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Keeping Up With Maury
Frozen vs Fresh Foods
by Maury Feren


I think a lot about packaging and how important it is in retailing products. We talk about recycling and how wasteful it is to use all that packaging, particularly at Christmas.

I visited Cosco today and for some reason I became attracted to all the various packaging that they do for most of their products. For example, they have an exceptional apple package using a hard plastic see through unit to display them. Each variety is designated by a sign and that makes it easy to pick your variety.

The apples seem to stay firm in that unit and it is a terrific way to display them. No question, it adds to the cost, but they never could be sold in any other way. The best qualities of the fruit are enhanced by the see through container.

I was also impressed with the displays of technology of all kinds utilizing great packaging techniques to enhance the product. The question is do we have to use that much packaging to enhance the product? You have gone through the process yourself where you look at a box sample. Then you pick up a gift box in a color you like that you carry out.

Years ago that would never have happened. You would have wanted to feel and touch the product you had purchased. Today, it is entirely different. The boxed product must be attractive and evenly shaped well.

I remember when the first frozen food packages came on the market. They were packaged simply with little more than the identity of the product and some color. Then with competition moving in, the packaging became the most important part of the sale. Today, you will not find frozen food that is not decorated to the hilt.

In contrast, when I received my first wholesale frozen food shipment, the units were in 2 1/2 lb. packages. I was a distributor for Libby's products. I don't remember any colored packages all through those early years.

What the practices are today are irrelevant. I do remember they were salt free, because we served many hospitals and institutions.

There was a great deal of concern initially about the role frozen food would play on the food market scene. It took years for things to settle down. Today fresh and frozen food have struck a balance, each one finding their own level.

There is no question about it. Frozen products taste different than the fresh. They do have equal nutrients if they are handled correctly. The fallacy is that often times you will see frozen food boxes unloaded in warm or hot weather lying out in the sun. You should know that once frozen food has thawed out, you can't bring it back to the same level when it was frozen.

I always become disturbed when I go into a fish department and they have a beautiful layout of all kinds of fish. In fall or winter, the pickings are few. Some retailers will tell you that all of this fish has been thawed out. Others will not.

If you intend to use it the same day, it's okay; if not, refreezing it will change its taste. Most of the nutrients have been lost and the taste changes. You must ask if it is fresh or thawed out. Just another bit of information you might want to take note of. There is a small piece of ice that is used to protect fresh poultry when it is shipped. Otherwise it would never arrive in its fresh condition.

Many large corporations have the ability to import their fresh fish arrivals every day. It is interesting how the term fresh is interpreted by the retail suppliers of fish. These days old is considered fresh if the product is handled right.

Let me give you an example. A truck leaves the Boston fresh fish market Sunday night. The driver arrives Monday night at his destination. It is put up for sale Tuesday. Three days have already elapsed. Friday and Saturday, the busiest days, are easily the 7th and 8th days.

There are only a few markets that can fly in fresh products daily or for the weekend. Fresh fish does taste different. It deserves the prices it requires. Frozen fish sells for much less. You will note the difference.


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