Few things go together better than foodservice and fresh-cut, according packers and distributors in the country’s midsection, and recent statistics back them up.

Fresh-cut produce is an estimated $27 billion market in the U.S., according to the Produce Marketing Association’s August report on sales and consumer information from the sector. The Newark, Del.-based association used information from a University of California-Davis study and data from a Neilsen Perishables Group retail survey for the report.

Of that $27 billion, foodservice accounts make up 60% of fresh-cut sales, according to the PMA report. Several produce companies serving the heartland, which includes Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma report increasing business for both fresh-cut and foodservice accounts.

“We are definitely seeing growth in our customer base on the institutional side of our foodservice accounts,” said Brent Bielski, general manager of Greenberg Fruit Co., Omaha, Neb. “I especially like that the school districts are willing to try different things with fresh-cut.”

Sales to institutional and restaurant accounts are also growing for Haun Potato, Merriam, Kan., said owner Dave Haun. Haun sales manager Rick Ward said although potato consumption may never return to its heyday, the company is adjusting to the “new normal” and finding that its foodservice accounts have not seen the decrease that have hit some retailers’ potato sales.

Heartland finds fortune in foodservice, fresh-cutLiberty Fruit Co., Kansas City, Kan., sees so much potential in the foodservice sector it is adding a foodservice director to its staff and planning to hire two or three foodservice salesmen this year.

Arnold Caviar, Liberty Fruit owner and CEO, said new business anticipated in the foodservice sector was one of the factors behind the company’s decision to break ground this fall on 12,000 square feet of refrigerated warehouse space. Allen Caviar, president, said Liberty Fruit’s fresh-cut operation, which includes the Carol’s Cuts brand, is growing along with the foodservice business.

Fresh-cut sales at C&C Produce, Kansas City, Mo., are also maintaining their growth pattern, said Nick Conforti, vice president.

“We’ve got a new national retail client and some new national foodservice accounts including BBI, which includes Outback and Bonefish, and the corporate Applebee’s locations in the Kansas City metro area,” Conforti said.

Conforti said C&C is so confident about fresh-cut business that it is marketing specially packaged fresh-cut produce in convenience stores in the metropolitan area.

Schools are also gobbling up fresh-cut produce from C&C. Conforti said the districts around the Kansas City area are doing a good job of using less common produce in fresh-cut forms to introduce children to different commodoties.