Originally printed in the December 2020 issue of Produce Business.
Healthfulness and at-home convenience propel the category.
Two trends are driving the innovation of fresh-cut vegetable blend products that consumers can enjoy as a side, supper and even a snack:
1) More than half of consumers (55%) are eating more frequently at home since the pandemic began, yet a quarter of these folks are getting tired of doing so, according to the September 20, 2020-released report, COVID-19: Reinventing How America Eats, from Acosta, a sales and marketing agency headquartered in Jacksonville, FL.
2) Over half (54%) of consumers said choosing healthful foods mattered more to them now than a decade ago, based on the June 2020-published 2020 Food & Health Survey from the Washington, DC-located International Food Information Council.
“As trends have been shifting toward preparing meals in the home, produce companies like us have been working to bring innovative and easy products for consumers to use,” says Sasha Krnic, marketing specialist for Church Brothers Farms, in Salinas, CA. “Meal-prepped vegetable sales have increased by nearly $50 million (+13%) year-over-year as of Q2 2020 (United Fresh Produce Association FreshFacts on Retail Q2 2020). Fresh-cut products have evolved to encompass all the needs of the consumer, whether they want carb and grain replacements, stand-alone-sides, or dishes that can be converted into entrees with the addition of a protein.”
The following is a pictorial round-up of six fresh-cut vegetable blends on the market today with recommended best practices to maximize sales:
Cal-Organic Farms, Bakersfield, CA
Cal-Organic Farms Rainbow Carrot Chips
To help consumers who are preparing more of both meals and snacks at home, the company launched a 12-ounce, resealable pack of organically grown rainbow carrot chips. The orange-, purple-, yellow-, and white-colored chips are a blend of carrots grown from different seed varieties. The Organic Rainbow Carrot Category is taking off, with double-digit increases in sales (12.1%) and unit volume (16.4%), based on IRI year-to-date data for the week ending November 1, 2020, as shared by the company. The produce is available year-round.
Merchandising Tips: Secondary displays incorporating carrot chips, baby carrots and other bite-sized vegetables provide a destination for shoppers to stock up on fresh produce items for snacking. Also recommended are cross-promotions that pair rainbow carrot chips with complementary products like healthy dips and sauces to inspire delicious snacking ideas.
Church Brothers Farms, Salinas, CA
Church Brothers Farms Ready Sides
This innovative 4-item line targets the hole in retailers’ fresh vegetable category with hearty healthy side dishes with restaurant-quality flavors. Each side contains 8-ounces of fresh-cut vegetables and a seasoned butter sauce. The sides feature fresh-cut cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots and come in four flavors: Caramelized Onion & Bacon, Homestyle Buttery Garlic, Savory Italian Herb, and Mediterranean Lemon Thyme.
These products are no-prep, no-mess. There’s no need to open any packets or puncture film before cooking, meaning preparation time is reduced and ‘no-touch.’ The sides go from microwave to table in 3 minutes.
Tips: Merchandise as part of retail convenience vegetable, grab-n-go, or meal-prep sections. Promote as its own category or cross-promote with various proteins to create complete meal solutions for consumers.
Growers Express LLC, Monterey, CA
Green Giant Fresh Cauliflower Crumbles “Fried Rice” Blend
Not just a swap of veggies for carbs, this recipe-ready product evolved from the standard cauliflower crumbles with the idea of giving consumers a product that could not only replace rice but also easily become a flavorful and healthy component of casseroles, stir-fries and other components of a meal. The 12-ounce blend is a mix of cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, and yellow onion.
Tip: Merchandise with fresh-cut cooking vegetable products or around a recipe as part of a bundled promotion in-store or online.
Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, CA
Season & Steam Line
Talk about making favorites easier and more personalized to enjoy! Five new items in the company’s Season & Steam convenience vegetable line are among the Top 10 value-added vegetables to post growth this year, according to a July 2020 Nielsen Answers on Demand report. The products are Broccoli Florets, Cauliflower Florets and Cauliflower Rice, along with two blends: Floret Medley, a combination of cauliflower and broccoli florets; and Vegetable Medley, a mix of carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. The blends are 12 ounces. Each comes with an exclusive resealable bag technology where consumers can add seasonings of their choice and reseal the microwavable bag before cooking.
Tip: Merchandise with other value-added cut vegetables and introduce with a program of consistent promotional pricing.
Renaissance Food Group, Rancho Cordova, CA
Chef’s Essentials Fall Favorites
Designed to inspire home chefs, this 5-item line ticks all the most sought-after boxes: There’s the culinary short-cut of pre-cut veggies for premium convenience in dinner prep on busy weeknights; there are unique flavors with seasonal staples great for roasting; and there’s the added value and impulse sales-grabber of fresh herbs, such as thyme and rosemary in some of the products.
The line includes: Herbed Sweet Potato & Apples, Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes, Roasting Vegetables (includes zucchini, butternut squash and baby carrots), Roasting Root Vegetables (includes turnip, rutabaga and sweet potato), and Jewel Roasting Vegetables (includes beets, Brussel sprouts and butternut squash). Other ingredients include fresh-cut onion and fresh garlic cloves and fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary.
Tips: Display with other fresh-cut cooking vegetable sides in the produce department or cross-merchandise adjacent to proteins in the meat, poultry and/or seafood departments.
Taylor Farms, Salinas, CA
Taylor Farms Lemon Pesto Meal Kit and the Taylor Farms Southwest
Two new items in the company’s Vegetable Meal Kit line tap into the burgeoning demand for meal kits from consumers who want to eat healthfully but aren’t sure how. The Lemon Pesto Meal Kit includes broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots; a lemon basil pesto sauce; shaved parmesan cheese; and linguine pasta.
The Southwest Meal kit contains the same vegetable blend, a chili verde sauce, cotija cheese, and cilantro lime rice. Mexican cuisine continues to trend across the US, and the latter product adds the increasingly popular chili verde flavor into the company’s portfolio.
Notable is that the vegetables in these kits are ‘shaved’. This cut helps consumers cook the product evenly in a skillet, versus having to roast, steam, or boil; makes for easy to mix with the toppings/sauce; and reduces cook time to less than 10 minutes. Additionally, the rice and pasta are pasteurized and ready to reheat, so there’s no need to cook.
Tips: Currently, these items are merchandized primarily in the value-added vegetable section of the grocery stores. However, several retailers have started to merchandise next to chopped salads to create a produce ‘kit’ destination.