Not all growers, however, are ready to put their faith in a single lab.
Michael Hively, general manager of Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms LLC, said a sweet onion standard won’t work unless the certifiers are certified, too.
“Right now, there’s no standard out there,” said Hively.
“You and I could open a lab tomorrow for certifying onions, and who’s going to certify the validity of the data? It would most certainly add costs to the system.”
Hively said Bland uses a third party to test the pungency of its onions in Peru and also tests in-house.
“If you set a standard, you have to have a group of people doing the work and a group of people monitoring,” said Richard Pazderski, Bland’s sales and marketing manager.
The company has never had a sweetness issue with its Peruvian onions, Pazderski said.
Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms Marketing Group’s Peruvian growers are certified sweet, said John Vlahandreas, national onion sales director.
But he would welcome an industrywide standard, he said.
“Anyone can put a test kit on an onion and come back with the right peruvic acid number or whatever they’re basing it on, and they’ve got a sweet onion,” Vlahandreas said.
Mark Breimeister, national sales manager for Waterford, Mich.-based Saven Inc., which tests its Peruvian Oso Sweets through Texas A&M University labs, said current testing methods don’t give retailers a consistent product.
“You can get an onion that tests great but doesn’t taste right,” said Breimeister. “That’s the biggest challenge out there.”
He said shippers need to be diligent and not market “fake” sweet onions, while retailers shouldn’t buy an onion that tests well but tastes bad.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “I don’t think we’ve got a real test yet.”