With the millions of apple slices, baby carrots and other refrigerated grab-and-go fruits and vegetables for kids being sold across the continent every year, growers and processors say it’s time for a dedicated snack section.

"Ideally, retailers in all channels would create a destination category that groups all fresh produce snacks and complimentary items together in a well-signed location," said Tony Freytag, senior vice president marketing at Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak, which packs 2 million packages of sliced apples a week.

"These displays drive sales," Freytag said. "If space allocation is undersized, the category will fail to grow, despite the innovative packaging and product mixes."

He also recommends expanding the snack display and providing secondary displays during peak snack times, such as when children are going back to school and holiday weekends.

Bob Borda, vice president of marketing for carrot grower and processor Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield, Calif., also encourages more retailers to set up a snack section that will give consumers a wide choice of items in one spot.

Creating a destination for snack produce makes life easier for mom, said Steve Kenfield, vice president sales and marketing for Kingsburg, Calif.-based HMC Group Marketing Inc., which is introducing its popular Grape Escape bags of washed, stemmed seedless grapes at retail.

Kenfield said shoppers who find a section dedicated to healthy snacks their kids enjoy will gladly return for more, rather than having to race around the produce department searching for individual items.

"Consumers have yet to really connect with the fact that there’s a range of items they can select from," he said.

"Once they’re aware snack produce exists, they can go back and see what other kinds of packs or products or flavors they want to explore."