Mann Packing Company has a new “Better Burger Leaf” lettuce that is being gobbled up by the foodservice industry. A leaf of the Better Burger Leaf lettuce features a round shape that fits a hamburger bun with no waste, bright green frilly edges, a thin mid-rib, crunch throughout the leaf, and a sweet flavor, without the bitterness found in some lettuces.
These are characteristics that foodservice operators have been asking for said Rick Russo, director of foodservice and customer solutions at Mann Packing Co. Inc. in Salinas, California, and
Mann’s Better Burger Leaf is a hybrid variety that has characteristics of both green leaf and Iceberg lettuce, Russo says. The company has been offering green leaf, Romaine, and red leaf whole-leaf products to the foodservice industry for several years.
“We are the industry leader in providing whole-leaf-type products, and over the last several years we have had a lot of inquiries from customers who would come to our field trials or visit on field tours, expressing a desire to have a leaf that was more round versus the typically elongated leaves of Romaine or green leaf lettuce — something that would fit better on a sandwich,” Russo says.
Mann Packing does trial work with seed companies, and in the process has the opportunity to see many of the new varieties developed by the seed companies in their breeding programs, Russo says. In the course of those activities, Mann came across the Better Burger Leaf variety, which resonated because it had the characteristics foodservice customers had requested.
Mann Packing trialed the round-leaf variety for 18 months to see how it performed through all growing areas, Russo said. In the process, the variety’s other desirable traits, in addition to shape, became evident. One of those was the consistent green color from the outer leaves all the way to the inner leaves, so the lettuce on every sandwich is always going to have that nice bright green color.
Since the product’s introduction last year to the foodservice industry, demand has outstripped production.
“It has been very well accepted by the industry, Russo says. “The growth rate has been phenomenal to the point that we have been trying to keep up with our acreage plantings.”