Why Prepping Produce Should Be a Labor of Love

In the never-ending and exhausting search to expand margins, the path of least resistance is awfully tempting. In the busy foodservice kitchen, the default is often to eliminate labor wherever possible.

But, as any brand-minded business owner knows, the payoff on the other side of a value investment can be huge.

When it comes to produce, and the temptation of pre-cut, here are three reasons why the savvy operator ought to take a longer look at the value of fresh.    

1. The Social-Conscience Movement Is Real

Already outlined in our article on “green kitchen” investments, the socially conscious consumer is becoming the mainstream demographic and, therefore, a mindset to which foodservice brands must appeal.

As multiple market research reports point to the hot 2018 trend that is plant-based menu items, operators can also build tremendous market affinity—and value-based profit—playing to this audience with fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.

First, for all that it requires in processing, packing and transportation, pre-cut produce has a far greater impact on the environment.

The second brand advantage ties closely to another interesting trend—“ugly produce” and the demand for more root-to-stem cooking. (U.S. FoodLink citing Mintel’s Foodservice Trends 2017.) Dismissing pre-cut in favor of fresh gives you more control over food waste in an era when it matters to your customers like never before.

2. The Healthy Movement Is Real

Consumers want to know the foods they buy are arriving at their retail restaurant in their most natural state. 

From the farm to the table, pre-cut produce involves more cleaning procedures that involve chemicals, and much more handling that, ironically, increases the risk of contamination.

At the same time, precut also reduces the nutrient value. As explained in an article on VeryWell, a popular healthcare advisory site, “peels and coverings naturally protect the antioxidant vitamins inside (plants). Once you break through the protective coverings, the flesh inside is exposed to air and the oxygen reduces the antioxidant vitamins.” (VeryWell, May 2016.)

Fresh-cut in your kitchen keeps produce at its natural, nutritional best.

3. The Quality-Control Risk Is Real

In an issue last fall, as part of its “Confronting Challenges” series, Produce Processing magazine published an article on TOMRA, a European manufacturer of sorting technologies.

The profile on the company’s optical sorters, capable of filtering foreign and potentially dangerous objects out of, say, a bulk order of cubed carrots, was interesting. But, for this pre-cut versus fresh-cut comparison, the underlying point is more compelling.

The fact that such a machine represents a solution for companies that cube carrots obviously reveals the food-safety risks inherent in pre-cut.

Fresh-cut gives you far more quality control.