So some are seeking out, and finding, niche opportunities.
Organics, for example, rose 11%, continuing a trend that’s been noteworthy through the slow economy of the past few years. Sales are up despite the price premium on organic.
“Conventional iceberg salads are not a money maker,” said John Burge, vice president of sales and marketing at Watsonville-based Classic Salads.
“The category stopped growing three or four years ago, and Dole and Fresh Express have more competition. They’re fighting for market share. Anytime there’s a fight for market share, price and promotion become important, and they tend to be cheaper,” he said.
Organic isn’t the only bright spot. Single-serve salad sales are up 17.8%.
Price still matters to consumers, said Tristan Kieva, director of marketing at Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Foods.
“Packaged salad has increased in volume per trip, but has declined in trips per buyer, with consumers waiting for deals to stock up,” Kieva said.
That’s still better than total produce, which is down in both trips and volume per buyer.
Among leafy greens, tender varieties — spring mix, baby spinach, arugula and the like — represent the largest segment of packaged salad offerings, with 28.4% of sales according to Nielsen U.S. Grocery. Chopped romaine salads account for 19.7% and iceberg for 18.2%.