With smaller lettuce leaves, Falconer said, count per head can be more than 150 instead of 20 to 30.
Open head lettuces like green or red romaines offer consistent shape and size for fillet and processing uses. The varieties don’t close to form heads. Solid midribs add weight and extend shelf life, according to Rijk Zwaan.
The fate of two green butter varieties — Aquino and Pascal — illustrates how the breeder tailors offerings to its customers.
Both continue to sell. Aquino, a much lighter green, yields more for a cut deal. Pascal came later in response to shippers who asked for a darker, smaller head to fit their packs.
“That process is the key for us,” Falconer said. “When we start predicting the trends, then we get into trouble. It’s really the customers telling us what they want.”
Rijk Zwaan is not exhibiting at PMA Foodservice, but representatives are attending.