Bundle Of Consumer Benefits Drives Sales Growth For Packaged Salads

By David Sprinkle, Research Director And Publisher, Packaged Facts

Packaged Facts estimates that U.S. sales of branded packaged salad greens/kits and fresh-cut vegetables or fruit through all retail channels reached $5.6 billion in 2013. All retail channels were determined by IRI multi-outlet (MULO) data as a background source, and we factored in additional outlets including Costco, Sam’s and BJ’s, as well as convenience stores, major chains, independents, natural food stores, specialty, “ethnic” and neighborhood grocery stores.

The usage rate for packaged salads is at 70 percent, according to Simmons National Consumer Survey data from Experian Marketing Services, or 83 million households. Packaged Facts conservatively forecasts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.6 percent through 2018 for this market.

Today’s consumers are increasingly striving to maintain or adopt healthful eating habits, and eating more fruits, vegetables, and salads is a favored means toward that end. In addition, consumers are acting on a growing preference for fresh foods over processed, as well as for foods with fewer and simpler, natural ingredients. Packaged Facts’ consumer survey data from January/February 2014 shows freshness as the single most desirable attribute for a food product, being selected by half (49 percent) of U.S. adults as an attribute they “especially seek out” when food shopping.

Correspondingly, three-fifths (59 percent) of consumers somewhat or strongly agree that they are buying more fresh produce than they did in the past, with conversely only 11 percent of consumers somewhat or strongly disagreeing that they are doing so.

Convenience, of course, is another key selling point for packaged salads and value-added fresh produce. Consumers can incorporate these healthy green vegetables into their diets without the washing, peeling, trimming, chopping, and other steps typically required when preparing fresh produce. Waste and spoilage can be minimized in that the produce is easier to use and thus more likely to be consumed. Value-added products packaged with condiments or toppings that complement the salad mix remove any guesswork when using the product — an extra bonus for consumers who aren’t savvy about meal preparation or planning.

In addition, packaged salad marketers are responding to the current consumer emphasis on protein, including new vegetarian and high-quality sources of protein, a demand fueled in part by the desire to promote satiety, and thus weight control or weight loss. High protein is another important product attribute consumers seek when buying food, according to Packaged Facts survey data. Packaged salad marketers responded by adding ingredients such as poultry, cheeses, beans, edamame, seeds, and quinoa. Packaged salads featuring quality proteins double their punch as healthy and weight-conscious meal options.

Salads with upscale, gourmet positioning are a simultaneous trend, as consumers of packaged salads are significantly more likely than average to be foodies. Thus, a number of recent product introductions contain foodie favorites and trendy ingredients such as bok choy, chicory, frisee, kale, lolla rosa, máche, mizuna, tango, tatsoi, and wasabi arugula. Packaged salad kits also increasingly come in varieties inspired by ethnic cuisines, notably Southwestern and Asian. Innovative salad kits and meals-in-a-bowl give adventurous consumers a user-friendly and healthful format for international food and flavor adventure. Local and seasonal ingredients provide additional scope for new product innovation that will be in tune with the changing landscape of consumer food shopping priorities.