New Year's Resolution
Welcome to the inaugural issue of Fresh Cuts, the e-newsletter from Fresh Cut magazine.
As a valued reader of Fresh Cut, you’ll receive this special electronic edition once a month – about halfway between print editions. You’ll find some introductory paragraphs from me, followed by a Q&A with an industry leader, a report on the fresh-cut market and a new product from fresh-cut processors or technology for the industry.
Because your time is valuable and you probably receive a number of e-mails every day, we’ll do our best to keep the e-newsletters short and to the point. And don’t worry about saving them in your e-mail – we’ll have them archived on the Fresh Cut Web site beginning with this issue.
That’s our resolution to you this new year – to provide the most up-to-date information to your e-mail and through our other outlets, to reach our readers in the most effective way possible.
I look forward to where the e-newsletter will take us. If you have any comments on the Fresh Cuts or would like to be included in it, please feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.
Happy New Year!
Lorelei DiSogra, Vice President, Nutrition and Health, United Fresh Produce Association
What is United Fresh working on right now to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables?
For me, the Child Nutrition Reauthorization is the most important thing right now. We expect Congress to start the committee in February and what we heard is they’re going to float discussion drafts near end of January and we believe both the House and Senate committees will start to meet about child nutrition in February.
Health care took the oxygen out of everything, and now that it’s passed Congress may have time to focus on other things.
The bill by Congressman Farr and co-authored with Putnam contains almost all of our priorities. First is the salad bar policy for salad bars in every school. Different segments of the produce industry see salad bars as traditional salads but what we’re envisioning is a bar that has a lettuce salads, but also fruit salads and other fresh produce items – some are calling it a garden bar instead of a salad bar. I think garden bar is cute, too. That variety would change over time and we know that over time, exposure to fruit and vegetables increases consumption, especially among children.
We’re working to get those other provisions into the Farr bill – not just salad bars, but equipment for school cafeterias and farm-to-school. There’s a big piece about farm-to-school in that bill.
Our goal is to see a policy that not requires, but USDA encourages a salad bar in every school to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables. The government hasn’t done a lot to really increase consumption in schools. We really think that we would like to see some strong positions about increasing consumption and strategies that show school how to make this work, and that it works. It could be the big foodservice bags or the single serve snack packs.
What ways can the fresh-cut industry in particular benefit from your work?
This bill really provides opportunities for fresh-cuts. With labor costs, and just the variety, fresh-cuts have real opportunities in school cafeterias.
We’re also working with USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, to try to get them to buy more fruit and vegetable commodities. They released the second contract of buying sliced apples in 10 states for deliveries starting this week through the end of the school year. This is the direction we’re trying to move them in. We would like to see sliced apples in every school by the next school year.
We’re still waiting on baby carrots – we still have not seen an invitation to bid on baby carrots yet. That should be the second thing we see. We were told the invitation to bid would be out in December but it clearly was not.
Even if those two items are available by next school year, that’s a huge move. And obviously we don’t want stop there. Our industry is very innovative. There are lots of items that are cut up and put in little packages, and there could be more – grapes, citrus, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, anything that can go in a breathable bag.
We’re trying to work on the policy piece to move the government, but we’re trying to work on the culture of schools to move from putting out the cheapest – changing that norm that it’s not acceptable to do that anymore. Everyone needs to be concerned with ways to get fruit and vegetables into schools to increase consumption.
What can processors do to help?
First, support the Farm Bill. Second, to really support provisions that increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables in children, such as H.R. 4333, the Children’s Fruit and Vegetable Act of 2009.
Fresh-cut fruits and vegetables lost both dollar sales and volume at retail in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the previous year, according to United Fresh Produce Association’s Fresh Facts on Retail report prepared by The Perishables Group.
The latest report, which compared sales data from Q3 (July 31-Sept. 26) for 2008 and 2009, found that nearly every category of the fresh-cut segment lost both volume and dollar sales, while average prices also declined.
The fresh-cut fruit category accounted for $1,529 in average weekly sales at retail, a 5 percent decline from Q3 2008. Volume for the category was down 2 percent and average price was down 3 percent to $1.99. Overwrapped fruit took the biggest hit from Q3 2008, dropping 14 percent in weekly dollar sales, 6 percent in volume and 8 percent in average price. Overwrapped fruit accounts for 20 percent of the value-added fruit category. Fresh-cut fruit increased volume by 3 percent in 2009, but dollar sales declined 3 percent and the average retail price was down 6 percent to $3.85.
Value-added vegetables saw similar declines across the category, except for the meal prep segment that increased. Meal prep value-added vegetables account for 18 percent of the category, and increased almost 7 percent in weekly dollar sales over 2008 and 6 percent in volume, while average price remained about the same at $2.22.
Vegetable trays – which make up 24 percent of the value-added vegetable category – saw a slight increase in volume at retail, but weekly average sales declined more than 5 percent. The average price also declined almost 7 percent to $8.94. Side dishes are 46 percent of the vegetable category, but average sales and price were down about 5 percent in 2009 over 2008. Snacking, the smallest segment of the value-added vegetable category, saw average sales drop almost 9 percent, while volume dropped more than 10 percent – while average retail price rose almost 2 percent to $2.30.
Product Highlight: Hefestus
IsIsrael-based Hefestus featured its new modified atmosphere packaging technology at Fruit Logistica. Called SLB – Shelf Life Booster – it’s an innovative new concept for fruits and vegetables packaging with modified atmosphere (MAP) technology.
The major obstacle of purchasing ready-to-eat fresh-cut fruits and vegetables is their short shelf life, leading to quick degeneration and decomposition of the product and undesirable look and negative palatability. SLB technology overcomes this challenge by providing extended shelf life and reducing accumulation of product decomposition liquids in the packaging bottom. SLB technology enables processors to pack fresh-cut fruit and vegetables and extend their shelf life up to 14 days. This innovative system allows manufacturers and marketers to transport fresh-cut products to distant destinations and can revolutionize the entire supply chain, from manufacturer to consumer via fewer returns or discards, lower cost, reduced impact on the environment and satisfied consumers.
Hefestus, also launches an extensive line of packaging system solutions, using SLB advanced technology for refilling and automatic weighing of fruits and vegetables plus a rotary top-sealing packaging machine.
Hefestus, Ltd., specializes in providing advanced solutions for extending shelf-life of fruits and vegetables. It develops and manufactures a wide variety of standard and custom-made top-sealing packaging machines, from manual to fully automatic lines, to meet the complex packaging requirements of processors and consumers.
For more information, call Ron Golan, vice president of sales and marketing, at 972-4-6271835 or e-mail Hefestus1@Hefestus-slb.com.