There should be plenty of onions out of Washington and Oregon to keep retail customers and their shoppers content this year, suppliers said.
Retail pricing always helps keep product moving, sources said.
“I think last year, it had higher pricing, so it has been hard to do promotional sales or things like that to basically massage the marketing a little bit and basically move the product,” said Brenden Kent, vice president of Prosser, Wash.-based onion grower-shipper Sunset Produce LLC.
Kent said he expects average pricing as well as promotional activity for sweet onions out of Washington and Oregon.
He said Sunset Produce is exploring promotional options for its sweet onion, the Heavenly Sweet.
“We’re looking at doing some promotions around college football with grilling. We’ve already talked to a couple of retailers about doing that,” he said.
Sweet onions also are central to retail promotional plans for Hermiston, Ore.-based River Point Farms, said Carly Kwak, sales director.
“We are currently marketing our seasonal crop of Walla Walla onions, which last until about Labor Day,” Kwak said.
Demand for the company’s Walla Walla Double Sweets has been high, Kwak said.
Shawn Hartley, vice president of sales and owner of Syracuse, Utah-based Utah Onions Inc., which also grows and ships out of Oregon and Washington, said he anticipates ample promotional opportunities this season because of a competitive pricing situation.
“I don’t think you’ll see high prices,” he said. “Prices will be there for retailers to have some ads in August, September.”
Product should be plentiful throughout the season, Hartley said.
“I think (in) Washington you’ll see high yields, so I think there will be some opportunities there. I don’t think we’ll price ourselves out of it,” he said.
Foodservice opportunities seem to be trending upward for onions, Hartley said.
“From our side, it’s been pretty good,” he said.
How it fares in the future depends on how healthy the economy is perceived, he said.
“I’ll be interested to see what happens if the economy gets rolling a little bit, and you hope people will be out in the restaurants a little more,” Hartley said.
Foodservice is the primary business for Pleasant Grove, Utah-based National Onion Inc., which ships some of its onions out of the Pacific Northwest, said Steve Smith, president.
National Onion focuses primarily on the foodservice business, and about a quarter of that is onion rings during winter, Smith said.
“It seems like it’s been a growing area,” Smith said of the foodservice category.
The onion ring business has reached a plateau, Smith said.
“Onion rings are about the same usage all the time the last couple of years,” he said.
The company looks for new ways to offer the product as a way to build sales, Smith said.
“We’re always looking for something else, like a thinner cut or something that might stimulate some business or an appetizer that competes with all the other appetizers,” he said.
Food safety programs have had to keep pace with that growth, Smith said.