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Next-Generation Perishables

In recent years there has been a noticeable surge in the value-added perishable items found around the perimeter of your favorite food store. In the past, there would typically be dairy items like milk, eggs, butter, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, prepared pasta salads and meat, seafood and produce — but not much else.

Now we find items for the “speed scratch” cooks who are time-starved, but want to have a hand in the creation of a meal; so they purchase already prepared ingredients like ready-made sauces, pre-peeled and pre-cut veggies, meat that has been trimmed and sliced, pre-cooked pasta and rice, etc. — as well as items that are ready to heat and eat — for those of us who just want a fast meal without the time or fuss.

Most markets tout a well-stocked section of sauces (pestos, pasta sauces, cheese sauces, and meat sauces), spreads (hummus, bean dips, sour cream and cheese dips, and even compound butters) and an ever-growing assortment of ready-made, “home-cooked” entrees from single size portions to family size trays. Our inspiration comes from a variety of sources — ethnic and otherwise — but we should give credit to retailers across the pond for their ingenuity in the creation of this sector.

The large food retailers in the United Kingdom are all about value-added perishable items that are taking a serious hold here in the United States. They have taught us that quality is king in the fresh section: The better the flavor and the more reasonable the price, the higher the sales.

As this category in our markets continues to expand, we need to keep up with advances in our distribution networks, too. Improvements will translate into a reduction in the amounts of chemical preservatives used to extend shelf life. If stores are receiving multiple refrigerated shipments per week, there is no need for all of the preservatives. I am not sure if this would make Michael Pollen proud of our retail accomplishments, but it’s certainly a start.