Vidalias Energize the Onion Category

Vidalia onion fans can mark their calendars for April 17, when the sweet onions are set to ship to grocery stores nationwide.

Bank on it: Vidalia onions stand out from the rest.

Originally printed in the March 2024 issue of Produce Business.

Vidalia onions give food retailers an opportunity to energize the entire onion category, as consumers look for fresh, light and flavorful taste to add to their meals.

“Vidalia onions are distinguished by their mild, sweet flavor, attributable to the unique combination of weather, water and soil conditions in the Vidalia-growing region of Georgia,” says Matt Kulinski of the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Marketing Division. “This distinct taste profile makes them versatile in culinary uses, from raw applications in salads to caramelized forms in cooking, appealing to a broad range of consumers.”

Kulinski says Vidalia onions have a distinctively flat shape, which makes them stand out from other types of onions.

Their uniqueness is not just in flavor and shape, but also in their specific geography. Onions can only be called “Vidalias”if they’re grown in a legally designated 20-county region in southeast Georgia, explains Kulinski.

The Vidalia Onion Act of 1986 granted the trademark of the name Vidalia onions and defined the commodity’s growing region as South Georgia. They are available for only a limited time each year, typically April to August.

“Certainly, Georgia-grown sweet onions have been popular since they were discovered in the 1930s, and they have continued to grow in popularity and are always asked for by name, thanks to their consistently sweet and mild flavor that makes them perfect for any type of dish,” says Steven Shuman, general manager and vice president of sales, G&R Farms, Glennville, GA, says.

“It never hurts that Vidalia onions arrive just in time for the summer outdoor season, making them the quintessential staple of summer meals.”


Prospects for this year’s crop look good. “The growing season has been good and relatively normal, and planted volumes are consistent with recent years. We expect plenty of Vidalia sweet onions to meet the demand of summer shoppers into the early weeks of August,” says Shuman.

Mark Breimeister, sweet onion specialist, Potandon Produce, Idaho Falls, ID, says the company was keeping an eye on the weather, but is fairly positive thus far in the year.

“The weather has been both cooler and wetter than usual, and the crop is not yet assured, but we are confident that we will have plenty of Green Giant Vidalia onions available for our customers, thanks to increased acreage available to us,” says Breimeister.

Shuman Farms, Reidsville, GA, is getting ready to ship Vidalia onions in mid-April.

“Currently, the Vidalia crop looks good, and the forecast is favorable with seasonal temperatures and average rainfall,” says John Shuman, the operation’s president and chief executive. “We have several robust marketing programs planned for the season at the retail level, as well as in the consumer space, focused on the excitement of the new crop and edutainment.”

Tina Collins, chief executive, Vidalia Sweet Produce, Cobbtown, GA, says Vidalia onions should find a willing market and create opportunities for retailers. “Sweet onion supply is very short nationwide, so we are expecting strong pricing for Vidalias,” she says.

“Year after year, we see an increase in the demand for Vidalia sweet onions, and we anticipate that trend to continue,” adds Troy Bland, chief executive of Bland Farms, Glennville, GA. “We plan out so many acres, based on what we sold the previous year. But you’ve got to be able to sell what you plant, so that’s why we put a focus on our marketing efforts as well as our farming and growing.”

“Year after year, we see an increase in the demand for Vidalia sweet onions, and we anticipate that trend to continue.”

— Troy Bland, Bland Farms, Glennville, GA

“The Vidalia’s mild, sweet flavor is unique to this type of onion. This makes them versatile enough to put on salads or the grill, add to sandwiches, caramelize, and even eat raw. They are that mild,” Bland says.

He adds the Vidalia’s mild sweet flavor comes from the soil’s low sulfur content and the low sulfur content in the water.

“Vidalia onions offer wholesalers and retailers a product with a premium cachet that can command higher prices, thanks to their unique flavor profile and limited availability,” says the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Kulinski. “However, the full potential of Vidalias might not be completely leveraged if their story and uses are not actively promoted.”


The Georgia Department of Agriculture wants retailers to get the most out of the chance they have to move what has become a product recognized for its premium characteristics.

“For retailers, the Vidalia onion season presents an excellent opportunity for thematic marketing and merchandising efforts,” says Kulinski. “Given their seasonal nature and unique appeal, Vidalias should be prominently displayed and marketed to maximize consumer interest and sales.”

Kulinski says Vidalia onions are often considered “the only vegetable with a birthday” because they can only be sold after a specific packing date in early to mid-April to ensure that every onion sold matures properly in Georgia’s soil to reach the highest quality and taste profile.

