Kale sales continue to ride the hot trend wave - The Packer

Kale sales continue to ride the hot trend wave

03/03/2014 03:33:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Lakeside Organic GardensLakeside Organic GardensBrian Peixoto, sales manager for Lakeside Organic Gardens, said the family-owned certified organic grower-shipper can't grow enough kale to satisfy demand. He credited the juicing fad for much of the demand spike.Although food trend watchers have crowned cauliflower “the next kale” for 2014, Robert Schueller, public relations director for Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc., which markets under the Melissa’s brand, said don’t count out kale as being “the next kale.”

“The kale trend hasn’t even plateaued yet,” he said. “It continues to rise because of the number of varieties. Cauliflower is rumored to be the big thing for this year. We’ll see if that will be the case this spring.”

Schueller said food trends typically start with chefs and foodservice, then work down to retail and home cooks who want to try to recreate food they’ve had at restaurants.

As for cauliflower, he said World Variety Produce hasn’t seen unusually large demand increases for either its white or colorful blend of purple, orange and green.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a tremendous spike, but ask me in late May or June,” Schueller said.

The kale trend began about three years ago and has expanded to home cooks and the juicing set. In addition to the mainstay black kale, Schueller said varieties include red kale, lacinto or dinosaur kale, flowering kale and even kale sprouts, which Melissa’s introduced last year.

Diana McClean, marketing director for Salinas, Calif.-based Tanimura & Antle, said kale continues to hold its own as a superfood although the jury’s still out on whether cauliflower will attain similar stature.

“Our demand for both items has been steady,” she said. “A recent article in Time magazine stated that kohlrabi is the next kale. Kohlrabi is now on buyer’s radar, but demand is still very manageable.”

Lori Bigras, marketing manager for Salinas-based Mann Packing, said dark green vegetables in general have received increased consumer attention.

Mann Packing and Chicago-based consumer research firm Technomic Inc. sponsored a consumer study that focused on salad greens. It found consumers were looking for darker and more colorful greens in their salads, Bigras said.

“Consumers are on the antioxidants bandwagon and are looking for darker-skinned fresh produce options that are higher in nutrients,” she said “These include kale but also all leafy salad greens, including the darker red leaf varieties.”

The survey also backs up other research that found similar trends with consumers seeking more healthful food options.

“I think people are eating healthier or wanting to eat healthier … whether that means consuming kale, cauliflower, Broccolini or romaine heart salads in their daily diets,” Bigras said. “I think the media will play a role in crowning the next trendy vegetable, be it cauliflower, butternut squash or snap peas. One thing’s for sure — there’s no shortage of supply with kale. Everyone seems to be offering a different variety.”

Brian Peixoto, sales manager Lakeside Organic Gardens, Watsonville, credited the juicing fad for much of the spike in kale demand.

“We can sell as much kale as we can possibly harvest,” he said.

Before, a family might have bought a bunch or two — if they were really into it — weekly to add to salads, Peixoto said. Now people into juicing use one bunch per glass, and those serious about the practice may juice two to three times per day.

Brian Crummy, a seed salesman for Bejo Seeds in Salinas, Calif., said he’s seen demand for kale seeds increase threefold between the West and East coasts during the past few years. However, he said it’s hard to determine how much is due to actual increases in retail and foodservice sales and how much is due to grower-shippers hoarding for fear of a seed crop failure.

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