“We are very excited about this program,” said Cassandra Shindelbower, director of retail marketing. “We’ve created strategic relationships with some of the finest domestic growers of these products—multi-generational families. The whole line is 100 percent product of the USA. In the case of figs and dates, the majority of the world’s figs and dates are produced outside of the country.”
The dates come from Coachella, California, and the figs come from the San Joaquin Valley in California, Shindelbower said. The growers are “great family companies” who have been in business for a long time, she added.
“In the case of figs, we are working with a family called the Juras. They are third-generation farmers” with both organic and conventional fields, she said. “There isn’t another supplier in the case of figs that has the volume, the scale behind them to really go into retail in a big way. We are excited about that.”
She said Fresh Gourmet also is excited about its three-pack product of dates and date rolls.
“Dates are a growing category. There’s a lot of health and wellness trends behind them. They are a good source of fiber, vitamin and minerals,” Shindelbower said.
Fresh Gourmet’s packaging of dates is not something that’s been seen recently, she said, adding that dates primarily are available in 12- or 16-oz. packs in the produce department.
“For consumers who are just coming into the category who don’t know what a date is, it’s a pretty high barrier to entry,” Shindelbower said. “You’ll see around the show, I think, a big trend is plant-based food, and snacking continues to be something that drives consumer habits.”
She said the date rolls can go anywhere in a grocery store, such as next to bananas, which are known by consumers to be a healthful, nutritious and on-the-go choice.
“There’s also a lot of grab-and-go sections in the produce department popping up with portions of hummus and little bags of pickles and Odwalla juices and things like that. So, (we like for our product to be) anywhere grab-and-go customers are coming in,” she said.
She said the feedback from retailers at Fresh Summit has been great.
“I think they are excited about it. I think they recognize that dates are on trend with the health and wellness trend. They are really on the wave of that plant-based food movement and so, in a grab-and-go convenient pack, I think we have a lot of opportunity to drive new users into the category,” Shindelbower said.
The packages of dates will retail around $2.49 as a fresh produce snack.
Shindelbower said Fresh Gourmet Co. also continues to have a lot of momentum behind its cheese crisps and different toppings, including salad toppings.
“We’ve got a lot of great, very clean ingredient toppings—almonds, pepitas, cranberries and seeds,” she said. “Traditionally, nuts that go on a salad are candied with sugar and honey and things like that. We still have those, but we also have other alternatives that are a little closer to the plant-based, clean ingredient consumer.”