New leaf, lettuce products continue to roll out of Salinas, Santa Maria valleys

07/21/2010 02:36:16 PM
Don Schrack

GONZALES, Calif. — "The more things change, the more they stay the same” was not coined for the California leaf and lettuce industry as new products continue to roll out of the Salinas and Santa Maria valleys.

Among the most active in new product development this year is Gonzales-based Misionero Vegetables. The company plans to launch leaf fillets this year.

“We’ve been doing the washed and trimmed red leaf, green leaf, romaine and cosmopolitan heads,” said Danny Canales, vice president of sales and marketing. “It is just another step to offer the fillets.”

Other of the company’s premium line products to debut later this year are premium shreds and what Misionero Vegetables calls its cascade blend, petite romaine and green leaf lettuce leaves combined with chopped radicchio, Canales said.

The company is not shooting in the dark with the new products. Misionero Vegetables conducts ongoing sensory and customer testing of potential new products, Canales said.

Another result of that testing is a soon-to-be-introduced retail value line that will carry the Garden Life brand, he said. The products will be petite heads and premium shreds.

“The products will be sold in 9 ounce and 8-ounce bags at an everyday low price,” Canales said.

The artisan lettuce heads, introduced last year by Tanimura & Antle Inc., Salinas, continue to rack up impressive sales figures.

“The growth of Artisan lettuce sales has been phenomenal,” said Mike Antle, executive vice president for harvest operations. “Sales have increased several hundred percent since we introduced the line”

Offered in specially designed clamshells, the Artisan varieties include red and green petite gems, red and green petite oaks and red and green petite tangos. The company offers the products year-round by growing the lettuce in California and the Yuma, Ariz., area, Antle said.

“Foodservice and club stores are driving the sales, but retail is picking up,” he said.

Not new this season, but continuing to gain loyal customers are the Iceberg Babies grown and marketed by Boggiatto Produce Inc., Salinas.

“The Iceberg Babies are unique, and restaurants are always looking for something different,” said Michael Boggiatto, president and general manager.

Iceberg Babies are not a variety that is harvested before its normal maturity, he said.

“The plants are a variety that tends to be smaller,” Boggiatto said. “Then we pick them about a week to 19 days early.”



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