Fall — A Sweet Time For Peru Sweet Onions

Limited Organic Supplies

Organic sweet onions are available from Peru, but for a limited time. “There are limited supplies of organic sweet onions grown in Peru,” says Mike Blume of Keystone Fruit Marketing. “These organic sweet onions will be available in the U.S. for a short time, in November and December only.” Blume encourages retailers interested in Peru organic sweet onions to contact their suppliers early to ensure the stores’ needs are met.

Volume matches demand, however, and isn’t large, says Delbert Bland of Bland Farms. “It’s not as big as it could be,” says Bland. “I describe demand as level. People trust an onion more than they may for something like fruit, which have more of these insecticides. Onions don’t require the harsh chemicals and as many insecticides that some others use.”

In 2018, overall produce organic sales accounted for $17.4 billion. “The category continues to steadily increase year over year,” says John Shuman of Shuman Farms. “We know that today’s organic customers are very important to the produce department, especially as we continue to see the growth in this category. Our organic Peruvian sweet onions will be available in November.”

Large Displays Spur Sales

Displays of Peru sweet onions aren’t that different than displays of the Vidalias and Walla Wallas during the summer, observes Mike Blume of Keystone Fruit Marketing. “Big displays sell best, assuming you can sell through within a couple of days,” he says. “The big displays give the consumer a choice between loose and bags. If possible, a secondary display, especially 3-pound bags, can generate additional sales.”

There isn’t anything that necessitates displaying Peru sweet onions differently than their Vidalia sisters. “Retailers need to straight-up advertise them as a flat sweet onion,” advises Delbert Bland of Bland Farms. “The Peru and Vidalias should be merchandised identically. People know the Vidalia’s flatness and their pungency being so low. The characteristics of the Peru and Vidalia sweet onions are the same.”

Consumer consumption and purchase behavior research shows the average sweet onion consumer is 55 years old or older living in a two-person household with a $50,000–$75,000 annual income. The average consumer eats 1.6 pounds of sweet onions a year. “When sweet onions are in consumers’ market baskets, they are more likely to purchase fresh beef, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, mushrooms and peppers,” says John Shuman of Shuman Farms. “We encourage retailers to build cross merchandising displays in the produce department as well as the meat department to take advantage of these consumer buying habits and drive incremental sales.” The top dishes sweet onions are found in are salads, ethnic dishes and beef dishes.

Like other sweet onions, those from Peru need a bit more attention when placed on store shelves. “Because sweet onions don’t have the shelf life of a hybrid onion, it is critical to maintain display levels at what can be sold through within a day or two,” recommends Mike Blume of Keystone Fruit Marketing. “Secondary displays are always helpful in generating additional sales, too. And where possible, displays should include loose and bags, offering the consumer a choice.”

Bland recommends displaying Peru sweet onions away from other hot onions. “Retailers are better off with standalone displays and not to try to blend them in with the Western regular onions,” he says. “It’s a mistake when some stores try to blend them together and average the price. If a customers want buy Western onions and don’t care if they’re sweet or not, they will buy the cheapest onions they can get. But, if you separate Peru onions, you will get the premium price you need to get for them, and people will buy them.” Bland says he’s seeing more stores differentiating sweet onions.