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Giant Produce introduces caramelized onion item

Giant Produce Inc., headquartered in Parma, ID, is capitalizing on the distinctive taste of the region's signature Spanish Sweet onions and the pizazz of caramelization with the introduction of its new value-added product, Onion Valley Caramelized Onions.

"It's relatively new," Don Brown, product development manager, told The Produce News. "We started production on Sept. 15."

Onion-ValleyGiant Produce Inc. introduced its newest value-added item, Onion Valley Caramelized Onions, in September. The onions are already being supplied to 40 customers in four states since the rollout. (Photo courtesy of Giant Produce Inc.)

The company is a premier shipper of quality onions and potatoes in the region's Treasure Valley. Mr. Brown came on board with Giant Produce last March, and he's hit the ground running. Because he enjoys cooking at home, he took a situation and turned it into an opportunity for the company, especially at the end of the onion-storage season, when onions are sold to processors.

He said, "I looked at this and asked, 'Is there a way we can utilize these onions and create more and longer jobs?'"

One day he was caramelizing onions for a steak and hit upon an idea. He combined the onions with balsamic vinegar and ushered in the birth of a new value-added item. "I really wanted to reach out to the market," he said of the idea. "There's no one out there doing this."

The product contains no preservatives, and the balsamic vinegar actually makes the onions stable for 18 months. "It's a very versatile sauce," he added. "It's cooked in a copper kettle for two hours."

In short order, samplings and demos were organized. The onions' success was immediate, and Giant Produce is currently marketing the product to 40 customers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

"The product is unique," he continued. "We're in with florists, farmers' markets, gift shops and retail. The feedback has been tremendous."

In addition to its snappy taste and limitless creative uses, Mr. Brown said the caramelized onions have gourmet flair and pair well with wine. Next spring, he plans to visit wine country in Oregon and Washington to create inroads.

Onion Valley Caramelized Onions are currently shipped in nine-ounce jars, and the company is working on a half-gallon tub prototype for the foodservice sector.

The rollout is being carefully managed to ensure customer interest and demand is addressed. Mr. Brown does expect future growth for the product.

Giant Produce also plans to develop a new chutney in the near future.