With lettuce pricing starting to come back down this week, the popular vegetable should come back to the Canadian restaurant menus it has been eliminated from temporarily in the near future.
Last week, lettuce made headlines in Canada following reports it was being pulled from menus temporarily. Restaurants such as SanRemo Bakery in Toronto, for example, posted their sandwiches on social media behind a sign indicating there would be no lettuce on them. Supplies of green leaf, romaine, and iceberg have been short in California’s Salinas Valley due to a combination of warm, dry weather, which created plants susceptible to disease, including the Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus (INSV) seen in large swaths of the Salinas Valley for over three months. In addition, production is transitioning as well to the desert region in the U.S. on lettuce, all of which has created record-high pricing. “There would have been better supply if there hadn’t been the virus,” says Richard Donsky of Mister Produce based in Etobicoke, Ontario. “Normally, there can be bumps when there is a transition, but it was exponential because of that situation. It happened at a bad time.”
While he says the availability of lettuce was there, it came with high pricing, and that could be what was hitting food service outlets. “Customers are shying away from it for sure, when able. If they’re not big users, then they are absorbing it if it’s a brief interruption. But if they found out in talking to suppliers that it was going to last the whole month at the beginning of November, they’ve stopped using it or reduced or removed items from their menus,” he says.
Donsky says the availability of lettuce was there, but it came with high pricing, and that could be what was hitting food service outlets.
Pricing on processed
This was particularly so with quick-serve restaurants that use shredded and chopped lettuce. Those products have been limited in supplies, and he notes that pricing went from $22-$24CDN/case to around $60CDN/case.
That said, he believes the worst is behind the industry as it waits for the Southern growing areas to get ready to ship lettuce volumes. “And with U.S. Thanksgiving, U.S. stores would have placed their orders last week for arrival this week, so growers, shippers, and packing houses know what their volume is down south. And they will know what’s available to ship up here, and they can adjust their pricing as such,” says Donsky.
He notes that pricing as of today should begin coming down from highs of $140CDN/case to closer to $110-100CDN/case wholesale, although romaine hearts might stay higher for slightly longer. “It’s a considerable difference from where we were at the beginning of the week, and it should progressively drop,” he says. “Barring any other disaster, the worst is behind us.”
In turn, Canadian restaurants that eliminated the ingredient temporarily may see a return of it within a few weeks.