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Cristina Calceanu, Albert Heijn:

“Salads: From sidekick to superhero”

Salad has always been popular in summer, but is now a growing trend as well. In late April, Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn gave the segment another boost with the introduction of more than 30 innovations. “Salads have developed from sidekicks into superheroes. They’re an increasingly more important part of the menu,” says Cristina Calceanu, manager vegetable convenience for Albert Heijn. She looks specifically at customers looking for convenience, the washed and cut product has to be ready to cook or ready to eat. She went all out with salad innovations. These vary from easy introductions to introductions that required quite a bit of brainwork and market research in advance.

A number of important introductions are within AH’s developed salad concept, and consists of products that can be easily combined. “Consumers want to be inspired, they often return to the well-known combination of iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber and perhaps some bits of bacon and/or pine nuts. We want to make sure consumers can vary to their heart’s content.”

AH managed to create a clear salad world on their cooled shelves by bringing their salads down to four easy steps. This can be seen very well at AH XL in Zaandam. The world of salads is located behind the double doors of the cooled shelves, and consists of three flavour segments. The various flavours of lettuce have been indicated by means of colours: blue for fresh, yellow for mild and purple for spicy. A bright pink card explains in four steps how to create the best salads, to help consumers choose and combine.

“The best salads are the ones you created yourself. The idea is that AH lends a helping hand,” Cristina explains. “Step one is choosing a type of leafy lettuce, the green basis of the salad. Step two is adding additional fruit or vegetables. Step three is choosing a topping, croutons or beans and maize mixes. Finally, step four is choosing a dressing. We’ve added innovations to all of these steps. For step one, for example, we added a number of new lettuce mixes, for step two we added fruit and vegetable mixes, additional toppings have been added for step three, and we developed fresh dressings for step four. For even more convenience, we have lettuce mixes that are a combination of lettuce and fruit or vegetables, such as Sla&: a great basis for any salad.”

The innovations are about flavour and colour. “We want to bring life to the ‘green wall’ with colour, and trigger consumers to be creative with the various colourful, pre-cut vegetable combinations. Colours that really stand out are the dressings based on fruit or vegetables. These mostly contain ingredients that can also be found in kitchens. The recipe for the dressing is very recognisable. Consumers could actually have made these themselves as well.” The shelves have also become more colourful because of the raw vegetable salads, combinations of fruit and vegetables, with the dressing added in a separate compartment.

“Besides, we’ve also expanded on our Goedkoopje range (a range of budget products) with rocket salad and lamb’s lettuce. This way, your daily shopping can be done at the lowest prices. We’ve also introduced small bags of lettuce, these contain 50 grammes of lettuce, and are perfect for single households. We want to increase the accessibility of lettuce this way.”

To arrive at the new world of salads, market research into the wishes of consumers and their preferences has been done. The online Allerhande recipe search engine is another important source of information for Cristina, because this clearly shows what consumers are looking for. The introduction of the world of salads has been supported by the Allerhande magazine. In the past month, salad was singled out in the magazine, and consumers were introduced to the new steps for creating a perfect meal salad.

In the world of salads, AH serves customers looking for convenience, but who want to decide their own recipes. The customers who prefer making everything themselves, shop from the regular fresh produce shelves, where the following varieties of lettuce can be found: iceberg lettuce, butterhead lettuce, (baby) romaine (mix), tricolour root ball lettuce. Customers who don’t have time to cook can make use of the fresh ready-made meals and meal salads. Salads can even be found among the meals that have to be heated nowadays. A special packaging was developed to this end that consists of two parts, one for the warm meal that is placed in the microwave, and one with the salad. Cristina: “Adding salad is an easy and tasty way to encourage customers to eat more vegetables. We want to make it easier, nicer and tastier to eat vegetables, which is why we created all of these innovations.”

More information:
Cristina Calceanu

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