Fresh-cut vegetables hot in Toronto market

02/24/2013 06:42:00 PM
Cynthia David

TORONTO — Fresh-cut fruits and vegetables have saved many Toronto families from ordering in pizza, and they continue to help save time and money in restaurant kitchens.

Keeping the category fresh, however, requires constant innovation. That’s why Fresh Start Foods offers 50 stir-fry blends to its customers across the country, for starters.

“We introduce a new blend almost every week,” said John Bishop, director of purchasing for the full-service processor, based in Milton and affiliated with GFS Canada.

Bishop estimates the company does 70% foodservice and 30% retail, and he sees no end to the growth potential of either.

Business is so good, the 18-year-old company is expanding its value-added line by 15,000 square feet.

To appeal to Toronto’s blend of cultures, Fresh Start chefs are starting to incorporate different taste profiles in their vegetable mixes, starting with Asian.

The demand for local is also huge, Bishop said.

“Local is a bit of a challenge this time of year,” he said. “We’re trying to be as creative as possible to give value-added blends and mixes to our customers as a local alternative.”

Fresh Start’s Baton Blend of local rutabaga, heirloom carrot and sweet potato sticks — cut thick or fine as the customer desires — is popular, he said.

Another is a 1-pound heirloom vegetable mix in a clamshell ready for the roasting pan.

“You drizzle olive oil on it, sprinkle with salt and throw it in the oven as a side dish for a family of four,” Bishop said.

Side dishes help make mealtime easy for the consumer, retail & foodservice sales manager Renata Rye said.

“Consumers don’t have to think about pairing up items,” she said. “It’s done. The instructions are there, so they can take it home and pair it with their protein.”



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