean Holmquist, director of produce and floral for Foodtown, Inc., [now Allegiance Retail Services], and president of the Eastern Produce Council. “The extraordinary diversity of the population in this region assures a dynamic market for mainstream, ethnic and specialty produce,” points out John McAleavey, executive director of the Eastern Produce Council.

Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce/floral at Kings Super Markets and vice president of the Eastern Produce Council, indicated that “the sophisticated clientele of the northeast region combines with a plethora of quality retailers, restaurants, foodservice distributors and wholesalers to introduce product from local growers, growers across North America and growers from around the world.”

Jim Prevor, founder and editor-in-chief of PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine and the online PerishablePundit.com, celebrated the establishment of such a high caliber event in a region long lacking its own trade show and conference: “My great grandfather, Jacob Prevor, emigrated to America and established a wholesale facility in the old Wallabout Produce Market in Brooklyn. My grandfather was a wholesaler and auction buyer in the old Washington Street Produce Market in Manhattan. My father, Michael Prevor, was an original tenant when The Hunts Point Market opened in the Bronx. Over the decades we operated farms and had supermarkets in the region and worked hard to make the ports and airports of the region major hubs for the import and export of fresh produce.

“It is an incredibly exciting moment that we should have the opportunity to join together with our friends at the Eastern Produce Council, the preeminent organization in the region, to bring a world-class event to the region, and it is an honor that we can bring the industry together in a city known both as the ‘Capital of the World’ and the ‘Big Apple’.”

“Jim Prevor has built a reputation for industry thought-leadership that is recognized around the world, and PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine was launched on the Hunts Point Market,” said Robert Goldstein, owner/president of Genpro Inc., and secretary of the Eastern Produce Council, “so the board of directors of the Eastern Produce Council voted unanimously to join hands with Jim and his team at PRODUCE BUSINESS and the online Perishable Pundit to better serve this region with a high-end trade show and conference.”

 “The Eastern Produce Council represents the most important players in the region,” said Ken Whitacre, vice president of publishing at PRODUCE BUSINESS and PerishablePundit.com. “Their engagement with the event ensures that exhibitors will encounter a cross section of the movers and shakers that make the industry a vibrant and robust contributor to the national and international industry. We are honored to work together with such an important association and with such an instrumental membership.”

Both PRODUCE BUSINESS and the Eastern Produce Council are committed to enhancing the industry by providing the region with a world-class venue for marketing, education and media exposure. That venue is The New York Produce Show And Conference.

In the end, the event was an extraordinary addition to the pantheon of industry conferences. In the heart of the biggest buying market in the country, we conjured up a substantial trade show, a fantastic conference, a media and “consumer influencer” program, a university student and faculty outreach program, chef demonstrations and recipe development for the trade, plus tours of the industry. It was really something quite extraordinary

In time, we added the Global Trade Symposium and the “Ideation Fresh” Foodservice Forum. And we moved the show, first to a Pier on the Hudson River and, now, this year to a new dedicated facility — the North Hall at the Javits Convention Center.

However we have grown and wherever we have moved, one constant has remained: the support of the community.

Attendees will see this support clearly on Wednesday morning, when we present the Keynote Breakfast, which highlights a selection of buy-side thought-leaders from across the region, interacting with buy-side executives with far different perspectives from across the nation and oceans. Yours truly will engage these thought-leaders from retail, wholesale and foodservice in an invigorating discussion on the state of the industry and how we can work together to enhance our mutual success.

These industry leaders are not required to participate; they don’t have to share their insights and perspectives; they don’t have to engage with the larger industry. Yet they choose to do so, and their companies choose to support them. That is a most incredible statement about their passion for the industry, the value they see in The New York Produce Show and Conference and their willingness to give back and raise up those building careers in the trade today. We all owe these leaders and their companies a hat tip for their willingness to stand up and serve.

We are pleased to announce the 2014 “Thought Leaders” panel for The New York Produce Show and Conference:

ERIC BEELITZ
Director of Produce & Floral
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company

Eric started his career in 1973 as a produce clerk with Pathmark Stores Inc. His produce expertise quickly led to several store management positions. In 2011, Eric was named Director of Produce and Floral for Waldbaums, The Food Emporium, A&P, Pathmark, Food Basics, and Superfresh stores. In his current position Eric is responsible for all merchandising, procurement, pricing, and promotion for all of these banners.

RICH DACHMAN
Vice President of Produce
Sysco Corporation

Rich Dachman is a native of Denver, CO, and attended Colorado State University. He began his produce career at his family-owned business in Denver. Following the sale of the family business he and his father opened a new foodservice operation in Denver for Kraft Foods, Inc. before Rich joined Kraft's corporate office in Chicago as national director of Produce in 1987. 

