Fresh-cut, bagged and tipped asparagus is gaining a big following, according to marketing agents.
“We’re seeing a push for more retailers to transition to bagged product,” said Julia Inestroza, marketing manager for Los Angeles-based Gourmet Trading Co.
There are several reasons for the push, she said.
“This helps not only with the shelf life and shrink reduction but also enables better traceability and food safety,” she said.
There are hurdles involved, though, said Don Hessel, general manager of the asparagus program for Los Angeles-based Progressive Produce Corp.
“There’s a certain amount of value-added being done in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s really a small thing out of Peru because of the fumigation process. It’s really hard to bag it at shipping point or packing point because it’s got to be fumigated in the U.S.
“They’re trying to create some holes in the bag to allow the fumigation process, but just in general it’s a little tough, where in Mexico and in the U.S. it’s a lot easier to handle the bagging. When the product comes into the U.S., it’s processed here, so it’s a little harder to do.”
Value-added customers are specific in their needs, said David Robles, Delray Beach, Fla.-based import manager for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Harold Crawford Co. Inc.
“I sold asparagus to value-added companies, which pay more money, but it has to be almost perfect asparagus,” he said. “That’s the only reason why I don’t get involved with I — it’s a little difficult.”
As the category grows, there will be legions of customers for it, said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties.
“We find that consumers are looking for product that’s easy to prepare and has additional information about the product on the bag, so it is a growing category,” he said. “We’re offering a lot of convenience to those customers.”
Tim Ryan, asparagus manager for Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based Ayco Farms, said his company focuses primarily on bulk packs, but he added there are opportunities in the value-added category.
“There’s certainly a place in the market for value-added, especially on the tips and the bagged asparagus,” he said. “But I think that 80% is just the bulk pack.”