Kale has emerged as a hot item for the organic industry this spring, and suppliers see growth in several other products as well.
“A lot of dark greens, kales in particular, are hot right now, but all vegetables in general are seeing strong demands,” said Jason Hollinger, general manger, Four Seasons Produce Inc., Ephrata, Pa.
Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing, The Nunes Co., Salinas, Calif., agrees.
“Kale has just really taken off over the past year,” he said.
Seeley cites consumer’s increased ability to use kale in a variety of uses.
“People are sautéing it, juicing it, making chips, baking it — the kale item has really just exploded.”
“Kale, of all types, but especially lacinato kale, is very popular. It is still the new “super food,” said Diane Dempster, manager of Farmer’s Own, the local organic program at Charlie’s Produce, Seattle.
Carrots, mangoes popular
Dempster also listed bunched nante carrots, ataulfo mangoes, tomatoes on the vine, berries and packaged leaf products as increasingly hot organic items.
Seeley also said that chard varieties are seeing growth.
“We’re seeing that people are doing more interesting things. The chard category is beautiful looking products to begin with, and the nutritional value of these items is through the roof so people are finding different ways to prepare them with increased emphasis,” he said.
Seasonality also plays an important role in what items are popular with consumers.
Dempster said Charlie’s Produce publishes a biweekly news report which includes organics.
“We send out a ‘hot sheet’ talking about what is new and exciting,” she said.
San Francisco-based Earl’s Organic Produce also stresses in-season items as the hottest buys for consumers.
Berries on the move
Owner Earl Herrick said the company sees produce as an urgent business.
“It’s all about what’s in season right now, and for us, spring is all about what is emerging,” he said.
“Right now its strawberries, next week it’s blueberries, then peaches and nectarines,” he said.
Herrick even tapes a short radio segment for a weekly show, called “An Organic Conversation,” that airs mostly on the West Coast. In his five-minute segments, Herrick focuses on organic produce that’s in season, highlighting certain items as being especially good buys.
“People have to eat, and we try to point them in the direction of what’s in season and what’s a good price,” he said.
Spring, in particular, is one of Herrick’s favorite times to promote in-season items.
“This time of year is exciting because every week a new item is emerging. We’re just on the threshold of that right now,” he said.