Fresh-cut in high demand

01/13/2012 11:01:00 AM
Pamela Riemenschneider

HOUSTON — Not only are customers looking for a higher volume of fresh-cut produce, they’re looking for more variety and different Stock Keeping Units.

“We have sliced, diced, chunks, halves, peeled — just about anything,” said Juan DeFranco, general manager for Chefs’ Produce Co. “We also do in-house fresh herbs that are flown in daily.”

DeFranco said Chefs’ produce is seeing more business, especially from caterers.

“It’s easier and cheaper for us to do it than for them,” he said. “We have more efficient labor, less waste and better yields.”

Brothers Produce also has more customers looking for a variety of cuts, said Brent Erenwert, vice president.

A simple blend like pico de gallo no longer is enough.

“Everybody’s going toward processed,” he said. “I have requests for things like peeled and halved yams, or diced butternut squash cubes or peeled and cored apples. It’s everybody, not just chains.”

Brothers Produce doesn’t do its own in-house fresh-cut.

“We have people do it for us, and it works well,” Erenwert said.

It only makes sense that foodservice operators are picking up on more fresh-cut, Erenwert said. Restaurants have smaller kitchens, smaller staffs and would rather dedicate their space to selling floor.

Albertsons LLC, Boise, Idaho, also does in-house fresh-cut in its Texas stores, said Mike Acrement, produce operations specialist for the central Dallas metro area.

Albertsons established a section of fresh-cut produce in its stores and sells items such as fajita kits and stir-fry mixes in addition to fruit bowls and vegetable trays.

Acrement said diced celery, carrots and onions are particularly popular near heavy cooking holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.

“We also started doing an in-house parfait with berries, yogurt and granola that’s been popular,” he said.

The 20-ounce parfait retails for $2.99 and is popular for breakfast, lunch or snacks. Its popularity prompted Albertsons to add flavors such as mango and apple.

Fresh by Brookshires in Tyler also does all of its own fresh-cut in-house said George Flores, produce manager.

The fresh-cut room is visible from the main area of the store and has a wide array of fruit and vegetable blends that go along with the store’s in-house, chef-prepared items.

Supplying to processors has been a growing area of business for San Antonio-based Murphy Tomatoes, said Brad Corlew, director of national sales.

At Mex Flores Produce, orders of salsa ingredients to processors have picked up dramatically, said Mike Contreras, sales manager.

The company sends a significant amount of tomatillos and other ingredients to Frontera Foods Inc., which makes salsas under the Frontera brand.



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