‘Squeezies’ pack no substitute for fresh fruit

03/08/2013 09:49:00 AM
Amelia Freidline

Amelia Freidline, Copy EditorAmelia Freidline, Copy EditorLadies and gentlemen, there’s a revolutionary new way to add the health benefits of fruits and vegetables to your busy lifestyle whether you’re in the car, at your desk or on the run — or even in the shower.

What is this miracle of modern science, you ask?

Answer: Slurping produce puree from a pouch.

Wait, what?

If you have young kids, have friends with kids or just like following trends in the baby food world, these squeeze bags of applesauce and other fruit and vegetables might be a familiar sight.

Pouch or bag packaging for baby and toddler foods has been on the rise for the past decade.

According to a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal, about 2% of new baby food products came in pouch-style packaging in 2007. In 2012, that had jumped to 40%.

Companies position these products as less messy than traditional jar-and-spoon baby food since the child can squeeze the puree into its mouth all by itself (or with a little help) and mom and dad can easily stow the empty pouch when out and about or throw it away.

For toddlers or older kids, the “squeezies,” as they’re called, are promoted as good lunchbox foods or snacks or meals on the go.

Apparently enough grownups were sneaking slurps from their kids’ smoothies that pouch-produce companies such as GoGo squeeZ, Happy Family and Buddy Fruits are developing products aimed specifically at adults.

Happy Family has coconut milk-based pouch foods for adults as well as superfood flavors, fruit and vegetable combos and a dessert-like Treat line.

GoGo squeeZ’s Fast Fruits packaging has a more grown-up look and offers a serving of fruit in flavors like apple peach passion fruit.

I tried to find both lines so I could sample their products and see what all the fuss was about, but among the three stores I visited I could only find GoGo squeeZ’s Applesauce on the Go pouches and Organic Mashups fruit and vegetable smoothies from Plum Organics, which makes food for kids from infancy through elementary school.

Maybe the retailers in my area haven’t caught on to this trend yet.

Since convenience was the main factor companies and consumers lauded in the Journal article I sampled Plum’s Blueberry Blitz smoothie while driving to work.

The roughly 3-ounce pouch was easy to hold in one hand while I sucked the fruit up, but I had to unscrew the big plastic child-safe cap before I drove anywhere.

It was good, although I couldn’t taste any of the carrot the ingredient list promised — instead it tasted like blueberry-flavored applesauce.

Carrot puree and purple carrot juice concentrate were the third and fourth ingredients after apple and blueberry purees, so I suspect the smoothie contained far more apple than carrot.

The GoGo squeeZ applesauce was a little tart, since it only contained apples and apple juice concentrate, but I appreciated that it wasn’t sickly sweet like some applesauce can be.

OK, so these products taste all right. Are shelf-stable pouches a credible threat to fresh produce?

My guess is not anytime soon, unless we all become astronauts.

Cost-benefit analysis

Though maybe convenient in terms of time, these products don’t make sense dollar-wise as a replacement for produce. Four 3-ounce pouches of applesauce cost me about $2.50, or 82 cents each.

My local grocery store had fuji and jonagold apples on ad for $1.49 per pound. According to The Packer’s Produce Availability and Merchandising Guide, about three medium apples equals a pound.

That comes out to 49 cents an apple, so I could buy six apples for the same amount I paid for the applesauce.

If I ate four pouches of applesauce a week, as a consumer in the Journal article did, I would spend $7.50 for three weeks’ worth, while I would spend only $5 for 12 apples.

Are consumers willing to spend more money in the long run for the appearance of convenience?

I can understand giving a three-year-old a pouch of pureed fruit in the car or on an airplane where there’s not much room to maneuver and choking might be a hazard.

Most adults, however, have the ability to feed themselves and to chew solid food. No preparation — except a quick rinse — is required to eat an apple or a carrot. Bananas don’t even need a rinse.

Are we really so busy now that we don’t have time to chew?

I can’t help but think of the Pixar film “WALL-E,” where humans have been cruising around in space for 700 years.

As people zoom around the spaceship on their personal hover chairs, a friendly intercom voice announces “Time for lunch — in a cup!”

People suck up their meals through straws and throw their cups away without missing a beat.

These little pouch products can be legitimately useful in some circumstances, and eating a serving of fruit in near-liquid form is better than not eating any.

But it’s not a longterm replacement, either.

Give me an apple any day — that’s something I can really sink my teeth into.

afreidline@thepacker.com

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