Herbs find popularity as niche item

06/29/2012 12:31:00 PM
Jim Offner

Think of herbs as a niche within a niche.

Camilo Penalosa does.

It’s also an opportunity, said Penalosa, vice president of business development with Miami-based Infinite Herbs.

But teaching consumers and even retailers about the product is a challenge, Penalosa said.

“We basically try to let people know what should be out of the refrigerator,” he said.

Where to place an item, also can be a key to its success, Penalosa said, citing basil as an example of an item that should be close to tomatoes.

“That’s a good combination — tomatoes and basil,” he said.

Some herbs, some such lemongrass, allows for certain display options, Penalosa said.

“It doesn’t have to be refrigerated, so it allows you to display it in different places,” he said.

Most herbs do require refrigeration, so that presents an additional challenge to retailers looking to maximize their category opportunities, Penalosa said.

Information nurtures herbs like a gentle mist keeps a lettuce display fresh, Penalosa said.

He said his company is doing its part to educate buyers, as well as end users.

“What we’re doing is trying to put more information on the website, so people can go directly to the recipe section,” he said.

Recipes found on the company’s website, infiniteherbs.com, have links to instructional videos on YouTube, Penalosa said.

“That way, we try get the consumer immediate easy access to go one place, and they find many links,” he said.

The idea is to pass along as many usage ideas as possible, he said.

On the foodservice side, Infinite Herbs deals mainly with specialty restaurants, who are perhaps a bit more familiar with the company’s products, Penalosa said.

Herbs are promoted in the foodservice sector in a couple of ways, Penalosa added.

“In very high-end, they push not only the type of herb but if it’s local or not,” he said.

Infinite Herbs tries to source its product locally when possible, which means seasonally, Penalosa said.

“A lot of time the weather doesn’t help,” he said, adding that the company’s California growing operation has more than 30 items, including about six types of mint and several sage varieties.

“We’re specializing in those things, so when people want something, they do a one-stop shop,” he said.

The company, which also has growers in Florida, New Jersey, Mexico and Colombia, distributes its product from the Midwest to the East Coast, Penalosa said.



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