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Perishable Pundit
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email:
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Produce Business

Deli Business

American Food & Ag Exporter

Cheese Connoisseur



Spring Produce Show Lineup

Of course, the big produce event this season is the United Fresh Produce Association Show, which this year is themed Winning is Everything — we are certain in homage to its Las Vegas venue and not as a statement of values.

United this year has a big event planned with Jeb Bush as the keynote speaker and a roster of educational and networking events. Its post-event conference, which last year focused on food safety, targets sustainability.

America now also has a roster of regional produce events. The Fresh Produce and Floral Council just finished its Northern California Expo in Pleasanton, California. Its Southern California show is coming up July 20, 2010, at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

Just last month, The Southeast Produce Council completed its Southern Exposure Event and will be coming back strong next March with another edition.

Over the summer PMA will have its long established Foodservice Conference and, come the Fall, the “mother of all produce events” when PMA holds its annual Fresh Summit in Orlando.

And, of course, The Eastern Produce Council and PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine are presenting the premier iteration of The New York Produce Show.

However, this week’s produce trade show is up in Boston, where The New England Produce Council is presenting the 10th annual iteration of the NEPC Produce & Floral Expo.

We confess a special fondness for the Boston event. The Pundit was honored to be the very first keynote speaker back ten years ago, and PRODUCE BUSINESS has been privileged to present at the event, jointly with the NEPC, an annual New England Retailer of the Year Award since 2005:

2005 — Paul Kneeland

2006 — Jack Salamon

2007 — Domenic D’Antuono

2008 — Will Wedge

2009 — Mike Giza

This year’s event features Tedy Bruschi of the New England Patriots as the “Expo Sports Celebrity,” and we’ve received an announcement about this year’s keynote speaker:

The New England Produce Council, Inc. is happy to announce Lenny Clarke, comedian/actor, as their keynote speaker at the 10th annual NEPC Produce & Floral Expo on Wednesday April 14th at the Hynes Convention Center, Boston.

Lenny Clarke is best known in the entertainment world for his sarcastic social commentaries, anecdotal humor and thick Boston accent. He served as the regular host of the open mike nights at the locally famous Ding Ho restaurant for four years before showcasing his talent to audiences around the world in television shows, movies and stand-up acts.

Clarke has been cast in numerous television shows, such as ABC’s “The Job,” and was featured in his own TV series, “Lenny,” which ran for 18 episodes. He has also appeared on “The Tonight Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Good Morning America,” numerous specials on Comedy Central and has a recurring role as Uncle Teddy on Denis Leary’s FX drama “Rescue Me.”

On the big screen, Clarke has been featured in several films, including “Two if by Sea,” “There’s Something About Mary,” “Rounders,” “Moonlight Mile,” “Just Another Story,” “Stuck on You,” with fellow Cambridge native Matt Damon, and most recently “Fever Pitch.” As a stand-up comedian, Clarke has been featured on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” VH1’s “Stand-Up Spotlight,” MTV’s “Funny Papers,” and HBO’s “Nothing Goes Right,” with the legendary Rodney Dangerfield.

He gives tirelessly to local New England charities including serving as a Board Member of The Genesis Fund, the (Denis) Leary Firefighters Foundation and the Cam Neely Foundation.” Come have a few laughs, meet Lenny and join us for an exciting show at the NEPC Produce & Floral Expo!

Lenny Clarke is a comedian, but also was notable for his interest in politics. He famously ran for Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a platform urging the performance of a profane synonym for sexual intercourse in regard to the Kennedy family. More recently he supported Scott Brown for US senate race in Massachusetts.

A sort of comic poet laureate for the white working class ethnic guy, it has been stated that Clarke was the most famous “saloon comic” in Boston during the 1980’s, during the peak of the Boston comedy scene.

Clarke also participated in a funny bit ripping Mel Gibson when he and Denis Leary learned that Red Sox First baseman Kevin Youkilis is Jewish.

Of particular interest to the trade, Lenny Clarke recently lost 144 lbs with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. This life-changing experience will bring a special perspective to his keynote at NEPC.

