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Greens galore: New report shows salad has staying power

While salads may have had the reputation of being a ‘diet’ food or just a side, that’s no longer the case.

4 min read

Consumer Insights


(Flickr/Ralph Daily)

While salads may have had the reputation of being a ‘diet’ food or just a side, that’s no longer the case. Today traditional salads are a universal staple available at a wide range of eateries, found on nearly 90% of all restaurant menus, according to Datassential’s new MenuTrends Keynote Report: Salad. Our extensive report includes data covering both green salads and deli salads (not necessarily made with a base of greens, like potato salad or tabbouleh), featuring insights from more than 1,000 consumers and over 300 operators. The following is just a sample of what you’ll find in this report, which also showcases unique ready-to-eat retail salad products as well as trending non-traditional salads like poke, the Hawaiian fresh fish salad taking the fast-casual world by storm.

Salad grows into a concept all its own

Green salads are currently experiencing a growth phase, with high penetration at restaurants as well as high consumption rates, both at home and away from home. Over half of all consumers reported eating a green salad at least once every three days, either as an appetizer or entrée. Perhaps shaped by an overall shift in healthier eating trends, nearly half of respondents report their salad consumption has increased in the past year.

A number of operators have pushed salad into the business spotlight, creating salad-centric restaurants that call out fresh ingredients and better-for-you versions of fast food. Our report includes an appendix featuring a number of these chains, many of which offer make-your-own salad options. Customers will find a Chipotle-esque assembly line at chains like like 60-plus-location Sweetgreen, which also features customized bowls.Phoenix-area Salad & Go is emphasizing speed and convenience with its drive-thru salad concept, giving customers a fast salad experience.

Customized salad options can even be found at restaurants that seem to be on the opposite side of the spectrum. Take Roots Pizza, a two-unit concept in Chicago – at the core of its menu is,of course, pizza but the chain’s salad selection is a close second. “We take our salad seriously,” the company’s website states, adding that if you think salad’s bland, boring, or blah, think again because “at Roots, it ain’t rabbit food.” Roots offers 50 various salad ingredients, from pickled fennel to grilled gyro sausage and crispy shallots. Whatever your concept, salad-centric or not, the popularity of premium salads has made it all the more important now to take salad seriously and add options that are healthy and enticing.

Ingredient insanity – what’s offered and what’s popular

There’s a seemingly endless array of salad types and salad ingredients – from caesar to the recently trending kale caesar to items like roasted brussels sprouts and just about any vegetable you could imagine. We tested salad attributes like dressings and toppings to uncover rich salad insights. We found that consumers’ favorite salad ingredients remain some of the most classic ones, like cheddar cheese, croutons, and ranch dressing. To add a bit of intrigue to your salad menu, check out burrata cheese, a creamy option seen as a premium alternative to mozzarella that has increased nearly 150% since 2012; or cauliflower, often prepared roasted or curried on salads, up 70% in the same time frame. Find all this and much more in our full Salad Keynote Report.

Renee Lee is a senior publications specialist at Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. For more information and to purchase the Salad Keynote Report contact Datassential managing director Brian Darr at [email protected].


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