Consumers’ desire for convenience and demand for a wide variety of options will help propel the bagged salad and other ready-to-eat vegetables and fruits sector from $5.5 billion in 2013 to $7 billion by 2018, according to a new report from Packaged Facts. The report estimates that sales of branded packaged produce through all retail channels increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.7% between 2009 and 2013.
According to the “Branded Packaged Produce and Salads: U.S. Market Trends" report, more than 70 percent of U.S. households consume bagged/packaged salads. Fresh Express and Dole brands together make up about 40 percent of IRI-tracked sales of refrigerated fresh-cut salads, private label is a formidable presence, with store brands accounting for nearly 40 percent.
Convenience remains a key factor in the appeal of packaged produce offering busy consumers a way to incorporate healthy bagged foods into their diets without the washing, peeling, trimming, chopping, and other steps often required when preparing fresh produce. What’s more, waste and spoilage are minimized. Value-added products packaged with condiments or toppings that complement the specific blend of fruits or vegetables also take the guesswork out of how to serve the dish or the meal.
Consumers with adventurous palates also are turning to bagged salads and RTE veggies and fruits to sample new foods. Trending ingredients like wasabi arugula, cilantro, chipotle, soba noodles, quinoa, chia seeds and brown sugar-coated pumpkin seeds in greens and salad mixes, salad kits, and particularly salad bowls, are driving brand trial, commanding higher price points, and boosting overall sales in this market.
There’s also been increased use of protein-rich foods and ingredients, particularly poultry, smoked meats and cheeses, in salad kits and salad bowls as marketers respond to consumers’ desire to incorporate more protein into their diets. Other factors contributing to the growth of the bagged salad sector include consumers’ awareness that they need to eat more fruits and vegetables, as well as a growing interest in fresh foods and “clean eating."