If you are in range and can possibly make it to this year’s NEPC event, we urge you to do so. You can register here.




Symbolon’s Fleming Sheds More Light On Traceability

Traceability has long been an area of focus for us here at the Pundit. Few have contributed more substantially to this discussion than Gary Fleming, when he was working in his capacity as the Vice President, Industry Technology and Standards for the Produce Marketing Association. In fact, Gary contributed to at least five articles related to Traceability when he was at PMA:

Guest Pundit — Traceability And The Need For A Common Language

Guest Pundit — Pairing The Global Language With Technology

Guest Pundit: Traceability — A Forgotten Piece Of Food Safety

Pundit’s Mailbag — Traceability

Pundit’s Mailbag — Joint Response To Produce Traceability Cost Concerns

After Gary established his own consultancy, the Symbolon Group, Gary undertook the task of attempting to help the industry think through the Produce Traceability Initiative by agreeing to write a series of three pieces.

The first, we titled, Gary Fleming Speaks Out: Produce Traceability Series Part 1:’Absent of PTI.’ Here we present Part II of the Series:

Key Traceability Projects in the Food Industry

In the first part of this three part series to the Pundit, I had discussed what would happen to whole-chain traceability “Absent the PTI” (Produce Traceability Initiative). In this second series, I will be discussing what is happening in other sectors in the food industry that could have impact on what your company is doing. First inclination may be to dismiss what is happening in other sectors; however, as it will affect the buying community, it may also have influence on the buying community, which will most likely have influence on the supplier community as well.

I want to approach this from both a buyer’s perspective and also a supplier’s. Let’s begin with each perspective and then move into the initiatives.

From a buyer’s perspective, some say that the produce category represents 8 — 12 % of their business. If this is true, some buyers say that it is difficult to make changes to systems and processes based upon something that will only serve this fraction of their business. The ultimate goal for a buyer, therefore, would be to make a change that would be universally acceptable across all of their product lines, not just produce.

From a supplier’s perspective, some supply both grocery retail and foodservice. If the supplier community were to make an investment to make changes to their systems and processes, their ultimate goal would be to ensure that both their grocery retail customers and their foodservice customers will accept the same standard. If there is more than one standard that a supplier will have to accommodate, it immediately means multiple inventories of the same product, labeled differently because of a specific customer or sector request that goes against the standard. The more differences, the more costly the equation becomes.

In meetings that took place at both FMI and GMA last year with key trade associations representing the food industry, the consensus was that the PTI model was the traceability model to emulate. As you will see, the initiatives below that are alive in the food industry have done exactly that.

GS1 Foodservice Standards Initiative

This initiative, led by GS1 US and endorsed by IFDA (International Foodservice Distributors Association), IFMA (International Foodservice Manufacturers Association), NRA (National Restaurant Association), GS1 Canada and 55 major foodservice manufacturers, distributors and operators, has emulated what the PTI has done, not only with their choice of standards, but also with closely aligned milestones and timelines. As one can easily determine, the standards used for this large foodservice initiative are the GS1 standards, the very same standards used by the PTI. The recommended case identification number used in this initiative, the GTIN (Global Trade Item Number), is the same number recommended by the PTI. In addition, the same barcode is being used (the GS1-128), the same number for a pallet is being used (i.e. SSCC when using the ASN), and the same key traceability element is used, the Lot/Batch number. The milestone to use the GTIN is consistent with milestone #4 and #5 of the PTI: the third quarter of this year. In fact, the foodservice initiative goes a step further in promoting the use of the GTIN on all business transactions (e.g. purchase orders, invoices, etc.).

This is good news for the supplier community. As if you are supplying product to both grocery retail and foodservice, then the standards used will be the same.

Meat and Poultry Traceability Guidelines

These guidelines were created by the mpXML group (i.e., meat and poultry group). This group originally started out as a group to work on XML standards (i.e., electronic commerce), but has morphed into a group that works on supply chain efficiencies and traceability for the meat and poultry sectors. Members of this group include manufacturers, processors, distributors, packers and buyers. Their recent release of their guidelines has also largely mirrored what the PTI has done.

