October 2, 2012

In advance of PMA Fresh Summit: Industry leaders offer insights to future

This year’s PMA Fresh Summit is titled “Say Hello to the Future.” Fresh Cut magazine asked people from around the industry about their predictions for the future when it comes to fresh-cut produce.

David Linder, vice president and COO, Military Produce Group LLC, Norfolk, Va.
“We see it growing. I think the consumer is finding value in precut even in these economic times. We’re glad to see it grow and we’re certainly looking to increase that footprint in the stores and grow with it.

“I think that we’re going to see those value-added items pack sizes become larger, where right now we especially
see that in bagged greens. Our two-pound bagged greens outsell our one-pound bags. These things are becoming more family-pack style as opposed to single serve.”

Lisa Davis, marketing manager, Edge Sales & Marketing, Pleasanton, Calif.
“I think fresh-cut vegetables is growing and has more room to grow, and I think snacking is something that has a lot of potential. We are getting consumers to purchase snack packs, like Snacks on the Go from Mann Packing — realistically those should be in every person’s lunch. When we … offer consumers value, I think they will be more popular than commodities. I don’t think we’ll ever stop buying commodities, but I think these (fresh-cut) are the things that make it easier for career moms like me, and it’s giving kids nutrition at the same time.”

Jeffrey S. Brandenburg, The JSB Group LLC, Greenfield, Mass.
“One of the keys is food safety, whether it’s fresh-cut or it’s whole produce, there’s just more and more focus on food safety. You’re going to see a lot of focus on washwater sanitation and understanding what it can and can’t do. I think the industry is realizing that it’s a much more complex system than maybe originally thought, and a lot of research efforts are going into understanding efficacies and how it relates to food safety.

“From a packaging standpoint, there’s a lot of new technologies coming out. Many of them revolve around liquid and moisture management and there’s also a lot of research being done in that area.

“And certainly, sustainability. Compostability, recyclability — all of those environmental things will continue to be a focus.”

Ron Pelger, president and CEO of Ron Pro Con and chairman, FreshXperts
“One of the biggest points would be the safety of the product. Our biggest challenge in the fresh cut is to prevent these recalls … and I believe that technology and innovation will take care of that.

“The other thing is, I see in the future more outsourcing by retailers. One of the reasons is — a big reason — we look at saving time and labor and packaging expenses, and it’s safer for the supermarket chains. “

Tristan Simpson, director of marketing, Ready Pac Foods, Irwindale, Calif.
“The future of fresh produce is bright as consumers look to add more fruits and vegetables to their diet. There are several trends driving growth in fresh- cut produce. Organic, local and seasonal trends have brought value and awareness to fresh produce; this trend will continue to grow as consumers become increasingly aware of the benefits organic, locally grown and seasonal bring.

“Education is also a key factor in the growth of fresh-cut produce. The increasing awareness of campaigns such as ‘More Matters’ and ‘My Plate’ have educated and influenced consumers about the importance of a balanced diet, which includes fruits and veggies.

“As value-added fresh-cut produce becomes more popular, we are seeing retailers are stressing health and wellness messaging in their store layouts including produce.

“We are also seeing more meals made at home and the interest in cooking more culinary.

“Another trend driving consumption is making eating healthy on-the-go. We are seeing an increase in assortment of on-the-go packaged fresh-cut produce. It’s a fact that adults and kids will consume more fruits and vegetables if it is convenient to do so! Manufacturers are responding by developing fresh-cut produce conducive to on-the-go consumption.”

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