Marketing herbs to consumers is becoming easier, thanks to education efforts.
“We’re able to teach people just how simple it is to use the fresh herbs that professional chefs use,” said Camilo Penalosa, vice president of sales, marketing and procurement for Infinite Herbs & Specialties, Miami.
Growers and marketers of fresh herbs say the key is to teach consumers that it doesn’t have to be difficult to use fresh herbs instead of dried.
“It’s teaching someone that if they make a turkey sandwich they can put some fresh tarragon on there to give it that fresh flavor. It doesn’t have to be cooked or anything — it’s just simple things like that,” Penalosa said.
Penalosa says that when people learn that using fresh herbs doesn’t have to be an elaborate process, they are more likely to use them.
“It’s about making them user-friendly,” he said.
Howard Roeder, chief executive officer at HerbThyme Farms Inc., Perrysburg, Ohio, said one herb or another can pair with any fruit or vegetable.
“We like to say that fresh herbs don’t make a meal, they make every meal better,” he said.
Andrew Walsh, chief executive officer of Vida Fresh Inc., Morro Bay, Calif., says he has also seen consumer awareness increase over the past several seasons. He credits the higher demand for herbs on the economy.
“People are going out less, spending less money away from the house, so they are exploring options to liven up household meals,” he said.
Walsh says herbs offer affordable options for bringing new flavor to dining.
Still, there’s more that could be done.
Roeder says the more comfortable consumers get with cooking with fresh herbs, the better the category is going to do.
“There are still opportunities to make consumers feel more comfortable and less intimidated by using fresh herbs,” he said.
Those education efforts get a lot of help from cooking channels and food shows on television.
“Chefs prefer fresh herbs over dried herbs in most of their recipes,” said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for World Variety Produce, Los Angeles.
Penalosa agreed consumers tend to want to recreate dishes they see professions chefs make on TV using fresh herbs.
“The food channels are helping,” he said.
The changing seasons and holidays also offer promotional and educational opportunities, Schueller said.
“If you look at the calendar, New Year’s is mint, and then the Kentucky Derby. Sage is extremely popular for poultry for Thanksgiving,” he said.
Basil, the most popular herb by far, is especially popular in the summer, as it’s often cross-merchandised with tomatoes.
In general, retail stores seem to be increasing their fresh herb departments, Schueller said.
“It’s really been easier to find stores that have a big variety of these fresh herbs in the produce department,” he said. “And it’s been increasing the bottom line of the produce department.”