In 1992 he joined FreshPoint Inc. and was president of FreshPoint Operating Companies in Houston, Denver, Atlanta and its central procurement office in Salinas, CA. When Sysco acquired FreshPoint in 2000, Rich was appointed to the position of senior vice president, Western Region, and in 2007 was promoted to vice president of produce for Sysco Corporation. Rich was awarded the Foodservice Achievement award by The Packer in 2010, and served as chairman for the Produce Marketing Association in 2012.

JOEL FIERMAN
President
Fierman Produce Exchange, Inc.
Hunts Point Produce Market

Joel Fierman is the President of Fierman Produce Exchange, Inc., Bronx, NY and serves as Chairman of the Public Relations Committee of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Association, Bronx, NY. The third generation of his family to run the wholesale produce business, Joel has directed the transformation of his family business from that of a traditional potato & onion house into a much larger, modern full line wholesaler. Hunts Point serves as the central distribution center for many of the New York Metro area's independent supermarkets and produce stands, plus many restaurants. It also serves as a marketing arm for growers and shippers, prepared to help them sell the products they need to.

DERRICK JENKINS
Vice President of Produce & Floral
Wakefern Food Corporation

Starting his career at Wakefern in 1982, Derrick got his first taste of what the world of produce was all about when he worked as a junior accountant reporting to the produce division. From that position, he rose up the ranks to his current position of Vice President of Produce and Floral. Derrick credits his mentors, Herman Fadem and Al Ferri: "They worked with me at the early stages of my career and helped me lay a foundation upon which I could build a successful personal and professional career."

Derrick is a member of the Eastern Produce Council, is 1st vice-chairman of NAPAR and is a member-at-large of the Board of PMA and Secretary/Treasurer of PMA Fit. He is married and has four children.

CHRIS KEETCH
Category Manager
Ahold USA

In 1994, Chris was hired as a produce clerk at Albertsons in Boise, ID. He immediately knew the fit was good and decided to earn a degree in Business Management at Boise State University.  As a clerk, assistant manager and manager, 14 years at store level was instrumental in developing a full understanding of merchandising, pricing and assortment along with importance of anticipating customer needs, wants and expectations.  

Gaining that experience and insight led him to the next career chapter in September 2010 as a merchandiser at Ahold USA. "I work now as fruit category manager, in which I am responsible for developing plans to profitably drive sales in an ever-changing retail landscape." 

Giving back to the communities is important to Chris professionally and personally. He works with his team and vendor partners to support initiatives through various company-supported charitable programs.

PAUL KNEELAND
Vice President of Produce & Floral
Kings Food Markets

An industry veteran for more than 30 years, Paul has been in his position at Kings since June 2007. In addition to overseeing produce and floral for Kings Super Markets in New Jersey and in Long Island, Paul also oversees produce and floral for Balducci's Food Lover's Markets with stores in Connecticut, New York, Maryland, and Virginia.

Paul is President of the Eastern Produce Council and chair of its New York Produce Show and Conference committee. 

TONY REYNOLDS
Managing Director
Reynolds Catering

Tony is a third-generation greengrocer who has been involved with the family business since childhood, initially working the market stall in Ridley Road, Hackney.

After an early career in banking at Barclays, Tony joined the family business alongside his father Dave in 1988. Since then, he has driven the rapid expansion of Reynolds to the multi-million-pound company it is today. 

He retains his passion for fresh produce and is often spotted on the warehouse floor checking out the evolving variety of fresh fruit and veg coming through the doors.

Tony is married with two sons and, when not spending time with them, he enjoys keeping fit — particularly cycling and running.

VIC SAVANELLO
Director of Produce and Floral
Allegiance Retail Services

Vic has more than 35 years experience in the Supermarket industry. His responsibilities at Allegiance include managing sales, coordinating advertising, merchandising, operational activities and managing the procurement of product for more than 85 member stores under the Foodtown and D'Agostinos banners in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Previous to Allegiance, Vic was employed for more than 22 years at Wakefern Food Corporation, where he served most recently as a Category Manager during his last 15 years of service.

Vic is currently 1st Vice President of the Eastern Produce Council, and he serves on the Expo Committee, Membership Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and is Co-Chairman of the Eastern Produce Council Golf Outing Committee. Vic is a graduate of William Paterson University and resides in West Caldwell, New Jersey, with his wife Maria, their son Dante and daughter Mia.

JAY SCHNEIDER
Produce/Floral Produce Lead

Acme Markets

Jay started his career in 1983 as a clerk and has over 25 years of produce experience with Acme Markets. He has held various positions within the company such as Produce/Floral Operational Specialist, Imported Field Buyer/Inspector, then moved up to assistant produce lead, and has occupied his current role of Produce/Floral Lead since 2010.

He is responsible for sales and merchandising for all 110 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.r.

ALISTAIR STONE
Buying Manager
Waitrose

Alistair Stone started his buying career at Sainsbury's nearly 20 years ago looking after various fruit categories in what was then the biggest UK supermarket. He left Sainsburys in the beginning of 1999 to work in the channel marketing department of Walkers Snack Foods (part of PepsiCo). Following two successful years there, an opportunity to return to the fresh produce industry arose at Waitrose and he joined the company 12 years ago. During this time, he has worked across all parts of its produce department, overseeing significant change in how Waitrose sources product and being responsible for setting the commercial direction for his team of buyers.

