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Continuing on its mission to reignite the packaged salad category and less than six months after introducing its revamped Dole salads line, Dole Fresh Vegetables, based in Monterey, CA, has launched the first Dole salad kits with a commitment to wholesome, all-natural ingredients that extends to the very bottom of the bag.

Dole's all-natural salad kits now combine farm-fresh lettuces and vegetables with all-natural toppings, including nuts, croutons, cheeses, seasonings and dressings. The kits began shipping to U.S. stores in April and the rollout will continue through June.

The reformulated line is a direct response to years of consumer research showing that many salad consumers, while recognizing the healthy, flavorful appeal of packaged salads, have reservations about the wholesomeness of certain salad kit ingredients, especially the dressings and toppings. To qualify as all-natural, the ingredients in Dole’s salad kits contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

"Our goal continues to be nothing short of reshaping the category by giving salad consumers compelling new reasons to increase their consumption — and in-kitchen experimentation — of packaged salads," Michelle Gonsalves, director of marketing-new products for Dole Fresh Vegetables, said in a May 3 press release. “With the introduction of All Natural Dole Salad Kits, we’re giving busy salad lovers exactly what they’ve told us they want: fresh, complete salads kits that not only deliver robust flavors and high-quality toppings, but also are free of the ingredient unknowns associated with salad kits in the past.”

Last year, Dole revamped its bagged salad line with a series of product, packaging and marketing firsts developed from extensive in-store and in- home consumer research to reshape the way America shops for and consumes prepackaged salads. Chief among those innovations was an easy- open bag developed by Dole product engineers in response to customer demands for easier-to-open salad packaging.

The bag, which is also used for Dole’s all-natural salad kits, can be opened with a simple pull. In addition to new “all-natural” banners, the bag features a “suggested entree” panel that provides protein, seasoning and side dish serving ideas to enable salad users to turn the salad kit into a wholesome salad meal.

Similar to Dole salads, which was expanded last year to 32 blends, Dole has extended its all-natural salad kit line to appeal to widening consumer preferences, seasonal purchases and consumption trends. The 14 salad kits, including four distinct Caesar and seasonal varieties, now distinguish the line, which also has an all-natural coleslaw kit.

Beyond boasting a variety of flavor profiles, Dole’s salad kits now include dried fruit (cherries, cranberries and pineapple), nuts (almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower kernels), cheeses (bleu, cheddar, gruyere, parmesan, romano and swiss), seasonings (cracked pepper and herbs) and other toppings (crisp noodles, dried salami, tortilla strips and several varieties of croutons). Also included in each kit is one of nine all-natural salad dressings or vinaigrettes — ranging from Dole’s own apple cider dijon vinaigrette and pumpkin harvest vinaigrette to three varieties of Caesar dressing — made exclusively for Dole.

Like the 32-blend line of Dole salads introduced last year, all-natural Dole salad kits were developed following years of consumer research of packaged salad shopping, purchasing and usage and attitude trends. The findings showed a growing reluctance by packaged salad users to fully embrace salad kits due to lingering doubts about the origins and wholesomeness of certain kit ingredients, namely toppings and dressings.

“Our research found that while consumers are drawn to packaged salads for their obvious flavor, nutrition and wholesome benefits, their trust in salad kits has been compromised due to the preservatives, artificial flavors, colors and other ingredients in salad dressings and toppings,” Ms. Gonsalves added in the press release. “At the end of the day, today’s salad consumers simply want to know what is -- and what isn’t -- in the non-produce ingredients of their salad kit. The launch of all-natural Dole salad kits solves this dilemma by extending the all-natural commitment beyond the lettuces and vegetables to everything else in the bag.”