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US: Organic spinach sees strong growth in 'functional foods'
Demand for organic spinach continues to increase, with many growers seeing their biggest gains from the variety compared with all products. And while the fresh market is seeing solid long term gains, it is the 'functional foods' sector where a significant consumption increase is taking place.
"For the most part, we've experienced double digit growth in the organic spinach market," explained Zack Andrade of Spinaca Farms in California. "Spinach is well known as a Superfood and demand continues to increase, particularly in the 'functional foods' sector. This includes uses beyond that of basic nutrition that benefit overall health, including juices as well as Nutraceuticals. In the fresh market, growth has eased a little, but it's still one of the main purchase items for people who are on healthy and plant-based diets."
Excellent growing conditions increasing production
Organic spinach is currently in a bit of an oversupply situation. This can be attributed to the recent warm and sunny weather that is currently driving strong production across many commodities. "Growing conditions are perfect at the moment, too good in fact," Andrade said. "Production is up due to the warm weather and is not likely to slow in the next week or so. There is a lot of product around and quality is excellent. And although demand on the fresh market is flat right now, we are seeing good demand on the processed side, such as juices. However, spinach is a fickle item to produce and is susceptible to quick swings in quality, which can impact availability overnight."
Andrade predicted that the lower prices won't stay around for long. "Expectations are that there should be a correction soon," he said. "Once the market reaches a tipping point, demand should start exceeding supply again."
Continuity in supply is very important, especially on organics where some commodities have big gaps in supply. However, Spinaca Farms have been able to establish a year round program to ensure continuation of supply. "We have built up our program to become a year round supplier," Andrade said. "We follow the sun, so from April to November, we supply organic spinach in our Northern growing region in California. Then for the other 6 months of the year, production occurs in Southern California along the Mexico border region. During the transition phases, we have an overlap of about 2 - 3 weeks which enables us to maintain steady volume throughout, but again that can change overnight."
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