The Year of the Brown Earth Dog

Color is King

No matter the geography, red and gold predominate. Color is an important aspect of moving ethnic produce, especially during special event times of the year.

“The eyes decide,” says Rick Stein, vice president of Fresh Foods at the Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, VA. “Those bright reds, yellows, purples and greens brighten up any display case, especially during Asian holidays.”

Color is so important that Melissa’s World Variety Produce, Los Angeles, hones in on it. “Symbolism associated with color is an important aspect of this particular holiday marketing,” says Robert Schueller, public relations director. “Some of our more colorful, and thereby more popular, items include kumquats, rambutans, Butterscotch pears, coconuts, lychees and Buddha’s Hand.”

Asian vegetables generally consumed during the Chinese New Year include baby bok choy, Chinese eggplant, cabbage, bok choy, Chinese long beans, petite Shanghai bok choy, daikon, petite baby bok choy, gai lan, bitter melon, lemongrass, snow peas and yu choy sum. Fruits include starfruit, jackfruit, Kishu Mandarins, Neapolitan tangerines, oranges and pomelos.

A variety of colorful items is offered by Frieda’s Inc. of Los Alamitos, CA. “Everything is symbolic, from the color of the produce to what the produce represents,” says Alex Jackson Berkley, senior account manager. “However, overall, specialty citrus is a great category, as most items either represent wealth or good fortune.”

According to Mary Ostland, marketing director for Brooks Tropicals in Homestead, FL, tropical fruits such as papaya, star fruit and dragon fruit are favorites during Chinese New Year. “The bright colors these three fruits bring to the produce aisle in wintertime are a welcome sight. The addition of this trio is an easy way to get into the holiday fun and add to the bottom line.”

Jim Provost of I Love Produce in Kelton, PA, says not to forget garlic. “We import garlic and ginger, so we need to think in terms of eight weeks out as a minimum to set up promotions and ensure an increased supply is on hand. Big retailers seem reluctant to promote these two items because they don’t attract the attention of the bigger volume products, but both garlic and ginger do well if they are promoted heavily during peak demand times.

Consumers have lots of choices when buying fruits and vegetables, but the flavors provided by these two items are unique, and when a recipe calls for them, there is no substitute. We promote garlic to achieve a sales bump during the Chinese New Year.”