White and purple varieties comprise a small percentage of the asparagus market, but they play a key role, according to marketing agents.
“The ability to offer shoppers or diners three colors of asparagus at one time is a value-add to any grocery store or restaurant,” said Julia Inestroza, marketing manager for Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co.
She said Peruvian white asparagus is available year-round at steady prices.
“Promotions in stores where the white and green are the same price resulted in huge lifts in sales not just during the week of promotion but for the weeks following, as well,” Inestroza said.
“Gourmet Trading Co. also has a significant amount of point-of-sale support for these types of promotions, as well as funds available for demos and outreach to customers.”
The more-seasonal purple asparagus enhances displays, she said.
“It is a great addition to the high-end produce departments and white-tablecloth restaurants,” she said.
“Consumers are generally in awe of the color and the slightly sweeter taste. We have tricolor bags of asparagus available in 1 pound and 2 pounds that look very promising.”
Sometimes the white — and, when it’s available, purple — is appealing because it’s different, said Don Hessel, general manager of the asparagus program for Los Angeles-based Progressive Produce Corp.
“There’s not very much purple at all, but the white has been the steady, slow-growth item here in the U.S.,” he said.
White asparagus is a minor player in the category’s total sales, said Cruz Carrera, asparagus manager for Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.
“Demand we have is very light on white,” he said.
“Although there is some demand, there’s just nowhere near the demand for green.”
White asparagus has a larger following in Europe, “but there’s steady growth here,” he said.
“I think it’s something different,” he said.
“If you talk to somebody from Europe, the comments are that white has a smoother taste.”
Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties recognizes the allure of asparagus in various formats and varieties, said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development.
“One our goals is to help our retail customers create some excitement on the shelf and to give their customers options within the asparagus category,” he said.
“Some of the ways that we do that is by offering green asparagus in traditional 1-pound bunches, as well as bunches of 8-ounce asparagus tips, which are pre-trimmed, (and) white asparagus, which creates great visual contrast on the shelf and is also a product that has an excellent, mild, sweet flavor.”
White asparagus has seen modest growth, Eagle said.
“Southern Specialties feels there’s still a strong upside to that product, and that’s largely based on the popularity of the product in Europe,” he said.