Lucky Citrus

With the Lunar New Year coming up on February 5th, stock up on “lucky” citrus. On the lunar calendar, this if the first day of the year. It is also arguably the most important day of the year—one that involves weeks of cleaning, preparation and of course celebration.

Citrus fruit play a big role during this holiday. Oranges, tangerines, kumquats and pomelos are eaten, displayed in most households and given as gifts. Eating and displaying tangerines and oranges is said to bring good luck and fortune due to their pronunciation and even they way they are spelled. The Chinese word for ‘orange’ and ‘tangerine’ sounds the same as the Chinese word for ‘success.’ Eating pomelos is thought to bring continued prosperity—the more you eat, the more wealth it will bring! Citrus with leaves are highly coveted as the leaves symbolize longevity. Fun fact: In some regions of China, pomelos are decorated with bright ribbons or colored paper and given as New Year’s gifts to friends and family.

Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

Fruit

Apple and Pear

Overall, apple supply is tightening. Expect price increases on Honeycrisp, Gala, and Granny Smith. Fuji and Pink Lady are continuing steadily. The Washington apple crop is expected to be large this year. Fujis are expected to last until the California season starts up. The import apple crop from Argentina will have better color this year thanks to cool weather. We’ll start to see import Gala in late April and import Granny Smith in May.

There is ample supply of D’Anjou and Bosc from Washington available. Expect these to last into March. Bartletts from South America are being harvested now; we should see availability towards the beginning of March.

Avocado

The California Hass crop has officially started, and harvest is sporadic. Growers are saying the 2019 crop is short, so some folks are going to wait for a few months to kick in. In the meantime, Mexican Hass supply is steady and prices are stable. The California greenskin crop is almost over with limited amounts of Fuerte and Zutano still available. Bacon avocado is finished for this season.

Berries

Strawberries from Mexico have limited supply. Prices have been down on Chilean fruit. Blackberry supply has tightened and is not steady.

Citrus

With rain on the forecast in the Central Valley, citrus availability and pricing can change rapidly. Navel oranges are in good supply. Cara Cara Navels are readily available. Supply is improving for Blood oranges as more growers come on. Mexican Valencias are steady. Look for domestic Valencias from Arizona and California in February. Ruby grapefruit from B&J Ranch is plentiful and ripe for promotion. Eureka and Meyer lemons are steady. Domestic limes are gapping for a few weeks; but there is plenty of Mexican fruit to keep supply going. Clementine tangerines from Shore Packing are winding down. These are a staff favorite for their sweet juicy flavor. Orlando Tangelos have limited availability. Get them while they are still available. Honey tangerines are coming on in good volume.  Royal mandarins and Tango tangerines are available now! Tangos are a seedless variety that is easy to peel and eat thanks to its delicious sweet-tart flavor.

Mango

Kent mango from Peru are ending, but we still have plenty of supply. Demand and production peaked in January with overall supply forecasted to be slightly less than previous years. Ataulfo mango from Mexico will be available at the end of the next week.

Melon

Mini seedless watermelon from Mexico has decent supply. Honeydew is very limited and will gap until mid-February. Galia and Harper are limited and expensive.

Stonefruit

Cherries are done from Argentina, but New Zealand Fortune plums have just started and are terrific!

Vegetables

Artichoke

Artichoke supply is steady but limited. California grown ‘chokes often get “frost kissed” during the winter, causing some outer layers to turn brown. Although the brownish color is less pretty, “frost kissed” artichokes have a nuttier and more intense flavor than the ones not affected by frost. Artichokes are “frost kissed” when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. Following a freeze, it takes two to three weeks before the artichoke plant can start producing “frost free” ‘chokes again. Support your winter artichoke growers by educating everyone that appearance is not everything in produce! Flavor and nutrition should always trump cosmetic quality.

Asparagus

Prices on green asparagus has been high. Hopefully prices come down as more product becomes available.

Broccoli/Cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower have strong volume. Prices are sliding. Romanesco has steady supply.

Cabbage

Green cabbage is readily available and other varieties including red, Napa and Savoy are coming into better supply.

Celery

Supply is improving; prices are coming down a bit.

Cucumber

English Hothouse cucumber supply is steady. Slicer cucumbers also have good supply. Persian ‘cukes are more limited.

Greens, Herbs & Lettuce

Green and red leaf supply is improving; prices have come down. Romaine, romaine hearts and iceberg are steady. Butter lettuce supply remains spotty. Escarole and frisee are limited but Radicchio, Chioggia, Castlefranco and Treviso are steady. Green kale is limited but dino aka lacinato kale is steady. Curly parsley has good availability while Italian parsley supply is getting tighter. Dill has been affected by the colder and wet weather; availability is not reliable. Basil is still gapping. Chives are back in supply.

Leek

Leeks are plentiful and steady. This is a great item to promote right now!

Mushrooms

Button, shiitake and oyster have steady supply. Violet Chanterelles also known as Pig’s Ear is now available. This variety is firm meaty and comprised on many folds and layers. The flavor is earthy and musky. Burgundy truffles are out for the season but black truffles are in! Talk to your Account Manager if you’re interested in specific wild mushroom varieties not shown on our list.   

