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Unparalleled Agility: A Q&A With Doug Burris

Unparalleled Agility: A Q&A With Doug Burris

Convenience may be one of the fastest-growing trends of the century. Due to increasing demands for easy, healthy, and sustainable offerings, retail and foodservice experts alike have begun to pivot toward this fold in the market. While the new-age consumers are daunting to many of us, there are entire organizations that have dedicated their efforts to perfecting the concept of convenience. Imagine that—there are experts dedicated solely to developing on-trend solutions for fresh-focused companies that are in the market for convenience. Talk about a godsend.

One entity in particular comes to mind as it has wooed a handful of companies in order to leverage insights across 17 prominent categories in the fresh produce industry. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about North American solutions provider Fresh Food Group (FFG). With custom packaging, efficiency, fresh-cut offerings, and a comprehensive line of products in tow, FFG is in a league of its own. I tapped our friend Doug Burris, Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Purchasing, to find out how the company’s vision has driven its success.

 

Chandler James: How does FFG’s vision differentiate the company within the fresh produce industry, and how will that vision help the team realize their goals?

Doug Burris: FFG was created in response to strong consumer demand for fresh, on-the-go convenience. It combines three best-in-class organizations with complementary production and products: Country Fresh is a leading provider of fresh-cut fruit, apple slices, vegetables, and fresh snacking solutions; Sun Rich cuts and prepares made-to-order fresh fruit for foodservice; and Tiffany Gate creates, manufactures, and delivers freshly prepared foods to some of the largest retail and foodservice companies in North America. We have the united fresh-cut expertise, prepared food capabilities, and expanded geographic presence to become a full-service, fresh solutions partner for retail, foodservice, club, and convenience stores. FFG is committed to bringing together innovation experts to develop new, proprietary products that meet customers’ needs.

“FFG is committed to bringing together innovation experts to develop new, proprietary products that meet customers’ needs.”

- Doug Burris, Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Purchasing, Fresh Food Group

 

CJ: How do you define your key audience or customer base?

DB: We serve some of the most successful brands across the retail, foodservice, and industrial channels. FFG is proud to be entrusted as a manufacturer of private label programs for many major retail and foodservice companies in the country. Our mission is to provide an experience unparalleled in quality and freshness in the most socially and fiscally responsible way possible. We aim to create extraordinary value as a market leader, providing safe, convenient, and delicious fresh food solutions.

 

CJ: What is the group’s value proposition and how does the team see relationship-building as an essential part of this business model?

DB: Most of our packaging is custom designed for fresh-cut. We work with our partners closely to ensure that we utilize shelf space in the most efficient manner. This allows them to offer more variety in space that is limited. Our geographic footprint enables frequent and low-mile deliveries to distribution centers across the country. While most of our products are sold under private labels, we provide fresh-made meal solutions through our Freshly Crafted brand. Freshly Crafted creates fresh, gourmet deli salads, prepared foods, soups, dressings, and other home meal replacement solutions.

Relationship-building is essential to our business model. Strong relationships with our retail partners are critical. In the world of fresh, the speed to the shelf is measured in hours, not days. Our relationships enable us to work quickly. This helps our partners adapt to ever-changing consumer preferences.

 

CJ: Can you explain FFG’s agility philosophy? How does the company fulfill its mission of bringing more value to the shelf?

DB: A cornerstone of the FFG philosophy is agility. We partner across channels with retailers, clubs, C-stores, and foodservice operators to develop products tailored to their customers and consumers. We also work with our partners closely to ensure that we utilize shelf space most efficiently. This allows them to offer more variety in a limited space.

“Our goal is to get the product as close to the final state as feasible, making it as convenient as possible.”

 

CJ: How have you seen food and buying trends evolve on the shelf in recent years?

DB: We continue to see definite trends in snacking, side dishes, ready-to-go meals, and meal kits. Demand is high for products that add to the convenience value proposition. Consequently, fresh-cut/value-added produce is moving farther down the processing continuum. Our goal is to get the product as close to the final state as feasible, making it as convenient as possible. This requires continued investment in research and development, cooking technologies, and packaging design.

Savvy retailers are investing heavily in perimeter departments as new categories are merging and sometimes undefined. Fresh-cut is expanding beyond produce and into other departments, such as deli. Moreover, consumer tastes and trends change rapidly. As a result, fresh-cut partners must be agile enough to adapt quickly to an ever-changing ecosystem. Fresh products and packaging must also be geared toward omnichannel shopping with the rise of e-commerce, delivery, and online grocery pickup.

Finally, consumers have increasing expectations about food safety and quality. FFG has extensive quality control measures to ensure the highest standards for safe, high-quality products.

 


I may think twice the next time I snag a cup of pre-cut fruit on my lunch break. Not only out of respect for the process, but out of amazement for how this offering has changed my life. Thinking back now, I’ve been relishing in the ease of convenience since my mom was incorporating it into my school lunches. Little did I know, the tiny pack of apples I enjoyed almost daily were thoughtfully curated by a team with a clear path to its end goal. It was a team driven primarily by innovation—a Dream Team, if you will. But in this industry, we call it Fresh Food Group.