It has been a busy 12 months for Herndon Farms LLC of Lyons, GA. The perennial Vidalia onion powerhouse has beefed up its sweet onion deal with increased Peruvian imports, expanded its offerings in other categories and launched a new label for its booming baby Vidalia onion category.
Herndon's new bunch onion label — "Lil' Bo's Petite Sweet Vidalia Onions," named after Bryton Bo Kight, grandson of Herndon Farms owner Bo Herndon — is designed to promote the increasingly popular baby Vidalia crop, which harvests from December through April.Characterized by their sweet but zesty flavor and budding stalk, baby Vidalias have become a chef favorite for use in soups, stir fries or as raw slices in a garden salad.
"We have seen this item grow in popularity the last several years. They have a unique size and are versatile in the kitchen so we wanted to develop an in-house label that would help our customers promote and showcase this item to its fullest potential," said John Williams, sales manager. "With 'Lil' Bo's,' Herndon Farms is helping to specify this product on the market, where it has otherwise been a vague and generic item. We really expect the cute and catchy name to appeal to consumers."
Herndon has been growing baby Vidalias for several years "but there are a few reasons why we think ours stand out and why we wanted to develop that label to help it stand out even more," Mr. Williams said. "Some people don't do the job with them we do. We cut off the root -- not into the onion because that dries it out -- peel it back where it's nice and shiny. It's a labor-intensive item. We have a greens program, we're used to growing and shipping greens, so our guys are used to working with wet items. We ship them in wax boxes so they can ship with dry items. We're working with a couple of retailers that are showcasing them, people put them on ad for a couple of weeks and now we're moving a lot of them."
Herndon is now in its third year of a sweet potato program, an offering that fit perfectly with the rest of the company calendar.
"It's come a long way in three years, we've learned a truckload of information from the field and what we're doing in our warehouse," Mr. Williams said. "We've sold these through someone else the last few years and are still dong that, but more and more we're pushing the 'Georgia Grown' sweet potato from Herndon Farms. We started with about 80 acres and increased that a little bit, and last year we grew and packed 180-200 acres."
Herndon utilizes its onion-drying rooms to cure the sweet potatoes and get them to market as quickly as possible with no storage product.
"It just took us a few years to learn the best way to grow them and get them out of the field. It was a learning curve, but we're getting where we feel real comfortable to offer this to major chain stores," Mr. Williams said. "They're going to get a really good eating potato with a really nice size profile. And this year we're going to try to have our crop come off a little bit earlier, before the North Carolina crop comes off."