Will grab-and-go fresh produce sell in Rexall drug stores?

Mississauga fresh fruit and vegetable processor Freshline Foods Inc. is expanding its customer base with a partnership to test “grab-and-go” pre-chopped produce in Rexall drug stores.

Rexall, which is also headquartered in Mississauga, has placed Freshline items in some high-traffic locations as part of an official test phase.

“No one’s going into these stores to buy their groceries. Usually they’re buying for one or two people,” Freshline vice-president Noel Brigido told YourMississaugaBiz.com by phone Wednesday. “They have launched in three or four different stores, but none in Mississauga yet.”

The move follows a noticeable growth in popularity and demand for fresh-cut produce (think of the cubed fruit sold in plastic cups at coffee shops) across a variety of types of retailers. Freshline sells pre-packaged and pre-cut fruit and vegetable snacks that have a relatively short shelf life.

Initially, Freshline’s ready-to-eat products were found in stores like Loblaws. But the company’s reach has expanded to big names and discounts chains like Walmart and FreshCo, who are now major clients.

And other major drug store chains, like Shoppers Drug Mart, have started selling similar perishable food stuffs in aisles dedicated to groceries.

Freshline is also expanding into convenience stores. “People are looking for it more,” said Brigido.

With a focus on freshness, Brigido said that it’s important for store owners who typically deal with merchandise like candy and chips to consider which products will help minimize the risk of low sales. “There’s no additives and no preservatives, so people have to be prepared for the short shelf life,” he said. “You can’t play around with funky items yet. You have to get the consumer with mainstream items at first.”

But, buyers considering stocking their shelves with fresh fruit and vegetables should take into consideration their local customer base. Mississauga’s ethnic diversity means an item like mangos might sell better here, says Brigido.

Gas stations are likely the next level of development and expansion for the company. Brigido predicted car-heavy suburban areas like Mississauga and Oakville would have a strong demand. “The options are not there and you’re more on the grab and go,” he said of gas bars. “Impulse is very important. But [the product] has to be made consumer-friendly and convenient.”

Freshline Foods is headquartered on Stanfield Road in Mississauga, where it employs more than 200 full-time staff. The company’s products are packaged and distributed worldwide, mostly in Europe and the United States.

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