The company also imports from Mexico starting mid- to late January.
“We’re really getting ready for the spring Texas season,” DeBruyn said. “Things have been delayed a little because of the drought.”
DeBruyn expects to have plenty of jumbo and colossal onions on the market, with the possibility of more restricted supplies of medium onions.
“Onions are going to be very promotable this year, and bin promotions are going to be a great tool for both potatoes and onions,” Richter said.
Bins lend well for bagged onion promotions, most commonly matching a 3-pound bag of onions with a 5-pound bag of potatoes or a 5-pound bag of onions with a 10-pound bag of potatoes, Richter said.
Richter said he expects the onion market to ride the coattails of the potato market in 2012.
DeBruyn Produce was in the middle of a steady Peruvian sweet import deal this fall. The company also uses co-packers in the U.S. Northwest to ship conventional onions in its label, along with a small volume still through the company’s original headquarters in Michigan.
Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa., was also importing from Peru late October, bringing in Mayan Sweets. The company’s year-round sweet onion deal also includes Vidalias from Georgia and Walla Walla sweet onions from Washington, said Marty Kamer, vice president. He predicted onion volumes consistent with the last couple years.
With consistent supplies, onions should be very promotable this year, Kamer said.
Sweet onion imposters
Kamer said one of the sweet onion industry’s biggest challenges is meeting consumer demand.
“Even if the year-round sweet onions have become a mainstay in the department, there continues to be a lot of imposters, or onions that are labeled as sweet but fail to meet consumer expectations,” Kamer said. “That destroys consumer confidence and ultimately slows the sales and profits for everyone.”
John Shuman, president and director of sales for Reidsville, Ga.-based Shuman Produce Inc., said his company also is dealing with that challenge.
“One of the biggest obstacles currently facing the sweet onion category is the labeling of grano variety cooking onions as sweet onions to capture a premium price at retail,” Shuman said. “These varieties do not share the same sweet and mild flavor profile of the familiar flat, granex shape of a true sweet onion.”