Among those stepping up to the plate is Ready Pac, which offers a line of innovative, value-added products that address the ostensibly conflicting consumer demands of fresh and fast to make eating healthy food as quick and convenient as reaching for a bag of chips or a nutrition bar.
The firm’s latest product line – ElevAte – which hits store shelves Nov. 3, is a line of premium ready-to-eat salads that are a step-up from its existing successful Bistro Bowls salad line, according to Tony Sarsam, CEO of Ready Pac Foods, Inc.
“We are taking our game to the next level,” he told FoodNavigator-USA. “For example, each of these salads have a great variety of nutrient dense ingredients, things like acai berries, goji berries, aronia berries and those kinds of things that are hard to find or hard to craft on your own – but we do that for you,” he explained.
Five of the eight ElevAte salad bowls are certified organic and three are made with organic ingredients, they are all non-GMO and gluten free, except the Power House Grains salad which has wheat berries, and they all come with a fork “so you have a great, terrific eating experience and the work is taken care of,” he added.
Ready Pac suggests selling the ElevAte salads at a slight premium of $4.50-$5 compared to $3.50-$4 for the Bistro Bowls line, which will still be available in a wide variety of flavors with a new blend coming out about once every four to six weeks, Sarsam said.
He adds that he hopes the ElevAte salads will be as successful as the Bistro Bowls, which are the company’s fastest growing product and a dominate player in the revolution around fresh, healthy foods.
Beyond the single-serve salads, Ready Pac offers a variety of easy to eat, fresh snacks, including its line of Ready Snax Trays and Ready Snax Cups.
The Trays include a range of flavors from its sweet Caramel Apple Crisp tray, which includes apple slices, graham crackers and praline pecans, to its savory Caprese tray that includes grape tomatoes, mozzarella, toast chips and basil balsamic dressing. The line of Trays also includes a trail mix and a veggie, hummus and flatbread option.
The Ready Snax Cups combine fruit and sliced vegetables with small amounts of dips or peanut butter for added flavor or protein.
“Our Ready Snax as well as our fruit and snack cups are typically 150 calories or less. They give somebody a great snack that is healthy and certainly a lot better for them than a bag of chips might be or other alternatives,” Sarsam said.
Filling a need
The inspiration for the salad bowls and fruit and veggie packed snack cups and trays came out of consumers’ shifting shopping habits, Sarsam said.
“Consumer shopping habits have been shifting over the last couple of decades – primarily in one direction to more fresh, understandable ingredients,” and away from packaged processed foods, Sarsam said.
But this isn’t the only macro trend into which Ready Pac’s extensive portfolio fits, he added.
“Really there are four macro trends that are dominating the landscape right now. I mentioned fresh and healthy, so second to that is convenience. Another trend is around indulgence and another around value. So all those things play together … and the products that are doing best in the marketplace combine two, three or four of those trends together,” he said.
“We cover all those trends, and that is why our products are doing so well,” he added.
Sarsam doesn’t see these trends ebbing any time soon, and plans to further capitalize on them by expanding Ready Pac’s portfolio beyond salads and produce-based snacks.
“We are going to look at taking our expertise, which has been largely in salads and salad meals, and expanding into different types of complete portion control meals that have some protein offerings and different types of fresh ingredients,” he said.
Ready Pac’s future could be up for grabs
Ready Pac’s success exemplifies that of many small and medium-sized companies that are nimbly reacting to and driving market trends in ways that larger companies cannot – making them ideal acquisition targets for firms hoping to buy capability rather than create it.
Sarsam acknowledged that Ready Pac would be a good acquisition target in the next few years for a larger company looking to expand its footprint along the perimeter of the store or in more fresh categories. He also pointed to the “practical reality” that Ready Pac has been owned by a private equity firm for the past eight years and it likely will want to sell the firm in the not so distant future.
That said, Sarsam said he hopes if a merger or acquisition occurred that the other company would respect the work he has done to create a sense of identity and loyalty among the 3,000 people who work at Ready Pac.
He explained that since he joined Ready Pac two years ago, his biggest achievement has been motivating employees to do their best work by creating a mission statement and core values that they are proud to support. He also has ramped up training so that employees at every level are motivated to help the retailer and ultimately provide great products to end-users.