The United Fresh Super Sessions – with four concurrent tracks for retail/foodservice, grower shipper, wholesaler/distributor and fresh-cut processing – all offered show attendees the chance to learn about their specific market segments and interact with the board members representing their part of the industry.
After an introduction from Ron Midyett of Apio Inc. and chairman of the fresh-cut processor board, Ali Leon from Ready Pac discussed the preliminary data from the 2010 United Fresh Issues Scan. The figures appear to have improved over the last two, with convenience still perceived to be higher for fresh-cuts than whole, frozen or canned items. The health and food safety perceptions of fresh-cut items could use some improvements, but there are positive signs. According to the study, affordability perceptions increased 9 percent from last year.
Des Ferris from Ireland”s Nature”s Best Limited filled in for Paddy Callaghan and provided some of the strengths and weaknesses of fresh-cut products in Ireland and the UK. The industry there has been particularly hard on processors as customer buying habits have changed. People still enjoy fresh-cuts for convenience, portability, protection of the packaging, new variations and complete meal offerings, Ferris said, but the segment is hurt by item cost, taste deterioration, lack of knowledge about where or when items were prepared, waste from packaging disposal and lack of personal variations to items.
Processor members then had the chance to ask Leon, Ferris, Jan Berk of San Miguel Produce and Phil Gruzska of Grimmway Enterprises about the Issues Scans data and earlier comments, as well as provide comments on the direction the board should be taking. Questions on clamshell versus flexible packaging, local produce, environmental attributes of fresh-cuts and organics led to great discussions from many processors.
Dennis Christou from Del Monte Fresh presented the company”s advances in vending machines. Fresh Cut covered this new marketing a few months ago, but Christou offered new perspectives on the approach.
Check back later for updates on the fresh-cut technology session and updates from the show floor and sessions there.