Peru and Chile work well at providing year-round sweet onion supplies because of opposite seasons, said Brian Kastick, president of Saven Corp., Savannah, Ga., which markets the Oso Sweet brand.
“So the reason we go to Peru, and it’s not for the frequent flier miles, is because the onions themselves only harvest in the spring. Vidalias are harvested in April and May and put in cold storage.
“But when it’s springtime in Peru — because it’s close to the equator — their spring can drag on for six months.”
Kastick said he also thinks changing demographics have helped bolster demand.
As baby boomers grow older, traditional yellow cooking onions may be too strong for their taste buds, so they seek out the milder sweets.
In addition, the economic slump from which the nation is recovering prompted more people to stay home and prepare meals.
“I think there’s renewed interest in cooking at home,” he said.
And many consumers view sweet onions as an affordable luxury that also adds flavor, Kastick said.
“Sweet onions have a lot more water in them,” he said. “That flavor, and the extra water, sort of infuses into the recipe. It’s the water content, higher sugars and lower pyruvic (acid) that make them better for cooking and better for fresh applications.
“Sweet onions are really becoming the onion for people who want to jazz up a very easy recipe.”