The restaurant industry remains a small part of sweet onion sales from Peru, and this year, growers say that’s OK.
“There’s not a huge demand for sweet onions (in foodservice), and there’s not a big push to increase that, as steady as demand is and when we are in a situation where supplies are already tight to meet demand,” said Margret DeBruyn, president and chief executive officer of DeBruyn Produce Co., Zeeland, Mich.
“People are hesitant to try and create more demand right now,” she said.
Of course, that doesn’t mean growers and shippers wouldn’t be pleased if restaurant interest in Peruvian sweet onions were to pick up.
“Now that we are a year-round sweet onion program, that would be something we would be more interested in,” said Brian Kastick, president and general manager of Oso Sweet Onions, Charleston, W. Va.
Kastick explained that his company does some business with restaurants now, but it’s a small percentage of sales.
“They do use sweet onions but not a large quantity,” he said. “If they buy 10 boxes, that will last them a couple days, and those few boxes are hard to show up in reports.”
He added that most restaurants that use sweet onions are individual establishments, not chain restaurants that would have larger purchase orders.
“Your high-end fancy restaurants may use them, but it’s not something most restaurants would be using,” she said, referring to higher-priced Peruvian sweet onions.
Industry professions certainly agree that the main reason Peruvian onions aren’t seen in many restaurants is their tendency to bring a higher price.
“People in the restaurant industry just don’t want to pay the price that sweet onions usually bring,” said Delbert Bland, owner of Bland Farms LLC, Glennville, Ga.
DeBruyn has even noticed the use of large sweet onions declining over the past few years.
“Certain restaurants that used to have big blooming onions now just have the smaller ones,” she said, crediting the push to make America healthier and the economy as possible reasons why.
“You just don’t see appetizers and things like that as much,” she said.