ERIC STONE
Produce Merchant
Fresh Direct

Eric Stone is the Produce Merchant at popular online grocer FreshDirect. He spends about half of his time traveling the country, developing relationships with farmers to source produce that is differentiating and of the highest quality. He joined FreshDirect after graduating college in 2008, working his way up in the department during  the past 6+ years. During that time, he has doubled the department’s sales and transformed FreshDirect’s supply chain to a direct-from-the-source model, improving quality and reducing cost. 

Eric earned his degree in Finance and Philosophy from the University of Maryland and currently lives in Manhattan with his girlfriend enjoying everything the NYC food scene has to offe

JIN JU WILDER
Director of Corporate Strategy

Valley Fruit & Produce

Jin Ju Wilder is Director of Corporate Strategy for Valley Fruit & Produce, a Los Angeles, California-based, full-line, full-service wholesaler/distributor of fresh fruits and vegetables supplying a diverse customer base in the U.S. and overseas. A former recipient of the PRODUCE BUSINESS "40 Under 40” award, she is serving a second term on the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee. 

Jin Ju currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Produce Marketing Association and has served on the Board of Directors for the Fresh Produce & Floral Council. She was also recognized as an industry leader as one of The Packer 25. 

******

All of us at the Eastern Produce Council and PRODUCE BUSINESS are deeply appreciative that these buy-side executives, whose time is always in such demand, have made The New York Produce Show and Conference a priority.

We hope you will as well.

If you would like some additional information, here is a small brochure we prepared.

Attendees can register here.

There is a spouse/companion program you can find out about by emailing us here.

Let us know your hotel needs here.

We have exactly three booths still available, so if you are interested let us know here.

Finally we will soon be announcing our list of valued sponsors, without whom the event would not be possible. We still have some wonderful opportunities for companies to step in and become sponsors. If you would like to receive more information on how your organization can be part of this great industry institution, please let us know here.




Kantar Worldpanel Execs Present Produce Case Studies Demonstrating Power Of Data At Global Trade Symposium Co-Located With The New York Produce Show And Conference

When we first started writing about Tesco’s efforts to establish itself in America as Fresh & Easy, we came to realize how import Kantar is in the UK. Its market share reports have the power to move the stock market, and countless business strategies are adjusted based on Kantar data.

Less well known is how closely Kantar works with individual suppliers to help them develop strategies that will lead to success. Shopping, in the UK or the US or anywhere around the world, is just not what it once was. There are new channels and new alternatives that have transformed the consumer shopping experience.

Yet, all too often, decisions are made based on gut instinct or what someone’s mentor told them 30 years ago.

Kantar Worldpanel UK is really about two things:

First, putting the consumers at the heart of decision-making;

Second, making decisions based on good data.

Making decisions based on one’s training and instinct is not necessarily a bad idea, but if a market is in flux as retailing is in the UK and the USA, then decisions made based on what worked long ago will often be bad decisions.

We were very fortunate that Kantar Worldpanel UK and some its most important clients were prepared to share case studies related to important produce items.

We asked Pundit Contributing Editor Keith Loria to find out more:

 

Amir Jalaly
Consumer Insight Director
Kantar Worldpanel UK
London, England

 

 

 

Chris Cowan
Consumer Insight Director
Kantar Worldpanel UK
London, England

 

Q: We’re excited that the two of you will be coming across the pond to present a talk during the Global Trade Symposium as part of this year’s New York Produce Show and Conference. Tell us a bit about your work at Kantar Worldpanel.

Jalaly: We work with the majority of the UK food manufacturers, so everything you would find in a grocery. What we do is help them understand the marketplace and help draw growth from using data.

Cowan: We take our data and help build manufacturers’ stories and they can take that to the supermarkets and retail buyers and use that to gain better listening in the retail outlet. It’s sort of like the Nielsens in America. We do the same thing.

Q: Explain how that’s tied into the UK grocery markets?

Jalaly: We can track how people shop and their shopping behaviors and do reports on big-top line things. Costco’s market share for example, and how that’s coming on. We’ll be making comments on take-home grocery sales and look at the category as a whole, showing the results of the key questions. How loyal are people to a store and category? When they need a quick bargain, will they go elsewhere? How about when they’re in a rush?

Q: How are those answers used to help?

Jalaly: Our clients will use that insight to understand what they need to do differently in the store, whether it’s promotions, advertising or something else.

Cowan: We work on the produce side of things and we have all sorts of different challenges, as they surely do in the states. One of the things is to prevent case decline. For example, in the UK we buy less potatoes than we did five years ago. It’s a real important category and we look to fix that.

