Snacking is all the rage, as Americans find they just don’t want to take the time for three sit-down meals.
At the same time, more and more consumers say they’re trying to eat more healthfully.
Put those two trends together, and it’s small wonder that demand is surging for fresh produce snacks, and suppliers and retailers are hustling to meet the demand.
Consumers are looking for healthy, on-the-go snacking options they can easily implement into their fast-paced lives, says Lauren Behl, broadline brand manager for San Antonio-based NatureSweet, a category leader in greenhouse tomato production.
“They want convenience without comprising flavor or quality,” she says. “Now more than ever, we know that being the single source solution for our consumers’ healthy snacking is a top priority within the food industry.”
NatureSweet’s snacking portfolio continues to expand from premium snacking tomatoes to mini sweet peppers and mini cucumbers. It’s all to ensure, Behl says, that the company’s customers have a full variety of premium snacking options at their local retailer.
Meeting the demand for snacking in produce means offering fresh, premium quality products to consumers year-round. NatureSweet believes that shoppers should never have to compromise on flavor or freshness, Behl says.
Year-round coverage guaranteed
“Only NatureSweet products are grown to a specification 365 days a year, meaning our retailers and consumers get the same flavor, color, size and firmness all year round,” she says. “If they don’t meet that specification, they don’t get the NatureSweet name. Even in winter, our products are guaranteed to taste great or the consumer receives their money back.”
NatureSweet’s high standards for quality and freshness are the driving forces behind the growing popularity of its snacking products, she adds.
All of NatureSweet’s small tomato offerings as well as its mini cucumbers and mini peppers are perfect for snacking, Behl says.
New on the company’s snack-ready roster are Comets, the company’s sweetest tomato yet. The marketing pitch: grown specifically for an “out of this world snacking experience.”
A yellow tomato variety, Comets launched in July.
Through recent consumer research, NatureSweet learned that there was demand for its most popular tomato colors like red, yellow, and orange at an introductory price. Because of this insight, the company developed a new Constellation 10-oz offering that will give new consumers a pathway into the world of medley tomatoes, Behl says.
There are several ways NatureSweet differentiates its products in a competitive marketplace, Behl says. A big one is people.
“We believe that what really sets our products apart from the competition is our amazing associates, who carefully cultivate our products from seed to shelf. It’s because of their love, day in and day out, that our products grow to be so sweet.”
NatureSweet is so employee-focused, it features content on the underside of its product labels featuring associates, with links to its website to hear their stores directly from them.
Transparency is another way NatureSweet tries to stand out,” Behl says.
“We believe in giving our consumers a full look into our greenhouses so they can feel confident about picking up our products at their local retailer,” she says.
NatureSweet is also 100% vertically integrated. The company owns and operates 100% of its greenhouses, so it controls every step of the growing process. It starts, Behl says, with the best seeds that are nurtured throughout the greenhouse-grown process by associates who handpick the tomatoes off the vine at the peak of sweetness to provide consumers with high-quality tomatoes all year long.
Creative merchandising, seasonal style
Hothouse vegetable grower-shipper Pure Flavor got into the Christmas spirit this winter to get the word out about its Mini Munchies veggie snack packs.
“This holiday season, something magical happened, even more magical than usual. At the North Pole, we were getting letters from kids but something was different. Instead of the remote-control cars, video games, or super dolls, it was all about the Mini Munchies,” Bernard, Head Elf at the North Pole, says in a video Pure Flavor released the week before Christmas.
In the video, with only a few more shopping days until Christmas, the elves were frantically putting the finishing touches on the items to be delivered. “Santa said he wants a couple of packs on the sleigh, he says they are the perfect on the go snack”, Bernard continues.
Mini Munchies are snack sized veggies that combine the best snacking products from Pure Flavor in two convenient formats:
Format 1: Juno Bites Red Grape Tomatoes, Aurora Bites Mini Sweet Peppers, and Poco Bites Cocktail Cucumbers, all packed in a convenient 4 oz themed bag.
Format 2: the new Mini Munchies Tomato Snack Pack that comes in a 12 oz (4 chamber) breakaway pack that is being launched this winter.
“When the phone rang and my call display said ‘The North Pole,’ I thought it was a prank, to be honest, but when I picked up and Bernard told me who he was and said he needed our help, we just couldn’t say no,” says Chris Veillon, Pure Flavor’s chief marketing officer. “The timelines were tight and very specific so we had to act fast. It’s not every day that you get that last-minute call from Santa’s Workshop so our team was up for the challenge.”
The video can be seen at https://youtu.be/x7Lf5jWH8yQ
Snacking products take center stage for Mucci
Kingsville, Ontario-based Mucci Farms has put snacking front and center in its new product offerings.
In recent years, the greenhouse vegetable grower-shipper has rolled out award-winning products like Veggies-to-Go, an on-the-go snack product aimed at kids.
The packs are easy for kids to hold in their hands and they easily fit in lunch bags, according to Mucci. Veggies-to-Go is a 9-ounce pack divided into 3-ounce compartments with "EZ Snap" packaging, allowing each compartment to be "snapped" off. Inside is a combination of Mucci’s Sun DropsTM or Sun Bliss Grape Tomatoes, CuteCumbers and Sweet To The Point pointed mini peppers. A club pack version is also available as a three-tier 27-ounce package.
"Not only is this a convenient package for the consumer, it's also fully customizable for our retail partners based on their target demographics," says Joe Spano, Mucci’s vice president of sales and marketing. "We've got four great commodities, and our retail partners have the option to choose any combination of them to create their own version of the package."
Mucci has also seen great customer acceptance for one of the individual stars in Veggies-to-Go: its CuteCumbers.
CuteCumbers are smaller, crunchier and more convenient than mini cucumbers, Spano says — the perfect crunchy snack for kids and adults.
At the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s 2019 show, Mucci won the Freggie Approved Award for its CuteCumber Poppers, a one-bite cucumber variety with what the company calls “exceptional flavor and a crunchy texture.” CuteCumber Poppers are offered in multiple pack styles to accommodate club stores, retailers and foodservice.
“We created a lineup of packages to give our ‘partners in produce’ multiple options based on their demographics and value propositions,” says Fernanda Albuquerque, Mucci’s new product development manager.
More recently, in October, at the Produce Marketing Association’s annual Fresh Summit show, Mucci won another award for packaging used in its snack packs.
Mucci was awarded the Best Sustainable Packaging prize for its Simple Snack, a plastic-free, backyard compostable series of packaging. Simple Snack is composed of a tray made from agricultural waste, and the lidding film is made of sugarcane and wood fibers using a process that emphasizes social and environmental responsibility.
“Consumer feedback over the last several months has been almost exclusively focused on the reduction of plastic, so we feel like we’ve addressed that concern by coming up with a truly plastic free package,” Albuquerque says. “We also saw the value of being able to add key messaging to the tray, which gave our designers a larger canvas for branding, information and education.”