decade ago, butchers were arguably the last
thing shoppers ever expected to ;nd in the
produce department. Fruits and vegetables
were stocked in sprawling, vibrant wet rack
displays, and perhaps the only “grab-and-go” option was
the pull-out plastic bags that shoppers use to store their
hand-picked produce selections. To make a salad meant
to purchase lettuce, onions, tomatoes and other ;xings
individually—and worse, do the chopping and preparation at home—and the remaining products that went
unused were often thrown away.
Enter: value-added produce.
When the ;rst value-added greens hit the market, some
grocers were skeptical. Jon Clements, director of produce
for Pittsburgh-based Kuhn’s Market, recalls gathering
around a simple ;-pound bag of packaged garden salad
with his colleagues and wondering, “Is this really going
Today, he laughs at the recollection. “I looked at a bag
of chopped salad today and it’s got romaine, kale, red cab-
bage, carrots, edamame, sun;ower seeds and quinoa,”
he says, not to mention the package of sweet onion vinai-
grette dressing. Value-added vegetables have evolved far
beyond convenience alone, from clamshells and reseal-
able bags to produce butchers and multicultural meal
solutions. The latest innovations now expose consumers
to diverse flavors and ethnic ingredients, assist in the
decision-making process and reduce meal prep time and
potential food waste at home.
And while the wet rack still lives—and has long been
the primary vehicle for conveying freshness, with
rich, lively colors that bring the produce category
to life—it’s a notoriously high-shrink category
that’s prone to spoilage and is used more to
impart theater than drive sales. As consumers continuously turn to packaged
salads, mixes and related products,
some retailers are openly wondering
if it’s time to abandon the wet rack.
Dollar sales of
vegetables in 2017.
If we can use value-added
to introduce these other
things into folks’ diets, then
maybe we’ll have a chance
to sell more.” —Jon Clements, Kuhn’s Market
Walmart Freshens Up Produce
Retailers with leading fresh departments experience stronger
growth across total store sales, according to Nielsen. And as a
key theater vehicle in evoking a sense of freshness in the store’s
perimeter, the quality and appearance of the wet rack can either
make or break a store’s overall success.
In an e;ort to better track produce freshness—and convey
that freshness to its shoppers—Walmart Inc. recently debuted
its new Eden technology, designed to improve the quality and
flow of fresh groceries from farm to shelf.
“Our goal was to figure out the best way to keep track of food
freshness all the way from the farms to our stores,” said Parvez
Musani, VP of supply chain technology for Walmart, in a company
blog post. “The winning team determined that building a digital
library of food standards was the answer.”
The retailer gathered chapters of food product specifications
set by the USDA, coupled with its own product standards, and
combined the data with more than a million photos to design
an algorithm that prioritizes the flow of perishable goods
According to Musani, Eden leverages sophisticated
technology such as machine learning, but in a way that is simple
enough for all associates to use. The suite of apps is designed to
allow its associates to better monitor and care for fresh produce
that is waiting to be shipped from distribution centers.
“That could mean more e;ciently ripening bananas,
predicting the shelf life of tomatoes while they’re still on the vine,
or prioritizing the flow of green grocery items from the back of
the store to the shelf,” he said.
For instance, if a produce shipment were to exceed
acceptable temperature ranges in the container trucks, “Eden
will be able to recalculate the freshness factor and reroute the
shipment immediately,” he said, “delivering the shipment to a
closer store to optimize freshness.”
Eden technology is also expected to help reduce food waste
among Walmart stores. According to Musani, Eden is already
being used in 43 distribution centers and has prevented $86
million in waste, working toward the retailer’s goal of eliminating
$2 billion in food waste over the next five years.