Bagged onion business continues to grow in popularity and possibilities.
“We figured out that we have about 226 different combinations we can pack in,” said Delbert Bland, owner of Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms.
“Since 100% of our business is retail, it gets very nerve-wracking sometimes,” Bland said.
The two most popular packs for his prized Vidalia onions, he said, are high-graphic, wrap-around bags and 40-pound bulk cartons.
Sherise Jones, marketing director for the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee based in Parma, Idaho, confirmed consumer packs are gaining in popularity.
“People with limited time in the grocery store tend to like the ease of the grab-and-go 3-pound bags,” Jones said.
“Retailers like them, too, so they don’t have to constantly weed stuff out of the bulk display and clean out the skins.”
While the 3-pound bag remains a favorite, growers are coming up with their own variations.
Yerington, Nev.-based grower-shipper Peri & Sons is promoting a 3-pound combo pack, which contains about nine red, yellow and white onions.
“It allows consumers to try varieties they may not have tried before,” said Teri Gibson, director of marketing and customer relations, “and it’s convenient for retailers because they can sell all three colors in one pack style, maximizing shelf space and minimizing stock-keeping units.”
To connect consumers to the family farm, Gibson said Peri & Sons is adding quick-response codes to its packages and advertising.
Matt Roberts, sales manager for Sedro-Woolley, Wash.-based organic grower-shipper Viva Tierra, said his new 2-pound bags of organic yellow onions are already attracting attention.
Roberts said customers end up paying a little more for the master onion bags, but they’re getting 24 2-pound bags “for just a little more money” than 16 3-pound bags.
“I think it will attract more retailers going forward,” said Roberts. “It helps keep the price down and they can sell it for the same price as a 3-pound bag of conventional onions.”
The challenge now, he said, is to figure out how to sell more jumbo organic onions.
“Most of our jumbos end up in organic markets that don’t necessarily need retail packs,” he said. “They’re sold in bulk or in bulk with Price look-up stickers. But stickers only do so well on onions — either they fall off or the skin falls off.”
James Johnson, vice president of Carzalia Valley Produce Inc., who sells a full range of packaged onions, said he’s seeing more demand for a 10-pound club store pack.
Jeff Brechler, salesman for Edinburgh, Texas-based J&D Produce, said retail produce managers need to analyze the consumption patterns of their shoppers before setting up a display.
“They have to ask: ‘Do I want to do a 5-pound bag with a larger onion it, a 3-pound bag with a smaller onion or do I want bulk where people can pick up one onion at a time,’” Brechler said.
“All three options are popular,” he said, “but it depends on the area and on the consumer.”