OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Value-added produce is cannibalizing sales of some commodity items such as iceberg head lettuce and by the year 2,000 may represent a quarter of produce sales.
According to Rick Bravo, vice president of sales for Dole Fresh Vegetables Co., Salinas, Calif., for this type of growth to occur dedicated shippers will have to continue producing high-quality product and practice proper handling techniques. Bravo made his remarks at a recent meeting here of the Merchandising Executives Club of Chicago.
"For the past several years sales of value-added produce have started to cut into sales of traditional commodities. Now we are experiencing cannibalization against head lettuce sales," said Bravo. "Customers are switching."
Per capita consumption of head lettuce was 24.1 pounds in 1992 compared with 28.8 pounds in 1987, he said.
"Instead of introducing a new product that takes away from a commodity we would like to find a product that takes away from frozen," Bravo said.
Consumers are drawn to value-added produce because it represents "a fresh and natural alternative" and because it is convenient, he said.
With continued consumer interest in the 5 a Day for Better Health program and health and nutrition issues, value-added produce is expected to remain a growing category, he added.
Retailer benefits include reduction in freight and labor costs, reduced storage space requirements, increased product uniformity, year-round consistency of product and supply, brand identity and cleaner coolers, Bravo said.