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New packaging, promotions “re-invent” the bagged salad line

Bagged salads jump-started the fresh-cut produce industry and today account for nearly $5 billion in sales. A few big companies, one of which is Monterey, Calif.-based Dole Fresh Vegetables, dominate the segment. Dole’s share of the market is growing, approaching 40 percent, and it is the world’s largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables, with revenues of $7.6 billion in 2008.

Growth has slowed in recent years, however. Dole hopes to change that by re-inventing its product packaging and launching a full national marketing program to encourage healthy eating with Dole bagged salads.
The most noticeable re-invention, or re-imagining, as Dole calls it, of the salad line is the redesigned packaging. The new design was rolled out at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in Anaheim, Calif., in October and hit stores that month. Canadian consumers started to see the new packaging in November.

Packaging and Materials

This summer, Dole introduced its new Easy-Open salad bag, responding to consumer research that found the biggest complaint shoppers had with bagged salads was not being able to open them. Dole’s innovative packaging requires only a “pinch and pull” to open, which allows the consumers’ first impressions to be of the salad in the bag, not the bag itself. Even without using scissors, there’s little chance that the bag will be opened too forcefully, resulting in lettuce all over the floor.

The new bags also have larger viewing areas to highlight the freshness of the product inside. Customers can look over the salad, inspecting the entire product through clear areas on the top, bottom, front and back. The new design also reduces the amount of ink needed to print on the bag by 26 percent, an added value and cost savings, according to the company.

“Our bolder, more consistent packaging makes it easier for retailers to stock Dole, while the clearer, more transparent bag design ‘opens up the windows’ to allow consumers to inspect the blend top to bottom to ensure quality and freshness,” said Ronda Reed, vice president of marketing for Dole Fresh Vegetables. “Instead of the standard practice of using graphics along the bottom of the bag, we wanted to unveil the bottom and deliberately showcase the quality and freshness of Dole salads – and, in the end, give consumers even more reasons to choose Dole.”

Packaging Design

Dole’s 32 salad blends and nine salad kits are all redesigned into packaging that encourages increased use of fresh-cut salads. The new approach is a comprehensive re-imagining of the bagged salad line – updating the look as well as adding information to help consumers make the right decision about the salad blend or kit they purchase.

The Dole salad line now includes a taste and texture scale – called the Salad Guide – on each bag that lets shoppers know about the unique qualities of the produce in the bag. The scale rates each blend one through five, one being mild and five being bold for taste, and one being tender and five being crunchy on the texture scale. The scale is the result of years of consumer research and is one of the first such programs in the salad segment.

The Salad Guide was designed to help consumers pick out their desired salad easily, and it also encourages people to try new salads. The guide eliminates some of the risk of trying something new because consumers know what they are getting into, Reed said.

The information on the packaging doesn’t stop with the Salad Guide. Bags also carry a section labeled “Pairs well with…” that provides serving suggestions for sprucing up salads. The recipe suggestions were created by Dole chefs and were designed to incorporate more produce into the salad ingredients. For example, a shopper that buys a Spring Mix salad, described as bold and tender, would find that it pairs well with balsamic vinaigrette, crumbled goat cheese, julienne sliced sun-dried tomatoes and Mediterranean herbs. Buyers also can visit http://www.dole.com/salads for nutritional information, recipes and serving suggestions – another bit of information displayed on the bagged salad packaging.

The salad blends fall into four categories, with varying degrees of taste and texture among them. They can be:

• Bold and Tender – Spring Mix, Baby Spinach, Tender Garden, Sweet Baby Lettuces and Spinach.
• Bold and Crunchy – Mediterranean Blend, Field Greens, European Blend and Seven Lettuces.
• Mild and Tender – Butter & Red Leaf, Hearts Delight, Hearts of Romaine and Leafy Romaine.
• Mild and Crunchy – Iceberg Butter Crunch, American Blend, Chopped Romaine, Very Veggie, Classic Iceberg, Just Lettuce, Classic Romaine, Italian Blend and Greener Selection.

“The new on-pack advancements are intended to further differentiate Dole salads in the produce section and inspire consumers to experiment with new salad blends and recipes – directing them to other aisles in the produce department,” said Russell Evans, senior brand manager for Dole Fresh Vegetables. “For retailers, we’ve incorporated the same packaging design as other Dole products for a more uniformly branded Dole section. Ideally, the end result is increased consumer passion and excitement in the category.”

Marketing Plan

Dole launched a national campaign in November to reintroduce the Dole salad brand to consumers. It’s one of the largest programs ever for salads, according to the company. There are national television ads, magazine, billboard and digital ad placements, in-store displays, social media and other public relations events to reach U.S. and Canadian consumers in a variety of ways.

At the center of the campaign was the development of a salad spokesperson – the “face” of Dole salads. He’s known as the Dole Salad Guide, and he’s positioned as an enthusiastic salad expert who can help guide consumers through the new packaging design and the features on the package.

The Dole Salad Guide will be featured in the company’s television commercials and ad placements, as well as in the store on floor graphics, shelf banners and shopping carts. He also is the face of the Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/DOLESaladGuide) and Twitter account (http://twitter.com/DoleSaladGuide). He’ll also be making media appearances to promote the brand, including the introduction of the new design at Fresh Summit in October.

Originally posted Monday, Jan. 4, 2010

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