Root Vegetables Bring Color and Variety to Retail

Baby beets, rainbow carrots, and specialty radishes find homes among a wide variety of consumers. They have broad appeal and versatility, serving as additions to both raw and cooked dishes.

Carrot category is a powerhouse of the produce department.

Originally printed in the October 2023 issue of Produce Business.

A plethora of colorful and specialty root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, radishes, Tokyo turnips, parsley root and celery root, once were primarily served at white tablecloth, high-end restaurants.

While foodservice remains Babé Farms’ primary channel, says Matt Hiltner, marketing coordinator for the Santa Maria, CA-based company, “our brand of colorful and intriguing vegetables is gaining a surge of popularity and becoming more readily available at the retail level.”

“As TikTok and Instagram recipe creators continue to leave no stone unturned when it comes to developing content, naturally, these types of eye-catching vegetables fit the bill for them,” Hiltner explains. “Retailers would be wise to monitor viral recipe trends on social media, so they can be prepared for the resulting spikes in demand.”

Similarly, David Bright, vice president of marketing for Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield, CA, notes, “Our rainbow carrot product line provides consumers with the opportunity to dress up their snacks and culinary creations with vibrant color and unique flavors.”

Bright says orange carrots dominate all root veg category segments “and will likely continue to do so, with the consistently sweet flavor and crunch that consumers love.”

“However,” he adds, “Cal-Organic Farms has built a strong niche for organic rainbow carrots available as baby carrots, carrot chips, carrot shred, whole cello bagged carrots, and bunch carrots that began nearly a decade ago.”

“With their greens down and colorful roots visible, most root veggies can turn a produce section into a stunning visual feast.”

— Matt Hiltner, Babé Farms, Santa Maria, CA

The category is holding its own in the highly competitive produce industry. In 52 weeks ending Aug. 13, 2023, Circana data showed carrot sales performing on par with total produce sales, a bit lower in volume and a bit better in retail dollar sales. Retail shoppers are showing particular interest in value-added carrot cuts, which showed strength with more than 8% growth in retail sales in the year leading to mid-August.

“Carrot shreds, chips, and sticks are a quick and convenient way to get the family to eat more vegetables as a snack with dip, tossed on a salad, air fried, or tossed in a lunch box,” says Bright. “Future sales growth is expected to continue as shoppers seek out the unmatched value that carrots offer to nourish their families.”

The Grimmway marketer adds, the “carrot category is a powerhouse of the produce department that offers shoppers value, nutrition, convenience and even some fun.”


Hiltner of Babé advises that retail root vegetables should be displayed in a way that shows off their color. “With their greens down and colorful roots visible, most root veggies can turn a produce section into a stunning visual feast.”

With their greens down and colorful roots visible, most root veggies can turn a produce section into a visual feast.

However, a little extra effort is required with the watermelon radish, Hiltner adds. “Although watermelon radish isn’t much to look at on the outside, it has a beautiful, bright pink interior. For this reason, it’s a good idea for produce managers to cut one in half and display it next to the product, so consumers realize what makes this radish special.”

Babé Farms recently added the Pink Ninja radish, a member of the daikon family that resembles the company’s popular Purple Ninja radish in size and shape. “The Pink Ninja radiates a brilliant pink hue both inside and out. With a delightful spicy kick, it makes a striking and flavorful addition to any plate,” says Hiltner.

Other root items will experience heightened demand from specific cultural or ethnic groups, he adds. “For instance, parsley root is popular among the Jewish community, particularly around holidays.”

Heading into the holidays, retailers can cater to the health-conscious consumer by “selling health on the shelf” and cross-merchandising accordingly, Hiltner says.

Using celery root for an example, while it’s uncommon to the average consumer, “it is incredibly versatile, possesses a mild earthiness and celery-like flavor, and shares many qualities with the potato. Celery root can, in fact, be mashed with potatoes or even completely substituted as a healthy, keto-friendly option.”

Shoppers can also take their stuffing to the next level by adding diced celery root, he adds. “Cross-merchandising celery root with mashed potato and stuffing ingredients, along with recipe cards, is a slam dunk and something retailers should consider as our society continues to trend toward clean eating.”

He adds that Babé’s core items that do well in the retail space are baby beets, rainbow carrots, and specialty radishes “because they find homes among a wide variety of consumers. These items possess broad appeal and versatility, serving as delightful additions to both raw and cooked dishes. The color and beauty of these vegetables can enhance any dish, from hearty plated dinners to elegant crudités boards.”


Furthermore, organic carrot sales are seeing growth, notes Rob Giragosian, sales manager for Kern Ridge Growers LLC. As organic carrot availability grows, “some customers have added organic carrots to have a full lineup” in the carrot category.

As organic carrot availability grows, some retailers are adding organic carrots to have a full lineup in the carrot category.

The Arvin, CA-based firm packs a variety of packaging options, with conventional carrots, cut and peeled carrots, and organic standard, and cut and peeled organic carrots.

Other organic root vegetables include Grimmway’s Cal-Organic Farms’ year-round organic potatoes and onions. The organic potato program includes gold, red, and russet varieties as well as seasonal offerings of fingerling potatoes. The organic onion program includes yellow, red and white varieties.


Giragosian indicates that Kern Ridge supports customers as they develop merchandising ideas.
Grimmway works with its customers’ category management to assist in the pricing, placement, and promotion of the carrot category to maximize retail sales. “We also provide point-of-sales materials to draw shoppers to the carrot section and ensure the carrot offerings are clearly on display,” adds Bright. “Our social media channels show our products in the field and featured in delicious and innovative ways that draw shoppers to the store.”

For Babé Farms, social media has “proved to be a great way to promote our offerings,” Hiltner notes. “We have collaborated with the social teams for multiple retailers on photo shoots, videos, and in-store demos/events all to drive awareness of our product offerings.

“Having meaningful interactions with consumers either in-person or online goes a long way when it comes to their decision to buy.”

“We do our best to make promoting our items as easy for retailers as possible by providing anything from POS to product images and signage,” Hiltner adds. “With such a large percentage of retail sales coming online these days, having product descriptions and visuals readily available is essential for our retail partners and we support them however we can.”


Giragosian says Kern Ridge Growers grows and ships carrots 12 months a year. Carrots’ biggest volume movement is during school months, when there is more home cooking, and baby carrots are packed for healthy bagged lunches.

Retail shoppers are showing particular interest in value-added carrot cuts, which showed more than 8% growth in retail sales in the year leading to mid-August.

Overall, over time, carrot sales are pretty consistent. “Carrots are a hardware item that have a lot of legs. In a bad economy, it’s a good price point,” Giragosian adds.

Babé Farms ships its products across the United States and parts of Canada. “Regionally, we tend to see Midwest and East Coast sales pick up in the fall and winter months,” says Hiltner. “We attribute this to the cold weather ending the local growing season for farmers in these regions. We are fortunate to be able to grow year-round here on the central coast of California.”

Late this summer, Giragosian says carrot supplies were a little tight, and heavy California rains this year delayed some plantings. “This threw a curve ball at growers, but overall, they managed. In some cases, they planted in different areas.”