Q: I’m sure this will all be part of your talk at the Global Trade Symposium. Can you give us a little preview of what your talk will entail?

Jalaly: The theme of it is “The Same But Different.” We know people have bought groceries in the ’50s, ’60, ’70s and today, but the way they go about it has evolved. This has led to some behavior changes and impacted who the shopper is now compared to who they were in the past. We’re going to talk a little about top lines and similarity and fundamental differences between the way people shop in the UK and the US.

Cowan: In the UK we shop far more frequently because there is a much greater concentration of supermarkets both in residential and non-residential areas. We’ll have graphics to support that at the show. We’ll show what’s happening in the produce market, the parts that have been performing well and growing, and those, such as apples and pears and others, that are really struggling. These are big categories and together they represent about 10 percent of value of the produce market. These have seen long-term structural decline. We plan to address these category declines.

Q: Can you take me through one of the case studies you will be talking about during your talk?

Jalaly: The Pink Lady apples continue to decline year on year. They have such a vested interest. We examine how the brand can be used to leverage changes. One thing we know from shopping habits is that people think about them for lunch, but we need to target snacking and that’s where you will see growth.

Cowan: It’s about targeting occasions and the best way is to target the most visited parts of the kitchen—the fridge.

Jalaly: Another is Florette—one of the big brands in produce that also has the ability to do above the line. This will be lead by Tony Walsh (category controller for Florette) who regularly presents at the various IGD (Institute of Grocery Distributors)  conferences here in the UK.

Q: What do you think people will learn? What do you hope people walk away with from your talk?

Jalaly: Hopefully, something interesting. An overview of what’s going on in the UK and that some of the challenges they are facing in the U.S., we are also facing in the UK. We’ll be offering some solutions on how to deal with that. Trying to find the balance between the people who may be more sophisticated compared to a grower or farmer who never looked at data before. One part is about opening the eyes of those who have never used data to how it can be used in a strategic way no matter how small you are and at the same time, educating people on some common problems with big catagories.

Cowan: One of the most important things about the presentation is that it’s going to show people—small produce suppliers, big produce suppliers—that data is something you can use in the produce department to gain that competitive edge. We’ll show that data and produce can go hand-in-hand to help sales grow.

Q: What are you looking forward to about the New York Produce Show and Conference?

Jalaly: When we were at the London Produce Show and Conference, we came across a lot of people from all over the world — Ecuador, Jamaica, all sorts of different countries, all looking to export to the UK. The way we could help them is by showing what the market looked like in a volatile and healthy state, and what the grocers think of those categories. There’s potentially an element of that in New York as well.

Cowan: Plus we have some Knicks tickets, and we’re hoping it snows!

******

Studying data, as another Brit said in a different context, is “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” For example, is it the case that consumers “shop more frequently in the UK because there is much greater concentration of supermarkets” or has that much greater concentration of supermarkets developed because British homes have smaller refrigerators and food storage areas and gas is much more expensive so people shop more frequently?

The Daily Mail just ran a piece, titled: The big squeeze: Average British home has shrunk by two square metres in just a DECADE forcing families to split bedrooms and even store their shopping in their car.

The average new home built in the UK in 2009 was 818 SF; in the USA, it is 2,164 SF. But that is chicken-and-the-egg as well. Do the larger homes in the US allow us to have lots of storage and thus go for Wal-Mart and Costco runs and stock up less frequently, or is it the expectation that one will be able to have large storage and entertainment areas what leads people to buy larger homes?

And, of course, no country is uniform. Consumers in Manhattan are more similar to British consumers than to rural Americans.

In any case, we are most appreciative that Amir and Chris are coming to New York and that Kantar Worldpanel UK and its clients have agreed to share so much with the industry.

The presentation will be part of The Global Trade Symposium, which takes place on Tuesday, December 2, just prior to the gala Opening Cocktail Reception, the day before the expo.

If you are already registered and would like to add The Global Trade Symposium to your registration, just let us know here.

You can register for the entire event right here.

Let us know if you need a hotel room here.

Three booths are left on the expo floor; if you want one let us know here.

And help us bring great programming and thought leadership to New York by considering becoming a sponsor. Ask for information right here.

Many thanks to Kantar Worldpanel UK and to Amir and Chris. The session promises to be intriguing.




Constantly Changing Hunts Point Produce Market Opens Its Doors To Visitors Attending The New York Produce Show And Conference

It is always interesting to find out how many people in the produce industry have been dealing with buyers across the country for decades, sometimes for generations, yet they have never set foot in their customers’ facility.

That is a shame and when those longstanding relationships are with the firms on the Hunts Point Market, it means that one has never seen the produce industry in its pure state.

Product quality open for all to see, buyers, sellers, all negotiating to move the product as the invisible hand of the market guides produce to its optimal use, sending countless messages to growers around the globe as to what they should plant next year and for years to come.

