User-friendliness is a key to brussels sprouts sales, according to growers, shippers and marketers of the vegetable.
Approaches vary, from microwavable bags to kits to an array of pack sizes, but the results — increased sales — are the same, they say.
Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce, which concentrates on specialty and organic items, has achieved success with baby brussels sprouts, which is new to the company, Robert Schueller, director of public relations, said.
“The neat thing about the baby brussels sprouts is it’s kind of a grab-and-go item,” he said, describing the marble-sized sprouts in contrast to a mature sprout that compares in size to a walnut.
“Babies are very tedious in bulk, and that’s why we thought it would be better to offer a small overwrap to make it easier to grab and go,” he said.
The idea is to use baby sprouts in salads, Schueller said.
“The trend is somewhat resemblant to the popularity of kale,” he said.
Often, baby sprouts are combined with kale in a salad, he said.
“It’s a remarkable combination,” he said, noting the recent sales spikes in both items.
Ocean Mist Farm, Castroville, Calif., is placing much of its brussels sprouts emphasis on the value-added arena, said Kori Tuggle, marketing and business development director.
In the last year, the company has released three new sprout items: SuperShreds Superfood Brussels Sprouts, Quick Cook Sprouts and Baby Sprouts.
The items are poised to push sales growth even higher, she said.
“Recent Nielsen Perishables Group data is showing us that retail brussels sprout demand increased through the fourth quarter of 2013 — continuing the upward demand that the category has experienced for the last three years in a row,” Tuggle said.
Data also show demand for fixed weight packs is outpacing the demand for traditional bulk, Tuggle said.
“This aligns with what Ocean Mist Farms is experiencing in terms of retailers moving increased volume through our value added-microwaveable brussels sprout offerings,” she said.
The company started shipping the three new products in December, Tuggle said.
“The line expansion is designed to meet growing consumer demand as retail sales for the brussels sprout category has continued to increase the last three to four years,” she said.
All three formats address numerous value-added components, Tuggle said.
“They satisfy consumer demand for convenience, prep-free, healthy ingredient with flavor and texture,” she said.
Resealable packaging allows for multiple uses, too, she said.
“It gives ability to pre-season to preference and reseal and steam by microwave all in the same bag,” Tuggle said.
Preparation time is cut, too, whether by the product is steamed in the bag — five minutes — or roasted — 20, Tuggle said.
The Quick Cook format is an extension of Ocean Mist’s first foray into value-added brussels sprouts in 2012, when the company offered whole, pre-cleaned and ready-to-use sprouts.
The new Quick Cook format features halves for faster preparation time, Tuggle said.
Salinas, Calif.-based Church Bros. LLC is focusing on adding value to its customers, said Jason Lathos, commodity manager.
Church Bros. doesn’t grow brussels sprouts, but it procures and ships them to customers on consolidated truckloads with lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and other items it does produce, Lathos said.
“I bring in a couple of pallets a day and put 10-20 on 20 orders,” Lathos said.
It saves the customers time and money, he said.
“Customers don’t have to stop a full truck at another shed and get billed $150 for another stop,” he said.
There may be other value-added options in the future, Lathos said.
“We’ve looked at some packaging ideas,” he said. “If a customer looks for a microwaveable item, we’ll get ‘em an microwaveable item.”
Oxnard, Calif.-based Boskovich Farms, which grows, ships and processes, sees some value-added possibilities in its cutting business, said Russ Widerburg, sales manager.
“We have the capability to do those types of things and can accommodate different styles of packs and cuts that will allow us to grow that category,” he said.
The produce industry is offering more value-added products in brussels sprouts, as it is in other items, said Henry Dill, sales manager for Salinas, Calif.-based Pacific International Marketing.
“I think it’s probably going to get greater, as far as demand, because people are driven toward convenience in regard to some of these packs,” he said.