Determining a good value when it comes to fresh-cut or value-added produce is not always as simple as checking the per-unit price.
For each consumer, it involves assessing the relative importance of convenience, time savings, quality and preference.
Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc.’s family-size packs of AppleSweets sliced apples are gaining in popularity, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.
The 2-pound bag in particular is attracting shoppers’ dollars.
Pepperl compared the growth of the larger packages to the popularity of 2- and 3-pound bags of mini carrots that families buy to fill their own single-serving bags at home.
Consumers perceive those as better per-unit values within the category of fresh-cut produce.
When compared to the per-unit cost of bulk produce, fresh-cut is often more expensive. That does not mean it’s less of a value, though.
It takes 1.6 pounds of whole apples to produce one pound of apple slices, said Tony Freytag, marketing director, Crunch Pak, Cashmere, Wash.
If bulk apples are selling for $1.49 a pound, the apples in a 1-pound pack of slices are worth about $2.40. Add the cost to process and package them, and they have to be sold at a premium.
“But the key is not so much the retail price point,” Freytag said.
Kids prefer slices
Freytag said many young children will not eat apples unless they are sliced, so parents often buy them sliced or slice them at home. With whole apples, there’s a 75% to 80% throw-away rate, Freytag said, but children readily eat sliced apples.
“That’s the point,” Freytag said. “Give kids something they like … (and) it becomes part of their everyday life.”
Even big kids sometimes prefer sliced apples.
Samantha Cabaluna, director of communications for Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif., said she used to take apples as a snack for high school girls participating in a mentoring program.
When she brought whole apples, the girls didn’t eat them, but when she brought sliced apples, they were quickly devoured.
“It’s nice and small and easy to eat,” she said.
Convenience does help sell products, but fresh-cut items are a good value only if they are high quality.
They must actually be and taste fresh, and they must have price points that offer value to consumers, Freytag said.
Too often convenience in the marketplace has been associated with low quality, so it’s especially important to provide top quality value-added produce, Cabaluna said.
There is value in the combination of convenience and quality, she said.