But Christopher has some concern that the large Chinese crop this year could upset the pricing balance of the system, which could mean lower prices for U.S. growers, he said.
There still is a consumer misconception that all garlic in stores comes from California, said Patsy Ross, Christopher Ranch’s vice president for marketing.
To combat that misconception, Christopher Ranch has an aggressive point-of-sale program for retailers.
The company also is encouraging retailers to sell garlic by the piece because per-pound pricing creates the misconception that garlic is more expensive to use than it actually is, Ross said.
Consumer input is also a key element in the growing and marketing strategy for Christopher Ranch, which has about 4,000 acres and ships about 60 million pounds a year.
“The consumers helped us figure out the opportunity we have with our heirloom variety,” Ross said.
The company has increased its percentage of heirloom plantings using seed that it grows themselves in Nevada’s high desert. The seed originated in Italy 50 years ago and now accounts for about half of the garlic Christopher Ranch grows.
Ross said chefs chose it over other varieties in blind taste tests because of its flavor and high brix count.
“One chain restaurant speced the specific variety,” she said. “We had a volume contract with them and they wanted to switch to a variety contract.”