Marketers report continuing strong demand for fresh herbs, buoyed by several food trends.
Basil continues to lead the pack, but growers reported rising interest in other herbs as well.
“The up-and-comer in the fresh herb category is mint, especially in the summer months,” said Chris Wada, marketing manager for Thermal, Calif.-based North Shore Living Herbs + Greens.
“The use of this in everything from infused water, to summer cocktails, to a refreshing berry dessert is extremely popular.”
Camilo Penalosa, managing director for Miami-based Infinite Herbs & Specialties, also said the use of mint has increased due to more use as a garnish and in drinks at restaurants. He noted epazote and cilantro are among multicultural herbs seeing growth.
“We are (also) growing more specialties for foodservice, such as apple mint, chocolate mint, lavender, peppermint,” Penalosa said.
Basil, cilantro and parsley are among the best-sellers for Rockingham, Va.-based Shenandoah Growers, said marketing director Nadine Williams.
Plenty of other items are also gaining traction, however.
“As culinary creativity is explored more broadly with younger consumers, retailer variety is essential,” Williams said.
“In the ‘Insta’ world that we live in, consumers want to not only eat with their taste buds but (with) their eyes. Herbs that capture the imagination are gaining in popularity, such as edible flowers, chervil, lemongrass, sorrel and tarragon.”
Andrew Walsh, CEO of Morro Bay, Calif.-based Vida Fresh, said meal kits have helped introduce lesser-known herbs to consumers.
“When they go to go purchase at the stores, they then are more adventurous with what they’re buying at the retail level,” Walsh said.
Williams noted that fresh herbs dovetail nicely with a number of food trends.
“Herbs are the ultimate way to add amazing flavor to food without the extra calories, sugar, etc.,” Williams said.
“Keto and Whole30 are (shaping) some of the popular diet trends today. The diet crazes might change over time, but almost all include herbs as a go-to because they are the healthiest way to add flavor.”
Walsh also called out flavor as key.
“We believe that there’s ongoing growth in the industry as the customers are looking for more flavorsome options to add to their meals, and we’re working to get the best flavor of each variety because most of the herbs do get used in their fresh form, so we’re focusing on varieties that really give that flavor and shelf life that consumers are looking for,” Walsh said.
Williams highlighted herbs as an area in which there is opportunity for retailers to go to the next level with organic.
“For the past couple of years we’ve been seeing the consumer preference shift to organic herbs over conventional,” Williams said.
“This year the retailers have really gotten on board with the consumers’ needs and jumped into organic, often sacrificing smaller packed product for the same retail price to afford the move to all organic.”