Salinas, CA-based Mann Packing Co. has been famously known for its broccoli for more than a generation in the produce industry.
In fact, it was more than two decades ago that it chided then President George Bush for his public diss of the item by sending him a truckload of broccoli.
Today, Mann still considers broccoli its signature item, but the firm has expanded in many other directions, most notably down various value-added paths.
Recently, The Produce News spoke with the firm’s marketing and communications specialist, Elena Hernandez, who commented on the company’s direction as well as some of its key products.
The ProduceNews: What is new at Mann Packing?
Elena Herndandez: We have recently expanded our main processing facility in Salinas by 18,000 square feet to accommodate volume growth. This is the fifth expansion to the facility in as many years. We have also partnered with an East Coast processor, F&S, to provide expanded distribution capabilities.
PN: Any new products in the broccoli line?
EH: Yes, we reformulated our 12-ounce Rainbow Salad, adding mini broccoli florettes to the shredded carrots, cabbage and cauliflower mix. Consumers love the new blend. We found that 90 percent of the consumers we tested preferred the new-and-improved Rainbow Salad to the former blend, and 87 percent said they would purchase the improved product compared to 67 percent who said they would purchase the current Rainbow Salad mix.
PN: Is broccoli still considered your signature crop?
EH: Yes, Mann is one of the world’s largest suppliers of fresh broccoli, however we are becoming more known for our stringless sugar snap peas. We have proprietary varieties and specifically designed processing lines, as well as diversified sourcing models for sugar snap peas. They are the second top-selling SKU in the cut-vegetable category.
PN: Tell us about your new product introductions over the past year?
EH: This spring, Mann introduced washed and ready-to-eat Brussels sprouts in a 12-ounce microwave steam-in-bag. Earlier in the year, we launched our first line of washed and ready-to-eat green beans, also in a microwave steam-in-bag. Green beans are offered in both 12-ounce and 32-ounce bag sizes.
For our foodservice customers, we have introduced the next generation of salad greens — washed and ready-to-eat Arcadian Harvest Petite whole leaves. Mann’s Arcadian Harvest combines the beauty of petite whole lettuce leaves with rustic appeal, providing unmatched lift on the plate, with multidimensional leaves cut just once — at the point of harvest. Mann’s Arcadian Harvest is a combined blend of European lettuce varieties including green leaf, red leaf, tangos, lolla rosa, batavia and oaks.”
PN: What new packaging innovations have you introduced recently?
EH: We are continuing the roll out of Mann’s Snacks On The Go! product platform. Snacks On The Go! is a full line of fresh-cut vegetable and fruits, packaged in multiple combinations and package sizes for snacking convenience. Mann relaunched its Snacks On The Go! line with an expanded range of snack offerings aligned with consumer needs. This includes improved item mix, improved price points, and greater variety of package sizes, particularly smaller servings. Each snack item within the Mann’s Snacks On The Go! platform (12 options total) delivers variety and pricing that consumers are demanding.
PN: How about organics? Are you making a play in that direction?
EH: We offer an organic product line to our customers that request it as part of their overall fresh-cut convenience item mix.
PN: Tells us about your use of social media in marketing? Is it effective? How do you measure that?
EH: We have Twitter accounts for both consumer (@veggiesmadeeasy) and trade (@mannpacking) audiences. We measure success by the number of followers and re-tweets our postings generate (also known as your Klout score). It’s a cost-effective way to get timely messages to audiences we know are interested in our products. Consumers can also find us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/veggiesmadeeasy) as well as on YouTube. We also send an electronic newsletter once a month to more than 8,000 subscribers.
PN: What other marketing efforts do you have for the next six months?
EH: We are working to increase consumer awareness for our products by participating in food product showcases for national media outlets and key food bloggers. The events allow us to showcase multiple items and get our fresh veggies into the mouths of influential third parties. With marketing communications efforts, unbiased decision-makers can tell your story for you, be it traditional media, web-based communications or word-of-mouth. We are excited by the response to our products; many of the editors already buy our products and we look forward to generating story placements, resulting in increase trial and repeat purchase of our products.