The 2021 Fifth Annual PRODUCE BUSINESS Innovation Award Winners

From new twists on leafy greens and carrots to the latest innovations in peppers and salad kits, the Fifth Annual PRODUCE BUSINESS Innovation Award winners did not disappoint as they aimed to inspire consumers to eat more produce.

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.

There was a great mixture of new commodities, new flavors, new packaging, processing and technology that would excite any judge looking for the newest innovations to increase overall produce sales. 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. Each item was thoroughly examined, unwrapped, smelled, tasted and, in some cases, cooked. Technological examinations were via research in published journals and in corroborating data sent to us.

This annual award will be presented at The New York Produce Show and Conference on December 15th during its annual Thought-Leaders Keynote Breakfast at the Jacob Javits Center in Mid-town 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.


Newark, NJ

AeroFarms has expanded its line of leafy greens to include four new microgreens items: Baby Micro Arugula, Micro Broccoli, Micro Kale, and Micro Rainbow Mix.

The company starts by selecting the most flavorful varietals of microgreens and baby greens, then perfects them in its proprietary indoor vertical farms for optimal quality, yield, color, nutrition, texture, and taste. In fact, AeroFarms has trademarked Vertical Farming, Elevated Flavor to highlight to consumers not only where and how their food is grown, but also the key growing benefits that AeroFarms brings to the market.

AeroFarms is able to grow its kale to be sweeter and its arugula to be perfectly peppery, and the company has developed its signature FlavorSpectrum to represent the breadth of flavors and hundreds of varieties of leafy greens that it is able to grow. Across its leafy greens packaging line, the cool blue tones represent sweet and mellow notes, while the intense reds represent bold and zesty flavors.


Bolthouse Farms
Los Angeles, CA

This fall, Bolthouse Farms introduced its latest innovation, Wunderoots, to the market. Leveraging its heritage in carrot farming and plant-based foods, Wunderoots brings the inherent nutrition and great taste of carrots to consumers’ center plate meal solutions in unexpected ways that showcase this versatile vegetable in inspiring ways.

The debut of the new line features three new products: Carrot Dogs, Noodled Carrot kits, and Riced Carrot kits, which are found in the valued-added section of the produce aisle, providing consumers simple, easy to prepare and delicious ways to eat more vegetables. 

Carrot Dogs are an alternative to both traditional meat-based and newer plant-based hot dogs, made simply with whole carrots, marinated in a blend of herbs and spices and ready for grilling. They are available in 8-count packs in on-trend flavors like Classic American-style, Chorizo-style and Sweet Italian-style. 

Noodled Carrot kits feature fresh carrot ribbons with flavorful sauces to create a main course as prepared or a heartier meal with the addition of tofu or shrimp. Available in Sunday Marinara and Thai Basil Takeout flavors. 

The Riced Carrot kits include flavorful sauces that complement the natural taste of carrots. Either variety makes a side dish or a base to build a meal with the addition of protein. Available in Sesame Garlic Sizzle and Salsa Verde Fiesta flavors. 


Fresh Express
Windermere, FL

Consumers are looking for a variety of new meal solutions that are flavorful, nutritious and easy to prepare. Fresh Express introduced three innovative salad kits in March of 2021: Bacon Thousand Island and Kickin’ Bacon Ranch targeted to general population audiences so they can enjoy some favorite flavor combinations; and a Spinach & Bacon lettuce kit targeted to Millennial/Gen X consumers of salad kits.

The Spinach & Bacon lettuce kit now has toppings like smoky uncured bacon bits and mesquite smoked slivered almonds, all atop tender baby spinach, crisp red cabbage, and carrots. The dressing features popular sweet onions and a balanced Dijon dressing.

These new salad kits make it easy to create a variety of delicious, innovative nutritious meal solutions in minutes.


Offshoot Brands
Conshohocken, PA

Genuine Coconut Coco Smoothie are made from fresh coconut meat, and are perfect for quick, easy, on the go occasions and delicious recipes. The Coco Smoothies come in three flavors: original, mocha, and matcha. They are offered in a 9 fl oz bottle and are 100% plant based, soy and gluten-free, Kosher, vegan, Verified Non-GMO, with no added sugars or preservatives.

