With Easter gone and ample asparagus supplies rolling in, retailers can prepare to promote them straight through spring into summer.
In March, asparagus marketers looked ahead to two big promotable spring holidays: Mother’s Day on May 12 and Memorial Day on May 27.
“Mother’s Day seems to be a pretty good draw for California asparagus,” said Dan Miller, director of field operations for San Francisco-based Jacobs, Malcolm & Burtt Inc., which began harvest March 3 in Fresno County, Calif. He said he expects to have product available through mid-May.
Recent studies have shown that shoppers are adding asparagus to their carts more than in the past. Consumers are clamoring for fresh spring asparagus, said Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director of the El Centro-based California Asparagus Commission.
“It’s an anticipated seasonal item,” she said.
Displaying product in a refrigerated unit is an ideal way to increase sales, said Cruz Carrera, asparagus category manager at Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.
“Larger display units also create more visibility and therefore are a great way to generate more sales,” he said.
Besides retail, many suppliers sell to national and independent foodservice distributors and restaurants.
“The foodservice component is a small but growing part of our business,” said Paul Auerbach, president and CEO of Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., Secaucus, N.J.
With California’s harvest rolling along and Washington expecting significant volume April 5-10, asparagus supplies should be ample this spring. In mid-March, Michigan remained snow covered, but growers anticipate a normal May through early July season, just in time for promotional spikes.
“A lot of times Michigan will want to get volume in stores for the Mother’s Day push,” said Todd Miedema, marketing director and a principal at Miedema Produce Inc., Hudsonville, Mich. “This year, with Mother’s Day on May 12, they may have some asparagus to talk about.”
Marketers said highlighting local produce is an important factor in sales.
“Michigan asparagus is very popular in the Great Lakes area, so it receives a lot of promotion (here) because of that,” he said. “The chains here usually promote it heavily with ‘Michigan Grown’ labels.”
‘Less obvious’ holidays
A note to retailers: don’t forget about promoting asparagus at “less obvious” holidays, like Cinco de Mayo or Father’s Day.