The healthy snack category is on the rise and Ready Pac Foods Inc is aiming to take advantage of that trend with the introduction of an innovative fresh fruit parfait.
Barbara Dan, vice president of marketing and research and development at Irwindale, CA-based Ready Pac, which specializes in the fresh-cut and value-added sectors of the produce industry, said that fresh-cut produce sales are relatively static while healthy-snacking products have experienced a 5 percent increase over the past year.
"What is driving that?" she asked before answering. "The apple-snacking category is up and fresh products with dips are also growing fast."
She said the fastest-growing sector in the entire supermarket is the yogurt category. "That is the strongest growth category right now followed by milk, wine and cheese."
Strategically combining the increases in healthy snacks with the growth of yogurts, Ready Pac is debuting four varieties of fresh fruit parfait at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit convention in Atlanta.
Tristan Kieva, Ready Pac's director of marketing, said that the firm surveyed the category and is introducing a unique product. She said that the parfaits currently being sold as fresh fruit varieties are self-contained, with the fruit and a heavy syrup in together with the yogurt.
Borrowing from its salad kit idea, where ingredients are packaged separately, Ready Pac's fresh fruit parfaits have three separate compartments for each variety. The low-fat vanilla yogurt is in the bottom cup while granola and fresh fruit are each packaged separately at the top of the package. Like with the salad kits, a consumer mixes the three ingredients after purchase to create the fresh-fruit parfait.
The four fruits in the initial introduction are mangos, apples, blueberries and pineapples. Ms. Kieva said that in each case the fruit is diced. The proprietary packaging allows for a 10-day shelf life.
She added that because of the extended shelf life, the fresh-fruit parfait can be sold in the produce department as well as the deli department. Different retailers have different merchandising strategies regarding where to market the product, which has a suggested retail price point of $1.99 for an eight-ounce cup and $2.99 for the 12-ounce size.
Ms. Kieva said that the parfaits are being sold under the "Ready Pac" brand and feature "high graphics that are bold and colorful."
Ms. Dan said the Ready Pac offering is clearly in a class by itself, as the other fruit parfaits are not offering fresh fruit. She said that the idea was first hatched about two-and-a-half years ago when the research-and-development department noticed the "tremendous growth of fruit parfaits at QSRs (quick serve restaurants). We looked at what was out there and determined that we could do it better."
But rather than focusing on QSRs, Ready Pac wanted to bring the same parfait experience home to consumers to eat as snacks or to add variety to their brown bag lunches. It took about 18 months to perfect the recipe, which has been undergoing test marketing for the past nine months.
Ms. Dan indicated the company is very confident about the retail success of this product. "Our success rate for product introductions is very good," she said. "If an average company is 1 out of 10, we are much better than that. We tend to discard items well before they make it to this stage."
At this same PMA convention, Ready Pac also will introduce a new twist to its popular Bistro Salad line. The Bistro Salads, which were introduced as a single-serve item targeted for the lunch crowd, feature separately packaged ingredients, including a protein. While they have been very well received and are showing significant year over year sales increases, the Ready Pac executives said some people wanted a larger size, either for a bigger appetite or to share as a dinner item.
Ready Pac has now introduced the Bistro Salad Bowls in a dinner solution size. Ms. Kieva said that there are actually up to three servings in the larger bowl, which should accommodate those who want to share lunch as well as someone looking for a dinner solution or the very, very hungry eater. The suggested retail price point is $4.99 to $5.99.