Salad Kits Offer Restaurant-Inspired Flavors

Originally printed in the October 2020 issue of Produce Business.

Home-cooking revival pushes flavor innovation.

When it comes to packaged salads, consumers everywhere are looking for healthy, convenient and delicious solutions. Plus now we are eating together and cooking more at home during the global pandemic, so consumers are looking for multi-serve options with restaurant-inspired flavors.

According to Nielsen research (Nielsen, Scan Data, 13 weeks ended 6/27/20), provided by Irwindale, CA-based Bonduelle North America, salad kits continue to grow 26% over last year, with chopped kits driving that growth, accounting for a 64% dollar share of the segment.

Combined, these trends are prompting salad suppliers to focus on multi-serve offerings, and to expand their repertoire with innovative kits and additional flavors.

Bonduelle Ready Pac Foods Bistro Chopped Salad Kit–Honey Chipotle with Guacamole

Bonduelle Fresh Americas is excited to launch a Honey Chipotle with Guacamole flavor to its popular Chopped Salad Kit range due to the rising popularity of southwest flavors in the salad category.

Marketed under the Ready Pac Foods Bistro brand, the bagged kit features chopped Green Cabbage, Romaine Lettuce, Kale, Red Cabbage, Carrots, Green Onions, Guacamole, Queso Fresco Cheese, Crispy Red Bell Peppers and Jalapeños, plus Tortilla Strips with a Sweet and Spicy Honey Chipotle Vinaigrette.

“Research (Technomic Menu Trends, 2019) has shown that southwest flavor-inspired kits are up more than 25%, and chipotle, in particular, is among the top 10 salad flavors found on mainstream restaurant menus,” explains Mike Secor, chief marketing officer of Bonduelle Fresh Americas. “In addition, peppers and avocado are among the top 20 salad ingredients found on many QSR restaurant menus — proving they are tried-and-true ingredients for consumers.

Keen to innovate, Bonduelle’s corporate chef created a recipe to fit the growing southwest flavor profile without a heavy creamy, ranch-based dressing. The new kit comes ready-to-eat with all the ingredients, toppings and dressings to prepare a quick, healthy meal or side dish. The kits are designed for consumers to enjoy a high-end restaurant experience at home with their families.

“With consumers eating more meals at home, the Honey Chipotle with Guacamole, and the other chopped kits, deliver on the same restaurant taste and quality in the convenience of your own home,” notes Secor.

The kits are priced at $3.99 each. Sizes range from 11.25oz to 11.35oz.

Dole Just Add Chicken Salad Kits

Dole is launching an innovative salad kit line, having already expanded an existing salad kit offering. The company introduced four new salad kit product extensions this year. The new line of salad kits launches this fall, branded Dole Just Add Chicken Salad Kits. There are four flavors: Pesto Caesar; Sweet Orange; Roasted Red Pepper; and Lemon Herb Pepper.

“These kits provide salad lovers everything they need to turn fresh chicken into a healthy and delicious meal for two,” reveals Bil Goldfield, director, corporate communications at Dole Food Company, Charlotte, NC.

The four initial flavor varieties combine Dole lettuces, toppings, an original Dole dressing and sautéed chicken, plus finishing sauces to create a restaurant-caliber culinary experience for consumers.

Later this year, Dole will introduce additional new flavors to its range of FreshTakes Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Salad Bowls, which was expanded to supermarkets throughout the Western United States during May.

Salad lovers from coast to coast can enjoy six single-serve RTE salad bowls from the “distinct” and “craveable” FreshTakes range, which combines clean-label ingredients without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, along with Dole’s signature dressings and toppings.

“The six flavor varieties — four with meat protein and two without — appeal to a wide spectrum of salad lovers, and offer a suggested retail price (SRP) of $3.99,” says Goldfield.

Earlier this year, Dole added three “compelling” flavors to its Premium, Chopped! and Slawesome! Salad Kits on the back of increased demand for its value-added lines. The range now features four varieties: Sweet Kale (Premium); Blueberry Bliss (Premium); Chopped! Avocado Ranch; and Hawaiian Slawesome!.

FiveStar Gourmet Foods Simply Fresh Salad Family Size–Fig & Walnut

In September, FiveStar Gourmet Foods unveiled its latest creation — a Fig & Walnut Salad that launched exclusively at Costco.

The product is derived from the firm’s successful Simply Fresh Salad Family Size product line, which features a Mexican Style Caesar Salad with Cilantro Cesar Dressing, and the limited-edition Harvest Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette.

“Our chefs work tirelessly to provide new and unique recipes for consumers since we know they are looking for easy, fresh, meal solutions, now more than ever,” comments Tal Shoshan, chief executive officer of FiveStar, which is headquartered in Ontario, CA.

