The fig category is booming right now, and that means success for dried and fresh figs.
Linda Cain, vice president for marketing and sales at Valley Fig Growers, Fresno, Calif., said she doesn’t really see the two groups of figs as competitors.
“There’s some crossover, and fresh figs are the more glamorous, but really the two are similar to grapes and raisins,” Cain said, noting that consumers have an interest in buying both.
She said it’s good to have the larger umbrella of the fig category and the two products work well together since the fresh fig season is so short.
Fresh figs are picked from the tree and put into containers, processed in the field. Dried figs dry on the trees and then drop to the ground on their own when ready to be harvested, Cain said.
“We’ll reach maturity in August and the figs just fall to the ground. The California dry heat helps give figs great maturity and sugar content,” she said.
Together in the produce area
The dried figs have a shelf life of two years, while fresh figs can only last on shelves a week or so, depending on transport time.
Still, the two products are usually found together in the produce section, or paired with cheese or wine in cross-merchandising efforts, Cain said.
“We’re in the produce department 60% to 70% of the time. That’s the best way for consumers to find us, and we blend well with a lot of other products there,” she said.
It takes about 4 pounds of fresh figs to make 1 pound of dried figs, so the demand for product to go into dried sales is big.
Plus, dried figs have enjoyed large sales growth recently.
“There’s been a renaissance in dry fig sales,” said Kevin Herman, owner and president of The Specialty Crop Co., Madera, Calif.
He says consumers will likely see an increase in fresh fig prices as demand for dried figs continues to increase because most orchards can be picked fresh or dry, giving growers the option to choose which method will give them the most profit.
“People need to be prepared to have some increased costs in fresh figs as well, or we won’t see that volume increase and most will go to dried,” he said.
Cain agrees supply and demand could be an issue.
“Our main challenge will be to make sure growers deliver enough figs to satisfy both demands. Growers will need to make decisions on what to plant (whether fig trees or nut trees),” Cain said.
“We encourage growers to put as many fig trees in the ground as they are able,” she said.
Many growers provide both fresh and dried figs, but most figs do go the dried category.
Cain estimates only about 5% of all figs harvested go into fresh sales.
However, she said that number is up from only about 3% a few years ago.
“The fresh category is growing, and that’s been nothing but good for us.”