The consumer trend toward organic fruits and vegetables has made the packaged salad category a winner.

Tristan Simpson, chief communications officer for Irwindale, Calif.-based Ready Pac Foods Inc., cites Nielsen data indicating that the organic packaged salad segment has increased 19% in sales compared with a year ago.

“As more organic products become available, consumers will continue to want them,” she said.

Ready Pac’s organic Bistro Bowl line, for example, showed a whopping 178.6% increase in sales compared to a year ago, she said.

“Not only is consumer interest in organic offerings growing stronger, consumers are also seeking out flavors that are reminiscent of what they would find in their favorite restaurant,” she said.

As organic product options and sales increase, organic is becoming a larger part of the packaged salad set, said CarrieAnn Arias, director of marketing for Dole Fresh Vegetables, Monterey, Calif.

“The price premium for organic continues to come down, which lowers the entry barriers for more consumers, invites organic trial and, ultimately, adoption,” she said.

All Dole organic blends are selling well, she said, especially Dole organic baby spinach blend.

“Consumers now enjoy a wider array of organic salad choices, led by darker, more nutrient-dense greens like kale,” Arias said.

“Also, the newest organic trends include organic salad kits, organic salad bowls and more organic options with darker ‘power/super’ greens, including family-size bags for cooking and juicing.”

Packaged salads, which San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Earthbound Farm likes to call packaged greens, are the core of the company’s business, said Samantha Cabaluna, vice president of marketing and communications.

The company has more than 50 items in the packaged greens category.

“We call them packaged greens because 34% of the time people are using them for things other than salads,” she said.

That includes smoothies, sautés, soups, stir-fries, juices, sandwiches and risottos.

“All the research — ours and other sources — points to the fact that people who buy packaged salads want more interesting flavors and are more health conscious,” she said.

Consumers who buy organic packaged greens buy 64% more produce than those who buy conventional greens, she said, and they also buy about twice as many greens.

Simpson said that, just behind salad kits, organic is the second-strongest segment in sales growth this year, she said.

“With organic holding a 24.4% dollar share of the total packaged salad category — having grown 2.4 percentage points since last year — it’s easy to see consumer interest remains steady,” she said.

At Dole, Arias said the organic line features organic versions of the company’s most popular conventional salad blends, including:

Dole Organic Arugula Blend — “A perfect arugula with a delectable zesty and bold flavor profile;”

Dole Organic 50/50 blend — A blend of baby spinach and organic spring mix, combining baby lettuces, baby greens and endive;

Dole organic baby spinach blend — Tender baby spinach with a “delightful zesty and bold flavor profile;” and

Dole organic spring mix blend — A spring mix containing baby lettuces, baby greens, endive and radicchio.

All the offerings are available in resealable clamshells in various sizes.

“As demand for organic packaged salad increases, there are opportunities to provide new blends and eventually kits, as well as a variety of sizes that fit the unique needs of each of our consumers,” Arias said.