The Walla Walla, Wash., sweet onion crop is running about a week late, but retailers should expect to have adequate supplies in time for Fourth of July promotions, said Harry Hamada, manager of Walla Walla River Packing and Storage LLC, Walla Walla.
Promotions are especially important for the Walla Walla crop, which is a strictly fresh crop.
“When a product has a limited shelf life, you can’t sit on it,” said Ben Cavalli, owner of Cavalli’s Onion Acres, Walla Walla. “You have to get rid of them.”
Dan Borer, general manager of the Walla Walla office of Greencastle, Pa.-based Keystone Fruit Marketing, said Walla Walla’s onions have low acid and high brix levels, which make the product extremely sweet but also prevent it from being used as a storage crop.
“It’s a truly fresh onion, not a storage onion,” Borer said. “That’s the good thing about Walla Walla. It’s best fresh.”
Keystone, which represents the majority of Walla Walla’s onion acreage, plans to continue its consumer awareness efforts, which focus primarily on the West Coast and especially southern California. Borer said the promotional efforts include print, radio and television advertising as well as outdoor media — such as billboards and bus shelters — and social media. Walla Walla onions likely will be featured on cooking shows in the region as well, Borer said.
“It’s pretty comprehensive and well developed,” Borer said. “We’ve been doing it for five years, and it’s pretty successful.”
The radio spots include drive-time ads in major media markets.
“In southern California, that’s a lot of exposure and a lot of people on the road,” Borer said.
Hamada said Walla Walla, with roughly 700 acres, typically produces 400,000 40-pound equivalents per season.
“It’s amazing how many people know about Walla Walla relative to the size of the crop,” Borer said. “It’s well known in the West and has a great following. We ship to almost every state, including Hawaii and Alaska. It’s a quality product in high demand.”