Mann Packing Co. offers two new heads of lettuce, Scarlett Butter and HoneyGem, which are exclusive products to the company.
Mann Packing Co. offers two new heads of lettuce, Scarlett Butter and HoneyGem, which are exclusive products to the company.

SALINAS, Calif. — Mann Packing Co. hopes to shake up the foodservice lettuce market with two new whole heads and recent product introductions that include the Arcadian Harvest Ruby and Emerald blends.

The new lettuce heads are Mann’s Scarlett Butter and HoneyGem.

“Both are exclusive to Mann Packing in this specific format,” said Gina Nucci, director of healthy culinary innovation at Salinas-based Mann Packing.

Mann Packing has a marketing partnership with Rijk Zwaan Co. through which the company worked closely with seed breeders and project managers over the past year, she said.

“We identified unique varieties and superior flavor — Salanova butter lettuce and their Gems — and have come up with a product line which we believe will gain some excitement,” Nucci said.

The Salanova red butter variety appears in the Arcadian Harvest Ruby salad blend. Offering Mann’s Scarlett Butter as a whole head is a way to enhance chefs’ creative freedom, Nucci said.

Mann Packing is using patented packaging technology to help maintain head size consistency, minimize damage and help maintain optimum moisture levels.

“We took the best the market has to offer and created unique packs to fill a void in the marketplace,” Nucci said.

Lettuce revolution

As the Salinas grower-shipper sees it, the Arcadian Harvest line has an opportunity to replace iceberg and romaine in foodservice. Its aim is to differentiate products by taste, color and texture.

“We’re calling it Mann’s lettuce revolution,” Nucci said. “Consumers are dissatisfied with the current selection of salad greens offered at restaurants and indicate that they are unappealing.”

The Arcadian Harvest greens offer multidimensional lift and colors that improve perception of nutritional value as well as visual appeal, Nucci said.

Arcadian Harvest Classic launched in 2011. Emerald petite whole leaves were announced in 2012. Arcadian Harvest Ruby and Emerald shipments to foodservice customers in select markets are underway.

The blends are among a line of processed lettuces that also includes Mann’s Better Burger Leaf, a Nunhems exclusive seed variety green leaf.

Changing demand

Mann Packing planned to offer lettuce varietal tasting at booth 139 during the Produce Marketing Association Foodservice Conference and Expo on July 26-28 in Monterey.

It was part of an effort to highlight findings of a study on consumer preferences the company commissioned with Technomic Inc.

The study, “The Lettuce Revolution,” indicates foodservice operators are moving away from romaine lettuce and are experimenting with a wider selection of salad greens.

Some 83% of restaurant consumers said the type of greens used is an important factor in their decision to order a salad at a restaurant. Among their preferences:

  • Consumers want a crunchier texture in their salad greens;
  • Consumers prefer a blend of colors, but preferences skew towards darker green salad varieties. Six in 10 consumers say a darker color is more appealing;
  • Two-thirds, 66%, say they perceive salad greens with a darker color as more upscale or premium;
  • In the study group, 43% say they are willing to pay more for darker salad greens;
  • Study participants prefer salad greens with a slightly sweet but mild flavor profile; and
  •  More consumers — 27% — prefer curly leaves to flat leaves — 17%. Seventy percent agreed that curly, robust leafy salad greens enhance visual appeal.