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Salad days

Innovation has bumped up salad kits from side-dish status to the main attraction

Shutterstock/Iryna MelnykShutterstock/Iryna Melnyk

With consumers being busier and more mindful of health and wellness than ever before, interest in salad kits continues to grow, says Kevin Silver, vice-president, business development Canada at Taylor Farms. “If you can deliver convenience and healthy nutrition at the same time, it’s an instant hit,” he says of the category that has evolved to include bowls, jars and chopped kits that come with all the fixings for a complete meal—dressings, proteins, grains and more.

The time is right for these products: according to a Nielsen Panelviews survey, 54% of consumers are looking for more vegetables in their diets.

Incidentally, sales of vegetables are up 6% compared to a year ago (partly due to price increases), according to Nielsen MarketTrack gures for the 52 weeks ending March 31, 2018.

BOWLS
Jacob Shafer, senior marketing and communications specialist at Mann Packing in Salinas, Calif., says the salad bowl trend began to emerge in foodservice and on social media a few years back.

The company launched Nourish Bowls, a line of single-serve, “warm meals” with fresh vegetables and sauces back in 2016. These bowls feature “trending vegetables” such as kohlrabi, cauliflower, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, kale and sugar snap peas. There are seven varieties, including the newly launched Tomato Bolognese and Basil Pesto.

Salad bowls appeal to millennials, says Shafer, because “they deliver flavour, convenience and quality ingredients.”

CHOPPED SALADS
Silver says Taylor Farms’ line of chopped salads saves consumers time and labour. “You have everything in a kit format, (and) you can make the salad in under three minutes. It’s not a type of salad your average consumer can just whip up quickly.” California-based Taylor Farms first offered chopped salads in 2011, and currently sells the brand at Costco in Canada, including its Asian cashew variety that comes with vegetables, wontons, toasted almonds and a sesame dressing. The company also makes chopped salads for Canadian grocers’ store brands. To come up with new flavours, Taylor Farms conducts consumer panels and looks at foodservice menu trends.

Clean labelling is currently a “big initiative,” with the company working with suppliers to ensure dressings and toppings are 100% free from artificial ingredients and preservatives.

Silver, who is still shocked to hear from friends who have never tried chopped salads, suggests grocers give the category exposure through flyers, social media and frequent samplings. “We’ve got to really get these items into consumers’ hands to try, because once they try them, they love them.”

Silver, who is still shocked to hear from friends who have never tried chopped salads, suggests grocers give the category exposure through flyers, social media and frequent samplings. “We’ve got to really get these items into consumers’ hands to try, because once they try them, they love them.”

JARS
Meanwhile, Anne-Marie Verstraelen, president of salad jar brand Urban Picnik in Joliette, Que., says her products are a hit with environmentally-conscious consumers who can reuse the mason jars the salads are packed in. Launched in 2016 as Ma Vitrine Bio, an organic product, the company switched to non-organic varieties in May and changed the brand name to appeal to the English market.

Urban Picnik products can be eaten directly from the jar and no preparation is required. “It’s a complete meal that easily replaces a sandwich,” Verstraelen says. The product taps into a desire among the young for healthy, meat-free meals and is targeted to millennials and early adopters on social media. About 80% of the brand’s customers are female.

Developed by a nutritionist, Urban Picnik is available in four varieties, with Dragon (beets, carrots, kale, almonds, tofu and sesame sauce) being the top seller. Three additional varieties are in development. Currently sold at IGA, Metro and Couche-Tard in Quebec, Urban Picnik will be available at major grocers in Ontario this fall.

With a shelf life of 12 days, these jars last longer than other salad kits and are considered main courses, as they contain a minimum of 15 grams of vegetable proteins. Verstraelen says salad jars can become better known through sustained promotions, adequate shelf space and good in-store positioning.

David Wilson, program manager – produce and oral at Choices Markets in Burnaby, B.C., says prominent displays help bolster sales of salad kits from a grab-and-go demographic, as do advertising programs with suppliers.

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer‘s September/October 2018 issue.

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