For this reason, rather than being affected by foreign competition, this segment has to deal with "neighbour greenhouses."
In order to understand more about the dynamics of the segment, this was explained by "La Linea Verde", one of the main players in the salad industry and owner of the lion's share of "Ortomad", which specialises in lettuce and baby leaf. The group supplies foreign markets with packed unwashed and fresh-cut salads.
"Almost 50% of the produce is loose or packed baby leaf, although we normally sell the loose produce which is then mixed and packed by final buyers. Only less than 10% of the produce is packed by us."
What is a mixed salad made of
"Typically, they are made of red and green lettuce, spinach, rocket and corn salad baby leaf. We also use other varieties like Red Chard and Bull's blood and we have introduced a new mix with eight ingredients, i.e. green and red lettuce, rocket, Red Chard, Mizuna tatsoi, Red Jand and Bull's blood."
Some markets prefer different types of salad, as for example the UK tend to prefer "bigger and tougher leaves, which though in Italy are considered premium. Some suppliers, like Spain, are now interested in this sector, although they do not have our experience."
"All of our products reach our processing plants in refrigerated containers because we start the cold chain on the fields."
"In addition, our packed unwashed produce is hardly manipulated, except for a simple portioning to make it easy to manage and distribute. There is no use-by-date according to European and Italian laws but we do state that there is a 12 day minimum durability term upon request (the produce must be refrigerated)."
Unwashed Ortomad mixed salads are destined to retailers, wholesalers and the processing industry in Northern and Eastern Europe and Russia.
Loose produce yet to be mixed.
"We do not always know where our produce ends up as we use intermediaries and brokers. For example, we do not know how much of our produce reaches the Netherlands. We do supply directly to Russia and Belgium though. We are also available in the main Polish retail chain."
As regards the approach of foreign markets, the Italian specialists says that there are quite some differences between Russia and Poland and the other Eastern European markets as the former are more organised and professional and require high quality and experience, whereas the latter only work through intermediaries and are not as organised." Italy is doing well at an international level and the business trend is becoming increasingly better.
The domestic fresh-cut market processes 450 million bags, 220 million of which are just plain salad. Mixed salads represent 55 million bags for €80 million. "Prices per kilo, are lower than 2013 though (-2.5%)."