Full steam ahead for kale trend

04/25/2014 02:32:00 PM
Mike Hornick

SALINAS, Calif. — In the past year there’s been occasional speculation in the industry and in mainstream media that the kale trend might have already reached its peak.

That has not happened, if the acreage commitments and product launches of Salinas Valley growers and shippers are any guide.

In April, Monterey-based Dole Fresh Vegetables rolled out six salad products — all of them with kale. That included Dole’s Kale Caesar salad kit; two chopped salad kits, Sesame Asian and Chopped Sunflower Crunch; and three Power Up Greens products. Kale Caesar becomes the fifth Caesar item available to retailers and consumers from Dole.

Taylor Farms Inc. brought their sweet kale salad to the Canadian market, starting with Costco. Fresh Express has redesigned its packaging for organic baby kale — among other organic items. And in mid-April, Church Bros. LLC introduced its Power Mix kale blend for foodservice.

“Kale has been an exploding category for us,” said Ernst Van Eeghen, director of marketing and product development at Church Bros. “Sales have been steadily increasing by dramatic numbers. We’ve increased our kale plantings six or seven times over, compared to last year.

“There’s demand for a little bit of differentiation within the kale category, so that’s what we’re doing.”

Pacific International Marketing has boosted its kale production about 25% in the past year, said Henry Dill, sales manager. The company packs it in Salinas and Santa Maria.

Most conventionally grown kale is green, the main color, which is also available in organic.

“We had some red and black kale in the desert, but it’s not as popular conventionally as it is organically,” Dill said. “Kale is a big item.”

Coastline Produce is increasing kale production this year by at least 25%, said Mark McBride, salesman.

“That’s become quite the mainstream item after lingering for years in the wings,” he said. “Every time you pick up a recipe page, there’s something with kale as a component. It used to be a joke, but now it’s become a super food.”

Since a small grocer once asked McBride — who was just shopping — if he could identify kale on the shelf for another customer, the store has come to stock it regularly. Retailers and consumers seem now to know what kale is.

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