Partnering to Compete

I’ve always felt that two heads are better than one – at home and at work. Nothing makes a job go more smoothly than sharing your ideas with someone else and getting their feedback. And in most cases, teams make for more creative, innovative ideas that can speak to a wider audience.

After finishing my interviews for two stories this month, I’ve learned that the same can be true for the fresh-cut industry as well. By partnering and cross-merchandising, fresh-cut processors and retailers can improve their sales and keep customers coming back for more.

Take, for instance, Pride of San Juan. This company has partnered with Chef Emeril Lagasse to bring innovative products and exciting new mixes to the fresh-cut displays in grocery stores.

With Emeril’s involvement, Pride of San Juan is able to pair fresh-cut produce with tasty new recipes – fresh from Emeril’s kitchen. Emeril works closely with Pride of San Juan to make sure the fresh-cut herbs and ingredients can be used in new ways that will entice customers to return time and time again. And not only are they able to offer their customers exciting new meal options, Pride of San Juan and Emeril are able to capitalize on each other’s well-known names.

And that’s good, at least according to Mona Doyle, of The Consumer Network and The Shopper Report. When I spoke with her for “Making the Sale,” Mona told me that consumers are ready for the next big thing in fresh-cut produce.

Though they’re continuing to buy bagged salads and baby carrots, they want something extra, something new.

“Fresh-cut has been growing very steadily and very significantly,” she said. “The base of people is still growing, but I think the growth is slowing down.”

Instead of going to stores looking for products they can open and serve, consumers want to use a little of their own creativity in making dishes at home. They want to make quick, easy meals, and they want to do it with ready-to-go products.

Cross-merchandising and partnering are great ways companies can do this. Pride of San Juan took this approach with Emeril’s Bam! Blends. These packages of herbs are designed to be used with different main dishes: poultry, fish, seafood and roasts. The packages include shopping lists and recipes.

Other companies are doing this, too. Different salad makers are including the cheese, meat, croutons, dressings and other toppings right in the package. Retailers are doing this by stocking dried fruit and nuts near the bagged salads. The fresh-cut industry is beginning to give consumers what they’re asking for. And there’s a lot more room for this segment of the produce industry to step in and give consumers even more.

“There is an opportunity for leadership to get to the next step in usage,” Mona said.

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