View from the summit

If the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Expo floor was any indication, the produce industry is turning over a new leaf. Retailers should pay close attention if they want to stay ahead.

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) did it again. For four days in October, growers, marketers and other produce industry influencers united in New Orleans for one of the largest Fresh Summit Conventions to date.  apio

One thing was clear: the industry has been listening to consumers. No trend was overlooked on the expo floor with superfoods, sustainable packaging, bold new flavors and convenient kid-friendly concepts, among others, stealing the spotlight. Aside from a strong focus on healthly and nutritious products, companies are stepping up to the plate with new and creative marketing campaigns, interactive consumer events and loveable mascots. Here is a look back.

Super salads
When consumers ask for superfoods, that is what Apio delivers. The Guadalupe, Calif.-based produce company added two restaurant-inspired vegetable salad kits to its Eat Smart line featuring on-trend superfoods.

The Sweet Kale salad kit balances kale with cranberries and poppyseed dressing, along with a blend of chicory, green cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and roasted pumpkin seeds—a total of seven superfoods, say company officials. While the Ginger Bok Choy salad kit includes snap peas, chopped Napa cabbage, carrots, broccoli, bok choy and red cabbage, complemented by an Asian-style ginger sesame dressing and roasted peanuts (six superfoods). “We have had continued success with the Sweet Kale Salad,” said Mike Casazza, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “It was the number one salad in the new salad category.”

The company is working with the Culinary Institute in San Francisco to identify upcoming trends. “When we launched the Sweet Kale salad, kale was just becoming popular. It was always part of our strategic plan to lead the salad category,” says Casazza. The company will be adding two salad kits to the line next year.

Crazy for carrots
Officials at Bolthouse Farms are aggressively introducing items into the marketplace. The Bakersfield, Calif.-based company announced a number of new products, including Shakedown Carrots, a package that contains dry seasoning with wet carrots. The product comes in two flavors (chili lime and ranch) and has a suggested retail price of 79-cents.

“The goal is to get more kids to eat healthier products,” said Todd Putnam, chief marketing officer. “The combination of carrots with tasty seasonings will create a greater fun factor with kids. Moms will agree that this is a fun way to get kids to eat vegetables too.”

Very pallet-able
Chep is taking its pallets down in size. The Atlanta-based company introduced half-pallets to the U.S. market, hoping that American retailers and manufacturers take to the concept as well as their foreign counterparts have over the years.

Dan Walsh, vice president of sales for Chep, said half-pallets became available domestically around Oct. 1. They are 40-inches by 24-inches in size. “We surveyed a large number of retailers and manufacturers on their views on design, materials and applications,” he said. “We got a 100% response rate and integrated their views into our development process. This is the first step towards a number of new products from Chep.”

Walsh said the smaller pallets will be ideal for promotional efforts at retail as well as helping in smaller and urban stores where space is at a premium. He said worldwide 100 million half-pallets are in use. Before this introduction, none were used domestically. “We want to change that, but in a collaborative way,” he added. We want to roll this out in partnership with our retailers and manufacturers.”

Microwavable mushrooms
The Country Fresh Mushroom Co. is always looking for new ways for consumers to use mushrooms. Now the Toughkenamon, Pa.-based company has added Savory Sauté microwaveable mushrooms to its line of products. The 7-ounce package has a suggested retail price range of $1.99 to $2.99.

Bob Besix, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the company, said the line will add more value to the mushroom category and help retailers earn more profits from it. Country Fresh offers a number of mushroom varieties and supports its brand with custom-designed programs, packaging and private label.

Besix also said that the new product offers consumers a quick, easy and convenient way to prepare mushrooms and the mushroom category is growing faster than overall produce sales at retail. “It is a great opportunity to increase sales and profits for retailers,” he added.

The eye of the fry
It is not easy to repeat success, but Eagle Eye Produce is hoping to do just that. The Idaho Falls, Idaho-based grower added fries to its Simply Good Simply Fresh line of diced potatoes, which debuted last year with seasoned potato and onion blends. The all-natural—never frozen—fries cook in the skillet or microwave in six to eight minutes, say company officials.

