The power of retail display contests has stood the test of time in the fresh produce space. For proof of the same, look no further than the likes of the National Mango Board, which has been at it for nearly a decade; the Watermelon Board, which is in its 11th year; the California Grape Commission; and the Idaho Potato Commission, which has hosted its annual Idaho Potato Lover’s Display Contest for the past 28 years. In late June, Mike Tipton, Schnuck Markets’ VP of produce and floral, thought big and set out to break the record for the world’s largest pineapple display. Working with fresh produce importer Fyffes, Schnucks’ colossal display, which was housed in the St. Louis-based retailer’s Arsenal store, included 19,650 pineapples. Tipton and Store Manager Jacque Arnicar expected to comfortably surpass previous records held by other grocers, whose displays ranged from 15,000 to 18,000 pineapples.
One of the hottest fresh produce trends at the moment is hybrid fruits and vegetables, which put unique spins on traditional favorites. The United Fresh Produce Show was abuzz with hybrids, including three strawberry varieties of Wow Berries from Sunset—the Lolliberry, Pearberry and Dreamberry—along with the Moonberry blackberry, the Angelberry raspberry and the Joyberry blueberry. These better-than-chocolate Wow Berries each have their own unique flavor notes that make for an extra-special experience and may bring a new edge to the category. Naturipe Farms also unveiled its new proprietary raspberry variety, Blazeberries, which have a bold color and exotic flavor that underscore the company’s focus on innovation. Driscoll’s also released two new limited-edition Rose and Sweetest Batch berries. The blush color in the Rose berries, which will be available from June through September, “comes from a natural blend of light and dark berries mixed with the power of the sun ... and contain sweet, peachy notes capped off with a soft, floral finish that’s as delicate as a rose,” according to Driscoll’s.
On the Road Again
This summer saw fresh produce suppliers hitting the streets with clever outreach campaigns designed to educate and delight consumers. Stemilt Growers of Wenatchee, Wash., which hosted an apple pop-up shop in New York City last summer, is taking its Rave apples back on the road this month. The Rave Road Trip begins Aug. 20 in Minneapolis and will end in New York/New Jersey just after Labor Day. As part of the promotion, Stemilt’s traveling truck will stop at supermarkets in seven major cities along the way. “The truck will transform the parking lot into a pop-up experience for consumers,” says Brianna Shales, communications manager. Giveaways, sweepstakes and a chance for people to sample Rave apples are all part of the fun. Kayco of Bayonne, N.J. made a splash last month with its promotional blitz for Wonder Melon 100% organic cold-pressed watermelon juices. The outreach campaign features eye-catching Wonder Melon Vans that are cruising the streets of New York City serving refreshing samples all summer long.
As culinary and lifestyle trendsetters, chefs play a powerful role in getting more produce on the plate. Recognizing their influence, produce suppliers and industry organizations are increasingly turning to chefs for product innovation insights, recipe development and more. When the greenhouse growers at Pure Flavor in Leamington, Ontario, wanted to create a line of products aimed at home chefs who enjoy being creative in the kitchen, it strategically partnered with six different restaurant chefs to develop its Craft House Collection. The product line features items such as Mini San Marzano Tomatoes and Aurora Long Sweet Peppers, which are ideal not only for snacking but also for cooking. The California Avocado Commission, Irvine, Calif., recently enlisted the expertise of Michelin-recognized Chef Brad Cecchi of Canon restaurant in East Sacramento as chef spokesperson for the commission’s new Summer Entertaining program. As part of the program, Cecchi created two recipes highlighting fresh summer produce ingredients and unique methods for preparing California avocados.
Noodles and What's Next
Innovation is the name of the game in the fresh produce industry, where value-added offerings from veggie “noodles” to “rice” have been changing the way America eats for many months. WGB expects to see more creative and ethnic preparations of noodles, rice and other cuts made from nutrient-rich vegetables. Known for its organic veggie spirals and “Veggiccine,” Cece’s Veggie Co. of Austin, Texas, recently launched Grillerz, a new product line of organic veggies that are crinkle-cut to the ideal size and thickness for the grill. Packaged with organic culinary herb finishing butter, Grillerz can be paired with dip for a snack or served as a side dish. Grillerz are available in Z-Cut Summer Squash, Z-Cut Carrots & White Sweet Potatoes, and Z-Cut Mixed Sweet Potatoes, all with Savory Garlic Herb Butter.
A Juicy Story
With scores of juice and smoothie bars expanding across the country, it seems today’s health-conscious consumer can’t get enough of the stuff—and they’re willing to pay a premium for it. Consider the Danish chain Joe & the Juice—which has set up shop in major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York—where a 16-ounce juice can set customers back more than $10. The U.S. market for cold-pressed juice is expected to reach $8.1 billion by 2024, up from $4.3 billion in 2017, according to the U.S. Cold Pressed Juice: Market Shares, Strategy, and Forecasts 2018 to 2024 report from WinterGreen Research Inc. in Lexington, Mass. Grocers such as Boulder, Colo.-based Alfalfa’s Market are seizing the opportunity, offering an expanded juice, smoothie and kombucha bar menu that invites customers to build their own beverages or order a house creation. Alfalfa’s also offers a smoothie menu for kids, juice remedies and cleanse packages priced from a one- to seven-day juice cleanse.
Consumers’ flourishing palate for charcuterie is driving record growth in the specialty meats, cheeses and olive category, which was once reserved for specialty markets. But more conventional grocers, including Wegmans and Hy-Vee, are slicing into the action with dedicated charcuterie displays and trained staff members who are on hand to help shoppers prepare eye-catching, customized spreads in as little as 15 minutes. As these resident experts know, the perfect charcuterie board showcases items that add healthy color with cherry tomatoes, berries, red and green grapes, apple and pear slices, and peppers. Given the influential role of today’s value-seeking everyday gourmets, retail produce directors would be wise to enhance their charcuterie-friendly fresh produce items with dedicated displays to remind shoppers of the fresh and healthy possibilities. Earlier this year, Food Lion showcased a “How to Make an Affordable Charcuterie Board” segment on its website, which also discussed how easy it is to create a budget-friendly dessert charcuterie board.
The saying “Two is better than one” has proven true for fresh produce growers, marketers and commodity boards such as the California Walnut Board, which has teamed up through the years with a plethora of produce categories to offer bundled promotions, in-store demos, recipe videos and in-store signage. In a more recent pairing of two brands, Good Foods and Duda Farm Fresh Foods teamed up for a clever Good & Dandy Sweepstakes which awarded a Weber Spirit E-330 Gas Grill and an assortment of fresh dips and vegetables. Runners-up from each brand’s social media pages also had a chance to score backyard barbecue swag to amp up their summer get-togethers.“Our brands are a natural fit for one another, so we wanted to take advantage of pooling our collective earned consumer data to determine how to best serve our fans with recipe inspiration and future products,” says Danyel O’Connor, EVP of sales and marketing for Good Foods. “Depending on what we learn, we believe there could be some incredible product partnerships in the future as well.” Nichole Towell, Duda’s senior director of marketing for Duda, also strives to “look for ways to better [consumers’] experience with our products” through collaborations like this.