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The Year Ahead: Touting value and convenience

2024 year ahead

Convenience is always an enticement for consumers, and for those who are not particularly adept at cooking, value-added dishes and meal kits are a boon.

“Convenient meal kits are really great,” says Megan McCarthy, chef and founder of Healthy Eating 101 in Atlanta, GA. “I’m big on cooking at home where you’re in control of the ingredients. But busy families don’t like to cook; meal kits cut down on the time but still keep the nutrition.”

Longtime favorites like bagged salads and even Lunchables are still evolving.

Taylor Farms has introduced several mini chopped salads, like its “Nashville Hot” kit, which marries the ongoing spicy chicken craze to the salad category. Then there’s the Kraft Heinz and Fresh Del Monte partnership to add fresh fruit to Lunchables.

Another is Cashmere, WA-based Crunch Pak, LLC’s BB #:171819 “Apple Crisp Baking Kit” for the fall holidays, which expands the value-added concept to desserts.

“It’s like a salad kit, with every component you need except a few pantry essentials,” says Lori Taylor, founder and CEO of The Produce Moms BB #:366223 in Indianapolis, IN. “It’s a dessert, but it’s a win for our industry because it gets people to eat more fruit.”

But no matter how enticing, value-added offerings need to be affordable, insists Taylor. “If you want to increase access, that’s more and more important. Consumers are attracted to value-added because it saves time, but the price has to be right.”

Mollie Van Lieu, vice president of nutrition and health at the International Fresh Produce Association BB #:378962 in Newark, DE, agrees, noting more convenient snacks for on-the-go eating would drive consumption among children in particular. “But the value has to be good,” she says.

These offerings are becoming ever more important in foodservice as well, especially since the pandemic—primarily due to labor concerns.

“Value-added solutions can cut down on prep time and product waste, and provide a consistent price for better budgeting,” says Nelia Alamo, vice president of marketing at Markon Cooperative, Inc. {{BB #:123315}}.

“Labor continues to be a struggle, and operators are hungry for new innovation in the value-added market to support their high-volume movers on the menu. Cleaned, ready-to-use products are true time and labor savors that add up to savings in the kitchen.”

“Purchasing value-added, processed produce for labor reduction is becoming normalized,” says Jin Ju Wilder, vice president of marketing and business development for Vesta Foodservice BB #:125924 in Santa Fe Springs, CA.

This is an excerpt from the feature story from the January/February 2024 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.