Fruit choices increasing in value-added category

03/21/2009 12:00:00 AM
Don Schrack

Sundia’s True Fruit cups debuted in five varieties: peach, orange, grapefruit, pineapple and a tropical medley. But Sundia is exploring all other possible fruit commodities and is actively looking at new products and product ideas all the time, Hoskins said.

The fruit cups, both conventionally grown and organic, are available in two sizes: an 8-ounce personal serving cup and a 20-ounce multiserve package, which Hoskins said is less bulky and easier to stock in warehouses and on produce shelves.

The troubled economy seems not to be a concern for the value-added fruit grower-shipper-packers and marketers.

“We have to be careful we don’t make the economy the excuse for everything,” Pepperl said.

Stemilt sees big growth potential for its sliced apple line in schools, he said. While the cafeteria staff can cut and treat apple slices, the process is labor intensive and “a pain in the neck,” he said. Stemilt’s apple slices are treated with NatureSeal, which prevents discoloring.

Stemilt has just released a new sliced flavor, Mom’s Apple Pie, and plans to go deeper into the season with the Pink Lady variety, Pepperl said. In addition, the company is offering the smaller kids’ packs as part of the Sesame Street program.

“Value-added doesn’t mean cost-added, it means there’s value added,” Pepperl said.

A trend to more healthful products is in the crystal ball at Frieda’s.

“Health is uppermost in the consumer’s mind,” said Kaplan Wiggins. “With the poor economy, the produce department has a real chance to market these products to consumers.”

The value-added fresh-cut category may not necessarily focus on more items, but growth will be based on what’s healthier, she said.

The economy has not limited expansion plans at Dulcinea.

”Historically, we’ve been a West Coast company because most of our products were grown on the West Coast,” McGuigan said. “We believe there’s a huge opportunity for us back on the East Coast, and the majority of our growth in 2009 is going to be in the East.”

Expansion at Sundia includes the release of new products — conventionally grown and organic — during the second half of 2009, Hoskins said. Broadening the company’s organic line is another focus, he said.

Sundia also is looking beyond the traditional customer base of grocery markets and foodservice. It has tabbed a salesman to concentrate exclusively on gas station and convenience store sales.


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