Wholesalers, distributors, retailers and restaurant operators all agree on one thing â there seems to be a mixed demand for fresh-cut produce in the Twin Cities market.
âFresh-cutâs a little more difficult than it was, but weâre seeing it pick up now with summer almost here,â said Dean Balzum, produce director for Woodbury, Minn.-based Kowalskiâs Markets.
The Wedge Co-op offers fresh-cut watermelon quarters, cantaloupe and honeydew halves and chopped, speared and cored pineapple in its produce section but saves the dicing for its deli.
Courtesy The Wedge Co-op
âThose are a huge seller here,â said Dean Schladweiler, produce manager for the Minneapolis-based store. âWe have a lot of single and couple shoppers, not a lot of families, so we always have things like cauliflower cut so you donât have to buy the whole head.â
The store processes all its produce in-house.
Co-op Partners Warehouse has seen an increase in the request for fresh cut produce, but not necessarily from consumers.
âA lot of delis use precuts and ready-made salads,â said Tom Rodmyre, warehouse manager for the distribution arm of The Wedge. âDelis are looking for something more labor-cost effective.â
Rodmyre said he furnishes produce to another facility, which cuts and processes the raw materials.
Albertâs Organics reports a strong demand for fresh-cut as it expands its program out of its Mounds View distribution center.
âDemand is growing steadily as melons, grapes and berries have come into season and are added to our availability,â said Simcha Weinstein, director of marketing for the Bridgeport, N.J.-based company. âOverall demand is up with a significant increase in interest from the foodservice sector.â
Brighton, Minn.-based H. Brooks & Co. is using customized programs to leverage its fresh-cut and value-added business, said Phillip Brooks, chief executive officer and owner.
âWeâve really been helping different customers with customized programs for fresh-cut and value-added items, and thatâs been a growing area for us,â Brooks said. âWeâre looking for that to continue to grow.â
Quartered and halved watermelon has been an area of growth, Brooks said, along with the small cups to larger, 5-pound units of cut melons and pineapple. The company also offers vegetable party trays.
While fresh-cut produce saves some on labor costs, it does add to the cost of goods.
âI see different restaurants go different ways with that,â Brooks said. âSome try to control food costs, some with overall costs. It just depends on where theyâre at.â
Brooks said value-added produce can really help when a restaurant has a special event planned, and may need to put out more food than usual.
âIf theyâve been a little slow and are planning for a big party, fresh-cut may be the way to go,â Brooks said.