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Baby romaine gains traction in lettuce category

Demand continues to grow for baby romaine lettuce. "It has exponentially grown in the last two to three years especially," says Ernst van Eeghen, VP of Foodservice Business Development for Church Brothers Farms. "It has become one of our larger commodities."

Baby romaine shares a similar shape and color as traditional romaine, but has a sweeter flavor plus the crunch of iceberg lettuce. "It's a newer variety in the romaine category. The category has been around forever but this is a much crunchier option," he says.

Because of that, education and promotions were needed early on in its introduction to familiarize consumers and foodservice clients with it. "It's an item you need to experience before you get on board," says van Eeghen.

The power of versatility
The shape of the lettuce, which Church Brothers sells in 24 and 48-count foodservice cartons and as two- and five-count bags in retail, helps add to the product's versatility in where and how it's used. "It can be used for salads, including as a sharable wedge salad, or grilled. It's also really good on burgers because of the extra crunch or as a no-carb alternative to a wrap or taco shell," says van Eeghen. He also adds that historically it's been a challenge to sell leafy greens to the breakfast segment and this item is being used in dishes such as healthy breakfast tacos.

Right now, supplies of baby romaine are coming out of the desert growing region, where it will continue until about mid-April. "In 2022, we started to see a massive lift in sales and that continued through last year and this year, demand is once again ramping up as we head into the warmer summer months," van Eeghen says.

As for pricing, inflation is still a factor and has led to stronger markets this season. "Labor continues to be very expensive and this product is harvested very carefully by hand. We farm and harvest ourselves to optimize quality," says van Eeghen.

For more information:
Loree Dowse
Church Brothers Farms
Tel.: +1 (831) 796-2434