This year’s chestnut season has been a very good one, according to Michael Maxwell at Procacci Brothers. The company begins importing chestnuts in October and the season wraps up around the end of the year, with plenty of supplies to satisfy holiday demand. “Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday for the chestnuts because the traditional turkey recipes often use them. We usually sell around 60% of our season’s overall supplies at Thanksgiving and this year was no exception,” Maxwell says.
Demand is up this year
Procacci Brothers imports their chestnuts from Italy and this year the first imports arrived right around Columbus Day. “The chestnut season lines up well with the colder weather and the holidays, and this year we have seen higher sales than usual. As consumers are staying at home and isolating themselves because of the pandemic, they are looking for comfort food and cooking from home more. This has helped elevate demand,” says Maxwell.
Fortunately, the higher demand this year coincided with a good season with good volumes. “Overall it has been a very good season. We’re nearing the end now as the season usually ends by the first of the year, but we have seen exceptional quality this year and there was enough supply to meet the higher demand,” Maxwell explains.
Helping consumers learn about chestnuts
The company usually brings in the chestnuts both by ocean and airfreight. Maxwell shares: “We started supplementing the ocean shipments with air shipments a few years ago. While chestnuts are nuts, they are different than most nuts in terms of their composition and shelf-life because they are about 90% water. So, airfreight is important both to supplement the volumes but also to bring in the freshest product possible.”
This year, due to the pandemic, the airfreight shipments were a bit more challenging than usual. “The prices for the airfreight were a little higher than they were last year and there were a few more logistical challenges because there aren’t as many available flights as usual, but fortunately we were able to manage well and we never ran out of available supplies,” Maxwell says.
Because of the high water content of the chestnuts, it’s important to store them in the right conditions. “To keep them as fresh as possible, they have to be refrigerated,” says Maxwell. “If the retailers manage their in-store stocks well enough then they don’t have to sell them from refrigeration, but we do encourage consumers to store them in their fridge at home so they can last longer. It’s important to educate the consumers on how to store and use the chestnuts so they can have the best eating experience possible. That is why we have a consumer package with recipe cards and include roasting instructions on the labels,” Maxwell concludes.