“Consumers are recognizing the value of packaged salads,” Garrett said. “Also, at the foodservice level there are a lot of specials going on. We’re seeing Wendy’s running ads on salads and other fast-food chains advertising sandwiches that use lettuce in the recipes.”
All of this combined to make the start of spring a tough one for processors. Representatives of companies like Tanimura & Antle and Dole could not be reached for comment, but growers told the tale of the expensive market on bin lettuce, commonly used by processors, as well as the carton market.
WISHING FOR MORE
Jim Manassero, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California, said that some bin prices the second week of March had reached $1 to $1.25 a pound.
Growers said they wished they had more lettuce to allow them to take advantage of the high bin prices but that the weather had cost them size, weight and yield.
“Head lettuce from the start through the end of Huron will not be in good supply,” said Maggie Bezart, vice president of marketing and sales for Castroville-based Ocean Mist Farms. “At this time, we only have enough to service our customers.”
Steve Koran, director of sales for Salinas-based Growers Express, agreed.
“We’re committed to our current customer base,” Koran said. “There is no extra stuff to take advantage of this market with. Everybody’s extremely tight.”