(May 6, 6:04 p.m.) LAS VEGAS — U.S. consumers still get the bulk of their fresh produce at traditional grocery stores, but that’s not where the new business is.

Dennis Gertmenian, chairman and chief executive officer of Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale, Calif., said his company targets nontraditional niche markets with its products, competing on better shelf-life and cold chain strategies.

Speakers at the May 5 United Fresh Produce Association convention workshop “Business Trends: Creating New Produce Sales Channels” gave the overflow crowd several ideas, but many focused on convenience.

“It needs to look fresh, look like it’s made on site,” Gertmenian said.

Roberta Cook, cooperative extension specialist at the University of California-Davis, said the amount of money spent on the $1 trillion food sector is still split about 50-50 in retail versus foodservice, but only about one-fourth of the fresh produce volume is spent in foodservice.

The biggest challenges are seasonality, perishability and supplier limitations in produce not getting its fair share in foodservice.

She said gains are being made in the fast-casual segment, which includes chains like Panera Bread, Chipotle and Boston Market. The segment shows the highest rate of growth in the restaurant industry, she said.

Cook said produce suppliers should work with these chains to give them products that their competitors don’t have. For example, Panera now offers a fuji apple chicken salad, using a specific variety of apple.

Brian Gadwah, manager of produce and floral for Bloom Stores Inc., Charlotte, N.C., said his chain does several things that differentiate itself from its retail competitors. Its stores offer unique parking spots, like 20-minute or parents with small children spaces, and scanners consumers can take with them to check out as they are shopping.

Bloom stores dedicate more square footage to fresh foods than more traditional stores.