Mike Hornick, staff writer
Mike Hornick, staff writer

What’s in a name?

Just enough room for confusion to emerge, apparently, if the topic is salad blends and salad kits.

Two food and family bloggers, Shanna Coady and Debra Smith, raised the issue with Dole Fresh Vegetables executives in Monterey, Calif., at the recent Dole Salad Summit.

“Every time you say salad bags, my head immediately thinks salad kits, that it’s got everything in it,” Coady said, referring to dressings and garnishes.

“When I think about going to get a salad bag, I’m going to grab the Caesar or the Asian kit.

“I don’t know if other moms out there are automatically thinking it’s a completed bag when, for me, it’s not. It’s ‘here’s some great lettuce, spinach or arugula mixes and some good pairing (suggestions)’. But it’s not a salad in a bag.”

Smith agreed on the potential for confusion.

Shopper awareness

“If (consumers) are thinking the blend is a kit, it’s a negative experience,” she said.

But Dole would be thrilled to get to the point where most consumers are as aware as Coady and Smith that both product types — kits and blends — are on offer.

“There’s really low awareness of the kits out there,” said Ronda Reed, vice president of marketing and strategy for Dole Fresh Vegetables.

“Something like 42% of the people who shop the category don’t even know they exist. The penetration is around 11%. It’s very low.”

Some shoppers are fuzzy on the blends as well.

“A lot of people don’t even know that the blend is a blend,” said Bob Ochsner, Dole spokesman.  “It’s not just one kind of lettuce. It’s the start of the salad.”

One approach to the resolution of such issues is through packaging.

“It looks physically the same as everything else,” Reed said of the kits.

“That’s one of the things we’re working on, is to try to make it look different.”

Some changes have already been made to the kits and blends — easier opening bags, color-coded flavor profiles and others.

Quick selection

But what happens when marketing creativity — which is inexhaustible if not irresistible — runs headlong into consumer habit?

That’s a challenge for packaged salad makers.

“Over half of the people we surveyed said, ‘I always buy the same salad,’” said Chris Mayhew, director of marketing for Dole Fresh Vegetables.

“Sixty percent buy the one salad they’re looking at. They’re not experimenting. Average time spent at the shelf is 35 seconds. Other parts of the grocery store, it’s more like a minute. With 37 varieties on the produce shelf and they’re only spending 35 seconds, it’s kind of low.”

Smith, on the other hand, found shoppers’ haste understandable.

“If people are not as venturesome into the blends and things, that makes perfect sense,” Smith said.

“I have a list, I’ve got four kids, I’m in that store, I’m grabbing the bag at 35 seconds. I know exactly where it is in the store because it’s all laid out. And I’m on to the next thing. I’m done. So 35 seconds doesn’t surprise me.”

Pit stop marketing, anyone?

E-mail mhornick@thepacker.com

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