Foodservice trends have begun to lean toward red onions, and industry sources say offering multiple options to meet the needs of customers has the best benefit.
Corey Griswold, president, ProSource Inc., Hailey, Idaho, has noticed that reds are on trend in foodservice.
“The trend for more red demand has been consistent over the past three years or so. It’s seen as the rising star of the onion industry,” he said.
Griswold said chefs and other foodservice professionals have been interested in using red onions in new ways.
“There’s a lot of exciting new demand. People are doing more with them,” he said.
Foodservice sales is the main focus of Las Cruces, N.M.-based National Onion Inc., according to Steve Smith, president and owner.
“We have a lot of onion ring contracts and foodservice customers. That’s our main focus,” Smith said.
Because of that, he said the majority of their customers want larger onions.
“It seems like everyone is really always interested in the bigger size jumbo onions. They don’t want the smaller ones,” he said, mentioning that trend has been constant for several years.
He said most foodservice places want the biggest, as well as the best.
“No one wants to deal with anything less than perfect,” Smith said.
Of course, there will always be onions that aren’t quite as nice, and Smith said processors or foodservice venues that can peel off the outer layers make a good home for those less-than-perfect onions.
“You can get a few people who are going to dice them as opposed to slicing them for onion rings or something else,” he said.
Smith has also seen a recent uptake in interest for red onions at foodservice.
“It seems they are taking more red onions,” Smith said.
He’s not sure if it’s because the sandwich shops have switched to red onions or if the upscale places are wanting more color in salads and other dishes, but it’s likely a combination of all those factors.
“Overall, there’s just been a big demand for red onions over the last year,” Smith said.
Bill Coombs, sales, Desert Spring Produce, Hatch, N.M., agreed colored onion varieties tend to do well in foodservice outlets.
“Yellows and reds tend to go mostly to foodservice,” he said, adding that it depends on each individual market. “We have a mix to suit the needs of our customer base.”
Kim Reddin, director of public relations for the Greeley, Colo.-based National Onion Association said she has seen the non-commercial side of foodservice begin using more colored onions.
“Schools and other institutions are using all three colors of onions more than they did in the past,” she said.
“It’s not always easy with a limited budget for food but there are districts out there in every state trying to do more with color, and they sort of have to, because the palettes of their consumer is starting to be broader at that age than it was before,” Reddin said.
Sherise Jones, marketing director for the Parma, Idaho-based Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee/USA Onions said the committee has focused on developing kid-friendly recipes this year, particular recipes that could be used in foodservice.
“We’re working on several recipes that will really appeal to children. We’re finding more kids are open to trying new things and we are hoping to continue to increase that exposure,” Jones said.
She hopes these new recipes will help increase onion consumption in younger generations, especially outside the home.
“We’re hoping to penetrate the non-commercial dining applications, including schools, with these kid-friendly recipes,” Jones said.