“We focus on ourselves more than the industry and on how we’re different from everybody,” Cunniff said, citing things such as the company’s year-round sourcing from its Maine facility and its reliance on a local work force.
Traditional pattern in 2013
Greenhouse’s food safety bona fides continue to help drive strong demand, said Joe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing for Mucci Farms, Kingsville, Ontario.
“Demand for our product is always great, and every year we see higher demand,” he said.
Demand in 2013 should bounce back from last year’s lull, Spano said.
“Last year there was a unique overlap,” he said. “It was a perfect storm in all directions. This year we’re seeing more of a traditional pattern, whether it’s less acreage, later plantings — it’s hard to put your finger on it.”
For Mike Aiton, marketing director at Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif., the clearest sign of the strength of the greenhouse vegetable industry close to home can be seen in his company’s decision to double the acreage at its Coachella greenhouse facility over the past two years.
Prime Time produces greenhouse colored bell peppers, mini bell peppers and vine-ripe round, roma and grape tomatoes. It also has facilities in mainland Mexico and Baja California.
Its Coachella greenhouse division is 100% peppers, Aiton said.
Prime Time’s growth in Coachella and in its greenhouse vegetable program in general has not come at the expense of its field production, Aiton said.
“Greenhouse isn’t stealing acreage from field-grown,” he said. “For Prime Time, field-grown still is the dominant percentage of our production.”
What the company’s greenhouse program offers is a chance to keep all its customers satisfied.
“We have hothouse because different customers prefer different things,” he said.
Looking at the industry as a whole, however, Aiton sees robust demand for greenhouse-grown vegetables.
With the growing popularity of greenhouse-grown has come diversity, Aiton said.
“It used to be just tomatoes and peppers,” he said. “Now it’s expanded to a lot of other products grown indoors.”