Kale, kale everywhere: Veggie bringing green to food sales

Dive Brief:

  • Nielsen’s Product Insider tool said kale saw significant increases in sales last year, according to research conducted for Market Watch. The curly green vegetable is being used in pet food, with dog food sales with the ingredient increasing 66% since last year.
  • Between, Feb. 2016 and Feb. 2017, sales increased by as much as 391% for frozen breakfast entrees with kale, 143% for fish food, vitamins and supplements 125%, and pasta sauce with kale by 60%. Kale on its own only saw dollar sales increase by about 5% over the last year, according to the Nielsen data.
  • “Companies can add a dash of kale to make any food, including junk food, look like a superfood,” said Lindsay Moyer, a senior nutritionist at the nonprofit advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Kale is sometimes a marketing ploy that gives foods a health halo.”

Dive Insight:

Food lovers and nutritionists have been on the kale bandwagon for the past decade, contributing to an increase in kale production of nearly 60 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Sales have shown no sign of slowing down since then.

Kale first became popular on TV cooking shows before a local grassroots movement took hold and it's popularity exploded. Social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook are flush with photos and recipes of kale.

Many manufacturers have realized people associate kale with eating healthier and are starting to use the ingredient more in their foods. Everything from pasta sauce to baby food now contain kale. Many of these products are seeing an increase in sales simply because they contain the leafy superfood.

Some major food producers have taken notice. General Mills has invested in startup Rhythm Superfoods, a maker of kale, beet and broccoli chips. Kale has a strong lifestyle appeal and is popular with young adults because it is rich in vitamins and minerals.

Not every new product with kale has been a success—yogurt, for instance, has seen sluggish sales—but as long as consumers are willing to pay more for these items, food manufacturers will continue to add it to everything they can find.

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Filed Under: Manufacturing Grocery Ingredients
Top image credit: Deborah Barrington