From salad kits to juice shots, the Seventh Annual Produce Business Innovation Award winners brought their best to the table and store shelves.
With a focus on Product, Packaging and Process, Produce Business presents the 10 top-scoring entrants and leaves it up to the industry to decide which item merits the annual Joe Nucci Award for Product Innovation.
This year’s entries highlight several trends, as the produce industry overall looks to inspire consumers to eat more produce, and to develop innovations that will increase produce sales. This year’s crop of winners showcase that convenient snacking options are looking to stand out with health in mind.
The judging, which took place in the Boca Raton, FL, offices of Produce Business, was conducted by editors and staff who are well-versed in the fresh produce industry. Technological examinations were via research in published journals and in corroborating data sent to us.
This annual award will be presented at the Thought-Leaders Keynote Breakfast during the annual New York Produce Show and Conference, Dec. 5-7, at the Jacob Javits Center in midtown Manhattan.
Only Produce Business readers will evaluate the top-scoring products selected from numerous entries. Please read the descriptions on the following pages and cast your vote using the form below to choose this year’s Joe Nucci Award.
ALTAR PRODUCE LLC
ASPARAGUS SNACK — DEHYDRATED SPEARS
Elevate your snacking experience with Asparagus Snacks, available in two exceptional flavors: zesty chili-lime and savory garlic parmesan. Savor the dynamic blend of chili-lime or indulge in the robust notes of garlic parmesan, all encapsulated in each delicate asparagus spear. Altar’s Asparagus Snacks offer a health-conscious option, packed with nutrients. Whether you enjoy them as a standalone chip or as a delightful addition to your favorite salad, these snacks offer a convenient way to infuse your diet with wholesome goodness. Use them to elevate your steak, accentuate the flavors of your salads, or simply enjoy them on their own as a satisfying and nutritious snack.
KOREAN BBQ STIR FRY KIT
Ark Foods, the modern-day farming company on a mission to showcase the magic of vegetables, is proud to unveil the arrival of its newest creation: the Korean BBQ Stir Fry Kit. This latest innovation showcases the relentless creativity inherent to the company, delivering on one of today’s hottest flavor trends. The Stir Fry Kit has launched on the West Coast, with national distribution soon to follow. Capturing the flavors of the popular Korean barbecue trend, Ark Foods’ Korean BBQ Stir Fry Kit is a veggie-forward solution. Consumers will enjoy vibrant, farm-fresh vegetables with a sweet and flavorful sauce packet and a pre-cooked rice packet, expertly bundled to deliver a crispy, hearty meal solution that is ready in minutes.
The creation of the Korean BBQ Stir Fry Kit resulted from a year-long research and development process, ensuring that every aspect of the meal delivers flavor and convenience. The research and development team at Ark Foods has honed in on the essence of Korean barbecue, crafting a kit that allows for a complete family meal with minimal prep time. It’s an indulgent, yet healthy, meal, base, or side dish that can be cooked on a stovetop or in the microwave.
BRANCHOUT FOOD INC.
BRANCHOUT AVOCADO CHIPS
BranchOut is an international food-tech company delivering natural snacks and real superfood ingredients enabled by its new and superior dehydration process. Conventional drying methods, such as air-drying and freeze-drying, employ hot air or freezing and multi-day long process times. The result is low-quality products that are brown and leathery or have muted colors with a chalky texture. The GentleDry process never freezes, oxidizes, or excessively heats fresh fruits and vegetables and completes the process in only 30-40 minutes. This leaves dried fruits and vegetables as close to “raw” as possible. This creates more vibrant colors, intense flavors, unique textures and retains most of the original nutritional value. GentleDry Technology uses a combination vacuum chamber and radiant energy resulting in a rapid and gentle drying process. The vacuum removes the air around the product, eliminating the oxidative browning and lowering the boiling point of water to near room temperature. This enables a more efficient energy transfer and boils the water out rapidly and without exposing the products to excessive heat.
The new and innovative snack line is enabled for the first time ever by dehydration technology. BranchOut says it is excited to offer the first-ever Avocado Chips, Chewy Banana Bites, Pineapple Chips, Bell Pepper Crisps and Brussels Sprouts Crisps.
FRESH INNOVATIONS, LLC/YO QUIERO! BRANDS
YO QUIERO! AVOCADO & EGG MINI CUPS
Yo Quiero!’s team of avocado experts has revolutionized avocado toast. They’ve taken real Hass avocados, mixed in chopped hard-boiled eggs and everything seasoning to create the ultimate, breakfast toast topper. Yo Quiero! has packaged its avocado and egg in single-serve, 2.5-ounce mini cups that allow consumers to just peel them and spread on their favorite toast, bagel or just eat with a spoon. The Yo Quiero! team looks forward to creating more delicious flavors to add to its avocado and egg line, such as Crushed Red Pepper and Veggie, which is loaded with spinach, onions and tomatoes.
