Young U.S. adults are finding increasing appeal in packaged salads and other “convenience” fresh food items bought at grocery stores, a trend that promises to boost produce demand over the long-term, according to a recent survey conducted by the Perishables Group, a market researcher.

About 63% of consumers age 24 or younger said they buy packaged salads at least once a month, the highest rate of any age group, according to an April survey of 1,000 consumers, West Dundee, Ill.-based Perishables Group said in a recent statement.

Young adults sold on fresh convenience foodsBy comparison, 55% of people between ages 45 and 54 said they buy packaged salads at least once a month. For 65 and older, the rate was 49%.

The figures reflect broader consumption patterns and lifestyles among younger adults, who appear to be more accepting of convenience foods and less inclined to buy “whole” products, such as a head of lettuce, said Steve Lutz, Perishables Group executive vice president.

“You’ve got younger people focused on single-purpose” items, including fresh-cut fruits, said Lutz, who’s based in Wenatchee, Wash. “They don’t want to spend their time cutting vegetables in their kitchen. They like buying something from the grocery store that’s ready to eat.”

Additionally, 60% of people 24 and younger said they buy organic salads at least once a month, which illustrates the category’s “willingness to pay for fresh foods that align with their priorities,” according to the Perishables Group statement. Despite a weak economy, convenience “is still highly valued and may be an even greater opportunity for young consumers,” the group reported.

Trends toward convenience fresh foods have the potential to increase produce sales “incrementally” in coming years, Lutz said, as opposed to a “substation” effect when consumers buy an item in place of another. To take advantage, retailers much be sensitive to the demographics of their local markets and allocate shelf space accordingly, Lutz said.

During the 52 weeks ended May 28, packaged salad sales at U.S. supermarkets totaled $1.91 billion, down 0.3% from the same period a year earlier, according to Perishables Group. The figure does not include sales at Wal-Mart Stores, “alternative format” retailers such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods or small independent chains.