Small, batch-roasted coffees. Farmstead cheeses. Artisan breads. Why not a salad to complement those offerings? Chiquita Brands International, Inc., Cincinnati, says consumer insights led to the launch of its new Fresh Express artisanal salad line.

“Food is such an important and enjoyable part of our lives, and people want more from what they eat, especially in terms of taste,” says Dean Fahselt, Fresh Express salad artisan. “The artisanal salads are really about selecting the best produce grown with care, and then creating a palette of lettuce varieties that come together in a colorful canvas of complementary flavors. We’ve hosted taste tests to find the right blends of herbs and lettuces that make our artisanal salads so flavorful that dressing is optional.”

Chiquita says a select group of artisanal growers "plant season-appropriate greens and herbs, with select varieties grown in small crops. Leaves are then picked at the peak of freshness and packed in new bags made of 50 percent less plastic than the 2009 Fresh Express Spring Mix bag.

Adds Fahselt, "Our distinctive blends are crafted to deliver seasonal peak-of-flavor taste. As Americans seek to eat more foods that are tied to the seasons, they can now try new, exciting varieties of salad greens."

Chiquita's first two blends are:

*Sierra Crisp Herb – A distinctive herb salad that combines mild taste and crunchiness of Sierra Crisp lettuce with mild red baby butter lettuce and a changing seasonal accent of herbs (e.g., winter herbs: parsley and chervil; summer herbs: parsley and cilantro)

*Wild Rocket Zest – This boldly flavored salad combines robust, peppery Wild Rocket (a wild variety of arugula) with equally complex dark-colored flavorful greens like mustard and Tatsoi for zesty flavors. In the winter, the spinach in this blend will be replaced by chard.

Chiquita says the new products needed new packaging as well. Moreover, officials say their new Natursave(TM) bag, recently won a 2010 Packaging Innovation award from the United Fresh Produce Association.

Fahselt says the new bag "maintains product quality and shelf life of similar Fresh Express blends, while using 50 percent less plastic than the 2009 Fresh Express Spring Mix bag."