They use the same standards as both the PTI and GS1 Foodservice Standards Initiative (i.e., GS1 standards); they use the same case identification number (i.e., the GTIN); they use the same barcode (i.e., the GS1-128 barcode); they use the same key traceability element (i.e. the Lot/Batch #), and they have the same recommendation regarding the use of the ASN (i.e., they use the SSCC number for the pallet).

This is good news for the buyer community, as changes can be made that would accommodate not only produce, but meat and poultry businesses as well.

Other Initiatives

The fish industry has begun a project to essentially mirror the initiatives above, having endorsed the use of GS1 standards and using Lot/Batch number as a key traceability component. Other sectors, while engaged in the initiatives above, have not begun any sector-specific projects. This is largely due to the fact that their buying customers are already part of the initiatives above.

What can be deciphered from these projects? They all use the same standards, which not only include the standard product identification numbers for case (i.e., GTIN) and pallet (i.e., SSCC), but also the same standard barcode (i.e., GS1-128), the same best practices around the use of the ASN, and the same basic traceability component (lot/batch #). These same principles apply to the entire food industry.

What standards are consumer packaged goods companies using: GS1 standards. What number are they using on their cases: the GTIN. What barcode are they using: the GS1-128 barcode. What number is needed for traceability: lot/batch number. What is the largest implemented standard in the world: GS1. Finally, what standard has the largest chance for acceptance around the world for both imports and exports: GS1.

Is it any wonder that at their recent PTI Steering Committee meeting held in Dallas on February 19th, the milestones and timelines were reaffirmed by those in attendance?

So when will those who do not want to believe start believing? What more is needed for companies to understand why the use of an industry standard is the only economical way for the industry to move?

It is certainly understandable why an individual company that is currently not using an industry standard would object, as it means cost to their operation to change. If we all opt to continue with our own proprietary solution, or think that having an internal traceability solution is enough, the food industry will be no better off than we have been in the past: every company doing the same thing different ways. In this scenario, the costs to do business will continue to unnecessarily increase due to inefficiencies, multiple inventories will need to be kept, multiple practices and processes will still abide, and the industry will not be able to help the FDA in their whole-chain traceback investigation. Remember, the FDA has to deal with multiple companies, having multiple standards, different numbers, different information, and they are the only entity in our industry that has to perform a traceback investigation from start to finish.

Remember that the consumer packaged goods industry as a whole was able to rally around one standard, one barcode, one case and one item identifier. They represent nearly 50% of a food buyer’s volume. So, it can be done.

The debate surrounding the Produce Traceability Initiative has acquired an almost surreal aura. There are a few individuals who have been willing to speak out against it as we demonstrated with these pieces:

Though Traceability Initiative Is A Big Win, Weak Links Still Exist

Is PTI Too Expensive And ‘Untenable’? A Retailer Speaks Out

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wholesaler’s Struggle With PTI And Real Life Situations

Is Produce Traceability Initiative Worth The Investment?

Yet in every official meeting of every industry group, there is virtual unanimity that PTI is a great idea.

Now part of the problem is that the industry has not yet found a good way to allow midsize and smaller companies to give voice to concerns. Most fear to speak out. They don’t want to be the face of resistance to higher standards.

Another dimension of the problem is that objecting basically requires calling the buyers who participate in these organizations liars — or at least not fully in control of the outcome.

After all, PTI or no PTI, if this standard is really going to be required to sell Wal-Mart, Kroger, Safeway and Supervalu on the retail side, plus Sysco, U.S. Foodservice, Pro*Act and Markon Cooperative on the foodservice side — just to name some of the bigger buyer names that have endorsed the PTI — then anyone who wants to sell mainstream retail and foodservice has to conform to the system.

So any mainstream vendor that is not moving in this direction is implicitly saying that they don’t believe that the buyers will constrain their supply chain to only PTI-complaint vendors. These vendors, through their actions, are saying that it is more important to keep costs down than to become PTI-compliant because, in the end, the buyers will go for price.

