Lettuce is no longer a boring green garnish on a plate. The fresh food aisle in the supermarket is now full of a crunchy color mix of various types of lettuce. More and more lettuce concepts are responding to the needs of the consumer. Breeders are catching on to the trends. Is eating lettuce wraps hip? Then there will be a lettuce variety on the market with leaves suitable for that purpose. Do we want more color on our plate? Then breeders will bring together various types of lettuce in one cultivation.
However, breeding is an activity that requires years. "The development or the further development of a crop takes about 2 to 3 years. To bring it on the market in a commercial way can take much longer," says Maarten van der Leeden, Account Manager at Rijk Zwaan. How do you ensure that the products you are developing are relevant for the market? "By collaborating a lot and by listening to all parties in the chain."
One root clod
A successful lettuce concept from Rijk Zwaan is the Salatrio. A combination of lollo rossa, lollo bionda and oak leaf lettuce. Three varieties with different leaf textures grown on one root clod. The trio have conquered places on the supermarket shelves in the past decade. Maarten: "The idea of sowing several types on one clod was born long ago. It is a kind of bouquet of lettuce types. Testing was done over a long period with all kinds of varieties. In the end lollo rossa, lollo bionda and oak leaf lettuce proved to be the ideal mix of color and structure. You can have a varied salad in no time at all."
Salatrio is especially successful in the Benelux, but also in Germany and the United Kingdom, where you can see the product on the shelves of various supermarkets and discounters. "Salatrio and hydroponics - cultivation on water - go hand in hand. So growers can supply clean lettuce in a mix. This is not only appealing to the consumer, it also benefits the shelf life of the lettuce. Salatrio has a shelf life of at least one week.”
Hydroponics on the rise
The cultivation of some varieties of lettuce is moving more and more from the open field to gutters in which the lettuce is cultivated on water. "For example, lettuce from hydroponics cultivation does not suffer from soil fungi, such as fusarium. This disease is difficult to combat and is a major problem in greenhouses." Many types of lettuce thrive well in water. Still, Maarten doesn’t see the traditional cultivation disappearing. "Iceberg lettuce and roman lettuce are still being cultivated a lot in soil."Salanova Butterhead
Salanova can also be combined in the 'trio mixes'. "The easy-to-cut leaves of the Rijk Zwaan Salanova varieties make it even easier for consumers. Moreover, the new Salanova Crispy varieties ensure a good 3D structure in the packaging."Salanova Crispy
Recipe for successful concept
Maarten: "A concept is successful for us when all the links in the chain see the benefit. First of all, we ask ourselves whether the concept meets a consumer demand, in addition whether it is good to cultivate and whether it fits in with the positioning in the market. We also need to look to the future. What will be needed? And what do we have to develop to meet that need? In order to find an answer to that, we have to think from the consumer’s viewpoint."
This article previously appeared in edition 2, 32nd volume of Primeur. See www.agfprimeur.nl.
For more information:Rijk Zwaan
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