The use of fresh herbs in everyday cooking is a growing trend, according to suppliers.
“We’ve seen a growing demand for fresh herbs. People consider themselves ‘foodies’ and tend to start moving into the fresh category,” said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for World Variety Produce Inc., Los Angeles.
For Camilo Penalosa, vice president of business development for Infinite Herbs & Specialties, Miami, the increase in demand has been focused on ethnic products such as Spanish herbs and parsley.
“When we started, maybe eight years ago, basil was maybe 60% of all the herb sales. Today it’s only about 45% of the total sales,” Penalosa said.
Those figures are the company’s sales figures, but Penalosa thinks it would be a representative of the category as a whole.
“We’ve seen that stores are ordering more of the other herb varieties,” he said.
He mentions mint and cilantro as growing varieties.
Foodservice use is influencing the consumer use of fresh herbs, as well.
“Chefs know that fresh is best, and they have a preference for fresh herbs. There’s a strong influence of chives and mint, especially,” Schueller said.
Mint is often used in drinks and with dessert, while chives are served as a garnish with potato-based dishes, Schueller said.
These influences help drive the category.
“We see the herb category as a growing category, with almost double-digit growth, as well as in increasing demand or organic fresh herbs,” Schueller said.
Schueller said good retail management of the category is key to a successful herb program.
“Herbs can have a fast turnover but if merchandised correctly, a produce manager can see the herb category as a very profitable section,” he said.
One important aspect is to have an entire line of fresh herb options, not just one or two varieties.
Keeping the season in mind is also important.
“Memorial Day to Labor Day is really the peak time for rosemary, mint and chives. Dill also seems to be just as popular. Mint is very popular during May for the Kentucky Derby,” Schueller said.
Overall, basil is still the most popular herb.
“In November, sage hits the top of the charts because of Thanksgiving, but other than that, basil takes the top spot the rest of the year,” Schueller said.