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Softer sales for salad kits at retailer's deli counters

Is there a shift in salad kits at retailers' deli counters? Wayde Nichols seems to think so. "We're seeing that with salad kits for major retailers, they're switching to pasta-based salads because they have a longer shelf life than fresh greens do. That's definitely a trend that has come forward in the last six months. Retailers are looking for the longest shelf life possible," says Nichols of Buy Fresh Produce Inc., a company in which the majority of its products are mixed salads found in a variety of retail deli departments.

As he notes, conventional food service salad kits at deli counters are given a 12-day shelf life if unopened. Once opened and mixed with dressing, that life cuts down to two to three days. However, a pasta salad will last five to eight days.

In the retailers it works with, Nichols says it is also seeing some trends in sales--notably, that medium to lower-income geared retail outlets are slowing down in sales while the higher-end stores seem to be staying at the same pace in sales. "In general, though, we are down in our gross sales," he says. "I think people don't have a very wide footprint in their income."

Sales trends
He notes that softer sales have been happening for the past three to four months, and in turn, the company has had to reduce its workforce in its production room from approximately 80 workers to 55 workers.

So what do these shifts at the deli counter mean for produce shippers? How about a chance to get creative with not only salad kits but meal kits as well? Nichols says there's an opportunity for more "sturdy" type vegetable-based salads such as carrots, cabbage, and kale over romaine and other leafy greens for food service salads. He also notes that there is increasingly a mix of salads with pasta and other grains as bases that are featuring these types of products to have a longer shelf life.

While shelf life is an issue retailers continue to mull over for its food service salads, so is labor--meaning more and more salad kits are being turned to which can be assembled at store level. "We're trying to develop more value-added products that the stores can bring in and doesn't have as much labor associated with it but can create a finished product to sell better," says Nichols.

It also may not be a permanent move behind the deli glass. "Eventually, customers want the greens back. However, in the economic times that we're in and with inflation, retailers are having to do what's best for them with these salads," says Nichols.

For more information:
Wayde Nichols
Buy Fresh Produce Inc.
Tel.: +1 ((323) 796-0127