We’ve made an annual pilgrimage to this temple of produce commerce a part of The New York Produce Show and Conference since its inception, and we’ve chronicled those tours in pieces such as these:

Hunts Point Produce Market Unveils New Marketing/PR Campaign At The New York Produce Show And Conference

It Is A Very Big Deal: Watch The Beauty Of Supply And Demand In Real Time At The Hunts Point Produce Market On The New York Produce Show And Conference Tour

This year, the Hunts Point Market will be buzzing as the Christmas season shifts to high gear just as The New York Produce Show and Conference gets underway. We asked Pundit Contributing Editor Keith Loria to let us know what we have in store on this year’s tour:

Joel Fierman
President
Fierman Produce Exchange, Inc.
Hunts Point Produce Market
Bronx, New York

Q: It’s always a nice treat for attendees at The New York Produce Show and Conference to get the chance to tour the Hunts Point Market the next day. What’s on tap for this year’s tour?

A: It’s just a great opportunity for those who may have heard about Hunts Point, but have never gotten the chance to experience it. From the time they enter the gate and see the size of the facility and the amount of traffic — that in itself is pretty startling to most people when they walk in — it’s just a great visit.

Q: Why do you think the tour is something that everyone in the industry should experience?

A: We have 40 merchants operating in close proximity and an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people come in and out each night. To walk this market and see the displays that the merchants put out and the sheer variety of produce from all over the world, it’s the chance to get a flavor of what’s really going on.

Q: The last part of the tour is a Q&A with some of the people at the market. Why do you think this is an important part of the overall experience?

A: It’s a rare chance to talk to the merchants and get first-hand input live, in front of you. It’s most rewarding when you can hear those impressions from the merchants. I think people walk out of here with a totaly different feeling than when they walk in.

Q: What is the most common question you get asked from those taking the tour?

A: “How do you do it?” As vast as this market is and as big as it is, and with so many customers coming through, people are just amazed.

Q: We spoke about the big marketing push last year… what have you done to get the word out in 2014 and what have been the results of your campaign? How can you quantify that what you’re doing is working?

A: This is our home for at least the next 7-8 years. We are taking the marketing in a new direction this year, reaching out more to independent retailers and bringing them back to the market and re-introducing them.

People have gotten a different flavor of the market. Hunts Point has had a terrible rap, but it’s really a great place to operate and do business. It’s loaded with smart, savvy professional businessmen and women who make up the industry and understand it.

Q: I know there is a plan in place to make improvements at Hunts Point. What’s on the docket for 2015?

A: We started the railroad project last year on Row B, and the tracks behind my units are finished and came out fantastic. It’s a breath of fresh air to have tracks at the building level and trucks you can back in without stacking a bunch of skids. We’ll start on Row A in early spring. We’re also looking at revamping lighting and paving. We have some other projects on the horizon that will physically make it a better place to operate in and cosmetically make it look a little cleaner.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about The New York Produce Show?

A: We have a booth and we always enjoy it because we get to see our customers face to face. We operate in this 24-hour window 5-6 days a week, and we don’t always get that chance. The show gives us the platform to meet and see a lot of the customers we generally just talk to on the telephone.

Q: Those coming to the show will have a choice of what tour to go on — what’s your selling point to get them to choose Hunts Point?

A: If you want to see the most active and biggest market with the most variety, come to Hunts Point.

******

Joel is right about that. There is nothing quite like it in America, so we hope you will join us as we travel to America’s largest wholesale market.

If you are already registered and want to add the Hunts Point tour, let us know here.

If you would like to register for The New York Produce Show and Conference, you can do so here.

Remember The Global Trade Symposium begins on Tuesday, December 2 at the New York Hilton. Ask for information here.

And the “Ideation Fresh” Foodservice Forum takes place the day after the trade show – express your interest here.

If you need a hotel, let us know here.

And we have three booths still available, so let us know here if you want information.

Finally, there are always sponsorship opportunities that help position your firm as a leader, so send us your inquiry here.

Looking forward to seeing you in New York.

 

 




Eastern Produce Council President Paul Kneeland Makes The Case For New Jersey Retail Tour At The New York Produce Show And Conference

Many people come to Manhattan for business or pleasure, and there is no question that the Manhattan Retail Tour offers a unique perspective on food retailing as progressive retailers attempt to maximize sales in a space-constrained environment with sky-high rents.

Yet one can’t really understand the dynamics of the market if that is all one knows. Going out to the suburbs and seeing different kinds of stores is essential.

This year, the New Jersey Retail Tour was laid out especially by Paul Kneeland, Vice President of Produce & Floral for Kings Food Markets and President of the Eastern Produce Council.

We asked Pundit Contributing Editor Keith Loria to catch up with Paul and let us know what the tour had in store:

Paul Kneeland
Vice President of Produce & Floral

Kings Food Markets

Q: As someone who has been directly involved with The New York Produce Show and Conference since its origins, why do you think this is such an important event for the industry?

