“Anything that is labor saving and has stable pricing seems to be the key that brings good penetration in that segment of the market,” he said.
Demand has increased for processed product that is ready to use, and Choate includes the company’s Live Gourmet brand living lettuce in that value-added category.
Easier to add
Foodservice operators are looking for new offerings to enhance their menus, just like consumers are, said Mike O’Leary, vice president of fresh-cut for Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif.
Five or 10 years ago, menus typically featured a single garden salad, he said, but today, chefs are competing to make their salads unique.
Foodservice business at The Chuck Olsen Co., Visalia, Calif., has seen some minor fluctuations during the past couple of years, but on the whole, vice president Jeff Olsen seemed satisfied.
“Overall, business is staying fairly steady,” he said.
“If it’s up or down, it’s only by few percentage points.”
John Chamberlain, director of marketing for Limoneira Co., Santa Paula, Calif., also is pleased with the company’s foodservice business.
“We’re seeing a trend up,” he said. “We didn’t really notice a downturn.”
However, he said that upward movement is a function of the company’s switching to direct sales for its lemons, rather than marketing its product through Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc.
Sunkist continues to market Limoneira’s specialty citrus.
Business is on the rebound among chains that have concepts to accommodate recession-weary consumers or that have adjusted their business models to retain and attract customers by shifting, for example, to more fresh and nutritious menu options, Meyer said.
The foodservice segment is very resilient, Iverson said, adding that he is pleased with the growth of the two-year-old company, which processes romaine, lettuce and cabbage exclusively for the foodservice industry.
“Every month is positive growth number, and we’re excited about it,” he said.