Peruvian sweet onions meet demand all year round
Imported sweet onions help keep retail store shelves well stocked, profitable in the fall and winter.
Originally printed in the September 2021 issue of Produce business.
During the winter, buyers’ choices for flat-shaped sweet onions, the same unique shape as Vidalia sweet onions, may be limited. Retailers who want to satisfy buyers must import sweet onions from Peru, the main supplier of sweet onions for fall and winter.
Because they start shipping in August and September, at the end of Vidalia shipments, Peruvian sweet onions often accompany many fall and winter events and holidays. They can be a key ingredient in many buyers’ vacation recipes, as well as at football nights and family reunions. Marketing this basket-making item effectively can help a retailer increase their sales of onions and increase sales of other products.
While onions made up just 3.5% of product sales volume in the most recent fourth quarter, they contribute about 5% of margin dollars, says Brandon Bentley, vegetable category sales manager for Best markets, based in Williamsville, NY. “Peruvian onions are huge for fall and winter produce,” he says. “Locking out this category can make the difference in a successful overall season. “
“Peruvian onions are huge for fall and winter produce. Locking in this category can make the difference in a successful overall season. “
– Brandon Bentley, Top Markets
One of the advantages of supplying Peruvian sweet onions in the fall and winter is the improved product of the growing region. “Over the years, Peru’s reputation has grown in importance,” says Mark Breimeister, sweet onion specialist at Potandon Produce LLC, Idaho Falls, ID. “Because they ship longer than Vidalias, Peruvian sweet onions are the cornerstone of our sweet onion business, just behind Vidalias. We believe they are of equal importance to the Vidalias.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, Peru accounts for 23.7% of fresh onion imports to the United States, second behind Mexico (62.3%). In 2020, Peru exported 315 million pounds of onions to the United States, more than the four-year average of $ 305 million. The export value is $ 64 million, the highest in recent years and over $ 51 million in 2017.
“Fall and winter sweet onions are important for retail sales because there is a year-round demand for sweet onions,” says Troy Bland, Managing Director of Bland Farms LLC, headquartered in Glennville, GA. “We have found that consumers crave the sweet flavor that our onions provide all year round. We do believe, however, that it is important to build excitement and anticipation around each season to keep buyers interested.
KEEP THE BALL MOVING
Peruvian sweet onions are helping maintain momentum in sweet onion sales, says Matthew Gideon, director of sales and commodities for Marketing of key fruits, Greencastle, Pennsylvania.
“Our Peruvian sweet onions are an integral part of our year round sweet onion program,” he says. “In recent years, the demand for sweet onions has grown steadily. This demand has been fueled by increased consumer awareness and the growing popularity of sweet onions. “
Sweet onions account for 25% of dollar sales in the onion category, just behind yellow onions, which make up 28%, according to NielsenIQ. In unit sales, sweet onions are the third leading onion category, at 20.4%, behind yellow onions (25.8%) and green onions (22%), according to NielsenIQ.
“Sweet onions should not be considered only in the summer with household sweets, but generate sales throughout the year to continue to generate both sales and category volume with this versatile onion.” , notes Walt Dasher, vice president of G&R Farms, Glennville, Georgia.
“The important part of sweet onions in fall and winter is not to stop promoting them or seeing them as less important than summer candy. Sweet onions drive sales all year round and should be promoted accordingly.
“When sweet onions are in the consumer market baskets, they are more likely to purchase fresh beef, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, mushrooms and peppers.”
– John Shuman, Shuman Farm
Sweet onions, overall, help drive sales of other products in the produce aisle. “The added benefit of Peruvian onions during the fall and winter months is that they’re rarely the only thing in the basket,” says Bentley of Tops Markets. “When was the last time you noticed a customer walk into a store, pick up a loose or bagged sweet onion, and walk straight to the checkout?” They accompany so many dishes that they could be considered the original “affinity item”.
John Shuman, President and CEO of Shuman Farms, Inc., Reidsville, GA, agrees Peruvian sweet onions help fill shoppers’ carts. “When sweet onions are in the consumer market baskets, they are more likely to purchase fresh beef, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, mushrooms and peppers.”
