Value-added items will be the fastest-growing category in the produce department this year.
That is according to retailers who were asked to make predictions about hot products and key issues that will affect produce marketing this year.
To profit from the trend in value-added items in the new year, retailers said they will be looking for more varieties of products and improved refrigerated display cases.
In 1994, several other issues and concerns will be in the forefront, including labeling laws, irradiation, pesticides and food safety, retailers said.
Other produce trends to watch, they said, are increased international trade in products both leaving and entering the country, wider use of universal product codes, or UPCs, and standardized price look-up codes, or PLUs, and an increased use of computer technology to run departments.
Retailers in different markets interviewed by SN said value-added produce was the fastest-growing category in 1993 and, fueled by the convenience factor, promises to continue to grow.
Vince Terry, director of produce for Harp's Food Stores, a 24-unit retailer in Springdale, Ark., predicted the value-added emphasis will move away from just salads toward more microwave-ready items, such as potatoes with a sauce.
Several retailers said they are constantly scouring the market for new value-added items and new ways to merchandise precut produce.
Grand Union Co., Wayne, N.J., operator of approximately 250 stores, will ring in the new year
with new dessert bars containing precut fruit with various glazes and sauces that are featured as healthy dessert alternatives customers can take home. The dessert bars, which should be completed by the end of this month, will be an extension of the precut melon bars in all of the chain's stores, said Tom Gallahan, vice president of produce and floral.
In 1994, at least two retailers, Tom Thumb Food & Drugs, Dallas, and Randall's Food Markets, Houston, plan to upgrade their refrigerated display cases to have better refrigeration for precut produce.
Ray England, director of produce operations for Tom Thumb, operator of 61 stores, said the shrink on value-added items is too high, and the chain is looking for a way to retrofit its display cases to refrigerate the product at 38 degrees, a temperature not all the existing cases will reach.
Norm Frewin, senior vice president and director of produce for Randall's, operator of 48 stores, said that in 1994, his chain plans to put more shelves in display cases and add 10- to 12-foot sections of cases for better refrigeration of value-added produce. In 1993, Randall's added peeled potatoes and onions to its line of value-added items. In 1994, the chain will continue looking to expand its precut line.
Another retailer, Hughes Family Markets, Irwindale, Calif., began putting upright display cases with five shelves for precut items in stores in 1993 and will continue that program in 1994.
Roger Schroeder, vice president of produce for the 51-unit retailer, said along with the fast-growing category of precut produce comes concern for food safety, an issue retailers will be grappling with in 1994, he predicted.