New foodservice products focus on labor savings

MONTEREY, CA – The labor crunch is hitting the foodservice industry as hard as ever.

Fresh produce suppliers have responded, as many of the more interesting new products at the Produce Marketing Association’s annual Foodservice Expo July 27 featured some kind of labor-saving value.

With the unemployment rate continuing at a low 3.7 percent through June, according to the U.S. Department of Labor and minimum wage increases in 2019 and beyond, foodservice operators are giving a second look to convenience products they might not have before.

Sliced apples aren’t new to foodservice, but the number of companies offering them at the expo, in addition to other cut fruits and vegetables, was noticeable.

Here are some that stood out:
-Garawan Farming, BB #:114602 Sanger, CA, has dramatically expanded its fresh-cut fruit program with its Prima brand this year, aiming for a scale-up in 2020.
Denver Schutz, technical services manager, said next year, Prima will offer year-round supplies of sliced pears, red and green apples and red seedless grapes for foodservice and retail. Sliced peaches and nectarines will be available from May to November and possibly year-round depending on Southern Hemisphere quality, Schutz said.

He said the company also plans to have seasonal sliced Asian pears, white nectarines, plums/pluots and various blends for foodservice customers in 3-pound bulk packs.

-Crunch Pak, LLC BB #:171819 Cashmere, WA, will offer sliced and peeled Anjou and Bartlett pears with the new fall crop, said Bob Haarhues, vice president of sales and marketing.
He said as a leader in fresh-cut fruit, the company sees a fit in expanding into other fruits, and hopefully it can give a jolt to the pear category, which has seen consumption fall in the last few years.

– The HMC Group Marketing, Inc. BB #:129161 Kingsburg, CA, now offers a slice grape for foodservice in 2-ounce bags or in bulk trays. Steve Kenfield, vice president of marketing and business development, says this makes them easier to use as an ingredient or serve them in kids meals, schools or camp settings.

He said some of the variety development allows the grapes to hold up better when cut.

-Monterey Mushrooms, Inc. BB #:116075 Watsonville, CA, offers a 10-pound bag of sliced mushrooms for foodservice that uses a proprietary bag technology that extends its shelf-life. Mike O’Brien, vice president of sales and marketing, said in addition to cutting labor costs, this allows operators to go longer between shipments if they want, further cutting costs.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services