Embracing their trendy status, Brussels sprouts are riding a strong wave of demand.
Supply of Brussels sprouts is up significantly compared with a few year ago.
IRI/FreshLook, a Chicago-based market research firm, reports Brussels sprouts retail sales for the 52-week period ending Feb. 25 totaled $255.5 million, up 16.9% compared with the same period a year ago.
Volume of fresh Brussels sprouts sold totaled 78.9 million pounds, up 9%. The average price was $3.24 per pound, up 22 cents compared with the same period a year ago.
U.S. Department of Agriculture shipment figures show domestic fresh Brussels sprout shipments totaled 3.03 million 25-pound cartons in 2016, up from 752,000 cartons in 2010.
Imported volume of fresh Brussels sprouts was rated at 4.5 million (25-pound) cartons, up from 1.06 million cartons in 2010.
In California, 2016 statistics show peak shipments of Brussels sprouts occurred in November, when 22% of the state’s crop was marketed.
The four-month period of September through December accounted for 68% of the state’s total Brussels sprouts shipments.
Mexico was the leading import supplier of Brussels sprouts in 2016, accounting for 90% of the imported volume. After Mexico, Guatemala (8% of import volume), Canada (1%), and the Netherlands (1%) also provide Brussels sprouts supply to the U.S.
For this year, crop prospects are good in California.
“Overall, crop quality has looked very good, with just an occasional decay condition as a result of raining conditions and colder temperatures,” said Art Barrientos, vice president of harvesting for Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms.
He said Brussels sprouts acreage is increasing to align with increased demand. Organic acreage and product availability will increase as well, also to align with demand.
The vegetable is a year-round commodity, but peak retail promotions occur around the holiday periods of Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Still, Brusssels sprouts are a year-round vegetable, one leading marketer said.
“Obviously certain holidays or seasonal promotion are tremendous, but there is not doubt the day-to-day weekly consumption of sprouts has gone up dramatically,” said Butch Corda, general manager of Ippolito International LP, Salinas, Calif.
Merchandising for Brussels sprouts historically has been done with bulk displays, but value-added packs are taking on increasing importance.
“We see Brussels sprouts doing really well in the value-added space,” said Jacob Shafer, senior marketing and communications specialist for Mann Packing Co. Inc., Salinas.
“Brussels sprouts continue to be a high-demand vegetable, with value-added Brussels sprouts showing no signs of slowing down, outpacing the growth in the bulk Brussels sprouts segment,” said Diana McClean, senior director of marketing for Ocean Mist Farms.
Corda believes the growth in Brussels sprouts consumption will continue to increase, but said there have been challenges as acreage and marketers are added to the deal.
“I think like any commodity that experiences significant growth, a lot of companies and competitors pursue these markets,” he said.
The challenges are not just in growing and packing the vegetable, but also on the marketing side.
“A lot of people get in (the deal) and might have amounts far greater than they realistically can handle and sell,” he said.
“There has been a lot of humbleness the last couple of winters on how many people got in it and how depressed the markets were and how much product wasn’t harvested because it couldn’t be moved,” Corda said.