Airlines turn focus to more fresh produce in meals - The Packer

Airlines turn focus to more fresh produce in meals

07/25/2008 12:00:00 AM
John Chadwell

Gate Gourmet executive chefs (from left) Yoshi Tanaka, Kevin Miller and Carlos Gonzales visit Jansal Valley Farms in New Bedford, Mass., to select organic vegetables.

Courtesy Gate Gourmet

(July 25) With cutbacks in service, increases in ticket prices and charges for checked bags, airlines have been scaling back in recent months.

And when it comes to meal service, airlines have also been cutting back to curtail expenses.

Denver-based Frontier Airlines, however, recently added menu offerings featuring fresh fruit and vegetables, part of the company’s overall focus on fresh foods.

Udi’s Handcrafted Foods, Denver, began supplying Frontier with salads and fruit cups for select Airbus flights beginning July 1. Udi’s Handcrafted Foods is a bakery and a fresh food distribution company that sources from Denver-based Fresh Pack Produce Inc. and Sysco Corp.’s national produce distributor FreshPoint Inc., Houston.

“About two years ago, Frontier came to know us because they were thinking of putting our granola on their planes,” said Etai Baron, chief executive officer of Udi Handcrafted Foods. “The important thing was the CEO of Frontier came from Air Canada, which had a fresh food program. He brought those ideas to Frontier and when they started looking around they saw we were doing a premium product with nice packaging, labeling and high quality.”

Baron said he didn’t seek out opportunities to serve airlines.

“This opportunity has more to do with what the airline is trying to do rather than what we’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s a huge endeavor for us to take on.”

Udi’s Handcrafted Foods has one commercial kitchen, in Denver, where sandwiches, salads, fruit cups and other menu options are assembled. Only flights leaving the Frontier hub there will be offering passengers Udi’s Handcrafted Foods salads, which include a Southwest Grilled Chicken salad with chopped green leaf and spring mix, chopped citrus herb marinated chicken breast, ranch dressing, black beans, tomato, jalapeños, shredded cheddar, fried tortilla strips and corn. The fruit cup will contain a mix of seasonal fruit, he said.

September Wade, spokeswoman for American Airlines, said airline caterers LSG Sky Chefs, Frankfurt, Germany, and Gate Gourmet, with co-headquarters in Reston, Va., and Zurich, Switzerland, provide fresh fruits and vegetables included in complimentary meals to first class and business flyers, as well as paid meals for passengers in coach seating.

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