17 Jun 2019

New lettuce varieties step up to the plate

A spoon, a wrap, and that crunchy bite as you sink your teeth into a healthy taco – lettuce has always been the foundation for tasty salads, but with recent innovations the humble leaf now offers much more.

Food trends have a major impact on the breeding direction of vegetable seed companies. With the explosion of health conscious eating, lifestyle choices like vegetarianism, as well as the sharp and rapid increase in the vegetable snacking segment, Rijk Zwaan has been busy crafting new lettuce types that not only meet these demands, but are bred with sustainability in mind, such as resistance breeding, improving yields and reliability, and natural traits that help food to stay fresher for longer.

Rijk Zwaan’s Technical Sales Representative, Param Turna, said there are many opportunities to create new products that inspire the food service industry and excite consumers.  

“We’re excited about new lettuce types for the sandwich market, which feature a flat, open leaf with a frilly edge and an iceberg crunch,” Param said.

As consumers look for lighter food options, Rijk Zwaan has responded with its newest innovations: Crunchy Cos and Snack lettuce.

“Crunchy lettuces have leaves that are green on the outside and inside, are elongated like a Cos lettuce and have the crisp and crunchy bite of an Iceberg lettuce. These combined characteristics create an excellent taste experience,” Param said.

The larger Crunchy Cos varieties like Coronita RZ and Verodita RZ are being used in place of tacos and flatbread wraps, offering healthier and gluten-free lettuce options for ‘on the go’ products.

The smaller Crunchy varieties have inspired a new trend called ‘Snack lettuce’, a concept developed in Spain especially for the modern tapas market. The concept was recognised with an innovation award at the 2018 Fruit Attraction, Spain. Tendita RZ is the first variety developed with bite-sized leaves that are sweet and hold their unique spoon shape and crunch even with warm fillings or acidic toppings or dips.

“Snack lettuce is an extension of the Crunchy lettuce category and this positioning can start a new trend in Australia and earn a premium,” Param said.

“Crunchy and snack lettuces are suitable for mechanical harvesting, both for heads and as a loose leaf product.”

Two of the greatest success stories in lettuce are the award-winning Knox™ trait, which delays oxidation in cut surfaces of lettuce, and the Salanova® lettuce. With just one cut at its base, a mature Salanova lettuce separates into multiple evenly proportioned, baby-sized leaves. 

“Salanova has re-invigorated the Australian salad market with the recent launch of a butter leaf mix in leading supermarkets. This is an indication of peoples’ eagerness for top quality leaves,” Param said.

“We see huge growth in the pre-prepared salad segment and demand for bagged salads that are fresh and offer a range of leaves, so we’re thrilled to have more lettuce varieties coming through that combine Salanova with Knox. Knox is a significant advancement for reducing waste and this extra boost to leaf quality means a better experience for consumers.”

For more information about Rijk Zwaan’s lettuce innovations, visit rijkzwaan.com.au/sustainability

Come and see the Rijk Zwaan team at Hort Connections, stands 43 and 44.