VIDALIA, Ga. — Though an overwhelming majority of Vidalia sweet onions ship fresh to retailers, buyers are increasingly asking for more processed product.
The processed line also helps find a home for the many No. 2 onions, growers say, and continues the Vidalia name during the offseason.
Through its Vidalia Valley processing operation and brand, Stanley Farms helps market those unmarketable onions.
As No. 2 onions constitute about 25% of the overall crop, Brian Stanley, Stanley Farms’ sales manager, estimates 10% of the overall crop ships to processing.
“We can only use half of those because the other half isn’t good enough,” Stanley said.
“I think we help out the whole industry because we can take the No. 2s they would normally dump in the field. We can’t handle a rotten one here, but if it has a cut, blemish, decay, or is misshapen, we can peel it off. Its sweetness is the same.”
Stanley said processing demand is growing, but only in the fresh-cut part of processed and precooked onions and onion products for foodservice.
Demand for condiments remains flat. He said most customers aren’t interested in paying $3.50 for a grilling sauce when they can purchase ketchup for much less. Stanley said sauteed onions in sauce packed in 5-gallon buckets work well for steak restaurants.
Stanley Farms processes fresh-cut sliced and diced onions, fresh whole-peeled onions and cooked and frozen onions.
Jamie Brannen, partner with Statesboro-based Curry & Co. of Georgia LLC and Sweet Vidalia Farms, said he sells many No. 2s to Vidalia Valley.
“Getting rid of a few of our No. 2s helps the grower make more money and is the best way to dispose of unmarketable product,” he said.
“It can’t hurt having that name on there. That brand recognition of the Vidalias is fantastic.”
For more than two decades, Bland Farms LLC, Glennville, has sold condiments such as sauces and dips and side items including batter mixes though its Vidalia Brands subsidiary. Vidalia Brands also sells diced and frozen onions.
Wendy Brannen, executive director of the Vidalia Onion Committee, said processed products offer Vidalia shippers huge opportunity.
“We are seeing our industry become more involved with that and offer easier courses for those interested in partnering with them,” she said.
“It’s an exciting time for that area. We will see some really interesting and tasty opportunities come in the next couple of years.”