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California purple artichoke season expands into Coachella Valley

Supplies of purple artichokes are strong out of Coachella, California. Mark Munger, senior director of marketing at Ocean Mist Farms says winter peak supplies will last until the end of March.  

This is the first season for the crop in this region. “We have been working on a proprietary purple artichoke program for several years. The crop has traditionally been planted and harvested only in the springtime in Castroville, but we expanded our program to Coachella this year, providing a winter supply,” says Munger. “The quality has been excellent so we expect the winter purple artichoke program to expand next season in Coachella.”

The Castroville season traditionally runs from late March to May but the expansion to Coachella allows Ocean Mist to start harvesting purple artichokes as early as mid-February. With those peak supplies from Coachella lasting through March, they will taper off through the transition back to Castroville. “Due to unseasonably cooler weather in Castroville, our spring crop is expected to be two to three weeks later than normal and will peak in mid-April and run through May. This will create two supply peaks, one in March, and a second in May. This will create some great promotional opportunities but also challenges in managing customer expectations and promotional timing,” says Munger. He adds that sizes on both green and purple artichokes are peaking on larger packs, with sizes peaking on 12s and 18s.

This is the first season for the crop in Coachella.

Other artichoke growing regions 
While there is year-round supply of the company’s Gold Standard green artichokes with supplemental product from Baja, Mexico and Oxnard, California, purple artichokes are currently only grown in Coachella and Castroville. Balancing the two regions is the biggest challenge for Ocean Mist particularly given how short the season is for purple artichokes, though Ocean Mist hopes to eventually have year-round supplies of them.  

As for demand, Munger says it’s been excellent with customers taking advantage of peak supplies. ”Since our purple artichokes are very seasonal, we’ve seen an uptick in both interest and sales with our expanded winter program. We are still creating awareness of our purple artichoke program and expect demand to continue to increase as more retailers and consumers discover this colorful and delicious new variety,” he says.

“Due to unseasonably cooler weather in Castroville, our spring crop is expected to be two to three weeks later than normal and will peak in mid-April and run through May," says Munger.

Growing consumption
In general, there has been a steady increase in artichoke consumption. “We have a very robust and targeted marketing to introduce artichokes to new users and take out the mystery of this potentially daunting vegetable,” he says. “Feedback from consumers about the flavor and eating experience for purple artichokes has been excellent, which is a great indicator that consumption will continue to grow.”

As for pricing, it’s good on both colors of artichokes going into the winter peak though the proprietary purple artichokes command more of a premium price.

For more information:
Lauren Miller
Ocean Mist Farms    



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