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FiveStar Gourmet sees no end to the growth of the protein salad category

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With busy consumers walking the line between convenience and health when making their meal decisions, the protein salad category has emerged as one of the hottest trends in recent years and companies are vying for a larger share of the category. One of those companies is FiveStar Gourmet Foods, an Ontario, CA-based nationwide supplier of fresh and frozen foods headed by Tal Shoshan, who serves as chief executive officer.

A certified executive chef, Shoshan brings a unique skill set to his role as CEO, as he is personally involved in product development and innovation. Originally established in 1995 as FiveStar Catering and Event Production, Shoshan saw an opportunity to grow the business into a revolutionary large-scale food provider and he formed FiveStar Gourmet Foods in 1998. The catering operations were divested in 2006 to focus solely on large-scale food preparation and distribution.Tal-ShoshanTal Shoshan

Today, FiveStar has a mission to be the premier provider of fresh and frozen foods to retail, school and foodservice channels, providing exceptional value and better-for-you food solutions. The individual ingredients of each item in the product line are carefully prepared and cooked from scratch before being refrigerated or quick frozen, locking in a fresh, just-prepared taste experience.

The Produce News recently caught up with Shoshan to learn more about FiveStar’s protein salad line and what the trade can expect from the company in the future.

The Produce News: Please tell us about the products in FiveStar’s lineup of protein salads. Are there any recent additions to the line?

Tal Shoshan: FiveStar offers the most extensive line of protein salads on the market today. Our signature line of Simply Fresh Salads includes premium quality toppings and custom dressings, which is an industry first. Plus, we have the only line of salads with antibiotic-free chicken.

FiveStar Simply Fresh Salads also extend into entrée-size salads that mirror those you would find in restaurants with generous protein portions and shareable family-size salads with protein. Recently, we added our new “Deluxe Line” of Simply Fresh Salads designed with even more goodness in mind. Under our private label program, we also offer value-priced round-shaped salad bowls to complete our extensive line and help retailers with a complete offering for their shoppers with the best quality and eye appeal.

TPN: Does FiveStar offer organic options in its protein salad offerings?

TS: Yes. FiveStar offers Simply Fresh Organic salads with all-time favorites like Caesar Salad with grilled chicken as well as unique flavors like Organic Blueberry, Walnut & Feta with grilled chicken and Mango Vinaigrette. These are just a few from our extensive line of organic protein salads.

TPN: Would you describe the protein salad category as an expanding one? What is the rate of growth that FiveStar has experienced with its protein salads?

TS: Clearly the grab-and-go salad category with protein is a powerhouse for many retailers. The category is exploding and FiveStar has experienced double-digit growth consecutively for the last five years. Retailers are wise to recognize the effect of a well-managed salad program to help their overall category growth.

TPN: What do you see as the main factors that drive the growth of the protein salad category?

TS: What is driving category growth is convenience. Consumers are time-starved and looking for meal solutions that are checking multiple boxes, including taste, portion control, value and convenience. The protein salad category checks all the boxes and as a result, leads the way and drives significant growth for retailers.

TPN: What sets FiveStar’s line apart from competing brands in the protein salad category?

TS: There are a few compelling factors that set FiveStar apart from all our competitors. It starts with the fact that we are the only company that makes our own salad toppings and our own dressings. All the Simply Fresh dressings are made with our signature recipes in our kitchen and offer vibrant, bold flavors that are truly delicious. No other producer provides their own, but we do. We deliver flavors that are typically found in restaurant salads. We then follow with our strict guidelines of using only antibiotic-free chicken, no artificial ingredients or colors, recycled packaging and our industry-first Ultra Fresh Sealed™ technology that allows us to offer retailers the longest shelf life without compromising quality.

We couple our superior product line with the most advanced facilities that are rated as SQF-3, the highest global rating for food safety and quality.

TPN: What is the strategy behind the packaging of FiveStar’s protein salad line?

TS: We simply focus on delivering the best salads. Our goal is to execute salads that look as beautiful as they taste. We want our consumers to be enticed to pick up our premium salads and once they’ve tried them, they are hooked on the quality and amazing flavors. FiveStar offers green packaging, and in fact, each one of our salad bowls was once a water bottle due to our sustainability practices. And again, our patented Ultra Fresh Sealed™ technology is an industry first and allows us to serve the freshest salads in the market place.

TPN: What are FiveStar’s plans to grow its presence in the category?

TS: FiveStar Gourmet Foods has been providing quality salads for over two decades and Simply Fresh has become the most formidable brand in the market today. With solid partnerships with national retailers like Costco, Publix, Target, ALDI, and so many others, FiveStar is rapidly growing its market share to become the premier salad maker. With an innovation pipeline that is second to none, the company sees no end in sight for the future growth of this category.