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Peruvian onions could be strong sellers at retail level

While Vidalia onions have set the standard for sweet onions grown in the United States, it’s not the only place where they are coming from.

Peru, which is about to harvest its onions for the 2019 season, is currently the second-largest supplier of onions to the U.S., with more than $50 million coming into the country in the last year — trailing only Mexico in imports.2011-RealSweet-Peru-6

Peruvian onions will start arriving in August and last until mid-February, with peak shipments during the final three months of the year.

Walt Dasher, vice president and chief financial officer of G&R Farms, based in Glennville, GA, isn’t surprised people are interested in Peruvian onions, as he describes them as having “attractive, light colored skin with high sugar levels and low pungency.

“They are special because they are grown from G&R Vidalia-type granex sweet onion varieties and have the same sweet and mild taste as their cousins,” he said. “We harvest the onions during the summer months and into December.”

Dasher believes retailers can see good register rings with sweet onions if they continue showcasing the true sweet onion item for what it is — a specialized onion, completely different from a typical onion.

“We are working to provide marketing materials for our retail partners to help them educate their consumers on the sweet onion attributes and how really different they are from other onions,” Dasher said. “There will be in-store materials showing consumers the many ways sweet onions can add so much flavor to all foods — and easily. We are happy to create custom programs tailored to meet our retailers’ needs and strategies.”

During the 2018-19 Peruvian sweet onion season, Shuman Farms led the industry, importing 1,100 containers of sweet onions. This season, the company foresees having similar production.

“The industry has seen a slow start with slightly smaller sized onions — more jumbos and mediums,” said John Shuman, president and chief executive officer of Cobbtown, GA-based Shuman Farms. “Also, containers have not been loaded as fast as everyone expected. However, we are confident volumes will improve and we will be back to normal to average supply by the end of August.”

Shuman Farms offers a wide variety of packaging options for retailers, including large display bins, consumer bags, display-ready containers and cartons designed to create meal solution opportunities in the produce department, helping to drive incremental sales.

“We believe our RealSweet Peruvian sweet onions are the premium sweet onion that allows retailers to provide the same quality of sweet onion to their consumers 11 months of the year, helping them build sales and consistency in the category,” Shuman said.  

He noted that the company devotes a lot of time to compiling the latest consumer reports and research data for the sweet onion category and designing customized programs for its customers based on these findings.

Those who take advantage, he believes, will see both an increase in sales of sweet onions, as well as higher produce sales overall, noting sweet onions are often purchased along with peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, celery and squash.

“Displaying these items together in high-traffic areas has the potential to boost sales,” he said. “During the fall and winter months, consumers are looking for new and delicious recipes for tailgating, as well as easy to prepare indoor recipes.”