It is not an insane point of view and may be the strongest argument for government regulation — that such regulation can eliminate the non-compliant product from the market and thus remove the temptation to sell it and then to remove the market dynamic whereby retailers who would like to constrain their supply chain feel a competitive necessity to buy cheap product.

It is a quandary, especially for those of us hesitant to see more government regulation.

We appreciate Gary’s writing these pieces. The name of his consultancy, the Symbolon Group, shows he understands what this is all about.

A symbolon — which is a word derived from the Greek symbàllein — to join, put together or make whole — was a mechanism by which strangers could confirm one another’s identity.

Perhaps friends, lovers or conspirators agreed that a courier was going to be sent from one to the other to get valuable information or a confidential letter or some valuable goods. The two principals would cut in half some object such as a coin or a drawing. Then when one sent the courier, he would give the courier his half of the broken object. When the courier appeared he would present his half of the broken object and, if it fit, the other party could be assured that this was the authentic person to be delivered the message or goods.

The word symbolon, though, does more than describe a technique. It includes a notion of longing that the two parts somehow yearn to be reunited and made whole. For Gary Fleming, there is something more than technique in his proposals; there is passion, a belief that not only is PTI right, it is also technically beautiful.

This is as it should be. No less an eminence than Buckminster Fuller once said this about technical problems:

“When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”

Of course, that is just a more complicated way of saying what John Keats wrote in “Ode on a Grecian Urn”:

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
”Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” — that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

It is not unexpected that a solution so technically beautiful should meet resistance. Emily Dickinson warned against expectation of rapid change in a short poem:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant
By Emily Dickinson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant — -
Success in Cirrcuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind — -

Our thanks to Gary Fleming and the Symbolon Group for helping us to see.




Pete Purcell: A ‘Diamond’ In The Sky

When Pete Purcell passed away last month we, of course, immediately reported the news on Pundit sister publication PerishableNews.com.

We’ve held back from writing about it here on the Pundit as we have thought about how best to express what his passing symbolizes for this industry.

It is note worthy that when Mr. Purcell died, we received more phone calls than we ever have upon the announcement of a death. This is not because Mr. Purcell was so popular or even well known; it is because the nature of his involvement in the trade was transformational.

We always felt a connection with Mr. Purcell’s work. We launched Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, back in 1985, at a time when Mr. Purcell was at the peak of his influence. At that time, a typical produce industry ad was filled with hand-drawn cartoon art of fruit with phrases such as “Shipping in Season from May through July — call Joe,” and we thought we could help professionalize the industry and that was really in lockstep with Mr. Purcell’s mantra.

In his seminars and consulting, he emphasized a new professionalism for the industry. He wanted to elevate it. He used to often point out how worthless it was for the typical produce salesperson to use meaningless phrases — describing the fruit as “diamonds” was an example he often used.

He wanted marketers to be professionals and offer real value. He urged a move away from consignment selling because he didn’t see that as selling at all.

It is the painful truth that when those who are successful in a transformational way pass away, any attempt to describe their achievements will sound trite to those who never knew any other world. So if we go to young people in the trade and say that Pete Purcell taught us that salespeople should have accurate and valuable information about the products they sell; that they should work hard to communicate that value to buyers, and that they should fight to get fair value for what they sell and not just cuff it away… he will sound unoriginal, even pedantic and derivative, certainly not revolutionary.

World renowned twentieth-century economist John Maynard Keynes, though, gave us this quote:

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

And so it is that people who never met Pete Purcell, never took his seminar, never even heard of him, are every day acting as slaves to ideas he promulgated and popularized decades ago.

Of course, the calls we received were from people Peter Purcell touched and that was the rest of the story. If his ideas were transformational, his personal commitment to those he worked with was legend. You hired a consultant and you got a mentor for your children in the business, a PR agent and a friend.

What does one call a life when one has ideas that have made a difference for everyone and a heart that touched deeply those he came to know? We call it a life well lived.

