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Pero’s Salad Cut Ups

Pero’s Salad Cut Ups
Pero Family Farms finds fresh-cuts favorable
By Scott Christie
Managing Editor

There big changes happening at Pero Family Farms – not the least of which is the new company name. Formerly Pero Vegetables and before that Pero Packing and Sales, the Delray Beach, Fla.-based company announced in January that is was changing its name so it had broader appeal.

“The fact that we are a farm and a grower – it better represented who we are and better relates to consumers about who we are. And in the future maybe we won’t have just vegetables,” said Ed Sullivan, chief marketing officer for Pero Family Farms.

Pero Family Farms has traditionally been a commodity grower of vegetables, farming more than 11,000 acres in the South and Midwest United States. But the new name is being used to reposition the company as a value-added provider, with a greater emphasis on marketing, branding and building client services, Sullivan said. That’s a big step for a company that has been growing vegetables for more than 100 years, but the value-added segment is something that Chief Executive Officer Peter Pero has been working toward for five years. He had the vision to launch retail fresh-cut products in 2005, and invested millions in getting the lines up and running – including hiring staff to oversee fresh-cut food safety and marketing efforts.

One of those new faces at Pero Family Farms include Sullivan, who moved to Florida from Hollywood where he was a brand consultant for movies and television networks.

Instead of focusing on foodservice for sales, as the commodity side of the business does, the new fresh-cut business will be primarily for the retail market.

The first value-added products Pero Family Farms introduced were part of its FreshWraps line, which has performed well over the last year, Sullivan said. But the real test was the fresh-cut products, which were rolled out in January with the new name. The products are processed in-house in a section of its warehouse that was converted to a processing clean room.

The branded Snipped Green Beans in conventional and organic varieties are available to customers now in 12-ounce microwaveable film bags. The Peppers and Onions line – green peppers and yellow onions or mixed colored peppers and yellow onions – also in a 12-ounce microwaveable bag accompany the green bean line.

The microwaveable vegetables are new to the company, but consumers are familiar with them, and Pero Family Farms wanted a product that was innovative and consumers could get excited about. The company found that in its new Salad Cut Ups line. The line “changes the paradigm” of bagged salads, Sullivan said, by offering a truly unique and innovative product.

The Salad Cut Up line is designed to complement fresh-cut bagged lettuce. The bagged salad market is mature and is the top category in fresh-cuts, but there aren’t many products to go with or on top of the lettuce, Sullivan said. The Salad Cut Ups solve that by offering consumers one package that contains all of the ingredients for a great salad – minus the lettuce and dressing. There will be five options at the initial launch in April, each with four to five salad toppings individually packaged within a master pack.

The Garden salad has diced cucumbers, diced green bell peppers, grape tomatoes, chopped red onions and julienned carrots in a 7.5-ounce bag. The Double R Ranch bag includes ranch-flavored croutons, grape tomatoes, diced cucumbers, and diced red and green bell peppers in an 8-ounce bag. The Asian salad kit has snow peas, red and green bell peppers, shredded red cabbage and Wonton strips in a 6.75-ounce bag. The Southwest salad includes the fixings of corn tortilla strips, diced red and green bell peppers, grape tomatoes, chopped red onion and roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas). And lastly, the Tuscan salad mix has diced red and green bell peppers, garbanzon beans, shredded red cabbage and chopped red onions in a 7-ounce bag.

Each package has enough product for two large dinner salads or about four regular house salads. The price point will fall between $2.99 and $3.99, which is considerably less than buying all of the items individually. Consumers will be able to cut the cost of a homemade premium sald by 70 percent with the Salad CutUps, Sullivan said, and there would be much less wasted produce. Retail partners have shown interest in the new products, and consumers responded favorably in testing conducted by Burke Marketing, Sullivan said.

The produce items inside the master pack are individually packed in oxygen transfer film bags, so the company had to determine the respiration rates for each product, then the all of the products together for the package, Sullivan said. That required research in the product development stage – and a lot of it, as the packaging formula gets more complicated with every item added to the mix.

The Salad Cut Ups line is in soft launch until the beginning of April as Pero Family Farms builds its network of regional representatives. Three of the salad kits are available now, two more are ready for launch and there are three more in development, Sullivan said.

The new line will be marketed alongside bagged salads in the produce department, a coveted spot that Pero Family Farms was happy to get. The placement speaks to how innovative the product is, and how well retailers have received it, Sullivan said.

“Innovation in any industry is key. It’s difficult for buyers to make changes in suppliers and vendors right now, but if you come in with something unique and innovation, they’ll add you. And we have a good price point,” he said.

The new products from Pero Family Farms show the direction the company is taking. It will still grow vegetables, but it wants to make a splash in the value-added segment.

“This is the future of the company – the packaging, fresh-cut products,” Sullivan said. “Not forgetting that we’re farmers also.”

Originally posted Monday, Mar. 29, 2010

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