“We thought there was a great opportunity for consumers and retailers because it adds additional freshness. Nothing is fresher than living. The root keeps the leaf turgid. It doesn’t lose its water content so it helps it stay fresher.”
They also say that the category is flourishing.
“The category is going fine,” said Daniel Terrault, vice president of business development with hydroponic lettuce grower-shipper HydroSerre Mirabel Inc., Mirabel, Quebec.
Terrault said his company’s living produce category grew by 4% from 2013 to 2014.
Choate said the market is expanding.
“We continue to see new interest because it provides value,” he said. “The consumer takes it home and it’s fresh the first time and the second and third time. Anything they don’t use, they leave intact with that root ball and, when they go back to it, it’s just as usable as the first time.
It has longer shelf life. Overall, product quality stays much nicer, longer.”
Different lettuce varieties, including mache — a small lettuce with Mediterranean origins — are finding their niches, Terrault said.
“It’s pretty popular up here in Montreal,” Terrault said of mache. “We grow it in the greenhouse and sell it in the restaurants and hotels and things like that, and we’re also selling it in a clamshell for the retailers.”
Jenison, Mich.-based Luurtsema Sales Inc. is doing well with its Living Salad Bowls, said Dean Luurtsema, vice president.
“It seems like the push on retails has been up on all sorts of vegetables,” he said.
The key to growing the living produce category always has been education, Luurtsema said.
“There’s retail buying feedback that encourages usage, recipe suggestions,” he said.
That needs to continue, if not increase, Luurtsema said.
“As a culture we are quite cut off from (the) agriculture base, and I think there’s probably a lot of experimentation, where people want to get in touch with something more basic,” he said.
Living produce helps consumers feel like they are playing an active role in feeding themselves, Luurtsema said.
“Curiosity about agriculture drives it. You get a container of living vegetables, and it’s already done for you,” he said.