Church Bros. to tout new products at PMA Fresh Summit
by Tim Linden | October 13, 2010
It is a simple concept, but Church Bros. LLC believes it has developed the
perfect sandwich leaf.
Utilizing old fashioned breeding methods, the company's seed specialist
trialed many different Green Leaf lettuce varieties until he found the one with
the exact right specification.
"It is the perfect leaf," said Ernst Van Eeghen, director of marketing and
product development for the Salinas, CA-based firm. “It is 100 percent
useable with no waste because it does not have to trimmed or snapped to fit a
burger bun or sandwich bread.”
Consequently, Mr. Eeghen said that a typical package of the firm’s “Teen
Green Sandwich Leaves” yields many more leaves per pound than the
“On average we get about 40 to 45 leaves per pound,” he said. “In the
summer, it can be as high as 60 leaves, and in the winter it can be as low as
30 leaves, but typically it is 40 to 45 leaves, and at least 80 percent of those
leaves are four to six inches long.”
Mr. Van Eeghen explained that a traditional whole leaf pack has much larger
leaves yielding about 20-25 single leaves per pound. Each leaf has to be
snapped before it can be placed on a bun or a piece of bread because it is just
too big. The snapped-off piece is typically waste.
“Though the cost of our pack is slightly higher, on a per-leaf basis it is much,
much lower,” he stated.
“Teen Green Sandwich leaves” are a foodservice item packaged in two-pound
bags in either a six- or 12-pound carton. The Church Bros. executive called
the reception in the marketplace “phenomenal, very, very good.”
He said that broadline foodservice distributors as well as national quick serve
restaurants have beat a path to the company’s processing facility to place
“Since we developed this pack, there have been imitators, and we consider
that flattering,” he said. “We wish them luck, but we are pretty good at what
we do. We grow this product differently, we harvest it differently and we pack
it differently. We have year-round availability, so we are not worried about the
Mr. Van Eeghen said that it is simply a better product than the traditional
whole leaf and that the company is excited to introduce it to more members
of the trade during the upcoming Produce Marketing Association Fresh
Summit in Orlando, FL.
During the trade show, Church Bros. also will be touting its new arugula
variety, which it is marketing as “Wasabi Arugula.” Again, through traditional
seed selection methods, this variety was developed that features a flavor
profile resembling wasabi.
“It has a peppery horseradish kick,” Mr. Van Eeghen said. “We developed it in
the spring of this year and introduced it at the Culinary Institute of America
last week (in the middle of September). It was a tremendous hit.”
The Wasabi Arugula is also a foodservice product aimed at both white
tablecloth and casual dining establishments.
Church Bros. is also using it in its spring mix program to produce what Mr.
Van Eeghen called a “spicier spring mix.”
He added that the development of both of these new products, especially the
new arugula variety, fits well with the company’s goal of bringing fresh
produce to the forefront.
“We want to help grow the produce category and bring it to the center of the
plate,” he said. “To do that, you have to make it exciting — and flavor is the
Toward this end, Mr. Van Eeghen said that Church Bros. has a number of
other products in the development stage that could be on its product list very
“We are working on a red mustard arugula that looks promising,” he said.
He continued, “The Church brothers (Steve and Tom) have traditionally been
innovators in this industry with a long list of firsts. We are continuing that
tradition. We hired a seed specialist who has 100 different trials going in the
leaf category to find new products. We know the trends and we listen to our
customers. The one recurring word we hear is 'flavor.’“