LaRosa’s Pioneers ‘The Future Of Fresh’; Rolls Out Hydroponic Lettuce In Salads
Fresher, Sustainable Lettuce Debuts in All LaRosa’s Pizzerias This Week
October 05, 2021 // Franchising.com // CINCINNATI, OHIO - “Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is better and your better, best.” It’s founder Buddy LaRosa’s personal motto and how LaRosa’s continually assesses selections on its menu. And it’s behind a noteworthy change for the regional pizza icon’s 66 pizzerias. Beginning this week, all salads LaRosa’s serves will be made with hydroponically grown lettuce.
What’s the difference? Hydroponic farming happens in a climate-controlled greenhouse instead of an open-air field. The lettuce is grown in a water-based “medium” instead of soil which uses 90% less land, no pesticides, no herbicides and 95% less fuel to ship. So, it’s more sustainable. But what LaRosa’s Guests will more likely notice, is that it’s fresher. Because it’s grown close-by at Pure Green Farms in South Bend, Indiana.
“While we’re best known for pizza, we also serve tens of thousands of salads a year,” said Mark LaRosa, Buddy’s son and President and Chief Culinary Officer of LaRosa’s. “We’ve used iceberg lettuce in our salads for years. But recently, we’ve experienced inconsistent product quality primarily from California growers due to weather conditions there as well as difficulty getting timely delivery,” he said. “The Baby Leaf Lettuce from Pure Green Farms solves both issues. It’s fresh and tastes great. It’s got the same robust crunch that our guests loved about our iceberg lettuce”, said LaRosa.
The hydroponic farming industry has attracted increased investment due to its smaller carbon footprint, higher product yield, minimal labor, and faster growth rate. Hydroponic produce is becoming increasingly popular in grocery stores for its higher nutritional benefits, optimal product consistency and sustainability. LaRosa’s in among the first restaurant chains to serve hydroponic lettuce.
“When we found Pure Green Farms, we were ecstatic. Hydroponic farming already grows lettuce faster. And they are nearby in South Bend. Put those things together and it means our guests will be enjoying salads where the lettuce was harvested less than a week before it was served. That’s a fresh salad”, LaRosa said.
Pure Green Farms’ fully automated, 174,000 square foot hydroponic greenhouse will produce 10,000 pounds of Baby Leaf Lettuce weekly for LaRosa’s 66 pizzerias. LaRosa’s guests will have the freshest, better-than-organic lettuce whether they choose dine-in, carry-out or delivery.
The introduction of hydroponic lettuce at LaRosa’s follows its recent introduction of Deluxe and Create Your Own pizzas made with new plant-based toppings. LaRosa’s plant-based toppings include pepperoni, Italian sausage, meatless chicken, and vegan cheese, and have been widely embraced by its guests.
“We listen to the feedback we get from our Guests every week,” LaRosa continued. “We continue to hear how important high-quality, high-nutrition and great taste are to them. So, hydroponic lettuce is a logical addition for us,” he concluded.
The LaRosa’s Research and Development team led by LaRosa and Research Chef Connie Banning spent several years of testing and due-diligence to get the taste just right before bringing both plant-based pizza toppings and hydroponic lettuce to LaRosa’s guests.
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