The Honey Sweet Onion harvest season started with perfect timing this year, according to Jeff Brechler of Little Bear Produce. “Currently, our Honey Sweet supply is coming from Peru and will continue into February 2021. The harvest season started in July this year, and it came at the perfect time as there was no overlap with the domestic onion season, allowing us to satisfy customer’s orders and maintain continuity of shipments,” says Brechler.
Strong onion demand on the market
At the start of the pandemic, demand for onions and potatoes spiked due to their shelf-lives. “Back in the spring, when the pandemic hit, people were panic buying dry and durable goods and onions were a big part of that. We have now seen a shift in buying patterns as people started to become more comfortable with this ‘new normal,’ but overall demand for sweet onions is very strong,” Brechler shares.
Volume-wise, it’s still a it is still a bit too early into the season to predict what the overall volumes will be. “We are approximately one-fourth of the way into the season,” Brechler explains. “This year, we experienced a bit of a challenge in Peru with cooler than usual weather, higher humidity and a little more disease pressure. Fortunately, we have an amazing team to tend to the crop and field,” he adds, continuing: “By design, acreage is less compared to last year. We’ve been able to reduce the number of growing acres to better meet customer demands and have implemented new strategies in the field that essentially allows us to produce more by planting less. We can still achieve the same yields on less acres. As far as this season’s yield and product, we look to be normal with a good percentage of colossal and jumbo-sized onions.”
Consistently mild flavor
One of the reasons why consumers are drawn to sweet onions is their mildness. “For the Honey Sweet Onion, the mildness is very consistent. Our Honey Sweet Onion consistently tests 1.5 to 2.5 on the pyruvic acid scale, with our new generation of onions testing at 1.5 to 2.0. Essentially, we’ve removed the guesswork for the consumer because they know they will consistently get a mild onion when choosing the Honey Sweet brand at the store. Consumers truly notice the difference and can tell when retailers switch seasons,” Brechler shares.
Keeping up with new consumer buying habits
In line with the changes in consumer purchasing habits due to the pandemic, Little Bear Produce has seen a heightened demand for their 3-lb and 5-lb onion bags this year. “This is because shoppers are looking for more ‘recipe friendly’ sized onions to cook at home. Consumer bags eliminate the ‘rummaging’ through a bulk display and present a ‘grab-n-go’ option. With the 3-lb and 5-lb options, they’re also able to reduce the number of trips to the grocery stores,” Brechler explains.
He adds: “We’ve had to adjust to the shift in consumer’s buying patterns and habits. In this industry, it’s important to be nimble and be able to pivot strategy as quickly as possible. We were able to make adjustments with our customers to continue to support and provide them with quality product, even in the wake of uncertainty.”
Little bear Produce has also recently started their 2021 vegetable planting season. “The harvest will begin the first of November and run through April 2021,” Brechler concludes.