Puerto Rico retail, food distribution groups reject alleged shipping agreement


Warn of potential transportation cost increases; lawmaker to introduce measure requiring probe, action by Ports Authority

SAN JUAN – Saying urgent action against the potential merger of two of the companies that control the entry and exit of products to Puerto Rico, the president of the United Retailers Center (CUD by its Spanish acronym), Dr. Jorge Argüelles Morán, and the executive vice president of the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry & Distribution (MIDA), Manuel Reyes, said the move puts at risk not only businesses but also the island’s population.

The focus of a public hearing chaired by the Rep. José Aponte Hernández on Thursday was the merger of the Luis Ayala Colón company with Puerto Rico Terminals, an affiliate of TOTE Maritime, whereby Puerto Nuevo Terminals would operate a seaport and provide services in the Port of San Juan.

“Right now, we have four shipping companies that serve Puerto Rico individually. With this merger, the TOTE company would end up dominating 70% of the transportation. This would leave in the hands of TOTE and Crowley absolute control of tariffs, container offloading, and schedules to lift merchandise from the dock, as well as who can enter the port of San Juan. Undoubtedly, this commercial union would imply a nefarious monopoly for the country,” CUD’s president said in a joint statement.

For his part, Reyes said it was “frustrating to see how in Puerto Rico we minimize the costs and difficulties that merchants have to bring their merchandise while the whole world is constantly fighting to have a competitive and interconnected maritime transportation system, through which 90% of the world trade in goods is conducted.”

At the hearing, the minority delegation favored House Resolution 1371 to reject the cooperative agreement between maritime companies. Both Aponte and the minority spokesperson, Luis Vega Ramos, questioned a lack of action by the Port Authority.

“That they have not made a formal consultation either to the Governor or to Fortaleza [the governor’s office] nor to Justice is unacceptable. I think it is an abdication of the responsibilities of the Ports Authority,” Vega Ramos said.

Rep. Aponte warned that “if the merger takes place, Puerto Nuevo Terminals will have full control of the international cargo entrance to Puerto Rico.”

The lawmaker said he was introducing a measure to initiate an investigation and that requests immediate Port Authority action before the Federal Maritime Commission, which regulates the oceanborne international transportation of the United States.

Puerto Rico’s Tres Monjitas to Distribute Long Island Iced Tea

SAN JUAN – Ready-to-drink beverage company Long Island Iced Tea Corp. has entered into a distribution partnership with Puerto Rico-based Vaquería Tres Monjitas. It is the non-alcoholic iced-tea maker from New York’s first distribution agreement in Puerto Rico.

A 20-ounce bottle of Long Island Iced Tea is seen in this screenshot of www.longislandicedtea.com.

A 20-ounce bottle of Long Island Iced Tea is seen in this screenshot of www.longislandicedtea.com.

Long Island Iced Tea is now available locally in 20-oz and gallon bottles, with flavors including Lemon, Peach, Raspberry, Mango, Green Tea & Honey, Half Tea & Half Lemonade, Diet Lemon and Diet Peach.

In the news release, Philip Thomas, CEO of Long Island Iced Tea, stated, “We are excited to build this partnership with Tres Monjitas and bring Long Island Iced Tea to Puerto Rico, a great market where we believe our quality ingredients at an affordable price will resonate with consumers. Tres Monjitas has a long history of being one of the premier beverage distributors in Puerto Rico, and we are thrilled to be joining its family of high quality beverage brands. Expanding into Puerto Rico is a natural progression in our global outlook, and compliments distribution positions we have already established in Canada and Korea.”

“We are proud to expand the portfolio of top line products distributed by Tres Monjitas with the addition of Long Island Iced Tea to our roster of brands. This partnership combines the power of a high quality, well-known product as is Long Island Iced Tea with a service tradition and market knowledge of almost 100 years brought in by Tres Monjitas,” Luis Defendini, sales director for Tres Monjitas, added.

Some of Tres Monjitas' products are seen in this screenshot from www.facebook.com/vaqueriatresmonjitas

Some of Tres Monjitas’ products are seen in this screenshot from www.facebook.com/vaqueriatresmonjitas

Tres Monjitas generates 35% of total sales of fresh milk in Puerto Rico. It has more than 250 products in its portfolio, including Fresh Milk Grade A, lactose-free milk, milk derivatives, 100% juices, fruit drinks, low calorie drinks, water bottled, soft shortbread and iced tea. It is also a distributor of international beverage brands.About Long Island Iced Tea Corp.

Long Island Iced Tea is sold primarily on the U.S. East Coast.

UPR Hosts Food Truck Festival Sunday

SAN JUAN – The University of Puerto Rico’s Alumni Office will carry out its second UPR Food Truck Summer Fest on Sunday, July 3, at the Botanical Garden of the Río Piedras campus.

The event will feature the participation of more than 15 food trucks from various parts of the island.

The varied cuisine will include such food trucks as El Gastro Spot, Todo Frutas Express, Cool Hope, Umami, La Chilanguita, Piscolabis, Açai on the Go!, Lemon Submarine, Sergeant Bubbler Tea & Coffee Shop, Dude’s, The Meatball Company, La Preñá, La Alcapurria Quemá, Isla Pops, Ceviche Incaínos, Peko, Peko, Antohaus, Coneheads and Crazy Sushi, among others.