In response to the growing trend for delicious flavors, balanced nutrition and clean ingredients, the new recipe features alternative proteins in the form of feta cheese and walnuts, with no artificial ingredients. It is also vegetarian friendly.

“This salad starts with a generous helping of fresh spring mix blend of leafy greens, and is topped with creamy Feta cheese and crisp, fresh apples, roasted walnuts, dried figs, and fresh tomatoes with a Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette. It is truly a chef-inspired complete salad,” explains Shoshan.

The Fig & Walnut Family Size Salad offers five servings, with each serving containing 200 calories, 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. The product is offered in a large, recyclable salad bowl, and weighs 18 ounces/510 grams.

“We have experienced the continued success of our Simply Fresh Salad signature line for years, and the demand continues to grow,” details Shoshan. “Being able to offer new choices for consumers with premium quality ingredients and curated dressings at a very attractive price is key to our success.”

Fresh Express Twisted Caesar Chopped Salad Kits

Fresh Express has three new chopped salad kits available that leverage the long-standing popularity of Caesar salads in restaurants and home cooking but with “unique and on-trend” flavors from Mexico, Asia and the Mediterranean.

“All three Twisted Caesar Chopped Salad Kit varieties [Avocado, Asian and Greek] provide delicious new flavor twists to one of most popular flavors in the salad kit category,” comments Michael Golderman, marketing brand leader for Fresh Express, Salinas, CA. “Quantitative consumer research conducted with the Fresh Express consumer panel determined there was high level of purchase interest for this concept.”

Each flavor variety features crisp Romaine lettuce, flavorful cheeses, and hand-crafted Caesar dressings, along with their individual ingredients, such as sweet corn kernels and tortilla strips (Avocado); sweet pineapple and black sesame seeds (Asian); and flatbread and feta (Greek).

Net weights range from 9.3oz. to 9.7oz., depending on the specific variety, and provide approximately three servings.

In stores, Fresh Express recommends featuring all three varieties together as a sub-line. “Promote them as a restaurant and family favorite with a delicious twist; as a new take on an old classic,” enthuses Golderman.

The best price points for moving Fresh Express Twisted Caesar Chopped Salad Kits are $3.69 for everyday pricing, or two for $6 when on promotion.

Misionero Garden Life Salad Kits

Misionero is preparing to launch Garden Life Salad Kits — a new line of premium, bagged salad kits — which came to fruition via consumer research and customer input.

“We’ve created a salad kit line that is right for the current realities we’re all facing as people are spending more time at home, and want comforting, familiar taste profiles,” explains Nicole Minnich-Zapata, marketing director at Misionero in Monterey, CA.

The range comprises different hearty salad blends matched with complementary dressings and unique ingredients. Although these kits are not organic, Minnich-Zapata says only clean, natural ingredients are used. Each individual kit ranges in size from 8.25oz to 12.75oz.

“The Garden Life Salad Kit line consists of familiar concepts that consumers know and love, but with an added twist,” details Minnich-Zapata. “Each kit has its own unique dressing, as well as a components that add flavor and nutritional benefits.”

Misionero suggests a price point of $3.99-$4.99 for the new salad kits, and encourages retailers to place the range with similar products.

Taylor Farms Everything & Dill Pickle Chopped Kits

In June, Taylor Farms launched its restaurant-inspired Everything Chopped Kit and Dill Pickle Chopped Kit salads in the U. S. and Canada, featuring on-trend ingredients, following quantitative recipe research with category consumers.

“Most importantly, we looked at trends across QSR, Retail (Center Store), food blogs and Instagram,” explains Bryan Jaynes vice president, product management at Taylor Farms, Salinas, CA. “We looked at what consumers are talking about, thought about creative ways to use that, and turned it into a killer salad recipe. This worked with our Maple Bourbon Bacon Kit, and we saw that consumers were obsessed with Everything Bagel Seasoning and all things Dill Pickle.”

Market leader Taylor Farms believes the most important part of any chopped kit is a great dressing. “We lead with having as much flavor, unique inclusions, and layers of complex flavor notes to create a one-of-a kind craveable dressing,” says Charis Neves, senior director, product management.

The ‘Everything’ kit contains homestyle ranch flavors with ‘everything ranch seasoning’. “We pair this salad with mini-bagel toasts and a packet of Everything Bagel Seasoning for layers of flavor in every bite,” says Jaynes.

The ‘Dill Pickle’ kit contains a blend of cream and vinegar notes with real pickle particles. “We created a dill pickle seasoned brioche crouton crumble to add additional pickle power and crunch in every bite,” adds Christina Barnard, senior director, marketing.

Typically retailing for $3.99 each, Taylor recommends retailers communicate the kits via social media to get customers talking about the salads, and to demonstrate their awareness of new food trends.