Sell More Dried and Freeze-Dried Fruit

California and Turkish figs and apricots, pitted dates, apple rings and dried cranberries, strawberries, pineapple, mango, tart cherries, pears, peaches, and blueberries are among the offerings packaged in clear plastic, family-size containers, ready for grab-and-go snacking at the new Morton Williams Supermarkets in the Upper West Side, NY.

The dried fruits market is projected to grow, as consumers prioritize healthier snacking.

Originally printed in the March 2024 issue of Produce Business.

When customers walk into the new Upper West Side location of Morton Williams Supermarkets, they’ll find a near floor-to-ceiling, 100-plus-SKU display of dried fruits and nuts. The store, which opened in January, occupies the full west side of the block, making it one of the largest grocers in the neighborhood.

California and Turkish figs and apricots, pitted dates, apple rings and dried cranberries, strawberries, pineapple, mango, tart cherries, pears, peaches, and blueberries are among the offerings packaged in clear plastic, family-size containers, ready for grab-and-go snacking.

“We have a reputation of carrying a large selection of dried fruits, conventional and organic, as well as nuts and trail mixes in our produce departments year-round. It brings customers in who are looking for healthy snacks,” says Marc Goldman, produce director for the 17-store chain headquartered in the Bronx, NY.

Dried fruits have dusted off their old-time image of solely seasonal baking ingredients, spurred by consumer preference for flavorful, nutrient-packed, unprocessed, ready-to-eat snacks. As such, the dried fruits market is projected to reach a value of $9.39 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 4.1%, according to the Global Dried Fruit Market Report, released in August 2023, by SkyQuest Technology Consulting, in Westford, MA.


Ancient Mesopotamian tablets date mankind’s drying of fruit back to 1700 B.C. Fast forward, and two trends — healthy snacking and flavor — are driving demand and product development in the dried fruit category.

“Convenient snacking, a healthy alternative to salty snacks and flavor” brings customers into the produce department for dried fruit at B&R Stores, a 32-store chain based in Lincoln, NE, which operates under the Russ’s Markets, Super Saver, C&R Market, Grand Center Apple Market, Allen’s, Joe’s Fresh Marketplace and Mason’s Supermarket banners, according to produce director, Randy Bohaty.

Last July, Sunsweet Growers introduced its Probiotic+Prunes product, which includes BC30 Probiotics with added elderberry. Probiotics and the natural fiber of the prunes support digestive health and immunity. The product comes in a 6-ounce resealable bag.

“Customers are looking for added health benefits when considering snacks,” says Taylor Falati, product marketing manager for dried fruit, at the Yuba City, CA-based prune co-op, which also offers dates, apricots, mango, and other innovation snacking items, such as Sierra Trail Bites.

“Consumers are increasingly prioritizing healthier snack options, including dried fruits, nuts, and seeds,” says Katharine Hawkins, director of marketing and e-commerce for New Hope, MN-based Waymouth Farms Inc., doing business as Good Sense Foods. “They expect cleaner labels, limited ingredients, no artificial flavors or colors, and transparency on where the product is sourced.”

Hawkins says some of their current best-selling dried fruit items include dried mango, dried apricots, banana chips and a tropical mix. “The more familiar mainstream items continue to sell well, but we are also seeing growth in the marketplace with no added sugar dried fruits. We have new items that do not have added sugars, including dried banana bites, mango, pineapple and apple chips.”

Similarly, freeze-dried fruit appeals to the healthy snackers/active family demographic, according to Dionna Gary, marketing manager for Crispy Green Inc., in Fairfield, NJ. “Our Crispy Fruit line’s most popular freeze-dried fruit flavors for retail are strawberry, apple and mango. Our latest innovation is recyclable four-pack bags.”

There’s a generational shift in what shoppers are looking for in varieties of dried fruits.

“Prunes, raisins and cranberries are the big sellers, but Gen Z and millennials are looking for something different,” says Josh O’Brien, vice president of sales for Bend, OR-head BranchOut Food, which uses a patented technology to delicately dry fruit.

“We started with Avocado Chips because our process prevents oxidation of the fruit turning brown. Then, we added Banana Bites, which are chewy and taste like a banana and marshmallow had a baby, and Pineapple Chips. Pineapple is now the No. 1 seller. These are single-ingredient and packaged in 1.3 to 2.0 snack-size bags.”

The newest dried fruits Western Mixers Produce & Nuts has added to its line include organics, says Kristin Bolstad, an employee at the Ontario, CA, company.

According to Robert Schueller, director of public relations, six of the 10 top-selling dried fruit SKUs from Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, in Vernon, CA, are organic: Medjool Dates, Mission Figs, Coconut, Date Coconut Rolls, Date Almond Rolls and Mango.

