- Kale may still be the king of green leafy vegetables, but other types of fresh produce are jockeying for the top position, according to a new report from Packaged Facts titled, "Fresh Produce: U.S. Market Trends and Opportunities."
- The report notes that consumption of kale spiked 4.6% between 2011 and 2016 to a total of 200 million pounds, according to Food Navigator, with its popularity driven by novelty, perceived healthfulness, and the role it plays in today's more produce-centric diets.
- Brussels sprouts and collard greens are two main contenders for the throne, with Packaged Facts predicting a 10.1% rise in consumption during the next five years for the former and 6.3% for the latter over that same period. Other vegetables gaining in popularity are broccoli, cucumbers, pumpkin and sweet potato.
Kale's meteoric rise from vegetable-next-door to a must-have superfood was driven by three factors, David Sax, author of "The Tastemakers," told The New Hope Network: versatility, availability and cultural significance. He said for an ingredient to be the next kale, it must share that vegetable's three star factors.
Kale can be eaten raw or cooked, has a long growing season in a variety of climates, and has become an emblem of healthy eating that restaurants and food manufacturers were quick to capitalize on. "It was an edible Prius. It was a cultural signifier," Sax said.
According to Nielsen data, kale has seen significant sales growth during the past year. Frozen breakfast entrees that feature kale experienced 391% sales growth between 2016 and 2017 alone. Dollar sales of kale-based vitamins and supplements also grew by 125%, and pasta sauce that featured the superfood saw sales climb 60% during the same period.
The vegetable became ubiquitous not simply because it was a health food, but because it became symbolic of the health food movement. Because of this, some feel it's unlikely another ingredient will experience the same stardom. However, this won't stop ingredient producers and food manufacturers from trying to take their products from niche to mainstream.
So, while leafy greens and other vegetables continue to make forays into occupying a more favored position in the American diet, don't look for kale to be dethroned anytime soon.