Fresh & Naked: the waste-minimising bagged salad

by Great British Chefs 4 August 2022

The average bag of salad you might find in a supermarket has gone through an intense cleaning process which damages the delicate leaves, meaning the salad begins to break down as soon as the bag is opened and a lot of it ends up in the bin. With their great tasting and long-lasting, unwashed salads, Fresh and Naked are proving this doesn’t need to be the case. We find out more about their unique approach from MD, Henry Shropshire.

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Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

The height of convenience, bagged salads are unquestionably one of the quickest and easiest ways of getting greens onto your plate. After all, what could be simpler than popping open a bag, grabbing a handful of leaves and being on your way? But sadly, it’s not quite as easy as that. The majority of bagged salads have an incredibly short shelf life and don’t survive much beyond the first serving, leading to 40% of them being thrown away (according to figures from government waste advisory body WRAP). However, since 2010 fresh & naked have been demonstrating that, by following a careful growing process and minimising the washing of the leaves, it’s possible to create a top-quality bagged baby leaf salad that stays fresh for longer whilst also tasting amazing.

Launched in 2010 by the family-owned G’s Growers, fresh & naked do away with the harsh washing processes that most bagged salads go through, to preserve both quality and shelf life, as MD Henry Shropshire explains: ‘The reason it’s called fresh & naked is because it hasn’t really been touched, as such,’ explains Henry, who is the grandson of G’s founder Guy Shropshire, ‘most bagged salads have been washed in chlorine and gas flushed but as soon as you do that it damages the leaves; the natural protective layer gets stripped and they break down in the bag. That’s why we don’t fiddle with ours. The leaves do need a quick rinse in a colander before eating, but you can have a handful a day for a week from the fridge without it breaking down.’

The long-lasting, high-quality nature of fresh & naked’s salads isn’t purely down to the fact they’re unwashed though, it’s also the result of a carefully monitored growing process and rigorous food safety standards throughout the supply chain. Grown almost exclusively on the East coast of the UK (apart from lamb’s lettuce, which can’t be grown here), the baby leaves used in fresh & naked’s salads benefit from a cool sea breeze, which gives them a thicker leaf structure. The leaves used are also chosen specifically for their flavour and robustness. The East coast’s dry climate meanwhile, allows the growers to have total control over irrigation, which is tested and monitored closely.

Something which is unique to fresh & naked is their use of electrolysed water to effectively clean the baby leaves without damaging them or effecting their flavour, ‘it’s essentially just ordinary salt water but the way we use it is quite innovative,’ explains Henry, ‘we just give the leaves a fresh misting of it, but because the water droplets are negatively charged, they spin off in a sharp direction when they hit the leaf and kill any bacteria on the surface.’ This, along with plenty of close monitoring throughout the production line, ultimately leads to a bagged salad that is safe to eat after a quick wash, but also stays fresh for over a week.

The eight-day shelf life of fresh & naked salads is by no means all about customer convenience though, it’s equally about reducing wastage, ‘eighty percent of food waste occurs in the home,’ says Henry, ‘which is why we don’t want to produce a salad that just gets chucked in the bin after one use. But there’s also a lot of wastage in supermarkets too, and by nature of our baby leaf having a later sell-by date, it’s more likely that it will sell in time.’

However, waste reduction is just one part of fresh & naked’s broader aim to be as sustainable as possible. It all begins in the fields, where there is a real focus on regenerative agriculture; G’s growers are committed to reducing soil tillage as much as possible and try to avoid the use of artificial fertiliser wherever possible, while they only ever crop the same piece of land 1.2 times a year, which is below the national average. When it comes to packaging, fresh & naked initially sold their salad in recyclable cardboard boxes, before reverting to plastic bags in order to preserve the freshness of the product, but they’re constantly looking for alternatives, ‘I’d rather we didn’t have plastic but it ultimately just prevents so much food waste,’ says Henry, ‘there’s still a lot we can do and by the end of 2022, all of our lines will be packaged in film which can be recycled in-store.’

The short shelf life of bagged salad is something which a lot of people have come to accept, but fresh & naked have proved that this doesn’t have to be the case. By both carefully managing the growth of their baby leaves and eradicating the harsh washing process, they’ve created something that not only lasts for over a week in the fridge, but also tastes fantastic. It may need a quick rinse before going on your plate but that’s a small price to pay for the amount of wastage that fresh & naked prevents.

Buy fresh & naked salads exclusively at Tesco