Delbert Bland, owner of Bland Farms LLC, says the company's packaging for its Peruvian onions is nearly identical to that of its Vidalias.
Delbert Bland, owner of Bland Farms LLC, says the company's packaging for its Peruvian onions is nearly identical to that of its Vidalias.

Successful marketing of Peruvian onions in retail stores is no mystery, said Delbert Bland, owner of Glennville, Ga.-based Bland Farms LLC, which supplies sweet onions to stores year-round.

“The best way to market a Peru onion is to do exactly what we do with the Vidalia onions,” Bland said.

That’s a marketing advantage all by itself, because “Vidalia created the sweet onion category,” he said.

Vidalia season runs only through the summer months, but customers continue to look for that type of flat, sweet onion, Bland said.

“They buy that onion all winter,” Bland said.

Bland’s Peruvian sweets come adorned in similar packaging, to catch the eye of the consumer, Bland said.

“If you look at our packages in Vidalia and Peru, the only two words that are different are ‘Peru’ versus ‘Vidalia.’ So we get people to look consistently for Bland Farms so they know it’s the same family and can be assured of getting consistent quality,” he said.

Retailers know what to expect, too, he said.

“We have had the most success with what we call our regular customer base that buy sweet onions from us all year long, because we assure them they can go to the store every day and get the same consistent flavor,” Bland said.

Quality, cost

Quality is one matter. Keeping costs consistent is another, said Walt Dasher, co-owner of Glennville, Ga.-based G&R Farms, which also grows and ships sweet onions out of Peru.

“Typically, the Peruvian market is a higher-priced sweet onion, the reason being you have a ton of expense in your freight, so that’s half your battle there,” Dasher said.

But most retailers want to carry a sweet onion to fill the winter gap, and the uniformly sized Peruvian onions fill the need with very little shrink, he said.

A good-looking product will draw retail shoppers, said Mark Breimeister, sales director with Saven Crop., a Detroit-based affiliate of Savannah, Ga.-based onion grower-shipper Oso Sweet.

“We always believe people buy with their eyes, so it’s important for us to deliver consistent-looking product,” Brimeister said.

It also helps to showcase the Peruvian onions, Breimeister said.

“It helps the retailer to build a big display that always moves product,” he said.

Marty Kamer, vice president of Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc. in Greencastle, Pa., agreed.

“A large prominent display, full and fresh, will go a long way to maximize sales,” he said.

A little cross-merchandising also will go a long way toward making sales, said Barry Rogers, president of Sweet Onion Trading Corp. in Grant, Fla.

“I see more and more people moving them around,” he said. “I see people with meat on sale — they’ll stick some by the meat with a few mushrooms.”

Retailers shouldn’t be afraid to build big bulk displays, said Karl Bonhomme, president of Miami-based Bonhomme International Trading Corp.

“I think they should keep it that way, just loose on the shelves, because it’s such an attractive onion,” he said.