Growers, marketers look forward to a stronger year - The Packer

Growers, marketers look forward to a stronger year

03/15/2013 01:48:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Grower-shippers are looking forward to stronger demand after a disappointing 2012, particularly when it comes to tomatoes.

“We’re looking forward to a little better year,” said Doug Kling, chief sales and marketing officer for Eatontown, N.J.-based Village Farms LP.

A major problem last season was a glut of tomatoes on the vine, Kling said.

Growers seem committed to doing all they can to make sure there isn’t a repeat of that scenario in 2013, he said.

“People are looking at better ratios, a broader mix,” he said. “The greenhouse industry is like anything else — it finds a balance.”


Optimism for this year

So far, 2013 has gotten off to a much better start than 2012, said Mike Reed, president of Langley, British Columbia-based BC Hot House Foods Inc.

“Last year was a horrible market out of Mexico,” he said.

A combination of lighter Mexican volumes and stronger demand this season have helped turn that around, Reed said.

One of the categories Aaron Quon, greenhouse and vegetable category director for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, is most excited about this year is cucumbers.

“Our cucumber program has grown exponentially,” he said. “We began shipping SunSelect-branded long English cucumbers in January, our earliest start ever.”

That was possible, Quon said, because Randhawa Farms, which packs under the SunSelect brand, grows cucumbers under lights, enabling year-round availability.

Rising organic demand also should play a role in boosting cucumber sales this year for Oppenheimer.

“We are looking forward to adding organic cucumbers from OriginO by mid-March,” Quon said. “The popularity of organics continues to build at the consumer level, and our top quality greenhouse items, like those grown by OriginO, can help retailers differentiate in the organic category.”


Robust demand

Tim Cunniff, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Madison, Maine-based Backyard Farms LLC, said demand for greenhouse vegetables in his corner of the country is robust.

“In the Northeast, we have a pretty strong greenhouse market,” he said. “Demand has been fairly steady.”

Last year, business was off a bit, Cunniff said.

But that was an aberration. Most years since Backyard Farms was founded, the company has enjoyed steady growth.

Backyard Farms, however, seeks to differentiate not just between greenhouse and field-grown in the marketplace, but also between its own greenhouse-grown and other greenhouse-grown product, Cunniff said.

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