HIGH MARGIN PLAYER
Onions, in general, are a pretty good margin for a retailer, observes Potandon Produce’s Breimeister, and sweet onions give the retailer an additional 10-20% margin over regular onions. “Sweet onions always give the retailer the option of branding products, doubling the cost, at 100% mark-up or more. Retailers can run these promotions and earn money.
Because of their taller ring, Peruvian sweet onions bring in more gross revenue to a retailer than a conventional storage onion, Breimeister explains.
“If you sell your conventional storage or your giant western yellow onion for 79 cents a pound, you’re importing sweet onions and selling them for $ 1.29 a pound. That’s a lot more revenue going through the cash register, ”he says. “At the end of the day, if you collect more money on that sweet onion at the cash desk, it’s better for your cash flow and overall income.”
Sweet onions present an opportunity for additional product sales, if marketed properly, notes Gideon. Due to the increased demand, many retailers have found it cost effective to transport giant sweet onions in bulk or in bulk as well as consumer bags of medium sweet onions, he says.
“End caps, stand-alone products, value-added product offerings, multi-size strategies and bagged displays provide consumers with multiple purchasing options and drive increased sales,” says Gideon.
He recommends using point-of-sale material and signage that showcases the nutritional benefits and flavor of sweet onions. Presenting pictures, biographies or stories of growers (real people) who produce sweet onions are also effective marketing strategies, as are in-store demonstrations, recipes and information emphasizing the differences in quality. , flavor, nutrition and food safety of genuine sweet onions compared to regular cooking. onions, he adds.
“Sweet onions always give the retailer the option of branding products, doubling the cost, at 100% mark-up or more. Retailers can run these promotions and earn money.
– Mark Breimeister, Potandon Produce
Shuman of Shuman Farms encourages retailers to create cross-merchandising displays in the produce department as well as in the meat department to leverage consumers’ buying habits and generate additional sales. “The three main dishes in which sweet onions are found are salads, ethnic dishes and beef dishes. “
Adding new locations also helps drive sales. “We recommend placing our 40-pound display bins in different areas of the stores to drive sales,” advises Bland. For example, in the meat department for buyers who prepare weekend barbecues or tailgates. “We have found that these bins drive sales because they are easily seen by customers. “
Displaying Peruvian onions in their shipping boxes can help promote sales. “Using fins or satellite screens with wooden boxes or even original boxes in other departments, as appropriate, can increase sales and profits,” says Bentley. “As part of baskets, promoting them to other leaders in the department is a great way to display profit-proof screens. Large discounts are not really necessary as they are necessary to finish the dish.
With sweet onions, simplicity counts. “It’s important to make the shopping experience easier for consumers,” advises Dasher of G&R Farms. “Make easy-to-buy displays and provide neat displays.”
Displays and secondary bins also provide promotional opportunities with similar items. “Showcasing sweet onions with sweet potatoes, white potatoes, stuffing and more can be a one-stop shop and center of inspiration for consumers,” he adds. “Keep them in sight and keep them full and regularly promoted. Consumers will continue to buy sweet onions – it’s your job to make them available.
Shuman Farms notes how importing Peruvian sweet onions through the Port of Savannah, the fourth busiest and fastest growing US container port, benefits the economy of the Southeast and enables Shuman Farms ” to maintain a full-time local workforce in Southeast Georgia, providing US jobs 12 months of the year, ”says Shuman. “In addition to the positive economic impact in our own backyard, importing our sweet onions through the Port of Savannah supports more than 440,000 jobs in the Southeastern United States. capable of implementing local economic sustainability.
“End caps, stand-alone products, value-added product offerings, multi-size strategies and bagged displays provide consumers with multiple purchasing options and guarantee
– Matthew Gideon, Keystone Fruit
America’s changing demographics, including a larger ethnic population, have been the main driver of onion sales, Breimeister notes.
“With the diversity of ethnic cuisines, you now see onions used in 80% of recipes,” he says. “These recipes raise all ships, so to speak, with the onion category. There are so many other cuisines that are quite new to the American palate. They ask for a lot more onions than some of the old fashioned foods we used to do. “