Deepest condolences to Yvonne Purcell, his wife of 61 years, as well as to his 5 daughters and their spouses, his 11 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. The memory of the righteous is a blessing.




‘Fresh For Ellen’ Raises A Question: How Should We Define Success?

We have run three pieces chronicling the efforts of Dan’l Mackey Almy, President and Managing Partner of DMA Solutions, to create a produce tie-in with Ellen DeGeneres’ announced decision to give up sugar.

Our first missive profiled the effort and critiqued the nutritional science behind Ellen’s plan. We called that piece, Plea For Ellen DeGeneres To Consider Produce In Her Sugar-Free Diet.

We then followed up with a piece built around a letter Dan’l sent urging us to think about the “potential of grass roots marketing efforts for our space.” That piece was titled, How Will Success Be Measured For Fresh for Ellen Social Media Campaign?

Then Cindy A. Jewell, Director of Marketing for California Giant Berry Farms, sent props for the effort, announcing “Way to Go Dan’l!” We built a third piece around that letter and called it, ‘Fresh For Ellen’ Shows Passion And Potential To Help The Industry.

Now Dan’l weighs in again:

I want to once again extend my appreciation for your coverage of Fresh for Ellen. So many people have chosen to see the potential in collaboration and the importance of sharing our fresh produce story in a unique way. To pigeon-hole the efforts of many industry leaders and consumers into a simple “social media campaign” or as a group who is more about “giving produce away” than selling it is an unfortunate miss and intentional deflection from the true essence of Fresh for Ellen — EFFORT! That’s it, Jim. Not Dan’l’s effort, but a large group of industry leaders and consumers. Please take a look.

We made an effort, not to replace any previous efforts to promote fresh produce, and took it upon ourselves to introduce a new and different approach. I am confident that all the smart marketers reading the Pundit understand that social media is just a tool — not the strategy — and I am also certain that every person involved in our industry knows that donations and sharing is a part of business, regardless if we talk about it or not.

Regardless, our goal was more than doubled on our 6th week anniversary which was March 31, 2010!

I would also like to touch on your repeated emphasis on nutritional science and the fallacy of Ellen’s position that reducing processed sugars in her diet is the “proper” way to change her eating habits. Ellen may not be making her decisions based on scientific findings, but again, that’s missing the point. We all know… as consumers ourselves, that we are not always prompted to “do what is right” nor “eat what is good for us” all the time, everyday. So it is our job as an industry to evoke other emotions (fun, taste, easy to use, peak of season, etc.) in order to reach consumers and to connect with them on their terms. That requires new thinking and a commitment to engage and to become a bigger part of consumers’ lifestyles. My point, there is more than one way to win the “more consumption battle” that we are constantly striving for.

I will not belabor your readers with details of our success to date, as that too is a matter of opinion but to those involved, it’s clear. One measure, however, that should be a great gauge of our collective efforts… both the Ellen show and Martha Stewart are following a large group of fresh produce companies in addition to Fresh for Ellen on Twitter (to name a few: Duda Fresh Farms, Ocean Mist Farms, Eurofresh Farms, Mission Avocados, Frieda’s Finest and even PMA!!). How is that impactful? Collectively, Ellen and Martha reach over 6 million consumers via Twitter everyday… and they “follow” very few (far below 1% of their followers). Simply put, a “follow” on Twitter is an acknowledgement, and one that is earned. None of which we had six weeks ago.

Jim, we understand that Fresh for Ellen is not for every produce company, but the platform/effort is something we can build on. I feel you are promoting more “paralysis” and igniting unnecessary debate that plagues our industry’s best chance ever for connecting with consumers. Fresh for Ellen is not the answer to our all of our concerns, but it certainly showcases the enormous potential of our “collective efforts”, all the while doing good things. Jim, we need to be discussing ways to collectively connect with the Food Network, Jamie Oliver, Biggest Loser, food bloggers, doctors, moms, etc… we have a lot of work to do!!

— Dan’l Mackey Almy
President and Managing Partner
DMA Solutions, Inc.
Irving, Texas

Dan’l is an expert at getting publicity and serves her clients and the industry at large very well.

