ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Wegmans Food Markets here will add two more items to its growing line of canned and frozen vegetables cultivated with a minimum amount of pesticides.
Canned beets and frozen and canned carrots grown under an Integrated Pest Management program will make their debut in April, said William Pool, corporate manager of food safety and regulation at Wegmans.
IPM canned and frozen beans and canned sauerkraut will be available later this year.
While additional items are planned to be introduced in the future, Wegmans has not yet determined exactly how many stockkeeping units will be in the line.
"It's difficult to put a number on additional vegetables [that will be added to the line]," stated Pool. "We are in discussions with a number of suppliers."
Ultimately, the retailer would like to have a complete line of the IPM vegetables.
"We're talking to growers in Massachusetts. They have 14 or 15 crops," he said.
"We hope to introduce three or four more vegetables this summer, and we're actively encouraging our people to supply this product to us," he added.
The vegetables are marketed as Wegmans' "Food You Feel Good About" private label, and carry New York State's IPM logo.
IPM uses pest-control options that reduce the amount of pesticide application, while still producing a high quality and high yield, Pool explained. Methods include planting cover crops that are plowed back into the soil, crop rotation and scouting planted fields to determine the level of pest infestation before spraying.
The chain first introduced IPM-grown peas and corn, both canned and frozen, in the fall of 1996, following a rollout of fresh IPM corn.
Items in the line are merchandised in the frozen food or grocery aisle, alongside regular brands.
Though it's too early to judge results, Pool said the IPM vegetables are doing well. In addition to the trademarked logo on the package, the vegetables have been promoted with television and radio commercials, in-store signs, advertising supplements, fliers and brochures.
"We've had positive customer response and a lot of inquiries," Pool said. "The supplier that packs for us has gotten a lot of inquiries from other supermarket chains."
Wegmans made the decision to develop the IPM line a few years ago, and soon after teamed up with local growers and Cornell University's Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y.
"As a corporation, we're continually looking for foods that may not necessarily be organic but are a little simpler, without unnecessary additives," Pool said.
While IPM programs have been in existence for a number of years, the New York State IPM program at Cornell is unique because it demands stringent verification practices, said Pool. "We have worked closely with Cornell and the growers," Pool explained. "It's a three-tiered partnership to develop elements of IPM. Cornell has assessed each protocol, and for growers to be [certified], they need to achieve 80% of the total points available for any given crop."
Wegmans uses a third party to verify growers' records and document their practices, to ensure that they are practicing IPM according to the standard set by Cornell.
According to Pool, other states are often not up to speed in this area. "If you go to California, for example, they've got IPM programs for lots of crops, but they don't have a system to verify what they're doing."