Flexible marches on
Mesh bags have been used for multi-unit produce purchases (oranges, onions, apples, and other items) for years. While mesh is still a popular option, an increasing number of fruit and vegetable firms are housing their products in plastic film, rather than the fishnet-like mesh bags.
Flexible packaging can offer increased shelf life for peppers, melons, and exotic products that can see less turnaround in mainstream markets than conventional produce. Additionally, multi-packs can encourage larger purchases—a consumer, for example, might be inclined to buy one or two avocados for dinner if the fruits are piled singly at the market but, if faced with a multi-pack of three avocados, will take home the whole trio.
Packaged food kits entice time-constrained consumers by putting everything necessary to whip up a specific meal or dessert in one convenient bag, box, or carton. Pieces of fresh produce, all by their lonesome in another part of the store, were hard pressed to compete with such pre-packaged convenience.
Exhibits at FMI Connect and United Fresh reflected the growing presence of 'fresh kits'—packages that combine fresh fruit, vegetables, or greens, with other ingredients to complete a recipe. Shoppers are familiar with salad kits (such as Fresh Express kits combining romaine lettuce, dressing, and crunchy toppings inside one flexible bag), but produce firms are getting more creative, combining, say, potatoes with baking seasonings, or fruits with the spices needed to complete a dessert.
Kinsey Youngquist of Bay Baby Produce discussed the company's various produce kits, including the Pumpkin Patch Pals kit combining fresh pie pumpkins with spices and other ingredients needed to make a pie.
"Cross-selling with everything you need to make a pie makes it easier for shoppers to choose fresh pumpkin over canned during the holidays," she said. "There's also a QR code on the front, which takes you to additional information about the product and preparation."
Chips, cookies, candy, and other packaged prepared foods appeal to shoppers looking for a quick, convenient snack. Produce firms are capturing part of that quick-nibble market (as well as a desire to eat more healthy snacks) by putting fruits and vegetables in single-serve containers primed for noshing.
The Pearls Olives to Go line is a prime example of snackable vegetables. Available in whole or sliced, the black olives are portable enough to sneak into a purse or tote and taken to the office; the one-shot tubs also are the right size to use for topping a salad or putting in a recipe.
Functional packaging can add the convenience necessary to give fresh produce and fresh-prepared dishes an edge over their often-cheaper frozen or ambient prepackaged counterparts. Markets attaching plasticware to containers of fresh salads or soups, for example, can see increased sales in those products.
Makers of packaging for fresh-prepared products like soups and salads are getting creative in that arena. For example, EcoTensil has come up with SpoonLidz, a container that puts a simple, foldable spoon inside the lid of a fresh food container, meaning a consumer won't have to worry about foraging for a spoon when lunchtime rolls around.
An element of fun
Prepackaged foods often come in colorful containers, bright boxes, and pretty packaging hard for fresh produce to compete with. A plain, naked apple, or an unadorned piece of fish, don't have the same finished appearance that such packs do.
Produce firms are picking up on the fun by putting berries into cartoon-adorned packs, like Naturipe's berries in Disney Princess packaging. Rebel Fish also has packed its filets and flavor packets into brightly colored cartons designed to turn ho-hum into yum.