The products also expand the brand’s appeal to consumers across generations and demographics, while simultaneously tackling the rising health “crisis” in America related to under consumption of fruits and vegetables, De Monte Foods CEO Greg Longstreet said.
“What we are seeing is consumers are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables. It’s actually kind of a crisis right now. And there’s been several studies that have come out recently talking about the under-consumption of fruits and vegetables. So, we see an opportunity to help address an interest in health and wellness, but really with more innovative products and solutions that help address some of the fears consumers have,” he explained.
Consumer research reveals that many consumers do not eat as many fruits and vegetables as recommended because they think it will cost more and take more time to prepare, he said.
But, he added, “that’s really not the case with the products that we’re offering the world. We are providing these new ideas that address convenience, that address taste, and that address value. So we are very excited about that work.”
To address these concerns and help consumers eat more produce, Del Monte has invested heavily in new product development and consumer insights since Longstreet joined the company four years ago.
“I am really proud of what the team has done over the past three years. We’ve created $100m in new product sales, just through these innovation efforts,” Longstreet said. But, he added, “this year is our best year ever.”
Del Monte Vice President of Innovation & Insights Mario DiFalco agreed, explaining the new suite of products developed during the pandemic focuses on three emerging trends: demand for fresh, plant-based options to boost health and wellness, purposeful snacking and empowering home cooks who want increased variety and convenience.
Making plant-based eating easy
Consumer interest in plant-based diets has doubled in the last year, which is a “major jump,” with 36% of Americans now identifying as flexitarians who experiment with more vegetarian and plant-forward meals, DiFalco told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained this has led to broader acceptance of the kinds of products and concepts that Del Monte has teed-up for the coming month, such as a line of Veggiful Riced Veggies that makes it easier for consumers to replace grains with vegetables and offers more variety.
“We wanted to tap into the desire to replace some grains in your diet with rice veggies. We saw cauliflower growing quickly, and then the consumer was moving beyond that” wanting more flavors and different vegetable bases, DiFalco explained.
In response, the company is launching three flavors of riced cauliflower – Southwest, Parmesan Herb and Teriyaki – and adding broccoli into the mix with a combination riced cauliflower and broccoli in Garlic & Herbs and unflavored, he said.
Del Monte also is launching a line of Veggiful Veggie bowls that combine a cup of cooked quinoa with a separate sauce that consumers can add – allowing them to dial up or down the flavor as they desire, DiFalco said.
He added that both of these lines not only deliver on taste but also convenience by taking out prep step that can deter consumers but still giving them space to be creative.
Del Monte also has “doubled down our investments in plant-based frozen,” Longstreet said, noting that demand for innovative frozen options that are convenient and better-for-you continues to grow.
For example, he noted the company’s expanded line of Veggieful Pocket Pies, which include two options made with plant-based meats – a Rosemary Garlic Plant-Based Chicken and a Plant-Based Philly Cheesesteak – and two that focus on vegetables – Spinach Artichoke Parmesan and Broccoli Potato Cheddar.
All four “provide and abundant serving of fruits and vegetables, so you’re going to get your vegetable servings and you’re going to get your health and wellness, and great taste in a matte of minutes,” Longstreet said.
Purposeful snacking trend plays on functional benefits
In addition to incorporating more fruits and vegetables in meals, Del Monte is making it easy for consumers to reach for snacks packed with produce that are easy and affordable and also deliver on the functional benefits that consumers want.
“Consumers have really come to us and said, ‘I want added nutrients in my products, and how can you do that within your portfolio?’ So, we developed a line of wellness-infused cups” with “really interesting fortification added nutrition benefits,” Longstreet said.
The line of Fruit Infusions Cups includes Boost Me, which combines mangos and pineapple in mango and dragon fruit flavored juice with a coffee extract and extra vitamin C, Gut Love, which adds pineapple to pineapple ginger flavored juice with turmeric and probiotics to deliver a good source of fiber, Stay Well, which infuses grapefruit in pomegranate flavored juice with elderberry extract and vitamin C, and Glow On, a hydrating combination of coconut water and aloe with peaches in passionfruit guava flavored juice.
Also under purposeful snacking, Del Monte is introducing a line of Joyba Bubble Tea that brings the boba shop experience home by combining tea and fruit flavors with popping boba in four flavors that can be sold individually in the refrigerated section for on-the-go consumption with the telescoping straw nestled in the side of the cup or in shelf stable multipacks.
Joyba was designed to appeal to younger Millennials and Gen Z consumers who flocked to boba shops before the pandemic and have missed the experience at home during the pandemic. The launch also makes the boba trend more accessible by offering the beverages for substantially less than the $7 price tag at boba shops and at retail locations where other groceries are purchased – eliminating the need for a special trip, DiFalco explained.
Elevating home cooking
Finally, Del Monte is helping home cooks who gained confidence in the kitchen during the pandemic step up their game and diversify their repertoire with a premium line of authentic Italian San Marzano Style whole and chopped tomatoes sold under the Contadina brand, and new Deluxe Gold Pineapple in chunks, slices and tidbits featuring a pineapple varietal that is less common and sweeter than most canned options on the market today.
The inspiration for these launches is grounded in the trend of home meal preparation that accelerated during the past year, Longstreet explained.
“We saw more and more consumers buy our products and ask for advice on home meal preparation, and really what was interesting is they wanted to buy brands they trusted, but they also wanted to buy more premium ingredients. They wanted to create a restaurant style experience at home for themselves and their families. So, some of our innovations this year help address that,” he said.
DiFalco noted that the at home eating trend will remain elevated even as some people return to offices and children return to schools because most adults will likely continue to work remotely at least part time. Also, he said, now that more consumers know how to cook and have the products they need to create high quality meals at home, they will continue to do so even as restaurants re-open.
Looking across all the innovations launching in the coming months, DiFalco noted that Del Monte is transforming from a company focused on mid-day snacks and sides to a “full day eating solution” with options for all day parts and occasions. It also is expanding its appeal across consumer demographics and offering on-trend solutions with staying power.