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Salad has come a long way in the past couple of decades. What used to be a hunk of iceberg lettuce and a few cherry tomatoes, usually served as an afterthought to the main dish, has become a staple of the American diet.

Instead of lettuce and tomatoes (and maybe a few cucumbers if you got lucky) salads are now a meal of their own. And people are eating more and more of them in an effort to live healthier lives. That’s nothing but good news for the produce industry, which is innovating with new varieties and options for shoppers.

And the results are fantastic. A few years ago, kale salad was nowhere to be found, but now it’s a staple in restaurants and grocery stores. I remember the first time I tried living lettuce and realized I had no idea it could be so fresh and flavorful. I had been missing out on it for years!

More than anything, consumers want fresh, quality produce they can trust. Restaurants want to put “locally grown” on their menus and grocery stores are starting to use grower names and locations in their marketing as the local food gains momentum.

And when outbreaks of E. coli hit their lettuce supplies, consumers want to be sure that what they’re feeding their families is safe. That’s where greenhouse growers can really shine.

People like the team behind Great Lakes Growers, which you can read about on page 12, are on the cutting edge of this trend. By cutting down delivery times and offering options like living lettuce or herbs that were harvested just days earlier, they’re trying to improve the quality, shelf life and general taste of leafy greens for the average consumer. So far, they've succeeded and the innovations are really taking off.

Just as American tastes are changing, so are their shopping habits. With the advent of online services like Amazon and a plethora of meal kit delivery services like Sun Basket, Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, shoppers want delivery to their doorstep with the click of a button.

Great Lakes Growers is taking advantage of that trend too by shipping fresh herbs, living lettuce and other leafy greens straight to customers’ doorsteps. Combining the ease of online ordering with the freshness of quick delivery, they’re changing the salad game for the better yet again.

Kate Spirgen, Editor | kspirgen@gie.net | 216-393-0277