These are good times to be in the organic salad business.
Overall, organic salad sales were up 13.7% on an annual basis through Aug. 21, according to Nielsen Co.’s Dollar Volume Index. By comparison conventional salads were flat, losing 1.5%.
“Organics continue to grow at double-digit pace, and that’s been true for the last 12 to 18 months,” said Mark Campion, retail division president of Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms.
Taylor Farms sells organic spring mix and arugula, for example, and markets kits as well.
“We’re excited our organic business has grown 20% plus in the last year and outpaced the market,” Campion said. “It flies in the face of what you’d think would be happening in this economy, that people pay more for organic salads. But it is happening.
“The organic consumer is turning out to be very loyal regardless of what’s happening in the economy.”
Watsonville, Calif.-based Classic Salads, a foodservice provider of conventional and organic products, is making a retail bid after unveiling a new line of organic salads in October at the Produce Marketing Association’s Oct. 15-18 Fresh Summit in Orlando, Fla.
John Burge, vice president of sales and marketing, said buyers are excited about organic.
“Retailers focus almost exclusively on the organic side of baby leaf salads,” Burge said. “A lot of retailers think it’s worth the extra to pay for the organic aspect.”
Capacity is about 100,000 cases per week, and is marketed under the Classic Salad and private labels.
The rising tide will keep lifting boats in 2011, said Craig Hope, chief customer officer at San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Earthbound Farm.
“You’ll see that organic sales, especially in produce in general and salads in particular, will continue to grow,” Hope said. “More and more, people are considering how their food is produced and what’s really in it. At the end of the day, if you’re really thinking about those things, chances are you’re going to think about organic.
“The price premium for organic is very small and as a result, we see organic penetration in the salad category at 16% plus, whereas organic penetration in total food is at 3.7%.”
Earthbound Farm has new organic products in development, Hope said, but declined to elaborate.
Glenn Daniels, vice president of sales at Earthbound Farm, said in mid-October that recent sales activity has kept pace with the year-over-year numbers.
“Organics are doing phenomenally well,” he said. “It’s taking a bigger piece of the pie all the time. We’re up 14.9% in dollar growth over the last four weeks, relative to the same time last year.”