( Photo by The Packer staff )

Over the span of a few days recently, my colleague Amelia Freidline and I tried more than 30 new items that will be featured at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit.

More than a dozen companies sent us products, and most sent multiple stock-keeping units — four new salads that make up a new extension of chopped kit line, for example. We sampled items from Taylor Farms, FiveStar Gourmet, Green Giant Fresh, Gerawan Farming, NatureFresh, Del Fresco, NatureSweet, Del Monte, Bonduelle, Misionero and others.

We found plenty of products we liked, as you might expect. Amelia and I shared our thoughts on the new items in a series of videos, and we found a few themes ran through our conversation. (View the whole conversation in our series of preview videos.)

One topic that came up repeatedly was packaging. Quite a few items included some kind of dressing or sauce packet, and while some were easy to tear open, others required assistance. The latter is less than ideal, to be sure, because having to procure a knife or scissors takes away some of the convenience value, which is one of the main selling points of the item.

The products that stood out to us most had flavor as the differentiator. Several items surprised us by really providing a culinary experience in a no-work-required format. Products that stood out to us along those lines included a Sonora-inspired salad by Bonduelle and various chopped kits from Taylor Farms that mixed in vegetables galore, including shredded broccoli and cauliflower chunks.

Convenience really is a key part of the equation, at least for me. (Going out on a limb here, I’m guessing the same applies to anyone with kids as well.) Other products that we loved for that reason — plus the flavor — were a Brussels sprouts sauté kit from Misionero and a line of candied-apple-inspired snack packs from FiveStar Gourmet that included apple slices, dips and crunchy pieces to swirl the slices in.

Quality ranked as another critical attribute. When the protein in a salad has great taste and the right texture, it serves as a real positive for the overall meal. If not, it can ruin the experience. Plant-based dips from Good Foods also brought quality to mind; we could actually recognize and pronounce the ingredients, and they were mostly vegetables! 

There were many other items we tried, and there will be dozens more at the show itself. An example from my own purchase history reminded me exactly why these new products are always of such interest to buyers.

I tried out a new store recently and came across a certain house-made chicken burger (seasoned, with spinach and feta cheese) that I absolutely loved. I went back to that store — out of my way — specifically for that product. Not surprisingly, I bought more than just the burger while I was there. 

That’s the power of new and unique products, and that’s the reason Fresh Summit is a can’t-miss event.

Ashley Nickle is editor of Produce Retailer magazine and retail editor of The Packer. E-mail her at [email protected].

Related content:
Fresh Summit New Product Preview — Snacks Edition
Fresh Summit New Product Preview — Salad Edition
Fresh Summit New Product Preview — Brussels sprouts, dips and more
Fresh Summit New Product Preview — More salads!

 
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