SALINAS, Calif. — Consumers of organic packaged salads continue to seek variety in the produce aisle and on their plates.
“We’re seeing some real excitement around the hardier greens like our mixed baby kales and our Power Greens blend,” said Craig Hope, chief customer officer at San Juan Bautista-based organic grower-shipper Earthbound Farm. “People who are drawn to organic are often a little more adventurous than your average shopper.”
Early adopters tend to appear in organic, he said, which is how arugula and others became staples for Earthbound Farm. Its Power Greens, on the market since February, features kale, spinach and chards.
In September, Watsonville-based Classic Salads introduced two organic products — baby kale and Super Mix Superfood — in 5-ounce and 10-ounce retail clamshells. The same leafy greens mixes came out for foodservice earlier in the summer.
“That’s your real health mix for vitamins and antioxidants,” John Burge, vice president of sales and marketing, said of Super Mix. It adds beet tops to baby kale, red and green chards, and spinach.
“These greens, in their baby form are tender and sweet enough for salads while also standing up to cooking,” Hope said. “Consumers appreciate the flavor, versatility, and nutrition.”
Sales for all organic salads were up 13% year over year through mid-July, according to Nielsen’s dollar volume index, compared to just 1% for all salads. Spinach blends are the biggest sellers across the category, but organic sales have grown faster than conventional — 27% compared to 9%.
About 75% of consumers are buying organic products, according to the Organic Trade Association.
For Earthbound Farm, organic washed romaine heart leaves sales trail only spring mix and baby spinach sales.
“They are now packaged in the clamshell with a modified atmosphere — nitrogen-flushed — to help prevent pinking,” Hope said. “They’ve surprised us all and rocketed to be our No. 3 best-selling item.”
Earthbound is marketing those heart leaves for use in wraps and sandwiches as well as salads.
Irwindale-based Ready Pac Foods Inc. continues its pursuit of organic market share, adding three mixes — orange ginger tofu, zesty harvest grains; and honey mustard spinach — to its Bistro bowl line this year. They include a fork and dressings.
“It extends our popular bowl salad line to the burgeoning organics market,” said Tristan Simpson, director of marketing. Ready Pac’s appeal is to culinary adventure, she said.