Market Minute: Record high lettuce market as demand exceeds supply
Most everyone I know loves to have a salad whether at home or in a restaurant. Fast food establishments use a large amount of lettuce for their hamburgers and sandwiches. Fresh packaged salad mixes are a popular favorite among consumers and a profitable category for retailers. But lettuce is going through a bumpy road at this time.
In talking to some of the top growers and shippers, I'm told that California Iceberg, Romaine and leaf lettuce continue to be very tight on supplies and will be until sometime after Thanksgiving. The Salinas Valley is finishing up a little early and the desert areas will not start sooner than expected to make up for the shortage.
No big volume is expected in the desert as that area was affected by weather during planting and recently from rain and hail events.
The best Iceberg and Romaine lettuce is currently being harvested in Huron, CA. However, there are very few growers left that are producing in that area due to the Central Valley's water shortages.
Prices are extremely high and getting higher, and demand has been very good.
Iceberg lettuce: Supply is very light. Demand very good. Market about steady.
Leaf lettuce: Demand exceeds supply on light available product. Market higher.
Romaine lettuce: Light supply available. Demand exceeds supply. Market on 12/3 count Romaine Hearts slightly higher.
Since lettuce is one of the top volume vegetable items, almost every shopper demands it. Whenever an item shortage or other supply problem exists, some retailers elect to cut back on display space. When it comes to an important sales category such as lettuce, try to maintain your space allocation so customers don't go elsewhere to buy it. Keep a positive attitude on selling. Eventually, lettuce, like other produce items, will be back in the groove again.
Your suppliers can give you more support. Check with them for guidance.
Ron Pelger is a produce industry adviser and industry writer. He can be contacted at 775-843-2394 or by e-mail at [email protected].