We see her effort to tie in with Ellen’s sugar-free journey as commendable and creative. It is not going to hurt the industry and may well help. So we tip the hat to Dan’l for being the self-identified “ring leader” of the effort. We haven’t identified it as something run by a broader group of people because our understanding is that there is no formal board of directors and that Dan’l could shut off the site tomorrow if she felt like it.

We have certainly noted donations by many companies. We ran on the “Pundit” a nice video of Sam Jones, Operations Manager for Duda Farm Fresh Foods, when Duda and Peace River Packing made a nice donation to the RCMA Child Development Center. We’ve also mentioned donations from Frontera Produce, Coast Produce Company and Del Monte Fresh. We are, of course, happy to mention that Frieda’s Specialty Produce, Tanimura & Antle, Taylor Farms, Fresh Express, Earthbound Farms, Mann Packing Co. have also donated produce.

This is all very commendable and, perhaps, some of the produce would not have been donated if this effort didn’t exist.

But it also true that the industry has been generous in its donations of both produce and money for as long as we can remember. Some companies have formal programs; Giumarra, for example, trumpets on the front page of its website that it is a fundraising partner with Feeding America, formerly America’s Second Harvest.

We ran here a piece about the Christmas season donations at Fresh Express and, here, a piece about how Bill Moncovich, the President of California Giant Berry Farms has continued a tradition started by his father and now annually sponsors the oldest continuous fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. In fact, in a quarter century of soliciting produce and money for donations to various causes, we have always found the industry unfailingly generous.

That there is a business purpose to much donation and sharing is certain… in fact, in the very first Pundit we included a piece titled, The Charity of Business, built around a debate between Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman and Whole Foods Founder and CEO John Mackey on that very subject.

The question here is what is the business purpose we are trying to serve? On that issue, we confess to finding the effort unclear. Are we trying to improve the image of produce companies so the world will think we are good people? This might help some when the industry is attacked. Are we trying to increase consumption by associating produce with sugar-free eating?

As far as the success of the “Fresh for Ellen” initiative goes, though we think it is a great effort and have applauded Dan’l for undertaking it, since we are not certain what Dan’l really wants to accomplish, we are not in a position to judge it a success or failure. Although it is nice to be one of the 5,168 Twitter feeds that Martha Stewart follows or one of the 27,916 Twitter feeds that Ellen DeGeneres follows, we don’t actually know the degree to which anyone pays attention to these things and what is achieved by being on the list. We suppose that it is better to be included than not, so we tip our hat to Dan’l for achieving that — but it seems to us a success with an unclear end benefit.

One area we agree strongly with Dan’l on is that, yes, emphasizing health and nutrition is only one of many ways to seek to increase consumption of fresh produce. We have written often that one of the problems of the trade’s promotional efforts is that they neglected the other aspects that could drive produce consumption.

If Ellen had said she was going to start eating broccoli with cheese sauce because she never ate broccoli and saw that as a bridge to healthier eating, we would have applauded the effort. Or if she said she was going to enjoy berries and ice cream, because they are so delicious — we would have been thrilled. If she said she loves artichokes with butter and since she is not overweight was going to enjoy them without guilt — we would have said — hallelujah.

The issue here is that Ellen made very specific claims. She presented a confused case, not mentioning anything about “processed sugars” but claiming she was giving up “everything” including “wine and vodka” — in fact we watched her announcement and confess that we thought she might be giving up produce since it has sugars in it.

Obviously we weren’t the only ones confused since she went back on TV to specifically explain that she was going to continue to eat fruits and vegetables. Though her explanation of what, precisely, she was giving up remained vague. In the end we know she felt she had fallen off the wagon because she had wine. Although typically both red wine and white wine has less sugar than grapes.

Ellen also endorsed sugar substitutes such as agave nectar as somehow superior to sugar in their effects on health.