A: There is just nothing like it in the area. Incredible seminar programs, student programs, media program, tours of the region. A substantial event, but intimate at the same time. It is like family getting together with brilliant guests from all over the world.

It is great timing too, right before the holidays, leading up to New Year’s, it’s a good time for retailers and other buyers as well as exhibitors and vendors to plan for the upcoming year.

Q: You were tasked with the responsibility to organize this year’s New Jersey Retail tour. Give me a little preview of what people can expect.

A: We had some repeats last year of the same stores so this year we decided to change things up with the tour.  We decided to stay on the Coast, so as the busses come out of Manhattan, we will go to Jersey City first, which is kind of an eclectic town. It’s an up-and-coming area with a lot of professionals from Manhattan choosing to live there. The first store we’re going to see is a Morton Williams store and that’s going to be a real treat.

Q: Guide us on the journey. Where do you go next?

A: From there we go to a newly renovated Pathmark store up in Edgewater, a very cool town with outstanding views of Manhattan. When you go up to River Road, you can see the skyline perfectly. The Pathmark is a great store for people to see. From there we go up the road a little bit to the Whole Foods in Edgewater, a smaller format Whole Foods with all the bells and whistles you would expect.

Q: Sounds like a great tour so far, what’s next on the trip?

A: We’ll head to Fort Lee to an H Mart, a Korean grocer up there. Very different merchandising with a lot of focus on Asian vegetables and fruits; bulk merchandising. They put the pallet right on the floor and just let people grab stuff. It’s a very active and busy store and it’s really cool. They have several locations and are headquartered in New Jersey.

From there we’re going to go to King’s in Cresskill, continuing up the county. A very kind of cool store; high-end and upscale and serving a different kind of customer than H Mart obviously. It’s a smaller, affluent community, and the store has been newly rebranded with all the bells and whistles.

Q: From looking at the list, that seems to end the New Jersey part, but you have one more stop planned—although not in New Jersey itself. Can you explain?

A: We’re going to loop around to Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers as we make our approach back to the city. This is a totally different store, more of a farm-stand-type of store, big, open with lots of open air displays. After this we will be heading back to the hotel.

Q: What goes into creating a tour that’s interesting and will appeal to attendees of the show?

A: The blend of stores that we chose this year offers a great mix of every type of merchandising you would see in the state of New Jersey. You get a good feel of competition and you get to see different areas.

Q: With several great tours being offered to guests at the show, what would you say to convince them that the New Jersey Retail Tour is the one they should choose?

A: We’ll be in the city for the show for three days and we do have an outstanding tour set up for New York as well, which includes the Chelsea Market and Grand Central Market and some other cool places like Gotham Market. You can get a good taste of New York with those. But for people who want to venture out more and see more of metro New York, which is what we call New Jersey basically, this is a great way to do that.

Q: What do you hope those taking the tour will walk away with?

A: The idea that the global market strategy of all of these retailers is totally different, so there’s opportunities for many different sellers of products... you can quickly see where you can sell to. As a buyer, you get to see the door-to-market merchandising of these different stores. Store executives will meet us at each of the stores and do a quick explanation of the customer focus.

Q: From year’s past of people taking this tour, what has been the response—what do you hear most when people leave the bus?

A: They are often amazed. I think a lot of people have a negative connotation of New Jersey but it’s completely not true.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about this year’s New York Produce and Conference?

A: I’m very excited about being at the Javits Center. I’m looking forward to the Global Trade Symposium, where there's always incredible programming. And the expanded amount of exhibitors will be incredible. I’m looking forward to the whole thing.

******

As are we all and the tours are a big part of the event.

If you are already registered and would like to add the New Jersey Retail Tour to your registration, just let us know here.

You can register for the whole event, including the New Jersey Retail Tour, right here.

We can help you with hotel rooms if you let us know what you need right here.

Get one of the last booths available by contacting us here.

And consider sponsoring one of the tours or other parts of the event right here.

We look forward to seeing everyone in New York…and New Jersey!




Before Taking Center Stage At New York Produce Show, Celebrity Chef Dave Pasternack Advises The Industry To 'Make It Simple'

Much of the time the production side of the produce industry thinks only of high volume foodservice, yet, just as Keynes cautioned that “Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” 

So it is that powerful high volume commercial menu planners are often channeling the trends launched by chefs at fine white table cloth restaurants.

Thanks to a grant from Earthbound Farms, The New York Produce Show and Conference will be presenting Chef Dave Pasternack, a super important culinary trendsetter. He will be cooking on the Central Park Celebrity Chef Stage, and he will be doing work that is near to his heart.

Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott recently met up with Chef Pasternack at his Esca restaurant in between the lunch and dinner shifts to learn more about the man, his cooking and his plans for The New York produce show and Conference.

Chef Dave Pasternack
Esca and Barchetta
New York, New York

Q: I heard you just got back from a few days of fishing out in Long Island. How did you fare? Did you catch anything worthy that you’ll be cooking up fresh today with seasonal produce to wow your Esca restaurant patrons?

