DeBruyn said retailers could step up and pay for the certification themselves if it’s something the consumer is demanding.
“If retailers were willing to pay that, I think (grower-shippers) would do it without question,” she said.
Burrell also believes retailers will need to take charge of the process.
“Without retailer demand for flavor verification, the consumer experience is very inconsistent,” he said. “Sometimes they will get great sweet onions and at other times the onions are so hot they’ll blow your socks off, and the consumer cannot tell the difference by looking at the onion.”
Some companies have taken advantage of the Nation Onion Lab’s testing procedures and implemented the process.
Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa., offers Certified Sweet onions through National Onion Labs, according to Marty Kamer, vice president of Keystone Fruit Marketing, Inc., Greencastle, Pa.
Sweet Onion Trading Co., Melbourne, Fla., also tests all of their shipments, not just the ones from Peru.
“We do it as a service to our customers so we can assure them they are actually getting a sweet onion,” Derek Rodgers, director of sales, said.
He expects to see more shippers begin certifying.
“The industry goal is to eliminate the fake sweet, which is essentially a hot onion with a sweet sticker,” Rodgers said.
DeBruyn also said there are some issues with mislabeling onions that can cause trouble for sweet onions. However, she has seen more issues with that domestically than from Peru.
“Anything coming out of Peru is likely going to be a flat onion. There’s only a couple types of seeds grown down there, and it’s just the nature of the ground and everything else,” she said.
Brian Kastick, president and general manager of Oso Sweet Onions, Charleston, W. Va., agrees Peru’s longevity in the sweet onion deal should help assure customers that the onions are really sweet onions.
He says he hasn’t used the National Onion Labs for sweet onion certification because it doesn’t seem it would benefit its customers.
“We’ve been doing this for more than two decades and we feel very confident we produce a great product. It’s the same farmer, the same place, and everyone says they are sweet,” he said.