Cold, wet weather is delaying development of Vidalia onions this year, but when the crop does hit, growers and shippers plan to court younger consumers in hopes of developing long-term relationships.
The 2014 nationwide marketing campaign for Georgia’s trademarked sweet onions is set to launch April 21 as the Vidalia Onion Committee reminds retailers and consumers that “V is for Vidalia.”
“We are going for long-term goals instead of a spot, one-season approach this year,” said Susan Waters, executive director of the committee in Vidalia, Ga.
“We particularly want to reach younger shoppers to make sure they know about the unique qualities of Vidalia onions, so we are getting back to the basics with the theme ‘V is for Vidalia’ this year.’”
The Vidalias need warm sunny days to finish their growth process, said John Shuman, president of Shuman Produce, Reidsville, Ga.
“The crop will be late because of the cold weather,” Shuman said March 18. “As of today in the heart of the growing region, the high was in the mid-40s most of the day. We were all wearing our winter coats this morning.
“I think late April and early May will bring some much needed relief to the sweet onion market.”
That timing will coincide with a food blogger blitz that is part of the “V is for Victory” campaign, Waters said.
About a dozen food bloggers are scheduled to visit Vidalia’s growing and packing operations April 25-28. The bloggers’ field tour is also scheduled to include the 37th annual Vidalia Onion Festival and a dinner of Vidalia onion recipes specially prepared for their visit by a local restaurant in Lyons, Ga.
The goal is for the bloggers to learn what it takes to produce a Vidalia onion and what makes Vidalia’s different from other sweet onions, Waters said.
“Once they see and taste the difference we hope they will share that with their readers. We are also increasing our social media efforts to reach more young shoppers,” Waters said.
Electronic media efforts in the marketing campaign include weekly give-aways in May and June on Facebook, as well as digital coupons. Waters said the committee’s 2012 coupon was downloaded from Facebook more than 35,000 times with a 23% redemption rate.
As in previous years, the 2014 campaign includes on-pack messages, including recipes, and free point-of-sale materials for retailers. Retailers can request adhesive, tear-off recipe pads and full and half-bin displays by contacting their Vidalia onion suppliers.
A new tool this year for retailers is a crop report that Waters said will be included in the committee’s redesigned website, which is scheduled to go live April 1. The updated website will also provide onion category research, downloadable marketing graphics and information on storage and handling of Vidalia onions.