Onion grower-shippers say choice is a major part of their program, including a range of sizes and varieties and, to some extent, organics.
“There is such a variety of quality sweet Spanish onion varieties that is is difficult to state what’s ‘hot’ or on-trend,” said Herb Haun, owner of Weister, Idaho-based Haun Packing and promotion committee chairman of the Parma, Idaho-based Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee.
“Buyers are always looking for single-centered onions, and many varieties grown in the area yield large volumes of single centers.”
Thomson International has recalled all onions it shipped from May 1 to Aug. 1, including yellow, white, red and sweet onions; they were shipped to customers in all 50 states, and as Aug. 18, the 869 were in every state except Oklahoma and Louisiana. As of Aug. 14, there were 339 cases, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency named red onions from Thomson International as the likely source of the outbreak in late July, and no other onions have been named as a source. The company recalled all onions, however, in the case of possible cross contamination.
The coronavirus has caused major shifts in the onion business, and grower-shippers across the Idaho-Eastern Oregon region say they are working to stay ahead of changes that sometimes come with little or no notice.
A collapse in foodservice sales is one example, said Mackenzie Mills, account manager with Bancroft, Wis.-based RPE Inc., which supplies onions from the region.
“Initially we experienced a large spike in retail and a drop in foodservice,” she said.
Episode 12 of Tip of the Iceberg Podcast, brought to you by The Packer and PMG, features an interview with Shay Myers, CEO of Parma, Idaho-based Owyhee Produce and The Packer’s 2020 Produce Man of the Year.
Myers talks about the onion crop, adjustments that have needed to be made due to COVID-19, and the effect of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program on the business. He also discusses reasons for optimism despite the challenges the pandemic has posed for the industry.
You can listen to Myers' interview with The Packer's editor-in-chief Tom Karst on the player below or on popular platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. You can also watch the interview here.
Idaho-Eastern Oregon onion shippers expect to ship a lot more of their product in packages this year, thanks to the coronavirus.
“COVID-19 has changed the way consumers approach the grocery store,” said Tiffany Cruickshank, transportation manager and sales and marketing representative with Parma, Idaho-based Snake River Produce Co. LLC.
Online and delivery, as well as curbside pickup, options have taken hold among consumers, which has fed the growth in packaging, she said.