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Washed and ready-to-eat fruit & vegetables
Placing healthy produce snacks with pop, chips and coffee
In a perfect world, washed, ready to eat fresh fruit and veggie snacks would be made available anywhere anytime to satisfy impulse consumption. This has been the “holy grail” of the produce industry.
Produce waste & consumption shortfall
According to Helmut Leili, president of Nature Knows Inc., there’s a 70 million serving shortfall per day, of fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada alone, with another 700 million serving shortfall per day, in the USA. What’s more, he says the industry from field to consumption, is wasting 40% of the produce grown, as in “we have the capacity to grow a tremendous amount – and yet we don’t supply the daily recommended servings for healthy eating.” With North America’s obesity issue and getting consumers to eat more fresh produce, he spent the next seven years researching the best packaging in order to make it viable and convenient.
After more than 15,000 experiments, he landed on the best design. “I found a design that not only preserves the produce, but allows us to make and sell it as washed and ready to eat,” he explains. “I also designed the package to be 100% compostable. We use a lot of plastic in the industry and, I wanted to move away from that trend and be careful of the environment.” Leili is hopeful that the products will be available in the retail sector, but his main target is the underserved markets such as gas stations, commissaries, hospitals, airports and even popular Canadian coffee chains such as Tim Hortons. Pricing has to be a key a factor in getting consumers to buy fresh fruit and veggie snacks – and the goal was to make it available to consumers for around the price of a cup of coffee. “As we introduce our Nature Knows product line into the market, consumers are defiantly agreeing that the price is about right, the product is excellent and so far consumer response has been nothing short of overwhelming.”
The trademark packaging is extremely environmentally friendly. “There’s nothing like this globally. It’s not only about the packaging, but also about the way we handle it in the process of making it ready to eat,” he says. Even the see-through window on the package is biodegradable – it’s made from plant material. “It’s been a long road to get this far but we’re at the top of the mountain.” The boxes and bags we developed for our fruit and veggie snacks, help extend shelf life and hold flavor. While Leili says the actual shelf life depends on the product, it’s usually between 30-50% more than with other packaging. “One of my goals was to come up with a shelf life that allows us to pick and pack our fruit and vegetables at peak of flavor,” he says.
His background in genetics and plant breeding came into play. He says, generally the fruit and vegetable industry has been trying to accommodate the distribution system through breeding long shelf life in the fruit, and with genetics, whenever you focus on certain traits, you’re usually compromising something else. In the case of shelf life, flavor has been compromised across all types of fresh product and this turns many consumers off, especially kids. Now, with our package that has natural shelf-life enhancing characteristics, we can go back to developing high-flavor fruits and vegetables and harvest them at their peak of flavor, that everyone loves –especially children, and at the same time, not sacrificing the demands of the supply chain.
The Nature Knows product line of washed, ready to eat fruits and veggies, is a consumer and supply chain friendly product with the capability to be mass merchandised in the same retail POS where chocolate bars, pop and chips are found. “When we do this, we know that we will positively impact the health of consumers.”
For more information:
Helmut J Leili
Nature Knows Inc.
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