A: I caught some beautiful striped bass, blue fish and sea bass. That’s living large! I do most of my fishing between Fire Island and the Far Rockaways. It doesn’t get better than when I bring my catch into the restaurant and simply grill it up with perfectly pared local vegetables just delivered from nearby farms.

Q: That certainly elevates the definition of fresh! Your fishing prowess is quite impressive. The one time I went fishing on Cape Cod, the only thing I caught was a blowfish, and I threw it back in the ocean because I was told it could be poisonous.

A: That’s true, but it depends on the species. I have blowfish on the antipasto lunch menu now — Coda di Rospa, crisp local blowfish tails with cippoline onions and lemon jam.

Q: As an acclaimed James Beard Award-winning chef, you’ve been called the fish whisperer. How does this inimitable ability influence your sensibilities as a chef? And more importantly, as far as our readers are concerned, how do fresh fruits and vegetables fit in? Are you also a produce whisperer?

A: I grew up around the sea, and I still love fishing, but produce is an important part of what I do. I have an amazing garden. Right now, I’ve got peppers in the ground, and a few tomato plants, also bok choy, Tuscan kale, some broccoli…

This year, I had some issues with my fruit trees. I was able to pick good flavor Jonagold apples, a New York variety that’s a cross between the crisp Golden Delicious and the blush-crimson Jonathan. I have two black fig trees, and one Turkish fig tree, but they didn’t produce any fruit. Neither did my cherry tree because of an early frost. And squirrels ate my peaches, so it’s been rough, but it gives me an appreciation for the challenges farmers face. I could live off the land.

Q: Tell us more about how you fuse your passion for cultivating the soil and navigating the sea in your cooking…

A: Most people take the protein and pare it with produce. I like to see what I have for produce and match it with the protein. The seasonality of it is quintessential. Fish is seasonal too. Most people don’t look at fish as a seasonal item. The flavors and characteristics of the produce are the way I’m starting a lot of times.

Q: Produce industry executives would say you’ve got your priorities in the right place! What are your favorite produce items?

A: I like everything. OK, there are a few things I don’t like, but most of all it’s related to seasonality. Certain things are good at certain times of year, and you enjoy them at that moment and then you move on.

Wait here. I’m going to the kitchen to bring out some fresh Italia black kale and red Russian kale for you to taste. [Chef Pasternack returns with a full plate of the different varieties.] I’m doing an Italia black kale salad with Monchego cheese and apples. The black kale, a long narrow, blue green leaf is a little more nutty, sweet and crunchy. People like the texture. It’s really good sautéed too. The red Russian kale, a flat leaf of reddish purple color, is more mild and earthy and less crunchy. At The New York Produce Show, I’ll be cooking with Earthbound Farm’s Italia black kale.

Q: A couple of years ago, kale seemed to show up everywhere from salads to kale chips, enjoying a major resurgence. What do you think of these trends?

A: Who knows how that happens? Some smart farmers had a good idea!

Q: So your talents also come with a sense of humor…

A: When you’re in this business as long as I am, a sense of humor is an irreparable skill to have. Esca will be 15 years old this March. We always evolve. If you don’t, you die.

Q: When you look back at Esca’s evolution, what kinds of changes have occurred?

A: People used to be more adventurous. It seems people are taking a few steps backward in that regard.

Q: That’s a surprising answer. I would have expected you to say the opposite. Please elaborate…

A: Today, people have a million allergies, gluten-free, dairy-free, no oil, sauces and dressings on the side… These issues and requests were non-existent. Sometimes, I want to tell the customer, who’s demanding all these alternations to my menu, to leave my restaurant and go cook at home.

It’s like if you as a journalist are told that you can’t use these five words anymore and it puts you in a weird predicament where you can’t do your job properly.

Q: That sounds frustrating, but fortunately you have a loyal fan base that appreciates how you finesse flavor profiles using the freshest ingredients in a masterful way.

A: The value of a good chef is his taste buds and understanding how food works.

Q: Have you always had this innate talent for cooking?

A: No. It’s like being a craftsman. It takes time to understand and learn flavors. It takes practice, man. How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Q: Your approach to food has been critiqued as deceptively complex in its simplicity. Do you think that’s an accurate portrayal?

A: Absolutely. I try never to go over three ingredients or four ingredients max.

Q: It goes back to why you have to insure the best quality ingredients. You’re not masking anything…

A: Exactly. I formed a partnership to produce my own specially blended olive oil out of Spain. There are a lot of great smells in this world, but the aroma of olives during the fermentation and curing process is the greatest smell of all. Drinking the olive juice right out of the vat is an awesome experience.

Q: Have you developed relationships with local farmers?

A: For a very long time… I do a lot with growers in the Hudson Valley, and Long Island, New York, and Pennsylvania. Some of the guys I’ve been doing business with for 20 to 25 years. These are pretty steady relationships.