Currently the line includes two Diced Classic varieties—Russet and Sweet Potato—and three Diced Blend flavors—Cheesy, Steakhouse and Southwest. “We had so many retailers come to us and say that the diced potatoes are great for breakfast, but they want something else for kids or for lunch or dinner,” said Nate Klinger, marketing director, adding that the fries received a big welcome from attendees at Fresh Summit.

Full of beans
It was fun and games at the Wholly Guacamole booth—literally. The team from Fresherized Foods, the parent company of Wholly Guacamole, was challenging show attendees to a game of bean bag toss while they waited in line to taste the company’s new bean dips—Taco Bean Dip & Guacamole; Black Bean Dip & Homestyle Guacamole; and Avocado, Black Bean and Roasted Corn Dip—as well as their guacamole and salsa lines.

“People are absolutely loving the new bean dips,” said Jennifer Sawyer, “Guac Squad Squawker,” aka PR/marketing manager, for the Saginaw, Texas-based company. “There hasn’t been a favorite flavor yet; some people love the bean salsa while others love the layered dips.”

More than carrots
Inside the Grimmway Farms’ farmhouse-styled booth the focus was on organic. The company debuted two new prepackaged organic fresh products under its Cal-Organic brand. The growing popularity of Brussels Sprouts inspired a 16-ounce bag of organic Brussels Sprouts. Joining that was a 12-ounce bag of microwaveable Green Beans. “Consumers can open the bag of Green Beans and add seasoning or sauces to them before cooking them in the microwave,” said Bob Borda, vice president of marketing for the Bakersfield, Calif.-based company.

Grimmway played up its focus on convenience items with a relaunch of the Simply Delicious Carrot Creations line of value-added microwaveable carrots for the winter season.

Pink lemon aid
Pink was stealing the spotlight at The Limoneira Co.’s booth. The grower was featuring its Pink Lemons, a variegated lemon containing lycopene that is in high demand from consumers, according to company officials. The Pink Lemons, along with the company’s Meyer Lemons are now available in a stand-up pouch bag that features QR codes linking consumers to tips for using lemons in beauty, nutrition, green cleaning and recipes among other things. Both are also sold in net bags. limoneira

Excitement also surrounded Limoneira’s latest campaign. Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer – Every Season is the Perfect Opportunity to Unleash the Power of Lemons highlights five time periods and corresponding campaigns for lemons: January, Nutrition; February, Beauty; March 20 to April 20, Natural Spring Cleaning; June 15 to July 15, Lifestyles; and November and December, Holidays and Recipes.

“We are working with chefs for ways to use lemons in seasonal recipes for the holidays and nutritionists for health and wellness,” said John Chamberlain, director of marketing for the Santa Paula, Calif.-based company.

Mushrooms move up
Monterey Mushrooms is seeing significant demand for mushrooms. According to Joe Caldwell, vice president, the category overall has seen consistent growth around 4% to 7% for the past eight years.

“Mushrooms fit the model of so many culinary trends and health diets—low calorie, low sodium, meatless. One trend in particular that has picked up is meat and vegetable blends. You can mix any vegetable with meat but mushrooms have the right flavor for it,” said Caldwell. The Watsonville, Calif.-based company developed a 50/50 mushroom and beef blend as part of a pilot program in 10-15 school districts last year. “Feedback showed kids liked the flavor. This opens an entirely new channel of consumption that is going to have a tremendous impact in the future,” he added.

From bog to bag
Cranberries were the center of attention at the Naturipe Farms’ booth. The organic segment, specifically, is growing by “leaps and bounds” in Canada’s growing regions, says Blake Johnston, a Canadian-based growing partner in Naturipe’s cranberry network. To capture consumers’ attention in the store, Naturipe leaves it up to the product. Both the conventional and organic cranberry packaging is designed with minimal labeling and a clear visual of the cranberries inside.