Considered a superfood for years, coconuts align with the increasingly popular Keto diet due to their low-carb and high fat make up. Coconut is rich in natural minerals and high in potassium and fiber. The Coco Smoothie is a convenient new item, and a refrigerated staple for consumers to easily enjoy the health benefits of coconut.


Gold Coast Packing, Inc.
Santa Maria, CA

Gold Coast Packing has created the first-of-its-kind seafood substitute, a plant-based Ceviche. No seafood is used; instead this Ceviche is packed with veggies and includes the citrus kick you expect from a Ceviche. It is a blend of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, cilantro and serrano peppers. Enjoy it with tortilla chips as a snack, on a salad or on a tostada for a complete meal.

The Vegetable Ceviche is Keto-friendly, gluten free, vegan and has a 42-day shelf life. Consumers are craving more vegetables and Gold Coast has answered the call with this on-trend item that caters to vegans, vegetarians or flexitarians looking to add more vegetables to their snack or meal times.


Mastronardi Produce Ltd./SUNSET Produce
Kingsville, Ontario, Canada

Packaged peppers are a rising hit, and consumers are spending more for their convenience and flavor. The demand has led the company to develop LolliPeppers. These sweet and completely seedless snacking peppers are a unique variety that are easy and convenient to cook with or snack on, no prep required. These mini peppers are also non-GMO Project Verified.

When it comes to branding, the overall look and feel helps reinforce the message that these peppers are a sweet, healthy treat for all ages to enjoy. LolliPeppers also come in a convenient resealable bag with a handle design to make for quick and easy grabbing off store shelves.


Potandon Produce
Idaho Falls, ID

Green Giant Fresh’s Minute Mashers gets rid of the time and hassle it takes to make real homemade mashed potatoes. All that the consumer needs is in the bag: fresh, whole, skin-on potatoes with real butter and seasonings.

Just microwave the bag for seven minutes, and then smash and mash to the desired texture, right in the bag. With Minute Mashers, make homemade mashed potatoes anytime. Comes with three flavorings: Sea Salt & Pepper; Chive & Dill; and Roasted Garlic.


Mucci Farms
Kingsville, Ontario, Canada

Mucci Farms is a vertically integrated greenhouse fruit and vegetable company that is committed to providing sustainably grown greenhouse produce. From farming to packaging, sustainability is at the core of its business model.

The Paper Top Seal package is an innovative amendment to an existing container that reduces plastic and maintains the integrity of the original package including high impact graphics for merchandising appeal. This package replaces the plastic lidding film with a paper film, which allows the PET tray and lid to be 100% fully recyclable and maximizes shelf life.

Most recently, the Paper Top Seal format has been extended to the company’s Cherto Gourmet Cherry Tomatoes in the form of a 1-pint package. Cherto was a product that had been traditionally offered exclusively on the vine, but its popularity in the snacking category inspired the idea of offering a loose version, which is available in the Paper Top Seal package.


Pure Flavor
Leamington, Ontario, Canada

Pure Flavor recognized a strong demand for ready-to-eat one-bite cucumbers. During its #LoveForFresh campaign in late 2020, the company surveyed hundreds of people about cucumbers and snacking. Over 86% said convenience was an important factor when choosing a snack and 72% said they would eat more healthy snacks if they were more readily available.

The company modernized its cucumber category offering to respond to this growing consumer demand. Uno Bites Nano Cucumbers are always ready to go in resealable single-serve packs — no slicing, no dicing, and no dipping required.


Offshoot Brands
Conshohocken, PA

The company created pickled vegetables to top meals with a pop of color and zing of flavor — ready to eat and sliced for added convenience. Simple and slightly sweet, pickled vegetables are ideal for enjoying as a snack or a side, adding to salads, toast, tacos, sandwiches and more. The pickled products are non-GMO, Kosher, vegan, and gluten-free.

Packaging features a transparent window with prominent usage suggestions, a flavor descriptor and fun illustrations that provide clear cues to the consumer with ways to enjoy the product. In the spirit of confetti, the pickled vegetables celebrate all the colors and flavors on your plate, making every meal worthy of a little pickled celebration.

“Innovation Award” Voting Ballot 2022