Q: That must benefit you in customizing your needs and bringing in the quality you’re after…

A: If you want to be good, you have to buy the best. Sometimes people complain and ask, why is it so expensive? But if you want to have good products and eat the best quality, you’re going to have to pay for it, no matter what, no matter what anybody tells you.

I feel strongly about developing menus based on what’s in season. That’s the only way to do it. There are times when local is not available. I have other resources in places like Florida. Now we’re coming to citrus season. I look forward to the variety, which has increased tremendously.

Q: Could you highlight some of your favorite seasonal dishes?

A: I always have some kind of seasonal vegetable salad. This time of year, there are a lot of great greens and kales. Farmers are bringing me chestnuts, different pumpkins, squashes, and Brussels sprouts.

I’m also a big fan of old varieties of apples — most farmers don’t grow them anymore. They’re much more flavorful; Northern Spies, Winesaps, Baldwins, and I’m using some RubyFrosts. On our tasting menu, we have a crispy local skate with pumpkin puree, carmelized chestnuts, crab apple and vanilla.

Right now they’re catching a lot of Mahi Mahi, so I’m doing it in a stew with 20 different kinds of peppers I got from two different farms; some are hot, some are sweet. We just started with these local baby Brussels sprouts, adding pancetta, and other ingredients; that’s pretty interchangeable for a variety of different kinds of fish.

And then I’m using Tripletail snapper. I’m making another stew with all kinds of shell fish, and I take three different kinds of pumpkins and I juice them; 10 different kinds of mussels and clams and scallops in the shell. I add apples, roasted pumpkin seeds, sage, chili oil and steam it all together in the broth.

This time of year, I’m doing different kinds of wild mushrooms, and combine chestnuts glazed with chestnut honey. I serve this with goat cheese baked in the oven, with soft polenta. You can change it up with a variety of things, which keeps the menu exciting.

Q: Tell us more about the concept behind Barchetta, which launched earlier this year…

A: Still primarily seafood-focused, it’s a more casual restaurant. The concept is to be more downtown and straight-forward, user-friendly. It takes time to build a business and figure out who your clients are going to be. It’s still relatively new.

So far the feedback is pretty good. Customers like the atmosphere and the food. We just started lunch and are doing some brunch, which seems to be going well.

Q: You’ve certainly proven that Esca is a mainstay. With so many restaurants to choose from in Manhattan, and the competitive nature of the market, are you seeing Barchetta as unique in certain ways?

A: There are very few fish restaurants in New York City. I don’t really know the reason. I try to keep it simple and stay focused on the quality ingredients all the time.

Q: What are the biggest food trends you’re seeing?

A: Most of the trends come and go. If you make good solid food and people can understand it, it will survive the test of time. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Q: You’re keen on local produce. How about organic?

A: I use a lot of organic produce. What’s most important for me is how it’s grown, where it’s grown, who the farmer is, is he passionate, does he care… That’s the key.

We deal with a lot of guys who grow in the historic black dirt region in New York. The soil is very rich. It really does make a difference when you go back to the source.

Q: Your penchant for fish, produce and pure ingredients seems to be in line with the movement to address obesity, diabetes and other health issues.

A: Processed food is a whole other topic for another day. I don’t use any butter or cream, so my dishes are healthy to begin with.

Q: Do you have any projects in the pipeline?

A: Yes. I’d like to spend more time fishing! I’m happy putting new motors on my boat, and planting new vegetables in my garden. Growing up, I always fished, always had a great garden, and always had good food on the table. I’m now holding the torch for my family.

Q: Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share with people in the produce industry?

A: Keep it simple. Sometimes they try to make it too fancy with the packaging. Spend less money on the packaging and spend more money on what you’re growing.

***

Some produce firms get worried when they hear chefs speak so lovingly of local. Fair enough… After all, everything is local somewhere, and sometimes the best quality of an item is far away. Other produce firms worry about such devotion to heirloom varieties that are typically not commercially grown because they don’t have the yield or disease-resistance or other characteristics necessary to do high volume.

We would say it is more important to listen. The food at Esca is incredibly delicious. It better be, though, because this is where you buy Taglierini Piedmontese – Piedmontese-style spaghetti with Alba white truffles for $100 a plate!

And although many items are much less, the great tasting menu for the whole table is $125 a person with wine included.

So Chef Pasternack can focus on buying and serving the very best.

That is not viable for mainstream foodservice, but it is aspirational for many consumers.

In a sense, the challenge for the produce industry is how it should respond to consumer aspirations for things they can’t or won’t pay for.

One very powerful idea is if the produce industry can move more chefs and home cooks to choose produce first and then select proteins as flavoring. This will allow chefs and consumers to buy peak flavor and well-priced produce.

You can register for the whole event here.

We can help you with hotel rooms if you let us know what you need right here.

Get one of the last booths available by contacting us here.

And consider sponsoring one of the events right here.

We look forward to seeing everyone in New York.

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