New organic items trending
Watermelon radishes, proprietary apple varieties and snack-size veggies are just a few of the latest offerings available from innovative organic produce grower-shippers.
The biggest shift on the organic apple side for Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., is the variety mix, said Brianna Shales, communications manager.
“We are growing new, emerging varieties and consumer favorite apples organically in a big way,” she said.
“We’re growing more organic Honeycrisp, fuji, gala, Pink Lady, Piñata and SweeTango based on the knowledge that these are the varieties that all consumers, including those that purchase organic exclusively or sometimes, are looking for,” she said.
At Sinks Fruit Co. LLC, Yakima, Wash., organic versions of the Breeze and Cheekie apples that the company now grows only conventionally may be available within the next few years as prices begin to drop, said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing.
“The gap between conventional and organic is starting to narrow a little bit,” he said.
Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan, Wash., is trying to persuade its growers to convert their orchards that grow proprietary SugarBee apples to organic as quickly as possible, said Kevin Stennes, organic sales manager.
He hopes retailers will make space for them as the number of proprietary varieties grows.
“It’s proving to be a struggle to get shelf space even on a really good proprietary variety,” he said.
“Hopefully, our SugarBee will be an exception to that.”
Sales of a longtime consumer favorite continue to rise for Dole Food Co., Westlake Village, Calif., said Bil Goldfield, director of corporate communications.
“Without a doubt, we are seeing the strongest growth in demand continuing for Dole organic bananas by both retailers and consumers,” he said.
“Another area of explosive growth is organic pineapples,” he added.
“Dole has heavily invested in this area to meet the increased demand,” Goldfield said.
Movement of organic salad kits also seems to be on the rise.
“For some time, organic salad kits were few and far between because availability and cost of the toppings and dressing ingredients was challenging,” said Alan Ediger, chief commercial officer for Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif.
“But now, as supplies of those kinds of ingredients have expanded, we’re able to put together premium-quality salad kits that meet the expectations of that consumer who’s buying organic and seeking something better than the average kit,” he said.
Lakeside Organic Gardens LLC, Watsonville, Calif., is finding that organic “specialty” vegetables, like celery root, romanesco and watermelon radishes, no longer are a novelty, said Marliese Ward, creative marketing manager.
“They’re making their way into innovative meal kits,” she said.
“Homemade organic baby food has been trending this year as well as using the whole plant from root to stem,” she added.
Consumers are just beginning to understand the many health benefits of specialty organic produce, she said.
Organic snacking items are making headway at Wholesum Family Farms, Nogales, Ariz., said Ricardo Crisantes, chief commercial officer.
“The fresh snacking category is a category we are very interested in,” he said.
“We feel that is a space that is growing.”
The company already offers snack-size organic tomatoes, and Crisantes said snacking cucumbers, peppers and even squash in an easy-to-handle pack may be a possibility someday.
“Marrying fresh, convenience and snacking right now is a winner with consumers,” he said.
Wholesum Family farms also has added strawberries and blueberries to its product line, Crisantes said.
The company offers organic strawberries and blueberries year-round.
During January and February, Fair Trade blueberries are sourced from Chile.
“We want to bring in blueberries that have a social conscience,” he said.