Kale fills organic niche

07/20/2012 02:58:00 PM
Mike Hornick

SALINAS, Calif. — California organic grower-shippers continue to target consumers who yearn for something stronger in their greens — for example, kale and chards.

“While tender leaf greens have become real staples, we’re looking at more tender varieties of hardier greens that offer consumers great flavor, higher nutritional values and flexibility in the kitchen,” said Craig Hope, chief customer officer at San Juan Bautista-based Earthbound Farm.

Power Greens, a mix of organic baby spinach leaves, baby red and green chards and baby kales in bags and clamshells, came out in February and has performed well, Hope said, as have Earthbound’s mixed baby kales.

“They can be juiced, sautéed or used in salads,” he said. “Our consumers seem to really appreciate that versatility.”

The full lineup of Earthbound Farm’s organic products earned the grower-shipper it’s three best sales months ever in March, April and May, Hope said.

“It is exciting to see consumers vote with their hard-earned dollars and support the core principles of organic farming and products in the face of unprecedented economic uncertainty,” he said.

Pacific International Marketing, which offers about 40 organic commodities, is boosting its own effort in hardy leaves.

“We’ve expanded in the different kale commodities, and we’re planting more black and more red,” said Henry Dill, sales manager.

Pacific International Marketing’s broader leaf offerings, both organic and conventional, are in reduced production during the summer homegrown deals in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

Other vegetable items gaining acreage at the grower-shipper include leeks, anise, celery and cauliflower.

Deardorff resumes Salinas deal

Oxnard-based Deardorff Family Farms has begun its second summer organic deal marketing produce grown by Salinas-based Crown Packing.

Conventionally grown leaf items finished in Oxnard in May and won’t resume there until November, said David Cook, sales manager. Organic started in Salinas in July with Crown Packing. There was some overlap with Oxnard.

“The Bunn family does a fantastic job,” Cook said, referring to Crown Packing’s owners. “They’re doing a little more for us than last year. Romaine, red leaf, green leaf. They also grow celery and broccoli.”

The bulk of product is marketed under the Deardorff Organics label.

“It’s good quality,” Cook said, “but we’re suffering like everybody from fringe burn or wind damage. It’s gotten better lately, but it’s still a bit of a problem.”

Volume up

At Earthbound Farm, plantings were up this year on romaine hearts, iceberg, celery and broccolette, Hope said, but cool temperatures slowed volume.

“We’ve had moderate supplies on all the organic leaf items, but a lot of activity from customers coming to us based on what we believe is a real good program,” said Doug Classen, sales manager at Salinas-based The Nunes Co. “We’re happy with it and expanding. What really complements that is loading up at the same dock as conventional. Our retail base is able to take advantage.”

Coastline celery

Salinas-based Coastline Produce planned kicked off an organic celery deal in mid-July. It’s the only commodity the Salinas, Calif.-based grower-shipper offers in organic.



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