Own Frozen Fruit brands climb 7.6% to $251 million in 12 weeks, as brands post double-digit gains and losses. But there’s plenty in the innovation pipeline. Here’s what to watch for.
Let’s jump right into this. Dole, Firestone Pacific Foods, Wyman’s and trüfrü provided solid input on the frozen fruit category. There’s useful info on new products, consumer trends, commodity fluctuations and more. Fasten your seatbelt.
Dole Packaged Foods, Westlake Village, Calif., is launching Dole Boosted Blends, designed to turn smoothies into functional foods without sacrificing taste for busy consumers.
Functional foods – those with claims of protein, probiotics or vitamin C, for example – are increasingly popular among consumers seeking to enhance their personal wellness goals.
‘NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS ARE QUEEN’
These foods have become key differentiators and motivators for trial. “While taste is still king, nutritional benefits are queen,” says Laura Lefkowitz, business manager, frozen, at Dole Packaged Foods (dolesunshine.com).
She notes that more than a third of at-home smoothie makers are adding functional “boosts” to their smoothies. But “This adds an extra step to their already busy morning, and sometimes provides the benefit at the expense of taste. Still more smoothie makers would like to enhance their smoothies beyond just fruit, but it’s too much of a hassle or they don’t have the right ingredients on hand,” she explains.
Dole Boosted Blends will leverage a new-to-the-category technology of “nutrient-boosted cubes” that deliver ingredients like matcha or almond butter to add functional benefits not provided by fruit alone.
Dole Boosted Blends come in three benefit-flavor combinations: Protein Blueberry Banana with 10 grams of protein; Energize Pineapple Mango with energy-boosting matcha green tea; and Vita-C Strawberry Pineapple with 220% daily value of vitamin C. The 32-ounce stand-up pouches carry an SRP of $9.99.
Dole is adding another new product – Keto Berry Blend smoothie – to address the surge in popularity of the Keto diet. A mix of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, avocado and a touch of stevia, the keto-certified smoothies have 8 net carbs per serving and carry a suggested retail of $4.49 for a 12-ounce package.
“Consumers who are on the keto diet are focused on reducing net carbs, which can make it difficult to incorporate fruit, and by extension smoothies, into their diet,” Lefkowitz explains.
Keto is not a fad, she says. According to a 2019 study by Research and Markets, the global keto foods market accounted for $9.7 billion in 2018, and is projected to reach $15.6 billion by 2027.
ORGANIC AVOCADO CHUNKS
Vancouver, Wash.-based Firestone Pacific Foods (fire stonepacificfoods.com) recently launched club packs of frozen organic avocado chunks, sold in a bag containing three one-pound individual units. Consumers can use one unit at a time, keeping the others fresher in the bag.
“Avocados fall right in line with the health and wellness trend – they’re widely known as a super food,” says Dave Wiliams, senior vp of marketing. Avocados have been growing rapidly for several years in the fresh market, and it has taken awhile for frozen product to gain traction. But Firestone now has a strategic partner in South America, and sales at the club level are strong. They are packed 12 bags to the case. Williams notes that the company is looking to expand the product into traditional supermarkets as well.
Blueberries – Firestone’s largest crop – also fit the super-food profile. Despite increased consumption, there’s more than an ample supply now in the market, and prices are down to levels not seen in 10 or 12 years, according to Williams.
Frozen strawberries have been in short supply this past year, what with acreage down in 2019 and untimely weather events hitting California at the peak of harvest. Fresh product took the lion’s share of production, with little left for high quality IQF strawberries.
Willams says there are fewer pounds of frozen strawberries available because of last year’s problems, and he expects pricing to remain firm or perhaps even higher this year.
Organic production and sustainable agriculture have long been key to Firestone and its Portland, Ore.-based parent company, Agriculture Capital Management (agriculturecapital.com), Williams notes. The parent company’s 2019 Impact Report cited the previous year’s saving of 1.2 billion gallons of water through efficient irrigation and conservation. The Bee Better Certified company also reported a 232% increase in total wild pollinators observed present between 2016 and 2018 at its Independence, Ore.-based organic blueberry farms. This was achieved via adding plants and flowers that attract native pollinators.
WYMAN’S LAUNCHES ‘JUST FRUIT’
Wyman’s (wymans.com) is underway with the phased national rollout of Just Fruit, a four-item frozen line that was – at press time – a finalist for new product of the year in the healthy snack category at Expo West.
Three of the items feature fruit and frozen Greek yogurt: Wild Blueberries; Raspberries; and Wild Blueberries and Mangos. The non-dairy item has Wild Blueberries, Strawberries and Banana Bites. Each package has four 2.3-ounce cups, and carries a suggested retail of $4.99.
Tom Gardner, vp of sales at the Portland, Me.-based company, notes that Just Fruit is the first of several products in “a pretty active innovation pipeline” focusing on health, taste and convenience.
