Convenience Foods

The fresh-cut industry is an exciting one. This month, Fresh Cut is bringing you our first State of the Fresh-cut Industry story. It’s a Q&A with several members of the industry – from processors to association heads. It’s a story that I hope opens your eyes as much as it did mine.

In our story we cover topics from food safety to product use to the future of the industry. One of the people I spoke with was Jim Gorny, vice president of quality assurance and technology for the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association. Jim talked about the fresh-cut industry’s evolution into a refrigerated foods category rather than simply fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. This is a conversation we’ve been having around our office lately, too. Where does the fresh-cut produce category end and “convenience food” begin?

There are logical partnerships that can happen with fresh-cut produce and other departments in the store. And on a small level, they are happening. But not to the extent that they can. Fresh-cut produce can’t continue the rapid growth it’s seen for the past 10 years. At some point it’s going to slow down. But there are promising areas of expansion that offer no-brainer growth opportunities.

There are pre-cooked, pre-sliced chicken breasts that partner easily with bagged salads. There are cubed cheeses and cubed deli meats that would make simple appetizers when paired with fresh-cut fruit. Pre-cooked cubed steak and fresh-cut peppers, onions and potatoes would make a nice stew. The opportunities are endless. And this is as good a time as any to jump in and take your part of this developing market – while it’s just beginning.

As Jim Gorny said, you already have the experience working with perhaps the most perishable and delicate product: produce. Adding these other types of products would just give consumers one more reason to buy fresh-cut produce and one more reason to pick up that package that has your name on it.

Consumers know that fresh-cut produce is there. It’s become a staple grocery store item, and it’s expected. Consumers have shown that they want – and need – convenience foods. They also want items that will allow them to spend some time with their families. And they don’t want to eat at a restaurant every night. But they do want restaurant quality and restaurant convenience.

Fresh-cut has given them that. But it’s time to add more excitement, allure and mystery. Your products should leave consumers wondering, “What will they come up with next?”

And I think refrigerated foods and meal solutions will do just that. There’s a market there, it’s just waiting for someone to tap it.

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