Loading…

Challenging times cause garlic sales adjustments

chrisranch Like many other produce crops, demand for garlic has been materially affected by COVID-19 as consumers react to both the virus and the government-mandated regulations. Demand for garlic at retail has skyrocketed as consumers are cooking more at home while foodservice demand has gone the other directions with many closed restaurants and institutional feeders dotting the landscape. Garlic’s traditional reputation as a food with curative powers is also seemingly playing a role as consumers try to eat healthier.

Ken Christopher, executive vice president of Christopher Ranch, based in Gilroy, CA, said with the increased retail demand since March, the company has been concentrating on supply fulfillment and not working on new projects such as new packaging. He did say that Christopher Ranch is putting in an extra fresh garlic packing line to meet the increased demand. He opined that garlic’s reputation as a super food has added to the demand, but quickly noted that the reputation is anecdotal and not based on any peer review studies.

One very fortuitous fact is that this year’s harvest is grading out much better than usual. Garlic has both an early variety harvest, which took place in mid- to late spring, and a late variety harvest, which was about 50 percent completed by July 26. Christopher said the 2019 crop had fewer retail grade garlic bulbs than usual while 2020 is doing better than usual.

“Last year, about 40 percent of the production was good for retail while this year, 60 percent are making that grade,” he said.

Christopher said that an adjustment in cultural practices is one of the reasons. Toward the end of the growing season, if the conventional garlic is hit with extra water and fertilizer, Christopher said the harvest will yield larger garlic but a higher percentage of processing grade bulbs as some of those bulbs will grow too big. This season, the company’s growers have not used the extra water or fertilizer on the crop. Because of the extra demand for retail bulbs, that small shift in cultural practices has resulted, he said, in bulbs a little bit smaller and a little less white. But they are in line with demand.

“The consumer might notice that they are a little less than perfect,” he said, but the increase in supply has normalized the f.o.b. price. “In March and April, right after the pandemic hit, demand at retail was very high and we saw a shortage and higher prices; we are back to normal now,” noting that he was talking about the retail sector on fresh garlic.

Jarred processed garlic, another retail product, has been in great demand and there are shortages of that product as it is difficult to keep up with demand. Of course, foodservice demand for processor grade garlic also continues to be less than normal. “Usually foodservice accounts for about 40 percent of shipments,” Christopher said. “Right now, it is at 15 to 20 percent and we are projecting that it is going to stay at that figure through 2020.”

Some areas with significant foodservice demand, including Texas, Florida and Southern California, have seen spikes in COVID-19 cases and a re-imposition of their foodservice regulations with many restaurants being forced to curtail service again. “Unfortunately, we don’t see that changing until we get a vaccine,” Christopher said.

As a company, he said Christopher Ranch has done very well managing the COVID-19 crisis. “The head of our food safety department, Janette Codiga, is a 30-year veteran with us and she got ahead of this at the very beginning.”

He noted that the company has been encouraging its workers to be tested for the virus and have put social distancing orders in place. “We have tried to take the stigma out of getting tested,” he said. “I’ve been tested three times, all negative.”

As mentioned, the company has expanded its hours by adding workers and a shift to keep with demand.

tpn daily signup

Oppy bringing Haskap berries to retailers
Building on its long history of breaking ground with new varieties, Oppy successfully introduced Haskap berries to customers in the greater Vancouver area, marking the first time these flavorful berries are available at retail. As a leading grower, marketer and distributor of fresh produce from around the world, Oppy is Read More ...
Salinas grower-shipper announces acquisition
Hitchcock Farms, Salinas, CA, a premier and innovative grower-shipper has acquired Pfyffer Associates, a grower, packer and shipper of premium Brussels sprouts in Santa Cruz, CA. Pfyffer has been a leading supplier of Brussels sprouts for over 45 years with its well-known Ernie’s Pride and Pfyffer labels. “I see this as a Read More ...
Retailer's efforts generate a big fat zero
As part of its ongoing sustainability efforts and commitment to healing the planet, The Giant Co. announced four additional stores in Pennsylvania have reached zero waste, meaning 90 percent or more of a store’s total waste is being diverted from a landfill or incineration. “When it comes to taking care of the environment there Read More ...
USDA cites California company for $3.8M PACA violations
As a part of its efforts to enforce the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and ensure fair trading practices within the U.S. produce industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has imposed sanctions on Trinity Fresh Distribution LLC in Sacramento, CA, for failing to meet its contractual obligations to the sellers of Read More ...
Cascades launches a new packaging line
Cascades, a leader in eco-friendly recycling, hygiene and packaging solutions, launched its new range of Cascades Fresh packaging products for fruits and vegetables. Designed for producers, packers and retailers, Cascades Fresh packaging solutions meet the needs of this key industry while also addressing consumers’ Read More ...

Market Watch

the source pro-act

Western growing regions getting hit by rain, cooler temps

floral pulse