Asparagus sales will go up if retail displays are kept interesting.
Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co.’s marketing manager, Julia Inestroza, said the most important suggestion she offers retailers is to be sure an asparagus display keeps the product fresh.
“I see too many times when I do merchandising trips and (the asparagus is) laying on its side or it’s been misted,” Inestroza said.
To lengthen shelf life, asparagus should be kept standing upright on a wet towel and it should not be misted. Standing it in ice water works, but Inestroza said she hesitates to recommend that because some health regulations might not permit it.
Another tip asparagus marketers offered retailers is that a variety of sizes, colors, bulk and packaged items boosts sales.
“If they (customers) buy a traditional 1-pound bunch this time, maybe next time they’ll buy a bunch of white asparagus or a package of pre-trimmed asparagus tips,” said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla.
“We like to create options for the consumers and have them near each other to create more appeal.”
Shippers said most retailers display just one size of asparagus at a time, but they are encouraging retailers to display different sizes together.
“Take a look at jumbo-sized asparagus,” said Dave Mol, president of Mol Produce Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. “Contrary to popular opinion, the larger asparagus is actually the most tender.”
Tom Tjerandsen, marketing consultant to the California Asparagus Commission, El Centro, said offering multiple sizes substantially increases retail sales. Walter Yager, chief executive officer of Alpine Fresh Inc., Miami, said his company often gets calls from consumers wanting to know why they can’t find different sizes of asparagus in their supermarkets.
“When you’re going to eat a big steak at home, people prefer to put extra-large or jumbo asparagus with it,” Yager said. “But when you’re serving it with fish, it looks kind of funny with jumbo.”
Large-diameter spears work better for grilling, while smaller ones are good for chopping and using in frittatas or stir fries, said Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director of the commission.
Not everyone agreed that the U.S. market is ready for large asparagus spears, though. Jeff Friedman, president and sales manager of Carb Americas, Pompano Beach, said many U.S. consumers maintain the belief that smaller spears are more tender when cooked.
“That’s why you see retailers trending to using small sizes,” he said.