Church Bros. LLC has introduced Italian Greens, a foodservice product that combines two baby kale varieties — black and scarlet — with wild arugula.
Shipments of three, 1-pound bags per carton started around Valentine’s Day from Yuma, Ariz.
“We’re starting with foodservice only,” said Ernst Van Eeghen, director of marketing and product development for Salinas, Calif.-based Church Bros. “Later this year we will probably head into retail.”
Italian Greens ships under the grower-shipper’s Tuscan label for specialty items, a lineup that also includes red heirloom spinach and wasabi arugula.
“We were already carrying some kale items, but we wanted to create an item that’s recognizable for the public,” said Van Eeghen, who first encountered the combination on a trip to Italy.
“With the peppery, wild arugula in there it’s a traditional Tuscan salad,” he said. “It’s a fairly mainstream salad in Italy, but we’ve never figured that out here.”
The three leafy greens are combined in equal amounts; none are processed or shredded.
Church Bros. is also promoting the product for use in cooking.
Publicity on the nutritional value of kale has been driving demand, Van Eeghen said.
“It’s been a growing category, but the biggest thing we see is that people don’t know what to do with kales,” he said. “So we’ve created a lot of menu and use suggestions. It’s a nice salad, but lends itself well to protein as a sauté item.”
“Kale in the last few months has become such a hype that people make chips out of it, use it in dips or as toppings,” he said. “They use it in quiches or with olives, and I’ve even seen it in cocktails. It’s everywhere.”
Church Bros.’ red spinach, launched in the fall, has since doubled its acreage, according to the company. The heirloom variety also comes in a red and green mix. Packaging and shipping of the Tuscan line is expected to shift from Yuma to San Juan Bautista, Calif., by late March.