Each of these factors has been important to Wyman’s double-digit growth of late. Healthy eating, smoothies and consumer desire for new mixes including different fruits have all pushed growth along.
As the company has expanded its offerings, it’s had to focus more attention on commodity fluctuations, weather and labor. And for the year ahead? Gardner says significant price increases are very likely in strawberries and raspberries – but not for the reasons most people think.
“When a commodity price goes up or down, the first thing you think of is weather. But more recently, labor is a big factor – and by that I mean, ‘Is there enough labor to bring in the crop?’ Some fruits are more easily machine-harvested, but raspberries are not – they’re very fragile.”
Another problem: Commodity prices have drifted so low for some crops that farmers are not making an acceptable return on their investment. This can lead to switching acreage to other crops, or even leaving some fields that are not being managed.
But on the flip side, there’s room for optimism, too. Gardner points out that although nine in 10 Americans are still not meeting dietary guidelines for fruit consumption, consumption is climbing – especially among millennials.
Consumers are also seeing the importance of frozen fruits in cutting food waste. “Food waste is an enormous issue,” Gardner notes. “People are tired of throwing out half of their fresh raspberries, for example, and realizing that spoilage is not a problem with frozen product.”
Frequent, deep promotions are not doing major brands any favors in the frozen fruit category. Gardner says Wyman’s promotion capitalizes on key selling periods for frozen fruit such as in January, when dieters help drive consumption up by 20% to 30%.
This period makes good sense, along with March Frozen Food Month and the fall season when kids are going back to school and fresh fruit is not as abundant, he says. But more than 90% of frozen fruit sales are base sales without promotion, so promoting too often doesn’t benefit the brand, the category or the retailer, Gardner states.
He believes that there may be pressure building on supply for organic frozen fruits. “It’s a viable category,” he says, “but private label wants to have a significant piece of that business. With all the major brands competing for it also, I don’t know if there will be enough volume there to support everybody. You might see a lot of manufacturers just trading share points when they’re promoting.”
CHOCOLATE-COVERED FROZEN FRUIT!
Salt Lake City-based trüfrü (trufru.com) has just launched its fourth 8-ounce pouch item – Blueberry Covered in White And Dark Chocolate. Less than a year ago the company debuted three 8-ounce pouches of its Hyper Chilled/ Frozen Fresh fruit covered in chocolate: Raspberry covered in White and Dark Chocolate; Cherry covered in White and Dark Chocolate; and Raspberry in White and Milk Chocolate.
“We are just now shifting to a new brand logo and updated packaging that is getting rave reviews,” says Dion Rasmussen, national vp of sales. He adds that all four of trüfrü’s items are now available in new pint cups for frozen novelty sets. He says that the unique products are helping drive growth by bringing new users into the category.
‘SEAL THE SEASONS’ STEALS THE SHOW
After debuting in a college dorm room six years ago, this upstart firm succeeds by making the local farmer the star.
Dollar sales at Seal the Seasons, Chapel Hill, N.C., skyrocketed 55.2% in the 12 weeks ended Jan. 26, according to IRI, the Chicago-based market research firm.
The Certified B company, which bills itself as “The Farmers’ Market in Your Freezer,” works with farmers on a state-by- state basis to freeze their produce in season and offer it year-round in supermarkets.
You can go to the website (sealtheseasons.com) and track the farms where the product was grown, see photos of the farmers and read their stories. The company is moving to recyclable packaging that includes a postcard-type photo and signed note on the back from the farmers. The packaging also has an improved zipper-top for easier opening and closing.
The formula has worked well for founder Patrick Mateer, who launched the company from his dorm room while a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill six years ago. Now with product in major chains including Kroger, Wegmans, Whole Foods and more, the company is launching new fruit SKUs and adding a vegetable line.
New fruit SKUs include peaches from Pennsylvania, as well as strawberries and blackberries from Ohio and blueberries from Michigan. The latter three will also be available as blends. (Seal the Seasons also sources from farms in California, Wisconsin, North and South Carolina, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Oregon.)
The vegetable line, to be introduced shortly, includes broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, spinach and Brussels sprouts from the Carolinas. All the company’s products are non-GMO, Mateer says.
“We’re bringing the farmer’s story to life, connecting the farmer to the consumer,” he adds. “Consumers are looking for a story – where food comes from and why it matters. Since 2000, 21% of small family farms have been forced to close their doors. Seal the Seasons hopes to change that by providing farmers with a new, reliable revenue stream.”
MORE GROWTH AHEAD
He sees more growth ahead for locally grown foods. An August 2018 Gallup poll noted that 73% of those surveyed said they actively incorporate local food into their diets each week, versus only 47% actively trying to incorporate organic foods, Mateer says. –W.T.
Sales in supermarkets, drugstores, mass merchants, military commissaries and select club and dollar stores combined for the 12 weeks ended Jan. 26, according to IRI (iriworldwide.com), the Chicago-based market research firm. Percent change is versus the same period a year ago.
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