That broad reach seems borne out by results like those of Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., which reported net sales up 11% in 2012 in fresh-cut. Chairman and chief executive officer Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh said his company is the biggest branded fresh-cut food supplier in the U.S.
For sliced-apple specialist Crunch Pak, Cashmere, Wash., past is prologue. Its future lies in snack and breakfast items, said Tony Freytag, marketing director. Sales of Crunch Pak tray snacks — such as Apple Snackers, Dipperz and Disney Foodles — are up about 250% over a year ago.
“We’ll be introducing new products at United Fresh,” Freytag said, referring to the May 14-16 trade show in San Diego.
Lately Crunch Pak research has focused on breakfast-themed snacks, he said.
“Clearly, innovation is more snack-driven in fruit,” said Steve Kenfield, vice president of sales and marketing for Kingsburg, Calif.-based HMC Group Marketing Inc.
“Snacks are the strongest area we’ve got.”
HMC Farms offers snacks under the Grape Escape label. It’s also added a 1-pound tray to its line of ONEders destemmed grapes.
In packaging, stand-up pouches are spreading. Freshline Foods, now in its second year with pouches, added nine stock-keeping units in 12 months.
“We’re promoting those like crazy,” Brigido said.
The Canadian processor’s line includes sliced apples, peeled parisienne potatoes, cubes of turnip or butternut squash, and others.
Sales of value-added potatoes in microwaveable bags are up over last year but some retailers still aren’t carrying them, Kevin Stanger, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Wada Farms, Idaho Falls, Idaho, said in March.
Getting trials in prominent display spaces has been a challenge, but so has a rise in products from competitors.
Kale, carrots, celery
In the salad mix category, demand for kale blends shows no sign of slowing. Salinas, Calif.-based Church Bros. LLC is the latest in a long line of product introductions with its Italian Greens for foodservice.
“Kale is the darling of everybody these days,” Means said.
Oxnard, Calif.-based San Miguel Produce reports its value-added kale sales more than doubled in 2012. The company’s products include four SuperKale Salad Slaws launched then under its Cut ‘n Clean Greens label.
Carrots are also going along for the ride.
“The solid growth is coming from the value-added sector of our business, (which is up) 12.8%,” said Bob Borda, vice president of marketing for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Grimmway Farms. He was comparing the four weeks ending Jan. 27 to a year ago.