Packaged salad sales bounce back

by Jeff Gelski
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NEW YORK — Sales of prepackaged precut fresh salad mix, led by private label growth, have bounced back from an E. coli outbreak in 2006, according to statistics from The Nielsen Co., New York.

U.S. sales of precut fresh salad mix reached $2.47 billion for the 52 weeks ended July 12, up 4.3% from the previous 52-week period, according to Nielsen. Private label sales soared 42% to $281 million while branded sales grew a little less than 1% to $2.19 billion. Branded sales had dipped 4.6% in 2007.

The products with an organic claim saw sales of $233 million for the 52 weeks ended July 12, up nearly 25%. Private label organic sales leaped nearly 149% to $98 million while branded organic sales dropped 8.5% to $135 million.

Price appeared to become a greater factor in the past year as the economy worsened, according to the September issue of "Facts, Figures & the Future," a newsletter written by Phil Lempert and published in collaboration with Nielsen and the Food Marketing Institute.

The newsletter said the rise in organic sales reflected consumers’ comfort with this farming practice, even though organic practices are more susceptible to natural environmental influences, including the use of manure as a permitted fertilizer.

Spinach and spinach blends needed to rebound from sales declines of 5% in 2006 and nearly 26% in 2007. Rebound they did in posting a sales jump of more than 15% to $170 million for the 52 weeks ended July 12.

The Nielsen statistics covered U.S. food, drug and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart.

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