“I think one of the things that makes us successful is that we are year-round suppliers of garlic, both organic and conventional, from all growing regions,” said James (Jim) Provost, managing partner of I Love Produce LLC in Kelton, PA.
“We try to have a combination of supply areas for people that prefer non-Chinese garlic, which would include, California, Argentina and Mexico,” he said. “If we combine those three supply areas, that gives us a year-round supply of in-season, new-crop Chinese garlic.”
Having new-crop garlic available year-round enables customers of I Love Produce to have their “freshest product on the shelf” all the time, with fewer sprouting issues and quality issues, he said.
The company also imports Chinese garlic which, because of other way it is stored, is available year-round, he said.
This year, overall quality “is going to be excellent” on both Chinese and California garlic, Provost said. Both sources will have quality garlic available for promoting, “but big garlic will be at a premium.”
Looking at “the big picture” of what is happening in the global marketplace, Provost noted that “by dealing with garlic from all producing areas, we really do get a feel for what a global marketplace this world has become and really how much information is available to people right down to the farm level,” due particularly to technology and the internet. Today, farmers in China, for example, “know what garlic is selling for on the New York Produce Market and farmers in Argentina can see what sales of garlic in Los Angeles are on a given day.” There are “no secrets anymore” in the industry, he said.
The dynamics of the Industry are constantly changing throughout the year as each new producing area comes into play, Provost said. Currently, China is coming in with its biggest crop in four years. Growers in Mexico were aware of that “before it even started to hit, and they started to push stronger to sell their garlic because they didn’t want to be caught with garlic” after the cheap-priced Chinese garlic came in.
The garlic industry is “very tough, and competition at the retail and foodservice lee is also very tough,” Provost said. “Customers are looking for niches and for products that fill specific niches.” As a company, I Love Produce “will find the product to fill that niche,” and other competitors will do so as well. “People will customize packs. They will do products as requested. I think that has led to the diversity of different pack sizes and the amounts o f different kinds of products that are available out in the marketplace more than anything.”