SALINAS, Calif. — European inspiration, in-field experimentation and old-school salesmanship contributed to the creation and growth of the popular four-head Artisan Lettuce retail pack from Tanimura & Antle.
Each clamshell contains four varieties of lettuce, selected by packers in the field from among six options: red gem, green gem, red oak, green oak, red tango and green tango.
"Ten years ago or so when we started this program we brought (the varieties) from other parts of the world," said Mark Adamek, director of romaine, artisan and mixed leaf production for the company. "Since then, European seed producers and American seed producers have jumped on board, and now we’re able to secure the seed here locally, including at our own seed company …
"We just thought putting it all in one container it would be like a round-the-world trip in a salad," Adamek said. "That’s literally the reason we started it – because it was different and it gave a lot of assortment in one package.”
The program grew as people had a chance to try it. Adamek, who recounted the story of the product during a field tour July 27, sent samples everywhere he could.
"Anybody had any interest whatsoever, I’d put it in a Styrofoam ice chest and ship it to them," Adamek said. "It was a very hands-on, low-tech way of promoting, but it worked. Especially when you can send it to chefs, corporate chefs.”
When the company first began offering the product, it planted the different varieties in separate plant beds and then would mix them on the packing platform. Tanimura & Antle knew it would be ideal to switch to planting multiple varieties together, but it was no small feat.
“It’s very challenging because seasonality of these products differs in different temperature ranges," Adamek said. "That was one of our biggest challenges – have it all be ready at the same time. It was hard.”
To realize that vision, the company did trials with thousands of varieties over the course of years.
"That’s how we got to this point," Adamek said. "It was really cool."
For an update from Adamek on the 2018 summer season in Salinas, check out this article on ThePacker.com.