Naturipe Farms was one of just a few companies given the Impact Award for excellence in packaging at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit in Atlanta last month, for its “On-the-Go” fresh blueberry blends. During the event, www.freshfruitportal.com caught up with the company’s VP of product management Brian Bocock for a chat about the convenient packaging format’s success, varietal releases and the future of global berry consumption.
With so many grocery items that collectively affect our eating habits, how do we choose which ones are the most impactful? Is it the nutritional aspect of vitamins, calorie counts, fats, salts and proteins? Or do we take the approach of how a given product swayed us, enticed us into a purchase?
No matter how you look at it, in the case of Bocock his company’s ready-to-eat (RTE) product has fundamentally changed the eating routines of his own family.
“I gotta tell you, when the local retail store in the town (South Haven, Michigan) we live in started carrying them, it was the coolest thing in the world because now my wife is putting the sleeve of blueberries in the lunchbox instead of a Snickers bar, or instead of a luncheon pack that has the processed cheese, ham and pretzel sticks,” he told www.freshfruitportal.com.
“As far as fresh produce is concerned in this particular pack of berries, we’re right on the cutting edge, and we’re still just a little bit ahead of consumer behavior because the buying power is still with my age and older.
The executive believes health and environmental trends with younger generations will bolster fruit consumption, but it’s the job of companies like Naturipe to find a way to get fresh berries to them in a way that’s still affordable.
“It’s a pretty expensive process getting into ready-to-eat so we’re still working on how to do we take cost out of it so we can get a price point where it makes sense to buy for the consumer,” he says.
“It’s been a process. We still have a lot of work to do – the biggest win so far has been in quick service restaurants.”
While berries may already be a very convenient product compared to other fruits, Bocock emphasizes Naturipe’s RTE packs make them even easier to consume.
“One of the great things about berries versus other items is it’s actually very convenient, it’s easy to deal with; you don’t have to peel it, you don’t have to worry about seeds or pitting it.
“But you still have to wash it. With the ready-to-eat though, they’ve taken that out of the equation.”
More berries in more mouths
He said while berry consumption was high in the United States, there was still a huge opportunity for raising demand both at home and in Canada and Mexico.
“If you look at the demographics in the United States, the highest per capita consumption is in New England, the second highest is in the Midwest, and the third highest is in the southeast,” he said.
“If you think about that for just a moment , they’ve been growing berries in New England longer than an any place else, Midwest second, southeast third.
“When the consumer has berries in front of them, the more likely they are to come back and repeat purchase.”
Bocock also highlighted growth possibilities in Asia and Europe.
“The human palate is pretty similar around the world; that’s why Coke and Pepsi sell around the world,” he said.
“Everybody likes Coke and Pepsi and it’s the same with any other commodity; if you like it here, there’s a great chance a big percentage of another culture in another part of the world is going to like it.
“There is a possibility that in your and my lifetime, the next 10-20 years it’s not incomprehensible Asia could have higher consumption of blueberries and strawberries than North America. Europe could be on par with what North America is in terms of pounds.”
While Bocock was not eager to reveal too much, he drew attention to a few releases of new varieties in blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
“We just released seven new varieties on blueberries – there’ll be some more released this winter,” he said.
“We’re going to release hopefully in the next 12 months, two new releases of raspberries.
“On blackberries we’ve released two and we’re getting ready to release a third variety to our growers.”
He said several factors were taken into account when developing these varieties, including flavor, appearance, ability to ship, yields and market windows.
“We are heavily invested in the proprietary breeding programs – all of our companies are engaged in that,” he said.
Source: Fresh Fruit Portal