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It’s a small (veggie) world

Mini veggies are shaping up to be a big hit in the produce section

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In the world of vegetables, it’s no longer all about “the bigger the better”—these days, the phrase “good things come in small packages” is just as likely to apply.

Walk through any grocery store and you can tell that miniature vegetables are growing in popularity, says Sue Lewis, vice-president, market development at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) in Ottawa.

Often sold in packaged versions, mini veggies are attracting children and adults alike, she says. The small portion sizes of mini veggie snack packs work well as healthy lunch items for children, while adults like the grab-and-go convenience of the snack packs. The smaller sizes of mini veggies also meet the needs of seniors and singles tired of having to throw out vegetables they don’t get around to eating.

“These items are saving people time and solving problems for people,” says Frank Yunace, store operations manager at Pete’s Fine Foods in Halifax.

According to Mintel’s Vegetables and Fruit – Canada – May 2017 What’s Working report, 31% of Canadians say they are interested in “portable snack size packs,” and mini veggie snack packs are well positioned to please the 37% of parents who agree that it’s “difficult to get children to eat vegetables.”

Miniature veggies can run the gamut from cucumbers and tomatoes to peppers and avocados.

Last year, Pure Flavor launched Mini Munchies veggie packs to meet the increasing demand for small vegetables in convenient snack sizes, says Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer at Pure Hothouse Foods in Leamington, Ont.

The four-ounce veggie packs are “100% branded towards kids” and include bite-sized tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers featuring characters like Poco the Cocktail Cucumber. They sell for a suggested retail of $1.99 in Canada and “can be seen as a premium but an affordable item,” says Veillon.

Also in 2017, Mission Produce launched a line of mini avocados. Dubbed “small but mighty,” the minis tap into consumer demand for snack size or single-serving portions, says Brent Scattini, vice-president of sales and marketing at the Oxnard, Calif.-based company.

At 100 to 120 calories each, the mini avocados are the perfect size for avocado toast, baby food, smoothies or omelettes, he explains. They’re sold in six count or two-pound configurations by a handful of major U.S. grocers, but are not yet sold in Canada.

Scattini says most grocers carry regular-sized produce in single, organic or bagged offerings, and he admits mini veggies represent “an additional bagged offering that doesn’t necessarily fit every retailer’s marketing strategy.”

He adds that the mini avocados are not cannibalizing other SKUs. “All we’ve seen it do is increase over-all sales at those retailers who put it on the shelf.” Yunace agrees. “I think everything has a niche,” he says. “People who are a little bit more adventurous or who are looking to save time are going to go after some of those smaller products.”

What’s more, mini veggies don’t require special promotions to sell, he says. “We just promote them as regular products on our shelves or in our merchandising displays. We don’t promote them as mini vegetables.”

That said, suppliers are providing retailers with merchandising options for their mini veggies. Mission Produce, for example, offers grocers bag display racks for its mini avocados, and the packaging “is really eye catching,” Scattini says.

Meanwhile, bin displays for Mini Munchies “are branded with high-impact creative that makes it an attractive display to have in the produce aisle,” explains Veillon. Given their convenient size, how- ever, Mini Munchies can live in a variety of locations in grocery stores, including check-out lanes, he says.

CPMA’s Lewis, who buys mini tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, thinks mini veggies are more than just a trend. “I think it’s going to continue to grow,” she says, noting that the rising popularity of snacking rather than eating three meals a day puts mini veggie snacks in good stead.

Prices for mini vegetables are comparable to regular-sized vegetables, she notes, and “if it’s something that makes it easier to make a healthier snack choice on the go, it’s worth it to pay that premium.”

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer’s June 2018 issue.

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