“Vidalia onion season is a perfect time for shoppers to think about grilling outdoors and picnic lunches. Retailers might miss a significant opportunity if they stock Vidalia onions without highlighting these unique qualities through marketing and merchandising efforts,” says Kulinski.

Bland underscores the opportunity Vidalias provide and suggests making the most of it by getting ahead of the season.

“Retailers should really leverage the anticipation of Vidalia season,” he says. “Consumers love these onions and wait for them. We encourage retailers to get their orders in early, to ensure they are ready to go and have everyone’s favorite onion in stock. At Bland Farms, we roll out promotions to generate excitement among retailers and consumers before the April Vidalia season starts. This lets consumers know they are coming and that they will be in stock at their stores soon.”

Shuman Farms has a particular outreach approach ongoing this year, what it characterizes as edutainment, aimed at Gen Z’ers and younger millennials. John Shuman says the company is “creating content and programs that are engaging and entertaining, to teach consumers about sweet onions, healthy eating and fresh produce.

The Shuman campaign will use social media, SEO-favored websites, content consumer marketing and store signage, as well as community support programs, display bins and traditional media.

Because the brand is well known, G&R’s Steven Shuman says retailers selling Vidalia onions should make them conspicuous, identifying them by name and taking into consideration the opportunity to command a premium price based on the product’s prestige and limited availability.

He adds that merchandising as the Vidalia season gears up is important if retailers are to maximize their opportunities with the product. End caps and other spaces where retailers can build big, high-profile displays are important, but cross-merchandising is important, too.

“Vidalia onions become available in early to mid-April while most families still have kids in school, and we haven’t reached the summer break marked by Memorial Day. This is a great time to take advantage of ‘Vidalia Onions Now Available’ marketing to set the stage for getting them now,” continues Steven Shuman.

“As Memorial Day and summer approaches, transitional marketing and merchandising to summer flavors and backyard barbecues and grilling can lend itself to additional messaging and display opportunities that shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Clarity in display is important both to remind shoppers of Vidalia onions’ presence and also to position them as a premium, limited-time product.

“You want them to be easy for consumers to locate among other onions,” says Bland. “We always encourage retailers to carry both bulk and bagged Vidalia onions for optimal selection in the produce department. Many of the Vidalia sweet onion promotions at Bland Farms offer dynamic retail displays and bins for the produce department. But that doesn’t mean retailers must limit themselves to large retail displays. Smaller displays are great for other areas, such as the deli and meat department. The Vidalia perfectly complements grilled meats and sandwiches.”

Retailers could consider targeting consumers who might not be core to the broader onion section, says Potandon Produce’s Breimeister.

“Vidalia sweet onions offer the benefits of a sweet, mild onion flavor along with digestibility, making them a favorite among both children, who tend to not like the bold, strong flavor of conventional onions, and the elderly who tend to have digestive issues with conventional onions,” he says. “Vidalia onions are the right onion for everyone.”

The more knowledge provided to consumers, the more of a case retailers can make for Vidalia onion purchases.

“While most consumers know the Vidalia sweet onion trademark, many don’t know what the product benefits are, and we need to constantly educate the consumer on them,” says Breimeister.

“Marketing and merchandising are key. Eye-catching, large, bold displays that tell the benefits, with suggested uses, are sure to move volume,” he adds. “While it’s great to say ‘first of the season,’ it’s even better to say ‘unique sweet, mild flavor that will add to your salad.’”

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Vidalia Onions Headed for Shelves April 17

The start of Vidalia onion season is almost here, with the official pack date announced by the Georgia Agriculture Commissioner and Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC). Vidalia onion fans across the country can mark their calendars for April 17, when the sweet onions are set to ship to grocery stores nationwide.

“Georgia-grown Vidalia onions are recognized around the globe for their iconic, sweet flavor that is treasured by culinary leaders and home chefs alike,” says Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper.

Vidalia onions are available for a limited time each year between April through early September. The pack date is determined by soil and weather conditions during the growing season, contributing to high-quality Vidalia onions.

Because of the unique weather, water, and soil combination in 20 South Georgia counties, Vidalia onions cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world. While all Vidalias are sweet onions, not all sweet onions are Vidalias.

“For the 2024 season, we have 11,000 acres of Vidalia onions planted in the production area,” says VOC Chairman Cliff Riner. “Over the past few years, sweet onion sales have continued to increase, with Vidalia onions being a big part of the market. We’re looking forward to another great season this year.”