Freshness, shelf life drive living produce category

06/27/2011 10:12:00 AM
Dan Gailbraith

Marketing agents of living produce say the concept is simple: If it’s alive and fresh and it stays that way much longer than conventional produce.

Rob Arnold, vice president of marketing for Luurtsema Sales Inc., Jenison, Mich., supplies retail customers with Living Salad Bowls, which the company describes as “an eclectic mix of popular herbs and lettuces growing in a large patio bowl.”

The idea behind the bowl, which carries a retail price of around $20, is that when it is kept in a good, sun-drenched spot and maintained properly with the right amount of water, it will grow all summer, “providing a full season of fresh salads.”

Luurtsema has been selling the product for years, Arnold said.

“It’s doing well,” he said.

The product has been well received in retail stores and garden centers, Arnold said.

“We’ve had a lot of success at retail,” he said. “More are interested in carrying them.”

The Living Salad Bowl and all living produce items are part of a growing category, Arnold said.

“I think it’s the same thing that’s driving the growth for any vegetables,” he said. “It’s how the economy has gotten people to look at gardening, that it saves you a lot of money. I think some of the food safety concerns. People like having control.”

Salinas, Calif.-based Tanimura & Antle also has seen its living lettuce program take off, said Rick Antle, chief executive officer.

“It’s an emerging category,” he said. “Retailers don’t need to trim it. We’ve seen a lot of people only carrying the living lettuce.”

The category is bound to win over more followers, he said.

“It’s definitely growing,” he said.

Living produce comes in other forms, too. Living Lettuce Farms, Reseda, Calif., has been growing and supplying living head lettuce for 15 years, said Michelle Goldman, who owns the company with her husband, David Goldman.

“It’s sold at farmers markets in the area,” she said. “All the people who sell at the farmers markets sell lettuce intact.”

The product isn’t well known, but it is gaining a following, she said.

“It’s still not very common to most people, but when you explain to them what hydroponics means, then they get it and it’s fine,” she said. “When people go out and search for it, the roots are still attached and it’s still living, and people wonder what you’re shopping for.”


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