The Strauss Food company in Israel, one of the country's leading dairy, ice cream, confectionery and chocolate products, is entering the chilled, ready-to-eat salads niche, a market valued in Israel at NIS800m (US$170.2m) per year.

Strauss executives said the company is investing US$2m in the new enterprise, after purchasing 51% of an established local company that processes chilled ready-to-eat salads and a wide range of chilled vegetables packed in bags for home cooking.

According to data supplied by Strauss, based on official statistics, Israel holds the world record for consumption of vegetables, amounting to 180 kilos per person per year. The consumption of fresh vegetables in Israel is valued at NIS2bn per year.

There are several small and midrange companies processing chilled vegetables, some of which established their own brand and are under contract to supply the big food chains.

Strauss Food's entry into an already competitive market, albeit still in its infancy in Israel, is based on the world trend which shows a steady increase in the consumption of chilled, ready-to-eat salads; and reflects the growth potential in Israel and the large profit margin in the ready-to-eat salads category.

By Aaron Priel, correspondent