As the organic produce category expands its presence in retail produce departments, the category is bringing a wider selection, marketers say.
Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole Food Co. says it has expanded its organic lineup for 2016.
â€œIn addition to packaged salad mixes and kits, weâ€™re also seeing an increase in demand for Dole Organic Berries. This is especially true of organic blueberries, raspberries and blackberries,â€ said Bil Goldfield, director or corporate communications.
In 2016, Dole introduced a 6-ounce pack of organic blueberries and is working with growers to plant additional organic berries to meet the increased demand, Goldfield said. That the company also has begun â€œa small productionâ€ of organic blackberries for 2016 and will add organic raspberries in 2017, he said.
â€œItâ€™s interesting to see the organic growth spread to so many items,â€ said Bruce Turner, national salesman for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers.
Additional supplies help round out availability and make it easier for retailers to increase their organic square footage, Turner said.
â€œImports also play an increasing role, making mainstream and specialty items available year-round,â€ he said.
Porterville, Calif.-based Homegrown Organic Farms has added pomelos to its organic citrus lineup, and they have generated traction, said Scott Mabs, CEO.
Itâ€™s part of an evolving organic business that is seeing wider acceptance of specialties, Mabs said.
â€œIt used to be specialty items in organic were very hard to sell, kind of like youâ€™re selling to a niche of a niche market and the market becomes so small thereâ€™s no demand,â€ he said.
Now, though, retail customers are trying to build programs around a specialty item, Mabs said.
â€œWeâ€™ve definitely seen a turn over the last two or three years, where weâ€™ve been successful with specialty items organics,â€ he said, citing asian pears as another successful specialty.
Even dragon fruit
Specialty varieties of mainstream fruits â€” reed and fuerte avocados and red bananas, plantains and apple bananas, for instance â€” are generating unprecedented sales numbers, and so are more exotic items, such as dragon fruit, said Earl Herrick, owner, president and founder of wholesaler Earlâ€™s Organic Produce, San Francisco.
â€œI think itâ€™s a result of people traveling and seeing these items and coming back and creating a demand for them,â€ he said.
Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce, which markets under the Melissaâ€™s label, offers numerous specialty items among more than 350 organic products it sells, said Robert Schueller, director of public relations.
Specialties are definitely showing growth, Schueller said.
He said ginger root as a â€œtremendous gainer,â€ along with a combo bag of lemons and limes.
â€œFrom a specialty category, we may be one of the only companies that do a combo pack,â€ he said.
The company offered organic muscato grapes for the first time in 2016, after having sold the conventional product for six years, Schueller said.
â€œWe grow them in Mexico and had the first organic muscato grapes in early June, so weâ€™re introducing new organics into our line as consumer demand increases,â€ Schueller said.
Watsonville, Calif.-based Lakeside Organic Gardens offers specialty radishes, broccoli and brussels sprouts, said Katie Bassman, marketing coordinator.
â€œThe sweet baby broccoli has good sales and demand. Thatâ€™s definitely the growth area for our specialties,â€ she said.