The California Asparagus Commission actively promotes the availability of asparagus during the state’s season, and marketers throughout the country promote year-round asparagus programs with supplies from Mexico, Peru, Michigan, California and other growing regions.
Leo Rolandelli, president and general manager for Jacobs, Malcolm & Burtt Inc., San Francisco, said he has a steady supply of customers who buy California asparagus.
“We have a limited supply in Northern California,” Rolandelli said.
“You just make sure you can keep them supplied.”
The main selling point at the time of year is that the product is grown in California, he said. The El Centro-based California Asparagus Commission works to keep demand strong.
The commission’s consumer campaign consists of a series of food editor releases featuring seasonal uses for California asparagus, said Tom Tjerandsen, marketing consultant.
In March, the commission sent some of about 10,000 releases to food editors, food bloggers and recipe websites. The releases are sent in stages and timed so that food editors have enough lead time for publishing articles during the California season.
The releases show editors how asparagus can be incorporated into current food trends, such as sliders, tapas and grilled dishes, Tjerandsen said. A companion series is distributed to foodservice publication editors.
The commission plans to mail 3-pound sample boxes of asparagus to about 75 targeted influencers throughout the U.S., Tjerandsen said.
It contacts opinion leaders such as Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray, asking them whether they will help promote California asparagus by using it on their shows or in publications. If they agree to, the commission ships a box of fresh asparagus for demonstrations.
In marketing to foodservice entities, the commission offers incentives and works with restaurants, universities and other organizations to feature California-grown asparagus on menus.
San Francisco-based Lark Creek Restaurant Group, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of California-Berkeley, plan to hold special promotions for California asparagus this season, Tjerandsen said.
All three have held promotions in previous years.
Lark Creek restaurant group advertises on its homepage, www.larkcreek.com, that “We’re Doing Extraordinary Things with Fresh California Asparagus.”
The group, which operates restaurants in California and Nevada, regularly features fresh seasonal foods. Its asparagus specials are scheduled to be available through April, said Marilyn Dompe, foodservice consultant to the commission.