Coral BeachArmed with upgraded packing equipment and new promotions, staff at Bland Farms stand ready for the start of the 2013 Vidalia onion season (from left): Bryce Edmonson, chief executive officer; Troy Bland, director of quality control and procurement; Kristie Waters, sales manager; John Cameron sales director; and Delbert Bland, president.GLENNVILLE, Ga. — After a season of new faces at Bland Farms in 2012, the Vidalia onion powerhouse this year is focusing on upgrades to its packing facility and marketing efforts.
There are, however, a few new people in the mix again this season at Bland, including sales director John Cameron and new sales staff Kristie Waters and Amanda Crosby.
Cross-promotion set for June
Cameron, who is working closely with marketing director Sarah Seebran, said Bland is fine-tuning its focus on its retail customers and the consumers who shop in their stores.
President Delbert Bland said his family’s company typically sells almost all of the 3,000 acres of Vidalia onions it packs to retailers.
“We want the consumers to have the biggest bang for their buck,” Cameron said, adding that sweet onion consumers can help retailers achieve big bucks, too, because they spend 32% more per shopping trip than those who don’t buy sweet onions.
Seebran added that Bland’s philosophy is that one size does not fit all when it comes to working with retailers.
“We like to work with them one on one. We can help them reduce consumers’ confusion about sweet onions with point-of-sale materials and other tools all through the Vidalia season,” Seebran said.
Bland plans a cross-promotion this season with NatureSweet, offering consumers a dollar-off coupon when they buy Bland’s Vidalias and NatureSweet’s cherry tomatoes. The promotion is set to begin in June.
Improving shed efficiency
Behind the scenes at Bland, upgrades to drying and packing equipment promise to speed operations and reduce costs, operations director David Beecher said.
“Drying the onions can be a bottleneck in the packing process,” Beecher said.
Consequently Bland rebuilt 14 onion dryers to provide recirculation.
The upgrade means Bland Farms staff has better control of temperature and humidity levels in the dryers.
“We’ve increased (drying) capacity 50%,” Beecher said.
The bagging process should also be faster at Bland because of the installation of new equipment.
Beecher said a third of Bland’s bagging machines are new this season. They have automatic weighing devices that speed packing.
Bland also has new labels for 2013 that allow for on-pack coupons that do not require slowing the line for staff to apply coupons by hand.
Bland said the company is constantly reviewing operations and procedures.
“You’re only as good as the last box you packed,” he said.