What does the fresh-cut industry look like in the United States? We asked Andrea Montagna, managing director of Bonduelle Fresh Americas. The US has always been an important indicator when it comes to consumption. What happens overseas, very often, also occurs in Europe after some time. So let's look at where the trends are heading.
What does the current production situation for the fresh-cut sector look like in the United States?
"On the whole, the current state of affairs for the fresh food category is very positive. We are witnessing more consistent standards than in the past. Thanks in part to inflation, packaged salad has reached four-year highs in terms of dollar volume, up 5 percent LY over the past 13 weeks. Consumption overall is slightly lower (-4%) over the same period, as some of the growth is due to year-on-year inflation. However, although consumption has dropped a bit compared to last year, the unit volume is still exceeding those of 2019-2020."
What are the best-selling products?
"Over the past two years, we have not seen much change in top-selling products, as the leading varieties continue to dominate the market share. Caesar, Santa Fe, Cobb & Chef have still accounted for 71 percent of salad sales in the US over the past 13 weeks."
Is the Fresh Cut market back to pre-Covid levels?
"We never saw a significant decline during the pandemic. Despite the initial 2-3 months decline, the category has been growing since May 2020."
Andrea Montagna in an archive photo
Are consumers wealthier, or are they struggling like in Europe?
"I don't know if we are wealthy, but the data show that there are a couple of factors influencing how consumers intend to spend their money. First of all, Covid continues to influence where consumers plan to spend, with Nielsen data suggesting that the home lifestyle implies less spending on experiences outside the home, such as dinners and events. The second factor is inflation. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, real disposable income has been declining since January 2022. With the rising cost of goods, from gasoline to groceries, consumers are more budget-conscious and expect to allocate more of their discretionary spending to these necessities. Over the next 12 months, consumers expect to spend more on groceries, utilities, and basic expenses at home, while many pointed out that they will spend less on discretionary items and occasions away from home."
What strategies is Bonduelle Fresh Americas pursuing?
"We will continue on our path by focusing on long-term changes in consumer behavior, providing meaningful innovations to food category to address unmet needs, and by making sure consumers know what our brands stand for. One strategy is to stay ahead of customers and continue to provide products that meet their needs since consumer behavior will be changing in the next 3-5 years. At the same time, we will continue to introduce innovations (e.g., new flavor profiles) that are incremental to the category and increase household penetration. For example, we just relaunched our Ready Pac Bistro brand and introduced two new consumer-tested flavors. In addition, our new label contains our commitments to health and sustainability much more clearly."
When it comes to environmental issues, what is your focus?
"Perhaps most importantly, we know that consumers are concerned about the effects of climate change (66 percent) and want companies to act responsibly towards the environment and society (65 percent). That's why we are working to become a certified B Corporation by the end of this year. We want consumers to know that we provide a solution to meet their needs for fresh, plant-rich, healthier, more convenient foods and that we have a positive impact on people, food, and the planet. And that our products are better for them and the planet."