(March 29) Regardless of their allegiance to the 1015 designation — or their desire to form a regional identity that would preclude Mexican onions from sharing the same name — shippers are in agreement that now is not the time to unveil a new image for Texas onions.

“Without promotions, you can’t start any new names, so we might as well ride the 1015 name we’ve spent the money on developing,” said Curtis DeBerry, general manager of Four Seasons Trading LP, Donna, Texas.

NAME RECOGNITION

“We haven’t done the work on promotion (Vidalia, Ga., growers) have. We’re not even close,” said Charlie LaGrange, sales manager for Starr Produce Co., Rio Grande City, Texas. “But what promotions that have come about in the last 20 years on the 1015s, we want to try to take advantage of the recognition.”

“A while back, the industry took it upon themselves to discuss another name, but the 1015 is pretty entrenched in the trade,” said Ken Stewart, sales manager for Duda-Texas, doing business as Valley Onions Inc., McAllen, Texas. “It’s a well-known onion that has a pretty good following in the spring.”

Mission-based South Texas Onion Committee manager John McClung said it might be well known among retailers, wholesalers and other customers, but it doesn’t have the same cache with consumers.

“There are those of us who think we would be better served with a new marketing strategy not based on the 1015, but there’s a lack of consensus in the industry,” he said. “You talk to the guys on the sales desk and they sell the 1015s, but you talk to consumers and our data shows they are relatively unimpressed by the 1015, except perhaps in Texas.”

Mike Martin, vice president of sales for Elmore & Stahl Inc., Mission, Texas, favors shelving the 1015 name, but not without full industry support.

EVERYONE MUST AGREE

“If everybody doesn’t do it, then it’s not going to happen,” he said. “A lot of the trade favors the 1015 name, although I think it’s a horrible name for the consumers. It’s one of those chicken-and-the-egg syndromes. There’s a fear of moving away from it because the trade knows it, but the consumer doesn’t know it. It’s just not descriptive.”

Shippers have to be committed to delivering what they promise, said Will Steele, vice president of Frontera Produce LLC, Edinburg, Texas.

“I’ve seen so many onions labeled ‘sweet,’ and when you bite into them they’re hotter than fire,” Steele said. “I think it’s up to the producers to police themselves. As far as getting a concept where everyone is together, it can be a good idea, but the bottom line is you’ve got to police your own business and make sure you’re selling what you say you’re selling.”