Traditionally a holiday product, consumers are learning about the nutritional benefits of cranberries and discovering new ways to incorporate them into their diet year-round. “The North American palate is changing, providing a lot of opportunity for growth for fresh cranberries,” said Johnston.

Still, many younger consumers do not know how to cook cranberries, said company officials. To target this audience, and to make life easier for time- and space-pressed holiday cooks, the Salinas, Calif.-based company introduced a Cranberry Sauce Kit that includes everything an at-home cook needs to make cranberry sauce in the microwave. The kit is available throughout the holiday season.

Spreading the word
Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers launched a Spanish version of its snaQ program display bins. Originally designed for their customers in Mexico, the bins have sparked interest with grocers in California and New Mexico, as well as other retailers that cater to Spanish-speaking demographics.

“A lot of retailers want to take a multi-cultural approach to their merchandising and are looking for a Spanish version of the bins,” said Jill Morrison, the Wenatachee, Wash.-based grower’s graphic designer who designed the characters and imagery for the snaQ program.

The message on the merchandisers is the same as the English versions, Morrison says. “The snaQ program promotes a healthy message—‘eat + play the healthy way’—along with graphics that inspire activity, like characters playing soccer, baseball or biking.” The bins also include a QR code that links to a Spanish video about healthy snacking.

Training time
Officials at Pear Bureau Northwest know what consumers need—information about pears. The Pear Bureau has launched a training program for retailers to arm them with the tools for educating their consumers about pears. “The course is for all levels of employees,” said Cristie Mather, director of communications for the Milwaukie, Ore.-based organization. “It teaches the participant about marketing and merchandising in-store, how they can educate shoppers and nutritional talking points.”

The four-chapter course ends with a quiz and awards the participants with a certificate. It is available at and in a variety of mobile formats. “We are really excited about it because there is a lot to know about pears but we take the top line information and make it available for everyday consumers,” said Mather, adding that ripening is one of the biggest questions people ask. “It comes at a good time because this season was unique. There are a lot of extra large pears which are good for recipes, and they have a high register ring for retailers.”

A raisin for everyone
Sun-Maid Growers of California is after a new consumer—one that does not eat raisins. The four new flavors of yogurt-covered raisins on display were developed with non-raisin consumers in mind. “There are two ways to increase consumption,” said Joe Tamble, vice president of sales for the Kingsburg, Calif.-based company. “Either sell more to consumers who already shop the segment or introduce products that appeal to new consumers,” which is exactly what the cooperative is doing.

The flavors—Cherry Chocolate, Orange Crème, Strawberry Greek and Dark Chocolate—are targeted towards younger demographics that typically shop the dried fruit category less than previous generations. “According to research, 51% of the U.S. population has shopped the dried fruit category. That means half of the U.S. population has not,” said Tamble.
Sun-Maid also introduced seasonal product opportunities. For Easter 2014, for example, Sun-Maid created an Easter-themed package of pastel-colored vanilla yogurt-covered raisins. “We are very excited for these opportunities. They are a healthier alternative to chocolate Easter eggs,” Tamble added.

Salad and potatoes
Wilcox Fresh is expanding its garden. The Rexburg, Idaho-based grower is diversifying its offerings, starting with a line of organic salads sold under its Mother Earth Fresh brand. The line includes Spring Mix, Baby Spinach, Baby Red & Green Romaine and Bellnova, which is described as similar to Spring Mix but sweeter, said Rusty Justus, national sales director, organics.

The expansion does not stop at salads. Wilcox is diversifying into a number of commodities—beets, kale, different varieties of chards and tropical fruits and melons, to name a few. “We are working with key growers who grow something unique,” said Justus. “We want to offer produce that we can market differently whether it be the flavor or look of the product. We have a strong brand that is recognizable to consumers.”

Also new at Wilcox was a 2-pound tray of the Potato Jazz seasoned potato kits designed for foodservice.

This entry was posted in 2013 12 Article Archives, Focus on Fresh and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to View from the summit

  1. Seriously, such a beneficial site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.