Try to imagine, if you can, almost every variety of fruit and vegetable in the world under one enormous roof. We’re talking massive produce displays, spread out over multiple football fields worth of space. If you can begin to picture that, you’ll get a sense of the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit, which took place last weekend in Anaheim.
The Idaho Potato Commission very generously arranged for the Jolly Tomato and other food bloggers to obtain press passes for the convention over the weekend. We also were warmly welcomed with a lecture and tastings by Melissa’s Produce.
As we walked the halls of the Fresh Summit, we tried to get a sense of what’s new in the industry and where things are headed. While we met various farmers, marketers, and distributors, we also sampled a little bit of just about everything we saw, from bell pepper sorbetto to chia seed juice. We ended up full and tired, but with just enough energy left to do a quick wrap-up of what we found. Some of the trends we saw included:
Healthy Lunch Packs: We found all sorts of products that were packaged in a handy “grab-and-go” format. Are manufacturers trying to find easier ways to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables at lunch? We saw everything from cucumbers to trail mixes in easy-to-pack packages. Bolthouse Farms was offering “ShakeDown” carrot packs that come with a separate spice pouch so you can flavor your carrots. The dried apricots from Great Lakes International Trading pictured above come (three to a pack) in a super-cute school bus box.
Chips Galore: These days, it seems like everything’s gotta be a chip. We saw regular potato chips, sweet potato chips, apple chips, mango chips, pineapple chips, coconut chips, and even these “Pina Kale-ada” kale chips from Brad’s Raw Food. Because, hey, what’s not to like about chips?
Changing Colors: Why have orange carrots if you can have…yellow or even purple carrots? Why have white potatoes if you can have blue potatoes? And why have white mushrooms if you can have black ones? There’s a rainbow of produce out there, so don’t get stuck eating only the colors you know. These yellow carrots from Grimmway Farms are lunchbox-ready.
Thinking Small: It seems like lots of things got smaller at the produce convention. Beautiful lady apples and South African baby pineapples from Melissa’s Produce are so tiny you could carry one in your pocket. Frieda’s was displaying some mini “cute-cumbers” that were small enough for only one bite. And these tasty red amaranth micro-greens (each stalk about 2 inches tall) from Organic America would make for a teeny-tiny salad or a fun garnish.
Thinking Big: OK, so this 6-ton Idaho potato isn’t a real potato, but it looks an awful lot like a real thing, doesn’t it? Fun facts on the giant potato: It weighs 12,130 pounds, which is more than 1100 times heavier than the largest real potato ever grown (an 11-pounder). If you were going to bake this giant “potato” it would take two years and nine months to cook. Now that’s some slow cooking!
Many thanks again to the Idaho Potato Commission and to Melissa’s Produce (winner of the People’s Choice award for best display at the convention) for their hospitality. Stay tuned for more in the next few weeks about all of the amazing fruits and vegetables we saw this weekend.