As the country emerges from the recession, touting the health benefits of value-added vegetables alone may not be a strong enough reason for consumers to increase purchases and consumption.
Rather, grower-shippers looking to increase sales may want to promote both the health and convenience of their products.
Those are the findings of a new report released recently from Rabobank's Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group.
"We see both health and convenience as the main two drivers for the next five years of growth," says Karen Halliburton Barber, Fresno, Calif.-based assistant vice president and senior agricultural analyst for FAR. "If grower-shippers haven't entered into the value-added arena, they may want to consider doing so."
A 2010 survey conducted by the Produce Marketing Association found most consumers ranked eating healthier as the top reason for purchasing fruits and vegetables.
But the Rabobank report cites the overall flat consumption rates for fresh vegetables since 2000 as a reason why the stand-alone "healthy" message hasn't worked.
With more women working outside the household, demand for convenience foods, including value-added vegetables, has increased, according to the Rabobank report.
Examples of healthy convenient products are Hearts of Romaine Salad by Fresh Express, Taylor Farms' Asian chopped salad kit, Trader Joe's chopped veggie saute mix, and Ocean Mist Farm's fresh artichokes in a ready-to-steam microwavable bag, according to the report.
In addition, Barber says grower-shippers may want to add foods with enhanced nutrition, flavors or cultural appeal to their mix.
But the value-added landscape may become more difficult to navigate as large retailers expand their own private label offerings, she says.
Chains, such as Trader Joe's, have long been in the private label arena.
More recently, the more traditional retailers have begun to expand their private-label value-added vegetable line-up, Barber says.
As a result, some larger grower-shipper processors, such as Dole and Fresh Express, have already started supplying private labels.
Unlike with most other private label grocery items, it's more difficult to cut marketing costs out of value-added vegetables, Barbers says.
"So this does put some of the processors or grower-shippers into a precariouos situation," she says. "But overall, it's a way to grow the market."