GOLD COAST PACKING, INC.
BETTER THAN A BURGER SALAD KIT
SANTA MARIA, CA
The burger salad offers all the familiar flavors of the all-American meal of a burger and fries, but in a bowl. Featuring a mix of Napa cabbage, green cabbage, kale, broccoli stem and carrots, topped with shredded cheddar cheese, crispy onions, crispy fries, dill and mustard crouton crumbles, the salad is brought together with a creamy burger sauce. Making it a complete meal is easy, just add ground beef or turkey. Better Than a Burger salad, with a 16-day shelf life, is offered in a 24-ounce pack size and is available to ship nationwide.
The Sizzling Sauté Mushroom Kits are sliced mushrooms that come with a sauce packet, making it easier than ever for consumers to incorporate mushrooms into their meals with minimal prep time. The mushroom side dishes come in three irresistible flavors: Fajita, Teriyaki and Thai. These kits offer a flavorful and nutritious meal option that will leave shoppers craving more.
These kits are the perfect meat replacement. Sprinkle them on top of a main course like a chicken breast or steak, add them to a rice bowl or salad, or mix them into pasta dishes for an extra burst of flavor. One of the best things about Sizzling Sautés is how quick and easy they are to prepare. No complicated recipes or gourmet skills are required; simply grab a packet, fire up your pan, and get ready to make some magic happen.
Naturipe’s Mighty Reds Strawberries tip the scale when it comes to flavorful and sweet strawberries. Naturipe’s jumbo strawberry varieties have been perfected by growers and breeders over decades to produce the sweetest, juiciest, reddest strawberries. But when the growers looked at those strawberries, good taste wasn’t enough for them. They wanted size, too. Naturipe’s growers said, “challenge accepted” and got to work growing a new, larger-than-life strawberry. And they were successful. Without sacrificing the great taste Naturipe strawberries are known for, its growers were able to produce the jumbo-sized Mighty Reds strawberry that can take up the entire palm of your hand. Another great thing about a larger strawberry — they look great on retailers’ shelves.
SO GOOD SO YOU
ENERGY PASSIONFRUIT JUICE SHOT
Energy Passionfruit joined So Good So You’s star-studded probiotic shot lineup and quickly became the fastest-growing item in the Refrigerated Energy Shot category. The key to this shot’s success? Combining two consumer trends: unique passion fruit flavor and clean, organic caffeine. This exotic fruit not only gives current So Good So You consumers a new flavor to add to their routine (alongside best-selling Energy Mango Spinach), but also drives foot traffic and generates incremental sales dollars for the beverage category and retailers. This innovative energy shot provides as much caffeine to a consumer as drinking a medium cup of coffee, but, thanks to its organic caffeine source, it boosts energy levels without the dreaded jitters or 3 p.m. crash.
So Good So You, with single and multi-packs available for purchase, has seen a skyrocketing 165% growth year over year, reaching over 12,000 stores today. The company is the functional juice shot leader in the produce section with its good-for-you and delicious juice shots for customers looking for convenient, targeted and immunity-boosting health supplements. Energy Passionfruit can be found at retailers such as Target, Albertsons, Stop & Shop, Food Lion and others.
SOUTH 40 SNACKS
SOUTH 40 SNACKS
South 40 Snacks produces its bars in Greece where the world’s finest nut varieties are mixed with glucose syrup, sugar, honey and then baked with fire — the way generations have always done it. This means an unrivaled taste, an unmatched crunch, and unadulterated healthy fats, protein, fiber and vitamins, all from premium nuts. South 40 Snacks doesn’t add fillers like whey or pea protein; it never uses nut butters or date paste. Through national distribution in Kroger Produce and regional distribution with Safeway/Albertsons Produce, the iconic clear packaging and label give produce shoppers all the information they need with one quick glance.
TAYLOR FARMS MINI CHOPPED SALAD KITS
In April 2023, Taylor Farms launched a line of Mini Chopped Salad Kits to offer consumers practical, single-serving size salads that are portioned perfectly for one person. A study conducted in 2020 found that of those who shop the salad category, 47% of consumers reported they did not eat an entire chopped kit in one sitting — this fueled the development of a smaller format concept of the popular Taylor Farms salad kit. With a mix of fresh vegetables, complementary toppings and uniquely delicious dressing all in one bag, they’re the perfect lunch or snack option, giving consumers innovative flavors and fresh salad choices while effectively reducing food waste. Many consumers even toss up and eat mini salads directly out of the bag. The Mini Chopped Salad Kits come in five flavors, including Citrus Crunch, Caesar, Nashville Hot, Pizza Ranch and Green Goddess Ranch.