Growing specialty onion category requires education

10/24/2012 05:06:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Christopher Ranch added specialty onions to its garlic line in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a way to expand its specialty offerings, she said

The company started with shallots and eventually expanded into pearl, boiler and cippolini onions.

The specialty items have been available for years in mesh bags. A couple of years ago, Christopher Ranch added peeled, ready-to-use white pearl onions, cippolinis and shallots in 6-ounce resealable bags in the refrigerator case, she said.

The special pouch keeps the product fresh for up to seven weeks in the refrigerator.

Although shallots are part of the onion family, they have a more refined flavor, Schueller said.

“It’s a little different than your typical onion,” he said. “It’s always been a big holiday item.”

Melissa’s offers shallots in 3-ounce mesh bags and a 1-pound Vexar package.

Cooler fall temperatures also prompt many consumers to turn to hardier dishes, such as stews and soups where ping-pong-sized boiler onions are a popular ingredient, he said.

In addition, many specialty onions are used in traditional holiday dishes, such as peas and pearl onions.

“One of the things about the (holiday) recipes is consumers want to follow them because they want the exact taste,” Schueller said. “Take shallots, for example. It’s hard to substitute a yellow onion when it calls for shallots.”


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