Pepper

Green and yellow bell peppers are limited. Orange bells are steady.Supply for red bells is tightening. Jalapenos are very limited. All other chilies are steady. Sweet peppers are steady.

Potato

New-crop golden and red potatoes from Road Twenty Farm are becoming steadier in #2 grade, ‘C’  also known as creamer size, and baby or ‘B’ size. Larger sizes are more limited.  Frost damage caused some potatoes to crack, causing them to be graded as #2s, but they are fresh and delicious nevertheless.

Squash

Prices are coming down on zucchini. Yellow squash has good supply which is expected to continue. Butternut (all sizes), Spaghetti and Delicata are readily available. Acorn and Kabocha are more limited.

Tomato

One and two-layer slicers are very limited; prices are up. Larger sizes are more readily available. Prices are also way up on tomatoes-on-vine (TOV). Romas are available in volume. Prices have come down significantly. Heirlooms have become steadier.

Floral

Lovely tulips have arrived from Thomas Farm! Iris, Snap Dragon and other winter varieties will also be coming on. Look for more of these in the Thomas Farm seasonal bouquets. Valentine’s Day bouquets will include lots of tulips! Thomas Farm, Full Belly Farm and Wild Ridge Organics will all be on revised ordering schedules for Valentine’s Day. Plan ahead for one of the biggest floral holidays of the year! Talk to your Account Manager and check our weekly floral availability list for order deadlines.

Grocery

Eggs are limited, as expected during this time of year. Like most life cycles, the chicken-egg laying process is affected by nature’s fluctuations. During the winter, daylight decreases which signals to the hen that the temperature is going to drop. The hen’s maternal instinct kicks in that the external conditions are not warm enough for the eggs to survive. Miraculously, the hen naturally produces less eggs. We’re bringing in everything we can but during winter, nature takes its course and the chickens get a much-deserved winter “break!” It will likely be another month or two before supply starts to pick up again.

For the whole month of February, Alexandre Family Farm is offering 20% off their organic A2/A2 single serve milks. Flavors include original, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and ginger turmeric. These milks are ultra-creamy (they contain 6% milk fat!) and deliciously addictive. For retail customers, these are the ultimate grab-and-go treat!

Starting February 6th, we’ll be carrying Three Trees Organic Pistachio Nutmilk and Organic Black Sesame Nut & Seedmilk—two new varieties from this beloved dairy-alternative producer. Original and Vanilla Almondmilk will still be available. All products will be available in the brand’s sleek new packaging which features a 28 fluid ounce uniquely shaped bottle. Three Threes is offering a 15% off promotion for all products during the launch.

Merchandising Corner

Spruce Up Your Floral Department

Your produce department already carries organic produce. So why not carry organic flowers to continue your commitment to sustainability and the environment? Conventional flower farming is a huge cause of soil erosion. It also uses exorbitant amounts of pesticides and fertilizers to keep those blooms perfect.

There is more to a floral department than just fresh flowers. There are also fresh potted herbs, garden starts, seeds, house plants and dried flowers. The question is just how big do you want you to start with your program? To be successful, time and resources are needed to keep the department fresh and appealing. Even more than produce, flowers and plants are highly perishable. The success of a floral department is dependent on four areas: margin, floral prep, live plants and dry floral. 

Margin

Floral is a convenience you are providing for your customers. Unlike produce, it’s not a necessity so the margin on floral is usually lower to encourage movement of the product. Generally, a floral margin is between 24%-35%.  The margin depends entirely on how much labor you want to put into the department.

Floral Prep

Pre-made bouquets are less work because they come already arranged. At night, the bouquets should be pulled and stored in the cooler. In the morning, trim the bottoms and refresh the water buckets. Pull out any wilted or unattractive foliage.

Another option is to make your own arrangements. There are several floral markets that provide loose buckets of flowers that allow you creative freedom to make your own bouquets. This is more labor intensive and would require a higher margin to account for the extra labor. As with the pre-made, these flowers will need daily fresh water, trimming and culling and cooler storage at night. Displays that are kept fresh and appear abundant are more attractive to the eye, which encourages sales.

Live Plants

There is one very important thing to consider when thinking about carrying potted herbs and garden starts. Where will you be merchandising these items? Will you have space outside or only indoors? These types of plants have different light needs than house plants. If these garden plants will only be merchandised inside, bring in to smaller but more frequent deliveries. If you will have a space out in front of the store, feel free to order more heavily as the natural light environment will sustain them longer. Plants kept outside will also need daily watering were as plants kept inside will only need water when they start to feel slightly dry. It is important to understand your live plants’ watering requirements.

Dry Floral

Dry floral includes seeds, dry bouquets and wreaths. These are very low labor and low maintenance items. With these items, you just want to maintain adequate amounts and attractively display them.

Now that you have the basics and an idea of where to start, let’s build a floral department! Veritable Vegetable has a floral Account Manager that can help you get started and keep you provided with fresh floral deliveries. If you are interested in starting an organic flower program, contact your Account Manager to get started. If you need further help, our Merchandisers can help you out and help with some in store set up and consultation.