The long-term health of the greenhouse vegetable industry looks strong, grower-shippers and importers say.


Retailers are using more greenhouse-grown because they know they’re going to get product when they want it, said Kevin Batt, sales director for Langley, British Columbia-based BC Hot House.


The early February freeze in Mexico made abundantly clear how important that guarantee can be.


“High yields, quality products and consumer confidence are leading to continued growth and prosperity within the greenhouse community,” he said. “Retailers continue to merchandise greenhouse in larger, well-displayed sections. Greenhouse-themed ads as well as off-shelf displays are some of the ways they are differentiating.”


Greenhouse vegetable acreage continues to grow in Mexico, Canada and the U.S., said Aaron Quon, greenhouse category director for the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group.


As production grows, consumers’ desire for greenhouse-grown has grown along with it, Quon said.


“Even with all the expansion across North America, there’s still good demand,” he said. “The greenhouse industry is still doing very well.”


The three North American greenhouse vegetable growing regions are staying in good equilibrium, Quon said.


“In general, the greenhouse industry is fairly well balanced,” he said. “The different regions complement each other in seasonality. There’s moderate growth now in Canada and the U.S., and a little more expansion in Mexico, but right now it’s a really good mix.”


Retail sales of greenhouse-grown tomatoes grew 8% in 2010, and volumes 5%, said Helen Aquino, Village Farms’s marketing manager, citing West Dundee, Ill.-based The Perishables Group data.


Anthony Totta, marketing director for Ruthven, Ontario-based Clifford Produce, also is bullish on the future of the North American greenhouse vegetable industry.


“It’s good and growing,” Totta said. “We’ve continued to grow in all categories in sales.”


While most shippers agree Mexico seems to be experiencing the most widespread industry growth, Totta said greenhouse growth is not limited to south of the border.


Nor is category growth limited to one channel, he said.


“Capacity in all three (regions) is growing, and commitment at both retail and foodservice is growing,” Totta said.


Tim Cunniff, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Madison, Maine-based Backyard Farms LLC, also reported strong demand for greenhouse vegetables in North America.


“The greenhouse business provides more consistency, not just from a growing but from a supply standpoint for retailers,” he said.


Backyard Farms’ cocktail tomatoes have gained shelf space with some retailers in the Northeast, Cunniff said.