Dan’l is one person with one marketing company and she can do pretty much what she wishes. For the industry institutions such as the Produce for Better Health Foundation, the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association, it is important that they not affiliate themselves with efforts not firmly rooted in science. Otherwise one day the sugar lobby will get to a congressman and next thing you know Elizabeth Pivonka, Tom Stenzel and Bryan Silbermann will be testifying before some congressional committee and asked to explain why the produce industry is complicit in denigrating sugar in favor of agave nectar.

One area we will have to agree to disagree on is Dan’l’s contention that the industry suffers from “unnecessary debate” that “plagues our industry.” At the Pundit, we see debate as a positive that brings to the surface many points of view. The industry, and players in it, are more likely to make good decisions and less likely to make mistakes when issues have been thoroughly discussed.

We wish all those involved with “Fresh for Ellen” well but it strikes us as a bit grandiloquent to claim that this effort is actually the “best chance ever” for the produce industry to connect with consumers. Sunkist was dominating the Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal long before radio and TV; the Pundit grew up with a TV singing “A Dole banana is a great banana and it’s great because it’s Dole.” And, of course, Miss Chiquita did a pretty good job of connecting with consumers and educated a nation on the fact that bananas should not be stored in the refrigerator and should not be eaten raw while green.

In the 1940’s, Disney produced a spot for Chiquita that ran only in movie theatres. More than a half century later many can still hum the tune. That is engagement as well:

Many thanks to Dan’l Mackey Almy and the folks at DMA Solutions for contributing to industry discussion on this important issue.




Gilligan’s Island’s Dawn Wells Generates 10 Million Viewers For Idaho Potato Commission

The Idaho Potato Commission is rightly trumpeting a marketing tool gone viral:

Dawn Wells’ Famous Potato Peeling Video Viewed By More Than 10 Million!

About two years ago, the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) created a video of Dawn Wells (aka Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island) peeling an Idaho® potato without a peeler

The video was used to launch a successful contest on YouTube. Although the contest has ended, Dawn’s video has taken on a viral life of its own and is making its way around the globe. To date, it has been enjoyed by more than 10.1 million viewers, and the number of views is increasing exponentially. What makes this video even more remarkable is that less than 1% of all videos on YouTube receive 1 million views!

This entertaining potato peeling piece stars Dawn in her home kitchen removing the skin of an Idaho® potato using hot and cold water — resulting in a perfectly peeled potato. As she narrates the segment, she makes several amusing references to her days on Gilligan’s Island.

The popularity of the video is a great tribute to the iconic and loveable “Mary Ann” and the world’s most famous potato, the Idaho® potato.

It is impossible to know if the viewers wanted to learn about Idaho potatoes or wanted to see Dawn Wells — a former Miss Nevada and Miss America contestant in 1960 who won fame as Mary Ann, the perky “girl next door” on Gilligan’s Island — at the age of about 70 when the video was released (she is now 71).

Whatever the motivation, the farmers of Idaho potatoes couldn’t do anything but help themselves with the subliminal message that if you eat Idaho potatoes you’ll look like this at 70 as well.

Plus in answer to what US News & World Report called “the eternal question,” men have always preferred, and women identified with, the farm girl Mary Ann as opposed to the movie star Ginger from the same show.

Besides, Dawn Wells is authentic. She really lives in Idaho, wrote Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook and dedicates her love of cooking to her mother.

Though some seem to think the idea of peeling a potato by boiling it and then putting it in ice water is wasteful of time and energy, we thought it a pretty nifty trick. Though we suppose one potato is not very hard to peel, this trick would really help consumers who want to make mashed potatoes or another dish with several potatoes at one time.

With our aging population, it also occurs to us that such a method could really help elderly people who, due to arthritis or other ailment, may have trouble peeling even one potato.

Although we have to confess that the Momma Pundit always taught her tots to eat the skin — she said it had lots of good nutritional value — we think this video passes the test of not only being popular but providing real useful value that can actually lead to higher consumption.

See the Idaho potato video here:

And the Original Intro to Gilligan’s Island here. Note that on this, the original version, Mary Ann and the Professor are not shown or mentioned… just referred to as the “rest” — it was only with the growing popularity of the characters and, supposedly with the urging of Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, that the song was adjusted for the second season:

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