Some California grape suppliers indicate the portable nature of grapes implies added value.
Steve Kenfield still thinks there’s plenty of room for additional growth in the value-added space.
Kenfield, vice president of value-added for HMC Farms, has been working on that concept for years.
“I’ve been involved with Lunch Bunch Grapes since 1990,” he said.
The Lunch Bunch line includes 2- to 4-ounce clusters of seedless grapes, and the product is used everywhere from schools to cafeterias, cruise ships and airlines. The product has year-round availability.
But, Kenfield acknowledges, it’s just one idea in a business that could offer more value-added concepts.
“We are the proverbial freckle on the elephant, from the industry standpoint,” he said. “Our goal is to increase consumption of grapes. We think if we can get them in the places that don’t otherwise serve them, it can drive consumption, which is good for the industry.”
Lunch Bunch isn’t changing the course of the grape business, but it’s a start, Kenfield said.
“It’s got a long way to go before this or that element has a material effect on the industry overall, but every bit helps,” he said.
On the value-added front, the grab-and-go category presents plenty of opportunity, Kenfield said.
“I think if you were to take a look at what’s happening at foodservice in area of grab-and-go, as a general rule, if you see grab-and-go in the real world, the hype about snacking, it reminds me about what was centered around home meal replacement 20 years ago,” he said.
“That showed up with meal kits.”
Today’s emphasis on healthy snacking can drive suppliers into new value-added concepts, Kenfield said.
“You may find things like that find their way to retail,” he said. “The value proposition has to be the consumer will not trade off consumer experience for convenience, so it’s really challenging to add value, because the value is only defined by the consumer. That’s going to be tricky.”
The trick is figuring out what the consumer wants and find a form that satisfies a need for portability, Kenfield said.
“If you look at sliced apples, that story is well told,” he said. “You look at grab-and-go grapes, the table grape slogan for decades has been ‘the natural snack.’ I think you’ll see grapes presented in a way that does present that portability and snacking option.”
If prepackaged lettuce, tomatoes and other produce items can be considered value-added, grapes can be, as well, said John Harley, sales manager with Bakersfield, Calif.-based Anthony Vineyards.
“Some of these bicolored or tricolored situations are a value-added item,” he said.
New grape varieties can find a place in the value-added sector, Harley said.
“I think some of these novelty grapes can go into that,” he said. “It’s so new, we haven’t been able to explore the potential of it. We’re two to four years away from that, but the next two, three or four years, we’re going to see that really evolve and mature in our industry. I don’t think that product is going to go away; I think it’s going to escalate.”
New varieties, as well as packaging, are a key to growth in the value-added segment, said Louie Galvan, managing partner at Delano, Calif.-based Fruit Royale Inc.
“You give them something different to look at,” Galvan said. “Of course, the bag has a convenient closing mechanism and makes it easy to just grab and go.”
Pricing may come into play, too, said Justin Bedwell, president of Madera, Calif.-based Bari Produce LLC.
“I think with price continuing its upward trend, we’re trying to get a little more in returns,” he said. “I think value-added is something everybody is going to look at. Maybe the retail price on No. 2s or No. 3s, with smaller sizes or irregular shapes that make it not quite a No. 1. Everybody is looking at ways to add value, where they can move more volume.”