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Nancy Pickersgill of Sunset Produce:

“Flavor has become an even more important factor for consumers during the pandemic”

While the United Fresh Live trade show floor will remain open throughout the summer, the main events wrapped up last week. Even though the show was converted into a virtual format, the exhibitor line-up featured many returning companies who are present every year. One of these companies is SUNSET®, and while Nancy Pickersgill, Events Manager, and Justine Chevalier, Communications Manager, both agreed that the virtual format likely won’t replace in-person shows in the future, they were very pleased with how the show turned out.

“It was great to touch base with everyone in the industry and see everyone again. The show was really busy, and United Fresh did a great job at keeping people active and engaged,” says Pickersgill. Chevalier agrees, adding: “United Fresh did an amazing job providing different seminars and workshops that allowed us to engage with each other and interact. This event reinforced the importance of connecting as a team and an industry.”

Despite all this, the virtual platform can’t replace the in-person shows, both Pickersgill and Chevalier agree. “We’ll always enjoy getting together in person, tasting samples, touching product, seeing and feeling new packaging, and engaging with each other to build relationships,” Pickersgill says.

Highlighting new products at the show
Every year, Sunset brings out new products to highlight at trade shows, and while this year has been unlike any other, this hasn’t changed. “One of our newest products are our Honey Bombs™, and we were really excited to bring these to the show and share them with the industry,” says Chevalier. “This is the third addition to our Bombs™ lineup of snacking tomatoes on- the-vine. The first was our Flavor Bombs®, which really established the on-the-vine snacking segment. We followed that with Sugar Bombs®, and now we have Honey Bombs.”

Honey Bombs are a golden-sweet cherry tomato on-the-vine, with high fructose levels which give the product a very sweet flavor. Chevalier explains: “It’s a great snacking option. The package design is really beautiful too, with a foil detail that stands out on shelf. This product hit store shelves in May and so far, we’ve had amazing responses from customers and consumers about it.”

Other focuses during the show were Shazam!™ shishito peppers, and Kaboom!®, a black jalapeño pepper. “We felt that the pepper category as a whole was ripe for innovation and we really shook up the category with our Aloha™ striped peppers and Shazam! shishito peppers.We saw that shishito peppers had been really trending in restaurants and we wanted to bring them to consumers through the retail level. Then we recently introduced Kaboom, the black jalapeño, which is an exciting product because it’s so unique within the category,” Chevalier shares.

New organic offering and successful berry line
SUNSET also recently introduced Organic Wild Wonders® into their existing full line of certified organic products. “Wild Wonders are snacking tomatoes, and every package is different from each other. There is a wide range of colors, sizes, and shapes, and consumers love it. It’s really a versatile, colorful, flavorful and fun product. Now we’re also offering it as certified organic and we’re very excited about it,” says Chevalier.

Sunset’s berry line has also been met with enthusiasm from retailers and consumers alike. “They are greenhouse grown and by securing the right varieties we are able to ensure that their quality remains consistent,” says Pickersgill. “North American consumers are generally used to very large size berries, but what exists in market today doesn’t have consistent flavor. So, we have to educate consumers and change their expectations of how a berry should taste. Our greenhouse-grown berries are consistent varieties, and we hope to continue to grow our line.”

Impact of the pandemic on Sunset’s operations
Like many other produce companies, SUNSET experienced a big spike in demand in the initial weeks of the pandemic, when consumers started panic buying. While overall demand has normalized, they are still seeing elevated sales, according to Chevalier. “It’s a much more stable situation now, but consumers are still spending more money on produce purchases.”

Overall, the pandemic has brought a lot of changes to how companies operate. “At SUNSET, we were very proactive, and we implemented many safety policies even before the general work-from-home orders were issued. This allowed our operation to continue to run seamlessly. It was really interesting to see that the coronavirus situation brought people together in ways we never would have expected. Within our teams, we send out newsletters twice a week, we have contests with the employees to stay engaged and keep morale up and in many ways our relationships with our colleagues have gotten even stronger. It’s been great to see companies pull together as a team and stay connected,” Chevalier concludes.

For more information:
Justine Chevalier
Sunset Grown
Tel: +1 (519) 326-3218
Email: [email protected]