MONTEREY, CA — In its seventh year, the Organic Produce Summit continues to exceed expectations and offer new products and trends to watch for the organic produce industry.
Having the summit in the delightfully cool and refreshing venue of Monterey means close access to field tours. Everyone wants to see the produce industry in action. Even if you didn’t go on a field tour, it’s still fun to drive through the fields playing “name that crop.”
But the expo itself isn’t just an expo. The narrowed focus on organics brings a point of view. This year also featured more newsy-news and new products than I remember seeing at past events. Perhaps we’re all finally past the COVID effect and moving on to the business? I had very few, if any, discussions of the “pandemic experience.”
I was on the lookout for packaging as it relates to sustainability and shelf life, wondering if brands were pivoting away from fiber options and back to more plastic. In general, I did see fewer prototypes in fiber, though the ones I did see seemed like an upgrade on previous editions.
To that end, here are the eight trends that caught my eye.
“Business greens” from controlled environments. Soli Organics has soft launched its spinach option in a top-seal clamshell at previous shows, and now the company is introducing a field greens, spring mix, and a 50/50 blend this fall. The new options are less specialty and more familiar for shoppers, says Scott Dault vice president of sales.
Honey Bear Brands is testing a new apple package that combines fiber for sustainability and plastic for visibility. The prototypes displayed at OPS offer a stackable alternative to plastic pouch bags.
Rowdy Rabbit? Who are they? PennRose Farms, Wellington, FL, decided to go big with its new brand launch Rowdy Rabbit. After sponsoring the welcome reception, I can’t tell you how many people were talking about the new brand, and new buzz, and wondering “who’s that?” The booth was crowded all day long, so mission accomplished.
Turmeric and ginger were prominent from multiple shippers, but this was the first pack I saw that combined the two, from A&A Organic Farms. The label offered suggestions for how to DIY one of the popular “Wellness Shots” we’ve seen that continue to dominate new products in the juice category.
Highline Mushrooms – new packaging, and new product launch were on display from Highline Mushrooms. The company is transitioning mushrooms to clear plastics, a more recyclable option than other colors available on the market. Devon Kennedy, national marketing manager, says the clear tills also let consumers see the product better. The company also is marketing a large white button cap, similar to a full size portobello mushroom.
Charlie’s Produce was sampling eye-catching, black seedless Yumi watermelons. They originated in Japan, but are now grown in Washington and California in pre-cut, single count, 75-pound cartons, and 700-pound bins.
Ska-doosh – Bako Sweet has paired up with the release of Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight on Netflix. Alexandra Rae Molumby, director of marketing for Bako Sweet, says the partnership reminds her enjoying sweet potatoes prepared in unconventional – for American consumers – ways while studying in China. The merch was spot on, with steamer baskets full of toy dumplings and fortune cookies reminding us to eat sweet potatoes.
Dates, dates, and more dates. I’d have to look at the final exhibitor list to confirm it, but 2023 seemed to be the Year of the Date. It seemed like there were date exhibitors in almost every aisle, with colorful new offerings, like these from Joolies. Amanda Sains, vice president of marketing, says Joolies packaging trends are favoring pouch bags over boxes, which also presents an opportunity to market off-grade “Ugglies” dates that are either not to size spec, or slightly discolored. The company also introduced chopped Date Toppers, suitable for salads and sprinkling on dishes.