Greenhouse specialty vegetable sales have definitely declined as a result of the recession, grower-shippers say.

“People aren’t willing to pay $4.99 or $5.99” for specialty greenhouse veg packs, said Aaron Quon, greenhouse vegetable cate-gory manager for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group. “Specialty items have slowed down a bit because of the higher ring.”

Instead, consumers are sticking with greenhouse veg staples, he said.

“Tomatoes on-the-vine, beef-steaks and bell peppers are doing better,” he said. “We’ve seen good growth on those items.”

That said, Oppenheimer is making a push on some of its greenhouse veg specialties, including its amarosa cocktail tomato.

“We’ve had it for a number of years, but we’re putting a lot of emphasis behind it this year,” Quon said.

Strawberry snacking tomatoes are another specialty greenhouse item Oppenheimer is trying to increase awareness of, he said.

When it comes to paying $3.99 for a specialty greenhouse vegeta-ble item in a clamshell, or 99 cents for a pound of greenhouse cluster tomatoes, a sour economy can make the choice an easy one for many consumers, said Dino Dilaudo, sales manager of Westmore-land Sales, Leamington, Ontario.

“Specialties have taken some hits,” he said. “People are definitely aware of the dollars they’re spending, and specialty tomatoes and peppers can be viewed as more of a luxury.”

The recession may be officially over, but that doesn’t mean con-sumers are automatically switching back to their old buying habits.

“I think it’s taken a little longer than expected,” Dilaudo said. “I don’t think people have stopped eating peppers and tomatoes. But they’ve moved to a beefsteak or another item that’s more affordable.”

About 10-12 of the 2,000 green-house vegetable acres in Leaming-ton, Ontario, are devoted to organic, said Dino Dilaudo, sales manager for Leamington-based Westmoreland Sales.

And he doesn’t see a big surge in that tiny number any time soon. Selling retailers on the price pre-mium is one big roadblock.

“Organic is a very niche item,” he said. “It’s very challenging for marketers.”

Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group ships organic greenhouse tomatoes on-the-vine, beefsteak tomatoes and English cucumbers grown in British Columbia, said Aaron Quon, the company’s greenhouse vegetable category manager.

Demand for greenhouse organ-ics, like demand for greenhouse specialties, is still down as a result of the economic downturn, Quon said. In some cases, organic product can costs 20% more than conven-tional.

“Consumers are not willing to pay a lot extra per pound,” he said.

In an effort to narrow that price gap, some organic prices have come down to appeal to recession-minded consumers, Quon said. In the past, some items may have cost as much as twice as much as their conventional greenhouse counter-parts, he said.

When the economy makes a full comeback, the organic category will come back along with it, Quon said.

“I think there’s still strong demand,” he said. “We’ll see those people come back.”