Bagged salad winning in the US

Monday, 18 July, 2016

In the past quarter of a century, per capita sales of fresh iceberg lettuce in the US have fallen by 50%.

But this does not mean that Americans are eating less salad. In fact, salad consumption has increased. Data from the US Department of Agriculture shows that consumption of leaf and Romaine lettuce has more than tripled — from around 1.4 to 5 kg/person/year.

The driver for this change is the advent of bagged salad greens and salad kits. This market is now approaching US$7 billion/year in the US.

In the last five years total sales of heads of lettuce have remained flat while sales of bagged lettuce have been increasing by 6.5% every year. Consumers are now buying twice as many packs of bagged salad greens as heads of lettuce, according to the Nielsen Perishables Group.

While the convenience of prewashed, ready-to-serve salad is a winner for consumers, the technology behind the bagging has been incredibly helpful. By increasing the CO2 and reducing the O2 within the packs, ie, ‘modified atmosphere packaging’, browning, wilting and spoilage are being minimised and the nutritive content is not compromised.

The movement through the supply chain is also impressive. Larger suppliers are harvesting, washing, cooling, packing and shipping to retailers within 24 hours.

The same changes are occurring in the salad market in Australia.

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