Innovations in Produce: PMA Show Highlights
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
For many produce suppliers, the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit is the Super Bowl of all trade shows. This is the show where the entire industry – 23,000 strong – comes together to talk about, order, look at and taste produce. It’s also where new product concepts are introduced and emerging trends spotted.
Here are top trends spotted at this year’s show, which was held last week.
Hold Me Closer, Tiny Produce
While grape and cherry tomatoes are mainstays in the produce department, new “tiny” options are entering the market. Tiny cucumbers are now available in snack packs, and combo packs of tiny cucs and grape tomatoes were sighted on the show floor. The newest entry in the category is cabbisi™, a new mini salad cabbage. Similar in size to a head of romaine, this cabbage has a milder and slightly sweet taste. It’s being touted as the latest innovation in the salad category, but in a size more approachable by consumers. The primary usage recommendation is as a mixed green into any salad.
Jerky Goes Plant-Based
Mooney Farms and the Bella Sun Luci brand blazed the trail for the California sun dried tomato market over 30 years ago and now hope to drive the same type of long-term growth for their tomato jerky. Available in two flavors, the products have a similar chewy texture to traditional jerky. Mushroom jerky was also spotted on the show floor. The challenge with these products, especially with the initial launch, is whether the vegan or plant-forward consumer will pay the price. One brand of mushroom jerky, for example, retails as high as $11 per package.
There’s a New Cauliflower in Town
With the amazing popularity of cauliflower rice and steaks as well as spiralized vegetables in many varieties, everyone has been waiting to see what the next vegetable would be to have its sales and popularity suddenly explode. The show floor might suggest that jicama is it. From jicama noodles to jicama tortillas, a variety of products are leveraging the low carb, bland yet slightly sweet, and crunch features of this vegetable. While it works well in cold applications like salads, the sweet notes might be off putting in heated dishes.
As more and more varieties of key produce items become available, the challenge for retailers is how to sell them all and help the shopper understand which ones work best in which applications. In this fall season, apples are a great example, and as this example shows, in-store signage can highlight various attributes (texture, sweetness, etc) of different varietals as well as usage (eating, cooked, baking) and storage (room temp vs. chilled). With 2,500 different apples, 1,000 bananas, 16 squash, and 12 oranges – just to name a few -- available in the marketplace, there are limitless merchandising and message opportunities to promote the varieties within in fruit or vegetable category.
Ready Now, Ready Later
While not all fruits and vegetables ripen after harvest, many do. Innovation at PMA showcased packaging options that meet the shoppers’ need for having ripe options available immediately and not-quite-ripe options available for use in a few days. This avocado example clearly messages “ready now, ready later” options available in one package simplifying the purchase for the consumer.