On the Road with Fresh Cut
Recently, I have had the opportunity to hit the road and visit a variety of fresh-cut operations. Being relatively new in my job and to the field of fresh-cut produce, until these road trips I had only seen fresh-cut processing in videos and demos on the trade show floor.
Being able to get out and spend time in various sizes and types of operations in person was eye-opening and gratifying. Eye- opening because:
It’s cold in there.
It’s wet in there.
The onions will get you every time.
I have never seen people work so fast and with such precision.
It’s one thing to read about food safety. Touring a working fresh-cut processor brings it home.
In some places, I removed my earrings, but still had pen, notebook and camera that quit and required a change of batteries on the processing floor – all items that made me realize how easy it could be for foreign objects to get into the product. You observe in short order that there is potential for things to go wrong, every step of the way, and realize that those who set up the systems and safety procedures already thought of all of that.
Gratifying because: There are good people in the fresh-cut produce industry. Many are or started as family businesses. Several told of great-great-grandfathers who started with a small produce stand to become distributors and then saw a window of opportunity in cutting onions and lettuce and how it exploded from there.
There are entrepreneurial people in the fresh-cut produce industry. I was impressed by how each company has a unique personality and niche, and how they are going about coming up with innovative products that match what their target audiences don’t even realize they want until they see it on a convenience store shelf, or in a grocery deli or produce department or distributor’s catalog.
It was a long drive home. So what a treat it was to bypass the fast food joints and instead reach in the cooler for a fresh chef’s salad or single-serving fruit medley in very cool, practical packaging — produced and thoughtfully sent with me by the last processor I visited. There were still packages left when I got home and days later, the greens remained crisp and fresh, the pineapple and watermelon pieces juicy and firm.
I couldn’t help but think: so simple, yet so complicated. And so very, very good.
–Kathy Gibbons, Editorial Director