On March 22 National Editor Tom Karst chatted with Steve Kenfield, vice president of sales and marketing for HMC Group Marketing Inc., Kingsburg, Calif.
12:05 p.m. Tom Karst: The National Restaurant Association recently named your Grape Escapes de-stemmed pack as one of 18 winners of the Food and Beverage Innovation Award. Were you excited to hear about that honor and have you had a good response to the product?
12:06 p.m. Steve Kenfield: We are seeing some pretty interesting growth in that ready-to-serve market at foodservice. That’s been our focus to date on that product. It is kind of an extension of our Lunch Bunch grapes that we started in 1979.
So more and more of the snack produce fits into the drive toward healthier menus, I think items like that and sliced apples are going to see some pretty good opportunities down the road.
While the business is still in its infancy and very much a niche market at the time, I think we are encouraged by the response we are seeing. We are really excited about the opportunity to increase the consumption of grapes.
So if we can get the product to where the people are and in a form that makes it easier for them to serve, that’s what our goal has been.
12:10 p.m. Karst: In your career, has adding value to produce been one of the more significant developments in marketing?
12:11 p.m. Kenfield: Absolutely. If you were really going to (look) at the true metric of valuing innovation or advancement, in my opinion it is things that lead to increased consumption.
We believe Lunch Bunch grapes have led to increased consumption through the years. We have people (who) consume (grapes) that otherwise wouldn’t consume, and I think the same thing can be said about packaged salads and other value-added produce that goes back to the late 1970s and early 1980s.
12:12 p.m. Karst: As you look this year in particular, what are challenges you see?
12:13 p.m. Kenfield: Without a doubt, the biggest single challenge the industry faces is compliance with rapidly escalating regulations, both from the government and from the trade. We were in a production meeting yesterday and it is just staggering, the compliance elements of the government in all its different facets and at the same time rapidly escalating food safety requirements.
You have to have an organization that has the scope and capabilities to digest that, organize that and try to make it as less intrusive and efficient as possible. Without a doubt, the biggest challenge is coping with the accelerated pace of regulation.
Forget about water, forget about labor. Those are huge issues, but from the business standpoint, it is the compliance issue (with regulations).