The Internet’s proved itself to be a wonderful tool for marketers trying to grab consumers’ attention through value messages, with coupons, targeted e-mails on special discounts and sales notifications.

Frozen stacks up, but does it hold up?

Chris Koger
Food for Thought

The Web’s also useful to drum up business-to-business sales. Take, for instance, Dole Food Co.’s recent release of an online calculator to show restaurants and other foodservice operators how they can save money buying specific fruit items the company offers. Frozen fruit, that is.

Customers can plug in per-carton costs, the labor costs to prepare the fruit and the estimated shrink/waste of the fruit, and voila — here’s what you save by buying frozen instead of fresh pineapples, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, peaches and raspberries (these are the frozen foodservice items Dole offers).

Sample comparisons on Dole’s Fruit Cost Savings Calculator show that for six fresh pineapples versus 10 pounds of frozen diced pineapples the cost for a pound of usable fruit is actually cheaper for fresh. But add in labor, and the $2.12 for the total cost of frozen, and you get a 17% savings.

For strawberries — again using estimates for fruit and labor costs — Dole’s example shows a higher gap, with a 50% savings for frozen fruit.

In the interest of “all forms count,” as with the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s More Matters campaign, I’ll give frozen fruit its due.

There are times when it makes sense, if it helps the customer’s bottom line while giving diners more access to fruits and vegetables, to stock nonfresh fruits or vegetables.

What’s missing from the calculator, however, is something that can’t be easily quantified and is far more important the price: What’s the product taste like? How does it hold up on a salad bar?

Frozen berries are no match for fresh product, and frozen pineapples and mangoes lose something when thawed. Granted, these products most likely end up in smoothies and other processed menu items, but perhaps Dole’s fresh division should play up the value of whole/fresh-cut pineapples, strawberries and mangoes as well.

“Saving” loses its value when it leads to a lost customer over quality concerns.

E-mail ckoger@thepacker.com

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.