Alberta lettuce scores Canada-wide Wendy's contract thanks to good 'bun coverage'
Whole Leaf greenhouse in Coaldale chosen for reliable lettuce leaf size
From beef and bison to Taber corn, Alberta has several signature foods attributed to its name. But thanks to the endorsement of a major fast-food chain, Alberta lettuce is now creeping into the spotlight, too.
The Whole Leaf greenhouse in Coaldale, Alta., has been chosen by Wendy's to supply the lettuce for all of its Canadian locations.
And while that includes the lettuce for the chain's salads and sandwiches, Rindi Bristol — the senior director of sales with Whole Leaf — said it was chosen for the job largely because of the excellent burger "bun coverage" provided by its lettuce.
"Good bun coverage is having a certain amount of leaves in every head of lettuce that we grow, and that are roughly about 10 centimetres tall by about eight centimetres wide," Bristol told David Gray on the Thursday edition of the Calgary Eyeopener.
Engineering the perfect burger bun lettuce, Bristol said, was achieved by the staff and growers at Whole Leaf working closely with the Wendy's research, development and procurement teams to ensure specifications were met.
The lettuce used for the burgers is called green Batavia, and is characterized by its crunchy, dense leaves and vibrant colour.
"[Wendy's was] just looking for a Canadian producer that was able to give them consistent supply, and give them a supply of leafy greens that … didn't have the volatility that we see in the food markets," Bristol said.
Greenhouse reliability a factor, exec says
That volatility, Bristol said, can involve the elements. Harsher weather can batter produce grown outdoors and in the field markets.
Because the staff at the greenhouse can control so many of the growing conditions for the greens, Bristol said they can cultivate consistent burger lettuce.
"We're able to monitor … the climate and the humidity and the heat and the CO2, and all of those things that really make plants grow," Bristol said.
"So, we're just able to get a great, bright colour, [and] glossy leaves. We're able to have a nice crunch to it, and a lot of juice in the leaves as well."
When asked if she hopes Alberta lettuce garners the same reputation as the province's beef, Bristol was optimistic.
"We sure hope so," she said.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.