Sales of value-added leafy greens items such as salad mixes and kits are growing at a faster rate than other conventional commodity products. ( Photos courtesy Fresh Express; Dole Food Co. )

Value-added items play an increasingly important role in California grower-shippers’ leaf and lettuce programs.

Salinas, Calif.-based-based Fresh Express Inc., for example, now offers 133 value-added salad items, said Michael Golderman, marketing brand leader.

Sales were up 4% to 5% over last year, and pricing remained consistent with year-ago figures, he said.

The company’s bestselling items for the 52 weeks ending June 17 — all recording sales over $50 million — were 6-ounce bags of value-added sweet butter lettuce, 5-ounce bags of value-added baby spinach, 8-ounce bags of shredded lettuce, 9-ounce packages of romaine hearts, 11-ounce packages of value-added American salad mix and 9.8-ounce value-added Caesar salad kits.

Fresh Express takes in 20% of dollar sales for the value-added salad category and 22% of the unit sales, he said.

Golderman expects category growth to continue as the population grows along with consumer trends toward convenience and more healthful eating.

Between its foodservice and retail offerings, Salinas-based Mann Packing Co. Inc. offers almost 20 different value-added leaf products, said Loree Dowse, director of creative marketing.

“Our entire Arcadian Harvest lineup continues to do well, as does our whole leaf and tender leaf programs,” she said.

“Value-added sales continue to outpace conventional commodity products,” she added.

She expects the category growth to continue, since value-added products offer convenience, consistency and ease of use, all with minimal prep time for foodservice operators.

Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Food Co. has a complete product portfolio of value-added salad kits developed to meet varying consumer needs, said Bil Goldfield, director of corporate communications.

The line includes Dole Classic, Premium, Chopped, Slawesome! and Organic kits, as well as organic and conventional blends, like broadleaf and baby lettuces.

“Dole, the No. 1 salad kit brand, continues to introduce exciting, new on-trend flavors to consumers,” he said.

The company’s bestselling products overall continue to be Dole Chopped Salad kits, he said.

“This growth is due to continued increases in household penetration generating more dollar sales, which are up 11.6% versus year-ago as of June 16,” he said.