Prepared salads offer increasing diversity
The prepared salads market is increasingly extending away from its established place in the side dishes and accompaniments market to also perform a more main meal function.
The greater use of more substantial protein ingredients, such as poultry or fish, accompaniments such as croutons and breadsticks, and a wider range of convenient packaging formats have assisted this trend, particularly for lighter lunch and on-the-go options.
The sector remains relatively limited in terms of launch activity within the ready meals sector, however, accounting for just under 6 per cent of the global total recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2012. This makes it the third smallest sector, ahead of only meal kits and sandwiches. Europe accounted for over 70 per cent of activity, reflecting the greater development of the packaged chilled foods sector in the region generally, with North America in second place, with just over 11 per cent.
Lu Ann Williams, Research Manager at Innova Market Insights reports that adding more convenience elements to the intrinsically healthy image of salads has helped to drive the market forward in recent years. "Products have also become increasingly complex in many instances," she contends, "containing a greater variety of often more unusual ingredients, sometimes including dressings and/or additional garnishes such as croutons."
The sector is also moving away from its more traditional commodity image and reliance on retailer own-labels toward the greater use of brands and co-branding to add value. The Geant Vert (Green Giant) vegetable brand was moved into the packaged salads market in France in 2012, for example, while Popp launched a chilled potato salad in Germany, co-branded with the Miracel Whip dressing brand. Over in the US, Ready Pac Foods has teamed up with Disney to launch CoolCuts, a range of salads and lunch kits featuring popular characters from Disney shows and movies.
There has also been a growing focus on limited edition seasonal lines in many markets, featuring both standard and more unusual ingredients. In Germany, for example, Gartenfrisch Jung launched its Festtags Mischung (Festive Mix) in special packaging for Christmas 2012. Earlier in the year in the UK, summer salads such as Salads to Go's Jamie Oliver Summer Salad gave way to autumn mixes such as G's Fresh Autumn Leaves lines.
The UK has also seen particular activity in the premium and specialty market with launches such as Hedgerow Salad and Sweet Meadow Salad under the Foragers Choice name. These were introduced by the retailer Marks & Spencer and featured ingredients that could be found while foraging. This followed the launch of the unusual Quinoa & Edamame Soya Bean and Pasta Asparagus & Slow Roasted Tomato salads by the retailer a few months earlier. Other more unusual added-value options included Steve's Leaves BLT Salad and Wasabi Rocket Salad extensions to its range of branded salad bowls.
Meanwhile, in France, the boxed ready meal trend that has been driving the market in recent years has spread into salads. Sodebo introduced a selection of chilled salads in boxes carrying the Salad et Compagnie branding, with the initial six lines based on different international cuisines.
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