For organic asparagus, the challenge is greater because the product’s price is generally higher, said Sal Pacheco, salesman with Double D Farms, an organic asparagus grower-shipper in Coalinga, Calif.
“Actually, there’s a few but not as much as retail because of the price,” he said.
The California Asparagus Commission, based in El Centro, is placing a heavy marketing emphasis on the foodservice sector, said Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director.
“The commission sees the most leverage from our generic promotion dollars in this arena,” she said.
The commission manages ongoing programs with produce distributors and restaurants in conjunction with locally grown efforts, Watte Angulo said.
“California asparagus is a harbinger of spring and menu developers are anxious to feature our product on their spring menus,” she said.
A key to foodservice sales always has been ensuring a consistent supply is available, and that is getting easier to do, said Marc Marchini, a partner in Stockton, Calif.-based A.M. Farms and the president of the California Asparagus Commission.
“Foodservice is getting more and more accepting of asparagus because it’s more of a year-round situation,” he said, noting that it was common to consider asparagus a seasonal item in the past.”
Foodservice also is a ready market for larger sizes that retailers might not want, Marchini said.
“It’s much easier to take care of, easier to preserve — that is, you can keep it longer in your refrigerator before it starts to break down,” he said.
Larger spears also are easier for restaurants to monitor, Marchini said.
“When people see asparagus on the menus, and everybody is gung-ho for it, it works out good for them,” he said.