Christian Sarraino whips out his phone to show off the red-fleshed apples his family’s company, Fresh Taste Produce, imported from Washington state before Christmas.
With their red and rose-dappled flesh, it’s easy to see how the Lucy Glo and Lucy Rose from Chelan Fresh would delight the young chief of procurement and his brother Julian, both fourth-generation produce importers.
Across the city, another young executive, Ezio Bondi, enthused about the Italian pink radicchio his family’s company, Bondi Produce, procured for its foodservice customers on Valentine’s Day.
“It looks great on Instagram,” said Bondi, who’s also excited about the lemonquats, a cross between a lemon and a kumquat, he’s importing from California.
Noel Brigido, vice president of Freshline Foods, a division of Bamford Produce, is watching this young generation closely and tailoring his latest value-added products to their needs, starting with supermarket meal kits.
“Meal kits with fresh vegetables have exploded as millennials demand fresh meal prep,” said Brigido, whose Fresh Plate dinners for two debut in March across Canada.
“They don’t want to spend time prepping tons of vegetables, they want to cook and go.”
The Fresh Plate kits come in four flavors, including beef and chicken, cooked sous vide for quick and easy reheating. Each kit is ready in under 10 minutes and costs $15-20.
The company’s new Fresh Plate salads, including kale/bacon and a chicken Caesar for one, appeal to the desire for a single-serve, full-meal salad.
Freshline’s vegetable noodles and fresh-cut ingredients continue to grow, he said. New Confetti Veg “riced” vegetables, made from cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potato or butternut squash, also target the vegan, low-carb and/or gluten-free crowd.
Bondi says his 18-month-old New Toronto Food Co., which prepares and packs vegetables for restaurants and for existing meal kit companies, has been growing at a steady pace that shows no sign of slowing down.
At the same time, upscale vegan restaurants, like Toronto’s Rosalinda, have become a larger part of his business.
“These restaurants need a lot of vegetables,” he said, “and because they aspire to provide a fine dining experience, they have no problem spending money on wild chanterelles and taking a risk on other specialty produce, which is good for us.”
To appeal to the millennial desire for healthy eating, Bondi Produce is offering customers local, organic cold-pressed juice from new partner Greenhouse Juice Co.
Over at Fresh Taste Produce, Sarraino has seen celery volumes pick up as the celery juice trend hits Toronto.
“Everyone I know is drinking celery juice,” he said, adding that he now eats two kiwifruit before bed since he heard it combats sleep deprivation.
“These young people want to enjoy life and eat healthy,” said Brigido. “They’re not going away, and we need to change our whole industry to accommodate them.”