“Our dried Ataulfo mangos are incredibly popular and rather unique on the market, especially considering ours is the only direct-from-farm dried organic mango out there,” says Nissa Pierson, who manages sales and marketing for Crespo Organic, the organic mango brand of El Grupo Crespo/RCF Distributors, in Rio Rico, AZ. “Our single-ingredient dried Ataulfo mangos have a sweet-rich, sugar-caramel, tropical taste with a tinge of fruity spice notes. They are packed into resealable bags for optimal freshness.”

With the demand for healthy snacking options, retailers should be promoting and displaying dried fruit in conjunction with the assortment of fresh fruit.

As for novel flavor, Bard Valley Natural Delights-brand Medjool Dates introduced its Medjool Date Strips with Tajin Chili Lime Seasoning in August 2023.

“This latest innovation responds directly to consumer trends by blending sweet and heat. This product aligns with the forecasted food trends of 2024, where complex heat is identified as a top culinary preference,” says Bridgette Weber, trade marketing manager for the Yuma, AZ-based company.


With the demand for healthy snacking options, retailers should promote and display healthy dried fruit in conjunction with the assortment of fresh fruit, recommends Good Sense Foods’ Hawkins. “For example, display a floor shipper of dried cherries next to fresh cherries during the cherry harvest season. This will generate awareness, potentially generate impulse buys to increase sales, and provide the consumer with a known destination spot for healthy snack items in produce.”

Given that mangos are now available year-round, adds Crespo Organic’s Pierson, “Whether your fresh mango display is extensive or compact, dried mangos complement them exceptionally well. Data is still new, but what we see from our retailers is more incremental sales on the dried SKU and more enthusiasm on the fresh display.”

The company has introduced a shelf-ready, tear-away display case as a convenient solution for small retailers and compact retail spaces.

Spinner racks effectively display freeze-dried fruit products in the produce department at B&R Stores, says Bohaty. “We’ll move the rack to different places in the department depending on the season, and customers always find it.”

Sales results happen when products are displayed on end caps or at eye level. “Anytime you have product set at knee level or below, the visibility of the product is limited,” says Western Mixers’ Bolstad.

In terms of cross-merchandising, “our dates have paired exceptionally well with California walnuts, BelGioioso cheese and Suja juice,” says Bard Valley Natural Delights’ Weber.

One of the ways that Sunsweet Growers suggests cross-merchandising its product at retail is by using instant redeemable coupons (IRCs). The company is starting to incorporate QR codes on its packaging and provides recipes throughout the year.

Price is always integral to retail promotion, such as discounts and traditional, as well as digital coupons. Capitalizing on seasonality can be equally as effective.

“Keeping consistent everyday dried fruit SKUs on the shelf, but incorporating seasonal and holiday displays, can keep the consumer excited with new items and provides excitement around the shopping experience in produce,” says Good Sense Foods’ Hawkins.

During the winter holiday season, end caps and secondary shipper displays are a wonderful way to promote the product, says Sunsweet’s Falati, “since dried fruit sales see an increase in demand during the holiday season.”

More recently, there’s been a seasonal shift in dried fruit sales, adds Schueller, of Melissa’s/World Variety Produce. “This is typically June to August for all top varieties of dried fruit enjoyed as an easy portable snack for hiking and camping, with category growth of about 3 to 4% from Memorial Day to Labor Day.”

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Apple Chips — Some Dried, Some Fried

Apple chips are a popular product sold in the produce department. These are often merchandised in and around fresh apples, on the shelves beneath or above produce, and in the case of some brands, displayed in display-ready cases or shippers.

Some of these products are dried. An example is PepsiCo Inc.’s Bare-brand Crispy Reds Apple Chips, Cinnamon Apple Chips, and Granny Smith Apple Chips. There’s also the Simple Slices Apple Chips, in Red Apple, Green Apple, Red Apple with Cinnamon, and Honeycrisp Apple Chips, marketed by GourmetNut, in Perth Amboy, NJ. And there are RIND brand Apple Chips, sold in 0.9-ounce snack bags, using either Fuji or Honeycrisp apples, by the New York, NY-headquartered company.

Some are fried.

“Seneca Apple Chips are not a dried or baked fruit chip, but rather an oil-fried chip. We use a special vacuum fry process that results in a crispy, crunchy chip, much like a traditional potato chip, but because the vacuum fry process contains 40% less oil than a traditionally fried chip,” explains Beth Newell, general manager of Seneca Snacks, by the Seneca Foods Corporation, in Marion, NY.

Seneca Apple Chips are available in six options: Original, Cinnamon, Caramel, Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Sour.

“We have been successfully promoting and selling our chips throughout the year with the strongest sales in the fall during the annual apple harvest. We are a better-for-you snack that pairs well with new year promotions and we have a lot of fun in the summer months with promotions around holidays, summer barbecues and back-to-school snacks,” says Seneca’s Newell.