VIDALIA, Ga. — Some growers and marketers of Vidalia onions have a toe in the water when it comes to organics, but low demand likely will keep most of them from jumping in with both feet.
Although there aren’t specific statistics on Vidalia onions, The Packer’s 2013 Fresh Trends publication reports 17% of consumers who buy onions sometimes buy organic. That’s the same percentage as in the 2012 Fresh Trends survey.
However, consumers who say they exclusively buy organic onions decreased two percentage points from the 2012 survey, with just 3% reporting they only buy organic onions in the 2013 survey.
Tina Collins, director of marketing and sales for Plantation Sweets, Cobbtown, said the company has been growing and marketing organic Vidalias for years, but in a very limited way.
“We have a few retailers that want organic Vidalias, and we provide them,” Tina said.
Several other Vidalia growers had similar answers.
Grower of the Year Danny Ray, president and co-owner of Ray Farms, Glennville, said about 12 acres of his 350 Vidalia onion acres are organic for the 2013 season. He said he hasn’t seen much of an increase in demand from his customers for organic Vidalias, but he makes sure he has them for those who want them.
Hendrix Produce Inc., Metter, also grows organic Vidalias. Kevin Hendrix, vice president, said the demand is small, but meeting that demand is important.
Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa., markets organic Vidalia onions, but only gets a few requests for them, said Marty Kamer, partner and sales manager.
Jarrod Snider, director of commodity development for Richter & Co. Inc., Charlotte, N.C., said the company markets organic Vidalia onions grown by Stanley Farms.
Brian Stanley, sales manager, said Stanley Farms doubled its organic plantings for this season, putting in 50 acres.
Snider said these onions mostly go to high-end chains, but demand is increasing.
Bland Farms, Glennville, grows and sells organic Vidalias, and Sarah Seebran, marketing director said the company has seen demand increasing in recent years.
A few growers said the demand for organic Vidalias is too low for them to justify the effort and financial commitment to switch any of their acreage to organic status.
Snider said the organic Vidalias command a premium price, though. He said he expects them to open around the $26 mark for 40 pounds this year.
At Shuman Produce Inc., Reidsville, brothers John and Mark Shuman have been offering organic RealSweet Vidalia onions “as long as the industry has been growing them,” said marketing director Adam Brady.
He said demand has increased slightly over the years.