Misionero Vegetables launches new Garden Cuts salad kit line

April 16, 2010

Consumers are eating at home more often these days, but they’re not willing to give up the restaurant-style foods they’re accustomed to. Misionero Vegetables’ new salad kit hit the market at just the right time: it offers retail consumers a restaurant experience in their own homes, said Dan Canales, vice president of marketing for Misionero Vegetables, Salinas, Calif.

“We developed our unique salad kits with quality ingredients found in restaurant salads and are excited to bring them to the consumer,” Canales said.

The four salad kits are part of Misionero’s Garden Cuts line, which includes bags and clamshells of ready-to-use leafy green blends and leaves. The new products are a complete salad packaged in a clear clamshell. The kits started shipping in February in four varieties:

• The Iceberg Wedge kit is a wedge of an iceberg head of lettuce with bleu cheese, bacon bits and ranch dressing.

• The Romaine Leaves kit includes croutons, Parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing with the full leaves of romaine.

• The Cosmopolitan kit has shredded cheese, tortilla strips and salsa ranch dressing.

• The Butter Wedge kit includes dried cherries, toasted almonds and a tangy citrus dressing.

“As consumers’ disposable income is reduced, consumers are cutting corners and eating out less often,” Canales said. “Our Garden Cuts salads kits were developed targeting consumers who are missing out on their dining out experience and are a perfect addition to our product line.”

The trimmed lettuce and the sides, which are in individual packages, are packed in a clear clamshell with a label on top that leaves plenty of room to view the product inside. The fresh raw product in the salad kits is grown in the United States, Canales said. Misionero grows the lettuce on its California and Arizona farms. The company moves production throughout the year for year-round production, with operations in the Salinas Valley, Huron and San Diego, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz.

The salads are minimally processed, Canales said, meaning they lettuce isn’t cut up. That helps keep the product fresh, because the more cuts the more respiration and more shelf extending measures are needed. Although it’s minimally processed, the lettuce is washed and cleaned under Misionero’s comprehensive food security plan. The company follows Good Agricultural Practices in the field, is an audited member of the California Leafy Green Handlers Marketing Agreement, follows Good Manufacturing Practices in the state-of-the-art plant and has a HACCP program in place. The company also conducts raw and finished product testing for foodborne-illness causing pathogens.

The new salad kits were unveiled at last year’s Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in Anaheim and began shipping the last week of February. They will be available at retail year-round.

A History of Fresh-Cuts

Misionero isn’t new to the fresh-cut industry. The company first started processing bagged salads in the mid-90s and has steadily expanded its lines, offering new and innovative products as customers’ tastes have changed.
The company was founded nearly 30 years ago by Floyd Griffin and began as a fresh produce packer in the Salinas Valley. Griffin chose the company’s name because of its proximity to the historic missions in the area and felt the name evoked some of the same ideas as the missions – adventure, challenge and discovery.

In the beginning, Misionero focused on growing quality produce, but as the company grew it added a sales team for retail and foodservice customers. Then, as the fresh-cut segment was taking off, the company began processing fresh-cut bagged salads in the mid-90s.

Today, Misionero has two retail brands, foodservice pack sizes and whole produce sales. The fresh-cut lines are the GardenCuts, which the new salad kits are part of, and the organic EarthGreens line. The GardenCuts line has fresh-cut salad blends packed in clamshells and film. The EarthGreens line can also be found in bags and clamshells, but includes organic products like a baby Romaine blend, baby carrots, Far East Asian Salad blend, Italian salad, Rustic Arugula and tender spinach.

Foodservice processing includes the cut salad blends or customers can order washed and trimmed leaf lettuce that is ready-to-use as a way to reduce waste.