The event will feature the participation of more than 15 food trucks from various parts of the island. (Inter News Service)

The event will feature the participation of more than 15 food trucks. (Inter News Service)

The festival will also feature entertainment for children with inflatable bouncers; the sale of products such as fruits and orchids as part of Extensión Agrícola’s urban market; and music by Tofflemire Band, La Muralla and Siglo XXI Steel Band.

“We want to encourage family enjoyment while supporting what’s local in a healthy atmosphere with varied entertainment. The event is open to the general public, and we invite the university community and alumni…because, in a way, it is a celebration their achievements,” UPR President Uroyoán Walker said.

Pepsi to Reintroduce Aspartame in New Diet Beverage

In this Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015 photo, bottles of Diet Pepsi with, left, and without aspartame, center and right, sit in a case at a store in New York. In response to customer feedback, PepsiCo said earlier this year that it would replace the aspartame in Diet Pepsi with another artificial sweetener that has less baggage. (AP Photo/Candice Choi)

In this 2015 photo, bottles of Diet Pepsi with, left, and without aspartame, center and right, sit in a case at a store in New York. (AP Photo/Candice Choi)

NEW YORK – Diet Pepsi made with aspartame is returning to shelves in the U.S., after PepsiCo saw sales plummet following its reformulation of the drink last summer to remove the artificial sweetener.

PepsiCo says it will offer “Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend” made with aspartame starting in September, in 12-ounce cans, 2-liter bottles and 20-ounce bottles. The move is intended to appease fans who don’t like the taste of the reformulated drink, which is made with the artificial sweetener sucralose.

But PepsiCo Inc. said Diet Pepsi made with sucralose, commonly known by the brand name Splenda, will remain its primary diet soda offering. Those cans will be silver, while the “classic” Diet Pepsi with aspartame will be come in light blue packaging.

When PepsiCo removed aspartame from Diet Pepsi in August, it said the change was the No. 1 request by customers. Industry executives have blamed the declining sale of diet sodas on concerns people have about the ingredient. Several years ago, Coca-Cola Co. tested ads in select newspapers defending the safety of the sweetener.

PepsiCo’s replacement of the sweetener from Diet Pepsi tested the theory that it was to blame for fleeing customers, but the plan seems to have backfired.

In the first quarter of this year, sales volume for Diet Pepsi sank 10.6 percent, according to industry tracker Beverage Digest.

Diet Coke, which stuck with aspartame, saw volume decline a more moderate 5.7 percent.

Aspartame had been linked to cancer in lab mice, but it is approved for use and the Food and Drug Administration says more than 100 studies support its safety. PepsiCo’s decision to bring back Diet Pepsi with aspartame was first reported by the publication Beverage Digest.

Meanwhile, PepsiCo also said Monday that Pepsi MAX will be re-introduced to as Pepsi Zero Sugar in the U.S. and will still contain aspartame.

Shares of PepsiCo Inc. slipped 26 cents to $101.72 amid a broad market sell-off. Its shares are up more than 7 percent over the past year.

Ponce to Hold its 5th Food Truck Fest Sunday

SAN JUAN – The municipality of Ponce will hold its fifth Food Truck Fest on Sunday, starting at 1 p.m., at the Dora Colón Clavel Park on Concordia Street.

Ponce Food Truck Fest“The Ponce Food Truck Fest will offer all attendees a variety of national and international dishes and tropical drinks,” event organizer Jessica Sinigaglia said.

In addition, the event will feature a craft fair and inflatable bouncers for children. Pets are welcome at the event.

There will be live music throughout the day, and the main show will be performed by Niño Planeta band.

For more information, visit Ponce Food Truck Fest’s Facebook page.

B. Fernández & Hnos. Goes Solar

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rican food and beverage distribution company B. Fernández & Hnos. recently completed the installation of solar panels that will generate 43% of its annual electricity consumption. It is one of the largest private renewable energy projects in Puerto Rico, the company said in a statement.

The photovoltaic project, which will generate 1 megawatt or 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity every year, consisted of the installation of 4,160 solar panels on the roof of its central warehouse at the Luchetti Industrial Park in Bayamón. Solar panels were also installed on the executive parking garage, for a total surface area of 200,000 square feet.

B. Fernandez Hnos. solar“The project is part of an ongoing conservation program established by the company in 2015. It included the replacement and investment in high-efficiency refrigeration [inverters] and LED lighting. For the second phase of the program, the company selected Green Energy Fuels Inc., a Puerto Rican company, to develop and install the photovoltaic system. In addition to improving our operational costs, projects such as these help us to meet our social responsibility objective: To reduce our impact on the carbon footprint,” said Ángel E. Vázquez, president of B. Fernández & Hnos.

“We estimate the project will reduce carbon emissions equivalent to burning 1,730 barrels of oil per year, which at the same time contributes to reducing global warming and pollution levels. Another advantage is we designed it in a way that allows for future expansion,” Vázquez added.

B. Fernández & Hnos. has more than 5,000 clients throughout the island. The company was founded in 1888 in Old San Juan and today has a distribution portfolio of over 200 local and international brands. Its headquarters are in Bayamón, and it has 516 employees.